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.

Which Kings Reigned During Jeremiah’s Ministry?

Jeremiah's Kings

Jeremiah 1:2-3 tells us the names of the kings who ruled during the time when Jeremiah was prophesying. They are:

  1. Josiah
  2. Jehoiakim
  3. Zedekiah

So, let’s go through a chronology of the kings of Judah during this time period.

First, Let’s Fill in the Blanks

We’ve just noticed three kings mentioned so far in Jeremiah 1:2-3 – Josiah, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah.

Shallum

But there’s also a king between Josiah and Jehoiakim. His name was Shallum (A.K.A. Jehoahaz).

Jehoiachin

And there’s a king between Jehoiakim and Zedekiah. That’s Jehoiachin (A.K.A. Jeconiah or Coniah).

Gedaliah

And then there’s not a king after Zedekiah but a Babylonian-appointed governor named Gedaliah. A man named Ishmael follows and lastly we have a Johanan. These last three were not kings, but did have some form of ruling power over the Jews after the Babylonian exile.

The Longer List of Kings

So, the longer list of kings looks like this:

  1. Josiah
  2. Shallum
  3. Jehoiakim
  4. Jehoiachin
  5. Zedekiah
  6. (Maybe Gedaliah and Ishmael and Johanan)

Now that we have our complete list of kings, let’s remind ourselves of some facts about these six men.

Josiah

First, Josiah was 8 years old when he assumed the throne (2 Kings 22:1; 2 Chronicles 34:1). He was king for 31 years. He died battling Pharaoh of Egypt at Megiddo (2 Kings 23:29).

Shallum/Jehoahaz

Then Shallum or Jehoahaz his son was made king (2 Chronicles 36:1). He was 23 years old at that point (2 Chronicles 36:1). He reigned for only 3 months and was then exiled to Egypt by the Pharaoh (2 Chronicles 36:3).

Jehoiakim/Eliakim

Pharaoh then set up Eliakim or Jehoiakim a son of Josiah to be king at the age of 25 (2 Chronicles 36:4). He ruled 11 years (2 Chronicles 36:5). Then he was exiled to – not Egypt like what happened to Shallum/Jehoahaz – but to Babylon with some Temple things (2 Chronicles 36:6-7). His death is mysterious and we don’t seem to know how it happened.

Jehoichin/Jeconiah/Coniah

Then Jehoiachin the son of Jehoiakim was made king. He was 18 years old at that point. And he reigned only 3 months and 10 days (2 Chronicles 36:9). He was then exiled to Babylon with some more Temple stuff, 10,000 people, 7,000 soldiers, 1,000 craftsmen, and all the best warriors. Only the poorest were left.

Jehoiachin surrendered to Babylon in Nebuchadnezzar’s eighth year (2 Kings 24:12). We see him in the last chapter of the book of Jeremiah treated well by the king of Babylon (Jeremiah 52:31-34).

Zedekiah/Mattaniah

In his place, with only losers left in Jerusalem, Mattaniah or Zedekiah was made king of Israel.

Now, in 2 Kings 24:17 it says that Zedekiah was Jehoiachin’s uncle. But 2 Chronicles 36:10 says he was Jehoiachin’s brother. How do we deal with this seeming contradiction?

It’s pretty simple. The term brother [אח or ach] in 2 Chronicles can be more general and refer to kinsman or countryman or relative. So then Zedekiah was Jehoiachin’s uncle – which makes him Josiah’s son.

Zedekiah was 21 years old when he becomes king. He reigns 11 years (2 Chronicles 36:11). Under his rule everything is exiled and destroyed.

And if you’re calculating the years – Jeremiah was probably about fifty-two years old when Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon in 586 BC.

Gedaliah

Then we have Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan.

Ahikam by the way is a man who delivered Jeremiah from Jehoiakim’s murderous intentions.

Gedaliah reignedif you can call it that – for two months. Then he was murdered by Ishmael who was from the royal family.

Ishmael

I don’t know that you can say that Ishmael reigned at all in any sort of way. But he was the next man to “rule” the Jews in a twisted sort of way. He ran away with the people to the neighboring nation of Ammon.

Johanan

And lastly, the would-be hero Jehohanan rescues the Jews from Ishmael. But then he goes against God’s will and brings the Jews to Egypt.

And historically in the book of Jeremiah, that’s the last we know of the Jews and their rulers in the land of Israel.

Summary

So, that’s the list of kings who ruled during Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry from 641 BC to some time after the exile in 586 BC.