Do not weep for the dead king or mourn his loss;
rather, weep bitterly for him who is exiled,
because he will never return
nor see his native land again.
11 For this is what the Lord says about Shallum son of Josiah, who succeeded his father as king of Judah but has gone from this place: “He will never return. 12 He will die in the place where they have led him captive; he will not see this land again.”
(Jeremiah 22:10-12 NIV)
From yesterday’s text, the Lord gave a word of warning to all the kings of Judah to administer justice daily according to God’s Law. The remainder of Chapter 22 is a review of the kings after Josiah the reformer.
Today’s passage is short, just like the reign of the king mentioned. In this passage, the Lord gives the lament first, before mentioning for whom the people should lament. In verse 11, the Lord identifies Shallum as the subject of the lament.
So what do we know about Shallum? From this passage, we are aware that he was King Josiah’s son. From other scriptures, we are mindful of the fact that Josiah was a great religious reformer, destroying places of idol worship all over the land and restoring the worship of the One True God. We would hope that Josiah’s sons would also follow their father’s example, obeying the Lord and fighting evil.
To understand this lament of Shallum (also known as Jehoahaz, his throne name), we need to understand the context of Josiah and Shallum. 2 Kings 23:29-34 gives a brief summary of Josiah, Shallum, and Eliakim, Shallum’s successor. Here we learn that King Josiah dies at the hand of Egyptian King Pharoah Necho. Verse 30 tells us that the people pick Jehoahaz (Shallum) as Josiah’s successor.
From 1 Chronicles 3:15 we know that Shallum (Jehoahaz) was the fourth son of Josiah. The people’s pick of Jehoahaz over his older brothers was likely because he was a patriot and the people felt he would stand up to Pharoah Necho and fight for freedom once again in the land of Judah.
From the 2 Kings 23:29-34 passage, we see that Jehoahaz only lasted three months as the king before Pharoah Necho replaced him with his brother Eliakim. And what was the summary of Jehoahaz’ short reign? “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord…” (verse 32). And what happened to Jehoahaz? Pharoah Necho led him away in chains to Egypt, and he died there (vv. 33-34).
Jumping back to today’s text in Jeremiah, we now comprehend the context of Shallum (Jehoahaz) and understand the lament in verse 10. The Lord says not to mourn the death of Josiah, but rather the exile of Shallum, as he will never see his beloved homeland again.
So what is significant about this lament? Why mention it at all? It seems the Lord wants to point out that the current state of affairs did not happen overnight. The evil in Judah was brought about by their rulers and lived out by the people. Just as the Lord exiled these kings for their evil, the Lord also exiled His people from God’s Promised Land for their evil.
Note that nothing good or redeeming comes from Jehoahaz (Shallum), either during his short-lived reign or his exile. If we contrast Shallum’s life to that of Joseph (another person carted off to Egypt), or Daniel (taken to exile in Babylon), or the Apostle Paul (held in Roman prison, another form of exile), we see a marked contrast in lives lived.
May we be more like Joseph, Daniel, and the Apostle Paul, and be used of the Lord regardless of our location or circumstances.