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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.

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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.

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  • 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? Mar 5, 2018 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, 2018 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? Mar 6, 2018 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, 2018 at 18:18
  • Is the NIV a valid translation in terms of B.H.? Genuine question
    – Adam Heeg
    Mar 7, 2018 at 1:51
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Historical context is key. History tells us why Necho was going to Carchemish. he would be helping the Assyrians to defend their failing empire from the rebel coalition which included the Babylonians. So the chief "house" which Necho is fighting must be the ruling dynasty of Babylon.

This connects his claim with the later argument within Judah, about whether God wanted Judah to submit to Babylon peacefully, as Jeremiah was preaching (e.g Jeremiah ch38 vv17-18), or whether Judah should ally with Egypt instead. If that argument goes back to the time before Megiddo, then Necho's argument ("God wants Babylon to fall") could have been "fed" to him by the anti-Babylonian critics of Josiah's policy.

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Firstly, Akhenaten was a monotheist, not a henotheist - the latter religious position admits the existence of other gods in the relevant pantheon, but worships only one of them. Akhenaten set about to destroy the temples of other Egyptian deities, which makes him a monotheist. Secondly, in regards to Pharaoh Necho, I would suggest that he was not merely a monotheist, but a believer in the God of Israel; as he not only claims his mission was from God, but when he later (briefly) conquers Judea on his return from the battles of Carcemish and Harran, he places Eliakim son of Josiah on the throne and changes his name to Jehoiakim - these two names mean the same thing, "God has established/raised up," but his original name uses the name "El," which can be used of any deity, but Necho uses the name "Yeho," ie YHWH, the specific name God reveals of himself in Scripture.

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    Oct 6, 2021 at 19:52
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God is doing as God wills. God is not like us and His ways are not our ways. So if this man is being used by God and warns the king to not interfere there should be no problem with that. God then put down the king of Judah because like his dad pride was found in him. God gives grace to the humble and resists the proud. He will as He does with everyone judge Neco based on his own heart condition since God is not partial to anyone and judges according to His will.

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  • I wasn't asking why God used Necho, I was asking why Necho cared about God's command. Dec 31, 2023 at 4:35
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    Also, answers here should be based on an exposition of the text, not on systematic theology. However, this answer doesn't even refer to the text. Dec 31, 2023 at 4:37
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How about God orchestrated everything to happen to fulfill what he said in 2 Chronicles 34:22-38 through the prophet Huldah and He was just using Neco to accomplish His purpose? If God could make a donkey speak to Balaam son of Beor, surely He could use a king of Egypt speak for Him?

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    As written, this is based entirely on a particular view of systematic theology, not any particular textual or historical evidence. Do you have any evidence to support it? Dec 26, 2022 at 14:06

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