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Jeremiah causeth Baruch to write his prophesy, and publicly to read it. The princes, having intelligence thereof by Micaiah, send Jehudi to fetch the roll, and read it. They advise Baruch and Jeremiah to hide themselves. The king Jehoiakim, being certified thereof, heareth part of it, and burneth the roll. Jeremiah denounceth his judgment. Baruch writeth a new copy.
Before Christ 606.
Jeremiah 36:1. And it came to pass, &c.— It is uncertain whether what is related in this chapter happened during the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, (for this city was besieged in the 4th year of Jehoiakim: see 2 Kings 24:1-2.) or after the siege, when Jehoiakim was escaped from the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. One would imagine from what follows, particularly from Jer 36:9 that it happened at the end of the fourth year; which would lead one to suppose that Nebuchadnezzar was retired. Jeremiah says nothing of the siege, and he orders Baruch to read his prophesies before an assembly of the people, who came to Jerusalem out of their cities, Jer 36:6 which denotes a time of joy, and a grand festival. See Calmet.
Jeremiah 36:3. It may be, &c.— These and other expressions of the like kind, sufficiently indicate that God's foreknowledge of future events lays no irresistible restraint on the will of man, nor takes away the liberty of human actions. Baruch was the most faithful disciple of our prophet: he served him as long as he lived in the capacity of his secretary, and never left him till his death.
Jeremiah 36:5. I am shut up, &c.— Not in prison; but in some place where the prophet had hidden himself, to avoid Jehoiakim. See Jeremiah 36:26.
Jeremiah 36:9. They proclaimed a fast— It was customary among the Jews, to proclaim anniversary fasts upon certain days, in memory of some great calamity which had befallen them at that time. Of this kind were the fasts of the 4th, 5th, 7th, and 10th months, mentioned by the prophet Zechariah; the first instituted in memory of the city's being taken by Nebuchadnezzar; the second, in memory of the temple's being burned in that month; the third, for the murder of Gedaliah; and the fourth in memory of the siege which then began. See Lowth, and Zechariah 3:5; Zechariah 8:19.
Jeremiah 36:10. Scribe— Chancellor or secretary.
Jeremiah 36:17-18. And they asked Baruch, &c.— Mr. Green, on Psalms 13:0 observes, that these words should be placed and pointed thus:—How didst thou write all these words? From his mouth? And Baruch answered them, From his mouth. He pronounced all these words unto me, and I wrote, &c.
Jeremiah 36:19. Go, hide thee— "We cannot avoid giving the king information of what we have heard; but, as we know his violent temper, we advise you to abscond awhile, to avoid his fury." This example of the princes of Judah deserves remarking: they are careful to unite the duties which they owe to God, to justice, and humanity, with that which they are obliged to pay to their king. Calmet.
Jeremiah 36:22. Now the king sat in the winter-house— See Amos 3:15. This description of Jehoiakim's sitting in his winter-house in the 9th month, which corresponds to the latter end of November and part of December, with a fire burning upon the hearth before him, answers to Russell's account, who says, that the most delicate in those countries make no fires till the end of November. How long they continue the use of them, he does not say; but we know from other authors, that in Judaea they are continued far into the spring. Bishop Pococke set out from Jerusalem on the 17th of March in the evening, and was conducted by his Arab guide to his tent, which was two or three miles off; and there treated with bread and coffee; he, the Arab's wife, and some other people, he tells us, sitting by a fire: in another place he says, that in the night of the eighth of May, the sheik of Sephonry, a place in Galilee, made them a fire in a little ruinous building, and sent them boiled eggs, milk, and coffee: so that the fire which they had was not designed for the preparing of their food, but for warming them. No wonder then that the people who went to Gethsemane, to apprehend our Lord, thought a fire of coals a considerable refreshment at the time of the passover, (John 18:18.) which must have been earlier in the year than the 8th of May, though it might be considerably later than the 17th of March. See Observations, p. 19.
