2 Chronicles 35 – Josiah’s Passover
A. Josiah’s great Passover.
1. (1-6) Josiah directs the priests and the Levites for the Passover.
Now Josiah kept a Passover to the LORD in Jerusalem, and they slaughtered the Passover lambs on the fourteenth day of the first month. And he set the priests in their duties and encouraged them for the service of the house of the LORD. Then he said to the Levites who taught all Israel, who were holy to the LORD: “Put the holy ark in the house which Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, built. It shall no longer be a burden on your shoulders. Now serve the LORD your God and His people Israel. Prepare yourselves according to your fathers’ houses, according to your divisions, following the written instruction of David king of Israel and the written instruction of Solomon his son. And stand in the holy place according to the divisions of the fathers’ houses of your brethren the lay people, and according to the division of the father’s house of the Levites. So slaughter the Passover offerings, consecrate yourselves, and prepare them for your brethren, that they may do according to the word of the LORD by the hand of Moses.”
a. They slaughtered the Passover lambs on the fourteenth day of the first month: The previous Passover of note was in the days of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 30:1-3). That Passover had to be celebrated in the second month, but Josiah was able to keep this great Passover at the appointed time in the first month (Numbers 9:1-5).
b. He set the priests in their duties and encouraged them for the service: Josiah understood that it would take an enormous amount of planning and work to properly conduct this Passover. The priests needed to be both set and encouraged for this.
i. “The first thing is to get every man into his proper place; the next thing is for every man to have a good spirit in his present place, so as to occupy it worthily.” (Spurgeon)
c. Put the holy ark in the house which Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, built: Under Josiah’s direction, Hilkiah the priest recently had found the copy of the Law of Moses in the temple. Now we learn that under the apostate administrations of the previous kings, Manasseh and Amon, apparently the holy ark had also been removed from the temple. Now, King Josiah directed that it be returned to its rightful place.
i. It shall no longer be a burden on your shoulders indicates that the ark was not at “rest” in the holy place of the temple. The time was long overdue to return it to its rest.
ii. “The Hebrews tell us, that the priests in those idolatrous times had carried the holy ark out of the temple – that it might not stand there among those heathenish idols – and conveyed it to the house of Shallum, who was uncle to the prophet Jeremiah, and husband to the prophetess Huldah.” (Trapp)
d. So slaughter the Passover offerings: One of the main features of the Passover was the sacrifice of a lamb for each household (Exodus 12:43-49). This meant a substantial amount of work for the priests.
2. (7-9) Lambs provided for the Passover sacrifice.
Then Josiah gave the lay people lambs and young goats from the flock, all for Passover offerings for all who were present, to the number of thirty thousand, as well as three thousand cattle; these were from the king’s possessions. And his leaders gave willingly to the people, to the priests, and to the Levites. Hilkiah, Zechariah, and Jehiel, rulers of the house of God, gave to the priests for the Passover offerings two thousand six hundred from the flock, and three hundred cattle. Also Conaniah, his brothers Shemaiah and Nethanel, and Hashabiah and Jeiel and Jozabad, chief of the Levites, gave to the Levites for Passover offerings five thousand from the flock and five hundred cattle.
a. Josiah gave the lay people lambs and young goats from the flock: This was staggering generosity on the part of King Josiah. He provided thirty thousand lambs or goats for the Passover sacrifice, as well as three thousand cattle. It shows how passionate King Josiah was to have a proper Passover celebration, that he was willing to bear the expense.
i. “The total number of offerings is more than double that at Hezekiah’s Passover (2 Chronicles 30:24), a further indication of the greater generosity and significance of this occasion.” (Selman)
b. And his leaders gave willingly to the people: As is often the custom, the generosity of the leader (King Josiah) prompted the generosity of others.
3. (10-14) The slaughter of the Passover lambs and the sacrificial meal.
So the service was prepared, and the priests stood in their places, and the Levites in their divisions, according to the king’s command. And they slaughtered the Passover offerings; and the priests sprinkled the blood with their hands, while the Levites skinned the animals. Then they removed the burnt offerings that they might give them to the divisions of the fathers’ houses of the lay people, to offer to the LORD, as it is written in the Book of Moses. And so they did with the cattle. Also they roasted the Passover offerings with fire according to the ordinance; but the other holy offerings they boiled in pots, in caldrons, and in pans, and divided them quickly among all the lay people. Then afterward they prepared portions for themselves and for the priests, because the priests, the sons of Aaron, were busy in offering burnt offerings and fat until night; therefore the Levites prepared portions for themselves and for the priests, the sons of Aaron.
a. So the service was prepared: “The service was arranged is a rare but significant phrase occurring additionally in the Old Testament only at 2 Chronicles 8:16; 29:35, meaning that everything had been done as God required.” (Selman)
b. And they slaughtered the Passover offerings: It seems that on this Passover the sacrifices were all directly made by the priests themselves. They did not allow the head of each household to perform the sacrifice individually.
i. “In contrast to Hezekiah’s practice and the implications of the Pentateuchal law (Deuteronomy 16:5-6; 2 Chronicles 30:17), the Levites slaughtered all the Passover lambs.” (Selman)
ii. Clarke had a different suggestion: “The people themselves might slay their own paschal lambs, and then present the blood to the priests, that they might sprinkle it before the altar; and the Levites flayed them, and made them ready for dressing.”
c. They roasted the Passover offerings with fire according to the ordinance: This was the second aspect of the Passover celebration – a festive meal enjoyed by the entire nation, household by household.
i. They roasted the Passover offerings with fire, “To set forth Christ roasted for us in the fire of his Father’s fierce wrath.” (Trapp)
ii. “While the flocks of sheep and goats provided for the paschal lambs, the cattle must have served for peace offerings, for feasting throughout the days of Unleavened Bread that followed the Passover.” (Payne)
d. Then afterward they prepared portions for themselves and for the priests: This was the correct order. First the people were served, and then the priests and the Levite leaders.
4. (15-19) The greatness of Josiah’s Passover.
And the singers, the sons of Asaph, were in their places, according to the command of David, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun the king’s seer. Also the gatekeepers were at each gate; they did not have to leave their position, because their brethren the Levites prepared portions for them. So all the service of the LORD was prepared the same day, to keep the Passover and to offer burnt offerings on the altar of the LORD, according to the command of King Josiah. And the children of Israel who were present kept the Passover at that time, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days. There had been no Passover kept in Israel like that since the days of Samuel the prophet; and none of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as Josiah kept, with the priests and the Levites, all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. In the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah this Passover was kept.
a. The singers, the sons of Asaph, were in their places: There was nothing in the Law of Moses directing singing or a communal worship service at the celebration of Passover. Josiah therefore went beyond the commandment to make this an especially meaningful and memorable occasion.
b. Also the gatekeepers were at each gate; they did not have to leave their position: This shows that Josiah was mindful of the security and the strength of the kingdom even during this great celebration. Every guard stayed ready and on duty, and the Levites prepared portions for the grateful gatekeepers.
c. So all the service of the LORD was prepared the same day: Because of the remarkable planning, organization, and hard work of the king, the priests, and the Levites, this massive amount of sacrifice and festive meals were all prepared the same day. They did this not out of some strange compulsion, but in trying to be obedient to the command of Moses for the day on which to observe Passover (Numbers 9:1-5).
d. There had been no Passover kept in Israel like that since the days of Samuel the prophet: This celebration of Passover was so significant that one had to go back before the time of David and Solomon to find a keeping of Passover that was so well organized and joyfully conducted.
i. This Passover was remarkable for several reasons.
· It was remarkable in the magnitude of its celebration, including even the remnant of the north who came to celebrate it in Jerusalem. “‘All Judah and Israel’ includes people from north and south, implying a larger attendance than at Hezekiah’s Passover (cf. 2 Chronicles 30:25).” (Selman)
· It was remarkable in its strict obedience to the Law of Moses
· It was remarkable in the way it shined amidst these dark years in Judah’s history.
ii. “No, not Hezekiah; for at his passover the congregation was not so great, nor so well prepared; nor were the Levites and singers so well marshalled, nor the sacrifices so many.” (Trapp)
iii. “Josiah’s passover was so vast and rare a success because of the large amount of previous preparation, as is described in this chapter.” (Meyer)
B. The death of King Josiah.
1. (20-22) Josiah disregards God’s warning and goes to war.
After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Necho king of Egypt came up to fight against Carchemish by the Euphrates; and Josiah went out against him. But he sent messengers to him, saying, “What have I to do with you, king of Judah? I have not come against you this day, but against the house with which I have war; for God commanded me to make haste. Refrain from meddling with God, who is with me, lest He destroy you.” Nevertheless Josiah would not turn his face from him, but disguised himself so that he might fight with him, and did not heed the words of Necho from the mouth of God. So he came to fight in the Valley of Megiddo.
a. Necho king of Egypt came up to fight against Carchemish: This was part of the geopolitical struggle between the declining Assyrian Empire and the emerging Babylonian Empire. The Assyrians made an alliance with the Egyptians to protect against the growing power of the Babylonians.
b. King Josiah went out against him: Sadly, Josiah disregarded what was actually good counsel from Necho when he said What have I to do with you, king of Judah? I have not come against you this day. Josiah stubbornly refused to hear this warning (which was actually from God).
