King Josiah's Rampage

Communism, like any other revealed religion, is largely made up of prophecies.
- H. L. Mencken

The Bible is full of threats against infidels. But since there is not such thing as a God to inflict those punishments, the job naturally goes to the political leaders. As anyone who understands politicians, lying to further their ends is part of the game. Josiah was one such politician. This story gives a lie to claims that the Bible was revealed by God in the divine sense. The Bible was inspired for political reasons.

According to the bible's chronology, King Josiah ruled Judah for 31 years 639-608 BCE. In his eighteenth year, a Torah scroll was discovered while renovating the Jerusalem temple that Solomon had built. After he had its authenticity "corroborated" by a prophetess, he went on a rampage to destroy all traces of pagan worship to the point of killing the pagan priests. The events are told in 2 Kings 22:1-23:30 and 2 Chronicles 34:1-35:27.

Richard Elliot Friedman in Who Wrote the Bible, makes a strong case that the scrolls were actually written beforehand by one of Josiah's Jewish priests. They include Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings. According to Friedman, the writer selected stories and other texts available to him, then edited them into order and added some comments and introductions.

Friedman goes on to explain that another editor updated the history from Josiah to the fall of Judah in 587 BCE. He kept 95 percent of the first edition and added the last two chapters to the book of 2 Kings.

Scholars call this unknown writer "D" for the way he uses the Deuteronomy law code as a standard for judging fidelity to God. The discovery episode was a ruse to legitimize Josiah's religious reforms under one god. These are some of the clues Friedman mentions that point to Josiah.

1. The D writer has Moses put the law code by the side of the Ark of the Covenant. It was not an issue for 600 years until Josiah's priest finds it. This tactic, in my view, makes for a convenient excuse to explain the lost scrolls and how they could have been updated since the time of Moses.

24When Moses had finished writing the words of this law in a book, to the very end,
25Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD,
26"Take this book of the law, and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against you. (Deut. 31:24-26)

2. To justify Josiah's outlawing of pagan worship, one of the first commandments in the Deuteronomy law code is to sacrifice to God in one place. This was unprecedented in the earlier history. I.e., the earlier kings and prophets demonstrated no knowledge of it.

5But you shall seek the place which the LORD your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there; thither you shall go,
6and thither you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the offering that you present, your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herd and of your flock; (Deut. 12:5-6)

3. He went as far as writing in a prophecy aimed at justifying Josiah's so-called reforms. In the passage below a man of God predicts the birth of Josiah who will kill the priests of the high places. The prophecy supposedly took place three hundred years before Josiah.

1And behold, a man of God came out of Judah by the word of the LORD to Bethel. Jeroboam was standing by the altar to burn incense.
2And the man cried against the altar by the word of the LORD, and said, "O altar, altar, thus says the LORD: 'Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and he shall sacrifice upon you the priests of the high places who burn incense upon you, and men's bones shall be burned upon you.'"
3And he gave a sign the same day, saying, "This is the sign that the LORD has spoken: 'Behold, the altar shall be torn down, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out.'" (1 Kings 13:1-3)

4. A give away to when the earlier text was written appears in the verse below which describes the poles used to carry the ark with the phrase "to this day." Friedman counts nine such phrases. Certainly it had to be written before the temple was destroyed.

8And the poles were so long that the ends of the poles were seen from the holy place before the inner sanctuary; but they could not be seen from outside; and they are there to this day. (1 Kings 8:8)

5. The "D" writer wrote the laws of Deuteronomy and used them as a standard for rating the kings of Israel and Judah as bad or good. Josiah got a top rating.

2And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. (2 Kings 22:2)

6. He went as far as saying there was no king like him, which would even rate him above David.

25Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him. (2 Kings 23:25)

Besides the similarity of the language, it is the sum of prophecy and praises that point to Josiah.

Josiah's Discovery

The Ark of the Covenant complete with the two tables of stone found their final resting place in the inner sanctuary of Solomon's temple. This was about 350 years before Josiah was born.

