The Curse of Jeconiah
If God really wanted people to read the Bible, why did He include all those boring parts? Why, for example, do we have to wade through all those genealogies? Even the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament) start with a genealogy – 17 verses listing the generations from Abraham to Yeshua (Jesus). Most of the people don’t even appear anywhere else in the Bible, so why are they there in Matthew 1? Consider this list of strange names:
And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. (Matthew 1:12 NKJV)
What is so important about those three men that they get a special mention in the genealogy of Yeshua?
It just so happens that those particular names are very, very important. In fact, the inclusion of one of them constitutes one of the main Jewish objections to the identity of Yeshua as Messiah. The name in question is Jeconiah, the next-to-last king of Judah before the Babylonian captivity. Scripture refers to him by three different names: Jeconiah (I Chronicles 3:16), Jehoiachin (II Kings 24:6-17), and Coniah (Jeremiah 22:24-28, 37:1). He was the grandson of King Josiah, Judah’s last righteous king. Sadly, neither he nor his father, Jehoiakim, followed Josiah’s example. It was Jehoiakim who burned the scroll of prophecy that Jeremiah had written proclaiming the judgments of God on Judah. That is why the Lord said this about him:
“And you shall say to Jehoiakim king of Judah, ‘Thus says the Lord: “You have burned this scroll, saying, ‘Why have you written in it that the king of Babylon will certainly come and destroy this land, and cause man and beast to cease from here?’” 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; and I will bring on them, on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and on the men of Judah all the doom that I have pronounced against them; but they did not heed.”’” (Jeremiah 36:29-31 NKJV)
This judgment came through King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Jehoiakim served Nebuchadnezzar for three years, but then rebelled. The Babylonians retaliated by sacking Jerusalem and taking Jehoiakim captive. He died as a prisoner in Babylon (II Kings 24:1-6; II Chronicles 36:1-8), and interestingly enough his name is not recorded in the genealogy of Yeshua in Matthew 1.
Jehoiakim’s son Jeconiah did not do any better than his father. He reigned in Jerusalem only three months before Nebuchadnezzar took him away to Babylon, and there he remained for the rest of his days (II Kings 24:6-17; Jeremiah 52:31-34). However, even though his uncle, Zedekiah, reigned in his place, the people of Judah still considered Jeconiah the legitimate king. That is why the false prophets of Judah continued to proclaim that Jeconiah would return from captivity when the Lord destroyed Babylon (Jeremiah 28:1-4). But God had other ideas. It seems that Jeconiah was so bad, even though he was only a boy, that the Lord pronounced a judgment on him as well:
“As I live,” says the Lord, “though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet on My right hand, yet I would pluck you off; and I will give you into the hand of those who seek your life, and into the hand of those whose face you fear—the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and the hand of the Chaldeans. So I will cast you out, and your mother who bore you, into another country where you were not born; and there you shall die. But to the land to which they desire to return, there they shall not return. Is this man Coniah a despised, broken idol—a vessel in which is no pleasure? Why are they cast out, he and his descendants, and cast into a land which they do not know? O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord: ‘Write this man down as childless, a man who shall not prosper in his days; for none of his descendants shall prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Judah.’” (Jeremiah 22:24-30 NKJV, emphasis added)
This is the Curse of Jeconiah. It contains three specific components:
- Write him down as childless.
- Neither he nor his descendants would prosper.
- None of his descendants would sit on the throne of David and rule Judah.
As you may have guessed, the Curse of Jeconiah provides Jewish anti-missionaries one of their greatest arguments against the claims of Yeshua of Nazareth to be Israel’s Messiah. Because he is a descendant of Jeconiah, they assert, Yeshua cannot be the Messiah. Are they right? Did God somehow make a mistake? Or did the Gospel writers just conveniently ignore this crucial detail?
