We have here an account of what was done after the passover. What was wanting in the solemnities of preparation for it before was made up in that which is better, a due improvement of it after. When the religious exercises of a Lord’s day or a communion are finished we must not think that then the work is done. No, then the hardest part of our work begins, which is to exemplify the impressions of the ordinance upon our minds in all the instances of a holy conversation. So it was here; when all this was finished there was more to be done.
I. They applied themselves with vigour to destroy all the monuments of idolatry, 2 Chron. 31:1. The king had done what he could of this kind (2 Kgs. 18:4), but the people could discover those profane relics which escaped the eye of the king’s officers, and therefore they went out to see what they could do, 2 Chron. 31:1. This was done immediately after the passover. Note, The comfort of communion with God should kindle in us a holy zeal and indignation against sin, against every thing that is offensive to God. If our hearts have been made to burn within us at an ordinance, that spirit of burning will consume the dross of corruption. What have I now to do any more with idols? Their zeal here in destroying the images and groves, the high places and altars, appeared, 1. In that they did this, not only in the cities of Judah and Benjamin, but in those of Ephraim and Manasseh. Some think that those cities are meant which had come under the protection and the jurisdiction of the kings of Judah. Others think that, Hoshea king of Israel not forbidding it, their zeal carried them out to the destruction of idolatry even in many parts of his kingdom. At least those that came out of Ephraim and Manasseh to keep the passover (as many did, 2 Chron. 30:18) destroyed all their own images and groves, and did the like for as many more as they had influence upon or could make interest in for leave to do it. We should not only reform ourselves, but do all we can to reform others too. 2. They destroyed all: they utterly destroyed all; they spared none through favour or affection either to the images or to their worshippers; though ever so ancient, ever so costly, ever so beautiful, and ever so well patronised, yet they must all be destroyed. Note, Those that sincerely set themselves against sin will set themselves against all sin. 3. They would not return to their houses, though they had been long absent, till this was done. They could not be easy, nor think themselves safe, in their cities, as long as the images and groves, those betrayers and destroyers of their country, were left standing. Perhaps the prophet Isaiah pointed to this when, a little before, he spoke of a day in which men should cast away the very idols that they themselves had made. So surprising was this blessed change, Isa. 2:20; 31:6, 7.
II. Hezekiah revived and restored the courses of the priests and Levites, which David had appointed and which had of late been put out of course, 2 Chron. 31:2. The temple service was put into its proper method again, to run in the old channel. Every man was made to know his work, his place, his time, and what was expected from him. Note, Good order contributes much to the carrying on of a good work. The priests were appointed in their courses for burnt-offerings and peace-offerings; the Levites in their courses were some to minister to the priests, others to give thanks and praise. See 1 Chron. 23:4, 5. And all this in the gates or courts of the tents of the Lord. The temple is here called a tent because the temple privileges are movable things and this temple was shortly to be removed.
III. He appropriated a branch of the revenue of his crown to the maintenance and support of the altar. Though the people were to be at the charge of the daily offerings, and those on the sabbaths, new moons, and feasts, yet, rather than they should be burdened with the expense, he allowed out of his own estate, or out of his exchequer, for all those offerings, 2 Chron. 31:3. It was a generous act of piety, wherein he consulted both God’s honour and his people’s ease, as a faithful servant to him and a tender father to them. Let princes and great men reckon that well bestowed, and set out to the best interest, which they give for the support and encouragement of religion in their country.
IV. He issued out an order to the inhabitants of Jerusalem first, 2 Chron. 31:4 (that those who were nearest the temple, and both saved and got by being so, might give a good example to others), but which was afterwards extended to, or at least admitted by, the cities of Judah, that they should carefully pay in their dues, according to the law, to the priests and Levites. This had been long neglected, which made the work to be neglected (for a scandalous maintenance makes a scandalous ministry); but Hezekiah, having himself been liberal, might with a good grace require his subjects to be just to the temple service. And observe the end he aims at in recovering and restoring to the priests and Levites their portion, that they might be encouraged in the law of the Lord, in the study of it, and in doing their duty according to it. Observe here, 1. It is fit that ministers should be not only maintained, but encouraged, that they should not only be kept to do their work, but that they should also have wherewith to live comfortably, that they may do it with cheerfulness. 2. Yet they are to be maintained, not in idleness, pride, and luxury, but in the law of the Lord, in their observance of it themselves and in teaching others the good knowledge of it.
V. The people thereupon brought in their tithes very readily. They wanted nothing but to be called upon; and therefore, as soon as the commandment came abroad, the first-fruits and all the holy things were duly brought in, 2 Chron. 31:5, 6. What the priests had occasion for, for themselves and their families, they made use of, and the overplus was laid in heaps, 2 Chron. 31:6. All harvest-time they were increasing these heaps, as the fruits of the earth were gathered in; for God was to have his dues out of them all. Though a prescription may be pleaded for a modus decimandi—tenth proportion, yet it cannot be pleaded pro non decminado—for the omission of the tenth. When harvest ended they finished their heaps, 2 Chron. 31:7. Now here we have, 1. The account given to Hezekiah concerning those heaps. He questioned the priests and Levites concerning them, why they did not use what was paid in, but hoarded it up thus, (2 Chron. 31:9), to which it was answered that they had made use of all they had occasion for, for the maintenance of themselves and their families and for their winter store, and that this was that which was left over and above, 2 Chron. 31:10. They did not hoard these heaps for covetousness, but to show what plentiful provision God by his law had made for them, if they could but have it collected and brought in, and that those who conscientiously give God his dues out of their estates bring a blessing upon all they have: Since they began to bring in the offerings the Lord has blessed his people. See for this Hag. 2:19. “Try me,” says God, “if you will not otherwise trust me, whether, upon your bringing the tithes into the store-house, you have not a blessing poured out upon you,” Mal. 3:10, 11; Ezek. 44:30. 2. The acknowledgment which the king and princes made of it, 2 Chron. 31:8. They gave thanks to God for his good providence, which gave them something to bring, and his good grace, which gave them hearts to bring it. And they also blessed the people, that is, commended them for their doing well now, without reproaching them for their former neglects. It is observable that after they had tasted the sweetness of God’s ordinance, in the late comfortable passover, they were thus free in maintaining the temple service. Those that experience the benefit of a settled ministry will not grudge the expense of it.