The Exilic Code

The Word-Link King of Babylon

excerpted from The Exilic Code by Preston Kavanagh

Word Links Explained

A Word Link connects two passages that have in their texts the same unique batch of words. That particular batch will appear nowhere else in Scripture except in those two passages, and the linking words in each passage must be reasonably close together. With this definition before us, we are ready to consider a specific application.

Appendix 2 lists 468 links for 2 Kgs 25:27–30. It divides these into twenty-four subject groups, including one labeled unassigned (which is less than one-tenth of the total). The subjects include exile, idols, prison, fasting, substitute king (with subcategories), burial, killing children, and Davidic line, among others. To present the Jehoiachin story, we shall use the most revealing of the links and follow the outline that appendix 2 provides. (In practice, assembling and classifying Word Links is the most time-consuming part of any analysis. This note offers suggestions.)

Readers might justifiably ask whether this author expected to find substitute-king links before starting, and thus pre-selected the subject categories. After all, the Jehoiachin-Sarpuhi coding results detailed in chapter 1 made it highly likely that the Babylonians enthroned and then killed Jehoiachin.The answer is that I did expect to find evidence of substitution in the 2 Kings Word Links. However, that expectation stemmed from findings about the Suffering Servant rather than prior evidence about Jehoiachin. For the record, I did these things in this sequence: (a) about 1985 found the name of Second Isaiah by using word associations; (b) several years later used that name to establish the existence of coding; (c) about 1990, directed by John Brinkman to the work of Simo Parpola, found evidence that the Suffering Servant died as a substitute; (d) the next year expanded word associations into Word Links and found the Suffering Servant’s name; (e) in the late 1990s applied Word Links to 2 Kgs 25:27–30 and confirmed that Jehoiachin was also a substitute; (f) in 2006, while preparing the Priestly Benediction article for Biblica, discovered significant Jehoiachin-Sarpuhi coding in that text.

Given this history, were the subject categories for Word Links in Second Kings pre-selected? To a considerable extent they were. However, what matters most are the links themselves. Those links could not have been pre-selected, and they have determined subject categories. Now here is the text of 2 Kgs 25:27–30.

In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of King Jehoiachin of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, King Evil-merodach of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, released King Jehoiachin of Judah from prison; he spoke kindly to him, and gave him a seat above the other seats of the kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes. Every day of his life he dined regularly in the king’s presence. For his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king, a portion every day, as long as he lived.

There are almost 470 Word Links with this master passage, and about a third of them also contain Jehoiachin codes or anagrams. Appendix 2 uses italics to designate anagrams and coding, a practice followed throughout this chapter. Clearly, a Word Link has more force if encoded with “Jehoiachin.” We shall discuss the links by subject, arranged in rough chronological order. The period covered is from shortly before Jehoiachin’s accession to Judah’s throne in late 598 BCE to soon after his death in April of 561.


We begin with these word-link prophecies of exile. Isaiah tells King Hezekiah, who reigned in Judah well before Jehoiachin, that “Some of your own sons . . . shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon” (2 Kgs 20:18). Joshua 23:13 says that failure to drive out all the nations will make them “a snare and a trap for you . . . until you perish from this good land that the Lord your God has given you.” As italics indicate, this, too, contains Jehoiachin coding. Jeremiah attributed Judah’s exile to “what King Manasseh son of Hezekiah of Judah did in Jerusalem” (Jer 15:4). In another linked passage, God says through the same prophet, “I am now making my words in your mouth a fire, and this people wood, and the fire shall devour them” (5:14). Jeremiah 17:27 is similar, but adds that Jerusalem’s palaces will also be devoured. Another link goes to Ezek 12:6, in which the Lord bids Ezekiel to carry baggage away in the dark—a prophetic enactment of Israel’s exile.

After Jehoiachin’s 597 surrender to Nebuchadnezzar, Jeremiah gave a pronouncement about two baskets of figs. (The links are to Jer 24:1–2, 3–8; 29:15–17.) The good figs were the exiles around Jehoiachin, and the bad ones were King Zedekiah with his officials. Two other Word Links threaten Judah and Egypt with the King of Assyria (Isa 7:20; 20:3–4). However, since both contain Jehoiachin coding, the passages carry sixth century messages. The same is true of a Micah prophecy against Jerusalem that promises to make the city a desolation (Mic 6:16).

There are many links that recount Jehoiachin’s fall. The first Word Link shares ten words with the 2 Kgs 25:27–30 master: “Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign; he reigned three months in Jerusalem . . . He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord . . . the city was besieged . . . King Jehoiachin of Judah gave himself up to the king of Babylon, himself, his mother, his servants, his officers, and his palace officials. The king of Babylon took him prisoner” (2 Kgs 24:8–12). A Second Chronicles link, reaching back, tells the same story (2 Chr 36:7–10). This next one provides additional detail: Nebuchadnezzar “carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon; the king’s mother, the king’s wives, his officials, and the elite of the land, he took into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. The king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon all the men of valor, seven thousand, the artisans and the smiths, one thousand, all of them strong and fit for war” (2 Kgs 24:15–17).

A number of Word Links suggest that when Nebuchadnezzar deposed Jehoiachin, he also levied a tribute upon the Judeans. Though this is new historical information, it simply follows a practice common in the ancient world. Indeed, this first link tells of the Assyrians requisitioning treasure from Hezekiah. “King Hezekiah of Judah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, ‘I have done wrong; withdraw from me; whatever you impose on me I will bear.’ The king of Assyria demanded of King Hezekiah of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold” (2 Kgs 18:14). In addition: “at registration all of them shall give a ransom for their lives to the Lord, so that no plague may come upon them for being registered”; “The weight of the golden earrings that he requested was one thousand seven hundred shekels of gold”; “. . . he overlaid it with six hundred talents of fine gold”; “‘Why have you not required the Levites to bring in from Judah and Jerusalem the tax levied by Moses?’”; and “the king’s secretary and the officer of the chief priest would come and empty the chest and take it and return it to its place. So they . . . collected money in abundance.” All of these support that Nebuchadnezzar levied a steep assessment upon the Judeans.

Word Links next proceeded to King Zedekiah. He held Judah’s throne for eleven years after Nebuchadnezzar installed him in Jehoiachin’s stead. But “Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. And . . . King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem, and they laid siege to it” and took the city. “He put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him in fetters, and the king of Babylon took him to Babylon, and put him in prison until the day of his death... So Judah went into exile out of its land” (Jer 52:3–7, 11, 27). (Italics indicate Jehoiachin coding support even though the passages are about King Zedekiah.) In the aftermath, the Babylonian commander “burned the house of the Lord, the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down” (2 Kgs 25:9). Zedekiah got no sympathy from the prophets. In this link with Ezekiel the Lord said, “I will surely return upon his head my oath that he despised, and my covenant that he broke . . . I will bring him to Babylon and enter into judgment with him there for the treason he has committed against me” (Ezek 17:19–20).

Like those who wrote the rest of the books of Kings, the as-yet unknown author of 2 Kgs 25:27–30 was an historian. And like a good historian he was careful to establish the context of Jehoiachin’s 561 BCE release from prison. As we now know, that author did this with Word Links, links that reached back almost forty years to the calamitous events that ended Judah’s national life.

Chapter 2 described the prophetic reaction to Jehoiachin’s shocking worship of Babylonian gods. Not unexpectedly, then, the 2 Kgs 25 master passage has Word Links to texts about idols. The Lord told Moses that after his death “‘this people will begin to prostitute themselves to the foreign gods in their midst, the gods of the land into which they are going; they will forsake me, breaking my covenant that I have made with them’” (Deut 31:16). Ezekiel wrote, “Any of those of the house of Israel who take their idols into their hearts . . . I the Lord will answer those who come with the multitude of their idols” (Ezek 14:4); and Jeremiah added, “The Lord . . . has pronounced evil against you, because of the evil that the house of Israel and the house of Judah have done, provoking me to anger by making offerings to Baal” (Jer 11:17). The author of 2 Kgs 25:27–30 said through Word Links that the Exile was Judah’s punishment for straying to other gods. All these links were aimed at Jehoiachin in Babylon, though the denunciations may also have targeted others.

During his thirty-six years of exile, Jehoiachin was a puppet king in Nebuchadnezzar’s court for some of the time, and also served stretches in prison. These Word Links seem to belong to that period: “The taskmasters were urgent, saying, ‘Complete your work, the same daily assignment as when you were given straw’”; “‘you shall bear your iniquity, forty years, and you shall know my displeasure’”; and “‘Here we are slaves to this day . . . [the land’s] rich yield goes to the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins; . . . and we are in great distress’” (Exod 5:13; Num 14:34; Neh 9:36–37).

