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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 (Jeremiah 22:13-14 Jeremiah 22:13-14 13 Woe to him that builds his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that uses his neighbor’s service without wages, and gives him not for his work; 14 That said, I will build me a wide house and large chambers, and cuts him out windows; and it is paneled with cedar, and painted with vermilion.
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) 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 36:1-32 Jeremiah 36:1-32 1 And it came to pass in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 2 Take you a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah, even to this day. 3 It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do to them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin. 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. 8 And Baruch the son of Neriah did according to all that Jeremiah the prophet commanded him, reading in the book the words of the LORD in the LORD’s house. 9 And it came to pass in the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, in the ninth month, that they proclaimed a fast before the LORD to all the people in Jerusalem, and to all the people that came from the cities of Judah to Jerusalem. 10 Then read Baruch in the book the words of Jeremiah in the house of the LORD, in the chamber of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the scribe, in the higher court, at the entry of the new gate of the LORD’s house, in the ears of all the people. 11 When Michaiah the son of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan, had heard out of the book all the words of the LORD, 12 Then he went down into the king’s house, into the scribe’s chamber: and, see, all the princes sat there, even Elishama the scribe, and Delaiah the son of Shemaiah, and Elnathan the son of Achbor, and Gemariah the son of Shaphan, and Zedekiah the son of Hananiah, and all the princes. 13 Then Michaiah declared to them all the words that he had heard, when Baruch read the book in the ears of the people. 14 Therefore all the princes sent Jehudi the son of Nethaniah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Cushi, to Baruch, saying, Take in your hand the roll wherein you have read in the ears of the people, and come. So Baruch the son of Neriah took the roll in his hand, and came to them. 15 And they said to him, Sit down now, and read it in our ears. So Baruch read it in their ears. 16 Now it came to pass, when they had heard all the words, they were afraid both one and other, and said to Baruch, We will surely tell the king of all these words. 17 And they asked Baruch, saying, Tell us now, How did you write all these words at his mouth? 18 Then Baruch answered them, He pronounced all these words to me with his mouth, and I wrote them with ink in the book. 19 Then said the princes to Baruch, Go, hide you, you and Jeremiah; and let no man know where you be. 20 And they went in to the king into the court, but they laid up the roll in the chamber of Elishama the scribe, and told all the words in the ears of the king. 21 So the king sent Jehudi to fetch the roll: and he took it out of Elishama the scribe’s chamber. And Jehudi read it in the ears of the king, and in the ears of all the princes which stood beside the king. 22 Now the king sat in the winter house in the ninth month: and there was a fire on the hearth burning before him. 23 And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth. 24 Yet they were not afraid, nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all these words. 25 Nevertheless Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah had made intercession to the king that he would not burn the roll: but he would not hear them. 26 But the king commanded Jerahmeel the son of Hammelech, and Seraiah the son of Azriel, and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel, to take Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet: but the LORD hid them. 27 Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, after that the king had burned the roll, and the words which Baruch wrote at the mouth of Jeremiah, saying, 28 Take you again another roll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned. 29 And you shall say to Jehoiakim king of Judah, Thus said the LORD; You have burned this roll, saying, Why have you written therein, saying, The king of Babylon shall certainly come and destroy this land, and shall cause to cease from there man and beast? 30 Therefore thus said the LORD of Jehoiakim king of Judah; He shall have none to sit on the throne of David: and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost. 31 And I will punish him and his seed and his servants for their iniquity; and I will bring on them, and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and on the men of Judah, all the evil that I have pronounced against them; but they listened not. 32 Then took Jeremiah another roll, and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah; who wrote therein from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire: and there were added besides to them many like words.
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). 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 (Jeremiah 36:21 Jeremiah 36:21So the king sent Jehudi to fetch the roll: and he took it out of Elishama the scribe’s chamber. And Jehudi read it in the ears of the king, and in the ears of all the princes which stood beside the king.
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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” (Jeremiah 36:23 Jeremiah 36:23And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth.
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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 (Jeremiah 36:27-32 Jeremiah 36:27-32 27 Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, after that the king had burned the roll, and the words which Baruch wrote at the mouth of Jeremiah, saying, 28 Take you again another roll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned. 29 And you shall say to Jehoiakim king of Judah, Thus said the LORD; You have burned this roll, saying, Why have you written therein, saying, The king of Babylon shall certainly come and destroy this land, and shall cause to cease from there man and beast? 30 Therefore thus said the LORD of Jehoiakim king of Judah; He shall have none to sit on the throne of David: and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost. 31 And I will punish him and his seed and his servants for their iniquity; and I will bring on them, and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and on the men of Judah, all the evil that I have pronounced against them; but they listened not. 32 Then took Jeremiah another roll, and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah; who wrote therein from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire: and there were added besides to them many like words.
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). 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” (Jeremiah 36:30-31 Jeremiah 36:30-31 30 Therefore thus said the LORD of Jehoiakim king of Judah; He shall have none to sit on the throne of David: and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost. 31 And I will punish him and his seed and his servants for their iniquity; and I will bring on them, and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and on the men of Judah, all the evil that I have pronounced against them; but they listened not.
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).

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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