Jehoiachin, King of Judah

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, January 23, 2023 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

We are nearing the end of the kings of the divided kingdom of Israel. Today we will look at Jehoiachin and what happened during his reign, then next week we’ll look at the last king, Zedekiah, and the fall of Judah into captivity.

Jehoiachin’s narrative can be found in 2 Kings 24:8-17 and 27-30 and in 2 Chronicles 36:8-10. The account in 2 Chronicles is very brief, basically just stating the details of King Jehoiachin’s reign and that King Nebuchadnezzar sent for him and took him to Babylon. Fortunately, the account in 2 Kings 24 provides us with greater details of what happened.

There was already a lot of unrest in Judah even before Jehoiachin became the king. In last week’s post, I wrote about how King Jehoahaz had been captured by the king of Egypt, and then King Jehoiakim became a slave to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. While Egypt was held at bay, Babylon had already taken territory in the land of Judah. So, Jehoiachin was not stepping into a good place as king!

King Jehoiachin was only 18 years old when he became the king, and he had a very short reign – only 3 months! Just like a few kings before him, Jehoiachin did evil in God’s eyes. He continued in the ways of idolatry just like his father and grandfather before him.

During King Jehoiachin’s reign, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon attacked the land of Judah. King Nebuchadnezzar himself was present in that battle and went to Jerusalem personally while his armies were attacking the city. He took hostage King Jehoiachin, his mother, the royal officials, and all who attended to the king. King Jehoiachin of Judah was now a prisoner to the king of Babylon.

The author of 2 Kings reminds the reader that this all happened exactly as God had prophesied that it would. We see that prophecy from Isaiah to King Hezekiah just a few chapters earlier in 2 Kings 20:16-18: “Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, ‘Hear the word of the LORD: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the LORD. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’”

We see the fulfillment of that prophecy in 2 Kings 24:13-14: “As the LORD had declared, Nebuchadnezzar removed the treasures from the temple of the LORD and from the royal palace, and cut up the gold articles that Solomon king of Israel had made for the temple of the LORD. He carried all Jerusalem into exile: all the officers and fighting men, and all the skilled workers and artisans—a total of ten thousand. Only the poorest people of the land were left.” The account then reiterates that King Nebuchadnezzar took everything from Judah – King Jehoiachin, his mother, his wives, all his officials, and everyone prominent in the land. He also took an army of 7000 men with him plus 1000 skilled workers and artisans.

Rather than completely destroy the nation, King Nebuchadnezzar just took everything and everyone that was in power in any way. He just left the poor people and the unskilled workers behind, likely thinking that the nation would then destroy itself with no one with money or skills left to take care of it. But, the land still needed a king since he was taking King Jehoiachin with him. Nebuchadnezzar appointed King Jehoiachin’s uncle (Kings Jehoahaz’s and Jehoiakim’s younger brother) Mattaniah the king and changed his name to Zedekiah, which is how he is referred to in the Scriptures.

Even though King Jehoiachin was no longer reining in Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar chose not to kill him but rather to keep him as a hostage. Even though King Zedekiah reigned after him, King Jehoiachin is generally considered the last legitimate king of Judah, so it was important for the nation to record his fate. The last few verses of the book of 2 Kings do just that.

The nation of Judah had been exiled to Babylon for 37 years when King Jehoiachin was released from prison. This happened after King Nebuchadnezzar had died and his son Evil-Merodach had taken over. The new king of Babylon treated King Jehoiachin well, even giving him a seat of honor and providing for his needs with a regular allowance. King Jehoiachin was honored higher than other kings that Babylon had taken hostage.

While this time was one of great despair for the nation of Judah, King Jehoiachin’s life serves as a prophecy for what would happen to the nation. While the nation needed to serve time in exile just as King Jehoiachin was imprisoned, there would be a time when they would be released and able to live a good life once again. While God needed to punish their continued sin of idolatry, His grace would still prevail for His people.

The same is true for us. We often need to experience negative consequences for the times we disobey God, especially if it is habitual and willful disobedience like Judah’s, but God’s grace will always prevail! He will always love us, and when we have faith in Him, He will eventually turn things around so we experience God’s goodness once again in our lives. God is a God of redemption, both in the life of the nation of Judah and in our lives today.

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