The Word Made Fresh
1Josiah became king when he was eight years old and ruled in Jerusalem for thirty-one years. His mother was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. 2He obeyed the LORD as his forefather David had done, and the LORD was pleased with him.
3In the eighteenth year of his reign king Josiah sent the secretary, Shaphan son of Azaliah son of Meshullam, to the temple. 4“Go to Hilkiah, the high priest,” he said, “and tell him to count all the money the people have brought into the LORD’s house. 5Tell him to give the money to the workers who are responsible for making repairs to the house – 6carpenters, construction workers, and masons. They can use the money for lumber, and stones from the quarries to make repairs. 7There is no need to ask them to account for how the money is used. They are honest people.”
8Hilkiah told Shaphan, “I have found the book of the Law of the LORD in the LORD’s temple.” He gave the book to Shaphan. Shaphan read the book 9and then brought it to the king. He said, “Your servants have gathered all the money in the temple and given it to the workers who maintain the LORD’s house.” 10Then he said, “The priest Hilkiah has given me a book.” He read it aloud to the king.
11As the king listened to the book of the law, he tore his clothing, 12and then he called a meeting of the priest Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Micaiah, and Shaphan the secretary and told them, 13“Go and seek the LORD’s guidance for me and the people and everyone in Judah about the contents of the book Hilkiah has found. The LORD must be very angry with us because our ancestors did not obey the laws in this book or carry out its instructions.”
14Then the priest Hilkiah, along with Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to see the prophetess Huldah. She was the wife of Shallum, son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, who was responsible for the wardrobe of the temple. She lived in the Second District in Jerusalam. 15She told them, “The LORD God of Israel says, ‘Tell the one who sent you to me that 16I will bring disaster on this country and everyone in it. Everything the king of Judah has read in the book will come about 17because the people have abandoned me and bowed down to other gods. They have made me angry because of what they have done and my anger will without doubt burn against them.’ 18But,” she continued, “tell the king of Judah who sent you to me, this is what the LORD says about the words you have read: 19‘Because you were repentant and humbled yourself before the LORD when you learned how I had warned these people that they would be cursed and be desolated, and because you have torn your clothing and wept in my presence, I have heard you. 20You will join your forefathers in peace and you will be spared the disaster I will bring on this place.’”
They reported all this to the king.
1-2: Josiah takes the throne of Judah at the age of eight. We are reminded of Joash, who came to the throne at the age of seven (11:21). And like Joash, Josiah will be a good king.
3-7: He is also like Joash in his desire to repair the temple of the LORD (see 12:4-8). Josiah sends his secretary, Shaphan, to the high priest Hilkiah to authorize the use of temple funds in carrying out extensive repairs. He is shrewd enough to say that he trusts the priests and will not require an audit.
8-10: Hilkiah tells Shaphan that he has found “the book of the law.” This would normally be the Torah (the first five books of the Bible), but we cannot be sure at this point in Israel’s history how much of the Torah has been codified. Shaphan reports to King Josiah about the temple funds, and also tells him about the scroll Hilkiah has found.
11-13: Josiah has the scroll read to him and is deeply affected because he realizes that God’s law has not been obeyed. He sends Hilkiah the high priest, Shaphan the secretary, and others to go “inquire of the LORD.” We wonder what he means.
14-20: We find out. They go, not to the temple, but to the house of a woman named Huldah who is a prophet, obviously revered for her wisdom and for her relationship with God. She tells them that the words of the scroll are true, that God is going to destroy Jerusalem because of the sins of the kings and the people who forsook the worship of God and went after pagan deities and their cults. She also tells them that God will reward Josiah’s penitent heart by delaying the inevitable until after his reign is complete. They take this message back to the king.
The people of Judah have been thoroughly corrupted by their worship of other ‘gods.’ They are no longer governed by any semblance of obedience to God’s rules for living found in the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy). As a result, the very fabric of society has been weakened to the point that they will not be able to survive much longer. I can see a lot of parallels in today’s world. Can America survive if too many of us are drawn into the worship other “gods” – wealth, sexual promiscuity and other aberrations, power, selfish pursuits of all kinds, a growing ignorance of basic rules of community, and the growing tendency to blame others for all our problems instead of learning to shoulder them and grow in the process?