15 “Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father have food and drink?
He did what was right and just, so all went well with him.
16 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.
17 “But your eyes and your heart are set only on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood
and on oppression and extortion.”
The NIV gives this chapter the title Judgment against Wicked Kings and names them as well. They were the last kings of Judah after Josiah – the last good or Godly king of Judah. The first wicked king named was Jehoahaz also known by his birth name Shallum, he was the fourth son of Josiah. He was carried off to Egypt where he died.
11 . . . [he] succeeded his father as king of Judah but has gone from this place: “He will never return.”
Next was Jehoiakim the second son of Josiah and he was even more wicked than Jehoahaz. When he died there was no mourning and was so ill thought of that
19 He will have the burial of a donkey—dragged away and thrown outside the gates of Jerusalem.
Nonetheless, it was Jehoiakim’s son Jehoiachin who became the next king of Judah to be judged.
30 This is what the Lord says: “Record this man as if childless, a man who will not prosper in his lifetime,
for none of his offspring will prosper, none will sit on the throne of David or rule anymore in Judah.”
The last king of Judah, Zedekiah, was the third son of Josiah. He is not mentioned in this chapter of Jeremiah, but plenty is said about him and his wicked ways in the prior chapter.
All that being said, note verse seventeen above “But your eyes and your heart are set only on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion” where the Lord is speaking of king Jehoahaz directly, but His words could apply to any and all of the kings mentioned in this and the prior chapter. Their heart were corrupt.
Seldom do we read a person is or was corrupt or wicked. Almost always their actions are a result of a wicked or corrupt or proud/arrogant heart. Thus it is our hearts we must guard the most against wickedness and the foundation of wickedness – pride. God gave very specific directions for the kings on how to ensure His blessings at the beginning of this chapter.
3 This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. 4 For if you are careful to carry out these commands, then kings who sit on David’s throne will come through the gates of this palace, riding in chariots and on horses, accompanied by their officials and their people.
They did not listen and paid the price for not listening. Our instructions may be found in the answer given by Jesus when he answered the question about the greatest commandment.
37 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.