Today’s reading: 2 Kings 23-25.
Not even a great king, Josiah, could atone for all the failings of the Israelites. Eighteen years into his reign of thirty-one years, workers in the temple discovered the book of the Mosaic law. How many years had it been lost, unread, and unheeded? Josiah ordered the observance of the Passover, and the writer says no Passover celebration like it had been held since the time of the judges (six hundred years earlier). Josiah also removed all the idolatrous practices in the land of Judah. It’s a long list:
- From the temple itself, he removed articles devoted to the worship of Baal, Asherah, and the starry hosts, including an Asherah pole.
- He did away with the pagan priests who burned incense on the high places, and desecrated all the high places.
- He threw the male shrine prostitutes out of the temple.
- He destroyed the altar to Molech in the Hinnom Valley outside Jerusalem, where child sacrifices had been common.
- He destroyed the pagan shrines at the city gates.
- He destroyed pagan altars that Manasseh and other kings of Judah had set up in the temple. He destroyed the altar at Bethel that Jeroboam had established to worship the golden calf, and the pagan shrines that Solomon had built to the east of Jerusalem to honor Ashtoreth, Chemosh, and Molech.
- He removed the statues of chariots and horses, dedicated to the sun, from the temple.
The reforms of Josiah failed to save Judah and Jerusalem from God’s coming wrath. It wasn’t so much a case of too little/too late as much as the legal failure of the people of Israel to abide by the terms of the covenant they established with God when first entering the Promised Land. The list of abuses noted above makes it clear how far the nation had transgressed. God also said repeatedly that the excesses of Manasseh were so great that he could not overlook them.
Some twelve years after Josiah’s death the Babylonians captured Jerusalem, plundered the city, carried off its king, and set up a puppet ruler on the throne. Eleven years later Jerusalem and the temple were completely destroyed after the puppet king revolted against Babylon. The year was 587/586 BC. It had been 800 years since Israel had entered the Promised Land.
Image by Michael Kotter on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0