Josiah was among Judah's few "godly kings," those who reigned in righteousness.
When he was only 8 years old, Josiah succeeded his father, Amon, as king in Judah. Years before Josiah came to the throne, Judah had turned toward idolatry. During the reign of Amon, wickedness prevailed.Although he was but a boy, Josiah "did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David . . . and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left." (2 Kings 22:2.)
During the 18th year of Josiah's reign, work was begun to repair the temple. Hilkiah, the high priest, found "the book of the law in the house of the Lord." (2 Kings 22:8.) The book is believed to have been either the book of Deuteronomy or the entire books of Moses - the first five books of the present Old Testament. Apparently the "book of the law" had been lost to Judah for quite some time; the loss of the book might explain one reason why Judah had lapsed into such wickedness.
The book of the law was read publicly. Josiah and people of Judah entered into a solemn covenant to act according to its injunctions. When Josiah heard the book read, "he rent his clothes," an ancient sign of despair. In this case, Josiah must have been showing his distress at how far astray Judah had gone from the law. (v. 11.)
Because of what he heard read from the book of the law, Josiah instituted a reform program. He ordered the destruction of idols and groves (places where idols of nature were worshipped).
Josiah ordered all the altars be removed, except in Jerusalem, thereby making that city the only sanctuary in all Judah. The conclusion of the reforms instituted by Josiah was marked by the celebration of the Passover in a new manner and with unusual solemnity. (2 Kings 23:21.)
"Josiah's reign was characterized by justice, as we learn from Jeremiah, but we know no more of it until the end of the king's life," states Charles Scribner's Sons Dictionary of the Bible.
"The Assyrian empire was tottering to its fall, and Pharaoh Neco [of EgyptT marched to the aid of Assyria, thought to seize the provinces nearest him and attach them to Egypt. Josiah was ill-advised enough to attempt to resist him. In the battle which ensued [at MeggidoT he was slain. (2 Kings 23:29.) His motive in undertaking this expedition has been much discussed. Probably he hoped to restore the real independence of Judah. That he was beloved by his people is indicated by their deep and long-continued mourning."
Articles on this page may be used in conjunction with the Gospel Doctrine course of study.
Information compiled by Gerry Avant and John Hart
Sources: Charles Scribner's Sons Dictionary of the Bible, Bible Dictionary, and April 1983 general conference report.