Jeremiah 22:13-19: A bit of an ass?
As we work through this ‘rogues gallery’ of the final kings of Judah, we come now to ‘’Jehoiakim’’ (18), who was one of that territory’s most evil kings (2 Kings 23:36, 37; 24:1-7). Josiah was his father and Shallum his brother. Jehoiakim only became king after his brother Shallum was exiled (2 Kings 23:34).
‘’Jehoiakim wasn’t much different from some modern politicians who profit from dishonest gain while they ignore the cries of the poor and needy.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (OT)’, p.1236.
Here are some observations based on the text:
Loving justice (13): God is grieved when the poor are oppressed by the rich and powerful. One of Jehoiakim’s evil deeds was to make his countrymen work without pay (see Deuteronomy 24:14, 15). He was effectively reducing his brothers to slavery. We need to take care that we do not become complicit in any form of injustice.
True nobility (15, 16): What is it that makes a person noble? It has nothing to do with birth or the blood flowing in their veins. Not really. It has everything to do with character. Leadership is fundamentally about who you are. Jehoiakim’s ‘apple’ fell very far from Josiah’s ‘tree’. It was a case of ‘like father, unlike son’. Josiah lived comfortably, but fairly, caring about matters of justice. True religion considers the poor and needy (see James 1: 27). As someone said, knowing God and doing His will are inseparable. ‘’So that makes you a king-living in a fancy palace? Your father got along just fine, didn’t he? He did what was right and treated people fairly. And things went well with him. He stuck up for the down-and-out, And things went well for Judah. Isn’t this what it means to know me?…But you’re blind and brainless. All you think about is yourself. Taking advantage of the weak, bulldozing your way, bullying victims.’’ The Message.
Sheer folly (18): You can be a great person in the eyes of the world, but it’s only for a short time. Then what? Will it be seen that you were an ‘ass’ so to speak; that you wasted your life? ‘’They’ll give him a donkey’s funeral, drag him out of the city and dump him.’’ The Message. Just recently, a famous (or infamous/notorious ) lady died. She was well-known for devoting her life to an overtly sinful business, and no doubt made a lot of money from it. These words of mine are not intended to judge her. Only God can know the true state of her soul. But I couldn’t help but reflect on the tragedy of a life given over to the vanity and folly of sin. The words spoken about Jehoiakim (19) say that he would have no burial. Instead his body would be left exposed on the ground (see Deuteronomy 28:26; Jeremiah 36:30.This point is not contradicted by 2 Kings 24:6 by the way. The statement there simply means that he died. No burial is mentioned.) How tragic when someone dies and it can be said: ‘’Nobody will shed tears over him.’’ The Message.
Prayer: ‘’Teach me to live, that I may dread, the grave as little as my bed.’’ Bishop Thomas Ken.