Word Links with the Second Kings master passage record the exiled king’s reactions. The linked Ps 4:6 says, “‘O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!’” A link from Nehemiah—written well after our master passage—expresses Jehoiachin’s feelings to modern readers: “I carried the wine and gave it to the [Persian] king. Now, I had never been sad in his presence before. So the king said to me, ‘Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This can only be sadness of the heart.’ Then I was very much afraid” (Neh 2:1–2).4 3. For other links about idols see Judg 18:19; 1 Kgs 13:3; 15:1–3; 16:29–31; 2 Kgs 13:10–11; 15:8–9; 23:11–12; 2 Chr 2:4–5; Jer 44:17; Ezek 16:19; 18:5–6, 14–16; 20:31; 22:4; 33:27; 44:12. Other links about oppression and Jehoiachin’s reaction to it are Gen 6:18–19; Deut 24:15; Prov 10:9–14; 14:1–3; 17:26–28; 25:19–28; 2 Chr 12:12; Esth 3:7; 9:15–16.

There are also hints that Jehoiachin might have been a fugitive while in Babylon. Here is one: “Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear! Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me’” (Gen 4:13–14). Additionally, “But on the second day, the day after the new moon, David’s place was empty. And Saul said to his son Jonathan . . .”; and “‘Do not be afraid; for the hand of my father Saul shall not find you; you shall be king over Israel’” (1 Sam 20:27; 23:17).

As to Jehoiachin’s terms in prison, this Word Link, which also conceals an A-value Jehoiachin coding, offers a fascinating possibility: “the king of Assyria found treachery in Hoshea; for he had sent messengers to King So of Egypt, and offered no tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year; therefore the king of Assyria confined him and imprisoned him” (2 Kgs 17:2–5). Jehoiachin could well have been imprisoned by Nebuchadnezzar for conspiring with one of Babylon’s enemies. Here are prison Word Links: “‘Thus says the king: Put this fellow in prison, and feed him on reduced rations of bread and water’”; “to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness”; and “The officials were enraged at Jeremiah, and they beat him and imprisoned him in the house of the secretary Jonathan, for it had been made a prison. Thus Jeremiah was put in the cistern house, in the cells, and remained there many days” (1 Kgs 22:27; Isa 42:7; Jer 37:15–16). In this next link the Philistines made sport of Samson: “When their hearts were merry, they said, ‘Call Samson, and let him entertain us.’ So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them” (Judg 16:25). Did the Babylonians do this to King Jehoiachin? Scripture contains at least seven other prison-related links to the 2 Kings master.

On February 19, 561, an eclipse shadowed the moon over Babylon. Its duration was two hours and twenty-five minutes. Jupiter, the king’s protective planet, was visible initially, but by the time the shadow darkened Babylon’s lunar quadrant, the planet had dropped below the western horizon. This meant certain death for Evil-Marduk or his substitute king. The eclipse hit just four months after Evil-Marduk’s coronation. In all, he was to reign for only twenty-two months before his brother-inlaw assassinated him to seize the throne. In 2 Kgs 25, the author wrote Amel-Marduk’s name as Evil-Marduk. “Evil” meant “foolish” in Hebrew. A contemporary tablet charged him with ignoring the welfare of Babylon’s temples. Another source claimed his government was “illegal and impure.”

A Word Link with 2 Kgs 25:27–30 said that Rehoboam “disregarded the advice that the older men had given him and spoke to them according to the advice of the young men, ‘My father [Nebuchadnezzar is implied] made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions’” (1 Kgs 12:13–14, link includes v. 12; see also 12:6–8). The first three Hebrew words of the link’s twelfth verse contained letters that spell “Evil-Marduk.” And the author spelled “Evil-Marduk” twice in nearby verses, one of which also spoke of oppression. Evil-Marduk seemed rash, willful, and inexperienced— the weak son of a dominant father.

The Second Kings text said that Evil-Marduk put Jehoiachin’s “seat [throne] above the other seats [thrones] of the kings who were with him in Babylon.” As king of Babylon, Jehoiachin would have received an elevated throne. The word “above” was מעל , meaning “higher than.” But that same word could also mean “act treacherously.” The author repeated the trick with בגד (“garment”), which was another version of “act treacherously.”

Why these undertones of treachery? Not many years before, the Suffering Servant had agreed to be Nebuchadnezzar’s substitute (more on this in chapter 6). The servant’s price seems to have included an end to persecution and the release of Judean captives. Also, the servant would almost certainly have made Nebuchadnezzar pledge that Jehoiachin would never become a substitute king.

