2 Kings 22 – “Josiah’s Reign Begins; Hilkiah Finds a Scroll”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Josiah becomes king and oversees the temple’s repairs. A priest named Hilkiah finds a scroll and Josiah laments how the people have abandoned God. Hulda the prophetess predicts the fall of Jerusalem.

II. Photo
Hilkiah has important news: “Then the high priest Hilkiah said to the scribe Shaphan, ‘I have found a scroll of the Teaching in the House of the Lord.’” (v. 8a)

III. Important Verses
2: [Josiah] did what was pleasing to the LORD and he followed all the ways of his ancestor David; he did not deviate to the right or to the left.
8: Then the high priest Hilkiah said to the scribe Shaphan, “I have found a scroll of the Teaching in the House of the LORD.” And Hilkiah gave the scroll to Shaphan, who read it.
11: When the king heard the words of the scroll of the Teaching, he rent his clothes.
15-20: [Hulda] responded: “Thus said the LORD, the God of Israel: Say to the man who sent you to me: Thus said the LORD: I am going to bring disaster upon this place and its inhabitants, in accordance with all the words of the scroll which the king of Judah has read. Because they have forsaken Me and have made offerings to other gods and vexed Me with all their deeds, My wrath is kindled against this place and it shall not be quenched. But say this to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD: Thus said the LORD, the God of Israel: As for the words which you have heard — because your heart was softened and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I decreed against this place and its inhabitants — that it will become a desolation and a curse — and because you rent your clothes and wept before Me, I for My part have listened — declares the LORD. Assuredly, I will gather you to your fathers and you will be laid in your tomb in peace. Your eyes shall not see all the disaster which I will bring upon this place.” So they brought back the reply to the king.

IV. Outline
1. Introductory statement: Josiah king of Judah
2. Josiah’s righteousness
3-7. Josiah oversees the temple finances
8a. Hilkiah finds a scroll in the temple
8b-10a. Josiah is informed of the temple work and the scroll
10b. Shaphan reads the scroll
11-13. Josiah’s dismay
14-20. Hulda augurs doom for Jerusalem, but not during Josiah’s lifetime

V. Comment
Chapter 22, which is the beginning of “Josiah’s great reform” (640–609 B.C.E.), is considered by many to be one of the most important chapters of the Hebrew Bible. This is because the priest Hilkiah “finds” a scroll that many consider to be the book of Deuteronomy. Cogan and Tadmor write: “It has become an accepted maxim in biblical scholarship ever since De Wette’s Dissertatio Critica in 1805 that the book is Deuteronomy or its early nucleus. Josiah’s acts of cultic reform (cf. 23:4-14, 21-24), which culminated in the centralization of all worship in Jerusalem, are presented in terms and style almost identical to that of Deuteronomy. Moreover no other book in the Pentateuch besides Deuteronomy requires cultic centralization in [God’s] chosen city. Josiah’s mournful reaction to the book also points to the Deuteronomy, in which the legal code concludes with lengthy maledictions, a dire warning to all violators of [God’s] covenant. Deuteronomy presents itself as a covenant, and from a literary point of view the book has the structure of a political treaty. It is, therefore, cardinal for the understanding of the Josianic reform that it is described as having emerged from ‘the book of the covenant which was found in the Temple’ (23:2), i.e. the book of Deuteronomy or a significant part of it.” (294)

Cogan and Tadmor point out that Josiah reigned at a critical juncture in ancient Near Eastern history. This is because the Assyrians, who had once dominated the land of Israel, lost their hegemony in the West. Cogan and Tadmor write: “In contradistinction to the age of Manasseh, when Assyrian pressure was actively felt in the West, in particular during the campaigns of Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal to Egypt, Josiah’s reign occurred during the days of Assyria’s decline and fall. By the middle of the seventh century, Assyria had lost control of Egypt; and for over a decade was involved in wars in Babylonia and Elam. Babylon was reconquered in 648 B.C.E. after a long siege; Elam was ravaged and its capital Susa finally pillaged and destroyed by 645. On its northern borders, the Empire was troubled by the activity of nomadic hordes, the Cimmerians (or in the opinion of some scholars, the Scythians)… Shortly after 640, the written sources cease and very little is known of Assyrian history during the last decade of Ashurbanipal’s reign. After the king’s death in 627 B.C.E., there is reason to believe that Assyria was much weakened by internal strife stemming from the struggle between claimants to the throne. In 626 Babylonia rebelled and achieved independence, under Nabopolassar, a prince of Chaldean descent… In 614 the city of Ashur fell, and two years later the capital Nineveh was captured and sacked. For a few years the western part of the Assyrian Empire, with the city of Haran as its center, resisted under the last Assyrian king, Ashur-uballit II. In 610 Haran, too, fell to the Babylonians… It is very hard to establish the date when Assyria lost both its hold over the province of Samaria and its hegemony over Judah. The earliest possible date is in the 630’s; another possibility would be 627 B.C.E., the year of Ashurbanipal’s death. Josiah’s thirty-one years of reign come, then, during a critical stage in the history of the ancient Near East. ” (291-293)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Cogan, Mordechai and Hayim Tadmor. “II Kings” The Anchor Bible v. 11 (USA: Doubleday, 1988).
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Hobbs, T.R. “2 Kings” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 13 (Waco, Texas: Wordbooks, 1985).
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