The last two chapters show a high point and a low point and a ray of hope at the end. The climax is the celebration of the Passover by King Josiah. The low point is what Jehoiakin and Zedekiah, the sons of Josiah, do. A pious father and wicked sons. Yet 2 Chronicles ends with a beginning of an ascending line. In the last verses new hope rises through the faithfulness of God.
1 - 6 Preparation for Celebrating the Passover
1 Then Josiah celebrated the Passover to the LORD in Jerusalem, and they slaughtered the Passover [animals] on the fourteenth [day] of the first month. 2 He set the priests in their offices and encouraged them in the service of the house of the LORD. 3 He also said to the Levites who taught all Israel [and] who were holy to the LORD, “Put the holy ark in the house which Solomon the son of David king of Israel built; it will be a burden on [your] shoulders no longer. Now serve the LORD your God and His people Israel. 4 Prepare [yourselves] by your fathers’ households in your divisions, according to the writing of David king of Israel and according to the writing of his son Solomon. 5 Moreover, stand in the holy place according to the sections of the fathers’ households of your brethren the lay people, and according to the Levites, by division of a father’s household. 6 Now slaughter the Passover [animals], sanctify yourselves and prepare for your brethren to do according to the word of the LORD by Moses.”
Verse 1 is a summary of what is described in verses 2-19. The celebrating of the Passover follows from what Josiah read in the found book of the law and the covenant he made with the LORD to act according to all the words of the book of the law. Josiah celebrates the Passover on the day appointed by the LORD (Lev 23:5). Our obedience works in the same way. Paul has also been told by the Lord how the Lord’s Supper is to be celebrated (1Cor 11:23). We celebrate it according to His directions on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7).
Just as with Hezekiah, we also find the weakness of the priests. They must be resurrected to do their service (verse 2). We also see this in Christianity, where many believers are not aware of their priesthood and therefore do not do priestly service. We would do well to encourage those believers to take up their priestly duties in the house of God. The Father seeks for them (Jn 4:23).
The house has been cleansed. Now the objects that belong there can be given their own place again. Josiah tells the Levites to put the ark back in its place (verse 3). It seems that the ark is no longer in its place because of former unfaithfulness. The Levites are said to teach “all Israel”. What the Levites do corresponds to the teaching of teachers in the church. The goal of their teaching must be to give the Lord Jesus the place that belongs to Him. A divine service in the church is only possible if the Lord Jesus can take His rightful place, a place of rest and authority in the midst of His own.
Josiah also says to the Levites that they must serve the LORD their God and His people Israel. God must occupy the first place in their - and also in our - service. It is not man and his needs that are central, but the Lord and His interests. God’s people must be served in line with this and directly related to it.
After pointing out to the Levites their connection to the ark and their service, Josiah tells them to prepare themselves (verse 4). This preparation means that they must prepare themselves for their service. In doing so, they should not rely on their own insights or initiatives. Their responsibilities are described by David and Solomon. If they act accordingly, they will be occupied to the honor of God and will be protected against acting arbitrarily, which would cause new disorder.
Everything must be carried out exactly according to Scripture. Every time the chronicler points this out. In verses 3-4 he refers to Solomon, in verses 4,15 to the writing of David, in verse 18 to Samuel, and in verses 6,12 to the word of the LORD by the mouth of Moses. The latter is a fine example of inspiration. At the same time, the word of Moses is perfectly the word of God. That word is the standard for Josiah.
When the Levites have prepared themselves, they must stand in the holy place to perform their task for the benefit of the lay people, literally “the sons of the people” (verse 5). It is true that to the Levites is spoken about the sons of the people as “your brethren”. The Levites, together with the common people, are members of God’s people.
For us it means that we take our place in the church in submission to the Word, so that we can meet the Lord Jesus there. We are all there together as brothers and sisters. For us there is no distinction as instituted by God in Israel, a distinction between priests and Levites and the common people. The New Testament believer is a priest, a Levite and an ordinary member of the people at the same time. However, we can apply these distinctions to different aspects of our being a Christian, such as worshipping God, serving the believers, and being a Christian in daily life.
The Levites are commissioned to slaughter the Passover animals and sanctify themselves (verse 6). When we are occupied with the Passover, which for us is the Lord Jesus (1Cor 5:7b), we must realize that we are occupied with holy things. Josiah instructs the Levites to prepare Passover animals also for their brethren and to do so as it is written down in God’s Word by Moses. For us it means teaching our fellow believers by means of the Word of God what it means to engage with Christ as our Passover.
