Message Regarding the New King
When Josiah's son Jehoiakim died in 598 B.C. after an evil reign of 11 years (2 Kings 23:36-37 2 Kings 23:36-37  Jehoiakim was twenty and five years old when he began to reign; and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Zebudah, the daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah.
 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his fathers had done.
American King James Version×; 2 Chronicles 36:5 2 Chronicles 36:5Jehoiakim was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD his God.
American King James Version×), Jehoiakim's son Jehoiachin—also known as Jeconiah (1 Chronicles 3:16-17 1 Chronicles 3:16-17  And the sons of Jehoiakim: Jeconiah his son, Zedekiah his son.  And the sons of Jeconiah; Assir, Salathiel his son,
American King James Version×; Jeremiah 28:4 Jeremiah 28:4And I will bring again to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, with all the captives of Judah, that went into Babylon, said the LORD: for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.
American King James Version×; 29:2; Matthew 1:11-12 Matthew 1:11-12  And Josias begat Jechonias and his brothers, about the time they were carried away to Babylon:  And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel;
American King James Version×) or simply Coniah (Jeremiah 22:24 Jeremiah 22:24As I live, said the LORD, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet on my right hand, yet would I pluck you there;
American King James Version×, Jeremiah 22:28 Jeremiah 22:28Is this man Coniah a despised broken idol? is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? why are they cast out, he and his seed, and are cast into a land which they know not?
American King James Version×)—was crowned king of Judah.
But here we encounter what appears to be a contradiction. The Chronicles version of the story says that Jeconiah was eight years old when he began to reign, whereas the 2 Kings version says eighteen. Which was it? The archaeological and biblical evidence proves that he had to be much older than eight at the time he took over the rule of Judah and reigned for three months (from December 598 through March 597 B.C.). For he had at least five children while a captive in Babylon only five years later, as mentioned on a Babylonian ration receipt (see Expositor's Bible Commentary, notes on 2 Chronicles 36:7 2 Chronicles 36:7Nebuchadnezzar also carried of the vessels of the house of the LORD to Babylon, and put them in his temple at Babylon.
American King James Version×, 2 Chronicles 36:9 2 Chronicles 36:9Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.
American King James Version×). And "the scriptural descriptions of Jehoiachin seem to represent him as a mature young man (Jeremiah 22:24-30; Ezekiel 19:6)" (Nelson Study Bible, note on 2 Kings 24:8 2 Kings 24:8Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. And his mother's name was Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem.
American King James Version×).
The answer is probably fairly simple. Jeconiah was no doubt 18 when he succeeded his father in 598 B.C. Ten years earlier, at the age of 8 in 608 B.C., his father must have installed him as coregent—probably just in name rather than critical function, so as to perpetuate the dynasty in the event the whirlwind of events removed Jehoiakim from the throne (as Jehoiakim's brother Jehoahaz had been removed the previous year, 609 B.C.). A coregency of Jehoiakim and Jeconiah could explain why Jeremiah addresses the "kings" of Judah in Jeremiah 17:19-20 Jeremiah 17:19-20  Thus said the LORD to me; Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, whereby the kings of Judah come in, and by the which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem;
 And say to them, Hear you the word of the LORD, you kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that enter in by these gates:
American King James Version×. But as Jeconiah likely assumed no actual power until his father died, he is credited with a reign of only the three months rather than 10 years.
As king, Jeconiah follows in the footsteps of his father—continuing in evil rather than turning to God (even though Nebuchadnezzar is in the process of mobilizing his forces against Jerusalem during Jeconiah's entire three-month reign, as we will later see). Since Jeconiah's mother Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem, is mentioned prominently, including the fact that she would and later did suffer deportation with her son (2 Kings 24:8 2 Kings 24:8Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. And his mother's name was Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem.
American King James Version×, 2 Kings 24:12 2 Kings 24:12And Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign.
American King James Version×; Jeremiah 22:26-27 Jeremiah 22:26-27  And I will cast you out, and your mother that bore you, into another country, where you were not born; and there shall you die.  But to the land whereunto they desire to return, thither shall they not return.
