New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary

Jeremiah 36:1 It happened in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, that this word came to Jeremiah from Yahweh saying- Perhaps this was at the end of the fourth year of the reign, just before the fast at the beginning of the fifth year was proclaimed (:9). Judah were still relatively prosperous at this time. This was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar; and so the events of this chapter come to a climax in the proclamation in :29 that this new king was to destroy Judah.

Jeremiah 36:2 Take a scroll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and against Judah and against all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah, even to this day-
Jeremiah's words were to Israel as well as Judah in that it was God's intention they should also repent, and join with Judah in a reestablished Kingdom of God in Israel on the basis of a new covenant. However LXX reads "Jerusalem" for "Israel". The idea was that others would read and re-read these words.

Jeremiah 36:3 It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do to them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin-
The evil purposed need not have come about- if they repented. The "purpose" of God is therefore open ended and sensitive to human repentance. This verse would be a parade example of it. Jer. 18:8; 26:3 use the same word to say that God will "repent of the evil that I purposed to do to them".

Jeremiah 36:4 Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah; and Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of Yahweh, which He had spoken to him, on a scroll of a book-
This usage of Baruch could have been because Jeremiah was illiterate; or because Jeremiah's current situation meant that the work of writing out a scroll was impossible for him.

Jeremiah 36:5 Jeremiah commanded Baruch saying, I am shut up; I can’t go into the house of Yahweh-
There is no mention that Jeremiah was imprisoned, although he may have been (s.w. Jer. 33:1; 39:15). The same word is used of Doeg being "detained before the Lord" (1 Sam. 21:7). Perhaps Jeremiah was unclean, or even under some rebuke from Yahweh which precluded his entry to the temple. The idea is that he was "unable" (s.w. 2 Chron. 2:6). He has used the word to describe how God's word was "shut up" within him and he had to as it were release it by speaking it (Jer. 20:9).

Jeremiah 36:6 therefore you go, and read in the scroll, which you have written from my mouth, the words of Yahweh in the ears of the people in Yahweh’s house on the fast day; and also you shall read them in the ears of all Judah who come out of their cities-
"The fasting day" may refer to the day of atonement, the only day of fasting required by the law. This would have been the most appropriate time to call for radical repentance.

Jeremiah 36:7 It may be they will present their supplication before Yahweh, and will return each one from his evil way; for great is the anger and the wrath that Yahweh has pronounced against this people-
As often in the prophets, the appeal is to the individual- "each one..." (as in :3). The day of atonement was not to be some mere collective ritual; the breaking of bread service likewise can slip into this. It was intended to elicit personal repentance from each individual. No collective ritual could change things; only individual repentance. See on :16.

Jeremiah 36:8 Baruch the son of Neriah did according to all that Jeremiah the prophet commanded him, reading in the book the words of Yahweh in Yahweh’s house-
This was no mere secretarial task; for the appeal to repentance and message of condemnation would have been received with anger by many, and the natural reaction would have been to shoot the messenger.

Jeremiah 36:9 Now it happened in the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, in the ninth month, that all the people in Jerusalem, and all the people who came from the cities of Judah to Jerusalem, proclaimed a fast before Yahweh-
The LXX has "the eighth year" which would better fit the events of 2 Kings 24:1-20. It could be that this special fast was proclaimed after news came through of the Babylonian defeat of the Egyptian army, which the Jews had always relied upon rather than trusting in Yahweh.
We noted on :6 that Jeremiah's previous appeal had been made on the fasting day of the day of atonement. But clearly the fasting had not been unto repentance; and now another fast is proclaimed. The collective ritual of that day had remained at the level of mere religion, just as the breaking of bread service can; and so now another fast was proclaimed, outside of the Mosaic law; for the day of atonement was in the seventh month not the ninth month (Lev. 16:29). Although it may be that Babylonian months are being used here.

Jeremiah 36:10 Then read Baruch in the book the words of Jeremiah in the house of Yahweh, in the room of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the scribe, in the upper court, at the entry of the new gate of Yahweh’s house, in the ears of all the people-
As explained on :9, this was the same book which had been read some months previously at the day of atonement. It was an attempt to get Israel to keep the spirit of that day although on a different date and apparently without the sacrifices- in the hope they would perceive the essential intention of the ritual, which was personal repentance. God may likewise move in the lives of His people to help them to the same position.

