Josiah or Yoshiyahu (יֹאשִׁיָּהוּ "supported of the LORD", Standard Hebrew Yošiyyáhu, Tiberian Hebrew Yôšiyyāhû) was king of Kingdom of Judah, and son of Amon and Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. His grandfather was King Manasseh. Josiah is credited by some historians with having established Jewish scripture in written form as a part of the Deuteronomic reform that occurred during his rule.
William F. Albright and E.R Thiele roughly agree that his reign was roughly 640 BC-609 BC. The chief sources of his reign are 2 Kings 22-23, and 2 Chronicles 34-35; 1 Esdras 1 clearly a copy of the relevant portion of 2 Chronicles. Archaeologists have recovered a number of "scroll-style" stamps dating to his reign.
Judah's condition at his accession
When Josiah was placed on the throne of Judah at the age of eight by the "People of the Land", the international situation was in flux: to the east, the Assyrian Empire was in the beginning stages of its eventual disintegration, the Babylonian Empire had not yet risen to replace it, and Egypt to the west was still recovering from Assyrian rule. This favored the resurgence of the prowess of Jerusalem, which Josiah expressed in the 8th year of rule by his sincere championing the exclusive worshiping of Jahweh. He had the foreign cultic objects of Baal, Ashterah (or Asherah), "and all the hosts of the heavens" in Solomon's Temple destroyed, the living pagan priests were slaughterd and the bones of the priests exhumed from their graves and burned on their altars -- an extreme act of desecration against these pagan deities. (2 Kings 23:4, et seq.) The authors of Kings and Chronicles add to these acts in Jerusalem Josiah's similar destruction of altars and images belonging to pagan deities in the cities of the tribes of Tribe of Manasseh, Tribe of Ephraim, "and Tribe of Simeon, as far as Naphtali" (2 Kings 23:8f);(2 Chr. 34:6f).
In his 18th year of reign, Josiah again worked on behalf of Yahweh by having the High Priest Hilkiah take the tax monies that had been collected over the years and use them to repair the neglect and damage the Temple had suffered during the reigns of Amon and King Manasseh.
Assertion of control over Israel
At some point between this year and his death, Josiah reasserted Judean control in the former territories of the kingdom of Israel, which is recorded in 2 Kings as systematically destroying the cultic objects in various cities, as well as executing the priests of the pagan gods. The only exception he made was for the grave of an unnamed prophet he found in Bethel, who had foretold that these religious sites Jeroboam erected would one day be destroyed (23:15-19).
Josiah was instrumental in reforming the Kingdom of Judah. With the help of Hilkiah the High Priest who found a lost book, Josiah helped reform the Jewish practices of the day. Mormon historian Don Bradley discusses this lost book, and compares it to the book of Mormon in the following link. This happened in the days of Jeremiah the prophet.
File:Biblical-Josiah-By-Don-Bradley.mp3 (This is an mp3 file, not an image, so make sure your speakers are on. It takes a short time to load before playing.)
There are two versions of Josiah's violent death. The Book of Kings tersely remarks that Necho II met Josiah at Megiddo, and killed him the moment the Egyptian king laid eyes on him (2 Kings 23:29). See Battle of Megiddo (609 BC); proponents of DtrH ascribe this portion of the book to a post-Josiahwic redaction. The author of Chronicles describes Josiah meeting Necho in battle at Megiddo, where Josiah was fatally wounded by Egyptian archers, and was brought back to Jerusalem to die. Some scholars favor the account in Chronicles, because it better fits with what is known of international events. Necho had left Egypt around 609 BC for two reasons: one was to relieve the Babylonian siege of Harran, and the other was to help the king of Assyria, who was defeated by the Babylonians at the Battle of Carchemish. Josiah's actions suggest that he was aiding the Babylonians by engaging the Egyptian army.
In either case, the death of this king was a serious blow to the Jahweh-only faction in Judea. 2 Chronicles 35:25 implies that the prophet Jeremiah wrote a lament for Josiah's passing. A Jewish tradition claims that this lament is preserved in Lamentations chapter 4.
- The Bible Unearthed : Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts for the possible role of Josiah in creation of the Bible.
- Hertz J.H. (1936) The Pentateuch and Haftoras. Deuteronomy. Oxford University Press, London.