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1The king then had all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem summoned before him. 2The king went up to the house of the LORD with all the people of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem: priests, prophets, and all the people, great and small. He read aloud to them all the words of the book of the covenant that had been found in the house of the LORD.a 3The king stood by the column and made a covenant in the presence of the LORD to follow the LORD and to observe his commandments, statutes, and decrees with his whole heart and soul, and to re-establish the words of the covenant written in this book. And all the people stood by the covenant.
Josiah’s Religious Reform. 4Then the king commanded the high priest Hilkiah, his assistant priests, and the doorkeepers to remove from the temple of the LORD all the objects that had been made for Baal, Asherah, and the whole host of heaven. These he burned outside Jerusalem on the slopes of the Kidron; their ashes were carried to Bethel.b 5He also put an end to the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had appointed to burn incense on the high places in the cities of Judah and in the vicinity of Jerusalem, as well as those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun, moon, and signs of the zodiac, and to the whole host of heaven.c 6From the house of the LORD he also removed the Asherah to the Wadi Kidron, outside Jerusalem; he burned it and beat it to dust, in the Wadi Kidron, and scattered its dust over the graveyard of the people of the land.* d 7He tore down the apartments of the cult prostitutes in the house of the LORD, where the women wove garments for the Asherah.e 8He brought in all the priests from the cities of Judah, and then defiled, from Geba to Beer-sheba, the high places where they had offered incense. He also tore down the high places of the gates, which were at the entrance of the Gate of Joshua, governor of the city, north of the city gate. 9(The priests of the high places could not function at the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem; but they, along with their relatives, ate the unleavened bread.)
10The king also defiled Topheth in the Valley of Ben-hinnom, so that there would no longer be any immolation of sons or daughters by fire* in honor of Molech.f 11He did away with the horses which the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun; these were at the entrance of the house of the LORD, near the chamber of Nathan-melech the official, which was in the large building. The chariots of the sun he destroyed by fire. 12He also demolished the altars made by the kings of Judah on the roof (the roof terrace of Ahaz), and the altars made by Manasseh in the two courts of the LORD’s house. He pulverized them and threw the dust into the Wadi Kidron.g 13The king defiled the high places east of Jerusalem, south of the Mount of the Destroyer,* which Solomon, king of Israel, had built in honor of Astarte, the Sidonian horror, of Chemosh, the Moabite horror, and of Milcom, the Ammonites’ abomination.h 14He broke to pieces the pillars, cut down the asherahs, and filled the places where they had been with human bones.i
15Likewise the altar which was at Bethel, the high place built by Jeroboam, son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin—this same altar and high place he tore down and burned, grinding the high place to powder and burning the asherah.j 16When Josiah turned and saw the graves there on the mountainside, he ordered the bones taken from the graves and burned on the altar, and thus defiled it, according to the LORD’s word proclaimed by the man of God as Jeroboam stood by the altar on the feast day. When the king looked up and saw the grave of the man of God who had proclaimed these words, 17he asked, “What is that marker I see?” The people of the city replied, “The grave of the man of God who came from Judah and proclaimed the very things you have done to the altar in Bethel.” 18“Let him be,” he said, “let no one move his bones.” So they left his bones undisturbed together with the bones of the prophet who had come from Samaria.* 19Josiah also removed all the temples on the high places in the cities of Samaria which the kings of Israel had built, provoking the LORD; he did the very same to them as he had done in Bethel. 20He slaughtered upon the altars all the priests of the high places that were there, and burned human bones upon them. Then he returned to Jerusalem.
21The king issued a command to all the people: “Observe the Passover of the LORD, your God, as it is written in this book of the covenant.”k 22No Passover such as this had been observed during the period when the judges ruled Israel, or during the entire period of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah, 23until the eighteenth year of King Josiah, when this Passover of the LORD was kept in Jerusalem.
24Further, Josiah purged the consultation of ghosts and spirits, with the household gods, idols,* and all the other horrors to be seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, so that he might carry out the words of the law that were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest had found in the house of the LORD.l
25Before him there had been no king who turned to the LORD as he did, with his whole heart, his whole being, and his whole strength, in accord with the entire law of Moses; nor did any king like him arise after him.m 26Yet the LORD did not turn from his fiercely burning anger against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had given. 27The LORD said: Even Judah will I put out of my sight as I did Israel. I will reject this city, Jerusalem, which I chose, and the house of which I said: There shall my name be.
28The rest of the acts of Josiah, with all that he did, are recorded in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah. 29In his time Pharaoh Neco, king of Egypt, went up toward the Euphrates River against the king of Assyria.* King Josiah set out to meet him, but was slain at Megiddo at the first encounter. 30His servants brought his body on a chariot from Megiddo to Jerusalem, where they buried him in his own grave. Then the people of the land took Jehoahaz, son of Josiah, anointed him, and proclaimed him king to succeed his father.
Reign of Jehoahaz. 31Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he became king, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hamutal, daughter of Jeremiah, from Libnah.n
32He did what was evil in the LORD’s sight, just as his ancestors had done. 33Pharaoh Neco took him prisoner at Riblah in the land of Hamath, thus ending his reign in Jerusalem. He imposed a fine upon the land of a hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold.* 34Pharaoh Neco then made Eliakim, son of Josiah, king in place of Josiah his father; he changed his name to Jehoiakim. Jehoahaz he took away with him to Egypt, where he died. 35Jehoiakim gave the silver and gold to Pharaoh, but taxed the land to raise the amount Pharaoh demanded. He exacted the silver and gold from the people of the land, from each proportionately, to pay Pharaoh Neco.
* [23:10] Topheth…by fire: Topheth was a cultic site probably in the Hinnom Valley just west of Jerusalem where, apparently, children were immolated to the deity Molech (Hebrew melek, “king,” deformed in the biblical tradition to “Molech”). The practice was condemned by Deuteronomic law and denounced by Jeremiah (Dt 12:31; Jer 7:29–31). In Jer 19 the deity is identified as the Canaanite god Baal.
* [23:13] Mount of the Destroyer: the name of the mountain in Hebrew is a wordplay. “The Mount of the mashchit” means “the Mount of the Destroyer” or perhaps “the Mount of Destruction.” The word plays on mishchah, “anointment,” and on mashiach, “anointed one,” both of which are references to the ceremony that consecrated the king. The mountain in question was the Mount of Olives, whose trees produced oil for the royal anointing. In the present context, both sides of the wordplay allude to Solomon, the anointed king (mashiach), whose building of non-Yahwistic shrines on this very mountain resulted in the destruction (mashchit) of the Davidic realm (see 1 Kgs 11:4–13). Horror…abomination: all three idols are described with pejorative terms.
* [23:29] Against the king of Assyria: the narrator depicts Neco’s advance as an attack on Assyrian forces. The Babylonian record of the event, however, implies that Neco intended to support the remnant of Assyrian forces against a Babylonian onslaught in order to prop up a buffer state between Egypt and Babylon and assure Egyptian control of the Syro-Palestinian region.
* [23:33] A talent of gold: unless the fine imposed was a mere token, this figure seems too low; cf. 18:14. A number may have dropped from the Hebrew text; various ancient translations read “ten” or “one hundred” here.
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