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Josiah Reads The Book of God’s Law

23 King Josiah called together the older leaders of Judah and Jerusalem. Then he went to the Lord’s temple, together with the people of Judah and Jerusalem, the priests, and the prophets. Finally, when everybody was there, he read aloud The Book of God’s Law[a] that had been found in the temple.

After Josiah had finished reading, he stood by one of the columns. He asked the people to promise in the Lord’s name to faithfully obey the Lord and to follow his commands. The people agreed to do everything written in the book.

Josiah Follows the Teachings of God’s Law

Josiah told Hilkiah the priest, the assistant priests, and the guards at the temple door to go into the temple and bring out the things used to worship Baal, Asherah, and the stars. Josiah had these things burned in Kidron Valley just outside Jerusalem, and he had the ashes carried away to the town of Bethel.

Josiah also got rid of the pagan priests at the local shrines in Judah and around Jerusalem. These were the men that the kings of Judah had appointed to offer sacrifices to Baal and to the sun, moon, and stars. Josiah had the sacred pole[b] for Asherah brought out of the temple and taken to Kidron Valley, where it was burned. He then had its ashes ground into dust and scattered over the public cemetery there. He had the buildings torn down where the male prostitutes[c] lived next to the temple, and where the women wove sacred robes[d] for the idol of Asherah.

In almost every town in Judah, priests had been offering sacrifices to the Lord at local shrines.[e] Josiah brought these priests to Jerusalem and had their shrines made unfit for worship—every shrine from Geba just north of Jerusalem to Beersheba in the south. He even tore down the shrine at Beersheba that was just to the left of Joshua Gate, which was named after the highest official of the city. Those local priests could not serve at the Lord’s altar in Jerusalem, but they were allowed to eat sacred bread,[f] just like the priests from Jerusalem.

10 Josiah sent some men to Hinnom Valley just outside Jerusalem with orders to make the altar there unfit for worship. That way, people could no longer use it for sacrificing their children to the god Molech. 11 He also got rid of the horses that the kings of Judah used in their ceremonies to worship the sun, and he destroyed the chariots along with them. The horses had been kept near the entrance to the Lord’s temple, in a courtyard[g] close to where an official named Nathan-Melech lived.

12 Some of the kings of Judah, especially Manasseh, had built altars in the two courts of the temple and in the room that Ahaz had built on the palace roof. Josiah had these altars torn down and smashed to pieces, and he had the pieces thrown into Kidron Valley, just outside Jerusalem. 13 After that, he closed down the shrines that Solomon had built east of Jerusalem and south of Spoil Hill to honor Astarte the disgusting goddess of Sidon, Chemosh the disgusting god of Moab, and Milcom the disgusting god of Ammon.[h] 14 He tore down the stone images of foreign gods and cut down the sacred pole used in the worship of Asherah. Then he had the whole area covered with human bones.[i]

15 But Josiah was not finished yet. At Bethel he destroyed the shrine and the altar that Jeroboam son of Nebat had built and that had caused the Israelites to sin. Josiah had the shrine and the Asherah pole burned and ground into dust. 16 As he looked around, he saw graves on the hillside. He had the bones in them dug up and burned on the altar, so that it could no longer be used. This happened just as God’s prophet had said when Jeroboam was standing at the altar, celebrating a festival.[j]

Then Josiah saw the grave of the prophet who had said this would happen 17 and he asked,[k] “Whose grave is that?”

Some people who lived nearby answered, “It belongs to the prophet from Judah who told what would happen to this altar.”

18 Josiah replied, “Then leave it alone. Don’t dig up his bones.” So they did not disturb his bones or the bones of the old prophet from Israel who had also been buried there.[l]

19 Some of the Israelite kings had made the Lord angry by building pagan shrines all over Israel. So Josiah sent troops to destroy these shrines just as he had done to the one in Bethel. 20 He killed the priests who served at them and burned their bones on the altars.

After all that, Josiah went back to Jerusalem.

