The Word Made Fresh
1Then the king summoned all the leaders of Jerusalem and throughout Judah. 2He led a procession to the LORD’s temple, followed by the people of Judah and those who lived in Jerusalem, along with the priests and the prophets. Everyone was there when he read the book of the covenant that had been discovered in the LORD’s temple. 3The king stood beside the column and made a promise to the LORD that he would obey all the LORD’s commandments, pronouncements, and laws with all his heart and soul, and would follow all the instructions in the book. The people joined in accepting the covenant.
4The king then ordered the high priest Hilkiah to gather the other priests and guardians of the temple entrance and bring out every item dedicated to Baal, and Asherah, and the sun, moon, and stars. He had them taken outside the city to the open country of the Kidron valley where he burned them and had the ashes taken to Bethel. 5He got rid of the idol-worshiping priests the former kings of Judah had appointed to offer sacrifices at the shrines in the towns around Jerusalem and all over Judah, for they were sacrificing to Baal and even to the sun and moon and stars. 6He took the carved pole dedicated to the goddess Asherah out of the temple, had it carried outside Jerusalem to the Kidron valley and burned it there until the ashes could be beaten to dust and scattered over the graves in the valley. 7He demolished the apartments in the temple where the male prostitutes were housed and where the women produced woven garments for the goddess Asherah. 8He gathered all the pagan priests from the towns of Judah and desecrated their shrines where they had made offerings, from Geba to Beer-Sheba. He destroyed the shrines at the Joshua gate on the left side of the main city gate. 9The priests serving at the hilltop shrines did not approach the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, but they did eat the unleavened bread with their relatives. 10Josiah ruined the Topheth shrine in the valley of Ben-Hinnom so that no one could make a child walk through fire to honor the god Molech. 11He removed the statues of horses the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun god at the entrance to the LORD’s temple beside the quarters of the eunuch Nathan-Melech and set fire to the chariots. 12He pulled down the altars the former kings of Judah had erected on the roof of the apartment belonging to Ahaz; also, the altars Manasseh had placed in the two courtyards of the LORD’s temple. He pulled them all down and smashed them into pieces, then threw the rubble into the Kidron valley. 13He desecrated the hilltop shrines east of Jerusalem and the one on Mt. Destruction that King Solomon had erected for the disgusting Sidonian goddess Astarte, and the one for the disgusting Moabite god Chemosh; and the one for the disgusting Ammonite god Milcom. 14He toppled the columns and smashed them and cut down the pagan poles and scattered human bones over the sites.
15Then he went to Bethel and pulled down the high altar Jeroboam son of Nebat had erected to draw Israel into sin. He burned the site and its Asherah idols and smashed it into dust. 16Then Josiah saw the tombs that were carved into the hillside, and had the bones taken out and burned on the altar to defile it, thus fulfilling the word of the LORD which the man of God had proclaimed when Jeroboam had thrown a big party and was standing by that altar.
17Then Josiah asked, “What is that marker?” The people of the city told him it marked the tomb of the man of God from Judah who had predicted what he was doing to the altar at Bethel. 18Josiah said, “Don’t disturb his grave; let him rest in peace.” They left the grave untouched then, along with the bones of the prophet from Samaria as well.
19Then Josiah removed all the hilltop shrines the kings of Israel had erected in the towns around Samaria, because they had made the LORD angry. He broke them down and burned them just as he had done at Bethel. 20He killed the pagan priests at those shrines and burned their bones on their altars. Then he returned to Jerusalem.
21The king ordered the people to observe the Passover to the LORD God as described in the book of the covenant. 22No Passover had been kept since the days of the judges, never during the rule of the kings of Israel and Judah. 23But in the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign the Passover was kept in Jerusalem.
24Josiah also did away with soothsayers and fortune tellers, the household gods, the idols and all the other filthy things that were to be found in Judah and in Jerusalem. So, Josiah obeyed the laws that were in the book Hilkiah the priest had found in the LORD’s temple. 25There had been no king like Josiah, who worshiped the LORD with all his heart and soul and might, and who kept the law of Moses. And no king like him came after him.
26Even so, the LORD’s anger against Judah was not turned aside because of the evils propagated by king Manasseh. 27The LORD declared, “I will also put Judah out of my sight as I have Israel. I will turn away from Jerusalem, the city I chose, and the temple where I declared my name would be.”
