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Jehoiakim (Hebrew יהוֹיָקִים, YHWH has raised up)[1] or Eliakim (Hebrew, God has raised up) (635-r. 610-599 BC according to Ussher,[2] or 634-r. 609-597 BC according to Thiele[3]) was the seventeenth king of the Southern Kingdom of Israel. With him began the final decline of the Southern Kingdom and the captivity of the Jews in Babylonia.


Early Life and Family

Jehoiakim was likely the second-born son of King Josiah and the one named son of Josiah by his wife Zebudah.[4][5] His birth name was Eliakim, meaning "God has raised up," but Necho II would later have him change his name to Jehoiakim, or "YHWH has raised up," when installing him as king.[6][7]

He had an older brother, Johanan,[8][9] who does not come further into the history of the Southern Kingdom, perhaps because he fell in battle at Megiddo by his father's side in a futile action against Pharaoh Necho II. He had two other brothers, or half-brothers: Jehoahaz II[9] and Zedekiah.[10]

When Jehoiakim was eighteen, three years after the birth of his youngest brother Zedekiah, Jehoiakim married a woman called Nehushta and by her had a son named Jehoiachin.[11]

Geopolitical situation

The twenty-fifth year of Jehoiakim's life saw several major power shifts. Babylonia had broken free of Assyria when Jehoiakim was nine years old, and a Babylonian-Medean alliance had steadily weakened the power of the once-mighty Assyrian empire.[12] The Egyptians were not willing to accept that state of affairs without a fight, however. And so, in 610 BC (or 609 BC by the Thiele reckoning), Pharaoh Necho II challenged the might of Babylonia at Carchemish. In that year, he took that city. He had to march through Southern Kingdom territory to do it, and so Josiah had joined battle with Necho at Megiddo. In that battle, Josiah had been killed, and very likely Jehoiakim's eldest brother Johanan was also killed in that same action.[13][14][15]

Thus Egypt appeared to hold sway in the territory classically called "Syria-Palestina" and "the land of Hatti" (where the modern Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan sit today) when the people of the Southern Kingdom passed Jehoiakim over and acclaimed his brother Jehoahaz II as their next king.


Necho II, returning from his successful action at Carchemish, marched into Jerusalem and immediately removed Jehoiakim's brother from the throne after a three-month reign and took him prisoner. Necho then selected Jehoiakim as the man most likely to accept his authority.[1][6][14][15] Necho also laid a heavy tribute on the Southern Kingdom: one hundred talents of silver and one talent of gold.[1][14][16] Jehoiakim paid it by levying a special tax on the people.[17]

Domestic Policy

Almost at once Jehoiakim embarked on several clashes of wills with God's prophets. The reason: Jehoiakim led his people to commit the same idolatries in which kings like Manasseh, Ahaz, Jehoram, and Rehoboam had similarly led the people in their days.[18]

Jeremiah spoke first. In the court of the Temple of Jerusalem, during the Feast of Tabernacles (the major feast on or near the autumnal equinox), Jeremiah warned the people to repent or face the destruction of the kingdom. Those who were in the Temple court at the time arrested Jeremiah. He then faced trial for his life, but a jury of the heads-of-families and elders acquitted him.[19][20]

His colleague Uriah would not be so blessed.[21] He, too, prophesied against Jehoiakim and earned his wrath. Jehoiakim pronounced a death sentence on Uriah, who then fled to Egypt, perhaps hoping to find political asylum. Jehoiakim sent some enforcers, led by one Elnathan son of Achor, after Uriah. They arrested him and brought him back to Jehoiakim, who had him executed and given a pauper's funeral. But Ahikam, the son of Saphan (Josiah's former scribe), intervened and stopped this from happening to Jeremiah.[22][23]

Habakkuk also prophesied against the Southern Kingdom, and specifically warned that the Babylonians would come.[24][25]

Three years later, Jeremiah dictated his many prophecies to one Baruch, who wrote them down and read them aloud in the Temple. Jehoiakim would hear about that scroll over a year later.[26][27]

The Coming of Babylonia

In 607 BC, a new, brilliant general named Nebuchadnezzar marched toward the Euphrates River at the head of an army. Jeremiah marked this as "in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that was the first year of Nebucadrezzar."[28] This has occasioned often vociferous scholarly debate as to the proper dating of the last of the kings of the Southern Kingdom—about which, see below. Ussher reconciled the apparent contradictions by presuming that Nebuchadnezzar had at that time become viceroy of Babylonia. Wood specifically states that Nabopolassar, still on the throne in Babylon, was ailing at the time.[29]

Nebuchadnezzar's mission was simple: reassert Babylonian dominance against a troublesome Egypt and a rebellious governor of Phoenicia. Nebuchadnezzar first met Necho II in battle in a rematch at Carchemish.[1][14] Nebuchadnezzar cut off Necho's forces and routed them.[30]

In essence, Nebuchadnezzar chased Necho II all the way back to Egypt. Along the way, Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem for the first time and asserted Babylonian authority over the Southern Kingdom.

