And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. And Shaphan the secretary came to the king, and reported to the king, “Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house and have delivered it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the Lord.” Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king.
While they were bringing out the money that had been brought into the house of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord given through Moses. Then Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan. Shaphan brought the book to the king, and further reported to the king, “All that was committed to your servants they are doing. They have emptied out the money that was found in the house of the Lord and have given it into the hand of the overseers and the workmen.” Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it before the king.
To remind you of the setting, Josiah became king over Judah at the age of 8 around the year 640 BC. Eighty years earlier, the Northern Kingdom of Israel had fallen to Assyria. Josiah was preceded by his evil father Amon, who was assassinated after ruling for only two years. Prior to Amon, the apostate Manasseh reigned for 55 years. Manasseh was one of the most abominable kings in Judah’s history, committing wholesale slaughter, child sacrifices, and setting up idols in the temple.
So, for approximately 57 years the Book of the Law had been missing. It was evidently lost or concealed during Manasseh’s reign, who systematically trespassed its laws. The fact that it was discovered in the temple itself during renovations is quite telling. This Book of Law—likely some part of Deuteronomy—was relegated to scrap and deemed no longer of value.
22:8 I have found the Book of the Law. The phrase “Book of the Law” is used in the Pentateuch only in reference to Deuteronomy (e.g., ; ), which was read to the king and provided the basis for his actions. Available to the kings of Israel and Judah in previous years (cf. ; ; ; ), it was evidently lost or concealed during the long reign of the apostate Manasseh, who systematically infringed its laws.
22:11–13 Although it is not until the eighteenth year of his reign (v. 3) that the new king begins to take action concerning the apostate condition of worship in Judah, the authors of 1–2 Kings do not blame him. Brought up in a royal court that had been apostate for 57 years and that subjected all opposition to a reign of terror, Josiah was not aware of the Lord’s demands. As soon as he became aware, he tore his clothes in grief and despair (cf. ; ; ; ; ) and sent officials to inquire of the Lord.
22:13 Words of prophecy, not only from Elijah and Elisha but from Moses (), show that God judges in accordance with his purpose and his righteousness. This righteousness is supremely manifested in Christ, both when in his innocence he bears sin () and when he comes to judge the world ().
22:14–16 Huldah. It was not Jeremiah or Zephaniah (; ) who was consulted, but an obscure prophetess who was the wife of a court official or perhaps of one of the temple personnel (it is not clear whether Shallum was in charge of the wardrobe of the king or of the priests). Huldah lived in the Second Quarter of Jerusalem, probably a residential area on the western hill. Her words confirm what is already known from the unnamed prophets of : the Lord is going to bring disaster on Jerusalem and its people.
22:20 you shall be gathered to your grave in peace. Because Josiah has humbled himself before the Lord, he will not personally see all the disaster that is to fall on Jerusalem. He will die before the terrible events prophesied in 21:12–14 and 22:15–17 come to pass.
22:20 See 23:30. Because of his righteousness and humility, Josiah receives a blessing. But unlike Christ (), he is unable to reverse the impending curse and punishment that will come to his people (see ).
22:1–7 This marks the beginning of the narrative of Josiah’s reign; he is the last righteous king of Judah, who reigned circa 640–609 bc. A parallel account of his reign begins in . The report of Josiah rebuilding the temple () has many similarities to the account of Jehoash’s repairs in 12:4–16.
22:1 Because of Josiah’s young age, his advisors probably set Judah’s policies. Although the text gives no indication about the identity of these officials, it is possible that the “people of the land” (the group that made Josiah king) may have filled such a role (see 11:14 and note).
22:2 David was the standard for good, kingly behavior (see ; ; ).
The word sar, meaning “turn,” is a stock phrase in Deuteronomy that can indicate obedience or disobedience (see ; ; ; ).
22:3–7 The report of Josiah rebuilding the temple () has many similarities to the account of Jehoash’s repairs in 12:4–16.
Both projects are funded by donations collected by the priests, who “keep the threshold” (12:1–9; 22:4). The priests then hand those funds over to the workmen who oversee the house of Yahweh, and they in turn allot it to the carpenters, builders, and masons, who buy supplies and make the repairs (12:11–14; 22:5–6). In both instances, the priests consider the workmen honest and require no accounting of them (12:15; 22:7).
