Jeremiah may have been at the higher location of the temple site, and YHWH directed him to “go down to the house of the king of Judah” and to relate to him YHWH’s “word” or message. Based on verses 11 and 12, this king was Jehoiakim, the successor of Shallum or Jehoahaz, the son of Josiah. (22:1) Jeremiah was to tell the “king of Judah, the one sitting on the throne of David” (or the king in the royal line that had its start with David), to “hear” or pay attention to the “word of YHWH.” This word or message was not just for the monarch to hear. It was also one for his servants or his officials (his “house” [LXX]) and his people who entered the gates leading into the palace complex (his “people, and those who enter through these gates” [LXX]). His people would have been his subjects who had access to him, likely for official business. (22:2) The message for all who were called upon to hear it focused on justice. They were to “do justice and righteousness,” administering affairs in a manner that was just and right. This required being impartial and defending the rights of lowly and disadvantaged persons. The king and other officials should have fulfilled their responsibility to deliver the victim of robbery or fraud from the “hand” or power of the oppressor. They were not to wrong the resident alien, orphan, or widow nor to act in a violent manner (act impiously [LXX]) against any one of them. The king and his officials were not to make themselves guilty of shedding innocent blood. They were to shun the kind of judicial corruption that commonly resulted in condemning the poor who were in the right and even in having them executed to benefit harsh oppressors. (22:3)
If, in response to YHWH’s word, the cause of justice was upheld impartially, the kingdom of Judah would be secure. Through the gates of the “house” (or the palace complex) would enter “kings, sitting on the throne of David” (legitimate descendants in the royal line that began with King David), “riding in a chariot and on horses.” Besides the kings, “their servants [or officials] and their people” or subjects would also enter. (22:4)
If the king, his servants, and his people failed to “hear” or obey the “words” that had been directed to them, they would experience calamity. Through Jeremiah, YHWH declared, “By myself I swear,” for there was no one greater in whose name an oath-bound utterance could be made. The utterance was, “This house [or palace complex] will become a ruin.” Only rubble would remain. (22:5)
To YHWH, the “house [or palace complex] of the king of Judah” was “like Gilead and the head [or top] of Lebanon. Both locations were known for their forests, with Lebanon being noted for its magnificent cedars. Wood, especially cedar, had been used extensively for the buildings of the palace complex. Apparently this is the reason for its being considered as being like Gilead and the summit of Lebanon. YHWH had determined to make the house or palace complex into a wilderness, transforming the impressive structures into a state of ruin, and to cause the cities in the territory of the kingdom of Judah to become uninhabited. (22:6)
YHWH purposed to “sanctify” or to set apart destroying agents or military forces, each warrior and his weapons (a “man and his ax” [LXX]), to reduce the palace complex to rubble. They would cut down the “choicest cedars” and toss them “into the fire.” The “choicest cedars” included the cedar paneling and any other parts of the palace complex that were constructed from cedar. (22:7)
People of many nations would pass by Jerusalem, with each passerby saying to his fellow, “Why has YHWH dealt thus with this great city?” (22:8) Those to whom the question was directed would answer, “Because they forsook the covenant of YHWH their God and bowed down to other gods and served them.” (22:9)
The Judean king Josiah was killed in battle with Pharaoh Nechoh (Necho, Neco), after which the people of the kingdom of Judah anointed his son Jehoahaz as his royal successor. Later, Pharaoh Nechoh took Jehoahaz as a captive to Egypt and made Eliakim, the brother of Jehoahaz, king, changing his name to Jehoiakim. (2 Kings 23:29-34) It appears that the imperative not to “weep for the dead one” nor to bemoan him applies to Josiah. The bitter weeping (literally, “weep with weeping”) was to be for Jehoahaz, the one apparently referred to as “going away.” His fate would be perceived as being worse than death, for he would never return to see his native land. (22:10; see the Notes section.)
“Shallum” (Sellem [LXX]) may have been the name of Jehoahaz before the people made him king after the death of his father Josiah in battle with Pharaoh Nechoh (Necho, Neco). Regarding “Shallum the son of Josiah” who had reigned as his father’s successor but had been taken as a captive from Jerusalem [literally, “this place”], YHWH declared, “He will not return there any more.” (22:11) He would die in Egypt, where he had been taken into exile, and would never again see the land of the territory of the kingdom of Judah. (22:12; see the Notes section.)
