Transformations of the Story of King Josiah
A historian named Matt Clarcq once said that the art in history is how you tell it. 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles tell different transformations of the story of King Josiah, the great reformer before the first destruction of the temple. The differences in the story show how the writers of these Hebrew texts wanted to influence the people of their time.
Kings was compiled by Deuteronomic editors. The purpose was to assemble the oral and written traditions into a continuous story. The authors hoped to inspire leaders, priests, and other readers to remain faithful to the law by showing how kings who were faithful were rewarded by God, whereas those who were not were punished, and the people with them. Since much of the work was done before the Babylonian exile, it may have been intended to keep the future Davidic Kings in line with the laws of God.
Chronicles, on the other hand, was written after the Babylonian captivity. David's line was no longer in control of the people. Worship of God had been forbidden to the Jews so long that people had been born, lived, and died without ever participating in the rituals of the temple. Here the author used the story of Josiah to show how important those rituals were and how the Levites and other caretakers of the faith served the people. Chronicles is written to bring people back to the proper worship of God and to convince them that God does in fact influence their lives.
King Josiah undertook a great reform of the land of Judah during his reign. The time which the reform started, however, is recorded differently in each book. Both books agree that the money to repair the temples was distributed in the eighteenth year of King Josiah's reign (2 Kings 22:3 and 2 Chr 34:8). The book of 2 Kings begins the reformation after the book of the law is found in the temple and read to Josiah (2 Kings 23:4). However, in 2 Chr 34:3 it is stated: