Josiah: King of Judeah



Life and Times of Josiah; King of Judah

      The scriptures studied for this article come mainly from the Books of 2 Chronicles 34:1-36:21 and 2 Kings 22:1- 24:20. With passages noted from Jeremiah and Ezekiel. 2 Chronicles begins the life of Josiah at age eight, covering events up to and through the eighteenth-year of his reign. Then jumps to the end of Josiah’s life to cover his death. 2 Kings starts with his coming to the throne but immediately jumps to his eighteenth year and those events, most notable in his reign. Then jumps again to the replacing of Josiah as king. 


     Josiah born about the middle of the seventh century BC to Amon, the son of Manasseh, and Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. According to Joshua 15:39 and context this was a city in the southern lowlands of Judah. Which was an area inhabited mostly by the tribe of Simeon. If she was involved in his learning she may have had a good influence on him. Although I know not of any evidence pointing one-way or the other. Josiah’s father was an evil man and was most likely to have done more harm than good, in raising his son. Although having a child when your sixteen years old does not help. His Grandfather even though he repented and changed his life toward the end could not have had much influence upon Josiah because he died while Josiah was in his sixth year. How much help were those around him is a question we can only guess at, in most instances at least. My supposition is that Shapan, the son of Azaliah the son of Meshullam the scribe, was his tutor. Most of the learning or teaching by them was probable accomplished after Josiah was installed on the throne of the kingdom, but some may have occurred before his ascension to the throne at the age of eight.


JOSIAH BEGANS TO REIGN: 640 BC: [age eight - first year]

     Josiah’s rise to power at this time came about because of the poor choices of his father in selecting his servants or because of his mishandling of them. This resulted in Amon’s own death and the death of his servants. Was this chance or the providence of God working in the life of Josiah? A question to ponder in the amount of guilt of all parties involved. The people of the land then proceeded to make Josiah king, having punished the servants and so Josiah begins his journey learning how to be a leader of God’s People.



JOSIAH’S FAMILY: 635 BCE: [age thirteen - fifth year]

     When Josiah turns of age, somewhere around thirteen years, he is married to Zebidah the daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah. Josiah also takes a second wife, one Humuatl the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. He may have had other wives we are not told one way or the other. A year or so passes and Josiah & Zebidah have a child naming him Eliakim. According to First Chronicles (3:15) Josiah has four sons. In order of birth Johanan, then Jehoiakim, then Zedekiah, and fourth Shallum. What happened to Johanan is untold. He is not mentioned again under that name anyhow. Eliakim has his name changed by Pharoah Neco II to Jehoiakim. Josiah and Humuati have a son we know him as Jehoahaz from the book of Kings, but Chronicles calls him Joahaz. He is the people’s choice to replace king Josiah at his death. But his rule is short, only three months long. Perhaps Pharaoh Neco II is upset by what Josiah has done. For he replaces Johaz with his older brother Eliakim as king.

     Possible because Josiah is busy doing work for God that his next son is not born until a decade later. Mattaniah by name is born to Josiah and Humutal this is their second son. His name will also be changed when he is installed as king, he will be named Zedekiah. King Nebuchadnezzar not the people of Judah, appoints him as king replacing his half brother’s son Jehoiachin who is exiled to Babylon. Along with him and his entourage, and many others including a twenty-five year old priest by the name of Ezekiel who will minister to the exiles as God’s prophet & priest.



JOSIAH’ SEEKS GOD: 632 BC: [age 16 - eighth year]

     What is the cause of Josiah’s change of heart, the learning that has taken place in the last eight years for sure? But how much of it was caused by the daily needs of being a ruler of God's people? Or just being a husband and father to his family. Perhaps the cause is Josiah's second wife whom he marries some time after he wed the first one. Or the growing family he now has to teach and train. Josiah's growth can be seen in the stages that he passes through. From being placed in a position of great authority because of who he is to becoming a husband and then a father. Each of these three relationships calls for wisdom, which can give pause to anyone facing the trials that come with family and work. Seeking God was and is a good choice for anyone to make. It would be nice to know what steps Josiah took to grow his faith. That he undertook a deeper study of Gods word goes without question. Seeking advice form his chosen advisor Shaphan son of Azaliah son of Meshullam the scribe also Hilkiah the High Priest among others. All of these were involved with Josiah's movement forward in his deepening faith in God. Josiah's growing knowledge of God and the history of family and nation, were pushing his toward his life goal. Included any this list of teachers should be the prophets whom God sends to announce His word to the people of Israel. There are several prophets who are active during this period of Israel's history.





JOSIAH BEGINS HIS PURGE. 628 BC [age 20 - twelfth year] 
     Starting in Jerusalem and Judah Josiah oversees the destruction of the high places where sacrifices are offered. The Asherim, the carved images, and the molten images of this goddess were all part of the same worship service. To cut off the worship of Asherim, the idols, the representatives of the gods would have to be destroyed. The more wealthy groups had a molten image and poorer groups had a carved one. The groups worshiped the same god but their idol were made of different material. These were located at various high places in Jerusalem & Judah. 

