Posted by / Monday 22 February 2016 / No comments

The religious reforms of king Josiah

Easter, Easter Candle, Cross

King Josiah became the king of Judah at the age of eight. His reforms were carried out in the eighteenth year of his reign. His reforms brought about a reversal of the religious and political policies of his predecessor.

The reform was necessitated by the discovery of the Book of the Law in the wall of the Temple during renovation work. The secretary, Shaphran told the king about the discovery of the Book of the Law. The king asked the High Priest, Hilkiah to check if the Book was genuine. This was done. They also consulted the Prophetess, Huldah who told the king that if the contents of the Book of the Law were violated, it was going to bring evil upon Israel.

The king, Josiah and his elders made a covenant to respect the content of the Book of the Law and to go according to what was contained in it.

Josiah abolished the worship of Baal and Asherim. He destroyed the high places. Religious officials were removed from their positions and the Levitical priesthood was centralized in Jerusalem.
The king abolished the worship of the Assyrian astral cult and the worship of the Ammonite deity called Milcom.

King Josiah stopped child sacrifice in the valley of Hinnon and also the practice of cult prostitution.
The king also put away the practice of consulting mediums, wizards, fortune tellers, and augury.
He removed alien objects from the Temple, for example, the male god Baal, the female goddess Asherah. He removed the horses dedicated to the Sun god.

King Josiah abolished the sanctuaries of High places outside Jerusalem and demoted their idolatrous priests.
He defiled the altars of the heathen shrines by killing their priests on their own altars and burning the human bones on the altars.

The king extended the reform to the Northern kingdom. There, the golden calf created by Jeroboam, the son of Nebat and its Asherah were destroyed.

He came back to Judah and reinstated the Passover and Sabbath celebration. 

Josiah’s reforms were significant for many reasons.
The reforms centralized the worship of Yahweh in Jerusalem and this resulted in the purification of the worship of Yahweh.

Church, Christianity, Cathedral

The reforms led to the re-establishment of the religious and political independence of Judah and Israel from Assyrian domination.

The reforms offered Yahwism a breathing space. It also improved public morality and the administration of justice. 

There were, however, a few downsides to the reforms. For example, the priests of the outlying sanctuaries became jobless as a result of the centralization of worship in Jerusalem as the only legitimate sanctuary. The priests concerned were dissatisfied and disgruntled after the outlying shrines were abolished.

The reform led to the creation of an elite priesthood, who monopolized worship in Jerusalem and those in the outlying areas became subordinated to those priests in Jerusalem.

The reforms succeeded in organizing religious activity but it failed to result in a genuine spiritual revival. The reform was superficial and the people became hypocritical.

Lessons for Christian leaders
1. Christian leaders need to purify the worship of God.
2. Christian leaders must avoid religious syncretism.
3. Christian leaders must trust in God.
4. Political independence must be accompanied by religious independence.

The significance of the reforms
The centralization of worship in the Jerusalem temple led to the purification of Yahwism.

The priests in the countryside became dissatisfied because they lost their jobs.

The reforms also led to “classism” among the priests, which is the elite who monopolized worship in Jerusalem.

It also re-established the religious and political independence of Judah and Israel from Assyrian domination.

It marked the end of the dominant influence of foreign culture and religious practices in Israel.
Finally the Passover and the Sabbath was celebrated in Jerusalem.

On the whole, the reform was based on the conviction that unless the people of Judah repudiated the syncretism, Judah would suffer the same calamity as the Northern Kingdom.

However, the reforms were not thoroughly successful. It led to hypocrisy and false security. Emphasis shifted from true spiritual renewal of the covenant to external or outward show.

1. a. Describe Josiah’s immediate response to the discovery of the Book of the Law in the temple.
    b. In what two ways is the religious situation today similar to that of Josiah’s time?
         I. Crimes and various vices are prevalent in the churches today.
        II. There are many corrupt practices in the churches today.
       III. There are people we look at and think they are practicing Christianity but are doing something else.

2. a. How did Josiah react to the content of the Book of the Law found in the house of the Lord by Hilkiah?

Related Posts