By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Old Testament Kings

  • Josiah was 8 years old when he became king, and he reigned for 31 years.
  • His story is told in 2 Kings 22:1-23:30 and 2 Chronicles 34:1-35:27.
  • Since he was only a boy, his mother, Jedidah, and pious men helped him stay on the right track.
  • "He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord."
  • He got serious about following the God of David when he was 16.
  • When he was 20, he attacked the idolatry of Judah and purged the country of all the "high places" - pagan altars.
  • His successes in Judah led him into the areas of Manasseh, Ephraim, as far north as Naphtali, where he instituted the same reforms. (During this period, the Ancient Near East was in a time of chaos. A barbaric, nomadic invasion by the Scythians occurred from the north (628-626BCE). They didn't do much with Judah, but they virtually wiped out the Assyrian threat that had dominated the area for 50 years. These are the same Assyrians who had conquered and destroyed the northern territories in 722BCE. With Assyria weakened, it opened the way for Josiah to reestablish a united kingdom of Israel, much like David had 300 years before. The western part of Assyria's empire was pretty much on its own, and Josiah took advantage of the situation.)
  • When he was 26, he began repairs on the temple.
  • Money came from both the north and the south and was given to the priests and Levites to complete the repairs.
  • Hilkiah, the high priest, found "the Book of the Law" (actually the Book of Deuteronomy) that had been given through Moses in the temple. (ca. 622BCE)
  • Hilkiah gave the book to Josiah's secretary, Shaphan, who read it to Josiah.
  • Josiah tore his robes when he heard parts of the book because he knew that despite his reforms, the country was still far off the mark in obeying God's commands.
  • He was so concerned that he insisted on verification that these truly were divine words.
  • The high priest and others went to the prophetess, Huldah, to verify the authenticity of the book and to inquire of the Lord's intention.
  • She told them that because Josiah had "humbled himself" and tried his best, the calamities foretold in the book would not happen during his lifetime.
  • Then the king read the entire book to all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem.
  • He renewed the covenant and made everyone pledge their faithfulness to it, acts that parallel the reforms of Hezekiah.
  • Josiah provided 30,000 sheep and 3,000 cattle for the Passover.
  • Many people from Israel were there to participate as well.
  • It was the first time the Passover had been celebrated like that since the days of Samuel.
  • Josiah changed the duties of the Levites. They no longer were to carry the Ark (which had its special place in the temple), but were to serve in the liturgy of the temple.
  • Just when everything was in order, Josiah made a huge mistake that would cost him his life.
  • The king of Egypt wanted passage through his land on his way to help Assyria.
  • Josiah refused and went out to meet him in battle.
  • The king told Josiah that he had no battle with him, that God was with the king, and that if he didn't cooperate, God would destroy Josiah.
  • Josiah turned a deaf ear to the king's warning and met him in battle.
  • Josiah wore a disguise, thinking that would keep him safe.
  • He was wounded in battle and died soon thereafter.
  • The moral of the Chronicler's story is that if the word of God is rejected, prior righteousness cannot keep one safe.
  • Jeremiah, the prophet, composed laments for Josiah.
  • With Josiah's death, any hope for a reunited Israel died as well.
  • Josiah was the last king before the exile.


Alter, Robert and Frank Kermode. The Literary Guide to the Bible. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press. 1987.

Mills, Watson and Richard Wilson. Mercer Commentary on the Bible. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1995

McConville, J.G. "I & II Chronicles." The Daily Study Bible Series. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1984.

Payne, J. Barton. "1, 2 Chronicles." The Expositor's Bible Commentary. Gaebelein, Frank, ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishers, 1988.

Tuell, Steven. "First and Second Chronicles." Interpretation. Atlanta: John Knox Press. 1996.

Brueggeman, Walter. "1 & 2 Kings." Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary. Macon, Georgia: Smyth & Helwys. 2000.

Provan, Iain. "1 and 2 Kings." New International Biblical Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995.

Auld, A.Graeme. "I & II Kings." The Daily Study Bible Series. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1986.

Nelson, Richard. "I & II Kings." Interpretation. Atlanta: John Knox Press. 1987.

Rice, Gene. "1 Kings, Nations Under God." The International Theological Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B Eerdmans, 1990.

Bible Characters