Josiah’s Children, Physical and Spiritual

Physical Sons

Josiah was a great man, an outstanding leader, a man of integrity and spirituality. He deliberately and methodically changed a nation. He was a channel of great blessing to a people who were in dire distress. Thank God for such a man.

There is, however, one black mark on Josiah’s record. He failed miserably in the area of raising his own children. We know he had three sons and each of them had a turn on the throne of Judah. None of them followed in their father’s good footsteps.

When Josiah died, the people knew his oldest son, Eliakim, was bad news for the nation. Through a movement of the people, Eliakim was overlooked and his younger brother, Jehoahaz, the middle son, was crowned as the successor to Josiah. The Biblical record sadly tells us: “He did what was evil in the LORD’s sight, just as his ancestors had done.” 2 Kings 23:32. He lasted only three months before he was captured by Pharaoh Neco and taken away to Egypt.

Pharaoh then appointed the older brother to be king. He had his name changed from Eliakim to Jehoiakim (it seems that powerful kings did this to the weaker ones, so that whenever anyone mentions the new name they are reminded of who is really in charge – the one who gave the name). Pharaoh also demanded a large payment in silver and gold. In Jehoiakim’s third year, Babylon came and looted Jerusalem of its wealth and the best of its human resources (Daniel 1:1-4).

Jehoiakim lasted 11 years on the throne. He did terrible things, including burning the word of God (Jeremiah 36). As a result, God allowed for King Nebuchadnezzar, of Babylon, to come and capture him and his wealth and most of the population of Judah and Jerusalem.

Jehoiakim’s son, Jehoiachin, became king but lasted only three months.

The third brother, named Zedekiah, was then made king. He was weak and uncertain of what to do. He asked for advice from the Lord’s prophet, Jeremiah, but he was too weak to follow it. He stayed on the throne for 11 years, but during the last 3 years, Jerusalem was surrounded by the mighty Babylonian armies and the people of Judah were thirsting and starving to death. Even in the very end, he did not turn to God. For some reason, Josiah’s three sons and one grandson who took his place never sought the Lord, never bothered to do what was right and true. This is a very sad end to the Davidic dynasty (though not the very end, since there is still a descendant of David and Josiah who will rule as king (Matt 1:1-16).

Spiritual Children

Josiah’s physical children turned out to be disasters. This type of thing has happened far too many times in the history of God’s people. God does not want us to neglect and ruin our children while focusing only on serving him (1 Timothy 5:8). It is so sad that Josiah caused the nation of Judah to thrive in obedience to God while leaving his sons so ill-prepared to continue his good work.

However, Josiah can be credited with a host of spiritual children who earned their way among the greatest of God’s people.

Jeremiah was the same age as Josiah, but because Josiah made such an early start on his spiritual pilgrimage it is easy to imagine that Josiah’s purity of heart on the throne inspired Jeremiah to give himself completely to God’s service. And that service was reasonably easy while Josiah lived, but it was Josiah’s sons who made life a living hell for him later on (Jeremiah 22:10-11, 18-19; 26:20-23; 36:18-26; 37:11-16; 38:4-6).

Daniel was an outstanding man of God and part of what made him holy and true in a wicked land was the example of a daring, righteous king who reigned when Daniel was born and started school. Daniel was a young man when that arrow struck King Josiah and all of Judah and Jerusalem mourned his death (2 Chron. 35:24-25). Daniel must have received great inspiration from this outstanding king, and when he was caught in the web of Babylonian politics he followed Josiah’s “no compromise” policy completely (Daniel 1:8; 6:3-4, 10-23). Daniel was a superb man who was told by an angel, “The moment you began praying, a command was given … for you are very precious to God.” (Daniel 9:23).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were friends, fellow-refugees, and co-workers of Daniel. They also were born and raised with the righteous king, Josiah, on the throne. They exhibited courage and great faith when they chose to be burnt alive in a huge furnace rather than bow before a false god (Daniel 3:9-20). The True God used them mightily in the foreign kingdom of Babylon (Daniel 3: 21-30).

Ezekiel was in his early twenties when Josiah died. Three years later he was taken to Babylon along with Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Ezekiel 1:1-2). He was a priest who was then called to be a prophet (just like Jeremiah). Ezekiel spent his whole adult life in the foreign land but faithfully taught and challenged God’s people to live in obedience to their God. His ministry was an essential part of preparing God’s people to eventually return to their land and worship Him alone.

