Josiah: Period and Religious Reform


Josiah undertook therefrom program with a notion of political unification and cultic purification. He removed the bronze statute of the Assyrian gods in the Jerusalem temple. All the local shrines were terminated and worship was centralized towards Jerusalem temple. All the paraphernalia of the foreign cults largely of Mesopotamian origin (2 Kgs 23: 4-5, 11-12), the native pagan cults, some introduced by Manasseh (2 Kgs 23: 6, 10) and some more ancient practices (2 Kgs 23: 13-14) were removed. The personnel associated with these cults were put to death. Divination and magic were banned. The cult places in Northern Israel were likewise destroyed (2 Kgs 23: 15-20) as far as north of Galilee (2 Chr 34: 6). It was during this period of religious reforms of Josiah’s ‘Book of Law’ was found in the temple and brought to Josiah. Though not, they became the blue print for the reform certainly the Book of Law added momentum towards the reform.

Certainly, the undercurrent of Josiah’s religious reform measures was the resurgent nationalism. Reform also supported in a way the prophetic mission with its welcoming situation. The reforms of Josiah gave new hope of change, and both Zephaniah and Jeremiah were in favour of the reform measures even though Jeremiah identified that this reform is temporary and superficial.

With regard to the political situation, the Assyrian empire slowly collapsed and the Medes and Babylonians gained political power when the Josianic reform was in full swing. In 612 BCE, they attacked Nineveh, now the Assyrian ruler fled to Haran. Having felt morally grateful to the Assyrians who helped them once upon a time, now the Egyptian Pharaoh Neco II rushed to help the Assyrian king. Reading wrongly the newly developing international politics, Josiah intercepted the Egyptian Pharaoh and fought against him at Megiddo, unfortunately king Josiah was killed and all his religious and political reforms ended abruptly.

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