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2 Chronicles 34:1-36:1 – Josiah

Summary

Josiah is another of the Chronicler's model kings. Much more space is allotted to his faithfulness in seeking God, his extensive reforms, and his Passover celebration than in 2 Kings.

Analysis

In 2 Kings, Josiah is a model king, second only to David and Solomon, who reunites the people, divided since the days of Rehoboam, and restores worship in the temple following the apostasy of Amon. In Chronicles, however, Hezekiah is the reforming king who reunites the people. Thus, while Josiah is praised, he is not as significant a ruler in Chronicles as he is in 2 Kings. Many of his earlier accomplishments, such as his celebration of the Passover, are seen as merely organizing and systematizing the innovative work of Hezekiah. Significantly, of the three-pronged religious reforms of 2 Kings 23:4-20--the cleansing of the temple, the destruction of the high places in Jerusalem and the south, and the smashing of the northern sanctuaries--the Chronicler has already transferred the cleansing of the temple back into Manasseh's reforms (33:15-16); consequently, there is little mention of Josiah's cleansing of the temple in Chronicles. Since the impact of the discovery of the "book of the law" (some form of Deuteronomy) is very similar to the account in 2 Kings, three characteristic features of the Chronicler's presentation follow--the early dating of Josiah's reform, the expanded description of the Passover, and the curious nature of Josiah's death:

  • The most conspicuous difference is the Chronicler's earlier dating of Josiah's reforms. Immediately following the accession formula, 2 Kings moves to the eighteenth year of Josiah's reign and his initial repairs to the temple (v. 3) that led to the discovery of the "book of the law," which in turn led to Josiah's purge of the land and purification of the temple. The Chronicler may have wondered why such a pious king (as portrayed in 2 Kings 22:2) would wait so long to begin temple repairs. This would account for his introduction of Josiah's cultic reforms in the eighth year of his reign (2 Chronicles 34:3a), while he was still a boy. The purging of the land continued in his twelfth year (v. 3b), and then in his eighteenth year (v. 8a) the law book is discovered, which leads to a renewal of the covenant and the Passover celebrations. While effectively presenting Josiah as a faithful king from his youth, this sequence destroys the connection between Josiah's cultic reforms and the discovery of the book that is so important in 2 Kings.
  • The Chronicler takes nineteen verses to describe Josiah's Passover (2 Chronicles 35:1-19) where 2 Kings had taken only three (23:21-23). The expansions are mostly due to the increased prominence of the Levites and the Chronicler's concern to establish their importance in his own postexilic temple hierarchy, as well as references to the prior work of David and Solomon. Since Hezekiah had already reinstituted the Passover and invited all Israel to attend, Josiah's task is portrayed as one of organizing the proceedings.
  • The death of Josiah posed theological problems for the Chronicler. How could a pious, reforming king die in battle, especially after Huldah had prophesied that he would die in peace? He found a partial answer in Josiah's failure to heed God's word (2 Chronicles 35:21-22). The artificial nature of this rationale, however, is evident from a number of points: In this instance, God's word was delivered by Pharaoh Neco with no indication as to how Josiah might have known that Neco was speaking for God (vv. 20-21). Josiah's ruse, disguising himself in order to engage Neco in battle, a random arrow that kills the king, and Josiah's plea to remove him from battle because of his wounds, are obviously drawn from the Ahab story (2 Chronicles 18:28-34).

Nevertheless, Josiah's refusal to heed God's word does not diminish the Chronicler's respect for him. The lament offered by Jeremiah (35:25)--while not the book of Lamentations, which deals with the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon--is unparalleled in Chronicles and testifies to the high esteem in which Josiah was held.

