Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him. 2 Kings 23:25
Total Dedication: 2 Kings 23:1-28, 2 Chronicles 35:1-19. Guided by the Scriptures, Josiah sets about his reformation with fresh zeal. Again, God’s people keep the Passover. Again, the Levites are called back to temple service. Josiah redoubles his efforts to destroy local shrines, and even goes into the territory of Israel to desecrate the altar at Bethel, thus fulfilling prophecy (1 Kings 13:1-3). And the king leads all the people in a ceremony of covenant renewal.
8 And he brought all the priests from the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beersheba; also he broke down the high places at the gates which were at the entrance of the Gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were to the left of the city gate. 9 Nevertheless the priests of the high places did not come up to the altar of the Lord in Jerusalem, but they ate unleavened bread among their brethren. 10 And he defiled Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter pass through the fire to Molech. 11 Then he removed the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun, at the entrance to the house of the Lord, by the chamber of Nathan-Melech, the officer who was in the court; and he burned the chariots of the sun with fire. 12 The altars that were on the roof, the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the Lord, the king broke down and pulverized there, and threw their dust into the Brook Kidron. 13 Then the king defiled the high places that were east of Jerusalem, which were on the south of the Mount of Corruption, which Solomon king of Israel had built for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the people of Ammon. 14 And he broke in pieces the sacred pillars and cut down the wooden images, and filled their places with the bones of men 15 Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he broke down; and he burned the high place and crushed it to powder, and burned the wooden image. 16 As Josiah turned, he saw the tombs that were there on the mountain. And he sent and took the bones out of the tombs and burned them on the altar, and defiled it according to the word of the Lord which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words. 17 Then he said, “What gravestone is this that I see?” So the men of the city told him, “It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and proclaimed these things which you have done against the altar of Bethel.” 18 And he said, “Let him alone; let no one move his bones.” So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet who came from Samaria. 19 Now Josiah also took away all the shrines of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the Lord to anger; and he did to them according to all the deeds he had done in Bethel 20 He executed all the priests of the high places who were there, on the altars, and burned men’s bones on them; and he returned to Jerusalem.
The Passover Kept
21 Then the king commanded all the people, saying, “Keep the Passover to the Lord your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant. 22 Such a Passover surely had never been held since the days of the judges who judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah. 23 But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah this Passover was held before the Lord in Jerusalem.
The LORD’s Persistent Anger against Judah
24 Moreover Josiah put away those who consulted mediums and spiritists, the household gods and idols, all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord.
25 Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him. 26 Nevertheless the Lord did not turn from the fierceness of His great wrath, with which His anger was aroused against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked Him. 27 And the Lord said, “I will also remove Judah from My sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, ‘My name shall be there.’ “
Josiah’s death: 2 Kings 23:29-30; 2 Chronicles 35:20-27. In the word outside of Judah great changes are taking place. The Babylonians have begun to replace Assyria, defeating them in a series of great battles. A decisive battle seems to be coming.
In 609 B.C. Pharaoh Neco II of Egypt hurries north with an army to fight the Assyrians, in a desperate attempt to keep Babylonia from becoming the dominant world power. Josiah attempts to stop the Egyptians at Megiddo and is killed in the battle. The struggle with Egypt is futile, for the Assyrians are crushed. Judah has lost her last godly king. And Babylon, God’s instrument of discipline for sinning Judah, will soon be the unquestioned master of the world.
Study: Josiah’s reform reproduces other reform efforts of godly kings. Compare his efforts (2 Chron. 34, 35) with the reform of Hezekiah (2 Chron. 29-31). What common elements mark the revivals? What can you learn about a personal return to God after straying?
Look again at the reforms of Josiah and Hezekiah. What are the sins that each must deal with? What does this tell you about the nature of drifting away from God, and what modern dangers might exist?
2 Kings 23:31-35 / 2 Chronicles 36:1-4. Johoahaz of Judah (609 B.C.)
Jehoahaz rules in Jerusalem for only 3 months. He is taken by Pharaoh Neco to Egypt, and dies in captivity.
32 And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done.
2 Kings 23:36-24 / 2 Chronicles 36:5-8. Jehoiakim of Judah (609-598 B.C.)
Jehoiakim is also a son of Josiah. But like his deposed brother, Jehoahaz, he is evil. And Jehoiakim is foolish and ineffective ruler. Jehoiakim foolishly misuses his kingdom’s resources. Though pressed between Egypt and Babylon, he raises taxes and labor levies to build himself a new place, which leads Jeremiah to suggest he should be “buried with the burial of an ass” (Jer. 22:19, RSV).
The political issue is settled when Egypt and Babylon meet at Chachemish in 605 B.C. The Babylonian victory assures her king, Nebuchadnezzar, of unquestioned world dominance. Judah is soon invaded. Jehoiakim submits, but within 3 years, he rebels, rejecting the warnings of God’s prophets.
Jehoiakim is the one who tears up the first draft of Jeremiah’s written prophecies (Jer. 36:23). It is during his reign that Daniel and his friends are deported to Babylon. And it is from this first invasion and deportation that the 70 years of the Babylonian captivity will be numbered.
Zephaniah This prophet’s ministry, like that of Jeremiah, begins in the time of Josiah, and spans the rule of several kings. His burden is to warn Judah that punishment for her sins must surely come and cannot be avoided.