|“I have found the
Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord,” the high priest Hilkiah informed
the king's secretary.
The royal secretary Shaphan began reading it, “The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him.” As he continued reading from elleh haddebarim, * he knew these curses had already begun - diseases, drought, insanity, and more.
Shaphan brought the scroll to the twenty-six year old king, Josiah. As he read to the young king, the king's distress increased with each phrase he heard. Josiah began ripping his royal garment as he listened to the words penned by Moses, “For I know that after my death you are sure to become utterly corrupt and to turn from the way I have commanded you. In days to come, disaster will fall upon you because you will do evil in the sight of the Lord and provoke him to anger by what your hands have made.”
What could he do? Josiah knew that even though he was king of Judah, he was subject to the Sovereign ruler of the universe. Only God could stop this progression into a bleak future.
Josiah appointed a delegation of five, including the high priest and the royal secretary to find out what God wanted him to do.
Huldah the prophetess lived and worked nearby. She could be counted on to give King Josiah a genuine answer from God. The prophetess Huldah answered their inquiry, “Take this message from the Lord God of Israel to the king:” (Huldah's prophecy a paraphrase of the author.)
The Lord says, “Everything the king of Judah read in the temple scroll, the disaster foretold by Moses, I am going to bring upon this land and its people. I am angry because they turned their backs on me and pray to idols their own hands have made. They will experience my anger. My anger will not cool toward them.
But the Lord says to you, King of Judah, “Because you responded to my words with sorrow and weeping and you have humbled yourself to ask me about all of this, I heard you.
The disaster will come, but you won't have to see it. You will die and be at peace in your grave before it comes.”
Luke recorded these words of Jesus long after this prophecy came to pass, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”
The delegation returned to the king with Huldah's prophecy. The king didn't give up. Perhaps if everyone in the nation would respond to God's word the way he did, maybe God's anger would cool and he would change his mind about sending the disasters after all.
“Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. He went up to the temple of the Lord with the men of Judah, the people of Jerusalem, the priests and the prophets - all the people from the least to the greatest.”
Huldah would have been among the prophets who listened as Josiah read “all the words of the Book of the Covenant” to the crowd. She was among those who “pledged themselves to the covenant King Josiah renewed in their presence.”
King Josiah gave orders that everything in the temple that was dedicated to Baal worship was to be taken out and burned. They couldn't have done their evil more “in the sight of the Lord” than practicing it right in the temple. He evicted the pagan priests and destroyed the room within the temple that male prostitutes used in the worship of Baal.
After cleaning out the temple, the king began destroying throughout the land the places that the people used for Baal worship. In his official role as king and according to the law, he ordered the pagan priests executed. When he completed removing the public places and objects of worship, he began to crack down on the personal pagan practices of the occult and possession of household gods by his subjects.
King Josiah made every effort to carry out the requirements found in the law of God. He restored the Passover celebration which looked forward to the forgiveness Jesus as the Lamb of God made possible.
“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.”
There is no record that the people followed the king's example of turning wholeheartedly back to God. They just went through the motions. Since they had become so corrupted that they refused to turn back to their God, God sent them away from the land until they did return to him. Then he returned them to the land in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah.
Huldah did her part by giving God's message to the king. The king did his part to rid the land of officially sanctioned pagan worship and the abhorrent practices of temple prostitution and child sacrifice.
The people, however, could not see what was so bad about honoring the false gods of the nations around them or participating in their ancient practices. Their consciences had been seared and their respect for the lives of the infants God gave as a blessing was dulled.
Huldah and King Josiah model respect for the word of God; the fear of God that leads to trusting and obeying him; and genuine repentance and dedication that leads to individual deliverance from God's anger.
International Version Study Notes Deuteronomy 28:19, 28
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Guide: The Prophetess Huldah, This Is What The Lord Says