Tuesday, June 6th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Pett's Commentary on the Bible Pett's Commentary
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Jeremiah 22". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ pet/ jeremiah-22.html. 2013.
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Jeremiah 22". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
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The One Who Sits On The Throne Of David Is Called On To Ensure Justice And Freedom From Oppression For His People, Something Which If Accomplished Will Result In His Triumph, But Accompanied By The Warning Of The Consequences If He Does Not (Jeremiah 22:1-9 ).
Once again we have a general vague reference to the son of David, this time as ‘the one who sits on the throne of David’. We are thus presumably to see that it applies to all the sons of David to whom Jeremiah will refer, and this is especially so as at the end of this chapter he refers to Shallum/Jehoahaz, the one who succeeded directly after Josiah, as being in recent memory. We do not therefore have to ask which son of David of the house of Josiah he is intending to refer to. The answer is ‘all of them’.
“Thus says YHWH, Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and speak there this word,”
Jeremiah probably took this trip to each of the sons of David in their palaces as they ascended the throne, first Jehoahaz, then Jehoiakim, then Jehoiachin and then Zedekiah, although he probably did not receive an effusive welcome from any of them. But he was ‘going down’ to the king’s house, presumably from the Temple, to speak the word of YHWH so that his own feelings had to be ignored. It was necessary that each should receive their warning. It will in fact be noted that some of the ideas are paralleled in Jeremiah 1:12 (see Jeremiah 22:3), and some of them in Jeremiah 17:25 (see Jeremiah 22:4). They were thus repeated more than once.
“And say, Hear the word of YHWH, O king of Judah, who sits on the throne of David, you, and your servants, and your people who enter in by these gates.”
These words are typical of what we might expect from a prophet of YHWH giving a coronation speech or as an official exhortation soon afterwards. They call on the one who, as king of Judah, has now taken the throne of David and will be sitting on it, that is, will continue ruling from it from then on, along with his courtiers and his people, to listen to the word of YHWH. Their failure to respond adequately to his words was probably the first step in their designation as ‘those who had done evil in the eyes of YHWH’, that is, as having no intention of commencing reforms. ‘These gates’ probably refers to the gates of the palace complex.
“Thus says YHWH, deliver you justice and righteousness, and save him who is robbed out of the hand of the oppressor, and do no wrong, do no violence, to the sojourner, the fatherless, nor the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.”
His initial words are very similar to the opening exhortation in Jeremiah 21:13. The representative of the house of David is called on by YHWH to ‘deliver (ensure the carrying out of) justice and righteousness to his people during his reign, and to save/deliver the one who is robbed out of the hand of the oppressor’. The word used here for delivering justice is a different one from that in Jeremiah 21:13. In Jeremiah 21:13 it was a technical legal word requiring justice in the king’s court, here it is a more general word seeking justice and righteousness at all times. Furthermore he is to avoid all wrong, and is especially to prevent violent treatment of resident aliens, and those without parents or husbands, who because they had no one else to defend them were always of great concern to YHWH. It was always the sign of a great king that he was concerned for and took an interest in the weak and helpless, and one example of this is the reign of Hammurabi of Babylon a thousand years before, a king who was powerful enough to be able to show concern for the defenceless with no influence. Finally the son of David was to prevent the spilling of innocent blood. This would include both the innocent victims offered to Molech, and the faithful worshippers of YHWH who would be a target of the rich and powerful. When a king’s rule was not firm and just, people began to take the law into their on hands.
“For if you do this thing indeed, then will there enter in by the gates of this house kings sitting on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, he, and his servants, and his people.”
And if they did walk in accordance with YHWH’s instructions then the dynasty of David would continue, and it would continue in splendour. The idea is not that they will enter the palace or the Temple literally sitting on a portable throne, riding in a chariot, and astride a horse, but that the king will enter the palace or the Temple as one who, along with his courtiers and people, can do all three whenever he chooses because they are so plentiful, because of the affluence and strength of the country. On the other hand there may have been partly in mind a great cavalcade of chariots and horsemen sweeping in splendid procession in through the gates of the palace into the large palace complex. The ‘gates of this house’ may in this case refer either to the king’s palace or to the Temple.
“But if you will not hear these words, I swear by myself, the word of YHWH, that this house will become a desolation.”
A warning is then given in a most solemn way (YHWH swears by Himself, because He has no greater to swear by) of what the consequence will be of not hearing and responding to YHWH’s words. The consequence will be that ‘this house (either the palace or the Temple) will become a desolation’. The fact that the destruction of the Temple was an important factor to Jeremiah may suggest that that is what is in mind here. For the idea of YHWH ‘swearing by Himself’ compare Jeremiah 49:13; Jeremiah 51:14; Genesis 22:16; Isaiah 45:23; Amos 6:8.
“For thus says YHWH concerning the house of the king of Judah,
You are Gilead to me,
The head of Lebanon,
Surely I will make you a wilderness,
Cities which are not inhabited.
YHWH then declares concerning the kings of Judah that, ‘You are Gilead to me, the head of Lebanon.’ Gilead was a very fruitful place and the oaks of Bashan in Gilead famous for their strength and growth. The head of Lebanon would probably be the mountain top covered with cedars. Thus YHWH is declaring how splendid the son of David and his people are in His sight. He treasures each one and looks for great things from them. He expects them to be fruitful. Thus ‘if they do these things’ (Jeremiah 22:4) then He will watch over them and protect them as a treasured possession, and they will be fruitful. But in contrast, if they do not hear His words, He will make them into a wilderness, and the cities of his kingdom will be bared of inhabitants. They will become ghost towns.
“And I will prepare (literally ‘sanctify’) destroyers against you,
Every one with his weapons,
And they will cut down your choice cedars,
And cast them into the fire.”
Indeed He will raise up a holy war against them. He will ‘sanctify’ destroyers against them, those who are set apart by Him for the purpose of carrying out His judgment (compare Isaiah 13:3). They will arrive fully armed, and they will cut down his choice cedars and cast them into the fire. All at the behest of YHWH. ‘His choice cedars’ may refer to the house of the forest of Lebanon with its multitude of cedar supports, together with his other cedar palaces, or may have in mind his courtiers and his mighty men seen as proud cedars, or indeed both. The thought is that all that is best will be lost.
“And many nations will pass by this city,
And they will say every man to his neighbour,
Why has YHWH done thus,
To this great city?”
That ‘his choice cedars’ certainly includes his palaces and the many large buildings in the city comes out in the aftermath, for many nations will pass by the ruined city and will say to each other, “Why has YHWH done this to this great city?”. Compare for this Deuteronomy 29:24-26.
“Then they will answer,
Because they forsook the covenant of YHWH their God,
And worshipped other gods,
And served them.
And the answer will come that it was because they had forsaken the covenant of YHWH their God, and because they had worshipped other gods and had served them. The questioners will acknowledge the uniqueness of YHWH as the One Who demands that He alone should be worshipped, for had such a question been asked of any other nation’s city this would not have been the answer, for as long as their own ritual was satisfactorily maintained, such gods would not have minded their worshippers also worshipping other gods. Indeed they would (theoretically) have expected it. Thus the questioners are seen to be more believing that Judah.
So the emphasis once again is on the importance of their genuinely observing the covenant, and on the importance of their not worshipping other gods and ‘serving’ them, that is, maintaining their ritual requirements. That was also the significance of observing the Sabbath in Jeremiah 17:19-27.
Subsection 7). Words Concerning Various Kings (Jeremiah 21:1 to Jeremiah 24:10 ).
This subsection proceeds in logical sequence although not chronologically, and will centre on three special themes, firstly on the fact that all hope for Judah in the short term has now gone, secondly that the promises of the false prophets suggesting that any of the current sons of David will be restored to the throne are invalid, and thirdly that while final blessing ‘in coming days’ will truly be at the hands of a son of David, it is meanwhile to be stressed that that ‘son of David’ will not be one of the current regime.
The subsection commences by making clear that prior to the future coming of the exalted son of David the doom of Jerusalem under the present sons of David is certain and will unquestionably happen (echoes of Isaiah). Neither Zedekiah nor any of his current relations (Jehoahaz who had been taken to Egypt and Jehoiachin who had been taken to Babylon) are therefore to be seen as the hope of Judah/Israel.
The whole subsection may be summarised as follows:
A Jerusalem and Judah are unquestionably doomed under Zedekiah (Jeremiah 21:1-10).
B Concerning the current sons of David. None of the current batch of ‘sons of David’ can be seen as presenting any hope for Israel. Uniquely over this period Judah had a plurality of kings. Initially Jehoahaz was hostage in Egypt with Jehoiakim reigning in Jerusalem, and this was followed by three ‘reigning’ kings, one held hostage in Egypt (Jehoahaz, although nothing is known of his fate), one reigning in Jerusalem as ‘regent’ (Zedekiah), and one who was still seen as king in Babylon, (Jehoiachin/Jeconiah/Coniah). But all of them are to be written off as presenting Judah with any hope (Jeremiah 21:11 to Jeremiah 22:30).
C In ‘the days that are coming’ YHWH will attend to the false rulers above and will intervene in the person of the coming Son of David, (the Righteous Shoot (Branch), ‘YHWH our righteousness’) who will rule righteously in YHWH’s Name (Jeremiah 23:1-8).
