2 Kings 22: The Law Found
Did you ever see a book such as they had in Bible days? It was a long roll of parchment or some other material. The writing was in columns or pages side by side. The long roll had a stick at each end and was opened and shut by unrolling from one stick and rolling on the other.
Long ago, Moses had written down in such a book the words which the Lord gave him to teach the people, and the story of the Lord’s care for them, and the book had been kept by the ark. After the temple was built in Jerusalem, the ark was kept there in the most holy chamber, and the sacred books also were kept in the temple. But in these days of which we are learning, long after the time of Solomon, the people forgot the Lord, and His temple was much neglected. Many of the kings were wicked kings, who brought idols into the temple and let the temple become filled with dirt and rubbish, and it was partly broken down. There were some good kings in Jerusalem like Hezekiah. We learn today of another good king, Josiah. He was only a child when he became king. Among other good things that he did he gave orders to clean and repair the temple of the Lord. This reminds us of Joash who was made king as a little boy, who also gave orders to repair the temple. Shaphan, the scribe who was reader and writer for the king, took the king's command to Hilkiah the high priest to count the silver that the keepers of the door had gathered of the people and to give it to the workmen to repair the temple. So the work began and was done faithfully.
While they were repairing the temple, the priest found “the Book of the Law.” It was the sacred roll written by Moses which had been put for safe-keeping in the temple. But now it had been neglected and forgotten for many years. The priest gave the roll to the scribe, and the scribe brought it to the king and read it, or parts of it, to him. If you turn to Deut. 28:15, 37, 45 to the end, you may be reading some of the very words which Shaphan read to the king. They were warnings of the punishments which would come upon the people of Israel if they disobeyed the Lord. and they had disobeyed him in many ways and now for many years. The king was greatly troubled. He rent his clothes as a sign of grief.
When Hezekiah was in trouble he sent to Isaiah the prophet. Josiah sent to Huldah the prophetess. “The college” where her home was seems to mean some section of the city. She gave the king an answer from the Lord. The evil would come upon the people as it was written in the law but not in Josiah’s time because his heart was tender and he humbled himself when he heard the words of the law.
We will read so much of the story today, and learn more about Josiah in the next chapter. Let us think whether we are taking such care as we ought of our Bibles. We must treat them reverently and read them and not let them lie forgotten and neglected in some corner.
It was some sixty years since the good Hezekiah was king. A wicked son and grandson had been kings after Hezekiah (Manasseh and Amon), but now in the third generation comes Josiah, a good king. This king reminds you of Joash, whose story we find in 2 King 12. The names are something alike. Both kings began to reign as children, and both were good kings and repaired the temple of the Lord. In both cases, honest workmen did the work. A further picture of the neglect into which the temple fell in the days of the wicked kings is given in 2 Chron. 29:3-17.
As they were repairing the temple, they found “the Book of the Law.” Who can describe to us an ancient book, so different from our modern books? You will think of such a book when you read in Jer. 36 how Baruk wrote the words of Jeremiah “in a roll of a book” which the king cut in pieces with his knife, and the words were written again in another book. You think of the same kind of book when you read in Luke 4 how the Lord in the synagogue at Nazareth read from the prophet Isaiah and closed the book and gave it to the keeper. The same kind of book is in mind when you read in Rev. 5:1 of the book written within and on the backside.
The book found in the temple was “the Book of the Law.” This phrase usually means the Book of Moses, the first five books of our Bible. The roll certainly contained Deuteronomy and perhaps all the books of Moses. We know that Moses wrote in a book at the Lord’s command, and that the book was kept by the Levites with the ark. (Deut. 3:24-26) We have evidence that the sacred writings were remembered and cared for by the good kings like Hezekiah. See Prov. 25:1, which speaks of Hezekiah's men as copying out the Proverbs of Solomon. But the Law was completely neglected and forgotten in the evil days. The passages which were read to the king seem to have been from Deuteronomy, perhaps especially Deut. 28. Similar passages occur in Lev. 26:14-29.
Who was the prophet to whom Hezekiah turned in his trouble? Isaiah. There were now other prophets in Jerusalem, among them Huldah the prophetess, to whom Josiah looked for instruction from the Lord. (See Jer.1:2; Zeph. 1:1.)
When we learned of the building of the temple, what did we think of this as describing in ourselves? What temple must we build? The temple of our own character, for this is a house for the Lord when we build it strong and beautiful, obeying His commandments. (See 1 Cor. 3:9-13.) Is our temple ever neglected? And at the same time is the law of the Lord lost sight of and forgotten? Have we ever a work to do which is pictured in this cleansing and repairing of the temple?
1. Two wicked kings followed Hezekiah, and then what good king? How old was he when he was made king?
2. Of what other king does Josiah remind us? In what ways?
3. What did Josiah do for the temple? How was the work paid for? Why was there no reckoning with the workmen?
4. What was found in the temple?
In speaking to the younger classes of “the Book of the Law” found in the temple, I have referred to Deut. 31:24-26, where it speaks of Moses finishing the writing of the Book of the Law and giving the roll to the Levites to put by the ark for safe-keeping. You will be interested to read of this writing of the law by Moses and of the finding of it in the temple in A. 9396; E. 700; L. 9.
Who can see a deeper meaning in the saying about the good king Josiah, that he turned not aside to the right hand or to the left? You know what deeper thought is associated with the right and left. It is equivalent to saying that he did not go astray from what was good or what was true. (A. 10061; E. 600)
Take up the thought suggested to the younger classes, that the building of the temple represents the building of a heavenly character. We developed this thought when we studied the plan of the temple and the materials used in its construction. Now the duty set before us is the duty of repairing this temple of character when through neglect it has become unclean and broken down. This must be done by thorough repentance and by learning from the Lord what is right, and faithfully doing it.
There is a beautiful thought in the statement that both the people of Joash and those of Josiah worked honestly in repairing the temple, so that no reckoning was made with them. We are reminded of the workers called at the later hours of the day in the Lord’s parable of laborers in the vineyard. They were content with the promise. “Whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.” Bargaining and reckoning for pay suggest working from selfish motives, or at least from natural motives, with a sense of accomplishing the result ourselves. In the building of heavenly character, or in the repairing of character through repentance, there must be no selfish motive, no thought of merit or gain. We must do the best we can for the Lord's sake and leave the results and rewards to Him. It is the Lord's work. When we think of the temple as representing the temple of character, do you see that the neglect of the temple and the losing of “the Book of the Law” go together, and that the cleansing and repairing of the temple and the finding of “the Book of the Law” are inseparable? (A. 4926)
When the long lost book was read to the king, he rent his clothes. This was an expression of grief, and in the old days it was especially an expression of grief when truth had been neglected or perverted, for garments which clothe the body represent forms of truth which clothe the deeper things of affection. In the old days, when they had a perception of the meaning of these things, they rent their clothes when truth had been neglected or destroyed. Compare Jer. 36:24, where, in speaking of the king’s cutting and burning of the roll, it is said that “they were not afraid, nor rent their garments.” They did not care that the Divine Word was destroyed. (A. 4763)