THE BOOK OF 2 KINGS
Lesson 8: Chapters 21:1-23:30
Part II: The Kingdom of Judah
The Reigns of Manasseh, Amon, and Josiah
When You call us to repentance and we respond with humble contrition, You restore us in Your image and likeness, and we can start anew on our journey to salvation. No matter how many times we stumble and fall, there is no limit to Your mercy. Give us, Lord, Your same loving compassion for the other members of the human family who have lost their way on the path to salvation. Remove our prejudices so that we can respond with understanding and with the wisdom to help them find their way back to You. Also give us the wisdom to raise godly children. Help us to provide a good example for them to follow and to teach them to love You above all the distractions and sins that are thrown at them by the secular world. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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"And the Lord
heard his plea," and had compassion on him. And there appeared a flame of fire
about him, and all the iron shackles and chains that were about him fell off;
and the Lord healed Manasseh from his affliction and "restored him again to
Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord indeed was
God." "And he worshiped the Lord God alone with all his heart and with all his
soul, all the days of his life; and he was esteemed righteous"... You have heard,
our beloved children, how the Lord God for a while punished him who was
addicted to idols and had slain many innocent persons; and yet that he received
him when he repented, and forgave him his offenses and restored him to his
kingdom. For he not only forgives the penitent, but also reinstates them in
their former dignity.
Constitution of the Holy Apostles, 2.22 (written c. 375/380 AD and quoting from 2 Chr 33:13)
Chapter 21: King Manasseh and his Son King Amon
2 Kings 21:1-9 ~ The reign of Manasseh in Judah (687-642 BC)
1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he came to the throne and he reigned for fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Hephzibah. 2 He did what is displeasing to Yahweh, copying the disgusting practices of the nations [like the abominations of the nations] whom Yahweh had dispossessed for the Israelites. 3 He rebuilt the high places which his father Hezekiah had destroyed, he set up altars to Baal and made a sacred pole as Ahab king of Israel had done, he worshipped the whole array of heaven and served it. 4 He built altars in the Temple of Yahweh of which Yahweh had said, "Jerusalem is where I shall put my name." 5 He built altars to the whole array of heaven in two courts of the Temple of Yahweh. 6 He caused his son to pass through the fire of sacrifice, he also practiced soothsaying and divination and set up mediums and spirit guides. He did very many more things displeasing to Yahweh, thus provoking his anger. 7 He had an image of Asherah carved and placed it inside the Temple of which Yahweh had said to David and his son Solomon, "In this Temple and in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I shall put my Name forever. 8 Nor shall I ever again set Israel's footsteps wandering outside the country which I gave to their ancestors, provided they are careful to observe all I have commanded them as laid down in the whole Law which my servant Moses prescribed for them." 9 But they would not listen, and Manasseh misled them into doing worse things than the nations whom Yahweh had destroyed for the Israelites.
See the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 33:1-20, parts of which are quoted in the ancient catechism known as the "Apostolic Constitutions" or "Constitutions of the Holy Apostles" in section 2.22.
1 Manasseh was
twelve years old when he came to the throne and he reigned for fifty-five years
in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Hephzibah.
Since Hezekiah reigned for twenty-nine years and Manasseh became king when he was only twelve years old, either Hezekiah's elder sons had all predeceased him and Manasseh was his youngest son, or it is more likely that Hezekiah's sons had died and Manasseh was a grandson. In any case, it appears that young Manasseh did not have the benefit of being raised by a righteous father and was not guided in his youth by righteous advisors, since he came to the throne in his minority and would have had regents appointed along with his mother.
It is interesting that his mother is named but her father is not named as in the lists other mothers of the Davidic kings. Her name is not a foreign name, however. It means "my delight rests in her" and is the name given by the Lord to the future restored Jerusalem in Isaiah 62:4. It is likely that it is a scribal error that Manasseh ruled for 55 years. It does not work out historically, but 45 years does correspond with the historical record in the Assyrian king lists and in the Biblical account. It was during Manasseh's reign that relations with the Assyrians were renewed (2 Kng 20:21; 2 Chr 32:33). The repair of relations with the Assyrians brought a revival of idolatrous practices (2 Kng 21:1-7; 2 Chr 33:1-10).
2 He did what is
displeasing to Yahweh, like the abominations of the nations...
