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b.c. 608-597

2 Kings xxiii. 36-xxiv. 7

"But those things that are recorded of him, and of his uncleanness and impiety, are written in the Chronicles of the Kings."—1 Esdras i. 42.

"When Jehoiakim succeeded to the throne, he said, 'My predecessors knew not how to provoke God.'"—Sanhedrin, f. 103, 2.

"There is no strange handwriting on the wall,

Through all the midnight hum no threatening call,

Nor on the marble floor the stealthy fall

Of fatal footsteps. All is safe.—Thou fool,

The avenging deities are shod with wool!"

W. Allen Butler.

Eliakim succeeded to the throne at the age of twenty-five under very unenviable circumstances—as a nominal king, a helpless nominee and tributary of the Pharaoh. He seems to have been thoroughly distasteful to the people; and if we may judge from the fact that Ezekiel frankly ignores him and passes from Jehoahaz to Jehoachin, he was regarded as a tax-gathering usurper nominated by an alien tyrant. For after speaking of Jehoahaz, Ezekiel says,—

417"Now when she [Judah] saw that she had waited [for the restoration of Jehoahaz], and her hope was lost,
Then she took another of her whelps;765765   Not Jehoiakim, but Jehoiachin, as the sequel shows.
A young lion she made him.
He went up and down among the lions;
He became a young lion."766766   Ezek. xix. 5-9. The allusions to Jehoiakim by Jeremiah are numerous, and all unfavourable (xxii. 13-19, xxvi. 20-23, xxxvi. 20-31, etc.)

The historian says that Necho turned the name of Eliakim ("God will establish") to Jehoiakim ("Jehovah will establish"); but by this can hardly be meant more than that he sanctioned the change of El into Jehovah on Eliakim's installation upon the throne.

Jehoiakim is condemned in the same terms as all the other sons of Josiah. His misdoings are far more definitely recorded in the Prophets, who furnish us with details which are passed over by the historians. Some of his sins may have been due to the influence of his wife Nehushta, who was a daughter of Elnathan of Achbor, one of the princes of the heathen party. It was this Elnathan whom the king chose as a fitting ambassador to demand the extradition of the prophet Urijah from Egypt. One of the crimes with which Jehoiakim is charged is the building for himself of a sumptuous palace, and thus vainly trying to emulate the splendours of Assyrian, Babylonian, and Egyptian kings. In itself the act would not have been more wicked than it was in Solomon, whose architectural parade is dwelt upon with enthusiasm. But the circumstances were now wholly different. Solomon was at that time in all his glory, the possessor of boundless wealth, the ruler of an immense and united territory, the head of a powerful and prosperous people, the successor of an unconquered hero who had gone to his grave in peace; Jehoiakim,418 on the other hand, had succeeded a father who had died in defeat on the field of battle, and a brother who was hopelessly pining in an Egyptian prison. The Tribes had been carried into captivity by Assyria; the nation was beaten, oppressed, and poor; the king himself possessed but a shadow of royalty. In such a condition of things it would have been his glory to maintain a watchful and strenuous activity, and to devote himself in simplicity and self-denial to the good of his people. It showed a perverted and sensuous mind to insult the misery of his subjects at such a time by feeble attempts to rival heathen potentates in costly æstheticism. But this was not all; he carried out his ignoble selfishness at the cost of oppression and wrong.767767   Josephus (Antt., X. v. 2) is very severe on this king. He says that "he was unjust in disposition, an evil-doer, neither pious towards God nor just towards men."

It is possible that the prophet Habakkuk alludes to him in the words:—

"Woe to him that getteth an evil gain for his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the hand of evil!768768   Perhaps an allusion to a sort of fortified palace on Ophel. Thou hast consulted shame to thy house by cutting off many peoples, and hast sinned against thy soul. For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it."769769   Hab. ii. 9-11.

The thought of the Jewish king's selfish expensiveness may have crossed the mind of Habakkuk, though the taunt is addressed directly to the Chaldæans, and especially to Nebuchadrezzar, who was at that time revelling in the beautifying of Babylon, and especially419 of his own royal palace. On the other hand, the rebuke, or rather the denunciation, uttered by Jeremiah against the king for this line of conduct, and for the forced labour which it required, is terribly direct.

