2 Kings 23
Josiah's Reforms and His Death
Josiah's Spiritual Renewal (1-3)
Josiah's first response to Huldah's prophecy was to call a national assembly to the Temple courts where he had the priests, prophets, and all the people, those of influence to those of no distinction, gather to listen to the Book being read which Hilkiah had found. If it was the entire Pentateuch, then it would have been a ten-hour reading (1-2).
The king took a place of prominence as the Book was being read, and then at its conclusion, he took a formal oath before all who had gathered and swore to obey what He had just heard in the Book which he accepted as being the voice and covenant of Yahweh (3).
Josiah Purges Judah of Idolatry (4-20)
a) Josiah then ordered the removal of every artifact of idolatry to be removed from the Temple property. Anything connected with pagan gods was burned like useless garbage on the terraces of the Kidron Valley so the smoke of the idol rubbish would not pollute the city. After all the wooden articles were burned up and sprinkled over the cemetery of previous worshipers, then the metals from the idols were pulverized appropriately and carried away to Bethel to be disposed of there where so much idolatry had sprung up (4) (6).
b) Josiah tore down the living quarters for the male and female prostitutes who were doing business in the Temple in honor of Ashtoreth. The Ashareh pole, covered with sheer fabrics for sexual festivals (Ezekiel 16:16), was pulverized so the Temple which had for some time dripped with outrageous immorality was cleansed (7). Josiah gave no thought to the millions of dollars being lost on destruction of all the idols.
c) Josiah then turned his attention to the priests who were living all over Judah and had them destroy every shrine and worship site to pagan gods in every city, including Jerusalem and including those sites belonging to the governor of Jerusalem, even the shrines they had built into the city gates (8). He forbid the priests who had served these pagan gods to ever serve as priests to Yahweh. They were given no other honor except they were not forbidden from eating with their priestly friends and family (9).
d) In the valley of Hinnom, the valley most western to Jerusalem, Josiah defiled those worship sites so they could no longer be sacred to Molech. Josiah burned things on the altars so the worshipers of Molech would find it so repulsive that they would never use the site again for a worship purpose, or the rites of re-cleansing the site would be so demanding that it wouldn't be worth the effort (10).
e) Josiah then removed the statues of the horses that were dedicated to the sun at the entrance of the temple. He took the ornate wooden chariots attached to them and had them burned (11).
f) The altars Ahaz had placed on the palace roofs above his room were destroyed.
g) The two altars Manasseh had built in the Temple courtyard were smashed, pulverized, and spread in the Kidron Valley (12).
h) All the worship sites Solomon had built for his foreign wives were at long last desecrated (offering something so detestable that no worshiper of that god would ever consider that site an appropriate worship site again). The entire hill on the east side of the city became known as the "Mount of Corruption” and at long last was desecrated by filling the sites with the ashes of bones to desecrate the site for any further worship (13).
i) Josiah then went to Bethel and destroyed the shrine-altar and temple-like building erected to the false worship of Yahweh. It was the very site used to corrupt Israel into sin and away from covenant loyalty. He also destroyed the burned Asherah pole and thus the religious brothel attached to it (15).
j) Josiah, so filled with zeal, then began to bring out the bodies of the honored dead of these false worshipers who are given ceremonial funerals and began burning them on Jeroboam's altar to fulfill a prophecy given to Jeroboam some three centuries earlier (1 Kings 13:2).
Josiah noticed another odd monument still standing and inquired why it was so special. The people of Bethel told him it was the tomb of the prophet which predicted the very act the king was doing. By burning the bones of the dead false worshipers on the altars they had used for their own sacrifices, Josiah was fulfilling Yahweh's word (16-17). Josiah did not want the tomb disturbed so he left it alone. The central focus site of all of Israel's false worship of Yahweh along with its idolatrous cemetery was destroyed and was no more (18).
k) Josiah then went throughout the town of Samaria and gave it a thorough cleaning of idolatrous paraphernalia. All the pagan stuff the kings of Israel had built over the years to keep the nation from really being able to focus their devotion on Yahweh was destroyed (19).
Josiah, recognizing Assyria was in complete decline after Yahweh had destroyed 185,000 of their army, was free to make a cleaning of what had once belonged to northern Israel, and did so without any fear of reprisal.
l) Josiah finally executed the pagan priests of Samaria in what used to be the northern kingdom of Israel and burned their bones on the altars so the altars would be too desecrated for any further use. He then returned to Jerusalem (20).
Josiah Celebrates the Passover (21-27)
The high point of Josiah's spiritual reformation was the celebration of the Passover. In order to celebrate the Passover, Josiah returned the priests to their service according to their ancient divisions set up by David and had the Ark of the Covenant, which had been hidden by the Levites during the reign of Manasseh, returned to the Temple (2 Chronicles 35:3). The feast had not been celebrated with such vigor since the time of Samuel, for no king ever gave attention to the detail of the feast as Josiah did (21-22). The festival was attended not only by all of Judah but also by the scattered Israelites still living in the north who had not been deported into exile.
This all took place when the king was twenty-six years old and was done in concert with Josiah removing from the land every dark spiritualist who sported supernatural knowledge. Josiah even removed the household gods, the “teraphim," or good luck charms, as the nation consecrated itself for the celebration.
Josiah did all that was written by Moses in the Book Hilkiah found (24).
There had not been a king like him who turned to Yahweh and obeyed the Book of Yahweh written by Moses (25).
Even with Josiah's most fervent pursuit of Yahweh, it did not change the Lord's ultimate decision to remove Judah from His presence and to reject the city of Jerusalem and the Temple as a place where His name was to be honored. The ominous deeds of Manasseh had sealed Israel's fate and the corrupted nation was served its condemnation notice, being declared beyond repair (26-27).
The Death of Josiah (28-30)
Nineveh eventually fell and the Medo-Babylonian coalition forced the Assyrian government to make Haran their capital. Sensing the shift of the balance of power in the Middle East theater, Neco, king of Egypt, decided to try to help the faltering Assyrian empire, so he marched his troops to the Euphrates River through the Megiddo pass. It was there that Josiah marched his army out to fight the king of Egypt against the king of Egypt's advice.
It would seem the Lord had put it into Neco's heart to go fight with the Assyrians but Josiah would not listen to Yahweh through Neco (2 Chronicles 35:22) and was ultimately killed in battle. Josiah's officers took his body back to Jerusalem and he was given a state funeral (29-30) officiated by his friend and prophet Jeremiah (2 Chronicles 35:25). Of course Josiah did other stuff and it was recorded in other places (28).
The Reign of Jehoahaz (31-33) (JUDAH)
Jehoahaz was put on the throne of David in his father's place. He was called to Riblah, some 200 miles north of Jerusalem, by Neco and was put in prison to keep him from ruling and Judah was made a vassal to Egypt and was forced to pay tribute. In his short three-month reign, he did some things touted as evil in the Lord's sight (31-33). Eventually, Jehoahaz was moved to a prison in Egypt and there he died (34).
The Reign of Jehoiakim (34-37) (JUDAH)
Jehoiakim was placed on the throne by Neco in his brother’s place and was made to change his name from Eliakim to Jehoiakim as a show of submission (34). Jehoiakim could not pay the tribute to Neco, so he had to raise the money by taxing the wealthy land-owners of Judah (35).
During Jehoiakim's eleven-year reign, he was a tyrant and afflicted much difficulty on his nation while living in luxury himself (Jeremiah 22:13-14). He killed prophets and tormented Jeremiah (36). He was a malevolent king and defined as evil in Yahweh's sight (37).