DID NEBUCHADNEZZAR APPOINT HIS OWN UNCLE OR BROTHER AS KING OF JUDAH?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Neither. That is a misunderstanding of the Bible text. Let us look at verses for clarification:
- 2 Kings 24:17: “And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah his father’s brother king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah.”
- 2 Chronicles 36:10: ”And when the year was expired, king Nebuchadnezzar sent, and brought him to Babylon, with the goodly vessels of the house of the LORD, and made Zedekiah his brother king over Judah and Jerusalem.”
Upon initial glance, it seems like King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon made his own uncle (2 Kings 24:17) or his own brother (2 Chronicles 36:10) to become King of Judah and Jerusalem. However, the possessive pronoun “his” in these verses points back to the prior King of Judah, not Nebuchadnezzar. We must do some intense studying to sort this out. Remember, it will get tricky because of alternate names, so we should pay extra close attention here.
According to Scripture, Mattaniah/Zedekiah was “the son of Josiah:”
- 1 Chronicles 3:15: “And the sons of Josiah were, the firstborn Johanan, the second Jehoiakim, the third Zedekiah, the fourth Shallum.”
- Jeremiah 1:3: “It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month.”
- Jeremiah 37:1: “And king Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned instead of Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, whom Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah.”
Being a descendant of David, Josiah was King of Judah and Jerusalem (2 Kings 22:1; 2 Chronicles 34:1). Josiah (see 1 Chronicles 3:15 above) had three sons with which we now concern ourselves.
Firstborn Johanan—apparently another name for “Jehoahaz?”—served as King of Judah once Josiah his father died in battle (2 Kings 23:30-34; 2 Chronicles 36:1-3).
Josiah’s second son, Jehoiakim (also called “Eliakim”), served as King of Judah after Jehoahaz was deposed (2 Kings 23:34-37; 2 Chronicles 36:4-8).
Jehoiakim had a son, Jehoiachin (also called “Jeconiah”), who was the next King of Judah. Jehoiachin was another evil monarch, so Nebuchadnezzar removed him from office and installed Zedekiah. Zedekiah (also called “Mattaniah”) was a relative of Jeconiah, not a relative of Nebuchadnezzar. By the way, the LORD declared Jeconiah/Jehoiachin childless with respect to an heir of his throne. While Jeconiah/Jehoiachin had children (1 Chronicles 3:17ff.), God prohibited all from ever being a king of Judah (Jeremiah 22:24-30). This necessitated the installation of Zedekiah instead of a son of Jeconiah/Jehoiachin. By the way, for more information on how Jeconiah’s curse requires the virgin conception of Christ, see our related study at the end of this article, titled, “Why are the genealogies of Matthew 1 and Luke 3 different?”
We return to our opening verses now, adding the insight we have just outlined.
- 2 Kings 24:17: “And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah his [that is, Jeconiah’s; verse 15] father’s brother king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah.”
- 2 Chronicles 36:10: “And when the year was expired, king Nebuchadnezzar sent, and brought him to Babylon, with the goodly vessels of the house of the LORD, and made Zedekiah his [that is, Jeconiah’s; verse 9] brother king over Judah and Jerusalem.”
None of Nebuchadnezzar’s relatives are under consideration here. At this point, there is another difficulty we must resolve, but this should be rather easy compared to the complexities we have seen already.
Was Zedekiah/Mattaniah the brother of Jehoiachin/Jeconiah (2 Chronicles 36:10) or his uncle (2 Kings 24:17)? He was both. How could that be? It is quite simple! They shared a forefather (Josiah), making them brothers in a broad sense. More specifically, Zedekiah/Mattaniah was the brother of Jehoiakim/Eliakim (father of Jehoiachin/Jeconiah). Therefore, Zedekiah/Mattaniah was the uncle of Jehoiachin/Jeconiah. For more information about Josiah being the patriarch of the final four Kings of Judah, see our Matthew 1:11 article linked at the end of this study. Also, consult our diagram below for a summary.