This week was another verse that was really difficult to figure out what we were to draw from this. But in the end, it was so like the last few studies we've done- I just had to step back far enough. Let me share with you first our verse- 1 Chronicles 3:16:
And the sons of Jehoiakim: Jeconiah his son, and Zedekiah his son.
Not much to work with, eh? Right smack dab in the middle of a genealogy. But not just any genealogy- it is the path from David and Solomon through the Kings of Judah and into and out of the Exile in Babylon. So let me give you a picture of what is happening here.
The previous verse gives you the four sons of Josiah, the last faithful King of Judah. They were, as listed: Johanan the first-born, Jehoiakim the second, Zedekiah the third, Shallum the fourth. And when Josiah died, according to the Scriptures, the nobles of Judah picked the youngest son, Shallum, to be King; and they changed his name to Jehoahaz. This name means, "Seized by God", and indeed that's just what happened. You see, Josiah died in battle with Pharaoh Necho of Egypt- a battle Necho warned Josiah that God didn't want him to fight. So when the nobles looked at the choices- perhaps Johanan was killed in battle, I have no idea but he was not considered- they saw that Eliakim (which was Jehoiakim's original name) was already a burgeoning dirtbag (more on that later) and passed by him and Mattaniah (Zedekiah's original name), and went to the youngest. Necho didn't approve of the appointment (since he didn't make it) and he returned to Jerusalem, appointed Eliakim- changing his name to reflect his subservience- and took Jehoahaz to Egypt where he died a prisoner.
So that brings in Jehoiakim, who the Jewish sources spare no words in painting as a dirtbag.
...he was a godless tyrant, committing the most atrocious sins and crimes. He lived in incestuous relations with his mother, daughter-in-law, and stepmother, and was in the habit of murdering men, whose wives he then violated and whose property he seized. His garments were of "sha'aṭneẓ," ( mixed wool and linen, which was prohibited by the Law of Moses) and in order to hide the fact that he was a Jew, he had made himself an epispasm (Think, "reverse circumcision") by means of an operation, and had tattooed his body* (Lev. R. xix. 6; Tan., Lek Leka, end; Midr. Aggadat Bereshit xlviii.; see also Sanh. 103b). He even boasted of his godlessness, saying, "My predecessors, Manasseh and Amon, did not know how they could make God most angry. But I speak openly; all that God gives us is light, and this we no longer need, since we have a kind of gold that shines just like the light; furthermore, God has given this gold to mankind [Ps. cxv. 16] and is not able to take it back again" (Sanh. l.c.).
*That tattoo was described as an idol, perhaps with the word "Heaven" over it.
Now the Jews had a discussion of how every King who was described in Scripture as "did evil in the sight of the Lord" were forbidden heaven, with the exception of those, apparently, who were saved by the worth of their sons or their own late-in-life repentance. In discussing how Jehoiakim didn't make this list somehow, the Jews said that they did not know. This will lead to another fascinating bunny trail in a bit. Jehoiakim is the King in Jeremiah who takes the scroll of Jeremiah's prophecy and cuts it up line by line and throws it in the fire; therefore, he is prophesied the "death of a donkey"- his body cast over the walls of the city when the armies of Moab, Ammon, and others take him down at Nebuchadnezzar's request. Keeping in mind this prophecy, and the casting of the scroll into the fire, let me share then the final fate of Jehoiakim, according to the Jews:
Even this shameful death, however, was not to be the end of the dead king, upon whose skull were scratched the words, "This and one more." After many centuries the skull was found by a scholar before the gates of Jerusalem; he piously buried it, but as often as he tried to cover it the earth refused to hold it. He then concluded that it was the skull of Jehoiakim, for whom Jeremiah had prophesied such an end (Jer. xxii. 18); and as he did not know what to do with it, he wrapped it in a cloth and hid it in a closet. After a time his wife found it and showed it to a neighbor, who said: "Your husband had another wife before you whom he can not forget, and therefore he keeps her skull." Thereupon the wife threw it into the fire, and when her husband returned he knew what the enigmatical words "this and one more" meant (Sanh. 82a, 104a).
Though I could not find evidence in the timeline, I saw at least one source that Jehoiakim had executed the prophet Isaiah. He had brought up the apostasy of Menasseh in his bragging- but forgot to mention Menasseh repented after being imprisoned in Babylon by the Assyrian King Esarhaddon for a time. Which brings up another interesting tidbit I found in the Sanhedrin:
These are also the proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out.1 Now, would Hezekiah king of Judah have taught the Torah to the whole world, yet not to his own son Manasseh? But all the pains he spent upon him, and all the labours he lavished upon him did not bring him back to the right path, save suffering alone, as it is written, And the Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people: but they would not hearken unto him. Wherefore the Lord brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon.2 And it is further written, And when he was in affliction, he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. And prayed unto him, and he was entreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem unto his kingdom, and Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God.3 Thus thou learnest how precious is suffering.'
