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Hilkiah was the high priest in the time of King Josiah of Judah (see Israelite Monarchy - The Southern Kingdom). The high priest was supposed to not only be in charge of the Temple, but moreover be the custodian and foremost teacher of the Word of God, as documented in the Sacred Texts. Amazingly, it was only during repair work on the decrepit Temple that Hilkiah discovered the existence of the written Law. No wonder that Judah had descended into paganism. Without the Law, they literally (pun intended) could not tell right from wrong.
"Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the Law in the house of the LORD"
The discovery happened after King Josiah (not the negligent high priest) had ordered repair work to the Temple, "to repair the breaches of the house" - another indication of how the people of Judah had allowed their religion to deteriorate. They were doing the repairs merely out of civil maintenance i.e. the Temple had become an "eye sore."
"22:3 And it came to pass in the eighteenth year of king Josiah [see Kings of Israel and Judah], that the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, the Scribe, to the house of the LORD, saying, 22:4 Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may sum the Silver which is brought into the house of the LORD, which the keepers of the door have gathered of the people: 22:5 And let them deliver it into the hand of the doers of the work, that have the oversight of the house of the LORD: and let them give it to the doers of the work which is in the house of the LORD, to repair the breaches of the house, 22:6 Unto carpenters, and builders, and masons [see also The Lord's Plumb Line], and to buy timber and hewn stone to repair the house." (2 Kings 22:3-6 KJV)
Even when Hilkiah found the Law, he seemed to be at a loss as to what to do with it. Instead of doing his job, he incompetently sent it to the king.
"22:8 And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD [see also Temples]. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. 22:9 And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought the king word again, and said, Thy servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of them that do the work, that have the oversight of the house of the LORD. 22:10 And Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king." (2 Kings 22:8-10 KJV)
Josiah then made plain why he is regarded as one of the best kings in Judah's history: "for great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us."
"22:11 And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes. 22:12 And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Michaiah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asahiah a servant of the king's, saying, 22:13 Go 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, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us." (2 Kings 22:11-13 KJV)
Josiah then began a nation-wide purge of all idolatry and immorality. It was a big job.
"23:4 And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order [see Levites], and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove [see Groves], and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron [see Valley Of Kidron], and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel. 23:5 And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun [see Sun Worship], and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven. 23:6 And he brought out the grove from the house of the LORD, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people. 23:7 And he brake down the houses of the Sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove.
Fact Finder: The office of the human high priest was created only as a prophecy of the ultimate High Priest of God. Who is that High Priest? What is He doing right now?