Josi'ah (Heb. Yoshiyah', יאשַׁיָּה, healed by Jehovah, Zechariah 6:10, elsewhere in the paragogic form Yoshiya'hu, יאֹשַׁיָּהוּ, and in the text of Jer 27:1, יאֹושַׁיָּהוּ; Sept., N.T., and Josephus Ι᾿ωσίας, "Josias." Mt 1:10-11), the name of two men.
I. The sixteenth king of Judah after its separation from the kingdom of Israel, the son (by Jedidah) and, at the early age of eight years, B.C. 640, the successor of Amon (2Ki 22:1; 2Ch 33:1). His history is contained in 2Ki 22-24; 2Ch 34; 2Ch 35; and the first twelve chapters of Jeremiah throw much light upon the general character of the Jews in his days. Avoiding the example of his immediate predecessors, he "did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the ways of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left" (2Ki 22:2; 2Ch 34:2).
1. So early as the sixteenth year of his age (B.C. 633) he began to manifest that enmity to idolatry in all its forms which distinguished his character and reign; and he was not quite twenty years old (B.C. 628) when he proclaimed open war against it, although more or less favored by many men of rank and influence in the kingdom (2Ch 34:3). He then commenced a thorough purification of the land from all taint of idolatry. by going about and superintending in person the operations of the men who were employed in breaking down idolatrous altars and images, and cutting down the groves which had been consecrated to idol worship (see Bertholdt, De purgatione per Josiam, Erl. 1817). His detestation of idolatry could not have been more strongly expressed than by ransacking the sepulchres of the idolatrous priests of former days, and consuming their bones upon the idol altars before they were overturned. Yet this operation, although unexampled in Jewish history, was foretold 345 years before Josiah was born by the prophet who was commissioned to denounce to Jeroboam the future punishment of his sin. He even named Josiah as the person by whom this act was to be performed, and said that it should be performed in Beth-el, which was then a part of the kingdom of Israel (1Ki 13:2). All this seemed much beyond the range of human probabilities; but it was performed to the letter, for Josiah did not confine his proceedings to his own kingdom, but went over a considerable part of the neighboring kingdom of Israel, which then lay comparatively desolate, with the same object in view; and at Beth-el, in particular, executed all that the prophet had foretold (2Ki 22:1-19; 2Ch 34:3-7,32). In these proceedings Josiah seems to have been actuated by an absolute hatred of idolatry, such as no other king since David had manifested, and which David had scarcely occasion to manifest in the same degree. So important was this reformation of the public cultus under Josiah that it forms an epoch whence Jeremiah dates many of his prophecies (Jer 25:3,11,29).
2. In the eighteenth year of his reign and the twenty-sixth of his age (B.C. 623), when the land had been thoroughly purified from idolatry and all that belonged to it, Josiah proceeded to repair and beautify the Temple of the Lord (2Ki 22:3; 2Ki 23:23). In the course of this pious labor the high priest Hilkiah discovered in the sanctuary a volume, which proved to contain the books of Moses, and which, from the terms employed, seems to have been considered the original of the law as written by Moses. On this point there has been much anxious discussion and some rash assertion. Some writers of the German school allege that there is no external evidence — that is, evidence besides the law itself — that the book of the law existed till it was thus produced by Hilkiah. This assertion it is the less necessary to answer here, as it will be noticed in the article PENTATEUCH SEE PENTATEUCH . (See also De Wette, Beitr. 1, 168 sq.; Bertholdt, Progr. de eo quod in purgatione sacror. Jud. per Josiam fucta omnium, maxim contigerit memorabile, Erl. 1817; also in his Opusc. p. 32 sq.) But it may be observed that it is founded very much on the fact that the king was greatly astonished when some parts of the law were read to him. It is indeed perfectly manifest that he had previously been entirely ignorant of much that he then heard; and he rent his clothes in consternation when he found that, with the best intentions to serve the Lord, he and all his people had been living in the neglect of duties which the law declared to be of vital importance. It is certainly difficult to account for this ignorance. Some suppose that all the copies of the law had perished, and that the king had never seen one. But this is very unlikely; for. however scarce complete copies may have been, the pious king was likely to have been the possessor of one. The probability seems to be that the passages read were those awful denunciations against disobedience with which the book of Deuteronomy concludes, and which, for some cause or other, the king had never before read, or which had never before produced on his mind the same strong conviction of the imminent dangers under which the nation lay, as now when read to him from a volume invested with a character so venerable, and brought with such interesting circumstances under his notice. We should bear in mind that it is very difficult for us in this age and country to estimate the scantiness of the opportunities which were then open to laymen of acquiring literary knowledge connected with religion. The special commission sent forth by Jehoshaphat (2Ch 17:7) is a proof that even under such kings as Asa and his son the Levites were insufficient for the religious instruction of the people. What, then, must have been the amount of information accessible to a generation which had grown up in the reigns of Manasseh and Amon? We do not know that the law was read as a stated part of any ordinary public service in the Temple of Solomon (unless the injunction De 31:10 was obeyed once in seven years), though God was worshipped there with daily sacrifice, psalmody, and prayer.
The king, in his alarm, sent to Huldah "the prophetess" for her counsel in this emergency, SEE HULDAH: her answer assured him that, although the dread penalties threatened by the law had been incurred and would be inflicted, he should be gathered in peace to his fathers before the days of punishment and sorrow came.
It was perhaps not without some hope of averting this doom that the king immediately called the people together at Jerusalem, and engaged them in a solemn renewal of the ancient covenant with God. When this had been done, the Passover was celebrated with careful attention to the directions given in the law, and on a scale of unexampled magnificence. (On the public importance of this era, see Eze 1:1-2.) But all was too late; the hour of mercy had passed; for "the Lord turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah" (2Ki 22:3-20; 2Ki 23:21-27; 2Ch 34:8-33; 2Ch 35:1-19).
3. That removal from the world which had been promised to Josiah as a blessing was not long delayed, and was brought about in a way which he probably had not expected. Pharaoh-necho, king of Egypt, sought a passage through his territories on an expedition against the Chaldaeans; but Josiah refused to allow the march of the Egyptian army through his dominions, and prepared to resist the attempt by force of arms. His reason for this opposition has usually been assumed to have been a high sense of loyalty to the Assyrian monarch, whose tributary he is supposed to have been. Such is at least the conjecture of Prideaux (Connection, anno 610) and of Milman (History of the Jews, 1, 313). But the Bible ascribes no such chivalrous motive to Josiah; and it does not occur to Josephus, who attributes (Ant. 10, 5, 1) Josiah's resistance merely to Fate urging him to destruction; nor to the author of 1 Esdr. 1:28, who describes him as acting willfully against Jeremiah's advice; nor to Ewald, who (Gesch. Isr. 3, 707) conjectures that it may have been the constant aim of Josiah to restore not only the ritual, but also the kingdom of David in its full extent and independence, and that he attacked Necho as an invader of what he considered as his northern dominions. This conjecture, if equally probable with the former, is equally without adequate support in the Bible, and is somewhat derogatory to the character of Josiah. Necho was very unwilling to engage in hostilities with Josiah: the appearance of the Hebrew army at Megiddo (comp. Herod. 2, 159), however, brought on a battle, in which the king of Judah, although disguised for security, was so desperately wounded by a random arrow that his attendants removed him from the war chariot and placed him in another, in which he was taken to Jerusalem, where he died, after a reign of thirty-one years. B.C. 609. (See J.R. Kiesling's Essay on this subject, Lips. 1754.) No king that reigned in Israel was ever more deeply lamented by all his subjects than Josiah; and we are told that the prophet Jeremiah composed on the occasion an elegiac ode, which was long preserved among the people (2Ki 23:29-37; 2Ch 35:20-27). SEE LAMENTATIONS. Compare the narrative in 2Ch 35:25 with the allusions in Jer 22:10,18, and Zec 12:11, and with Jackson, On the Creed, bk. 8, ch. 23. p. 878. The prediction of Huldah that he should "be gathered into the grave in peace" must be interpreted in accordance with the explanation of that phrase given in Jer 34:5. Some excellent remarks on it may be found in Jackson, On the Creed, bk. 11, ch. 36, p. 664. Josiah's reformation and his death are commented on by bishop Hall, Contemplations on the O.T., bk. 20. See also Howard, History of Josiah (London, 1842).
4. It was in the reign of Josiah that a nomadic horde of Scythians overran Asia (Herod. 1, 104-106). A detachment of them went towards Egypt by the way of Philistia: somewhere southwards of Ascalon they were met by messengers from Psammetichus and induced to turn back. They are not mentioned in the historical accounts of Josiah's reign; but Ewald (Die Psalmen, p. 165) conjectures that the 59th Psalm was composed by king Josiah during a siege of Jerusalem by these Scythians. The town Bethshan is said to derive its Greek name Scythopolis (Reland, Palest. p. 992; Lightfoot, Chor. Marc. 7, § 2) from these invaders. The facility with which Josiah appears to have extended his authority in the land of Israel is adduced as an indication that the Assyrian conquerors of that land were themselves at this time under the restraining fear of some enemy. The prophecy of Zephaniah is considered to have been written amid the terror caused by their approach. The same people are described at a later period by Ezekiel (28). See Ewald, Gesch. Isr. 3, 689. Abarbanel (ap. Eisenmenger, Ent. Jud. 1, 858) records an oral tradition of the Jews to the effect that the ark of the covenant, which Solomon deposited in the Temple (1Ki 6:19), was removed and hidden by Josiah in expectation of the destruction of the Temple, and that it will not be brought again to light until the coming of Messiah.
II. Son of Zephaniah, and a resident of Jerusalem after the captivity, in whose house the prophet was directed to crown the high priest Jeshua as a type of the Messiah (Zec 6:10). B.C. prob. 520. "It has been conjectured that Josiah was either a goldsmith, or treasurer of the Temple, or one of the keepers of the Temple, who received the money offered by the worshippers, but nothing is known of him. Possibly he was a descendant of Zephaniah, the priest mentioned in Jer 21:1; Jer 37:3; and if Hen in Zec 6:15 be a proper name, which is doubtful, it probably refers to the same person, elsewhere called Josiah"