Conclusion: God used Josiah in a mighty and strategic way to save his people from the total destruction they deserved. Other nations taken captive by Assyria and Babylon never returned to their original land. They lost their national identity and were absorbed by the greater nations. The same should have happened to Judah, but God used an eight-year-old boy, who grew to be an outstanding king and religious leader, who purged the land of idolatry, who restored the Temple and reignited the prescribed worship of the True and Living God. God used Josiah in a mighty way to prepare His people for the difficulties ahead. And with the hard work of Josiah’s spiritual children the nation continued as a united people bound together by the worship of the true God.

This is God’s promise to his people when they were about to be taken away as captives to Babylon. “I will certainly bring my people back again from all the countries where I will scatter them in my fury. I will bring them back to this very city and let them live in peace and safety. They will be my people, and I will be their God.  And I will give them one heart and one purpose: to worship me forever, for their own good and for the good of all their descendants. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good for them. I will put a desire in their hearts to worship me, and they will never leave me. I will find joy doing good for them and will faithfully and wholeheartedly replant them in this land.” Jeremiah 32:37-41.Josiah – Chain Breaker is available at all CBM bookshops in PNG, and anywhere in world the through eBook sellers.

Political Turmoil

By a local political analyst.

The year is 640BC. Judah is a small nation surrounded by three greedy superpowers. Assyria to the north, Babylon to the northeast, and Egypt to the south are in an on-going competition to acquire land and to tax foreigners, and to just outright bully people around.

The 10 tribes of Israel to the north were forcibly dragged away to Assyria 80 years ago and remain there as slaves (2 Kings 17:20). This leaves Judah exposed and extremely vulnerable, caught in the middle of these superpowers. Just a few years earlier, Assyria captured King Manasseh (who had been king for decades) and dragged him away in hooks and chains, bringing shame to the whole nation (2 Chronicles 33:11). Sometime later, Manasseh was allowed to return and rule again. But he was a crippled leader ruling a desperate nation. He served for a total of 55 years and upon his death his son Amon was crowned king.

Amon lasted only two short years. He was so evil that his own officials assassinated him inside the palace walls. This desperate deed cost them their own lives. Yes. His own trusted officials put him to death and they in turn were killed for treason.

Amon had no brothers to take over the throne. They had been killed by their father as sacrifices to the “protecting father,” the god Molech. (2 Chron. 33:16).

Talk about political turmoil!

This tiny nation, surrounded by superpowers, is torn by intrigue and assassination and now the only heir to the throne is an 8 year old boy!

Assyria

This is the superpower that defeated and destroyed the 10 tribes to the north some 82 years before. Josiah’s great-grandfather, Hezekiah, was king of Judah at that time. He paid a huge amount of money to the Assyrians to send them away happy. It was “more than eleven tons of silver and one ton of gold” (2 kings 18:14). But, this did not satisfy the hungry lion, Assyria wanted more and they turned to attack Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:17). But God caused 185,000 of their soldiers to die in their sleep (1 Kings 19:34-37) and the whole army ran back to Assyria to hide.

They did not stay away for long. They came back when Josiah’s grandfather, Manasseh, was king. They placed a hook through his nose and dragged him away in disgrace and placed him in prison. He cried to God and God was merciful to him. Somehow, Assyria allowed him to return to Jerusalem as king. But, the Assyrians were still around and creating fear and anxiety among the people of Judah.

Babylon

During the time of Hezekiah’s reign, an envoy from the north arrived in Jerusalem. Hezekiah welcomed them and showed them all the nation’s treasures, the gold, the silver, the weapons and everything. However, God was not impressed with this attitude and sent his servant, the prophet Isaiah, with a message. In 2 Kings 20:16, Isaiah prophesied that one day all these treasures will be looted and carried away to Babylon.

This was to happen during the reigns of Josiah’s sons and grandson,2 Kings 24: 8ff. Babylon at the time of Amon, and then Josiah, was one of the three superpowers and gathering momentum.

In just 11 years these fears will prove to be real when Judah and Jerusalem are attacked by Babylon and then finally falls to their army commander. Another 11 years later King Nebuchadnezzar will bring this Jewish nation to an end, never to be the same again. 2 Kings 24:10; 25:1ff.

