Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
4 Kings (2 Kings) 22:3
In the eighteenth year - This is the date of the finding of the Book of the Law and of the Passover (marginal reference, and Kg2 23:23), but is not meant to apply to all the various reforms of Josiah as related in 2 Kings 23:4-20. The true chronology of Josiah's reign is to be learned from Ch2 34:3-8; Ch2 35:1. From these places it appear that at least the greater part of his reforms preceded the finding of the Book of the Law. He began them in the 12th year of his reign, at the age of 20, and had accomplishied all, or the greater part, by his 18th year, when the Book of the Law was found.
Shaphan is mentioned frequently by Jeremiah. He was the father of Ahikam, Jeremiah's friend and protector at the court of Jehoiakim Jer 26:24, and the grandfather of Gedaliah, who was made governor of Judaea by the Babylonians after the destruction of Jeruslem Kg2 25:22. Several others of his sons and grandsons were in favor with the later Jewish kings Jer 29:3; Jer 36:10-12, Jer 36:25; Eze 8:11. Shaphan's office was one of great importance, involving very confidential relations with the king Kg1 4:3.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 22:4
Hilkiah - Hilkiah was the father (or grandfather) of Seraiah (compare Ch1 6:13-14, with Neh 11:11), high priest at the time of the captivity Kg2 25:18. and ancestor of Ezra the scribe Ezr 7:1.
It is evident from the expressions of this verse that a collection for the repairs of the temple, similar to that established in the reign of Joash Kg2 12:9-10, had been for some considerable time in progress (compare Ch2 34:3), and the king now sent to know the result.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 22:5
See the marginal reference. The "doers" of the first part of the verse are the contractors, or overseers, who undertook the general superintendence; they are to be distinguished from a lower class of "doers," the actual laborers, carpenters, and masons of the latter portion of the verse.
Which is in the house of the Lord - Rather, "who are," etc.; i. e., the persons who were actually employed in the temple.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 22:7
They dealt faithfully - Compare the marginal reference. The names of these honest overseers are given in Chronicles Ch2 34:12.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 22:8
Some have concluded from this discovery, either that no "book of the law" had ever existed before, the work now said to have been "found" having been forged for the occasion by Hilkiah; or that all knowledge of the old "book" had been lost, and that a work of unknown date and authorship having been at this time found was accepted as the Law of Moses on account of its contents, and has thus come down to us under his name. But this is to see in the narrative far more than it naturally implies. If Hilkiah had been bold enough and wicked enough to forge, or if he had been foolish enough to accept hastily as the real "book of the law" a composition of which he really knew nothing, there were four means of detecting his error or his fraud:
(1) The Jewish Liturgies, which embodied large portions of the Law;
(2) The memory of living men, which in many instances may have extended to the entire five books, as it does now with the modern Samaritans;
(3) Other copies, entire or fragmentary, existing among the more learned Jews, or in the Schools of the prophets; and
(4) Quotations from the Law in other works, especially in the Psalmists and prophets, who refer to it on almost every page.
The copy of the Book of the Law found by Hilkiah was no doubt that deposited, in accordance with the command of God, by Moses, by the side of the ark of the covenant, and kept ordinarily in the holy of holies (marginal reference). It had been lost, or secreted, during the desecration of the temple by Manasseh, but had not been removed out of the temple building.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 22:9
Have gathered - Rather, "have poured out" or "emptied out." The allusion probably is to the emptying of the chest in which all the money collected had been placed Kg2 12:9.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 22:11
He rent his clothes - Partly grief and horror, like Reuben Gen 37:29 and Job Job 1:20, partly in repentance, like Ahab Kg1 21:27.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 22:13
Enquire of the Lord - As inquiry by Urim and Thummim had ceased - apparently because superseded by prophecy - this order was equivalent to an injunction to seek the presence of a prophet (compare Kg2 3:11; Kg1 22:5).
Because our fathers have not hearkened - Josiah, it will be observed, assumes that preceding generations had had full opportunity of hearing and knowing the Law. He thus regards the loss as comparatively recent (compare Kg2 22:8 note).
4 Kings (2 Kings) 22:14
Went unto Huldah - It might have been expected that the royal commissioners would have gone to Jeremiah, on whom the prophetic spirit had descended in Josiah's 13th year Jer 1:2, or five years previous to the finding of the Law. Perhaps he was at some distance from Jerusalem at the time; or his office may not yet have been fully recognized.
The prophetess - Compare the cases of Miriam Exo 15:20; Num 12:2 and Deborah Jdg 4:4.
Keeper of the wardrobe - literally, "of the robes." Shallum had the superintendence, either of the vestments of the priests who served in the temple, or of the royal robe-room in which dresses of honor were stored, in case of their being needed for presents (see Kg2 5:5 note).
In the college - The marginal translation "in the second part" is preferable; and probably refers to the new or outer city - that which had been enclosed by the wall of Manasseh, to the north of the old city Ch2 33:14.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 22:16
All the words of the book - The "words" here intended are no doubt the threatenings of the Law, particularly those of Lev. 26:16-39 and Deut. 28:15-68. Josiah had probably only heard a portion of the Book of the Law; but that portion had contained those awful denunciations of coming woe. Hence, Josiah's rending of his clothes Kg2 22:11, and his hurried message to Huldah.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 22:17
Have burned incense - In the marginal reference the corresponding phrase is: "have served other gods, and worshipped them." Its alteration to "have bnrned incense" points to the fact that the favorite existing idolatry was burning incense on the housetops to Baal Jer 19:13; Jer 32:29 and to the host of heaven Kg2 21:3.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 22:19
See the marginal references.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 22:20
In peace - The death of Josiah in battle Kg2 23:29 is in verbal contradiction to this prophecy, but not in real opposition to its spirit, which is simply that the pious prince who has sent to inquire of the Lord, shall be gathered to his fathers before the troubles come upon the land which are to result in her utter desolation. Now those troubles were to come, not from Egypt, but from Babylon; and their commencement was not the invasion of Necho in 608 B.C., but that of Nebuchadnezzar three years later. Thus was Josiah "taken away from the evil to come," and died "in peace" before his city had suffered attack from the really formidable enemy.