2 Kings 23

A Passionate King

When King Josiah heard the words from the prophetess, he called the elders of Judah and Jerusalem to assemble. The gathering turned out to be a national assembly. The King took his place in the courts of the temple, and he read the Book of the Covenant. King Josiah renewed the covenant before the Lord and the people. He promised to obey the Lord with all of his heart and soul, and the people agreed to do the same. Josiah ordered the priests and Levites to remove from the house of God all vessels made for and dedicated to any pagan deity. These things were burned in the Kidron Valley, and the ashes were carried to Bethel. King Josiah was determined to rid the land of idolatry and pagan worship. He deposed the priests of these false religions and destroyed icons, altars, idols, or anything associated with these pagan rituals. Things were burned to ash, crushed into powder and then sprinkled on graves. Josiah prevented the apostate Levitical priests that had been summoned to Jerusalem to approach the altar of God or to have any part of the temple ritual. In spite of Josiah’s efforts to reform the nation, the anger of God was not turned aside from Judah. At best, the reformation only gained a reprieve for Judah. God had determined to remove Judah “from his sight” just as he had removed Israel. When Jeroboam set up his altar, he in effect made that city a high place. The buildings connected with this high place were torn down by Josiah. From Israelite sepulchers, Josiah ordered human bones to be brought out and burned on the Bethel altar. By this action, he was unconsciously fulfilling the prophecy made by the unnamed man of God some three hundred years earlier. The king inquired about the significance of a pillar in the area of the tombs. He was told that this pillar marked the sepulcher of the man of God from Judah who had predicted the very things that Josiah had done to the altar. Josiah then ordered his soldiers to leave undisturbed that particular sepulcher and the bones of the two prophets that were buried inside. Josiah’s army roamed all over the territory of the northern kingdom destroying and defiling places of pagan worship and killing the pagan priests that served in these pagan shrines. King Josiah issued a decree that they would keep the Passover as prescribed in the book. Josiah faithfully obeyed the Lord as no king had in quite some time. However, judgment was coming, and King Josiah's reforms did not abate the Lord's anger and wrath toward their disobedience. His city and his house would be cast off because sin is costly. Pharaoh Neco of Egypt decided to intervene on behalf of Assyria, and his journey took him close to Palestine and through the pass at Megiddo. King Josiah went to Megiddo, determined to engage the army of Egypt in battle. This would prove to be a fatal mistake on the part of Josiah. Pharaoh killed him, and King Josiah's servants carried his corpse in a chariot back to Jerusalem where he was buried. 

New King, Same Problems

The people mourned their king and then made Josiah's son, Jehoahaz king in his father's place. Josiah's son did not walk in the ways of his father, and he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. Pharaoh Neco deposed the young king, deported him to Egypt, and imposed a heavy tribute on the land. The Pharaoh installed Jehoahaz's older brother Eliakim as king and gave him the name Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim taxed the land to offer tribute to Egypt. Jehoiakim was young when he began to reign, and he acted wickedly before the Lord.

Things To Consider:

  • Why did the king call the people for a solemn assembly?
  • Do you think we should still hold solemn assemblies? Why or why not?
  • Why is the scripture essential for repentance?
  • What kind of message do you think was communicated by the king when he renewed the covenant?
  • How can leaders today encourage others to repent?
  • Why should we act decisively and ruthlessly toward sin?
  • Is there a sinful pattern in your life that needs to be put to death?
  • Why would keeping the Passover be significant in light of the fact they had rediscovered God's word to Moses?
  • Why is Josiah still putting away idols? 
  • Why is repentance an ongoing practice in the life of a believer?
  • Why do you think God would not turn from his wrath?
  • What does this show us about God's character?
  • What can we learn about the gospel from this story?
  • Why do you think Josiah's sons acted wickedly when their father had been an example of obedience?