JOSIAH (יאשִיהּו)

King of Judah: 640-609139

He was the son of King Amon (1 Chr. 3:14), and evidently his heir presumptive following the palace coup against his father. Given the extraordinarily young age of Josiah at his ascension, as well as the mysterious death of his father it might be assumed that Josiah’s administration was deeply linked to the power base of the Jerusalem priesthood. His mother, Jedidah, held his regency following the demise of the former Judahite king. Assumedly her allegiance to her familial clan would be upheld, but determining the identity of her father proves difficult. Post-exilic lists of the Jerusalem priesthood do place a certain “Adaiah” in a place of prominence (1 Chr. 9:12; Neh. 11:12). When Josiah achieved seniority (2 Ki. 22:3), and was able to fully assume sovereignty over the country, he engaged in cultic and legal reform over the country that appeared to be partially influenced by priestly courtiers. These reforms appear to have been considerable, as his polity was heavily determined by the several court prophets (Lamentations Rabbah, 4.1; Targum to 2 Chr. 35:25). Among these individuals the chief priest Hilkiah appears to develop political clout within Josiah’s administration. While the king had ordered a state sponsored renovation of the Jerusalem Temple, archaic books of Hebrew civil and religious law were allegedly discovered on the Temple Mount (2 Ki. 22:3-13). The text is not properly identified in the biblical narrative, but it does have the, now common, Hebrew word ‘torah’ attached it. This phrasing, found elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible (Jos. 1:8, 8:34), is associated with the writings personally penned by the Hebrew patriarch Moses, several centuries before. While this attributed authorship would grant legitimacy these lost books, their contents do appear to strong favor the political directives of their discoverer. All of these reforms appear to be tantamount to the centralization of the Yahwist cult, exclusively within the temple in Jerusalem140. This makes the discovery of this lost book of the law suspect, but not necessarily an act of overt forgery. Since “Jerusalem” is never overtly mentioned as the center for cultic worship, only interpreted to be so, it may have originally been composed in elsewhere, such as the then defunct northern kingdom of Israel.

Subsequently, there is a national reform takes place, which is reflected in

the national iconography of both state and monarch. The former use of

celestial objects, such as stars and moons, in clay bullae abruptly ends in

the archeological record during Josiah’s reign. His adoption of strict

monotheism has been cited as the rationale for this shift in civil

representations of power141. For his part, this may have been paired with a

shift in his royal office. The covenant with Yahweh, now the centerpiece of

royal power, emphasizes that Judah is a vassal to no other power but to

Yahweh himself142. The king is hereafter the adopted son of Yahweh

(Ps. 2:7), and the flesh-and-blood representative of his authority on Earth.

For this reason, Josiah appears to adopt a foreign policy that stands at

odds with both his Mesopotamian and Egyptian neighbors. His

administration appears to have flourished under the power vacuum that

the region experienced with the collapse of the Assyrian State. However,

once this vacuum was filled by the rising political influence of the

Chaldeans in Mesopotamia, his ability to express full political autonomy

was greatly diminished. This foreign policy of strict independence was

perhaps misguided given the limited resources of the kingdom, and

Josiah’s attempt to defeat the Egyptian Pharaoh Necho II at Meggido

(2 Ki. 23:29-30) resulted only in military defeat and his untimely death,

but also in the final loss of Judah’s political independence. Given the

battle’s notoriety to non-Judahite sources, it has been dated to July-August

of 609 BC143. The outcome of this battle appears to have been an

unexpected occurrence, as the succession that followed Josiah’s demise

was contested. There is a strange reference to a first-born son of Josiah,

Johanan, (1 Chr. 3:15), but is never mentioned in more detail. It is possible

that the he was pushed aside in place of a younger brother, or like his

father, was killed by the Egyptian army at the battle of Meggido.

