Good King Josiah: Why did he have to die like that? (Like Moses? Like Jesus?)

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by Neil Godfrey

King Josiah by Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld

The King Josiah story near the end of 2 Kings has always struck me as quite odd. It presents a good king just prior to Judah’s exile into Babylonia who does all the right things such as keeping the Passover and ridding the land of idols. But then he goes and gets himself killed in battle and his kingdom is taken off into captivity anyway. So what was the point of all his goodness?

I agree with Philip R. Davies’ reasons for reading the reforms of Josiah and the discovery of the Book of Deuteronomy in the Temple as ‘just so’ tale invented to strengthen the claims of a newly introduced Book of Deuteronomy as an authoritative document. (See ‘event 2’ discussed here. See also my reasons for not being persuaded by Finkelstein’s and Silberman’s account of a Josiah-led renaissance.) But this seems only to add to the difficulties of explaining why an author would allow God to let him die prematurely in battle.

Today I’ve begun catching up with James Richard Linville’s Israel in the Book of Kings: The Past as a Project of Social Identity, and one of the first sections to attract my attention was his discussion of the significance of the King Josiah story.

Linville sets both Josiah’s reforms and death in an intelligible literary and theological context. Continue reading “Good King Josiah: Why did he have to die like that? (Like Moses? Like Jesus?)”