In that year, in the month Kislev, Nebuchadnezzar arrived in Jerusalem.[14][15] At first he arrested Jehoiakim and put chains on him, to carry him off to Babylon.[31] Jehoiakim pleaded earnestly to Nebuchadnezzar to let him stay on his throne, in return for faithful vassalage. Nebuchadnezzar agreed, but he also asked his overseer of eunuchs to seek out the best and brightest of the young men in the land for deportation to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar intended to train these men for positions in his administration. Among them were the young prophet Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (better known by their Babylonian names Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego).[32]

Nebuchadnezzar marched on and captured all the lands from the valley of the Nile to the Euphrates over which Egypt had once held sway.

The Scroll-Burning Incident

About one year after Nebuchadnezzar's first march to Jerusalem, Baruch read his scroll (see above) aloud again in the Temple gate. The heads-of-families heard of this, summoned Baruch, and listened to another reading—whereupon they strongly advised Baruch and Jeremiah to hide. They did not hide—but a courtier named Jehudi read that scroll before the king himself.

What Jehoiakim did next is remembered today in a special fast on the seventh day of Kislev. He cut the scroll through with a pen-knife (that is, a knife used for sharpening pens in those days) and burned the cuttings in the hearth. He then ordered the arrest of Baruch and Jeremiah, but God frustrated this arrest. Baruch later reconstructed his scroll with many additional words.[26][33][34][35][36]

Also on that day, God gave this command to Jeremiah concerning Jehoiakim: "He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David." God further decreed that Jehoiakim's body would lie exposed to the elements after his death.[37]


In 605 BC, Nabopolassar died. Nebuchadnezzar immediately marched back to Babylon to make his throne secure. With him he carried the bulk of the captives he had earlier taken, along with various Temple vessels and furnishings.[38] Nebuchadnezzar subsequently returned westward and attacked and captured the Philistine city of Ashkelon.[29]

Ussher says that this was the time in history where Jehoiakim rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar.[39] Thiele, of course, says that the rebellion took place two years later. In any case, the Bible says that Jehoiakim rebelled three years after he agreed to serve Nebuchadnezzar[1][14][15][40]

The reckoning from that rebellion happened in the last year of Jehoiakim's reign. Nebuchadnezzar assembled a coalition of Syrians ("Arameans"), Chaldeans, Moabites and Ammonites and sent them against the Southern Kingdom. They attacked Jehoiakim's forces and pillaged virtually the entire kingdom.[41] While this was happening, Nebuchadnezzar was apparently leading his main force against Egypt once again, in a battle that he nearly lost.[29][42]

Death and Succession

Jehoiakim died after an eleven-year reign, and his son Jehoiachin succeeded him.[15] The highly controversial circumstances of his death are discussed below.


Chronological Synchrony

The synchrony of Jehoiakim with Nebuchadnezzar II is well-attested in the Bible. Multiple points of synchrony exist, but many authorities consider these to be in conflict:

  1. Jeremiah specifically stated[28] that the fourth year of Jehoiakim was also the first year of Nebuchadnezzar.
  2. Daniel says that Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem in the third year of King Jehoiakim.[43]
  3. Jehoiachin's three-month-and-ten-day reign ended in the same year that it began, and this is described as the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign.[44]
  4. Jehoiachin won release from prison in the thirty-seventh year of his captivity, in the year that Evil-Merodach, Nebuchadnezzar's son and successor, began to reign.[45][46]
  5. Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 BC.[47][48][49]

The conflict between Jeremiah and Daniel in regard to "third" or "fourth" years of Jeremiah is relatively minor. Ussher says that the year of Nebuchadnezzar's expedition (and viceroyalty) was toward the end of Jehoiakim's third year and the beginning of his fourth year.[50]

