Melachim II Twenty-Three: King Josiah

“And the king summoned, and they assembled before him all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem (Kings II 23:1).” The king went to the Temple, and along with the Judeans and the people of Jerusalem, he read the scroll that had been found. It’s referred to here as the scroll of the covenant, so as the king reads it aloud, he reaffirms the covenant between the people and God, and the commitment to observing the commandments. The king has the priests take all of the pagan ritual objects out of the Temple and destroy them outside of Jerusalem. “And he abolished the pagan priests whom the king of Judah had appointed and who had burnt incense on the high places in the cities of Judah and the environs of Jerusalem, and those who burnt incense to the Baal, to the sun, to the moon, and to the constellations, and to all the host of heaven (Kings II 23:5).” All of the statues and pagan altars are demolished.

“However, the priests of the high places would not go up to the Lord’s altar in Jerusalem, but they would eat unleavened cakes among their brethren (Kings II 23:9).” Clearly, there’s some dissension in the ranks. The king keeps doing good though, turning the land back from the sin of paganism. This leads to the slaughter of the pagan priests, in addition to the destruction of property. In this case, the loss of life isn’t seen as a bad thing. Josiah returns to Jerusalem in triumph.

“And the king commanded all the people, saying, ‘Perform a Passover sacrifice to the Lord your God, as it is written in this scroll of the covenant (Kings II 23:21).'” Now this is all starting to become more impressive in its scope. The people had been so corrupted over the years that they had forgotten the covenant completely, and hadn’t observedPassover since the time of the judges. By rediscovering the scroll, Josiah recovered a form of Judaism that had essentially died out. Josiah seems like a champion, a truly incredible leader. But God still can’t forgive the transgressions of the previous kings, particularly Manasseh, in spite of Josiah’s actions. Josiah is eventually killed in battle against the Egyptian pharaoh, but he is buried in Jerusalem, and his son Jehoahaz takes over the throne of Judah.

Jehoahaz immediately starts to do evil, instead of following the good example set for hi by his father. He ends up being imprisoned by Pharaoh so that he won’t reign in Jerusalem, and the people are subject to a steep fine. Another one of Josiah’s sons, Eliakim, is crowned instead. He takes the name Jehoiakim for some reason, and like his brother and most of his ancestry, he too turns to evil.

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