Josiah, King of Judah

King Josiah was a Child When He Became King, but He had a Pure Heart and Walked in the Ways of God

Nealy 300 years before Josiah became king of Judah, an unidentified man of God foretold him by name (1 Kings 13:2). The son of Amon, the grandson of Manasseh, one wonders how this very young man could have had a heart so pure. Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned 31 years in Jerusalem. Not only did King Josiah walk in the ways of David, a man after the heart of God, but he didn't waver.

At 15 or 16 years old, King Josiah began an intense and concentrated effort to obey God's laws, going throughout Jerusalem and Judah to destroy the high places and all man-made wooden, carved and molded images. All of the images and altars were smashed, cut down, and the dust of them was scattered on the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. Josiah even burned the bones of the priests who had led the worship services to other gods, and cleansed Judah, Jerusalem and surrounding cities and villages.

When Josiah was about 25, he assigned qualified men to oversee the repairs of the temple. With money collected from the people, he delegated foremen to coordinate the work and paid carpenters, masons and builders to restore the house of the Lord. Materials were purchased and all of the workers were committed to provide excellence in their workmanship. As the temple was being cleaned up, Hilkiah the priest found a scroll of the Law of Moses, the Word of God. Hilkiah told Shaphan, the scribe, and he brought the scroll to King Josiah, and read it to him.

When Josiah heard the words of the Law, he became extremely distraught. He instructed the priest, scribe and others to go to Huldah, a prophetess concerning the in-depth meaning and ramifications of the words in the scroll: “for great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do according to all that is written in this book.”

Huldah's response was ominous. She told Josiah's messengers to return to him and tell him that because of idolotry, the Lord would bring destruction on Judah and its people. But there were personal words of comfort for Josiah. “Because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and you humbled yourself before Me, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you. Surely I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place and its inhabitants.”

They reported back to Josiah, and he arranged for a meeting of all the people at the temple. Josiah read all the words of the Law of Moses to the people. Josiah then made a covenant to follow the Lord with all of his heart, and demanded that all of the people do the same. Josiah commanded for the temple to be cleansed of all objects that were made for foreign gods, and he burned them outside Jerusalem, and carried their ashes to Bethel. He swept through the cities, thoroughly obliterating everything associated with idol worship. His purification was complete, more than any king before him. When Josiah came to Bethel, unearthed the bones of the idolatrous priest, and burned them on Jeroboam's altar, fulfilling a prophecy spoken 300 years earlier, during Jeroboam's reign. Josiah then destroyed the altar.

Josiah observed the Passover and he personally supplied 33,000 animals for sacrifice, all from his own farm. All of Judah came, and many people from Israel, those who had not been taken captive by the Assyrians. In was the greatest Passover celebration since the days of the prophet Samuel, nearly 400 years earlier.

However, Josiah's success came to an abrupt end when he failed to consult the Lord in a battle against Pharaoh Necho of Egypt. Necho had come to fight against Carchemish by the Euphrates, and Josiah went out against him. Necho sent messengers to him, warning him. “Refrain from meddling with God, who is with me, lest He destroy you.”

But Josiah didn't believe Necho and decided to attack him, disguising himself. Josiah came to fight in the Valley of Megiddo, and the archers shot Josiah. His servants brought him back to Jerusalem where he died. All Judah and Jerusalem, and Jeremiah mourned for Josiah. Josiah had reigned 31 years, and removed all the abominations from the country. “Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him.”

During the entire reign of King Josiah, the people did not depart from following the Lord God. His son, Jehoahaz, took the throne. (2 Kings 22; 23:1-30; 2 Chronicles 34-35)

Written by: Pete Miller