B Concerning the current prophets. They are promising peace and that no harm will come to Judah, but they are not speaking in the Name of YHWH. There is no current hope for Judah and Jerusalem (Jeremiah 23:9-40).
A The removal of Jehoiachin from Jerusalem has left it in the hands of second rate leaders, which includes their king (regent) Zedekiah, with the result that Jerusalem and its people are without hope and will certainly be destroyed (Jeremiah 24:1-10).
It will be noted that the opening and closing passages form an inclusio based on the guaranteed fate of Jerusalem under Zedekiah. The inadequacy of the sons of David is paralleled by the inadequacy of the prophets (and priests). Central is the promise of the coming Son of David Who will introduce righteousness.
The question may well be asked, however, as to why Zedekiah is mentioned first rather than in the sequence in which the sons of David reigned, namely Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, Zedekiah. One clear answer to that question lies in the fact that Zedekiah was never sole ruler of Judah. When he died Jehoiachin was still in fact seen as king of Judah. Jeremiah is thus bringing out that Zedekiah was not even under consideration as the hope of Israel. He was a ‘bad fig’ (chapter 24). Furthermore to have placed Zedekiah after Jehoiachin would have been to ignore royal protocol and to suggest openly that Jehoiachin’s reign was over, something which would have caused great dissatisfaction in Judah.
There are in fact four reasons for putting the prophecy about Zedekiah first (quite apart from the coincidence of the name Pashhur):
1. It is intended to demonstrate that the final fulfilment of Jeremiah’s earlier prophecies will take place, regardless of the fact that the Son of David was coming, and was in order to explain why Jeremiah had had to undergo what he did as described in the previous chapter.
2. Had Zedekiah (‘YHWH is righteous’) been dealt with in chronological order, then he could have become confused in people’s minds with the coming of ‘the righteous branch’, ‘YHWH our righteousness’, as will be apparent subsequently. By dealing with him first any likelihood of confusion was avoided.
3. Strictly speaking it was Jehoiachin who was seen as the current reigning monarch, with Zedekiah merely acting as his regent in his absence. This was the position accepted both by the Babylonians, who still called Jehoiachin ‘King Yaukin of Yahuda’ on their ration lists, and in Judah where handles of vessels have been discovered coming from the final days of the city inscribed in the name of ‘Eliakim servant of Jehoiachin’ (and not ‘of Zedekiah’). This is further confirmed by the fact that Ezekiel dates his writings in terms of the exile of ‘King Jehoiachin’ (e.g. Ezekiel 1:2). Zedekiah was seemingly simply seen in Judah as an appointee of Nebuchdrezzar rather than as the appointee of the people. His legitimacy was therefore always in doubt. So it would have been seen as fitting that Jehoiachin be presented as still the main feasible option from among the current choices to be the ‘coming Son of David’, and therefore as rightly finalising the list of options. To have presented the situation otherwise would have been seen as insulting.
4. The opening passage dealing with Zedekiah forms an inclusio with chapter Jeremiah 24:1-10, for both deal with the final demise of Judah and Jerusalem. The intervening passages then justify and explain this coming assured judgment, while at the same time centring on Judah/Israel’s final hope. Thus by this inclusio it is made clear that Jeremiah 21:11 to Jeremiah 23:40 are intended to be viewed against the background of the final catastrophe which must necessarily come before there could be any possibility of restoration.
So in the initial chapter of this subsection the justification for Jeremiah having had to endure such affliction as was described in the previous chapter will first be made clear, for it confirms that such arduous continuing prophecy was necessary in the face of what was to be the future. Furthermore it describes the final ‘smashing of the vessel’ as portrayed in chapter 19, demonstrating that that came to fulfilment, and confirms the certainty of final Babylonian victory as previously asserted to an earlier Pashhur in chapter 20. Thus there were good reasons for putting Jeremiah 21:1-10, which is so clearly out of order chronologically, immediately after chapters 19 & 20 connecting with what has gone before.
However, having initially emphasised the certainty of the doom that was coming on Zedekiah and Jerusalem the passage then goes back in time at Jeremiah 21:11 to YHWH’s open offer of repentance to the one of the house of David (Jeremiah 21:12) who sat on the throne of David (Jeremiah 22:2) if only he, as king of Judah, would turn round in his ways, execute justice and fulfil the covenant (Jeremiah 21:12; Jeremiah 22:3), although even then it was with grave doubts about Judah’s willingness to repent. It is reasonable to see in this an open offer to all the sons of David who came to the throne during Jeremiah’s ministry, and indeed may have been specifically presented to each one by Jeremiah on his accession. In Jeremiah 22:3 the same offer is repeated and accompanied by a promise of the certain triumph of the royal house (Jeremiah 22:4) if only they will respond, but it is again followed by a warning of the consequences if they would not.
