2 Kings 22:1-7
Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Jedidah…
The reign of Josiah affords another example of the law of action and reaction in national life. Dr. R. Payne Smith says, "The nation itself had gradually swung round, as nations now do, and had begun to be as dissatisfied with Baal and Moloch as their fathers had been with Jehovah" ('Introduction to Jeremiah'); and Dean Stanley remarks, "The popular election which placed Josiah on the throne, of itself marks some strong change of public feeling" ('Jewish Church,' vol. 2. p. 435). It is safer, however, to infer this change in public feeling from the support afterwards given to Josiah in his measures of reform, than from the mere fact of his accession; for as yet his disposition was quite uncertain. The craving for a change of some kind, with a secret weariness of the policy and extreme doings of the pagan party, had perhaps more to do with the young king's popularity than any real desire to serve Jehovah.
I. THREE BEGINNINGS.
1. The beginning of a reign. Josiah was but a boy of eight years old when he was placed upon the throne. At this age he was in danger, like his grandfather Manasseh, of being a mere puppet in the hands of the godless aristocracy. But God's providence seems to have watched over Josiah, and to have caused some care to be taken to guide the young king right. The queen-mother, Jedidah ("the beloved of God"), daughter of Adiah ("the honored of God"), may perhaps have deserved her lofty name, and given her boy the priceless benefit of a godly mother's example and counsels" (Geikie). She may even have acted as regent during his minority, and in that capacity have gathered around her the worthy persons who afterwards figure in the narrative, Shaphan the scribe, etc.
2. The beginning of grace. Josiah from the first must have shown good dispositions, and a willingness to be guided and taught by godly counselors. But it is to the eighth year of his reign, that is, his sixteenth year, that the Book of Chronicles attributes the first decided evidence of his determination to seek Jehovah. "For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek after the God of David his father' (2 Chronicles 34:3). From this period his career seems to have been a singularly straightforward and consistent one: "He walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left." What led to this decision in his eighth year we cannot tell. The age at which he had now arrived marks the time about which independent thought commonly begins; possibly some increase of responsibility led him to deeper reflection; it may well be that his mind had long been secretly brooding on religion, and he now took some public step which showed decidedly which side he was on. Nothing seems so beautiful as early piety. A character like Josiah's appearing after reigns like those of Manasseh and Amon is as a snowdrop at the close of winter. It is the piety which begins early that lasts longest, and shows the most blameless record. Beautiful in all, early grace is specially beautiful in those who occupy high positions, and are destined to exercise a wide influence. With many young men the sixteenth year of life is a turning-point in a different direction. Josiah then "began" to seek the Lord. Too often it is the period when the restraints of home religion are thrown off, and young men "begin" to think and act for themselves in forbidden ways.
3. The beginning of reforms. The chronicler gives us another date, viz. the twelfth year of Josiah's reign, as that in which he began to effect a religious reformation in the land. "In the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the Asherim, and the graven images, and the molten images," etc. He was then twenty years of age, and the reforms mentioned, though begun in that year, extended on till after his eighteenth year. He had probably to begin cautiously, dealing with the more obvious abuses, and gradually feeling his way to bolder changes. A strong party, no doubt, were opposed to his reforms, and it is difficult to say how far they had advanced before the repair of the temple and the finding of the Law-book. The narratives of neither Chronicles nor Kings adhere strictly to chronological order, but we may suppose that before the projected repairs on the temple building were undertaken, both "the land and the house" had been purged of their worst abominations (2 Chronicles 34:8). The Baal-altars, idols, and Asherim would be removed; idolatrous worship on the high places stepped, though the people may still have sacrificed on them, as in the latter days of Manasseh, "yet unto the Lord their God only" (2 Chronicles 33:17); the sacrifices to Moloch in the valley of Hinnom put an end to. If this was so, it is certain that the temple, in which the worship of Jehovah, with a priest like Hilkiah at its head, had been restored, would not be left uncleared of its Baal-images, its horses of the sun, its prostitutes, etc. (2 Kings 23:6, 7, 11). Things, in short, would be brought back to the state in which they had been left at Manasseh's death (2 Chronicles 33:15-18). This Josiah might safely attempt, though passages in the prophets show that much idolatry still remained. Earnest religion invariably brings forth its appropriate fruits in zeal for the honor of God, the purification of his worship, and the purging away of evils and abuses.
II. THE EIGHTEENTH YEAR. Hitherto, whatever Josiah had done had been more or less the result of his individual action. The conscience of the nation had not been touched, nor had any enthusiasm been awakened in favor of the new reforms. On the contrary, these had probably aroused not a little bitterness and sullen hostility. At the head of this narrative in Kings, therefore, is placed the date of "the eighteenth year of King Josiah," when the movement enters on an altogether new phase, and swells to national dimensions. The immediate occasion of this change was the finding of the Law-book in the temple, and this again was owing to the repairs which the king had ordered to be executed on the sacred edifice. Glancing at present only at the narrative of these repairs on the temple, we find that they were:
1. Much healed. There is no record of repairs on the temple since the days of King Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29:3). In the interval the building had frequently suffered from total neglect, and idolatrous kings had made changes in its structure to suit their own purposes. There were "breaches' to repair (ver. 5), roofs to fit with "beams' (2 Chronicles 34:11), and much carpentry and mason work to do with timber and hewn stone throughout the house. It is strange how indifferent those who dwell in their own "ceiled houses" can often be to the state of the house wherein God is worshipped (Haggai 1:4). It is the sign of a true zeal for God when there is a proper desire shown to maintain even the outer fabric of ecclesiastical buildings in a decent condition of repair. 2 Already collected .for. The means for executing the repairs on the Lord's house had been obtained by voluntary collections at the door of the temple. It is by the king's order, sent through Shaphan the scribe to Hilkiah the high priest, to sum up the money which had been thus gathered, that the matter first comes before us in the narrative. These collections from the peoples which must have been going on for some time, show that the worship of Jehovah was now regularly conducted. They also afford us a lesson as to the mode of meeting the expense connected with church building and repairs.
(1) The money was raised before the repairs were commenced. This was a sound principle, and, if more frequently acted upon, would save a good deal of trouble with Church debt. The temple was sorely in need of repair, and it might have been pleaded that the case was too urgent to admit of delay till the money was collected. It was resolved, however, to collect the money before a single workman was put upon the building.
(2) It was raised by voluntary, subscription. The people were not taxed, or forced in any way, to give this money. It was their own free-will offering. Yet apparently the sums required were raised without difficulty. The modern Church expedients of bazaars, etc., are surely inferior to this Old Testament plan. If the appeal to voluntary liberality sometimes does not yield all that we could wish, it is, on the whole, the surest source of income to rely on, and reacts, as no other does, on the heart of the giver.
3. After a good precedent. Alike in the collecting of the money, the distribution to the workmen, and the reliance placed in the fidelity of the overseers, those in charge of this business seem to have followed closely the precedents of the reign of Joash. It is good to learn from those who have gone before us. - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath.