Jehoiakim, King of Judah

King Jehoiakim Reined in Judah 11 Years but His Leadership was Flawed

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Jehoiakim was Josiah's second son and the first king installed by an external world power, Egypt's Pharaoh Necho. Josiah's son, Jehoahaz, was selected by the people to reign after Josiah, but Necho had imposed a tax on Judah of nearly four tons of silver and 75 pounds of gold, which Jehoahaz refused to pay. Pharaoh Necho came up and took Jehoahaz from Jerusalem to Egypt and put him in prison, immediately ending his three-month reign. He died in prison..

Necho then put Josiah's son, Eliakim, in power. As king over Judah, his name was changed to Jehoiakim, which means 'he whom Jehovah has set up.' Jehoiakim reigned over Judah 11 years, but his leadership was seriously flawed and fraught with difficulties because of his unbelief and unfaithfulness to the Lord. Jehoiakim was 25 years old and his first act as king of Judah was to lay the financial burden on his people to pay the Pharaoh.

Jehoiakim did much evil in the sight of the Lord, like so many others who had preceded him. God sent the prophets Urijah and Jeremiah to confront Jehoiakim for his sins and to warn him. Both prophets prophesied against Jerusalem and Judah, but when Jehoiakim and his leadership heard Urijah's words, the king planned to have him executed. Urijah heard about it, and escaped to Egypt. Jehoiakim sent men to Egypt, and they brought Urijah back from Egypt to face Jehoiakim, who killed him with the sword and cast his dead body into the graves of the common people. (Jeremiah 26:20-23)

Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, came to Judah and Jehoiakim was taken as a captive in chains to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar also took vessels from the temple of the Lord and had them placed in the treasure house of his god in Babylon. It was at this time that Daniel also and his three companions were taken captive to Babylon (Daniel 1:1, 2).

Nebuchadnezzar returned Jehoiakim to Jerusalem and his throne, but treated him as a subordinate. Not long after, Jeremiah had Baruch read his prophecies in the court of the temple. Hearing of this, Jeroiakim had them also read in the royal palace in his presence. He took the scroll from Baruch, cut it in pieces and threw it into the fire. When Jeremiah heard about this, God told him to write another scroll, with some additional words, foretelling Jehoiakim's grisly death.

After three years of subjection to Babylon, Jehoiakim attempted to make Judah independent. Nebuchadnezzar sent raiding bands of Chaldeans, Syrians and Ammonites to punish this rebellion. Jehoiakim's own people apparently killed him, and threw his body over the wall to satisfy Babylon, fulfilling the words that Jeremiah had prophesied. Therefore thus says the Lord concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: “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. He shall be buried with the burial of a donkey, dragged and cast out beyond the gates of Jerusalem.”

Jehoiakim's 18-year-old son took the position of king in Judah, and time was quickly running out for what little was remaining of what once was the stronghold of Zion, God's dwelling place. (2 Kings 23:34-37; 24:1-6; 2 Chronicles 36:4-8; Jeremiah 19:4-5; 22:13, 14, 18, 19; Daniel 1:1, 2)

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Written by: Pete Miller