Jeremiah 36:11 When Micaiah the son of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan, had heard out of the book all the words of Yahweh-
Micaiah responds to the challenge of the words, and perceives the urgent need for national repentance. But he had heard these words delivered by Jeremiah over time, and presumably had heard them recited quite recently in :6-8. But as with us, the same words may be heard or read, but only at another reading does the personal reality of them strike home. Micaiah's response here is absolutely psychologically credible and imaginable.

Jeremiah 36:12 he went down into the king’s house, into the scribe’s room: and behold, all the princes were sitting there, 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-
See on :11. We may wonder why they were sitting in the room of the scribe. The reference may be to some senior scribe who was effectively the secretary of the Government; some manuscripts read "Elishama the scribe" (see :20). But the scribe in view may also be Baruch; as if they were there expecting to also hear Baruch's words from Jeremiah but in a private sitting. We at least get the impression that "the princes" were interested in hearing God's word. See on :14. 

Jeremiah 36:13 Then Micaiah declared to them all the words that he had heard, when Baruch read the book in the ears of the people-
We note the second and third hand nature of all this. Jeremiah spoke the original words of Yahweh, and Baruch wrote them down faithfully. Micaiah heard them and told the princes; the princes then attempt to tell their version of them to Zedekiah. But he then calls for the scroll itself, and destroys it. It's as if the record is careful to answer any objection that the truths of God's word got lost in transmission. The king is presented as without excuse.

Jeremiah 36:14 Therefore all the princes-
A study of “the princes” of Judah at the time of the final Babylonian invasion shows that they were not against Jeremiah nor responding to God’s word (Jer. 26:16; 36:14,19); indeed at one stage they pulled back from their path of refusing to respond (Jer. 34:10). But “the princes” were the ones whom Zedekiah feared (Jer. 38:25), and that fear led him to reject God’s word. And “the princes” were finally condemned for their weakness (Jer. 32:32); it was they who imprisoned and sought to kill Jeremiah because ultimately they could not abide his word (Jer. 37:15; 38:14). One person or a very small group can easily lead a whole group, even of believers, into sin. And so it is that whole groups of people- even God’s people- can be very fickle.

Sent Jehudi the son of Nethaniah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Cushi, to Baruch, saying, Take in your hand the scroll in which you have read in the ears of the people, and come. So Baruch the son of Neriah took the scroll in his hand, and came to them- "Cushi" was likely not a real personal name, but a reference to the fact that this man Jehudi [a form of 'Judah' or as we might say, 'the Jew'] was descended from a Cushite. We recall how later it would be Ebedmelech the Cushite who saved Jeremiah from the dungeon. Perhaps the impression is being given that those of Gentile descent were more responsive to God's word than the Jews. The continual attempts by Judah to trust in Egypt rather than Yahweh over the years may have resulted in these Cushites coming to live in Jerusalem. And yet the result of that weakness on Judah's part was that some Gentiles turned to Yahweh. God always works through human failure rather than turn away in disgust and disengage from the situation.

Jeremiah 36:15 They said to him, Sit down now, and read it in our ears. So Baruch read it in their ears-
The invitation to "sit down" suggests he stood there uncertain as to whether they would wish to hear him read it to them. But they ask him to; see on :14.

Jeremiah 36:16 Now it happened, when they had heard all the words, they turned in fear one towards another, and said to Baruch, We will surely tell the king of all these words-
See on :14. However, although their response was commendable, they perhaps failed to perceive that this was a call to personal repentance; see on :7. They immediately experienced group think; they assumed that the decision to repent must be taken on a group level, and so they were desirous for the king to hear the words and proclaim a group position. But as made explicit in :3 and :7, the call to repentance was specifically personal. This confusion of personal and corporate positions is so often seen in the living and thinking of those who are more strongly religious than they are spiritual. 

Jeremiah 36:17 They asked Baruch, saying, Tell us now, How did you write all these words at his mouth?-
As explained on :16, they were sensitive to the need for repentance, but were shying away from the personal challenge. And that desire to not let God's word personally "bite" is perhaps also reflected in their questioning, after some time had passed, as to whether this word they had heard was really Jeremiah's inspired word. The questioning of inspiration is likewise rooted in a desire not to hear God's word making radical demands of us.

