Josiah (Chronicles)

2 Chronicles 34–35

Persian Period, Late 6th–4th Century BCE

The Great Reform and the Discovery of the Scroll

Chapter 34

1Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. 2He did what was pleasing to the Lord, following the ways of his father David without deviating to the right or to the left. 3In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the shrines, the sacred posts, the idols, and the molten images. 4At his bidding, they demolished the altars of the Baals, and he had the incense stands above them cut down; he smashed the sacred posts, the idols, and the images, ground them into dust, and strewed it onto the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. 5He burned the bones of priests on their altars and purged Judah and Jerusalem. 6In the towns of Manasseh and Ephraim and Simeon, as far as Naphtali, [lying] in ruins on every side, 7he demolished the altars and the sacred posts and smashed the idols and ground them into dust; and he hewed down all the incense stands throughout the land of Israel. Then he returned to Jerusalem.

8In the eighteenth year of his reign, after purging the land and the House, he commissioned Shaphan son of Azaliah, Maaseiah the governor of the city, and Joah son of Joahaz the recorder to repair the House of the Lord his God. 9They came to the high priest Hilkiah and delivered to him the silver brought to the House of God, which the Levites, the guards of the threshold, had collected from Manasseh and Ephraim and from all the remnant of Israel and from all Judah and Benjamin and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 10They delivered it into the custody of the overseers who were in charge at the House of the Lord, and the overseers who worked in the House of the Lord spent it on examining and repairing the House. 11They paid it out to the artisans and the masons to buy quarried stone and wood for the couplings and for making roof-beams for the buildings that the kings of Judah had allowed to fall into ruin. 12The men did the work honestly; over them were appointed the Levites Jahath and Obadiah, of the sons of Merari, and Zechariah and Meshullam, of the sons of Kohath, to supervise; while other Levites, all the master musicians, 13were over the porters, supervising all who worked at each and every task; some of the Levites were scribes and officials and gatekeepers.

14As they took out the silver that had been brought to the House of the Lord, the priest Hilkiah found a scroll of the Lord’s Teaching given by Moses. 15Hilkiah spoke up and said to the scribe Shaphan, “I have found a scroll of the Teaching in the House of the Lord”; and Hilkiah gave the scroll to Shaphan. 16Shaphan brought the scroll to the king and also reported to the king, “All that was entrusted to your servants is being done; 17they have melted down the silver that was found in the House of the Lord and delivered it to those who were in charge, to the overseers.” 18The scribe Shaphan also told the king, “The priest Hilkiah has given me a scroll”; and Shaphan read from it to the king. 19When the king heard the words of the Teaching, he tore his clothes. 20The king gave orders to Hilkiah, and Ahikam son of Shaphan, and Abdon son of Micah, and the scribe Shaphan, and Asaiah the king’s minister, saying, 21“Go, inquire of the Lord on my behalf and on behalf of those who remain in Israel and Judah concerning the words of the scroll that has been found, for great indeed must be the wrath of the Lord that has been poured down upon us because our fathers did not obey the word of the Lord and do all that is written in this scroll.”

22Hilkiah and those whom the king [had ordered] went to the prophetess Huldah, wife of Shallum son of Tokhath son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe, who was living in Jerusalem in the Mishneh, and spoke to her accordingly. 23She responded to them: “Thus said the Lord God of Israel: Say to the man who sent you to Me, 24‘Thus said the Lord: I am going to bring disaster upon this place and its inhabitants—all the curses that are written in the scroll that was read to the king of Judah—25because they forsook Me and made offerings to other gods in order to vex Me with all the works of their hands; My wrath shall be poured out against this place and not be quenched.’ 26But say this to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the Lord: ‘Thus said the Lord God of Israel: As for the words which you have heard, 27since your heart was softened and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words concerning this place and its inhabitants, and you humbled yourself before Me and tore your clothes and wept before Me, I for My part have listened, declares the Lord. 28Assuredly, I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be laid in your grave in peace; your eyes shall see nothing of the disaster that I will bring upon this place and its inhabitants.’” They reported this back to the king.

29Then the king sent word and assembled all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 30The king went up to the House of the Lord with all the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the priests and the Levites— all the people, young and old—and he read to them the entire text of the covenant scroll that was found in the House of the Lord. 31The king stood in his place and solemnized the covenant before the Lord: to follow the Lord and observe His commandments, His injunctions, and His laws with all his heart and soul, to fulfill all the terms of the covenant written in this scroll. 32He obligated all the men of Jerusalem and Benjamin who were present; and the inhabitants of Jerusalem acted in accord with the Covenant of God, God of their fathers. 33Josiah removed all the abominations from the whole territory of the Israelites and obliged all who were in Israel to worship the Lord their God. Throughout his reign they did not deviate from following the Lord God of their fathers.