2 Chronicles 34:1-36:1

Reign of Josiah

34Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign; he reigned for thirty-one years in Jerusalem. 2He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his ancestor David; he did not turn aside to the right or to the left. 3For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was still a boy, he began to seek the God of his ancestor David, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the sacred poles,* and the carved and the cast images. 4In his presence they pulled down the altars of the Baals; he demolished the incense altars that stood above them. He broke down the sacred poles* and the carved and the cast images; he made dust of them and scattered it over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. 5He also burned the bones of the priests on their altars, and purged Judah and Jerusalem. 6In the towns of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, and as far as Naphtali, in their ruins* all around, 7he broke down the altars, beat the sacred poles* and the images into powder, and demolished all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel. Then he returned to Jerusalem.

Discovery of the Book of the Law

8 In the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had purged the land and the house, he sent Shaphan son of Azaliah, Maaseiah the governor of the city, and Joah son of Joahaz, the recorder, to repair the house of the Lord his God. 9They came to the high priest Hilkiah and delivered the money that had been brought into the house of God, which the Levites, the keepers of the threshold, had collected from Manasseh and Ephraim and from all the remnant of Israel and from all Judah and Benjamin and from the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 10They delivered it to the workers who had the oversight of the house of the Lord, and the workers who were working in the house of the Lord gave it for repairing and restoring the house. 11They gave it to the carpenters and the builders to buy quarried stone, and timber for tie-beams and joists for the buildings that the kings of Judah had let go to ruin. 12The people did the work faithfully. Over them were appointed the Levites Jahath and Obadiah, of the sons of Merari, along with Zechariah and Meshullam, of the sons of the Kohathites, to have oversight. Other Levites, all skilful with instruments of music, 13were over the burden-bearers and directed all who did work in every kind of service; and some of the Levites were scribes, and officials, and gatekeepers.

14 While they were bringing out the money that had been brought into the house of the Lord, the priest Hilkiah found the book of the law of the Lord given through Moses. 15Hilkiah said to the secretary Shaphan, ‘I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord’; and Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan. 16Shaphan brought the book to the king, and further reported to the king, ‘All that was committed to your servants they are doing. 17They have emptied out the money that was found in the house of the Lord and have delivered it into the hand of the overseers and the workers.’ 18The secretary Shaphan informed the king, ‘The priest Hilkiah has given me a book.’ Shaphan then read it aloud to the king.

19 When the king heard the words of the law he tore his clothes. 20Then the king commanded Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Abdon son of Micah, the secretary Shaphan, and the king’s servant Asaiah: 21‘Go, inquire of the Lord for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that has been found; for the wrath of the Lord that is poured out on us is great, because our ancestors did not keep the word of the Lord, to act in accordance with all that is written in this book.’

The Prophet Huldah Consulted

22 So Hilkiah and those whom the king had sent went to the prophet Huldah, the wife of Shallum son of Tokhath son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe (who lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter) and spoke to her to that effect. 23She declared to them, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Tell the man who sent you to me, 24Thus says the Lord: I will indeed bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the curses that are written in the book that was read before the king of Judah. 25Because they have forsaken me and have made offerings to other gods, so that they have provoked me to anger with all the works of their hands, my wrath will be poured out on this place and will not be quenched. 26But as to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus shall you say to him: Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, 27because your heart was penitent and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this place and its inhabitants, and you have humbled yourself before me, and have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, says the Lord. 28I will gather you to your ancestors and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring on this place and its inhabitants.’ They took the message back to the king.

The Covenant Renewed

29 Then the king sent word and gathered together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 30The king went up to the house of the Lord, with all the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests and the Levites, all the people both great and small; he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant that had been found in the house of the Lord. 31The king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord, keeping his commandments, his decrees, and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book. 32Then he made all who were present in Jerusalem and in Benjamin pledge themselves to it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem acted according to the covenant of God, the God of their ancestors. 33Josiah took away all the abominations from all the territory that belonged to the people of Israel, and made all who were in Israel worship the Lord their God. All his days they did not turn away from following the Lord the God of their ancestors.

