In this post I am going to refute the following objection that anti-missionary Jewish polemicists employ to deceive people into thinking that Jesus is not the Messiah that the Hebrew Bible prophesied would come into the world:
- Joseph could never pass on by adoption that which he doesn’t have. Because Joseph descended from Jeconiah (Mat. 1:11) he fell under the curse of that king that none of his descendants could ever sit as king upon the throne of David. (Jeremiah 22:30; 36:30). (Jews for Judaism, “The Jewish Concept of Messiah and the Jewish Response to Christian Claims” https://jewsforjudaism.org/knowledge/articles/the-jewish-concept-of-messiah-and-the-jewish-response-to-christian-claims/)
The reason why I am singling out this specific argument is because Muhammadan apologists have picked up on it and are employing it against Christians in order to convince them that the NT documents are not historically credible witnesses to the life and work of Jesus Christ and his followers.
It is obvious that neither Jews for Judaism nor those Muslims who use this objection have bothered reading the biblical passages carefully. The OT verses do not state that the curse of Jeconiah was indefinite, but plainly assert that God’s curse would only be in affect during Coniah’s own lifetime:
“As I live, saith HaShem, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon My right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence; and I will give thee into the hand of them that seek thy life, and into the hand of them of whom thou art afraid, even into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans. And I will cast thee out, and thy mother that bore thee, into another country, where ye were not born; and there shall ye die. But to the land whereunto they long to return, thither shall they not return. Is this man Coniah a despised, broken image? Is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? Wherefore are they cast out, he and his seed, and are cast into the land which they know not? O land, land, land, hear the word of HaShem. Thus saith HaShem: Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper IN HIS DAYS; for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.” Jeremiah 22:24-30 Jewish Publication Society (JPS)
The passage explicitly says that none of Jehoachin’s offspring would prosper, nor would any of his sons assume the throne, in his days. It doesn’t say that this would be something, which would last forever.
There is further evidence establishing that the curse would only be in affect during his lifetime. God says that, even though Jeconiah were his signet ring, he would cast him off. Yet, in regards to Jeconiah’s grandson Zerubbabel, God makes the following promise:
“In that day, saith HaShem of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, My servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith HaShem, and will make thee as a signet; for I have chosen thee, saith HaShem of hosts.” Haggai 2:23 JPS
God addresses Zerubbabel as his signet ring and even affirms that he had been chosen to be God’s servant!
This is clearly a reversal of the curse that was put upon Jeconiah or, at the very least, a direct proof that the curse wasn’t intended to be indefinite.
Lest the Jews for Judaism website accuse us of distorting the Hebrew Scriptures, here is what even their own official Jewish sources say in regards to the curse of Coniah:
Rab Judah the son of R. Hiyya also said: Exile atones for the half of men’s sins. Earlier [in the Cain narrative] it is written, And I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer;29 but later, And he dwelt in the land of Nod [wandering].30
Rab Judah said: Exile makes remission for three things, for it is written, Thus saith the Lord etc. He that abideth in this city shall die by the sword and by the famine and by the pestilence; but he that goeth out and falleth away to the Chaldeans who besiege you he shall live and his life shall be unto him for a prey.31 R. Johanan said: Exile atones for everything, for it is written, Thus saith the Lord, write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days, for no man of his seed shall prosper sitting upon the throne of David and ruling any more in Judah.32 Whereas after he [the king] was exiled, it is written, And the sons of Jechoniah, — the same is Assir — Shealtiel his son etc.33 [He was called] Assir, (Imprisoned) because his mother conceived him in prison. Shealtiel, because God did not plant him in the way that others are planted. We know by tradition that a woman cannot conceive in a standing position. [yet she did conceive standing. Another interpretation: Shealtiel, because God obtained [of the Heavenly court] absolution from His oath.4 Zerubbabel [was so called] because he was sown in Babylon. But [his real name was] Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 37b–38a, pp. 157-158 https://www.halakhah.com/pdf/nezikin/Sanhedrin.pdf; italicized emphasis ours)
(30)… The other half of the curse, ‘to be a fugitive’ was remitted because of his wandering, i.e., exile,
(31) Jer. XXI, 8-9. He that remained at home was subject to these three evils; but wandering and its consequent hardships outweighed them all.
(32) Jer. XXII, 30.
(33) I Ch. III, 17. Notwithstanding the curse that he should be childless and not prosper, after being exiled he was forgiven.
(35) According to this Haggadah they were one and the same person…
(1) His mother.
(2) For lack of room in prison, v. Lev. Rab. XIX.
(3)… ‘God asked’.
(4) Which He had made, to punish Jechoniah with childlessness. (Ibid., pp. 158, 160)
And this is what we read in Leviticus Rabbah, XIX:6 (5th-6th c. AD):
…Shabbethai said: He [Jeconiah] did not move thence before the Holy One, blessed be He, pardoned him all his sins. Referring to this occasion Scripture has said: Thou art all fair, my love, and there is noblemish in thee (S.S. IV, 7). A Heavenly Voice went forth and said to them:‘Return, ye backsliding children, I will heal your backslidings’ (Jer. III, 22). (Soncino Midrash Rabbah, Volume 4, p. 249)
Even the renowned medieval Jewish rabbi and scholar Rashi held this view:
a signet: Engraved and sealed in the flesh of My arm.
