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2 Chronicles 34


(LXX versing)
Josiah Succeeds Amon in Judah Josiah Reigns in Judah The Good Reign of Josiah King Josiah in Judah Accession of Josiah
34:1-7 34:1-7 34:1-7 34:1-2 34:1-2
Josiah Attacks Pagan Worship The First Reforms
34:3-7 34:3-7
Josiah Reforms the Temple Hilkiah Finds the Book of the Law Josiah's Reforms and Finding the Book of the Law The Book of the Law Is Discovered Work on the Temple
34:8-13 34:8-13 34:8-13 34:8-13 34:8-11
Hilkiah Discovers Lost Book of the Law The Book of the Law Discovered
34:14-18 34:14-18 34:14-18 34:14-18 34:14-18
34:19-21 34:19-21 34:19-21 34:19-28a 34:19-21
Huldah, the Prophetess Speaks Huldah the Prophetess Is Consulted
34:22-28 34:22-28 34:22-28 34:22-28
Josiah Makes A Covenant to Obey the Lord The Renewal of the Covenant
34:29-30 34:29-33 34:29-33 34:29-33 34:29-32a

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


1Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. 2He did right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his father David and did not turn aside to the right or to the left. 3For in the eighth year of his reign while he was still a youth, he began to seek the God of his father David; and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, the carved images and the molten images. 4They tore down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and the incense altars that were high above them he chopped down; also the Asherim, the carved images and the molten images he broke in pieces and ground to powder and scattered it on the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. 5Then he burned the bones of the priests on their altars and purged Judah and Jerusalem. 6In the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, Simeon, even as far as Naphtali, in their surrounding ruins, 7he also tore down the altars and beat the Asherim and the carved images into powder, and chopped down all the incense altars throughout the land of Israel. Then he returned to Jerusalem.

34:1 "eight years old" There are several time designators in this chapter.

  1. eight years old, v. 1
  2. in the eighth year of his reign, v. 3
  3. in the twelfth year of his reign, v. 3
  4. in the eighteenth year of his reign, v. 8


The IVP Bible Background Commentary (OT), p. 457, puts Josiah's reign (640-609 b.c.) in historical context.

  1. At the death of Ashurbanipal (669-603 b.c.), the Assyrian Empire began to lose power and control of the ANE.
  2. By Josiah's time, two Egyptian Pharaoh's impacted Judah.
    1. Psammetichus I (Psamtik, 663-609 b.c.)
    2. Neco II (609-593 b.c.); the one who passed through Judah to fight Assyria and in the conflict Josiah is fatally wounded (for a good brief note on the tragedy of Josiah's death, see Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 245-246)
  3. In the rising power of Neo-Babylon, Nabopolassar (626-605 b.c.) was in control.

CHART: A BRIEF HISTORICAL SURVEY OF THE POWERS OF MESOPOTAMIA (using dates primarily from John Bright's A History of Israel, p. 462ff)

34:2 Notice how Josiah's reign is characterized.

  1. He did right in the sight of the Lord.
  2. He walked in the ways of his father David.
  3. He did not turn aside to the right or left (this idiom denotes conformity to God's revealed laws, cf. Deut. 5:32; 17:11,20; 28:14; Josh. 1:7; 23:6; Pro. 25:25-27; 2 Kgs. 22:2).

The Chronicler spends much of his writings on David, Solomon, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah. These kings demonstrated the power of obedience and devotion. Their lives were to be emulated by post-exilic Judah.

34:3 Josiah's personal faith developed early.

  1. He began to seek the God of his father, David; see full note on VERB at 2 Chr. 7:14 (eighth year, v. 3).
  2. He began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of idolatry (twelfth year, vv. 3-7).
    1. he destroyed high places, vv. 3,4,7
    2. he destroyed Asherim, vv. 3-4,7
    3. he destroyed the carved images, vv. 3-4
    4. he destroyed the molten images, vv. 3-4
    5. he destroyed the incense altars, vv. 4,7
    6. he desecrated the graves of idol worshipers, v. 4
    7. he desecrated the bones of the pagan priests on their altars, v. 5 (cf. 1 Kings 13)

None of the previous attempts at spiritual reform worked (i.e., 2 Chr. 14:5; 15:17; 17:6; 20:37; 33:15-17). The people of God had become completely and irreversibly entangled with Canaanite fertility worship. The Assyrian and Babylonian exiles were YHWH's drastic measures to restore pure worship. They were an act of His love, as well as an act of His judgment.