"'Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness,
And his chambers by wrong;
That useth his neighbour's service without wages,
And giveth him not his hire;
That saith, "I will build me a wide house and spacious chambers,"
And cutteth out windows;
And it is ceiled with cedar, and painted with vermilion.
Shalt thou reign because thou viest with the cedar?770770   The text is perhaps corrupt. Two MSS. of the LXX. read "because thou viest with Ahab," and the Vatican MSS. has "with Ahaz." Cheyne adopts the former reading.
Did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice?
Then it was well with him!
Was not this to know Me?' saith the Lord.
'But thine heart is not but for thy dishonest gain,
And for to shed innocent blood,
And for oppression and for violence to do it.'"771771   Jer. xxii. 13-17.

Then follows the stern message of doom which we shall quote hereafter. The king's bad example stimulated or perhaps emulated similar folly and want of patriotism on the part of his nobles. They were shepherds who destroyed and scattered the sheep of Jehovah's pastures. But vain was their imagined security, and their ostentation. The judgment was imminent.772772   Jer. xxiii. 1.

"O inhabitress of Lebanon, that makest thy nest in the cedars," exclaims the prophet in bitter mockery, "how greatly wilt thou groan when pangs come upon thee, the pain as of a woman in travail!"773773   Jer. xxii. 23.


But Jehoiakim's offences were deadlier than this. The Chronicler speaks of "the abominations which he did"; and some have therefore supposed that the evil state of things described by Jeremiah (xix.) refers to this reign. If so, he plunged into the idolatry which caused Judah to be shivered like a potter's vessel. Certainly he sinned grievously against God in the person of His prophets.

Jeremiah was not the only prophet who disdained the easy and traitorous popularity which was to be won by prophesying "peace, peace," when there was no peace. He had for his contemporary another messenger of God, no less boldly explicit than himself—Urijah, the son of Shemaiah of Kirjath-Jearim. Jeremiah had as yet only prophesied in his humble native village of Anathoth; he had not been called upon to face "the swellings" or "the pride of Jordan."774774   Jer. xii. 5. Urijah had been in the fuller glare of publicity in the capital, and his bold declaration that Jerusalem should fall before Nebuchadrezzar and the Chaldæans had excited such a fury of indignation that he escaped into Egypt for his life. Surely this should have appeased the rulers, even if they chose to pay no attention to the Divine menace. For the prophets were recognised deliverers of the messages of Jehovah; and with scarcely an exception, even in the most wicked reigns, their persons had been regarded as sacrosanct. But Jehoiakim would not let Urijah escape. He sent an embassy to Necho, headed by his father-in-law Elnathan, son of Achbor, requesting his extradition. Urijah had been dragged back from Egypt, and, to the horror of the people, the king had slain him with the sword, and flung his body into the421 graves of the common people.775775   Jer. xxvi. 20-23. So far as I am aware, Bunsen stands alone in identifying Urijah with the "Zechariah" who wrote Zech. xii.-xiv. Others refer Zech. xii. 10 to the murder of Urijah. What made this conduct more monstrous was the precedent of Micah the Morasthite. He, in the days of Hezekiah, had prophesied,—

"Zion shall be ploughed as a field,
And Jerusalem shall become heaps,
And the Mountain of the House as the wooded heights."776776   Jer. xxvi. 18.

Yet so far from putting him to death, or even stirring a finger against him, the pious king had only been moved to repentance by the Divine threatenings. Thus the blood of the first martyr-prophet, if we except the case of Zechariah, had been shed by the son of Judah's most pious king. Jeremiah himself only narrowly escaped martyrdom. The precedent of Micah helped to save him, though it had not saved Urijah. He was far more powerfully protected by the patronage of the princes and the people. Standing in the Temple court, he had declared that, unless the nation repented, that house should be like Shiloh, and the city a curse to all the nations of the earth. Maddened by such words of bold rebuke, the priests and the prophets and the people had threatened him with death. But the princes took his part, and some of the people came over to them. His most powerful protector was Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, a member of a family of the utmost distinction.

Meanwhile, we must follow for a time the outward fortunes of the king and of the world.

