Containing The Interval Of One Hundred And Eighty-Two Years And A Half.
From The Captivity Of The Ten Tribes To The First Year Of Cyrus.
How Amon Reigned Instead Of Manasseh; And After Amon Reigned Josiah; He Was Both Righteous And Religious. As Also Concerning Huldah The Prophetess.
1. THIS Amon imitated those works of his father which he insolently did when he was young: so he had a conspiracy made against him by his own servants, and was slain in his own house, when he had lived twenty-four years, and of them had reigned two. But the multitude punished those that slew Amon, and buried him with his father, and gave the kingdom to his son Josiah, who was eight years old. His mother was of the city of Boscath, and her name was Jedidah. He was of a most excellent disposition, and naturally virtuous, and followed the actions of king David, as a pattern and a rule to him in the whole conduct of his life. And when he was twelve years old, he gave demonstrations of his religious and righteous behavior; for he brought the people to a sober way of living, and exhorted them to leave off the opinion they had of their idols, because they were not gods, but to worship their own God. And by repeating on the actions of his progenitors, he prudently corrected what they did wrong, like a very elderly man, and like one abundantly able to understand what was fit to be done; and what he found they had well done, he observed all the country over, and imitated the same.
And thus he acted in following the wisdom and sagacity of his own nature, and in compliance with the advice and instruction of the elders; for by following the laws it was that he succeeded so well in the order of his government, and in piety with regard to the Divine worship. And this happened because the transgressions of the former kings were seen no more, but quite vanished away; for the king went about the city, and the whole country, and cut down the groves which were devoted to strange gods, and overthrew their altars; and if there were any gifts dedicated to them by his forefathers, he made them ignominious, and plucked them down; and by this means he brought the people back from their opinion about them to the worship of God.
He also offered his accustomed sacrifices and burnt-offerings upon the altar. Moreover, he ordained certain judges and overseers, that they might order the matters to them severally belonging, and have regard to justice above all things, and distribute it with the same concern they would have about their own soul. He also sent over all the country, and desired such as pleased to bring gold and silver for the repairs of the temple, according to every one's inclinations and abilities. And when the money was brought in, he made one Maaseiah the governor of the city, and Shaphan the scribe, and Joab the recorder, and Eliakim the high priest, curators of the temple, and of the charges contributed thereto; who made no delay, nor put the work off at all, but prepared architects, and whatsoever was proper for those repairs, and set closely about the work. So the temple was repaired by this means, and became a public demonstration of the king's piety.
2. But when he was now in the eighteenth year of his reign, he sent to Eliakim the high priest, and gave order, that out of what money was overplus, he should cast cups, and dishes, and vials, for ministration [in the temple]; and besides, that they should bring all the gold or silver which was among the treasures, and expend that also in making cups and the like vessels. But as the high priest was bringing out the gold, he lighted upon the holy books of Moses that were laid up in the temple; and when he had brought them out, he gave them to Shaphan the scribe, who, when he had read them, came to the king, and informed him that all was finished which he had ordered to be done. He also read over the books to him, who, when he had heard them read, rent his garment, and called for Eliakim the high priest, and for [Shaphan] the scribe, and for certain [other] of his most particular friends, and sent them to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum, (which Shallum was a man of dignity, and of an eminent family,) and bid them go to her, and say that [he desired] she would appease God, and endeavor to render him propitious to them, for that there was cause to fear, lest, upon the transgression of the laws of Moses by their forefathers, they should be in peril of going into captivity, and of being cast out of their own country; lest they should be in want of all things, and so end their days miserably.
When the prophetess had heard this from the messengers that were sent to her by the king, she bid them go back to the king, and say that God had already given sentence against them, to destroy the people, and cast them out of their country, and deprive them of all the happiness they enjoyed; which sentence none could set aside by any prayers of theirs, since it was passed on account of their transgressions of the laws, and of their not having repented in so long a time, while the prophets had exhorted them to amend, and had foretold the punishment that would ensue on their impious practices; which threatening God would certainly execute upon them, that they might be persuaded that he is God, and had not deceived them in any respect as to what he had denounced by his prophets; that yet, because Josiah was a righteous man, he would at present delay those calamities, but that after his death he would send on the multitude what miseries he had determined for them.
3. So these messengers, upon this prophecy of the woman, came and told it to the king; whereupon he sent to the people every where, and ordered that the priests and the Levites should come together to Jerusalem; and commanded that those of every age should be present also. And when they had gathered together, he first read to them the holy books; after which he stood upon a pulpit, in the midst of the multitude, and obliged them to make a covenant, with an oath, that they would worship God, and keep the laws of Moses. Accordingly, they gave their assent willingly, and undertook to do what the king had recommended to them. So they immediately offered sacrifices, and that after an acceptable manner, and besought God to be gracious and merciful to them. He also enjoined the high priest, that if there remained in the temple any vessel that was dedicated to idols, or to foreign gods, they should cast it out. So when a great number of such vessels were got together, he burnt them, and scattered their ashes abroad, and slew the priests of the idols that were not of the family of Aaron.
4. And when he had done thus in Jerusalem, he came into the country, and utterly destroyed what buildings had been made therein by king Jeroboam, in honor of strange gods; and he burnt the bones of the false prophets upon that altar which Jeroboam first built; and, as the prophet [Jadon], who came to Jeroboam when he was offering sacrifice, and when all the people heard him, foretold what would come to pass, viz. that a certain man of the house of David, Josiah by name, should do what is here mentioned. And it happened that those predictions took effect after three hundred and sixty-one years.
5. After these things, Josiah went also to such other Israelites as had escaped captivity and slavery under the Assyrians, and persuaded them to desist from their impious practices, and to leave off the honors they paid to strange gods, but to worship rightly their own Almighty God, and adhere to him. He also searched the houses, and the villages, and the cities, out of a suspicion that somebody might have one idol or other in private; nay, indeed, he took away the chariots [of the sun] that were set up in his royal palace, (8) which his predecessors had framed, and what thing soever there was besides which they worshipped as a god. And when he had thus purged all the country, he called the people to Jerusalem, and there celebrated the feast of unleavened bread, and that called the passover.
He also gave the people for paschal sacrifices, young kids of the goats, and lambs, thirty thousand, and three thousand oxen for burnt-offerings. The principal of the priests also gave to the priests against the passover two thousand and six hundred lambs; the principal of the Levites also gave to the Levites five thousand lambs, and five hundred oxen, by which means there was great plenty of sacrifices; and they offered those sacrifices according to the laws of Moses, while every priest explained the matter, and ministered to the multitude. And indeed there had been no other festival thus celebrated by the Hebrews from the times of Samuel the prophet; and the plenty of sacrifices now was the occasion that all things were performed according to the laws, and according to the custom of their forefathers. So when Josiah had after this lived in peace, nay, in riches and reputation also, among all men, he ended his life in the manner following.
(8) It is hard to reconcile the account in the Second Book of Kings (Ch. 23:11) with this account in Josephus, and to translate this passage truly in Josephus, whose copies are supposed to be here imperfect. However, the general sense of both seems to be this: That there were certain chariots, with their horses, dedicated to the idol of the sun, or to Moloch; which idol might be carried about in procession, and worshipped by the people; which chariots were now "taken away," as Josephus says, or, as the Book of Kings says, "burnt with fire, by Josiah."