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Josiah was king of Judah, and son of Amon and Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. Albright has dated his reign to 640 - 609 BC, while Thiele offers the dates 641 - 609 BC. The chief sources of his reign are 2 Kings 22-23, and 2 Chronicles 34-35; 1 Esdras 1 is clearly a copy of the relevant portion of 2 Chronicles. Archeologists have recovered a number of "scroll-style" stamps dating to his reign.
When Josiah was placed on the throne of Judah at the age of 8 by the "People of the Land" (apparently the larger landowners and upper classes), the international situation was in flux: to the east, the Assyrian Empire was in the beginning stages of its eventual disintegration, the Babylonian Empire had not yet risen to replace it, and Egypt to the west was still recovering from Assyrian rule. This favored the resurgence of the prowess of Jerusalem, which Josiah expressed in the 8th year of rule by his sincere championing of the Yahweh cause. He had the competing cultic objects of Baal and Ashterah in the temple in Jerusalem destroyed, and the bones of their priests burned on their altars -- an extreme act of desecration against these other deities. The author of Chronicles adds to these acts in Jerusalem Josiah's similar destruction of altars and images belonging to competing deities in the cities of the tribes of Manasseh, Ephraim, "and Simeon, as far as Naphtali" (2 Chr. 34:6f).
In his 18th regnal year, Josiah again worked on behalf of Yahweh by having the priest Hilkiah take the treasures that had been donated to the temple over the years, and use them to repair the neglect the temple had suffered during the reigns of Amon and Manasseh.
While Hilkiah was clearing the treasure room of the temple (2 Chr. 34:14), he is said to have found a scroll described as "a book of the teaching" (2 Kings 22:8) or as "the book of the Law of Yahweh given to Moses" (2 Chr. 34:14). Since De Wette's suggestion in 1805, it has been assumed this was either a copy of the Book of Deuteronomy, or a text that became Deuteronomy as we have it. Hilkiah brought this scroll to Josiah's attention, and the king had it read to a crowd in Jerusalem. He was praised for this piety by one of the prophets, Huldah, the only female prophet mentioned in the Bible, who made the prophecy that all involved would die peacefully (2 Kings 22:14-20; 2 Chr. 34:22-28). The fact this scroll was found during the restoration work is not unusual; the finding of old scrolls or inscriptions while making repairs to temples is an attested occurance in the ancient near East.
In that same 18th year, he celebrated the first Passover "since the days of Judges" (2 Kings 23:22). 2 Chr. 35:1-19 provides the most complete description of the celebration.
At some point between this year and his death, Josiah reasserted Judean control in the former territories of the kingdom of Israel, which is recorded in 2 Kings as systematically destroying the cultic objects in various cities, as well as executing the priests of the rival gods. The only exception he made was for the grave of an unnamed prophet he found in Bethel, who had foretold that these religious sites Jeroboam erected would one day be destroyed (23:15-19).
There are two versions of his violent death. The author of Kings tersely remarks that Necho II met Josiah at Megiddo, and killed him the moment the Egyptian king laid eyes on him (22:29f). The author of Chronicles describes Josiah meeting Necho in battle at Megiddo, where Josiah was fatally wounded by Egyptian archers, and was brought back to Jerusalem to die. Some scholars favor the account in Chronicles, because it better fits with what is known of international events. Necho had left Egypt around 609 BC for two reasons: one was to relieve the Babylonian siege of Harran, and the other was to help the king of Assyria, who was defeated by the Babylonians at the Battle of Carchemish. Josiah's actions suggest that he was aiding the Babylonians by engaging the Egyptian army.
In either case, the death of this king was a serious blow to his country, as shown by the fact Jeremiah wrote a lament for Josiah's passing which has not survived.
Kings of Judah||