A STUDY OF THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH

Leaders Gone Bad

Jeremiah 22 SCC 1/29/17

 

BAD LEADERS ARE NOT WORTH MOURNING OVER

22:10 Jeremiah instructed the people not to mourn over Josiah, who had died in battle with the Egyptians, as much as they should mourn over those who had gone into captivity. Pharaoh Neco II had deposed Jehoahaz and had taken him captive to Egypt (2 Kings 23:31-35). Jehoahaz was the king's throne name, and Shallum was his personal name. He was Josiah's second son, whom the people of the land had placed on Judah's throne (2 Chron. 36:1). The fate of the people and Jehoahaz was worse than Josiah's, because they would remain alive but never be able to return to the Promised Land. In one sense, death is worse than life, but in another sense, life under certain conditions is worse than death.

22:11-12 King Shallum (Jehoahaz) was a case in point. The Egyptians had taken him captive, and he would never return to the Promised Land. Jeremiah prophesied that he would die in captivity, which he did as the first ruler of Judah to die in exile.

NB: Since leadership is about being an influence, its important to take responsibility for that. Leaders and leadership are serious matters due to the impact it has on those being led. Bad leaders have bad influence.

 

LEADERS WHO ARE SELF ABSORBED THREATEN THOSE THEY LEAD

22:13-14 Also Josiah’s son, he was 25 years old when Pharaoh Neco appointed him king of Judah. He reigned 11 years. He was evil in the sight of God and was killed in Jerusalem by the Babylonians. He was a corrupt, petty king who built his palace at the expense of his subjects. They were forced to work with no pay. Jeremiah called down woe on the person who advanced his own interests, and built his own royal house (palace, and by implication, dynasty), by abusing the rights of others. This man, who gave his mind to trivialities at a time of crisis, and who saw his subjects only as exploitable.

22:15 He is contrasted with his father King Josiah, who was righteous and obeyed God, and it was well with him. The measure of a king's greatness is not really the beauty and cost of his palace but his righteousness and justice. Jehoiakim's father, Josiah, had been a great king, and God had blessed him because he practiced these virtues.

22:16 Josiah had given justice to those who needed it, regardless of who they were. By this he demonstrated that he really knew the Lord. He behaved like the Lord.

22:17 However, Jehoiakim inherited none of his father’s godly traits. Instead, he cared only for his own dishonest gain, and on shedding innocent blood and on practicing oppression and extortion.  He had only been interested in acquiring things for himself, even dishonestly. He resorted to oppression, extortion, and even murder to get what he wanted (26:20-23; 2 Kings 24:3-4). Jehoiakim, who was only twenty-five years old when he began to reign and only thirty-six when he died (2 K. 23:36), was evidently a thoroughly spoiled and self indulgent young despot.

22:18 Consequently, when Jehoiakim died, people would not feel sorry for him or mourn over his departure. They would not lament for him or for the splendor he left behind. The word rendered "alas," occurs four times in this verse stressing the dire judgment that would befall this king.

22:19 Instead, Jeremiah predicted Jehoiakim will be buried with a donkey’s burial, dragged off and thrown out beyond the gates of Jerusalem. Rather, the people would treat his corpse with great disrespect. They would give him a burial similar to that of a donkey which people dragged outside the city gate and left to rot. Of some the Bible says nothing bad, but of Jehoiakim it says nothing good.

NB: When leaders abuse their power it is especially disgusting because the people are used rather than served.

 

JERUSALEM THE CAPITOL EPITOMIZES THESE SINFUL KINGS

22:20 Jeremiah called on Jerusalem to lament her fate. Her cry will be heard throughout the land, from the north (Lebanon) to the east (Bashan) to the south (Abarim/Moab). The prophet spoke of Jerusalem as a young woman in this oracle. He called on her to go up on the surrounding mountains to bewail the loss of her lovers (political allies and pagan gods). The Lebanon mountains were to Judah's north, Bashan was to the northeast, and the Abarim range was to the east of Jerusalem.

22:21 God had warned Jerusalem of the consequences of disobedience when she felt secure, in your prosperity. But she said, “I will not listen!” which has been your practice from your youth, that you have not obeyed My voice. When Jerusalem was prosperous, in the days of David and Solomon, the Lord had appealed to the people to obey His covenant, but they would not listen. That had been their practice since early in their history as a nation.

22:22 So she will see her kings and leaders taken captive. The Lord would remove her nobles and leaders, and all the people she had trusted in to supply her needs would go into captivity. Then Jerusalem would feel ashamed because she had behaved wickedly. This happened in 597 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar deported many of the nobles (2 Kings 24:10—25:7).

22:23 The pain of the coming disaster will be pain like a woman in childbirth! Because of all your wickedness. The cedar paneling of the people's houses demonstrated their trust in Lebanon, since it came from there. Their homes were like little nests made of cedar. In this sense they dwelt in Lebanon, even though their homes were in Jerusalem. Yet these comfortable surroundings would not be able to protect Jerusalem from the pain that was going to come on her, pain as excruciating and inevitable as the agony of childbirth. God would bring her down.

 

UNFAITHFUL LEADERS WILL HAVE NO LASTING LEGACY

Jehoiachin followed his father Jehoiakim to the throne. After a 3-month reign, he surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar and was deported to Babylon where he lived the rest of his life (52:31-34).

22:24 God indicated that even if Jehoiachin were as valuable to Him as a signet ring, He would still pull him off because of his sins. A signet ring was most valuable because it was used to impress its owner’s signature or seal on various documents. It was something a king did not part with, because it was the instrument with which he conducted business and manifested his authority.

22:25 God vowed to hand Jehoiachin and his mother over to the Babylonians. God was going to give Coniah over to King Nebuchadnezzar whom he dreads. The transfer of the signet ring symbolized the transfer of authority. Now Babylon would control the affairs of Judah.

22:26-27 They would be hurled into another country (Babylon), where they both would die v 26.  So God would not reluctantly hand over Coniah but hurl him. His mother, the powerful queen mother, Nehushta, would go with him. They would not be able to return to their native land. Mordecai and Ezekiel traveled to Babylon in the same group of exiles (Esth. 2:5-7; Ezek. 1:1-2).

22:28 Is this man Coniah a despised, shattered jar...an undesirable vessel v 28? No. The people did not despise Jehoiachin. Some even hoped he would be restored as king (28:1-4). Then why have he and his descendants been hurled out and cast into a land that they had not known? Why would God treat Coniah like a piece of broken pottery that people tossed on the garbage heap? The answer, not given in this verse, is that he proved to be an unfaithful servant of the Lord, a covenant-breaker.

22:29-30 God called on the land (repeated 3 times for emphasis) to hear the word of the Lord! The threefold repetition of "land" indicates how important it was for the people of the land to listen v 29. Though King Jehoiachin did have children he was to be considered childless because no one of his descendants will prosper sitting on the throne of David or ruling again in Judah. The Lord promised that none of Coniah's sons would sit on Judah's throne. It was a shame and a disgrace for a king to have no son to succeed him. Coniah had seven sons (1 Chron. 3:17-18; Matt. 1:12), but none of them ruled as Davidic kings. Zerubbabel, his grandson (1 Chron. 3:19), returned to the land as one of the foremost leaders of the restoration community (cf. Ezra 1—6), but he was not a king.

 

SO WHAT?

1. Leaders are responsible for how they lead. God has a vested interest in leaders.

2. Leadership goes rogue when it decides to use its power to serve itself rather than others.

3. When leadership becomes corrupt it destroys both the leader and the legacy they leave behind.