|King of Judah|
Jeconiah from "Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum"
|Reign||Dec. 9, 598 - Mar. 15/16, 597 BCE|
|Coronation||Dec. 9, 598 BCE|
|Born||c. 615 or 605 BCE|
Jeconiah (Hebrew: יְכָנְיָה [jəxɔnˈjɔː], meaning "God will fortify (his people)"; Greek: Ιεχονιας; Latin: Joachin), also known as Coniah and as Jehoiachin (Hebrew: יְהֹויָכִין [jəhoːjɔːxiːn]; Greek: Ιεχονιας; Latin: Joachin), was a king of Judah who was dethroned by the King of Babylon in the 6th century BCE and was taken into captivity. Most of what is known about Jeconiah is found in the Hebrew Bible. Records of Jeconiah's existence have been found in Iraq, such as the Jehoiachin's Rations Tablets. These tablets were excavated near the Ishtar Gate in Babylon and have been dated to c. 592 BCE. Written in cuneiform, they mention Jeconiah ("Ia-'-ú-kinu") and his five sons as recipients of food rations in Babylon. Comparing Babylonian records with date references found in Hebrew biblical texts, the length of Jeconiah's captivity can accurately be determined.
Jeconiah in Scripture
|Rulers of Judah|
King Jeconiah reigned three months and ten days, from December 9, 598 to March 15/16, 597 BCE. He succeeded, Jehoiakim, as king of Judah [2Ki.24:6]] in December 598, after raiders from surrounding lands invaded Jerusalem [2Ki.24:2]] and killed his father. It is likely that the king of Babylon was behind this effort, as a response to Jehoiakim's revolt, starting sometime after 601 BCE. Three months and ten days after Jeconiah became king, the armies of Nebuchadnezzar II seized Jerusalem. The intention was to take high class Judian captives and assimilate them into Babylonian society. On March 15/16th, 597 BCE, Jeconiah, his entire household and three thousand Jews, were exiled to Babylon.
After Jeconiah was deposed as king, Jeconiah's uncle, Zedekiah, [2Ki.24:17]] was appointed by Nebuchadnezzar to rule Judah. However, while in captivity, the deported Jews still regarded Jeconiah as their legitimate king. Jeconiah would later be regarded as the first of the exilarchs. In the Book of Ezekiel, the author refers to Jeconiah as king and dates certain events by the number of years he was in exile. The author identifies himself as Ezekiel, a contemporary of Jeconiah, and he never mentions Zedekiah by name.
Release from captivity
According to 2 Kings 25:27, Jeconiah was released from prison "on the 27th day of the twelfth month", during March of 561 BCE. This indicates the first year of captivity to be 598/597 BCE, according to Judah's Tishri-based calendar.
Jeremiah (22:28-30) cursed Jeconiah that none of his descendants would ever sit on the throne of Israel:
- Thus says the LORD: 'Write this man down as childless, A man who shall not prosper in his days; For none of his descendants shall prosper, Sitting on the throne of David, And ruling anymore in Judah.'"
Jeconiah was the son of Jehoiakim with 1 Chronicles 3:17-24.
Dating Jeconiah's reign
The Babylonian Chronicles establish that Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem the first time on 2 Adar (16 March) 597 BC. Before Wiseman's publication of the Babylonian Chronicles in 1956, Thiele had determined from biblical texts that Nebuchadnezzar's initial capture of Jerusalem and its king Jeconiah occurred in the spring of 597 BC, whereas Kenneth Strand points out that other scholars, including Albright, more frequently dated the event to 598 BC. This is one of several instances cited by Strand showing that Thiele's approach of starting with the biblical texts and assuming they were correct until proven otherwise, combined with his extensive knowledge of the recording methods of ancient historians, produced results that were useful in correcting dates derived from secular history.
Assuming that Jeconiah's reign ended on the day that the Babylonians captured Jerusalem the first time, 2 Adar (16 March) 597 BCE, and further assuming that the Jewish calendar in the sixth century BCE had the same number of days in the two preceding months as in the modern Jewish calendar, Jehoiachin's reign of three months and ten days (2 Chronicles 36:9) would have started on 21 Heshvan (9 December) 598 BCE.
