Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
2 Chronicles 31:1
Destruction of the idols and the altars of the high places. Provisions for the ordering and maintenance of the temple worship, and the attendants upon it. - Ch2 31:1. At the conclusion of the festival, all the Israelites who had been present at the feast (הנּמצאים כּל־שׂראל to be understood as in Ch2 30:21) went into the cities of Judah, and destroyed all the idols, high places, and altars not only in Judah and Benjamin (the southern kingdom), but also in Ephraim and Manasseh (the domain of the ten tribes), utterly (עד־לככּה, cf. Ch2 24:10), and only then returned each to his home; cf. Kg2 18:4.
2 Chronicles 31:2
Restoration of order in the public worship, and of the temple revenues and those of the priests. - Ch2 31:2. Hezekiah appointed the courses of the priests and Levites according to their courses, each according to the measure of his service (cf. Num 7:5, Num 7:7), viz., the priests and Levites (ולל לכה are subordinated to אישׁ in apposition by ל), for burnt-offerings and thank-offerings, to serve (to wait upon the worship), and to praise and thank (by song and instrumental music) in the gates of the camp of Jahve, i.e., in the temple and court of the priests; see on Ch1 9:18.
And the portion of the king from his possession was for the burnt-offerings, etc.; that is, the material for the burnt-offerings which are commanded in Num 28 and 29 the king gave from his possessions, which are enumerated in Ch2 32:27-29.
The priests and Levites received their maintenance from the first-fruits (Exo 23:19; Num 18:12; Deu 26:2) and the tithes, which the people had to pay from the produce of their cattle-breeding and their agriculture (Lev 27:30-33, cf. with Num 18:21-24). Hezekiah commanded the people, viz., the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to give this portion to the Levites and priests, that they might hold themselves firmly to the law of Jahve, i.e., might devote themselves to the duties laid upon them by the law, the attendance upon the worship, without being compelled to labour for their subsistence; cf. Neh 13:10.
When the word (the royal command) went forth (spread abroad), the Israelites brought in abundance the first-fruits which had been assigned to the priests (Ch2 18:12.), and the tithes, which were paid to the whole tribe of Levi (Num 18:21-24). ישׂראל בּני, Ch2 31:6, are not the inhabitants of the northern kingdom, but the Israelites who had emigrated from that kingdom into Judah (as Ch2 30:25; Ch2 11:16; Ch2 10:17). קדשׁים מעשׂר, the tenth from the holy gifts which were consecrated to Jahve, is surprising, since in the law, Num 18:8., it is not the tenth of the consecrated gifts which is spoken of, but only הקּדשׁים תרוּמות (Num 18:19). Proceeding upon the assumption that all קדשׁים which were consecrated to Jahve were given over to the tribe of Levi, Bertheau finds no correspondence between the law and the statement of our verse, that the tenth of the holy things was given, and points out that the lxx seem to have read והקּשׁים ועז instead of קדשׁים m`sr, without, however, himself deciding in favour of that reading. But the lxx have rendered the words hmqdsym קדשׁים קדשׁים by ἐπιδέκατα αἰγῶν, καὶ ἡγίασαν, and consequently cannot have read ועז for מעשׂר, since in their translation epide'kata corresponds to m`sr. But the deviation of the statement in our verse from the law, Num 18, arises partly from an incorrect or inexact interpretation of the provisions of the law, Num 18:8. In the law, קדשׁים as such were not assigned to the tribe of Levi, or more correctly to the priests (Aaron and his sons), but only the לכל־קדשׁים תּרוּמות, the heave-offerings of all the holy gifts of the sons of Israel, i.e., the pieces or parts of the sacrificial gifts of the Israelites which were not burnt upon the altar, consequently the greater part of the meal, and oil, and flesh of the oblations, the sin-offerings, the trespass-offerings, and of the peace-offerings, the wave-breast and wave-thigh, and whatever else was waved in wave-offerings; see on Num 18:8. These Therumoth of the consecrated gifts are in our verse designated קדשׁים מעשׂר, because they were only a fragment of that which was consecrated to the Lord, just as the tenth was a fragment of the whole herd, and of the field produce. The statement of our verse, therefore, differs only in expression from the prescription of the law, but in substance it completely agrees with it. ער ערמות ויּתּנוּ, and they made many heaps, i.e., they brought the first-fruits and tithes in heaps.
