REFORMS UNDER JOSIAH BEGIN WITH THE RECOVERY OF GOD’S WORD AS THE NATION REFOCUSES ON TOP LEVEL PRIORITIES
Judgment against Judah and Jerusalem has already been proclaimed. The wrath of God is about to be unleashed because of Judah’s spiritual apostasy and persistent idolatry as they engage in abominable pagan practices. Yet in God’s mercy we see the righteous reign of Josiah emerge as the Word of God is recovered and reforms are initiated. However, it will be too little too late in terms of preventing the Babylonian Captivity.
Peter Pett: It will be noted that, as so often in the book of Kings, we are given little detail of the king’s reign. All the concentration is rather on the cleansing and restoration of the Temple, which resulted in the discovery of an ancient copy of the Book of the Law, the reading and interpreting of which gave impetus to reforms already begun, indicating that one of the author’s aims was to bring out how everything that was done (even what was done before it was found) was done in accordance with the Book of the Law.
As ever the author was not interested in giving us either a chronological or a detailed history. He was concerned as a prophet to underline certain theological implications, and the history was called on for that purpose (although without distorting it) and presented in such a way that it would bring out the idea that he wanted to convey, which was that Josiah sought to fulfil the Law of YHWH with all his heart, and that all that he did was in accordance with that Law.
Iain Provan: Judgment has been announced. It is now simply a matter of timing. At this juncture in Judean history, strangely enough, Judah finds herself with yet another righteous king—a second Moses to match her second David (Hezekiah). Josiah is a king long-awaited (1 Kgs. 13:2). He is the best of all kings, but he is a king come too late.
Constable: “Josiah” (“The Lord Supports”) was one of Judah’s best kings, if not the very best. He is the only king of whom the writer wrote that “he did not turn aside to the right or to the left” (v. 2), a condition that God specified for His kings in relation to His law (Deut. 17:20). Josiah was one of the reformers who followed David’s good example (v. 2) all his life. A young unnamed prophet from Judah had predicted his birth, by name, long before he was born (1 Kings 13:1-2; cf. Isa. 44:28; 45:1; Mic. 5:2). Unfortunately, he came to the throne of Judah too late to prevent the demise of his nation.
Peter Pett: The fact that reform did take so long initially must be attributed firstly to the continuing influence of Assyria, whose representatives would for some years still hold undisputed sway in Judah’s affairs, secondly, to the king’s youthfulness, and thirdly to the strength of the opposition parties who clearly encouraged the worship of local deities. All these would mean that Josiah had to walk carefully.
Wiseman: The structure of the history follows the normal pattern, with an introduction (22:1–2) and notes on historical highlights, notably the temple repairs (vv. 3–7) and the discovery of the Book of the Law (vv. 8–10) with the king’s response to it. Next there is the answer by the prophetess Huldah when consulted (vv. 14–20), in two prophecies, one concerning the fate of Jerusalem (vv. 15–17), the other the favour to Josiah in avoiding the final fall of the city (vv. 18–20).
Dale Ralph Davis: The story breaks down into three distinct sections:
• Priestly discovery, vv. 3–10
• Royal distress, vv. 11–14
• Prophetic clarity, vv. 15–20
(:1-2) PROLOGUE: JOSIAH’S RIGHTEOUS REIGN IN THE SOUTH
A. (:1) Selected Touchpoints
1. How Old Was He When He Began to Reign?
“Josiah was eight years old when he became king,”
2. How Long Did He Reign?
“and he reigned thirty-one years”
MacArthur: 640-609 B.C. During Josiah’s reign, power in the ancient Near East passed from Assyria to Babylon. Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, was destroyed by the Babylonians in 612 B.C. and the whole Assyrian empire fell in 609 B.C. Josiah was the last good king of the Davidic line prior to the Babylonian exile. Jeremiah (Jer 1:2), possibly Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (Zep 1:1) were prophets to Judah during the reign of Josiah.
3. Which Kingdom Did He Reign Over?
4. Who Was His Mother?
“and his mother’s name was Jedidah
the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath.”
