Josiah’s sons and grandsons (the last kings of Israel before the Exile) are integral parts of the story that lead to the judgement of Jerusalem. They are mentioned in several books including 2 Kings, 1 + 2 Chronicles, Jeremiah, and time stamps put them in Daniel, Esther, and Ezekiel. There is an interesting 3 months/11 year cycle that is mentioned (twice) with these men concerning their times as rulers! (another study) Actually, to fully understand these men, you should read Jeremiah along with Kings and Chronicles.
Johanan – 1 Chronicles 3: 15 states the he was Josiah’s firstborn. He is not mentioned anywhere else and an active imagination could go a long way with thinking about him. Did he die with his father in the battle with Neco? Was he righteous and the people did not want him so they choose Jehoahaz?
Jehoahaz/Shallum – When Josiah died the people made Jehoahaz king; this makes me wonder why? A guess would be that Josiah had not prepared for his death or a new king. It never says that they sought God as who the next king should have been, so it makes you wonder how and why “the people” could do this. At twenty-three he was not the oldest of the sons, in fact he may have been the fourth oldest son. Josiah was sixteen when he fathered Jehoahaz.
Jehoahaz ignored the righteous work his father had done and went back to the practices of Amon and Manasseh. This may have included sacrificing children and the return to other gods. He lasted three months when Pharaoh Neco came in and took him to Egypt where he died.
Jehoiakim – Pharaoh was in charge of Israel, again! In reality Israel was once again “slaves” of Egypt. Neco showed his power by removing the king of “the people” and putting in one of his choosing. In another show of power Neco changes the king’s name; Eliakim (God establishes) was changed to Jehoiakim (Yahweh lifts up or establishes). This is also the name that is in 1 Chronicles 3: 15 that identifies him as the second born son of Josiah (Jehoahaz is not even mentioned instead he is called Shallum). (Name changes are a big deal in the Bible.)
He ruled eleven years and then died; he was thirty-six when he died. He had fathered Jehoiachin at eighteen. In 2 Kings 24 it explains some of his deeds were still due to the acts of Manasseh, and the judgement that had been pronounced.
Jehoiachin – His name means “Yahweh supports” and it shows. His rule started when he was eighteen and it lasted three months. He was taken to Babylon and stayed in prison until he was fifty-five years old. The reason he is so important, he is the grandfather of Zerubbabel. Kings and Chronicles don’t give much about him, so read Jeremiah 22:24 – 30. Then temper this with Haggai 2: 23.
A signet ring lost and then restored. Jeremiah 23 then talks about The Branch and this theme is repeated in Zechariah 3:8 (which is in the time frame of Haggai). Jeremiah 24 completes the Lord’s thought about him and the other exiles. If you only read Jeremiah 22 it is easy to get the impression that God “hates” Jehoiachin; actually, God did him a favor by bringing them out of Jerusalem. (A side note here is that Zedekiah was also in prison with Jehoiachin but it never mentions Zedekiah receiving favor and being freed. Also, the names in 1 Chronicles are the “changed” names! It seems everyone bought into the changes.)
Zedekiah – As Josiah’s youngest child (1 Chronicles 3: 15) he would have been born when Josiah was eighteen and was not much older than his nephew, Jehoiachin. Jeremiah tells Zedekiah’s story, he is mention frequently starting in the 21st chapter until the end of the book. (be careful there are other Zedekiah’s mentioned) He is the embodiment of the spiritual attitude of Judah at that time; at times he is seeking God, then he burns Jeremiah’s scrolls, sometimes protecting Jeremiah, and then ready to give him to up to be abused.
His reign as king mirrors his spiritual life. He accepts Babylon, he rejects Babylon and tries to come under Egypt; he just makes bad decisions. So, he lasted eleven years and came to a bad end. He had to watch his family die, and then his eyes were blinded.