7 - 9 The Passover Offerings
7 Josiah contributed to the lay people, to all who were present, flocks of lambs and young goats, all for the Passover offerings, numbering 30,000 plus 3,000 bulls; these were from the king’s possessions. 8 His officers also contributed a freewill offering to the people, the priests and the Levites. Hilkiah and Zechariah and Jehiel, the officials of the house of God, gave to the priests for the Passover offerings 2,600 [from the flocks] and 300 bulls. 9 Conaniah also, and Shemaiah and Nethanel, his brothers, and Hashabiah and Jeiel and Jozabad, the officers of the Levites, contributed to the Levites for the Passover offerings 5,000 [from the flocks] and 500 bulls.
Here the Passover becomes a sacrificial feast. Josiah and the leaders contribute offerings. In verse 7 we read that the great gift of Josiah comes from his own possessions. The making available of sacrifices shows in picture that Christians not only bring their own appreciation of Christ as a sacrifice, but that through their teaching teachers and leaders also provide other believers with ‘sacrificial material’.
Sacrifices are constantly added to the sacrifices, new sacrifices are constantly being provided (verses 8-9). This indicates that our spiritual sacrifices are constantly being renewed. If that does not happen, our spiritual sacrificial service becomes formalism, it becomes a routine. That is why it is important to read about the Lord Jesus in God’s Word, so that there is more and more thanks and worship for Him in our hearts.
10 - 16 Preparing the Offerings
10 So the service was prepared, and the priests stood at their stations and the Levites by their divisions according to the king’s command. 11 They slaughtered the Passover [animals], and while the priests sprinkled the blood [received] from their hand, the Levites skinned [them]. 12 Then they removed the burnt offerings that [they] might give them to the sections of the fathers’ households of the lay people to present to the LORD, as it is written in the book of Moses. [They did] this also with the bulls. 13 So they roasted the Passover [animals] on the fire according to the ordinance, and they boiled the holy things in pots, in kettles, in pans, and carried [them] speedily to all the lay people. 14 Afterwards they prepared for themselves and for the priests, because the priests, the sons of Aaron, [were] offering the burnt offerings and the fat until night; therefore the Levites prepared for themselves and for the priests, the sons of Aaron. 15 The singers, the sons of Asaph, [were] also at their stations according to the command of David, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun the king’s seer; and the gatekeepers at each gate did not have to depart from their service, because the Levites their brethren prepared for them. 16 So all the service of the LORD was prepared on that day to celebrate the Passover, and to offer burnt offerings on the altar of the LORD according to the command of King Josiah.
Now that the priests, the Levites, and the service are prepared, the Passover can be celebrated. All take their places according to the commandment of the king (verse 10). So they stand there at the right time, in the right place, with the right sacrifices and the right mind of heart. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, it must also be done as the Lord Jesus said, in the place where He is, in the way He wills and in the right mind. We have to understand that the Lord’s meal is not an ordinary human meal. If we consider that, it will save us from the misconduct that Paul must admonish the Corinthians about (1Cor 11:20-21).
The slaughter of the Passover lamb is a serious matter (verse 11). The death of an innocent, spotless animal and the sprinkling of blood are reminders of what was necessary for the redemption of the people out of Egypt. It is a picture of the great sacrifice of Christ through Whose blood we are redeemed from the power of sin (1Pet 1:18-19). The skinning is done to sacrifice certain parts of the sacrifices to the LORD and to give other parts to the people to be eaten (verse 12).
The parts of the sacrifice are treated in different ways (verse 13). The Passover lamb is roasted, and the holy things that are for the people are boiled in various objects (Exo 12:8-9; Deu 16:7). After their preparation, the meat is speedily carried to the celebrating people, after which the meal can begin.
What is roasted is exposed to the fire. This is seen in Christ Who has been in the fire of God’s judgment. The cooking of the parts of the sacrifice given to the common people is an expression of the people’s appreciation of the work of Christ. That appreciation means that God’s people feed on Christ.
The priests have been so busy sacrificing the burnt offerings that the Levites must prepare the Passover lamb for them (verse 14). Here we see a beautiful cooperation in the service for the LORD. As said before, today we know no distinction between priests and Levites. All believers are priests before God and all serve Him also as Levites with the different task each one has. As Levites we are busy to do our priestly task all the better, to become better worshippers.