Following that Jeremiah then sets out to demolish the false hopes offered to the people by the false prophets. He makes clear that Shallum (Jehoahaz), appointed by the people as Josiah’s heir-apparent as the son of David, will not be returning from Egypt where he had been taken by Pharaoh Necho (Jeremiah 22:10-12; compare 2 Kings 23:31-35), and castigates the one who had been appointed in his place (Jehoiakim), because he did not follow in the ways of his father (Jeremiah 22:15-16) and especially because he was crushing the people by his expansive building plans, with no intention of paying for the work that was done (Jeremiah 22:13-17). For him there would only be an ignominious death (Jeremiah 22:19). And finally he emphasises that they were not to look for the return of their reigning king Jehoiachin (Coniah, Jeconiah) from Babylon (Jeremiah 22:20-30; compare 2 Kings 24:8-17), who, as we have seen above, was still officially looked on as king both in Babylon (he is described as King Yaukin in Babylonian ration lists) and in Judah. Jeremiah is making clear that while it was true (as earlier prophets had underlined) that Israel’s future hopes did remain with the house of David, and that they would also one day celebrate their deliverance from the north country, it would nevertheless only be after they had first been exiled (Jeremiah 23:1-8), and it would not be by the false shepherds (rulers) who had wrecked the morals of Judah, and certainly not by someone from the house of Jehoiachin (Jeconiah) (Jeremiah 22:30). He then roundly turns on the prophets who were offering precisely those false hopes and completely disposes of them (Jeremiah 23:9-40). Following that in chapter 24 he confirms that Judah’s future hopes do not rest with Zedekiah and his ilk, for while it was true that one day the good figs (those who will repent among the exiles) would return to the land, and be built and planted, and God will again be their God, they will not include the bad figs who were running Judah in the days of Zedekiah, who as already described in Jeremiah 15:4 would be tossed about among all the kingdoms of the earth because of their evil, and who according to Jeremiah 21:1-10 would undoubtedly suffer great devastation and be exiled. Thus Jeremiah 21:1-10 and Jeremiah 24:1-10 form an inclusio for the subsection, a subsection which both demonstrates that there was no point in looking to the current sons of David, and emphasises that one day there would be a son of David who would fulfil all their hopes.
Up to this point most of Jeremiah’s prophecies have not been openly attached to specific situations (Jeremiah 3:6 being a partial exception), but it will be noted that from this point onwards in the narrative there is an undoubted change of approach. Whereas previously time references have been vague and almost non-existent, with the result that we cannot always be sure in whose reign they took place, Jeremiah now addresses his words to various kings, usually by name, and as we have seen the first example is Zedekiah who was the ‘king’ of Judah at the time when Jerusalem was taken for the second time and emptied of its inhabitants at the same time as the Temple was destroyed. This took place in 587 BC. By its very nature it could not have been a part of Jeremiah’s initial writing down of his earlier prophecies, for that was in the days of Jehoiakim, so that this part of chapters 2-25 must have been updated by him later. Furthermore from this point on Jeremiah will openly and constantly urge submission to the King of Babylon by name and title (although compare the first mention in Jeremiah 20:4). On the other hand it will be noted that the subsection has been opened by the same formula as that used previously (contrast the marked change in formula in chapters 26-29) and this would appear to suggest therefore that these chapters are intended as a kind of appendix to chapters 1-20, illustrating them historically and confirming their message and its fulfilment.
To summarise. The subsection opens with the familiar words, ‘The word that came to Jeremiah from YHWH --’ (Jeremiah 21:1). It then goes on to deal with Jeremiah’s response to an appeal from King Zedekiah concerning Judah’s hopes for the future in which he warns that it is YHWH’s purpose that Judah be subject to Babylon and that Judah’s doom is sealed. Meanwhile he warns that there is no hope of the restoration of Shallum (Jehoahaz) the son of Josiah or of Jehoiachin (Coniah), the son of Jehoiakim who had been carried off to Babylon.
He castigates the false shepherds (rulers) of Judah who have brought Judah to this position, but promises that one day YHWH will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a king Who will reign and prosper, and execute righteousness and justice. He will be called ‘YHWH our righteousness’. He then castigates the prophets. For the present Judah’s sinful condition is seen as such that all that Judah can expect is everlasting reproach and shame. The subsection then closes with the parable of the good and bad figs, the good representing the righteous remnant in exile (part of the cream of the population exiled to Babylon (2 Kings 24:15-16) who were experiencing the ministry of Ezekiel) who will one day return, the bad the people who have been left in Judah to await sword, pestilence, famine and exile. Destitute of experienced leadership, and under a weak king-regent, they were unstable and too inexperienced to govern well, carrying Judah forward inexorably to its worst moment.
The Inadequacy of Jehoahaz (Jeremiah 22:10-12 ).
