In the Kidron Valley is where King Josiah‘s priests dumped the ashes of the false gods after his purification spree to rid Jerusalem of idol worship, temple prostitutes and child sacrifice.
They destroyed the altars of Baal Peor, the false lord of schemes; the stripper poles of Ashtarah, the false goddess of perversion; and Moloch, the false god of war who demands child sacrifice by fire.
Why the bible lesson today is because this is King Josiah’s War, Part II. Now is the time we round up all the evil, take it out to the Kidron Valley, burn it all down to the ashes and repent, bigly.
Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.
With this question really about so much ancient evil, now is a good time for a refresher on what was so bad about false gods and why this is a battle in every generation.
The best book to begin to understand these concepts is an oldie but a goodie, The Source, by James Michener. This is the original hard cover and you can see what was imprinted there, and enlarged to its right. A little lady figurine. These things were found all over the ancient Middle East, a real example is next. Looks a lot like Kim Kardashian, right? Curvy, big boobs, ready for an embrace. Because that is what happened.
Historians and archaeologists like to call these fertility dolls. But that’s not really the story.
This is ancient pornography. These dolls are Ashtarah, who our fake historians like to call the fertility goddess, but really it is way worse. These are what ancient men kept hidden and would “worship” in secret, imbuing them with the power to deliver a good harvest, but really just wasting good semen and all for no impact as these are just imaginary diversions — nothing new under the sun.
In The Source, this story comes to life as Michener creates a fictionalized Meggido, a giant mound of ancient cities built on top of each other, and he tells a story of generations of families that would have lived there. Not only are they “worshiping” these dolls in secret, but then would follow the temple prostitutes into the woods where “wooden poles” — asherim, in Hebrew — are set up for them to dance up and down and entice the men. Fake historians miss this one, too; lots of sources online just say the use of these “wooden poles” were lost to history. Wrong: they are in every strip joint and even normalized into an exercise cult — people now even set them up in their homes!
The Ashtarah cult causes chaos. The priests have everyone gather at the goddess’s temple. Since they earn a tax based on everyone’s production, they incentivize the men to work harder by promising that the man with the best harvest wins the temple prostitute. In the ritual, the winning villager gets called up to the temple’s stage and defiles the prostitute in view of everyone — including his own family and wife in the audience. Then he gets to stay on in the temple for the length of the week-long holiday, having won the right to bop her brains out. But in Michener’s telling, the man decides to abandon his family for the prostitute, his olive vineyards get ruined from neglect and he ends up with nothing.
The main false god of the ancients — the husband of Ashtarah — is Baal Peor. Historians tell us that he was worshiped by rolling a giant rock to the highest point of the village, so men could see the stone from the fields and make the trek up the hill to pray for a successful harvest in person. Peor was the name of the biggest mountain of the Moabites, and the idea that the biggest is best and would protect them. That’s half the story.
How this thing was really worshiped was the men would go to the temple, be given strong drink and a concoction of herbs by the temple prostitutes, have some “sacred sex” with them, and the ritual was to take a giant steaming turd on the head of the Baal figurine, many of which were also outfit with ancient dildos – how convenient.
An ancient rabbi inquiring about this told the person who was relating their tradition that, if forced to worship this god, he would take the dump right on the idol’s head, out of disrespect. But he was surprised with their answer when told that is what Baal Peor liked most!
Contrasting with monotheism, the worship of a force that controls the entire universe, all space and all inhabitants, and in that worship, people are encouraged to be with family for weekly “holy barbecue” and to sanctify daily acts of their hands and mouths with holiness, kindness and compassion, showing how all living things are reflecting the sublime nature of the universe, as well as publicly recounting the tales of the ancient books to remind all of its lessons.
But here, the idea was to shit on a little statue.
Rather than sanctifying what we can create, this is worshiping the excrement, the waste, the leftover dross of our food fuel. Again, the impact is wasted energies, the ease of which the cult priests could use man’s desires to manipulate for their own gain.
Other false gods included praying to any of the planets (rather than the creator of the whole universe), believing in divination (ancient tarot cards) or anything that came their way from Romans and Greeks.
One that sticks out was Mercury, because of how the concept has been translated in our advertising world — speed, commerce, winning.
Mercury was worshiped by stacking stones into a column by the side of the road.
When an ancient rabbi commented that if he saw one, he would throw a rock at it, to try to knock it over, he learned that didn’t even matter. Just consorting with the thing was idol worship — whether you professed belief or not.
Being ironic, tongue-in-cheek, pretending, dropping them in a music video or whatever — it is all the same. The only way to stay clean was to avoid all of these things entirely.
The worse false god of the ancients was Moloch. Also transliterated now as Molek, the inside joke is that it’s name is a bastardization of the Hebrew Melech, which means king. Remember, in those languages, it’s the consonants M-L-K that determine the root concept and the vowels that create different words from that idea.
What’s so bad about Moloch is that this false god of war required its worshipers to sacrifice humans, usually male sons. Literally, a giant statue would be built, with an oven at its base and an animal’s head, and the baby would be fed alive into the flames.
This was meant to guaranty victory, somehow. But how could that ever makes sense? It is really the most twisted concept we have. Killing a human child who represents life and the future in the name of appeasing an animal-oven with no authority whatsoever over war victory, or any outcome of anything at all. It’s a pizza oven with a head.
The Hebrew story of Abraham, the patriarch, was used to demonstrate why this should never be. His first mention was when, still living in ancient Ur, he stood up to his father who ran an idol dealership. He struck them all down and told his old man to sod off, the little statues were nothing and powerless. Fast forward to Abraham at 99 years old, he has a miracle baby in his wife’s old age, and then, when Isaac is 13, Abe hears the Lord tell him to walk up the mountain, set up the kindling, tie him down, slit his throat and sacrifice him — if he believes, he will do, and without question. He sets it up, unsheathes his dagger and is about to do it — no hesitation at all — when the Lord tells him to stop. Look in the thicket, there’s a ram, catch it and sacrifice it instead. That’s the last talk of child sacrifice.
Even if the Lord tells you he wants you to kill your son, he does not want you to kill your son. Full stop.
That brings us back to today:
Ashtarah is porn on the web, strip joints, casual sex and every Madison Avenue advertising campaign that tries to equate buying some dross with you definitely getting laid by a leggy model if you do so.
Baal Peor is really the god of schemes — in the venture capital community, someone who starts in at a networking meetup with, “hello, our start-up business plan is forecasting net profit in year five of 10 billion, trillion, zillion,” is just engaging in business plan porn, the false worship of big numbers. Nothing comes from it, even though you feel good dreaming it will be so.
Moloch is now sadly everywhere. All of our “idols” from Illuminati-soaked Hollywood are displaying these symbols. Meanwhile, the real masters of war are in Washington sacrificing our sons overseas. The sad truth is these are all the same people who are literally sacrificing and abusing children today.
Guess who? President 44.
In the long line of Israelite kings, near the very end, before it all goes pear-shaped, Josiah, at 8, gets the job. Reading the simple descriptions of his predecessors (please, do yourself the favor and actually read the original, below) it becomes quite clear what they had been doing to lose the Lord’s favor and why their reigns kept getting cut short.
Yes, worshiping all of the above. That’s it, friends. That is all you need to do to lose. Young Josiah gets in there as just a kid because even a child is a better leader than a corrupt asshole who insists on offending the universe to the detriment of his people.
“He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.”
At 26, he sends his priests to restore the temple and they discover a “lost book” — what becomes Deuteronomy — a summary of the prior four books, and just enough of a reminder to everyone of what’s all about. Josiah gathers everyone to hear this thing being read, and he feels terrible because of all the bad things they had been doing that was ruining it for themselves (see above false god worship.)
They round it all up, burn it all out in the Kidron Valley, and then sprinkle the ashes to be purified of this terrible sin.
And that’s what we need to do to save our souls and our nation today.
Big win by Josiah, he restores the three pilgrimage holidays and everyone — universe included — is very happy.
But there is a coda.
Under King Solomon, the great wealth of the Israelites was through trade. To the north was Assyria (what we call Greater Syria now, including Lebanon and through to the Persian Gulf) and to the south still is Egypt. Israel was the middleman. Her Mediterranean ports received merch from around the world, and by refusing to side with either neighbor in their never-ending rivalries and fueds with each other, Solomon got especially rich facilitating trade between the two giants when they refused with each other directly.
So what does Josiah do?
Egypt says step aside — no problem with you, bu we’re coming through to kick Assyria’s ass. He gets a complicated idea in his head, gets his ass handed to him in the Valley Meggido. Game over, but he lasted on the throne a good long time.
After Josiah, though, the rest of the kings were shit, again.
2 Kings 21
Manasseh King of Judah
21 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. His mother’s name was Hephzibah.2 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. 3 He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. 4 He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem I will put my Name.” 5 In the two courts of the temple of the Lord, he built altars to all the starry hosts. 6 He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced divination, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.
7 He took the carved Asherah pole he had made and put it in the temple,of which the Lord had said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever. 8 I will not again make the feet of the Israelites wander from the land I gave their ancestors, if only they will be careful to do everything I commanded them and will keep the whole Law that my servant Moses gave them.” 9 But the people did not listen. Manasseh led them astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites.
10 The Lord said through his servants the prophets: 11 “Manasseh king of Judah has committed these detestable sins. He has done more evil than the Amorites who preceded him and has led Judah into sin with his idols.12 Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I am going to bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. 13 I will stretch out over Jerusalem the measuring line used against Samaria and the plumb line used against the house of Ahab. I will wipe out Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. 14 I will forsake the remnant of my inheritance and give them into the hands of enemies. They will be looted and plundered by all their enemies; 15 they have done evil in my eyes and have aroused my anger from the day their ancestors came out of Egypt until this day.”
16 Moreover, Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end—besides the sin that he had caused Judah to commit, so that they did evil in the eyes of the Lord.
17 As for the other events of Manasseh’s reign, and all he did, including the sin he committed, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? 18 Manasseh rested with his ancestors and was buried in his palace garden, the garden of Uzza. And Amon his son succeeded him as king.
Amon King of Judah
19 Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem two years. His mother’s name was Meshullemeth daughter of Haruz; she was from Jotbah. 20 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as his father Manasseh had done. 21 He followed completely the ways of his father, worshiping the idols his father had worshiped, and bowing down to them. 22 He forsook the Lord, the God of his ancestors, and did not walk in obedience to him.
23 Amon’s officials conspired against him and assassinated the king in his palace. 24 Then the people of the land killed all who had plotted against King Amon, and they made Josiah his son king in his place.
25 As for the other events of Amon’s reign, and what he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? 26 He was buried in his tomb in the garden of Uzza. And Josiah his son succeeded him as king.
2 Kings 22
The Book of the Law Found
22 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. His mother’s name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah; she was from Bozkath. 2 He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.
3 In the eighteenth year of his reign, King Josiah sent the secretary, Shaphan son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, to the temple of the Lord. He said: 4 “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest and have him get ready the money that has been brought into the temple of the Lord, which the doorkeepers have collected from the people. 5 Have them entrust it to the men appointed to supervise the work on the temple. And have these men pay the workers who repair the temple of the Lord— 6 the carpenters, the builders and the masons. Also have them purchase timber and dressed stone to repair the temple. 7 But they need not account for the money entrusted to them, because they are honest in their dealings.”
8 Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan, who read it. 9 Then Shaphan the secretary went to the king and reported to him: “Your officials have paid out the money that was in the temple of the Lord and have entrusted it to the workers and supervisors at the temple.” 10 Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.
11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. 12 He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Akbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: 13 “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”
14 Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Akbor, Shaphan and Asaiah went to speak to the prophet Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the New Quarter.
15 She said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me, 16 ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read. 17 Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all the idols their hands have made,[a] my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.’ 18 Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: 19 Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse[b] and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. 20 Therefore I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.’”
So they took her answer back to the king.
2 Kings 23
Josiah Renews the Covenant
23 Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem.2 He went up to the temple of the Lord with the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests and the prophets—all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the Lord. 3 The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord—to follow the Lord and keep his commands, statutes and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant.
4 The king ordered Hilkiah the high priest, the priests next in rank and the doorkeepers to remove from the temple of the Lord all the articles made for Baal and Asherah and all the starry hosts. He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron Valley and took the ashes to Bethel. 5 He did away with the idolatrous priests appointed by the kings of Judah to burn incense on the high places of the towns of Judah and on those around Jerusalem—those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and moon, to the constellations and to all the starry hosts. 6 He took the Asherah pole from the temple of the Lord to the Kidron Valley outside Jerusalem and burned it there. He ground it to powder and scattered the dust over the graves of the common people. 7 He also tore down the quarters of the male shrine prostitutes that were in the temple of the Lord, the quarters where women did weaving for Asherah.
