‘’Don’t weep over dead King Josiah. Don’t waste your tears. Weep for his exiled son: He’s gone for good. He’ll never see home again. For this is GOD’s Word on Shallum son of Josiah, who succeeded his father as king of Judah: ‘’He’s gone from here, gone for good. He’ll die in the place they’ve taken him to. He’ll never see home again.’’ The Message.
These verses talk about two different kings: ‘’Josiah’’, and his son ‘’Shallum’’, whose throne name was ‘Jehoahaz’ (2 Kings 23:31-35). Jeremiah tells the people not to weep for Josiah. He had died some years earlier while fighting the Egyptians (2 Kings 23:29). His body was carried back to Jerusalem where it was laid to rest in peace and honour (2 Kings 23:30). But unlike his godly father, Shallum was an evil man, and reigned only three months. He was then taken into exile in Egypt, where he died (2 Kings 23:34). This tale of two kings was also a tale of two destinies, for one was a believer and the other an ungodly person.
We can understand the logic of verse 10: the call not to weep for Josiah. We can’t do any more for those who have died, but a whole generation would be separated from their true home forever. They would die as exiles in a foreign land. For most that far off country would be Babylon; but for Shallum it was Egypt (see also verses 24-30). This was a matter for tears; and it introduces us to the essence of hell, which is to be exiled (for ever) far removed from our true home – God Himself. It is ultimately a final destination we choose for ourselves by persistent and willful rejection of Jesus, and by refusal to turn back to the Lord, from sin, and be saved from sin. Shallum did not have to be an exile, and neither do you.
From a Christian perspective, we know we do not have to weep for those who die in the Lord. We may cry for ourselves, but it is not necessary to shed tears for them. They are safe, and free and happy; and all our weeping will not bring them back. But let us indeed feel the strongest emotions for those who are ‘lost’. Our prayer meetings should not be dry-eyed as we consider the state as those who now live as exiles from God, and who will remain permanently in that state if they do not repent.
Apparently there was a pro-Jehoahaz party in Judah, pinning their hopes on their king’s return. Perhaps some of the false prophets encouraged this expectation. But it was not going to happen. Neither do we have any Biblical reason to expect that those who die as exiles from God can ever get back home. Though some may preach it, I do not see that the Bible teaches it. The time to repent is now; the time to pray is now; the time to preach is now. Let’s do so, because lost people matter to God.
Prayer: Teach us to care about people, Lord, as you do.