When Josiah was killed seeking to prevent the Egyptians from going to the aid of the Assyrians, the Egyptians were for a while rampant, controlling the whole area as far as Carchemish, and from there Pharaoh Necoh sent for Jehoahaz, whose other name was Shallum (1 Chronicles 3:15), in order that he might submit to Egypt and pay tribute. But as far as Pharaoh was concerned Judah had proved themselves to be hostile and thus Jehoahaz was then despatched to Egypt as a hostage, while Jehoiakim, a far less able man, was appointed king. Jehoahaz was the youngest son of Josiah, and the initial choice of him as king by the elders of Judah suggests that he was seen as the most capable of the brothers to cope with a difficult time. We may understand then that there may have been those who, while he was in Egypt, began to give him the equivalent of Messiahship status, and to look for his return, possibly at the head of an Egyptian army.
Jeremiah puts the shutters down on such an idea straight away. This would appear to have been not too long after Josiah’s death, for he calls on his compatriots not to weep for ‘the dead’ (Josiah), but to weep for the one who has gone away and will never return (Jehoahaz).
“Weep you not for the dead, nor bemoan him,
But weep bitterly for him who goes away,
For he will return no more,
Nor see his native country.”
Jeremiah’s message is straightforward. Josiah is dead and the weeping for him must now be seen as over. For what they should now be weeping bitterly for is the missing Jehoahaz. And the reason why they should weep bitterly for him is because he has gone away and will never return to his native country, leaving the country in the unworthy hands of Jehoiakim..
‘For thus says YHWH touching Shallum the son of Josiah, king of Judah, who reigned instead of Josiah his father, and who went forth out of this place,
“He shall not return there any more,
But in the place where they have led him captive,
There will he die,
And he will see this land no more.”
For this was what YHWH had told him ‘concerning Shallum’. Shallum was apparently his given name at birth (1 Chronicles 3:15) while Jehoahaz was probably his throne name. But Shallum had ‘gone forth out of this place’ to parley with Pharaoh at Carchemish (he would have had little choice in the matter). And there he was made a captive and carried off to Egypt as a hostage. And it is confirmed again, this time by YHWH, that he would die in Egypt and see his native land no more. Thus any hopes that people had in him should be forgotten.
The Inadequacy Of All The Current Sons Of David To Deliver Judah (Jeremiah 22:10-30 ).
Having dealt with Zedekiah, Nebuchadrezzar’a appointee, in the opening passage of the subsection, and having shown that in his day he was rejected by YHWH, Jeremiah now deals with the remaining three possible ‘sons of David’, those genuinely appointed by the people and their princes. There appears to have been some excitement in the air as hopes were placed, first in the absent Jehoahaz (Shallum) in Egypt, and then in Jehoiachin in Babylon, to say nothing of Jehoiakim who was for a time on the throne. Could one of these be the expected son of David who would deliver his people from the Babylonians? Such expectation might help to explain what spurred on Jehoiakim’s mad rebellion at the instigation of Pharaoh Hophra of Egypt. Jeremiah, however, dismisses them one by one.
The Inadequacy of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 22:13-19 ).
With Jehoahaz out of the way as a prospect hopes may have turned on Jehoiakim, whom Pharaoh had made king in place of his brother, having changed his name from Eliakim (thus demonstrating his authority over him). But Jeremiah makes quite clear that he is not YHWH’s chosen one. Indeed he is castigated for building great palaces for himself and draining the nations resources at time of great need, without properly paying his workers, and for neglecting the good of the realm. Thus he declares that his reign was so unjust that he would die unlamented and come to a fool’s end.
By his great building schemes Jehoiakim might well have been trying to ape Solomon or Pharaoh (or both). Inadequate men often bolster themselves up with grandiose schemes. But all that he in fact did was divide even more an already divided country, impoverish that country and make the common people bitter.
‘Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness,
And his chambers by injustice,
Who uses his neighbour’s service without wages,
And does not give him his hire,
Who says, I will build me a wide house and spacious chambers,
And cuts himself out windows,
And it is panelled with cedar,
And painted with vermilion.’
It appears that having become king Jehoiakim, totally ignoring the country’s needs, (they had just paid heavy tribute to Egypt), set about building himself a magnificent palace, calling on Israelite levies and treating them as slaves without paying them (he probably did not have the money). All that they would receive for their labours would be meagre rations. Indeed Jeremiah sees his actions as despicable in every way. The palace was extravagant and ostentatious, it was built of dishonestly obtained labour, and it would seem that he behaved despicably throughout. ‘Builds his house in unrighteousness and his chambers by injustice’ may signify that he also obtained the materials required for the project by confiscating them, although it may be the ‘penny-pinching’ on wages that may be in mind The whole affair was unworthy of a king, and at such a time was unforgivable.
Note the emphasis on its luxuriousness. It was a wider than usual palace (a wide house) with a large top storey (spacious chambers). That would be the part which would be most difficult to build and would demand the most work expended on it of a precarious nature. Furthermore it was built with excessively large windows which would be covered with lattice work, and one possible reason may have been so that he could display himself to the people. The word translated ‘cuts himself out’ actually indicates ‘dilating, expanding’. It is used of a woman dilating her eyes by the use of make-up (antimony), thus indicating eye-catching windows. It was then panelled with expensive cedar and painted with a red pigment, similar to that used on great houses in Egypt. Jehoiakim clearly thought only of himself and not of his kingdom.
“Will you reign,
Because you strive to excel in cedar?
Did not your father eat and drink,
And do justice and righteousness?
Then it was well with him,
He judged the cause of the poor and needy,
Then it was well.
Was not this to know me? the word of YHWH.”
Jeremiah was so incensed that he sardonically asked him whether he really thought that he could rule a country simply because he was an ostentatious and self-satisfied builder. Let him consider the modesty of his father, Josiah. He lived a modest life, eating and drinking and ensuring justice and righteousness, the good life extolled by the writer of Ecclesiastes 2:24. And as a result it was well with him. Furthermore he was careful to give justice to the poor and the needy, something that added to his wellbeing under YHWH. And this was a king who lived in prosperous times, had no tribute to pay, at least in the second half of his life, and ruled over a country of large proportions having annexed part of what had been Northern Israel (he carried out reform at Bethel). But he had not sought to build himself a huge palace. Did not this prove that he truly knew YHWH and knew what would please Him?
“Because on nothing are your eyes and your heart set,
Except rather for your gain, and for shedding innocent blood,
And for oppression, and for violence (crushing),
To do it.”
What a contrast with Jehoiakim. His eyes were not set on ruling his country diligently, but only on building up profits and wealth, and on using violence to obtain his ends, and on oppressing the weak, and on generally crushing the people. And these were the very things that he had done. He was in complete contrast to his father. ‘Shedding innocent blood’ was a phrase probably intended to link him with Manasseh (see 2 Kings 21:16; 2 Kings 24:4).
Incidentally we might look at Jehoiakim and Zedekiah and ask how such a good father could have had such unworthy sons? And the answer must probably lie in the method of their upbringing. They would be brought up by their respective mothers with their servants and have very little contact with Josiah until they grew older, by which time it was too late to do anything about it. It was one of the problems with having a number of wives.
“Therefore thus says YHWH concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah,
“They will not lament for him,
‘Ah my brother! or, Ah sister!’
They will not lament for him,
‘Ah lord! or, Ah his glory!’
He will be buried with the burial of an ass,
Drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem.”
YHWH thus passed His verdict on Jehoiakim. He would not be lamented on his death, not even by his siblings. There would be no feelings of friendliness towards him. They would not look at each other and say, ‘Ah, brother’, and ‘Ah, sister’. Nor would his courtier and advisers look at each other and say, ‘Ah, lord’, and ‘Ah, his glory.’ They would be glad to get rid of him and not consider that he had any glory. And in the end he would have an ignominious burial similar to that of an ass which would be dragged out beyond the gates of Jerusalem and cast out for the scavengers to finish off (the description is of the ignominious ass’s burial and may not specifically be intended to literally reflect what happened to Jehoiakim). Jeremiah 36:30 does, however, confirm that ‘his dead body will be cast out to the heat by day and the frost by night.’
We do not know where he died or how he was buried. Even the writer of Kings who usually gives burial details is silent on the subject. He merely says that ‘he rested with his fathers’ (2 Kings 24:6) which was not the same thing as being buried with his fathers (compare 2 Kings 15:38; 2 Kings 16:20; 1 Kings 16:28) and simply indicates that he died. Nor does it necessarily mean that he had a peaceful death, for the same phrase was used of Ahab who died in battle (1 Kings 22:40). It is clear that it was at one stage Nebuchadrezzar’s intention to carry him off in chains to Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:6), but it is never said that he did so. Having possibly handed himself over to Nebuchadrezzar so that his son could negotiate satisfactory peace terms, (if so possibly his only good act), that is the last that we know of him, in which case he may have been executed and his body tossed outside the city walls for the defenders to gaze at. Alternately he may have been killed battling with the troops that preceded Nebuchadrezzar and his body similarly dealt with, or murdered by his own people and his body tossed over the wall over so as to assuage Nebuchadrezzar’s anger. Whichever way it was he was certainly not God’s chosen one.
The Inadequacy Of Jehoiachin (Jechoniah, Coniah) (Jeremiah 22:20-30 ).