Word Links with the 2 Kings passage indicate that the bargain had been in writing. Here are some of those links: “And you shall write on the stones all the words of this law very clearly.” The Lord wrote the commandments “on two stone tablets, and gave them to me.” “And he gave to Moses . . . the two tablets of the covenant, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.” A final link spoke of written commandments “that the Lord had spoken to you on the mountain” (Deut 27:7–9; 5:22; Exod 31:18; Deut 10:4). It is no small thing that Jehoiachin coding underlies each of these Word Links. The “mountain” would have been Babylon’s ziggurat, the center of priestly power. A legend said Evil-Marduk had to disinter his father’s body and drag it before he could release Jehoiachin. (At issue was whether a successor could ignore a predecessor’s decree.) But new kings commonly freed political prisoners, so Evil-Marduk need not have dishonored his father to free Jehoiachin. The real story behind the dragging probably was this: Nebuchadnezzar had covenanted with the Suffering Servant to protect Jehoiachin. But Evil-Marduk could break that covenant only if he first dishonored Nebuchadnezzar, and so he dragged his father’s body. The legend implied that the decree Evil-Marduk overruled kept Jehoiachin imprisoned. Instead that decree had previously kept Jehoiachin safe.

Nebuchadnezzar had ruled Babylon for forty-three years and must have left numerous sons. A Word Link with the master passage suggests that Evil-Marduk solved the problem by slaughtering his brothers. Zimri, “when he began to reign, as soon as he had seated himself on his throne, he killed all the house of Baasha; he did not leave him a single male of his kindred or his friends. Thus Zimri destroyed all the house of Baasha, according to the word of the Lord” (1 Kgs 16:11–12).


To protect the true king, authorities normally enthroned a substitute as quickly as they could. However, with Jehoiachin they delayed some forty days after the eclipse. Why? They waited because the Judean king would not cooperate. Jehoiachin went on a hunger strike. Dozens of Word Links support this. The following concern famine. God took away “all support of bread, and all support of water.” He gave cleanness of teeth and lack of bread. After seven years of plenty, “seven years of famine began to come.”

“In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land . . .” Next, in David’s time there was famine for three years. In another link Elisha announced, “‘The Lord has called for a famine . . . for seven years.’” This grisly link finishes: “‘Give up your son; we will eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’”

These next links pertained to individuals. “Then food was set before him to eat; but he said, ‘I will not eat until I have told my errand.’” “Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat.” Though others urged David to eat, he refused food until the sun went down. Ezra spent the night mourning over the exiles, and he “did not eat bread or drink water.” Nehemiah said, “‘Twelve years, neither I nor my brothers ate the food allowance of the governor.’” And Daniel denied himself meat and wine for three weeks.

Three Moses Word Links are especially pertinent. For forty days “‘I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all the sin which you had committed’” (Deut 9:18). This verse fitted Jehoiachin’s situation so exactly that one suspects an editor at work on Deuteronomy’s ninth chapter. A second link said that while with God for forty days and nights, Moses “neither ate bread nor drank water” (Exod 34:28–29). And Deuteronomy 9 again: “‘I remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights’” without eating or drinking (Deut 9:9–11). “The mountain” presumably was the Tower of Babel, where Jehoiachin’s captors probably kept him during his fast.

Word Links also suggested Jehoiachin ate vegetables during the period. “‘Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink,’” said Daniel. Ezekiel lived on wheat, barley, beans, and lentils for 390 days. Proverbs added, “Better is a dinner of vegetables where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it.”  According to Word Links, the exiles held vigil with their king.

Consider these linked passages: Jehoshaphat “proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah”; in Jehoiakim’s time “all the people . . . proclaimed a fast before the Lord”; and Esther instructed, “‘Hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do.’” Five links showed that the exiles abstained from leavened bread during part of Jehoiachin’s ordeal. This was typical: “‘Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread . . . for whoever eats leavened bread . . . shall be cut off from Israel.’” Even though exclusion is threatened, what courage this showed! Imagine such widespread passive resistance throughout Babylonia.

The flaw in the substitute ritual was that the victim had to accept voluntarily the eclipse’s deathly omens—which Jehoiachin refused to do. Evil-Marduk waited anxiously as time passed. “For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening” (1 Sam 17:16), a link that comes from the story of David and Goliath. Knowledgeable exiles would have understood who that Philistine was. The chapter’s author had previously spelled אוילמרדך , “Evil-Marduk,” seventy-six times in 17:8–11, the passage that related Goliath’s challenge to the Israelite army.

