2 Kings 22:1 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. His mother’s name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah; she was from Bozkath.
Josiah was king of Judah from 640 to 609.
2 Kings 22:2 he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.
He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord – ‘See the triumphs of divine grace – Josiah born of a wicked father, no good education nor good example given him, but many about him who no doubt advised him to tread in his father’s steps and few that gave him any good counsel, and yet the grace of God made him an eminent saint, cut him off from the wild olive and grafted him into the good olive, Rom 11:24. Nothing is too hard for that grace to do. He walked in a good way, and turned not aside (as some of his predecessors had done who began well) to the right hand nor to the left. There are errors on both hands, but God kept him in the right way; he fell neither into superstition nor profaneness.’ (MHC)
‘The writer commends several kings of Judah-Asa, (1 Kings 15:11) Jehoshaphat, (1 Kings 22:43) Joash, (2 Kings 12:2) Amaziah (14:3), Azariah (15:3), Jotham (15:34), and Hezekiah (18:3), but he gives Josiah the highest praise (23:25). Josiah instituted the most thoroughgoing reforms of any king (23:1-24). The prophet Jeremiah also spoke well of Josiah’s reign.’ (Jer 22:15,16) (New Geneva)
2 Kings 22:3 In the eighteenth year of his reign, King Josiah sent the secretary, Shaphan son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, to the temple of the LORD. He said:
In the eighteenth year of his reign – Around 622 BC. According to 2 Chron 34:3, Josiah began his reforms some ten years earlier, so it is not surprising that he now wishes to repair the temple, presumably with the intention of promoting worship there.
2 Kings 22:4 “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest and have him get ready the money that has been brought into the temple of the LORD, which the doorkeepers have collected from the people.”
The money that has been brought into the temple – The offerings of the people that had been made over time were now to be collected up and used towards the repairs.
2 Kings 22:5 Have them entrust it to the men appointed to supervise the work on the temple. And have these men pay the workers who repair the temple of the LORD-
The last comprehensive repair of the temple had been carried out by King Joash, 250 years earlier.
2 Ki 22:6 the carpenters, the builders and the masons. Also have them purchase timber and dressed stone to repair the temple.
2 Ki 22:7 But they need not account for the money entrusted to them, because they are acting faithfully.”
2 Kings 22:8 Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the LORD.” He gave it to Shaphan, who read it.
“I have found the Book of the Law” – ‘The repairs to the temple suggest that religious reforms were already under way when the book was found, and the Chronicler’s account confirms this.’ (2 Chron 34:3-7) (NBC)
Scholars generally agree that the Book of the Law referred to here is, or contains, the book of Deuteronomy. Liberal scholarship, however, has tended to regard that book as actually dating from the time of Josiah – around 622 BC. According to Deut 31:24 the book was deposited in the most holy place.
It would appear that the Book of the Law had been missing – perhaps just forgotten, possibly hidden intentionally. Certainly, the law of Moses is mentioned with reference to a number of previous kings (Solomon, 1 Kings 2:3; Jehu, 2 Kings 10:31; Amaziah, 14:6; Hezekiah, 2 Kings 18). So, it seems that its neglect can be traced back to Manasseh, who possibly removed the scroll from its rightful place beside the ark of the covenant, Deut 17:18-20. It would not have suited him at all to acknowledge it, Deut 17:18-20.