As quoted above, Thiele said that the 25th anniversary of Jeconiah's captivity was April 25 (10 Nisan), 573 BCE, implying that he began the trip to Babylon on 10 Nisan 597, 24 years earlier. His reasoning in arriving at this exact date was based on Ezekiel 40:1, where Ezekiel, without naming the month, says it was the tenth day of the month, "on that very day," an expression that Thiele knew marked something important. Since this fit with his idea that Jeconiah's (and Ezekiel's) trip to Babylon began a month later than the capturing of the city, thus allowing a new Nisan-based year to begin, Thiele took these words in Ezekiel as referring to the day in which the captivity or exile proper began. He therefore ended Jehoiachin's reign of three months and ten days on this date. The dates he gives for Jeconiah's reign are then: 21 Heshvan (9 December) 598 BC to 10 Nisan (22 April) 597 BC.
Thiele's reasoning in this regard has been criticized by Rodger C. Young, who advocates the 587 date for the fall of Jerusalem. Young points out Thiele's inconsistent arithmetic, and adds an alternative explanation of the phrase "on that very day" (be-etsom ha-yom ha-zeh) in Ezekiel 40:1. This phrase is used three times in Leviticus 23:28-30 to refer the Day of Atonement, always observed on the tenth of Tishri, and Ezekiel's writings in several places show familiarity with the Book of Leviticus. A further argument in favor of this interpretation is that in the same verse, Ezekiel says it was Rosh Hashanah (New Year's Day) and also the tenth of the month, indicating the start of a Jubilee year, since only in a Jubilee year did the year begin on the tenth of Tishri, the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 25:9). The Talmud (tractate Arakin 12a,b) and the Seder Olam (chapter 11) also say that Ezekiel saw his vision at the beginning of a Jubilee year, the 17th, consistent with this interpretation of Ezekiel 40:1.
Because this offers an alternative explanation to Thiele's interpretation of Ezekiel 40:1, and because Thiele's chronology for Jeconiah seems incompatible with the records of the Babylonian Chronicle, the infobox below dates the end of Jeconiah's reign to 2 Adar (16 March) 597 BC, the date of the first capture of Jerusalem as given in the Babylonian records. Thiele's dates for Jeconiah, however, and his date of 586 BC for the fall of Jerusalem, continue to hold considerable weight with the scholarly community. The 586 date for Jerusalem's fall will also continue to be popular with scholars who hold that, for one reason or another, Zedekiah's years must be measured in an accession sense (year one was not until his first full year of reign).
Dating the fall of Jerusalem using Jechoniah's dating
The reign of Jeconiah is considered important in establishing the chronology of events in the early sixth century BC in the Zedekiah.
Historians, however, have been divided on whether the year was 587 or 586 BC. A 1990 study listed eleven scholars who preferred 587 and eleven who preferred 586. The Babylonian records of the second capture of Jerusalem have not been found, and scholars looking at the chronology of the period must rely on the Biblical texts, as correlated with extant Babylonian records from before and after the event. In this regard, the Biblical texts regarding Jeconiah are especially important, because the time of his reign in Jerusalem was fixed by Donald Wiseman's 1956 publication, and this is consistent with his thirty-seventh year of captivity overlapping the accession year of Amel-Marduk, as mentioned above.
Ezekiel 33:21 relates that a refugee arrived in Babylon and reported the fall of Jerusalem in the twelfth year, tenth month of "our exile." Measuring from the first year of exile, 598/597, this was January of 586 BC, incompatible with Jerusalem falling in the summer of 586 BC, but consistent with its fall in the summer of 587 BC.
Thiele held to a 586 BC date for the capture of Jerusalem and the end of Zedekiah's reign. Recognizing to some extent the importance of Ezekiel's measuring time by the years of captivity of Jeconiah, and in particular the reference to the 25th year of that captivity in Ezekiel 40:1, he wrote,
Although the Babylonian tablets dealing with the final fall and destruction of Jerusalem have not been found, it should be noticed that the testimony of Ezekiel 40:1 is definitive in regard to the year 586. Since Ezekiel had his vision of the temple on the twenty-fifth anniversary of his and Jehoiachin's captivity (28 April 573), and since this was the fourteenth year after Jerusalem's fall, the city must have fallen eleven years after the captivity. Eleven years after 597 is 586.
