“childless.” The Hebrew word is actually “stripped.” In this context, it means stripped of children, but it also means stripped of other things as well. There are many clear ways God could have said Jehoiachin did not have children besides using the word, “stripped.” “Stripped” has many potential meanings, so no doubt its use here also includes many other things that Jehoiachin was stripped of besides children, such as power and prestige. Jehoiachin was also stripped of his kingdom. Jehoiachin was dishonored and disgraced; and worse, none of his seven sons ascended to the throne.
The prophecy to record this man “childless” is not to be taken in an absolute and strictly literal sense, because Jehoiachin was not childless. He had seven sons who are in fact recorded in the Bible (1 Chron. 3:17; Jer. 22:28, 30). He was to be written “stripped” of children, power, and prestige in the kingdom in the sense meant in this particular context: he was “a strong man who will not succeed in his days.” Thus Jehoiachin was stripped of children in the sense that none of them got to rule after Jehoiachin.
“a strong man who will not succeed.” This is an irony, as we can see from the Hebrew word translated “man,” which is not the usual word for “man,” but is geber (#01397 גֶּבֶר), meaning a strong man or warrior, emphasizing a man who is strong and has the ability to fight, for example, a warrior. Thus, the Hebrew text reads, “Write down this man [Heb. ish, ‘man’] ‘stripped,’ a man [Heb. geber, ‘strong man’] who will not succeed….” The irony portrays Jehoiachin as a strong and capable man in one sense, but we know from the Scripture that he did not use his abilities to serve God, but did evil in the eyes of Yahweh (2 Kings 24:9). So he did not “succeed” in life including the fact that none of his seven sons got to reign as king when he was deposed.
“none of his seed will succeed in sitting on the throne of David and ruling any more in Judah.” This prophecy literally came to pass, and also came to pass in a larger sense as well. To understand this prophecy of Jeremiah, it is helpful to know some information: for one thing, following king “Coniah” (Jer. 22:24, 28) through the Scripture can be confusing because he is also called “Jehoiachin” and “Jeconiah,” but he is most often referred to as “Jehoiachin.” Also, the word “seed,” like many biblical words, has more than one meaning, and it can refer to someone’s descendants far into the future or it can refer to someone’s direct descendants. Also, we must keep in mind that the original text of the Bible had no chapters and no verses, so a new chapter may not be a break in the subject matter, and that is the case here in Jeremiah 22-23.
In this context, Jeremiah 22:30, Jehoiachin’s “seed” refers to his direct descendants, his birth children. Given that, this prophecy about Jehoiachin and his children was literally fulfilled at the time Jehoiachin and his children lived. None of Jehoiachin’s “seed” ever sat on David’s throne or ruled Judah. We know that in this context Jehoiachin’s “seed” refers to his direct descendants, his sons, because two verses earlier, Jeremiah’s prophecy was about Jehoiachin and his “seed” being cast out into a land that they did not know: “Why are he [Jehoiachin] and his seed to be hurled out, and cast into a land [Babylon] that they do not know” (Jer. 22:28). That prophecy of Jeremiah 22:28 was very accurate, because Jehoiachin and his direct descendants—his birth children—were cast out of Judah and taken captive to Babylon. However, Jeremiah’s prophecy in Jeremiah 22:28-30 did not apply to Jehoiachin’s later descendants. They were never cast out of Judah. In fact, even Jehoiachin’s grandson Zerubbabel was not cast out of Judah; he was born in captivity in Babylon and later traveled back to Judah and became the governor of Judah during the reign of the Persians.
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, deported Jehoiachin, and his wives and children, and even his mother, to Babylon (2 Kings 24:15). The text does not specifically say that Jehoiachin’s sons were taken to Babylon, but we would not expect it to. Jehoiachin was only 18 when he started his reign, so he would not have been sexually active for very many years before his captivity, and he only reigned three months (2 Kings 24:8; 2 Chron. 36:9). Thus, any sons that his wives bore to him before he was taken captive were only babies or small children, and they would have been taken to Babylon along with their mothers.