Finally Jeremiah brings out the unsuitability of Jehoiachin (Jechoniah), Jehoiakim’s son, to be the promised coming son of David who would deliver Judah/Israel. Jehoiachin may well have ruled alongside his father since he was eight (2 Chronicles 36:9) and he was only eighteen when he came to the throne as sole king in the most difficult of circumstances (2 Kings 24:8-17). Jerusalem was at that stage surrounded by the besieging armies of Nebuchadrezzar against whom his father had rebelled, and his father had either just sacrificed himself, or been sacrificed by others, in order to gain terms from Nebuchadrezzar. Jehoiachin was therefore left to enter into peace negotiations, probably assisted by the queen mother Nehushta (2 Kings 24:8). In Judah the queen mother was politically powerful (note her mention as an important personage in 2 Kings 24:12).
When people are in desperate circumstances it is easy for hopes to be raised, and it is easy to see why Jehoiachin’s succession was seen as a possible beacon of hope to a people who were almost without hope. Perhaps YHWH would now step in and miraculously deal with the Babylonian army, as he had with the Assyrian army in the days of Hezekiah and Isaiah. Perhaps a satisfactory deal could be made with Nebuchadrezzar. And possibly in the future Jehoiachin would prove to be the expected Saviour of the land. Certainly later, when he was in Babylon, great expectations would be raised concerning him by false prophets who claimed to speaking in YHWH’s Name, who would claim that within two years Nebuchadrezzar’s yoke would be broken and Jehoiachin would be returning in triumph to Judah bringing with him the Temple treasures and all the exiles. See Jeremiah 28:3-4.
But YHWH seeks here through Jeremiah to dampen all those hopes and to make clear to them that at present Judah was without hope and that Jehoiachin was not ‘the coming son of David’ for whom they were hoping. No son of Jehoiachin would prosper sitting on the throne of David. From that point of view it was as though he was childless (Jeremiah 22:30).
While we may feel sorry for Jehoiachin we must remember that the verdict on him in Kings was that from the beginning he ‘did what was evil in the eyes of YHWH’, continuing to favour syncretistic religion, participating in idolatry and continuing the ways of his father. Furthermore he had presumably refused to respond to Jeremiah’s pleading (and possibly his coronation address as described above). Had he responded to Jeremiah with his whole heart who knows what might have happened?
“Go up to Lebanon, and cry,
And lift up your voice in Bashan,
And cry from Abarim,
For all your lovers are destroyed.”
Lebanon was to the north west of Judah, and Bashan to the north east. Abarim was a mountain range to the south east in the Dead Sea area (incorporating Mount Nebo). See Numbers 27:12; Numbers 33:47; Deuteronomy 32:49. The people of Judah and Jerusalem were therefore called on to cry vainly for assistance from these mountains to their erstwhile allies (lovers - see Ezekiel 23:9), who however no longer existed as possible helpers against Babylon. They had all been desolated and pacified. (Others see the criers as looking inwards over the kingdom). Judah therefore stood alone. It may be significant that no mention is made of the south east, for Egypt was the one country still able to hold out against Babylon, and it is possible that there were still vain hopes among some people of Egyptian intervention.
“I spoke to you in your prosperities (periods of prosperity),
But you said, ‘I will not hear.’
This has been your manner from your youth,
That you do not obey my voice.”
YHWH reminds them that when they had had periods of prosperity over the centuries (note the plural ‘prosperities’) He had constantly spoken to them. But their reply had been that ‘I will not hear’. That had been their way right from the beginning, that they had refused to hear His voice. It was indeed why these troubles had come upon them, and why there could now be no hope for them.
“The wind (spirit) will shepherd all your shepherds,
And your lovers will go into captivity,
Surely then you will be ashamed,
And confounded for all your wickedness.”
As a consequence of their disobedience and rebellion their shepherds (rulers) would all be shepherded by the wind (or ‘spirit’), along with any former allies, into captivity. The idea of the wind (ruach) may have been in order to indicate how little would be required for it to happen. All that would be needed was a puff of wind (or the wind of fortune) blowing them like so much chaff. Alternately a storm wind may have been in mind. For the translation ‘spirit’ indicating a general ‘spirit’ engendered by YHWH compare Isaiah 19:14; Isaiah 28:6; Isaiah 29:10; Isaiah 63:14; Zechariah 6:8. There was no hope for them to look forward to. All that now awaited them was to be shamed and confounded because of their wickedness.
Here ‘their lovers’ would appear to refer to their influential leaders, priests and prophets whose ways they had loved to follow.
And indeed within three short months of Jehoiachin coming to the throne he, and the queen mother, and all the important people in the land would be carried away to Babylon (Jeremiah 29:1-2; 2 Kings 24:10-16), never to return.
