The Coniah Problem

After David became king of Israel, the Lord made a very special promise to him:

“And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.   I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: but my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.  And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever” (2 Samuel 7:12-16).

This covenant, the covenant of David, was a powerful promise on God’s part.  As long as the nation of Israel existed, one of David’s children would rule it.  When civil war ravaged the country and Jeroboam stole the kingdom, Abijah appealed to the covenant of David: “Ought ye not to know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt?” (2 Chronicles 13:5).  Even when Israel rebelled against God, did evil, and served idols, “the Lord would not destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and as he promised to give a light to him and to his sons for ever” (21:7).

A Davidic king would rule the nation for ever.  God would never break his covenant.  “Thus saith the Lord; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne” (Jeremiah 33:20-21).  Davidic kingship was as sure as night and day.  It is even mentioned in a psalm by Ethan the Ezrahite:

“I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever:
with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.
For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever:
thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens.
I have made a covenant with my chosen,
I have sworn unto David my servant,
thy seed will I establish for ever,
and build up thy throne to all generations. Selah” (Psalm 89:1-4).

God had sworn to David that there would always be a descendant to set on his throne after him.  But there came a time in Israel’s history when this covenant seemed in peril.  Judah had been particularly sinful, especially Coniah (also called Jeconiah) the king.  God judged the country, and they were taken captive—even the king—by Babylon.

During this time of judgement God issues a solemn word to Coniah: “O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord.  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” (Jeremiah 22:23-24).  Just as certain as God’s promise to David was God’s prophecy to Coniah.  Coniah would never have a descendant that held the throne.

God’s covenant with David was a Messianic covenant: the Messiah would be born, and would be God’s Son, and would sit on the throne of David forever (2 Samuel 7:12-16).  The phrase, “I will be his father, and he will be my son” is applied to Jesus in Hebrews 1.  This creates a problem.  God promised David that his children would always hold the throne, but he promised Coniah that his children never would.  How does this Coniah Problem effect Messiah’s coming?  Has God cut off the family tree?  Has God broken his covenant with David?

When we look at the heritage of Jesus Christ, we notice a vary interesting fact.  We know that Jesus was a descendant of David (Matthew 1:6, Luke 3:31).  The Bible lists two genealogies for Jesus, one for Joseph’s lineage (Matthew 1) and one for Mary’s lineage (Luke 3).  From Abraham to David, the genealogies are identical.  But after David, the lists diverge in a critical way.

Joseph is a descendant of David through Solomon and Coniah (Matthew 1:6, 12).  Mary is a descendant of David through Nathan (Luke 3:31), Solomon’s brother.  The family tree of David splits!  Coniah’s line was excluded from ever being kings in Israel again.  If Messiah is going to be king, he cannot be a blood-descendant child of Coniah; and he wasn’t!  Joseph was not Jesus’ father; Jehovah was!

But Jesus is still a blood descendant of David through Mary, who is indeed his mother.  Jesus is related to David but not Coniah; so he can fulfill all of the things that God covenanted to David.

Compare the covenant in 1 Samuel 7 with who Jesus is: God has established the kingdom of Christ and set up his throne for ever.  God is Jesus’ Father and Jesus is God’s Son.  Even though Jesus never committed sin, he was chastened with stripes so that he could give us everlasting mercy.  Jesus is a blood relative of David: since Jesus is King forevermore, the kingdom of David has been established forever.  In spite of the Coniah Problem, Jesus still fulfills God’s covenant to David.

By way of conclusion, Coniah provides an almost backwards symbolism for what Jesus did for us on the cross.  Coniah is a king that God punished for his own sin; so that he and his children could never be kings again.  Jesus is a king that God punished for others’ sin; so that he and his children could be kings forever!

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