Why is "the righteous" (as in Chavakuk 2:4) in reference to "Jeconiah the king"?

The passage in question reads:

"but the righteous shall live by his faith." Chavakuk - Habakkuk - Chapter 2:4 https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16198/showrashi/true

Why is "the righteous" in reference to "Jeconiah the king" as per Rashi's commentary?

All my questions below are really one and the same in regards to the title of my post.

How did the Rabbis come to the conclusion that "the righteous" in this passage refers to "Jeconiah the king"? I presume, because this page is partly titled "Rashi's Commentary" that Rashi sourced his comment from the rabbis before him.

Which other candidates did other authorities, whether from the majority or minority opinion, also refer as the one fulfilling the title of the "righteous" in Chavakuk 2:4? (For me, for example, I would have thought, the "righteous" referred to "Noach" as he was thus called "Righteous" in Parashat Noach.)

The Hebrew of this translation, "but the righteous shall live by his faith" (Chavakuk 2:4) does not have a definite article in front of the word "righteous"; is it correct, therefore, to translate it as if though it has a definite article; not that I know that that would make a difference, does it?

  • Maybe it has something to do with what Rashi learns us (Haggai 2:23) that Jeconiah repented: "We learn that his repentance availed [Jeconiah], and Zerubbabel was born to him, and he was made as a signet."
    – Shmuel
    Jun 12, 2022 at 17:21
  • @Shmuel Which other candidates did other authorities refer as the one fulfilling the title of the "righteous" in Chavakuk 2:4?
    – ninamag
    Jun 13, 2022 at 6:42
  • IIRC, the Abarbanel, but am not sure.
    – Shmuel
    Jun 13, 2022 at 7:45
  • Rashi also tells us that the tzadikkim in Tehillim 14:5 refers to the people in the age of Jeconiah: "for G-d is in the generation of a righteous man In the generation of Jeconiah, who were righteous.". A quick search on Sefaria does not show anything other than Rashi.
    – Shmuel
    Jun 13, 2022 at 10:57

1 Answer 1


There are many commentaries and midrashim that specify other people or discuss the righteous person as a broader principle (e.g., Radak and others associate this with Israel, who survived because they didn't worship idolatry).

But the idea of identifying King Jeconiah to the verse is connected to the first part of the verse. Midrash Tanhuma 4:2 specifically links the first part of the verse ("his spirit within him is puffed up, not upright") with Nebuchadnezzar (who, the midrash teaches, despite being puffed up as a king, was embarrassed by his own image because he was not upright and physically misshaped). By contrast, King Jeconiah was released after years in prison once Nebuchadnezzar died, by the successor to the throne, Nebuchadnezzar's son Avel-Marduk (cf. II Melachim 25:27). Considering this conflicting history of kings, Rashi links the Nebuchadnezzar midrash of the first part of the verse with Jeconiah as the "righteous" man of the passage, and borrows language from Vayikra Rabba (18:2) to support his comments on Avel-Marduk succeeding him.

If you're looking for clearer reasoning, see the commentary of R. Yosef Kara (who lived contemporaneously in Troyes with Rashi). For Kara, Jeconiah represents the merit of Israel in returning from Babylonian exile. Kara also understands this and neighboring verses from Chavakuk as referring to the Babylonians, and so Jeconiah is an example of the righteous man who survived--indeed, released from captivity--because of his faith during this time, just as the prophecy declared with all of the Judean exiles :

וצדיק באמונתו יחיה - הוא גלות יכניה שחזרו מגלות בבל. וכן הוא אומר בירמיה "כה אמר יי' אלהי ישראל כתאינים הטובות האלה כן אכיר את גלות יהודה אשר שלחתי מן המקום הזה ארץ כשדים לטובה. ושמתי עיני עליהם לטובה והשיבותים על הארץ הזאת ובניתים ולא אהרוס ונטעתים ולא אתוש" (כד , ה - ו). וגם שם , שהיה בגלות , נאמר עליו "וידבר אתו טובות ויתן את כסאו מעל לכסא המלכים אשר אתו בבבל" (מ"ב כה , כח).

The righteous shall live by his faith: This refers to the exiles [in the time of] of King Jeconiah, who returned from Babylonian exile. As it is said in Jeremiah (24:5-6): "Thus said the LORD, the God of Israel: As with these good figs, so will I single out for good the Judean exiles whom I have driven out from this place to the land of the Chaldeans. I will look upon them favorably, and I will bring them back to this land; I will build them and not overthrow them; I will plant them and not uproot them." And similarly (II Mel. 25:28) [when Avel-Marduk released Jeconiah from imprisonment]: "He spoke kindly to him, and gave him a throne above those of other kings who were with him in Babylon."

  • +1 for the research. Besides Israel and Jeconiah, with who else did the rabbis of old associate this "righteous" person?
    – ninamag
    Jun 14, 2022 at 10:08
  • @ninamag Other options include Avraham (Shemot Rabba, Sekhel Tov), our forefathers (Tanhuma), bekhorim (Kohelet Rabba), every mitzvah-observing Jew (Meharsha) and even Chavakuk himself (Alsheikh).
    – Aryeh
    Jun 14, 2022 at 14:20

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