King Josiah - Biography

Chart of the Kings King Josiah - Biography God's Judgment Regarding King Josiah
Previous King: Amon   Next King: Jehoahaz


Josiah's Childhood Conversion
The Bible Found
Josiah's Revival
Josiah's Death


King Josiah was Judah's last gasp — the last good thing that happened to the Israelites before their kingdom was destroyed.

Josiah became king as a child of only eight, and soon took an interest in the LORD, contrary to his father King Amon. Early in life he instituted reforms and took steps against idol worship.

At 25 years of age, Josiah decided to rebuild the LORD's temple, deteriorated with age. As the workers were cleaning, they found an obscure book that no one had ever heard of — the Bible, forgotten by previous generations. As the king listened to his secretary read the Bible, he was struck with grief and terror, certain the LORD was furious with Josiah and his people for their disobedience.

Immediately, Josiah set upon a sweeping program to eliminate pagan worship and renew the ancient covenant of the LORD. He toured the land, destroying pagan shrines, and celebrated the Passover for the first time in decades.

The revival was wonderful. But as soon as Josiah died, the people returned to their evil ways, and before his sons reached middle age, the LORD's judgment for centuries of evil practices came, and Judah was no more.

Where to read Josiah's story: 2 Kings 22:1 - 23:30; 2 Chronicles 34:1 - 35:27

Josiah's Childhood Conversion

Josiah's father, King Amon, was assassinated when Josiah was eight, and he ascended to the throne at that age. At age 15, he “began to seek after the God of David.”

At age 19, he undertook reforms to stop idol worship and the evils associated with it. He removed Jerusalem's shrines of Asherah and Baal. He exhumed the bones of idol priests and burned them in those places, to desecrate them so no one would use them again for idol worship. He toured Judah with the same mission. He even toured parts of Israel, now stripped of its nobility and populated only by those peasants too poor to have been worth Assyria's trouble deporting.

Source: 2 Chronicles 34:3-7

The Bible Found

At age 25, Josiah decided to rebuild the temple of the LORD, which hadn't been repaired since the days of King Jotham, a century earlier. He hired builders and placed his secretary Shaphan and the high priest Hilkiah in charge of the work.

While the workers were cleaning out long-unused portions of the temple, they found a book. It looked important, so they gave it to Hilkiah, who gave it to Shaphan, who brought it to King Josiah. The book was the Bible — or rather, what they considered to be the Bible: the first five books of our modern Bible. It had been ignored for so long that no one knew there was such a thing as a Bible!

As Secretary Shaphan read the Bible to King Josiah, the king tore his robe — a sign of grief in their culture. Shaphan had no doubt read portions telling how, if the people disobeyed the LORD, he would punish them terribly. Josiah was certain the LORD was furious with Judah, for they had long lived in sin, sin now revealed by the Bible.

The king sent his men to find a prophet, who could ask a question and get an answer from the LORD. They found a woman named Huldah. She verified that the LORD was indeed angry with Judah for their pagan practices; the LORD had decided to bring disaster on Judah, laying their land waste, because of their long history of sin. However, because Josiah had responded appropriately, with grief and repentance, the LORD promised Josiah would die honorably before the disaster struck; he would not see it himself.

Source: 2 Kings 22; 2 Chronicles 34:8-28

Josiah's Revival

King Josiah immediately and energetically set out on a campaign to obey the LORD's instructions, found in the newly-rediscovered Bible.

First he assembled the population at Jerusalem and read the entire Bible (i.e., the first five books of our modern Bible) aloud to them. He renewed the LORD's covenant, to obey all that was written in the Bible he had just read. He invited the people to pledge themselves to the covenant, and they did.

Next, Josiah toured Judah and Israel, destroying shrines of false worship and stopping the sins committed on behalf of idols. The list in 2 Kings 23, of towns, shrines, idols, and sins, shows the depth of Josiah's commitment and the lengths of his efforts at revival. Among the shrines he closed down and desecrated against further use were sites of temple prostitution and human sacrifice.

When Josiah arrived at Bethel, he found the shrine of the golden calf cult built by Israel's King Jeroboam. To render the site unfit for future idol worship, Josiah exhumed from the nearby cemetery the bones of the idol priests, and burned them on Jeroboam's altar, thereby fulfilling a prophecy spoken 300 years earlier, in Jeroboam's day. Finding also the grave of this prophet, who had named Josiah in his prophecy, he left it undisturbed.

Finally, Josiah hosted the Passover celebration, commemorating the LORD's work in freeing Israel from slavery in Egypt. The LORD had instructed his people to celebrate Passover annually, but this had not been obeyed. Josiah called the people to celebrate, and he himself supplied them with 33,000 animals for sacrifice, all from his own farm. All of Judah came, and many people from Israel — those who had not been deported in the Assyrian Captivity. In that regard, this was the most complete Passover celebration since the days of the prophet Samuel, about 400 years earlier.

Source: 2 Kings 23:1-28; 2 Chronicles 34:29 - 35:19

Josiah's Death

In Josiah's 31st year as king, he faced a national security crisis. Egypt sent an army to attack a site on the Euphrates River. To get there, they had to cross through Judah's territory.

Josiah refused to allow this foreign army on his soil. The Egyptian king sent diplomats, expressing his intentions, innocent where Judah was concerned.

Josiah was not convinced. He mustered his army and took his stand to defend his borders. However, he was killed in the battle. His son Jehoahaz took his office, and Egypt's victory gave them power to abbreviate Jehoahaz' reign.

Source: 2 Kings 23:29-30; 2 Chronicles 35:20-27
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