Author’s ProofBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
Josiah was only 8 years old when he became king. In the eighth year of his reign (when he was only 16), he began to seek G-d. By the time he was 20, he was purging the land of idolatry. He broke the images of the idols and even burned the bones of the idolatrous priests on their own altars. (See I Kings chapter 13 and II Kings chapter 23.) His influence reached as far as the territory of Naftali in what was left of the northern kingdom (which, by this point, wasn’t much).
Not only did he tear down the service of idols, Josiah built up the Temple. He ordered repairs made and the money to pay for it found its way to the workmen. They purchased the necessary materials and got to work. They were well underway when Chilkiyahu the kohein found a Torah scroll. (Some commentators think from the way the text calls it “THE Torah, at the hand of Moses” that it was the original Torah scroll, which G-d dictated to Moses.) Chilkiyahu brought the book to Shafan the scribe, who brought it to the king. When Josiah heard the words read from the Torah, he tore his clothes in grief. (“Rashi” says it was Deut. 28:36 that shook him up so much: “G-d will bring you and the king that you appointed to a foreign nation, where you will serve idols of wood and stone.”)
The king dispatched messengers to ask a prophet about the meaning of the discovery. The prophet Jeremiah was not known for his cheerful prophecies, so they went to see Chulda the prophetess. That didn’t help, as she predicted that all the curses of the Torah would befall the nation as punishment for their idolatrous ways. But G-d will respond to the tears the king cried when he heard the news, she said. Josiah would die in peace and all the evil would occur after his passing.
The messengers repeated the prophecy to the king. Josiah gathered the people and read to them from the Torah. He finished and made a pact to uphold G-d’s Word wholeheartedly, urging all the others present to do likewise. The people followed his lead, which meant that they followed G-d. The nation remained true to G-d as long as Josiah lived.