Josiah: King of Reforms

KEY VERSE: “Josiah took away all the abominations out of all the countries that pertained to the children of Israel, and made all that were present in Israel to serve, even to serve the LORD their God. And all his days they departed not from following the LORD, the God of their fathers.” —II Chronicles 34:33

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: II CHRONICLES 34:2, 8, 14-16, 19, 21, 30-32

TODAY’S LESSON IS about a time in Israel’s history when the people desperately needed to turn away from idol worship and to reinstitute the worship of the true God. However, such change seemed most unlikely, since the kings themselves were not examples in following the Law or its precepts. A leader did finally come upon the scene who indeed made a significant difference. This was King Josiah. He commanded that the people must seriously follow the precepts of the Law, even if it were costly to do so.

The Books of Kings and Chronicles contain a history of Israel and Judah from the beginning of their kings, onward. They are filled with condemnations against Israel at that time. There had been a steady deterioration of the traditional social and religious values contained in the Law and which had their beginnings in the Jewish Law given at Mt. Sinai.

The major portion of blame is laid at the door of the kings. They had many interests which had nothing to do with the exaltation of the Law and its God. Because of vanity they instituted royal building projects such as heathen temples, palaces, fortifications, irrigation, etc. Along with these came taxation and forced labor, to the glory of the king, not to the glory of God. Even the success and fame of Solomon in the realms of diplomacy, economics, and education led to an influx of ambassadors, travelers, and resident foreigners. They brought with them their own heathen religions which taught values displeasing to Jehovah.

In due time a son was born to Amon, the sixteenth king of Judah. His name was Josiah, and at the early age of eight years, he succeeded his father on the throne. (II Kings 21:26; 22:1; II Chron. 34:1) In the eighth year of his reign “he began to seek after the God of David his father” (II Chron. 34:3), and manifested an enmity to idolatry in all its forms. These characteristics made his reign the first in many decades which held the principles of the Law aloft for all to see and emulate.

In the twelfth year of his reign Josiah cleansed Judah and Jerusalem of the high places where idols were worshiped, and removed the carved images, and the molten images. (vs. 4) In the eighteenth year of his reign, Josiah began to cleanse and repair the Temple. In the course of this labor, the High Priest, Hilkiah, discovered in the sanctuary “a Book of the Law” by Moses. (vss. 14,15) This marvelous discovery was reported to the king, and it was read in the royal presence.—vss. 19-21

Josiah then convened all the people of Judah and Jerusalem. After the reading of the Law the king made a solemn covenant with Jehovah. (II Kings 22:8; 23:3; II Chron. 34:29-32) To ratify the renewal of the covenant, Josiah arranged for the Passover to be held on the 14th day of Nisan. So Israel kept the Passover at the proper time. “There was no Passover like to that kept in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet; neither did all the kings of Israel keep such a Passover as Josiah kept, and the priests, and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel that were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”—II Chron. 35:1-18

In the 31st year of Josiah’s reign, he ignored Jehovah’s warning not to go into battle with Egyptian forces. He was mortally wounded and brought back to Jerusalem, where he died. All Israel mourned this great reformer who had served God so well.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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