Jeremiah 36:23. Three or four leaves— Their books were in the form of a scroll, and consisted of several pieces of parchment rolled upon each other. It must be likewise noted, however, that by leaves several understand columns or partitions, into which the breadth of the parchment was divided. A variety of Hebrew manuscripts in the Bodleian library, as well as a curious one found at Herculaneum, are evidences for the reality of this manner of writing. Houbigant reads pages; which, says he, were the same with those now found in the parchments called "The volumes of the synagogue;" in which the parchments are not sewn one beneath the other; for if this was the case, the volume would only have one page, whose beginning would be at the top, and its end at the bottom of the parchment: but the parchments are sewn on the side of each other; which are read by unfolding the volume either to the right or left; so that there are as many pages as there are parchments.
Jeremiah 36:32. And there were added—many like words— Many words such as these. Houbigant. I retain, says he, the ambiguity of the words in my version; כהמה kaheimah, signifies either as are these, which are immediately read, and shall be read: or like to these, that is to say, similar threats and prophesies concerning Jerusalem and its kings.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The date of this prophesy is the fourth year of Jehoiakim, probably about the same time that the transaction recorded in the former chapter happened.
1. Jeremiah is ordered to take a roll of a book, so called because they wrote on sheets of vellum or parchment, which they rolled one over the other. In this volume he must write all his sermons and prophesies, delivered during a course of two-and-twenty years, concerning Israel and Judah, and concerning all the nations; that the people might hear once more a repetition of all the warnings and admonitions so solemnly given them, as the most likely method to work upon their obdurate hearts, when they heard the evil threatened, and might be induced thereby to turn from the wickedness which they had committed; which if they did, notwithstanding all their provocations, God was still ready to pardon all that was past. Note; (1.) We have abundant reason to bless God for causing his word to be written, and not left to uncertain tradition. (2.) Nothing can work upon the sinner's heart, if God's word does not. (3.) The certain ruin that sin will bring upon us should deter us from it. (4.) Whenever a sinner by grace returns to God, all his iniquity, however great and aggravated, shall be forgiven him.
2. Jeremiah instantly obeys, and employs Baruch as his amanuensis, perhaps as the readier scribe, and being himself shut up, either confined by the king's order or some indisposition from appearing at the temple. Baruch must take the roll, and read all the contents of it in the Lord's house, when the people were assembled together on the fasting-day, mentioned Jer 36:9 or on the great day of atonement, and also in the ears of all Judah, who came up out of their cities at the feast of tabernacles; or it may refer to the time when, on occasion of the fast, they assembled at the temple. It may be they will present their supplication before the Lord, affected with what they hear, and seek to him to avert the impending judgments; and will return every one from his evil way; turning to God ere the terrible threatenings pronounced take place; and Baruch failed not punctually to perform the prophet's orders. Note; (1.) Whenever the conscience is awakened by a sense of sin, it will appear by an immediate application to God in prayer. (2.) The formalities of religion are often observed where the power of it is lost; but this only more fatally deceives sinners to their ruin.
2nd, Some have supposed that the fasting-day, Jer 36:6 was the same as is mentioned Jer 36:9 and that the time, between the date of Jeremiah's being commanded to write and this reading, was employed in finishing the roll; for, if the ninth month refers not to Jehoiakim's reign but to the ecclesiastical year, his fifth year beginning in the seventh month, this might be only two months after. Nor can it well be supposed, but that, if it had been read some months before, see Jeremiah 36:1; Jer 36:6 it would have come, ere this time, to the prince's ears; otherwise this was the second or third time of its being read, see Jer 36:6 line upon line and precept upon precept being needful for men so dull of hearing. We have,
1. An extraordinary fast proclaimed, on account, probably, of the threatened invasion, to all the people of Judah and Jerusalem; or, as the text seems to intimate, it was at their request they proclaimed a fast, even all the people, &c. Note; National fasts, without national reformation, will never turn away national judgments.
2. Baruch, on that solemn occasion, read out of the roll, at a window, or from a balcony, adjoining to Gemariah's chamber, in the audience of all the people who were in the court of the temple below.