The Reforms of Josiah
22:3 Approximately 622 BC.
22:4 According to later genealogical lists, Hilkiah’s father was Shallum of the family of Zadok, the high priest who supported both David and Solomon (; ; ).
Refers to priests who were stationed at the temple gates to collect funds for repairs to the temple.
22:8–20 The text does not provide the circumstances of Hilkiah’s discovery; most likely, the book of the law turned up during the temple’s renovation (). It might have been hidden away during Manasseh’s reforms (21:2–9), or Hilkiah may have written it himself. Although it is unclear what this book contained, Josiah’s actions and certain phrases (in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles) suggest that Hilkiah found some form of Deuteronomy (compare ).
22:8 The words sepher, “recounting, record,” and torah, “instruction, law,” make up the title, “the book of the Law.” Sepher presumably refers to a written scroll (see and note).
The Formation of the Old Testament
22:9 To repair the temple (; compare 12:11–15).
22:11 A gesture of grief, presumably because of the curses found in the book of the law (v. 13).
22:12 An influential official who later intervenes to save the life of the prophet Jeremiah (see and note).
A key official in Josiah’s administration. He also is the father of one of the most prominent officials in Jehoiakim’s court (; ). Achbor’s granddaughter is the mother of King Jehoiachin ().
22:13 In times of distress, people often inquired of prophets to discern Yahweh’s will (e.g., ; ).
22:14 Huldah is the only female prophet in the books of 1–2 Samuel, 1–2 Kings, and 1–2 Chronicles. Given that the king’s advisors consulted Huldah on matters of state, she might have been an official court prophet. Earlier in Israel’s history, Deborah was a prophet ().
One of the officials at the temple of Baal in Samaria also held this title (). Mesopotamian texts attest to a similar title.
22:16 Huldah’s message echoes the statement of judgment delivered because of Manasseh’s sins (compare 21:12–15 and note).
22:19 The phrase rakh-levavekha, meaning “the softness of your heart,” often occurs in tandem with the idea of humility and fear (; ; ; ).
This threat is found in (compare ; ; ).
22:20 Josiah is the only king to whom the author applies this archaic expression. Otherwise, the phrase appears in the Bible only in reference to the patriarchs, Aaron, and Moses (, ; ; ; ).
22:1–20 Josiah and the Book of the Law
Josiah (640–609 B.C.) began to reign at age eight after the assassination of his father. In his eighteenth year of reign (621 B.C.), Josiah initiated repairs on the temple Manasseh and Amon had neglected. The high priest Hilkiah recovered the book of the law among the rubble of the temple (22:1–10).
When the book was read before the king, he feared the Lord’s wrath and sent a delegation to the prophetess Huldah to inquire of the Lord concerning Judah’s fate. She prophesied that the Lord would destroy Judah for its idolatry but that Josiah would not witness it because he had repented (22:11–20). Scholars generally agree that this “book” was Deuteronomy or some part of it.
23:1–30 Josiah’s Reforms and Tragic Death
Josiah renewed the covenant with the Lord and celebrated the Passover in an unprecedented way. He removed all evidence of pagan worship and centralized worship in Jerusalem. As the prophet had predicted (), Josiah tore down the shrine at Bethel, which Jeroboam had erected three centuries earlier. The biblical writer gave Josiah the highest commendation of all the kings: “Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did” (23:25). Jerusalem enjoyed a national revival under Josiah. However, it came to a crashing halt when the king was killed at Megiddo by Pharaoh Neco. Josiah had attempted to block Neco’s efforts to aid the faltering Assyrians in their last stand against Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian armies.