God told Abraham his descendants would not inherit the Promised Land until the iniquity of the Amorites (Gen 15:16) had reached its full extent (Amorites was a general term for all the different pagan peoples of Canaan). Now the Judahites, like the Israelites, have reached the same point. The formulaic language for reporting cultic abuses, like the Israelite kings, is enhanced here and it will continue to be intensified in the verses to follow. Manasseh was the son of one of the two most virtuous kings of Judah, but he became one of the most evil of the Davidic kings.
...of which Yahweh had said to David and his son
Solomon, "In this Temple and in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen out of
all the tribes of Israel, I shall put my Name forever. 8 Nor shall I ever again set Israel's footsteps
wandering outside the country which I gave to their ancestors, provided they
are careful to observe all I have commanded them as laid down in the whole Law
which my servant Moses prescribed for them."
That Jerusalem was the site God chose for His name to dwell (i.e., see 1 Kng 11:13b; 2 Kng 23:27). In Deuteronomy 12:5-12, Yahweh told the Israelites that He would choose the site for permanent worship when they were settled in the Promised Land. That site was where David received a divine vision and was commanded to build an altar on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem (2 Sam 24:16-19; 2 Chr 3:1). It was Yahweh's promise that so long as the Israelites were obedient to His covenant that He would make them secure in the Promised Land (Lev 26:3-13; Dt 28:1-14). But God also told them: "You will not make idols for yourselves; you will not erect statues or cultic stones, or erect carved stones in your country, for you to worship; for I Yahweh, am your God. You shall keep my Sabbaths and revere my sanctuary. I am Yahweh" (Lev 26:1-2; also see 19:4).
2 Kings 21:10-16 ~ Yahweh's warnings to Judah
10 Then Yahweh spoke through his servants the prophets as follows, 11 "Since Manasseh king of Judah has done these shameful deeds, doing more wicked deeds than anything which the Amorites did before him, and has led Judah too into sin with his idols, 12 Yahweh, God of Israel, says this, 'Look, I shall bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah as will make the ears of all who hear of it tingle. 13 Over Jerusalem I shall stretch the same measuring line as over Samaria, the same plumb-rule as for the House of Ahab; I shall scour Jerusalem as someone scours a dish and, having scoured it, turns it upside down. 14 I shall cast away the remnant of my heritage, delivering them into the clutches [hands] of their enemies and making them the prey and booty of all their enemies, 15 because they have done what is displeasing to me and have provoked my anger from the day their ancestors came out of Egypt until now.'" 16 Manasseh shed innocent blood, too, in such great quantity that he flooded Jerusalem from one end to the other, besides the sins into which he led Judah by doing what is displeasing to Yahweh.
12 Yahweh, God of Israel, says this, Look, I shall bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah as will make the ears of all who hear of it tingle. A similar expression is found in 1 Samuel 2:11 and Jeremiah 19:3. The figure of speech is that of a resounding echo in the person's ears created by the terrible news of the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah.
Two images are used in verse 13: a measuring line and a
dish wiped clean. A measuring line and plummet are tools of construction and a
dish is a receptacle for holding food.
Question: What is the significance of the measuring line?
Answer: This is a metaphor for divine judgment. In the construction of buildings or walls, the end of a line was attached to a weight and was suspended to see if a wall was vertical. In this case, the line and the weight are used for the rigorous measurement of the integrity and faithfulness of Jerusalem which is found to be defective.
The same standard for judging Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom, will be used for judging Jerusalem, the capital of the Southern Kingdom. Failure in the integrity of the city will mean destruction as in the case of a wall that was judged to be out of plum. Prophets prior to the destruction of Samaria and Jerusalem and afterwards had visions and made prophecies concerning Samaria and Jerusalem being measured by a divine plumb line:
The second symbolic image is a dish. When the last
remnant of food is removed from a dish, the dish can be wiped clean and turned
upside down. Turning a dish upside down is a sign that the person who was
eating is now satiated.
Question: What is the significance of the dish metaphor in 13b?
Answer: There are two statements conveyed by the dish that is an image of total destruction:
15 because they
have done what is displeasing to me and have provoked my anger from the day
their ancestors came out of Egypt until now.
The point is that Manasseh's behavior is not unique but is rather the culmination of all the unfaithful rebellion of the Israelites from the generation of the Exodus onward.
