Bible Study 10.10.11, 10.13.11, 10.16.11 For Worship 10.23.11

Bible Study 10.10.11, 10.13.11, 10.16.11 For Worship 10.23

II Kings 22:1-13; 23:1-30

II Kings 22:1  Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath.

2  And 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.

3  In the eighteenth year of King Josiah, the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, son of Meshullam, the secretary, to the house of the LORD, saying,

4  “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may reckon the amount of the money which has been brought into the house of the LORD, which the keepers of the threshold have collected from the people;

5  and let it be given into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD; and let them give it to the workmen who are at the house of the LORD, repairing the house,

6  that is, to the carpenters, and to the builders, and to the masons, as well as for buying timber and quarried stone to repair the house.

7  But no accounting shall be asked from them for the money which is delivered into their hand, for they deal honestly.”

8  And 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.

9  And Shaphan the secretary came to the king, and reported to the king, “Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD.”

10  Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king.

11  And when the king heard the words of the book of the law, he rent his clothes.

12  And 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.”

23:1  Then the king sent, and all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem were gathered to him.

2  And 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.

3 And 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.

4  And 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.

5  And 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.

6  And 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.

7  And 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.

8  And 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.

9  However, 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.

10  And 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.

11  And 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.

12  And 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.

13  And 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.

14  And he broke in pieces the pillars, and cut down the Asherim, and filled their places with the bones of men.

15  Moreover 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.

16  And 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.

17  Then 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.”

18  And 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.

19  And 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.

20  And 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.

21  And the king commanded all the people, “Keep the passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this book of the covenant.”

22  For 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;

23  but in the eighteenth year of King Josiah this passover was kept to the LORD in Jerusalem.

24  Moreover 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.

25  Before 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.

26  Still the LORD did not turn from the fierceness of his great wrath, by which his anger was C

27  And 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.”

28  Now the rest of the acts of Josiah, and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?

29  In 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.

30  And 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.

COMMENTARY

Josiah next to David is celebrated as the most faithful of all the Kings of Judah.  Josiah’s father was noted as a particularly idolatrous and wicked King, but he died when Josiah was only eight and the education of the young King was taken over by an alliance of prophets and Chief Priests who were interested in reform.  Probably before Josiah there had never been a pure worship of Yahweh only.  The Israelites had worshipped a whole array of Canaanite gods in addition to their own Tribal God Yahweh.  If we read carefully the reforms made by Josiah the Temple was full of idolatrous practices.  Both male and female cult prostitutes were housed in the Temple.  Idols to the Canaanite fertility gods and goddess were set up in the temple.  There were even altars in and around Jerusalem set up for child sacrifice.

We don’t know if the chroniclers of Josiah’s court were exaggerating the extent of the idolatry.  We also cannot be sure whether Josiah’s suppression of idolatry was as thorough as the chroniclers reported.  The text indicates Josiah killed the priests of the cultic center in Bethel, and the other high places in Israel.  The King also desecrated all other cult centers except for Jerusalem.  While the prophetic and priestly writers credit Josiah with pious religious motivations in conducting his reforms, a more political interpretation can be applied to Josiah’s actions.  Josiah wanted to use a more strict observance of monotheism as a way of changing the culture and consolidating power in the monarchy.  The Northern Kingdom of Israel had been devastated by the Assyrians, and the Southern Kingdom of Judah was try to extend their hegemony over former areas of the Northern Kingdom, specifically Samaria, Bethel, Shechem, Megiddo and the Jezreel Valley.  Josiah may even have tried to extend his influence into the Upper Galilee as far North as Hazor.  Dan and the far Northern reaches of Israel had long since been lost.  But Judah enjoyed a period of expansion, when Egypt was still relatively weak and Babylon was only just beginning to stir in the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys.  Was Josiah truly pious, or was he pursuing religious policy that would make Jerusalem the only place in the entire land where sacrifices could be offered, and only to Yahweh, who was a very special god for the House of David?  We don’t know the answer.  And while Josiah’s record has been criticized for being too intolerant, we have to wonder, if Josiah had not conducted a campaign to eliminate the worship of all other gods, whether or not the Jews would ever have developed monotheism?

Let’s take a few minutes to go back and examine the text.  In the opening verses Josiah had reached the age of majority, 18, and he ordered a refurbishing of the Temple.  This suggests that the priests had been influential in his education.  In chapter 22 verse 8 Hilkiah the High Priest reveals to Shaphan the Kings scribe that workmen have found a scroll hidden in the floor of the temple.  We believe that the mysterious scroll contained most of the contents of our Book of Deuteronomy, and other Priestly materials encouraging strict observance of monotheism with no tolerance for idolatry or gods other than Yahweh.