Curiously, there are currently no known inscriptions or bullae that date

to the reign of King Josiah. All information regarding his state policies

are rendered through Josephus and the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew

Scriptures named at least two wives to Josiah:


a) Hamutal, daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah (1 Ki. 23:31; Josephus, Antiquities, 10.5.2). She is also called Dalilah in a later source (Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan, 4:13). She becomes the mother of Jehoahaz [Generation 19a] the king and Zedekiah [Generation 19c] the king (2 Ki. 24:18). This close relationship between the prophet Jeremiah and the royal House of David explains some of the more laconic statements made about the rival queen-mother, and her subsequent descendants. She is not mentioned as being carried off to Egypt with her son Jehoahaz by either the author of 2 Chronicles or by Josephus. However, it appears that she is alluded to in a poem lamenting the defeat of her sons (Ez. 19:1-14). Her native township, Libnah, is of political significance, as its historic ties to the Kingdom of Judah are tenuous. It has previously become independent from Judahite rule during the reign of Jehoram (2 Ki. 8:20-22; 2 Chr. 21:8-10). This marriage would cement military and personal tied between the Judahite monarchy and the aristocratic elites of the city, which was paramount in the shifting contemporary political climate.

b) Zebudah, the daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah (1 Ki. 23:36; Josephus, Antiquities, 10.5.2), who became the mother to Jehoiakim [Generation 19b] the king. It might be assumed that she was carried over to Babylonia with her grandson, Jehoiakhin [Generation 20a], during the first Babylonian sack of Jerusalem. Jehoiakim, in at least one source, is said to have had another brother, a certain ‘Zaraces’ [a Greek transliteration of Zerachiah], who is said to have rescued him from the land of Egypt (1 Esdras 1:38-39). The origin and historicity of this one short line of information is unknown. An additional son is noted from the archaeological record, who note a certain Eliashib, son of Oshiyahu [Josiah], who appears to correspond with various royal officials in the countryside.


Inscription on pottery shard:

“May Yahweh bless you with peace [Ps 22:11]. And now, may my lord, the prince, hear your maidservant. My husband has died without children. May your hand be with me, and that you might give into the hand of your maidservant the inheritance concerning which you spoke to Josiah. As for the field of wheat which is in Naamah, you gave to his brother.”


Inscription on pottery shard:

"Pursuant to the order to you of Josiah the king to give by the hand of Zechariah silver of Tarshish to the Temple of Yahweh Three Shekels"


Generation 17:
King of Judah
Generation 18a:
King of Judah
of Rumah
Generation 18b:
Prince of Judah





Jedidah of Bozkath
of Libnah


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Generation 19g:
Prince of Judah
Generation 19b:
King of Judah
Generation 19a:
Jehoahaz II
King of Judah
Generation 19d:
Prince of Judah
Generation 19c:
King of Judah
Generation 19e:
Prince of Judah
Generation 19f:
Prince of Judah


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[1]- Albright, W. F., "The Chronology of the Divided Monarchy of Israel", BASOR 100 (Dec. 1945) 16-22. Thiele, Edwin R. (1965). The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (2nd ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans., p. 127

[2]- Greenspahn, Frederick E. Vetus Testamentum. 2014, Vol. 64 Issue 2, p. 235.

[3]- Finkelstein, Israel; Silberman, Neil Asher (2001). The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts. Simon and Schuster., p. 112

[4]- Mendenhall, George (September 1954). "Covenant Forms in Israelite Tradition". The Biblical Archaeologist. 17 (3): 73–76.

[5]-  Edwin Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, (1st ed.; New York: Macmillan, 1951; 2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965; 3rd ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Kregel, 1983), 182-185

[6]- Niemann, Herman. Choosing Brides for the Crown-Prince: Matrimonial Politics in the Davidic Dynasty. Vetus Testamentum; Vol. 56(2), Apr. 2006, p. 232


[7]- Albright, William. In Pritchard, James. Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament with Supplements, Princeton University Press, 1969, Princeton, NJ, pp. 569

[146]- Mykytiuk, Lawrence. Identifying Biblical Persons in Northwest Semitic Inscriptions, Boston, MA; 2004, Brill, p. 177

[147]- He has also been identified through bullae found near the mount bearing the inscription “Asayahu, servant of the king”. Heltzer, Michael. The Seal of Asayahu. Context of the Scriptures, 2003, Vol. II, Leiden: Brill, p. 204