16 Manasseh shed innocent blood, too, in such great quantity that he flooded Jerusalem from one end to the other, besides the sins into which he led Judah by doing what is displeasing to Yahweh. The shedding of innocent blood probably refers to the murder of the prophets and others of the faithful who opposed Manasseh's abominations against the Temple and other profane practices against the covenant. The Jewish historian Josephus wrote: "...he barbarously slew all the righteous men that were among the Hebrews; nor would he spare the prophets, for every day he slew some of them, till Jerusalem was overflown with blood" (Antiquities of the Jews, 10.3.1 ). According to Jewish tradition, the prophet Isaiah was martyred during this time. The apocryphal Martyrdom of Isaiah records that Manasseh had Isaiah sawed in two in c. 668 BC.
The Repentance of Manasseh
When God spoke to the king and to the people they would not listen and continued in their perverse practices. In judgment, Yahweh sent the Assyrians against Manasseh and Judah. The result was that the king's capture and imprisonment. His suffering brought about his repentance: Yahweh then brought down on them the generals of the king of Assyria's army who captured Manasseh with hooks, put him in chains and took him to Babylon. While in his distress, he placated Yahweh his God by genuinely humbling himself before the God of his ancestors. When he prayed to him, he was moved by the entreaty, heard his supplication and brought him back to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Manasseh realized then that Yahweh is God (2 Chr 33:11-13).
A little humble repentance goes a long way with God. God forgave Manasseh his sins, brought about his release from prison, and his restoration to kingship in Judah. Manasseh demonstrated his repentance and his gratitude to God in good works: Afterwards, he rebuilt the outer wall of the City of David, to the west of Gihon, in the valley, up to the Fish Gate and round the Ophel, and made it very much higher. And he stationed military governors in all the fortified towns of Judah. He also removed the foreign gods and the idol from the Temple of Yahweh, as well as all the altars which he had built on the mountain of the Temple of Yahweh and in Jerusalem, and threw them out of the city. He repaired the altar of Yahweh and offered communion sacrifices and thanksgiving offerings on it, and commanded Judah to serve Yahweh, God of Israel. The people, however, went on sacrificing at the high places, although only to Yahweh their God (2 Chr 33:14-17).
Question: What good works, both civil and
religious, were accomplished by Manasseh to atone for his past evil deeds? What
was his only failure?
2 Kings 21:17-18 ~ Summary of Manasseh's reign
17 The rest of the history of Manasseh, his entire career, the sins he committed, is this not recorded in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah? 18 Then Manasseh fell asleep with his ancestors and was buried in the garden of his palace, the Garden of Uzza; his son Amon succeeded him.
See the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 33:18-20. Manasseh was probably buried in the garden of His great-great-great-grandfather Uzziah (Uzza being a shortened form of the name); this was probably because there was no more room in the normal burial site for the Davidic kings.
2 Kings 21:19-28 ~ The reign of Amon in Judah
19 Amon was twenty-two years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for two years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Meshullemeth daughter of Haruz of Jotbah. 20 He did what is displeasing to Yahweh, as Manasseh his father had done. 21 In every respect he followed the example of his father, serving the idols which his father had served, and worshipping them. 22 He abandoned Yahweh, God of his ancestors; he did not follow the way of Yahweh. 23 Amon's retinue plotted against the king and killed him in his own palace. 23 The people of the country, however, slaughtered all those who had plotted against King Amon and proclaimed his son Josiah as his successor. 23 The rest of the history of Amon, his entire career, is this not recorded in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah? 24 He was buried in his father's tomb in the Garden of Uzza; his son Josiah succeeded him.
See the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 33:21-25. Unfortunately, Amon followed the example of Manasseh prior to his conversion. He returned idol worship to Judah and abandoned Yahweh and His covenant. His own palace officials assassinated him in a palace coup, but the people resisted the usurpers and killed them, placing Amon's son on the throne of David. His son, Josiah, will become one of the two most righteous kings of Judah since David.
It is significant that the people continued to support the Davidic heirs. Their actions in giving their loyalty to the Davidic kings attest to their belief in the Davidic covenant. It was to David of Judah that God revealed both the plan of the Temple (1 Chr 28:11-19) and the plan of the eternal covenant that is the "charter for humanity" by which the coming of the Messianic priest-king was to bring the blessings of Abraham to all nations (2 Sam 7:18-29; 23:2-5; 1 Chr 17:16-27; Ps 16; 110; Acts 2:25-36).