The use of forty days is important. Second Kings 25 and Jer 52 gave almost identical Jehoiachin accounts. But Kings said Evil-Marduk released Jehoiachin on the twenty-seventh of the month, while Jeremiah had the twenty-fifth. No scholar, ancient or modern, has satisfactorily explained the difference, but the following may do so. Based upon the date in 2 Kgs 25, Jehoiachin saw daylight forty-two days after the February 19th eclipse.

Based upon the release date in Jer 52, the span was exactly forty days. Of course neither account mentioned the eclipse. This writer’s opinion is that Jeremiah changed Jehoiachin’s detention to forty days so as to show that Jehoiachin resisted kingship for a long time. Forty often conveyed such a meaning. Examples are Moses spending forty days atop Sinai, and the Israelites wandering forty years in the wilderness.

To force Jehoiachin to cooperate, the Babylonians slew his heirs. These Word Links testified: “‘kill every male among the little ones,’” In other links, Job’s sons and daughters died, Aaron’s two sons died, Jeroboam’s son died, and brother had to succeed brother “because Ahaziah had no son.”

Here are more Word Links on this dismal subject. Athaliah “set about to destroy all the royal family of the house of Judah” (2 Chr 22:10) and Absalom lamented, “‘I have no son to keep my name in remembrance’” (2 Sam 18:18). Also, Jeremiah prophesied about Jehoiachin, “‘He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David’” (Jer 36:30). The Lord said that even if Jehoiachin were the signet ring on His right hand, yet “I would tear you off and give you into the hands . . . of King Nebuchadrezzar’” (Jer 22:24–25). These killings went far toward extinguishing David’s line.

A shrine to Marduk topped the Tower of Babel, which was the city of Babylon’s ziggurat. Herodotus wrote that it contained a golden table and a great couch where a woman awaited the god’s pleasure. During the annual New Year’s Festival the king played Marduk’s role and, probably in this very room, bedded a priestess.

Every substitute king had a substitute queen appointed by the  authorities.   Certainly it would be consistent if substitute kings and queens also consummated their unions atop the ziggurat. In seeming confirmation, a Word Link suggests a woman persuaded Jehoiachin to eat—in that very room. According to scripture, a woman built for Elisha “‘a small roof chamber with walls’” with “‘a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp’” (2 Kgs 4:10), which sounds like Marduk’s chamber. Moreover, she “urged him to eat some food” (2 Kgs 4:8). Any female that the Babylonians set in Jehoiachin’s way would have worked to get the Judean king to break his fast. Another Word Link is especially apropos: “Saul thought, ‘Let me give her to him that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him’” (1 Sam 18:21).

Of particular interest are no less than five Word Links from the story of Adam and Eve in Gen 3 (Gen 3:1, 5–6, 14, 17, 22–23). At the urging of the serpent, the woman entices the man to eat from the tree of knowledge. As a result, the Lord expels them from the garden and in effect sentences them to death. Experts are urged to consider whether the Genesis story was written with a substitute king in view—either Jehoiachin or another.

Word Links with the Second Kings master include passages about attractive females—the Levite’s concubine, David’s sighting of Bathsheba, and the crowning of Esther as queen of Persia. Others are: “May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your house like Rachel and Leah,” “gather all the beautiful young virgins to the harem in the citadel,” and “He who finds a wife finds a good thing.”

Here are links that say Jehoiachin finally broke his fast. “They gave him also a piece of fig cake and two clusters of raisins. When he had eaten, his spirit revived,” “So I, Daniel . . . lay sick for some days; then I arose and went about the king’s business,” and “‘You shall eat in the presence of the Lord . . . you and your households.’” Also, Abraham “took curds, and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them” (Gen 18:8). This from Exodus: “‘You shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before me always’” (Exod 25:30). And from Chronicles: “‘We have had enough to eat and have plenty to spare’” (2 Chr 31:10). Numerous other linked passages made the same point, that Jehoiachin had decided to eat. Evil-Marduk might even have attended Jehoiachin’s first meal: “So Saul ate with Samuel that day” (1 Sam 9:24).


When Jehoiachin relented and took nourishment, he agreed to assume Babylon’s kingship and die in Evil-Marduk’s stead. The Judean was released from confinement either four or six days prior to New Year’s Day, the date that marked commencement of the festival featuring the king’s annual enthronement. The immanence of New Year’s Day meant that authorities had to kill Jehoiachin quickly to prevent him from becoming Babylon’s king for the whole ensuing year.

These links with our master Second Kings passage refer to  Jehoiachin’s temporary elevation: “‘The Lord will . . . give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed’”; “‘It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel’ . . . and they anointed David king over Israel”; “‘I anoint you king over the people of the Lord, over Israel’”; “‘Your sons shall sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation’”; and “God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

Every substitute was in effect a second king, which explained why several links mentioned two kings. The first has the king of Israel and the king of Judah sitting side-by-side on their thrones (1 Kgs 22:8–10). A link from Isaiah speaks of two evil kings, and so does this one from Daniel: “The two kings, their minds bent on evil, shall sit at one table and exchange lies” (Isa 7:16; Dan 11:27). The Daniel 11 link certainly reaches back to the Second Kings master from a later time, and so does an Esther Word Link that hints strongly at substitution: “So Haman took the robes and the horse and robed Mordecai and led him riding through the open square of the city, proclaiming, ‘Thus shall it be done for the man whom the king wishes to honor’” (Esth 6:11).

Numerous Word Links connected the Jehoiachin passage to ones about kings. For example, “his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted”; “‘have dominion . . . over every living thing that moves upon the earth’”; “‘you may reign over all that your heart desires’”; and “‘Are you indeed to reign over us?’”  Put “a beautiful crown upon your head,” said an Ezekiel link (16:12–13); and Nathan asked David, “‘who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?’” (1 Kgs 1:27).

The raison d’être for substitute kingship was to shift an eclipse’s evil omens from the reigning monarch to the substitute. But the deadly transfer was valid only if the substitute swore to accept it. A letter to the king of Assyria illustrates this: “The substitute king . . . entered the [Babylonian] city of Akkad safely on the night of the 20th and sat upon the throne. I made him recite the scribal recitations before the Sun-god, he took all the celestial and terrestrial omens on himself, and ruled all the countries.” The “celestial and terrestrial omens” without doubt included curses.

Word Links trace Jehoiachin’s ordeal as king of Babylon. Probably he had to lead a procession, which this link (also quoted above) could have described: “So Haman took the robes and the horse and robed Mordecai and led him riding through the open square of the city, proclaiming, ‘Thus shall it be done for the man whom the king wishes to honor’” (Esth 6:11). For Jews, the most offensive part of enthronement would have been kneeling before a pagan idol. For Jehoiachin, however, it should be said that he had worshiped Babylon’s gods for years. It must have been especially repugnant for Jehoiachin to accept the transfer of curses that the eclipse had brought upon Babylon’s king. The foremost Word Link that referred to it is from Ps 109. Verses 19–21 form the actual link with the master passage, but I have included v. 18 because of its importance: “He clothed himself with cursing as his coat, may it soak into his body like water, like oil into his bones. May it be like a garment that he wraps around himself, like a belt that he wears every day” (Ps 109:18–19). Coding shows that Jehoiachin is the subject of these lines.)

A letter from 671 BCE to the Assyrian king from his agent in Babylon said that curses had not only been read to the substitute king before the sun god, but that they had then been attached to the seam of his garment “to make sure that he was constantly ‘afflicted’ by them.” The psalm’s Word Link also suggests that the authorities compelled Jehoiachin (whose name is coded beneath the text) to drink ground curse tablets. Assyrians forced a similar thing. So did Moses. He ground the golden calf to powder, mixed the powder with water, and then made the Israelites drink the mixture (Exod 32:20). In a different link Satan said to God, “‘But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.’” And in this final link the Genesis author turns the curse against the snake, i.e., Babylon. “God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.’”

Second Kings 25:29–30 emphasized that Jehoiachin drew rations daily. “And his allowance, a continual allowance, was given to him from the king, a daily rate for every day, all the days of his life (Interlinear).” This daily issuance was a departure. Thirty years earlier, Jehoiachin’s household had drawn fourteen quarts of oil at once, certainly far more than a single day’s needs. As Evil-Marduk’s guest, Jehoiachin would not have drawn his personal allowance. Instead, the king’s kitchen would have requisitioned food for the whole royal table. But the words about a daily ration would fit if Jehoiachin was a substitute king. Then the palace commissary would have made daily issues to Jehoiachin for his entire court. Notably, Assyrian records showed wine was issued to the substitute king himself for an entourage of three hundred people. In reality, the king’s table at which Jehoiachin dined was his own. Also, he ate from his soon-to-be executioner’s hand, for a link said, “The captain of the guard gave him an allowance of food” (Jer 40:5).

The subjects of food and drink were closely associated with substitutes, for the replacement king hosted daily banquets. Word Links illustrate this. King Ahasuerus “gave a banquet for all his officials and ministers. The army of Persia and Media and the nobles and governors of the provinces were present” (Esth 1:1–3). According to this next link, Nabal “was holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk” (1 Sam 25:36, italics added). In another Word Link (2 Sam 11:13), King David got Uriah drunk. Separately, the Nineveh letters indicate authorities intoxicated a substitute before leading him through his enthronement ceremony. Heavy drinking in such circumstances should not surprise us. Some of that is still done at wakes.

