Heart of the Story: Jehoiachin reigned about 100 days, then he was taken captive. For the next 37 years he was in a Babylonian prison; nevertheless he was an ancestor of Christ.
Story Line: Like so many other kings of Israel and Judah, Jehioachin had several names; his included Jeconiah and Coniah. His father was King Jehoiakim and his mother Nehushta. Jehioachin was born during the reign of his godly grandfather, King Josiah. He saw Josiah’s dedication to God. The great prophet Jeremiah lived in Jerusalem during Jehioachin’s life. Jehioachin knew Jeremiah prophesies that he (Jehioachin himself) would be exiled to Babylon as a consequence of his sin.
Jehioachin became king when his father was murdered. Despite Josiah’s example and Jeremiah’s words, Jehioachin did evil in God’s eyes. He is described as acting like his father Jehoiakim, whose kingship was rapacious, violent and oppressive. Ezekial described Jehioachin as a young lion who prowled among lions and learned to catch prey and devour men (Ezekial 19:5-9).
Jehioachin was 18 years of age when he became king of Judah; he reigned (597 B.C.) three months and 10 days. Then, Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army came to Jerusalem. Rather than undergo a long siege, Jehioachin surrendered. Nebuchadnezzar didn’t kill Jehioachin, instead he deported Jehioachin along with his mother, wives and officials to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar made Zedekiah, Jehioachin’s uncle, the puppet king over Judah.
When Jehioachin arrived in Babylon, he was put in prison and remained there 37 years. When Nebuchadnezzar died, his son became king. King Evil Merodach freed Jehioachin and honored Jehioachin above all kings who were with him in Babylon. Jehioachin ate at the king’s table and Evil Merodach gave Jehioachin a regular allowance.
Analysis of Jehioachin’s Life: The Bible provided no outward reason for Evil Merodach’s preferential treatment to Jehioachin. One commentator suggested that Evil-Merodach was imprisoned for a short time in his youth and in prison came to know Jehioachin. Another suggested that Daniel, who was a wise man in the Babylonian court, convinced Evil Merodach to release Jehioachin. Perhaps the simple explanation is that God moved the heart of Evil Merodach to treat Jehioachin favorably.
Evil Merodach ruled Babylon for two years (562-560 BC). Then, he was killed by his brother-in-law Nergal-sar-ezer, who succeeded him to the throne of Babylon. Some scholars proposed that Jehioachin was killed by Nargal-sar-ezer because of his close association with Evil Merodach; however, neither the Bible nor Babylonian records reported that Jehioachin died a violent death or that he died soon after being released from prison.
After Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylon, he gave permission for the captive Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild God’s temple. Zerubbabel was a leader who returned to Jerusalem and became governor of Judea. The Bible lists Shealtiel as the father of Zerubbabel and the son of Jehioachin (Ezra 3:2, 8; Matthew 1:12). All three are in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. God took a bad king, captivity and imprisonment, and used it for good.
Reflection: Do you think that Jehioachin repented and turned to God during his 37 year Babylonian imprisonment? Remember, God said that he can redeem the wasted years for his people (Joel 2:28). How could Jehioachin’s wasted years been redeemed?
Copyright 8/22/14: Carolyn A. Roth