Biblical Personalities: Yehoyachin: Teshuvah & The Messiah
On the 27th of Adar, King Yehoyachin was released from a Babylonian prison, where he had been incarcerated for 36 years, since 597 B.C.E. (Seder Olam, 28)
Nebuchadnezar imprisoned Yehoyachin, and no one imprisoned in Nebuchadnezar’s days was ever released. He also exiled the Great Sanhedrin, which then deliberated and said, “In our days the Kingdom of the House of David will cease since Yehoyachin is the last survivor of the House of David and he was childless. What shall we do? Let us go appease the nurse, who will appease the Queen, who in turn will appease the King.”
When Nebuchadnezar was about to consort with the Queen, she said to him, “You are a King; Is Yehoyachin not? You seek to fulfill your needs; Does Yehoyachin not seek to fulfill his?
Thereupon Nebuchadnezar decreed that Yehoyachin’s wife be sent to her husband. They lowered her down to him through the windows or they opened the ceiling and lowered her down.
When he was about to consort with her, she said, “I have seen a semblance of a red rose (I have become unclean).” He Immediately separated from her. She went and counted the required number of days, purified herself and immersed in the Mikvah.
The Holy One, Blessed Is He, said to Yehoyachin, “In Jerusalem you did not keep the laws of Family Purity, and now you keep them?” On the spot, The Holy One, Blessed Is He, forgave him for all his sins (Vayikra Rabbah 19:6).
This is above all a story of Teshuvah. Yehoyachin, who never observed God’s laws while King, even after spending decades in a prison, refused to have relations with his wife when she was impure. It is a story of Teshuva that leads to the birth of the potential Messiah.
His commitment is even more outstanding when we consider that he was childless and he had no way of knowing whether he would have another opportunity to be with his wife and to father a child; the future king of Israel.
This is also a story of unexpected compassion: Nebuchadnezar heeded his wife’s words.
Yehoyachin had been imprisoned for decades and did not consider doing Teshuvah until Nebuchadnezar had offered him some dignity as a fellow King and some compassion. We learn the importance of our treating others with dignity and compassion.
Yehoyachin was not granted his second opportunity to be with his wife as a reward from God, but as continued compassion from Nebuchadnezar. His forgiveness from God came after he was with his wife a second time. He was not forgiven when he refused to be with his wife in order to keep the laws of Family Purity, but only after he was with her in purity.
It was insufficient for Yehoyaching to observe the restrictions of the law; he had to also act after having demonstrated his commitment to observe God’s laws.
The future King, the future of the House of David, had to arrive in a world of action, doing, and a commitment to the future.
This teaches us that Teshuvah is not complete when we cease our negative actions. It is completed only with new and improved action; a commitment to the future.
Nebuchadnezar’s temporary compassion was in terms of simple physical needs. It was his concern for another king, albeit a defeated and imprisoned King. Yet, Yehoyachin saw the moment when his wife was lowered into his prison pit as an opportunity. It was that hint of opportunity that allowed him to begin his process of Teshuvah.