Necho, after his successful advance, had retired to422 Egypt, and Jehoiakim continued to be for three years his obsequious servant. An event of tremendous importance for the world changed the entire fortunes of Egypt and of Judah. Nineveh fell with a crash which terrified the nations. We might apply to her the language which Isaiah applies to her successor, Babylon:—

"Sheol from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the shades for thee, even the Rephaim of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. All they shall answer and say unto thee, 'Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us?' ... All the kings of the nations, all of them, sleep in glory, every one in his own house. But thou art cast forth away from thy sepulchre like an abominable branch, as the raiment of those that are slain, that are thrust through with the sword, that go down to the stones of the pit.... They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee ... and say, 'Is this the man that made the earth to tremble? that did shake kingdoms? that made the world as a wilderness, and overthrew the cities thereof? that let not loose his prisoners to their home?'"777777   Isa. xiv., passim.

Yes, Assyria had fallen like some mighty cedar in Libanus, and the nations gazed without pity and with exultation on his torn and scattered branches.

And coincident with the fate of Nineveh had been the rise of the Chaldæan power.

Nabupalussur778778   Nabu-pal-ussur, "Nebo protect the son." had been a general of one of the last Assyrian kings, and had been sent by him with an army to quell a Babylonian revolt. Instead of this, he seized the city and made himself king. When the423 final overthrow and obliteration of Nineveh had secured his power, he sent his brave and brilliant son Nebuchadrezzar779779   Nabu-kudur-ussur, "Nebo protect the crown" (Schrader, ii. 48), or "the youth" (Oppert). The portrait of Nebuchadrezzar—this is the proper spelling, as generally in Jeremiah—is preserved for us on a black cameo which he presented to the god Merodach. It is now in the Berlin Museum, and shows strong but not cruel or ignoble characteristics. It is copied in Riehm's Handwörterbuch, ii. 1067. The Jews, as they were fond of doing to their enemies, made insulting puns on his name. Thus in the Vayyikra Rabba (Wünsche, Bibl. Rabb.) the Three Children are represented as saying to him, "You are Neboo-cad-netser: bark [nabach] like a dog; swell like a water-jar [kad], and chirp like a cricket [tsertser],"—in allusion to his madness. (b.c. 605) to secure the provinces which he had wrested from Assyria, and especially to regain possession of Carchemish, which commanded the river.

Necho marched to protect his conquests, and at Carchemish the hostile forces encountered each other in a tremendous battle,—immemorial Egypt under the representative of its age-long Pharaohs; Babylon, with her independence of yesterday, under a prince hitherto unknown, whose name was to become one of the most famous in the world. The result is described by Jeremiah (xlvi. 1-12). Egypt was hopelessly defeated. Her splendidly arrayed warriors were panic-stricken and routed; her chief heroes were dashed to pieces by the heavy maces of the Babylonians, or fled without so much as looking back. The scene was one of "Magor-missabib"—terror on every side.780780   Jer. xlvi. 5 (vi. 25). Pharaoh's host came up like the Nile in flood with its Ethiopian hoplites and Asiatic archers; but they were driven back. The daughter of Egypt received a wound which no balm of Gilead could cure. The nations heard of her shame, and the prophet pronounced her further chastisement by the hands of Nebuchadrezzar.


Then, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, the young Babylonian conqueror swept down upon Syria and Palestine like a bounding leopard, like an avenging eagle (Hab. i. 7, 8). Jehoiakim had no choice but to change his vassalhood to Necho for a vassalage to Nebuchadrezzar.781781   Jos., Antt., X. xi.; Berosus, p. 11. The Chronicler and Josephus show some confusion, caused by the similarity of the names Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin. He might have suffered severe consequences, but tidings came to the young Chaldæan that his father had ended his reign of twenty-one years and was dead. For fear lest disturbances might arise in his capital, he at once dashed home across the desert with some light troops by way of Tadmor, while he told his general to follow him home through Syria by the longer route. He seems, however, to have carried away with him some captives, among whom were Daniel, Ananias, Azarias, and Misael,782782   Dan. i. 6. destined hereafter for such memorable fortunes. Jehoiakim himself was thrown into fetters to be carried into Babylon; but the conqueror changed his mind, and probably thought that it would be safer for the present to accept his pledges and assurances, and leave him as his viceroy. "He took an oath of him," says Ezekiel (xvii. 13); "he took also the mighty of the land."783783   We might infer from Ezek. xvii. 12 that Nebuchadrezzar actually took Jehoiakim with him to Babylon.

