The people of Judah (the southern tribes) were just as wicked as Israel. Yet they were able to survive much longer than Israel even though God called them whoring sisters. Their sins were exactly the same, but the difference was that Judah was willing to hear God’s word and repent.
Manasseh, Hezekiah’s son, followed the ways of his grandfather Ahaz. He did all that he could to undo all his father’s reforms. He reintroduced idolatry, pagan shrines, and even placed a false god’s image in the temple at Jerusalem. He also promoted the worship of heavenly bodies. His evil and his practice of the occult provoked the Lord to anger. As his judgement was falling he turned to the Lord will true repentance in his heart (2 Chronicles 33:11 – 13). In prison in Babaylonia he reflected upon his sin and humbled himself before the Lord. Two years later he was released and was permitted to take up the throne again. Manasseh was a new man. His repentance had be genuine. Immediately he set about ridding the entire nation of all forms of idolatry. Just as he was zealous in destroying the religion of the true God, now he is zealous about establishing it once again as the only true way. Because of his repentance and influence upon others the judgement was held back. For the rest of his life he would undo all his evil and lead the people of Israel back to worshipping the God of Heaven instead of heavenly bodies. There will those who still clung to their pagan ways. Manasseh knew that it would not be too long before the rot set back in. He continually appealed to Judah to be faithful to the Lord, “He repaired the altar of the LORD, and sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel” (2 Chronicles 33:16).
With the ascension to Judah’s throne of Amon the son of Manasseh, the rot did quickly set in again. The people were so offended at his wickedness that they assassinated him after only two years in office.
Amon’s quick departure brought eight year old Josiah to the throne of Judah. Because he had been trained in the principles of holiness and piety he was a worshipper of the Lord God even at a young age (2 Chronicles 34:4). When he reached the age of sixteen he began to set in order the serious conditions he saw all around him. He commanded that all the idolatry which his father had set up be destroyed. At one time, being full of the zeal of God, he and the royal guard ventured into Israel to destroy any idols he found there.
Though Josiah was not completely successful in destroying all traces of idolatry from the nation his work did hold back God’s judgement. But probably his greatest and most important work was done after the Book of the Law was found in the temple. This was found when the temple was under repair at the command of King Josiah. Shaphan the scribe brought the manuscript to the king, who after reading it realised just how far Judah had fallen from the Lord. He saw his whole nation lying in apostasy. He immediately sent to the prophetess Huldah for advice when he read that God’s wrath must be poured out (2 Chronicles 34:21). She confirmed that this is exactly what he should expect to happen(34:24-25).
Josiah brought the word of God before the whole nation and had its laws read publicly. He called the people to repentance and reformation. He warned them that he and they must continue to destroy idolatry wherever it be found. This revival of godliness also held back God’s hand of judgement. Israel had fallen because she refused to do what Judah had. Josiah’s next move was to prepare a great Passover. The Ark of the Covenant, which had been removed from the temple, was put back in its rightful place. He arranged for music and praise as the nation worshipped before the Lord. This celebration was said to be the greatest ever seen (35:18).
After Josiah the nation gradually (yet quickly) went downhill again. The succeeding kings Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jerniachin, and Zedekiah did nothing to uphold Josiah’s work but rather partook in the sin and wickedness. Eventually the judgement came and brought Judah into captivity.