American King James Version×; Jeremiah 29:2 Jeremiah 29:2(After that Jeconiah the king, and the queen, and the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the carpenters, and the smiths, were departed from Jerusalem;)
American King James Version×; Jeremiah 13:18 Jeremiah 13:18Say to the king and to the queen, Humble yourselves, sit down: for your principalities shall come down, even the crown of your glory.
American King James Version×), it seems likely that she wields considerable influence over the young ruler. As earlier noted, Nehushta's father is probably the same Elnathan mentioned elsewhere as the son of Achbor, the official in the administration of Jehoiakim who apprehended Urijah the prophet but later tried to talk Jehoiakim out of burning the scroll of Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 26:21-23 Jeremiah 26:21-23  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;  And Jehoiakim the king sent men into Egypt, namely, Elnathan the son of Achbor, and certain men with him into Egypt.  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.
American King James Version×, Jeremiah 36:12 Jeremiah 36:12Then 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.
American King James Version×, Jeremiah 36:25 Jeremiah 36:25Nevertheless Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah had made intercession to the king that he would not burn the roll: but he would not hear them.
American King James Version×).
In Jeremiah 22, God's message regarding Jeconiah quickly moves from third person (verse 24a) to second person—addressing the king directly (verses 24b-26). God tells Jeconiah that even if he were the signet ring on God's right hand, "the most important private possession bearing the owner's mark and authority" (New Bible Commentary, note on verses 24-30), God would still pluck him off and hand him over to others. Continued rebellion against God by Judah's rulers would be tolerated no longer. Jeconiah and his mother would soon be carried captive to Babylon (verses 25-26). Switching back to third person in verse 27, we are told that "they"—Jeconiah and his mother—will not return to the land of Judah.
In verse 28, Jeconiah is described as a "broken idol." The Jews idolized their Davidic ruler, likely expecting him to save them from the Babylonians. Yet Jeconiah himself would be taken captive to Babylon. In verse 30, God declares him "childless"—which is qualified by what follows, as Jeconiah actually had seven sons (1 Chronicles 3:17-18 1 Chronicles 3:17-18  And the sons of Jeconiah; Assir, Salathiel his son,
 Malchiram also, and Pedaiah, and Shenazar, Jecamiah, Hoshama, and Nedabiah.
American King James Version×; compare Matthew 1:12 Matthew 1:12And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel;
American King James Version×). Indeed, in the same verse God says Jeconiah would have "descendants" (Jeremiah 22:30 Jeremiah 22:30Thus said the LORD, Write you this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.
American King James Version×). But they, like him, would not "prosper" as a king. They were, in effect, banned from the throne of David. Thus, it was only in regard to the throne that Jeconiah was to be regarded as childless.
It should be mentioned that though Jesus Christ, the ultimate heir of David's throne, "was lineally descended from Jeconiah [see Matthew 1], it was only through Joseph, who, though His legal, was not His real father. Matthew gives the legal pedigree through Solomon down to Joseph; Luke the real pedigree, from Mary, the real parent, through Nathan, brother of Solomon, upwards (Luke 3:31 Luke 3:31Which was the son of Melea, which was the son of Menan, which was the son of Mattatha, which was the son of Nathan, which was the son of David,
American King James Version×)" (Jamieson, Fausset & Brown's Commentary, note on Jeremiah 22:29-30 Jeremiah 22:29-30  O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD.  Thus said the LORD, Write you this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.
American King James Version×). We will look more closely at these genealogies later in the Beyond Today Bible Commentary.
"Woe to the Shepherds"
While Jeremiah 23 may constitute a separate prophecy, it is also possible that it follows right on from chapter 22. Chapter 22 decried the three failed Davidic rulers who followed Josiah, ending with Jeconiah. Chapter 23 begins with a message of "woe to the shepherds," the leaders, of God's "sheep," His people (verse 1), and then speaks of the future King of the line of David who finally will save Judah and set things right (verses 5-8).
In verses 1-2 the leaders, both civil and religious, bear a huge responsibility for driving God's people away from Him, which is why the people are driven from the land and scattered into distant parts. The leaders have failed to "attend to" or take care of the people—so God will take care of them (that is, in an altogether different sense). The prophet Ezekiel would later convey a very similar message from God concerning the wayward shepherds of His people (see Ezekiel 34).
