2 Chronicles 34-36: Gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world

Chapter 34

Josiah, the last glorious king before Judah’s lengthy captivity in the hands of the Babylonians, sought the LORD when he was sixteen (v.3) and immediately purged the city and the temple in which was the Name of the LORD (2 Chronicles 6).  The cleansing involved the chopping down of altars of Baals (v.4), burning the bones of the priests on their altars as a retribution of the wrath they incurred upon themselves (v.5) and bearing the Asherim and images into powder, cutting down all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel (v.7).  At 24 years old (v.8), upon cleaning the land, the Law of the LORD was found (v.8-18), commencing a reformation of Israel once again – just as Christ cleansed our hearts so that the law could be written on them (Jeremiah 31:33) and allow the spiritual Israelites to be reminded that the removal of idolatry comes hand in hand with worshipping the true God and find their identity as His collective children.  Josiah’s reaction (v.21) is exactly that of a person who understands the implications of not truly following Christ and merely “playing church”, as a worshipper of the LORD who does not have His law.  Yet, note the narrator’s decision to state clearly that Josiah had been walking with the LORD since 16; and for 8 years, Josiah had not the law of the LORD to guide Him, yet His mandates were already written on Josiah’s heart by the indwelling Holy Spirit – a reminder that the era before Moses, too, walked with Jesus without the written law.

Note, then, prophetess Huldah’s prophecy on Israel and Judah – that Josiah shall sleep with his fathers (v.28) before witnessing the inevitable tragedy and destruction to fall on Israel.  In the wake of this, Josiah immediately worships the LORD by making a covenant with Him, clearly understanding the purpose of the Law is relational and not simply that of a master bidding a slave to merely work.

Chapter 35

Josiah’s relationship with the LORD upon Huldah’s prophecy is most importantly marked by his keeping of the Passover through the properly elected divisions and positions of the Levites (v.1-6).  Such worship and sacrifice in the face of Israel’s impending disaster (v.7-9)!  Note clearly that no Passover of this grandeur and detail to the iota has been kept since the days of Samuel the prophet, indicating that Josiah’s keeping of the Passover is the ending bookend to the book of Samuel which opens the eras of the kings of Israel.  The repeating refrain in these verses are “according to the king’s command” and “as it is written in the Book of Moses” / “according to the rule“, which prove that the Law is closely adhered to, by the faithful Christian king’s command at a tender age of 26 years.

Yet, Josiah’s death is sudden and is indeed brought about the the Egyptian king Neco, who himself understands to be carrying out the LORD’s will (v.21-22).  It is a strange turn of events, for Neco to state that it would be against His will if Josiah opposes Neco; yet, Huldah had already prophesied that Josiah’s death was the LORD’s grace towards him, in preventing him from seeing Israel’s eventual downfall.  Surely, it is not contrary to God’s will that Josiah oppose Neco and is brought to the grave in return?  Is it not because of Josiah’s faithfulness to even the smallest iota of the Law that Israel has this temporary peace, and thus the king’s removal is tantamount to the LORD’s eventual disciplining of His elected nation?  Observe Matthew Henry’s commentary on Josiah’s death:

“From principles of religion: “God is with me; nay, He commanded me to make haste, and therefore, if thou retard my motions, thou meddlest with God.” It cannot be that the king of Egypt only pretended this (as Sennacherib did in a like case, 2 Kings xviii. 25), hoping thereby to make Josiah desist, because he knew he had a veneration for the word of God; for it is said here ( 22) that the words of Necho were from the mouth of God. We must therefore suppose that either by a dream, or by a strong impulse upon his spirit which he had reason to think was from God, or by Jeremiah or some other prophet, he had ordered him to make war upon the king of Assyria. (3.) From principles of policy: “That he destroy thee not; it is at thy peril if thou engage against one that has not only a better army and a better cause, but God on his side.”
…It was not in wrath to Josiah, whose heart was upright with the Lord his God, but in wrath to a hypocritical nation, who were unworthy of so good a king, that he was so far infatuated as not to hearken to these fair reasonings and desist from his enterprise. He would not turn his face from him, but went in person and fought the Egyptian army in the valley of Megiddo, 22. If perhaps he could not believe that the king of Egypt had a command from God to do what he did, yet, upon his pleading such a command, he ought to have consulted the oracles of God before he went out against him. His not doing that was his great fault, and of fatal consequence. In this matter he walked not in the ways of David his father; for, had it been his case, he would have enquired of the Lord, Shall I go up? Wilt thou deliver them into my hands? How can we think to prosper in our ways if we do not acknowledge God in them?”

