Jeconiah (Hebrew: יְכָנְיָה Yəḵānəyāh [jəxɔnˈjɔː], meaning "Yah will fortify (his people)"; Greek: Ιεχονιας; Latin: Iechonias, Jechonias), also known as Coniah and as Jehoiachin (Hebrew: יְהֹויָכִין [jəhoːjɔːxiːn]; Latin: Ioachin, Joachin), was a king of Judah who was dethroned by the King of Babylon in the 6th century BC and was taken into captivity. He was the son and successor of King Jehoiakim. Most of what is known about Jeconiah is found in the Hebrew Bible. Records of Jeconiah's existence have been found in Iraq, such as the Jehoiachin's Rations Tablets. These tablets were excavated near the Ishtar Gate in Babylon and have been dated to c. 592 BC. Written in cuneiform, they mention Jeconiah ("Ia-'-ú-kinu") and his five sons as recipients of food rations in Babylon. Comparing Babylonian records with date references found in Hebrew biblical texts, the length of Jeconiah's captivity can accurately be determined.
Jeconiah in scripture
Jeconiah reigned three months and ten days, from December 9, 598 to March 15/16, 597 BC. He succeeded Jehoiakim as king of Judah[2Ki.24:6] in December 598, after raiders from surrounding lands invaded Jerusalem[2Ki.24:2] and killed his father. It is likely that the king of Babylon was behind this effort, as a response to Jehoiakim's revolt, starting sometime after 601 BC. Three months and ten days after Jeconiah became king, the armies of Nebuchadnezzar II seized Jerusalem. The intention was to take high class Judahite captives and assimilate them into Babylonian society. On March 15/16th, 597 BC,:217 Jeconiah, his entire household and three thousand Jews, were exiled to Babylon.
Masoretic Text versions of 2 Chronicles 36:9 say that Jeconiah's rule began at the age of eight. However, the Septuagint and Syriac versions of 2 Chronicles 36:9, state that his reign started at the age of eighteen. Of the Vulgate, Challenor's note in the Douay-Rheims Bible, reconciles this discrepancy: "He was associated by his father to the kingdom, when he was but eight years old; but after his father's death, when he reigned alone, he was eighteen years old."
After Jeconiah was deposed as king, Jeconiah's uncle, Zedekiah,[2Ki.24:17] was appointed by Nebuchadnezzar to rule Judah. Zedekiah was the son of Josiah.= However, while in captivity, the deported Jews still regarded Jeconiah as their legitimate king. Jeconiah would later be regarded as the first of the exilarchs. In the Book of Ezekiel, the author refers to Jeconiah as king and dates certain events by the number of years he was in exile. The author identifies himself as Ezekiel, a contemporary of Jeconiah, and he never mentions Zedekiah by name.
Release from captivity
According to 2 Kings 25:27, Jeconiah was released from prison "in the 37th year of the exile", in the year that Amel-Marduk (Evil-Merodach) came to the throne. Babylonian records show that Amel-Marduk began his reign in October 562 BC. According to 2 Kings 25:27, Jeconiah was released from prison "on the 27th day of the twelfth month", during March of 561 BC. This indicates the first year of captivity to be 598/597 BC, according to Judah's Tishri-based calendar. The 37th year of captivity was thus, by Judean reckoning, the year that began in Tishri of 562, consistent with the synchronism to the accession year of Amel-Marduk given in Babylonian records.
Jeremiah (22:28–30) cursed Jeconiah that none of his descendants would ever sit on the throne of Israel:
- 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.'"
According to NIV:
- 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 anymore in Judah.'"
Jeconiah was the son of Jehoiakim with Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem. He had seven children: Shealtiel, Malkiram, Pedaiah, Shenazzar, Jekamiah, Hoshama and Nedabiah. (1 Chronicles 3:17–18). Jeconiah is also mentioned in the first book of Chronicles as the father of Pedaiah, who in turn is the father of Zerubbabel. A list of his descendants is given in 1 Chronicles 3:17–24.
In listing the genealogy of Jesus Christ, Matthew 1:11 records Jeconiah as an ancestor of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Because of the curse upon Jeconiah, recorded in Jeremiah, some Biblical scholars[who?] conclude Joseph could not be the biological father of Jesus, providing further support for the Virgin birth of Jesus.
Dating Jeconiah's reign
Lunette in the Sistine Chapel of Jeconiah with Shealtiel and Josiah. The Babylonian Chronicles establish that Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem the first time on 2 Adar (16 March) 597 BC. Before Wiseman's publication of the Babylonian Chronicles in 1956, Thiele had determined from biblical texts that Nebuchadnezzar's initial capture of Jerusalem and its king Jeconiah occurred in the spring of 597 BC, whereas Kenneth Strand points out that other scholars, including Albright, more frequently dated the event to 598 BC.:310, 317 This is one of several instances cited by Strand showing that Thiele's approach of starting with the biblical texts and assuming they were correct until proven otherwise, combined with his extensive knowledge of the recording methods of ancient historians, produced results that were useful in correcting dates derived from secular history.
Assuming that Jeconiah's reign ended on the day that the Babylonians captured Jerusalem the first time, 2 Adar (16 March) 597 BC, and further assuming that the Jewish calendar in the sixth century BC had the same number of days in the two preceding months as in the modern Jewish calendar, Jehoiachin's reign of three months and ten days (2 Chronicles 36:9) would have started on 21 Heshvan (9 December) 598 BC.