The Passover Celebration

Chapter 35

1Josiah kept the Passover for the Lord in Jerusalem; the passover sacrifice was slaughtered on the fourteenth day of the first month. 2He reinstated the priests in their shifts and rallied them to the service of the House of the Lord. 3He said to the Levites, consecrated to the Lord, who taught all Israel, “Put the Holy Ark in the House that Solomon son of David, king of Israel, built; as you no longer carry it on your shoulders, see now to the service of the Lord your God and His people Israel, 4and dispose yourselves by clans according to your divisions, as prescribed in the writing of King David of Israel and in the document of his son Solomon, 5and attend in the Sanctuary, by clan divisions, on your kinsmen, the people—by clan divisions of the Levites. 6Having sanctified yourselves, slaughter the passover sacrifice and prepare it for your kinsmen, according to the word of God given by Moses.” 7Josiah donated to the people small cattle—lambs and goats, all for passover sacrifices for all present—to the sum of 30,000, and large cattle, 3,000—these from the property of the king. 8His officers gave a freewill offering to the people, to the priests, and to the Levites. Hilkiah and Zechariah and Jehiel, the chiefs of the House of God, donated to the priests for passover sacrifices 2,600 [small cattle] and 300 large cattle. 9Conaniah, Shemaiah, and Nethanel, his brothers, and Hashabiah and Jeiel and Jozabad, officers of the Levites, donated 5,000 [small cattle] and 500 large cattle to the Levites for passover sacrifices.

10The service was arranged well: the priests stood at their posts and the Levites in their divisions, by the king’s command. 11They slaughtered the passover sacrifice and the priests [received its blood] from them and dashed it, while the Levites flayed the animals. 12They removed the parts to be burnt, distributing them to divisions of the people by clans, and making the sacrifices to the Lord, as prescribed in the scroll of Moses; they did the same for the cattle. 13They roasted the passover sacrifice in fire, as prescribed, while the sacred offerings they cooked in pots, cauldrons, and pans, and conveyed them with dispatch to all the people. 14Afterward they provided for themselves and the priests, for the Aaronite priests were busy offering the burnt offerings and the fatty parts until nightfall, so the Levites provided both for themselves and for the Aaronite priests. 15The Asaphite singers were at their stations, by command of David and Asaph and Heman and Jeduthun, the seer of the king; and the gatekeepers were at each and every gate. They did not have to leave their tasks, because their Levite brothers provided for them. 16The entire service of the Lord was arranged well that day, to keep the Passover and to make the burnt offerings on the altar of the Lord, according to the command of King Josiah. 17All the Israelites present kept the Passover at that time, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days. 18Since the time of the prophet Samuel, no Passover like that one had ever been kept in Israel; none of the kings of Israel had kept a Passover like the one kept by Josiah and the priests and the Levites and all Judah and Israel there present and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 19That Passover was kept in the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah.

The Death of Josiah

20After all this furbishing of the Temple by Josiah, King Necho of Egypt came up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah went out against him. 21[Necho] sent messengers to him, saying, “What have I to do with you, king of Judah? I do not march against you this day but against the kingdom that wars with me, and it is God’s will that I hurry. Refrain, then, from interfering with God who is with me, that He not destroy you.” 22But Josiah would not let him alone; instead, he donned [his armor] to fight him, heedless of Necho’s words from the mouth of God; and he came to fight in the plain of Megiddo. 23Archers shot King Josiah, and the king said to his servants, “Get me away from here, for I am badly wounded.” 24His servants carried him out of his chariot and put him in the wagon of his second-in-command, and conveyed him to Jerusalem. There he died, and was buried in the grave of his fathers, and all Judah and Jerusalem went into mourning over Josiah. 25Jeremiah composed laments for Josiah which all the singers, male and female, recited in their laments for Josiah, as is done to this day; they became customary in Israel and were incorporated into the laments. 26The other events of Josiah’s reign and his faithful deeds, in accord with the Teaching of the Lord, 27and his acts, early and late, are recorded in the book of the kings of Israel and Judah.


Reprinted from Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures by permission of the University of Nebraska Press. Copyright 1985 by the Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia.

Published in: The Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization, vol. 1.

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