8 Josiah brought all the priests from the towns of Judah and desecrated the high places, from Geba to Beersheba, where the priests had burned incense. He broke down the gateway at the entrance of the Gate of Joshua, the city governor, which was on the left of the city gate.9 Although the priests of the high places did not serve at the altar of the Lord in Jerusalem, they ate unleavened bread with their fellow priests.
10 He desecrated Topheth, which was in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, so no one could use it to sacrifice their son or daughter in the fire to Molek.11 He removed from the entrance to the temple of the Lord the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun. They were in the court[a] near the room of an official named Nathan-Melek. Josiah then burned the chariots dedicated to the sun.
12 He pulled down the altars the kings of Judah had erected on the roofnear the upper room of Ahaz, and the altars Manasseh had built in the two courts of the temple of the Lord. He removed them from there, smashed them to pieces and threw the rubble into the Kidron Valley.13 The king also desecrated the high places that were east of Jerusalem on the south of the Hill of Corruption—the ones Solomon king of Israel had built for Ashtoreth the vile goddess of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the vile god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the people of Ammon. 14 Josiah smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles and covered the sites with human bones.
15 Even the altar at Bethel, the high place made by Jeroboam son of Nebat, who had caused Israel to sin—even that altar and high place he demolished. He burned the high place and ground it to powder, and burned the Asherah pole also. 16 Then Josiah looked around, and when he saw the tombs that were there on the hillside, he had the bones removed from them and burned on the altar to defile it, in accordancewith the word of the Lord proclaimed by the man of God who foretold these things.
17 The king asked, “What is that tombstone I see?”
The people of the city said, “It marks the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and pronounced against the altar of Bethel the very things you have done to it.”
18 “Leave it alone,” he said. “Don’t let anyone disturb his bones.” So they spared his bones and those of the prophet who had come from Samaria.
19 Just as he had done at Bethel, Josiah removed all the shrines at the high places that the kings of Israel had built in the towns of Samaria and that had aroused the Lord’s anger. 20 Josiah slaughtered all the priests of those high places on the altars and burned human bones on them. Then he went back to Jerusalem.
21 The king gave this order to all the people: “Celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.”22 Neither in the days of the judges who led Israel nor in the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah had any such Passover been observed. 23 But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, this Passover was celebrated to the Lord in Jerusalem.
24 Furthermore, Josiah got rid of the mediums and spiritists, the household gods, the idols and all the other detestable things seen in Judah and Jerusalem. This he did to fulfill the requirements of the law written in the book that Hilkiah the priest had discovered in the temple of the Lord. 25 Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.
26 Nevertheless, the Lord did not turn away from the heat of his fierce anger, which burned against Judah because of all that Manasseh had done to arouse his anger. 27 So the Lord said, “I will remove Judah also from my presence as I removed Israel, and I will reject Jerusalem, the city I chose, and this temple, about which I said, ‘My Name shall be there.’[b]”
28 As for the other events of Josiah’s reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah?
29 While Josiah was king, Pharaoh Necho king of Egypt went up to the Euphrates River to help the king of Assyria. King Josiah marched out to meet him in battle, but Necho faced him and killed him at Megiddo.30 Josiah’s servants brought his body in a chariot from Megiddo to Jerusalem and buried him in his own tomb. And the people of the land took Jehoahaz son of Josiah and anointed him and made him king in place of his father.
Manasseh‘s Evil Reign
Hezekiah‘s son, Manasseh, was only twelve years old when he succeeded his father to the throne of Judea. In no way did he resemble his father whose piety and faith were not equaled by any other king who followed him. The young ruler, born of a late marriage, was immediately surrounded by the clique of court-notables who, during Hezekiah’s reign, had gone into hiding. Manasseh’s weak character and susceptibility to idolatry made him a willing tool in the ruthless and selfish hands of these men. Despite the ceaseless efforts and admonitions of the greatest prophets of all times, Isaiah and others, the people of Judea followed in the evil steps of their king. The temples and altars of the idol-worshippers which had been destroyed under Hezekiah were reconstructed. Even into the Holy Temple they brought idols, and some of the basic concepts of Jewish thought and tradition were falsified and distorted. A complete reversal to idolatry as it had been practised under King Ahaz, Hezekiah’s father, threw Judea into turmoil of immorality and lawlessness. The believers in the one and only G‑d were persecuted, and even the sacred person of the prophet Isaiah was not spared. When he came out sharply against the evil ways of King Manasseh and his notables, Isaiah was murdered.
