The Kings During Jeremiah’s Ministry
Jeremiah, during the last 40 years of Judah’s rule, gave messages of reform to five kings: Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah:
1-Josiah (640–609 B.C.)
After a long period of moral and spiritual corruption under Manasseh (2 Kings 21:1–18; 2 Chronicles 33:1–20) and Amon (2 Kings 21:19–25; 2 Chronicles 33:21–25), Judah chose a godly king. Josiah was eight years when he ruled (2 Kings 22:1). When he was 20 years, he made reforms, abolishing the high places of idol worship (2 Chronicles 34:3). He was guided by Jeremiah, who was called to the ministry in the king’s 13th year. Josiah purposed to abolish idolatry and to re-set the worship of God (2 Chronicles34).
While cleansing and fixing the Temple in the 18th year of Josiah’s rule, a copy of “the book of the law” was found (2 Kings 22:3–20). This discovery empowered Josiah’s reforms. But King Josiah died because of his interference with Necho II of Egypt at Megiddo, 609 B.C. (2 Kings 23:29, 30; 2 Chronicles 35:20–24). This was a great loss to Judah, and the people grieved over him (2 Chronicles 35:24, 25).
2-Jehoahaz (609 B.C.)
Also known as Shallum (1 Chronicles 3:15). Jehoahaz was set king perhaps because of his respect to the Babylonians (2 Kings 23:30; 2 Chronicles 36:1). After three months Necho II, returning from his conquest to the north, deposed him and took him to Egypt, where he died (2 Kings 23:31–34; Jeremiah 22:10–12).
3-Jehoiakim (609–598 B.C.)
Earlier called Eliakim (2 Kings 23:34). Necho II set Jehoiakim, second son of Josiah (1 Chronicles 3:15), to be king (2 Kings 23:34). Thus, Judah became under Egyptian power and paid a large tribute to them (2 Kings 23:35). In 605 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar attacked Palestine, captured the Temple vessels, and took some of the royal family captive to Babylon. Daniel and his three friends were among the captives (Daniel 1:1–6).
Jehoiakim was forced to make a treaty with Babylon instead of his former alliance with Egypt. In the battle of Carchemish, Egypt lost, and Necho II returned to Egypt. In spite of his alliance with Babylon (2 Kings 24:1), Jehoiakim, openly rebelled against Babylon in 598 B.C. So, Judah was attacked again and Jehoiakim was killed (2 Kings 24:5).
4-Jehoiachin (598–597 B.C.)
Also called Coniah (Jeremiah 22:24) and Jeconiah (1 Chronicles 3:16; Jeremiah 24:1). After three months, the king surrendered to the besieging Babylonians and was taken to Babylon with his family and officers (2 Kings 24:10–16). The prophet Ezekiel, the chiefs and craftsmen of the city were among the captives (Ezekiel 1:1–3). In this second deportation, there were ten thousand prisoners. For some time, Jehoiachin was imprisoned but in the 37th year of his exile, he was liberated by Nebuchadnezzar’s successor, Amel-Marduk, the Biblical Evil-Merodach (2 Kings 25:27–30).
5-Zedekiah (597–586 B.C.)
Earlier called Mattaniah (2 Kings 24:17). Babylon set this 21-year-old son of Josiah a puppet king over Judah. He had a hard mission for the upper class citizens and the educated of Judah had been taken and the people that remained were difficult to rule. Jeremiah described them as bad figs unfit for food (Jeremiah 24:8–10). Further, ambassadors from Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon came to Jerusalem (Jeremiah 27:3) to incite Zedekiah to revolt against Babylon.
Jeremiah warned Judah from revolting and advised them to accept the yoke of Babylon (Jeremiah 27; 28:14). But Zedekiah didn’t listen. So, Nebuchadnezzar crushed his revolt and the people were terrified (Jeremiah 21:1–10). In an effort to obtain God’s approval, the king and people made a covenant with the Lord promising to free all Hebrew slaves in Jerusalem (ch. 34:8–10). But when Nebuchadnezzar lifted the siege due to Pharaoh’s army (ch. 37:5), the people’s covenant was broken and the freed slaved were re-enslaved (ch. 34:11–22). Jeremiah was captured and imprisoned as a traitor (ch. 37:11–15).
Later on, the siege was resumed. The Jews tried to save the city for 30 months. But in July, 586 B.C., the Babylonians attacked. Zedekiah escaped, but was captured near Jericho (Jeremiah 39:2–5). Jerusalem was burned (ch. 39:8) and most of the Jews were taken as captives (ch. 39:9, 10).
A Puppet Governor for Babylon
Nebuchadnezzar set Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam (Jeremiah 26:24), to govern over the remaining Jews (2 Kings 25:22). Gedaliah lived at Mizpah, close to Jerusalem. The Babylonians freed Jeremiah, who united with the new governor (Jeremiah 40:1–6). After the death of Gedaliah (Jeremiah 41) the remaining Jews led by Johanan escaped to Egypt, forcing the prophet to go with them (Jeremiah 43).
In His service,