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Kings of Judah


Jeconiah from "Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum "

Jeconiah (Hebrew: יְכָנְיָה[jəxɔnjɔː], meaning "God will fortify (his people)"; Greek: Ιεχονιας; Latin: Joachin), also known as Jehoiachin (Hebrew: יְהֹויָכִין[jəhoːjɔːxiːn]; Greek: Ιεχονιας; Latin: Joachin), was a king of Judah.

According to 2 Kings 24:8, he became king upon the death of his father, Jehoiakim, at the age of eighteen and reigned for only three months and ten days.[1] However, most Hebrew versions, some Septuagint manuscripts and Syriac versions of 2 Chronicles 36:9 give the age when he became king as eight, compared with other versions which give it as eighteen (e.g., 2 Chronicles 36:9). The Vulgate has the discrepancy, which the Challenor note in the Douay-Rheims Bible reconciles the 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."[2] Edwin Thiele dates Jeconiah's short reign to 598/597 BC.[3] He was deposed by the Babylonians at the end of the first siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II in 597 BC, after which Jeconiah, his household, and many of the elite and craftsmen of Judah were exiled to Babylon.

Babylonian records, called Jehoiachin's Rations Tablets, written in Cuneiform and dating to 592 BC mention him and his five sons as recipients of food ration in Babylon,[4] though it would have been difficult for him to have had five sons in the time frame attributed to him.

Jeconiah was a contemporary of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

Summary of reign

Jeconiah reigned for three months and ten days,[1] and was deposed by the Babylonians at the end of the first siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II in 597 BC, when Jeconiah, his household, and many of the elite and craftsmen of Judah were exiled to Babylon.

The Babylonians installed Jeconiah's uncle, Zedekiah, as king of Judah in his place; while Jeconiah was taken to Babylon and compelled to remain there. In Babylon, the deported Jews continued to regard Jeconiah as the legitimate king of Judah, and later would be regarded as the first of the exilarchs.

Cuneiform records dated to 592 BC mention Jeconiah ("Ia-'-ú-kinu") and his five sons as recipients of food rations in Babylon as evidenced by Jehoiachin's Rations Tablets, which are 6th century BC tablets excavated from Babylon near the Ishtar Gate.[5] He was still called king while in captivity.

Dates in the book of Ezekiel are given according to the year of captivity of Jeconiah, and Ezekiel never mentions by name his successor, Zedekiah.

Chronological Notes

Jeconiah's dates and the fall of Jerusalem

The reign of Jeconiah is considered important in establishing the chronology of events in the early sixth century BC in the Middle East. This includes resolving the date of the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar. According to Jeremiah 52:6, the city wall was breached in the summer month of Tammuz in the eleventh year of Zedekiah.

Historians, however, have been divided on whether the year was 587 or 586 BC. A 1990 study listed eleven scholars who preferred 587 and eleven who preferred 586.[6] The Babylonian records of the second capture of Jerusalem have not been found, and scholars looking at the chronology of the period must rely on the Biblical texts, as correlated with extant Babylonian records from before and after the event. In this regard, the Biblical texts regarding Jeconiah are especially important, because the time of his reign in Jerusalem was fixed by Wiseman's 1956 publication, and this is consistent with his thirty-seventh year of captivity overlapping the accession year of Amel-Marduk, as mentioned above.

Ezekiel's treatment of Jeconiah's dates are a starting point for determining the date of the fall of Jerusalem. He dated his writings according to the years of captivity he shared with Jeconiah, and he mentions several events related to the fall of Jerusalem in those writings. In Ezekiel 40:1, Ezekiel dates his vision to the 25th year of the exile and fourteen years after the city fell. If Ezekiel and the author of 2 Kings 25:27 were both using Tishri-based years, the 25th year would be 574/573 BC and the fall of the city, 14 years earlier, would be in 588/587, i.e. in the summer of 587 BC. This is consistent with other texts in Ezekiel related to the fall of the city. Ezekiel 33:21 relates that a refugee arrived in Babylon and reported the fall of Jerusalem in the twelfth year, tenth month of "our exile." Measuring from the first year of exile, 598/597, this was January of 586 BC, incompatible with Jerusalem falling in the summer of 586 BC, but consistent with its fall in the summer of 587 BC.

Thiele held to a 586 BC date for the capture of Jerusalem and the end of Zedekiah's reign. Recognizing to some extent the importance of Ezekiel's measuring time by the years of captivity of Jeconiah, and in particular the reference to the 25th year of that captivity in Ezekiel 40:1, he wrote,

Although the Babylonian tablets dealing with the final fall and destruction of Jerusalem have not been found, it should be noticed that the testimony of Ezekiel 40:1 is definitive in regard to the year 586. Since Ezekiel had his vision of the temple on the twenty-fifth anniversary of his and Jehoiachin's captivity (28 April 573), and since this was the fourteenth year after Jerusalem's fall, the city must have fallen eleven years after the captivity. Eleven years after 597 is 586.[7]

The logic here is mistaken. In order to justify his 586 date, Thiele had assumed that the years of captivity for Jeconiah must be calendar years starting in Nisan, in contrast to the Tishri-based years that he used everywhere else for the kings of Judah. He also assumed that Jeconiah's captivity or exile was not to be measured from Adar of 597 BC, the month Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem and its king according to the Babylonian Chronicle, but in the next month, Nisan, when Thiele assumed Jeconiah began the trip to Babylon. These assumptions are not unreasonable, and, granting them, the first year of captivity would be the year starting in Nisan of 597 BC. The twenty-fifth year of captivity would start in Nisan of 573 BC, (573/572) twenty-four years later. Years of captivity must be measured in this non-accession sense (the year in which the captivity started was considered year one of the captivity), otherwise the 37th year of captivity, the year in which Jeconiah was released from prison, would start on Nisan 1 of 560 BC (597 – 37), two years after the accession year of Amel-Marduk, according to the dating of his accession year that can be fixed with exactitude by the Babylonian Chronicle. Thiele then noted that Ezekiel 40:1 says that this 25th year of captivity was 14 years after the city fell. Fourteen years before 573/572 is 587/586, and since Thiele is assuming Nisan years for the captivity, this period ended the day before Nisan 1 of 586. But this is three months and nine days before Thiele's date for the fall of the city on 9 Tammuz 586 BC. Even Thiele's assumption that the years of captivity were measured from Nisan does not reconcile Ezekiel's chronology for the captivity of Jeconiah with a 586 date, and the calculation given above that uses the customary Tishri-based years yields the summer of 587, consistent with all other texts in Ezekiel related to Jeconiah's captivity.

Another text in Ezekiel offers a clue to why there has been such a conflict over the date of Jerusalem's fall in the first place. Ezekiel 24:1-2 (NIV) records the following:

In the ninth year, in the tenth month on the tenth day, the word of the Lord came to me: "Son of man, record this date, this very date, because the king of Babylon has laid siege to Jerusalem this very day."

Assuming that dating here is according to the years of exile of Jeconiah, as elsewhere in Ezekiel, the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem began on January 27, 589 BC.[8] This can be compared to a similar passage in 2 Kings 25:1 (NIV):

So in the ninth year of Zedekiah's reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army. He encamped outside the city and built siege works all around it.

The ninth year, tenth month, tenth day in Ezekiel is identical to the period in 2 Kings. In Ezekiel, the years are everywhere else measured according to Jeconiah's captivity, which must be taken in a non-accession sense, so that the beginning of the siege was eight actual years after the beginning of the captivity. The comparison with 2 Kings 25:1 would indicate that Zedekiah's years in 2 Kings were also by non-accession reckoning. His eleventh year, the year in which Jerusalem fell, would then be 588/587 BC, in agreement with all texts in Ezekiel and elsewhere that are congruent with that date.

Some who maintain the 586 date therefore maintain that in this one instance, Ezekiel, without explicitly saying so, switched to the regnal years of Zedekiah, although Ezekiel apparently regarded Jeconiah as the rightful ruler and never names Zedekiah in his writing. Another view is that a later copyist, aware of the 2 Kings passage, modified it and inserted it into the text of Ezekiel. This interpretation would be compatible with viewpoints that maintain that God is incapable of imparting specific information to humans, or perhaps is unwilling to do so, even to His prophets.

Release from prison

According to 2 Kings 25:27, Jeconiah was released from prison "in the thirty-seventh year of the exile", in the year that Amel-Marduk (Evil-Merodach) came to the throne. The reference to "the year of the exile" is a reference to an era year number, and not an anniversary period, with the years running in accordance with the Hebrew calendar from autumn 1 Tishri, the start of the Hebrew civil or regnal year.

Babylonian records show that Amel-Marduk began his reign in October 562 BC.[9] However, the Babylonian regnal year began on 1 Nisan (in the spring), so that Amel-Marduk's accession year officially started on 1 Nisan 562. According to 2 Kings 25:27, Jeconiah was released from prison "on the 27th day of the twelfth month". However, it is not clear whether the Judahite or Babylonian year is being referred to. If Amel-Marduk's accession year was being referred to, the date of release would fall in the spring of 561 BC. This would result in the first year of captivity being 598/597 BC, according to Judah's Tishri-based calendar, so that his release from prison "in the 37th year" could be in the 562/561 BC Tishri-based year.

The years of the captivity of Jeconiah are therefore firmly established by correlations with Babylonian records, both at the start of his career and near its end.

Dating Jeconiah's reign

The Babylonian Chronicles establish that Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem the first time on 2 Adar (16 March) 597 BC.[10] 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.[11] 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.

