Jeremiah 36 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Jeremiah 36
Pulpit Commentary
And it came to pass in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that this word came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,
Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day.
It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.
Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah: and Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the LORD, which he had spoken unto him, upon a roll of a book.
Verse 4. - Baruch. Already mentioned as Jeremiah's attendant, in Jeremiah 32:12. He appears to have been of high rank (see on ver. 15), as Josephus, indeed, expressly states ('Ant.,' 10:09, 1). Maaseiah, his grandfather, was governor of the city (2 Chronicles 34:8), and Seraiah his brother (Jeremiah 51:59) held some equally honourable, though not so easily definable, position in the court.
And Jeremiah commanded Baruch, saying, I am shut up; I cannot go into the house of the LORD:
Verse 5. - I am shut up. Not so; Jeremiah was not detained by material force. Some strong reason he had (perhaps of a ceremonial kind), but as it was irrelevant to the narrative, it is not given. Render, I am detained (same verb as in 1 Samuel 21:7).
Therefore go thou, and read in the roll, which thou hast written from my mouth, the words of the LORD in the ears of the people in the LORD'S house upon the fasting day: and also thou shalt read them in the ears of all Judah that come out of their cities.
Verse 6. - Upon the fasting day. The mention of the fast day suggests that ver. 9 is out of its place, which again confirms the view that the narrative before us has received its present form from an editor. In the ears of all Judah (see ver. 9).
It may be they will present their supplication before the LORD, and will return every one from his evil way: for great is the anger and the fury that the LORD hath pronounced against this people.
Verse 7. - They will present their supplication; literally, their supplication will fall (as margin). The phrase seems to be suggested by the gesture of a suppliant. Hence humility is one idea; but success is entirely another. That which lights down before one's eyes cannot be disregarded. Hence, in Jeremiah 37:20 and Jeremiah 42:2, the Authorized Version renders, "be accepted." This is, at any rate, a better rendering than that quoted above, which is both weak in itself and obscures the connection. And will return; rather, so that they return. "Returning," i.e. repentance, is necessary, because their "evil ways" have provoked Jehovah to "great anger and fury;" but is only possible by the Divine help (comp. Acts 5:31, "To give repentance unto Israel"). Hence prayer is the first duty.
And Baruch the son of Neriah did according to all that Jeremiah the prophet commanded him, reading in the book the words of the LORD in the LORD'S house.
And it came to pass in the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, in the ninth month, that they proclaimed a fast before the LORD to all the people in Jerusalem, and to all the people that came from the cities of Judah unto Jerusalem.
Verse 9. - In the fifth year of Jehoiakim. It is remarkable that the Septuagint has here the eighth year; and Josephus, too, relates that Jehoiakim paid tribute to Nebuchadnezzar in his eighth year. This latter statement seems to tally with the notices in 2 Kings 24. The vassalage of Jehoiakim is there said to have lasted three years; this followed the rebellion; while the siege of Jerusalem was reserved for the short reign of Jehoiachin. Now, as this siege must have been the punishment of Jehoiakim's rebellion, and as the reign of the latter king lasted eleven years, we are brought to the same date as that given by Josephus for the commencement of the vassalage, viz. the eighth year. It is to this year, then, that 2 Kings 24:1 refers when it says, "In his days Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant;" and also the narrative before us in the statement that "they proclaimed a fast before Jehovah to all the people in Jerusalem, and to all the people that came from the cities of Judah unto Jerusalem." What other event would have produced such a concourse of worshippers? The battle of Carchemish (which took place in the fourth year of Jehoiakim)? But it was by no means clear as yet that the consequences of this would be disastrous for Judah. Carchemish was too far off for the people of Judah to show such serious alarm (similarly Gratz, 'Monatsschrift,' etc., vol. 23. p. 300). If so, Jeremiah kept his prophecy by him for several years, till the fight moment came. The ninth month. As this is a winter month (see ver. 22), Jeremiah evidently reckons by the Babylonian calendar, the ninth month of which, Kisiluv (Hebrew, Chisleu), began from the new moon of December.
Then read Baruch in the book the words of Jeremiah in the house of the LORD, in the chamber of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the scribe, in the higher court, at the entry of the new gate of the LORD'S house, in the ears of all the people.