      Josiah may have started with this group of worshippers but none were ignored. This group of people seems to be located in Jerusalem and in the local area surrounding the city. God sends Josiah some help in his attempt to turn the people back to the Lord, by sending some prophets. Jeremiah began his ministry in 627 BC the thirteenth year of Josiah's reign [Jer. 1:2; 25:3]. His early message is a plea to return to the Lord whom they have left for these false gods. There were others as well that were sent to turn the people back toward God.

     The next group of worshippers picked either by the author or by Josiah was in all probability located in Judah but not Jerusalem. In purging the land of Baal worshippers, Josiah's helpers tore down their altars and chopped down the incense altars that were above them. The Asherim also, both carved & molten were burned and broken in pieces & ground to dust. This residue was scattered on the graves of those who had worshipped the idols. Then Josiah burned the bones of the priests on their altars and purged Judah and Jerusalem. He has cleared out much but still has a long ways to go. Which of these are images of the god Asherim ? Josiah moves on into the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon even as far as Naphtali, and into their surrounding ruins. Finding the high places, the altars, the Asherim, the carved images they beat them into powder, chop down the incense alters throughout the land of Israel.


JOSIAH RESTORES THE HOUSE OF GOD: 622 BC [AGE 26 – Eighteenth year]

      Having spent six years rooting out the false worship in the physical arena of the land he controls, Josiah returns to Jerusalem. In the next project he turns to rebuilding the true worship and his first step is to collect funds for repair work to be done on the House of God. The Levite doorkeepers collected the tithe from Manasseh and Ephraim and all the remnant of Israel & form Judah and Benjamin and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Josiah sends his aids Shaphan the son of Azalian, and Joah the son of Joahaz the recorder along with Maaseiah an official of the city to inform Hilkiah to total the amount of money collected in the temple treasury.

       Chronicles reads a little different it may be that they were sent to oversee that the money was tabulated and to help Hilkiah in the distribution to the head workers. Then the head workmen would divide it with the skilled workers who were to repair the damage to the house. It is interesting to note that Josiah stipulates no accounting of the funds is necessary because these men are faithful. They were likely the same fellows who labored with Josiah in purging the country of idols. While there was not any accounting there was guidance in the work done on the house of God. One could compare this to the choosing of deacons in the church today. God gives Josiah and the people another pinprick in their motivation to turn toward him. While Hilkiah is clearing out the money collected in the boxes to give to the worker's he aines a book of the Law. Hilkiah takes it to Shaphan the scribe who goes to king Josiah and reports that the money has been given to the workers as directed. Then he mentions the book that the High Priest had found and given to him. Shaphan the scribe proceeds to read the book to the king. Josiah upon hearing the words of the law tore his clothes. Calling his administrators together, if they weren't already there, the king instructs them to go inquire of the Lord for himself, and for those in Israel and in Judah concerning the words of this book, which has been found. Josiah being a godly man understood the danger they all were in, but wanted council on what could be done about it. They go to the wife of the ‘keeper of the wardrobe'. I assume the high priest Hilkiah was the one who led them to this prophetess, likely he would know of her because of her husbands work.

     The news is, as the king understood it would be. What struck me is the response. Not the body of the message but the leading words of each section. “Tell the man who sent you to me' Woe onto you!” Then, But to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the Lord say. “The man was told the words would be fulfilled as spoken. The king was told because of his faith he would be taken before the axe fell; he would not see all the evil that would come.” This news does not discourage Josiah, instead it inspires him to call together all the elders and make plans to read the book before all the people. Hopefully causing them to weep, and mourn before the Lord. Josiah makes a covenant to obey the instructions of the book and all the people entered into the covenant. The question is did they keep this covenant, which the king made? 2 Chronicles reads, ‘He made all who were present in Jerusalem & Benjamin to stand.’ Which may indicates it was not from the heart but some did of that I am sure.

     Scripture records the next event was the keeping of the Passover feast. This marks how important this feast was to the covenant. But there are other things that Josiah did to encourage the people to turn toward God and serve Him. He set the priest in ofaice & encouraged them in the service of the house of God. He instructed the Levites to teach and serve the people, and relived them of work that was not necessary. Josiah encouraged all to participate in the service, Passover, as they were able and instructed to by the word of God. They also celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Thus marking the beginning of a new year. A new beginning is made for the faithful children of God.

     How do we reconcile the words written in 2 Kings 23:4-20 with those in 2nd Chronicles 34:3-7. What is most likely to have affected Josiah to the extent that he would begin his offense against the false gods and worship in the land? Was it his fear of judgment having read it in the book found? Or was it his love & zeal for God, which caused him to pursue those who worshipped contrary to the word of God. Perhaps even both! The time when the book is found in both places is the eighteenth year of His reign. But the cause and timing of the cleansing of the false worship & tearing own of idols is different. The book of kings has little happening until the book is found in the house of God and read before him. It is at that time that King Josiah begins his purge of idolatry from the house and Jerusalem and then Judah moving also into the land of Israel. Chronicles on the other hand has Josiah turning to God at an early age and as a result of his zeal he purges the idolatry from Jerusalem, and Judah and then all Israel. After which he returns to Jerusalem to repair the house of God, wherein the book is found.