Thiele's dates for the reign of Jeconiah

As quoted above, Thiele said that the 25th anniversary of Jeconiah's captivity was April 25, 573 BC (10 Nisan 573), implying that he began the trip to Babylon on 10 Nisan 597, 24 years earlier. His reasoning in arriving at this exact date was based on Ezekiel 40:1, where Ezekiel, without naming the month, says it was the tenth day of the month, "on that very day," an expression that Thiele knew marked something important. Since this fit with his idea that Jeconiah's (and Ezekiel's) trip to Babylon began a month later than the capturing of the city, thus allowing a new Nisan-based year to begin, Thiele took these words in Ezekiel as referring to the day in which the captivity or exile proper began. He therefore ended Jehoiachin's reign of three months and ten days on this date. The dates he gives for Jeconiah's reign are then: 21 Heshvan (9 December) 598 BC to 10 Nisan (22 April) 597 BC.[12]

Thiele's reasoning in this regard has been criticized by Rodger C. Young, who advocates the 587 date for the fall of Jerusalem.[13][14] Young points out Thiele's inconsistent arithmetic, and adds an alternative explanation of the phrase "on that very day" (be-etsom ha-yom ha-zeh) in Ezekiel 40:1. This phrase is used three times in Leviticus 23:28-30 to refer the Day of Atonement, always observed on the tenth of Tishri, and Ezekiel's writings in several places show familiarity with the Book of Leviticus.[15] A further argument in favor of this interpretation is that in the same verse, Ezekiel says it was Rosh Hashanah (New Year's Day) and also the tenth of the month, indicating the start of a Jubilee year, since only in a Jubilee year did the year begin on the tenth of Tishri, the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 25:9). The Talmud (tractate Arakin 12a,b) and the Seder Olam (chapter 11) also say that Ezekiel saw his vision at the beginning of a Jubilee year, the 17th, consistent with this interpretation of Ezekiel 40:1.

Because this offers an alternative explanation to Thiele's interpretation of Ezekiel 40:1, and because Thiele's chronology for Jeconiah seems incompatible with the records of the Babylonian Chronicle, the infobox below dates the end of Jeconiah's reign to 2 Adar (16 March) 597 BC, the date of the first capture of Jerusalem as given in the Babylonian records. Thiele's dates for Jeconiah, however, and his date of 586 BC for the fall of Jerusalem, continue to hold considerable weight with the scholarly community.[16][17] The 586 date for Jerusalem's fall will also continue to be popular with scholars who hold that, for one reason or another, Zedekiah's years must be measured in an accession sense (year one was not until his first full year of reign).


Jeconiah was the son of Jehoiakim with Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem.[18] He had at least seven children: Shealtiel, Malkiram, Pedaiah, Shenazzar, Jekamiah, Hoshama and Nedabiah. (1 Chronicles 3:17-18)

Matthew 1:11 lists Josiah as the father of Jeconiah: "Josiah became the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the Babylonian exile." It has been suggested that the word "son" here should be taken in the sense of "grandson," since 2 Kings 24:6 says his father was Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah. A list of his descendants is given in 1 Chronicles 3:17-24.

Jeconiah is one of the kings mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, and after Jeconiah the genealogical line continues through his son, Shealtiel.

See also

Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Judah
9 Dec 598 BC – 16 March 597 BC
Succeeded by


  1. 1.0 1.1 2 Chronicles 36:9
  2. 2 Paralipomenon 36:9
  3. Edwin Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, (1st ed.; New York: Macmillan, 1951; 2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965; 3rd ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Kregel, 1983). ISBN 082543825X, 9780825438257, 217.
  4. James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969) 308.
  5. James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969) 308.
  6. Jeremy Hughes, Secrets of the Times (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1990) 229.
  7. Thiele, Mysterious Numbers 191.
  8. Parker and Dubberstein, Babylonian Chronology 28.
  9. Richard Parker and Waldo Dubberstein, Babylonian Chronology 626 B.C. – A.D. 75 (Providence RI: Brown University Press, 1956) 12.
  10. D. J. Wiseman, Chronicles of Chaldean Kings in the British Museum (London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1956) 73.
  11. Kenneth Strand, "Thiele's Biblical Chronology As a Corrective for Extrabiblical Dates," Andrews University Seminary Studies 34 (1996) 310, 317.
  12. Ibid., 187.
  13. Rodger C. Young, "When Did Jerusalem Fall?" Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 47 (2004) 21-38.[1]
  14. Rodger C. Young, "Evidence for Inerrancy from a Second Unexpected Source: the Jubilee and Sabbatical Cycles" Bible and Spade 21 (2008) 109-122.[2]
  15. Ibid., 121 n. 7.
  16. Leslie McFall, “A Translation Guide to the Chronological Data in Kings and Chronicles,” Bibliotheca Sacra 148 (1991) 40, 45.[3]
  17. Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology (rev. ed.; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1998) 257-259.
  18. (1 Chronicles 3:16, 2 Kings 24:6-8)

External links