King Josiah was one of the best kings ever to rule over God’s people (2 Kings 23:25). A comparison of the two accounts of his death, however, raises the question of whether he may have died out of the will of God.
God’s Gracious Promise to Josiah
Because king Josiah had responded properly upon his hearing the Word of God (2 Kings 22:19; 2 Chron. 34:27), God graciously made the following promise to him:
2Ki 22:20 Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place. And they brought the king word again.
2Ch 34:28 Behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all the evil that I will bring upon this place, and upon the inhabitants of the same. So they brought the king word again.
According to these statements, God promised to Josiah that he would be gathered to his grave in peace. This revelation from God very likely would seem to have led him to believe that he would die in a peaceful manner that would not involve great pain or suffering.
Did Josiah Reject Later Divine Revelation Because He Misunderstood This Promise?
Perhaps this promise of his going to the grave in peace even led Josiah to conclude that it would not be possible for him to die in a battle setting at the hands of an opponent. If so, this understanding (or something like it) that he would have had would explain why he did not heed the warning that Necho king of Egypt gave him not to fight against him:
2Ch 35:20 After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Necho king of Egypt came up to fight against Carchemish by Euphrates: and Josiah went out against him.
21 But he sent ambassadors to him, saying, What have I to do with thee, thou king of Judah? I come not against thee this day, but against the house wherewith I have war: for God commanded me to make haste: forbear thee from meddling with God, who is with me, that he destroy thee not.
22 Nevertheless Josiah would not turn his face from him, but disguised himself, that he might fight with him, and hearkened not unto the words of Necho from the mouth of God, and came to fight in the valley of Megiddo.
In a striking statement, the inspired writer of 2 Chronicles makes known that Josiah rejected “the words of Necho from the mouth of God” (2 Chron. 35:22), which indicates that Josiah went against divine revelation that God chose to warn him with from the mouth of this Egyptian king!
Because Josiah did not heed that warning, he was fatally wounded and died a painful death:
2Ch 35:23 And the archers shot at king Josiah; and the king said to his servants, Have me away; for I am sore wounded.
24 His servants therefore took him out of that chariot, and put him in the second chariot that he had; and they brought him to Jerusalem, and he died, and was buried in one of the sepulchres of his fathers. And all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah.
His dying such a death hardly seems to be a fulfillment of the promise that he would be gathered to his grave in peace. On this reading, Josiah died out of the will of God because he did not heed the warning that God gave him through the mouth of Necho.
If this is in fact what happened, God intended that Josiah would die later in some peaceful manner, but Josiah died out of the will of God. Alternatively, the promise that God gave to Josiah may have meant all along that Josiah would receive a proper burial regardless of how he would die. In that case, God’s promise was fulfilled to Josiah, and he did not die out of the will of God.
What do you think?