What did the Jews think of such carousing? A Word Link from Ps 23 said, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (Ps 23:5). Despite guards aplenty, Jehoiachin’s table in Nebuchadnezzar’s palace had become the Lord’s Table. Again, “He said to me, ‘This is the table that stands before the Lord’” (Ezek 41:22). As to the revelry, “‘Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me’” (Isa 1:14). Two links from Ecclesiastes reached back to Second Kings: “I searched with my mind how to cheer my body with wine—my mind still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly” and “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting; for this is the end of everyone” (Eccl 2:3, 7:2).

As Evil-Marduk’s substitute, Jehoiachin briefly oversaw enormous wealth. Word Links said, “Then she gave the king one hundred twenty talents of gold, a great quantity of spices, and precious stones”; “The king also made a great ivory throne, and overlaid it with the finest gold”; Job “had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys”; and “the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred sixty-six talents of gold.” A score of other links are similar.

Some Word Links put wealth in perspective. A diviner said, “‘If Balak [Moab’s king] should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the Lord.’” Proverbs weighed in with, “How much better to get wisdom than gold!” And Ecclesiastes, thinking of substitute kings, wrote, “Those to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that they lack nothing . . . yet God does not enable them to enjoy these things, but a stranger enjoys them.” Jehoiachin’s name is coded beneath the last two of these Word Links.

“Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes” (2 Kgs 25:29) for good reason. This seventh-century Nineveh letter shows that the Assyrians lavishly outfitted their substitutes. “As regards the substitute king of Akkad [Babylon], order should be given to enthrone him. As regards the clothes of the king, my lord, and the garments for the statue of the substitute king, as regards the necklace of gold, the sceptre and the throne . . .”  Word Links with the master passage reinforce Nineveh’s  archaeological evidence. “‘God . . . will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear’” (Gen 28:20). And “‘For the man whom the king delights to honor, let royal robes be brought, which the king has worn’” (Esth 6:7–8). In a third link, one king got another to wear his clothes (1 Kgs 22:30–31), a fitting description of what actually occurred: Jehoiachin literally stepped into Evil-Marduk’s shoes. Often with regard to Word Links, biblical authors believed in repetition. To make the point, there are fifteen other connected passages about wealth or clothing.


After his coronation, Jehoiachin had but five days to live. These Word Links could have come from his mouth: “‘My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and come to their end without hope. Remember that my life is a breath . . .’”; and “‘Thou hast made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing in thy sight. Surely everyone stands as a mere breath!’” A different link, however, was less sympathetic: “Who knows what is good for mortals while they live the few days of their vain lives, which they pass like a shadow?” And another Word Link made a similar point while broadly hinting at substitution: “Though sinners do evil a hundred times and prolong their lives, yet . . . neither will they prolong their days.”

In Word Links, repetition serves to clarify. For example, here are some of the nearly three dozen links about death and burial: “‘in the day that you eat of it you shall die’”; “he breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people”; “those who touch the dead body of any human being shall be unclean seven days”; “‘you deserve to die’”; “‘today Adonijah shall be put to death’”; “in the end it is the way to death”; “both great and small shall die in this land”; “Those who stay in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence”; “Ishmael son of Nethaniah . . . struck down Gedaliah son of Ahikam . . . with the sword and killed him”; and Jonah said, “‘It is better for me to die than to live.’” Remember that all these links are bound by common vocabulary to the Second Kings master.

Wealth or clothing Word Links not cited are: Exod 38:24; Deut 14:26; 2 Sam 9:9–11; 19:17–19; 1 Kgs 4:7, 21–25; 5:9–11; 8:61–63; 1 Chr 27:1; Ezra 1:9–11; 2:65–67; Neh 7:67–70; Job 1:3–4, 11–12; Prov 27:21–23. With irony the passage relates Evil-Marduk’s kindness toward Jehoiachin. But what seemed was not what was. Word Links offer scholars the opportunity to present to others the reality that lies behind appearance.