REFORM RECORDED IN 2 KINGS 23:4-14 [Eighteenth Year]

     Why had the Levites stored the relics of the false gods in the House of God? Perhaps that is not as irreligious as one might think. Did not the Philistines place the spoils of their defeat of the Israelites into the house of Dagon? Did not or will not Nebuchadnezzar place the vessels taken from the Jewish Temple into the house of his god? The spoils of war victory over the god's of another country are always celebrated by the placing of the tribute vessels in ones own house of worship as an offering to ones own god. But Joshua was having none of that; having heard or read the words of God's prophet Zephaniah [1:1-6] His determination is to totally destroy the articles of these false gods so that they cannot be used again. So he orders the priest's and the levites to remove all the vessels that were made for Baal & Asherah and the host of heaven. To burn them outside the city and then he has their ashes carried to Bethel where they artifacts were most likely brought from. King Josiah tore down and removed every building, where idolatrous acts were carried out. He gave away the horses whom the kings of Judah had given to the sun god, and burned the chariots of the sun. The altars which the kings of Judah had made he smashed and scattered the dust into the Kidron. Josiah also defiled the high places that Solomon had built for Ashtoreth, Chemosh, & Milcom the gods of Sidon, Moab & Ammon. No wonder that the historian writes “Before him there was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him.”


Josiah's Reign Ends: 609 BC

      In the spring of 609 BC or as the scripture words it “at the time that kings go forth to war” Pharaoh Neco II king of Egypt answers a call from the king of Assyria. A treaty signed by Neco's father calls him to battle against the Babylonian army. He heads toward the Euphrates, heading north he must pass through a small valley near Megiddo. The problem, which he faces, is that the army of Josiah King of Judah occupies the area and king Josiah will not let him pass. Neco requests free passage claiming his journey is in answer to God's will. When Josiah refuses the two armies draw near for battle. One may wonder why Josiah decided to ‘disguised him-self’ [2 Ch. 35:22]. Does he not remember the fate of the last king who tried that trick [1 Kngs 22:30, 34]? Alas the end is the same. Josiah is wounded and his servants carry him to the city of Megiddo, then go on into Jerusalem. Somewhere along the line Josiah died and the people now mourn the loss of their king. Jeremiah chanted a lament for Josiah and the singers now sing lamentations to this man for Israel has made it an ordinance.
     While this ends the life of King Josiah it does not complete his story. The ongoing events must be included in the ‘Life & Times of Josiah king of Judah'. These events were a part of God's plan. Josiah was a participant in world affairs, who changed the political landscape even though it cost him his life. Josiah slowed the advance of Pharaoh Neco II, which allowed the time needed by Babylon to defeat Assyria. At the same time Josiah was taken away so that God's plan to punish Israel could be carried out and true to the Lord's word Josiah would not see all the evil, which would come upon Judah.

     While there is some conflict as to the following details about whom and when and where and why & how these events transpired they are related, as I understand them. Continuing the record of history in 609 BC the army of Pharaoh Neco travels north to the Euphrates River at Carchemish. But the delay of doing battle with Josiah has a price, Neco's arrival to aid Assyria is late and the armies of The Assyrian King Ashuruballit & the Chaldean king Nabopolassar have clashed at Haran. The Assyrians suffer a second defeat at the hands of the Chaldeans. The airst one was in 612 BC when the Chaldeans sacked Nineveh fulfilling Zephaniah's prophesy.

    Leaving some of his army at Carchemish Neco returns to Judah and imposes a fine of 100 talents of silver and one talent of gold. Neco places Elikim as king & changes his name to Jehoiakim. Joahaz who has been imprisoned in Riblah in the land of Hamath was brought with Neco to Jerusalem then taken into Egypt where he later dies. Possible fulfilling God's word in Jeremiah [Jer. 22:11].

     But to which king is Jeremiah speaking? Jeremiah calls the king ‘Shallum' but in First Chronicles ‘Shallum' is named as the fourth born son. Now only three sons of Josiah are said to have reigned. At the time they become king their ages are given. Since Jehoaikim was born in (634 BC), Jehoahaz in (632 BC), and Zedekiah's birth year was (621 BC). Based on their age of ascension to the throne, from Kings and or Chronicles, its very difficult to see which of them could be him. Instead it seems unlikely that any of them are. It's possible that the author is speaking of preeminence rather than actual birth order. Which would allow one of them to be the one who wears that name. More study or information is needed.

     In 606 BC Nebuchadnezzar defeats the alliance of Egypt & Assyria at Carchemish, which had become the Assyrian capital. This is the end of the Egyptian Assyrian alliance as foretold by Jeremiah and recorded in chapter forty-six of his book. By 597 BC the  Egyptian army was not much of a threat to world order so Second Kings [24:7] indicates. As does Jeremiah chapter thirty-seven, Where Israel is hopeful but denied fulfillment. A warning to Israel especially if this was spoken at the beginning of Zedekiah's reign in 597 BC which it appears to be.