Did Jeremiah Err Regarding Jeconiah?

By Wayne Jackson

“I have two questions based upon Jeremiah 22:30. First, this passage states that no one was to rule upon the throne of Judah after Coniah (Jeconiah). Yet Zedekiah followed Jeconiah upon the throne (2 Kgs. 24:18). Second, the passage says that Jeconiah was to be ‘childless.’ But 1 Chronicles 3:17 indicates that he had several sons. Can you clear up this puzzle?”

Jeconiah is designated by three names in the Old Testament. He is called “Jehoiachin” (2 Kgs. 24:6; 2 Chron. 36:8), “Jeconiah” (1 Chron. 3:16-17; Jer. 24:1), and “Coniah” (Jer. 22:24,28; 37:1). In Matthew’s genealogy, the Greek form, “Jechonias,” is found (1:11-12).

Jeconiah was the 19th king of the southern kingdom of Judah, and the next-to-last in that line. He reigned only a few days past three months (2 Kgs. 24:8).

The prophecy uttered by Jeremiah (22:30) should be studied very carefully. When all of the facts are considered, it contains no mistake. Note the following.

First, the prophecy does not state that no king would follow Jeconiah. The oracle simply says that no “seed” (descendant) of Jeconiah would enjoy a prosperous reign, ruling in Judah. Here is the precise declaration.

“Thus saith Jehovah, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days; for no more shall a man of his seed prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling in Judah.”

The historical facts are these. None of Jeconiah’s sons ever ascended to Judah’s throne. Rather, he was replaced by Zedekiah, who was not his son, but his uncle (2 Kgs. 24:17). Zedekiah’s 11-year reign was fraught with much turbulence. Ultimately, he was arrested by the Babylonians who killed his two sons, blinded him, and deported the ruler to Chaldea in fetters (2 Kg. 25:7).

Second, the declaration that Jeconiah was to be “childless” must be viewed in the larger context of the biblical data regarding him.

For example, the immediate context reveals that the term “childless” is not to be pressed in a literal sense. Verse 28 specifically says that “he and his seed” were to be “cast into the land which they know not,” i.e., Babylon.

Ultimately, he had seven sons (1 Chron. 3:17-18), and the eldest of these may have been born already (it is hardly likely that he had the full complement of seven when he was only eighteen years of age — cf. 2 Kgs. 24:8).

Second, the expression “childless” is employed in verse 30 in the sense of a royal offspring. He was “childless” in that he had no son who would inherit his throne and rule over Judah. This clearly is the meaning of the judgment pronounced. As Professor J. A. Thompson observed, Jeconiah “did not prosper in his own lifetime, nor through his offspring” (485).

It is interesting to note that a clay tablet exhumed from the ruins of ancient Babylon mentions Jeconiah and five of his sons with the notation that rations were provided them to sustain their livelihood in captivity (cf. Pritchard, 205).

There is, therefore, no inaccuracy in Jeremiah 22:30.

Sources/Footnotes
  • Pritchard, James B. 1958. The Ancient Near East. Vol. 1. Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ.
  • Thompson, J. A. 1980. The Book of Jeremiah. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids: MI.
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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.