B. (:2) Moral Evaluation
“And he did right in the sight of the LORD and walked in all the way of his father David, nor did he turn aside to the right or to the left.”
I. (:3-7) REFOCUSING ON THE PRIORITY OF THE TEMPLE — IMPORTANCE OF THE TEMPLE REFLECTED IN THE ADMINISTRATION OF TEMPLE REPAIRS
A. (:3) Initiation of Administration
“Now it came about in the eighteenth year of King Josiah
that the king sent Shaphan, the son of Azaliah the son of Meshullam the scribe, to the house of the LORD saying,”
B. (:4-6) Investment of Administration
1. (:4) Counting the Donations
“Go up to Hilkiah the high priest that he may count the money brought in to the house of the LORD which the doorkeepers have gathered from the people.”
August Konkel: The disastrous state of the temple must have taken place during the apostate reign of Manasseh. In that time the book of the covenant seems to have been entirely forgotten. . .
Throughout Judah’s history, repairs to the temple were a continuous necessity. Joash had initiated a policy for financing temple maintenance (2 Kings 12:9–15), and the procedures initiated by Josiah follow that same procedure.
2. (:5-6) Paying the Workers
“And let them deliver it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD, and let them give it to the workmen who are in the house of the LORD to repair the damages of the house, 6 to the carpenters and the builders and the masons and for buying timber and hewn stone to repair the house.”
Peter Pett: Hilkiah was being called on to weigh and ‘sum up’ the ‘silver’ (possibly by turning it into ingots. There were no official coins in those days) which had been gathered for the purpose of the repair work, and had been brought into the house of YHWH. The ‘keepers of the threshold’ were high Temple officials (in terms of New Testament days ‘chief priests’) who were responsible to ensure the sanctity of the Temple by excluding from it any unauthorised persons. Their post would make them ideal for the collecting of gifts to the Temple, and watching over them. Hilkiah, having assessed the value of the gifts, was then to call on the keepers of the threshhold to deliver the silver into the hands of the workmen who had oversight of the house of YHWH, in our terms the priestly architects and structural engineers. They in their turn were to arrange for the work to be done by organised priestly workmen set apart for the work and were to pay over the silver accordingly. This work would be performed by suitably trained priests. The aim was to ‘repair the breaches in the house’, in other words to carry out needed building repairs to the decaying and neglected building.
C. (:7) Integrity of Administration
“Only no accounting shall be made with them for the money delivered into their hands, for they deal faithfully.”
Peter Pett: The honesty of those involved was considered to be such that it was felt unnecessary to call for an account of how the silver was spent. Comparison with 2 Kings 12:15 suggests that this was regularly a recognised part of any such contract. To have taken up any other position would seemingly have been seen as insulting to the priest-workmen. Such an attitude was only really possible in times of ‘revival’ when there was a new spirit of dedication around.
II. (:8-13) REFOCUSING ON THE PRIORITY OF GOD’S WORD —
IMPACT OF THE WORD OF GOD REFLECTED IN THE RECOVERY OF THE BOOK OF THE LAW
A. (:8-10) Treasuring the Recovery of God’s Word
1. (:8) Prioritizing the Reading of God’s Word
“Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe,
‘I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD.’
And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan who read it.”
Wiseman: It could have been found in the box when the silver was ‘poured out’ (2 Chr. 34:14).
Constable: “The book of the law” here seems to refer to the Book of Deuteronomy, since the phrase “the book of the law” is used in the Pentateuch only of Deuteronomy (Deut. 28:61; 29:21; 30:10; 31:26; cf. also Josh. 1:8; 8:30-35; 23:6; 24:26).
Peter Pett: In spite of the fact that the majority of scholars see The Book of the Law as being simply a portion of Deuteronomy, (although with a multitude of related theories and datings connected with that idea), that must in our view be seen as very unlikely for a number of reasons.
The first good reason that counts against it is that the book inspired an observance of the Passover that exceeded all that had gone before it following the time of Joshua (2 Kings 23:21-22). The Book is described as ‘the book of the covenant which was found in the house of YHWH’ (2 Kings 23:2), a description which is then followed up in 2 Kings 22 :2 Kings 23:21-23 with the words, ‘and the king commanded all the people saying, “Keep the Passover to YHWH your God, as it is written in this book of the covenant. Surely there was not kept such a Passover from the days of the judges who 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 was this Passover kept to YHWH in Jerusalem’.