8. Hilkiah said … I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord, &c.—that is, the law of Moses, the Pentateuch. It was the temple copy which, had been laid (, ) beside the ark in the most holy place. During the ungodly reigns of Manasseh and Amon—or perhaps under Ahaz, when the temple itself had been profaned by idols, and the ark also () removed from its site; it was somehow lost, and was now found again during the repair of the temple [Keil]. Delivered by Hilkiah the discoverer to Shaphan the scribe (), it was by the latter shown and read to the king. It is thought, with great probability, that the passage read to the king, and by which the royal mind was so greatly excited, was a portion of Deuteronomy, the twenty-eighth, twenty-ninth, and thirtieth chapters, in which is recorded a renewal of the national covenant, and an enumeration of the terrible threats and curses denounced against all who violated the law, whether prince or people. The impressions of grief and terror which the reading produced on the mind of Josiah have seemed to many unaccountable. But, as it is certain from the extensive and familiar knowledge displayed by the prophets, that there were numbers of other copies in popular circulation, the king must have known its sacred contents in some degree. But he might have been a stranger to the passage read him, or the reading of it might, in the peculiar circumstances, have found a way to his heart in a manner that he never felt before. His strong faith in the divine word, and his painful consciousness that the woeful and long-continued apostasies of the nation had exposed them to the infliction of the judgments denounced, must have come with overwhelming force on the heart of so pious a prince.
12. the king commanded … Go, inquire of the Lord for me, &c.—The agitated feelings of the king prompted him to ask immediate counsel how to avert those curses under which his kingdom lay; and forthwith a deputation of his principal officers was sent to one endowed with the prophetic spirit.
Ahikam—a friend of Jeremiah ().
14. Achbor—or Abdon (), a man of influence at court (). The occasion was urgent, and therefore they were sent—not to Zephaniah (), who was perhaps young—nor to Jeremiah, who was probably absent at his house in Anathoth, but to one who was at hand and known for her prophetic gifts—to Huldah, who was probably at this time a widow. Her husband Shallum was grandson of one Harhas, “keeper of the wardrobe.” If this means the priestly wardrobe, [Harhas] must have been a Levite. But it probably refers to the royal wardrobe.
she dwelt … in the college—rather, “in the Misnah,” taking the original word as a proper name, not a school or college, but a particular suburb of Jerusalem. She was held in such veneration that Jewish writers say she and Jehoiada the priest were the only persons not of the house of David (, ) who were ever buried in Jerusalem.
15. she said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you to me—On being consulted, she delivered an oracular response in which judgment was blended with mercy; for it announced the impending calamities that at no distant period were to overtake the city and its inhabitants. But at the same time the king was consoled with an assurance that this season of punishment and sorrow should not be during his lifetime, on account of the faith, penitence, and pious zeal for the divine glory and worship which, in his public capacity and with his royal influence, he had displayed.
. Josiah Causes the Law to Be Read.
1. the king sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders—This pious and patriotic king, not content with the promise of his own security, felt, after Huldah’s response, an increased desire to avert the threatened calamities from his kingdom and people. Knowing the richness of the divine clemency and grace to the penitent, he convened the elders of the people, and placing himself at their head, accompanied by the collective body of the inhabitants, went in solemn procession to the temple, where ordered the book of the law to be read to the assembled audience, and covenanted, with the unanimous concurrence of his subjects, to adhere steadfastly to all the commandments of the Lord. It was an occasion of solemn interest, closely connected with a great national crisis, and the beautiful example of piety in the highest quarter would exert a salutary influence over all classes of the people in animating their devotions and encouraging their return to the faith of their fathers.
2. he read in their ears—that is, “caused to be read.”
3. all the people stood to the covenant—that is, they agreed to the proposals made; they assented to what was required of them.
Josiah (22:1–20). Josiah (640–609 b.c.) began to reign at age eight after the assassination of his father. In his eighteenth year of reign (621 b.c.), Josiah initiated repairs on the temple Manasseh and Amon had neglected. The high priest Hilkiah recovered the book of the law among the rubble of the temple.
When the book was read before the king, he feared the Lord’s wrath and sent a delegation to the prophetess Huldah to inquire of the Lord concerning Judah’s fate. She prophesied that the Lord would destroy Judah for its idolatry but that Josiah would not witness it because he had repented. Scholars generally agree that this “book” was Deuteronomy or some part of it.
Josiah’s Reforms and Death (23:1–30). Josiah renewed the covenant with the Lord and celebrated the Passover in an unprecedented way. He removed all evidence of pagan worship and centralized worship in Jerusalem. As the prophet had predicted (), Josiah tore down the shrine at Bethel, which Jeroboam had erected three centuries earlier. The biblical writer gave Josiah the highest commendation of all the kings: “Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did.” Jerusalem enjoyed a national revival under Josiah. However, it came to a crashing halt when the king was killed at Megiddo by Pharaoh Neco. Josiah had attempted to block Neco’s efforts to aid the faltering Assyrians in their last stand against Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian armies.
