Toldot Mashiach, Part II: The Curse of Jeconiah
Perhaps one of the most tired arguments against the Messiahship of Yeshua from anti-missionaries is the infamous “Curse of Jeconiah” approach. Many believers, who know little about the Tanakh or Jewish tradition are stunned to see this argument and are thrown off track.
The Jeconiah Problem
First, let’s explore the objection. Before we begin, it is important to understand that Jeconiah is called by several different names in the Bible, i.e. Jeconiah, Jehoiakhin and Coniah.
“As I live,” says HaShem, “though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet ring on My right hand, yet I would pluck you off; and I will give you into the hand of those who seek your life, and into the hand of those whose face you fear–the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and the hand of the Chaldeans. So I will cast you out, and your mother who bore you, into another country where you were not born; and there you shall die. But to the land to which they desire to return, there they shall not return. “Is this man Coniah a despised, broken idol – A vessel in which there is no pleasure? Why are they cast out, he and his descendants, And cast into a land which they do not know? O earth, earth, earth, Hear the word of HaShem! Thus says HaShem: ‘Write this man down as childless, A man who shall not prosper in his days; For none of his descendants shall prosper, Sitting on the throne of David, And ruling anymore in Judah.”
The “problem” arises in the Gospel of Matthew, in the genealogy of Yeshua:
” . . . Hezekiah fathered Manasseh, Manasseh fathered Amon, Amon fathered Josiah, and Josiah fathered Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. Then after the exile to Babylon, Jechoniah fathered Shealtiel, Shealtiel fathered Zerubbabel . . . “
The anti-missionary argument, therefore, is that since Jeconiah is listed in the genealogy of Yeshua, and the curse of Jeconiah excludes ANY of his descendants from ruling on the throne of David, then Yeshua cannot be the Messiah. Since the curse on Jeconiah is as plain as day, and Jeconiah’s name is sitting in Yeshua’s legal genealogy in Matthew chapter 1, how does one answer this argument?
The Signet Ring
It is important that we examine this issue very carefully and not walk away with a simplistic and superficial understanding of the text. The Tanakh seems to indicate that the curse on Jeconiah was reversed, through the person of Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel is the grandson of Jeconiah. Compare this text in Haggai 2 to Jeremiah 22 above:
“In that day, says HaShem Tzva’ot, will I take you, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, says HaShem, and will make you as a signet ring: for I have chosen you, says HaShem Tzva’ot.”
Notice the phraseology:
” . . . though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet ring (chotam, חֹותָם) on My right hand, yet I would pluck you off…”
Now, as noted above, he says to Zerubbabel, the grandson of Jeconiah:
“. . . O Zerubbabel, my servant, and will make thee as a signet ring (chotam, חֹותָם): for I have chosen you, says HaShem Tzva’ot.”
The phraseology of the “signet ring” here implies that the curse was lifted.
But as LeVar Burton said on the show Reading Rainbow, “Don’t take my word for it.” Let’s look into Jewish tradition.
The Talmud says,
“R. Johanan said: Exile atones for everything, for it is written, Thus saith the L-rd, 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. (Jer. 22:30). Whereas after he [the king] was exiled, it is written, And the sons of Jechoniah, — the same is Assir — Shealtiel his son etc. (1 Chr. 3:17) . [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. Zerubbabel [was so called] because he was sown in Babylon. But [his real name was] Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah.
- I Ch. 3:17. Notwithstanding the curse that he should be childless and not prosper, after being exiled he was forgiven.
- Which He had made, to punish Jechoniah with childlessness.