i. Josiah was in sin because his attack against Egypt was in support of the Assyrian Empire, and he had no business supporting the Assyrian Empire. “The only reason for doing so must have been some supposed political advantage. Against that kind of action the prophets were constantly warning the kings. A word claiming to be from God, forbidding what was already forbidden, had a weight of moral appeal almost amounting to certainty.” (Morgan)
ii. Interestingly, Necho himself said, “for God has commanded me to make haste. Refrain from meddling with God, who is with me, lest He destroy you.” It is unlikely that Necho understood and meant that he was in fact an agent of the God of Israel; he probably said and understood this in terms of his own gods and his own incorrect understanding of God. Nevertheless, it was an unknowing divine prophecy, much as the words of Caiaphas regarding the death of Jesus (John 11:49-52).
iii. “Yet, methinks, he ought so far to have regarded it, as to have inquired the mind of God about it; which he neglected to do, and therefore he cannot be wholly excused, and is here taxed for it.” (Poole)
iv. “How Josiah was supposed to recognize God’s guidance is not specified, though sanctified common sense would have been a perfectly adequate response.” (Selman)
v. “Such a story must, to say the least, give us pause, and make us enquire as to how far we are ever justified in refusing to consider a word which is claimed as a divine message, even when it comes from sources from which we should least expect to receive it.” (Morgan)
c. Nevertheless Josiah would not turn his face from him: Josiah thought he could escape the prediction of Necho by disguising himself in battle – yet he was still shot by archers and died. This was a sad end to one of the great kings of Judah.
i. “It was not of faith, else why ‘disguise’ himself? There is no record of any prayer before the battle, as in the case of so many of his godly ancestors; and this rash act of Josiah seems unaccountable.” (Knapp)
ii. “The exact place of the battle seems to have been Hadadrimmon, in the valley of Megiddo, for there Zechariah tells us (Zechariah 12:11), was the great mourning for Josiah.” (Clarke)
iii. “The reality of the contest at ‘Megiddo’ has received archaeological confirmation from the ruins of the site’s Stratum II.” (Payne)
2. (23-25) Josiah’s death and burial
And the archers shot King Josiah; and the king said to his servants, “Take me away, for I am severely wounded.” His servants therefore took him out of that chariot and put him in the second chariot that he had, and they brought him to Jerusalem. So he died, and was buried in one of the tombs of his fathers. And all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah. Jeremiah also lamented for Josiah. And to this day all the singing men and the singing women speak of Josiah in their lamentations. They made it a custom in Israel; and indeed they are written in the Laments.
a. And the archers shot King Josiah: Though he was disguised, he was still wounded and killed. We can admire the bravery of Josiah, but not his stubborn insistence on disregarding the warnings from God and going into battle.
i. “He repented at his death, no doubt, of his rashness.” (Trapp)
ii. “The manner of Josiah’s demise is also interpreted ironically by being paralleled with Ahab’s demise (cf. 2 Chronicles 18:29-34). The links are quite explicit, for each king disguised himself, archers delivered the fatal blow, and each king admitted I am wounded, and was propped up in a chariot before he died. The ultimate irony is that despite Josiah’s previous record, he died in the same way as someone who was known to ‘hate the LORD’ (2 Chronicles 19:2).” (Selman)
b. And to this day all the singing men and the singing women speak of Josiah in their lamentations: Zechariah 12:11 tells us a bit of this great mourning, using it as a comparison to the great mourning that will come upon the Jewish people when they turn to their once-rejected Messiah: In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.
i. “These dirges are then said to be ‘written in the Laments’ – a book that is no longer extant and which is not to be confused with the prophet’s later laments over Josiah’s sons (Jeremiah 22:10, 20-30) or over Jerusalem’s fall (Lamentations).” (Payne)
ii. “Far from being embarrassed by Huldah’s prophecy, therefore, the Chronicler is at pains to stress that God kept his promises about Josiah’s peaceful burial and the exile’s continuing delay despite Josiah’s stupidity and violent death.” (Selman)
3. (26-27) The summary of the reign of good King Josiah.
Now the rest of the acts of Josiah and his goodness, according to what was written in the Law of the LORD, and his deeds from first to last, indeed they are written in the book of the kings of Israel and Judah.
a. The rest of the acts of Josiah and his goodness: It seems that Josiah’s reign was remembered with special fondness; perhaps because he ended up being the last good king of Judah.
i. Yet, the people of the kingdom turned against God very quickly after the reign of Josiah. “Josiah had evidently made himself greatly beloved by them, and the probability is that the reforms he instituted were based on that love rather than on the people’s real return to devotion to God.” (Morgan)
ii. “Even so, Josiah’s passing removed the last obstacle to the coming catastrophe.” (Selman)
b. According to what was written in the Law of the LORD: This is what made Josiah such a good king and a good man. He had a great interest in, and obedience to, what was written in the Law of the LORD.