(Jo·siʹah) [let (or, may) Jehovah give; or, Jehovah heals].
1. Son of Judean King Amon by Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah. (2 Ki. 22:1) Josiah had at least two wives, Hamutal and Zebidah. (2 Ki. 23:31, 34, 36) Of his four sons mentioned in the Bible, only the firstborn, Johanan, did not rule as king over Judah.—1 Chron. 3:14, 15.
After the assassination of his father and the execution of the conspirators, eight-year-old Josiah became king of Judah. (2 Ki. 21:23, 24, 26; 2 Chron. 33:25) Some six years later Zebidah gave birth to Josiah’s second son, Jehoiakim. (2 Ki. 22:1; 23:36) In the eighth year of his reign, Josiah sought to learn and to do Jehovah’s will. (2 Chron. 34:3) It was also about this time that Jehoahaz (Shallum), Josiah’s son by Hamutal, was born.—2 Ki. 22:1; 23:31; Jer. 22:11.
During his twelfth year as king, Josiah began a campaign against idolatry that apparently extended into the eighteenth year of his reign. Altars used for false worship were torn down and desecrated by burning human bones upon them. Also, sacred poles, graven images and molten statues were destroyed. Josiah even extended his efforts as far as the northern part of what had once been territory of the ten-tribe kingdom but had been desolated because of the Assyrian conquest and subsequent exile. (2 Chron. 34:3-8) Evidently Zephaniah’s and Jeremiah’s denunciations of idolatry had a good effect.—Jer. 1:1, 2; 3:6-10; Zeph. 1:1-6.
After King Josiah completed cleansing the land of Judah and while he was having Jehovah’s temple repaired, High Priest Hilkiah found the “book of Jehovah’s law by the hand of Moses,” doubtless the original copy. Entrusted by Hilkiah with this sensational find, Shaphan the secretary reported on the progress of the temple repair work and thereafter read the book to Josiah. On hearing God’s word, this faithful king ripped his garments apart and then commissioned a five-man delegation to inquire of Jehovah in his behalf and in behalf of the people. The delegation went to the prophetess Huldah, then dwelling in Jerusalem, and brought back a report to this effect: ‘Calamity will come as a consequence of disobedience to Jehovah’s law. But because you, King Josiah, humbled yourself, you will be gathered to your graveyard in peace and will not see the calamity.’—2 Ki. 22:3-20; 2 Chron. 34:8-28; see HULDAH.
Subsequently Josiah assembled all the people of Judah and Jerusalem, including the older men, the priests and the prophets, and read God’s law to them. After this they concluded a covenant of faithfulness before Jehovah. Then followed a second and evidently a more intensive campaign against idolatry. The foreign-god priests of Judah and Jerusalem were put out of business, and Levite priests who had become involved in improper worship at high places were deprived of the privilege of serving at Jehovah’s altar. The high places built centuries earlier during Solomon’s reign were made completely unfit for worship. In fulfillment of a prophecy uttered about three hundred years previously by an unnamed man of God, Josiah pulled down the altar built by Israel’s King Jeroboam at Bethel. Not only at Bethel but also in the other cities of Samaria the high places were removed, and the idolatrous priests were sacrificed on the altars where they had officiated.—1 Ki. 13:1, 2; 2 Ki. 23:4-20; 2 Chron. 34:33.
Still in the eighteenth year of his reign, Josiah arranged for the celebration of the Passover, on Nisan 14. It transcended any Passover that had been observed since the days of the prophet Samuel. Josiah himself contributed thirty thousand passover victims and three thousand cattle.—2 Ki. 23:21-23; 2 Chron. 35:1-19.
Toward the close of Josiah’s thirty-one-year reign (659-c. 629 B.C.E.) Pharaoh Necho led his armies northward to fight the “king of Assyria,” that is, the Babylonian conqueror of Assyria, at Carchemish. For a reason not revealed in the Bible, King Josiah disregarded a divine warning and tried to turn the Egyptian forces back at Megiddo but was mortally wounded in the attempt. He was brought back to Jerusalem in a war chariot and died either en route or upon arrival there. Josiah’s death brought much grief to his subjects. “All Judah and Jerusalem were mourning over Josiah. And Jeremiah began to chant over Josiah; and all the male singers and female singers keep talking about Josiah in their dirges down till today.”—2 Chron. 35:20-25; 2 Ki. 23:29, 30.
Although three of Josiah’s sons and one grandson ruled as kings over Judah, none of them imitated his fine example of turning to Jehovah with all his heart, soul and vital force. (2 Ki. 23:24, 25, 31, 32, 36, 37; 24:8, 9, 18, 19) This also indicates that, although Josiah’s efforts had removed the outward appendages of idolatry, the people generally had not returned to Jehovah with a complete heart. Consequently future calamity was certain.—Compare 2 Kings 23:26, 27; Jeremiah 35:1, 13-17; 44:15-18.