Captivity and return
Yet despite Assyria's prominence, the empire came under increasing threat from Lydia in the North-West, the Medes in the East, and the Scythians in the North. This lessening of Assyrian dominance brought about a nationalistic revival in Judah ; none the less the prophet Jeremiah cautioned that the southern kingdom would be overwhelmed by foreign nations. However, the new king Josiah (640-609 BC) was convinced he could restore the nation to its previous glory through territorial conquest and religious reform. As a consequence he banned the symbols of Assyrian control in the former northern kingdom, destroyed the sanctuary at Bethel set up by
Jeroboam I, and eliminated many local shrines as well as their priests. In addition, during his reign the Book of Deuteronomy was found in the Temple: this work insisted that a single God should be worshipped in a central place by a united congregation. This discovery had a powerful effect on the people. In a solemn ceremony, the nation dedicated themselves to God:
And the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book; and all the people joined in the covenant.