Jeremiah – (Don’t Kill) the Messenger

Jeremiah was tasked by God to deliver bad news to kings and the people of Jerusalem at a time when it was not out of the question to kill the messenger if the news was not welcome.[1] It didn’t matter that sprinkled in were reassuring prophecies about the coming Messiah and the regathering in Jerusalem of the scattered, broken nation.

First, while Josiah was king of Judah, Jeremiah’s prophecy foretold Jerusalem would meet the judgement of total destruction – some taken captive, many killed and treasures lost – because the people willfully and repeatedly broke the Covenant they agreed to uphold when God gave it to them at Mt. Sinai.[2] Death plots, even by his own family, were in play to kill Jeremiah.[3]

Chief of security for the priests, Passhur, had Jeremiah flogged and put in stocks near the Temple.[4] Jeremiah forewarned Passhur the manner of his death and that of his family, specifically by “the king of Babylon,” would strike terror in his friends.[5]

Continuing their defiance and evil ways, such as sex with pagan gods and sacrificing their own children to them, drew the wrath of God setting the scene for the curse of Jeconiah (aka Jehoiachin).[6] God’s message to both Jeconiah and his father Jehoiakim, son of Josiah and now king of Judah – death for Jehoaikim and for Jechoniah, it would be like he was childless, his children would not prosper and none would sit on the throne of David.[7]

Just five verses later, Jeremiah makes clear that in-spite-of Jeconiah’s curse, David’s royal lineage had not ended.[8] God explicitly promised another king would be raised up 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)

Nebuchadnezzar’s army attacked Jerusalem fulfilling the prophecy wreaking havoc and destruction while taking captives.[9] One of those captives with special skills and pedigree was indeed King Jeconiah…and another future high-profile Biblical figure – Daniel.[10]

Over the next 10 years, Nebuchadnezzar’s puppet king, Zedekiah, learned nothing from the judgment of his father and brother continuing to ignore and offend both King Nebuchadnezzar and God.[11] Having had enough, Nebuchadnezzar took action against Jerusalem once again.

Meanwhile, Irijah, captain of the Guards in Jerusalem, accused Jeremiah of being a traitor and was arrested, tried, flogged and thrown into a dungeon.[12] Jeremiah’s nemesis, Pashhur, along with three others approached Zedekiah advising the King that the prophet should be killed because his prophecies were demoralizing the troops.[13] The King allowed them to do as they wanted with Jeremiah whereupon the prophet was lowered into an old cistern deep with mud and left to starve to death.[14]

Ebed Melech, an Ethiopian official at the palace, heard of Jeremiah’s plight. While Zedekiah was conducting royal business at the Benjamin Gate away from the strict protocols of the palace, Ebed took the opportunity to inform the King. Zedekiah quietly instructed Ebed how to secretly rescue the prophet from the cistern. Jeremiah was then moved to an outdoor prison yard and given a scarce daily ration of bread.[15]

Zedekiah came to realize the truthfulness of Jeremiah’s prophecies when Nebuchadnezzar again besieged Jerusalem. The King secretly questioned the prophet seeking his guidance, but it was too late.[16] The King was given a choice – surrender to the Babylonians and live, or fight and die.[17]

During his confinement, to address worries that God had rejected Israel and Judah, God sent another message that the throne of David would never end. Jeremiah foretold that the nations would one day be regathered and restored while issuing a second Branch of David prophecy:

Jer. 33:14-15, 17 “‘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… For thus says the LORD, ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel…” (NASB)

A hundred years earlier, Isaiah had prophesied about “My Servant” who would sprout out of dry ground.[18] A century after Jeremiah’s Branch prophecy, the prophet Zechariah identified “My Servant” as “the Branch,” twice prophesying he would come to rebuild the Temple and rule from his throne:

Zech 3:8 “‘Listen, O high priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch.’”(NIV)

Zech 6:12-13 “Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD. It is he who will build the temple of the LORD, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’”(NIV)

Renowned Jewish sage Rabbi Maimonides identified “the Branch” as the Messiah citing Zechariah 6:12 further validating Jeremiah’s two Branch prophecies. Maimonides also cited from the Isaiah 52-53 parashah verses 52:15 and 53:3 as prophecies about the Messiah building a prophetic profile that the Messiah is “My Servant” who would be called “the Branch.”[19]

Remaining imprisoned in the court yard during the seige, Jeremiah was finally rescued by none other King Nebuchadnezzar! His renowned reputation as a prophet had become known to the Babylonian King.[20] Nebuchadnezzar ordered his top commander, Nebuzaradan, to find Jeremiah during their attack of Jerusalem, protect him and do whatever he asked.[21] Jeremiah was released in Gedaliah, given food and a gift.[22]

Emphasizing the trustworthiness of His promise to Israel and Judah, God did not offer a typical promise with a limited guarantee or a warranty – it was unconditionally ironclad:

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, and with the Levitical priests, My ministers.” (NASB)

Jer. 33:25-26 “”Thus says the LORD, ‘If My covenant for day and night stand not, and the fixed patterns of heaven and earth I have not established, then I would reject the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, not taking from his descendants rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.’” (NASB)

An indisputable analogy was used as assurance of God’s promise – if anyone can change the fixed laws of nature that He created, such as the rising and setting of the Sun, only then should anyone worry about God breaking his promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David.

The Book of Jeremiah provided many detailed prophecies to consider, many that came true in a single lifetime – are the future promises of God issued through Jeremiah reliable prophecies about the Messiah and the regathering of Judah and Israel back in Jerusalem?


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REFERENCES:

[1] Jeremiah 1; 37:17;
[2] Jeremiah 3:6; chapters 1-15.
[3] Jeremiah 11-12.
[4] Jeremiah 17-18, 20, 26.
[5] Jeremiah 20:4-6. “Jehoiakim.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8562-jehoiakim>  “Jehoiachin.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8543-jeconiah>
[6] CR II Chronicles 36:11-14; Jeremiah 3:2; 7:22-26, 31.
[7] CR Jeremiah 36:30-32.
[8] Irenaeus of Lyons. Against Heresies. Philip Schaf, ed. Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume I. 2005.  Early Christina Writings. Book III, Chapter XXI.9-10, Chapter XXII.1-4.  <http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/irenaeus-book3.html>
[9] Jeremiah 24; 29; Daniel 1:4.
[10] Daniel 1.
[11] Chronicles 36:12; Jeremiah 27:20; 32:2; 37:1-2.  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>
[12] Jeremiah 37:13-16; 38:6, 13, 24-28.
[13] Jeremiah 38:1-6.
[14] Jeremiah 14:3; 38:5-6, 9.
[15] Jeremiah 37:21.
[16] Jeremiah 37:17; 38:14. CR 37:3-10.
[17] Jeremiah 38:17.
[18] Isaiah 53:2.
[19] Neubauer, Adolf, and Driver, Samuel Rolles.  The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. 1877. Moses Maimonides.  “Letter to the South (Yemen).” pp 374-375. <http://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=advent&f=false>
[20] Jeremiah 40:2-3.
[21] Jeremiah 39:11-4; 40:1, 43:6.
[22] Jeremiah 40:5.

 

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 imprisonment 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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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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>