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2 Kings 23:29-30 & 2 Chron 35:20-27

08.03.2010

Today’s historical narrative wraps up the story of Josiah.  It centers on the geopolitical turmoil of the late seventh-century Near East.

For centuries, Israel had been caught in the middle between two regional superpowers, Egypt and Assyria.  As is common practice for a minor power caught up in the great power game, Israel switched its allegiances back and forth between the two depending on their threat assessments or negotiations.  Technically, Israel was a vassal state of Assyria.  In that capacity, it often joined Assyria in battle against rival Egypt.  However, sometimes Israel would rebel and take up arms with Egypt against Assyria.  These machinations were made more complicated by the split in the kingdom, meaning that sometimes Israel and Judah fought side-by-side, and sometimes they fought on opposing sides.

Jeremiah previously chastised the kings of Judah for this political policy.  It went against God’s direct orders, and it represented a lack of faith in God’s ability to uphold His promise and preserve Israel’s independence.  As a consequence, God handed over His people to the very invasion and defeat He would have protected them from had they remained faithful in His ability to do so.

In today’s passage, Josiah does the bidding of Assyria and opposes Egypt’s path to do battle with Assyria.  The Pharaoh Neco tries to dissuade Josiah from this course by appealing to his strategic reason (saying that this was not Josiah’s battle and that Egypt had not come to war with Judah) as well as to his sense of faith (claiming that he was on an errand from God and that Josiah would be opposing the will of God in hindering Egypt).  Josiah disregards Neco’s warning and goes to battle, in which he is killed.

Two interesting points:

– Josiah’s decision to go to battle is counted against him as faithlessness.  In the larger sense, as I described above, I can see that.  He was playing political games instead of trusting in the Lord for security.  However,  I have to imagine he received more notice that he was opposing God’s will than just the word of Neco.  It’s not as if Neco was a credible or disinterested party.  If someone broke into my house and told me not to resist him as he took my stuff because he was on an errand from God, I’d have a hard time accepting that. 

Perhaps this goes back to one of the things I have often heard about prayer.  Prayer is time spent with God, allowing us to get to know His voice, His will, His methods.  Many of us miss God speaking to us because we are unaccustomed to His voice.  If Josiah had been more acquainted with the Lord, perhaps he would have recognized God’s voice and will even through the words of his armed adversary, Neco.

– Secondly, my Zondervan Bible Atlas (woot! nerd alert!) tells me that Megiddo is a location frought with history and meaning.  The main passages between the fertile east (the land of modern day Iraq) and the fertile west (Egypt) all converged in Israel.  The Arabian desert and the Mediterranean compress all routes to a specific pass in the Israeli mountains, where the town of Megiddo was located.  Being such a strategically vital point, where commerce and armies had to travel back and forth between population centers, Megiddo was the site of many massive battles.  In fact, the book of Revelation uses the Greek for Megiddo (Armageddon) to describe the climactic battle between God and Satan at the end of days.

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