34:4 "incense altars" In the past the Hebrew word (BDB 329) was translated "son-pillars" (i.e., BDB 329; John Joseph Owens, Analytical Key to the OT, p. 921, and Rotherham's Emphasized Bible, p. 465. However, modern archaeology says that this term means "incense altar" (cf. Lev. 26:30; 2 Chr. 14:5; 34:4,7; Isa. 17:8; 27:9). R. K. Harrison, Old Testament Times, p, 8, discusses this archaeological find from Palmyra, northern Syria, found on a horned limestone altar.

I like R. K. Harrison so much because he relates the OT to the ANE. Two other persons I trust who do the same thing are

  1. John H. Walton, Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context and The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate and Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the OT: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible
  2. D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic
  3. together, #1 and #2 wrote, The Lost World of Scripture: Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority

I highly recommend all three authors who take the historical and literary setting of Scripture seriously!

34:6 The northern kingdom had been defeated and exiled to Assyria since 722 b.c. (Manasseh's reign). Josiah extends his purge and reform to the northern tribes.

The "remnant of Israel" is mentioned in 2 Chr. 34:9.


"Simeon" It is surprising that the tribe of Simeon is mentioned here. Simeon was incorporated into Judah very early. Simeon is not mentioned at all in Samuel and Kings. It is mentioned briefly in lists in 1 Chronicles (cf. 1 Chr. 2:1; 4:24,42; 6:65; 12:25). It is mentioned only twice in 2 Chronicles, both in connection with reforms (i.e., Asa's, 2 Chr. 15:9 and Josiah's, 2 Chr. 34:9).

NASB  "in their surrounding ruins"
NKJV  "and all around, with axes"
NRSV  "in their ruins all around"
TEV  "and the devastated areas"
NJB  "and around their open spaces"
JPSOA  "(lying) in ruins on every side"
REB  "he burnt down their houses wherever he found them"
LXX  "in reference to their sites round about"
Peshitta  "in their streets round about"
Rotherham's Bible  "searched their houses round about"

MT Ketiv has "he chose their houses"; the Qere has "with their swords" or "in their ruins." The UBS Text Project, p. 484, gives the MT a "C" rating (considerable doubt).

The context is Josiah's destruction of idols and idol worship. Apparently this different phrase refers to a search for these abominations in public (i.e., in the square, NJB) and private homes (i.e., REB, Rotherham's Bible). Josephus, Antiq. 10.4.5., mentions this house-to-house search for idols.

Martin J. Selman, Tyndale OT Commentaries, p. 529, suggests the phrase means "destroyed their temples," following I. Seeligmann.

8Now in the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had purged the land and the house, he sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, and Maaseiah an official of the city, and Joah the son of Joahaz the recorder, to repair the house of the Lord his God. 9They came to Hilkiah the high priest and delivered the money that was brought into the house of God, which the Levites, the doorkeepers, had collected from Manasseh and Ephraim, and from all the remnant of Israel, and from all Judah and Benjamin and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 10Then they gave it into the hands of the workmen who had the oversight of the house of the Lord, and the workmen who were working in the house of the Lord used it to restore and repair the house. 11They in turn gave it to the carpenters and to the builders to buy quarried stone and timber for couplings and to make beams for the houses which the kings of Judah had let go to ruin. 12The men did the work faithfully with foremen over them to supervise: Jahath and Obadiah, the Levites of the sons of Merari, Zechariah and Meshullam of the sons of the Kohathites, and the Levites, all who were skillful with musical instruments. 13They were also over the burden bearers, and supervised all the workmen from job to job; and some of the Levites were scribes and officials and gatekeepers.

34:8-13 These verses document Josiah's temple repair. Obviously the temple had been neglected and its procedures forgotten or ignored.

The repair was done by the supervision of Levites, using non-Levite workers. This fits the Chronicler's interest and affirmation of the Levites (cf. 2 Kgs. 22:7).

34:12-13 Once again, the Chronicler highlights the ministry of the Levites. These families of the tribe of Levi, given by YHWH to help the priests, are mentioned mostly in the books of

  1. Numbers (56 times)
  2. 1 Chronicles (34 times)
  3. 2 Chronicles (64 times)
  4. Ezra ‒ Nehemiah (59 times)

It is surprising that the Chronicler does not mention the Levites' faithfulness, as does 2 Kgs. 22:7 (also note 2 Chr. 12:15).

Apparently the Levite musicians set a tempo for the construction crew (see the Jerome Biblical Commentary, I, p. 425).

14When they were bringing out the money which had been brought into the house of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found the book of the law of the Lord given by Moses. 15Hilkiah responded and said to Shaphan the scribe, "I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord." And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan. 16Then Shaphan brought the book to the king and reported further word to the king, saying, "Everything that was entrusted to your servants they are doing. 17They have also emptied out the money which was found in the house of the Lord, and have delivered it into the hands of the supervisors and the workmen." 18Moreover, Shaphan the scribe told the king saying, "Hilkiah the priest gave me a book." And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.

34:14-21 These verses document the wonderful discovery of "the book of the law of the Lord given by Moses." It is uncertain to what Scriptures this refers.

  1. Genesis ‒ Deuteronomy
  2. Deuteronomy (esp. chapter 28)
  3. part of Exodus (i.e., the Book of the Covenant, v. 30, cf. Exodus 19-24)
  4. Leviticus (esp. chapter 26)

Josephus, Antiq. 10.4.2., says "the holy books of Moses"; notice the PLURAL.

Notice the levels of royal leadership.

  1. the High Priest ‒ Hilkiah
  2. the royal recorder ‒ Shaphan
  3. the royal servant ‒ Asaiah
  4. the prophetess ‒ Huldah


34:14 YHWH's codified revelation to Moses is called by several names in Chronicles and Ezra ‒ Nehemiah (note the variety).

  1. "the Law of the Lord ‒ 1 Chr. 16:40; 2 Chr. 12:1; 31:3,4; 35:26; Ezra 7:10
  2. "the Law of the Lord your God" ‒ 1 Chr. 22:12
  3. "My Law" ‒ 2 Chr. 6:16
  4. "the Law and the commandment" ‒ 2 Chr. 14:4; 31:21
  5. "the book of the Law of the Lord" ‒ 2 Chr. 17:9; 34:14
  6. "between Law and commandment, statutes and ordinances" ‒ 2 Chr. 19:10
  7. "the law of Moses" ‒ 2 Chr. 23:18; 30:16; Ezra 3:2; 7:6
  8. "in the Law in the book of Moses" ‒ 2 Chr. 25:4
  9. "according to the whole Law, the statutes and the ordinances" ‒ 2 Chr. 33:8
  10. "the book of the law" ‒ 2 Chr. 34:15
  11. "of the Law" ‒ 2 Chr. 34:19
  12. "the book of the covenant" ‒ 2 Chr. 34:30
  13. "His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes" ‒ 2 Chr. 34:31
  14. "the commandment of our God. . .according to the Law" ‒ Ezra 10:3
  15. "the book of the Law of Moses" ‒ Neh. 8:1
  16. "the law" ‒ Neh. 8:2,7,14
  17. "the book of the law" ‒ Neh. 8:3
  18. "from the book, from the law of God" ‒ Neh. 8:8
  19. "the words of the law" ‒ Neh. 8:9,13
  20. "the book of the law of God" ‒ Neh. 8:18
  21. "the book of the law of the Lord their God" ‒ Neh. 9:3
  22. "just ordinances and true laws, good statutes and commandments" ‒ Neh. 9:13,14
  23. "Your Law" ‒ Neh. 9:26,29,34
  24. "the Law of God" ‒ Neh. 10:28

34:15 "the scribes" See SPECIAL TOPIC: SCRIBES.

34:18 The recently found book was read to Josiah. This was part of YHWH's guidelines for the king (cf. Deut. 17:19) and the people (cf. Exod. 24:7; Deut. 4:9-10; 31:11). Reading of the Law of Moses to the people was also part of the covenant renewal ceremony (cf. Josh. 8:30-35; Nehemiah 8; 9:3).

19When the king heard the words of the law, he tore his clothes. 20Then the king commanded Hilkiah, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Abdon the son of Micah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah the king's servant, saying, 21"Go, inquire of the Lordd for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book which has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord which is poured out on us because our fathers have not observed the word of the Lord, to do according to all that is written in this book."

34:19 "he tore his clothes" This was a sign of mourning.


34:21 This verse clearly shows why Josiah was grieving. It was the people of God's covenant disobedience which triggered His judgment (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28).

22So Hilkiah and those whom the king had told went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tokhath, the son of Hasrah, the keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter); and they spoke to her regarding this. 23She said to them, "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'Tell the man who sent you to Me, 24thus says the Lord, "Behold, I am bringing evil on this place and on its inhabitants, even all the curses written in the book which they have read in the presence of the king of Judah. 25Because they have forsaken Me and have burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore My wrath will be poured out on this place and it shall not be quenched."' 26But to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus you will say to him, 'Thus says the Lord God of Israel regarding the words which you have heard, 27Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before Me, tore your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you," declares the Lord. 28Behold, I will gather you to your fathers and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, so your eyes will not see all the evil which I will bring on this place and on its inhabitants."'" And they brought back word to the king.