I had been spending some time wondering the very question that was first asked there- is this the lesson- why it is that the best fathers (Hezekiah and Josiah) brought forth the worst monsters as sons? But I read this passage and understood that each man's choice of path is his own, and despite the Rabbis' debating of whether the son's virtue saves the father, this wasn't our point.
So with Jehoiakim dead, it was Babylon who picked the next man up, which was the son Jehoiachin- also known as Jeconiah. Jeconiah wasn't going to be long either.
Jehoiachin was made king in place of his father by Nebuchadnezzar; but the latter had hardly returned to Babylon when some one said to him, "A dog brings forth no good progeny," whereupon he recognized that it was poor policy to have Jehoiachin for king (Lev. R. xix. 6; Seder 'Olam R. xxv.).
A curious thing happens next. You see, Jehoiachin/Jeconiah is no better than his father- and Jeremiah cursed his father with a curse that will become key to where we are going...
Jer 22:30 Thus says the LORD: "Write this man down as childless, a man who shall not succeed in his days, for none of his offspring shall succeed in sitting on the throne of David and ruling again in Judah."
But it seems that at the end of things, Jeconiah had one somewhat noble deed left- and it led to a miraculous response. From my main source in this post, the Jewish Encyclopedia:
In Daphne, near Antiochia, Nebuchadnezzar received the Great Sanhedrin, to whom he announced that he would not destroy the Temple if the king were delivered up to him. When the king heard this resolution of Nebuchadnezzar he went upon the roof of the Temple, and, turning to heaven, held up the Temple keys, saying: "As you no longer consider us worthy to be your ministers, take the keys that you have entrusted to us until now." Then a miracle happened; for a fiery hand appeared and took the keys, or, as others say, the keys remained suspended in the air where the king had thrown them.
And then Nebuchadnezzar did what I'm guessing was the ultimate insult. After removing Jeconiah to Babylon in chains, he bypasses the natural succession- which would have went to Jeconiah's brother Zedekiah- and went back to the sons of Josiah, taking a third son, Mattaniah, and naming HIM Zedekiah. Zedekiah would prove not only to be a dirtbag, but a stupid dirtbag. He joined in rebellion against Babylon, which fulfilled then the prophecies of Jeremiah by bringing Jerusalem to the worst siege conditions possible- the dregs of their judgment being drained- and eventually falling. Zedekiah and sons tried to sneak out in the confusion- much as Jehoiakim apparently had in another verse- and for his troubles got to watch his sons executed before his own eyes were put out.
And while he would die in chains, Nebuchadnezzar's successor would look kindly on Jeconiah and release him and treat him as a noble in Babylon. He would go on to father Shelatiel, who would be the father of Zerubabbel the governor, who would be one of the "burning lamps" with which God re-lit the faith of the returning exiles, and be the common McGuffin in both Joseph's kingly line and Mary's blood line to Jesus. If you look at Matthew's genealogy of Jesus, you will see all of these- with the exception of the evil Jehoiakim, who according to Jeremiah's prophecy, Matthew left off his list.
And that is when it hit me. One of the commentators had mentioned that the 1 Chronicles genealogy had followed the straight succession of the kings- until it hit Josiah, who God considered the last King. All the rest were appointed either by foreign rulers, or in Jehoahaz's case, illegally. So instead of continuing a kingly genealogy, after Josiah it became a genealogy just like all the others, with many sons listed, and including daughters and Leviritic matchups.
Just like our last few 3:16s had been a hinge place for the stories surrounding it, so was this- the fold-point between the old Kingdom and the new Israel awaiting a Messiah. At that point, Israel is drug to exile in Babylon. And just as the old Israel was born in it's release from exile in Egypt, the New Israel would be born from this exile in Babylon. So it's not just a fold point. It's a birth point- and a death point.
And now, in our day, we have seen the birth point of another Israel- after a much longer exile (because of a much deeper rejection of God), we have a new iteration of Israel- but not necessarily a DIFFERENT Israel. The Book of Revelation tells us that there will be one more death-birth cycle for Israel- the last one. And the only question, the one we are watching unfold, is how shall she listen to her Prophets THIS time?