Hilkiah reports to the king’s secretary that the Book of the Law has been found in the temple (22:8–10). Many questions have been raised about this discovery. Some say the Book of the Law was not found, but was written at that time by the priests to focus attention on the temple as the central place for worship and on the laws for worship. This concept of forging a book must be totally rejected on the basis of what the Scriptures say. It was found. Whether scholars say it had just been written or that it was found, all agree the Book of the Law is Deuteronomy. The high priest and priests had become derelict in their duties regarding the reading of God’s covenant requirements. The book of the law the king was to have () had been removed and forgotten as well. Josiah receives the discovered book when his servant reports on the distribution of the funds.
The king hears the reading of the Law (22:11–13). He is distressed because he learns of the great anger of the Lord against Judah’s disobedience. He calls for a message from the Lord concerning this serious matter. Josiah indicates that he is a believing man; he accepts the word of the Lord. He realizes his forefathers were covenant breakers and Judah can expect the curse of the Law to be carried out on them ().
The king’s servants go to Huldah, wife of a palace servant, who is a prophetess (22:14–20). Why Jeremiah or Zephaniah, both of whom were in Judah, are not consulted is not known. Huldah knows the law of Moses; she also speaks the Lord’s word with conviction. The Lord will bring disaster upon Jerusalem, Judah, and its people because the covenant Lord has been rejected by the people of his kingdom. Josiah will not experience this curse of the covenant because he has responded from the heart with faith, humility, and sorrow.
Josiah leads in covenant renewal (23:1–27). He calls the leaders—elders, priests, prophets—and the people to the temple. He reads Deuteronomy publicly and then renews the covenant by responding to its stipulations. He does as demands; with heart and soul he and the people pledge to love, obey, and serve their covenant Lord.
Josiah commands the priests to cleanse the temple completely. All idols and articles used in the worship of heavenly bodies, Baal, and Asherah are burned. Josiah removes all the pagan priests from their service. The male prostitutes are also removed. Josiah keeps the covenant pledge he has made.
Josiah also removes all the priests from the towns and worship centers throughout the country. He cleanses the cities and country areas of idolatry. Josiah removes all abominations. The people of Judah had gathered an amazing collection of foreign idols, idolatrous objects, and practices. Josiah smashes and destroys everything that is not devoted to the sole worship of the Lord. Josiah even goes beyond the border of Judah to Bethel and destroys Jeroboam’s altar. The king will not tolerate the people of Judah going north for idol worship.
Before he smashes the altar of Jeroboam, Josiah defiles it by burning bones of devotees of Jeroboam’s system on it. This is as the unknown prophet had prophesied (). He does not, however, take the bones from the grave of the prophet who had spoken against Jeroboam.
Josiah goes beyond Bethel into the country of Israel and destroys the shrines the Israelites had built for their idol worship. He has the priests serving in these shrines killed. Josiah could move in Israelite territory quite freely to do this because Assyria, which had conquered Israel a century before, was declining in power and losing control of its outlying areas, and would soon be conquered by Babylon.
Josiah next undertakes positive action. He calls for the celebration of the Passover (see ; ; ; ). The Passover had not been celebrated in full accordance with Mosaic law since early days in Canaan. Even David, Solomon, and Hezekiah had not done so completely.
Josiah reads . He removes all the mediums of the evil spirit world. He calls for the removal of all idols, fetishes, and occult objects from Judah and Jerusalem. No king, not even David, has so fully carried out the Lord’s covenant requirements. Josiah loves the Lord with his whole heart, mind, and strength.
Josiah’s reform, however, is too late. The past sins against the Lord have to be punished. Josiah cannot undo what his grandfather Manasseh had done. The justice of the covenant Lord has to be executed.