Manasseh suppressed the study of the Torah because he knew that as long as the spiritual structure of the tradition stood firm, his throne was not safe. Again and again G‑d sent his prophets to warn the king of the coming punishment, but the warnings were given in vain. Manasseh, who unfortunately ruled longer than most Jewish kings, sank lower and lower into the most repulsive cults and witchcraft of the heathen peoples. With him he pulled down the whole spiritual structure which his father had set up for the people; and even though the king personally repented in his later years, he was never able to make amends for the damage he had done in the first decades of his evil rule.
The word of the prophets soon came true. Assyria‘s mighty armies punished and subdued Babylon, Egypt, Kush, and other nations of Asia Minor. However, they did not molest the land of Judah, which in those days had shown its sympathies for the Assyrian empire. But they took King Manasseh and put him in irons and led him into captivity to Babylonia. There they made him endure the most horrible sufferings and accorded him the most shameful treatment. In his despair, and after unsuccessfully calling upon his idols, Manasseh repented sincerely. Even though he had sunk to the lowest possible level, his prayers of repentance were heard and his inhuman tortures were stopped. He was sent back to Jerusalem where he ruled for another thirty-three years, giving full recognition and praise to the One and Only G‑d. But despite his sincere efforts to restore the faith of the people to the genuine spirit of the traditional belief, he was unable to lead the Jewish nation back to the path of righteousness from which, under his influence, they had gone astray.
Manasseh was succeeded by his son Amon who was not better than his father when he took over the kingdom of Judea.
The land was plunged deeper and deeper into the slough of immorality and idolatry. But fortunately King Amon’s rule was short. After two years he was assassinated by his own servants. The people avenged his death; they slew the murderers and declared Josiah, Amon’s son, King of Judah.
The Prophet Zephaniah
The prophet Zephaniah proclaimed his prophecy to the people of Judah during the reign of King Josiah. Little is known of his background except that he was a descendant of King Hezekiah. Coming of such noble stock, he must have been familiar with the life of the nobility in the capital and of the royal house.
Seeing the idolatry that had spread in the holy city during the reign of King Manasseh, Zephaniah denounces the “rebellious and polluted city,” and her princes who are like “roaring lions,” and her judges who are “like evening wolves, they leave not a bone for the morning.” He also denounces the false prophets whom he calls “men of treachery,” and the priests “who have profaned the sanctuary.”
But after G‑d will have chastised Israel, there will be true rejoicing in Zion, where a purified and restored nation shall dwell in peace and security: “In that day shalt thou not be ashamed for all thy doings, wherein thou hast transgressed against Me; for then I will take away out of the midst of thee, thy proudly exalting ones, and thou shalt no more be haughty in My holy mountain… the remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies, neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth; therefore they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.
“Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all thy heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem. The L-rd hath taken away thy punishments; He hath cast out thine enemy. The King of Israel, the L-rd, is in the midst of thee; thou shalt not fear evil any more… At that time will I bring you back; in that time I will gather you; for I will give you a name and praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I will return your captives before your eyes, saith the L-rd.”
Although he had been a child of only eight years when he inherited the throne of his murdered father, Josiah soon showed his keen interest in everything that went on in his land. It was fortunate for him and his country that he was guided by pious men like the High Priest Hilkiah and his son Jeremiah, by Shaphan the royal scribe and his son Ahikam, by Shallum the faithful chamberlain and his wife the prophetess Huldah.
Eight years after his formal installation he took the royal reins into his hands. He showed clearly that his sympathies were not with the nobility who under Manasseh and Amon had pushed themselves into the foreground, to the great misfortune of the country. Yet he had to maneuver cleverly for four more years, until the time when he was twenty years old and firmly in the saddle, before he could push these men completely aside, and fill their places with responsible G‑d-fearing men. Like his great-grandfather Hezekiah, he began early to seek G‑d and to purge the land of all forms of idolatry.
