Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.
Josiah, whose name means “Jehovah will support,” was a king of the southern kingdom of Judah. He lived about a hundred years after the fall of the northern kingdom. Josiah was one of the two greatest kings of Israel, second only to King David. He was truly an “Israelite indeed.” Josiah’s life and activities are recorded in 2 Kings 22, 23 and 2 Chronicles 34, 35. His reign began at the tender age of eight, and he reigned for 31 years. Josiah was the son of the wicked king Amon, although as was the case with Hezekiah, he had a good mother. Her name was Jedidah which means “Jehovah will support.” When he ascended the throne he was also apparently blessed with good advisors who resisted the idolatrous influence of his father. When Josiah reached the age of 16, “He began to seek after the God of David his father” (2 Chronicles 34: 3).
Josiah’s Reform Work
Josiah became one of the greatest reform kings to sit upon the throne of Judah. By the time he was 20 years old he was determined to use his influence and power to completely overthrow idolatry throughout the kingdom (2 Chronicles 34: 3). His work was even more extensive than his great-grandfather Hezekiah’s had been. The next six years of Josiah’s life was devoted to this work, which extended beyond Jerusalem and Judah, to include a large portion of the territory once ruled by the ten-tribe kingdom. Although the work was difficult, he was personally present to insure thorough destruction of the symbols of idolatry which apparently abounded in every district. When Josiah returned to Jerusalem he determined that the next work to be done was to repair the temple which had been entirely neglected. Money donations were invited and the work was completed.
A Book of the Law Found
During the temple repairs a book of the Law, which was most probably Deuteronomy, was found by a priest named Hilkiah. He delivered it to Shaphan, the scribe of the king, who in turn read it to Josiah. The king rent his garments in dismay, for he realized how short Israel had come to living up to the requirements of the Law. He noted especially the punishments which were sure to come as the result of unfaithfulness. He immediately sent messengers to a prophetess, named Huldah, inquiring what should be done. God’s reply through the prophetess indicated that it was too late for the nation. The judgment process had set in and it had to run its course. But such was not the case for the king. We read, “Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the LORD, when thou heardest what I spake against this place . . . and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; . . . I also have heard thee, saith the LORD” (2 Kings 22: 19). The Lord promised that Josiah would be spared from the trouble that soon was to come upon the nation, when they were taken captive into Babylon (2 Kings 22: 20). The people proceeded to celebrate a great Passover with mourning, so great that there had not been one like it since the days of Samuel.
During this time, Assyria’s power was waning, while Babylon’s was on the rise. Assyria had aligned itself with Egypt against Babylon. When Pharoah’s troops were passing through territory north of Judah en route to join forces with Assyria, Josiah’s army blocked the movement of the Egyptian troops at Megiddo. In the battle that ensued, Josiah was mortally wounded. His body was taken to Jerusalem where he was buried. There was a great mourning for Josiah in all of Judah and Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 35: 24, 25).
Josiah, a Good Example
The Scriptures say of Josiah, “And like unto him was there no king before him, that 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; neither after him arose there any like him” (2 Kings 23: 25). Josiah will most assuredly take his place as a faithful Ancient Worthy when the earthly phase of God’s Kingdom is set up. He is a good example to us of loyalty to the Lord and humility, and he will surely serve as a good example to the world in the next Age.
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