2 Kings 21-23
(Josiah Leads the People Back to God)
April 22nd

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verses

Josiah was eight years old when he became king. He ruled for thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah; she was from Bozkath. He lived the way God wanted. He kept straight on the path blazed by his ancestor David, not one step to either left or right.

- 2 Kings 21:1-2 (MSG)

Summary of Chapters

Yesterday we read about a king named Hezekiah, who was one of the few good (albeit not perfect) kings in a long line of bad and mediocre rulers of the Southern Kingdom of Israel known as Judah. In times of trouble, Hezekiah turned to the LORD, who performed great miracles to defeat massive armies and disease.

In today's reading of chapter 21 we find out that Manasseh succeeded his father Hezekiah. Then Manasseh’s son, Amon, succeeded him in turn. However, instead of continuing the good work of Hezekiah, these two returned the country to evil practices and plunged full speed into the practices of idol worship. Manasseh re-installed the Asherah pole, which was a sacred object intended to honor Asherah, a goddess of fertility, according to the pagan traditions of the Canaanites. Manasseh also sacrificed his own son, practiced divination, and committed other sins. To say that the LORD was angry would have been an understatement.

    The LORD said through his servants the prophets: “Manasseh king of Judah has committed these detestable sins. He has done more evil than the Amorites who preceded him and has led Judah into sin with his idols. Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I am going to bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle."

    "I will stretch out over Jerusalem the measuring line used against Samaria and the plumb line used against the house of Ahab. I will wipe out Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. I will forsake the remnant of my inheritance and give them into the hands of enemies. They will be looted and plundered by all their enemies; they have done evil in my eyes and have aroused my anger from the day their ancestors came out of Egypt until this day.”

    - 2 Kings 21:10-15 (NIV)

Chapters 22-23 inform us that Josiah succeeded Amon and somehow knew that he needed to turn the tide with regard to proper worship. Josiah destroyed the pagan idols and directed the repair of the temple, during which the Book of Law was re-discovered. The Book of Law was the set of books authored by Moses that we know as the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Josiah became very remorseful when he learned what was in the book and then considered the gap between what was expected and what was actually done. He shared the instructions from the book with all his people:

    The king then had all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem summoned before him. The king went up to the house of the LORD with all the people of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem: priests, prophets, and all the people, great and small. He read aloud to them all the words of the book of the covenant that had been found in the house of the LORD.

    The king stood by the column and made a covenant in the presence of the LORD to follow the LORD and to observe his commandments, statutes, and decrees with his whole heart and soul, and to re-establish the words of the covenant written in this book. And all the people stood by the covenant.

    - 2 Kings 23:1-3 (NAB)

Josiah then re-established the tradition of Passover, which had not been observed since the time of the Judges, and led the people to follow the one true God. Josiah was able to steer the nation in the right direction, but died fighting against Egypt and was succeeded by his son, Johoahaz. The Egyptians removed Johoahaz and replaced him with their puppet, Jehoiakim, who was another son of Josiah.

Reflection and Application

The reason that Josiah had attempted to intercept the Egyptian army was because he feared that they were on their way to Assyria to form an alliance against Judah. Perhaps the outcome would have been different if he stopped to reflect in prayer as Hezekiah did.

Notwithstanding this mistake, Josiah was the greatest king in the history of Judah, even greater than his great-grandfather, Hezekiah, and is a role model for us regarding how we can raise the level of holiness despite our environment. We must teach the next generation well so that they will be faithful to God and pass it on to their children.

This is a critical knowledge transfer because the momentum for faith can be lost very quickly as we saw in this group of chapters. Josiah had re-aligned the people, but after his death they headed down a slipper slope of disaster and the end of Judah was near.

The re-institution of Passover was important for remembering what God had done for the Israelite people. The Passover celebration was also an important element in the life of Jesus because his last meal with his disciples before the crucifixion was a Passover meal. Therefore this one event tied together the promise of the Old Testament with the promise of the New Testament.

How do you imagine the scene where Shaphan reads Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy to Josiah?

    The high priest Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord.” When Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, he read it. Then Shaphan the secretary came to the king, and reported to the king, “Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of the workers who have oversight of the house of the Lord.” Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “The priest Hilkiah has given me a book.” Shaphan then read it aloud to the king.

    When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes.

    - 2 Kings 23:8-11 (NRSV)

The 19th Century German artist, Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, created an interpretation of the scene in one of his woodcuttings. You can see an image at the following link: King Josiah

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What experiences have you had where you found a long-lost book or memento in your home or other places?
    2. What are the spiritual practices that have been forgotten about in our culture?
    3. How can we help the people in our communities to re-discover lost spiritual practices?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, help us to rediscover lost spiritual practices.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: 2 Kings 24-25 (Exile to Babylon)

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