2 Kings 22-23 • The Josiah Reforms


Why do we sometimes desire and pray for “revival”? Are we praying for something specifically we perceive is needed, or are we just desiring an emotional change in our self or church? It’s interesting that “revival” is not a word that exists in the entire Bible. Josiah’s reforms—which might be a biblical example of spiritual revival—began with one heart’s desire for God more than self.

Read 22:1-2

Q: Compared to other kings, which way did Josiah “walk”? Against whom is he measured? What else characterized his life?

A: He “did right in the sight of the Lord and walked in all the ways of his father David…” He is compared to David in his whole devotion to the Lord. His life was characterized by the fact that he did not turn aside to the right or to the left. What does that mean? How remarkable is it that (1) he was not like his father Amon nor grandfather Manasseh, and (2) he began reforms at such a young age.

Application: What does the life of Josiah teach us about the spiritual component of parenting? Or if one’s parents AREN’T a spiritual role model?

Q: What does it mean that Josiah (and David) were wholly devoted to the Lord? Does it mean they never sinned?

A: It doesn’t mean that they did not sin. Primarily it means that they neither personally worshipped, nor allowed the corporate worship, of other gods. They were wholly devoted to the Lord God of Israel, and, unlike Solomon and the other bad kings, never strayed from either of these.

Application: What would it take in your life to be “wholly devoted” to God; that is, have no idols controlling your heart? What is your role in others’ devotion to commonly known “idols”? How might you be allowing the corporate worship of other gods?

Read 22:3-7

Q: In verses 3-7, what was the initial work that Josiah set about to do, and how old was he? Why was the “house” in such disarray?

A: He was 26. His initial work was to restore the temple of Solomon; that is, to begin to refurbish it. The temple had obviously been neglected as a result of the idolatries of the wicked kings before him (Manasseh and Amon).

Q: How did he treat his workmen?

A: He treated his workers with trust, based on their trustworthiness in the Lord.

Application: Would you equate “the temple” to a church building, or to the church body, or to your own body? How does cleansing and restoring the temple apply to whichever you chose?

Read 22:8-10

Q: What monumental and incredible event took place while they were cleaning the temple?

A: Apparently in the temple there was left the single, last remaining copy of the Law. This could possibly be all the Scriptures that were written up to that time: the Law (Genesis through Deuteronomy), Joshua and Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, Job, all of David’s psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes; however, it is more likely that this book was only the books of Moses, the first five books of the Bible. That means from our perspective, we came within one copy of losing Genesis through Deuteronomy. Only by the providence and grace of God were they preserved. It is also quite probable that they knew such a book had existed… “I have found the book of the law…,” not a book of laws,” but that they has assumed it had been lost.

Q: What does this say about the state of Believers and Judah at that time?

Application: What happens when an individual, congregation, or even entire organization no longer operates according to the Bible? What replaces it? Is that person or entity lost to God forever? How is reconciliation possible?

Point: It’s important to note that Josiah’s reforms began by his noticing “something” is wrong with the Temple. Even though he didn’t have the Bible—or even knew of its existence—he knew in his heart that “something” was wrong and that God’s house needed to be repaired. What ensued was God showing Josiah what was REALLY needed to repair and cleanse His house by complete obedience to His Word. It wasn’t the temple that needed cleansing as much as the people using the temple.

Read 22:11-13

Q: What was Josiah’s response when he heard the book read? How do you suppose he knew what to do to this point without having the book of the law?

A: He showed great remorse and repentance. His obedient response came from an amenable heart.

Q: What was Josiah’s immediate direction to the then-spiritual leaders of the day? What does this say about Josiah’s character and leadership?

A: “Go, inquired of the Lord for me and the people and all Judah concerning the words of this book...” (v.13) His instincts hit the mark that he needed God’s direction beginning with his own life and then for everyone else.

Application: Revival begins with the individual and then with the individual whose burden is for everyone else. How do we pray for revival? How do we envision it occurring? Or is it just a word that means no more than other words in our spiritual vocabulary?

Read 22:14-20

Q: To whom did Josiah’s counselors go?

A: To the prophetess Huldah. [Note: The “second quarter” was probably a suburb of Jerusalem comprised of refugees from Israel after its invasion by the Assyrian Empire in 722.]

Q: What is significant about this action? What does this tell us about these counselors?

A: They knew that they were incapable of inquiring of the Lord themselves and sought out someone specifically recognized as a prophet of the Lord. Even though Hilkiah was the high priest, it was in name only and—probably due to not knowing the Law—was not in reality a functional priest. He had the title but not the walk.

Q: What is a possible application for individuals or organizations that recognize the need for spiritual reform, but at the same time recognize they don’t personally have the wisdom or knowledge themselves?

A: They need to seek the counsel of God’s leaders outside their circle of influence.

Q: What is the prediction of Huldah?

A: That all the things described in the book will in fact take place. But because of Josiah’s willingness to abide by the law, the destruction of Jerusalem will be put off until after he dies.

Q: Provide at least 3 well-known biblical examples of God delaying or altering judgment. What is the common denominator of these men? What does this teach us about the timing of God’s judgment?

