Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim, Kings of Judah

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, January 16, 2023 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

After the remarkable reign of King Josiah of Judah, the next king was his son Jehoahaz. The short 3-month reign of King Jehoahaz of Judah (not to be confused with the previous King Jehoahaz of Israel) is recorded in 2 Kings 23:31-35 and 2 Chronicles 36:1-4.

Even though his father King Josiah was one of the best kings of Judah, genuinely getting rid of all idol worship and cleansing the nation of that sin, King Jehoahaz reverted everything back to disobeying God. King Jehoahaz was 23 years old when he became king, and 2 Kings 23:32 reports that “He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, just as his predecessors had done.” Of course, those predecessors do not include King Josiah or the good King Hezekiah, but rather many of the other kings of Judah who did not follow God’s ways.

It is interesting that Jehoahaz was the one to become the king. According to 1 Chronicles 3:15, King Josiah’s oldest son was Johanan, then Jehoiakim, then Zedekiah, then Shallum. Shallum is also known as Jehoahaz, so according to that verse, he was actually 4th in line to become king! Because we don’t hear anything else about Johanan, it is suspected that he died young. It is not known why Jehoiakim was passed over for king, but the suspicion among scholars is that they had different mothers, and Jehoahaz’s mother was more favored than Jehoiakim’s.

But what about Zedekiah, the 3rd son according to 1 Chronicles 3:15? According to 2 Kings 24:18, Zedekiah was actually much younger than Jehoahaz. Zedekiah was 21 when he became king (after Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, and Jehoiachin), so he would have been maybe 10 years old when Jehoahaz became king. The names of Zedekiah and Jehoahaz were likely written together because they had the same mother, and Zedekiah’s name would be listed first due to his longer reign. It’s all somewhat confusing, really, but when records are from the 500s BC, they don’t always perfectly agree.

Just 3 months into Jehoahaz’s reign, he was captured by Pharaoh Necho of Egypt and imprisoned in Egypt. The Pharaoh made Josiah’s oldest son Eliakim (also known as Jehoiakim) the king of Judah instead. King Jehoiakim’s reign is recorded in 2 Kings 23:36-24:6 and 2 Chronicles 36:5-8.

Just as with King Jehoahaz, King Jehoiakim did evil in God’s eyes. While Jehoiakim was king, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded the land of Judah. Jehoiakim became Nebuchadnezzar’s slave for 3 years, but then he rebelled, evidently having waited for an opportune time. But his rebellion was not enough to turn the tides in favor of Judah.

We read in 2 Kings 24:2-3: “The LORD sent Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite and Ammonite raiders against him to destroy Judah, in accordance with the word of the LORD proclaimed by his servants the prophets. Surely these things happened to Judah according to the LORD’s command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the LORD was not willing to forgive.”

As a reminder, the succession of kings of Judah went: Manassah, Amon, Josiah, Jehoahaz, then Jehoiakim. King Manasseh was considered one of the worst kings of Judah, and Amon, Jehoahaz, and Jehoiakim followed in that path, even though the nation of Judah had a period of following God under King Josiah. Under King Manasseh’s reign, Judah sinned so severely that they should expect a very severe judgment from God, and that was definitely beginning during King Jehoiakim’s reign with the invasion of Babylon.

Remember that King Jehoahaz had been captured by Egypt, and now Babylon was coming after Judah as well. Things were definitely not looking good for this nation! We learn in 2 Kings 24:7 that Babylon was the stronger of these two powers; they had taken over Egypt’s territory. This is foreshadowing how God would use Babylon to send Judah into exile as punishment for their continued disobedience. At this point, there are still two more kings before the nation of Judah is completely taken over by Babylon.

What can we learn from these two kings, Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim? For one thing, it’s not about who your parents are. Both of them were sons of King Josiah, who did the most for turning the nation of Judah back to a life of obedience to God. They did not follow in their father’s footsteps at all but rather did the exact opposite. Because of their disobedience to God, both of these kings personally suffered – King Jehoahaz at the hand of Pharaoh Necho of Egypt and King Jehoiakim at the hand of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The nation of Judah also suffered, as both of their reigns pushed the people closer to a time of being exiled from their land.

While God is a loving and forgiving God, there is a point where His anger at disobedience becomes too great and punishment must happen. What are you doing in your own life to foster obedience to God rather than disobedience, both for yourself and for those around you?

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