Chapter 22-23: The Reign of Good King Josiah
The prophet of God
confronted King Jeroboam I of Israel in c. 930/29 BC when he offered sacrifices
at the illicit altar at Bethel: And at Yahweh's command this man denounced
the altar. "Altar, altar," he said, "Yahweh says this, 'A son is to be born to
the House of David, Josiah by name, and on you he will slaughter the priests of
the high places who have offered sacrifice on you and on you he will burn human
1 Kings 13:2
In the eighth
year of his [Josiah's] reign, when he was still a youth, he began to
seek the God of his ancestor David. In the twelfth year he began to purge
Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the sacred poles and the sculpted and
cast images. He superintended the smashing of the altars of Baal, he broke up
the incense altars standing above them, he shattered the sacred poles and the
sculpted and cast images wand reduced them to powder, scattering the powder on
the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. He burned the bones of their
priests on their altars and so purified Judah and Jerusalem. In the towns of
Manasseh, Ephraim and Simeon, as far as Naphtali, and round their open spaces,
he smashed the altars and sacred poles, reduced the sculpted images to powder
and broke up all the incense altars throughout the territory of Israel. Then
he returned to Jerusalem.
2 Chronicles 34:3-7
2 Kings 22:1-2 ~ Introduction to the Reign of Josiah (c. 640-609)
1 Josiah was eight years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah, of Bozkath. 2 He did what Yahweh regards as right, and in every respect followed the example of his ancestor David, not deviating from it to right or left.
See the parallel passage concerning the reign of Josiah in 2 Chronicles 34:1-16. The prophet Isaiah has been martyred and Jeremiah (born c. 646), son of the priest Hilkiah (Jer 1:1) who may be the high priest during the reign of Josiah (2 Kng 22:4) is born about the same time as Josiah. Jeremiah family lived in the Levitical village of Anathoth, approximately three miles northeast of Jerusalem. Jeremiah will begin his prophetic ministry in the thirteen year of the reign of King Josiah (Jer 1:1-2). His ministry will continue through the reign of Josiah's son King Jehoiakim and continue until the end of the reign of the last Davidic king, King Zedekiah, at the time of the deportation of Jerusalem into exile. Jeremiah was a contemporary of the prophet Zephaniah who also had his prophetic ministry during the reign of Josiah (Zeph 1:1) but probably during the minority of Josiah, between 640-630 BC, and before the beginning of Jeremiah's ministry.
See the passage listed above from 2 Chronicles 34:3-7 concerning Josiah's conversion to Yahweh in the 8th year of his reign when he was 15 or 16 years old, depending if the Judahites were counting year of reign by the accession or non-accession system (the practice of counting varied). See the document "Dating the Reigns of the Kings of Judah and Israel." Josiah is recognized as the best of the Davidic kings since David.
2 Kings 22:3-10 ~ Rediscovery of the Book of the Law
3 In the eighteenth year of King Josiah, the king sent the secretary Shaphan son of Azaliah, son of Meshullam to the Temple of Yahweh. 4 "Go to Hilkiah the high priest," he told him, "and tell him to melt down the silver contributed to the Temple of Yahweh and collected by the guardians of the threshold from the people. 5 He is to hand it over to the masters of works attached to the Temple of Yahweh, for them to pay it over to men working on the Temple of Yahweh, to repair the damaged parts of the Temple: 6 to the carpenters, builders and masons. And for buying timber and dressed stone for the Temple repairs." 7 The later were not required to render account of the money handed over to them, since they were conscientious in their work. 8 The high priest Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, "I have found the Book of the Law in the Temple of Yahweh." And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, who read it. 9 Shaphan the secretary went to the king, reporting furthermore to him as follows: "Your servants have melted down the silver which was in the Temple and have handed it over to the masters of works attached to the Temple of Yahweh." 10 Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, "The priest Hilkiah has given me a book"; and Shaphan read it aloud in the king's presence.
In the 8th year of his reign, when Josiah was 15 or 16, he began to seek to know Yahweh (2 Chr 34:3). In the 18th year of his reign, when Josiah would have been about 25 or 26, he began repairing the Temple under the same plan that had been put in place by his ancestor Joash/Jehoash of Judah (2 Kng 12:5-16). It was at that time that the High Priest Hilkiah discovered the Book of the Law. Perhaps it was during the years of Manasseh's abuse of the Temple or even earlier during the years of Ahaz, when a former high priest had hidden the ancient book for fear it would be destroyed. Biblical scholars debate exactly what was the Book of the Law: was it the entire Torah (the first five books of the Bible), or was it only the Book of Deuteronomy? Whatever it was, after having it read to him, Josiah decided his religious reforms had not gone far enough.
Huldah is Consulted
We need not wonder that Huldah, the prophet[ess] and wife of Shallum, was consulted by Josiah, king of Judah ... since it is the rule of Scripture, when holy men fail, to praise women to the reproach of men.