The common denominator is their personal desire for God’s law and work, not for their own personal self or gain. One thing this might teach us is that God’s judgment will inevitably come, but lingers in the presence of those burdened to see others reconciled to Him, burdened for the work of the Lord. God provides extended time for repentance and then brings judgment when the response to it flickers out.

Read 23:1-3

Q: With whom did Josiah first begin the process? Who did he gather first and why?

A: He began with “all the elders”, probably because these are the most influential leaders in that time and culture, exerting influence on all the clans and families beneath them. Josiah doesn’t reject the oldest because—according to human logic—they should have known better and therefore aren’t useful or worthy of participating in revival, but begins with them.

Application: What does this speak to you concerning spiritual revival and working within the body of Christ? Is your desire inclusive of the WHOLE body? Do you recognize that how it works is not necessarily according to man’s logic?

Q: To whom does Josiah extend the process and to where do they go, what do they do?

A: He brings everyone—spiritually and/or culturally great or small—to God’s house “...he read in their hearing all the words of the covenant...” Josiah PERSONALLY reads―preaches, so to speak―God’s Word. Everyone clearly sees the sincerity and integrity of Josiah’s heart and intention and are led by God, not Josiah personally.

Q: Who makes “a covenant before the Lord”?

A: Josiah first, then all the people.

Application: What are you learning of God’s principles for spiritual revival? How do they align with the desires of your personal relationship with Him? With the desires for your church?

Read 23:4-9

Q: What are the 2 main things recorded here with which spiritual cleansing and reform begins?

A: The temple and the priesthood.

Q: How does this speak concerning God’s working of judgment or revival?

A: Here as elsewhere throughout the entire Bible, God’s judgment and/or spiritual awakening begins with the church first before expanding outward.

Q: How does this relate to all we’re taught concerning the End Times church?

A: We’re warned of great apostasy and the abundance of false teachers and false shepherds. Just as God’s house had to be cleansed in Josiah’s time, so the church will be cleansed in the Last Days leading up to final judgment. Judgment will begin with the church first before expanding outward.

Q: What has been the overall pattern of God’s working to this point?

Read 23:10-15

Q: Having moved on from the temple and priesthood, what are the things next addressed by Josiah?

A: Basically these are false practices and institutions initiated by the bad kings of Judah reigning before Josiah from Solomon to that present time.

Q: Why do you suppose that even during times of spiritual revival during the few good kings of Judah prior to Josiah, that these institutions and practices were allowed to survive in tact and even continue to operate?

A: Probably because the traditions of men had been given a higher place than the traditions of God. They had confused “leadership” with good “spiritual leadership” and allowed the strength of the names of their kings to outweigh the name of the One True King.

Application: How do we know it is time or appropriate to challenge a leader, regardless of their stature? What is the standard by which all things should be measured? [Hint: It was almost lost and became the central focus of Josiah’s reforms.]

Read 23:16-20

Q: What is the significance of Bethel and Samaria?

A: Geographically, Samaria is basically the land previously belonging to the northern kingdom of Israel, which was carried away a long time ago into captivity by the Assyrians. The remaining Jews were heavily intermarried with other races relocated there by the Assyrians. Bethel was the city in which the first king of the northern kingdom of Israel—Jeroboam—established a parallel false priesthood, altar and temple of sorts. Samaria and Bethel represent both the pollution and dilution of God’s people and work by false worship.

Q: How is this significant in the current chain of events?

A: It began with the individual heart and then the core of the church in a recommitment to God’s Word. Beginning first with the church, it moved outward in the immediate vicinity (Jerusalem and Judah) before extending to the outermost boundaries of the original, whole nation of Israel (Bethel and Samaria). Note the similarity to Jesus’ final instructions to His disciples:

“but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

― Acts 1:8

Application: What does this teach us about how far we desire to extend spiritual revival and how it will get there?

Read 23:21-23

Q: Why didn’t they immediately “observe the Law” by celebrating the Passover and other feasts before doing all the things leading up to this? What does this say about the proper role of sacrifices and rituals in the Law?

A: Sacrifices and celebrations are intended as the END of the process, not the process itself. They’re supposed to be the visible witness of a changed heart, not a substitute for a changed heart. They needed to remove all obstacles and cleanse all pollution before celebrating the revived condition of their heart in the context of the Passover.

Read 23:24-25

Q: What is the final, extraordinary phase of Josiah’s reforms?

A: He removed from the lives of the people the corrupting spiritual influences that were closest to their daily life. Whereas all of the other reforms focused mainly on the temple, priesthood, and religious institutions/practices established by men, mediums and spiritists were out-and-out false teachers/false religions that resided in their very midst. “Teraphim” refers to household idols, things that they didn’t even have to leave their home to wrongly worship.

Application: What just came to your mind in reading this that YOU need to deal with, get rid of? What are the worldly influences overpowering your walk?

Q: Why did he do this?

A: “...that he might confirm the words of the law...” (v.24) Here we have a remarkably clear interpretation of the Mosaic law that Josiah’s reforms were the correct application of the Law.

Q: What were the chief characteristics of Josiah as an example for us?

Overall Application

It is common to make the application of the sins of the kings of Israel to the nation of America. But in reality, while there are surely consequences for choosing sinful paths, the real lesson applies to the church. Could they also apply personally?