In the third month, consequently immediately at the end of the grain harvest, they commenced to found the heaps (to lay the foundation of the heaps); and in the seventh month, i.e., at the end of the fruit and wine harvest, they completed them (the heaps). In the third month fell pentecost, or the harvest feast; in the seventh, the feast of tabernacles, after the gathering in of all the fruits. ליסּוד has Daghesh in ס, because this verb in the imperf. assimilates its י like נ to the second radical, and the infinitive is formed after the imperf.; cf. Ew. 245, a.
When Hezekiah and the priests saw these heaps, they praised the Lord and His people Israel.
The employment and storing of these gifts, Ch2 31:9-19. - Ch2 31:9. Hezekiah questioned (ידרשׁ) the priests and Levites concerning the heaps, i.e., not as to whether they were sufficient for the support of the priests and Levites, but as to how it happened that such masses had been heaped up. Thereupon Azariah the high priest (hardly the Azariah mentioned Ch2 26:17, who forty years before tried to prevent Uzziah from pressing into the holy place), of the house of Zadok, answered him: Since they began to bring (לביא for להביא) the heave-offerings into the house of the Lord, we have eaten and satisfied ourselves, and have left in plenty. The infin. absol. והותר ושׂבוע אכול stand in animated speech instead of the first pers. plur. perf. From the same animation arises the construction of את־ההמון with הנּותר; for "that which is left" signifies, and we have left this quantity here.
Then the king commanded to prepare cells in the house of God for the storing of the provisions. Whether new cells were built, or cells already existing were prepared for this purpose, cannot be decided, since הכין may signify either. Into these cells they brought the תּרוּמה, which here denotes the first-fruits (cf. Ch2 31:5), the tithes, and the dedicated things, בּאמוּנה, with fidelity, cf. Ch2 19:9. עליהם, over them (the first-fruits, etc.) the Levite Cononiah was set as ruler (inspector), and his brother Shimei as second ruler (משׁנה).
To them at their hand, i.e., as subordinate overseers, were given ten Levites, who are enumerated by name. Of the names, Jehiel and Mahath occur in Ch2 29:12 and Ch2 29:14. בּמפקד is translated by the Vulg. ex imperio, better ex mandato Hizkiae. Azariah, the prince of the house of God, is the high priest mentioned in Ch2 31:10. - To the fourteen Levites named in Ch2 31:13 and Ch2 31:14 was committed the oversight and storing of the first-fruits, tithes, and consecrated gifts. Besides these, there were special officers appointed for the distribution of them. - In Ch2 31:14-19 these are treated of; Ch2 31:14 dealing with the distribution of the voluntary gifts of God, i.e., all which was offered to God of spontaneous impulse (Lev 23:38; Deu 12:17), to which the first-fruits and tithes did not belong, they being assessments prescribed by the law. Over the freewill offerings the Levite Kore, the doorkeeper towards the east (see on Ch1 9:18), was set. His duty was to give (distribute) "the heave-offerings of Jahve," i.e., that portion of the thank-offerings which properly belonged to Jahve, and which was transferred by Him to the priests (Lev 7:14; Num 5:9), and the "most holy," i.e., that part of the sin and trespass offerings (Lev 6:10, Lev 6:22; Lev 7:6) and of the oblations (Lev 2:3, Lev 2:10) which was to be eaten by the priests in the holy place.