28The rest of Josiah’s actions are recorded in the Book of the Acts of the Kings of Judah. 29Toward the end of his reign Pharaoh Neco of Egypt went to battle the king of Assyria at the river Euphrates. King Josiah went out to block him, but at Megiddo Pharaoh saw Josiah and killed him. 30His soldiers carried his body in a chariot back to Jerusalem and buried him in his tomb. The people then anointed Josiah’s son Jehoahaz as king in his father’s place.
31Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he began his reign. He ruled for three months in Jerusalem. His mother was Hamutal, daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. 32He turned out to be as wicked as his ancestors had been. 33Pharaoh Neco imprisoned him at Riblah in the land of Hamath to keep him from reigning in Jerusalem, and took from the land nearly four tons of silver and seventy-five pounds of gold. 34He appointed Josiah’s son Eliakim king in place of his brother Jehoahaz and changed his name to Jehoiakim. He deported Jehoahaz to Egypt, and that is where he died.
35Jehoiakim gave Pharaoh the silver and gold, but he levied taxes on the people of the land to pay for it.
36Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when his reign began. He ruled for eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother was Zibidah daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah. 37He was a wicked man in the LORD’s assessment, just as most of his ancestors had been.
1-3: King Josiah leads all the people of Jerusalem in a national act of repentance and renews their covenant with God.
4-14: Josiah embarks on a systematic plan to eradicate the worship of other gods from the land of Judah. The extent of his reform gives us some idea of the extent to which the pagan religious cults had infiltrated the everyday life of the average Judean. Note also that in verse 4 he is able to travel freely to and from Bethel, one of the cultic centers of the rival religion Jeroboam had started in Israel so the people of the north would not have to come to Jerusalem to worship. It appears that after the Assyrians conquered Israel, and subsequently had to withdraw from their siege of Jerusalem, some of the territory of the northern kingdom of Israel had been annexed by Judah.
15-20: Judah’s control over former Israelite territories as far north as Bethel is secure enough that Josiah is able to go on a rampage to remove every vestige of foreign religions. The “man of God” mentioned in this passage is a reference to the strange story told in I Kings 13 in which a prophet came out of Judah to challenge Jeroboam of Israel, was killed by a lion, and his body was recovered by a prophet in Israel and given a decent burial in a local grave. Here we learn that grave was at Bethel. Josiah has human bones burned on the pagan altars to defile them so that no one would ever use the altars again – a bit of superstition, perhaps, but effective.
21-23: Josiah returns to Jerusalem and orders that the Passover be observed. It has not been observed, we are told, since the days of the judges.
24-27: Josiah, zealous for the law, completely rids Judah and Jerusalem of every vestige of pagan worship, but God still is determined that Judah must be removed because of the abominations committed by Manasseh (21:1-18).
28-30: And so, Josiah meets with a sudden and surprising end. Pharaoh Neco decides it is time to take on the waning Assyrian Empire. Of course, he has to pass through Judah to reach the Euphrates. Josiah thinks he can contest the mighty Egyptian army and engages them at Megiddo, but is killed in the battle. His servants bring his body back to Jerusalem and he is given a state burial. His son Jehoahaz is anointed king in his place.
31-35: Jehoahaz is judged to have been a bad king, but no particular reasons are given for such a judgment, and he only rules for 3 months before Pharaoh Neco deposes him and makes his brother Eliakim king in his place. Jehoahaz is taken captive to Egypt and dies there. Neco changes Eliakim’s name to Jehoiakim and levies a heavy tribute on Judah. Jehoiakim has to resort to taxing the people in order to pay the tribute, thus tumbling Judah into the same kind of decline that plagued Israel just before their downfall under the evil King Menahem (see 15:17-22).
36-37: Jehoiakim is twenty-five when he is made king; his brother Jehoahaz was twenty-three when he became king, and ruled for only three months. We were told that “the people” anointed Jehoahoaz, and for reasons unknown they skipped his older brother. Jehoiakim’s reign is summarized: 11 years of a rule that is judged as being evil (though the nature of his evil is not specified).
The people of Israel turned against the LORD and had begun to worship pagan deities. Their apostacy was so pronounced that even a faithful leader like Josiah could not turn their hearts back to the LORD. Their country will be dissolved into other kingdoms for hundreds of years as a result. I pray we are not seeing the writing on the wall for our own country.