In verse 15 the celebration of the Passover is extended with singing. At the first celebration of the Passover, at the exodus from Egypt (Exo 12:1-12), there is no singing. Singing is part of the Supper. We remember the Lord and proclaim His death. At the same time, we are glad that He has done it and that the work has been accomplished through which God has been glorified and we have been saved and have received so many blessings. We cannot help but praise and honor Him for that. The cup of the Supper is therefore referred to as “the cup of blessing which we bless” or “the cup of praise for which we praise” (1Cor 10:16a).
The gatekeepers remain at their post. As they faithfully perform their service, they receive their share of the Passover lamb “because the Levites their brethren prepared for them”. Here we see that while we are busy before the Lord, we can feed on Him. There is a danger that through our zeal we may forget to feed on the Lord. He is the true strength for our service.
Verse 16 is the conclusion of the previous part. To speak of “all the service of the LORD “ means that it is not a service of men. It is a service by men. However, they must do their service in the prescribed manner. It happens “on that day”, the day determined by the LORD when the Passover is to be celebrated. It also happens “on the altar of the LORD” and not on an altar of men. Finally everything happens “according to the command of King Josiah”. Josiah is the God-fearing leader who gives his people the right instructions. It is also necessary today that the leaders among God’s people give the people the right directions from God’s Word.
17 - 19 A Special Passover
17 Thus the sons of Israel who were present celebrated the Passover at that time, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days. 18 There had not been celebrated a Passover like it in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet; nor had any of the kings of Israel celebrated such a Passover as Josiah did with the priests, the Levites, all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 19 In the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign this Passover was celebrated.
There are also Israelites present at the celebration of the Passover, i.e. members of God’s people from the Ten Tribes (verse 17). They should be all men of Israel, for according to the command they should go to Jerusalem three times a year, among other things to celebrate the Passover (Exo 23:14-17; Deu 16:7-17). Unfortunately this is not the case. Even today, many do not come to the place where the Lord Jesus is in the midst of the church to honor Him there.
The Passover is followed by the celebration of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a feast that lasts for seven days. The connection between the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Breast is very close and occurs more often (Lk 22:1; 1Cor 5:7-8). The meaning is that our life must be in accordance with our eating of the slain Lamb. Our whole life - seven is the number that indicates a complete period - must be ‘unleavened’, i.e. free from sin, of which the leaven is a picture.
The Passover that Josiah celebrates is of a higher spiritual level than that of Hezekiah. The Passover celebrated by Hezekiah has not been so celebrated since the days of Solomon (2Chr 30:26). The Passover celebrated by Josiah even surpasses that Passover. To find a comparison for celebrating such a Passover, the chronicler must go back much further, to the days of Samuel (verse 18). This means that throughout the time of the kings, the Passover has not been celebrated in the way Josiah does now.
God in His grace can give such glorious things that have not been there for a long time. Josiah celebrates an unprecedented Passover, also because he by far is not as rich as his predecessors and yet makes such sacrifices and provides for the whole people. We must not restrict God and deny Him revivals. Across all the unfaithfulness of the people, He can give in His grace a restoration that reminds us of the beginning.
Josiah celebrates the Passover in the eighteenth year of his reign (verse 19). He has then cleansed the land and the house and ordered the restoration of the house of the LORD (2Chr 34:8). At the end of the description of his celebration of the Passover, the connection between a sanctified life and the house of God, on the one hand, and salvation from the death of the Lamb, on the other, is emphasized.
20 - 27 The death of Josiah
20 After all this, when Josiah had set the temple in order, Neco king of Egypt came up to make war at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah went out to engage him. 21 But Neco sent messengers to him, saying, “What have we to do with each other, O King of Judah? [I am] not [coming] against you today but against the house with which I am at war, and God has ordered me to hurry. Stop for your own sake from [interfering with] God who is with me, so that He will not destroy you.” 22 However, Josiah would not turn away from him, but disguised himself in order to make war with him; nor did he listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God, but came to make war on the plain of Megiddo. 23 The archers shot King Josiah, and the king said to his servants, “Take me away, for I am badly wounded.” 24 So his servants took him out of the chariot and carried him in the second chariot which he had, and brought him to Jerusalem where he died and was buried in the tombs of his fathers. All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah. 25 Then Jeremiah chanted a lament for Josiah. And all the male and female singers speak about Josiah in their lamentations to this day. And they made them an ordinance in Israel; behold, they are also written in the Lamentations. 26 Now the rest of the acts of Josiah and his deeds of devotion as written in the law of the LORD, 27 and his acts, first to last, behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah.
