Jeremiah: Historical Background Part Six
Yoshiyahu’s reforms were the most thorough in Judah’s history, and of extreme historical significance. The reforms were carried out in several steps leading to the famous story of “the book of the law.”
Yoshiyahu ordered repairs to the Temple, and in the course of the repairs, a Torah was found.
The decision to make changes in the national policy had been taken as early as Yoshiyahu’s appointment as King when he was eight years old, and that by his 12th birthday, coincident with the change of rulers in Assyria, the independence movement having gathered momentum, a purge of all foreign influence was begun, which reached even into northern Israel as Yoshiyahu took over that area. By his 18th birthday, Assyrian control having ended, the finding of the Torah, gave the reforms new impetus and drove it to yet more radical conclusions. Raw form and independence thus when forward in step with one another.
Any idols that were reminders of Assyrian control, the nation’s humiliation, were anathema to all patriotic people. But pagan cults of all sorts, some of them introduced by Menashe, and some of very long standing, were likewise stamped out and their officials, including eunuch priests and sacred prostitutes of both sexes, were put to death. In addition, the practice of magic and divination was suppressed.
Nor did the reform confine itself to Judah. As Yoshiyahu took control of northern Israel, the reform was carried out there as well (II Kings 23:15–20), and the shrines of Samaria and of the Galilee (II Chronicles 34:6), all of which were idolatrous, were desecrated and destroyed, and their priests executed; Bethel, the state shrine of the northern kingdom, received especially severe treatment. But even this was not all. As his crowning measure, Yoshiyahu closed the local places where people would serve God rather than visit Jerusalem and invited the people to come and take their place in the Temple in Jerusalem (II Kings 23:8).