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How do we go from one of the more righteous kings of Judah to by far the most reprobate? Manasseh succeeds Hezekiah as king of Judah and he reigns for fifty-five years. All of the religious reforms and cleansings done by Hezekiah will be undone by his own son Manasseh. He is described as a king who “did evil in the eyes of the LORD; following the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites.” How far did Manasseh’s wickedness go? How did Israel compare to the Canaanite nations that God had destroyed?
What will God’s judgment look like?
Because Manasseh and Amon eschewed (i.e. go around or avoid) the way of the LORD, it happened that the temple fell into disrepair. Josiah commissioned Hilkiah the high priest to take the money collected for the temple and give it to the workmen to get the temple repaired. Then something wonderful happened: Hilkiah found a book in the temple. Hilkiah handed the book (the Book of the Law) to Shaphan his secretary and told him to bring it to the king and read it to him. Josiah’s response is encouraging.
What is it that makes Josiah a righteous king? What do Josiah’s restoration projects tell you about how far Israel (the kingdom of Judah) had drifted from the LORD? What does the discovery and the reading of the book of the Law, the first five books of the Bible, Genesis to Deuteronomy, tell you about how much Israel had forgotten? What does this tell you about the patience of God?
[ESV Study Bible Notes p. 689] “22:8 I have found the Book of the Law. The phrase “Book of the Law” is used in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) only in reference to Deuteronomy (e.g., Deut 28:61; 29:21), which was read to the king and provided the basis for his actions. Available to the kings of Israel and Judah in previous years (cf. 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 10:31; 14:6; 18:6), it was evidently lost or concealed during the long reign of the apostate Manasseh, who systematically infringed its laws.
The book of the Law was rediscovered after being lost for decades. To King Josiah’s horror, he discovers that Israel was bound by a covenant to God, to love and worship Him exclusively and love their neighbor as themselves. They have failed miserably and now live in fear that the threatened curses will fall on them because of their sin. Desperate for a word from God, a delegation is sent to the prophetess Huldah.
What is Huldah’s message to Josiah? What grace will God extend Josiah because of his humility and sorrow for the sins of Israel?
The kindness God extends is not unlike the mercy shown to the despicable Ahab! (See 1 Kings 21:25-29.)
What does Josiah do once he hears from Huldah? Why do you think he calls the people to repent and rededicate themselves to their covenant with God when judgment has been pronounced to be inevitable? Do you think God’s justice can be turned by true repentance and faith?
How far did Josiah’s campaign to remove idol worship and the corrupted forms of the worship from the Israel?
Josiah had what might best be described as a “scorched earth” policy regarding the high places and the altars and shrines dedicated to any god other than the LORD. There would be no other place of worship except in Jerusalem. Once in Bethel, Josiah destroyed the high place, burned the Asherah (the consort goddess for the LORD provided to Him by Manasseh). Not happy with that, Josiah unearthed the bones of those buried in Bethel in the high place and burned them on the altar and defiled it “according to the word of the LORD that the man of God proclaimed who had predicted these things.” (2 Kings 23:16 ESV. See also 1 Kings 13:2 where the prophesy is proclaimed.)
What did the celebration of the Passover look like? What is the author’s assessment of Josiah? Why?
Although Josiah’s reforms were impressive, God’s wrath for the sins of Judah under King Manasseh remained. God promised that judgment would not come until after Josiah’s death (2 Kings 22:15-20). With Josiah now dead, idolatry returns to Judah and along with it the looming threat of God’s judgment.
How has Judah become re-enslaved to the Pharaoh of Egypt? What new threat appears in Israel that is more terrifying than Egypt? Can Israel find a king with the power to save them?
Jeremiah, as a prophet, used more than words to communicate the messages they received from the LORD. They used actions, street theater, anything that would shock the people and grab their attention.
The Recabites were an non-Jewish clan, who for generations had carried on the traditions of their ancestor Recab and revered the God of Israel. What is ironic about the Recabites commitment to their forefathers’ commands when it comes to Israel? What must Israel do to remain in the land God had given them? What reward will the Recabites receive for their faithfulness?
As so often happens in the lives of prophets, they fall out of favor with the king and religious leaders. Such was the case of Jeremiah. Jeremiah found himself banned from going into the house of the LORD. It also happened that the LORD had a message for Jeremiah to deliver to the people of Judah. That figures. How to work around this? I am supposing that all of this happened before the Babylonian Captivity. Undaunted, Jeremiah dictates to his scribe Baruch all the words he needs to announce to the people of Judah. Jeremiah’s heart is breaking because of the apostasy of Judah! “I am banned from going to the house of the LORD, so you are to go on a day of fasting in the hearing of all the people in the LORD’s house you shall read the words of the LORD from the scroll that you have written at my dictation.” (Jeremiah 36:5-6 ESV)
When the book of the Law was read to Jehoiakim’s father, Josiah, he and all Judah with him repented and returned to the LORD in humility. How does Jehoiakim begin to respond as his father did?