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What's the Story of Jehoiachin?

This week's question comes from Fadi Sarnouk of Canada via the Internet. He writes, "I am a Sunday School teacher for the youth group in our church and one student asked me a question . . . In Jeremiah 22.24-30 we find the Lord's curse laid upon Coniah '. . . a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Judah' (22.30). Was God's mind changed to let him be included in the lineage of Christ (Matthew 1.11)?"

The first thing we have to do, when looking at these verses, is to decide who this "Coniah" really is. In the lineage of the kings of Israel and Judah, Coniah is not found. When we look in the Matthew passage we find Coniah is translated into Greek as Jechoniah. Unfortunately, Jechoniah isn't found in the lineage of the kings either.

Why the discrepancy? In Jeremiah's case, Coniah is the shortened name of Jehoiachin, one of the kings of Judah during the Babylonian captivity of the nation. In Matthew's case, the word Jechoniah is the Greek rendering of Jehoiachin from Chronicles in the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament). In other words, there are at least three different ways the Bible identifies this king -- Jehoiachin, Jechoniah, and Coniah. Indeed, in both Hebrew and Greek there are other divergent spellings. But regardless of the variant spellings, they all point to the same man.

Who was Jehoiachin and why does Jeremiah curse his name? It seems the primary sin of Jehoiachin was that he was the son of Jehoiakim. Judah and Jerusalem had fallen to Nebuchadnezzar and the Jehoiakim the king was required to send taxes to Babylon. After three years, Jehoiakim organized a rebellion against the occupying forces and Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem. Jehoiakim was apparently killed during the skirmish and his son Jehoiachin was enthroned in his place. The attack on Jerusalem continued and in the third month of Jehoiachin's reign he surrendered the city and the nation of Judah to the Babylonians. Nebuchadnezzar pillaged the city and the temple and then made prisoners of the wealthy, the powerful, and the learned and exiled them to Babylon (2 Kings 24.10-16). Jehoiachin was among those who were taken into exile.

So, why does Jeremiah curse Jehoiachin? Primarily because he was the king enthroned when Jerusalem fell.

But what about that curse? Did it come true? According to the writers of Kings and Chronicles neither Jehoiachin nor his children ever ruled over Judah again, which was the primary curse make by Jeremiah. As to being in the lineage of Jesus Christ, though Jesus is indeed the King of kings and is in the lineage of David, he did not sit on the throne of David, at least not as Jeremiah would have defined it, for Jesus' kingdom was "not of this world" (John 18.36). (And by-the-way, isn't it interesting who is in Jesus' ancestry -- Jehoiachin the cursed, Rahab the harlot, and Ruth the foreigner.)

In any event, the curse on Jehoiachin came true and he lived in exile the rest of his days.

But this isn't the end of Jehoiachin's story. In spite of his "evil deeds" (i.e., allowing Jerusalem to fall), the last words we read of his life are filled with goodness. In the apocryphal book Baruch, we read that Jehoiachin was one of those who collected money in Babylon to send to Jerusalem so sacrifices could be made for their atonement (Baruch 1.1-14). And apparently God heard their cries and granted them forgiveness, for we read in 2nd Kings 25.27-30 that Jehoiachin was released from the Babylonian prison and resided as one of the guests in the presence of the Babylonian king for the rest of his days.

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