Josiah was one of the last kings of Judah, before exile in Babylon. He dedicated himself to serving God and tried to eliminate idolatry from his kingdom. King Josiah promoted the worship of God but his religious reforms did not have a lasting impact.
In Josiah’s time, Israel was divided into two kingdoms: Israel, to the north, and Judah, to the south, who continued with kings of David’s lineage. The kingdom of Israel had been conquered by the Assyrians and ceased to exist, while the kingdom of Judah grew weaker and weaker. At that time, a new superpower was gaining momentum: Babylon.
Josiah becomes king
Josiah was crowned king when he was eight years old, after his father was murdered. Her father and grandfather had been very bad kings, who had dedicated themselves to sin and idolatry, but Josiah was different. From a young age, he dedicated himself to serving God and decided to lead his people in obedience to God ( 2 Kings 22: 1-2 ).
In his 18th year as king, Josiah ordered the Jerusalem temple to be restored. During the restoration works, the high priest Hilquias found the Book of the Law of Moses and sent it to the king king. When the book was read before Josiah, he was very sorry for the sins of his people and sought God’s guidance ( 2 Kings 22: 11-13 ).
A prophetess named Hulda gave a message from God in response to Josiah’s search. The people of Judah were soon to be punished for their idolatry and their many sins, but not during Josiah’s reign. The king had humbled himself before God, so he would be spared the disgrace of his people ( 2 Kings 22: 18-20 ).
Also read: who were the kings of Israel and Judah?
Josiah’s religious reforms
After receiving the answer from God, King Josiah gathered the people of Judah and renewed his covenant with God. Everyone pledged to obey God, rejecting all other false gods. Josiah removed all idols from the temple of God and had a great Passover celebration, following the rules of the Law of Moses ( 2 Chronicles 35: 16-18 ).
In his campaign to eliminate idolatry from the country, Josiah destroyed many idolatrous altars built by his ancestors and expelled the pagan mediums and priests. He also ended the child sacrifice to the god Molech in a place called Tophet ( 2 Kings 23: 10-11 ).
Josiah went to Bethel, where the northern kingdom of Israel had its idolatrous worship center and destroyed the pagan altar. To desecrate the place, he even had the bones of the ancient pagan priests unearthed and burned on that altar ( 2 Kings 23: 15-16 ). Thus, he fulfilled a prophecy about that place, made a few generations earlier, about the king who would burn human bones and destroy the altar ( 1 Kings 13: 1-2 ).
Josiah dies in battle
After Josiah carried out his reforms, the king of Egypt passed close to his territory with his army, en route to a battle with the king of Assyria. Josiah decided to take on the Egyptian army, although this battle is not his. Pharaoh tried to convince Josiah to leave him alone, because he did not want to fight Judah, and warned him that God had sent him on this mission ( 2 Chronicles 35: 20-21 ). But Josias ignored the warning and went to the fight.
During the battle, King Josiah was wounded and was removed from the fight. He was taken back to Jerusalem, where he died of his injury. His reign had lasted 31 years. Josiah was buried and his death was mourned by his people. The prophet Jeremiah even wrote a song in his honor ( 2 Chronicles 35:25 ).