2 Chronicles 34 – “Josiah Part I – The Scroll of Hilkiah”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Josiah combats idolatry and repairs the temple. Hilkiah discovers a scroll and Josiah seeks an oracle, assembles the people, and forges a new covenant with God.

II. Photo
Josiah fights idolatry: “He burned the bones of priests on their altars and purged Judah and Jerusalem.” (v. 5)

III. Select Verses    
3-5: In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the shrines, the sacred posts, the idols, and the molten images.  At his bidding, they demolished the altars of the Baals, and he had the incense stands above them cut down; he smashed the sacred posts, the idols, and the images, ground them into dust, and strewed it onto the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. He burned the bones of priests on their altars and purged Judah and Jerusalem.
14: As they took out the silver that had been brought to the House of the LORD, the priest Hilkiah found a scroll of the LORD’s Teaching given by Moses.
29-31: Then the king sent word and assembled all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. The king went up to the House of the LORD with all the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the priests and the Levites — all the people, young and old — and he read to them the entire text of the covenant scroll that was found in the House of the LORD. The king stood in his place and solemnized the covenant before the LORD: to follow the LORD and observe His commandments, His injunctions, and His laws with all his heart and soul, to fulfill all the terms of the covenant written in this scroll.

IV. Outline

1. Introduction
2. Josiah’s Righteousness
3-7. Abolishing idolatry
    3-4. Abolishing idolatry in Judah
    5. Burning the bones of illicit priests
    6-7. Abolishing idolatry in the northern kingdom
8-13. Temple repairs
14-. Hilkiah’s scroll
    14. Discovery
    15-18. Shaphan reads the scroll to Josiah; Temple report
    19. Josiah laments
    20-22. Josiah sends messengers to Huldah
    23-28. Huldah’s oracles
        23-25. God’s wrath
        26-28. Peace for Josiah
    29-30. Josiah reads the scroll to the Judeans
    31-32. Josiah’s covenant
    33. Josiah’s and the people’s righteousness

V. Comment
2 Chronicles 34 recounts Josiah’s dramatic reaction to the discovery of a scroll. A major concern of biblical scholarship is the identification of this scroll. Dillard summarizes the issue as follows:

  • There has been a long and vigorous debate over the identity of the book found in the temple. The general consensus is that it was Deuteronomy or some earlier stage of that book during its growth and formation. Numerous features favor the identification with Deuteronomy. (1) The centralization of worship in the one place chosen by God, the temple in Jerusalem, is envisaged in Deut 12. (2) The destruction of the high places and all rival cultic installations is enjoined in Deut 12. (3) The book has an extended section of curses (34:24; Deut 27:9–26; 28:15–68), including the threat of exile. (4) The character of the Passover observance reflects the stipulations of Deut 16. (5) A prophet is consulted to know the will of God (34:22–28; Deut 18:9–22). (6) The books of Kings are history viewed through spectacles consisting of the book of Deuteronomy; pentateuchal laws distinctive of Deuteronomy are the measure by which the kings of Israel and Judah are evaluated. It would be natural that the fidelity of Josiah in Kings flow from the stipulations of that book. (7) Deuteronomy shows many features in common with extrabiblical treaties or covenants, a fact which also favors its identification as “the book of the covenant” (34:30// 2 Kgs 23:2). While some have regarded Deuteronomy as a “pious fraud” written at the time of Josiah and attributed to Moses only in an effort to legitimate Josiah’s extension of his power, increasingly scholars have come to recognize the comparative antiquity of much of the book and to allow that many of its provisions antedate the time of Josiah. One need not have solved all the questions surrounding pentateuchal criticism to recognize the compelling evidence that Deuteronomy or a document somewhat like it was the motivating force behind Josiah’s reform as described in Kings. How it could have dropped from view or lost its influence can only be a matter of speculation; it is at least conceivable that during the threat of invasion under Hezekiah or during the apostasy under Amon and Manasseh it was concealed in the temple. (280)

Dillard also draws an interesting comparison between the reigns of Josiah (2 Chr 34-35) and Joash (2 Chr 23-24):

  • Many features of Josiah’s reign have parallels with the reign of Joash (2 Chr 23–24). Both came to the throne while children. Both were involved in collection of funds at the temple and in subsequent renovations. Both are reported to have stood in the temple precincts in the king’s place (34:31; 24:13); both led the nation in covenant renewal in the temple (34:29–32; 23:16–17). But here the parallels end. While Joash would remain faithful only so long as Jehoiada lived (24:2, 15–18), Josiah never turned from following the LORD to the right or left (34:2), and ‘for the duration of his life they did not turn from following Yahweh’ (34:33). No foreign army would invade Judah in his day (34:24–25, 28; contrast 24:23–24). (282)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Dillard, R. B., 2 Chronicles (WBC 15; Waco, Texas 1987).
Photo copied from