Josiah and the People of Judah Celebrate Passover

21 Josiah told the people of Judah, “Celebrate Passover in honor of the Lord your God, just as it says in The Book of God’s Law.”[m]

22 This festival had not been celebrated in this way since kings ruled Israel and Judah. 23 But in Josiah’s eighteenth year as king of Judah, everyone came to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.

The Lord Is Still Angry at the People of Judah

24 Josiah got rid of every disgusting person and thing in Judah and Jerusalem—including magicians, fortunetellers, and idols. He did his best to obey every law written in the book that the priest Hilkiah found in the Lord’s temple. 25 No other king before or after Josiah tried as hard as he did to obey the Law of Moses.

26 But the Lord was still furious with the people of Judah because Manasseh had done so many things to make him angry. 27 The Lord said, “I will desert the people of Judah, just as I deserted the people of Israel. I will reject Jerusalem, even though I chose it to be mine. And I will abandon this temple built to honor me.”

Josiah Dies in Battle

28 Everything else Josiah did while he was king is written in The History of the Kings of Judah. 29 During Josiah’s rule, King Neco of Egypt led his army north to the Euphrates River to help the king of Assyria. Josiah led his troops north to fight Neco, but when they met in battle at Megiddo, Josiah was killed.[n] 30 A few of Josiah’s servants put his body in a chariot and took it back to Jerusalem, where they buried it in his own tomb. Then the people of Judah found his son Jehoahaz and poured olive oil on his head to show that he was their new king.

King Jehoahaz of Judah

31 Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he became king of Judah, and he ruled from Jerusalem only three months. His mother Hamutal was the daughter of Jeremiah from Libnah. 32 Jehoahaz disobeyed the Lord, just as some of his ancestors had done.

33 King Neco of Egypt had Jehoahaz arrested and put in prison at Riblah[o] near Hamath. Then he forced the people of Judah to pay him almost four tons of silver and about seventy-five pounds of gold as taxes. 34 Neco appointed Josiah’s son Eliakim king of Judah, and changed his name to Jehoiakim. He took Jehoahaz as a prisoner to Egypt, where he died.

35 Jehoiakim forced the people of Judah to pay higher taxes, so he could give Neco the silver and gold he demanded.

King Jehoiakim of Judah

36 Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he was appointed king, and he ruled eleven years from Jerusalem. His mother Zebidah was the daughter of Pedaiah from Rumah. 37 Jehoiakim disobeyed the Lord by following the example of his ancestors.

24 During Jehoiakim’s rule, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia[p] invaded and took control of Judah. Jehoiakim obeyed Nebuchadnezzar for three years, but then he rebelled.

At that time, the Lord started sending troops to rob and destroy towns in Judah. Some of these troops were from Babylonia, and others were from Syria, Moab, and Ammon. The Lord had sent his servants the prophets to warn Judah about this, and now he was making it happen. The country of Judah was going to be wiped out, because Manasseh had sinned and caused many innocent people to die. The Lord would not forgive this.

Everything else Jehoiakim did while he was king is written in The History of the Kings of Judah. Jehoiakim died, and his son Jehoiachin became king.

King Nebuchadnezzar defeated King Neco of Egypt and took control of his land from the Egyptian Gorge all the way north to the Euphrates River. So Neco never invaded Judah again.[q]

King Jehoiachin of Judah Is Taken to Babylon

Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king of Judah, and he ruled only three months from Jerusalem. His mother Nehushta was the daughter of Elnathan from Jerusalem. Jehoiachin disobeyed the Lord, just as his father Jehoiakim had done.

10 King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia sent troops to attack Jerusalem soon after Jehoiachin became king. 11 During the attack, Nebuchadnezzar himself arrived at the city. 12 Jehoiachin immediately surrendered, together with his mother and his servants, as well as his army officers and officials. Then Nebuchadnezzar had Jehoiachin arrested. These things took place in the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar’s rule in Babylonia.[r]

13 The Lord had warned[s] that someday the treasures would be taken from the royal palace and from the temple, including the gold objects that Solomon had made for the temple. And that’s exactly what Nebuchadnezzar ordered his soldiers to do. 14 He also led away as prisoners the Jerusalem officials, the military leaders, and the skilled workers—ten thousand in all. Only the very poorest people were left in Judah.

