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Jeconiah’s Curse, an Incredible Promise, an Impossible Challenge

Jeconiah’s curse is cited as evidence by agnostics and atheists against the legitimacy of Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. Ironically, the evidence is based on Bible prophesies saying the Messiah must be born in the royal lineage of David which was then nullified by the Bible’s account of Jeconiah’s curse.[1]

Adversaries can sometimes make for strange bedfellows.  Judaism has no choice but to side with Christianity on this issue because, if the allegation is true, the Messiah from the House of David – Jesus nor anyone whom the Jews believe is yet to appear – can never be.

Setting the scene for the curse, Jehoiakim, king of Judah, drew the wrath of God for his evil ways, and his son, Jeconiah (aka Coniah or Jehoiachin), for following in his footsteps.[2] God sent the prophet Jeremiah with a message of judgment to the kingdom – death for Jehoaikim, but for Jeconiah…

Jer. 22:30 This is what the LORD says: “Record this man as if childless, a man who will not prosper in his lifetime, for none of his offspring will prosper, none will sit on the throne of David or rule any more in Judah.”(NIV)

Jeconiah was condemned to be a man as if he had no sons, nor would his descendants ever prosper or sit on the Throne of David. How did things work out for Jeconiah? He became king for all of 3 months before being taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar spending the remainder of his days in Babylonian captivity.[3] He was the last of the sitting kings in the royal succession of David. 

Eventually Jeconiah fathered sons during his Babylonian captivity, one being Salathiel.[4] His name bears witness to Jeconiah’s fate where, according to the Talmud, he was called by a name meaning to be conceived in prison while standing up.[5] Jeconiah was imprisoned 37 years – his sons grew up without him…as if he had no sons.[6]

Jewish Rabbis and the Talmud teach that God pardoned Jeconiah.[7] They point to the fact that Jeconiah was released from prison by Nebuchadnezzar’s successor, Evil-Merodach, who gave Jeconiah a seat of honor and dined with him daily.[8]

Meanwhile, Nebuchadnezzar had appointed Zedekiah as his puppet king of Israel. As brother of Jeconiah, he had learned nothing from the judgments of his father and brother spending the next decade ignoring and offending both Nebuchadnezzar and God.[9] Zedekiah even confined Jeremiah in an outdoor prison courtyard for prophesying his doom at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.[10]

In a complete reversal of family fate, Zerubbabel, “The son of Salathiel, of the posterity of David,” is called out by Josephus as a Hebrew leader of great prominence who served as a body guard for Persian King Cyrus.[11] Taking advantage of his position, Zerubbabel solicited Cyrus to allow the rebuilding of the Temple and to return the Temple vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had pillaged and astonishingly survived the Babylonian captivity and the Persian invasion.

Cyrus not only granted the request by decree, he appointed Zerubbabel as the governor to lead the Hebrews out of captivity back to Jerusalem, rebuild the city, and join the High Priest in rebuilding the Temple.[12] Through the prophet Haggai, God blessed Zerubbabel for his leadership.[13]

Zerubbabel of the royal lineage of David, grandson of King Jeconiah, is mentioned 11 times in four books of the Old Testament, one of the few Hebrew figures to receive such recognition. He is also named in both genealogies of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.[14]

Interestingly, both Jeconiah’s curse and the blessing of his grandson, Zerubbabel, each use a signet ring metaphor.  A ruler wore a unique gold signet ring bearing his name used to seal documents such a decrees – the seal being considered more authentic than a signature:[15]

Jer. 22:24 “”As surely as I live,” declares the LORD, “even if you, Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, were a signet ring on my right hand, I would still pull you off.”(NIV)

Hag. 2:23 “‘On that day,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the LORD Almighty.”(NIV)

Strongest of the evidence that Jeconiah’s curse was forgiven by God can be seen through two prophecies issued by Jeremiah as demonstrated by their timing closely after issuing the curse. Just five verses later, Jeremiah’s next prophecy makes clear David’s royal lineage had not ended. God explicitly promised that another King would arise from the Branch of David:

Jer 23:5 “”Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land.”(NASB)

During his outdoor imprisionment by Zedekiah, God again spoke to Jeremiah saying that Israel and Judah would be restored. The prophet issued his second Branch of David prophecy where God said the throne of David would never end:

Jer. 33:14-15 “‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfil the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. ‘In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land.’”

v.17 “For this is what the LORD says: ‘David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, …”(NIV)

Emphasizing the trustworthiness of His incredible promise to Israel and Judah that He would raise up a Branch from the House of David, God issued an impossible challenge:

Jer. 33:20-21 “”Thus says the LORD, ‘If you can break My covenant for the day and My covenant for the night, so that day and night will not be at their appointed time, then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant so that he will not have a son to reign on his throne…”(NASB)

The impossible challenge:  if anyone can change God’s fixed laws of nature such as the rising and setting of the Sun, only then should anyone worry about God breaking His promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and King David.[16] Putting it in those terms, how likely is it that “Jeconiah’s curse” disqualified the “Righteous Branch,” the Messiah, from coming forth in the royal line of David?

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REFERENCES:
[1] Willruth, Bart. “The Gospel of Matthew Debunks the Messiahship of Jesus.” Debunking Christianity. 2009. <http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2009/06/gospel-of-matthew-debunks-messiahship.html>  Lippard, Jim. “The Fabulous Prophecies Of The Messiah.” Atheist Community of Austin. 1993. <https://atheist-community.org/resources/online-articles/145-the-fabulous-prophecies-of-the-messiah>
[2] Jeremiah 22.  Net.bible.org. Jeremiah 22:24 notes. CR Jeremiah 24, 27-29, 52; 1 Chronicles 3; 2 Chronicles 36; Esther 2; 2 Kings 24, 25; Ezekiel 1.
[3] 2 Kings 24.
[4] I Chronicles 3.
[5] Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Isidore Epstein. 1935-1948. Sanhedrin 37b-38a. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/talmud/index.html
[6] Jeremiah 52.
[7] Isaiah 9:, 11.  Jehoiachin.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2017. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8543-jeconiah>  “The Problem of the Curse on Jeconiah in Relation to the Genealogy of Jesus.” Jews for Jesus. 2018. <https://jewsforjesus.org/answers/the-problem-of-the-curse-on-jeconiah-in-relation-to-the-genealogy-of-jesus-issues-prophecy>
[8] Jeremiah 52; 2 Kings 25. Rashi, Shlomo Yitzchaki. The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Yirmiyahu – Jeremiah 22:24 commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16019#showrashi=true>
[9] Jeremiah 52; Chronicles 36.
[10] II Chronicles 36; Jeremiah 27, 29, 37. Bakon, Shimon.  “Zedekiah:  The Last King of Judah”, Jewish Bible Quarterly. Vol. 36, No. 2, 2008.   <http://jbq.jewishbible.org/assets/Uploads/362/362_zedekiah.pdf
[11] Haggai 1-2. Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Book XI, Chapters I, III-IV. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>  “Zerubbabel.”  Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011. “Zerubbabel.”  Jewish Virtual Library. 2014. “Zerubbabel.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online. 2018. <http://www.internationalstandardbible.com/Z/zerubbabel.html
[12] Ezra 1, 6.
[13] Haggai 2.
[14] I Chronicles 3; Nehemiah 12; Ezra 3, 5; Haggai. 1, 2; Matthew 1; Luke 3.  “Zerubbabel.”  Jewish Encyclopedia.  “Zerubbabel.” Jewish Virtual Library. Josephus. Antiquities.  Book XI, Chapter III (spelled Zorobabel).
[15] “A brief history of signet rings.” The History Press. 2018. < https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/articles/a-brief-history-of-signet-rings > Davis, Ashley. “The History Behind … Signet Rings.” National Jeweler. 2018. < https://www.nationaljeweler.com/fashion/antique-estate-jewelry/4637-the-history-behind-signet-rings-2 >
[16] Irenaeus of Lyons. Against Heresies. Book III, Chapters XXI, XXII. Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume I.  Christian Classics Ethereal Library. 2005. <http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.iv.html>

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