Baruch is to write the prophecies of Jeremiah. (1-8) The princes advise them to hide themselves. (9-19) The king having heard a part, burns the roll. (20-32)
Verses 1-8 The writing of the Scriptures was by Divine appointment. The Divine wisdom directed to this as a proper means; if it failed, the house of Judah would be the more without excuse. The Lord declares to sinners the evil he purposes to do against them, that they may hear, and fear, and return from their evil ways; and whenever any one makes this use of God's warnings, in dependence on his promised mercy, he will find the Lord ready to forgive his sins. All others will be left without excuse; and the consideration that great is the anger God has pronounced against us for sin, should quicken both our prayers and our endeavours.
Verses 9-19 Shows of piety and devotion may be found even among those, who, though they keep up forms of godliness, are strangers and enemies to the power of it. The princes patiently attended the reading of the whole book. They were in great fear. But even those who are convinced to the truth and importance of what they hear, and are disposed to favour those who preach it, often have difficulties and reserves about their safety, interest, or preferment, so that they do not act according to their convictions, and try to get rid of what they find troublesome.
Verses 20-32 Those who despise the word of God, will soon show, as this king did, that they hate it; and, like him, they would wish it destroyed. See what enmity there is against God in the carnal mind, and wonder at his patience. The princes showed some concern, till they saw how light the king made of it. Beware of making light of God's word!
Jeremiah 36:1-32 . BARUCH WRITES, AND READS PUBLICLY JEREMIAH'S PROPHECIES COLLECTED IN A VOLUME. THE ROLL IS BURNT BY JEHOIAKIM, AND WRITTEN AGAIN BY BARUCH AT JEREMIAH'S DICTATION.
1. fourth year--The command to write the roll was given in the fourth year, but it was not read publicly till the fifth year. As Isaiah subjoined to his predictions a history of events confirming his prophecies ( Isaiah 36:1-22 , 37:1-38 , 38:1-22 , 39:1-8 ), so Jeremiah also in the thirty-seventh through forty-third chapters; but he prefaces his history with the narrative of an incident that occurred some time ago, showing that he, not only by word, but in writing, and that twice, had testified all that he about to state. as having subsequently come to pass [GROTIUS]. At the end of Jehoiakim's third year, Nebuchadnezzar enrolled an army against Jerusalem and took it in the end of the fifth or beginning of the sixth year, carrying away captive Jehoiakim, Daniel, &c. Jehoiakim returned the same year, and for three years was tributary: then he withheld tribute. Nebuchadnezzar returned and took Jerusalem, and carried off Jehoiakim, who died on the road. This harmonizes this chapter with 2 Kings 24:1-20 and Daniel 1:1-21 .
2. roll of a book--a book formed of prepared skins made into a roll. Compare "volume of the book," that is, the Pentateuch ( Psalms 40:7 ). It does not follow that his prophecies were not before committed to writing; what is implied is, they were now written together in one volume, so as to be read continuously to the Jews in the temple.
against . . . nations--( Jeremiah 25:15 , &c.).
from . . . days of Josiah--( Jeremiah 25:3 ). From Josiah's thirteenth year ( Jeremiah 1:2 ).
3. hear--consider seriously.
return . . . from . . . evil way--( Jonah 3:8 ).
4. all . . . words of . . . Lord--God specially suggesting what might otherwise have escaped his memory, and directing the choice of words, as well as the substance ( John 14:26 , 16:13 ).
5. I am shut up--not in prison, for there is no account of his imprisonment under Jehoiakim, and Jeremiah 36:19 Jeremiah 36:26 are inconsistent with it: but, "I am prevented," namely, by some hindrance; or, through fear of the king, to whose anger Baruch was less exposed, as not being the author of the prophecy.
6. go--on the following year ( Jeremiah 36:9 ).
fasting day--(See Jeremiah 36:9 ). An extraordinary fast, in the ninth month (whereas the fast on the great day of atonement was on the tenth day of the seventh month, Leviticus 16:29 , 23:27-32 ), appointed to avert the impending calamity, when it was feared Nebuchadnezzar, having in the year before (that is, the fourth of Jehoiakim), smitten Pharaoh-necho at Carchemish, would attack Judea, as the ally of Egypt ( 2 Kings 23:34 2 Kings 23:35 ). The fast was likely to be an occasion on which Jeremiah would find the Jews more softened, as well as a larger number of them met together.
7. present . . . supplication--literally, "supplication shall fall"; alluding to the prostrate attitude of the supplicants ( Deuteronomy 9:25 , Matthew 26:39 ), as petitioners fall at the feet of a king in the East. So Hebrew, Jeremiah 38:26 , Daniel 9:18 , Margin.
9. they proclaimed . . . to all the people . . . to all, &c.--rather, "all the people . . . all the people proclaimed a fast" [MICHAELIS]. The chiefs appointed the fast by the wish of the people. In either version the ungodly king had no share in appointing the fast.
10. chamber--Baruch read from the window or balcony of the chamber looking into the court where the people were assembled. However, some of the chambers were large enough to contain a considerable number ( Nehemiah 13:5 ).
Gemariah--distinct from the Gemariah, son of Hilkiah, in Jeremiah 29:3 .
Shaphan--the same person as in 2 Kings 22:3 .
scribe--secretary of state, or he who presided over the public records.
higher court--that of the priests, the court of the people being lower ( 2 Chronicles 4:9 ).
new gate--( Jeremiah 26:10 ). The east gate.
12. scribe's chamber--an apartment in the palace occupied by the secretary of state.
princes--holding a counsel of state at the time.
Elnathan--who had already been an instrument of evil in Jehoiakim's hand ( Jeremiah 26:22 Jeremiah 26:23 ).
Hananiah--the false prophet ( Jeremiah 28:10-17 ).
14. Jehudi--of a good family, as appears from his pedigree being given so fully, but in a subordinate position.
come--Instead of requiring Baruch to come to them, they ought to have gone to the temple, and there professed their penitence. But pride forbade it [CALVIN].
16. afraid, both one and other--Hebrew, "fear-stricken," they turned to one another (compare Genesis 42:28 ). This showed, on their part, hesitancy, and some degree of fear of God, but not enough to make them willing to sacrifice the favor of an earthly king. We will surely tell the king--not the language of threatening but implying that the matter is of such moment that the king ought to be made acquainted with it, so as to seek some remedy against the divine anger.
17. What they wished to know was, whether what Baruch had read to them was written by him from memory after hearing Jeremiah repeating his prophecies continuously, or accurately from the prophet's own dictation.
18. his mouth--Baruch replies it was by the oral dictation of the prophet; Jeremiah 36:2 accords with this view, rather than with the notion that Jeremiah repeated his prophecies from manuscripts.
ink--his specification of the "ink" implies: I added nothing save the hand, pen, and ink.
19. Showing that they were not altogether without better feelings (compare Jeremiah 36:16 Jeremiah 36:25 ).
20. chamber--There were chambers in the king's palace round the court or great hall, as in the temple ( Jeremiah 36:10 ). The roll was "laid up" there for safekeeping, with other public records.
21. sent Jehudi--Note how unbelievers flee from God, and yet seek Him through some kind of involuntary impulse [CALVIN]. Jehudi seems to have been the king's ready tool for evil.
22. winter house--( Amos 3:15 ).
ninth month--namely, of the religious year, that is, November or December.
fire on . . . hearth--rather, the stove was burning before him. In the East neither chimneys nor ovens are used, but, in cold weather, a brazen vessel containing burning charcoal; when the wood has burned to embers, a cover is placed over the pot to make it retain the heat.
23. three or four leaves--not distinct leaves as in a book, but the consecutive spaces on the long roll in the shape of doors (whence the Hebrew name is derived), into which the writing is divided: as the books of Moses in the synagogue in the present day are written in a long parchment rolled round a stick, the writing divided into columns, like pages.
pen-knife--the writer's knife with which the reed, used as a pen, was mended. "He" refers to the king ( Jeremiah 36:22 ). As often as Jehudi read three or four columns, the king cut asunder the part of the roll read; and so he treated the whole, until all the parts read consecutively were cut and burnt; Jeremiah 36:24 , "all these words," implies that the whole volume was read through, not merely the first three or four columns ( 1 Kings 22:8 ).
24. The king and his "servants" were more hardened than the "princes" and councillors Josiah at the reading of the law ( 2 Kings 22:11 ).
king's sin; though God would have drawn him back through their intercession, he persisted: judicial blindness and reprobation!
26. Hammelech--not as Margin, "of the king." Jehoiakim at this time (the fifth year of his reign) had no grown-up son: Jeconiah, his successor, was then a boy of eleven (compare 2 Kings 23:36 , with 2 Kings 24:8 ).
hid them--( Psalms 31:20 , 83:3 , Isaiah 26:20 ).
27. roll, and . . . words--that is, the roll of words.
28. all the former words--It is in vain that the ungodly resist the power of Jehovah: not one of His words shall fall to the ground ( Matthew 5:18 , Acts 9:5 , 5:39 ).
29. say to Jehoiakim--not in person, as Jeremiah was "hidden" ( Jeremiah 36:26 ), but by the written word of prophecy.
saying, Why--This is what the king had desired to be said to Jeremiah if he should be found; kings often dislike the truth to be told them.
30. He shall have none to sit upon the throne--fulfilled ( 2 Kings 24:8 , &c. 2 Kings 25:1-30 ). He had successors, but not directly of his posterity, except his son Jeconiah, whose three months' reign is counted as nothing. Zedekiah was not the son, but the uncle of Jeconiah, and was raised to the throne in contempt of him and his father Jehoiakim ( Jeremiah 22:30 ).
dead body . . . cast out--( Jeremiah 22:18 Jeremiah 22:19 ).
day . . . heat . . . night . . . frost--There are often these variations of temperature in the East between night and day ( Genesis 31:40 ).
32. added besides . . . many like words--Sinners gain nothing but additional punishment by setting aside the word of Jehovah. The law was similarly rewritten after the first tables had been broken owing to Israel's idolatry ( Exodus 32:19 , 34:1 ).