Is there a Curse on Coniah?

Careful exegesis, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, can lead us to a correct understanding of the Scriptures. But are we as always as careful as we should be? In the rush of trying to prepare the Sunday sermon on Friday afternoon, it becomes easy to take short cuts, bypass careful exegesis and reach for a commentary.

According to most commentators, Jeremiah 22:24-30 announces a curse on the next to last king of Judah, Coniah [alternately spelled Jehoiachin in 2 Kings 24:8, 25:27 and Jeconiah in Matthew 1:11].

Following this view, since the line of Coniah was cursed, the Messiah had to come through David’s son Nathan rather than through the line of Solomon. Luke records that Christ was born of Mary, a descendant of Nathan (Lk. 3:31) and thereby avoided the curse. It is then argued that Christ was the legal son of Joseph and thus had a right to the throne, but since he was the physical son of Mary, Jesus avoided Coniah’s curse.

The problem with this interpretation is Coniah did indeed have descendants and Matthew lists them in Jesus’ genealogy (Matthew 1:12-16)! It appears that Matthew did not regard Coniah as cursed. Perhaps the so-called “curse on Coniah” is not as certain as some commentators presume.

Turning to Jeremiah 22 we discover that the prophet is warning Zedekiah of the consequences of his continued injustice and oppression. Jeremiah promises blessing for obedience to the covenant (22:1-4) and judgment for disobedience and apostasy (22:5-9). In the rest of the chapter, Jeremiah reminds Zedekiah of God’s judgment on his predecessors. This is presented as an incentive for Zedekiah to serve and obey Yahweh.

22:10-12:  The fate of Shallum (Jehoahaz) who reigned for only three months before he was carried away by Pharaoh Neco, never to return to Judah (2 Kings 23:31-34).

22:13-23: The fate of Jehoiakim under whose reign Judah was invaded by Nebuchadnezzar. The king died and received a donkey’s burial, which was no burial at all (vv. 18-19).

22:24-28: The fate of Coniah (Jehoiachin) who was taken captive to Babylon along with 10,000 Judeans (2 Kings 24:8-16). He was imprisoned in Babylon, but later released in 560 B.C. He was not destroyed, but preserved (2 Kings 25:27-30).

In Jeremiah 22:29-30 the prophet makes application to Zedekiah. The subject of this text is Zedekiah (“this man”), not Coniah who is mentioned merely by way of illustration. Zedekiah tried to escape from Jerusalem but was captured by the Babylonians. His children were killed before his eyes and then he was blinded and exiled to Babylon (2 Kings 25:6-7). None of Zedekiah’s children sat on the throne of David.

Careful exegesis of Jeremiah 22 indicates that the curse was on Zedekiah, not Coniah. Matthew recognized this and included Jeconiah in Jesus’ genealogy (Matt. 1:12-16).

Commentaries can be helpful, but they sometimes get it wrong. And their mistakes can end up in our sermons. Nothing can take the place of careful exegesis under the guidance of the Holy Spirit—even when you are in a rush to prepare Sunday’s sermon.

About J. Carl Laney

J. Carl Laney teaches Biblical Literature at Western Seminary and is an instructor for Western's Israel Study Program. Carl has authored numerous books, including most recently, “Discipleship: Training from the Master Disciple Maker” (2018).

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