The story of young King Josiah – and how he transformed the nation of Judah – is found in the Old Testament books of 2 Kings (22:1-23:30) and 2 Chronicles (34:1-35:27). It’s a story of how someone made a real mark on the world at a young age, since he died aged just 39.
Josiah was the great-grandson of good King Hezekiah and an ancestor of Christ (Matthew 1:10-16). After his father Amon was murdered, he became king of Judah at aged eight – and found God in his late teens. His father and grandfather had done a lot of damage to the nation, shedding a lot of blood and leading the people away from God.
Josiah decided to take a different path. He banned worship of false gods – such as human sacrifices to the god Moloch – and repaired the Temple of Jerusalem. He publicly read the whole Law of Moses to the people and pledged “with all his heart and all his soul” to keep it faithfully. He led the nation in making a similar promise to serve God from now on.
Not only that, Josiah made social justice a priority – “he judged the cause of the poor and needy.” (Jeremiah 22:15-16) For all of these reasons, the Bible describes him as an exceptional leader who “kept his heart fixed on the Lord; in lawless times he made godliness prevail.” (Sirach 49:1-3; cf 2 Kings 23:5)
Unwisely, however, Josiah got involved in a war with Pharaoh Necho of Egypt and was shot by an archer in battle. He died shortly after of his wounds and was buried in Jerusalem amid great mourning.
Josiah, as in this example, is often pictured in scenes of the Jesse Tree, which traces the ancestry of Christ. This image of the king is found in the centre of a Rose Window featuring many Old Testament prophets and rulers. It dates to the 1880s/1890s and was created by the stained glass studio Lavers & Westlake.
Despite being high above the church below – and therefore not normally visible up close – the attention to detail is impressive. However, the king, perhaps in keeping with the other figures in the window, appears rather older than someone in their late thirties. He is looking upward to his later descendant, the newborn Christ.
Where to find this work of art
St Catherine’s, West Drayton
Read the relevant passage
2 Chronicles 34 and 35