Take the 2-minute tour ×
Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

2 Kings 22 (NIV)

8 Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan, who read it.

11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes.

From the reaction of King Josiah, it looked like he had never read the Book of the Law. Verse 8 also sounds like the book was lost for a long time.

  1. Was the Book of the Law lost for a long time that King Josiah never saw it before?
  2. Does this discovery of the Book of the Law mean that the location of the book was not known before?
  3. Which copy of the Book of the Law was it? Was it the copy for the King or from the Levitical priests? (Deuteronomy 17:18)
  4. Did their ignorance of the presence of Book of the Law mean that nobody at that time cared to go inside the Temple to read from the Book of the Law?
  5. How may we refute people who say that someone forged the book and put it there?
share|improve this question
    
Do you mean "what happened that he had never heard of it before?" or do you mean "what happened to it after this event?" To clarify, the first connotation could be rewritten of "where did this book come from if he had never heard from it" and the second, "What happened after it was found here?". The answer to those two possible meanings of your question are completely different. –  David Mar 14 '13 at 3:05
    
@DavidStratton I think it's clear now. –  Mawia Mar 14 '13 at 5:13
    
That is much better! Too bad I can't vote up again. –  David Mar 14 '13 at 5:14
    
It's now too late to answer fully, but take a look at the commentaries here: bible.cc/2_kings/22-8.htm They address this question pretty well. –  David Mar 14 '13 at 5:16

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

tl;dr> This clip from the end Raiders of the Lost Ark probably captures the essence of what happened rather well - it's not that it was "lost" so much as ignored and forgotten.


King Josiah ruled Judah over a period in which the re-discovery of YHWH overall was in vogue. For the past 77 years, two very wicked kings had ruled - Manesseh and his son Amon.

Of Mannesseh, it is said:

and he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, yaccording to the despicable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places zthat Hezekiah his father had destroyed, and he erected altars for Baal and made aan Asherah, bas Ahab king of Israel had done, cand worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. And he built altars in the house of the Lord, ... And he burned his son as an offering* and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger.

The wickedest king of Israel presided over a huge decline in the worship of God. In such a regime, especially if new altars were being built in the Temple, it would not at all be surprising if the Book of the Law was "filed away" and forgotten.

And, unlike today, when book ownership is prevelant, mis-filing one copy really could prevent anyone from knowing about it. Books and Scrolls were, in antiquity, extremely expensive things. Even for an epistle as short as Romans, Raymond Brown has estimate that the parchment and ink alone would have cost $3000 - a fortune in those times.

Even today, "discoveries" are being made, not out in the field, but in museum vaults! Mere possession of an object, and knowledge that one has it, are two completely different things. Just look inside the drawers of your bathroom sink (if you live in the West) if you don't believe me.


So, to answer your questions directly:

  1. Was the Book of the Law lost for a long time that King Josiah never saw it before?

    It had been ignored for up to 77 years - after the days of Hezekiah, but during the 55 year reign of Manessah and 22 years of Amon's reign.

  2. Does this discovery of the Book of the Law mean that the location of the book was not known before?

    Whether or not it was "known" is debatable. It was in the Temple and always had been. But imagine trying to find a single artifact in a large building that served as a storehouse. (Remember, people didn't enter the Temple on a regular basis - only the priests did. It wasn't a church!)

  3. Which copy of the Book of the Law was it? Was it the copy for the King or from the Levitical priests? (Deuteronomy 17:18)

    There is nothing to suggest that it was anything other than the copy in the Temple. The copy for the King would definitely not have been kept, as Josiah's two predecessors did not belong to the cult of YHWH.

  4. Did their ignorance of the presence of Book of the Law mean that nobody at that time cared to go inside the Temple to read from the Book of the Law?

    Yup. (At least from the priest's point of view.) Remember, ordinary people were not allowed inside the Temple. Indeed, women weren't even allowed in the inner courts. Only the Priests had access to the interior storehouses, and only the Chief Preist had access to the Holy of Holies.

  5. How may we refute people who say that someone forged the book and put it there?

    Scholars can't and don't even try. Indeed, the "JEDP" hypothesis suggests that while the text itself formed orally over a period of 400 years (from roughly 1000 BC until 600BC), claims such as "Josiah being the greatest king that ever ruled Israel" suggest that the form we have today was last edited during his reign. That said, ultimately, even a biblical perfectionist such as myself understands that the Bible we have today is the one that God intended for us to have. This is the doctrine known as 'preservation.' Whether or not it has been edited is of little consequence - the church has done quite well with the Bible it has.

share|improve this answer

What happened to the Book of the Law in the time of Josiah?

Edward F. Campbell Jr. says in 'A Land Divided: Judah and Israel from the Death of Solomon to the Fall of Samaria', published in The Oxford History of the Biblical World, that virtually all scholars agree the Book of Deuteronomy, or at least a good part of it (chapters 5-26 and 28 are often nominated), was the ‘Book of Law’ supposedly found in the temple during renovations in the time of King Josiah.

Was the Book of the Law lost for a long time that King Josiah never saw it before?

Not in the view of most biblical scholars. Tradition attributes the authorship of the Book of Law (Deuteronomy) to Moses, but scholars attribute the book, or most of it, to a source now known as the Deuteronomist, writing during the reign of King Josiah in Jerusalem.

Does this discovery of the Book of the Law mean that the location of the book was not known before?

This is apparently not the case. A very similar instance is reported in the Book of Jeremiah, demonstrating that this would not be the only case in which a document was hidden then 'found' by the priests in order to establish its antiquity and enable them to impress the king (who immediately saw through the ruse):

Jeremiah 36:19-23: Then said the princes unto Baruch, Go, hide thee, thou and Jeremiah; and let no man know where ye be. And they went in to the king into the court, but they laid up the roll in the chamber of Elishama the scribe, and told all the words in the ears of the king. So the king sent Jehudi to fetch the roll: and he took it out of Elishama the scribe's chamber. And Jehudi read it in the ears of the king, and in the ears of all the princes which stood beside the king. Now the king sat in the winterhouse in the ninth month: and there was a fire on the hearth burning before him. And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth.

In 'Ideas of Law and Legal Administration: a Semiotic Approach', published in The World of Ancient Israel (edited by R.E. Clements), page 193, Bernard S. Jackson agrees that the passage in Jeremiah suggests that the scroll found in the time of Josiah, just a few years earlier, had also been a ‘plant’. He says that Jeremiah has given us a vivid description of how it might have been done.

Did their ignorance of the presence of Book of the Law mean that nobody at that time cared to go inside the Temple to read from the Book of the Law?

This could hardly have been the case, especially for a period of hundreds of years, as supposed. All the scrolls were kept together, and if just one scroll had been placed in the wrong location in a sparsely furnished temple, its existence would quickly have been noticed.

How may we refute people who say that someone forged the book and put it there?

The scholarly position that Deuteronomy was written during the reign of King Josiah relies in part on the second, quite similar example in Jeremiah. This demonstrates a predeliction on the part of the priestly establishment to engage in deception and also a knowledge of how to carry out such a deception. Eliminating this example would remove a plank from the case that Deuteronomy was a recent forgery, although this would not necessarily mean that the book really dates all the way back to Moses.

The book's style is very similar to the style of set of books known as the Deuteronomic History, so it could help to show that the Deuteronomist was active even earlier than the reign of Josiah, although the consensus of modern scholars is that the evidence points to his reign. The late biblical Hebrew certainly places the book no earlier than the late monarchy, so there is a limit to how much earlier Deuteronomy can be dated.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.