There were two kings. The first of these was Jehoiakim. This king of Judah was the son of one of the most godly kings in Israel’s history, Josiah. However, Jehoiakim was an evil king. In Jeremiah it tells us that two prophets, Jeremiah and Uriah, prophesied against Judah, warning them to repent and that judgment was coming. The following verses tell of what Jehoiakim did to Uriah.
And when King Jehoiakim, with all his warriors and all the officials, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death. But when Uriah heard of it, he was afraid and fled and escaped to Egypt. Then King Jehoiakim sent to Egypt certain men, Elnathan the son of Achbor and others with him, and they took Uriah from Egypt and brought him to King Jehoiakim, who struck him down with the sword and dumped his dead body into the burial place of the common people. Jeremiah 26:21-23
Jehoiakim went to great lengths to ensure the death of Uriah; and then dumped his body like it was a dog. Remember this because we are going to come back to it later. Now, listen to what this foolish king did to the writings of Jeremiah.
In the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Take a scroll and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and Judah and all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah until today. It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the disaster that I intend to do to them, so that every one may turn from his evil way, and that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.” Jeremiah 36:1-3
As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the fire pot. Yet neither the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words was afraid, nor did they tear their garments. Even when Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them. Jeremiah 36:23-25
We see here two very specific and dangerous acts that will bring judgment on this king. He hunts down a prophet and kills him, and he destroys the words of the Lord without any reverence or fear. I have included verse 3 of chapter 36 so that you can see why God had Jeremiah write down all the words he had spoken. There is little mystery here, God is very clear. He tells Jeremiah to write everything down so that “every one may turn from his evil way, and that I may forgive their iniquity”. This is the whole point. So if this is the point, then how do you think God responds to the burning of His word, especially with no fear. Before we get to that, I want you to stop here and think. If you are a “king” in any capacity – a leader in business, the media, education, the arts, and certainly in government – stop and think. How can a leader pursue the righteous, hunt them down and “slay” them. There are many ways to “kill” a righteous man. As a leader, are you “slaying” the righteous? You need to be able to answer that question honestly.
Secondly, are leaders burning the word of God – destroying every part of it with all their might? You may find this a strange thing to say, but again, there are many ways to burn (or spurn) God’s word. If you refuse to apply it in your life, are you not burning the word out of your life? How do leaders cut up and destroy God’s words? Misrepresenting his word for your own purposes is the same as burning it with a torch – and having no fear or reverence in the process angers God. God’s word is not a political tool to be waved around for man’s corrupt purposes. It is time to admit what we are and what we have done and repent. Remember, this is the whole point. To turn and be forgiven – this is God’s purpose. If you do not, do not be deceived, for God is not mocked. There is judgment for our sins. God is gracious, but we must turn from our sins and repent. Let’s now read the rest of the story and see how God deals with this kind of depravity.
Therefore thus says the Lord concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: He shall have none to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat by day and the frost by night. And I will punish him and his offspring and his servants for their iniquity. I will bring upon them and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem and upon the people of Judah all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, but they would not hear. Jeremiah 36:30-31
Therefore thus says the Lord concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah: “They shall not lament for him, saying, ‘Ah, my brother!’ or ‘Ah, sister!’ They shall not lament for him, saying, ‘Ah, lord!’ or ‘Ah, his majesty!’ With the burial of a donkey he shall be buried, dragged and dumped beyond the gates of Jerusalem.” Jeremiah 22:18-19
John Gill in his commentary says this regarding verse 19:
as the carcass of a beast is dragged about by dogs; or as a malefactor, when executed, is dragged and cast into a ditch: this perhaps was done by the Chaldeans, who, when he was slain, dragged him along, and cast him beyond the gates of Jerusalem. So Josephus says, that when Nebuchadnezzar entered Jerusalem, he slew the most robust and beautiful with Jehoiakim their king, and ordered him to be cast without the walls unburied.
If you know your history and Bible, you know that Jehoiakim’s line dies out just as God said it would. Jehoiakim’s son reigned three months before the line was completely snuffed out. Do you remember how the king treated Uriah and dumped his body? Look at what happens to the king. The details are unclear, but it was a violent death and he was dragged, dumped and not buried. God will not be mocked!
Let’s pay attention to this example, for it has been given so that we may understand how serious God is about sin, repentance, and judgment. God’s purpose is always to draw us to himself, for if we repent and turn, he will forgive and show us grace. God will not be mocked! He is coming one way or another, either in grace or judgment. It is up to us how he comes. Let Jehoiakim’s life and death be a lesson we can apply. God is gracious to the repentant and righteous, but he is swift and just in his judgment to kings like Jehoiakim.