Josiah meets an untimely death in 609 b.c. (23:28–30). Egypt’s king Neco marches north through Judah’s and Israel’s territory to go to the aid of Assyria who had lost a battle with the Babylonians. Josiah is not eager to see Assyria receive help. He tries to stop the Egyptian army and loses his life in the battle. It is a tragic end for a king who was so wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord. His death also spells the beginning of Judah’s decline.
The different event of Josiah’s early succession from that of Manasseh, must be ascribed to the distinguishing grace of God; yet probably the persons that trained him up were instruments in producing this difference. His character was most excellent. Had the people joined in the reformation as heartily as he persevered in it, blessed effects would have followed. But they were wicked, and had become fools in idolatry. We do not obtain full knowledge of the state of Judah from the historical records, unless we refer to the writings of the prophets who lived at the time. In repairing the temple, the book of the law was found, and brought to the king. It seems, this book of the law was lost and missing; carelessly mislaid and neglected, as some throw their Bibles into corners, or maliciously concealed by some of the idolaters. God’s care of the Bible plainly shows his interest in it. Whether this was the only copy in being or not, the things contained in it were new, both to the king and to the high priest. No summaries, extracts, or collections out of the Bible, can convey and preserve the knowledge of God and his will, like the Bible itself. It was no marvel that the people were so corrupt, when the book of the law was so scarce; they that corrupted them, no doubt, used arts to get that book out of their hands. The abundance of Bibles we possess aggravates our national sins; for what greater contempt of God can we show, than to refuse to read his word when put into our hands, or, reading it, not to believe and obey it? By the holy law is the knowledge of sin, and by the blessed gospel is the knowledge of salvation. When the former is understood in its strictness and excellence, the sinner begins to inquire, What must I do to be saved? And the ministers of the gospel point out to him Jesus Christ, as the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
The book of the law is read before the king. Those best honour their Bibles, who study them; daily feed on that bread, and walk by that light. Convictions of sin and wrath should put us upon this inquiry, What shall we do to be saved? Also, what we may expect, and must provide for. Those who are truly apprehensive of the weight of God’s wrath, cannot but be very anxious how they may be saved. Huldah let Josiah know what judgments God had in store for Judah and Jerusalem. The generality of the people were hardened, and their hearts unhumbled, but Josiah’s heart was tender. This is tenderness of heart, and thus he humbled himself before the Lord. Those who most fear God’s wrath, are least likely to feel it. Though Josiah was mortally wounded in battle, yet he died in peace with God, and went to glory. Whatever such persons suffer or witness, they are gathered to the grave in peace, and shall enter into the rest which remaineth for the people of God.
Josiah reads the law, and renews the covenant
He destroys idolatry
The reformation extended to Israel, A passover kept
Josiah slain by Pharaoh-nechoh
Wicked reigns of Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim
Josiah had received a message from God, that there was no preventing the ruin of Jerusalem, but that he should only deliver his own soul; yet he does his duty, and leaves the event to God. He engaged the people in the most solemn manner to abolish idolatry, and to serve God in righteousness and true holiness. Though most were formal or hypocritical herein, yet much outward wickedness would be prevented, and they were accountable to God for their own conduct.
What abundance of wickedness in Judah and Jerusalem! One would not have believed it possible, that in Judah, where God was known, in Israel, where his name was great, in Salem, in Zion, where his dwelling-place was, such abominations should be found. Josiah had reigned eighteen years, and had himself set the people a good example, and kept up religion according to the Divine law; yet, when he came to search for idolatry, the depth and extent were very great. Both common history, and the records of God’s word, teach, that all the real godliness or goodness ever found on earth, is derived from the new-creating Spirit of Jesus Christ.
3. Josiah of Judah: A Good King (2Kg 22:1–23:30)
Israel’s kings had continually provoked God to anger (cf. 2Kg 17:18–19; 23:26), and judgment was on the horizon. But there was also good news. A righteous king, zealous for the Lord’s honor, was about to reign. Despite a short period of revival, however, God would not relent from the impending judgment He promised. Chapters 22 and 23 reveal exactly what God’s intentions were. The account of King Josiah revealed both the heart of Israel’s greatest reformer as well as the heart of God.
