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About Hezekiah, we read in 2 Kings 18:5-6:

Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the LORD and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the LORD had given Moses.

But then about Josiah a couple chapters later in 2 Kings 23:25:

Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.

How can the reigns of Hezekiah and Josiah both be the greatest, especially when it is said of both that neither before nor after him was there a king like him? Is this a contradiction?

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Not to be snarky, but the only objective answer to that question would be someone who lived through both kingships, a physical impossibility. It would be like asking, who is the greater ruler, George Washington or Gandhi. The bible is clearly pointing out both were good kings. – Affable Geek Mar 11 '12 at 17:00
@AffableGeek I'm, of course, not really asking for a ranking of the kings; just interested in how the apparent contradiction can be resolved. – Soldarnal Mar 11 '12 at 23:17
My point is that people overuse superlatives all the time. My daughter will tell you that Lincoln and Washington are both our greatest President EVER! (She is, however, smart enough to realize that David Tennant is better than Matt Smith, but I digress). – Affable Geek Mar 12 '12 at 3:09
Ask any kid, Josiah beats Hezekiah hands down! – Peter Turner Oct 16 '12 at 4:53

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Both "turning to the Lord" and "holding fast to the Lord" seem to be common expressions of obeying God's commands (cf. Deut. 30:10; Deut. 30:20), so it doesn't appear that there is necessarily any difference in the sort of thing for which these two kings are commended.

However, the author of these passages probably does not intend to make a statement about the relative greatness of one king or the other. Rather, stressing the uniqueness of some event or individual with a superlative seems to be a common way of highlighting its greatness or awfulness.

For instance, a similar apparent contradiction can be seen between Exodus 10:14 and Joel 1:2-4. In the former, we are told that there will never be such a plague of locusts again. And in the latter, the elders are told to survey the great plague of locusts come upon them and asked, "Has anything like this ever happened in the days of your ancestors?" Probably the prophet Joel had not forgotten about the plague in Exodus.

It seems best, then, to see these two passages as merely emphasizing the devotion of each of these kings to obeying God, rather than making any argument that either one is actually the greatest of the kings of Judah.

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