Jerome, Against Jovinianus, 1.25
2 Kings 22:11-20 ~ Josiah's ministers go to the prophetess Hulda
11 On hearing the words of the Book of the Law he tore his clothes. 12 Then the king gave the following order to the priest Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king's minister: 13 "Go and consult Yahweh on behalf of me and the people about the words of the book that has been discovered; for Yahweh's furious wrath has been kindled against us because our ancestors disobeyed the word of Yahweh by not doing what this book says they ought to have done." 14 The priest Hilkiah, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan and Asaiah went to the prophetess Huldah wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, son of Harhas the keeper of the wardrobe; she lived in Jerusalem in the new town. They put the matter to her, 15 and she replied, "Yahweh, God of Israel, says this, To the man who sent you to me say this: 16 Yahweh says this: 'I am going to bring disaster on this place and the people who live in it, all the words of the book read by the king of Judah. 17 Because they have abandoned me and sacrificed to other gods, so as to provoke my anger by their every action, my wrath is kindled against this place, and nothing can stop it. 18 As for the king of Judah who sent you to consult Yahweh, say this to him: As regards the words you have heard ... 19 But since your heart has been touched and you have humbled yourself before Yahweh on hearing what I have decreed against this place and the people who live in it, how they will become an object of horror and cursing, and have torn your clothes and wept before me, I too have heard, Yahweh says this. 20 'So look, when I gather you to your ancestors, you will be gathered into your grave in peace; you will not live to see the great disaster that I am going to bring on this place.'" They took this answer to the king.
|Old Testament Prophetesses|
|Miriam, sister of Moses||Exodus 15:20|
|Deborah Judge & Prophetess||Judges 4:4|
|Huldah||2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chronicles 34:22|
|Isaiah's wife||Isaiah 8:3|
|New Testament Prophetesses|
|Philip's four daughters||Acts 21:9|
|"Jezebel" the False Prophetess||Revelation 2:20|
|Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2015 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.|
Question: Why did Josiah tear his clothes after the Book of the
Law was read to him?
Answer: For the first time he realized how badly the people had strayed from their covenant with Yahweh and how badly they were in violation of their covenant vows.
17 "Because they have
abandoned me and sacrificed to other gods, so as to provoke my anger by their
every action, my wrath is kindled against this place, and nothing can stop it...20 So look, when I gather you to your ancestors,
you will be gathered into your grave in peace; you will not live to see the
great disaster that I am going to bring on this place."
God had already decided to bring down His judgment on Judah for violating the covenant for many generations, but because of the piety of Josiah, that judgment will be delayed. See 2 Kng 20:17-18; 23:26-27.
Between verses 18 and 19 some words of the text have been lost. There is a problem with Huldah's prophesy in verse 20. Josiah did not die in peace but was tragically killed in battle (2 Kng 23:29-30; 2 Chr 35:23-25). An explanation might be that it was God's plan that Josiah should die in peace, but his refusal to heed the word of Yahweh not to go to war against the Egyptians at the Battle of Megiddo cost him his life (2 Chr 35:20-22).
Chapter 23: The Renewal of the Covenant
The citizens of
Jerusalem took action in keeping with the covenant of God, the God of their
ancestors, while Josiah removed all the abominations throughout the territories
belonging to the Israelites and required all inhabitants of Israel to serve
Yahweh their God; throughout his lifetime they did not deviate from following
Yahweh, God of their ancestors.
2 Chronicles 34:32b-33
About two years after Josiah began his religious reforms and one year after Jeremiah was called to his prophetic ministry, the Assyrian Empire began to fall apart. In 626 BC the seminomadic Scythians from the region of the central Eurasian steppes swept into the western provinces of the empire. The Scythians stormed across Syria and the Galilee, and their raids brought about a sudden and final end to the Assyrian hold on the lands west of the Euphrates River. That same year a Chaldean named Nabopolassar conquered Babylon and declared southern Mesopotamia no longer under Assyrian control. Within a year the Assyrians had lost control of both ends of their empire. This is why King Josiah was able to end his vassal status, to discontinue paying tribute to Assyria, and was able to institute his religious reforms in Samaria. Judah was able to have one final period of freedom from foreign control.
2 Kings 23:1-3 ~ The reading of the Law and renewal of the covenant
1 The king then had all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem summoned to him, 2 and the king went up to the Temple of Yahweh with all the people of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, priests, prophets and the whole populace, high and low. In their hearing he read out the entire contents of the Book of the Covenant discovered in the Temple of Yahweh. 3 The king then, standing on the dais, bound himself by the covenant before Yahweh, to follow Yahweh, to keep his commandments, decrees and laws with all his heart and soul, and to carry out the terms of the covenant as written in his book. All the people pledged their allegiance to the covenant.
King Josiah made all those present in Jerusalem and the elders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin listen to a reading of the Book of the Covenant and to renew the people's pledge of their alliance to Yahweh and His covenant with Israel (2 Chr 35:32a). The people completely embraced his reforms: The citizens of Jerusalem took action in keeping with the covenant of God, the God of their ancestors, while Josiah removed all the abominations throughout the territories belonging to the Israelites and required all inhabitants of Israel to serve Yahweh their god; throughout his lifetime they did not deviate from following Yahweh, God of their ancestors (2 Chr 34:32b-33).
The Book of the Covenant can be understood to be the same as the Book of the Law, or it might refer to a portion of the entire Law that Moses wrote down at the ratification of the Sinai Covenant (Ex 24:4) and read to the people that is called the "Book of the Covenant": Then taking the Book of the Covenant, he read it to the listening people, who then said, "we shall do everything that Yahweh has said; we shall obey (Ex 24:7). It might also refer to the Deuteronomic Code that included additional laws that were not put into place until the people came into the Promised Land and are found in Moses' final homilies to the children of Israel in the Book of Deuteronomy that began in Deuteronomy 4:44-45: This is the Law which Moses presented to the Israelites. These are the stipulations, the laws and the customs which Moses gave the Israelites after they had left Egypt.
2 Kings 23:4-14 ~ Religious reform in Judah
4 The king ordered Hilkiah with the priest next in rank and the guardians of the threshold to remove all the cult objects which had been made for Baal, Asherah, and the whole array of heaven; he burnt them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron and had the ashes taken to Bethel. 5 He exterminated the spurious priests whom the kings of Judah had appointed and who offered sacrifice on the high places, in the towns of Judah and the neighborhood of Jerusalem; also those who offered sacrifice to Baal, to the sun, the moon, the constellations and the whole array of heaven. 6 And from the Temple of Yahweh he took the sacred pole outside Jerusalem to the Kidron valley and in the Kidron valley he burnt it, reducing it to ashes and throwing its ashes on the common burial-ground. 7 He pulled down the house of the sacred male prostitutes which was in the Temple of Yahweh and where the women wove veils for Asherah. 8 He brought all the priests in from the towns of Judah, and from Geba to Beersheba he rendered unsanctified the high places where these priests had offered sacrifice. He pulled down the High Place of the Gates, which stood at the gate of Joshua, the governor of the city, to the left of the entry to the city. 9 The priests of the high places, however, did not officiate at the altar of Yahweh in Jerusalem, although they did share the unleavened bread of their brother priests. 10 He rendered unsanctified Tophet in the Valley of Ben-Hinnom, so that no one could pass his son or daughter through the fire of sacrifice to Molech. 11 He destroyed the horses which the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun at the entrance to the Temple of Yahweh, near the apartment of Nathan-Melech the official, in the precincts, and he burned the solar chariot. 12 The king pulled down altars which the kings of Judah had built on the roof and those which Manasseh had built in the two courts of the Temple of Yahweh, and broke them to pieces on the spot, throwing their rubble into the Kidron valley. 13 The king rendered unsanctified the high places facing Jerusalem, to the south of the Mount of Olives, which Solomon king of Israel had built for Astarte the Sidonian abomination, for Chemosh the Moabite abomination, and for Milcom the Ammonite abomination. 14 He also smashed the sacred pillars, cut down the sacred poles, and covered with human bones the places where they had stood.
Question: List Josiah's reforms. Were his actions
according to the Law of the Covenant? See Ex 20:3-5; 34:13;
Lev 18:21-22; 19:4; 20:2-5; 26:1, 30;
Dt 7:5; 12:3-9, 11-12; 13:2-19; 16:21-22; 17:2-5;
Dt 23:18-19; 29:17-20/18-21.
Answer: Yes, everything he did was according to the Law.
It is amazing to read that the shrines Solomon erected for his pagan wives still existed on the Mount of Olives, including those shrines to gods who accepted human sacrifice and promoted ritual male and female prostitution; these are the "abominations" listed in verse 13. To cover those places with burnt and smashed human bones, probably of the pagan worshippers who were buried near the shrines, would render those sites forever unclean.