The impression gained here is not only that it stirred the people to keep the Passover, but also that it guided them into doing so in such a way that it exceeded anything done since the time of the Judges. In other words it took them back to the way in which it was observed in the early days under Moses and Joshua (the assumption being that in their days it was properly and fully observed).
However, when we actually look at what the Book of Deuteronomy has to say about the Passover we find that the details given concerning the observing of the Passover are in fact extremely sparse. These details are found in Deuteronomy 16:1-8 and it will be noted that the only requirements given there are the offering of the sacrifice of the Passover itself, without any detail as to whether it was to be one sacrifice or many (although possibly with a hint of multiplicity in that it is from ‘the flocks and the herds’), and the eating of unleavened bread for seven days. In other words it details the very minimum of requirements, and clearly assumes that more detail is given elsewhere, something very likely in a speech by Moses, but in our view unlikely in a book which purportedly presents the full law. It is hardly feasible that these instructions produced a Passover in such advance of all those previously held that it was seen as excelling all others, for the instructions given were minimal. . .
There are a number of other indications that suggest that the Law Book consisted of more than Deuteronomy. For example, if we compare the words in 2 Kings 23:24 with the Pentateuch we discover again that, if we are to take them as echoing what had just been discovered, more than Deuteronomy is required. For example in 2 Kings 23:24 we read of ‘those who have familiar spirits’. But this is a way of putting it which is paralleled only in Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6, (compare also Leviticus 20:27), whereas Deuteronomy, in its only mention of familiar spirits, speaks of ‘consulters of familiar spirits’ (Deuteronomy 18:11). The terminology used in 2 Kings 23:24 is thus unexpected if it was inspired by a section of Deuteronomy, but fully understandable in the light of Leviticus. . .
2. (:9-10) Prioritizing the Impact of God’s Word
a. (:9) Recovery of the Money and its Impact
1) Its Recovery
“And Shaphan the scribe came to the king and brought back word to the king and said, ‘Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house,’”
2) Its Impact
“and have delivered it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD.”
b. (:10) Recovery of God’s Word and its Impact
1) Its Recovery
“Moreover, Shaphan the scribe told the king saying, ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.’”
2) Its Impact
“And Shaphan read it in the presence of the king.”
B. (:11-13) Trembling at the Impact of God’s Word
1. (:11) Immediate Impact of God’s Word
“And it came about when the king heard the words of the book of the law, that he tore his clothes.”
Whitcomb: King Josiah was utterly overwhelmed when he heard God’s description of apostasy and its consequences echoing through the centuries from the time of Moses, and feared that it might already be too late to bring the nation to repentance.
Paul Elliott: God’s Word in the Rubbish Heap — Josiah’s reaction to the rediscovered imperatives of the Word of God was a reaction of indignation, a reaction based on fear of the consequences of the long neglect of God’s Word. And Josiah’s reaction demonstrated a vehement desire, a zealous desire, to personally submit to the full authority of the Word of God, and to lead the nation in repentance and turning away from idols to serve the one true and living God.
2. (:12-13) Investigating Further the Extent of Disobedience and the Resulting Wrath of God
“Then the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Achbor the son of Micaiah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah the king’s servant saying, ‘Go, inquire of the LORD for me and the people and all Judah concerning the words of this book that has been found,
for great is the wrath of the LORD that burns against us, because our fathers have not listened to the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.’”
Wiseman: This is an official delegation asking for interpretation not by divination but through a spokesman of God. The reply was needed both by the king and by the people of Judah. Both must act in accord.
III. (:14-20a) REFOCUSING ON THE PRIORITY OF GOD’S MESSAGE —
INTEGRATION OF JUDGMENT AND MERCY REFLECTED IN TWO PROPHECIES BY HULDAH REGARDING JERUSALEM AND JOSIAH
(:14) Soliciting the Word of the Prophetess Huldah
“So Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter); and they spoke to her.”