Indeed, Josiah died in the Valley of Megiddo (symbolically called the place of crowns).  In further distinction to Matthew Henry’s views, Dev Menon’s commentary on the book of Revelations (chapter 16:15-16) reveals that Josiah’s death at Megiddo is prophetic of a greater death:

” The victory is assured – the armies of the world assemble at the Mount of Megiddo, the very place where Josiah (God supports) was pierced (2 Chronicles 35, Zechariah 12, John 19:37). That is the place of their destruction. The place of the cross.”

Josiah’s death is therefore compared in Zechariah 12 to the death of Christ; and it is in the death of Christ that the disciples were scattered, albeit for 3 days and 3 nights.  It is this short, dark period that the remainder of the Old Testament points towards – the fall and scattering of Israel until Christ’s resurrection, when similarly the Church is restored and shines gloriously.  Here, Josiah’s death prompts the inevitable downfall of Israel, as he is pierced in God’s plan by a Gentile, just as the first Passover was held in Egypt – the same Passover which only king Josiah has kept since the day of Samuel’s leadership.

Chapter 36

In this short chapter we see an usurping of the throne of Josiah’s appointed son (v.2-3), followed by the folly of Eliakim (raised up by God) / Jehoiakim (brother of Josiah’s son Jehoahaz, renamed as Jehoiakim – whom Jehovah sets up, as a mockery that the king of Egypt is Jehovah), and his son Jehoiachin (v.8-9, whom Jehovah has appointed), and Jehoiachin’s brother Zedekiah (justice of the LORD) – the narrator intentionally grouping the three kings together as having hard hearts against the LORD (v.13), leading to Israel’s unfaithfulness (v.14) and failure to keep and protect the house of the LORD (v.7, 14).  Yet, despite His unwavering steadfast love (v.15-16), they kept mocking the messengers of God.

It is in Israel’s own rejection of God that the house of the LORD is destroyed, just as the body of Christ had to be destroyed before being re-built (John 2).  So this temporary destruction of the house is but a prophecy of Israel’s own rejection of Christ, leading to the destruction of the true temple of God – Jesus’ body – just so we could be baptized in Christ’s death and raised in His resurrection (Romans 6:3), just as the Israelites are now scattered and baptised in Christ’s death, and whether they resurrect with His glory or not depends on whether they cling onto Christ or their empty religion for the generations to come.

This resurrection of Israel, akin to Christ’s resurrection, is described at the end of 2 Chronicles which is a sweeter note than that of 2 Kings.  Where in 2 Kings 25 we see a description of grace falling on Jehoiachin, both books of Chronicles’ intention is on a larger scale beyond that of microscopic mercy; rather, Chronicles detail the macroscope of the importance of the priesthood, and the victories of the kings when the priesthood and the Levites are restored to their proper duty – with the temple and Jerusalem being once again the focus of Israel’s identity (c.f. 2 Chronicles 26), given their dual importance as the place of Christ’s work on the cross and a multimedia presentation of the gospel respectively.  Jeremiah’s positive prophecy concerning Israel is therefore not surprising, and had been fulfilled (v.21-22), for Israel’s captivity is but a foreshadowing of Christ’s death on the cross leading to the scattering of the disciples.  That time of darkness was merely temporary.  Similarly, Babylon’s captivity would end under Persia eventual leadership, and Cyrus’ decision to release the Israelites and rebuild the destroyed house in Judah.  Here, for the first time, the Gentiles are not merely contributing to the house of God (i.e. Sheba / other kings paying tributes to Israel in the past) – but Cyrus is proactively commissioning Israelites to rebuild the temple, a foreshadowing of the global evangelism involving both Jews and Gentiles in building up the dwelling place of God on earth.  That is the hope we are left with at the end of 2 Chronicles, that not only Israel, but also the Gentiles, are workers of the resurrected global House of the LORD – but not until after being exiled and banished in the wake of the crucifixion of Josiah, a type of Christ.