The fascinating and unanswerable question is, who was the author of the scroll and from what time period did it come?  Deuteronomy purports to be written by Moses, but more probably this scroll was written by a Priest or Prophet much later.  Did Hilkiah or Isaiah or some other priest or prophet write the scroll, and then “plant” the scroll to be found in the temple?  If the scroll was written before the time of Josiah and hidden, a good explanation would be someone, maybe Isaiah writing the scroll during the reforms of Hezekiah and then hiding the scroll during the reign of Mannaseh, who turned to idolatry in a big way.

In Chapter 23 we learn that both Baal and Ashtoreth, two Canaanite fertility gods were worshipped in the Jerusalem Temple.  We also discover that male and female prostitutes were part of that worship.  We also discover in chapter 23 verse 10 that the god Molech was being worshipping in the Hinnom Valley just South of Jerusalem, where live children where sacrificed as burnt offerings to the Moabite god of war.  We can ask ourselves, should Josiah have been more tolerant of infant sacrifice?

We also find in chapter 23:21 Josiah issuing orders that the Passover should be celebrated in accordance with the prescriptions found in the scroll discovered in the Temple.  The Chroniclers even note  in verse 22: “For 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. . .”  Even King David the faithful follower of Yahweh did not keep the Passover.  It is hard to imagine that the Passover celebration so central to the faith of the Jews by the time of Jesus, wasn’t celebrated from the time of David until Josiah, at least 400 years.  We might also be suspicious whether the Passover was ever celebrated before the time of Josiah.

In Chapter 23 verses 29 and 30 we come to the curious end of Josiah.  When Josiah was about the age of 39, Babylon began to consolidate its power in the Eastern fertile crescent, in the land between the two rivers.  The Egyptian Empire was also beginning to rebuild.  So Pharaoh Necco decided that the best defense was a good offense.  He would march his army to the head waters of the great rivers and there try to engage the upstart Babylonian Empire.  The Egyptian army would have to march through territory, the Jezreel Valley, where Josiah had just recently extended his hegemony.

Pharaoh Necco asked permission, but Josiah refused and raised an army to contest the Egyptian’s passage through his territory.  Taking his army to the fortress of Megiddo, Josiah waited for the Egyptians to march passed the fortress.  If the Hebrews didn’t come out of the fortress Pharaoh would have continued on.  But Josiah marched his soldiers out of Megiddo, and the Egyptians vastly out numbering the Israelites lined up to do battle. The Egyptian archers found Josiah in his chariot, and a rain of arrows fell on the Israelite King.  Mortally wounded Josiah’s charioteer drove him up the ramp and into the City where Good King Josiah died of his wounds.  The Hebrew army was routed, and Pharaoh Necco proceeded to the Battle of Carchemish, where his forces were routed.  The Babylonians would become the next great Empire in the Fertile Crescent.

It was a great mystery to the Prophetic Chroniclers of Israel, that the King who did the most to suppress idolatry should have should have been killed in battle, rather than illustriously defeating his enemies.  They reasoned that despite Josiah’s goodness, God was too angry with Judah to allow them to go unpunished, and so Jerusalem would be destroyed and much of its population taken away into slavery.  Even if Josiah was a very good King, we can learn from his example that piety does not win battles.  When you are the little dog on the block, stay out of the way of the big dogs.

LET’S ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT

1. How old was Josiah, when he ascended the throne?

2. What project did the King initiate, when he was 18?

3. Where did the money come from for the project?

4. What does Hilkiah the High Priest report he has found in the Temple?

5. What was Josiah’s response to the finding in the Temple?

6. Why did Josiah initiate a reform in Judah’s religious life?

7. What reforms did Josiah make in the Temple in Jerusalem?

8. What were some of the other gods that were being worshipped in Judah?

9. What was Josiah’s attitude toward child sacrifice?

10. What actions did Josiah take at religious shrines outside of Jerusalem?

11. Who had erected an altar at Bethel that Josiah dismantled?

12. What religious holiday observance did Josiah initiate?

13. How did Josiah meet his end?

LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US

1. In your own opinion do you think the High Priest planted the scroll, or do you think someone else hid it there, and then the workmen found it?

2. How important do you think the discovery of that scroll was to our faith today?

3. Do you think Josiah could have been more tolerant?

4. What do you think is the attraction of worshipping sex and money?

5. Do you think Josiah was primarily inspired by piety or a desire to consolidate power?

6. Are there any “religious” practices you think should not be tolerated?  Eg. Infant sacrifice, ritual prostitution, fertility cults, animal sacrifice, worshipping idols.

7. Do you think Josiah could have carried out his religious reforms without killing the idolatrous priests?

8. Where would Christian Faith be if Josiah had not initiated the observance of Passover?

9. Despite Josiah’s attempts to reform Israel’s faith, why do you think he met with disaster in the end?

10. Despite Josiah’s attempts to reform Israel’s faith, the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and took many of the Jews into exile.  Do you think that was an expression of God’s anger, or do you think there were other reasons for Israel’s abject defeat?

 



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