Perspective and Purpose: Understanding the Josiah Story -- By: David L. Washburn
TrinJ 12:1 (Spring 1991) p. 59
Perspective and Purpose:
Understanding the Josiah Story1
The two accounts of Josiah’s reign—2 Kgs 22:1–23:30; 2 Chronicles 34–35—are notorious for their resistance to harmonization. The differences between the Kings and Chronicles versions are such that many non-evangelicals use them as evidence against inerrancy. Evangelicals are often hard-pressed to answer such objections to inerrancy, especially in the OT. For this reason, and because usable material (particularly for preaching) is so difficult to extract from them, many teachers and pastors simply avoid the historical books altogether.
This hardly constitutes the best of all possible worlds. The books of Kings and Chronicles certainly present the faults in God’s people, but the narratives also include a good many positive examples. The story of the godly king Josiah shows that devotion to the Lord is proper no matter what everybody else is doing. (At the same time, Josiah’s end—the result of rushing out to confront Neco King of Egypt against the Lord’s will [2 Chr 35:20–27]—shows that godliness does not eliminate foolishness.) Without denying the historical difficulties, then, it is legitimate to pursue other avenues of approach that may illuminate the significance of such stories for God’s people today. In this regard, it is important to remember that the OT is not a historical account in the modern western sense.2 It is a document with inherently religious purposes, more interested in the lessons to be learned from history than with a strict chronological listing of historical events. The purpose of the books of Kings, for example, is clearly stated in 2 Kgs 17:7–23 (among other places): to explain the wickedness of the people and their rulers, and the reasons that God sent them into exile. With
TrinJ 12:1 (Spring 1991) p. 60
such purposes in mind, a historian/author can and should feel free to move material about in order to make his or her point.3
It is common, when encountering the parallel descriptions of Josiah’s reforms in 2 Kings 22–23 and 2 Chronicles 34–35, to consider the latter more chronologically precise. The Kings material, it is suggested, is arranged topically; all the deeds recorded could not have been...
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