The Chronicler carefully lays out the chronology of Josiah’s reign (2 Chronicles 34-35).
1)Becomes king at age of 8 (34:1).
2) In the eighth year of his reign, at age 16, Josiah begins to seek God (34:3).
3) In the twelfth year of his reign, at age 20, Josiah begins to purge Jerusalem, Judah, the temple, and the northern kingdom (34:3).
4) In the eighteenth year of his reign, at age 26, he begins to repair the house (34:8). During that project, the book of Torah is rediscovered in the temple. Josiah leads a covenant renewal and organizes a Passover celebration. All this takes place in the eighteenth year (35:19).
5) Josiah reigns for 31 years, dying at the age of 39 (34:1; the years of wandering in the wilderness?). After the Passover, the only event recorded is Josiah’s death at the hands of Pharaoh Neco (35:20-27). That means we have no information about roughly 13 years of Josiah’s reign, between the year of reform and the king’s death.
In a Sunday School class this past week, Emma Fox (member at Trinity Presbyterian Church) observed the Sabbatical theme in the passage. Josiah begins the purge of idolatry in the twelfth year and begins to restore the temple in his eighteenth year. That is, he works for six years to purge the land, and in the seventh year he repairs the house of God.
That suggests that everything that happens in the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign can be understood under the rubric of “Sabbath.” That fits in several respects:
1) Sabbath is the day of Yahweh’s enthronement in His house. Josiah’s “Sabbath year” is devoted to repairing the Lord’s house.
2) On the Sabbath, Yahweh speaks from His throne. During Josiah’s 18th year, the priests discover a book of Torah in the temple.
3) Sabbath is the day of judgment, and during Josiah’s Sabbath the Lord speaks through the prophetess Huldah, warning that the Lord’s wrath will be poured out on the temple.
4) Sabbath is a day for covenant-making, and Josiah leads a covenant renewal ceremony in Jerusalem.
5) Passover is a form of Sabbath, and the final episode in the Chronicler’s account of Josiah’s 18th year describes a great Passover event. Near the end of the account, the Chronicler informs us that Judah celebrated the Passover for seven days (35:17).