34:22-28 Josiah commanded the priests (i.e., "go," "inquire," Qal IMPERATIVES) to find a prophet to give clear guidance on what he should do. They went to Huldah the prophetess, not Jeremiah.


Her words were very strong about YHWH's plans to judge His people because of their repeated idolatry and faithlessness, both leaders and people. The curses of the law have been loosed (cf. 2 Chr. 34:24-25)! This, however, will not happen in Josiah's day. He will have a reign of peace (v. 28).

Notice the words of the prophetess, as well as prophets, reinforce the written word, not add to it. They are interpreters of revelation, not innovators.


34:25 "all the works of their hands" This refers to the creation of idols, either

  1. carved and overlaid
  2. molten metal formed into idols


34:27 Josiah and the people will be spared YHWH's wrath because

  1. Josiah's heart was tender (BDB 939, KB 1236, Qal PERFECT)
  2. Josiah humbled himself before God (BDB 488, KB 484, Niphal IMPERFECT with waw, cf. 1 Chr. 28:9; 2 Chr. 7:14; 12:7; 32:26)
    1. tore his clothes, 2 Chr. 34:19
    2. wept before Me (i.e., in prayer)


NASB, NKJV  "your heart was tender"
NRSV  "your heart was penitent"
TEV  "you repented"
NJB  "your heart has been touched"
JPSOA  "your heart was softened"
REB  "you have shown a willing heart"
LXX  "your heart was embarrassed"

This VERB (BDB 939, KB 1236, Qal PERFECT, cf. 2 Kgs. 22:19) is used in two senses.

  1. fear of men ‒ Deut. 20:3,8
  2. soft hearted towards God ‒ 2 Kgs. 22:19; 2 Chr. 12:7; 32:26

29Then the king sent and gathered all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 30The king went up to the house of the Lord and all the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests, the Levites and all the people, from the greatest to the least; and he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord.

34:29-33 This is a covenant renewal ceremony.

  1. law is read
  2. people promised (INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT, Qal)
    1. to walk after YHWH, 2 Chr. 34:31
    2. to keep His law, v. 31
    3. to perform the words of the book, v. 31
    4. to serve the Lord their God, v. 33

34:30 Various segments of society heard the word of God read.

  1. the king
  2. all the men of Judah
  3. the inhabitants of Jerusalem
  4. the priests
  5. the Levites (cf. 2 Kgs. 23:2 has "prophets")
  6. all the people
    1. from the greatest
    2. to the least
  7. 2 Chr. 34:9 gives a list of those who gave money for the temple to be repaired
    1. Manasseh
    2. Ephraim
    3. all the remnant of Israel
    4. all Benjamin
    5. the inhabitants of Jerusalem

so one can assume those mentioned in v. 17 were there when the law was read in v. 9.

31Then the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord to walk after the Lord, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all his heart and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant written in this book. 32Moreover, he made all who were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand with him. So the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. 33Josiah removed all the abominations from all the lands belonging to the sons of Israel, and made all who were present in Israel to serve the Lord their God. Throughout his lifetime they did not turn from following the Lord God of their fathers.

34:31 "commandments. . .testimonies. . .statutes" See SPECIAL TOPIC: TERMS FOR GOD'S REVELATION.

NASB, NKJV, NRSV, TEV, NJB, JPSOA, LXX, Peshitta  "Benjamin"
REB  "to keep the covenant"

The UBS Text Project, p. 486, gives "Benjamin" an "A" rating. It is followed by all the ancient versions.

The NEB and REB make an emendation based on 2 Kgs. 23:3; The Bible Commentary, 1 Samuel-Esther, by F. C. Cook, says "'Benjamin' is never put in contrast with 'Jerusalem' but always with 'Judah.'"

34:33 Josiah's reform (cf. 2 Kgs. 23:4-14,24) example and influence protected the people throughout his life.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. What makes Judean kings do what is right in YHWH's eyes?
  2. What did Josiah do to the idols in the land?
  3. What was "the book of the law of the Lord"?
  4. Why did Josiah tear his clothes when he heard the law read?
  5. What does 2 Chr. 34:22 say about female leadership?
  6. What are "the curses" of the book in 2 Chr. 34:24?
  7. Why did YHWH delay His judgment?
  8. How can 2 Chr. 34:28 be reconciled with Josiah's early, violent death in chapter 35?

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