JEHOIACHIN (Heb. יְהוֹיָכִין; "yhwh will establish"; also: Joiachin, Jeconiah, Jechoniah, Coniah; in Babylonian Akkadian documents Ia-ʾ-kin), king of Judah. He ascended the throne at the height of the rebellion against Babylon, when he was 18 years old (ii Kings 24:8; the version in ii Chron. 36:9, which states that he was only eight at the time is difficult), and reigned for three months (ii Chron. 36:9 adds another ten days). In the winter of 597 b.c.e. Nebuchadnezzar exiled him, along with his mother, family, officers, slaves, and 10,000 captives – including craftsmen and smiths – to Babylon (ii Kings 24:12ff.), setting up Zedekiah in his place. It seems that Jehoiachin's mother Nehushta, daughter of Elnathan, was very influential in the palace, for she is mentioned in the Bible several times (ii Kings 24:12, 15; Jer. 22:26; 29:2). The Babylonian chronicle published by D.J. Wiseman (see bibliography) describes the capture of Jerusalem and the exile of Jehoiachin in the seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, relating that the Judean king surrendered with a large part of his army shortly after Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem. Jehoiachin's surrender saved the land from destruction, but many of the people of Judah disapproved of his action; the resulting disputes between the party favoring peace and that counseling rebellion were specifically revealed in the antagonism which arose between Jeremiah and Hananiah son of Azur of Gibeon in the fourth year of Zedekiah's reign (Jer. 28). Excavations into various Judahite tells (Beth-Shemesh, Tel Bet-Mirsim, Ramat Raḥel) have disclosed the imprint of a seal reading "to Eliakim, the servant of Jochin," which Klein suggested refers to the servant of Jehoiachin, i.e., the man in charge of the property of Jehoiachin. W.F. Albright and other scholars held that these impressions belong to the reign of Zedekiah and indicate that Jehoiachin still held many estates in Judah after his exile and enjoyed the status of a king in Judah. However, subsequent study (Garfinkel) shows that the Jochin/Jochan seal impressions are from the eighth century, much earlier than previously thought, and are thus irrelevant to the biography of King Jehoiachin. Food-rationing lists belonging to the 10th to 35th years of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, found in one of the underground storerooms of his palace in Babylon, mention Jehoiachin's name four times; one such list is from 592 b.c.e. (the 13th year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign and sixth year of Jehoiachin's exile). In these lists the latter is called "king of Judah," and several documents mention distribution of food to the five sons of the king of Judah (anet, 205; cf. i Chron. 3:17), which was given to "Hananiah." From the large quantity of oil distributed to Jehoiachin it would appear that he and his family were living together. The title given him in these documents indicates that he was considered a captive ruler, perhaps a hostage, or perhaps one who had surrendered freely and enjoyed the patronage of his captors. His family retained leadership of the Babylonian exiles (Ezek. 1:2), and his descendants were at the head of those who returned to Zion. According to the biblical account, Jehoiachin's status improved after Nebuchadnezzar's death (562 b.c.e.). His successor, Evil-Merodach, honored Jehoiachin, king of Judah (in the 37th year of his exile, on the 27th day of the 12th month), gave him new clothing and an honored seat at his own table (ii Kings 25:27–30; Jer. 52:31–34). It is uncertain if the pardoning of Jehoiachin was connected with a general change in the attitude of the king of Babylon toward the exiled Jews.
In the Aggadah
Nebuchadnezzar's sudden attack on Jehoiachin was the result of the advice of his countrymen who warned him, "Do not rear a gentle cub of a vicious dog; much less a vicious cub of a vicious dog." Nebuchadnezzar thereupon went to Daphne (Antiocha), where he asked a deputation of the Sanhedrin to hand over Jehoiachin, in return for which he would not destroy the Temple. When Jehoiachin was informed of the request, he ascended to the roof of the Temple, and, extending the keys of the sanctuary toward heaven, exclaimed: "Lord of the Universe, since we have hitherto not proved worthy custodians for Thee, from now on these keys are Thine." A fiery hand appeared and snatched the keys (or, according to other opinions, they remained suspended between heaven and earth). Jehoiachin was then taken captive (the gate by which he left the city was thereafter called the Gate of Jeconiah; Mid. 6:2), and placed in solitary confinement. Fearing, however, that since the king was childless, the House of David would thus cease, the Sanhedrin succeeded in obtaining permission for his wife to live with him. Jehoiachin kept the laws of marital purity during this time, and as a reward was forgiven his sins (Jer. 3:22; Lev. R. 19:6). Even the decree that none of his descendants would ascend the throne (Jer. 22:30) was repealed when Zerubbabel was appointed leader of the returned exiles (cf. Sanh. 37b–38a). The exile of Zedekiah while Jehoiachin was still alive was a merciful act, since Jehoiachin could thus teach Zedekiah Torah (Git. 88a). Jehoiachin's life is illustrative of the maxim: "During prosperity a man must never forget the possibility of misfortune; nor in despair lose hope of prosperity's return." Within two days of Evil-Merodach's accession to the throne, Jehoiachin was released and accorded the highest honors (sor. 28).
J.W. Rothstein, Die Genealogie des Königs Jojachin … (1902); J. Lewy, in: Mitteilungen der Vorderasiatisch-Ägyptischen Gesellschaft, 29, pt. 2 (1924), 42–51; W.F. Albright, in: jbl, 51 (1932), 77ff.; idem, in: ba, 5 (1942), 49ff.; A. Malamat, in: jnes, 9 (1950), 218ff.; idem, in: iej, 6 (1956), 246ff.; 18 (1968), 137ff.; idem, in: Y. Aviram (ed.), Yerushalayim le-Doroteha (1968), 34ff.; Klausner, Bayit Sheni, 1 (19512), 3238; F.M.T. Böhl, Opera minora (1953), 423–9, 525; P. Artzi, in: A. Biram (ed.), Sefer E. Urbach (1955), 264–5; J.P. Hyatt, in: jbl, 75 (1956), 277–82; H. Tadmor, in: jnes, 15 (1956), 226–30; D.J. Wiseman, Chronicles of Chaldaean Kings (626–556 b.c.e.)… (1956); E. Vogt, in: vt, Supplement, 4 (1957), 92–96; M. Noth, in: zdpv, 74 (1958), 133ff.; E. Kutsch, in: zaw, 71 (1959), 270ff.; J. Liver, Toledot Beit David (1959), 7–9, 12ff., 49ff.; Bright, Hist, index. in the aggadah: Ginzberg, Legends, index, s.v., Jehoiakim; I. Ḥasida, Ishei ha-Tanakh (1964). add. bibliography: M. Cogan and H. Tadmor, ii Kings (1988), 310–14; Y. Garfinkel, in: ba, 53 (1990), 74–79; S. Ahituv, Handbook of Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions (1992), 128; J. Berridge, in: abd, 3:661–63.