Before he died, Jehoiachin was restored to favor by the king of Babylon who ruled after Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-Merodach (2 Kings 25:27-30; he is also referred to as “Amel-Marduk”), but he never got to return to Judah. The line of David continued from Jehoiachin to his son Shealtiel (1 Chron. 3:17; Matt. 1:12), who died in Babylon, but Shealtiel’s son, Jehoiachin’s grandson, was Zerubbabel, who, because he was the lineal descendant of King Jehoiachin, was appointed governor of Judah by the Persians (Hag. 1:1, 14; 2:2, 21). So it is absolutely true that none of Jehoiachin’s “seed” (his direct descendants) sat on the throne of David, but instead they were cast into a land they did not know: Babylon.
As well as the above sense in which Jeremiah’s prophecy was literally fulfilled, it seems to have been fulfilled in another, larger sense as well. Although the phrase “his seed” refers in this immediate context to Jehoiachin’s direct children, there is also a sense in which none of Jehoiachin’s descendants ever reigned on the throne of David over Judah until in the future when his descendant through Mary, Jesus Christ, will rule. Jehoiachin was the last surviving king to have ever reigned on David’s throne over the Kingdom of Judah until Jesus Christ will reign. After Jehoiachin, Nebuchadnezzar placed Zedekiah on the throne in Judah. Zedekiah was a descendant of David, but Zedekiah through Josiah; Zedekiah was not a son of Jehoiachin, so he was not “Jehoiachin’s seed.” Besides, Jehoiachin outlived Zedekiah. Zedekiah died during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 52:11) whereas Jehoiachin lived longer than Nebuchadnezzar and was brought out of prison by Evil-Merodach. Furthermore, Zedekiah’s children did not survive and outlive Jehoiachin, they were executed by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:6-7; Jer. 52:10).
After king Zedekiah, the Old Testament Kingdom of Judah ceased to exist. While Zedekiah was on the throne, Judah was conquered by Babylon, which was conquered by Persia, which was conquered by Greece. Then the area was ruled by the Hasmoneans, but they never put a descendant of David on the throne. The Hasmoneans were conquered by Rome, who controlled it during the time of Christ. After the Romans, the history of Judah becomes very complex, but at no time did a king from the line of David ever rule in Judah after Jehoiachin then Zedekiah, right up to today.
However, did the prophecy that none of Jehoiachin’s seed would reign on the throne of David mean that Jesus Christ was not a descendant of Jehoiachin or that somehow he was an illegitimate ruler? Not at all. As we have seen, the specific meaning of Jeremiah’s prophecy was that none of Jehoichins direct descendants would reign on the throne of David, and that came to pass. But we must also read Jeremiah 22:30 in its larger context, which includes Jeremiah 23 (Jer. 22:30 is the last verse in chapter 22, and the context continues into Jeremiah 23). As we read Jeremiah 23, we see that in Jeremiah 23:5 Yahweh says He will raise up a Righteous Branch “of David” (from David), who will reign as a wise king. God cannot say in Jeremiah 22:30 that no descendent of Jehoiachin would reign on David’s throne but then say five verses later that a Righteous Branch from David would reign as a wise king. That would be a huge contradiction. But there is no contradiction in the text. The prophecy of Jeremiah as recorded in Jeremiah 22 and 23 was that no direct descendent of Jehoiachin would reign on David’s throne (Jer. 22:30), but that God would later raise up a Righteous Branch from the line of David who would reign as a wise king (Jer. 23:5). Both of those prophecies are true. No direct descendant of Jehoiachin reigned on David’s throne, and a Righteous Branch and wise king from David will reign on the earth one day, and that wise king from the line of David is Jesus Christ.
The people of Judah had repeatedly broken the covenant they had made with Yahweh, and the promises associated with that covenant, such as the land, were conditional (Ps. 132:11-12; Jer. 22:4. Also, see commentary on Jer. 22:29, “land, land, land”). After the very evil reign of Manasseh, God said he would remove Judah from His sight (2 Kings 23:26-27; 24:3; Jer. 15:1-4), which He did. The kingdom of Judah was reduced to a “stump” a cut-off tree (Isa. 11:1). It was no longer the “house” of David, but rather God called it a “fallen booth,” using the term “booth,” which referred to a small shelter that was usually set up for a temporary use and then allowed to collapse in disuse. Today, the “booth” of David is still fallen, but one day it will be restored to a kingdom that will rule over the earth. The Messiah will rule the world from Jerusalem, but not because he accepts rulership handed down from a previous king, but because he comes from heaven and conquers the world (Rev. 19:11-21). The Messiah will come as a “shoot” that springs from the stump of David; a branch that comes from his root (Isa. 11:1; cp. Jer. 23:5; 33:15).