Three Kings

2 Kings 24; 2Ch_36:1-10

by John Kitto, Daily Bible Illustrations

It is recorded, that on the death of Josiah, “the people of the land” made his son Shallum king in preference to his elder brother Eliakim; and, as usual, when there was any departure from the ordinary course of succession, and then only, he was anointed. It also claims to be noted, that the same formula, as to the people nominating the king, occurs only after the previous king (as Amaziah and Amon), had come to a violent end, which may suggest, that when a king had been himself prevented from nominating a successor out of the number of his sons, the right devolved on the people of indicating the one that would be most acceptable to them. Their decision was usually in favor of the eldest son; but with the right of exercising the same power as belonged to the king himself, of passing him over if cause appeared.

It is further remarkable that Shallum, and all the kings after him, changed his name on his accession—a custom which the practice of the Roman pontiffs has rendered familiar to us, but the occurrence of which, in the present instance, seems to indicate the increased intimacy of the  Jews with the remoter East, where this practice appears to have had earlier prevalence. The royal name which Shallum took was Jehoahaz, Note: Compare Jer_22:11, with 2Ki_23:30, and 2Ch_36:1. which, with the fact, that the two kings who followed also took names beginning with Jeho, may suggest that names commencing with the sacred name of Jehovah, had by this time come to be considered more dignified and fortunate than any others.

But the king of Egypt, on his return from his successful campaign against the Assyrians, paused to enforce the rights which his victory over Josiah had given. Displeased, probably, at the liberty which had been taken of appointing a king out of the ordinary course without any reference to him, or, which is still more probable, wrought upon by the representations of the party of the eldest son, he sent to summon Jehoahaz to appear before him at Riblah in the land of Hamath, one of the most important of his new acquisitions, and which he was busy in fortifying. The new king seems to have gone without personal constraint; but on his arrival he was cast into chains by Necho, who presently sent him to Egypt, both as a trophy of his conquest, and to prevent him from giving any disturbance to his elder brother Eliakim, whom the Egyptian placed on the throne, by the name of Jehoiakim. As a token of homage, Necho required from the new king the moderate sum of a hundred talents of silver and one talent of gold. It seems to be mentioned as a grievance, that the king raised this sum by direct and immediate taxation, instead of paying it out of his own pocket; or, it may be, that the kingdom had become so poor, that the levying of even this small sum was felt as a heavy burden by the people. But it may be noted, that the Orientals generally greatly exceed any western nation in their aversion to taxes—and this is saying much.

Meanwhile a power was growing in the East, which was destined to exercise an important influence upon the destinies of Judah. The Babylonians had succeeded to the heritage of the Assyrian empire, and were not inclined to allow the   Egyptians to retain possession of the territories west of the Euphrates, which they had wrested from the enfeebled grasp of the Assyrians. Young Nebuchadnezzar, who was in command for his father, Nabopolassar, came into collision with Necho, at Carchemish on the Euphrates, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign, and gave him so decisive a defeat, as constrained him to abandon all his conquests, and retire to his own country. This event excited much sensation in Jerusalem. Jeremiah the prophet rejoiced in the defeat of Egypt, and foretold that the Chaldean would soon appear and take possession of Judah, and exhorted submission to his arms. The result could be but a change of masters; but as the king of Egypt had shown himself the patron of his personal interests, Jehoiakim concluded that it would be best to adhere to him. This involved the necessity of resistance to Nebuchadnezzar, who had now become king of Babylon. The insanity of such opposition was somewhat disguised by the hope of assistance from the Egyptian king, whose interests were identified with his own; and Jeremiah was subject to much persecution, on the alleged ground that his declarations were calculated to discourage the troops.

The Babylonians at length appeared, and no help came from Egypt, Necho being now advanced in years, and apparently unwilling to provoke the Chaldeans to attack him in his own country. In reducing Judah they seemed to assert their right to the heritage of the Assyrian power; and with that they would perhaps be satisfied, without attempting to invade a country which the Assyrians never had subdued. Deprived of this hope, Jehoiakim saw the uselessness of resistance, and therefore tendered an ungracious and reluctant submission to the Babylonians. In three years, however, he conceived new hopes of help from Egypt, where a new king (Psammis) had ascended the throne; and therefore, knowing that Nebuchadnezzar was employed elsewhere, he ventured to withhold his tribute. The Babylonian king was too much occupied to look after him for a good while; but in the meantime he sent a few regiments of Chaldeans to form the nucleus of a  military force to be raised on the spot from among the Syrians, Moabites, and Ammonites, and to be employed in harassing the kingdom. In this warfare Jehoiakim was taken prisoner and sent to Nebuchadnezzar, who put him in chains, intending to send him to Babylon. It does not appear whether he gave effect to this intention. The probability is, that the captive king died before it could be executed; and to die among strangers and enemies was a dolorous fate for a Jewish prince. Jeremiah had foretold his doom: “They shall not lament for him, saying, Ah, lord! or, Ah, his glory! He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem.”

His son Coniah, who then mounted the throne, prefixed the sacred name to his own and was called Jeconiah—which is also written Jehoiachin. In spite of the earnest remonstrances and strong denunciations of Jeremiah, he persevered in his father’s fatal policy of resisting the Chaldeans. But Nebuchadnezzar soon arrived in person, and the siege of Jerusalem was pressed with vigor. Jeconiah held out for a little time, in the hope that the Egyptians would appear to raise the siege; but when constrained to abandon that hope, he saw the impolicy of exasperating the besieger by a protracted and desperate resistance, and determined to surrender while the hope of favorable terms might yet be entertained. He therefore came out, with his mother Nehushta, and chief officers, and placed himself at the disposal of Nebuchadnezzar. We must not neglect to point out that this marked mention of the king’s mother is an incidental, but valuable, corroboration of the fact we have already had occasion to state, of the public importance of the queen-mother’s office in the Hebrew monarchy.

Jeconiah was not mistaken in calculating that the city would be spared, and the state maintained, in consequence of his timely surrender; but if he also reckoned that the conqueror would confirm him in the throne as a tributary prince, he soon discovered his error. Nebuchadnezzar saw the impolicy of leaving on the throne the nominee of Egypt.  He therefore set the now lusterless crown upon the head of Josiah’s youngest son, Mattaniah, whose name he changed to Zedekiah, and sent away Jehoiachin to Babylon, together with his mother, his harem, and his chief officers—of which latter those, no doubt, were selected who were of the Egyptian party, and, as such, had shown themselves most eager opponents of Jeremiah. Jehoiachin was at this time but eighteen years of age; and he survived in Babylon till long after the entire subversion of the kingdom over which he had so briefly ruled. He seems to have been kept in some sort of confinement until the death of Nebuchadnezzar, but was liberated from restraint by his successor, and was treated with high distinction among the kings of subverted thrones, whose presence glorified the imperial court. By the numerous captives who were eventually removed to the east, he was doubtless looked up to as their natural prince—the sole relic of the house of David; and it is likely, that his influence availed much to secure for them many of the advantages they enjoyed in the land of their captivity.