1 - 2 Josiah King of Judah
1 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name [was] Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. 2 He did right in the sight of the LORD and walked in all the way of his father David, nor did he turn aside to the right or to the left.
Josiah is only eight years old when he starts reigning. The name of his mother is mentioned, Jedidah, which means ‘darling’. She is the daughter of Adaiah, which means ‘the LORD is a jewel’. The place Bozkath is one of the cities of Judah (Jos 15:21,39).
The general characteristic of Josiah is read in verse 2. There is nothing present with him of the godless characteristics of his father Amon and his grandfather Manasseh. On the contrary, he does what is right in the sight of the LORD and goes “in all the way of his father David”. He goes straight, without deviating to the right or left. There is always the danger for a believer of deviating to the right, what stands for legalism, or to the left, what stands for liberalism. Only dependence on the Lord can save us from deviation to either side.
3 - 7 Money for the Restoration of the Temple
3 Now in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, the king sent Shaphan, the son of Azaliah the son of Meshullam the scribe, to the house of the LORD saying, 4 “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest that he may count the money brought in to the house of the LORD which the doorkeepers have gathered from the people. 5 Let them deliver it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD, and let them give it to the workmen who are in the house of the LORD to repair the damages of the house, 6 to the carpenters and the builders and the masons and for buying timber and hewn stone to repair the house. 7 Only no accounting shall be made with them for the money delivered into their hands, for they deal faithfully.”
As with all good kings we also see with Josiah that his first acts of reign have to do with care for the temple. He orders the temple to be restored. His first concern is God’s house, which has fallen into decay during the reign of the kings Manasseh and Amon. He orders the writer Shaphan to tell the high priest Hilkia that he should use the money that is in the house of the LORD for that reparation.
Josiah has a loyal and dedicated helper in Shaphan. Shaphan has some sons and a grandson who are faithful men just like him (Jer 26:24; 29:3; 36:10; 40:5). This offspring has had a positive influence. They are God-fearing sons. So it is possible to be a God-fearing family in a godless time. For the sake of completeness it should also be mentioned that he has a son who becomes an idolater (Eze 8:9-11).
The money must be given to those who carry out the work. They can then buy the necessary materials. They can do that without ‘presenting every receipt’. It is always good to give in confidence that the person to whom it is given is acting well. This does not mean that control can be refused. Control is often good. Control does not take place out of mistrust, but because there is always the possibility of error. Trust should not be demanded, but should be given.
8 - 11 The Book of the Law Found
8 Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan who read it. 9 Shaphan the scribe came to the king and brought back word to the king and said, “Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD.” 10 Moreover, Shaphan the scribe told the king saying, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it in the presence of the king. 11 When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes.
After the historian has told about the order to restore the house of God, he writes about the finding of “the book of the law in the house of the LORD”. That is what his report now emphasizes. What follows is the effect that what is written in the book of the law has on the heart and conscience of Josiah. The revival of Josiah is characterized by finding the Word of God.
It should be noted that the finding of the book of the law is done in connection with the care for the temple. In a spiritual sense, we can make the application that we will discover God’s Word, that is, its meaning, if our hearts go out to what is now God’s house, His church. When the heart goes out to the same thing God’s heart goes out to, the right mind is present to be taught by God from His Word.
We do not know what this book of the law is, that they find. It may be that it concerns the five books of Moses or only the book Deuteronomy. That is not important either. What matters is the effect of that find. It is a great grace from God that He gives His Word back to His people, as it were. It says that Hilkia says that he “found” the book of the law, which does not mean he searched for it. God takes care he finds it.
When it is found, the Word begins its unstoppable run (cf. 2Thes 3:1). Hilkia, the high priest, has found it. He gives it to Shaphan. Shaphan is going to read in it. Then he goes with the book of the law to the king. Once there, he first reports on his original mission with regard to the money. Furthermore we hear nothing about the work on the temple. All attention is focused on the Word and the effect of the Word.
After the report about the money Shaphan tells the king about the book of the law he received from Hilkia. He does not hand it over to the king as an antiquity, to marvel at it, but he reads it to the king because of current events, to be addressed by it. The Bible is best honored when we read it faithfully, study it, and incorporate into our hearts what we read and practice what the Lord says to us.