Verses 3-8 of Jeremiah 23 are parallel with Jeremiah 3:14-18 Jeremiah 3:14-18  Turn, O backsliding children, said the LORD; for I am married to you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:
 And I will give you pastors according to my heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.
 And it shall come to pass, when you be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, said the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more.
 At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart.
 In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance to your fathers.
American King James Version×. Eventually, God would gather a "remnant" of His flock, bringing them "back to their folds," and appoint new, caring shepherds for them (verses 3-4). This would be fulfilled in part when a small remnant of the Jewish people later returned from Babylonian captivity—the shepherds being Ezra, Nehemiah, Zerubbabel and others. There would be a later fulfillment through the Church of God as the "remnant according to the election of grace" (Romans 11:5 Romans 11:5Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
American King James Version×)—the shepherds being Jesus Christ and His true ministers (the word "pastor" actually means shepherd). And, of course, the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy is when Jesus Christ takes over the world at His return, when all people—including a regathered Israel—will be governed and taught by Him, His glorified saints and spiritually converted human leaders.
In Jeremiah 23:5 Jeremiah 23:5Behold, the days come, said the LORD, that I will raise to David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.
American King James Version×, the "Branch" from David's genealogical tree is the Messiah, Jesus Christ (see also Jeremiah 33:14-16 Jeremiah 33:14-16  Behold, the days come, said the LORD, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.  In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up to David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land.  In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name with which she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness.
American King James Version×; Isaiah 4:2 Isaiah 4:2In that day shall the branch of the LORD be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel.
American King James Version×; Isaiah 11:1-5 Isaiah 11:1-5  And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:  And the spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;  And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:  But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.  And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
American King James Version×; Zechariah 3:8 Zechariah 3:8Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you, and your fellows that sit before you: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH.
American King James Version×; Zechariah 6:12 Zechariah 6:12And speak to him, saying, Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD:
American King James Version×). The mention of both Judah and Israel in Jeremiah 23:6-7 Jeremiah 23:6-7  In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.  Therefore, behold, the days come, said the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD lives, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;
American King James Version×makes it clear that this is an end-time prophecy—referring exclusively to the return of Christ in power and glory to rule all nations. Verses 7-8 explain that the great "Second Exodus" of the house of Israel (compare Jeremiah 3:18 Jeremiah 3:18In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance to your fathers.
American King James Version×; Isaiah 11:11-16 Isaiah 11:11-16  And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.  And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.  The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.  But they shall fly on the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west; they shall spoil them of the east together: they shall lay their hand on Edom and Moab; and the children of Ammon shall obey them.  And the LORD shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea; and with his mighty wind shall he shake his hand over the river, and shall smite it in the seven streams, and make men go over with dry sandals.  And there shall be an highway for the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria; like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt.
American King James Version×) will surpass even the ancient Exodus from Egypt (compare Jeremiah 16:14-15 Jeremiah 16:14-15  Therefore, behold, the days come, said the LORD, that it shall no more be said, The LORD lives, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;  But, The LORD lives, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands where he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave to their fathers.
American King James Version×). This is certainly not referring to the small Jewish return from Babylonian captivity in the sixth century B.C. Instead, it is clearly speaking of a great and awesome return that is yet future.
The rest of Jeremiah 23 contains a scathing denunciation of the religious shepherds of God's people: "For both prophet and priest are profane" (verse 11). The same is true today. The word "prophet," it should be pointed out, can simply mean preacher, especially in the New Testament. In other words, "prophet" refers to those who foretell the future and those who forthtell God's truth—that is, who preach and teach it according to His direction. Yet not all who claim to represent God actually do—in fact, most don't.
There is one true God, who reveals divine truth, and calls a relatively few to be His followers, prophets and ministers. But the world has always been filled with many counterfeit and alternative religions and religious leaders. If a false religion teaches some good values and good works, it is still damaging in an overall sense because any false religion ultimately deprives its followers of a genuinely committed and close relationship with God and the one path that leads to eternal life. Compounding the evil is the utter blasphemy and disgrace of leaders who claim to represent God while setting examples of corrupt and immoral behavior, implying that such conduct is God's nature or that it is acceptable to Him. God is outraged when people claim to be His spokesmen when they are anything but—living and preaching totally contrary to His will (compare Matthew 15:1-9 Matthew 15:1-9  Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
 Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
 But he answered and said to them, Why do you also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
 For God commanded, saying, Honor your father and mother: and, He that curses father or mother, let him die the death.