2 Chronicles 34-36: Gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world

2 Chronicles 31-33: Humbled

Chapter 31

Hezekiah’s focus on the priesthood continues in chapter 31, as (like David in 1 Chronicles 16) he appointed the divisions of the priests and the Levites (v.2-10).  In the wake of the destruction of idolatry (v.1), the response is to replace such idolatry with passion for Jesus, giving thanks and praise (v.2) and giving the portion due to the priests and the Levites that they might give themselves to the Law of the LORD which points to Christ alone (v.3-4), such tithing through the Levites which have not been done for many generations of kings (v.7-8 – from the third month to the seventh month).  Such overflowing blessing which is beyond all that the Levites had needed (v.10)!  This prompted Hezekiah to command the Levites to prepare chambers in the house of the LORD (v.11) to house such contributions, tithes and dedicated things (v.12), a reminder that these are all the LORD’s to begin with – also a symbolic storing of the treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20).

This very much defines the period in which Hezekiah led – doing what was good and right and faithful before the LORD (v.20).  Yet, Hezekiah was not the promised offspring, despite his temporary shortcomings described in chapter 32; he is not the Son spoken of in Psalm 2; like Solomon, they both shine brightly as types of Jesus, representing ages where heaven seemed to kiss earth.  Not yet, not yet.

Chapter 32

The arrogance of Sennacherib is almost a red herring given Hezekiah’s walk with Christ and devotion to the priesthood, as surety that the LORD’s steadfast love is manifested in His victory through Israel against all enemies and odds.  The waters of the Law of the LORD flows from and to Israel (Isaiah 2:2) and Hezekiah’s decision to stop the water of the springs outside the city (v.3) is a conscious act of pronouncing judgment on Sennacherib for failing to recognise the importance of Israel’s identity to Sennacherib’s salvation.  Indeed – for with Israel is the right arm of the LORD, whereas Sennacherib is but an arm of man.

Sennacherib’s blasphemy in v.9-15 is but a repeat of what Israel believes – indeed, that what the other nations believe in are but false idols.  Of course they are incapable to fend themselves against man’s mightiest threats (v.9-15) when their object of faith is dead and lacks the power to protect but only the power to deceive.  Hezekiah’s God is the true deliverer – the story of the exodus preached in Israel and surely in the surrounding nations.  Sennacherib’s ignorance of the Passover and this protected nation is already testimony to this eventual downfall – that this tribal nation’s survival has been and will continue to be entirely dependent on the LORD’s steadfast love to Israel through Jesus.  “How much less will your God deliver you out of my hand!” (v.15, c.f. v.17) is in itself a fabricated lie.

The Israelites’ first response could have been to justify themselves; to seek confidence in their military might.  Yet, Hezekiah and Isaiah’s response is exactly that required and expected of an Israelite – to pray because of such blasphemy and crying to heaven (v.20).  The irony of Sennacherib’s death is that his lie has turned on himself – that in the house of his god he was struck down rather than delivered.  One of LORD’s mere angels is sufficient to cut off all the mighty warriors and commanders and officers in the Assyrian camp (v.21), and not even the Angel of the LORD Jesus Christ Himself – let alone the angelic army which protects Israel (2 Kings 6:17)?  Once again, the king of Israel is honoured because of Israel sealing its identity as the LORD’s child, as initiated by Hezekiah and Isaiah’s joint plea (v.23) – just as Christ was exalted by the Father (Acts 5:31) and was challenged by the lies of men like Sennacherib (Matthew 27:40).  Even Hezekiah’s pride was merely mentioned as a passing stage in his life, his sin overshadowed by his humility (v.26) which blessed the nation, just as Christ’s humility on the cross provided the gifts of salvation and Holy Spirit to us.

Thus, the sign Hezekiah received (v.24), amongst the various signs he received in the destruction of Sennacherib, were the Babylonian princes’ and envoys’ subject of inquiry.  The “sign that had been done in the land” is the sacrament of God’s love towards Israel, manifested in the Shekinah glory in the House of the LORD.  Yet, God left Hezekiah to himself (v.30), in order to test him and to know all that was in Hezekiah’s heart – whether Jesus was written on his heart, or whether his own name was written on his heart.

Chapter 33

Yet, just as Hezekiah was described to have a life walking with Jesus, his son Manasseh shakes that stability in Israel by his evil leadership once again (v.2) – the mindless sheep of Israel following their sinful king even in rejecting the same LORD Whom Hezekiah lifted up.  Just like Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28) who had similarly sacrificed his offspring as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, a direct threat to the Offspring Who would have brought everlasting to Israel.  Instead, Ahaz and Manasseh choose to adopt the idolatrous practices and abominations of other nations to achieve such victory – Manasseh in particular rejecting the LORD despite receiving direct revelation from Him (v.10), leading him to be chained down like a slave, like an animal (Isaiah 37:29).  Yet, in fulfillment of Solomon’s plea in 2 Chronicles 6, that even a man like Manasseh, if he were to turn back to the LORD, he would be redeemed – v.12-13 is a fulfillment of this.  Manasseh humbled himself before the LORD, and God was moved – His steadfast love expressed in bringing Manasseh back to Jerusalem (v.13).  Only at this stage did Manasseh know that the LORD was God.  As a response in faith, he took away the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the LORD (v.15-17), restoring the altar of the LORD and sacrificing peace and thanksgiving offering.  Judah is to return to serving the LORD, not to sway from the promise of the gospel which Manasseh newly received.

Yet, like how Manasseh has “undone” the work of Hezekiah, so also Amon is another faulty line in the lineage of David threatening the coming of the Son.  He did not humble himself before the LORD, and instead he incurred more and more guilt – bearing a death very similar to Sennacherib’s (chapter 32:21).  However, there was still some ray of light – that the people would reject those who killed Amon (v.25) – and his short reign is thus replaced by young Josiah.

 

2 Chronicles 31-33: Humbled

2 Kings 21-22: The Reformation

II Kings 21:

1  Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. 2  And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. 3  For he rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah his father had destroyed, and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. 4  And he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “In Jerusalem will I put my name.” 5  And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. 6  And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with wizards. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger. 7  And the carved image of Asherah that he had made he set in the house of which the LORD said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name forever. 8  And I will not cause the feet of Israel to wander anymore out of the land that I gave to their fathers, if only they will be careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the Law that my servant Moses commanded them.” 9  But they did not listen, and Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the LORD destroyed before the people of Israel.

 

Hezekiah’s work, unfortunately, is thus undone by Manasseh – the young king whose mother is ironically called Hephzibah, the symbolical name of Zion, representing the LORD’s delight in Jerusalem (Isaiah 62:4).  This heretical king thus built altars in the house of the LORD, building altars for Baal and made an Asherah, burning his son as an offering, using fortune-telling (Deuteronomy 18) and omens and mediums and wizards – this is the same king of Judah who followed in the vein of the practices of the neighbouring countries and failed to walk a life circumcised in the Spirit.  The irony that this same image of Asherah is now set in the same house where the LORD promised to both types of Christ, David the man after the LORD’s heart and Solomon the Wisdom of the LORD, that this is where the LORD shall put His name forever (v.4 and 7 repeated; c.f. 1 Samuel 7, 1 Kings 9).  Yet, His Name and the throne on which this anointed and prophesied son of David and King of Israel are one and the same – this is the LORD Jesus Christ, the Name of the Father (Exodus 23:21), who shall reign on the throne of Israel forevermore.  Thus, the LORD speaks – “In Jerusalem will I put my name”, thus meaning – in Jerusalem will the name of Christ be stamped as the true identity of this rebellious nation.

 

But they did not listen” (v.9) – and Manasseh thus successfully led them astray to do more evil than the neighbouring destroyed nations.

 

10  And the LORD said by his servants the prophets, 11  “Because Manasseh king of Judah has committed these abominations and has done things more evil than all that the Amorites did, who were before him, and has made Judah also to sin with his idols, 12  therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such disaster that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. 13  And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria, and the plumb line of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. 14  And I will forsake the remnant of my heritage and give them into the hand of their enemies, and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies, 15  because they have done what is evil in my sight and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came out of Egypt, even to this day.”

 

Thus, the LORD intends to replace the plumb line of the house of Ahab, the measuring line of Samaria (v.13) with the plumb line of righteousness (Isaiah 34:11); but not until Jerusalem is wiped and turned upside down.  For the plumb line of Jerusalem is that of the house of Ahab – for the anointed city is walking in sin.  It would seem like the promise made to Adam in Genesis 3:15 will come to an end here – and never before has Israel faced such a dire threat; this is truly a dark moment in Israel’s history, far more than the imminent death of Christ (which, by comparison, is but a step towards greater light and hope).  Ironic, therefore, that he slept in the garden of strength and his son the builder (Uzza and Amon) reigned in his place, when Manasseh was truly deranged in his abuse of his strength as king of Judah who failed to build Judah up from Hezekiah’s day:

 

16  Moreover, Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides the sin that he made Judah to sin so that they did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.