The logic here is mistaken. In order to justify his 586 date, Thiele had assumed that the years of captivity for Jeconiah must be calendar years starting in Nisan, in contrast to the Tishri-based years that he used everywhere else for the kings of Judah. He also assumed that Jeconiah's captivity or exile was not to be measured from Adar of 597 BC, the month Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem and its king according to the Babylonian Chronicle, but in the next month, Nisan, when Thiele assumed Jeconiah began the trip to Babylon. These assumptions are not unreasonable, and, granting them, the first year of captivity would be the year starting in Nisan of 597 BC. The twenty-fifth year of captivity would start in Nisan of 573 BC, (573/572) twenty-four years later. Years of captivity must be measured in this non-accession sense (the year in which the captivity started was considered year one of the captivity), otherwise the 37th year of captivity, the year in which Jeconiah was released from prison, would start on Nisan 1 of 560 BC (597 – 37), two years after the accession year of Amel-Marduk, according to the dating of his accession year that can be fixed with exactitude by the Babylonian Chronicle. Thiele then noted that Ezekiel 40:1 says that this 25th year of captivity was 14 years after the city fell. Fourteen years before 573/572 is 587/586, and since Thiele is assuming Nisan years for the captivity, this period ended the day before Nisan 1 of 586. But this is three months and nine days before Thiele's date for the fall of the city on 9 Tammuz 586 BC. Even Thiele's assumption that the years of captivity were measured from Nisan does not reconcile Ezekiel's chronology for the captivity of Jeconiah with a 586 date, and the calculation given above that uses the customary Tishri-based years yields the summer of 587, consistent with all other texts in Ezekiel related to Jeconiah's captivity.
Another text in Ezekiel offers a clue to why there has been such a conflict over the date of Jerusalem's fall in the first place. Ezekiel 24:1-2 (NIV) records the following:
In the ninth year, in the tenth month on the tenth day, the word of the Lord came to me: "Son of man, record this date, this very date, because the king of Babylon has laid siege to Jerusalem this very day."
Assuming that dating here is according to the years of exile of Jeconiah, as elsewhere in Ezekiel, the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem began on January 27, 589 BC.2 Kings 25:1 (NIV):
So in the ninth year of Zedekiah's reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army. He encamped outside the city and built siege works all around it.
The ninth year, tenth month, tenth day in Ezekiel is identical to the period in 2 Kings. In Ezekiel, the years are everywhere else measured according to Jeconiah's captivity, which must be taken in a non-accession sense, so that the beginning of the siege was eight actual years after the beginning of the captivity. The comparison with 2 Kings 25:1 would indicate that Zedekiah's years in 2 Kings were also by non-accession reckoning. His eleventh year, the year in which Jerusalem fell, would then be 588/587 BC, in agreement with all texts in Ezekiel and elsewhere that are congruent with that date.
Some who maintain the 586 date therefore maintain that in this one instance, Ezekiel, without explicitly saying so, switched to the regnal years of Zedekiah, although Ezekiel apparently regarded Jeconiah as the rightful ruler and never names Zedekiah in his writing. Another view is that a later copyist, aware of the 2 Kings passage, modified it and inserted it into the text of Ezekiel. This interpretation would be compatible with viewpoints that maintain that God is incapable of imparting specific information to humans, or perhaps is unwilling to do so, even to His prophets.
During his excavation of Babylon in 1899–1917, Robert Koldewey discovered a royal archive room of King Nebuchadnezzar near the Ishtar Gate. It contained tablets dating to 595–570 BC. The tablets were translated in the 1930s by the German Assyriologist, Ernst Weidner. Four of these tablets list rations of oil and barley given to various individuals—including the deposed King Jehoiachin—by Nebuchadnezzar from the royal storehouses, dated five years after Jehoiachin was taken captive.
One tablet reads:
10 (sila of oil) to the king of Judah, Yaukin; 2 1/2 sila (oil) to the offspring of Judah’s king; 4 sila to eight men from Judea.
1 1/2 sila (oil) for three carpenters from Arvad, 1/2 apiece; 11 1/2 sila for eight wood workers from Byblos. . .; 3 1/2 sila for seven Greek craftsman, 1/2 sila apiece; 1/2 sila to the carpenter, Nabuetir; 10 sila to Ia-ku-u-ki-nu, the son of Judah’s king; 2 1/2 sila for the five sons of the Judean king.
The Babylonian chronicles are currently housed in the Pergamum Museum in Berlin.
- Siege of Jerusalem (597 BC)
- Kingdom of Judah
- Elnathan, maternal grandfather who was a high court official 
|King of Judah
9 Dec 598 BC – 16 March 597 BC
| Succeeded by|
|Constructs such as ibid., loc. cit. and idem are discouraged by World Heritage Encyclopedia's style guide for footnotes, as they are easily broken. Please improve this article by replacing them with named references (quick guide), or an abbreviated title. (May 2010)|
- Jehoiachin in Babylonia, discussion of the Babylonian evidence