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2 Kings 23

13The king also desecrated the high places east of Jerusalem, to the south of the Mount of Corruption, which King Solomon of Israel had built for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcome the abomination of the Ammonites. 14He smashed the sacred pillars to pieces, cut down the Asherah poles, and covered the sites with human bones.

19Just as Josiah had done at Bethel, so also in the cities of Samaria he removed all the shrines of the high places set up by the kings of Israel who had provoked the LORD to anger. 20On the altars he slaughtered all the priests of the high places, and he burned human bones on them. Then he returned to Jerusalem.

What is the significance of these human bones?

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Numbers 19:11

Whoever touches a human corpse will be unclean for seven days.

Dead human bones were a source of defilement. King Josiah instituted major religious reforms during his reign. He even took extraordinary measures outside of the territory of Judah in 2 Kings 23:

19Just as Josiah had done at Bethel, so also in the cities of Samaria he removed all the shrines of the high places set up by the kings of Israel who had provoked the LORD to anger. 20On the altars he slaughtered all the priests of the high places, and he burned human bones on them. Then he returned to Jerusalem.

Ezekiel affirms this practice in 6:5

I will lay the corpses of the Israelites before their idols and scatter your bones around your altars.

Covering and burning human bones on these sites disrespected and defiled the sites. On the other hand, 2 Kings 23:

17The king [Josiah] asked, “What is that tombstone I see?”

The people of the city said, “It marks the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and pronounced against the altar of Bethel the very things you have done to it.”

18“Leave it alone,” he said. “Don’t let anyone disturb his bones.” So they spared his bones and those of the prophet who had come from Samaria.

Leaving the bones undisturbed was a sign of respect.

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