 

17  Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh and all that he did, and the sin that he committed, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 18  And Manasseh slept with his fathers and was buried in the garden of his house, in the garden of Uzza, and Amon his son reigned in his place.

 

19  Amon was twenty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Meshullemeth the daughter of Haruz of Jotbah. 20  And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, as Manasseh his father had done. 21  He walked in all the way in which his father walked and served the idols that his father served and worshiped them. 22  He abandoned the LORD, the God of his fathers, and did not walk in the way of the LORD. 23  And the servants of Amon conspired against him and put the king to death in his house. 24  But the people of the land struck down all those who had conspired against King Amon, and the people of the land made Josiah his son king in his place. 25  Now the rest of the acts of Amon that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 26  And he was buried in his tomb in the garden of Uzza, and Josiah his son reigned in his place.

 

Unsurprisingly, Manasseh did not exhibit Christ-like leadership in his family; Amon is thus led astray, a man who could have re-built Jerusalem but instead led Judah to further downfall.  Instead, his life was brought to a short end at 24 years old when the servants of Amon conspired against him and killed him in his own house (typical of the manner of the kingdom of corruption – 1 Kings 15:27, 16:9, 16:16; 2 Kings 9:14, 10:9, 15:10, 15:25, 21:23-24).   Would Josiah, the new king brought to the fore by those who struck down the conspirators, bring the lamp back to Jerusalem?

 

II Kings 22:

1  Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. 2  And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.

 

Now we come to the life of Josiah (healed / supported by Jehovah), the young king and son of the one beloved by Jehovah (Jedidah), the daughter of Adaiah (adorned by Jehovah) of Bozkath (a city of Judah in the lowlands).  This is a man lifted up by the LORD in his reign over Jerusalem for 31 years, walking in all the way of David, the type of Christ.  He is surrounded by men like Shaphan, the son of he who is near the LORD (Azaliah), son of Meshullam (befriended) – the secretary to the house of the LORD.  At the tender age of 26, he immediately restarts the restoration of the Temple by directing the portion of Jehovah, Hilkiah, trusting that the carpenters, builders and masons deal honestly:

 

3  In the eighteenth year of King Josiah, the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, son of Meshullam, the secretary, to the house of the LORD, saying, 4  “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may count the money that has been brought into the house of the LORD, which the keepers of the threshold have collected from the people. 5  And let it be given into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD, and let them give it to the workmen who are at the house of the LORD, repairing the house 6  (that is, to the carpenters, and to the builders, and to the masons), and let them use it for buying timber and quarried stone to repair the house. 7  But no accounting shall be asked from them for the money that is delivered into their hand, for they deal honestly.”

 

8  And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. 9  And Shaphan the secretary came to the king, and reported to the king, “Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house and have delivered it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD.” 10  Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king.

 

This is a stark contrast to Manasseh and Amon’s lives – the first recorded instance of Josiah’s kingship is the restoration of the house of the LORD.  This cleansing is coupled with the description in 2 Chronicles 34:1-7:

 

1  Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. 2  And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. 3  For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images. 4  And they chopped down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and he cut down the incense altars that stood above them. And he broke in pieces the Asherim and the carved and the metal images, and he made dust of them and scattered it over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. 5  He also burned the bones of the priests on their altars and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem. 6  And in the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, and as far as Naphtali, in their ruins all around, 7  he broke down the altars and beat the Asherim and the images into powder and cut down all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel. Then he returned to Jerusalem.

 

However, his task is far greater than that of mere physical restoration; the LORD planned for a spiritual reformation through the young king Josiah – restoring the true meaning of what the house of the LORD was for.  It is befitting of such a king from an ancestry in Judah to tear his clothes in his utter disappointment that the LORD had been disobeyed by His anointed nation for so many years – and it is indeed a fitting commentary for the entire books of 1 and 2 Kings, that the fathers of the kings of Israel have not obeyed the words of the Torah.

 

11  When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes. 12  And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Micaiah, and Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king’s servant, saying, 13  “Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.”

 

Immediately, Josiah’s trusted men (Ahikam, Achbor / Abdon (c.f. 2 Chronicles 34:20), Shaphan and Asaiah, bearing names indicating their faithful servant-heart to the LORD their God) go to the prophetess of the LORD, Huldah , the wife of Shallum (whose name indicates retribution, as it is the LORD’s retribution against Israel v.16-17 for their faithlessness).  However, the hope is to stay with Judah – Josiah, whose heart was “penitent”, who “humbled [himself] before the LORD, when [he] heard how [the LORD] spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse (in fulfillment of Deuteronomy 28:37)”.  Just like Hezekiah (c.f. 2 Kings 20:19), Josiah also will not see the imminent disaster, despite the penitence and faithfulness of these kings of Judah – for the LORD’s destruction shall come to bring true refining in the fiery furnace to usher the dawn of reformation where Christ shall fulfill all the shadows which the nation Israel should have always been pointing to.

 

14  So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter), and they talked with her. 15  And she said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: ‘Tell the man who sent you to me, 16  Thus says the LORD, behold, I will bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the words of the book that the king of Judah has read. 17  Because they have forsaken me and have made offerings to other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore my wrath will be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched. 18  But to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, thus shall you say to him, Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, 19  because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the LORD, when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the LORD. 20  Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place.’” And they brought back word to the king.

2 Kings 21-22: The Reformation

1 Kings 13: Scapegoat of God

1And behold,(A) a man of God came out of Judah by the word of the LORD to Bethel. Jeroboam was standing by the altar(B) to make offerings. 2(C) And the man cried against the altar by the word of the LORD and said, “O altar, altar, thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David,(D) Josiah by name, and he shall sacrifice on you the priests of the high places who make offerings on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.'” 3And he gave(E) a sign the same day, saying, “This is the sign that the LORD has spoken: ‘Behold, the altar shall be torn down, and the ashes that are on it shall be poured out.'”

 

Who this ‘man of God’ is, we are not told.  Just as mysterious as Melchizedek was, so this man of God bears no name unlike Shemaiah from the previous chapter.  What is key, however, is the precise description of his background, and the precision of his prophecy – a godly man from Judah, brought by God’s word to the house of God (Bethel), to proclaim against the false altar that a son of David, Josiah, shall destroy this false system of worship.  The predominate man of God is Jesus Christ Himself – as if this shadow of a godly messenger points us towards Christ, the man of Judah, the son of David, who himself shall also destroy this false system of worship.  Not by destruction of a mere altar in this mock-house of God, but a destruction of the house of God itself – the tearing down not of a mere altar (v.3) but the tearing down of the House of God (John 2:19).  Yet, the high priest that is sacrificed on this House of God, this Temple of the LORD built by Solomon’s hand and rebuilt time and time again, is Jesus Himself.

 

4And when the king heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar at Bethel, Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, “Seize him.” And his hand, which he stretched out against him, dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself. 5The altar also was torn down, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign that the man of God had given by the word of the LORD. 6And the king said to the man of God,(F) “Entreat now the favor of the LORD your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me.” And the man of God entreated the LORD, and the king’s hand was restored to him and became as it was before. 7And the king said to the man of God, “Come home with me, and refresh yourself, and(G) I will give you a reward.” 8And the man of God said to the king,(H) “If you give me half your house,(I) I will not go in with you. And I will not eat bread or drink water in this place, 9for so was it commanded me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘You shall neither eat bread nor drink water nor return by the way that you came.'” 10So he went another way and did not return by the way that he came to Bethel.

 

This dried hand is but the true diagnosis of Jeroboam – dried up and lifeless (Ezekiel 37:11) – and only such healing could be achieved by the LORD Jesus (Jeremiah 8:22; Matthew 9:12).  Note, however, that Jeroboam does not pray to receive the LORD’s mercy, or the love of Christ – instead, he merely prays in v.6 that he may simply have his hand restored.  This is the classic sign of religion, that Christ is the means, and not the end.  In the words of Matthew Henry:

 

Jeroboam’s inability to pull in his hand made him a spectacle to all about him, that they might see and fear. If God, in justice, harden the hearts of sinners, so that the hand they have stretched out in sin they cannot pull in again by repentance, that is a spiritual judgment, represented by this, and much more dreadful.

But observe, He did not desire the prophet to pray that his sin might be pardoned, and his heart changed, only that his hand might be restored; thus Pharaoh would have Moses to pray that God would take away this death only (Ex. 10:17), not this sin.

 

And so this man of God rightly refuses fellowship with this king, who remains hard-hearted, stiff-necked, as according to the LORD’s command (v.9).  From v.1-10 thus far, the only faithful trustworthy figure has been the LORD Himself, using his agent (the man of God) to mercifully warn Jeroboam that He stays true to His word, demonstrated by the tearing down of the altar and ashes pouring out.  This is but the first fulfilment – the true horror is that the LORD knows Jeroboam would rebuild the altar despite this first sign, for it is on the rebuilt altar that Josiah will “sacrifice on you [the altar] the priests of the high places who make offerings on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.”  Thus, this horror is Jeroboam’s self-judgment – denying the first sign, denying the LORD’s faithfulness to His word and promises that Jeroboam’s false system of worship, false system of priesthood – Jeroboam himself, will all fall.