No! The anti-missionaries are not correct, and Matthew did not miss anything. The truth is one of those amazing testimonies of God’s grace, love, and meticulous attention to detail. Look again at the three components to the Curse:
- “Write this man down as childless”. Notice that the curse does not say Jeconiah would be childless, but rather that he should be “written down” or recorded as if he had no children. He had no children at the time he was taken away to Babylon, but in captivity he had a son named Shealtiel, and Shealtiel had a son named Zerubbabel.
- “A man who shall not prosper in his days; for none of his descendants shall prosper”. The curse regarding prosperity is connected to the one about being childless. In other words, it would be recorded that Jeconiah did not prosper, which he certainly did not while in Jerusalem. However, in the 37th year of his captivity, he was released from prison and became a permanent guest of honor at the table of King Evil-Merodach of Babylon (II Kings 25:27-30; Jeremiah 52:31-34). Thus both Jeconiah and his descendants prospered, but not in Judah. Their prosperity returned in Babylon.
- “For none of his descendants shall [sit] on the throne of David, and [rule] anymore in Judah”. It is true that none of Jeconiah’s descendants ruled over Judah. That particular kingdom died in the Babylonian Captivity. When it was reborn it was called Judea, and for many generations there was no king there. The rulers of Judea during the days of the Persian Empire were governors appointed by Persia’s king. The first of those governors was Zerubbabel, grandson of Jeconiah, who led the Jews out of captivity in Babylon (Ezra 2:2; Nehemiah 7:6-7). When kings once again ruled the land, they were not of the line of David. The Maccabees established the Hasmonean Dynasty of high priests and kings from the priestly tribe of Levi who ruled Judea from 143 to 37 BC, and later Herod the Great of Idumea (Edom) established the Herodian Dynasty that dominated Judea from 55 BC to 93 AD.
If that were the end of the story the anti-missionaries would still have a point. The fact is that Yeshua did not rule from the throne of David during His first coming, but He will rule from that throne when He returns. That will be the fulfillment of God’s eternal covenant with David (II Samuel 7:4-16; Luke 1:26-33). As for that little problem about none of Jeconiah’s descendants ruling from the throne of David, God took care of that as well. There is a second genealogy of Yeshua provided in Luke 3:23-38 which traces his lineage back to David’s son Nathan, unlike Matthew’s account which traces the lineage through Solomon, the son who inherited David’s throne. The common understanding of these two genealogies is that Luke records the ancestry of Mary, Yeshua’s mother, who was also descended from King David, but Matthew records the lineage of Joseph, Yeshua’s adoptive father. Thus while Yeshua is legally an heir of David through Joseph, he is not physically descended from Jeconiah. His physical descent is through His mother, but through a Davidic line that never actually reigned as kings in Israel or Judah.
Is this still a problem? No, not when God is involved. He finds a way to do the impossible (Matthew 19:26; Luke 1:37). The fact is, God reinstated His promise to David and David’s descendants through Jeconiah’s grandson Zerubbabel:
And again the word of the Lord came to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, saying, “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying: ‘I will shake heaven and earth. I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; I will destroy the strength of the Gentile kingdoms. I will overthrow the chariots and those who ride in them; the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother. In that day,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will take you, Zerubbabel My servant, the son of Shealtiel,’ says the Lord, ‘and will make you like a signet ring; for I have chosen you,’ says the Lord of hosts.” (Haggai 2:20-23 NKJV)
Notice that where God had cast off Jeconiah as His signet ring (Jeremiah 22:24), He takes Zerubbabel as His signet ring (Haggai 2:23). Is this not the grace of God at work? Is it not His justice and righteousness? Here is an example of God “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”(Exodus 20:5, 6 NKJV). Zerubbabel was the third and fourth generation from the wicked kings Jeconiah and Jehoiakim, and Zerubbabel loved the Lord and kept His commandments. Thus God, in His wisdom and mercy, found a way to preserve the lineage of David to ensure that Yeshua the Messiah not only was descended from David, but inherited David’s throne.
And now you know why God decided to put all those boring genealogies in the Bible.
© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2014. Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Barking Fox Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.