Good morning! Today in 2 Kings 21-23 we trace several generations more in the lineage of kings of Judah. Yesterday King Hezekiah heard portents of destruction from Babylon against Judah within the next generation. While this doesn’t come to pass in the time frame described, Hezekiah’s descendants vacillate from great wickedness to great righteousness and back again, facing a growing threat from Egypt and other surrounding powers.
Manasseh ascends to the throne after Hezekiah’s very long reign, and we hear in chapter 23 that though his rule was over fifty years in length, his prolonged wickedness is why God will wipe out Judah with the same violence that befell Israel. Jerusalem will be overrun like Samaria. Following Manasseh’s death, his son and successor Amon was assassinated after two years. But the coup fails and after punishing the assassins, the people put righteous Josiah, Amon’s son, in place as king.
Josiah is 8 years old at the start of his reign, and he ranks with or beyond Hezekiah as the most righteous king of Judah. During his reign at age 26, workers repairing the temple discover a book of the law, which scholars believe is the book of Deuteronomy. Josiah tears his clothing because he hears all the ways that people are falling short of God’s law as set forth, and the impending judgment from God because of it. He and his leader consult the prophetess Huldah (note here an example of a woman prophet) to see if there’s anything they can do to forestall divine judgment, and if not, when this punishment will take place. Huldah tells them that disaster is indeed coming, but because of Josiah’s penitent spirit God will delay the destruction until after he is dead.
Reading the book of the covenant aloud to all the people in 2 Kings 23, King Josiah vows to abide by this covenant, and all the people join with him in it. He sets out on a series of dramatic reforms to destroy idol worship in Judah. He purifies the Jerusalem temple of foreign influences, deposes priests who serve other gods, and defiles sacred places throughout Judah that had been dedicated to non-Israelite gods. The Bethel altar once set up by Jeroboam is treated in a similar way, desecrated with the burned bones of those who were buried nearby. Destruction is only part of Josiah’s reform plan; he also deepens Hebrew worship customs, leading the people to celebrate the Passover for the first time in centuries. He is described as a singular, matchless king, in much the same way as Hezekiah was yesterday. Could it be that this was written after the chapters about Hezekiah, when the writers felt that Josiah had actually surpassed his great-grandfather (but declined to change the earlier record)?
When Josiah dies at the hands of the Egyptian Pharaoh Neco, his son Jehoahaz takes over the throne. There appears to be pressure and influence over Judah by Pharaoh Neco, who keeps Jehoahaz from remaining on the throne and who establishes another son of Josiah as ruler instead. This king, Jehoiakim, cooperates with Neco by paying ransom to Egypt, but gets the money from heavy taxation of his own people. With Josiah gone, the prophecy of Huldah against Judah is set to come true. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is 2 Kings 24-25. Thanks for reading!