“O altar, altar” A Prophecy fulfilled 330 years later


Rosh Hashanah Year 5780

On Sunday evening the Jewish New Year 5780 began at sundown. Remarkably, this evening the text preached upon by Professor Kevin Zuber was upon 2 Kings 22 covering the Reign and Revival of King Josiah in Judah, the repair of the House of the Lord, Hilkiah the high priest’s discovery of the Book of the Law, the King’s severe repentance as he wept before the LORD and tore his royal clothes as he recognized the imminent wrath of God for their lack of obedience to the Word of God, Huldah the prophetess delivery of a favorable message from God to the King who then embarks upon a zealous endeavor to restore true worship to the land as they called for a public reading of the Words of the Torah to all the elders, the priests and prophets and inhabitants of Jerusalem both small and great, followed by a renewed Covenant with the LORD.

King Josiah also ordered a cleansing of the Temple and the land of idolatrous worship. And in fulfillment of a prophecy which was made by a man of God 330 years ago during the reign of King Jeroboam, King Josiah “took the bones out of the tombs and burned them on the altar, and defiled it according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words.” See 1 Kings 23:16-20 for full detail.

Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges:

1 Kings 13:2 Commentaries: He cried against the altar by the word of the LORD, and said, “O altar, altar, thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.'”

He cried against the altar in the word of the Lord] The Hebrew is the same as in the preceding verse. Render therefore (with R.V.) ‘by the word.’ The meaning is that both the journey from Judah and the prophecy were in consequence of divine instruction.

[Josiah by name] The history of the fulfilment of this prophecy is in 2 Kings 23:15-16. Between the accession of Jeroboam and the accession of Josiah was an interval of about 330 years. Hence as the name of the king who should execute the threatened vengeance is mentioned, this prophecy is remarkable among the predictions of the Old Testament. There is nothing with which it can be compared except the prophecy concerning Cyrus in Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1, nor is it according to the manner of scriptural prophecies to be precise about details such as this. Hence some have thought that this verse and also other parts of the story of this chapter were brought into their present form at a later date than Jeroboam. The story of the appearance of the prophet and of his prediction were known from the first, but the details here given were inserted when the prediction was accomplished. There is certainly in 1 Kings 13:32 a notice of the ‘cities of Samaria’ which confirms this opinion. Jeroboam’s capital was Shechem, and Samaria was not built, nor any district so called, till the reign of Omri the father of Ahab (1 Kings 16:24). Again, it is unlike the rest of the narrative of the Books of Kings that no name should be given to either of the prophets who play such a part in the story. It seems therefore probable that the chapter is taken from some other source than that which supplied what has gone before and what follows it. If this be so, we need not be surprised at what was noticed on the previous verse, that Jeroboam’s action in approaching the altar seems noted as impious while Solomon’s sacrifices are accepted. The compiler of the Books of Kings gathered his material from various sources, and did his work after Josiah was dead. There is no difficulty in understanding how by that time the story as he has given it had been put on record, and as he wished to place Jeroboam’s sin in a strong light all through his history, the events here recorded were exceedingly appropriate for incorporation in his narrative.
upon thee shall he offer the priests] The verb is that which is usually rendered sacrifice, and it is better (with R.V.) so to translate it. Josephus states specifically ‘upon thee shall he sacrifice the false priests which shall be at that time’. Not only was the king to defile the altar by casting upon it the bones of the dead, but his righteous vengeance was to fall also upon the idolatrous priests then living, and they were to be slain by him before the altars at which they ministered.

[men’s bones shall be burnt] R.V. shall they burn. There is no gain apparent in departing from the literal rendering of the original.

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James and Elizabeth Stephens

James and Elizabeth Stephens presently live in Southern California and have been married since 1978. In 1999, James completed a MA in Intercultural Studies specializing in Leadership Development and in 2010 Elizabeth completed an Associate in Science in Business Information Technology.

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