Egypt

Egypt was the cunning fox from the south. They knew they could not defeat the other superpowers on their own, but, if Babylon and Assyria fought each other, and if smaller countries would join with Egypt, then Pharaoh could become the most powerful man in the world. This was his ambition.

Judah stood in-between Egypt and the two other superpowers, and they suffered at the cruel hands of all three. It was Egypt’s king, Pharaoh Neco, that fought against Josiah and Josiah was killed (2 Kings 23:29). Neco was simply passing through Judah in order to help Assyria fight against Babylon, but Josiah tried to stop him and lost his life in the process 2 Chron. 35:20-25.

Is there any hope for Judah’s future? The whole world is laughing and talking behind our backs.

Judah’s Location God gave the land of Canaan to the descendants of Abraham. This land is rich and fertile. It is also the place where the great continents meet. Africa, Asia, Europe meet at the land of Israel. It was God’s plan that they live at this centre-point so that all nations could learn about the true God and be blessed by Him (Gen. 12:1-3). However, because Israel constantly rejected their God, they have had enemies on all sides even up to today.

N.B. This book is available at all CBM bookshops in PNG, and anywhere in world the through eBook sellers.

Jeremiah’s Early Naivety

Everyone grows up in social, moral and religious environments. It’s natural to accept one’s surroundings as the norm.[1] Same for young Jeremiah. A godly king was ruling on the throne. King Josiah removed the idols, purified the temple and reestablished God’s law as the focus of civil and religious life. From outward appearances the nation was in good spiritual shape; far better than before. And young Jeremiah was oblivious to what lurked under the surface until forced by his Commander to face the facts.

The Challenge

Early on, God gave a challenge to his rookie prophet with a hefty reward if successful. Perhaps he could set aside his mantle and retire before he hardly even started!

“Run up and down every street in Jerusalem,” says the LORD. “Look high and low; search throughout the city! If you can find even one just and honest person, I will not destroy the city.” 5:1.

Wow. No destruction. Life as we know it goes on. “The pot boiling in the North” can be dismissed, if only Jeremiah can find one person of integrity.

But no. Not even one just person. So, empty-handed and out of breath he kind of blames God[2] and says:

“LORD, you are searching for honesty. You struck your people, but they paid no attention. You crushed them, but they refused to be corrected. They are determined, with faces set like stone; they have refused to repent.” 5:3

Rationalization

Jeremiah thinks harder and has a brilliant thought: The common people simply don’t know better, they are ignorant, can’t expect too much from them. But the leaders know God’s ways; surely some must qualify as “honest”.

Then I said, “But what can we expect from the poor? They are ignorant. They don’t know the ways of the LORD. They don’t understand God’s laws. So I will go and speak to their leaders. Surely they know the ways of the LORD and understand God’s laws.” 5:4-5.

The Discovery

However, his naivety quickly becomes obvious. The leaders are detaining the people in ignorance and disobedience.

“But the leaders, too, as one man, had thrown off God’s yoke and broken his chains.” 5:5.

The young man is hit with a jarring truth. These fellow priests and prophets are acting all righteous and godly, but “Their rebellion is great.” 5:6.

To understand the book of Jeremiah, we must meet a truly evil people.

Jerusalem “is wicked through and through. She spouts evil like a fountain.” Jer. 6:6-7.

To understand the book of Jeremiah, we must meet a ferocious God.[3]

So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “I will pour out my terrible fury on this place. Its people, animals, trees, and crops will be consumed by the unquenchable fire of my anger.” Jer. 7:20.

Family

The result of standing on the side of truth and righteousness, and speaking the forceful words of God, was that Jeremiah made many enemies. He spoke publicly. He spoke privately. He confronted sins that were hidden and sins that were public.

His family turned against him and literally wanted him gone:

The men of Anathoth… wanted me dead. They had said, “We will kill you if you do not stop prophesying in the LORD’s name.” 11:21.

Even your brothers, members of your own family, have turned against you. They plot and raise complaints against you. Do not trust them. Jer. 12:6.[4]

Co-workers

The prophets and priests, who should have been his allies, also worked to get rid of him:

The priests and prophets presented their accusations to the officials and the people. “This man should die!” they said. 26:11.