Descendants of Aaron and the Levitical lesser ministers who had participated in illicit worship of Yahweh outside of the Temple where de-sanctified and not allowed to participate in liturgical worship at the Temple, but they were allowed to continue to receive their portion of support under the law (Num 18:25-32; Dt 18:3).
How could all these abuses and abominations still exist after Manasseh's reforms? Either his son Amon reinstituted them or Manasseh was not able to remove all of the abuses. Once sin is established and people have accepted the practice of certain sins as a norm, it is very hard to turn a generation raised in those sins away from them. Consider for example, the abomination of abortion or the glorification of the homosexual lifestyle and the impact of acceptance of these sins upon the present generation.
and from Geba to Beersheba he rendered unsanctified the high places where these priests had offered sacrifice. Geba is probably the Levitical city in the tribal lands of Benjamin. From Geba to Beersheba is now the extent of the nation of Judah whereas formerly the extent of the Promised Land had been from Dan in the far north near Mt. Hermon to Beersheba in southern Judah (Judg 20:1; 1 Sam 3:20; 2 Sam 3:10; 17:11; 24:2, 15; etc.).
14 He also smashed the sacred pillars, cut down the sacred poles, and covered with human bones the places where they had stood. To cover the sites with human bones would have rendered them forever unclean and unfit for worship.
2 Kings 23:15-20 ~ Josiah's reform is extended into Samaria
15 As for the altar at Bethel, the high place built by Jeroboam son of Nebat who had led Israel into sin, he demolished this altar and this high place as well, in the same way, breaking up its stones and reducing them to powder. The sacred pole he burned. 16 On looking round, Josiah saw the tombs there on the hillside; he had the ones fetched from the tombs, and burned them on the altar. This he rendered unsanctified, in accordance with the word of Yahweh which the man of God had proclaimed when Jeroboam was standing by the altar at the time of the feast. 17 On looking round, Josiah caught sight of the tomb of the man of God who had foretold these things. "What is that monument I see?" he asked. The townspeople replied, "It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and foretold what you have done to the altar." 18 "Let him rest," the king said, "and let no one disturb his bones." So they left his bones untouched, with the bones of the prophet who came from Samaria. 19 Josiah also destroyed all the shrines on the high places which were in the towns of Samaria and which the kings of Israel had built to provoke Yahweh's anger; he treated these places exactly as he had treated the one at Bethel. 20 All the priests of the high places who were there he slaughtered on the altars, and on those altars burned human bones. Then he returned to Jerusalem.
The collapse of the Assyrian Empire allowed Josiah to invade the former Northern Kingdom of Israel then occupied by the ancestors of the five groups of pagan peoples who had been imported by the Assyrians into the region almost a century earlier in c. 722/20 BC. As far as Josiah and his people were concerned, this land still belonged to Yahweh and the covenant people.
Bethel was an important site in the history of the covenant people. Bethel, a place name meaning "place/house of God," was an Ephraimite town about fourteen miles north of Jerusalem (Josh 16:1; 1 Chr 7:28). There was no Israelite presence at Jerusalem until David conquered the city in c. 1000 BC. The Israelite tradition associated with Bethel was far more ancient:
Unfortunately, the Northern Kingdom's first king, Jeroboam, probably chose Bethel to become the site of illicit worship of a golden calf because it had a longer historical tradition for the Israelites than Jerusalem. Jeroboam set up two major shrines: one at Bethel in central Israel and the other at Dan on the northern (1 Kng 12:29, 30, 32 twice, 33 twice; 13:1, 4, and 10). This former "place of grace" and "place of God" became a place of divine judgment when it was condemned by God's prophet in 1 Kings 13:1-5.
In verses 17-18 Josiah fulfilled the prophecy from the event recorded in 1 Kings 12:33-13:32. The tomb of the man of God from Judah whose mission from Yahweh was to condemn the pagan altar of King Jeroboam, the first king of the Northern Kingdom, was left untouched by Josiah. See the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 34:6-7.
2 Kings 23:21-23 ~ The Passover Celebration
21 The king gave this order to the whole people: "Celebrate a Passover to Yahweh your God, as prescribed in this Book of the Covenant." 22 No Passover like this had ever been celebrated since the days when the judges ruled Israel, nor throughout the entire period of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah. 23 The eighteenth year of King Josiah was the only time when such a Passover was celebrated in Yahweh's honor in Jerusalem.