 But you say, Whoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatever you might be profited by me;
 And honor not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have you made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
 You hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
 This people draws near to me with their mouth, and honors me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
American King James Version×).
Beginning with Jeremiah 23:9 Jeremiah 23:9My heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine has overcome, because of the LORD, and because of the words of his holiness.
American King James Version×, Jeremiah's conscientious character and compassionate personality are shown. He reels in shock and misery as if drunk at the harmful message of the false prophets and because of the judgment God has proclaimed for his countrymen. Terrible droughts continue (compare verse 10; Jeremiah 12:4; Jeremiah 14:1-6 Jeremiah 14:1-6  The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the dearth.  Judah mourns, and the gates thereof languish; they are black to the ground; and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up.  And their nobles have sent their little ones to the waters: they came to the pits, and found no water; they returned with their vessels empty; they were ashamed and confounded, and covered their heads.  Because the ground is beat down, for there was no rain in the earth, the plowmen were ashamed, they covered their heads.  Yes, the hind also calved in the field, and forsook it, because there was no grass.  And the wild asses did stand in the high places, they snuffed up the wind like dragons; their eyes did fail, because there was no grass.
American King James Version×) because the land, Jeremiah says, "is full of adulterers" (verse 10). And no wonder, for the spiritual leaders themselves "commit adultery" (verse 14). "This term could apply to those who practiced immoral sexual behavior, those who committed spiritual adultery by pursuing other gods, and those who were involved in cultic prostitution" (Nelson Study Bible, note on verses 9-10).
The deplorable situation God addresses here through Jeremiah certainly existed in the prophet's day—and the message was clearly applicable to that time. But there are indications that the message was also, even primarily, for the end time. While "the year of their punishment" (verse 12) may have referred in part to the year of ancient Jerusalem's fall, 586 B.C., the primary fulfillment, we may ascertain from verse 20, was to come in "the latter days." Surprisingly, the end-time year of punishment usually refers to the final Day of the Lord, after the time of "Jacob's trouble" (30:7), when God punishes the enemies of Israel. Perhaps God views the false prophets in Jeremiah 23, who represent spiritual Babylon, as Israel's enemies. Verse 12 may mean that they will suffer through the darkness of the Great Tribulation to meet with final disaster in the Day of the Lord. In verse 20, God says that we would understand all of this perfectly in the latter days (other translations say "clearly"). But do we—even though it appears we are in the latter days? Verse 20 seems more likely to mean that after these things are actually fulfilled in the latter days, then we will understand perfectly.
Part of Jeremiah 23:15 Jeremiah 23:15Therefore thus said the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land.
American King James Version×is a reiteration of Jeremiah 9:15 Jeremiah 9:15Therefore thus said the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will feed them, even this people, with wormwood, and give them water of gall to drink.
American King James Version×, where God decreed punishment for following false religion (see verses 13-14). And the false prophets are the source of this abomination.
The false prophets basically told the people what they wanted to hear, which was, "You shall have peace" (verse 17). The people did not appreciate Jeremiah telling them otherwise—and people still don't want to hear what God actually says. Ironically, this runs counter to the main reason for prophecy. Verse 22 highlights an important truth: the primary purpose of a prophet of God was not to merely foretell the future, but to turn the hearers "from their evil way and from the evil of their doings." Instead, these prophets shamefully "cause [God's] people to err by their lies and by their recklessness" (verse 32)—shrugging off any damage they may be doing. Rather than delivering God's messages, they "steal [God's] words every one from his neighbor" (verse 30). That is, they plagiarize each other and often take God's actual words (those in Scripture being the prime example) and twist them to suit their own messages.
From verse 33 to the end of the chapter, God is warning them not to mock Jeremiah, sarcastically asking him, "What is the sad news from God today?" Jeremiah's experiences are sobering because they give us insight into the hostile resistance God's Church can anticipate as its end-time warning message becomes stronger and more and more people become aware of it.