King Josiah reigned at a time near the end of the kingdom of Judah, about 600 years before Jesus Christ was born. He is described in 2 Kings 23:25:
“Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.”
Neither Josiah’s father nor his grandfather had worshipped God, so for Josiah to worship God, he had to specifically choose to “turn to the Lord”.
If he was such an outstanding person, surely he would have had a massive effect on the nation? It appears not. Instead, in the very next verse after this praise of Josiah, we read:
“Still the Lord did not turn from the burning of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked him.”
King Manasseh’s behaviour had guaranteed the destruction of the kingdom of Judah. He had made evil easy and popular, but goodness difficult and dangerous.
So, did Josiah have any long-term effect on his kingdom at all?
I think the answer is yes he did, but only with individuals. Here are my reasons for saying this.
Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah are all described in Daniel 1:4 as “youths”, which seems to be a word which can mean anything from a child to a young man. Nebuchadnezzar took them to Babylon in the 4th year of Jehoiakim as youths who were already well educated and wise, with the intention of training them further. This suggests a level of education similar to what we might call “further education” or university. They seem to have been very capable young men, with God’s blessing upon them, so they may have been younger than others.
If, then, they were all around the same age, about 16-17, when they were taken to Babylon, this suggests that they would have been about 13 when Josiah died after reigning 31 years. If so, they would have been born in approximately the 18th or 19th year of Josiah.
The book of Ezekiel begins with some chronological details. Ezekiel 1:2 says that the time was the 5th year of the captivity of Jehoiachin, and we see, in combination with verse 1, that it was the 5th day of the 4th month. The first verse mentions the 30th year in a way that is a little obscure, but probably refers to Ezekiel’s age.
30 was an important age for men who were Levites and priests like Ezekiel (Numbers 4 cf. Numbers 8:24-26 and 1 Chronicles 23:3, 24-27), and seems to have been important for God in the lives of a few other people too (Joseph became second in command in Egypt at 30 (Genesis 41:46), David became king at 30 (2 Samuel 5:4), Jesus began his ministry at about 30 (Luke 3:23)).
If Ezekiel was 30 years old in the 5th year of Jehoiachin’s captivity – which was also the 5th year of the reign of Judah’s last king, Zedekiah – then he would have been about 25 when taken into captivity, and about 13-14 when Josiah died. As such, he would also have been born in about the 17th or 18th year of Josiah.
So Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah and Ezekiel were probably all about the same age within just a few years – about 21-23 years younger than Jeremiah.
It seems likely that the amazing events of the 18th year of Josiah’s reign – when the Book of the Law was re-discovered and read to all the people, idolatry was spectacularly suppressed and the Passover feast was kept with great enthusiasm – did have a long-term effect. Some parents were encouraged to worship God more, and they passed on the love of God to their children.
Events that happen today can have a significant effect for the current generation and the next generation – or even much longer at times. Sometimes the long-term effects are good, but more often they are bad. Josiah’s enthusiasm for God had an effect on some of the children born during his reign, including the major prophets Daniel and Ezekiel. Josiah helped to make goodness easier, which should be the aim of every leader everywhere.
Do you help to make goodness easier in your family and among your friends?
Notes Note that Manasseh, Josiah’s grandfather, did repent and turn to God near the end of his life (see 2 Chronicles 33:11-16).