3. Michaiah, the son of Gemariah, who seems to have been affected with what he heard, soon carried the report to the king's house, where the princes were assembled, who seemed to have left the concerns of religion to the people, and to have been themselves engaged in consultation. Startled at the contents of the discourse, he repeated them, and thereupon they desire Baruch to attend them and read over the words of the roll; with which he readily complied, not afraid of men's faces when God's word was to be delivered. Note; (1.) The discourse which has affected our own souls, may often be profitably repeated for the good of others. (2.)
They who are the faithful ministers of Christ, must be ready to bear their testimony, if called thereto, even before kings, and not be ashamed.
4. The princes appear greatly struck with the words that Baruch read; terrified at the threatened judgments, both one and other, good and bad, or a man to his friend, amazed, and looking at one another, as if inquiring what was to be done in this case. Their general resolution was, to inform the king, to whose ill affections they were not strangers; and, therefore, those who were gracious men at least, justly apprehending that he would be exasperated, advised Baruch and Jeremiah to conceal themselves, lest in his anger he should murder them. But first, to gain the fullest satisfaction to themselves, and to answer the inquiries which the king might make, they demand how he wrote these discourses; and Baruch informs them, that Jeremiah pronounced them, and he wrote from his mouth; which some regard as an idle question; but it seems to arise from a difficulty started, how Jeremiah could recollect so many discourses, containing such a variety of matter, the remembrance of which so exactly might give them a stronger conviction of the inspiration under which he spoke.
3rdly, When Baruch departed to secrete himself, the princes went into the court to the king, to inform him of what had passed, having carefully laid up the roll in Elishama's chamber; and he, curious to hear in full what they summarily reported, immediately dispatched Jehudi for the roll, and bade him read it in his hearing, and before the princes who were with him. Whereupon he gave an account,
1. Of Jehoiakim's daring impiety. Two or three leaves were enough to enrage him, and, a fire being on the hearth before him, he cut the roll in pieces and burnt it; or Jehudi, who read it, did it at his command; he could not with patience hear such terrible denunciations: obstinate in his sins, he could not bear to be rebuked, but vented the enmity of his heart against God and his prophets, and hoped to disappoint the predictions, or prevent the knowledge of them from spreading among the people. Note; The despisers of God's word are among those who seem most surely given up to a reprobate mind.
2. The princes who were present testified no horror or detestation at this shocking sight: those who were in attendance on the king, not those who came up from Elishama's chamber, seem chiefly intended; at least were deterred from expressing any becoming zeal for fear of offending: three of them, however, with humility interceded with the king not to burn the roll; but he was as deaf to their intreaties as to the prophet's warnings. Note; They who silently sit by, without testifying their abhorrence of the sins which they see committed, are partakers in the guilt.
3. Not content with having cut to pieces and burnt the roll, the king in his fury would probably have served the authors no better if he could have seized them, for which he issues immediate orders; but the Lord hid them: whatever care they had taken to conceal themselves, it had been ineffectual, if the special providence of God had not watched over them and rescued them from the malice of this impious king. Note; They who, for God's cause, boldly put their lives in their hand, are often wonderfully protected by him, and saved from the fury of their persecutors.
4. Jeremiah has a fresh order to write again the same words in another roll. The burning of the former can neither prevent the judgments approaching, nor destroy the word of God. Jehoiakim was enraged to be told that his country should be destroyed, and left desolate without man and beast; and, not believing it himself, would have others regard it as a falsehood; but it is a fact which will be shortly verified; and himself, his family, and servants, meet their deserved doom. He shall be slain with the Chaldean sword, and his corpse, ignominiously exposed, be refused burial, and left to rot a putrid carcase on the earth; his seed be cut off, that none of his posterity should ever sit on the throne of David; his son Jeconiah, in three months, being dragged into captivity, and in the above sense written childless: and all the evils threatened against Judah and Jerusalem terribly overtake them, according to the purport of the words written in the roll which was burnt. Another is provided, the same words dictated by Jeremiah, and written by Baruch, with the addition of many others like them. So that, instead of avoiding the divine judgments, Jehoiakim only added fresh aggravations to his guilt, and drew heavier vengeance on his head. Note; They who contend with God, and obstinately resist his counsel, only treasure up for themselves wrath against the day of wrath.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 36". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26