And Shaphan the scribe shewed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king. And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes. — 2 Kings 22:10-11
When he was eight years old, Josiah became the king of Judah. At the age of twenty-six, he encountered the Word of God in a life- and nation-changing way. When he heard God’s instructions and knew Judah had disobeyed them, he immediately felt concerned and grief-stricken. He sought counsel on what to do and heeded the warnings, and he brought repentance and renewal to his people.
God’s Word makes an impact. Consider the story of Cal Wolf. As a boy, Cal lived on a sheep ranch in Wyoming. Many times he felt emptiness in his heart and wondered why he was born. Because nature was so well-regulated and beautiful, he knew there was a God, but he had no religious training.
In 1941, he joined the United States Navy and soon was assigned to the USS Enterprise, an aircraft carrier which was headed for the South Pacific. While he was on that ship, God began to enlighten him. Cal said, “Sitting at my battle station day after day, I watched a young man reading his Bible. He had been a card shark, winning money from the other fellows, but I noticed that his language had changed. He was a new person. I could not understand the peace that was on his face. He had a New Testament, and as he read, he underlined verses.
“I was stationed a little higher than he in the gun director. One day when he closed his eyes, I looked over his shoulder and read the Scripture he had underlined. It said, ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16). I had never dreamed that God had a Son! But that day, God began to show me that my problems were caused by a sinful heart and that I should give my heart to Him.
“A few months later, a string of dive bombers were coming at us, one after another. I knew that any moment could be my last, and I was not ready to meet God. I ran into the optical shop, threw myself on the deck, and began to cry to God. I was sorry for every sin I had ever committed and told Him I wanted to live right. As quickly as you could snap your fingers, peace came into my heart. It felt as though a load rolled off my back.”
God spared Cal Wolf’s life that day, and he served God until his death many decades later. Like King Josiah, Cal took action when he encountered the Word of God. Both men chose to follow the instructions that they learned. Many of us have heard and read the Bible for years. Yet we also have a responsibility to act upon and obey what it says day by day. We will benefit if we learn from these men and live as God wants us to.
This chapter starts the account of Josiah’s reign, including his instituting of Temple repairs, finding the book of the Law, and his reaction to its contents.
Josiah was made king at eight years of age because his father was assassinated, and he reigned thirty-one years. His guardians and advisors, including his mother and grandmother who are both mentioned in the first verse of this chapter, desired that Judah would follow God. It is likely that they had an important role in shaping Josiah’s heart and directing him as a young king. When he was sixteen years old (2 Chronicles 34:3), he sought God for himself. Like his great-grandfather Hezekiah, he was outstanding in his service to God.
Despite his youth, Josiah’s faithfulness was evidenced by multiple actions. Initially, it was under his direction that the Temple restoration began. During the reigns of his father and grandfather, the Temple had been misused. Also, Hezekiah had taken Temple articles to pay Sennacherib tribute, so the Temple was in need of work. The fact that the book of the Law was lost in the Temple was in itself a sign that both it and the country were in disrepair. (Deuteronomy 31 contains instructions to keep the book of the Law next to the ark of the covenant, and Deuteronomy 17 directs each king to have a copy of it.)
The book of the Law that was found could have been the whole Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) or just Deuteronomy. Some Bible scholars believe it was a copy that dated back to the time of Moses and may have even been signed by him. Because of the reference made to judgment, it is thought that either Leviticus 26 or Deuteronomy 28 was read to Josiah.
Josiah responded to what he heard from the book of the Law. He believed that it was true, that God would do what He said He would, and that as the king, Josiah was responsible to take action. He had not personally committed the great evils of Judah, but he felt the burden of leadership, and led the nation in humility and repentance. The rending of clothes was a strong statement of mourning. The phrase “a hard heart” was frequently used to refer to a heart that was unrepentant and stubborn toward God. Josiah demonstrated that he had a tender heart toward the Word of God, even when its message was distressing to him.
In Old Testament times, most of the prophets were men; Huldah was one of the few women. “The college” was probably the lower part of Jerusalem, a residential area between the inner and outer walls. Huldah confirmed that Judah would be judged for its wickedness, but she said it would not happen while Josiah was still alive.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The reigns of the kings of Judah
1. The character of Josiah’s reign (22:1-2)
2. The revival during Josiah’s reign
a. The setting (22:3-20)
(1) The reconstruction of the Temple (22:3-7)
(2) The recovery of the Law (22:8-13)
(3) The prophecy of Huldah (22:14-20)
No matter what our age, position, or vocation, we have the great privilege in our access to the Word of God. We each must choose how we will respond.