Shortly after the fall of Jerusalem and Zedekiah’s death, we find that Jeremiah was released from prison and dwelled among a small remnant still in the land of Judea (Jer. 39:14; 40:6). The group was under the appointed governorship of Gedaliah, who was subsequently murdered by a fellow military leader named Ishmael (Jer. 41:2). Ishmael apparently rejected the political arrangement. In verse 10 we read that Ishmael and his band took the entire remnant as prisoners. Notice who is particularly mentioned as being among the group: “Then Ishmael took captive all the rest of the people … even the king’s daughters”—Zedekiah’s daughters!
Her name was TEPHI-Remember, Jechoniah’s line had been fully disqualified from ever inheriting the Davidic throne, and Zedekiah’s sons had all been killed. The term “tender one”—as used in Ezekiel’s riddle—certainly implies a young female. Could one of Zedekiah’s daughters be used to perpetuate the throne? Would this be at all legal?
According to Hebrew law, a man could pass the family inheritance on to a daughter if he had no son (Num. 27:8). Certainly this would apply even to the throne. Athaliah, wife of King Jehoram of Judah, took the throne by treachery; nevertheless, her brief reign was not challenged because she was female (II Kings 11:1-3). The promise in Jeremiah 33:17—that David would never lack a man to sit on his throne—must not be taken to exclude women. While the Hebrew word ish is used throughout the Old Testament to designate a male, the term is used frequently of humans in general (Job 14:12; 15:16; 34:21; Psa. 39:11; 78:25; etc.). Moreover, the legitimacy of the maternal line is clearly upheld in the fact that Jesus’ only blood link back to David is through his mother, Mary.
It appears that Nebuchadnezzar’s desire was to destroy the dynasty established under Solomon and permanently end the succession of Jewish kings. But the Babylonian king may have been completely unaware of Zedekiah’s daughters; at the very least, he was apparently unfamiliar with Hebrew law—specifically that a princess could inherit the throne if there were no male heirs. There was, however, one stipulation: the heiress had to marry within the royal tribe, the tribe of Judah, if she was to retain the inheritance (see Numbers 36:6-7 for the precedent). Thus, Zedekiah’s daughters had every right to the throne of their father—as long as they married someone from the tribe of Judah.
The story of Jeremiah and Zedekiah’s daughters ends with them still in Egypt—at least as far as the Bible goes. We are left to speculate—based on historical accounts, the prophecies of Ezekiel, the promises concerning David’s throne, and the “mysterious commission” given to Jeremiah—as to what happened next.