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Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
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JOSIAH, KING OF JUDAH

THE people punished the murderers of Amon and gave the kingdom to his son Josiah, who was eight years old at the time. Josiah was a wise and good youth, and when only twelve years of age he exhorted the people to leave off the worship of idols and return to their own God. And he went about the country and threw down all the altars that were devoted to false gods, and destroyed the idols. He also caused the temple to be repaired, for during the reigns of his father and grandfather it had been falling into decay. And while they were repairing the temple one of the priests [226] came across the sacred books of Moses, that had been laid there and wellnigh forgotten by every one. He gave them to a scribe, named Shaphan, with orders to take them to the king. The king caused them to be read to him, and when he had heard what was said about those who transgressed the laws, he rent his clothes and was sore distressed, and sent messengers to a prophetess, named Huldah, begging that she would pray to God and appease His anger. "For," said the king, "on account of the sins of the kings who came before me, I fear that the race of the Jews has incurred the wrath of the Lord, and that He will punish us all and cast us out of our country."

And Huldah sent back word to the king that God had already delivered sentence against the Jews on account of the many sins they had committed, and it was too late now to change His purpose; but that on account of the virtue of Josiah He would not cast the Jews out while he was alive, but would wait for a later generation.

When this message was delivered to the king, he ordered all the people, including the women and children, to come to Jerusalem. And he read them the holy books, and asked them all to take a solemn oath that they would worship God and keep the laws of Moses, and they all did so. Then the king slew all the false prophets that remained in the land, and he went into the country where the Israelites had lived, and, after burning the bones of the false prophets upon the altars built by Jeroboam, he destroyed those altars and all other buildings which the Israelites had raised in honor of strange gods. And in this way was fulfilled the prophecy of Jadon, given in the reign of Jeroboam. And when all the land had been purged, he called the people together to celebrate the feast of Pass-over.

After Josiah had reigned prosperously for thirty-one years he was slain in a battle against Neco, king of Egypt. His son Jehoahaz then proclaimed himself king, but Neco made [227] him a prisoner, and caused a brother of his, whose name he changed from Eliakim to Jehoiakim, to be installed king in his place. Then Neco returned to his own country, carrying with him Jehoahaz, who died soon after.


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