The “one building his house” or palace is Jehoiakim. Woe or calamity was pronounced upon him because his building project was not carried out “with righteousness” or not according to what was right or honest for the laborers, and the “upper chambers” on the palace roof likewise were not constructed “with justice” or not according to what was just or fair for the workers. After having defeated King Josiah, Pharaoh Nechoh (Necho, Neco) imposed a huge fine on the kingdom of Judah, and Jehoiakim obtained the gold and silver by taxing his subjects. (2 Kings 23:34-36; 2 Chronicles 36:3-5) Although he had burdened his subjects with the payment of the fine, he used no restraint in undertaking an impressive building project. Apparently to keep down the cost, he had his fellow countrymen labor for nothing, refusing to give the workers their wages. (22:13)
Jehoiakim was determined to make his palace luxurious. He is quoted as saying, “I will build myself a great house [or palace] and spacious upper chambers” on the flat roof. Jehoiakim wanted palace windows or openings for daylight, the interior of the structure paneled with cedar, and the palace walls painted with vermilion or a bright red color. Possibly the painting project included scenes that reflected the vanity of Jehoiakim. (22:14)
The rhetorical question directed to Jehoiakim was, “Are you king because you compete in cedar?” The thought appears to be whether ruling as king means competing with other monarchs by using cedar for luxurious building projects. Jehoiakim’s oppressive course is contrasted with that of his father. Josiah did “eat and drink” or found enjoyment in life, and he administered affairs with justice and righteousness, rendering impartial decisions that were just and right. For his faithful adherence to justice, Josiah was blessed, with his affairs going well for him. (22:15; see the Notes section.)
The word of YHWH through Jeremiah commended Josiah for rendering justice to the poor or afflicted one and the needy one. For this reason, “it went well with him.” He enjoyed YHWH’s favor and blessing. His judging impartially demonstrated that he had an approved relationship with YHWH as a man who knew his God. This is indicated with the rhetorical question that is attributed to YHWH. “[Was] this not [a matter] of knowing me?” (22:16; see the Notes section.)
Jehoiakim did not follow the good example of his father Josiah. His “eyes” or focus and his “heart” or inner self and thought were on dishonest gain, on the shedding of innocent blood to achieve his unworthy objectives, and on engaging in “oppression and violence” (“murder” [LXX]). (22:17; see the Notes section.)
For the evils he committed, “Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, the king of Judah,” would die as a monarch for whom no one would lament and who would not have an honorable burial. Through Jeremiah, YHWH declared that people would not lament for him as they would for others when saying, “Ah, my brother!” “Ah, my sister!” In Jehoiakim’s case, they would not lament for him with the words, “Ah, lord!” “Ah, his majesty!” (22:18; see the Notes section.) He would be buried with the “burial of a donkey,” dragged away and tossed away “beyond the gates of Jerusalem.” This indicated that his corpse would be treated like a dead donkey that would be dragged outside the city and thrown on a refuse heap. In his Antiquities (X, vi, 3), the first-century Jewish historian Josephus wrote that the “king of Babylon” (Nebuchadnezzar) killed Jehoiakim and ordered that his dead body be thrown before the walls of Jerusalem, “without any burial.” (22:19)
The feminine suffixes in the Hebrew text of verses 20 through 23 indicate that Jerusalem is here personified as a woman and represents the people in the realm of the kingdom of Judah. Jerusalem personified is told to ascend the height of Lebanon to cry out and on Bashan (a region east of the Sea of Galilee and primarily a high plateau that does include a number of mountain ridges) to let her voice be heard, and to cry out from Abarim (a mountainous region on the east side of the Dead Sea [“shout to the other side of the sea,” probably the Dead Sea (LXX)]). This outcry would be one of distress, for her “lovers” had been broken. These “lovers” probably were former allies who were then in a broken, crushed, or weak state and powerless to aid the kingdom of Judah to deal with the military threat from the Babylonians under the command of Nebuchadnezzar. (22:20) Before Jerusalem personified faced impending ruin and while enjoying prosperity and security, YHWH had spoken to the people through his prophets, appealing to them to abandon their wrong course and to become exclusively devoted to him. The response was, “I will not listen,” defiantly refusing to be obedient. This pattern of disobedience had already existed “since the youth” of Jerusalem personified or of the nation of Israel. After being liberated from Egypt, the people disregarded YHWH’s voice when they engaged in calf worship, heeded the words of unfaithful spies and refused to enter the land of Canaan, and, once settled in the land, repeatedly pursued idolatry. (22:21; see the Notes section.)
The “shepherds” or rulers would be helpless when faced with the serious military threat from the Babylonians. That threat would prove to be like a scorching wind from the east that would shepherd the shepherds or scatter them. The lovers or allies could not be of any aid, for they would be led “into captivity.” Jerusalem personified would then be ashamed and humiliated or dishonored by conquest because of all the evil the people in the kingdom of Judah had committed. (22:22; see the Notes section.)
