Why Does Jeremiah Mention Only Three Kings in Jeremiah 1:2-3?

Jeremiah's 3 Kings

We’ve already studied the kings who ruled during the ministry of the prophet Jeremiah. But if you read that post you may have noticed something. In fact, I stated it pretty clearly. In Jeremiah 1:2-3 there are only three kings listed — Josiah, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah.

Even if we allow for Gedaliah, Ishmael, and Jehohanan to be excluded because they weren’t real kings, we still have Shallum and Jehoiachin missing from the list of kings who ruled while Jeremiah was ministering.

In other words, Jeremiah 1:2-3 says that…

  1. Jeremiah received God’s word in the days of Josiah.
  2. He skips Shallum.
  3. The word came in the days of Jehoiakim.
  4. He skips Jeconiah.
  5. The word came in the days of Zedekiah.
  6. And then he skips Gedaliah — again, probably because he wasn’t a real king.

So, I wonder why does he skip mentioning these other kings?

Jeremiah Purposely Excluded Them

Here’s one possible reason for excluding Shallum and Jehoiachin. They both ruled for 3 months or less. They really were rather minor in terms of their tenure of ruling the Jews. Maybe since they were so minor in terms of the length of their ruling Jeremiah saw fit to leave them out of the list of kings.

Jeremiah Didn’t Prophesy When They Reigned

And here’s the second possibility. Maybe during the short 3-month reigns of Shallum and Jehoiachin – Jeremiah actually didn’t receive any message from the Lord at those times.

Jeremiah mentions Shallum once in Jeremiah 22:11. But there he seems to be speaking of him in the past tense as if Shallum had already been exiled by that point.

But it’s a little harder to see Jeremiah not prophesying during the reign of Jehoiachin. While there are a number of references in which Jehoiachin is spoken of as if he’s already been exiled (Jeremiah 24:1; 27:20; 28:4; 29:2; 37:1; 52:31-34) yet Jeremiah 22:24-30 is particularly difficult to interpret in this way. So, perhaps this second explanation for why these two kings aren’t mentioned in Jeremiah 1:2-3 is not as strong as the first.

What is the Message of the Book of Jeremiah?

Jeremiah's Message

So how would you summarize all of what we’ve considered in the summaries of Jeremiah 1-6, 7-2021-2627-29, 30-35, and 36-52?

In other words, what is the book of Jeremiah really about?

Punishment?

Is it about punishment?

It is. But there’s more to it than that.

After all, we see in Jeremiah 36-52 that both Ebed-Melech and Baruch are singled out for reward in this book – not punishment.

And if the book of Jeremiah could be summed up in the concept of punishment, then where would the Book of Encouragement fall? Much of that section is not about punishment. It’s about deliverance and restoration.

(Un)Faithfulness?

What else? The unfaithfulness of Judah and the faithfulness of God? Those concepts are surely here as well.

But these concepts don’t justify the presence of – for example – the prophecies to the nations.

So, punishment is prominent. God’s faithfulness is on display. His people’s unfaithfulness is also very apparent. But I think these concepts don’t fully describe this book and convey its message.

Authority

So let me propose something. Everywhere I look in the book of Jeremiah I see one thing. God’s authority. His authority and control of every situation. And not only his control of the current situation in Jeremiah’s day – but his control of the future.

Think about it…

  • God sovereignly calls Jeremiah to be his spokesman.
  • God has the authority to call his people to account for their abandoning him.
  • God has authority to dole out punishment for those who reject his authority.
  • Interestingly enough, God’s authority even allows for people to reject that authority!
  • But the people who do reject his authority meet with a bitter end.
  • While those who submit to God’s authority live and are blessed.
  • In Jeremiah’s day the nations of the world had long ago thrown off God’s authority.
  • But God is still ultimately in control and he would punish those nations that rebelled against his authority.
  • And what do you know – the very last chapter of this book shows the blessings of one of those kings who actually submitted to God’s authority. King Jeconiah submitted – however imperfectly – to that one authoritative command of God about going over to Babylon. And as a result Jeconiah lived.

So, then I think that God’s authority is undeniably at the heart of this book. And our responsibility as creatures of this sovereign king is to submit to that authority. And we see several instances in this book in which someone actually gets it right and submits to God’s authority. And the result is – life.

And so, I think that’s the message of the book of Jeremiah. Submit to God’s Authority and Live.

A Summary of Jeremiah 36 – 52

Jeremiah 36-52

Jeremiah 36–45 | The Bitter End

Now, I have labeled Jeremiah 36-45 as The Bitter End.

What we have in these 10 chapters is generally chronological with a few flashbacks. And it details the temporary end of the nation of Judah’s occupation of the Promised Land at the hands of Babylon.

Within this section I see 6 sub-sections.

Jeremiah 36 | Jehoiakim Didn’t Tremble at God’s Word

First, Jeremiah 36 shows us that King Jehoiakim Didn’t Tremble at God’s Word.

God sends his message of punishment to the people in the days of Jehoiakim in hopes that the people will repent and he could spare them.

Jeremiah somehow by this time is not allowed into the Temple. So he sends the message with Baruch his scribe. On a fast day a few months later Baruch gives the message to the people.

The people hear but we don’t know their reaction. The officials hear and tremble. They relate the message to the king… who burns it up.

God promises then to bring all the punishment that was contained in that burned-up message.

Jeremiah 37–39:14 | Zedekiah Wavers

The second sub-section jumps forward quite a bit to Zedekiah’s reign. This sub-section chronicles the Wavering of Zedekiah in Jeremiah 37-39:14.

Zedekiah wavers between protecting Jeremiah and handing him over to his enemies. In addition, Zedekiah is faced with trusting God and going over to the Babylonians. But he won’t do it.

