These words are found in Jeremiah 22:28-30: “Is this man Coniah a despised broken vessel? Is he a vessel wherein none delighteth? Wherefore are they cast out, he and his seed and are cast into the land which they know not? O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of Jehovah. Thus saith Jehovah, write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days; for no more shall a man of his seed prosper, setting upon the throne of David and ruling in Judah.”
Jeremiah 22 is an interesting chapter. The prophet did not date it but he speaks of Josiah in v. 10 when the command is “Weep not for the dead, neither bemoan him,” indicating the words he would utter were close in proximity in time to the death of King Josiah. Josiah’s untimely death is recorded in 2 Kings 23:28-30 and 2 Chron. 35:20-25.
The major powers of Josiah’s day were Assyria, Egypt, and Babylon. Judah was a vassal state of Babylon and the three great powers were at war, vying for supremacy. Assyria and Egypt were allied against Babylon. Assyria had been the dominate force for several years and Babylon was challenging that dominancy. Egypt was rushing to aid Assyria in a critical battle which would take place in Carchemish and her army had to pass through Judah to join forces with Assyria. Perhaps because of her alliance with Babylon, Judah’s tiny army challenged the Egyptian forces. The Egyptian king sent ambassadors to Josiah and told him that Egypt had no quarrel with Judah, for her to stand aside and let his armies go through. Josiah would not and he was slain in the battle that ensued. His death was untimely but it spared him from seeing the tragic end of the Davidic monarchy, and the destruction of both Jerusalem and the temple. The crucial battle at Carchemish ended with a complete rout of Egypt and Assyria, with Babylon becoming the unquestioned power of the day.
Jeremiah 22 includes prophecies regarding three of Josiah’s sons and one of his grandsons. When Josiah was dead, the people took his son Jehoahaz (known also as Joahaz and Shallum) and crowned him king in his father’s place, but his reign was short lived — just three months. For some reason not recorded, the Egyptian king was displeased with him and bound him in chains and carried him to Egypt from whence he never returned to Judah. Instead of Jehoahaz, the king placed another son of Josiah on the throne (Eliakim) whose name the king changed to Jehoiakim (2 Chron. 36:4). Jehoiakim was a wicked king and shameless in acts which he did. When a prophetic message was sent to him from the hand of Jeremiah, Jehoiakim calmly took his penknife, cut the scroll into shreds, and burned it (Jeremiah 36:23). Other prophecies which particularly relate to him are found in Jeremiah 22:13-19.
When Jehoiakim died Jehoichin (Coniah), his son, was crowned king of Judah (2 Chron. 36:8), but like his uncle before him (Jehoahaz), Jehoichin was deposed. Nebuchadnezzar carried him to Babylon from whence he never returned to Judah. In his latter years, he was released from prison and given authority over other kings who had been exiled as he (2 Kings 25:21-30). Another son of Josiah, named Zedekiah, was placed on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar.
Many Jews regarded Coniah as the lawful heir to David’s throne. Ezekiel dated a number of his prophecies from the time of Coniah’s exile (cp. Ezek. 1:1-3; 3:1; 20:1). Like his father Jehoiakim, Coniah was a wicked man (2 Kings 24:9). Still, like many examples seen in the line of kings where a father might be good and his son evil (or vice versa), Coniah’s grandson Zerubbabel, was appointed governor of Judah by Cyrus. Cyrus led those exiled Jews who wished to return back to the land of Judah. Coniah had another illustrious descendant named Jesus of Nazareth (cp. Matt. 1:11-12, 16), and that fact makes the prophecy regarding Coniah more than of passing interest. That prophecy which repeated the word “earth” three time to emphasize the certainty of what he was about to utter, said, “Write this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days, for no more shall a man of his seed prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling in Judah” (Jer. 22:29-30). Jeremiah was not prophesying that Coniah would have no literal offspring, for he did and his family line was carried on down to Jesus. What he did prophesy was that none of Coniah’s seed would prosper on the throne of David in Judah.
All the debate and writings back and forth about a further earthly reign of 1,000 years of Jesus on David’s throne in Jerusalem is for nothing. Jeremiah settled that issue more that 2,500 years ago. None of Coniah’s seed will even sit and rule on David’s throne in Judah. Jeremiah is very specific: “in Judah.” One can not mistake that.
Those who look for an earthly kingdom in Judah are looking for the wrong kind of kingdom. Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn. 18:36). Jesus is now King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He sat down on David’s throne when He returned back to the Father (Acts 1-2). That was what was given Him when He returned to the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:13-14). He is reigning there now and He will sit there until all his enemies are subjected under His feet (Psa. 110:1). He won’t leave heaven until all His enemies are placed under His feet. The last enemy that will be subjected to Jesus is death (1 Cor. 15:25-26). All the proponents of a future, earthly reign of Christ place that reign between the resurrection of the righteous and the resurrection of the wicked. But that cannot be. He will reign in heaven until all the dead, both good and wicked, are raised. He cannot prosper ruling on a throne in Judah. But He can, has, and will continue to prosper reigning from heaven where He now is and where He now reigns.
What power there is in God’s prophetic word! It tells of the future, comforts the hearts of His children, and quickens hope in them. And lest we forget, Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall never pass away.”