2 Kings 21-23: Manasseh & Josiah

These chapters follow the evil king Manasseh and the Godly king Josiah. The difference in their leadership is not only a testimony of what God expects from us, but also a testimony that our fate is not bound to those who raise us. We are free to choose (or reject) God regardless of our parentage.


Manasseh (not to be confused with the son of Joseph), was one of the worst kings in the history of Judah, but his grandson Josiah was one of the best. The difference in their leadership is not only a testimony of what God expects from us, but also a testimony that our fate is not bound to those who raise us. We are free to choose (or reject) God regardless of our parentage.

Manasseh Takes the Throne

After the wonderful leadership of Hezekiah, Judah falls to poor leadership once again in Hezekiah's son Manasseh, followed by his grandson Amon. Both kings stray from Hezekiah's Godly leadership.

Manasseh's sin are so great they are actually listed out. From pagan worship and idolatry to dealing with witchcraft and enchantments, Manasseh does much to incite God's wrath. In these sins, Manasseh leads Israel to do the same. He rebuilds the pagan altars and illegal altars for God, allowing the Israelites to return to their old habits. Manasseh is also a violent king as he is described as filling Jerusalem with innocent blood. Surprisingly, God allows him to reign for 55 years. However his reign is the tipping point for God's people in Judah. In 2 Kings 23:26 and 2 Kings 24:3, the blame for Israel's punishment falls on the sins that took place during Manasseh's rule.

When Manasseh dies, his son Amon picks up where he left off. Amon is just as evil as his father and continues to lead Israel down a sinful path. During Amon's reign, his servants rise up against him. Thus Amon on reigns for two years before he is assassinated. The people punish those who conspired against Amon and place his son Josiah on the throne. Unlike the northern kingdom, where assassinators often took the throne after successfully killing the king, the scepter never leaves the House of David in Judah (Genesis 49:10).


Josiah is placed on the throne at a very young age, like King Jehoash (also spelled Joash); he is only 8 when takes over the throne. Josiah reigns for 31 years and brings Godliness back to the throne. I find it interesting that Josiah takes up where his great grandfather left off despite having an ungodly father and grandfather. Josiah would never have met Hezekiah. This proves that though our parents may shape our views on God based on how they raise us, they aren't the ultimate factor in our relationship with God. Josiah was able to find his way to God despite the bad examples around him. The Bible doesn't tell us if this came from the influence of advisors, priests, or a call from God Himself, but it does show us that we aren't lost just because our parents are.

Fix the Temple

Once again, the Temple needs repairs. Since the Israelites had been using the wealth of the Temple to pay off enemies, it isn't surprising that it was deteriorating. While ungodly kings would have prioritized their resources elsewhere, Josiah orders that the money in the Temple be used to pay workers for repairs to the Temple. When the scribe speaks with the priest, he learns that they have found the book of law (i.e. the books of Moses).

The Book of Law

It is unclear at what point the Israelites stopped using the Book of Law, but God had instructed them to read the law aloud every year and apparently they had not been doing so. Scholars believe that the actual book of law had not been lost but had been hid from idolatrous kings. Likely some of the law had been preserved in the nation while other parts had been lost, and the reopening of the book shed light on this fact.[5]

When Josiah reads the book, he humbles himself before the LORD and makes haste to get Israel on the right track. Josiah knows that God must be angry at them for forsaking the laws, so they consult a prophetess of the Lord to hear God's thoughts. Note that this is proof a woman can receive messages from God.

God shows mercy towards Josiah because he has heeded God's Word. Josiah had been doing his best, but was ignorant of parts of God's law. When he learned the truth he was quick to restructure his life to please God. For this, God promised that judgment and destruction would not come during Josiah's lifetime. We should remember this example. When we don't know any better, God is not pleased, but he is not as angry as He would be had we known we were in the wrong. Once we learn the truth, however, it is up to us to align ourselves with God.

Josiah has the law read to the people and the nation is quick to renew their covenant with God. It isn't just enough to say the words, however. We see a real change in Josiah's heart as he works to rid Judah of ungodliness. Josiah disbands pagan priests, defiles illegal altars, and evicts the sodomites. When we truly come to God, our actions will mirror the confession we've made with out heart.

Cleansing the Nation

Josiah doesn't stop at cleansing Judah; he travels into the northern kingdom's territory and begins to cleanse cities there as well. He defiles the pagan altars there with human remains. While doing this, he discovers that a prophet had already prophesied these actions. Recognizing the holiness of such a person, Josiah orders that the prophet's bones not be disturbed.

A major difference in Josiah's handling of this cleansing and the cleansing that occurred in the northern kingdom under Elijah is the lack of slaughter. Josiah recognized that the people had been led astray and that was as much the fault of leadership as it was their own doing. Instead of killing everyone, Josiah works to bring everyone back to God. Similarly, when we proclaim the word of God, we should be careful not to push people away with harsh judgments. Elijah was a great leader, and while God did not condemn Elijah's act of murdering pagan priests, Elijah himself felt bad. God did not create us to delight in tearing others down. Our primary mission is to bring others to God in love.

The Name Josiah

Josiah is also a popular name in the US today; it ranks at #57 in popularity, which means you probably know at least 1 person named Josiah. The name means "YHWH supports."[1] Famous Josiah's of today include R&B singer Josiah Bell, and reality TV star Josiah Duggar.[2][3] Minister and activist Josiah Henson was also named for the Biblical king.[4]

More Bad Kings

God was pleased with Josiah's actions, but Judah still had to be punished for the actions it had taken up until that point. Each action we take has consequences, and although God may forgive us, that doesn't mean we won't endure those consequences. Israel never fully repented and those tribes were scattered forever. Judah, on the other hand, was able to regroup after their exile. It is also likely that the people of Israel did not share the same zeal Josiah did. This would explain why they were so easily swayed back to idolatry under the next set of kings. God knew that the hearts of the people where still drenched in idolatry.


Josiah dies in battle with Egypt and his son Jehoahaz is crowned king (there had previously been a king named Jehoahaz in the northern kingdom, as well). Jehoahaz takes the throne when he is 23, but only reigns for 3 months. Unlike Josiah, he does evil. He is captured by the pharaoh of Egypt and forced to pay tribute. The king of Egypt places Jehoahaz's brother Eliakim on the throne and renames him Jehoiakim.

Jehoiakim / Eliakim

Jehoiakim was actually the elder brother and begins his reign at the age of 25. It is unclear why he wasn't made king first. Although the pharaoh allowed Jehoiakim to take the throne, he was still only a vassal king and forced to pay tribute to Egypt. Josiah's son's were clearly unable to hold on to the zeal Josiah had introduced for following God. Nonetheless, Jehoiakim reigns for 11 years.


  1. Mike Campbell. "Josiah". Behind the Name. 1996
  2. LeeAnn Chisolm. "5 Reasons to Fall in Love with Josiah Bell". Blavity. October 2016
  3. "19 Kids and Counting". Wikipedia; visited February 2017
  4. Editors. "Josiah Henson". Bio. April 13, 2016
  5. Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible, pg. 674. 2014

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