Roots of Western Culture Term Paper

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Josiah Restores the Ancient Customs

The Bible contains two different accounts of King Josiah's reforms. These are found in 2 Kings 22-23, and 2 Chronicles 34-35. The two versions are on the whole similar, at least in the beginning, however, Chronicles adds an additional story that is only alluded to in the earlier account, and which is not described in detail. The basic intent of both tales is to hold up the actions of Josiah as worthy of praise. He is depicted as a great reformer, a king who restored the true traditions of Israel, and who faithfully followed the precepts of God ... once he had learned about them. It is clearly implied that, in some sense, Josiah will be punished for his having been brought up incorrectly, in a state of sin as it were, but at the same time, he will be rewarded for having rediscovered the commandments that the Lord gave to Moses. Josiah had ordered some construction work to be done at the Temple when his workmen found a book that had been kept in the Temple since the beginning. It accurately chronicled God's commandments, and when this book was read out to Josiah, he realized at once how in error the Israelites truly were. Immediately, he ordered a general purge of all the pagan customs, and of all the individuals that had served the pagan gods. These individuals were killed, and their bodies burnt along with their idols, and their altars, and so forth. Josiah purified the Temple and took an oath before God, and before the People of Israel, to keep the Commandments of the Lord.

Both versions of this account contain essentially this same story, yet the version in Chronicles adds a second story concerning the keeping of the Passover. Though mentioned in the version in 2 Kings, the Passover celebrated by Josiah is not described in any way. There are two obvious reasons for these differences, both of which are derived from the Chronicler's purpose in relating the events of Josiah's reign. From the additions made by the recorder of the story in 2 Chronicles one can conclude that not only had pagan customs been allowed to re-emerge since the time of Josiah, but even the manner in which Passover should be commemorated had been forgotten. Evidently, in the earlier period when the account in Kings 2 was written, the primary problem had been the intrusion of paganism into the Temple, and into the general life of the Israelites. Passover was still familiar enough that it did not need to be described. It was only necessary to show the evil inherent in allowing Heathen practice -- thus, the violent destruction of the idols and altars, and the slaughter and immolation of the wicked priests, and those associated with them.

That the people of Israel have again fallen into error in the days of the Chronicles story goes without saying -- the same story would not have to be repeated if it were not so. However, the people of that day had evidently truly begun to forget even how to perform their obligations, let alone the fact that they had been actively serving other gods. In 2 Chronicles, the celebration of the Passover occupies a place equal with that of the destruction of the emblems of pagan worship. It is as if people today had been practicing alien, non-Christian rites in the Church, but had a the same time, forgotten how to perform the genuinely Christian rites. Or, on a patriotic level, the case would be one of imagining Americans celebrating foreign holidays, and adopting foreign attitudes and laws. In the Kings version, the equivalent would be merely the need to stamp out the alien practices, and restore the "American" customs and practices. In Chronicles, however, it is as if these very customs have been forgotten.

Furthermore, both versions of events dwell on Josiah's actions in wiping out paganism. Not only are these undesirable practices simply wrong, they are also such great abominations that they must be destroyed with fire and utterly obliterated from off the face of the Earth. Josiah avails himself of every possible means to completely and totally erase from view these objects and symbols of error. His is as the fanatic who burns books and executes traitors all in the name of saving his people, and preserving that which is good. In neither version of…

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