Who was Jehoiachin?
Jehoiachin was a king of Judah; son and successor of Jehoiakim; reigned three months and surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar; was carried to Babylon, where, after being there 37 years a prisoner, he died.
The story of his reign is told in 2 Kings 24:8-16 , and more briefly in 2 Chronicles 36:9-10 . Then, after the reign of his successor Zedekiah and the final deportation are narrated, the account of his release from prison 37 years afterward and the honor done him is given as the final paragraph of 2 Ki (2 Chronicles 25:27 -30). The same thing is told at the end of the Book of Jer ( Jeremiah 52:31-34 ). Neither for this reign nor for the succeeding is there the usual reference to state annals; these seem to have been discontinued after Jehoiakim. In Jeremiah 22:24-30 there is a final pronouncement on this king, not so much upon the man as upon his inevitable fate, and a prediction that no descendant of his shall ever have prosperous rule in Judah.
2. His Reign
Of the brief reign of Jehoiachin there is little to tell. It was rather a historic landmark than a reign; but its year, 597 bc, was important as the date of the first deportation of Jewish captives to Babylon (unless we except the company of hostages carried away in Jehoiakim's 3rd (4th) year, Daniel 1:1-7 ). His coming to the throne was just at or near the time when Nebuchadnezzar's servants were besieging Jerusalem; and when the Chaldean king's arrival in person to superintend the siege made apparent the futility of resistance, Jehoiachin surrendered to him, with all the royal household and the court.
He was carried prisoner to Babylon, and with him ten thousand captives, comprising all the better and sturdier element of the people from prince to craftsman, leaving only the poorer sort to constitute the body of the nation under his successor Zedekiah. With the prisoners were carried away also the most valuable treasures of the temple and the royal palace.
3. The Two Elements
Ever since Isaiah fostered the birth and education of a spiritually-minded remnant, for him the vital hope of Israel, the growth and influence of this element in the nation has been discernible, as well in the persecution it has roused (see under MANASSEH ), as in its fiber of sound progress. It is as if a sober sanity of reflection were curing the people of their empty idolatries. The feeling is well expressed in such a passage as Habakkuk 2:18-20 .
Hitherto, however, the power of this spiritual Israel has been latent, or at best mingled and pervasive among the various occupations and interests of the people. The surrender of Jehoiachin brings about a segmentation of Israel on an unheard-of principle: not the high and low in wealth or social position, but the weight and worth of all classes on the one side, who are marked for deportation, and the refuse element of all classes on the other, who are left at home. With which element of this strange sifting Jeremiah's prophetic hopes are identified appears in his parable of the Good and Bad Figs (Jeremiah 24:1-10 ), in which he predicts spiritual integrity and upbuilding to the captives, and to the home-staying remainder, shame and calamity. Later on, he writes to the exiles in Babylon, advising them to make themselves at home and be good citizens (Jeremiah 29:1-10 ).
As for the hapless king, "this man Coniah," who is to be their captive chief in a strange land, Jeremiah speaks of him in a strain in which the stern sense of Yahweh's inexorable purpose is mingled with tender sympathy as he predicts that this man shall never have a descendant on David's throne (Jeremiah 22:24-30 ). It is as if he said, All as Yahweh has ordained, but - the pity of it!
4. Thirty-Seven Years Later
In the first year of Nebuchadnezzar's successor, perhaps by testamentary edict of Nebuchadnezzar himself, a strange thing occurred. Jehoiachin, who seems to have been a kind of hostage prisoner for his people, was released from prison, honored above all the other kings in similar case, and thenceforth to the end of his life had his portion at the royal table (2 Kings 25:27-30 ; Jeremiah 52:31-34 ). This act of clemency may have been due to some such good influence at court as is described in the Book of Daniel; but also it was a tribute to the good conduct of that better element of the people of which he was hostage and representative. It was the last event of Judean royalty; and suggestive for the glimpse it seems to afford of a people whom the Second Isaiah could address as redeemed and forgiven, and of a king taken from durance and judgment (compare Isaiah 53:8 ), whose career makes strangely vivid the things that are said of the mysterious "Servant of Yahweh."
IBSE (in the public domain) with minor edits.