For three years this frivolous egotist who occupied the throne of Judah remained faithful to his covenant with the King of Babylon, but at the end of that time he rebelled. In this rebellion he was again deluded by the glamour of Egypt, and reliance on the empty promise of "horses and much people." Ezekiel openly425 disapproved of this policy,784784   Ezek. xvii. 15. and reproached the king for his faithlessness to his oath. Jeremiah went further, and declared in the plainest language that "Nebuchadrezzar would certainly come up and destroy this land, and cause to cease from thence both man and beast."785785   Jer. xxxvi. 29, xxv. 9, xxvi. 6.

Nearer and nearer the danger came. At first the King of Babylon was too busy to do more than send against the Jewish rebel marauding bands of Chaldæans, who acted in concert with the hereditary depredators of Judah—Syrians, Moabites, and Ammonites. But the prophet knew that the danger would not end there, believing that God would yet "remove Judah out of His sight" for the unforgiven sins of Manasseh and the innocent blood with which he had filled Jerusalem.786786   2 Kings xxiv. 2-4. At last Nebuchadrezzar had time to turn closer attention to the affairs of Judah, and this became necessary because of the revolt of Tyre under its King Ithobalus. In the stress of the peril Jehoiakim proclaimed a fast and a day of humiliation in the Temple. Jeremiah was at this time "shut up"—either in hiding, or in some sort of custody. As he could not go and preach in person, he dictated his prophecy to Baruch, who wrote it on a scroll, and went in the prophet's place to read it in the Lord's House to the people there assembled from Jerusalem and all Judah in the chamber of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan, in the inner court, by the new gate.787787   Grätz thinks that Jeremiah's roll was substantially Jer. xxv. Gemariah was the brother of Ahikam, the protector of the prophet.

No one was more painfully alarmed by Jeremiah's prophecy than Micaiah, the son of Gemariah, and he426 thought it his duty to go and tell his father and the other princes what he had heard. They were assembled in the scribe's chamber, and sent a courtier of Ethiopian race—Jehudi, the son of Cushi—bidding him to bring the scroll with him, and to come to them.788788   Jos., Antt., IX. ix. 1.

Baruch was a person of distinction. He was the brother of Seraiah, who is called in our A.V. "a quiet prince," and in the margin "prince of Menucha" or "chief chamberlain," literally "master of the resting-place"; and he was the grandson of Maaseiah, "the governor" of the city.789789   Jer. li. 59. Ewald, Hitzig, and others take the title to mean "quartermaster" (2 Chron. xxxiv. 8). The office imposed on him by Jeremiah was so perilous and painful that it nearly broke his heart. He exclaimed to Jeremiah, "Woe is me now! the Lord hath added grief to my sorrow. I am weary with my sighing, and I find no rest." The answer which the prophet was commissioned to give him was very remarkable. It confirmed the terrible doom on his native land, but added, "'And seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not. For, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh,' saith the Lord: 'but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest.'"790790   Jer. xlv. 1-5.

Baruch obeyed the summons of the princes, and at their request sat down with them and read the scroll in their ears. When they had heard the portentous prophecy, they turned shuddering to one another, and said, "We must tell the king of all these words." They asked Baruch how he had written them, and he said he had taken them down at the prophet's dictation. Then, knowing the storm which would burst over the427 bold offenders, they said, "Go, hide thee, thou and Jeremiah, and let no man know where ye be."

Not daring to imperil the awful document, they laid it up in the chamber of Elishama, the scribe, but went to the king and told him its contents. He sent Jehudi to fetch it, and to read it in their hearing. Jehoiakim and the illustrious company were seated in the winter-chamber; for it was October, and a fire was burning in the brazier, where Jehoiakim sat warming himself in the chilly weather.

As he listened, he was filled not only with fury, but with contempt. Such a message might well have caused him and his worst counsellors to rend their clothes; but instead of this they adopted a tone of defiance. By the time that Jehudi had read three or four columns, Jehoiakim snatched the scribe's knife which hung at his girdle, and began to cut up the scroll, with the intention of burning it. Seeing his purpose, Gemariah, Elnathan, and Seraiah entreated him not to destroy it. But he would not listen. He flung the fragments into the brazier, and they were consumed. He ordered his son Jerahmeel,791791   Zeph. i. 8; 1 Kings xxii. 26; Jer. xxxvi. 26, A.V., "The son of Hammelech." Comp. xxxviii. 6. Hammelech may be a proper name, or a prince of the blood-royal may be intended. with Seraiah and Shelemiah, to seize both Baruch and Jeremiah, and bring them before him for punishment. Doubtless they would have suffered the fate of Urijah, but "the Lord hid them." There were enough persons of power on their side to render their hiding-place secure.

