From 2 Chronicles 35 (NIV):

20 After all this, when Josiah had set the temple in order, Necho king of Egypt went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah marched out to meet him in battle. 21 But Necho sent messengers to him, saying, “What quarrel is there, king of Judah, between you and me? It is not you I am attacking at this time, but the house with which I am at war. God has told me to hurry; so stop opposing God, who is with me, or he will destroy you.”

22 Josiah, however, would not turn away from him, but disguised himself to engage him in battle. He would not listen to what Necho had said at God’s command but went to fight him on the plain of Megiddo.

Necho said that God had told him go go up, that God was with him, and that "God has told me to hurry". The text also said that "[Josiah] would not listen to what Necho had said at God's command..." Wikipedia identifies him as Necho II but is a little sketchy on certain biographical details. What were his religious beliefs, and why was he acting on God's commands? Would he actually have held to the religion of Judah, or would his beliefs have been more like Akhenathen's henotheism? And why is he called "king of Egypt" rather than Pharaoh? Wikipedia identifies him as Necho II, but doesn't really address his religious beliefs.


The translation "at God's command" is quite a leap. The Hebrew has דִּבְרֵי נְכֹו מִפִּי אֱלֹהִים in v. 22, i.e. "the words of Necho from the mouth of God". This should be understood as God speaking through Necho without Necho actively interacting with God. פֶה "mouth", also has the connotation of measure and with prepositions כ/ל/על it can mean "corresponding to" as e.g. in Lev. 25:52, כְּפִי שָׁנָיו "according to his years". The preposition here is מן, but the semantic field still plays a role: the words of Necho are in agreement with God. This does not indicate that Necho would have followed Judaic religious practices.

The term Pharaoh is not that common in later works; it occurs only twice in Chronicles (1 Chr. 4:18; 2 Chr. 8:11) vs. five occurrences of "king of Egypt" (2 Chr. 12:2, 9; 35:20; 36:3, 4). Pharaoh is very frequent in Genesis and Exodus, but there it is a proper name. This fits the genre: Genesis and Exodus are narrative texts whereas Chronicles (and Samuel-Kings) are meant to be historical, thus the name of the pharaoh must be mentioned.

  • Interesting points - so the NIV may have gotten it wrong at this point? I do notice now that you mention it that the ESV is actually similar to what you're saying the translation of this phrase ought to be. Out of curiosity, the "stop opposing God, who is with me" and "God told me to hurry" parts - what is the "underlying" Hebrew like? Why might he have said those things? – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Mar 5 '18 at 21:15
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    @EJoshuaS the NIV probably translates it like this because that is how it interprets "God has commanded me" in v. 21 and it yields very understandable English. But I think the parts where Necho talks about God (the NIV translation is OK there) do not indicate that the Chronicler thought God spoke to Necho; it could also simply be Necho trying to persuade Josiah by claiming contact with his god. There is a difference between what Necho says and what the Chronicler says, and it seems to me that the construction in v. 22 is rather odd if real speech is meant. – user2672 Mar 5 '18 at 21:21
  • Just a thought: was Necho actually concerned that the attack might succeed (or, at least, cause him serious problems)? Is that the real reason he was trying to dissuade Josiah? – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Mar 6 '18 at 17:31
  • @EJoshuaS how could we tell? But no, judging from Malamat's article which I referenced on your other question I would say Egypt had a so much bigger army that this would not have been realistic. However, even a small army can harm a bigger army and at least delay it, so there are still reasons to want to avoid a clash. – user2672 Mar 6 '18 at 18:18
  • Is the NIV a valid translation in terms of B.H.? Genuine question – Adam Heeg Mar 7 '18 at 1:51

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