Jehoiachin vs Zedekiah

Always be open to what God is trying to teach you, never letting your own knowledge and wisdom eclipse your view of Him. May we never forget He sees all — including what lays within our hearts — and He is always with us wherever we go, encouraging us to learn so that we may grow and be prepared.

“Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. His mother’s name was Nehushta daughter of Elnathan; she was from Jerusalem. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father had done. At that time the officers of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon advanced on Jerusalem and laid siege to it, and Nebuchadnezzar himself came up to the city while his officers were besieging it. Jehoiachin king of Judah, his mother, his attendants, his nobles and his officials all surrendered to him. In the eighth year of the reign of the king of Babylon, he took Jehoiachin prisoner… He made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king in his place and changed his name to Zedekiah. Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. His mother’s name was Amutal daughter of Jeremiah; she was from Libnah. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, just as Jehoiakim had done. It was because of the Lord’s anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end he thrust them from his presence.”                 –2 Kings 24:8-12, 17-20

I had come to the end of the Book of Jeremiah this morning during my daily quiet time. Papa and I meet every morning as soon as I wake up (with the exception of Sundays when I visit His house for worship and the message He wants to share with all of us). I always ask Him to teach me something in what we’re reading that morning, to lead me through scripture with His wisdom. Today, He would not let me close the Book until I learned the difference between Jehoiachin and Zedekiah.

  “In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the year Awel-Marduk became king of Babylon, on the twenty-fifth day of the twelfth month, he released Jehoiachin king of Judah and freed him from prison. He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honor higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king’s table. Day by day the king of Babylon gave Jehoiachin a regular allowance as long as he lived, till the day of his death.”     –Jeremiah 52:31-34 (echoed in 2 Kings 25:27-30)

 I read this a couple of times wondering, “Why?”. Turning back a page, I reread what happened to Zedekiah:

“The city was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. By the ninth day of the fourth month the famine in the city had become so severe that there was no food for the people to eat. Then the city wall was broken through, and the whole army fled. They left the city at night through the gate between the two walls near the king’s garden, though the Babylonians were surrounding the city. They fled toward the Arabah, but the Babylonian army pursued King Zedekiah and overtook him in the plains of Jericho. All his soldiers were separated from him and scattered, and he was captured. He was taken to the king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, where he pronounced sentence on him. There at Riblah the king of Babylon killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes; he also killed all the officials of Judah. Then he put out Zedekiah’s eyes, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon, where he put him in prison till the day of his death.”      –Jeremiah 52:5-11

Upon initially reading this, I cringed. Zedekiah’s downfall was horrifying. I couldn’t imagine suffering such things. Then I reached verses 31-34 and did a double take. Why did Jehoiachin get a better ending? They were both kings of Judah at some point (Zedekiah received the throne after Jehoiachin was captured). They both also did evil in the eyes of the Lord, encouraging idol worship in Judah amongst other things. So why the different outcomes?

In ‘The Complete Book of Who’s Who in the Bible’ by Philip Comfort and Walter A. Elwell, I looked up Jehoiachin. This dictionary of people in the Bible gave me a list of reference points in the book of Jeremiah for this former king of Judah. It also said, “The name Jehoiachin means ‘Yahweh will uphold’, and variations included…Jeconiah (…Jer 24:1…)” (p. 270). Thinking this might be part of the answer and that Jehoiachin might have turned to the Lord during exile, I turned to Jeremiah 24 for confirmation.

Mind you, I’ve read all of the book of Jeremiah, but — like any experienced Christ follower will tell you — you can read a passage in the Bible several times throughout your life and learn something new almost every time. This small chapter spoke of figs both bad and good, that I recalled. However, I hadn’t paid much attention to who the figs represented until now:

 “After Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah and the officials, the skilled workers and the artisans of Judah were carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Lord showed me two baskets of figs placed in front of the temple of the Lord. One basket had very good figs, like those that ripen early; the other basket had very bad figs, so bad they could not be eaten. The Lord asked me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” “Figs,” I answered. “The good ones are very good, but the bad ones are so bad they cannot be eaten.” Then the word of the Lord came to me: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians. My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart. But like the bad figs, which are so bad they cannot be eaten,’ says the Lord, ‘so will I deal with Zedekiah king of Judah, his officials and the survivors from Jerusalem, whether they remain in this land or live in Egypt. I will make them abhorrent and an offense to all the kingdoms of the earth, a reproach and a byword, a curse and an object of ridicule, wherever I banish them. I will send the sword, famine and plague against them until they are destroyed from the land I gave to them and their ancestors.”      –Jeremiah 24

Jehoiachin was exiled with others from Jerusalem and God promised to watch over them, to ‘build them up and not tear them down’. Meanwhile, Zedekiah was described as a bad fig and bad figs were cursed to endure sword, famine, and plague until they were destroyed.

While it was enlightening and comforting to know God upheld His promises to the exiles, this was only part of the answer. Jehoiachin got a better ending because like the other exiles he was given a heart to know the Lord, but Zedekiah wasn’t given the same kind of heart. Why?

Going back to the dictionary, there was another reference in Jeremiah regarding Jehoiachin’s name variation Jeconiah: chapter 27, verse 20. Looking up the verse, it didn’t seem to fit into the puzzle I was trying to unravel, but God encouraged me to stay in that chapter. Backing up a page to start at verse 1, I soon read:

“Give them a message for their masters and say,  ‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Tell this to your masters: With my great power and outstretched arm I made the earth and its people and the animals that are on it, and I give it to anyone I please. Now I will give all your countries into the hands of my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; I will make even the wild animals subject to him. All the nations will serve him and his son and his grandson until the time for his land comes; then many nations and great kings will subjugate him. If, however, any nation or kingdom will not serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon or bow its neck under his yoke, I will punish that nation with sword, famine and plague, declares the Lord, until I destroy it by his hand. So, do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your interpreters of dreams, your mediums or your sorcerers who tell you, ‘You will not serve the king of Babylon.’ They prophesy lies to you that will only serve to remove you far from your lands; I will banish you and you will perish. But if any nation will bow its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will let that nation remain in its own land to till it and live there, declares the Lord”.'”                            –Jeremiah 27:4-11

“Now Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.”   –Jeremiah 52:3b

Jehoiachin had bowed his neck under Nebuchadnezzar but Zedekiah refused. For his disobedience and his continuous actions of evil in the eyes of the Lord, Zedekiah and his people faced famine and sword. Even plague, for plague isn’t just a sickness caused by bacteria, it is also a term for torture, torment, and trouble. Zedekiah was probably tormented to the end of his days by the sight of seeing his sons killed before him. He was definitely tortured when they plucked his eyes out. Finally, he was troubled ’til the end of his days for he remained in chains until his passing. Jehoiachin, however, had been obedient and thus received both a heart for the Lord and a life of peace.

Like Jehoiachin, we can find peace. We will still face hardship and troubles, for this world is a dark one filled with evil. However, we can have the peace and comfort only God can give during those difficult times. We must, however, obey the call to lay down our sinful ways and serve the King of Kings, to answer the call to join Him at the table. We must surrender our hearts to Christ and believe He has risen from the dead. Then, upon accepting our salvation, He will free us from our chains and give us hearts of flesh filled with love and life, hearts that beat for Him. Will you obey the call?

“So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king’s table.”    –Jeremiah 52:33

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved…for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”.”          –Romans 10:9 & 13

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