Kings and Palace Officials

Even kings saw him as a pesky nuisance and wanted him gone:

So these officials went to the king and said, “Sir, this man must die! … This man is a traitor!” King Zedekiah agreed. “All right,” he said. “Do as you like.” 38:4-5.

Summary

This is the environment, the severity of conflict that Jeremiah endured. It stretched his coping powers to the limit. He suffered battle scars. He ended up saying,

“I am hated everywhere I go. I am neither a lender who threatens to foreclose nor a borrower who refuses to pay – yet they all curse me.” Jer. 15:10.

The rest of this section focusses on these battles or escapades and their resultant scars. Jeremiah recorded these episodes not to gain notoriety or sympathy for himself, but for the truths they reveal about the wickedness of the people and leaders, and the incredible longsuffering of his God.


[1] The old “Frog in a pot” syndrome.

[2] “You struck your people… You crushed them…” i.e. Your strategy only made things worse!

[3] But Divine anger is a vastly different breed from human anger, so different that it deserves an entirely different term.

[4] For a Jew in Jeremiah’s day, rejection by your family had to be the severest of hardships. Everyone grew up among a very large extended family which provided a sense of stability, longevity, and belonging; a safety net no one wanted to be without.

Wave after Wave of Opposition

Last section, Stumbling onto the National Stage, emphasized a major tragedy. The death of King Josiah brought stark repercussions to the nation and God’s Spokesperson. The “glory” days of Josiah were swallowed up by the “gory” days of his four offspring. A mere twenty-two years of compromise caused total failure of the state, and deportation of its citizens.

After Josiah’s funeral, opposition comes to Jeremiah in waves.

“Conflict” in the book of Jeremiah is not just a series of random events. It is an environment within which the prophet lives and breathes daily. Always swimming upstream. Continually walking a steep incline. It took extra-human effort to trudge on.

This level of conflict was disclosed when God first enlisted Spokesperson:

You will stand against the whole land – the kings, officials, priests, and people of Judah. They will fight you… 1:18-19.

Former prophets faced similar opposition,[1] but Jeremiah experienced an acute dosage to the point of inhumane abuse.[2] This was due to the obstinate rebellion of God’s people, and unrelenting efforts by God and his Spokesperson to win them back.

This section presents several major events in Jeremiah’s life. Let it serve as a window to understanding the oppressive environment in which he lived, served, and wrote. The man’s strength of purpose and character shine bright amidst the darkness surrounding him. He withstood each opposition and fulfilled his duties as the true spokesperson for God.

This section includes seven parts:

  1. His Early Naivety
  2. Temple Mob Pacified[3]
  3. Broken Pot, Night in Stocks
  4. Prophet on the Run – Burnt Scroll
  5. Showdown of Two Prophets
  6. Stuck in the Mud
  7. Reluctant Landowner

“Conflict” is an amazing and enlightening storyline woven throughout the book of Jeremiah. The man is caught in the crossfire between truly obstinate people and their ferocious, unyielding God. Jeremiah is attacked by family, common people, fellow priests, fellow prophets, and by the kings and their officials. He is threatened, mocked, whipped, put in stocks, beaten, thrown in jail, had his hard work destroyed, and was even thrown into a muddy pit to die.

The Book of Jeremiah gives us a portal or window not only into the events of the day, but also deep into the heart and thoughts of God’s abused Spokesperson.

“Among the most moving – and startling – passages in Scripture are Jeremiah’s forthright complaints to God, his tender confessions and prayers, mingled with expostulation and challenge, protesting God’s having snared him into a prophet’s responsibilities, tensions, and anguish.

Yet for over forty years Jeremiah maintained his obedience, reiterated his message, and fulfilled his mission.”[4]


[1] See Exo. 5:20-21; 6:9; 14:11-12; 16:2-3; Num. 14:1-4; 1 Kin. 18:4a; 19:2; 2 Kin. 17:13-14; Mat. 23:20, 37; Luk. 11:50; Act 7:52.

[2] Perhaps the worst two physical abuses inflicted on Spokesperson were the night in the stocks and imprisonment in a muddy cistern. Both occasions are covered later in this section.

[3] This story, along with the next five in this section, is told using the genre of Creative Nonfiction. If you are new to this genre, please see Appendix 1. What is Creative Nonfiction? The Bibliography includes resources that explain, regulate and teach these techniques. But the Biblical record is what really counts and should always be both the first and last words studied.

[4] White, p. 11.