2 Kings 23: Josiah's Reforms
After the repairing of the temple by the good king, Josiah, and the finding of the book of the Law, the king wished all the people to hear the book and to do as it taught. He gathered the people in the temple courts and read the book to them. And the king and the people promised to keep the Lord's commandments. Read verses 1-3. They did what they could to destroy the altars and images of the idols, in the temple and throughout the kingdom. Some of the images which were of wood they took down into the Kidron valley and burnt. They destroyed places in the Valley of Hinnom, where children had been sacrificed.
Josiah also gave commandment to keep the Passover as it was commanded in the Law. (Deut. 16:1-8) The Passover was to be kept each year in memory of the coming of the people out of Egypt. .A feast was eaten in the evening with a lamb and unleavened bread. Josiah and his people kept it more faithfully than it had been kept for very many years.
“Surely there was not holden such a Passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah; but in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, wherein this Passover was holder to the Lord in Jerusalem.” (Verses 21-23)
Josiah was killed in battle when he went out to try to stop a big Egyptian army passing through the county. (Verses 28-30)
Under good king Josiah, the beautiful temple at Jerusalem had been repaired, and the book of the law had been found. The next thing was to promise the Lord to obey the Law, and then actually do so. King Josiah therefore called all the elders and people together to the temple, and read them the law, and there they made a covenant with the Lord. Last week, Josiah's history reminded us of King Joash. And here there is another event in which the two reigns were alike, for Joash had also made a covenant with the Lord, standing by the pillar before the temple. (2 Kings 11:14-17) King Josiah and the people solemnly promised to do what the book of the Law taught them. And as this teaches that idols must not be worshiped, the king commanded the vessels made for Baal, and for “the grove” and for the sun and moon and stars to be brought out of the temple and burnt outside of Jerusalem in the Kidron valley, and the ashes to be carried far away to Bethel. For “the grove” here better translations read Asherah, the goddess worshiped with Baal. The same in verse 6 and verse 7. Throughout all the kingdom of Judah, from Geba north of Jerusalem to Beer-sheba in the south, everything relating to idol worship was put away.
Long ago, when Jeroboam established the worship of golden calves at Dan and Bethel, as he was worshiping in Bethel, a prophet came out of Judah and foretold that a child should be born of David’s house who would defile the altar. (l Kings 13) Now, after several hundred years, this prophecy came true. Josiah destroyed the altar and the high place and the grove which Jeroboam had made at Bethel, and burned the bones of dead men on the altar. He also saw the grave where the prophet who had prophesied these things was buried. Josiah had made a thorough end of idolatry in Judah, and he now did the same in the cities of Samaria, and then returned to Jerusalem.
Do you remember when the Passover was instituted, and why? How was the Passover kept? When the wicked kings of Judah profaned the temple with idols and idol altars and idolatrous practices, they no longer were faithful in the keeping of the Passover. But under Josiah a great change was made. All the people kept the Passover as it had not been kept since the time of Moses. (Deut. 16:1-8; Exod. 12)
We read in the same chapter of Josiah's death. The king of Egypt was marching with his great army, to the Euphrates, against the king of Assyria, passing through the Holy Land. Josiah was no doubt in league with Assyria, and he tried to stop the Egyptians at Megiddo, where the army passed from the hills of Samaria, into the plain of Esdraelon, to the east of Mt. Carmel. The story is told in Kings in a few words: “King Josiah went against him, and he slew him at Megiddo when he had seen him.” Read also 2 Chron. 35:20-25.
1. Was Josiah satisfied with the reading of the Law?
2. What did he remove and destroy from the temple?
3. What did he destroy at Bethel?
4. What long neglected feast did Josiah keep?
5. How was Josiah killed?
The story of repairing the temple is a story of repairing the faults of character into which we have fallen through willfulness and neglect. The duty of repentance and removal of evil things from the life is more fully described in this chapter which tells of the thorough putting away of the evil things of idolatrous worship.
And then the blessed side of the experience, the reception of new life from the Lord as we are prepared for it, is beautifully described in the story of the Passover kept by Josiah. There is something very tender and touching in the saying, that there had been no such Passover even in the days of Israel's glory. It tells of the nearness to the Lord and union with Him, which is found through humble and faithful repentance. (A. 10655)
The mention of Josiah's death is interesting and touching from its very briefness. “Pharaoh-nechoh . . . slew him at Megiddo when he had seen him.” The three kingdoms of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon are important factors in the history of the later days of Israel and Judah, and they have here the same spiritual meaning that they have throughout the Scriptures: Egypt, the natural plane of life, especially natural knowledge; Assyria, rational power; and Babylon, self-love. As enemies of Israel and Judah, they represent these powers used to confirm evil and destroy a spiritual life. The meaning of these nations in this part of the sacred history is fully shown in E. 654. It is also shown in R. 707 and E. 1010 that Megiddo, the historic battle ground of the Holy Land, like Armageddon of the Apocalypse (Rev. 16:16), stands for a state characterized by the love of honor, dominion, and preeminence. The sweeping aside of Josiah at Megiddo by the king of Egypt and his host suggests the contempt with which a childlike regard for the Divine law is set aside by natural learning in its pride.