Matthew Henry’s comments is perceptive: ‘Whether this was the only authentic copy in being or no, it seems the things contained in it were new both to the king himself and to the high priest; for the king, upon the reading of it, rent his clothes. We have reason to think that neither the command for the king’s writing a copy of the law, nor that for the public reading of the law every seventh year, (Deut 17:18 31:10,11) had been observed for a long time; and when the instituted means of keeping up religion are neglected religion itself will soon go to decay. Yet, on the other hand, if the book of the law was lost, it seems difficult to determine what rule Josiah went by in doing that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and how the priests and people kept up the rites of their religion. I am apt to think that the people generally took up with abstracts of the law, like our abridgements of the statutes, which the priests, to save themselves the trouble of writing and the people of reading the book at large, had furnished them with – a sort of ritual, directing them in the observances of their religion, but leaving out what they thought fit, and particularly the promises and threatenings (Lev. 26 and Deu. 28, etc.), for I observe that these were the portions of the law which Josiah was so much affected with, (2 Kings 22:13) for these were new to him. No summaries, extracts, or collections, out of the Bible (though they may have their use) can be effectual to convey and preserve the knowledge of God and his will like the Bible itself. It was no marvel that the people were so corrupt when the book of the law was such a scarce thing among them; where that vision is not the people perish. Those that endeavoured to debauch them no doubt used all the arts they could to get that book out of their hands. The church of Rome could not keep up the use of images but by forbidding the use of the scripture.’
‘It was a great instance of God’s favour, and a token for good to Josiah and his people, that the book of the law was thus seasonably brought to light, to direct and quicken that blessed reformation which Josiah had begun. It is a sign that God has mercy in store for a people when he magnifies his law among them and makes that honourable, and furnishes them with means for the increase of scripture-knowledge. The translating of the scriptures into vulgar tongues was the glory, strength, and joy of the Reformation from Popery. It is observable that they were about a good work, repairing the temple, when they found the book of the law. Those that do their duty according to their knowledge shall have their knowledge increased. To him that hath shall be given. The book of the law was an abundant recompence for all their care and cost about the repair of the temple.’ (MHC)
2 Ki 22:9 Then Shaphan the secretary went to the king and reported to him: “Your officials have paid out the money that was in the temple of the LORD and have entrusted it to the workers and supervisors at the temple.”
2 Ki 22:10 Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.
2 Kings 22:11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes.
Perhaps they read Deut 27-28 to Josiah, for these chapters emphasise God’s wrath against the nation’s disobedience.
2 Ki 22:12 He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Acbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant:
2 Kings 22:13 “Go and inquire of the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”
‘Most significantly, he seeks a prophetic word to interpret the ramifications of this disobedience. He admits the nation’s sin, fears its results, and hopes it is not too late to change. He seems to reason that God may yet be merciful to an undeserving people.’ (NAC)
2 Kings 22:14 Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Acbor, Shaphan and Asaiah went to speak to the prophetess Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the Second District.
The prophetess Huldah – ‘Two questions about Huldah arise: Why a woman? and, Why Huldah in particular? Honeycutt observes that the word “prophetess” occurs six times in the Old Testament (cf. also Ex 15:20 Jud 4:4 2 Kings 22:14 2 Chron 34:22 Ne 6:14) as a designation for Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, and Noadiah. Of these prophetesses, all but Noadiah are portrayed positively. Thus, though less common than male prophets, a female prophet is not unique to this situation. Indeed, Joe 2:28 looks forward to a time when “sons and daughters will prophesy,” which Peter says does occur on the Day of Pentecost. (Ac 2:14-21) As for why Huldah and not, for instance, Jeremiah, “We have to remind ourselves that judgments upon personalities vary between that of contemporaries and that of posterity. Indeed Jeremiah felt himself to be a forgotten man in his day. Huldah left no book.” (Montgomery & Gehman). Both were used by the Lord, and both must be judged on that basis.’ (NAC)
Jeremiah’s ministry had begun five years earlier, Jer 1:2.
2 Ki 22:15 She said to them, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me,
2 Kings 22:16 ‘This is what the LORD says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read.
Huldah’s prophecy confirms that of the unnamed prophets in 2 Kings 21:10ff.
2 Ki 22:17 Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and provoked me to anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.’
2 Ki 22:18 Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard:
2 Ki 22:19 Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people, that they would become accursed and laid waste, and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the LORD.
2 Ki 22:20 Therefore I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.'” So they took her answer back to the king.