The Book of the Torah was found in the temple while the money being used for the repair of the temple was being brought out (2 Chr. 34:14). This happened in the 18th year of the reign of good King Josiah. When this was read to Josiah, he was deeply troubled – as it was clear that God would, according to the Law, cast off Judah because of its many sins. This was confirmed by the prophetess Huldah, but the sentence would be delayed because of Josiah’s humble and penitent attitude: the inevitable “desolation of this place and its inhabitants” would happen after Josiah’s death.
Below is a time line illustrating the subsequent events with reference to the kings of Judah:
I have given the time from the finding of the Book of the Law to the destruction of Jerusalem as 35 years. In doing this, I have effectively ignored the two very short reigns (3 months each) of Jehoahaz and Jechonias (Jehoiachin). I have also numerically labelled the key events in the above diagram.
During this period, the way was prepared for the Exile. Here are some of these preparations: 1) the religious reforms carried out by Josiah before and after the announcement, although to a large extent temporary, since he was followed by wicked kings, created a religious and political climate in which there would be some righteous people raised up – for example the prophet Jeremiah – who would keep faith alive in the period leading up to, and during, the Exile. Daniel’s transportation to Jerusalem for example, took place 16 years after the finding of the Book of the Law. He therefore grew up in the religious atmosphere of Josiah’s reforms. 2) The power of Egypt (and Assyria) had to give way to the emerging world power – Babylon. The transition occurred at the famous battle of Carchemish, and is signalled in 2 Ki. 24:7. 3) Josiah prepared the way for the Exile by siding with Babylon against Pharaoh Neco – a sacrifice on behalf of his people which cost him his life, but it made Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar more favourably disposed to Judah and Jerusalem than they would have been. 4) The raising up of “children destined for the Exile” – members of the Davidic royal family who would go into exile – in particular Zedekiah and Jechonias – the latter being in the direct line of descent to Christ. (We note that, conversely, the sons of Josiah born before the announcement – Jehoahaz and Jechoiakim – died in Egypt and ?Jerusalem respectively). 5) Of these two sons, Jechonias, despite being a bad king, had the good sense to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar, and receive better treatment for himself, his family, the people the city and the temple than would otherwise have been the case. By contrast, Zedekiah, who rebelled, was treated harshly, and Jerusalem and the temple destroyed, and people killed. The curses on Israel/ Judah according to the book of the Law were thus carried out – but also the groundwork was laid for the future return from Exile which was also promised in the same passage of the Law as the curses.
An excellent account of this period in the history of Israel/Judah can be found in Peter Leithart’s commentary on 1 & 2 Kings in the SCM Theological Commentary Series. Amongst many other key other insights, (such as the ?paradoxical failure of Torah keeping to produce deliverance from exile) Peter describes many similarities and contrasts between this period and other periods in the history of Israel and Judah, and puts the entire period in a rich “theological”, doctrinal, setting (as opposed to a primarily historical-critical approach.)
Categories: Matthew's Genealogy of Christ