The more important conflict is that Jehoiachin's captivity must have begun on 599 BC (562 + 37). That would mean that the first year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign was in 607 BC. Yet Nabopolassar did not die until two years later. John Calvin noticed this problem as well.[51]

Calvin's resolution was simple: Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem while his father was still alive. But James Ussher appears to be the first person to suggest the obvious: that Nebuchadnezzar became viceroy of Babylonia in the same year that he led his expedition against Necho, and then onward to Jerusalem. Regnal years of executive viceroys who continue to reign alone are reckoned from the date of the viceroyalty and not the date of the lone reign. Thiele appears to have taken no notice of this solution—and as a result he never presented a satisfactory solution to the length of Jehoiachin's captivity. This captivity, if Thiele were correct, would have lasted thirty-five years, not thirty-seven.

Other authorities have tried to reconcile the conflicts by citing differences between Judaic reckoning and Babylonian reckoning of years of reign.[52] Konig,[53] for example, suggests that Daniel might have reckoned the first siege of Jerusalem in the "third" year of Jehoiakim by using Babylonian, not Judaic, reckoning. This, however, ignores Jeremiah, who reckoned Jehoiakim's years the same way and even specifically synchronized Jehoiakim with Nebuchadnezzar.

The Manner of Jehoiakim's Death

The manner and even the venue of the death of Jehoiakim is the subject of more controversy than is involved in the life of any other king of the Divided Kingdoms Northern and Southern.[1][14] Some authorities (possibly failing to check the Hebrew and wrongly translating שׁכב as "slept") suggest that the passage in 2 Kings which says that Jehoiakim "lay down [שׁכב][54] with his fathers," means that Jehoiakim died peacefully. But very similar language is used of Ahab who died in battle,[55] and Jeremiah mentions many baleful prophecies[37][56] that, taken together, suggest that Jehoiakim's body was exposed to the elements and that he did not have a proper burial. Some authorities suggest that Jehoiakim's own people threw him over the wall of Jerusalem to convince the besieging Chaldeans that he was dead.[57][58]

Oded Lipschits, of Tel-Aviv University (Israel),[59] presents an elaborate argument to the effect that Jehoiakim did indeed die peacefully. Yet his analysis dismisses Jeremiah's prophecy as, in essence, false. Prophets of God have never foretold anything that has been shown not to have come to pass when those prophets said it would (although some, including Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and, of course, John the Revelator, have foretold events that, some say, are yet to come to pass). Ussher,[60] indeed, saw no conflict between Jeremiah's baleful prophecies and the expression "he slept with his fathers." The Bible nowhere says that he was buried with his fathers. Ussher gives perhaps the simplest resolution that fits all the Bible texts that bear on this issue: that Jehoiakim was dragged out of the city gate by a chariot and left exposed on the ground. Whether his own people killed him and tossed him over the wall, or whether Nebuchadnezzar captured him and executed him first, remains an open question.

The Genealogy of Christ

Jehoiakim appears in Matthew's listing of the ancestors of Jesus Christ. Yet God had pronounced a curse on Jehoiakim,[37] as he would later curse his son, saying that he would be "childless." [61] The solution is that Joseph of Nazareth was a direct lineal descendant of David through both these kings, but Mary was a descendant of David through another of David's sons, named Nathan.[46][62]

References and Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Anonymous, Jehoiakim, Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911. Retrieved April 12, 2007, from LoveToKnow 1911.
  2. James Ussher, The Annals of the World, Larry Pierce, ed., Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003 (ISBN 0890513600), pghh. 761, 794
  3. Leon J. Wood, A Survey of Israel's History, rev. ed. David O'Brien, Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, 1986 (ISBN 031034770X), p. 315
  4. II_Kings 23:36 (NASB)
  5. Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 728
  6. 6.0 6.1 II_Kings 23:34 (NASB), II_Chronicles 36:4 (NASB)
  7. Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 761
  8. I_Chronicles 3:15 (NASB)
  9. 9.0 9.1 Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 732
  10. Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 746
  11. Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 749
  12. Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 740
  13. Ussher, op. cit., pghh. 754-6.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 Anonymous, Jehoiakim, Encyclopedia Britannica online. Retrieved April 12, 2007.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 Anonymous, Jehoiakim, The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., Columbia University Press, 2007. Retrieved April 12, 2007 from
  16. II_Kings 23:33 (NASB), II_Chronicles 36:3 (NASB)
  17. II_Kings 23:35 (NASB). Nearly every English-language translation of this verse uses language that indicates that this was a property tax and not a simple capitation tax.
  18. II_Kings 23:37 (NASB), II_Chronicles 36:5 (NASB)
  19. Jeremiah 26:1-19 (NASB)
  20. Ussher, op. cit., pghh. 763-4
  21. Some, however, might say that an early trip to "Abraham's bosom," the temporary spiritual destination of believing Jews who died before Jesus Christ, would be a blessing.
  22. Jeremiah 26:20-24 (NASB)
  23. Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 765
  24. Habakkuk 1:5-6 (NASB)
  25. Ussher, op. cit., pghh. 766-767
  26. 26.0 26.1 Jeremiah 36:1-28 (NASB)
  27. Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 773
  28. 28.0 28.1 Jeremiah 25:1 (NASB)
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 Wood, op. cit., p. 317
  30. Ussher, op. cit., pghh. 769-770
  31. II_Chronicles 36:6 (NASB) Note that this verse says only that Nebuchadnezzar intended, at least initially, to carry Jehoiakim off to Babylon--not that he actually did so at this time.
  32. Ussher, op. cit., pghh. 774-77
  33. Ussher, op. cit., pghh. 779-81
  34. Anonymous, King Jehoiakim: A Lesson from Biblical History, Good News Magazine, 2007. Retrieved April 12, 2007.
  35. David J. Riggs, Jehoiakim Cuts and Burns the Word. Retrieved April 12, 2007 from Mr. Riggs' personal Web pages.
  36. Anonymous, On the Scripture: Jehoiakim, Eastside Christian Church, Fullerton, California. Retrieved April 12, 2007.
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 Jeremiah 36:29-31 (NASB)
  38. Ussher, op. cit., pghh. 782-83
  39. Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 785
  40. II_Kings 24:1 (NASB)
  41. II_Kings 24:2 (NASB)
  42. A.K. Grayson, Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles , vol. 5 of Texts from Cuneiform Sources, eds. A.L. Oppenheim, et al. (New York: Augustun, 1975) p. 100. Quoted by John P. Pratt in "Lehi's 600-year Prophecy of the Birth of Christ," Meridian Magazine, March 31, 2000. Retrieved April 12, 2007.
  43. Daniel 1:1 (NASB)
  44. II_Kings 24:12 (NASB)
  45. II_Kings 25:27 (NASB)
  46. 46.0 46.1 George Pytlik, The Setting, Daniel: Messenger to the Future, 2003. Retrieved April 12, 2007.
  47. Anonymous, "Nebuchadnezzar II, King of Babylon (605-562 BC)", The British Museum Compass, 2000. Retrieved April 12, 2007.
  48. Anonymous, The Chaldeans, E-Museum at Minnesota State University, Mankato, Minnesota. Retrieved April 12, 2007.
  49. Anonymous, Nebuchadnezzar, The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., 2006. Retrieved April 12, 2007 from the HighBeam Encyclopedia.
  50. Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 769
  51. John Calvin, Commentaries on the Book of Daniel, vol. 1, Thomas Meyers, MA, trans. Retrieved April 12, 2007 from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library at Calvin University. See also this dissertation (retrieved from the same host) on the chronological problem and the efforts of Calvin's contemporaries to resolve it.
  52. George Pytlik, Historical Timeline of Daniel, Daniel: God's Messenger to the Future, 2003. Retrieved April 12, 2007.
  53. George Konig, Was Daniel wrong when he referred to the "third" year of Jehoiakim?,, 2007. Retrieved April 12, 2007.
  54. שׁכב, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, does not imply "slept," it is even used of having sex; cf. Young's Literal Translation.
  55. 1 Kings 22:40
  56. Jeremiah 22:18-19 (NASB)
  57. Anonymous, Jehoiakim, WebBible Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 12, 2007 from
  58. Anonymous, Jehoiakim, Holy Spirit Interactive, 2007. Retrieved April 12, 2007.
  59. Oded Lipschits, Jehoiakim Slept With His Fathers: Did He?, Department of Jewish History, Tel-Aviv University. Retrieved April 12, 2007.
  60. Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 794
  61. Jeremiah 22:30 (NASB)
  62. Ken Palmer, "The Curse of Jehoiakim", The Life of Christ, 2007. Retrieved Apriil 12, 2007.

See also