MacArthur: “the Second Quarter” – This district of Jerusalem was called “second” because it comprised the city’s first major expansion. It was probably located on the western hill of Jerusalem, an area enclosed by the city wall and built during the reign of Hezekiah. The expansion of the city during Hezekiah’s reign was perhaps to accommodate Jewish refugees who had escaped from the Assyrian invasion of Israel.
Mordechai Cogan: Huldah was a court prophet, consulted on state matters, as required by the code in Deut 18:1–8.
Wiersbe: Along with Huldah, the prophetesses in Scripture include Miriam (Ex. 15:20), Deborah (Judg. 4:4), Naodiah (Neh. 6:14), the wife of Isaiah the Prophet (Isa 8:3), Anna (Luke 2:36), and the four daughters of Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:8-9).
Wiseman: The reply is in two parts, one each for the king and for the people.
A. (:15-17) Prophecy #1 – Judgment – Addressed to the People Regarding the Fate of Jerusalem
1. (:15-16) Severe Judgment on Jerusalem and its People
“And she said to them, ‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel, Tell the man who sent you to me, 16 thus says the LORD, Behold, I bring evil on this place and on its inhabitants, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read.’”
2. (:17) Sentence Justified by Unfaithful Idolatry Evoking Unrelenting Wrath
“Because they have forsaken Me and have burned incense to other gods that they might provoke Me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore My wrath burns against this place, and it shall not be quenched.”
B. (:18-20a) Prophecy #2 – Mercy – Addressed to the King Regarding the Favor Shown to Josiah
1. (:18) Personal Message Delivered to the King
“But to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the LORD thus shall you say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel,
Regarding the words which you have heard,’”
2. (:19) Posture of Humility and Repentance Earned a Hearing
“’because your heart was tender
and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants that they should become a desolation and a curse,
and you have torn your clothes and wept before Me,
I truly have heard you,’ declares the LORD.”
3. (:20a) Peaceful Departure Promised by God’s Mercy
“Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers,
and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace,
neither shall your eyes see all the evil which I will bring on this place.”
Whitcomb: It may seem strange indeed that God would have promised Josiah: “thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace” (II Kings 22:20), when, as a matter of fact, he was killed by an Egyptian pharaoh on the field of battle! (cf. II Chron. 35:23). The problem is solved, however, when we realize that for the Israelite, to die “in peace” meant to die in a state of fellowship with God as a true believer, whether in the front line of battle or at home in bed. In contrast to this, “there is not peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (Isa. 57:21).
Constable: This prophecy may have expressed God’s desire and intent for Josiah. The fact that he died in battle, not in peace (23:29), may have been the result of his departing from God’s will by confronting Pharaoh Neco in battle. A better explanation is that the prophecy was fulfilled in that Josiah died before the violent destruction of Jerusalem. His death in 609 B.C. was four years before King Nebuchadnezzar’s first attack on Jerusalem in 605 B.C.
R. D. Patterson: “To be gathered to one’s fathers” may also contain an underlying hint of an OT hope for life after death. That the reality of a conscious afterlife existed in OT times may be seen from Gen 22:5; Job 14:14-15; 19:25-27; Pss 16:9-11; 22:22-24; 49:14-15; 73:23-26; Isa 25:8; 26:19; Dan 12:2-3; Hos 13:14.
August Konkel: The only mitigation to be found in the words of Huldah is a personal application to the king. His penitence will prevent the disaster of the Exile from taking place during his lifetime. The “desolation and curse” on the inhabitants of the kingdom cannot be averted (2 Kings 22:19, nasb; cf. Deut. 28:37), but Josiah will die in peace. In all other circumstances this would signify a natural death, not a death in war as befalls Josiah (2 Kings 23:29–30). Only in such a circumstance of disaster can Josiah’s burial in Jerusalem be described as peaceful. Peace for Josiah means he will be buried in his own grave with other distinguished kings of Judah.
(:20b) EPILOGUE – REPORTING BACK TO JOSIAH
“So they brought back word to the king.”