I will remove you: Cf. (supra 12:3) “Draw them out (התִקֵם) like sheep to the slaughter” (Jos. 8:6) “Until we have drawn (התִקֵינוּ) them.” And the ‘nun’ is superfluous. And, according to the Midrash Aggadah (Pesikta d’Rav Kahana, p. 163a): In the place to which he was removed (נִתַּק), there HE WAS RECTIFIED (נִתְקַן) , for he repented in Babylon, and the Holy One, blessed be He, APPLIED FOR ABSOLUTION OF THE OATH HE HAD SWORN, “Inscribe this man childless.” and Zerubbabel was born to him in Babylon, and it was said to him through the prophet (Haggai 2:23), “On that day… I will take you, Zerubbabel, and I will make you as a signet,” directed toward what He said to his father, “Though… be a signet on My right arm,… I will remove him (sic).” (The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16019?#v=24&showrashi=true; capital and underline emphasis ours)
and I will make you as a signet: In contrast to what was decreed upon his father Jeconiah (Jer. 22: 24): “As I live, says the Lord, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, be a signet on My right hand, from there I will remove you.” [Jeremiah further] states there (ibid. 22: 30): “Inscribe this man childless.” We learn that HIS REPENTANCE AVAILED [Jeconiah], and Zerubbabel was born to him, and he was made as a signet. (Ibid., Haggai 2:23 https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16204#showrashi=true; capital and underline emphasis ours)
The Jewish Encyclopedia (http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8560-jehoiachin) states:
Jehoiachin’s sad experiences changed his nature entirely, and as he repented of the sins which he had committed as king he was pardoned by God, who REVOKED the decree to the effect that none of his descendants should ever become king (Jer. xxii. 30; Pesik., ed. Buber, xxv. 163a, b); he even became the ancestor of the Messiah (Tan., Toledot, 20 [ed. Buber, i. 140]). It was especially his firmness in fulfilling the Law that restored him to God’s favor. He was kept by Nebuchadnezzar in solitary confinement, and as he was therefore separated from his wife, the Sanhedrin, which had been expelled with him to Babylon, feared that at the death of this queen the house of David would become extinct. (Bold and underline emphasis ours)
Other sources even state that the Messiah will actually be a descendant of Jeconiah through the line of his grandson Zerubbabel! For instance, Tanhuma Genesis, Toldot (8th-9th c. AD) states:
Scripture alludes here to the verse Who art thou, O great mountain before Zerubbabel? Thou shalt become a plain (Zech. 4:7). This verse refers to the Messiah, the descendant of David. Why was he called a great mountain? Because he will be greater than the patriarchs, as is said: Behold, My servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high (Isa. 52:13). He shall be exalted above Abraham; lifted up above Isaac; and shall be very high above Jacob. He shall be exalted above Abraham, concerning whom it is said: I have lifted up my hand unto the Lord (Gen. 14:22). lifted up above Moses, of whom it is said: That thou shouldst say unto me: Carry them in thy bosom (Num. 11:12); and shall be very high like the ministering angels, concerning whom it is said: As for their wings, they were high (Ezek. 1:18). Hence Scripture says, Who art thou, O great mountain?
From whom will the Messiah descend? From Zerubbabel. Why was he called Zerubbabel? Because he was born in Babel (Babylonia). From whom did Zerubbabel descend? From David, as it is said: And Solomon’s son was Rehoboam; Abijah his son.. and Delaiah, and Anani, seven (1 Chron. 3:10-24). To whom does Anani refer? To the Messiah, as is said: For who hath despised the day of small things? Even they shall see with joy the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel, even these seven (Zech. 4:10). And it is written elsewhere: I saw in the night visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds (ananei) of heaven, one like unto a son of man (Dan. 7:13). (Midrash Tanhuma–Yelammedenu, translated by Samuel A. Berman [Ktav, Hoboken, NJ 1996], p. 182 https://books.google.com/books?id=WLOi9vWEzTEC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q=messiah%20zerubbabel&f=false; bold and underline emphasis ours)
It is rather apparent that the official Jewish view, or at least one widely held by various rabbis, is that Jeconiah was forgiven and the curse had been reversed.
Hence, despite the fact that these Jewish authorities do not say that the curse was limited to and would only remain in affect during Coniah’s own lifetime, they still candidly admit that God removed his judgment upon Jehoachin’s line due to his humbling himself and repenting before God during his captivity.
God’s acceptance of Coniah’s repentance and subsequent reversal of his curse and judgment upon him shouldn’t surprise anyone, since God himself told Jeremiah that this is precisely what will happen whenever a person sincerely turns away from his wickedness and rebellion:
“At one moment I may speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it. If that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to do to it. Or at another moment I may speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom to build and to plant it. If it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will relent of the good with which I said I would bless it. Now therefore speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying: Thus says the LORD: Look, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Repent now, everyone from his evil way, and make your ways and your deeds good.” Jeremiah 18:7-11 Modern English Version (MEV)
So much for Coniah’s curse ruling out Jesus from being Israel’s one and only true Messiah.