At his hand (ידו על = מיּד, Ch2 31:13), i.e., under his superintendence, there were six Levites, enumerated by name, in the priests' cities, with fidelity, "to give to their brethren in their courses, as well to the great as to the small" (i.e., to the older and to the younger), sc. the portion of the gifts received which fell to each. By the brethren in their courses we are to understand not merely the Levites dwelling in the priests' cities, who on account of their youth or old age could not come into the temple, but also those who at the time were not on duty, since the Levites' courses performed it by turns, only some courses being on duty in the temple, while the others were at home in the priests' cities. The object to לתת, Ch2 31:15, is not to be taken straightway from the objects mentioned with לתת in Ch2 31:14. For the most holy gifts could not be sent to the priests' cities, but were consumed in the holy place, i.e., in the temple. Nor can we confine לתת to the האלהים נדבות; for since the gifts of the people, laid up in the cells, consisted in first-fruits, tithes, and consecrated gifts (Ch2 31:11), and special officers were appointed for the storing and distribution of them, the business of distribution could not consist merely in the giving out of freewill offerings, but must have extended to all the offerings of the people. When, therefore, it is said of the Levite Kore, in Ch2 31:14, that he was appointed over the freewill offerings, to distribute the heave-offerings and the most holy, only his chief function is there mentioned, and the functions of the officials associated with and subordinated to him in the priests' cities are not to be confined to that. The object to לתת, Ch2 31:15, is consequently to be determined by the whole context, and the arrangements which are assumed as known from the law; i.e., we must embrace under that word the distribution of the first-fruits, tithes, and consecrated gifts, of which the Levites in the priests' cities were to receive their portion according to the law. - In Ch2 31:16, the b
Ch2 31:17 contains a parenthetic remark as to the catalogues. ואת, as nota accus., serves here to emphasize the statement which is added as an elucidation (cf. Ew. 277, d): "But concerning the catalogue of the priests, it was (taken, prepared) according to the fathers'-houses; and the Levites, they were from twenty years old and upwards in their offices in their courses." All the duties were discharged by several courses. On the age fixed on, see Ch1 23:27.
The connection and interpretation of this verse is doubtful. If we take וּלחתיחשׂ as a continuation of ואת־התיהשׁ, Ch2 31:17, it gives us no suitable sense. The addition, "and also to every priest and Levite was a larger or smaller portion given according to the catalogue" (Ramb., etc.), is arbitrary, and does not fully express the בּ before כּל־טפּם. Berth., on the other hand, correctly remarks, "After the parentheses in Ch2 31:16 and Ch2 31:17, וּלחתיחשׂ may be taken as a continuation of לתת in Ch2 31:16;" but the word itself he translates wrongly thus: The men were in the priests' cities, also to register their children, etc., disregarding the construction of התיחשׂ with בּ. - From Ch2 31:19, where the same construction recurs, we learn how to interpret בּכל־ט התיחשׁ: the catalogue = those registered in (of) all their children. According to this view, ולהתיחשׂ corresponds to the לאחיהם, Ch2 31:15 : to give to their brethren, ... and to the registered of all their children, their wives, and their sons and daughters, viz., to the whole multitude (sc., of the wives, sons, and daughters), i.e., as many of them as there were. This interpretation of the לכל־קהל seems simpler than with Schmidt and Ramb. to understand קהל to denote the coroporation of priests. There was therefore no one forgotten or overlooked; "for according to their fidelity (Ch2 31:15) did they show themselves holy in regard to the holy," i.e., they acted in a holy manner with the holy gifts, distributed them disinterestedly and impartially to all who had any claim to them.
And for the sons of Aaron, the priests, in the field of the districts of their cities (cf. Lev 25:34; Num 35:5), in each city were men (appointed) famous (בשׁמות נקּבוּ אשׁר, as in Ch2 28:15; see on Ch1 12:31), to give portions to each male among the priests, and to all that were registered among the Levites. As for the inhabitants of the priests' cities (Ch2 31:15), so also for the priests and Levites dwelling in the pasture grounds of the priests' cities, were special officers appointed to distribute the priestly revenues.
The conclusion of this account. Thus did Hezekiah in all Judah, and wrought in general that which was good and right and האמת before the Lord his God; and in every work that he commenced for the service of the house of God, and for the law and the commandment (i.e., for the restoration of the law and its commands), to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.