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Friday, May 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 22

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Verses 1-9


In Jeremiah 22-23, Jeremiah gives us a number of prophecies that are linked together by their content. Jeremiah 22 is about the political leaders of the people; Jeremiah 23 is about the Messiah in contrast to the false spiritual leaders. Both the political leaders, the kings, and the spiritual leaders, the prophets, with the exception of Jeremiah and a few others, are responsible for the national disaster.

Admonition to Righteousness

Jeremiah is commissioned to go down to the king’s house . It is a remarkable assignment in two ways. It means that the king’s house is in a dilapidated state, in the lowlands. It also means that Jeremiah is to go fearlessly into the lion’s den. This is reminiscent of Elijah’s attitude toward Ahab and John the baptist’s toward Herod (1 Kings 17:1; Mark 6:18). He must go without being summoned by the king, because the LORD says so.

He is to address the word to Zedekiah and address him in the full responsibility of his position as “king of Judah” and as the one “who sits on David’s throne” (Jeremiah 22:2). All who serve him and support him in that position and his people over whom he rules also need to hear the word of the LORD. In short, powerful words, Zedekiah and his people are told what the LORD expects of them (Jeremiah 22:3). It is to do justice and be merciful to the socially weak and to refrain from violence and bloodshed.

If the king will go before the people in repentance to God as he has gone before the people in rebellion against Him, they will be exalted and the kingship will be permanent (Jeremiah 22:4). After all, “righteousness exalts a nation” (Proverbs 14:34). If they do not listen to these words of the LORD, the kingship will become a desolation (Jeremiah 22:5). To underscore and reinforce the certainty of His words so that they will be impressed by them, the LORD swears by Himself (cf. Jeremiah 49:13; Jeremiah 51:14; Genesis 22:16; Isaiah 45:23; Amos 6:8; Hebrews 6:13-Job :). There could not be a stronger endorsement of a declaration from God.

The LORD tells what the royal house means to Him (Jeremiah 22:6). It is to Him like “Gilead”, recalling the covenant between Jacob and Laban (Genesis 31:44-Galatians :). It is a place of testimony. That is what the royal house is to Him. It should be His witness. We too ought to be that today. The royal house is also like “the summit of Lebanon” to Him, magnificent and great, impressive.

However, the LORD must say what He is going to make of them because of their unfaithfulness. He will make them a wilderness and their cities uninhabitable. For this purpose He will set destroyers against them (Jeremiah 22:7). They will cut down and burn with their own methods everything that His people find beautiful and that gives the land prestige, so that only ashes remain. Their palaces and houses, which they have built with beautiful cedars, will be cut down and burned.

The sight will cause consternation among the nations as they pass by it, instead of the former admiration (Jeremiah 22:8). They will attribute the destruction of the city to the LORD. They will ask why He acted this way with the great city of Jerusalem, the city of great importance, where great kings have reigned. The answer sounds that it is because of the unfaithfulness of the people (Jeremiah 22:9; Deuteronomy 29:25-Hosea :; 1 Kings 9:8-1 Samuel :). That unfaithfulness is twofold. They have, on the one hand, forsaken the covenant of the LORD their God and, on the other hand, bowed down to other gods whom they have come to serve.

Verses 10-12

The Fate of Shallum (Joahaz)

In the following verses Jeremiah pronounces judgment on every son or grandson of Josiah who has reigned. Shallum (or Jehoahaz) is the first son on whom he pronounces judgment (Jeremiah 22:10-2 Kings :); he has reigned only a few months. This is followed by the judgment on Eliakim (or Jehoiakim) (Jeremiah 22:13-Psalms :), who was made king by Pharaoh and reigned for ten years. After Jehoiakim, his son Coniah (or Jehoiachin), a grandson of Josiah, becomes king; he is taken away to Babylon after only a few months. Finally, judgment follows on Josiah’s third son, Mattaniah or Zedekiah, the last king of Judah.

Jeremiah says to the people as a whole, that they need not weep over a dead person or lament him (Jeremiah 22:10). Here we can think of the death of the God-fearing king Josiah, who was killed at Carchemish in 609 BC (2 Kings 23:29-Habakkuk :; 2 Chronicles 35:25; Zechariah 12:11). In any case, he was buried in the land, awaiting the coming of the Messiah.

They had better lament over him who “went forth from his place”, which is Shallum. Shallum was taken away by Pharaoh Necho eighteen years earlier to Egypt, from where he will not return to see his homeland (2 Kings 23:31-Nahum :). Shallum is the fourth son of Josiah (1 Chronicles 3:15). The people elected him king (2 Kings 23:30; 2 Chronicles 36:1). He is a full brother of Zedekiah. Their mother is Hamutal.

The LORD puts great emphasis on the origin and position of Shallum (Jeremiah 22:11). He is the son of the God-fearing Josiah, but has no part in his God-fearing. He is also “the king of Judah”, which gives him great responsibility to rule over God’s people according to God’s laws. However, he does not heed God, but does “evil in the sight of the LORD” (2 Kings 23:32). This makes his unfaithfulness to Him so great, even though he only reigned for three months, and this makes the judgment of the LORD so just. Shallum has departed from this place, fallen away from His privileges. He will not return to it, for the judgment on him is final.

Once again the LORD emphasizes the finality of the judgment (Jeremiah 22:12). Shallum will die in the land of his exile and not see God’s land again. Possibly some may have hoped that this son of the God-fearing Josiah would return to deliver them, but such a hope is without foundation.

Verses 13-23

The Condemnation of Jehoiakim

Jeremiah pronounces woe on someone because of the unbridled lust for luxury that this person shows and that in a time of the greatest disaster (Jeremiah 22:13). Further on we read that it is Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 22:18). The people are impoverished (2 Kings 23:35) and few in number. Yet this king wants to live in opulence. To do so, he commits injustice and demands from his subjects what he needs for his self-indulgent life.

His subjects are here tellingly called “his neighbor”. To God, king and subject are equal. Both are subject to His will and law. But Jehoiakim thinks otherwise. He makes his subjects work for him without paying them the wages they deserve. By such a course of action, he brings the judgment of the LORD upon himself (Deuteronomy 24:14-Ezra :; Leviticus 19:13; James 5:1-Joshua :).

In his delusions of grandeur, he says he will build a house for himself of great dimensions and with spacious upper rooms (Jeremiah 22:14). Everything must serve him and give him prestige. The material must be indestructible and the colors must attract attention. Jeremiah ironically points out to him how he exercises his kingship (Jeremiah 22:15). Surely he wants to be king in handling cedar and show that he is the best at it?

Then he points him to his God-fearing father Josiah, but without mentioning his name. He did not lack food or drink, because he did “justice and righteousness”. This is what God expects of the king who rules over His people. Like a shepherd, such a person must pasture the flock and not exploit it for the satisfaction of his own lusts. And look how it went with Josiah: “Then it was well with him.” Jehoiakim would do well to follow that example.

Josiah cared for the socially weak and stood up for their rights (Jeremiah 22:16). His course of action brought blessing not only to himself but also to the whole people. Therefore it sounds again, but now in a general sense, with reference to the whole people: “Then it was well!” The LORD’s appreciation follows immediately when He questions that whoever acts as Josiah did shows that he knows Him. This is not a mere lip confession, but an act according to His will.

It takes more than ordinary courage for a simple priest like Jeremiah to look a haughty king like Jehoiakim sternly in the eyes and declare: “But your eyes and your heart are [intent] only upon your own dishonest gain” (Jeremiah 22:17). The man who is in a position of power pursues with his eyes and his heart only gain. His eyes follow his heart.

To possess the coveted, he does not shy away from using violence. Jeremiah also throws his murdering, oppressing, and exploiting on him. This king will stop at nothing to satisfy his unbridled lust for pleasure. To him, to rule means to dominate and exploit. He rules like a tyrant.

Without waiting for anything of a response from the king, the LORD informs Jehoiakim of his end (Jeremiah 22:18). Like Shallum (Jeremiah 22:11), he is again (Jeremiah 22:15) emphatically linked to his God-fearing father and his privileged and also responsible position of king of Judah. This makes the evil that he does so great and the judgment so righteous. Not only does God’s judgment strike him, but the judgment of his people on him is harsh as well. No one will shed a tear for him.

His death will be a relief, for his government is a reign of terror. No one will lament for him. Two categories are mentioned of whom it is said that they will not lament for him. The first category is his family. No one from his family will lament for him: “Alas, my brother!” Nor will there be any pity for his wife. None of the relatives will groaningly say to her, out of pity that her husband is dead: “Alas, sister!” His subjects are the second category. None of them will say: “’Alas for the master!’ or, ‘Alas for his splendor!’”

Not a single tear of sorrow flows, either among his family or his subjects. At the death of Zedekiah, who is after all also a wicked king, at least people will still cry “Oh, [my] lord!” (Jeremiah 34:5), but for this man there is no respect.

Not only will he not receive an honorable burial, but “he will be buried with a donkey’s burial”, that is, he will have no burial at all (Jeremiah 22:19). This is a huge disgrace. When a donkey dies in the city, the animal is dragged away and thrown outside the gate. With the same contempt they will deal with the corpse of Jehoiakim. Not having a burial means not being connected to the coming of the Messiah. “Beyond the gates of Jerusalem” means far away from the center of blessing for the whole earth.

Jehoiakim is called, challenged, by the LORD to climb the heights and call for help (Jeremiah 22:20). Lebanon and Bashan are high mountains. When he gets there, he will see that those from whom he expects his help have been broken. All covenants with other peoples on whom he has relied are to no avail. Peoples whom he has approached with love and who have helped him for wages have perished.

The LORD did speak to him (Jeremiah 22:21). He did so while Jehoiakim was in carefree rest. Here we see how dangerous such rest is. He was absorbed in it without any need of the LORD, but rejected Him. Very deliberately, he has told the LORD that he will not listen. The LORD knows him and knows that he is like that from his youth. Never has he listened to His voice. How dramatically hopeless is the situation of such a person.

Judgment also comes upon the false shepherds of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 22:22). Instead of caring for the people, they, like Jehoiakim, oppressed the people. They themselves will be shepherded by wind, that is swept away by a storm wind. As a result, they will experience what their actions as shepherd lead to. And the lovers, the peoples on whom Jehoiakim has relied for protection, will go into captivity, so that their support will fall away. Yes, then he will have nothing left but shame and disgrace. That is the result of the evil he has committed.

With almost biting irony, Jeremiah holds out to Jehoiakim that he can imagine himself on Lebanon, because he lives in a house made of the cedars of Lebanon (Jeremiah 22:23). He has nestled there like an eagle, under the delusion of being untouchable (cf. Habakkuk 2:9). But that will change dramatically. False comfort and haughty pride will be broken when the siege and destruction will become reality.

Then the man who has set himself in a high and luxurious place will cringe because of the disasters that will come upon him. The contrast between his life of luxury and prosperity and his life under the calamities that befall him is evocative. Nothing of his opulence will give him any relief. This is how he will come to his end.

Verses 24-30

The Rejection of Coniah (Jehoiachin)

Coniah, the son of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 22:24) and grandson of Josiah, is as bad as his predecessors. The LORD cannot maintain him on the throne of David. Even if he were a signet ring on the LORD’s right hand (cf. Haggai 2:23), because of his behavior He would pull it off. A signet ring is intimately connected to the person and expresses authority. Letters are sealed with a signet ring. The right hand represents power and the place at the right hand is the place of honor.

