Scriptures

2 Kings 23

Introduction

‘Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. He went up to the temple of the LORD with the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests and the prophets—all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the LORD.’ 2 Kings 23:1-2

Josiah Renews The Covenant

Hilkiah the priest discovered ‘the Book of the Law’ in the temple, 2 Kings 22:8-10, and informs Josiah that he found it. Josiah now calls the people together to read it out, this law was supposed to be read out to the people throughout history, Deuteronomy 31:9-13.

Because they didn’t have a copy of the Book of the Covenant, they were obviously ignorant of God’s law, Hosea 4:6. It is also possible that they didn’t look hard enough in the first place to find a copy of the law.

Because Josiah read out all the words of the Book of the Covenant, he personally stood before the people and read from the Word of God, 2 Chronicles 34:29-32. In other words, he assumed the position of spiritual leadership just like Joshua did many years before him, Joshua 24:15.

‘The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD—to follow the LORD and keep his commands, statutes and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant. The king ordered Hilkiah the high priest, the priests next in rank and the doorkeepers to remove from the temple of the LORD all the articles made for Baal and Asherah and all the starry hosts. He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron Valley and took the ashes to Bethel. He did away with the idolatrous priests appointed by the kings of Judah to burn incense on the high places of the towns of Judah and on those around Jerusalem—those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and moon, to the constellations and to all the starry hosts. He took the Asherah pole from the temple of the LORD to the Kidron Valley outside Jerusalem and burned it there. He ground it to powder and scattered the dust over the graves of the common people. He also tore down the quarters of the male shrine prostitutes that were in the temple of the LORD, the quarters where women did weaving for Asherah. Josiah brought all the priests from the towns of Judah and desecrated the high places, from Geba to Beersheba, where the priests had burned incense. He broke down the gateway at the entrance of the Gate of Joshua, the city governor, which was on the left of the city gate. Although the priests of the high places did not serve at the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, they ate unleavened bread with their fellow priests. He desecrated Topheth, which was in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, so no one could use it to sacrifice their son or daughter in the fire to Molek. He removed from the entrance to the temple of the LORD the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun. They were in the court near the room of an official named Nathan-Melek. Josiah then burned the chariots dedicated to the sun. He pulled down the altars the kings of Judah had erected on the roof near the upper room of Ahaz, and the altars Manasseh had built in the two courts of the temple of the LORD. He removed them from there, smashed them to pieces and threw the rubble into the Kidron Valley. The king also desecrated the high places that were east of Jerusalem on the south of the Hill of Corruption—the ones Solomon king of Israel had built for Ashtoreth the vile goddess of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the vile god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the people of Ammon. Josiah smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles and covered the sites with human bones.’ 2 Kings 23:3-14

After the covenant was renewed with the people, everyone ‘pledged’ themselves to the covenant, 2 Chronicles 34:3-7 / 2 Chronicles 34:33. The K.J.V. uses the word, ‘stood’.

Coffman, in his commentary says the following.

‘This seems to be a reference to the ancient custom in the making or renewing of covenants, in which the parties to it passed between the portions of the sacrifice that accompanied such ceremonies, as in the instance of Abraham’s covenant, Genesis 15:17. In no sense was this the making of a new covenant, but the renewed promise of the people to perform their part of the one already in existence. The people’s standing to it may refer to their position between the portions of the sacrifice probably offered on that occasion.’

It was very important that everyone pledged to keep the covenant, as this would make it easier for Josiah to get the temple back for God’s use only.

It would make it easier to remove all those places of idol worship and to get rid of all the priests of Baal from the land, if they didn’t repent.

Baal and Asherah, worship was seriously promoted by Ahab and Jezebel and had been a problem in Israel for many years, 2 Kings 11:17-20 / 2 Kings 18:4-5 / 2 Kings 14:23-24 / 2 Kings 16:32. By the time Josiah became king, God’s temple had essentially become a place for Baal worship.

He took the Asherah pole, 2 Kings 21:7, and removed it not just from the temple but from Jerusalem burned it. Male and female prostitution was involved in Baal worship and so, he tore down the male shrine prostitutes, and the place where the women did weaving for Asherah, Ezekiel 8:14 / Ezekiel 16:16 / Amos 2:8 / Amos 5:26.

Notice that ‘the priests of the high places did not serve at the altar of the LORD.’ The reason they didn’t come was because their income came from those who worshiped in the high places. The Levites who had accepted positions at the high places were brought back to Jerusalem and maintained there, but they were never again accepted as true priests with access to the Lord’s altar, Ezekiel 44:10-14.

Josiah also desecrated the high places, remember God told Israel during the days of Joshua that these high places were to be totally destroyed, Numbers 33:52 / Leviticus 26:27-30. These structures which were originally built by Solomon were still in existence, this is some four hundred years later. Israel had obviously become entrapped in the worship of false gods and took pleasure in satisfying the sensual lusts through them.

There’s no doubt that Ahab was more than likely the first person to introduce human sacrifice the false god Molek, 2 Kings 16:3 / 2 Kings 19:1-9. No one knows where the ‘Hill of Corruption’ is located but some have suggested it’s a reference to the Mount of Olives which was located east of Jerusalem. Josiah totally destroys everything that had anything to do with Molek throughout the land.

‘Even the altar at Bethel, the high place made by Jeroboam son of Nebat, who had caused Israel to sin—even that altar and high place he demolished. He burned the high place and ground it to powder and burned the Asherah pole also. Then Josiah looked around, and when he saw the tombs that were there on the hillside, he had the bones removed from them and burned on the altar to defile it, in accordance with the word of the LORD proclaimed by the man of God who foretold these things. The king asked, ‘What is that tombstone I see?’ The people of the city said, ‘It marks the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and pronounced against the altar of Bethel the very things you have done to it.’ ‘Leave it alone,’ he said. ‘Don’t let anyone disturb his bones.’ So they spared his bones and those of the prophet who had come from Samaria. Just as he had done at Bethel, Josiah removed all the shrines at the high places that the kings of Israel had built in the towns of Samaria and that had aroused the LORD’s anger. Josiah slaughtered all the priests of those high places on the altars and burned human bones on them. Then he went back to Jerusalem.’ 2 Kings 23:15-20

Josiah continued in his restoration of the land by going beyond the borders of Judah to Bethel. It appears that he has now taken charge of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, since they have now been taken into captivity, 2 Kings 17:5-6.

The altar which was destroyed here was the altar that Jeroboam had originally built to encourage the northern tribes to stay away from Jerusalem.

The destroying of the altar was the fulfilment of God’s prophecy to Jeroboam, God’s prophet actually names Josiah as the one who would destroy it, 1 King 13:1-3 / 1 Kings 13:30-31.

Josiah was totally unaware of the fulfilment of the prophecy, but the citizens of the place, who remembered it well, told him about it. We read of the same kind of prophecy concerning the name of Cyrus, Isaiah 44:28-45:1.

Although there were many false prophets around before and during this time and many unrighteous kings before Josiah came to the throne, many of the priests remained faithful to God and His Word.

‘The king gave this order to all the people: ‘Celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.’ Neither in the days of the judges who led Israel nor in the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah had any such Passover been observed. But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, this Passover was celebrated to the LORD in Jerusalem.’ 2 Kings 23:21-23

Josiah now tells the people it’s time to celebrate the Passover according to how it was written in the Book of the Covenant, which implies they hadn’t celebrated the Passover correctly up until this point, Deuteronomy 16:1-8 / 2 Chronicles 35:1 / 2 Chronicles 35:18-19.

‘Furthermore, Josiah got rid of the mediums and spiritists, the household gods, the idols and all the other detestable things seen in Judah and Jerusalem. This he did to fulfil the requirements of the law written in the book that Hilkiah the priest had discovered in the temple of the LORD. Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.’ 2 Kings 23:24-25

Josiah is really making every effort to rid the land of anything which was sinful and idolatrous, especially those who teach falsehood. He takes this as serious as Elijah did when he opposed Ahab and Jezebel, 1 Kings 18:16-19.

He has the false prophets executed, which was the punishment for those who practiced these things, Leviticus 20:27. They were paramount in leading Israel away from God and leading them deep into idolatry.

Notice that Josiah was doing all of those reforms according to the commandments of God in the Books of Moses.

‘Nevertheless, the LORD did not turn away from the heat of his fierce anger, which burned against Judah because of all that Manasseh had done to arouse his anger. So the LORD said, ‘I will remove Judah also from my presence as I removed Israel, and I will reject Jerusalem, the city I chose, and this temple, about which I said, ‘My Name shall be there.’ 2 Kings 23:26-27

Despite this great restoration effort by Josiah, it appears that the damage was already done, everything which Manasseh did couldn’t be undone by Josiah. God was still angry with His people and promises that Judah will also be taken into captivity.