Celebration of the Passover

35Josiah kept a passover to the Lord in Jerusalem; they slaughtered the passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the first month. 2He appointed the priests to their offices and encouraged them in the service of the house of the Lord. 3He said to the Levites who taught all Israel and who were holy to the Lord, ‘Put the holy ark in the house that Solomon son of David, king of Israel, built; you need no longer carry it on your shoulders. Now serve the Lord your God and his people Israel. 4Make preparations by your ancestral houses by your divisions, following the written directions of King David of Israel and the written directions of his son Solomon. 5Take position in the holy place according to the groupings of the ancestral houses of your kindred the people, and let there be Levites for each division of an ancestral house.* 6Slaughter the passover lamb, sanctify yourselves, and on behalf of your kindred make preparations, acting according to the word of the Lord by Moses.’

7 Then Josiah contributed to the people, as passover offerings for all that were present, lambs and kids from the flock to the number of thirty thousand, and three thousand bulls; these were from the king’s possessions. 8His officials contributed willingly to the people, to the priests, and to the Levites. Hilkiah, Zechariah, and Jehiel, the chief officers of the house of God, gave to the priests for the passover offerings two thousand six hundred lambs and kids and three hundred bulls. 9Conaniah also, and his brothers Shemaiah and Nethanel, and Hashabiah and Jeiel and Jozabad, the chiefs of the Levites, gave to the Levites for the passover offerings five thousand lambs and kids and five hundred bulls.

10 When the service had been prepared for, the priests stood in their place, and the Levites in their divisions according to the king’s command. 11They slaughtered the passover lamb, and the priests dashed the blood that they received* from them, while the Levites did the skinning. 12They set aside the burnt-offerings so that they might distribute them according to the groupings of the ancestral houses of the people, to offer to the Lord, as it is written in the book of Moses. And they did the same with the bulls. 13They roasted the passover lamb with fire according to the ordinance; and they boiled the holy offerings in pots, in cauldrons, and in pans, and carried them quickly to all the people. 14Afterwards they made preparations for themselves and for the priests, because the priests the descendants of Aaron were occupied in offering the burnt-offerings and the fat parts until night; so the Levites made preparations for themselves and for the priests, the descendants of Aaron. 15The singers, the descendants of Asaph, were in their place according to the command of David, and Asaph, and Heman, and the king’s seer Jeduthun. The gatekeepers were at each gate; they did not need to interrupt their service, for their kindred the Levites made preparations for them.

16 So all the service of the Lord was prepared that day, to keep the passover and to offer burnt-offerings on the altar of the Lord, according to the command of King Josiah. 17The people of Israel who were present kept the passover at that time, and the festival of unleavened bread for seven days. 18No passover like it had been kept in Israel since the days of the prophet Samuel; none of the kings of Israel had kept such a passover as was kept by Josiah, by the priests and the Levites, by all Judah and Israel who were present, and by the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 19In the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah this passover was kept.

Defeat by Pharaoh Neco and Death of Josiah

20 After all this, when Josiah had set the temple in order, King Neco of Egypt went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah went out against him. 21But Neco* sent envoys to him, saying, ‘What have I to do with you, king of Judah? I am not coming against you today, but against the house with which I am at war; and God has commanded me to hurry. Cease opposing God, who is with me, so that he will not destroy you.’ 22But Josiah would not turn away from him, but disguised himself in order to fight with him. He did not listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God, but joined battle in the plain of Megiddo. 23The archers shot King Josiah; and the king said to his servants, ‘Take me away, for I am badly wounded.’ 24So his servants took him out of the chariot and carried him in his second chariot* and brought him to Jerusalem. There he died, and was buried in the tombs of his ancestors. All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah. 25Jeremiah also uttered a lament for Josiah, and all the singing-men and singing-women have spoken of Josiah in their laments to this day. They made these a custom in Israel; they are recorded in the Laments. 26Now the rest of the acts of Josiah and his faithful deeds in accordance with what is written in the law of the Lord, 27and his acts, first and last, are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah.

Reign of Jehoahaz

36The people of the land took Jehoahaz son of Josiah and made him king to succeed his father in Jerusalem.

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10 February 2011

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