Negative Passover

Josiah presides over the greatest Passover in the history of the monarchy (2 Chronicles 35:18). No sooner has the celebration subsided than Josiah heads out of Jerusalem to confront Pharaoh Neco as the latter marches north to fight Assyria.

Josiah makes a military and political blunder here. But it’s worse than that. He defies God, and his death at the hands of the Egyptians is what William Johnstone calls a “negative Passover”:

“it is none other than God himself who has ‘alarmed’ Neco (2 Chron. 32.18, may be better than the standard English ver- sions understanding of the verb, ‘speeded’ him on his way, though that fits with the next phrase), so that he will have nothing to do with Josiah. He, too, is on a divine mission; to resist him is to resist God. Then, with words that add the full pathos to the confrontation, Neco adds, ‘Lest he destroy you.’ Here is the basic vocabulary of the ‘negative Passover’ (1 Chron. 21.12): in the original exodus from Egypt, God had sent ‘the destroyer’ to slay the first-born of the Egyptians, so that Israel his first-born might be delivered. Now, in the mouths of Egyptians, the same vocabulary is used: if Josiah does not heed the warning issued by God through the Egyptians, he will bring down upon his own people the very destruction by God from which it was the purpose of the exodus to deliver them” (2.257).


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