This may seem like a drastic reaction by God, especially in light of everything Josiah has done and is doing. However, God knows that the only way His people will be totally restored from their sinful behaviour is to be taken into captivity. History tells us that when God’s people returned from captivity, they learned their lesson and never committed idolatry again.

‘As for the other events of Josiah’s reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? While Josiah was king, Pharaoh Necho king of Egypt went up to the Euphrates River to help the king of Assyria. King Josiah marched out to meet him in battle, but Necho faced him and killed him at Megiddo. Josiah’s servants brought his body in a chariot from Megiddo to Jerusalem and buried him in his own tomb. And the people of the land took Jehoahaz son of Josiah and anointed him and made him king in place of his father.’ 2 Kings 23:28-30

Here we read of a conflict which took place near the end of Josiah’s reign, which involved him being killed, 2 Chronicles 35:20-36:1.

Pharaoh Necho of Egypt, wanted to come to the rescue of the Assyrians at Carchemish, but while he was on his way, Josiah engaged him in battle at Megiddo. It was during this period we find a world power struggle taking place between the Assyrians and the Babylonians.

That king of Assyria was Nabopolassar the father of Nebuchadnezzar and this pharaoh was Pharaoh-Necho II. The history of this event is very complex but Coffman in his commentary gives us a useful insight to it.

‘The Assyrian empire was in a state of collapse. Nineveh had fallen in 612 B.C., and Pharaoh-Necho was ambitious to succeed Assyria as the world ruler. It is not exactly clear why Josiah felt it necessary to challenge the king of Egypt, but he did, losing his life as a result. Yes, God had promised through Huldah that Josiah would die in peace, but it is sinful to allege the fact of his being killed in battle as ‘a contradiction’.

1. The ‘in peace’ of God’s promise may have referred to the fact that Jerusalem would not be under attack at the time of his death.

2. All of God’s promises are conditional, Jeremiah 18:7-10, and it is simply astounding how many learned men apparently remain ignorant of this simple truth. In the light of it, Josiah’s engagement of the king of Egypt in battle might have been contrary to God’s will, nullifying the promise altogether.

Jehoahaz King Of Judah

‘Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. His mother’s name was Hamutal daughter of Jeremiah; she was from Libnah. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, just as his predecessors had done. Pharaoh Necho put him in chains at Riblah in the land of Hamath so that he might not reign in Jerusalem, and he imposed on Judah a levy of a hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold. Pharaoh Necho made Eliakim son of Josiah king in place of his father Josiah and changed Eliakim’s name to Jehoiakim. But he took Jehoahaz and carried him off to Egypt, and there he died. Jehoiakim paid Pharaoh Necho the silver and gold he demanded. In order to do so, he taxed the land and exacted the silver and gold from the people of the land according to their assessments.; 2 Kings 23:31-35

Following the death of Josiah, Jehoahaz became king of Judah and reigned for only three months, before Pharaoh Necho put him in chains, 2 Chronicles 36:1-4. The Jeremiah mentioned here, Ezekiel 10:1-9, isn’t the prophet Jeremiah because he was from Anathoth, Jeremiah 1:1.

Jehoahaz was probably a throne name, for his personal name was Shallum, Jeremiah 22:11 / 1 Chronicles 3:15. His older brother was Eliakim.

When Pharaoh heard that they had made Jehoahaz king, he immediately sent a detachment of soldiers to Jerusalem and deposed of him and placed Eliakim on the throne, 2 Chronicles 36:3. Judah was now under the control of Egypt and they had to pay a heavy levy to Egypt for as long as they stayed under their control.

Jehoiakim King Of Judah

‘Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. His mother’s name was Zebidah daughter of Pedaiah; she was from Rumah. And he did evil in the eyes of the LORD, just as his predecessors had done.’ 2 Kings 23:36-37

Jehoiakim now becomes king of Judah at the age of twenty-five and he reigned for eleven years, 608 B.C. to 597 B.C. 2 Chronicles 36:5-8.

Although Judah was under Egypt’s control in the early part of his reign, later Judah would come under the control of the Babylonians, 2 Kings 23:34 / 2 Kings 24:1.

There’s no doubt that Jehoiakim was a very greedy king who oppressed God’s people. He was an idolater, he killed innocent people, introduced forced labour and was far from being a just king, Jeremiah 22:13-17. He even killed Uriah, God’s prophet for prophesying that Jerusalem is going to be destroyed, Jeremiah 26:20-23.

Go To 2 Kings 24

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