2 Kings 23:1–30 (NIV)✞: Josiah Renews the Covenant
In the last passage the priests discovered the Book of the Law (Deuteronomy) in the Temple, which had previously been neglected/forgotten, and when the king, Josiah, heard what was written in it he immediately realized the significance: Judah had not been obeying God the way they should have been!
He begins a number of reforms in the nation’s worship, starting in verses 1–3✞ with bringing all of the people to Jerusalem, to the Temple, to renew their covenant with God. He has the Book of the Law read aloud to them, after which the people pledge themselves to God again.
Having done this, however, Josiah still has a lot of work ahead of him! Previously Hezekiah had been the first king in the nation’s history to properly remove all of the high places, along with other forms of idolatrous worship. However, in the intervening fifty-seven years there had been the reigns of Manasseh and Amon, who’d undone all of Hezekiah’s work by reinstating those high places and everything else. So now Josiah has to eliminate them all over again!
- In verses 4–5✞ he has a number of idolatrous items removed from the Temple and burned and removes “priests” who’d been appointed by previous kings to perform idolatrous worship on the high places.
- In verses 6–7✞ he takes care of idolatrous worship of Asherah
- In verses 8–9✞ he takes those former idolatrous “priests” and brings them back to Jerusalem and reinstates them with their fellow priests
- This indicates to me that Manasseh and Amon hadn’t just picked anyone to be their idolatrous priests, they’d actually used Levites
- In verse 10✞ he desecrates a spot where the people of Judah had been sacrificing their children to the god Molek so that this practice can no longer take place there.
- In verse 11✞ he removes some idols that had been at the Temple’s entrance dedicated to the sun.
- In verses 12–15✞ he removes yet more high places and/or places dedicated to idolatrous worship of other gods
- In verses 19–20✞ he removes a number of shrines and has the priests of those shrines slaughtered.
- In verses 21–23✞ he has the Passover celebrated
- Verse 22 says that no such Passover had been observed in all of the nation’s history—not even in the days of the judges—but I’m not sure if the author(s) mean that the nation had never had such a big celebration or hadn’t had a celebration of Passover at all.
- In verse 24✞ he gets rid of “the mediums and spiritists, the household gods, the idols and all the other detestable things seen in Judah and Jerusalem.”
In the middle of all of that, in verses 16–18✞, there is an interesting interlude: one of the ways Josiah is “defiling” these high places and idolatrous places of worship is by burning human bones on them, which had actually been predicted by a previous prophet of the LORD back in 1 Kings 13 (NIV)✞ – not just that these high places would be defiled, but that it would be done by a king named Josiah! As Josiah is having bones removed from tombs to burn on the places he comes across the bones of the very prophet who had predicted these events and instructs his people to leave those bones alone.
Verse 25✞ tells us that, “Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.” So I guess I need to officially stop calling Hezekiah the most faithful king Judah ever had; that honour falls to Josiah. (Spoiler alert: after Josiah there are no more faithful kings until the nation falls to Babylon, so I won’t likely need to change my mind again…)
So… phew! That was a lot of religious reform! The author(s) are really hitting us over the head with all Josiah did to bring people back to worship of the LORD! And what was the result? Unfortunately, it was too little, too late:
26 Nevertheless, the LORD did not turn away from the heat of his fierce anger, which burned against Judah because of all that Manasseh had done to arouse his anger. 27 So the LORD said, “I will remove Judah also from my presence as I removed Israel, and I will reject Jerusalem, the city I chose, and this temple, about which I said, ‘My Name shall be there.’”
The passage ends by recounting Josiah’s death in battle against the Egyptians (and Assyrians?), in a place called Megiddo. I mention this mostly because I seem to recall Megiddo being a place of significance to people who are into “end times prophecy,” though I don’t think it’s based on this passage, I think it’s one of the prophets who mention Megiddo in reference to something else. (Daniel?) I could be wrong.
I don’t have much to say about this passage because I already said it in my post on the last passage.
This passage goes on and on about the reforms made by Josiah, talking about all of the idolatrous forms of worship he removed, only to end it all by saying that it still wasn’t enough to turn away the “fierce anger” of the LORD. But that doesn’t mean Josiah’s actions were a waste of time! It’s never a “waste of time” to do the right thing, even if there doesn’t seem to be a measurable impact to those actions. What it does mean, however, is that God’s people had been so consistently unfaithful to Him that even sweeping reforms such as these are not enough to turn aside His wrath.