 

However, this faithfulness of the LORD means that the warning given to the man of God will also be fulfilled against the man of God should he be disobedient, though confirming the consistent truth that He is faithful; but we are not (2 Timothy 2:13).

11Now(J) an old prophet lived in Bethel. And his sons[a] came and told him all that the man of God had done that day in Bethel. They also told to their father the words that he had spoken to the king. 12And their father said to them, “Which way did he go?” And his sons showed him the way that the man of God who came from Judah had gone. 13And he said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me.” So they saddled the donkey for him and he mounted it. 14And he went after the man of God and found him sitting under an oak. And he said to him, “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?” And he said, “I am.” 15Then he said to him, “Come home with me and eat bread.” 16And he said,(K) “I may not return with you, or go in with you, neither will I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place, 17for it was said to me(L) by the word of the LORD, ‘You shall neither eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by the way that you came.'” 18And he said to him, “I also am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘Bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water.'” But he lied to him. 19So he went back with him and ate bread in his house and drank water.

 

What plays out here is a close parallel to the history of garden of Eden.  This old prophet lies in v.18, for the LORD does not contradict His own word to the man of God – yet this man of God chose to heed the false prophet (Deuteronomy 13:3-5), and broke the two-fold command: not to return to Bethel, and not to have food fellowship during his mission.  Just as Eve received the command not to eat the forbidden fruit, so also she was deceived and did not stay faithful to the word of God and instead heeded the word of a creature.  Thus, the liar (v.18) triumphed over the man of God.  Witness the result of the liar’s words:

 

20And as they sat at the table, the word of the LORD came to the prophet who had brought him back. 21And he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have disobeyed the word of the LORD and have not kept the command that the LORD your God commanded you, 22but have come back and have eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which he said to you, “Eat no bread and drink no water,” your body shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.'” 23And after he had eaten bread and drunk, he saddled the donkey for the prophet whom he had brought back. 24And as he went away(M) a lion met him on the road and killed him. And his body was thrown in the road, and the donkey stood beside it; the lion also stood beside the body. 25And behold, men passed by and saw the body thrown in the road and the lion standing by the body. And they came and told it in the city where(N) the old prophet lived.

How strange that the false prophet, like Balaam, is prophesying the truth (v.20-22) against this holy man! The donkey which this false prophet rode is instead ridden by Christ into the wilderness (Zechariah 9:9; John 12:14-15) – it is a picture of the scapegoat (Leviticus 16:22), the sin of the old prophet transferred onto the man of God; the declaration that the man of God has sinned, but the old prophet and Jeroboam remain unscathed.  And that is the alarming aspect of these chapters and feud between Israel and Judah; neither king stood in Christ, though Shemaiah and this man of God had clearly spoken words of truth.  Yet, only the LORD has been faithful throughout, and v.23-25 is a clear example of the LORD fulfilling his warning, v.24 and 25 (and v.28 – with particular emphasis on “the lion had not eaten the body or torn the donkey”) in particular showing that once the animals have killed the man of God, they have refrained from mauling him further.  This is a picture of the foolishness of man’s lust, in the donkey, against the picture of the devil prowling like a lion (1 Peter 5:8).  As Dev Menon states in his “Donkeys” blog entry:

“Genesis 16:12 – He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.” (Ishmael)

Jeremiah 2:24 – a wild donkey used to the wilderness, in her heat sniffing the wind! Who can restrain her lust? None who seek her need weary themselves; in her month they will find her. (Israel)

Hosea 8:9 – For they have gone up to Assyria, a wild donkey wandering alone; Ephraim has hired lovers.

Genesis 49:14-15 – “Issachar is a strong donkey, crouching between the sheepfolds. 15 He saw that a resting place was good, and that the land was pleasant, so he bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant at forced labor. (blessings from Jacob)

Zechariah 9:9 – Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Jesus tames the wild donkey lusting after everything, living alone…
She was chained up by the law, restraining the lust – but still rebellious
Untied by the Master, she willingly bears this Burden
She carries Him to the cross….

