Josiah was eight years old when he became king of Judah, and he ruled in Jerusalem for thirty-one years. 1
He did what was pleasing to the Lord; he followed the example of his ancestor King David, strictly obeying all the laws of God.
In the eighth year that Josiah was king, while he was still very young, he began to worship the God of his ancestor King David. Four years later he began to destroy the pagan places of worship, the symbols of the goddess Asherah, and all the other idols.
Under his direction the altars where Baal was worshiped were smashed, and the incense altars near them were torn down. They ground to dust the images of Asherah and all the other idols and then scattered the dust on the graves of the people who had sacrificed to them. 2
He burned the bones of the pagan priests on the altars where they had worshiped. By doing all this, he made Judah and Jerusalem ritually clean again. 3
He did the same thing in the cities and the devastated areas of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, and as far north as Naphtali.
Throughout the territory of the Northern Kingdom he smashed the altars and the symbols of Asherah, ground the idols to dust, and broke into bits all the incense altars. Then he returned to Jerusalem.
In the eighteenth year of his reign, after he had purified the land and the Temple by ending pagan worship, King Josiah sent three men to repair the Temple of the Lord God: Shaphan son of Azaliah, Maaseiah, the governor of Jerusalem, and Joah son of Joahaz, a high official.
The money that the Levite guards had collected in the Temple was turned over to Hilkiah the High Priest. (It had been collected from the people of Ephraim and Manasseh and the rest of the Northern Kingdom, and from the people of Judah, Benjamin, and Jerusalem.)
This money was then handed over to the three men in charge of the Temple repairs, and they gave it to
the carpenters and the builders to buy the stones and the timber used to repair the buildings that the kings of Judah had allowed to decay.
The men who did the work were thoroughly honest. They were supervised by four Levites: Jahath and Obadiah of the clan of Merari, and Zechariah and Meshullam of the clan of Kohath. (The Levites were all skillful musicians.)
Other Levites were in charge of transporting materials and supervising the workers on various jobs, and others kept records or served as guards.
While the money was being taken out of the storeroom, Hilkiah found the book of the Law of the Lord, the Law that God had given to Moses.
He said to Shaphan, "I have found the book of the Law here in the Temple." He gave Shaphan the book,
and Shaphan took it to the king. He reported, "We have done everything that you commanded.
We have taken the money that was kept in the Temple and handed it over to the workers and their supervisors."
Then he added, "I have here a book that Hilkiah gave me." And he read it aloud to the king.
When the king heard the book being read, he tore his clothes in dismay
and gave the following order to Hilkiah, to Ahikam son of Shaphan, to Abdon son of Micaiah, to Shaphan, the court secretary, and to Asaiah, the king's attendant:
"Go and consult the Lord for me and for the people who still remain in Israel and Judah. Find out about the teachings of this book. The Lord is angry with us because our ancestors have not obeyed the word of the Lord and have not done what this book says must be done."
At the king's command, Hilkiah and the others went to consult a woman named Huldah, a prophet who lived in the newer part of Jerusalem. (Her husband Shallum, the son of Tikvah and grandson of Harhas, was in charge of the Temple robes.) They described to her what had happened,
and she told them to go back to the king and give him
the following message from the Lord: "I am going to punish Jerusalem and all its people with the curses written in the book that was read to the king.
They have rejected me and have offered sacrifices to other gods, and so have stirred up my anger by all they have done. My anger is aroused against Jerusalem, and it will not die down.
As for the king himself, this is what I, the Lord God of Israel, say: You listened to what is written in the book,
and you repented and humbled yourself before me, tearing your clothes and weeping, when you heard how I threatened to punish Jerusalem and its people. I have heard your prayer,
and the punishment which I am going to bring on Jerusalem will not come until after your death. I will let you die in peace." The men returned to King Josiah with this message.
King Josiah summoned all the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem,
and together they went to the Temple, accompanied by the priests and the Levites and all the rest of the people, rich and poor alike. Before them all the king read aloud the whole book of the covenant, which had been found in the Temple.
He stood by the royal column and made a covenant with the Lord to obey him, to keep his laws and commands with all his heart and soul, and to put into practice the demands attached to the covenant, as written in the book.
He made the people of Benjamin and everyone else present in Jerusalem promise to keep the covenant. And so the people of Jerusalem obeyed the requirements of the covenant they had made with the God of their ancestors.
King Josiah destroyed all the disgusting idols that were in the territory belonging to the people of Israel, and as long as he lived, he required the people to serve the Lord, the God of their ancestors.