After Josiah has finished restoring God’s house (verse 20), another act of him is described by the chronicler. This act will be his last, because Josiah will be killed in it. It is an act of war. The connection between the mention that his work concerning the house is finished and his acting against Neco is perhaps that he no longer sees any challenges internally and shifts the field of his interest to events outside his land.
Be that as it may, it is always a dangerous moment when we have come to the completion of a particular work for the Lord. We should then remain dependent on Him and not look for challenges in areas where He has not called us. It is important that we remain in the field of work that the Lord has entrusted to us (cf. 2Cor 10:13). Josiah should not have interfered in the politics of the world. The disputes between these empires are none of his business (Pro 26:17 ; 20:3). It is also a mystery why he did this.
In 609 BC Neco, the king of Egypt, sets out to fight. It is not clear whether he is engaged in battle with Assyria or whether he is on his way to help Assyria in its struggle against the rising Babylonian empire (2Kgs 23:29). As a matter of fact, it is not so important. It is about Josiah’s attitude to what is happening outside his land and how he responds to warnings not to interfere in matters that do not concern him.
When Josiah meets Neco to fight against him, Neco lets warn him not to do so (verse 21). He clearly says this time he isn’t out for war with Judah but that he is going against a house that is waging war against him. Neco appeals for this fight to a command of God Who also said to him that he has to hurry. He emphasizes once more to Josiah that his actions mean obstruction of God. Neco knows God at his side. If Josiah stands in his way to prevent him from carrying out his task, it will be to his ruin. God will then ruin him.
The words Neco speaks are very remarkable. Did God really command him to take up the sword against an enemy empire? Or is it the case that Neco speaks about his own god he consulted and that he says what he told him? We do not have to exclude speaking of the true God to the heathen Neco. It may be that God has spoken to him in some way hidden from us (cf. Gen 31:24). We can see a confirmation of this in the following verse, where his words to Josiah are referred to as “the words of Neco from the mouth of God” (verse 22).
The fact is that God warns Josiah through Neco not to interfere in this battle. We see here that a believer reprimands an unbeliever for his actions as a believer. Being a Christian has consequences and sometimes we are reminded of this by people of the world. It will be wisdom to listen to them. God may want to make things clear to us through an unbeliever. He can make use of an unbeliever (Jn 11:51) and even a donkey (Num 22:28-31).
However, Josiah does not let himself be warned and goes into battle. In doing so, he disguises himself, which reminds us of Ahab who did the same (2Chr 18:29). This shows that Josiah is not in the way of faith. Just as the disguise did not protect Ahab, the disguise of Josiah does not protect him from death. The archers shoot him (verse 23). God knows how to hit him. Josiah realizes that he is badly wounded and orders his servants to take him away. Because his own chariot may have been disabled, the servants transport Josiah on the second chariot, the spare chariot (verse 24). They take him to Jerusalem, where he dies and is buried.
The sadness about Josiah’s death is great. All of Judah and Jerusalem mourn over him. Jeremiah makes a lament about him (verse 25). This doesn’t mean the lamentation after which his Bible book is mentioned. The book of Lamentations is written on the occasion of the fall of Jerusalem, which takes place twenty-two years after the death of Josiah. Zechariah also speaks of a lamentation and that refers back to this lamentation about Josiah (Zec 12:11).
The singing about Josiah in lamentations continues for a long time. There is even an ordinance made in Israel to do so. For that purpose the lamentations are written down. They can always be consulted when the grief for the loss of this king needs to be expressed. The people may feel that he has been their last hope for prosperity and that with his death all hope for blessing has disappeared. What remains is the expectation of the judgment on Judah and Jerusalem.
The chronicler does not conclude his description of the life of Josiah with his failure, but with a remark about “his deeds of devotion” (verse 26). He points out his pious deeds, his deeds “as written in the law of the LORD”. Only if deeds are in accordance with the Word of God can they be seen as ‘deeds of devotion’. It is not about human goodness, but about goodness as God also demonstrates it.
All the deeds of devotion of Josiah which the chronicler did not include in his account can be found “in the Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah” (verse 27). What is written in those books concerns his whole life, from “first to last”. Thus there is a complete description of the life of one of the most God-fearing kings of Judah. For us, only what is of use to us is included in Scripture.