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The Riddle of the Fourth Year of Jehoiakim's Reign in the Book of Jeremiah

Jae Gu Kim 1

1협성대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Mentions of the fourth year of Jehoiakim's reign in the book of Jeremiah have long perplexed Old Testament scholars. Not only the fact these appear in the text, but also their corresponding literary contexts, are vexing problems. Thus, many scholars have hastily concluded that the book of Jeremiah has no coherent literary structure. This paper proposes that the book of Jeremiah has a coherent structure and that the seemingly unplanned appearances of the fourth year of Jehoiakim provide a key for understanding the book. The fourth year of Jehoiakim appears four times (25:1; 36:1; 45:1; 46:2) at strategic places in the book. The first two occurrences are in passages that warn of Judah's downfall (chaps. 21-33; 25:1) and that show the fulfillment of the warning (chaps. 34-44; 36:1). In these two occurrences, the year functions as a notice of the certainty of Judah's downfall and of the seventy-year exile (25:1; 36:1). Specifically, the literary structure twice has the frame "Zedekiah (chaps. 21-24; 34)- Jehoiakim (chaps. 25-27; 35-36)-Zedekiah (chaps. 28-33; 37-44)." This frame emphasizes that the downfall and exile of Judah is due to the fourth year of Jehoiakim. The next appearance of Jehoiakim's fourth year is in Jeremiah 45. This time it completely breaks the flow of the chronological order. Judah has already been destroyed, the people have been exiled to Babylon, and the remaining people has voluntarily gone into Egypt in order to avoid Babylonian vengeance. Thus the occurrence of Jehoiakim's fourth year in 45:1 seems to be unreasonable. But in actuality it is the right place, in that it occurs after the remaining people in Judah have failed to revitalize the restoration program (chaps. 40-44). God had already proclaimed in the fourth year of Jehoiakim that the period of the exile would be seventy years and that restoration would occur after the seventy years of exile (chap. 25). Nonetheless, God gave the remnant His word that they could live in the land of Judah and be fruitful in that land without undergoing the seventy year exile. Unfortunately, however, they failed to grasp that opportunity given by God, who graciously changed His mind. Right after their failure, the fourth year of Jehoiakim appears, with the lament of Baruch. This appearance of the year is meant to give an answer to Baruch, who lamented the severe punishment of the seventy-year exile. The remnant's failure at that time can be considered God's answer to Baruch, who lamented over the long period of seventy years of exile prophesied in the fourth year of Jehoiakim. For it is after their failure that Baruch was able to understand why God could not help but let them undergo the long and severe exile of seventy years. The reason is that restoration does not come quickly but takes time, until the word of God is written on people's minds. The last occurrence of the mention of Jehoiakim's fourth year comes right after Baruch's lament (46:2). The oracle against the nations from Egypt to Babylon was proclaimed in the fourth year of Jehoiakim. The fourth year of Jehoiakim can be a sign of both the downfall of Judah and the beginning of Judah's restoration, in that Egypt began to be destroyed in that year (46:2). And at the end of the seventy years Babylon would also fall. The seemingly displaced appearances of the fourth year of Jehoiakim, therefore, can be seen as taking their proper places, and helping to unravel the story of the book of Jeremiah.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.