Discovery in the Temple
In the eighteenth year of his rule, Josiah announced his plan to have the Holy Temple renovated. The people of Judea who felt the new and refreshing policy of the young king and his advisers, responded warmly, and much money was gathered for this holy purpose. In the course of the repairs, the High Priest Hilkiah found a scroll which turned out to be the scroll of the Torah Moses had written. It had formerly been lying in the Holy Ark, but during the time of the idolatrous kings this precious possession had been hidden in a cave and had been lost for many generations. Hilkiah found it and gave it to Shaphan, the royal scribe, to bring it to the king’s attention. The king commanded him to read from it. The passage he chanced upon happened to be the Admonition of the fifth book of Moses (Deuteronomy), which contained the warnings of heavy punishment for the Jewish people if they failed to follow in G‑d’s ways. When Josiah heard the content of this terrible prophecy, he realized what the future had in store for his people who, during the reign of his father and grandfather, had sunk to the lowest level of immorality and idolatry. He rent his clothes and sent a delegation headed by the High Priest Hilkiah to consult the prophet of G‑d about the terrible fate that was impending.
The Prophetess Huldah
At that time Jeremiah, the great prophet of the Jewish people of whom we shall speak in a later chapter, was not in Judea. At G‑d’s command he had traveled to the far flung corners of the Assyrian empire where the remnants of the people of Israel lived in exile. The king’s messengers, therefore, went to the Prophetess Huldah, who gave them the following reply; “Tell the man that sent you: Thus says G‑d: I shall bring misfortune upon this place and its inhabitants even as all the words of the Book read by the king; because they have forsaken Me and have served strange gods to anger Me. Yet tell the king of Judea who has sent you to consult the voice of G‑d: Thus speaks G‑d: Because thy heart was moved and thou hast humbled thyself before G‑d when thou didst hear the words I had spoken against this land and its inhabitants… because thou hast torn thy clothes and wept before Me: Therefore I have heard thee; therefore I will gather thee to thy fathers; thou shall be gathered into thy grave in peace, and thine eyes shall not see the disaster I shall bring upon this place!”
These words were faithfully reported to the king. Josiah was profoundly impressed by the words of the prophetess. He was determined that the words of the Torah and the warning of the prophetess should spread through the length and breadth of the land, in order that the people might be moved to a wholehearted return to G‑d. For this purpose he gathered the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judea in the Holy Temple. There he read to them the message of the Holy scroll that had been discovered in the Temple, and solemnly vowed to follow in the way of G‑d, and to observe His commands and laws with his whole heart and soul. The people, too, impressed by the impending disaster and the sincere repentance of Josiah, took a holy vow to return to G‑d and to exterminate all forms of idolatry from their midst.
As a result of this solemn assembly, the entire population of Judah turned against the false priests and pagan altars that had sprung up like mushrooms during the rule of the previous two kings. Spurred by Josiah, the people thoroughly purged their land of every kind of idolatry.
Passover, the festival of Israel’s liberation from Egyptian bondage, was approaching. Josiah was determined that this festival should serve to strengthen the bonds between Israel and G‑d, and commemorate the people’s return to their Heavenly Father. The festival was therefore celebrated with much solemnity and splendor. Not since the time of the Prophet Samuel had such a Passover been held.
As soon as Josiah believed that the spiritual reforms had been sufficient, he began to strengthen and increase the political power of Judea. He reorganized his army and built fortifications along the borders. About this time the Assyrian Empire, to which Josiah’s predecessors had paid tribute, was on the verge of collapse and Josiah dreamt of reuniting under his scepter all the people of Israel and of recovering all the land that had once belonged to the kingdom of the House of David. But Josiah was rudely awakened from his dreams.
War against Egypt; Josiah’s Death
Egypt, under the able leadership of Pharaoh Necho, was determined to wage war against Assyria. The Egyptian army marched north-eastward, planning to attack the Assyrian army. King Josiah decided to oppose the advance of the Egyptians, despite the objections and warnings of the Prophet Jeremiah. The King of Egypt assured Josiah that he had no designs upon Judea’s independence, and requested free peaceful transit through the land. But the request was refused. In the plains of Meggido the two armies met and Judea’s troops were mercilessly crushed.
King Josiah himself was wounded and brought back to Jerusalem. There he died, deeply mourned by the entire people.