King Jehoiakim: A Lesson From Biblical History

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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), Jehoiakim turned to evil. Jeremiah described him as a presumptuous ruler who abused his own people (Jeremiah 22:13-14) and persecuted and murdered God's servants (Jeremiah 26:20-23).

God instructed Jeremiah to prophesy that, unless they repented, King Jehoiakim and Jerusalem would fall (Jeremiah 36:1-32). 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).

When the princes heard Jeremiah's prophetic words, they quickly conveyed them to Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 36:19). Then the king heard the princes' account of Jeremiah's predictions and sent an officer to bring the scroll to him (Jeremiah 36:21).

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" (Jeremiah 36:23).

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 (Jeremiah 36:27-32). 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" (Jeremiah 36:30-31).

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).