ALL SERIOUS READERS OF JEREMIAH know that the various oracles are not given in chronological sequence. Sometimes the sequence of the oracles is perplexing; sometimes it is clearly thematic. In Jeremiah 22, we find a series of utterances regarding the final kings of Judah, but the list is not in chronological order. Perhaps the most important thing about these utterances is that collectively they provide a foil for the prospect of a far more fruitful king, introduced in the next chapter.
(1) The first nine verses continue the warning to Zedekiah, the plea to return to the covenantal stipulations to ward off imminent disaster.
(2) Jeremiah 22:10-12 deals with Shallum, otherwise known as Jehoahaz. He was one of the sons of the last reforming king, Josiah, who was killed at Megiddo in 609 B.C. Shallum reigned a mere three months before he was deposed by Pharaoh Neco (during the final years when Judah was still a vassal of Egypt, before Babylon took over the role of regional superpower in 605: cf. yesterday’s comments). Transported to Egypt, Shallum never returned to Israel—the first of the Davidic kings to die in exile.
(3) Shallum’s older brother Jehoiakim succeeded him (Jer. 22:13-23). Jehoiakim was forced to pay a heavy tax to Egypt, but laid on additional loads for his own glorification. He was oppressive, covetous, greedy, and foolish (cf. 2 Kings 23:35). Worst of all, he reversed all the reforming policies of his father Josiah, and sanctioned pagan rites, even those of the oppressing power, Egypt. His exploitation of workers defied the Mosaic covenant (Lev. 19:13; Deut. 24:14). Jeremiah’s denunciation is scathing: “Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him” (Jer. 22:15). The consequence of Jehoiakim’s disastrous and evil policies was the destruction of the nation. As for himself, he would die an ignominious death, and his corpse would be taken out with the garbage (Jer. 22:19). “I warned you when you felt secure,” God says, “but you said, ‘I will not listen!’ ” (Jer. 22:21).
(4) His son Jehoiachin (also called Jeconiah [Jer. 24:1, note] or Coniah [Jer. 37:1, note]) took over in December, 598, when Jehoiakim died. By this time Jerusalem was already under siege. Jehoiachin was a mere lad, eighteen years old. He ruled for three months. Then Jerusalem fell, and he was taken to Babylon, where he lived out the rest of his years—in prison until 561, and then in the Babylonian court. None of his children or his grandchildren would sit on the throne of David (Jer. 22:30). “O land, land, land, hear the word of the LORD!” (Jer. 22:29).