How did Jehoiachin die? A half-dozen links describe how the Babylonians executed Jehoiachin. Here are actual links to 2 Kgs 25: “‘within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head’”; “‘within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!’”; “‘His head shall be thrown over the wall to you’”; they “brought the head of Ishbaal to David”; “they lifted up their heads no more”; and “‘I will strike you down and cut off your head.’”  A seventh connection talked of hair weighing four-and-one-half pounds when cut from the head. The note shows the linked passages. Singly, the linked verses indicate little. But taken together, they announce that the Babylonians had decapitated the Judean king.

At death Jehoiachin would have received a king’s full honors. Here is a description of a Neo-Babylonian royal funeral.  King Nabonidus “laid her body to rest wrapped in fine wool garments and shining white linen. He deposited her body in a hidden tomb with splendid ornaments of gold set with beautiful stone beads, containers of scented oil . . .” Kings and governors came from across the empire to grieve, and a period of mourning was announced for the Babylonian people. Though surely not as grand, a substitute king’s funeral would have been similar. The following describes a seventh-century substitute’s funeral in Babylonia. “We prepared the burial chamber. He and his queen have been decorated, treated, displayed, buried and wailed over. The burnt-offering has been burnt, all omens have been canceled, and numerous . . . rituals . . . and scribal recitations have been performed in perfect manner.” It sounds like a magnificent sendoff.

As these links indicate, Jehoiachin apparently wanted interment at Jerusalem: “‘I asked of the Lord . . . that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,’” said one Word Link. Another was, “They buried him in the city of David among the kings.” This famous verse, which coding tells us is about Jehoiachin, is especially poignant: “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness.” According to two other linked passages, Evil-Marduk may have allowed Jehoiachin burial in Israel.

Word Links with the master Second Kings passage interpreted Jehoiachin’s death as an offering to “remove the guilt of the congregation, to make atonement for their behalf before the Lord” (Lev 10:17). Jehoiachin the scapegoat carried “all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins” (Lev 16:21). A number of other links made similar connections.  This Word Link was less theoretical.  God instructed Ezekiel, “Lie on your left side, and I will place the punishment of the house of Israel upon it.” Next he told the prophet to lie on his right side “and bear the punishment of the house of Judah; forty days I assign you” (Ezek 4:4–6). Note that through Word Links the author of 2 Kgs 25 interpreted Jehoiachin’s death as atoning for the whole people of Israel. On the other hand, for Assyrians (and very likely for Babylonians also) atonement centered upon the true king. In Parpola’s words, the ancients thought the substitute king’s “principal role was to act as a substitute sufferer who took it upon himself to bear the sins of the king and atone for them with his own blood.”

By the late 560s, when Jehoiachin languished in prison, the Judeans had lost Jerusalem, the Promised Land, Solomon’s temple, and the monarchy. Word Links with the master passage offered hope in face of this dire situation. God said to Abraham, “‘My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this season next year’”; and “‘To your offspring I will give this land.’” Another link reminded that when the Conquest was completed, “Not one of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.”  As to the monarchy, David prayed that “‘with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever’” and Solomon quoted what God had promised David: “‘Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, shall build the house for my name’” (2 Sam 7:29; 1 Kgs 5:5).

But accompanying these hopeful Word Links were others that described the dynasty’s pathology: “Concerning King Jehoiakim of Judah: He shall have no one to sit upon the throne of David” and “As I live, says the Lord, even if King Coniah [Jehoiachin] son of Jehoiakim of Judah were the signet ring on my right hand, even from there I would tear you off and give you into the hands of those who seek your life” (Jer 36:30; 22:24–25). Then the author of our master passage by Word Link added, “If you will not heed these words, I swear by myself, says the Lord, that this house [of the king of Judah] shall become a desolation” (Jer 22:5). In this next, the Lord damned nation, city, and temple: “‘I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel; and I will reject this city that I have chosen, Jerusalem, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there’” (2 Kgs 23:27). And these things came to pass.

Our master Second Kings passage could have been written in the year 561, the nadir of the Exile. Jerusalem and its temple lay in ruins, the Babylonians had slain every royal family member they could catch, and voracious neighbors were devouring what remained of Judah. In face of this, exilic writers still hung their hopes on God’s faithfulness. Using Word Links, the author of 2 Kgs 25:27–30 cited these passages: “The surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward”; “the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads . . . and sorrow and sighing shall flee away”; and “In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it.” It could be said that the bleaker the outlook, the grander the vision.

Jehoiachin, the last King of Judah, though weak, died heroically. Second Kings 25:27–30, which relates his final days, has been a fitting passage to illustrate this new scholarly tool of Word Links. With both coding and Word Links established, we are ready to address in chapter 4 one of the foremost mysteries of scripture—the identity of Second Isaiah.