22:1–13. Josiah came to the throne at the age of eight and reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem (v. 1). His reign was not as long as that of his evil grandfather, Manasseh, but he was to have a far superior influence. Clearly, he was not influenced by his immediate predecessors, but instead he walked in all the way of his father David (v. 2). At the age of 26, in his 18 th year as king, he took steps to repair the damages of the house of the Lord (v. 5). But indicates that his zeal for God started even earlier, in his 12 th year as king.
However, a major discovery in the temple was about to change everything that Josiah did. The high priest, Hilkiah, found the book of the law in the house of the Lord (v. 8). No explanation was given as to why this book (actually a scroll) was absent and where it might have been hidden or misplaced. stated specifically that the law was to be placed next to the ark of the covenant. In addition, the king was to have access to this law on a regular basis so that he would know God’s will (cf. ).
Apparently, during the reigns of Manasseh and Amon, the law was deliberately set aside as pagan religious practices superseded the worship and law of the Lord. Not knowing how the young king might respond to this discovery, the high priest sent Shaphan the scribe to inform the king of what had just been found (vv. 9–10). He read it to Josiah, and when he did, the king tore his clothes in an act of repentance (v. 11). Almost immediately the king understood the implications of what he had heard. So he sent his officials to find out further what would happen. After all, the kings and the people had not listened to the words of this book (v. 13).
22:14–20. Four of Josiah’s representatives went to Huldah the prophetess to hear how the Lord felt about Israel’s sins and Josiah’s repentance (v. 14). Other prophets, like Jeremiah and Zephaniah, were contemporaries of the king, but a prophetess had Josiah’s ear. Huldah would not give her own opinion, but she clearly gave the king an answer to his request. She began the response by saying, Thus says the Lord (v. 15). God’s wrath was still burning against Judah, and it would not be quenched (v. 17). However, the heart of God was moved by Josiah’s humility and zeal for God’s honor. God said through the prophetess, Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before the Lord … I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes will not see the all the evil which I will bring on this place (vv. 19–20). Josiah would not live to see the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah taken captive to Babylon. Josiah would die in battle (cf. 23:29–30) but at peace with God.
23:1–3. On receiving Huldah’s information, Josiah moved into action. The first thing he did was to implement the process of covenant renewal. He called for a national assembly with special invitations going to the elders … all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, along with the priests and the prophets and all the people (v. 2). No class distinctions were to keep people from coming to the assembly: both small and great were to attend (v. 2). Like Moses and Joshua in the past (cf. ; ), Josiah read all the words of the book of the covenant (v. 2). The ceremony must have lasted for quite some time. But in the end, the king himself pledged to keep the law, as did all the people (v. 3).
23:4–10. Following the covenant renewal ceremony, Josiah set out to purify the city and surrounding area, even going as far as to Bethel (v. 4), which had been resettled by the Assyrians (cf. 2Kg 17:24). Perhaps with a weakening Assyrian Empire, the Judean king thought he might be able to again unite the two nations of Israel and Judah (Patterson and Austel, “1 and 2 Kings,” 287–88). But the reforms had both negative and positive aspects.
Josiah first destroyed all the vessels that were made for Baal worship (v. 4), burning them outside Jerusalem. Then he did away with the idolatrous priests who had assisted the kings in their idolatrous practices (v. 5). In an act similar to Moses’ destruction of the golden calf, Josiah ground the burned Asherah pole to dust and then threw its dust on the graves (v. 6). Throughout these purification acts various elements were burned and thrown on graves, which in Israel was an extreme act of defilement and dishonor (cf. ). Josiah also destroyed the houses of the male cult prostitutes and the high places, along with those priests who encouraged the people in faulty worship (vv. 7–8). He purified Judea from Geba at its northern boundary to Beersheba, its southern boundary. Although later he killed the false priests in Bethel, he did not destroy those in Jerusalem. Instead, he refused to allow them go up to the altar of the Lord to serve at the temple, as part of their judgment (v. 9). He destroyed/defiled Topheth, the valley of Hinnom in Jerusalem dedicated to child sacrifice to Molech (v. 10).
23:11–14. Of particular interest were items not mentioned elsewhere in 1 and 2 Kings, namely, the horses which the kings of Judah had given to the sun (v. 11). Extrabiblical materials indicate that there was a strong association with horses, chariots, and the worship of the sun (Provan, 1 and 2 Kings, 276). All these idolatrous objects, including the altars … the high places and the sacred pillars were destroyed (vv. 10–14).
