I received the following question:
2 Chronicles 35:20. After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Necho king of Egypt came up to fight against Carchemish by the Euphrates; and Josiah went out against him. 21. But he sent messengers to him, saying, “What have I to do with you, king of Judah? I have not come against you this day, but against the house with which I have war; for God commanded me to make haste. Refrain from meddling with God, who is with me, lest He destroy you.” 22. Nevertheless Josiah would not turn his face from him, but disguised himself so that he might fight with him, and did not heed the words of Necho from the mouth of God. So he came to fight in the Valley of Megiddo.
Is the Lord speaking through Pharaoh Necho to Josiah? Does Josiah realize it and not obey?
I believe that Necho was speaking a message he had received from God. This is made plain by verse 22, when it says Josiah “did not heed the words of Necho from the mouth of God.” So God did speak to Josiah through Necho. I think the problem probably was that Josiah did not believe him.
After all, Judah was God’s nation and God’s people. Josiah was their king. He knew that he was the God-appointed ruler of his people, and he knew that many of the nations around them did not know the Lord nor serve Him. This was true of Egypt much of the time. He probably thought that God would not have given Necho a message that He did not give to him.
The problem was that Josiah had plenty of ways he could have inquired into the matter and found out whether Necho’s words were from the Lord or not. He had access to priests, which means he could have consulted with the Urim and Thummim. He had access to prophets, which means he could have asked God through them to confirm or deny whether or not God had really sent Necho on the mission he was on. Yet he did not avail himself of these, so confident was he that Necho did not speak the truth.
Josiah’s attitude towards Necho reminds me a lot of Abraham’s attitude towards Abimelech and his people, when he said, “I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will kill me on account of my wife.” Yet Abimelech argued to God, “Lord, will You slay a righteous nation also?” (Along with Sodom and Gomorrah.) And the Lord did not argue with him, seeming to admit that his was a (relatively) righteous nation. So Abraham assumed that the fear of God could not be in Abimelech’s land, but he was very wrong about that. And so Josiah seems to assume that the fear of God cannot be found in Pharaoh Necho, yet he is wrong about that. And for his mistake, he died when he opposed Necho who had been sent by God. This was a sad and unnecessary conclusion to the matter, since he was the last righteous king the southern nation of Judah ever had. If he had only consulted with God, things might have been very different. Yet he did not, and he died for his error.