15 Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin to Babylon, along with his mother, his wives, his officials, and the most important leaders of Judah. 16 He also led away seven thousand soldiers, one thousand skilled workers, and anyone who would be useful in battle.

17 Then Nebuchadnezzar appointed Jehoiachin’s uncle Mattaniah king of Judah and changed his name to Zedekiah.

King Zedekiah of Judah

18 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he was appointed king of Judah, and he ruled from Jerusalem for eleven years. His mother Hamutal was the daughter of Jeremiah from Libnah. 19 Zedekiah disobeyed the Lord, just as Jehoiakim had done. 20 It was Zedekiah who finally rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar.

The people of Judah and Jerusalem had made the Lord so angry that he finally turned his back on them. That’s why these horrible things were happening.

Jerusalem Is Captured and Destroyed

25 In Zedekiah’s ninth year as king, on the tenth day of the tenth month,[t] King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia led his entire army to attack Jerusalem. The troops set up camp outside the city and built ramps up to the city walls.

2-3 After a year and a half, all the food in Jerusalem was gone. Then on the ninth day of the fourth[u] month, the Babylonian troops broke through the city wall.[v] That same night, Zedekiah and his soldiers tried to escape through the gate near the royal garden, even though they knew the enemy had the city surrounded. They headed toward the desert, but the Babylonian troops caught up with them near Jericho. They arrested Zedekiah, but his soldiers scattered in every direction.

Zedekiah was taken to Riblah, where Nebuchadnezzar put him on trial and found him guilty. Zedekiah’s sons were killed right in front of him. His eyes were then poked out, and he was put in chains and dragged off to Babylon.

About a month later,[w] in Nebuchadnezzar’s nineteenth year as king, Nebuzaradan, who was his official in charge of the guards, arrived in Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan burned down the Lord’s temple, the king’s palace, and every important building in the city, as well as all the houses. 10 Then he ordered the Babylonian soldiers to break down the walls around Jerusalem. 11 He led away as prisoners the people left in the city, including those who had become loyal to Nebuchadnezzar. 12 Only some of the poorest people were left behind to work the vineyards and the fields.

13 The Babylonian soldiers took the two bronze columns that stood in front of the temple, the ten movable bronze stands, and the large bronze bowl called the Sea. They broke them into pieces so they could take the bronze to Babylonia. 14 They carried off the bronze things used for worship at the temple, including the pans for hot ashes, and the shovels, snuffers, and also the dishes for incense, 15 as well as the fire pans and the sprinkling bowls. Nebuzaradan ordered his soldiers to take everything made of gold or silver.

16 The pile of bronze from the columns, the stands, and the large bowl that Solomon had made for the temple was too large to be weighed. 17 Each column had been twenty-seven feet tall with a bronze cap four and a half feet high. These caps were decorated with bronze designs—some of them like chains and others like pomegranates.[x]

18 Next, Nebuzaradan arrested Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah his assistant, and three temple officials. 19 Then he arrested one of the army commanders, the king’s five personal advisors, and the officer in charge of gathering the troops for battle. He also found sixty more soldiers who were still in Jerusalem. 20 Nebuzaradan led them all to Riblah 21 near Hamath, where Nebuchadnezzar had them killed.

The people of Judah no longer lived in their own country.

Gedaliah Is Made Ruler of the People Left in Judah

22 King Nebuchadnezzar appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam[y] to rule the few people still living in Judah. 23 When the army officers and troops heard that Gedaliah was their ruler, the officers met with him at Mizpah. These men were Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan son of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth from Netophah, and Jaazaniah from Maacah.

24 Gedaliah said to them, “Everything will be fine, I promise. We don’t need to be afraid of the Babylonian rulers, if we live here peacefully and do what Nebuchadnezzar says.”

25 Ishmael[z] was from the royal family. And about two months after Gedaliah began his rule,[aa] Ishmael and ten other men went to Mizpah. They killed Gedaliah and his officials, including those from Judah and those from Babylonia. 26 After that, the army officers and all the people in Mizpah, whether important or not, were afraid of what the Babylonians might do. So they left Judah and went to Egypt.

Jehoiachin Is Set Free

27 Jehoiachin was a prisoner in Babylon for thirty-seven years. Then Evil-Merodach became king of Babylonia,[ab] and in the first year of his rule, on the twenty-seventh day of the twelfth month,[ac] he let Jehoiachin out of prison. 28 Evil-Merodach was kind to Jehoiachin and honored him more than any of the other kings held prisoner there. 29 Jehoiachin was even allowed to wear regular clothes, and he ate at the king’s table every day. 30 As long as Jehoiachin lived, he was paid a daily allowance to buy whatever he needed.

Footnotes

  1. 23.2 The Book of God’s Law: The Hebrew text has “The Book of God’s Agreement,” which is the same as “The Book of God’s Law” in 22.8,11. In traditional translations this is called “The Book of the Covenant.”
  2. 23.6 sacred pole: See the note at 13.6,7.
  3. 23.7 male prostitutes: Young men or boys sometimes served as prostitutes in the worship of Canaanite gods, but the Lord had forbidden the people of Israel and Judah to worship in this way (see Deuteronomy 23.17,18).
  4. 23.7 sacred robes: Or “coverings.”
  5. 23.8 local shrines: See the note at 12.3.
  6. 23.9 sacred bread: The Hebrew text has “thin bread,” which may be either the pieces of thin bread made without yeast to be eaten during the Passover Festival (see verses 21-23) or the baked flour used in sacrifices to give thanks to the Lord (see Leviticus 2.4,5).
  7. 23.11 in a courtyard: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  8. 23.13 the shrines. . . Ammon: See 1 Kings 11.5-7.
  9. 23.14 Then he. . . human bones: This made the whole area unfit for the worship of any god.
  10. 23.16 just. . . festival: See 1 Kings 13.1,2.
  11. 23.16,17 said when Jeroboam. . . asked: One ancient translation; Hebrew “said. 17 Then Josiah asked.”
  12. 23.18 old prophet. . . there: See 1 Kings 13.11-32.
  13. 23.21 The Book of God’s Law: See the note at verse 2.
  14. 23.29 killed: At this time, King Neco of Egypt (609-595 B.C.) was fighting on the side of the Assyrians. He marched north to fight the Babylonian army and help Assyria keep control of its land. Since Josiah considered Assyria an enemy, he set out to stop Neco and the Egyptian troops.
  15. 23.33 Riblah: An important town in Syria on the Orontes River.
  16. 24.1 King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia: Ruled Babylonia 605-562 B.C.
  17. 24.7 again: Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptian army in 605 B.C. at the town of Carchemish. But a few years later, he was forced to retreat all the way back to Babylonia, which allowed Jehoiakim to rebel (see verse 1).
  18. 24.12 Babylonia: These events took place in 597 B.C.
  19. 24.13 warned: See 20.16-18.
  20. 25.1 tenth month: Tebeth, the tenth month of the Hebrew calendar, from about mid-December to mid-January.
  21. 25.2,3 fourth: This word is not in the Hebrew text here, but see the parallel in Jeremiah 52.5,6.
  22. 25.4 wall: Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 B.C.
  23. 25.8 About a month later: Hebrew “On the seventh day of the fifth month.”
  24. 25.17 pomegranates: A bright red fruit that looks like an apple.
  25. 25.22 Ahikam: Hebrew “Ahikam son of Shaphan.”
  26. 25.25 Ishmael: Hebrew “Ishmael son of Nethaniah son of Elishama.”
  27. 25.25 about two months. . . his rule: Hebrew “in the seventh month.”
  28. 25.27 Evil-Merodach. . . Babylonia: The son of Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled Babylonia from 562 to 560 B.C.
  29. 25.27 twelfth month: Adar, the twelfth month of the Hebrew calendar, from about mid-February to mid-March.

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