Second Chronicles 35:20-26 adds a footnote to the terse account of Josiah’s defeat in II Kings 23:
After all this, when Josiah had set the temple in order, Neco of Egypt went up to fight at Carcemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah went out to meet him in battle. But Neco sent messengers to him, saying, “What quarrel is there between you and me, O King of Judag? It is not you I am attacking at this time, but the house with which I am at war. God has told me to hurry; so stop opposing God, who is with me, or he will destoy you.”
Josiah, however, would not turn away from him, but disguised himself to engage him in battle. He would not listen to what Neco had said at God’s command but went to fight him on the plain of Megiddo.
Archers shot King Josiah, and he told his officers, “Take me away; I am badly wounded.” So they took him out of his chariot, put him in the other chariot that he had and brought him to Jerusalem, where he died.
Did Josiah suffer defeat for opposing God?
That appears to be an open question, considering Josiah’s piety and Neco’s arrogance in claiming to speak for God. Neco lied, and the last of the Assyrians, weakened as they were, soundly defeated Neco in battle at Carcemish. Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon subsequently demolished the Assyrians and set about appropriating their former dominions, including Judah.
Devout as Josiah was, I would like to think that he followed Hezekiah’s example in consulting God about what to do about the Egyptians. Considering his family history, it’s not improbable that he acted in haste and vanity.
Josiah certainly knew Neco lied. Perhaps Josiah recognized God’s hand in the downfall of the Assyrians brief rise of the Babylonian Empire and hoped to ally himself with them. However, he simply lacked the means and tactical skill to fight the Egyptians on their own terms and would have been better advised to use guerilla tactics in the hill country as opportunities arose.
Whatever the case, Josiah’s defeat at Megiido broght about the occupation and eventual obliteration of Jerusalem and Judah.
Josiah’s batlle was not the last to be fought on the plains of Megiddo, but it and earlier battles provided the prototype for later prophecies of a final day of reckoning in a climactic battle at Armageddon.
Jeremiah composed laments for Josiah, … These became a tradition in Israel …
Judah’s King Josiah (641 -609 BC) was a godly man whom 2 Kings 23:25 rates as Judah’s finest king.
Josiah inherited the throne at the age of 8 after the murder of his father, Amon. At the age of twenty, Josiah began asserting himself as ruler and initiated religious reforms in Judah and even parts of Israel. He benefited from the ministries of the prophetess Huldah and the prophets Zephaniah and Jeremiah. Josiah and Jeremiah were born about the same time, though Scripture does not record that the two ever met.
The Assyrian Empire, which had destroyed Israel, ravaged Judah during the reigns of Hezekiah and Manasseh, and subdued Egypt, fell into internal turmoil about two years after Josiah began his reforms and one year after Jeremiah answered God’s call to the prophetic ministry. The Empire fell apart when Nabopolassar freed Babylonia and Cimmerian and Scythian hordes stormed into the western portion of the empire. The Babylonians took the Assyrian capital, Nineveh, in 612 BC, fulfilling the prophecies of Zephaniah and Nahum.
Josiah’s reforms spared Judah from Assyria’s fate, however, and the power vacuum following the downfall of Assyria gave Judah a respite and a brief interlude of prosperity and freedom from paying tribute. Josiah began to take control of the former territory of Israel and may have had ambitions of building a new United Kingdom of Israel and Judah.
The power vacuum did not last long enough. Nabopolassar began to take control of the remnants of the Assyrian Empire and its former tributaries. Egypt had thrown off the Assyrian yoke within twenty years. Pharaoh Psammetichus I (Psamtik) rebuilt Egypt’s army and fleet. His son,Pharaoh Neco (609-593 BC), dispatched ships to circumnavigate Africa and set about reclaiming Egypt’s former territories in Palestine and Syria ahead of the Babylonians. His fleet landed troops at Gaza in Philistia, where Neco assembled a large army and proceeded to lead them north along the ancient coastal warpath, the Highway of the Sea.
Against the advice of his counselors, King Josiah decided to block Neco’s “peaceful” passage though the pass of Megiddo. The Egyptians overwhelmed Josiah’s force. Wounded in action, Josiah died in Jerusalem.
With Josiah’s death, the independence of Judah ended and it became a vassal first of Egypt and then, in 605 BC, of Babylonia until Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest and destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC.