Questions From Readers
● Does the prophecy at Jeremiah 22:30 mean that King Jehoiachin, or Coniah, had no children?—J. L., U.S.A.
No, Jehoiachin was not childless. Note carefully what the prophecy says: “Write down this man as childless, as an able-bodied man who will not have any success in his days; for from his offspring not a single one will have any success, sitting upon the throne of David and ruling any more in Judah.” Though he would be written down as “childless,” the latter part of the Jer 22 verse 30 indicates that Jehoiachin, also called Coniah and Jeconiah, would have offspring. In fact, seven of his children are listed in 1 Chronicles 3:17, 18. So, it appears that this text is to be understood in respect to the throne of David in Jerusalem.
Upon his father’s death, Jehoiachin, then eighteen years old and possibly childless, became king. (2 Ki. 24:8) After Jehoiachin’s ruling only three months Nebuchadnezzar took him captive to Babylon and set Zedekiah on the throne. In his thirty-seventh year of captivity Jehoiachin was elevated to a position of honor in Babylon, but neither he nor his sons ever ruled again on David’s throne in Jerusalem. (2 Ki. 25:27-30) After the Jews returned from Babylon they had a governor, but not a king. Just as Jeremiah prophesied, Jehoiachin was “as childless” in the sense that he was without successor in that he did not have any of his offspring rule as king on the throne of David in Judah.
● Zechariah 8:19 mentions four different fasts that were observed by the Jews. What did these commemorate?—K. A., U.S.A.
The prophet Zechariah was inspired by God to write at Zechariah 8:19: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth month, and the fast of the seventh month, and the fast of the tenth month will become for the house of Judah an exultation and a rejoicing and good festal seasons. So love truth and peace.’” All four of these fasts, though not commanded by God, denoted sorrow and called to remembrance sad and calamitous events associated with Jerusalem and the Babylonian overthrow of it and the kingdom of Judah in the seventh century before the Common Era.
The “fast of the fourth month” apparently commemorated the breaching of Jerusalem’s walls by the Babylonians. This occurred on Tammuz 9, 607 B.C.E. It was followed by the capture of Judean King Zedekiah.—2 Ki. 25:2-7; Jer. 52:6, 7.
According to Zechariah 8:19, the Jews also kept the “fast of the fifth month.” It was in the fifth month, or Ab, of 607 B.C.E. that Nebuzaradan, King Nebuchadnezzar’s chief of the bodyguard, entered Jerusalem and “proceeded to burn the house of Jehovah [the temple] and the house of the king and all the houses of Jerusalem.” (Jer. 52:12-14; 2 Ki. 25:8-10) Hence, the “fast of the fifth month” was evidently held in commemoration of the destruction of the temple.
When the Jews were taken into captivity by the Babylonians in 607 B.C.E., “some of the lowly people of the land the chief of the bodyguard let remain as vinedressers and compulsory laborers.” Gedaliah was appointed as governor over them. However, he was assassinated and all the people thereafter abandoned Judah entirely, going down into Egypt. (2 Ki. 25:12, 22-26) So it was that in the seventh month of 607 B.C.E. Judah and Jerusalem became fully desolated. The “fast of the seventh month,” or Tishri, apparently was held as a sad remembrance of Gedaliah’s death or of that complete desolation of the land.
But, what about the “fast of the tenth month,” which is also mentioned at Zechariah 8:19? This seems to have been held in commemoration of an event preceding those already discussed. It had been on the tenth day of Tebeth, the post-captivity name of the tenth Jewish lunar month of the sacred calendar, that King Nebuchadnezzar opened his siege against Jerusalem. (2 Ki. 25:1; Jer. 39:1; 52:4) This was in the year 609 B.C.E. In the third year of that siege, or in 607 B.C.E., Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians. So the commencement of Nebuchadnezzar’s successful siege against Jerusalem may have been marked by the Jews during the “fast of the tenth month.” However, it was also in the tenth month that Ezekiel and other captives in Babylon heard of the city’s fall. (Ezek. 33:21) Hence, this fast may have been associated with the receiving of that sad news.
The Jews returned from their seventy-year Babylonian captivity in 537 B.C.E. So, when Zechariah prophesied (521-519 B.C.E.), they had been back in Judah and Jerusalem for some time. However, the very important temple rebuilding work was then at a standstill. Yet, the temple would be completed and Jehovah would bless the Jews richly. The four somber fasts mentioned at Zechariah 8:19 would “become for the house of Judah an exultation and a rejoicing and good festal seasons.” Through his prophet Zechariah, Jehovah promised the Jews success, prosperity and happiness. Therefore, they should not be living in the past. They should look to the future with optimism and confidence in God. Spurred on by the prophetic activity of Haggai and Zechariah, the repatriated Jews under Zerubbabel renewed temple construction work and this center of true worship came to successful completion in 516 B.C.E. (Ezra 6:14, 15) Surely, then, the mourning that attended the fasts commemorating Jerusalem’s fall, the desolation of Judah and the destruction of the temple built by Solomon was inappropriate. Thenceforth the Jews had reason for rejoicing and exultation.
In modern times, and especially from 1917 to 1919, anointed Christians experienced spiritual sadness. However, their release from Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, occurred in 1919, and thereafter these spiritually restored servants of Jehovah had no reason to mourn and dejectedly consider the past. Some failed to make spiritual progress and did not see developments in the right light. But that was not true of these anointed ones as a group. The faithful had good cause to view the future optimistically, with rejoicing and exultation. They did so, and to this day they have enjoyed great happiness and Jehovah’s rich blessing in furthering the interests of true worship and declaring the good news of God’s kingdom earth wide.