KING JOSIAH’S REFORMS
2 Kings 22; 23: 1-30
Josiah was the grand-son of King Manasseh of Judah, a king who was notorious for his introduction of many other religious beliefs and doctrines into the orthodox mode of worship. Manasseh was succeeded by Amon his son, who walked in the ways of his father by serving idols. After his death his eight-year-old son, Josiah was crowned king. Unlike the father, Josiah is rated one of the best kings of Judah as he served God, putting away his father’s and grand-father’s gods. When he was twenty six, he embarked on repair of the temple so as to put in a better focus, the true worship of God. He reigned for thirty one years in Jerusalem.
At twelve years of his reign, he began to purge Judah of idolatry. At the eighteenth year of his reign, after purging the land, he now began to repair the house of the Lord. Josiah sent Shaphan to Hilkiah the high priest to make available to the workers all the money collected for the purpose of repairing the temple of Jerusalem.
While Shaphan was delivering the money to Hilkiah the priest, he (Hilkiah) told him that he has found the book of the law given through Moses. He now gave him to read and he read it and also read it before the king. Seeing that the law has so much been transgressed, the King became so alarmed that he tore his clothes asa sign of repentance.
The King sent Priest Hilkiah and others to Prophetess Huldah to inquire of the Lord about the nation. The Prophetess responded that God would carry out his punishment upon the nation:
“Thus says the Lord, Behold I will bring evil upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read. Because they have forsaken me and have burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands, therefore, my wrath will be kindled against this place and it will not be quenched.” 2 Kings 22:16-17.
In the light of this revelation, Josiah summoned all the people and read the book of the law to their hearing. Right there in the temple, he renewed his covenant with God, promising to be faithful as all the people joined him in pledging their readiness to serve God. Thus, Josiah set the stage for the needed reforms, having led the people to renew their covenant with God. His reforms were geared towards streamlining the real paths to worship God as well as rid this path of distortions. However, since the king had repented, his eyes would not see the punishment. He would die peacefully and be buried in peace.
Aspects of King Josiah’s Reforms
- He ordered the removal and burning of all vessels and ritual objects installed in the temple by his fore-father -King Manasseh.
- Priests of all the foreign gods were demoted; their idols destroyed and their altars pulled down.
- The houses of cult prostitutes were destroyed. Cult prostitutes were women with whom the priests of those idols (especially baal) made love to, with the belief that through the sexual act, the god of fertility will make the lands fertile.
- Josiah restored the Feast of Passover which commemorates their journey from Egypt. This feast was abandoned prior to Josiah’s time.
- He abolished witchcraft, sorcery, sooth-saying and divination and banished the practitioners.
- He extended his reform to the Northern Kingdom. In Samaria, and Bethel, he destroyed the shrines built by Jeroboam, son of Nebat; as well as slaughtered their priests.
- The destruction of the shrines of female cult prostitutes went on alongside their male counterparts.
Josiah’s reforms, steadfastness and faithfulness to God brought him into God’s good books:
“Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him” (2 Kings 23:25)
- He brought out the Asherah from the temple and burnt it, he ground it to powder and cast the powder upon the graves of the common people.
- He centred all worship at Jerusalem and ordered the priests out of the cities of Judah to go to Jerusalem.
- He removed the horses that were dedicated to the sun at the entrance of the temple by the kings of Judah.
Significance of Josiah’s Reforms
- Josiah’s reforms were significant to the extent that they established Jerusalem Temple as the legitimate centre of worship.
- They gave the worship of God added impetus, significance and stronghold.
- Public morality received a boost even as the corporate image of the nation received good laundry.
- They offered an opportunity for the people to take stock of their relationship with God, with the aim of making amends and reconciling. This is a lesson for our leaders.
- Age is no barrier to good leadership.
- Any reformation or stock-taking should begin with the leader himself.
- Josiah, the son of King Amon succeeded his father at the age of eight. It is believed that he must have been guided through until the age of maturity.
- He ordered the repair of the house of the Lord during which time the book of the law was discovered by Hilkiah the high priest.
- Hilkiah handed over the book to Shaphan, the court secretary, who read it before the king.
- The king rent his clothes and sent delegates to inquire from Huldah the prophetess concerning the predicted destruction and punishment found in the book read.
- The punishment was actually against Judah and Jerusalem for they had forsaken the Lord to worship idols. Josiah shall die in peace because he had humbled himself. He would not see the punishment
- A meeting of all elders, priests, prophets, all people of Judah and Jerusalem was called where the king read all the words of the book and renewed his covenant with God being joined by the whole people.
- The king then ordered a reformation of the temple and the land. This was a total cleansing of the land’s pollution by idol worship of baal and Asherah. He then banned prostitution, and idol worshipping and centralized the place of the worship of God in Jerusalem.
- King Josiah is rated the best king in Judah and Jerusalem. He ruled for thirty-one years.
Lessons To Learn
- We should endeavour to obey God’s law, his word no matter how hard it may seem to be.
- There is need to change our ways, cleanse our hearts, etc ., so that we can worship God in purity.