Janus Faced Josiah

by peacefulpete 4 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • peacefulpete

    The story of King Josiah has defied simple explanation. Many readers have asked the obvious question, Why does God not save the life of the best King and worshiper, 'since David'? Why does the prophetess Hulda promise a peaceful death but the story rather has him die in battle? Why does the following section of 2 Kings (23:31-37), Jeremiah and Zephaniah not seem unaware of any of the reforms Josiah was said to have done, but rather describe him as one of the kings who had 'done evil in the eyes of the Lord'?

    The answer is the composite nature of the work. Russell Gmirkin did an excellent piece on the redactions of 2 Kings. (3) The Manasseh and Josiah Redactions of 2 Kings 21-25 | Russell Gmirkin - Academia.edu

    You can read it with a free registration. I strongly encourage anyone to read his thesis carefully as he also does an excellent job describing the intertextual nature of the books. It is exhaustive and lengthy but good arguments often are.

    In short, the convincing proposal is that the story of Josiah as it reads now was a compilation of the story of the decline of the Kingdom and eventual punishment with an incongruent tale of Josiah reforms.

    As Gmirkin recreates the original storyline:

    ...the sins of Manasseh as the reason for the downfall of the Jewish nation and both include the final kings of Judah....All his descendants on the throne continued in his sins down to the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar. Under one of his descendants, Josiah, a copy of the law discovered in the temple foretold the disasters that would befall the Jews, predictions reaffirmed by the prophetess Huldah...Josiah suffers an ignominious death... Yet the kings and the nation never turned from their evil ways, and so the temple was destroyed, and the Jews went into captivity, including the royal line.

    2 Kgs 22.12-17 was followed by the passage on the sins of Manasseh at 2 Kgs 23.26-27 and the account of Josiah’s ignominious death at 2 Kgs 23.28-30

    Gmirkin suggests the primary storyline and the alternate story of Josiah's reforms were written nearly contemporaneously by separate authors then not long after clumsily combined. He also dates this process in the Greek era, though the arguments here do not necessary require that.

    This Josiah reform story in 2 Kings can be understood as an alternative history written without familiarity of the negative treatment of Josiah in the primary version of 2 Kings. It basically serves as a doublet of sorts of the story of Hezekiah who likewise makes extensive religious reforms at the prodding of a prophet. (Jer. 26.18-19)

    There are also literary links between those parallel stories, including the statements said of both. Of Hezekiah:

    "There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.
    Of Josiah:25 Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord 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.

    Obviously, the writer of the Hezekiah description is unaware of the Josiah reform story that follows it in the present text.

    In my opinion, the 2 writers had inherited a tradition of a reformer but differed as to the name of the King. The compiler found it easiest to simply include both versions without a great deal of concern for consistency.

  • peacefulpete

    Interestingly, the compiler/editor of 2 Kings 23 describes Josiah's death in battle briefly without any suggestion that this was a surprising reversal of the promised peaceful death, but the rewrites of 2 Kings by the Chronicler, aware of the tension created by Josiah reforms expansion of 2 Kings, introduced an improbable solution. According to 2 Chron 35:20-22, Yahweh had been directing Pharoah Necho and Josiah was opposing God in confronting him in battle. This has had readers scratching their heads in wonder ever since.

  • peacefulpete

    I found a review of Gmirkin's thesis with no registration required. Also much shorter.

    Finding a Place for King Josiah in the History of Biblical Israel – Vridar

    As always, there are typos and a couple errors but hopefully this will stimulate a discussion.

  • HowTheBibleWasCreated

    I agree with everything in that article except Russel's date. Jeremiah says the people are paying for the sins of Manasseh. But he also addresses Josiah as one who knew Yahweh. Thus there are two authors.

    I have gone beyond Gmirkin and see 2Kings 11 as a new narrative. It attempts to make Athaliah kill her grandsons who Jehu already killed. It's obvious to me that originally the DH ended with jehu.

  • peacefulpete

    HTBWC....thanks for the reply. I'll mention the possible editorial gloss on the poem in Jer 22 is discussed in the footnote on page 14. The composition of Jeremiah is, as you know, complicated and clearly cross intertextuality with 2 Kings is evident. In that footnote the point is made that the poem better fits Hezekiah/Manasseh, as the one "shedding innocent blood". Throughout the narrative of Jeremiah (regardless the authors) the period of 5 years before Josiah through to the siege is described as unresponsive to the prophets. I believe it is correct to say the author/s of Jeremiah did not know of the Josiah reform story, tho it appears a later editor might have. I'm not even certain that is necessary. Also, note the poem said 'all went well' for the 'father' who feared God. The 2 Kings Josiah story does not end well.

    Regarding the date of composition, I'm also not convinced we can narrow it down that far. I'm inclined to accept a 4th century date, with editorial activity through the 3rd. But I'm open to being convinced.

Share this