JOSIAH, jo-sai'a: Fifteenth king of Judah, son and successor of Amon. His dates, according to the old chronology, are 641-610 B.C., according to Kautzsch, 640-609 B.C., and he became king at the age of eight years. The detailed accounts of his reign (II Kings xxii-viii; II Chron. xxxiv.-xxxv.) begin with his eighteenth year; the Chronicler's remark in II., xxxiv. 3 probably depends upon II Kings xxiii. 4 sqq. According to II Kings xxii. 3 sqq., Josiah ordered the temple to be repaired, which had probably not been done since the reign of Joash (II Kings xii. 11 sqq.) and Hilkiah the priest then reported that he had found in the temple the book of the law. Its contents so overwhelmed the king with apprehensions of evil that he rent his clothes, and an oracle was sought from Huldah the prophetess, who reported that the threatenings were to be realized, since the book was true. The king then summoned to Jerusalem the elders of the people, the priests, and the prophets ("priests and Levites," II Chron. xxxiv. 30), and to them the book was read. There followed a thorough cleansing of the temple and city of the accessories to idolatrous worship, and to this was added abolition of the worship on the high places, while the priests of that service were brought to the capital, where, though excluded from service at the sanctuary, they received the emoluments of their order. Josiah then turned his attention to high places in what had been the northern kingdom, especially to that at Bethel, and they were defiled with the bones of the dead. The work was concluded by a notable observance of the Passover rendered memorable apparently by the numbers and unity of those celebrating.
The historic value of the reports about the reform of the cultus is bound up with the question as to what the law book was which was discovered, and can be solved only in connection with criticism of the Pentateuch (see HEXATEUCH). In case this book was not one which had been lost to sight, but was an unknown and new codification having for its purpose the abolition of worship at the high places and concentration of worship at Jerusalem, the conclusion is forced that it was practically identical with Deuteronomy; but it does not follow that the transaction was due to Hilkiah and the prophets of that time, while priestly interests were not served by the publication of the book. The noteworthy fact is the forcible impression it made upon Josiah and his contemporaries and its bearing upon the Josianic reformation. The results were important for the history of Israel, since the unity of cult had symbolic relation to the monotheistic conception of deity. Josiah's reform created a new basis for the activity of the prophets, it affected worship in the second temple, and set forth the unity of God as the center of thought in the religion of Israel. The questions arise, with what right did Josiah extend his efforts in behalf of a pure cultus into the northern kingdom, and why did he throw himself across the path of Pharaoh Necho when the latter was on his way to the Euphrates. While the northern region was nominally under the rule of Assyria, that power was about to fall. The time would seem ripe for what had been foretold by the prophets, the unification of Israel and Judah, and religious unification was the first step toward political reunion. Such a plan he might hope to carry through as a loyal vassal of Babylonia, especially in withstanding the attempts of Egypt to gain new position as a world power. But the issue did not correspond to his hopes, and Josiah was defeated and killed, and brought back for burial to Jerusalem. Some debate has arisen over the place of the battle, since Herodotus (ii. 159) names instead of the Biblical Megiddo Magdolus, which corresponds to the modern al-Majdal, two miles west of Carmel or (Winckler, in Benzinger, Die Bücher der Könige, p. 207, Tübingen, 1899) Strato's Tower. Possibly Megiddo appears in the Biblical narrative because it was the place to which the wounded king was carried and where he died. Yet it hardly seems as though the Jews could have completely lost the correct
BIBLIOGRAPHY: The pertinent sections in the literature mentioned under AHAB; the articles in the Bible dictionaries; the literature under HEXATEUCH, since the discussions of Deuteronomy and of the Pentateuch involve discussions of Josiah's reform and its legal basis.
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