Sanhedrin 37b – 38a, Soncino Press Edition
This is the “death blow” to the Jeconiah curse argument. Numerous places in Judaic literature note that the curse on Jeconiah was annulled:
“. . . they made the Calf and deserved to be exterminated, and I would have thought that He would curse and destroy them, yet, no sooner had they repented, than the danger was averted, And the L-rd repented of the evil (ib. 32:14). And so in many places. For example, He said about Jeconiah: For no man of his seed shall prosper (Jer. 22:30) and it says, I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations… On that day, saith the L-rd of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, My servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the L-rd, and will make thee as a signet (Hag. 2:22). Thus was annulled that which He had said to his forefather, viz.” As I live’, saith the L-rd, ‘though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim King of Judah were the signet upon My right hand, yet I would pluck thee thence’ (Jer. 22:24).”
Numbers Rabbah 20:20, Soncino Press Edition
Pesikta Rabbati, one of the most fascinating works in Rabbinic literature, says:
“R. Joshua ben Levi, however, argued as follows: Repentance sets aside the entire decree, and prayer half the decree. You find that it was so with Jeconiah, king of Judah. For the Holy One, blessed be He, swore in His anger, As I live, saith the L-rd, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakhim king of Judah were the signet on a hand, yet by My right – note, as R. Meir said, that is was by His right hand that God swore – I would pluck thee hence (Jer. 22:24). And what was decreed against Jeconiah? That he die childless. As is said ‘Write this man childless (Jer. 22:40). But as soon as he avowed penitence, the Holy One, blessed be He, set aside the decree, as is shown by Scripture’s reference to The sons of Jeconiah – the same is Assir – Shealtiel his son, etc. (1 Chron 3:17). And Scripture says further: In that day . . . I will take thee, O Zerubbabel . . . the son of Shealtiel . . . and will make thee as a signet (Haggai 2:23). Behold, then, how penitence can set aside the entire decree!
Pesikta Rabbati, Piska 47, translated by William G. Braude, Yale University Press, pgs. 797-798
The Jewish Encyclopedia says, not only was the curse revoked, but that Jeconiah was the ancestor of the Messiah!
“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 G-d, who revoked the decree to the effect that none of his descendants should ever become king (Jer. xxii. 30; Pesi., ed. Buber, xxv. 163a, b); he even became the ancestor of the Messiah (Tan., Toledot, 20 [ed. Buber, i. 140])”
Jewish Encyclopedia, Entry on Jehoiachin 
In the book of Zechariah it says,
“Who are you, great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you are a plain; and he will bring out the capstone with shouts of Grace, grace, to it!”
The Midrash Tanchuma comments,
“What does it mean, Who are you, O great mountain? This is King Messiah. And why does he call him great mountain? Because he is greater than the Fathers…loftier than Abraham…more elevated than Moses…and higher than the ministering angels…and from whom will he issue? From Zerubbabel…”
Midrash Tanchuma, Toledot 14, ed. Buber 1:139, cited in the Messiah Texts by Raphael Patai, pg. 41 
Many anti-missionaries don’t quote these references in their attempts to prove Yeshua’s Messiahship is invalidated by the curse of Jeconiah, as it would destroy the foundation of their entire argument. However, Shlomo Ishtov, writing for Messiah Truth, an anti-missionary organization, provides an extensive list of Judaic references to the lifting of the curse from Jeconiah, totally uprooting the initial argument of the anti-missionaries, EVEN after he makes a case as to why, “This curse affects Christian genealogies as found in the New Testament.” He cites the following,
“Talmud, Sanhedrin 37b-38a, Pesikta Rabbati, Piska 47, Numbers Rabbah 20:20, Pesikta deRab Kahana, Tanhuma Genesis, Rabbi A.J. Rosenberg, and the Jewish Encyclopedia”
This brings up a good question: Knowing that Judaism accepts that the curse of Jeconiah was lifted, why do anti-missionaries continue to use it? Do they not know about these numerous references or are they being deceptive, playing on the ignorance of those whom they are seeking to turn away from the Messiah?
Ishtov has a very strange answer, “No Christian, past or present has tried to face the curse in the Jewish manner, and according to Jewish tradition. . . Nor can Evangelical Christianity use the Jewish perspective. To embrace the words of our sages, and the clear proof of the Tanach that the curse is lifted, is to prove that one can attain forgiveness of sin without blood . . . ” 
Again, here we have a classic case of unequal weights and measures. Dr. Michael Brown, a Jewish believer in Yeshua, used the argument concerning the phraseology of the “signet ring” to refute Rabbi David Blumofe’s recitation of this argument, back in the 1990’s. Moreover, I’m a believer in Yeshua, and I am facing the curse from a Jewish perspective. Therefore, his first argument is completely false. Secondly, to say that believers cannot use Jewish literature is a prime example of the logical fallacies employed by the anti-missionaries. If I cannot use the Talmud to prove my point, then why can anti-missionaries use the New Testament to prove theirs?
Although the argument against Yeshua’s Messiahship based on the Jeconiah curse has now been totally shattered, we’re going to take it a step further. Considering the above, Jewish tradition teaches that Zerubbabel will be the ancestor of the Messiah. Yeshua is descended from David legally through Yosef, and physically from David and Solomon through Miryam, whose ancestry traces back through Nathan (the brother of Solomon via yibbum), not Jeconiah. If this curse were still in effect, it is absolutely impossible for anyone physically descending from Zerubbabel to be the Messiah, in contradiction with Jewish tradition.
In conclusion, we have seen that A.) the Curse of Jeconiah was lifted, as evidenced in the Tanakh and Jewish literature. B.) That anti-missionaries continue to press on, in error, with the Jeconiah argument, despite the fact that Jewish tradition and the Tanakh rips the rug right out from under their claims, and that to maintain their faulty position, they must use unequal weights and measures. C.) If indeed the Jeconiah argument is valid, then it excludes everyone except Yeshua of Nazareth from being the Messiah, thus their own arguments against his Messiahship are actually proof that He is the Messiah.
In light of the above facts, using Ockham’s Razor, the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. And, as demonstrated above, the simplest explanation is that Yeshua is the Son of David the Scriptures speak about. Therefore, as we have demonstrated, it is not HaShem who has painted himself into a corner with the Jeconiah curse, it is the anti-missionaries.
For Further Study
- Jewish Encyclopedia, http://jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=198&letter=J
- Here is the entire passage of Midrash Tanchuma, Toledot 14, in Hebrew (http://kodesh.snunit.k12.il/tan/b0006.htm/#14):
שיר למעלות אשא עיני אל ההרים וגו’ (תהלים קכא), זשה”כ (זכריה ד) מי אתה הר הגדול לפני זרובבל למישור זה משיח בן דוד, ולמה נקרא שמו הר הגדול שהוא גדול מן האבות שנאמר (ישעיה נב) הנה ישכיל עבדי ירום ונשא וגבה מאד, ירום מאברהם ונשא מיצחק וגבה מיעקב, ירום מאברהם שנאמר (בראשית יד) הרמותי יד אל ה’, ונשא ממשה שאמר (במדבר יא) כי תאמר אלי שאהו בחיקך, וגבה כמלאכי השרת שנאמר (יחזקאל א) וגבותם מלאות עינים, לכך נאמר מי אתה הר הגדול, וממי הוא יוצא מזרובבל, ולמה נקרא שמו זרובבל מפני שנולד בבבל, ומי הוא מדוד שנאמר (ד”ה א ג) ובן שלמה רחבעם אביה בנו וגו’, עד ודליה וענני שבעה (ס”א ע”כ דברי הימים) ומהו ענני זה משיח (זכריה ד) כי מי בז ליום קטנות שבעה אלה שנאמר (דניאל ז) הזה הוית בחזוי ליליא וארו עם ענני שמיא כבר אנש אתה הוא, וענני שבעה מהו שבעה מה שכתוב במלך המשיח כי כי בז ליום קטנות שבעה אלה, לכך נאמר מי אתה הר הגדול זה שכתוב בו (ישעיה יא) ושפט בצדק דלים וגו’ (זכריה ד) והוציא את האבן הראשה וגו’ מה כתיב אחריו באדין דקו כחדה וגו’ וכתיב ואבנא די מחת לצלמא הות לטור רב ומלאת כל ארעא (דניאל ב) לכך נאמר מי אתה הר הגדול, והיכן הוא בא דרך ההרים שנאמר (ישעיה נב) מה נאוו על ההרים רגלי מבשר וגו’, באותה שעה יהיו ישראל מסתכלין ואומרים אשא עיני אל ההרים מאין יבא עזרי עזרי מעם ה’ עושה שמים וארץ אמן כן יהי רצון:
- The Curse of Jeconiah Revealed, Shlomo Ishtov, MessiahTruth.com
Wonderful research. Thank you. I have learned much from this. I do have one critique if you will suffer…
Everything is spot on until you get to the last couple generations of the Matthew and Luke accounts. Reread Matthew 1:17, there must be 14 generations from the carrying away to Babylon to Messiah. In King James English “Joseph the husband of Mary” in verse 16 is one generation (you can’t count spouses as two generations). Therefore we only have 13 generations from Babel to Messiah in Matthew. Furthermore Mary is nowhere to be found in the Luke passage.
I submit therefore that we take advice from Brother Judah and look into the Hebrew manuscripts of Matthew. When we do so, we find a huge mistranslation of the Hebrew original into Greek texts of Matthew in that the Hebrew word used in verse 16 of Matthew 1 is equivalent to “father” not husband. Therefore should be rendered as “Jacob brought forth Joseph the father of Mary”. In this understanding we restore the required 14 generations of verse 17 and uphold the Messianic requirement that Yeshua be of the kingly line of David.
Please prayerfully review and let me know what you think. I am also learning and not postulating this as absolute…would love to hear your feedback.
Beautiful stuff! I especially appreciate the citation of Midrash Tanchuma. I am working on a commentary to Hebrews where I emphasize that the first two chapters are all about the Davidic heir. The quotation agrees with my premise that the Davidic line in its entirety, but especially the Messianic game-changer, is superior to the angelic messengers.
Thanks for pulling all these resources together. This is a major contribution to the field of Messianic apologetics from a Jewish perspective.
Thank you for your clear, well thought through and well researched apologetic. You have provided an invaluable tool. Keep up the good work and God bless.
I love this. Great job.
I will offer an alternative interpretation to the Midrash Tanchuma on Zechariah 4:7.
That verse is,
Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone With shouts of “Grace, grace to it!” (Zec 4:7 NKJ)
The word “capstone” here is the word “even” which is used in the important Messianic prophecies at Isaiah 28:16 and Psalm 118:22.
Though in Daniel 2:35, this stone becomes a great mountain and rules the world, the great mountain here becomes a plain. But through Zerubbabel comes the Messiah, so that the Messiah is exalted over all powers. (Psalm 2, Psalm 110, 1 Corinthians 15:25)
It may be a secondary reading that the great mountain also points to the Messiah, and becomes a plain, in the sense that what was too exalted to ascend becomes a highway of holiness for the whole earth. (Isaiah 35:8, Isaiah 40:4)
The verses below help establish that at the Lord’s coming, He humbles all mountains.
5 The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD, At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
6 The heavens declare His righteousness, And all the peoples see His glory.
(Psalm 97:5-6 NKJ)
5 The mountains quake before Him, The hills melt, And the earth heaves1 at His presence, Yes, the world and all who dwell in it.
6 Who can stand before His indignation? And who can endure the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, And the rocks are thrown down by Him.
(Nahum 1:5-6 NKJ)
3 For behold, the LORD is coming out of His place; He will come down And tread on the high places of the earth.
4 The mountains will melt under Him, And the valleys will split Like wax before the fire, Like waters poured down a steep place.
(Micah 1:3-4 NKJ)