Verse 10. - The chamber (see on Jeremiah 35:4) of Genesisariah...the scribe. Genesisariah was favourably disposed to Jeremiah (ver. 25); he was probably the brother of Jeremiah's friend, Ahikam (Jeremiah 26:24). He was one of the royal secretaries, and reckoned among the "princes" (see ver. 12). In the higher court. "Higher" equivalent to "inner." The new gate (see on Jeremiah 20:2).
When Michaiah the son of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan, had heard out of the book all the words of the LORD,
Then he went down into the king's house, into the scribe's chamber: and, lo, all the princes sat there, even Elishama the scribe, and Delaiah the son of Shemaiah, and Elnathan the son of Achbor, and Gemariah the son of Shaphan, and Zedekiah the son of Hananiah, and all the princes.
Verse 12. - He went down (see on Jeremiah 26:10). Sat there. In deliberation on the affairs of the state. Elishama the scribe. Gemariah, then, had a colleague. So in Solomon's cabinet (if the word may be used) there were two soferim, or secretaries, one perhaps for the civil and one for the military business (1 Kings 4:3; comp, Jeremiah 52:25). Elnathan. Mentioned already, Jeremiah 26:22.
Then Michaiah declared unto them all the words that he had heard, when Baruch read the book in the ears of the people.
Therefore all the princes sent Jehudi the son of Nethaniah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Cushi, unto Baruch, saying, Take in thine hand the roll wherein thou hast read in the ears of the people, and come. So Baruch the son of Neriah took the roll in his hand, and came unto them.
Verse 14. - Jehudi... the son of Cushi. A genealogy which contains a history. Jehudi is not a true proper name, any more than Gadi ("a Gadite"), the quasi-name of the father of Menahem (2 Kings 15:14), or than Cushi, the quasi-name of Jehudi's great-grandfather. Cushi himself was, doubtless, an Ethiopian, and probably (like Ebed-melech, Jeremiah 38:7) a eunuch, or at least chamberlain; his son and grandson were both worshippers of Jehovah (as their names indicate), but were not qualified to become Jewish citizens. The Egyptian was not, indeed, to be abhorred, but not until the third generation could his descendants be admitted into" the congregation" (Deuteronomy 23:8). Egypt and Ethiopia were historically connected (see Lenormant's 'Ancient History,' index to vol. 1.). For the name of "Jehudi," comp. "Jehudith," daughter of Beeri the Hittite (Genesis 26:34).
And they said unto him, Sit down now, and read it in our ears. So Baruch read it in their ears.
Verse 15. - Sit down now. The princes evidently recognize Baruch as belonging to a family of distinction (see on ver. 4); and from vers. 19, 25 we may infer that they were favourably inclined beth to Baruch and to his master (comp. ch. 26.).
Now it came to pass, when they had heard all the words, they were afraid both one and other, and said unto Baruch, We will surely tell the king of all these words.
Verse 16. - They were afraid both one and other; rather, they turned shudderingly one to another. Such an announcement as Jeremiah's at such a serious crisis startled them by its boldness. We may infer that the prophet had for some time, by Divine command, kept his sombre anticipations in the background. We will surely tell the king; rather, we have to tell the king. Friendly feeling would have prompted them to hush up the affair (see Jeremiah 27:20, 21), but duty forbade.
And they asked Baruch, saying, Tell us now, How didst thou write all these words at his mouth?
Verse 17. - How didst thou write all these words at his mouth! Two questions seem to be combined here - "How didst thou write all these words?" and "Didst thou write it all at his mouth?" Baruch's answer is good for both.
Then Baruch answered them, He pronounced all these words unto me with his mouth, and I wrote them with ink in the book.
Verse 18. - He pronounced, etc.; rather, He kept dictating... while I wrote with ink, etc. The addition of the last clause suggests (and was, perhaps, intended to do so) that Baruch's function was simply mechanical.
Then said the princes unto Baruch, Go, hide thee, thou and Jeremiah; and let no man know where ye be.
And they went in to the king into the court, but they laid up the roll in the chamber of Elishama the scribe, and told all the words in the ears of the king.
Verse 20. - Into the court; i.e. into the inner court, in which the royal apartments were apparently situated (comp. 1 Kings 7:8).
So the king sent Jehudi to fetch the roll: and he took it out of Elishama the scribe's chamber. And Jehudi read it in the ears of the king, and in the ears of all the princes which stood beside the king.
Verse 21. - Which stood beside the king; literally,...above the king. The standing courtiers, of course, rose above the king; comp. Isaiah 6:2, "Seraphim stood above him."
Now the king sat in the winterhouse in the ninth month: and there was a fire on the hearth burning before him.
Verse 22. - In the winter house; i.e. that part of the royal palace (beth, house, may also be rendered apartment) which was arranged for a winter habitation (comp. Amos 3:15). According to Dr. Thomson ('The Land and the Book,' p. 309), the more airy part of a house is called "summerhouse," and the more sheltered room "winter house." The ninth month, in which the events now being related took place, corresponded approximately to our December. It was, therefore, the cold and rainy season; December is a stormy month in Palestine. A fire on the hearth; rather, in the chafing dish (or, brazier). It was a vessel with live coals placed in the centre of the room, still used in the East in cold weather.
And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth.
Verse 23. - Three or four leaves; rather, columns or compartments. "Leaves" would imply that it was a book out of which Jehudi read, Whereas it was a roll (m'gillah never has any other meaning). But "books" were not yet known, nor would a knife have been necessary to separate the pages. He cut it. The subject may be either the king or Jehudi (at the bidding of the king). The term implies that the action of cutting was repeated several times; but we are not to suppose that each successive portion was cut off as it was read. The indignation of the hearer translated itself into the repeated mutilation of the roll, until all the roll was (east into the fire and) consumed. With the penknife; literally, with the scribe's knife. On the hearth; rather, in the chafing dish (or, brazier).
Yet they were not afraid, nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all these words.
Verse 24. - Yet they were not afraid. Unlike Josiah (2 Kings 22:11), and even Ahab (1 Kings, 21:27). Nor any of his servants; i.e. the courtiers, as opposed to the "princes."
Nevertheless Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah had made intercession to the king that he would not burn the roll: but he would not hear them.
But the king commanded Jerahmeel the son of Hammelech, and Seraiah the son of Azriel, and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel, to take Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet: but the LORD hid them.
Verse 26. - The son of Hammelech; rather, a royal prince (we should render similarly in Jeremiah 38:6; 1 Kings 22:26; 2 Kings 11:1, 2; Zephaniah 1:8). We have seen already that the number of such royal princes was very large (see on Jeremiah 17:9); any one, in fact, who had a king among his ancestors was a "royal prince." The Lord hid them; i.e. saved them from discovery.
Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, after that the king had burned the roll, and the words which Baruch wrote at the mouth of Jeremiah, saying,
Verses 27-32. - Punishment denounced against Jehoiakim, and second writing of the former prophecy.
Take thee again another roll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah hath burned.
And thou shalt say to Jehoiakim king of Judah, Thus saith the LORD; Thou hast burned this roll, saying, Why hast thou written therein, saying, The king of Babylon shall certainly come and destroy this land, and shall cause to cease from thence man and beast?
Verse 29. - Thou shalt say to Jehoiakim; rather, concerning Jehoiakim. Intercourse between Jehoiakim and the prophet was broken off by the preceding scene. The speech begins in the oratio directa, but soon passes into the obliqua. Cause to cease... man and beast. A forcible description of the completeness of the devastation.
Therefore thus saith the LORD of Jehoiakim king of Judah; He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David: and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost.
Verse 30. - He shall have none to sit, etc. Substantially a repetition of the prophecy in Jeremiah 22:18, 19 (comp. 30).
And I will punish him and his seed and his servants for their iniquity; and I will bring upon them, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and upon the men of Judah, all the evil that I have pronounced against them; but they hearkened not.
Verse 31. - I will bring upon them, etc. (comp. Jeremiah 35:17; Jeremiah 19:15).
Then took Jeremiah another roll, and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah; who wrote therein from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire: and there were added besides unto them many like words.
Verse 32. - Many like words. Thus Jehoiakim gained nothing by his sin (comp. Introduction).

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