Verses 1–10

Concerning Josiah we are here told,

I. That he was very young when he began to reign (2 Kgs. 22:1), only eight years old. Solomon says, Woe unto thee, O land! when thy king is a child; but happy art thou, O land! when thy king is such a child. Our English Israel had once a king that was such a child, Edward VI. Josiah, being young, had not received any bad impressions from the example of his father and grandfather, but soon saw their errors, and God gave his grace to take warning by them. See Ezek. 18:14-22

II. That he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, 2 Kgs. 22:2. See the sovereignty of divine grace—the father passed by and left to perish in his sin, the son a chosen vessel. See the triumphs of that grace—Josiah born of a wicked father, no good education nor good example given him, but many about him who no doubt advised him to tread in his father’s steps and few that gave him any good counsel, and yet the grace of God made him an eminent saint, cut him off from the wild olive and grafted him into the good olive, Rom. 11:24. Nothing is too hard for that grace to do. He walked in a good way, and turned not aside (as some of his predecessors had done who began well) to the right hand nor to the left. There are errors on both hands, but God kept him in the right way; he fell neither into superstition nor profaneness.

III. That he took care for the repair of the temple. This he did in the eighteenth year of his reign, 2 Kgs. 22:3. Compare 2 Chron. 34:8. He began much sooner to seek the Lord (as appears, 2 Chron. 34:3), but it is to be feared the work of reformation went slowly on and met with much opposition, so that he could not effect what he desired and designed, till his power was thoroughly confirmed. The consideration of the time we unavoidably lost in our minority should quicken us, when we have come to years, to act with so much the more vigour in the service of God. Having begun late we have need work hard. He sent Shaphan, the secretary of state, to Hilkiah the high priest, to take an account of the money that was collected for this use by the door-keepers (2 Kgs. 22:4); for, it seems, they took much the same way of raising the money that Joash took, 2 Kgs. 12:9. When people gave by a little at a time the burden was insensible, and, the contribution being voluntary, it was not complained of. This money, so collected, he ordered him to lay out for the repair of the temple, 2 Kgs. 22:5, 6. And now, it seems, the workmen (as in the days of Joash) acquitted themselves so well that there was no reckoning made with them (2 Kgs. 22:7), which is certainly mentioned to the praise of the workmen, that they gained such a reputation for honesty, but whether to the praise of those that employed them I know not; a man should count money (we say) after his own father; it would not have been amiss to have reckoned with the workmen, that others also might be satisfied of their honesty.

IV. That, in repairing the temple, the book of the law was happily found and brought to the king, 2 Kgs. 22:8, 10. Some think this book was the autograph, or original manuscript, of the five books of Moses, under his own hand; others think it was only an ancient and authentic copy. Most likely it was that which, by the command of Moses, was laid up in the most holy place, Deut. 31:24-26 1. It seems, this book of the law was lost or missing. Perhaps it was carelessly mislaid and neglected, thrown by into a corner (as some throw their Bibles), by those that knew not the value of it, and forgotten there; or it was maliciously concealed by some of the idolatrous kings, or their agents, who were restrained by the providence of God or their own consciences from burning and destroying it, but buried it, in hopes it would never see the light again; or, as some think, it was carefully laid up by some of its friends, lest it should fall into the hands of its enemies. Whoever were the instruments of its preservation, we ought to acknowledge the hand of God in it. If this was the only authentic copy of the Pentateuch then in being, which had (as I may say) so narrow a turn for its life and was so near perishing, I wonder the hearts of all good people did not tremble for that sacred treasure, as Eli’s for the ark, and I am sure we now have reason to thank God, upon our knees, for that happy providence by which Hilkiah found this book at this time, found it when he sought it not, Isa. 65:1. If the holy scriptures had not been of God, they would not have been in being at this day; God’s care of the Bible is a plain indication of his interest in it. 2. Whether this was the only authentic copy in being or no, it seems the things contained in it were new both to the king himself and to the high priest; for the king, upon the reading of it, rent his clothes. We have reason to think that neither the command for the king’s writing a copy of the law, nor that for the public reading of the law every seventh year (Deut. 17:18; 31:10, 11), had been observed for a long time; and when the instituted means of keeping up religion are neglected religion itself will soon go to decay. Yet, on the other hand, if the book of the law was lost, it seems difficult to determine what rule Josiah went by in doing that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and how the priests and people kept up the rites of their religion. I am apt to think that the people generally took up with abstracts of the law, like our abridgements of the statutes, which the priests, to save themselves the trouble of writing and the people of reading the book at large, had furnished them with—a sort of ritual, directing them in the observances of their religion, but leaving out what they thought fit, and particularly the promises and threatenings (Lev. 26:1-14; Deut. 28:1-68), for I observe that these were the portions of the law which Josiah was so much affected with (2 Kgs. 22:13), for these were new to him. No summaries, extracts, or collections, out of the Bible (though they may have their use) can be effectual to convey and preserve the knowledge of God and his will like the Bible itself. It was no marvel that the people were so corrupt when the book of the law was such a scarce thing among them; where that vision is not the people perish. Those that endeavoured to debauch them no doubt used all the arts they could to get that book out of their hands. The church of Rome could not keep up the use of images but by forbidding the use of the scripture. 3. It was a great instance of God’s favour, and a token for good to Josiah and his people, that the book of the law was thus seasonably brought to light, to direct and quicken that blessed reformation which Josiah had begun. It is a sign that God has mercy in store for a people when he magnifies his law among them and makes that honourable, and furnishes them with means for the increase of scripture-knowledge. The translating of the scriptures into vulgar tongues was the glory, strength, and joy of the Reformation from Popery. It is observable that they were about a good work, repairing the temple, when they found the book of the law. Those that do their duty according to their knowledge shall have their knowledge increased. To him that hath shall be given. The book of the law was an abundant recompence for all their care and cost about the repair of the temple. 4. Hilkiah the priest was exceedingly well pleased with the discovery. “O,” says he to Shaphan, “rejoice with me, for I have found the book of the law, eureka, eureka,—I have found, I have found, that jewel of inestimable value. Here, carry it to the king; it is the richest jewel of his crown. Read it before him. He walks in the way of David his father, and, if he be like him, he will love the book of the law and bid that welcome; that will be his delight and his counsellor.”