2 Kings 22:1-20
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…
Josiah was eight years old, etc. There are two subjects in this chapter that arrest our attention, and which are fertile with suggestions.
I. A MONARCH OF RARE VIRTUE. "Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem," etc. In this monarch we discover four distinguished merits.
1. Religiousness of action. "He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord." This is the testimony of the historian, whoever he may be, and we are further told, "Josiah walked in all the way of David his father." Elsewhere we have given the biblical account of David's life. From that account it might, perhaps, be questioned whether to "walk in the way of David" was a morally creditable life. But undoubtedly in the opinion of this writer, Josiah was a man whose activity was inspired, by true religious feeling. Here we find him providing for the repairs of the temple. And it came to pass in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, that the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, the scribe, to the house of the Lord, saying, Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may sum the silver which is brought into the house of the Lord, which the keepers of the door have gathered of the people: and let them deliver it into the hand of the doers of the work, that have the oversight of the house of the Lord: and let them give it to the doers of the work which is in the house of the Lord, to repair the breaches of the house." The king who provides for the religions instruction and worship of his people proves thereby that he is under the influence of the religious sentiment. In repairing the temple, Josiah honors his people, not only by allowing, but by encouraging them to co-operate with him in the noble work. He coerces none; all were left free, and they did their work honestly and honorably. "Howbeit there was no reckoning made with them of the money that was delivered into their hand, because they dealt faithfully."
2. Docility of mind. "And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, 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. And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought the king word again. And Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king. And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the Law, that he rent his clothes." What book was this? Old time buries the choicest books; volumes that once moved the intellects and fired the hearts of men are sunk in the black waves of oblivion. In all probability the book here was the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses. A copy of this, it seems, having been laid beside the ark in the most holy place (Deuteronomy 31:25, 26), had been lost, and now, during the repairing of the temple, it was discovered. Was this a Divine book? If so, why should its Author have suffered it to have been lost, perhaps for generations? A human author, had he the power to prevent it, would not suffer his productions to meet with such a fate. But the thoughts of God are independent of books; they are not only written on the pages of nature, but in imperishable characters on the souls of men. But how did Josiah act towards this discovered book? Did he reject it, or was he indifferent to it? No. "It came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the Law, that he rent his clothes." Herein how unlike is this man, not only to ordinary mortals, but also to ordinary kings! How many kings have been ready to receive new light? Are they not for the most part so mailed in traditions and prejudices as to render the admission of a new truth well-nigh impossible? If the modern occupants of thrones would but universally open their eyes to those old truths of eternal right which come flashing from their graves, all oppressions would cease, and kingdoms would march on to freedom and. light. "Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth."
3. Tenderness of heart. See how the discovery of the book affected him. "He rent his clothes." It is also said, in ver. 19, "Thine heart was tender." Sensibility of heart gives life, worth, and power to intellect. Where sensibility and intellect are not in their due proportion, the character is defective. Where the sensibility is stronger than the intellect, the man is likely to become a morbid pietist or a reckless fanatic. Where the intellect is stronger in proportion to the sensibility, the man is likely to become a cold theorist, living in the frigid abstractions of his own brain. But where both are properly combined, you have a man fit for great things. A man who, if he be a friend, will give counsels that will tell alike on your understanding and heart. Sensibility feathers the arrows of argument, gives poetry and power to thought.
4. Actualization of conviction. When this discovered document came under Josiah's attention, and its import was realized, he was seized with a conviction that he, his fathers, and his people, had disregarded, and even outraged, the written precepts of Heaven. He exclaims, "Great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us." With this new conviction burning within him, wharf does he do? Does he strive to quench it? or does he allow it to burn itself out without any effort on his part? No; he at once commands his servants to make an effort on behalf of himself and his people. "Go ye, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found." The new emotions that rushed into his tender heart prompted him to seek immediate counsel how to avert the curses under which his kingdom lay. They obeyed his behests. "So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asahiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college); and they communed with her. And she said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you to me, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the King of Judah hath read: because they have forsaken me, etc. (vers. 14-18). Here the prophetess spoke the universal sentiment of mankind, viz. that where wrong is, suffering must follow. All experience, all history, attests the truth of the sentiment. But the noteworthy point here is that this tender-hearted man translated his emotions into actions. He did not allow his new feelings to pass away as the morning cloud, nor did he expend them in sentimental sighs and groans. Well would it be for all men if they acted thus; for this, in truth, is the only method of spiritual progress. It is only as men embody true thoughts and feelings in actions that they rise to true manhood.
II. A GOD OF RETRIBUTIVE JUSTICE. Such a God the prophetess here reveals. "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you to me, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the King of Judah hath read." The government over us, and to which we are bound with chains stronger than adamant, is retributive; it never allows evil to go unpunished. It links in indissoluble bonds sufferings to sin. Sorrows follow sin by a law as immutable and resistless as the waves follow the moon. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." In this retribution
(1) the wicked are treated with severity, and
(2) the good are treated with favor.
In the name of God this prophetess declares concerning Josiah, "As touching the words which thou hast heard; because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the Lord, when thou heartiest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee, saith the Lord. Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place." Though righteous judgments were soon to descend upon his country on account of its manifold and heinous sins, he, Josiah, who had proved faithful amongst the faithless, would be spared the terrible storm. He should neither feel it nor see it; his body would be sleeping in the quiet grave, and his spirit be gathered to his "fathers," with all the true men of past times. We are prone to think of death as an evil; it is an event that often appalls us with the ghastly aspects that it assumes before our imagination. There are circumstances that make it appear especially sad. For example: when a man like Josiah, of immense influence for good, dies in the zenith of life, and in the midst of usefulness, we deem it an occasion of special sadness. But it is not so, either to the man himself or to his generation. He is taken away from the evil that is coming, and the circumstance of his death, and the loss caused by his departure, tend to rouse his contemporaries to serious and salutary thought. Death is no respecter of persons. The Divine government of the world is like a stream that rolls under us; men are only as bubbles that rise to its surface; some are brighter and larger, and sparkle longer in the sun than others: but all must break, whilst the mighty current rolls on in its wonted majesty. We are shadows, and following shadows. There is nothing real but God. - D.T.
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.