The account of the death of Josiah bristles with historical and theological problems. (Why did Josiah go to Megiddo? Why did Necho kill him? Why did Josiah not die in peace? Why did such a pious king lose a significant battle especially after what Huldah had said about him). The account in 2 Kings was written in the 6th century BCE, Chronicles was written two centuries later, 1 Esdras (a translation of Chronicles) another two centuries later, and Josephus 2.5 centuries after 1 Esdras. It is interesting how the story and the theology changed over seven centuries, and this has implications for our understanding of how the biblical text was composed.
2 Kgs 22:18-20; 23:29-30
2 Chr 34:26-28; 35:20-25
1 Esdras 1:
The oracle of Huldah the prophet:
18 But as to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, thus shall you say to him, Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard,
19 because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the LORD, when you heard how I spoke against this place, and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and because you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, says the LORD. 20 Therefore, I will gather you to your ancestors, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring on this place." They took the message back to the king.
The Oracle of Huldah the prophet:
26 But as to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, thus shall you say to him: Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard,
27 because your heart was penitent and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this place and its inhabitants, and you have humbled yourself before me, and have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, says the LORD.
28 I will gather you to your ancestors and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring on this place and its inhabitants." They took the message back to the king.
29 In his days Pharaoh Necho king of Egypt went up to ((lo[) or against) the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates. King Josiah went to meet him; but when Pharaoh Necho met him at Megiddo, he killed him.
20 After all this, when Josiah had set the temple in order, King Necho of Egypt went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah went out against him.
25 After all these acts of Josiah, it happened that Pharaoh, king of Egypt, went to make war at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah went out against him.
21 But Necho sent envoys to him, saying, "What have I to do with you, king of Judah? I am not coming against you today, but against the house with which I am at war; and God has commanded me to hurry. Cease opposing God, who is with me, so that he will not destroy you."
26 And the king of Egypt sent word to him saying, "What have we to do with each other, O king of Judea? 27 I was not sent against you by the Lord God, for my war is at the Euphrates. And now the Lord is with me! The Lord is with me, urging me on! Stand aside, and do not oppose the Lord."
22 But Josiah would not turn away from him, but disguised himself1 in order to fight with him. He did not listen to the words of Necho from the mouth of God, but joined battle in the plain of Megiddo.
28 Josiah, however, did not turn back to his chariot, but tried to fight with him, and did not heed the words of the prophet Jeremiahfrom the mouth of the Lord. 29 He joined battle with him in the plain of Megiddo,.
23 The archers shot2 King Josiah; and the king said to his servants, "Take me away, for I am badly wounded."
and the commanders came down3against King Josiah 30 The king said to his servants, "Take me away from the battle, for I am very weak."
30 His servants carried him dead in a chariot from Megiddo, brought him to Jerusalem, and buried him in his own tomb.
24 So his servants took him out of the chariot and carried him in his second chariot and brought him to Jerusalem. There he died, and was buried in the tombs of his ancestors.
And immediately his servants took him out of the line of battle.31 He got into his second chariot; and after he was brought back to Jerusalem he died, and was buried in the tomb of his ancestors.
All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah.
32 In all Judea they mourned for Josiah.
25Jeremiah also uttered a lament for Josiah, and all the singing men and singing women have spoken of Josiah in their laments to this day. They made these a custom in Israel; they are recorded in the Laments.
The prophet Jeremiah lamented for Josiah, and the principal men, with the women, have made lamentation for him to this day; it was ordained that this should always be done throughout the whole nation of Israel.
Necho, the king of Egypt, having raised an army, marched toward the Euphrates river to make war on the Medes and Babylonians who had overthrown the Assyrian empire, for he had the desire to rule Asia. When he came to the city of Megiddo—this was in Josiah’s kingdom—the latter came with an army to prevent him from marching against the Medes through his country. So Necho sent a herald to him, saying that he was not taking the field against him, but was making for the Euphrates, and he bade Josiah not provoke him into making war on him by preventing him from going where he had made up his mind to go. Josiah, however, paid no attention to Necho’s request, but acted as though he would not permit him to traverse his territory; it was Destiny, I believe, that urged him on to this course, in order to have a pretext for destroying him. For, as he was marshalling his force and riding in his chariot from one wing to another, an Egyptian archer shot him and put an end to his eagerness for battle, and, being in great pain from his wound, he ordered the call to be sounded for the army’s retreat, and he returned to Jerusalem. There he died from his wound and was buried magnificently in the tombs of his fathers, having lived thirty-nine years, of which he reigned thirty-one. Great was the mourning for him observed by all the people, who bewailed him and grieved for many days. And the prophet Jeremiah composed a song of lament for his funeral, which remains to this day.
1 1 Kings 22:29-36 Ahab disguised himself and was killed accidentally by an arrow. 2 Kings 9:27-28 Ahaziah was shot by an arrow, died in Megiddo, and buried with his ancestors in the city of David.