But the king's impious indifference, so far from making any difference in the things that were, only brought down upon his guilt a fearful doom. Truth428 cannot be cut to pieces, or burnt, or mechanically suppressed.

"Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again;

The eternal years of God are hers:

But error, vanquished, writhes in pain,

And dies amid her worshippers."

All the former denunciations, and new ones added to them, were rewritten by Jeremiah and his faithful friend in their hiding-place, and among them these words792792   "The 'Book,' now as afterwards, was to be the death-blow of the old regal, aristocratic, sacerdotal exclusiveness. The 'Scribe,' now first rising into importance in the person of Baruch to supply the defects of the living Prophet, was, as the printing-press in later ages, handing on the words of truth, which else might have irretrievably perished" (Stanley).:—

"Thus saith the Lord of Jehoiakim, King of Judah, 'He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David; and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost.'"

A frightful drought added to the misery of this reign, but failed to bring the wretched king to his senses. Jeremiah describes it793793   Cheyne, Jeremiah, p. 149; Jer. xiv. 1-xv. 9.:—

"Judah mourneth, and the gates thereof languish; they bow down mourning unto the ground; and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up. And the nobles send their menials to the waters: they come to the pits, and find no water; they return with their vessels empty; they are ashamed and confounded, and cover their heads, because of the ground which is chapped, for that no rain hath been in the land.... Yea, the hind also in the field calveth, and forsaketh her young, because there is no grass. And the wild asses stand on the429 bare heights, they pant for air like jackals; their eyes fail, because there is no herbage."

Even this affliction, so vividly and pathetically described, failed to waken any repentance. And then the doom fell. Nebuchadrezzar advanced in person against Jerusalem.794794   Nebuchadrezzar occupies a larger space in the Bible than any heathen king, being spoken of in 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. Even the hardy nomad Rechabites had to fly before the Chaldæans, and to take refuge in the cities which they hated. The sacred historian tells us nothing as to the manner of the death of Jehoiakim, only saying that he "slept with his fathers": his narrative of this period is exceedingly meagre. Josephus says that Nebuchadrezzar slew him and the flower of the citizens, and sent three thousand captives to Babylon.795795   For further details of Jehoiakim see 1 Esdras i. 38: "He bound Joakim and the nobles; but Zaraces his brother he apprehended, and brought him out of Egypt." The allusion is entirely obscure, and probably arises from some corruption of the text. The literal rendering is: "And Joakim bound the nobles; but Zaraces his brother he apprehended, and brought him out of Egypt." Zaraces might be a corruption for Zedekiah, who was Jehoiakim's half-brother. Some think that Zaraces is a corruption for Urijah, and "his brother" a clerical error. Some imagine that he was killed by the Babylonians in a raid outside the walls of Jerusalem, or "murdered by his own people, and his body thrown for a time outside the walls." If so, the Babylonians did not war with the dead. His remains, after this "burial of an ass,"796796   Jer. xxxvi. 30, xxii. 19. may have been finally suffered to rest in a tomb. The Septuagint says (2 Chron. xxxvi. 8) that he was buried "in Ganosan," by which may be meant the sepulchre of Manasseh in the garden of Uzza.797797   LXX., καὶ ἐκοιμήθη Ἰωακεὶμ ἐν Γανοζὰν μετὰ τῶν πατέρων ἑαυτοῦ. Not430 for him was the wailing cry "Hoî, adon! Hoî, hodo!" ("Ah, Lord! Ah, his glory!").

"The memory of the wicked shall rot." Certainly this was the case with Jehoiakim. The Chronicler mysteriously alludes to "his abominations which he did, and that which was found in him."798798   2 Chron. xxxvi. 8. The Rabbis, interpreting this after their manner, say that "the thing found" was the name of the demon Codonazor, to whom he had sold himself, which after his death was discovered legibly written in Hebrew letters on his skin. "Rabbi Johanan and Rabbi Eleazar debated what was meant by 'that which was found on him.' One said that he tattooed the name of an idol upon his body (אמתו), and the other said that he had tattooed the name of the god Recreon."799799   Sanhedrin, f. 104, 2. For another allusion see id. 49, 1; Hershon, Treasures of the Talmud, p. 232.

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