The designation “Lebanon” here applies to Jerusalem. Especially the king and all other residents in the palace complex could be spoken of as being “nested in the cedars.” This is because cedar had been used extensively for the structures there. All who were “nested in the cedars” may have considered themselves in a secure position, but they were then facing disaster. The effect of the calamity that would come upon them would be comparable to “pangs, pain like that of a woman giving birth.” (22:23)
“Coniah” is an abbreviated form of “Jeconiah,” another name for King Jehoiachin the son of Jehoiakim. Before Coniah’s brief reign of three months and ten days ended (2 Chronicles 36:9), YHWH solemnly declared as with an oath (“as I live”) that Coniah’s rule would not last. Even if he had been like a seal ring on YHWH’s right hand (an item that was carefully safeguarded from falling into the wrong hands because it was used much like an official signature to indicate ownership), YHWH would pull or tear it from his finger, having no desire to keep it. (22:24) He would give Coniah “into the hand” or the power of those seeking his “soul” or life, into the hand of those he feared, and (or even) “into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar [Nebuchadnezzar] the king of Babylon and into the hand of the Chaldeans.” (22:25)
YHWH would “hurl” Coniah (Jehoiachin) and his birth mother, or cause them to be forcibly taken as captives, “into another land,” a land in which they had not been born and where they would die. (22:26) In the place of their exile, the land to which they would be “lifting up” their “soul” or their desire, looking with intense longing for it, would be their native land to which they would never return. In the Septuagint, their not returning is expressed emphatically with two words for “not” and may be rendered “by no means.” (22:27)
Coniah (Jechonias [LXX]; Jechoniah or Jehoiachin) is likened to a despised or unwanted, broken pot (a container fashioned from clay), a vessel for which no one cares or in which no one has any delight. His fate and that of his offspring would be that of being cast down and tossed into a land that they did not know (a foreign land). (22:28; see the Notes section.)
The “earth” or “land” that is addressed three times (twice according to the Septuagint rendering) appears to be the territory of the kingdom of Judah. It was solemnly called upon as a witness to “hear the word of YHWH” regarding Coniah (Jehoiachin). (22:29) The declaration of YHWH was, “Write down [plural as if a directive to scribes (singular in LXX)] this man as childless [as a banished man (LXX)], for from his offspring” not a man will succeed in “sitting on the throne of David and ruling again in Judah.” While in exile, Coniah (Jehoiachin) did father seven sons (1 Chronicles 3:16-18), but not a one of these sons ever ruled as king in Jerusalem as a member of the royal line of David. Therefore, from the standpoint of having a male heir reigning over subjects in the kingdom of Judah, Coniah was childless. (22:30)
Regarding the “dead one” (Josiah), the Jewish historian Josephus commented on the lamentation for him. “All the people mourned greatly for him, lamenting and grieving on his account many days.” (Antiquities, X, v, 1)
In verse 12, the Septuagint attributes the exile of Sellem (Shallum) to YHWH (“the place where I have exiled him”).
The Septuagint rendering of verse 15 differs significantly from the reading of the Hebrew text. “Should you reign because you are upset [possibly meaning in competition] with your father Achaz [Ahaz]? They will not eat and they will not drink. Better [it would be] for you to administer judgment [or justice] and good righteousness.” Possibly the rendering “Achaz” (Ahaz) resulted when the translator read the second letter of the consonantal text for the Hebrew word “cedar” as a heth instead of a resh. The point about not eating and not drinking could be understood to indicate that the king, his officials, and subjects would not have any enjoyment in life because of their corrupt actions.
In verse 16, the Septuagint appears to focus on the failure of the king and other officials in the kingdom of Judah. “They did not know [or acted without understanding]. They did not judge the lowly with equity nor the poor with equity. Is this [not a matter] of your not knowing? says the Lord.”
In verse 17, there is uncertainty about the meaning of the Hebrew word (merutsáh) that is often rendered “violence” and “extortion.” In other contexts, the word means “running” or “course.” (1 Samuel 18:27; Jeremiah 23:10) If “running” is the meaning in verse 17, this could indicate that Jehoiakim quickly moved away from the course that he should have been taking in order to pursue his evil ways.
The Septuagint rendering of verse 18 differs somewhat from the Hebrew text. Regarding the judgment against Jehoiakim, it says, “Woe [or calamity] to this man! By no means will they lament for him, ‘O brother!’ nor will they weep for him, ‘Alas, lord!’” The expression “by no means” preserves the emphatic sense of two Greek words for “not.”
According to the Septuagint rendering of verse 21, God’s speaking is not linked to the time of “youth” but to the “transgression” of the people (“I spoke to you in your transgression”).
Verse 22 in the Septuagint refers to the shame and dishonor as being “because of all the ones loving you.”
The Septuagint rendering of verse 28 differs somewhat from the reading of the Hebrew text. “Jechonias was disgraced like a vessel for which there is no use, for he was cast out and tossed into a land that he did not know.”