Manasseh was succeeded for a short period by his son Amon. While his father had attempted to put things right in Judah, Amon followed in Manasseh’s earlier evil ways—and he did not repent. He evidently became unbearable to his servants, who conspired in assassinating him. But it seems obvious from the scriptural account that this was not a popular move. We know from reading Kings and Chronicles and the prophecies of the time that the people remained hostile to God and wanted the pagan ways to continue. Possibly they thought they could continue their pagan practices by appointing a boy as king. But they were soon to learn that the young Josiah was not like his father and grandfather.
Of course, God was involved in Josiah’s ascendancy—to preserve the line of David and to fulfill a specific prophecy. Josiah became king around 640 B.C. at the age of 8. He obviously didn’t get off to a good start in life. His father Amon was only around 16 when his son was born, and he was set in evildoing. It is likely that Josiah was raised by his mother Jedidah—and possibly his grandmother Adaiah.
Josiah’s Initial Reforms
By the age of 16, Josiah began to seek God. And four years later, when he was 20 (around 628 B.C.), in an enthusiastic surge of youthful vigor he showed that he wasn’t about to be controlled by a pagan populace and took dramatic steps to purge the nation of its evil religion.
It’s interesting to note that his purge wasn’t just in Judah, but extended into the northern territory of Israel (2 Chronicles 34:6 2 Chronicles 34:6And so did he in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon, even to Naphtali, with their mattocks round about.
American King James Version×). Naphtali was in Galilee and was part of the Assyrian province of Israel (see 2 Chronicles 34:9 2 Chronicles 34:9And when they came to Hilkiah the high priest, they delivered the money that was brought into the house of God, which the Levites that kept the doors had gathered of the hand of Manasseh and Ephraim, and of all the remnant of Israel, and of all Judah and Benjamin; and they returned to Jerusalem.
American King James Version×). But how was this possible? Author Stephen Collins explains: “In approximately 624 B.C., the Scythians [near the Black Sea] launched a massive invasion to the south, and occupied Asia Minor, Syria, Media, Palestine and much of Assyria. They conquered as far south as Egypt, but spared that nation when the Egyptians offered them tribute money. In the words of Werner Keller [author of The Bible as History], the Scythians ‘inundated the Assyrian Empire.’… [They] held Western Asia and the Mideast under their dominion for only a short time, twenty-eight years according to [5th-century-B.C. Greek historian] Herodotus, and just ten years according to [the assessment of] Werner Keller” (The “Lost” Tribes of Israel—Found!, 1992, pp. 186-187). Indeed, the Scythians proved instrumental in bringing down the Assyrian Empire in the years soon to follow.
The Scythians were, in the main, the northern tribes of Israel, who had been taken captive by the Assyrians a century earlier (see our free booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy for more explanation). Collins suggests: “The motive for the Scythian invasion was likely two-fold. The primary motive was the desire for revenge against the Assyrians who had forced them off their land and destroyed the old kingdom of Israel…. Indeed, the desire to liberate those Israelites who were still captives of the Assyrians may have served as a further strong motive for the Scythian invasion. A second reason for Scythia’s invasion was apparently the reoccupation of the old Israelite homeland of Palestine. The fact that some Scythians charged straight south through Asia Minor and Syria into Palestine gives weight to this conclusion…. While the Scythians waged a total war against the Assyrians in Mesopotamia, Herodotus records that on their march through Palestine and Syria: ‘…the majority of the Scythians marched by, doing no harm to anyone.’
“It is significant that while marching through Palestine, the Scythians took no action to attack or harm the Jewish capital of Jerusalem. If the Scythian motive was simple conquest, why did they spare the Jewish capital? Since the entire Assyrian army could not stand before the Scythian onslaught, Jerusalem had no might to resist them. The obvious conclusion is that the Scythians chose to spare Jerusalem. This makes sense only if the Scythians were the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel, who knew the Jews were one of their related tribes. This indicates that while the Scythians were intent on destroying Assyria, their purpose was to ‘liberate’ Palestine. One city in Palestine (Beth-Shan) was renamed ‘Scythopolis’ in honor of the Scythians, and the local population retained that name even after the Scythians left the area….
“This Scythian occupation, which included Palestine, occurred during the reign of King Josiah (circa 639-608 B.C.). The Bible does not mention ‘Scythians’ in Palestine at that time because ‘Scythian’ was a Greek term. However, the Bible refers to them as Israelites….” (pp. 187-190). Indeed, we will later see not just the Jews but people “of Manasseh and Ephraim, and all the remnant of Israel” giving to the restoration of the temple and attending Josiah’s famous Passover (2 Chronicles 34:9 2 Chronicles 34:9And when they came to Hilkiah the high priest, they delivered the money that was brought into the house of God, which the Levites that kept the doors had gathered of the hand of Manasseh and Ephraim, and of all the remnant of Israel, and of all Judah and Benjamin; and they returned to Jerusalem.
American King James Version×; 2 Chronicles 35:18 2 Chronicles 35:18And there was no passover like to that kept in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet; neither did all the kings of Israel keep such a passover as Josiah kept, and the priests, and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel that were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
American King James Version×). What were Israelites doing in the land, considering that they had been carried away by the Assyrians a century earlier? The answer is that these were the Scythians—Israelites who had returned, some now desirous to honor God. Of course, this represented only a small percentage of the Israelites who had been taken into captivity, certainly not fulfilling the many prophecies of God gathering Israel back to the Promised Land. Indeed, they did not ultimately stay—perhaps because Israel was no longer the land of milk and honey it had once been and they preferred their far northern territories.
In any case, it was the presence of returned Israelites that enabled Josiah to carry out his reform even in the territories of the former northern kingdom. Indeed, the Scythian presence explains other things too, as we will see.