“Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. He went up to the temple of God with the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests and the prophets—all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of God. The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of God—to follow God and keep his commands, statutes and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant (II Kings 23:1-3).”
“Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to God as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses (Verse 25).”
Can this king who is so praised by the Bible ever rebel?
The Midrash teaches: Jeremiah said to Josiah, “I have received the following tradition from my teacher Isaiah: “I shall confuse Egypt with Egypt (Isaiah 19:2),” meaning, Egypt’s defeat will not come through you.” Josiah did not heed him. He said, “Did your teacher Moses not say, “The sword shall not pass through your land (Leviticus 26:6)?” Now the sword of that wicked one is passing through my land and within my border.” (Eichah Rabbati 1:53)
“After all this, when Josiah had set the temple in order, Necho king of Egypt went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah marched out to meet him in battle. But Necho sent messengers to him, saying, “What quarrel is there, king of Judah, between you and me? It is not you I am attacking at this time, but the house with which I am at war. God has told me to hurry; so stop opposing God, who is with me, or he will destroy you.”
Josiah, however, would not turn away from him, but disguised himself to engage him in battle. He would not listen to what Necho had said at God’s command but went to fight him on the plain of Megiddo.
Archers shot King Josiah, and he told his officers, “Take me away; I am badly wounded.” So they took him out of his chariot, put him in his other chariot and brought him to Jerusalem, where he died. He was buried in the tombs of his ancestors, and all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for him (II Chronicles 35:20-24).”
“The archers shot at King Josiah (II Chronicles 35:23).” Rabbi Mani said: They shot 300 arrows into him until his body became like a sieve. Jeremiah listened carefully to hear what he would say as he expired. What did he say? “It is God Who is righteous, for I disobeyed His utterance (Lamentations 1:18),” His utterance, and that of His messenger, Jeremiah.”
The righteous Josiah refused to obey the instruction of Jeremiah. He rebelled. He disobeyed the prophet because he was convinced that he is reading of the Bible was correct, and more significant then the tradition Jeremiah had received from Isaiah.
His intentions were perfect. His motivations were directed toward God. Yet, his actions are considered an act of rebellion.
Josiah learns from his mistake in the final moment of his life, acknowledges his error, and accepts the authority of God and His messenger, Jeremiah.
There are times when we act with the best of motivations, the purest of intentions, and yet our actions may very well be considered an act of rebellion. Whether it is to speak negatively of someone we consider wicked, or to insist on perfect decorum in prayer even at the price of embarrassing someone, or ignoring a child’s cries for attention because we need to study, or to publicly rebuke someone we consider a bad influence even if that means the person will feel cut off from the community, actions motivated by good do not necessarily mean that they are consistent with God’s wishes. In fact, they may actually be considered an act of rebellion.
I recall people who publicly declared that a halachic decision of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l was a travesty. They were convinced that they were fighting for truth. Despite their intentions, there is no question that their actions were a rebellion against the authority of Rav Moshe.
Josiah learned from his mistake and died with and acknowledgment of God’s authority on his lips. We do not need to wait for our final moment to repair our acts of rebellion. We can repair all of the moments when we questioned God’s judgment, fairness, and justice; our Maradnu, by following our recitation of Maradnu by declaring God’s righteousness.