Continuing our chronological reading of the Scriptures, we return to the Book of the Kings, with Josiah, reigning as king of Judah. 2 Kings 22-23 is a contemporary account of the reign of Josiah, and a parallel account of the same is recorded in 2 Chronicles 34-35.
2 Kings 22 – The Glorious Reign of Josiah
Josiah, the grandson of Manasseh (who reigned in Judah 55 years), was the son of Amon, a wicked king who reigned two years before he was assassinated by his servants (21:23). Though only eight years old when he became king, Josiah did “that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the ways of David his father [being of David’s lineage], and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left” (22:2).
Repairing the Temple (22:3-7)
In the 18th year of his reign, when he was 26 years old, Josiah set his heart to begin a renovation of the Temple (22:3). We are not told why the Temple had fallen into disrepair, perhaps out of neglect, but the king sent a scribe of his court and commanded a portion of the silver brought by the people to the Temple, was to be used to pay wages to those who labored in the Temple (22:4-6). Those who handled the money were so above reproach, they were not pressed to give an account, “because they dealt faithfully” (22:7).
Discovery of the Book of the Law (22:8-20; 2 Chronicles 34:8-18)
In the course of repairing the Temple, the high priest Hilkiah found “the book of the law in the house of the LORD” (22:8), who then “gave the book to Shapan (the king’s scribe), and he read it” (22:8). Shapan, then brought the “book of the law” to Josiah, and “when the king had heard the words of the book of the law…he rent his clothes,” in a public act of repentance and humility (22:11).
Josiah was so overwhelmed by the words of the law, and its promises of blessings and cursings (22:12-13), that he commanded, “13Go ye, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us (Deuteronomy 28; Leviticus 26)” (22:13).
Five men of Josiah’s court, including Hilkiah the priest, went to a prophetess named Huldah (22:14), and consulted with her concerning all that was written in the law (22:14). Speaking the word of the LORD, the prophetess confirmed the sins of Judah had sealed the nation’s fate, and judgment was imminent (22:15-20). Josiah, however, because his “heart was tender,” before the LORD (22:18-19), was assured he would be spared the sorrow of witnessing the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem (22:20).
Consideration – With the shadow of judgment hanging over his beloved nation and people, what was Josiah’s response?
2 Kings 23 – A National Reformation of Judah
Josiah set his heart to begin a spiritual reformation in Judah (2 Kings 23). Gathering the leaders and people of Judah and Jerusalem, the king “went up into the house of the Lord…and he [the king] read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord” (23:2).
Standing in the midst of the people, the king renewed Israel’s covenant with the LORD, “to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood [and affirmed] to the covenant” (23:3).
Purging Wickedness (23:4-19)
The king then commanded a cleansing of the Temple, and a purging of every element of idolatry (23:4-6). Indicating the depth of depravity to which Judah and Jerusalem had descended, we read, Josiah “brake down the houses of the sodomites” [homosexuals; male prostitutes] located on the Temple mount “by the house of the LORD” (23:7).
Josiah continued his spiritual crusade, and commanded only in Jerusalem would priests offer sacrifices to the LORD (23:8-9). He destroyed Tophet, and purged the “valley of the children of Hinnom” where the people had offered their sons and daughters as sacrifices to Molech (23:10). Because horses were considered sacred by the heathen, “he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given [dedicated] to the sun…and burned the chariots of the sun with fire” (23:11).
The spiritual reform then moved to Bethel, where Jeroboam had established idolatry among the northern ten tribes (23:15). With the exception of two faithful prophets who were buried near Bethel, Josiah’s cleansing of wickedness in that land was so thorough he commanded the bones of the wicked be removed from their tombs and burned (23:16-19).
A Spiritual Renewal (23:20-25)
Josiah observed the Passover on a scale that had not been followed since the days of the Judges (23:21-23; 2 Chronicles 35:1-19). His reign was celebrated in Judah, and in the annals of that nation’s history, there was “no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him” (23:25).
Josiah was killed in battle with the king of Egypt, and his body was returned to Jerusalem where he was buried in his sepulchre (23:29-30). He was succeeded by two sons in quick succession (Jehoahaz, who was bound and taken prisoner to Egypt, 23:30b-33; and Eliakim his brother, whose name was changed to Jehoiakim, 23:34-37).
Closing thoughts – In spite of the great revival under Josiah, it was too late for Judah. The wickedness of Manasseh, Josiah’s grandfather, and Judah’s willingness to follow the sins of that king, had sealed the fate of the nation. “The LORD said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there” (23:27).
For Judah, the hour to repent was past. While the LORD is patient and longsuffering, He is also just and holy. As it was in the days of Noah before the flood, so it is through the ages, for the LORD has forewarned: “My spirit shall not always strive with man” (Genesis 6:3).
Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith