II Kings – Chapter 23

At Long Last, A Prophecy Fulfilled

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

King Yoshiyahu gathered the elders of the nation and headed for the Temple. He read the rebuke from the Torah to the assembled people of his nation. He and the people committed to uphold the words of the Torah.

The king had the Kohanim remove all vestiges of idolatry from the Temple. He had them (the idols) burned and the ashes carried away. He fired the priests who served those idols and burned the asheira tree that was planted on Temple grounds. He trashed the rooms used for immorality for these idols and desecrated the altars of the idols. Yoshiyahu wrecked the place where children would be passed through fire for Molech and abolished the practice of dawn chariot racing for sun worshippers.

Yoshiyahu destroyed a lot more places of idolatry, including the altar of Yaravam, first king of the Ten Tribes. He exhumed the bones of the idolaters buried nearby and burned them on the altar, as was prophesized back in I Kings chapter 13, more than three hundred years earlier!

Spying a nearby tomb, Yoshiyahu asked who was buried there. When he was informed that it was the prophet of G-d who had foretold these things, he left that grave undisturbed.

Not only did Yoshiyahu purge Judah of idols, he also removed them from territories that had previously been part of the now-exiled Northern Kingdom.

Yoshiyahu’s campaign against idolatry culminated in the spring, in time for Pesach (Passover). A Passover such as this had not been celebrated since the time of the Judges, since Yoshiyahu removed all taints of idolatry and sorcery.

The Navi tells us that no king returned to G-d with the zeal and enthusiasm that Yoshiyahu did. (This suggests that he wasn’t always righteous, but repented because of what was read to him from the Torah.) However, G-d’s decree was not swayed, as Menashe’s evil influence was too deeply ingrained in the people.

Yoshiyahu died in battle against the army of Egypt. He had reigned for 31 years and was succeeded by his son Yehoachaz.

Yehoachaz was an evil king and he reigned for only three months. He was imprisoned by the Pharaoh, who imposed a fine on the people of Judah and installed Yehoachaz’ brother Elyakim as king. (Really, Elyakim was the true heir; Yehoachaz had been installed by the masses.) Pharaoh changed Elyakim’s name to Yehoyakim, then took Yehoachaz back to Egypt with him. (Yehoachaz died there.)

Yehoyakim taxed the people to pay the fine imposed by Pharaoh, but he did so fairly; every person was charged according to his means. Despite this, Yehoyakim was another evil king, taking after Menashe and Amon rather than Yoshiyahu.

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