5And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered.
6Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the LORD to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim.
7For the cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim made a covering above the ark and its poles.
8And the poles were so long that the ends of the poles were seen from the holy place before the inner sanctuary; but they could not be seen from outside; and they are there to this day.
9There was nothing in the ark except the two tables of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. (1 Kings 8:5-9)

Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign. In the eighth year of his reign he began to seek the God of David. By the twelfth year of his reign he began purging Judah and Jerusalem of foreign god worship. He destroyed the high places, the Asherim, the graven and molten images, the incense altars and the altars of the Baals. Especially, he burned the bones of the priests on their altars.

1Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem.
2He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.
3For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father; and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the graven and the molten images.
4And they broke down the altars of the Baals in his presence; and he hewed down the incense altars which stood above them; and he broke in pieces the Asherim and the graven and the molten images, and he made dust of them and strewed it over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them.
5He also burned the bones of the priests on their altars, and purged Judah and Jerusalem.
6And in the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, and as far as Naphtali, in their ruins round about,
7he broke down the altars, and beat the Asherim and the images into powder, and hewed down all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel. Then he returned to Jerusalem. (2 Chron. 34:1-7)

In the eighteenth year of his reign, King Josiah sent Shaphan, his temple secretary, to Hilkiah the high priest to make sure that the temple workers are properly paid from collections. At that meeting, Hilkiah told Shaphan about his discovery. He had found the law in the temple. Shaphan brought the law to Josiah and read it to him.

8And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, "I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD." And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it.
10Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, "Hilkiah the priest has given me a book." And Shaphan read it before the king. (2 Kings 22: 8, 10)

When the king heard the words, he tore his clothes and commanded Shaphan and others to enquire about the words of this book. He was greatly concerned that his people have kindled the wrath of the Lord for not obeying it.

11And when the king heard the words of the book of the law, he rent his clothes.
12And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Micaiah, and Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king's servant, saying,
13"Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us." (2 Kings 22:11-13)

So Josiah's officers went to Huldah the prophetess. She told them to tell Josiah that the Lord will bring evil upon this place and its inhabitants, because they have forsaken him by worshipping other gods.

15And she said to them, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: 'Tell the man who sent you to me,
16Thus says the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read.
17Because they have forsaken me and have burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore my wrath will be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched. (2 Kings 22:15-17)

Tell Josiah that because he was penitent and humbled himself before the Lord, he shall go to his grave in peace and will not see the evil the Lord will bring upon this place. -According to 2 Kings 23:29-30 and 2 Chron. 35:23-24, he died a violent death.

18But as to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, thus shall you say to him, Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Regarding the words which you have heard,
19because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the LORD, when you heard how I spoke against this place, and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have rent your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, says the LORD.
20Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place.'" And they brought back word to the king. (2 Kings 22:18-20)

Josiah gathered the people of Judah and Jerusalem in front of the temple and read the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the temple. He vowed to keep Yahweh's commandments, testimonies and statues with all his heart and soul.

1Then the king sent, and all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem were gathered to him.
2And the king went up to the house of the LORD, and with him all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the priests and the prophets, all the people, both small and great; and he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant which had been found in the house of the LORD.
3And the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book; and all the people joined in the covenant. (2 Kings 23:1-3)

Josiah's rampage to centralize worship

He commanded his priests to clean the temple of vessels made for Baal, Asherah and the Host of Heaven, and burn them outside Jerusalem.

4And the king commanded Hilkiah, the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the threshold, to bring out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven; he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel. (2 Kings 23:4)

He disposed of idolatrous priests. -A euphemism for killed.

5And he deposed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places at the cities of Judah and round about Jerusalem; those also who burned incense to Baal, to the sun, and the moon, and the constellations, and all the host of the heavens. (2 Kings 23:5)

He brought the Asherah out of the temple and burned it to ashes. Then he cast the ashes upon the graves of the common people.

6And he brought out the Asherah from the house of the LORD, outside Jerusalem, to the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and beat it to dust and cast the dust of it upon the graves of the common people. (2 Kings 23:6)

He broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes.

7And he broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes which were in the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the Asherah. (2 Kings 23:7)

He evacuated the priests out of the cities of Judah and defiled the high places where they burned incense.

8And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beer-sheba; and he broke down the high places of the gates that were at the entrance of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on one's left at the gate of the city. (2 Kings 23:8)

The priests of the high places stayed away from the altar of Yahweh in Jerusalem.

9However, the priests of the high places did not come up to the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, but they ate unleavened bread among their brethren. (2 Kings 23:9)

He defiled Topheth so no one might burn his son or daughter to Molech.

10And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the sons of Hinnom, that no one might burn his son or his daughter as an offering to Molech. (2 Kings 23:10)

He removed the horses that previous kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun, and he burned the chariots of the sun.

11And he removed the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun, at the entrance to the house of the LORD, by the chamber of Nathan-melech the chamberlain, which was in the precincts; and he burned the chariots of the sun with fire. (2 Kings 23:11)

He destroyed the altars that King Ahaz and King Manasseh had made.

12And the altars on the roof of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the LORD, he pulled down and broke in pieces, and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron. (2 Kings 23:12)

He defiled the high places that King Solomon had made.

13And the king defiled the high places that were east of Jerusalem, to the south of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had built for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Sidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. (2 Kings 23:13)

He broke the pillars in pieces and cut down the Asherim, and filled their places with the bones of men. -From graves?

14And he broke in pieces the pillars, and cut down the Asherim, and filled their places with the bones of men. (2 Kings 23:14)

He destroyed the altar at Bethel that Jeroboam had built. -Jeroboam was the first king of the divided Israel.

15Moreover the altar at Bethel, the high place erected by Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, that altar with the high place he pulled down and he broke in pieces its stones, crushing them to dust; also he burned the Asherah. (2 Kings 23:15)

He took the bones from the tombs on the mount and burned them upon altar, and defiled it.

16And as Josiah turned, he saw the tombs there on the mount; and he sent and took the bones out of the tombs, and burned them upon the altar, and defiled it, according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who had predicted these things. (2 Kings 23:16)

There was a monument by the grave of a prophet from Samaria who predicted what he would do at the altar of Bethel. He ordered that his bones not be moved.

17Then he said, "What is yonder monument that I see?" And the men of the city told him, "It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and predicted these things which you have done against the altar at Bethel."
18And he said, "Let him be; let no man move his bones." So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet who came out of Samaria. (2 Kings 23:17-18)

He removed the shrines and high places in the cities of Samaria which the kings of Israel had made.

19And all the shrines also of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which kings of Israel had made, provoking the LORD to anger, Josiah removed; he did to them according to all that he had done at Bethel. (2 Kings 23:19)

And he killed the priests of the high places who where there, upon their altars, and burned the bones of men upon them.

20And he slew all the priests of the high places who were there, upon the altars, and burned the bones of men upon them. Then he returned to Jerusalem. (2 Kings 23:20)

He ordered that the Passover be instituted for the first time since it was abandoned in the days of the Judges.

21And the king commanded all the people, "Keep the passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this book of the covenant."
22For no such passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, or during all the days of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah; (2 Kings 23:21-22)

He put away the mediums and the wizards and the teraphim and the idols. -Meaning he killed them.

24Moreover Josiah put away the mediums and the wizards and the teraphim and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might establish the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the LORD. (2 Kings 23:24)

Despite Josiah's reforms, God's anger did not turn from the fierceness of his wrath because of the provocations by his grandfather Manasseh.

26Still the LORD did not turn from the fierceness of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked him. (2 Kings 23:26)

God promised to remove Judah as he had Israel.

27And the LORD said, "I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and I will cast off this city which I have chosen, Jerusalem, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there." (2 Kings 23:27)

As a result, Josiah was slain 13 years after his reforms by Pharaoh Neco at Megiddo.

29In his days Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt went up to the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates. King Josiah went to meet him; and Pharaoh Neco slew him at Megiddo, when he saw him.
30And his servants carried him dead in a chariot from Megiddo, and brought him to Jerusalem, and buried him in his own tomb. And the people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah, and anointed him, and made him king in his father's stead. (2 Kings 23:29-30)

Or did he die in Jerusalem?

23And the archers shot King Josiah; and the king said to his servants, "Take me away, for I am badly wounded."
24So his servants took him out of the chariot and carried him in his second chariot and brought him to Jerusalem. And he died, and was buried in the tombs of his fathers. All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah. (2 Chron. 35:23-24)

Huldah the prophetess falsely predicted he would die in peace.

20Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place.'" And they brought back word to the king. (2 Kings 22:20)

The irony is that after Josiah died, the Hebrews went back to pagan worship.

32And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his fathers had done. (2 Kings 23:32)

End