Josiah, King of Judah

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, January 9, 2023 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

After King Amon of Judah was assassinated, his son Josiah became the new king. Josiah was only 8 years old when he became king! His story is recorded in 2 Kings 22-23 and 2 Chronicles 34-35. In contrast to the two kings before him, King Amon and King Manasseh, King Josiah was one of the good ones, following God completely and doing what was right in God’s eyes.

Given his young age when he took the throne, his early reign was likely strongly guided by his mother, named in the account as Jedidiah, and other adults in his life who clearly had a strong faith in God. The author of the book of Kings compares him to his ancestor King David, who is widely considered to be the best king that the nation ever had.

In 2 Chronicles 34:3, we see King Josiah not just living off the faith of his mom or those around him but seeking God for himself: “In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David. In his twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of high places, Asherah poles and idols.” He may have only been 16 when he sought the God of King David, but he had already been the king for 8 years at that point! Four years later, he put that faith into action by destroying everything to do with the worship of false gods.

That account goes on to tell of how he destroyed all of the altars to the pagan god Baal, the incense altars, the Asherah poles, and the idols. He even killed the priests who led the idol worship and burned their bones on their former altars. This was prophesied to happen way back in the time of Jeroboam I, shortly after the kingdom split into Israel and Judah. “By the word of the LORD a man of God came from Judah to Bethel, as Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make an offering. By the word of the LORD he cried out against the altar: ‘Altar, altar! This is what the LORD says: ‘A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests of the high places who make offerings here, and human bones will be burned on you’’” (1 Kings 13:1-2).

One of the most important events of King Josiah’s reign was the discovery of the Book of the Law, which happened in the 18th year of his reign – 6 years after he destroyed all of the pagan idols and altars. Josiah’s next mission was to restore the temple to its former glory. It had become very neglected after years of Judah not using it to worship the one true God as it was intended. While working in the temple, the priest Hilkiah found the Book of the Law (2 Chronicles 34:14).

What exactly was the Book of the Law? Later in the account, it is also called the Book of the Covenant. Scholars believe it was likely at least what we know as the book of Deuteronomy, and it may have also contained Exodus 19-24 and maybe some of Leviticus. It’s possible that it was the entire Pentateuch, the first 5 books of our Bible. There is not sufficient evidence within the account to determine what was exactly part of the Book of the Law, but it is clear that it made a great impact on King Josiah and the people of Judah.

“When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes” (2 Chronicles 34:19). King Josiah was personally convicted by what was in the Book of the Law. It is likely that this reaction was caused by all the threats of punishment for disobeying God, which he knew the nation of Judah had been doing for a long time. He needed to find out more about this, so he sent Hilkiah the priest and others to inquire of the Lord about this. He knew that God was angry with the people of Judah for all the idolatry they had committed for so long.

They went to the prophetess Huldah, who gave them a message from God in 2 Chronicles 34:23-28. Her words confirmed that God was going to bring judgment on the nation of Judah according to all the curses they read in the Book of the Law due to their past idol worship. But because of King Josiah’s humble and repentant heart, he would not see these disasters during his lifetime.

The greatest moment of King Josiah’s reign is described in 2 Chronicles 32:29-33:

Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. He went up to the temple of the LORD with the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests and the Levites—all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the LORD. The king stood by his pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD—to follow the LORD and keep his commands, statutes and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, and to obey the words of the covenant written in this book.
Then he had everyone in Jerusalem and Benjamin pledge themselves to it; the people of Jerusalem did this in accordance with the covenant of God, the God of their ancestors.
Josiah removed all the detestable idols from all the territory belonging to the Israelites, and he had all who were present in Israel serve the LORD their God. As long as he lived, they did not fail to follow the LORD, the God of their ancestors.

The next big event of King Josiah’s reign was the celebrating of the Passover, described in 2 Chronicles 35:1-19. This observance publicly affirmed King Josiah’s and the people’s commitment to following God and obeying His commandments once again. The passover had not been observed in that way since the days when Samuel was a prophet, which was almost 400 years earlier, in the days of King Saul and King David, before the nation divided.

No more is recorded about King Josiah’s reign in detail until the end of his life, roughly 13 years after they found the Book of the Law and celebrated the Passover. The king of Egypt was trying to capture a key city on the Euphrates River. He was not attacking Judah but instead going after the Assyrians and the Babylonians. The Egyptian king even warned King Josiah to not engage him in battle as he was following God’s orders, and God would destroy Judah. But, King Josiah did personally engage in the battle, and he was shot by an archer, which ended up being a fatal wound.

The most important lesson we can learn from King Josiah’s reign is that it’s never too late to turn back to God! God’s decision to destroy Judah may have already been made and they were on their way to destruction, but King Josiah’s reign was a glimmer of hope that the people’s hearts could possibly change and they could be devoted to God once again – even if only for a short time.

No matter how much you have sinned in your life, God will always welcome you back to Him! Perhaps God has given you a great revelation like He gave to Judah with the discovery of the Book of the Law, or perhaps someone else’s dramatic turning back to God will inspire you. But however it happens that God draws you back to Him, know that He will always lovingly welcome you back!

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