Jeremiah 36 Study Notes
36:1 This fourth year of Jehoiakim in 605-604 BC was a critical time (25:1; 45:1). Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had defeated the Assyrian forces at Carchemish on the Euphrates River and had begun his move south to Syria and Israel. Everything was heading toward the finale that Jeremiah had warned about for many years.
36:2-3 The prophet was instructed to take a scroll, which in Hebrew was called a megillath sepher, “a book-scroll,” made of goat skins or papyrus. This word occurs only here; v. 4, Ps 40:7, and Ezk 2:9. Was it a scroll of book length? Modern book or codex formats did not appear until the first century AD. Jeremiah was to write on this scroll all the words God had spoken concerning Israel, Judah, and all the nations. Some object to “Israel” in this verse, but Jeremiah did address his words to the now-banished northern part of the nation from time to time (3:6-11). His call in 1:10 had been to “nations and kingdoms.” The scroll was to cover the time I first spoke to you during Josiah’s reign until today. The hope was that when Judah heard about the disaster I am planning to bring on them, each would turn from his evil way. The hope on which all preaching is based is God’s willingness to forgive . . . iniquity and . . . sin in response to repentance.
36:4 Baruch son of Neriah came from a well-known family (see note at 32:12). Baruch’s function is literally described: “Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words the Lord had spoken to him on a book-scroll.” Jeremiah claimed that the source of his words was God himself and that Baruch just acted as his secretary.
36:5 Jeremiah had been restricted (“shut up,” “confined,” “imprisoned”) from going to the temple, so he sent Baruch to read the scroll there.
36:6 When Baruch had transcribed all the words Jeremiah spoke to him from God, he was to give a public reading of the scroll on a day of fasting. Public fasts were often declared in Israel, especially during times of calamity (Jl 2:12,15) or war. This public reading might recall a similar day in which the public reading of the Torah sparked Josiah’s revival (2Kg 23:1-3). A number of months passed between the writing of the scroll and its public reading, as seen from the dates in Jr 36:1,9,22.
36:9-10 Gemariah was the son of Shaphan the scribe. Shaphan was King Josiah’s secretary of state (2Kg 22:3,8,12). Gemariah was the brother of Ahikam, one of Jeremiah’s few friends (Jr 26:24), but he was not the Gemariah mentioned in 29:3. Gemariah allowed Baruch to use his room in the temple’s inner court, which provided a setting in which the assembled people could hear Bar-uch’s reading.
36:9 The fifth year of Jehoiakim was 604 BC, and the ninth month (December 604 BC) was when the Babylonians sacked the Philistine city of Ashkelon. This event may have forced Jehoiakim to switch his allegiance from Egypt to Babylon.
|Hebrew pronunciation||[meh gil LAH]|
|Uses in Jeremiah||14|
|Uses in the OT||21|
|Focus passage||Jeremiah 36:2,4,6,14,20-21|
Megillah, from the verb galal (roll), refers to scrolls, which were unrolled from side to side (not top to bottom). Vertical lines might mark columns, with writing placed on horizontal lines. Megillah could be a late word, the earlier term being seper (“writing, book”); both refer to Scripture in Ps 40:7. An Egyptian tomb held a papyrus scroll dating to about 3,000 BC. Many Dead Sea Scrolls are leather; they are up to 12 inches high and 29 feet long, the Isaiah Scroll being 17 sheepskin sheets sewn together by linen. But some Dead Sea Scrolls are papyrus. The scroll Jehoiakim burnt indoors during winter might have made the room uninhabitable had it been leather (Jr 36:23). Ezekiel ate a divine scroll to picture his mission of sharing God’s word (Ezk 3:1-3). A visionary flying scroll 30 by 15 feet, written front and back, detailed God’s laws (Zch 5:1-4).
36:16-19 The officials seemed to believe what Jeremiah had written. It must have been the opposite of what they were being told by the king and his counselors. Knowing the danger Jeremiah and Baruch were in, they urged them to hide and tell no one where they were. This precaution was understandable because of what had happened to Uriah the prophet (26:20-23).
36:20-21 Fearing what the king’s response might be, the officials deposited the scroll in the chamber of Elishama the scribe. But the king ordered Jehudi to retrieve it and read it for him.
36:22-25 Despite urgings from a few officials not to burn the scroll, King Jehoiakim cut the scroll up and threw the pieces into a fire as he reclined in his winter quarters. This was a warm section of the palace apparently facing the winter sun (Am 3:15). The court officials were indifferent and irreverent as the king acted with defiance and blasphemy against the Word of God.
36:26 The king also ordered the arrest of Baruch and Jeremiah, but the Lord had provided protection for them through loyal friends.
36:27-28 God ordered Jeremiah to write on another scroll the original words that were on the original scroll. God’s Word would not be so easily destroyed.
36:29-31 As punishment for his brazen act, Jehoiakim would have no one to sit on David’s throne, and his corpse would be thrown out to the heat of day and the frost of night. Some assume that Jehoiakim died in an uprising in the palace or a revolution of the people (v. 31; cp. 22:18-19).
36:32 In creating the replacement scroll, Jeremiah dictated to Baruch the words that had been on the first scroll plus many other words like them. Presumably, these new words dealt with the fulfillment of his prophecies about Judah as events unfolded after the burning of the first scroll.