As a result he ultimately witnesses the murder of his children and then experiences the blinding of his own eyes. Ultimately Jerusalem is taken by Babylon and all the people – besides the poorest of the poor – are exiled.

But Jeremiah is treated well.

Jeremiah 39:15-18 | Flashback: Ebed Melech Saved by Faith

At the end of Jeremiah 39 there’s an interesting flashback. And it seems that the message of this flashback in Jeremiah 39:15-18 is Ebed-Melech Saved by Faith.

As opposed to Zedekiah’s terrible and yet merciful fate, Ebed-Melech who helped Jeremiah and trusted God is promised deliverance.

So, that’s the third sub-section of this Bitter End of Judah.

Jeremiah 40–43 | Gedaliah / Johanan

Then fourth, in Jeremiah 40-43 we have The Gedaliah/Johanan Fiasco.

After deporting most of the Jews from the land Babylon appoints Gedaliah to govern Judah. But one of the king’s relatives kills him and takes the captives to the nation of Ammon. Johanan rescues them and brings them to Bethlehem intending to escape to Egypt. They ask God’s counsel – “should we go to Egypt or stay in the Promised Land?” – while fully intending to go to Egypt. God and Jeremiah rebuke them for this. But the remnant won’t listen and they proceed to Egypt. God sends word in Egypt to Jeremiah that he will send Babylon against Egypt.

Jeremiah 44 | To the Jews in Egypt

The fifth sub-section — which consists of Jeremiah 44 — is God’s Message to the Jews in Egypt.

God sends a message to the Jews who rebelled by going to Egypt. They will meet their end there. God would rather have them repent and stop worshipping idols.

However, Israel doesn’t care what God wants and defies God’s message as delivered through Jeremiah. So God will overthrow all of Egypt on account of his rebellious people there.

Jeremiah 45 | Flashback: Baruch

Then we have one last flashback in Jeremiah 45. And in this shortest chapter of Jeremiah, we see Baruch Rewarded with Life.

At the end of this main section that details the historical catastrophe that came upon the Jews for their disobedience, we’re brought back to the 4th year of Jehoiakim and we’re reminded of a promise that God made to Baruch, Jeremiah’s scribe.

It turns out that Baruch was seeking great things in a society that was crumbling to pieces. And so God told him to stop doing that, since God was going to uproot the whole nation in which he lived. But God would deliver Baruch.

Jeremiah 46–51 | Prophecies Concerning the Nations

Then in Jeremiah 46-51 we have Prophecies Concerning the Nations.

God foretells the destruction of 8 nations at the hands of Babylon. Finally he tells of the future destruction of Babylon at the hands of the Medes.

And as I mentioned before, the end of chapter 51 ends the “words of Jeremiah”.

Jeremiah 52 | God’s Promises Fulfilled

And then the absolute last section of this book. Jeremiah 52. It’s the Conclusion: God’s Promises Fulfilled.

All of what God spoke through Jeremiah concerning the punishment of Judah came to pass. Jerusalem was taken. Zedekiah and the Jews were exiled. The city was burned with fire. But the one king who had willingly gone over to Babylon – Jeconiah – was eventually treated well in captivity.

A Summary of Jeremiah 21 – 26

Jeremiah 21-26

Jeremiah 21–23 | No Favor Without Repentance

As we continue to summarize the various sections of Jeremiah, we notice that the next section spans Jeremiah 21-23. This is what God is communicating in this section – No Favor Without Repentance.

King Zedekiah sends to Jeremiah requesting that God would help him defeat Nebuchadnezzar. God sends back through Jeremiah a response to:

  • Zedekiah
  • The people
  • The king’s household
  • The prophets and priests

The gist of his messages is:

  • Zedekiah will lose
  • Everyone should go out to the king of Babylon
  • Repent and do right before it’s absolutely too late
  • Speak God’s word and not the deceptions of your own mind

This section contains the first mention of Nebuchadnezzar and Chaldea/Babylon. Also, I think we have here the first mention of surrendering to Babylon as an option for the people whereby they might live and escape the full brunt of punishment.

Jeremiah 24 | Exiles Blessed, Remnant Punished

Then Jeremiah 24 seems to be a follow-up to the previous section where blessing was promised for surrendering to Babylon.

Here’s the idea of this section. Exiles Blessed, Remnant Punished.

King Jeconiah did surrender and go out to Babylon and because of that he would be blessed, as we’ll see at the end of this book – in Jeremiah 52. But the Jews who stayed in Jerusalem are going to be punished.

Jeremiah 25 | Judah Not the Sole Recipient of Punishment

Jeremiah 25 has the Lord assuring Judah that She’s Not the Sole Recipient of Punishment.

Both Judah and all the surrounding nations will be punished through the Lord sending Babylon. For seventy years these nations will be exiled. After that God will punish Babylon itself as we’ll hear later toward the end of the book.

Jeremiah 26 | Jerusalem like Shiloh, Jehoiakim not like Hezekiah

Jeremiah 26 compares Jerusalem to Shiloh. But in contrast, it shows that King Jehoiakim was not like righteous King Hezekiah of old.

God sent Jeremiah to proclaim punishment to Jerusalem in the beginning of King Jehoiakim’s reign, hoping that the people would repent.

Instead of repenting, the religious leaders sought to kill Jeremiah. But the people actually rose up and refused to execute him. They reminded their leaders of the prophet Micah’s previous prophecies of judgement and how Hezekiah humbled himself before God’s word.

But then Jeremiah — or someone else — relates a story of how Jehoiakim did indeed kill a true prophet for saying about the same thing that Jeremiah did. But in Jeremiah’s case, Ahikam (son of Shaphan and father of Gedaliah the future governor) was on his side to protect him.