Oratorio Idea: Josiah

I’m imagining an oratorio, Josiah, King of the Jews, the titular character being voiced by a countertenor – in my dreams, someone like Jakub Józef Orliński or Iestyn Davies – and the plot centred around the discovery of the long-lost book of Deuteronomy in the temple of the LORD. The oratorio is set in the 18th year of Josiah’s reign, in the waning years of the Assyrian empire, while Josiah energetically leads a national revival, breaking idols throughout the land and restoring the temple of the LORD.

Act 1 opens with Josiah troubled at the prophet and royal kinsman Zephaniah’s words about the day of the LORD in the midst of Judah’s national revival and overlord Assyria’s decline.

In Act 2, while the temple is being repaired upon Josiah’s orders, the young priest and prophet Jeremiah appears at the temple gates; upon those who have ‘healed’ the hurt of the people by putting their confidence in ‘the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD’, he pronounces certain doom. The people and Josiah are perplexed and displeased with Jeremiah’s words, but the oldest councillor remembers his father’s account of how Josiah’s great-grandfather Hezekiah broke the brazen serpent that Moses had made.

In Act 3, the book of the law of the LORD (viz., Deuteronomy) is found in the temple. Josiah tears his clothes and weeps when he hears the word of the LORD, and sends for the prophetess Huldah.

In Act 4, word returns from Huldah, saying that the LORD will surely bring evil upon Jerusalem and its inhabitants thereof, even all the curses that are written in the book which they have read before the king of Judah, because the people have forsaken the LORD; yet, on account of Josiah’s tender heart before the LORD, this evil will not come upon David’s house within Josiah’s reign. Josiah, relieved at the LORD’s kindness but sobered by the calamity that will befall Jerusalem after his time, prays that a future Anointed of the LORD may reverse the fortunes of the house of David according to what is written in the book of the law.

In Act 5, the people observe the Passover exactly 100 years after Josiah’s great-grandfather Hezekiah’s revival of the Passover, and slaughter the Paschal lamb for sacrifice with great rejoicing.

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