After a disastrous 57 years (the reigns of Menashe and his son Amon), during which idolatry was rampant in Judah and Judaism was threatened with extinction, the good king Yoshiyahu comes on the scene and engineers a broad revival of the faith. But the prophetess Huldah tells him:

Thus said the Lord God of Israel… “Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon its inhabitants ... Because they have forsaken me and have burned incense to other gods, … my anger is kindled against this place…”

And they brought back the reply to the king. And the king… gathered… all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem and… went up to the house of the Lord… and he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant which had been found in the house of the Lord. And [they]… made a covenant…to keep [God’s] commandments… with all their heart and all their soul… [2 Kings 22:11~17, 23:1-3]

The people clearly repent and resolve to reform under Yoshiyahu's leadership. But God says He will bring disaster on their heads anyway. Why? If God did not punish them during Menashe's reign, it must have been to give them opportunities to repent. And they did. So why did God resolve to punish them anyway? Isn't repentance what God really wants?

  • if i remember correctly, it was because only the King was really repenting fully. The current populace was still half hearted 9due to years of lapse etc.) so they needed more mussar and encouraging direction. Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 3:53
  • @DavidKenner -- Where does it say that? At any rate, one would think that God would encourage any movement towards repentance, not squelch it by saying "It won't make a difference anyway". Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 3:57
  • I said IIRC lol, if I knew I would write an answer :) btw, bad prohecies do not need to happen, but they can be scary. Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 3:58
  • Maybe He did accept it for the people, and that's why the Egyptians didn't totally destroy Judah otw back from the conflict he had killed Josiah otw to, just changing Judah's king to one he knew would pay tribute. Wasn't Zedekiah's generation the one who sealed their fate, after they blew their last chance by re-enslaving folks? The "I proclaim a liberty for the sword to you" message was maybe 20 years after Josiah died.
    – Gary
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 17:51

1 Answer 1


According to Eikhah Rabba 1:53, the "repentance" was not complete. Apparently they agreed with the elimination of state sponsored or public idolatry, but when it came to their own homes, many schemed to get past the king's laws:

והוא לא היה יודע שכל דורו עובדי עבודת כוכבים היו? הוה משלח זוג תלמידים למיבערא עבודת כוכבים מבתיהון, והוון עללין ולא משכחין כלום. עד דנפקון אמרון טרודו תרעין מן דהוון טרדין לתרעיה, הוון חמן יתיה אמרו עליהון: מן דאתא ותיקן הוא, דאתא וקלקל

... and he [Yoshiyahu] did not know that his entire generation worshipped idols. What did the scoffers of his generation do? They would put half of the [idolatrous] form on one door, and half on the other door. [Yoshiyahu] would send two wise men to purge their homes from idols. They would enter, but find nothing. As they left, [the scoffers] would have them close the door, so that, on the inside, the idols would be reattached.

Even though changing the complexion of the thoroughfare was no small thing, Yoshiyahu ends up paying for his overconfidence. He should have consulted with Yirmiyahu, who would have told him to let Par'oh Necho travel through Israel. (Taanis 22b) After all, the navi's advice wouldn't be based on guessing what the state of the public mind was.

The medrash continues.

לפיכך, (דה"ב ל"ה) ויורו היורים למלך יאשיהו אמר רבי מני: שלש מאות חצים הורו בו, עד שנעשה גופו ככברה, והיה ירמיהו מצית אחריו לידע מהו אומר, ומה היה אומר? צדיק הוא ה' כי פיהו מריתי, פיהו ופום סרסורו.

Therefore "The archers shot into King Yoshiyahu" (Divrei haYamim 35). Rabbi Mani said, "They shot 300 arrows into him, until his body became like a sieve. Yirmiyahu stayed after with him to know what he was saying. And what was he saying, "Hashem is just, because I rebelled against His Word." His Word, and the word of His emissary.

(C.f. Moed Qatan 28b, which also uses the gruesome "like a sieve" imagery.)

This story is reflected by Ashkenazim in a qinah written by R Eliezer haKalir,* "Eikhah Eli Qonenu". It is an alef-beis acrostic, and the dalet line reads:

דָּבַק בּוֹ חֵטְא לֵיצָנֵי הַדּוֹר. אֲשֶׁר קָמוּ אַחַר הַדֶּלֶת לִסְדֹּר

The sin of the scoffers of the generation attached itself to him; that they established to be set up behind the door.

So, to some up: There was national repentance, but not enough individuals cleaned up their personal lives. And Yoshiahu, in his hubris, was so sure of his own success, he didn't even think the question was worth asking the navi.

(* If a Sepharadi can mention whether they say something similar, it would be appreciated.)

  • Even if the repentance was not yet complete, it was still a huge step in the right direction. For God to say, AT THAT TIME, "I will destroy them regardless" does not sound right. It's like saying to the people: "Don't bother doing more". There must be something else. Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 16:46
  • @MauriceMizrahi, how is it a step in the right direction if they're deliberately and knowingly subverting the push to eradicate idolatry?
    – Meir
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 18:39
  • @Meir: Because under Menasheh, they thought AZ was appropriate on the national level too. Picture an Israeli politician who refuses to eat treif only when acting in office, but doesn't keep kosher in his personal life. Better than one who eats treif even when representing Israel, no? Under Menasheh few even knew there was a thing called a Sefer Torah. (See Melakhim II 23:2; Yoshiahu reads the Sefer haBeris that was found in the BHMQ. And [v. 22], he learns about Pesach from it! ... Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 19:53
  • @MauriceMizrahi: ... So I see your complaint about punishing people for not making enough progress. OTOH, this is HQBH, He Knows how much progress they could and should have made. Like Chazal say on the 13 Middos, "poqeid avon avos al banim..." -- if they do not abandon their parents' sin when they could have. Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 19:55
  • @MichaBerger -- God said (I can search for the reference if you want): "I judge people only according to what they do at the time, not according to what they might do in the future". God COULD have said (but didn't): "I see that you are making progress on average, and that's great. But IF you do not improve faster, I WILL destroy you." Instead, God said: "I will destroy you no matter what." This requires an explanation. It is at odds with all I know about teshuvah in Judaism. Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 20:26

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .