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(A lovely queen in a lowly dungeon!)

Hidden in the niches of the Bible is a girl called Nehushta. Her story is piecemeal — scattered over in Second Kings, First & Second Chronicles and Jeremiah. I have tried to pick up the pieces and stitch them together. I have used my imagination to bring her to life. Awesome it is, in full shape!

Bible lovers around the world have studied the revival that broke out under the famous King Josiah, the father-in-law of Nehushta. With the men of Judah and the people of Jerusalem, King Josiah went to the temple and made a covenant in the presence of the Lord to follow Him and keep His commands with all his heart and all his soul. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant (2Ki 23:3). Josiah was 8 years old when he became king and 20 when he started the reformation which continued for 19 years (2 Chr 34:1-3). His four sons, who must have been ten and under at the time of the covenant and commitment, grew up in the revival showers. We have no record about the first son Johanan (Jehovah has been gracious) but the other three grew up as wicked young men.How it must have pained the heart of the revivalist to see his own sons rejecting God, when hordes were blessed by his revival campaigns! Well, nobody can be forced into a revival! How hopefully he had given godly names to his sons!

There was another family in Jerusalem
untouched by the revival that swept across the nation under Josiah. The head of the family was Elnathan. Elnathan used to hear from his great grandfather and grandfather how when they were children they were taken to Nehushtan by their parents and how King Hezekiah, the great grandfather of their present king Josiah, broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made. Upto the time Israelites had been burning incence to it (2Ki 18:4). Elnathan grew up, married and had a lovely daughter. He still felt what Hezekiah had done was wrong and thought Nehushtan had miracle power. He chose to name his daughter Nehushta and at heart worshiped the old serpent.

When the people of Jerusalem went to the temple, heard the Word of God and made the covenant, probably Elnathan, Nehushta’s father did not go or may be did not pledge to the covenant wholeheartedly as the others did (2Ki 23:2,3). He saw the grand passover, unprecedented in Judah’s history when the whole of Jerusalem was stirred up (2Ki 23:22). Josiah threw out all the household gods in Jerusalem and Elnathan’s gods were out too (2Ki 23:24). But that did not change his heart. Thus the paganism continued in his family. Nehushta was not a common name in Israel those days. That shows how Elnathan carefully chose the name of his god for his little daughter.

When Nehushta was a nubile girl of may be 14-16, the eyes of the second son of Josiah, Jehoiakim (Jehovah sets up) fell on this beautiful maiden and, as the king’s son, he got what he wanted. Elnathan, I’m sure was delighted to give his daughter to a young prince who was as godless as himself (2Ki 24:8). Now for some mathematics — Jehoiakim was 25 years old when he became king, ruled for 11 years and died at 36. His son Jehoiachin was 18 when he was made king. That means Jehoiakim married at the age of may be 17. So Nehushta must have been 14-16. What a tender age to easily come to God!

King Josiah was turning the kingdom upside down. Was Nehushta fascinated by what her father-in-law did? Far from it. Though she was in an impressionable age, the poisonous seeds planted by her parents had taken deep roots. But as anybody else she could have turned to the living God. But she was as stubborn as her husband.

Even though Josiah’s father Amon and grandfather Manasseh were terribly wicked, Josiah chose to follow God and obey His precepts, from the tender age of eight when he was crowned king. He died an untimely death at the age of 39. People bypassed the second son Jehoiakim and made the forth son Jehoahaz (Jehovah has grasped) as king (2 Chr 36:1-4). How did Nehushta feel about it? Was she jealous?

His father’s love for God had not touched Jehoahaz. He reigned only three months in Jerusalem. Pharaoh Neco deported him to Egypt where he died. He is also known as Shallum.

As luck would have it, Jehoiakim, the second son of Josiah was made king (2Ki 23:31-37). The queen’s crown was placed on Nehushta’s head. Was she happy or was she terrified at all the invasions she was seeing? That was yet another opportunity for her to turn to the Lord, but she still resisted. Her brother in-law’s fate was not a warning to her.

As soon as Jehoiakim sat on the throne, the cabinet changed. Godly officials of his father were kicked out and the wicked took their place. Jehoiakim made Elnathan, his father-in-law as a palace official (Jer 36:11). Thus started his evil rule. The prophet Jeremiah prophesied boldly to the king and queen Nehushta, saying, “Thus says the Lord, concerning Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, king of Judah: They shall not lament for him, saying: Alas my brother or alas my sister” (Jer 22:18). Jeremiah took a leading part in her father-in-law’s funeral (2 Chr 35:25). His prophetic warnings had no effect on her.

The prophet Uriah warned King Jehoiakim. When Jehoiakim sought to kill him, Uriah fled to Egypt. However Jehoiakim sent Elnathan along with others, who caught Uriah in Egypt and brought him to Jehoiakim who had him struck down with a sword. Thus father-in-law and son-in-law worked hand-in-glove against the Lord (Jer 26:20-23).

Jeremiah even quoted his father Josiah saying, “He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know Me? declares the Lord. But your eyes and your heart are set on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion” (Jer 22:15-17).

Lying prophets gave Jehoiakim and Nehushta false hope (Jer 23:16,17). They said, “The Lord says: ‘You will have peace. ’And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’ ”

During her tenure as queen, Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite and Ammonite raiders came against Judah. What a tumultous and stressful life she had! (2Ki 24:2).

Even at the height of Jehoiakim’s wickedness God told Jeremiah to write a warning, so that if people turned from their wicked ways, God could forgive them. So Jeremiah wrote in a scroll and sent it through Baruch. When Baruch read it to the people, the palace officials, including Elnathan sent for Baruch and listened to the scroll. For the first time we see some fear in the face of Elnathan. May be the wars and defeats had shaken him up. The scroll was read out to Jehoiakim who cut it off to pieces and threw in the fire. May be Nehushta was sitting by his side. Even though the palace officials, including Elnathan urged him not to incinerate the scroll, Jehoiakim did not listen to them. He was angry that Jeremiah prophesied that the King of Babylon would come and destroy the land. So God’s word came to Jeremiah again and he prophesied against the king that his body would be thrown out and exposed to the heat by day and the frost by night (Jer 3 6:30). Nobody paid any attention to Jeremiah’s words (Jer 37:2).

Jeremiah’s prophecy came true. Nebuchad­nezzar, king of Babylon, invaded the land, attacked Jerusalem, bound Nehushta’s husband with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon (2 Chr 36:6). There he died with no one mourning for him. He had the burial of a donkey—dragged away and thrown outside the gates of Jerusalem at the age of 36 (in Babylon), (Jer 22: 18-21).

So Nehushta, his wife and queen mother became a widow. She could not even weep over her husband’s body. Of all the wives of the king, the mother of the crown prince was honoured as the queen mother and enjoyed a special status (Jer 29:1). May be Nehushta consoled herself that her son was king. She still was unrepentant and failed to instil the fear of God in her son Jehoiachin, for he was no less wicked than his father. Her teenage son was 18 when he was made king. Nehushta was still a beautiful young widow, hardly 34.

Jeremiah was proclaiming the Lord’s message powerfully. Nehushta’s sad demise was predicted by him (Jer 22:21-27). “I will hurl you (Jehoiachin) and the mother who gave you birth, into another country, where neither of you was born, and there you both will die. You will never come back to the land you long to return to.” To Jeremiah’s warning their reply was, “We will not listen” (Jer 22:2 1).

Just three months after her son’s coronation Nebuchadnezzar raided Jerusalem. Nehushta, her son, the king, his attendants, his nobles and his officials surrendered to him (2Ki 24:8-15). Her heart was still stubborn and unrep­entant.Nebuchadnezzar took away all the treasures from the royal palace. How did Nehushta feel when her precious jewels and crown were taken away from her?

Then Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin, his mother Nehushta, his wives along with many others as captives to Babylon. In all probability Elnathan also joined the bandwagon. Esther and Mordecai were also there (Esth 2:6,7). Did they try to put some sense into Nehushta’s head? Usually captives were taken by walk,barefoot, naked or half-naked and chained. So queen mother Nehushta took the long rugged walk with her own subjects, shameful. The reason—she flaunted all the opportunities God gave her. So she found herself thrown against the cold forbidding walls of a prison cell in Babylon!

After Nehushta had gone into exile from Babylon, Jeremiah sent a letter to all the exiles (Jer 29). He gave them the Lord’s words: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future...”(V 11) Alas! Nehushta did not live to see the promise fulfilled!

We read about all the four sons of Josiah (1 Chr 3:15) — Johanan probably died early, Jehoiakim (2Ki 23:34), Zedekia (Jehovah is righteous) (Jer 27:1) and Shallum also known as Jehoahaz (2Ki 23:30; Jer 22:11). All the three were made kings, all were wicked and died as captives in foreign lands.

I imagine myself sitting in Nehushta’s cell in Babylon, listening to her. She weeps about her childhood, her wrong decision to marry a wayward man, her stubbornness to her in-laws’ pleas and Jeremiah’s warnings. She has ample time in the Babylonian dungeon to reflect on all that had happened and understand that God did not speak to the false prophets she listened to (Jer 23:20,2 1).

I ask her a final question, “Would you like to say something to our ladies?” “Yes,” she says, her tear drops falling on her prison garments. Amidst sobs and sniffles she manages to speak: “Urge your young girls never to marry a man for money or looks. Jewels and money have wings. They will fly away. Tell them to listen to God’s Word and obey it. Tell your ladies to be wary of false prophets who mislead them rather go by the Word of God. Let them not run neck to neck with wicked husbands but be sensible and be a good influence to them.Tell them to dedicate their lives for the upbringing of their children in the fear of God. Nothing is more important in life. Let none of your ladies suffer like me. God has chosen them to bring Jesus to the world. Tell them to walk worthy of it.” I put my arms around her and tell her that it’s never too late to repent.

I feel sorry for her. How long Nehushta was in the Babylonian dungeon, we do not know, but we know one thing — she longed for Jerusalem but died without seeing it again. Her son Jehoiachin (also mentioned as Coniah or Jeconiah by Jeremiah and Jeconiah in Matthew 1:11) was released from the prison around the age of 55 and the Babylonian King Evilmerodach, son of Nebuchadnezzar gave him a seat of honour and he ate with the king to the end of his life (2 Ki 25:21-30). May be he repented and told his sons to obey God — for his son (or grandson) was Sheatiel and his grandson (or great grandson), Zerubbabel! (Mt 1:12). His mother Nehushta might have died before this with the swan song on her lips, “I wish I had listened to Jeremiah.”

Did the innocent die a sorry death? Was God unfair? No. God gave them a fair chance to know Him. They were the son, daughter-in-law and grandson of Josiah and heard more than enough of the true and living God.

Thus the curtain comes down on the lovely queen in a lowly dungeon. God had chosen her to be a foremother of Jesus. If she had given heed to the Word of God, like Rahab, her name might have found a place in the records of the genealogy of Jesus! (Mt 1:11)                   

   Address for Correspondence & Contributions:

Lilian Stanley
13 Church Colony
Vellore 632006, India
Tel: +91 9843511943
Email: lilianstanley@gmail.com

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