“O inhabitant of Lebanon, who make your nest in the cedars,
How greatly to be pitied will you be,
When pangs come upon you,
The pain as of a woman in travail!”
The ‘inhabitant of Lebanon’ being appealed to could be Jehoiachin, whose palace included the House of the Forest of Lebanon with its great cedar pillars, and itself contained much cedar all through (Jeremiah 22:14-15). But he was to be commiserated with, for soon, instead of luxuriating in his palace, he would be suffering pangs like a woman in childbirth (popularly the most severe pain known). Alternately it could signify the whole of Jerusalem in terms of the houses of cedar of their leaders.
“As I live, the word of YHWH,
Though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah,
Were the signet on my right hand,
Yet would I pluck you from there,”
But false hopes were not to be clung to, for even had YHWH seen Jehoiachin (Coniah) as His own signet ring on His right hand (which in fact He did not) it would not have prevented him being plucked from his nest of cedars and despatched to Babylon. A signet ring was a treasured possession and was never removed from the finger, thus demonstrating YHWH’s determination. It was the equivalent o a man’s signature and was used to seal important documents and letters. It represented a man’s very being (see Esther 8:8; Haggai 2:23). But even had Jehoiachin been as important as that to YHWH he would still have been removed.
The name Coniah was probably Jehoiachin’s given name at birth (see also Jeremiah 22:28; Jeremiah 37:1). In 1 Chronicles 3:16-17 it was given as Je-coniah (Coniah with YHWH’s Name attached). See also Jeremiah 24:1; Jeremiah 27:20; etc. Jehoiachin was presumably his throne name. (It is an indication of the mercy of YHWH that Jehoiachin’s grandson Zerubbabel (1 Chronicles 4:19) would in fact be the equivalent of the signet ring on God’s right hand - see Haggai 2:23).
“And I will give you into the hand of those who seek your life,
And into the hand of those of whom you are afraid,
Even into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon,
And into the hand of the Chaldeans.”
Jehoiachin was warned that he was to be given into the hands of those who, by continuing to besiege Jerusalem, were seeking his life, the hands of those of whom he was, with good reason, afraid. There was thus to be no miraculous deliverance. He would be given into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon, and into the hands of the Chaldeans (Babylonians).
“And I will cast you out,
And your mother who bore you,
Into another country where you were not born,
And there you will die,
But to the land to which their soul longs to return,
There will they not return.”
Indeed Jehoiachin, together with the queen mother, would be cast out of the land, into another country which was not his native land (into Babylon), and there he would die, along with all who went into captivity with him. Though their souls would long to return to their native land (literally ‘to which they were lifting up their souls), they would not return. They would all die in exile (whatever the false prophets were saying).
“Is this man Coniah a despised broken vessel?
Is he a vessel in which none delights?
Why are they cast out, he and his seed,
And are cast into the land which they know not?”
We may see these questions as either asked by the people, or as asked rhetorically by Jeremiah. In the former case they are questioning whether Jeremiah can be right. Is Coniah (Jehoiachin) really a despised broken vessel, one that is of no use? Is he really a vessel in which no one delights? Why should he and his seed be cast out into a land which they do not know? They are wanting proof and clarification. (This would explain the strength of Jeremiah’s reply in Jeremiah 22:29).
If, however, the questions are being asked by Jeremiah we may see the answers expected as ‘yes’. As in chapter 19 he is a despised broken vessel, unwanted and unusable, and therefore of no use to anyone. YHWH has tested him and found him wanting. And that is why he and his seed are to be cast out into a land which they do not know.
‘O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of YHWH.
Thus says YHWH,
“Write you this man as childless, a man who will not prosper in his days,
For no more will a man of his seed prosper,
Sitting on the throne of David,
And ruling in Judah.”
The threefold appeal to the earth is powerful and rare. It expresses intensity of feeling. Compare Jeremiah 7:4; Isaiah 6:3. Let the earth (as emphasised in contrast with the heavens) hear the word of YHWH. It was clearly indicating that it was important that the earth wake up and recognise the truth that Heaven already knows. For what YHWH has said is that the genealogical recorders on earth are to write Jehoiachin down as childless, for while he may have children they will not inherit. Neither he nor they will prosper and as a result they will not sit on the throne of David and rule in Judah. Judah must not look in this direction for the coming son of David.
In fact Jehoiachin would be carried to Babylon and imprisoned. But he did continue to be seen as king of Judah (Ezekiel dates his writing from the years of his captivity and refers to him as king - Ezekiel 1:2), and when Nebuchadrezzar died Evil-Merodach would release him from prison and treat him with honour (2 Kings 25:27-30), whilst retaining him in Babylon. Interestingly the reference to his allowance of food is confirmed archeologically for ration tablets found near the Ishtar Gate in Babylon refer to ‘Yaukin, king of the land of Yahud’.