See the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 35:1-19. The celebration of the feast of Passover and the week-long feast of Unleavened Bread was an occasion of great celebration for the people of Judah who had renewed their covenant with Yahweh.
While Josiah was busy with his religious reforms, the Empire of Assyria continued to disintegrate and a great struggle between the major powers of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon began to take shape. Once a vassal of the Assyrians, the Egyptians were now recognized as independent allies of the Assyrians against the growing ambitions of the new rulers of Babylon. The Babylonians found allies in the Medes who were becoming a powerful nation in what is today northwestern Iran. In 612 BC the Babylonians marched on the Assyrian capital of Nineveh. After a siege and three assaults, Nineveh fell to the Babylonians and the city's demise was vividly described by the prophet Nahum (Nah 2:2-3:19) and in the chronicles of the Babylonian king Nabopolassar:
The Assyrian king and his army escaped and regrouped at Haran in Syria, but for all practical purposes the Assyrian Empire collapsed with the fall of Nineveh in 612 BC. In 609 BC Pharaoh Neco II of Egypt marched north to join with the remaining Assyrian army at Haran in Syria in an attempt to stop the Babylonian advance.
2 Kings 23:28-30 ~ The end of Josiah's reign
28 The rest of the history of Josiah, his entire career, is this not recorded in the Book of the annals of the Kings of Judah? 29 In his times, Pharaoh Necho king of Egypt was advancing to meet the king of Assyria at the River Euphrates, and King Josiah went to intercept him; but Necho killed him at Megiddo in the first encounter. 30 His retainers carried his body from Megiddo by chariot; they brought him to Jerusalem and buried him in his own tomb. The people of the country then took Jehoahaz son of Josiah and anointed him, proclaiming him king in succession to his father.
In 609 BC Pharaoh Neco II of Egypt and his army was on it way to meet up with the Assyrian army for a final show down with the Babylonians which would take place at Carchemish (in Syria). Josiah, who apparently had made a treaty with the Babylonians, intended to stop the Egyptian advance at Megiddo in what had been Northern Israel. He probably feared if the Egyptians were successful that they would claim dominance over the entire Levant and Judah would become a vassal of the Egyptians. As it turned out, those fears were been well founded. The parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 35:20-24 provides more information concerning Josiah's death: After all this, when Josiah had provided for the Temple, Necho king of Egypt advanced to give battle at Carchemish on the Euphrates and Josiah went to intercept him. Necho however sent him messengers to say, "Why be concerned about me, king of Judah? I have not come today to attack you; my quarrel is with another dynasty. God has commanded me to move quickly, so keep well clear of the god who is with me!" But Josiah was not to be deflected from his determination to fight him, and would not listen to Necho's words, which came from the mouth of God. He gave battle in the plain of Megiddo. The archers shot King Josiah. The king then said to his retainers, "Take me Away; I am badly wounded." So his retainers lifted him out of his own chariot, transferred him to one which he had in reserve and brought him to Jerusalem, where he died and was buried in the tombs of his ancestors.
Josiah's failure soon cost Judah its freedom and Jeremiah entered a new phase of his prophetic ministry. It is not recorded if Jeremiah or any other of God's prophets had warned Josiah against attacking the Egyptians, but after Josiah's death Jeremiah began a more vocal and visible ministry in Judah. He emerged as a political commentator to his people and earned the title "the weeping prophet." Sirach wrote mournfully about the premature death of good King Josiah: The memory of Josiah is like blended incense prepared by the perfumer's art; it is as sweet as honey to all mouths, and like music at a wine feast. He took the right course, of converting the people, he rooted out the iniquitous abominations, he set his heart on the Lord, in godless times he upheld the cause of religion (Sirach 49:1-3/4). Josiah was the last hope of Israel. It was the fateful year 609 BC; it was the beginning of the end for the covenant people of Southern Kingdom of Judah.
Question for reflection or group discussion:
In 2 Kings 22:20 the prophetess Huldah told Josiah that it was God's will for him to die a peaceful death. Yet this prophecy was not fulfilled and he died in battle after having rejected the warning not to go to war against the Egyptians traveling through the region on the way to Syria to join the Assyrians in an attack the Babylonians.
Question: How might this reversal in the destiny of Josiah be reflected in God's divine plan for every man and woman on their journey to salvation and the fulfilling or the not fulfilling of that plan? What role does man's free-will play in that plan? See Mt 18:14; 1 Tim 2:3-4; 2 Pt 3:9; CCC 2822; 1731.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2015 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.