The judgment on him is set (Jeremiah 22:25). The LORD will no longer protect him. He withdraws His hands from him and gives him into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar and his people. His mother, who will have supported him in his wicked reign, will suffer the same fate (Jeremiah 22:26). Jeremiah mentions this deportation here for the second time (Jeremiah 13:18-Psalms :). There is no mention of a return to the promised land, no matter how much they will yearn for it (Jeremiah 22:27).

The LORD asks some questions about Coniah (Jeremiah 22:28). These questions are meant to provoke thought. What kind of man is Coniah? Is he useless or worthless? How is it that he and his descendants were forcefully removed from their land and ended up in a foreign land? Whoever answers these questions will be warned by them to stay close to the LORD and not become unfaithful to Him, or else he will share in the fate of Coniah. Contrary to this judgment of the LORD, some in their folly do value Coniah (Jeremiah 28:1-Numbers :).

After the probing questions, the LORD calls the whole nation to listen to His word (Jeremiah 22:29). The LORD calls out three times the name of those He is addressing. If a name is called twice, that is already probing. Here it happens three times. Then it is very penetrating.

The LORD’s word for the land is about how “this man” – the LORD does not even mention his name anymore – is to be remembered (Jeremiah 22:30). It is a man who should be entered in the history books as childless, and who is also not prosperous in his days. His memory is a terrifying example to all who read about him. He does have children (1 Chronicles 3:17), but for his descendants there is no hope of prosperity and no hope of government. There is no connection to the throne of David.

How is it, then, that this Coniah or Jeconiah nevertheless appears in the genealogy of the Lord Jesus given in Matthew 1 (Matthew 1:11)? Because in Matthew 1 the legal right to the throne is given. If we follow this genealogy, we see that after Coniah, no one from the line of David through Solomon sat on the throne. Zerubbabel, the grandson of Jeconiah (Matthew 1:12), returns from Babylon with the remnant and becomes governor over Judah (Ezra 3:2; Haggai 1:1), but is never king. Judah and Israel have never had a king since Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, was taken as a captive to Babylon. With Coniah, the royal line of descendants of David through Solomon who have sat on the throne of the LORD ends.

However, there is another genealogy that runs from David through Nathan. Therefore, we have two genealogies of the Lord Jesus in the New Testament. Matthew gives the Lord’s genealogy through David’s son Solomon (Matthew 1:1-Ezra :) and Luke gives the Lord’s genealogy through David’s son Nathan (Luke 3:23-Zechariah :). Matthew’s genealogy ends with “Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah” (Matthew 1:16). This clearly shows that the Lord Jesus is not a physical descendant of Coniah.

The Lord Jesus is entitled to the throne and will reign over a penitent people. However, He was not born of the line of Coniah, which is the line of David that runs through Solomon, but He was born of Mary, who is descended from the line of David that runs through Nathan (Luke 3:23-Zechariah :). He was not conceived by Joseph. As already mentioned, Joseph does descend from the line of David, but through Solomon and then also through Coniah (Matthew 1:7; Matthew 1:12Matthew 1:16). Joseph is not the corporeal father of the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and therefore as Man the Son of God (Luke 1:35). This emphasizes the importance of the virgin birth.

As a result, the promises of the LORD to David and Solomon have been fully fulfilled. David was promised that his house and throne would remain forever (2 Samuel 7:15-Nehemiah :). There are no conditions attached to these promises. Solomon was promised that his throne would be forever, with the condition attached that he must remain faithful (2 Samuel 7:13-2 Chronicles :). He did not remain so and as a result he forfeited the kingship. Both of the LORD’s words have been fulfilled.

Spiritually speaking there is another serious lesson to be learned from the judgment on Coniah that he will be recorded as childless. Everyone who has been saved by the blood of Christ should have the desire to win people to Him. Whoever knows Christ has a treasure that he may pass on to people who do not know Him, so that they may be saved from an eternity without Christ. Those who shirk this task will also come to be known as ‘childless’. He will not be able to point to spiritual offspring and that will be a great lack, both for himself and for Christ.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Jeremiah 22". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/jeremiah-22.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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