Did King Josiah make a difference?

By Mark Morgan | Jeremiah

Oct 13
Josiah tore down idols in Israel

Or “Was Josiah a success?”

We all like to think that we have made a difference in the world.  King Josiah was a righteous king, but did he make a difference in his kingdom?  Was Josiah a success?

King Josiah

King Josiah reigned 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,[1] 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.”

2 Kings 23:26


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.

Was Josiah a success?

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 and his friends

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah are all described in Daniel 1:4 as “youths” – a word which can mean anything from a child to a young man.  In the 4th year of Jehoiakim when Nebuchadnezzar took them to Babylon, they were already considered well-educated and wise.  Nebuchadnezzar intended to train them further probably to a level of education similar to what we might call “further education” or university.  They were very capable young men, with God’s blessing upon them, so they may have been younger than others.

If they were all around the same age when they were taken to Babylon – about 16-17 – 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.  The first verse is a little obscure, but it probably means that Ezekiel was 30 years old.  The first two verses tell us the date as the 5th day of the 4th month in the 5th year of Jehoiachin’s captivity.

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).  It also seems to have been important for God in the lives of a few other people (eg. Joseph became second in command in Egypt at 30 (Genesis 41:46), David became king at 30 (2 Samuel 5:4) and Jesus began his ministry at about 30 (Luke 3:23)).

The 5th year of Jehoiachin’s captivity was also the 5th year of the reign of Judah’s last king, Zedekiah.  If Ezekiel was 30 years old at that time, then he also would have been born in about the 17th or 18th year of Josiah.  As such, he would have been about 13-14 when Josiah died, and 25 when taken into captivity.


Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah and Ezekiel were probably all about the same age to 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 did have a long-term effect.  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.   Some parents were encouraged to worship God more, and they probably passed on the love of God to their children.

Was Josiah a success?  What do you think?

Our effects on the future?

Events that happen today can have a significant effect on 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 probably 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?



[1] Manasseh, Josiah’s grandfather, did repent and turn to God near the end of his life (see 2 Chronicles 33:11-16).  See also Bible records in the time of Jeremiah.

See also

King Josiah (Wikipedia)

Josiah’s Great Reformation (BibleHub)

Terror on Every Side!

This is one of a series of articles on Jeremiah published as back-up material for the Bible-based fiction series Terror on Every Side!
[ More information | Purchase ]

Terror on Every Side! Volumes 1-6 Cover

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