We see that with Josiah. The effect God’s Word has on him is impressive. He is seized by it or even better, he is overwhelmed by it. He is not only hit by the Word, but he is defeated by it. Josiah does not wonder if this is the Bible, if it is true. He does not argue, but the Word works in him. He accepts it, “not [as] the word of men, but [for] what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe” (1Thes 2:13).
Perhaps the opposite is more the case with us. We do not have to search for a Bible. Often we have several Bibles, in different translations and different languages, at our fingertips, but often it doesn’t care us when we read in it. Josiah discovers the Bible. He makes a great discovery, he “finds great spoil” (Psa 119:162). It tears his heart. As a sign of his inner dejection he tears his clothes (cf. Joel 2:13).
It is to be hoped that we will experience this every time we read in God’s Word. That is possible! We can pray that the Lord will show Himself and His will to us in His Word. If He sees that sincere desire with us and also that we will be humbled when He shows us things that are not good, He will show Himself and His will.
12 - 20 The Word of the LORD
12 Then the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Achbor the son of Micaiah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah the king’s servant saying, 13 “Go, inquire of the LORD for me and the people and all Judah concerning the words of this book that has been found, for great is the wrath of the LORD that burns against us, because our fathers have not listened to the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.” 14 So Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter); and they spoke to her. 15 She said to them, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Tell the man who sent you to me, 16 thus says the LORD, “Behold, I bring evil on this place and on its inhabitants, [even] all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read. 17 Because they have forsaken Me and have burned incense to other gods that they might provoke Me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore My wrath burns against this place, and it shall not be quenched.”‘ 18 But to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the LORD thus shall you say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel, “[Regarding] the words which you have heard, 19 because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you,” declares the LORD. 20 “Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes will not see all the evil which I will bring on this place.”‘“ So they brought back word to the king.
Josiah does what every soul does who in truth is convinced of his sins and therefore fears for judgment. Someone who really discovers that he is a sinner will turn to God to ask what to do. Every person who is touched by the Word of God and sees what he is in the eye of God has that question. The Word brings into in the arms of God.
Whoever lives through the Word also knows the value and especially the practice of prayer. Josiah wants to know from the LORD if there is still hope. He seeks that hope with Him Who also has to let the judgment come. There is no moderation at all with Josiah. He brings his need to the LORD by acknowledging that he and the people have earned the judgment. He leaves it to the LORD how He will answer.
Josiah sends reliable men to Hulda. It is not clear why he sends to a woman, the prophetess Huldah, and not to Jeremiah or Zephaniah, who acted as prophets in his days. Possibly they are still too young and unknown. He knows the prophetess Huldah. The fact that he goes to a prophetess at least marks the time of decay, as in the time of Deborah’s performance, when decay was also great (Jdg 4:1-9).
The name of her husband is explicitly mentioned by also mentioning the name of his father and grandfather and also his profession, that he is keeper of the wardrobe, i.e. of the priestly clothes. Huldah’s husband takes care of the priests’ clothes. In the spiritual sense this means that he supervises the behavior of the believers, that this is in accordance with their confession.
Huldah knows God’s thoughts regarding the practice of the life of the people of God. A prophet or prophetess speaks utterances of God with a view to current situations. Such a person can apply the Word to it. Josiah also experiences this through the message she has for him.
Huldah must speak about Josiah on behalf of the LORD as “the man” and not as “the king”. For the LORD, all the dignity Josiah has as king is not important here as here it is about His judgment. Huldah is told by the LORD what He has to say to Josiah and what she has to pass on. It starts with a repetition of what Josiah has heard read aloud and what has brought him to dejection. For the third time we hear the announcement of the punishment of God over His people. What Hulda says is nothing but saying what God’s Word says.
Then follows a word for Josiah personally. That personal word is addressed to him as “the king of Judah”. It is a word of encouragement. The reason for this is his humiliation which the LORD has noted. The LORD sees this humbling in his heart and He has also observed the outer characteristics of the tearing of his clothes and tears.
Of Josiah’s father Amon we read that he did not humble himself before the LORD (2Chr 33:21-23). His father Manasseh humbled himself, but is forced to do so because of his own sins. Josiah does not humble himself because of his own sins, but because of a common guilt. He humbles himself over the sins of the people and of his fathers. He makes himself one with it.
The encouragement is that the LORD will gather him to his fathers and that he will be gathered to his grave in peace. He will see nothing of the calamity that the LORD will bring on Jerusalem.
The men he has sent to Huldah report to him on what the LORD has told Huldah. We see the effect in the next chapter.