The Character of Wicked Leaders, and the People They Serve (Jeremiah 22)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 22

Continuing our study in the book of Jeremiah, our “weeping prophet” was commanded by the LORD, “Go down to the house of the king of Judah” (22:1). Having experienced the rejection and wrath of men who desired not only to silence, but kill him (20:2, 10), we might imagine the emotions that welled up in Jeremiah as he entered the palace of the king.

Jeremiah 22

Supposing Jeremiah 22 continues the speech Jeremiah addressed to Zedekiah in the preceding chapter (Jeremiah 21:7), we will notice five kings of Judah are considered in this chapter. There was Josiah, whose heart was toward the LORD (22:11; 2 Kings 23:1-27). He reigned for 31 years, until he was killed in battle against Egypt (2 Kings 23:29-30).

Four kings followed Josiah’s reign, and three of the four were his sons. There was Shallum (perhaps his given name), who is identified in other Scriptures by the name he must have chosen, Jehoahaz (22:10-11). Jehoahaz (Shallum) was removed from the throne, and taken captive to Egypt where he died (22:12; 2 Kings 23:31-33).

A message of woe was stated by the prophet against Jehoiakim (22:13-23), who succeeded Jehoahaz. Jehoiakim oppressed the people, failing to pay their wages, and was despised for his lavish lifestyle (22:13-14). In contrast to Josiah whose rule was fair and just (22:16), Jehoiakim was covetous, murderous, oppressive, and extorted the people (22:17). He would be so despised, that no one would lament his death. When he was dead, the disposal of his body was no better than that of a donkey that dies, and is dragged out of the city, and “cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem” (most likely in the notorious “valley of the son of Hinnom, 22:18-19; 7:32, 19:6).

Jehoiachin or Jeconiah (i.e. Coniah, 22:24), was the son of Jehoiakim, and reigned for three months, until his sins moved the LORD to depose him. Jehoiachin, and his mother, were taken captive to Babylon (22:24-30). As God’s judgment against him, no son of Jehoiachin would ever reign as king in Judah (22:28-30).

Closing thought – Unlike their father, the sons of king Josiah (Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah) were wicked kings, and their transgressions led the nation to God’s judgment.  Led by wicked kings, Judah’s descent into sin and rebellion was swift and unabated (22:10-30). Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed, and the ruins serve as a lasting testimony of a people who had forsaken “the covenant of the LORD their God, and worshipped other gods, and served them” (22:9).

When a people reject the LORD’s Law and Commandments, they will be ruled by wicked leaders who, like Jehoiakim, feed their lavish lusts, and oppress the people (22:13-14). Covetous, murderous, oppressive, and violent extortion described Jehoiakim’s reign. Are the leaders of our day not the same? (22:17)

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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