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by Wayne Blank
Josiah was the son and successor of Amon on the throne of Judah:
"And the servants of Amon conspired against him, and killed the king in his house. But the people of the land slew all those who had conspired against King Amon, and the people of the land made Josiah his son king in his stead." (2 Kings 21:23-24 RSV)
Josiah's reforms began with restoration done on the Temple (see Temples) which had fallen into a state of neglect (2 Kings 22:3-10). While the work was being done, Hilkiah the high priest found the Book of the Law (some believe that it could have been the original Pentateuch written by Moses), which shows how poorly Hilkiah was doing his job - the high priest, of all people, should have had no need to "discover" its presence:
"And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, "I have found The Book of The Law in The House of The Lord." (2 Kings 22:8 RSV)
Josiah's response to the discovery was dramatic:
"And when the king heard the words of The Book of The Law, he rent his clothes. And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Micaiah, and Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king's servant, saying, "Go, inquire of The Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this Book that has been found; for great is the wrath of The Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed The Words of this Book, to do according to all that is written concerning us." (2 Kings 22:11-12 RSV)
The record of Josiah's cleansing of the kingdom shows how incredibly far Judah had descended into idolatry:
"And the king commanded Hilkiah, the high priest, and the priests [see Levites] of the second order, and the keepers of the threshold, to bring out of the Temple of The Lord all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven; he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel. And he deposed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places at the cities of Judah and round about Jerusalem; those also who burned incense to Baal, to the sun, and the moon, and the constellations, and all the host of the heavens. And he brought out the Asherah from the house of The Lord, outside Jerusalem, to the brook Kidron [see Kidron Valley], and burned it at the brook Kidron, and beat it to dust and cast the dust of it upon the graves of the common people. And he broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes which were in the house of The Lord, where the women wove hangings for the Asherah."
Josiah's life came to a tragic end, at age 39, in battle with the Egyptians:
"After all this, when Josiah had prepared the Temple, Neco king of Egypt [see The Ancient Egyptians and Egyptian Pharaohs] went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates and Josiah went out against him. But he sent envoys to him, saying, "What have we to do with each other, king of Judah? I am not coming against you this day, but against the house with which I am at war; and God has commanded me to make haste. Cease opposing God, who is with me, lest he destroy you."
Josiah was buried with the greatest honors, in fulfillment of Huldah's prophecy (2 Kings 22:20, Jeremiah 34:5), and the prophet Jeremiah composed a lament for him (2 Chronicles 35:25, Lamentations 4:20).
Fact Finder: Was there ever a king before or after who turned to The Lord as Josiah did?