King Josiah was the last righteous king of Judah before the fall of Jerusalem. He was an important historical figure because of his devotion to God, and I think he sets several examples for this generation that we better pay attention too. A look at the kings (his father and grandfathers) that came before him will be a good introduction to him. The second post will be his heirs and the major ministry he fostered as the king.
Hezekiah – Hezekiah was a great king who is associated with the prophet Isaiah. He saw and did many great things: rid the country of idols, cleansed the Temple, celebrated Passover, was saved from a dangerous enemy, and was healed of a serious disease. 2 Chronicles 32: 31 records that these great things were used to test his heart; he did not do well! At age forty-two he had a son, Manasseh, who became king at the age of twelve.
Manasseh – Manasseh was the worst! After thinking about his “sins” they must have included the wholesale sacrificing of infants. 2 Kings 24 states that the “Lord was not willing to forgive” his transgressions. (2 Kings and 2 Chronicles have slightly different stories; they were written by different people for different audiences, but probably from the same written records.).
2 Chronicles 33:12 has the story of extreme distress on the part of Manasseh and how he sought God for forgiveness and restoration. God did restore him to Jerusalem and his kingship. I see this as a testament to God’s faithfulness and mercy (to David). It might be easy to blur lines and concepts here on how God deals with things, but I see a God who is treating a person with a level of kindness while still not accepting the evil done in his life.
Even with Manasseh forsaking God and leading the people into sin, he had learned and remembered the example of his father, Hezekiah. It is a shame that it took a physical hook in the nose to get his attention.
Amon – This guy did not get the “memo” at all! It is probable that Amon saw the events of his father’s captivity and restoration and just ignored the lesson. Amon was twenty-two when he started ruling; he was born to Manasseh when he was forty-five years old so you would think he would have learned something.
There was a disturbing shift here that is seen with the rest of the kings before the fall of Jerusalem. The kings started ruling early in life and had children very young. Amon fathered Josiah at sixteen. Yes, I know the factors were different then but still these children were “growing up” very early.
It is possible that Josiah knew the “reformed Manasseh” and possibly learned the lesson that Amon choose to ignore.