Thus, the donkey brings the man of God, full of sin because of the false prophet’s deception, ‘devoured’ by the prowling lion, the picture of him sprawled across the road in between the two inanimate animals.  This is our Saviour, the Son of Man, who bore our sins for us.  Though this man of God has disobeyed, the parallel here is that the Son of Man obeyed till his death, bearing our sins upon him until he cried out “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani” (Mark 15:34).

26And when the prophet who had brought him back from the way heard of it, he said, “It is the man of God who disobeyed the word of the LORD; therefore the LORD has given him to the lion, which has torn him and killed him, according to the word that the LORD spoke to him.” 27And he said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me.” And they saddled it. 28And he went and found his body thrown in the road, and the donkey and the lion standing beside the body. The lion had not eaten the body or torn the donkey. 29And the prophet took up the body of the man of God and laid it on the donkey and brought it back to the city[b] to mourn and to bury him. 30And he laid the body in his own grave. And they mourned over him, saying,(O) “Alas, my brother!” 31And after he had buried him, he said to his sons, “When I die, bury me in the grave in which the man of God is buried;(P) lay my bones beside his bones. 32(Q) For the saying that he called out by the word of the LORD against the altar in Bethel and against(R) all the houses of the high places that are in the cities of(S) Samaria shall surely come to pass.”

It is strange here therefore for the prophet to want to be buried with the man of God – save for only one apparent reason, that this prophet should partake in the man of God’s glory – v.32 – “For the saying that he called out by the word of the LORD against the altar in Bethel and against all the houses of the high places that are in the cities of Samaria shall surely come to pass”.  What privilege it is, therefore, that this prophet is buried with the man of God just as we are called to bury our old sinful lives of falsehood (Colossians 2:12) and rise in His truth, demonstrated through this man of God who is but a shadow of Christ, a prophet of the Old Testament pointing to God’s faithfulness to His overarching promise that judgment will be declared against the altars and false worship of this world by the very return of His true son Josiah, in the name of Christ Jesus.  Thus Adam Clarke states, “This argues a strong conviction in the mind of the old prophet, that the deceased was a good and holy man of God; and he is willing to have place with him in the general resurrection.”  And so the old prophet joins in the man of God’s prophesying, by himself prophesying the judgment in the cities of Samaria (though Samaria is not yet established until 1 Kings 16:24!), a display of the restoration of Israel spreading out to the surrounding Gentile nations (Isaiah 54:2-3). 

33After this thing Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but made priests for the high places again from among all the people. Any who would, he ordained to be priests of the high places. 34(T) And this thing became sin to the house of Jeroboam,(U) so as to cut it off and to destroy it from the face of the earth.

And how unsurprising that despite hearing the LORD’s faithfulness enacted against the man of God Himself, just as the Father’s wrath had been poured out onto the Son – the cosmic sacrifice of His only begotten Son (Genesis 22), that the man of God should have his Last Supper with the false prophet, drinking the cup of wrath upon Himself (Isaiah 51:17; Matthew 26:39) and being the living scapegoat, dying by the judgment at the house of God (Bethel) – prophesying the day that the altar shall be smashed once and for all, just as the true House of God is torn down by the Son who died not where he came, but will return to a renewed Jerusalem one glorious day.  That glorious day, for Josiah, is in 2 Kings 23:15-20, approximately 350 (half of the fullness of 700 years) years after 1 Kings 13:

15Moreover, the altar at Bethel, the high place erected(BD) by Jeroboam the son of Nebat,(BE) who made Israel to sin,(BF) that altar with the high place he pulled down and burned,[d] reducing it to dust. He also burned the Asherah. 16And as Josiah turned, he saw the tombs there on the mount. And he sent and took the bones out of the tombs and burned them on the altar and defiled it,(BG) according to the word of the LORD that the man of God proclaimed, who had predicted these things. 17Then he said, “What is that monument that I see?” And the men of the city told him,(BH) “It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and predicted[e] these things that you have done against the altar at Bethel.” 18And he said, “Let him be; let no man move his bones.” So they let his bones alone, with the bones(BI) of the prophet who came out of Samaria. 19And Josiah removed all the shrines also of the high places that were(BJ) in the cities of Samaria, which kings of Israel had made, provoking the LORD to anger. He did to them according to all that he had done at Bethel. 20And(BK) he sacrificed all the priests of the high places who were there, on the altars,(BL) and burned human bones on them. Then he returned to Jerusalem.

1 Kings 13: Scapegoat of God