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King Jehoiakim

A Lesson From Biblical History

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Early in the sixth century B.C., one who literally “destroyed” the Word of God and paid dearly for his arrogance was Jehoiakim, king of Judah.

Jehoiakim's 11-year reign was disastrous. Although he had opportunity to follow his father Josiah's righteous example (Jeremiah 22:15-16 Jeremiah 22:15-16 15 Shall you reign, because you close yourself in cedar? did not your father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him? 16 He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know me? said the LORD.
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), Jehoiakim turned to evil. Jeremiah described him as a presumptuous ruler who abused his own people (verses 13-14) and persecuted and murdered God's servants (Jeremiah 26:20-23 Jeremiah 26:20-23 20 And there was also a man that prophesied in the name of the LORD, Urijah the son of Shemaiah of Kirjathjearim, who prophesied against this city and against this land according to all the words of Jeremiah. 21 And when Jehoiakim the king, with all his mighty men, and all the princes, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death: but when Urijah heard it, he was afraid, and fled, and went into Egypt; 22 And Jehoiakim the king sent men into Egypt, namely, Elnathan the son of Achbor, and certain men with him into Egypt. 23 And they fetched forth Urijah out of Egypt, and brought him to Jehoiakim the king; who slew him with the sword, and cast his dead body into the graves of the common people.
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God instructed Jeremiah to prophesy that, unless they repented, King Jehoiakim and Jerusalem would fall (Jeremiah 36). Jeremiah had God's words recorded by his scribe, Baruch, and instructed him to read those prophecies to the people of Judah. God hoped they would repent and avoid their prophesied downfall (Jeremiah 36:4-7 Jeremiah 36:4-7 4 Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah: and Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the LORD, which he had spoken to him, on a roll of a book. 5 And Jeremiah commanded Baruch, saying, I am shut up; I cannot go into the house of the LORD: 6 Therefore go you, and read in the roll, which you have written from my mouth, the words of the LORD in the ears of the people in the LORD’s house on the fasting day: and also you shall read them in the ears of all Judah that come out of their cities. 7 It may be they will present their supplication before the LORD, and will return every one from his evil way: for great is the anger and the fury that the LORD has pronounced against this people.
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When the princes heard Jeremiah's prophetic words, they quickly conveyed them to Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 36:19 Jeremiah 36:19Then said the princes to Baruch, Go, hide you, you and Jeremiah; and let no man know where you be.
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). Then the king heard the princes' account of Jeremiah's predictions and sent an officer to bring the scroll to him (verse 21).

Jehoiakim commanded the officer to read aloud from the scroll. After the man read several columns, the king would cut away that part of the scroll, then contemptuously toss it into the fire burning in the hearth before him. The king continued “until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth” (verse 23).

Jehoiakim apparently thought he was accountable to no one. But God would have the last word.

He instructed Jeremiah to prepare another scroll like the first (verses 27-32). God reserved strong words for Jehoiakim: “He shall have no one to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat of the day and the frost of the night. I will punish him, his family, and his servants for their iniquity; and I will bring on them, on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and on the men of Judah all the doom that I have pronounced against them; but they did not heed” (verses 30-31).

Sadly, Jehoiakim persisted in his defiance and suffered the consequences. Defeated by the Babylonians and dragged away in chains, he apparently died on his way to or in captivity in Babylon.

The lesson of King Jehoiakim applies to all leaders and all peoples: He who would attempt to destroy God's Word puts himself in great danger. Man cannot arrogantly challenge God with impunity. God's Word is the foundation of all knowledge, and, unlike mortal man, it will endure forever (1 Peter 1:24-25 1 Peter 1:24-25 24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass wither, and the flower thereof falls away: 25 But the word of the Lord endures for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached to you.
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