What does the Bible say about how close we came to losing almost all of the Old Testament? It tells us, in essence, we were down to one copy hidden in the Temple 600 years before Christ. Who found it? And what happened? And what does it say about where the Ark of the Covenant was hidden? And who hid it? These topics are covered in brief in the following extract from my latest book, A Biography of the Christian Bible.
“I cannot truly thank you enough for this book, A Biography of the Christian Bible, In all truth looking back at 45 years of bible research and study I would have been so grateful to have had it as it cuts away at all the underbrush. What great advantage I would have had!”
– Noted Bible Teacher, Joanie Stahl (joanieshahl.com)
Josiah and the Rediscovery of the Book of the Law
A most important event in the life of the Bible occurs during the time of Josiah the King, at a time of great revival in Judah just before the Babylonian captivity of the sixth century B.C. King Josiah reigned as Judah’s king not long after the destruction of the Northern Kingdom in 712 B.C. Perhaps he was highly motivated by what he witnessed of the judgment of God upon Northern Israel – and decided that Judah had better repent of its wayward attitude toward Yahweh. Consequently, Josiah initiated many reforms. He is also credited by some liberal theologians with the accumulation and compilation of the biblical writings preceding him, around 623-621 B.C. This was shortly before Nebuchadnezzar initiated his first foray into the land of Judah, circa 608 B.C. As was his custom, during the first phase of his conquest of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar took a nation’s children from the elite families of a country and trained them in Chaldean ways. That’s why he brought back to Babylon, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These captives were likely in their teens when this took place. The first decisive conquest of Jerusalem would not occur for another ten years, in 598 B.C. And the second phase, the most devastating, occurred in 586 B.C. when Babylonian forces tore down Jerusalem’s walls and destroyed the Temple of Solomon. The was the first of two such devastations.
To provide some additional background to this providential judgment, Josiah had become committed to the Yahwehist religion, following in the steps his great-grandfather, Hezekiah. By his actions, he reversed the idolatry of his grandfather Manasseh. Part of the task of restoration required cleaning up the Temple and putting away the idols and rituals of Baal borrowed from the Northern Kingdom. During the renovation and restoration of the Temple, Hilkiah – Josiah’s High Priest – found the sacred scrolls of the Bible – as they existed up to that point in time. They consisted of the Pentateuch, the writings of Samuel documenting the period of the Judges, the Psalms, and the Proverbs, and very likely the writings of several prophets, namely the prophet Isaiah, who many consider the greatest of all Hebrew prophets.
Modern theologians, always the skeptics, believe that Josiah’s priests constructed the Books of the Law to centralize authority under Josiah in Jerusalem. They regard these writings “Deuteronomistic History” (DtrH), a product of political propaganda. They assume that virtually all the Bible was written at this time, with the exceptions of those books written by Ezra one hundred years later.
During this time, the prophets Jeremiah and his teacher Zephaniah served Judah as well as a prophetess Huldah (mentioned in 2 Chronicles 34:22-28, and 2 Kings 22:14-20). Josiah would be killed at the Battle of Carchemish (605 B.C.), in a clash involving Egypt allied with the Assyrian Empire (in its last throes), against Nebuchadnezzar and the burgeoning Babylonians. Jeremiah would lament Josiah’s death who had demonstrated devotion to Yahweh, having renewed the rituals of the Law.
And, during his life, Jeremiah prophesied against Judah’s sinful actions often compelled by its evil kings. We read this in Jeremiah’s books, the Book of Jeremiah and the Book of Lamentations. These would be added to the Holy Scriptures with the able assistance of Jeremiah’s scribe, Baruch.
In the very next generation, Ezekiel would prophesy from Babylon and create one of the most celebrated of all biblical books full of scores of prophecies most conservatives believe are yet to be fulfilled (Ezekiel 37-48). The judgment of Judah and its eventual return is a significant theme of the book. During Ezekiel’s time, Daniel served as a high-level ruler in Nebuchadnezzar’s administration – who like Joseph in Egypt, was elevated to the second-highest position by interpreting the king’s dreams. The Book of Daniel contains some of the most important prophecies concerning the second advent of the Messiah, stemming from the dramatic dreams of King Nebuchadnezzar as well as Daniel himself.
But scholars debate the date of the Book of Daniel.Conservatives see it composed by Daniel himself, circa 550 B.C. Modern liberal and secular scholars’ assert it was written during the days of the Maccabean Revolt, almost 400 years later, circa 150 B.C. As it is regarded as an apocalyptic book by the Jewish rabbis that was composed in the second century A.D., they too date the book well after the life of Daniel and cite the end of prophecy (as they determined it) with Malachi who prophesied from 436-415 B.C.Thus, Daniel is not considered a prophet by Judaism (he is called, “Daniel, the Beloved”), despite the words of Jesus who identified him as a prophet. From Jesus’ Mount of Olives discourse, “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand). Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Matthew 24:15,16)
One of Josiah’s sons became the last King of Judah, Jehoiakim, while another would become a prisoner of Necho, Jehoahaz, to force compliance from Jehoiakim to Necho, as Necho strove to reinvigorate the Egyptian Empire in the seventh century B.C. Of note: When Nebuchadnezzar returned once again to retake Jerusalem in 586 B.C., as stated above, he destroyed Solomon’s Temple. The Ark of the Covenant made famous by movies and speculation as to its whereabouts, according to 2 Maccabees 2:4-8, was buried and hidden on Mount Nebo in a cave by Jeremiah the prophet. In a contrasting fate, Jeremiah would join Jewish emigres’ who sought asylum in Egypt.
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