Jeremiah 36:18 Then Baruch answered them, he pronounced all these words to me with his mouth, and I wrote them with ink in the book-
See on :17. The idea is that he wrote down the words immediately Jeremiah spoke them. Baruch assures them that it was an accurate transcript with nothing of his own added in.

Jeremiah 36:19 Then the princes said to Baruch, Go, hide, you and Jeremiah; and let no man know where you are-
Perhaps t
he princes doubtless had in mind the fate of Uriah (Jer. 26:23). The suggested hiding place was the “Grotto of Jeremiah” near the “Quarries of Solomon” outside the Damascus Gate. See on :26.

Jeremiah 36:20 They went in to the king into the court; but they had laid up the scroll in the room of Elishama the scribe; and they told all the words in the ears of the king-
They wished to make a public separation between themselves and the scroll, even though the words had touched their consciences. They intended to give the king a potted and perhaps ameliorated version, in the hope the king might make some surface level reforms in response.

Jeremiah 36:21 So the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll; and he took it out of the room of Elishama the scribe. Jehudi read it in the ears of the king, and in the ears of all the princes who stood beside the king-
The events are described slowly and deliberately because of the gravity of the blasphemy which was to follow, and the consequences of it. The princes and courtiers heard the same word, and were therefore responsible for not responding to it.

Jeremiah 36:22 Now the king was sitting in the winter house in the ninth month: and there was a fire in the brazier burning before him-
"The ninth month" seems to add nothing, and the LXX omits it. However the idea may be that the ninth month was a time of cold and rain (Ezra 10:9). The winter house was likely just the downstairs of his palace; the summer house was the upstairs, and not necessarily a separate building. Again we note the high level of detail in this record; not just the fire but the brazier is noted. It's as if the cameraman has zoomed in on the scene and is recording all the details, that we might imagine it. All the king did was to be done to Jerusalem; for the city was to become a brazier when the Babylonians judged it with fire.

Jeremiah 36:23 It happened, when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, that the king cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was in the brazier-
"Leaves" is literally 'columns' or 'doors', which is what the sections of text looked like on the scroll. Cutting them was what was to be done to the columns and doors of the temple and the king's house. Our attitude to God's word will be directly reflected in our final judgment. The pen knife was Baruch's, and was probably attached to the scroll as part of his scribal equipment. The consciousness of the king's actions is laboured- he took the pen knife out of the scroll and used what was intended to sharpen the pen / word of God, and used it to destroy that word.

Until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the brazier- He cut every "three or four leaves" and threw them into the fire, until the scroll was no more. We have the impression of a conscious act of slow, deliberate attempt to destroy God's word because he didn't like the message. This is why the Bible text has been so attacked, suppressed, physically destroyed, mocked and challenged by false claims- because the message hits home too hard in the subconscious. No other collection of documents has suffered the same extensive campaign against it- because there is nothing like God's word to pierce and challenge the conscience.

Jeremiah 36:24 They were not afraid, nor tore their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants who heard all these words-
The king's actions were slow and deliberate; every three or four leaves were cut out of the scroll and burnt, and the onlookers would have watched the flames quickly devouring them. There is a time to speak out, and this was such a time. All present are condemned for saying nothing, for making no sign of grief for what was being done to God's word. Although "the princes" aren't mentioned here, as a nod to their conscience toward the word of God (see on :14,25), they were in the end condemned for their attitude. This is typical of how sins of omission are counted by God as sins of commission. Silence is indeed culpable in situations like this. The sin of silence remains an abiding lesson for us of all generations.

Jeremiah 36:25 Moreover Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah had made intercession to the king that he would not burn the scroll; but he would not hear them-
Three of the five princes listed in :12 are mentioned by name as making this protest. Their protest was noted by God in the record; but their failure to tear their clothes is also noted (:24). They were touched in their conscience by God's word; but finally the sin of silence, despite their slight protest, was counted against them. Such was the nature of the blasphemy.

Jeremiah 36:26 The king commanded Jerahmeel the king’s son, and Seraiah the son of Azriel, and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel, to take Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet; but Yahweh hid them-
They had been advised to hide (see on :19), but apparently they had not done so. They were unashamed of God's word and the consequences for declaring it. And God looked after them. The hiding of these prophets recalls the hiding of the true prophets at the time of Ahab; the king is being set up as Ahab.

Jeremiah 36:27 Then the word of Yahweh came to Jeremiah, after that the king had burned the scroll and the words which Baruch wrote at the mouth of Jeremiah, saying-
This word presumably came to Jeremiah whilst in hiding (:26). The record labours the sin- the scroll was burnt, namely ["and" serves to introduce a parallel statement here] the words of God.

Jeremiah 36:28 Take again another scroll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first scroll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned-
This recalls how the wooden yoke of Jeremiah was broken by those who resisted that prophetic word, and was replaced by a yoke of iron (Jer. 28:13). God's word and the purpose reflected in it cannot be destroyed by shooting the messenger or burning Bibles. But if that is attempted, then the judgment is only increased.

Jeremiah 36:29 Concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah you shall say, Thus says Yahweh: You have burned this scroll saying, Why have you written therein saying, The king of Babylon shall certainly come and destroy this land, and shall cause to cease from there man and beast?-
This was in the first year of Nebuchadnezzar (see on :1); and so the events of this chapter come to a climax in the proclamation in :29 that this new king was to destroy Judah. There was a studied refusal to believe that these words were from God. The accusation was that Baruch and Jeremiah had written these things; when they were transmitting God's word and not their own. In essence, this kind of thing continues to this day, no matter how it has been made intellectually respectable; God's words and His challenges to human conscience are passed off as merely the words of men.

The statements that the Babylonians would "certainly" destroy the land were all the same conditional prophecy, even though no condition is given at the time. But the Jews made some sort of repentance, releasing their slaves… and the Babylonian armies retreated (Jer. 34:21,22). Then they enslaved their brethren again- and, Jer. 34:22 says, only because of this did the Babylonian armies return and burn Jerusalem. Thus the initial prophecies of burning with fire which were repeated here, were conditional. And the Jews realized this and therefore repented.

Jeremiah 36:30 Therefore thus says Yahweh concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: He shall have none to sit on 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-
At the restoration from Babylon, David would never want a man to sit upon his throne (Jer. 33:17); and no conditions to this are specified. And yet even within Jeremiah it is apparent that because of the failure of Judah’s leaders, there would indeed come a time when there would be “none to sit upon the throne of David” (Jer. 22:30; 36:30). Yet if the Jews had done righteousness in Zedekiah’s time, then instead of the Babylonians entering the gates of Jerusalem there would have been “kings sitting for David upon his throne” (Jer. 22:4 RVmg.). But this condition is not mentioned in the promises to David in 2 Sam. 7 nor in the apparent blanket statement of Jer. 33:17. Jehoiakim was not to be buried but his body thrown out to the elements, like an ass (Jer. 22:18,19; 36:29-31); but the idiom of “he slept with his fathers” (2 Kings 24:6) may imply that he had a more normal burial. This was a conditional prophecy, and perhaps even this blasphemous man repented to some degree.

Jeremiah 36:31 I will punish him and his seed and his servants for their iniquity; and I will bring on them, and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and on the men of Judah, all the evil that I have pronounced against them, because they didn’t listen-
"His servants" were those who watched the burning of the scroll and didn't tear their clothes. This sin of silence would lead to their judgment. And the ordinary people were likewise to be condemned, because there ought to have been mass popular revolt against Jehoiakim for what he did. Again, the lesson is all about "the sin of silence", especially when that silence is a suppression of conscience in order to merely continue a status quo which the conservative streak in every human nature tends to prefer.

Jeremiah 36:32 Then took Jeremiah another scroll, 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 to them many like words
- The judgments for sin were increased because of the refusal to accept the first judgments. We imagine the scroll being produced whilst in hiding (:26) and then being released so that Jehoiakim heard the contents. Baruch's faithful part in the publication of the word is again emphasized; for he was risking his life to do this. Again we wonder if Jeremiah was unable to write, seeing that again there is the same process of Jeremiah uttering words and Baruch transcribing them.