23:15–20. In a grand fulfillment of the prophecy made about Josiah in 1Kg 13:26–32, he proceeded to destroy all of the idolatrous objects in Bethel, except for the monument that commemorated the coming of the man of God from Judah who had announced judgment on the altar at Bethel (cf. 1Kg 13:2).
23:21–23. Josiah’s reforms led to a renewed celebration of the Passover (cf. ; ). This feast celebrating God’s redemption from Egypt had apparently been neglected, for such a Passover had not been celebrated from the days of the judges who judged Israel (v. 22). This does not mean Passover had not been celebrated at all since the times of the judges, but it indicates that the Passover under Josiah was more extensive than in the past (cf. ). The obvious point was that Josiah’s celebration was grand in every way. He wanted to be sure the people reflected once again on the redemptive work of God among His people.
23:24–27. What Josiah wanted to do more than anything else was to confirm the words of the law … that Hilkiah the priest had discovered (v. 24). As the account of Josiah’s life came to a close, two aspects of Josiah and the Lord are emphasized. First, Josiah was recognized for his commitment to the Lord: before Josiah there was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might (v. 25; cf. ). God honored Josiah’s zeal for His name. Second, in straightforward fashion the justice of the Lord was highlighted. Despite Josiah’s faithfulness and his reforms, his influence on Judah was limited, for the Lord did not turn from the fierceness of His great wrath … against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked Him (v. 26). He did turn His heart toward a man who loved Him and His Word unequivocally, but He would remove Judah … as I have removed Israel. God’s holy plans could not be thwarted.
23:28–30. The acts of Josiah are written in the Book of the Chronicles (cf. 14:19) and the events of his death are sketched out. In 609 BC Josiah moved his forces into the Valley of Megiddo to confront the Egyptian forces led by Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt. At the time Egypt had entered into an alliance with Assyria in an attempt to suppress various revolts within the western part of the Assyrian Empire. Josiah was able to stop Egypt from pursuing the alliance with Assyria, but he was killed … at Megiddo. But true to the prophetic word of God, Josiah was brought … to Jerusalem and buried … in his own tomb (v. 30; cf. 22:20).
B. The Last Kings of Judah Prior to the Babylonian Captivity (2 Kg 23:31–25:7)
After the death of Josiah there were no more good kings of Judah. The nation, which had began with so much promise under David, was now in a tragic spiritual decline which would culminate in its fall to Babylon. God’s holy anger permeates every detail of these closing chapters; more details regarding the lives and spiritual condition of these final kings of Judah is recorded in .
I cannot help but see the parallel to today. What value do we hold God’s Word in our own society?
We no longer turn to God’s Word in times of trouble—trouble in marriage, trouble with kids, challenges with our jobs, emotional turmoil, medical issues, etc. Recent studies indicate a movement away from regular Bible reading, not just among those not identifying with any religion, but also with those within the Christian community. Why?
This goes beyond those who choose not to attend a church for various reasons. It’s not an indictment on religion or lack of (I’ll save that for another post), but more of one regarding the relevance of God in our lives. After all, many people live lives devoted to God but choose not to attend a church. Will they be counted among the saved? God’s Word says, “All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (), so it would be hard to argue against it. But the fact remains, the Bible is losing ground as a moral compass.
Perhaps it has to do with living in a postmodern world where moral relativism has replaced God’s Truth. We are bombarded by media outlets that promote self-sufficiency and a truth that is forever changing, depending upon the circumstances. We’re lost, and most of us don’t care.
The people of Josiah’s time at least had an excuse: the Book of the Law was hidden and not available. Very few would have had copies of the scrolls. Yet, despite the re-energizing of worship by King Josiah, Judah was doomed to fall. God's wrath was upon them for all of the evil perpetrated prior.
Today, Bibles are available everywhere in every kind of format possible, making the sin of neglect even more egregious. Only by the mercy of God have we been spared a similar wrath that Judah faced for turning away from Him. The question is, how much longer will His mercy cover our rebellion?
I wonder how God must feel when He looks down and sees such an abundance of Bibles, yet so few who find it worthy enough to read?