Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. Jeremiah 36:1-32. Jeremiah’s Roll written, read, burnt, and re-written
This extremely interesting and important ch., in its bearing on the history of the construction of the Book as it now stands, has been already treated in the Intr. pp. xl. ff.
We may summarize the contents as follows. (i) Jeremiah 36:1-8. In the fourth year of Jehoiakim Jehovah bids Jeremiah commit to writing in a Roll the substance of his prophecies since the commencement of his ministry, in case the people may thereby be moved to forsake their evil ways. Baruch accordingly takes down the words at the mouth of Jeremiah, and, as the latter is unable himself to appear at the Temple, reads it there at his direction. (ii) Jeremiah 36:9-20. In the ninth month of the next year Baruch reads the Roll publicly in the chamber of Gemariah. Micaiah, his son, reports its substance to the princes, who cause Baruch to come and repeat the reading. They declare thereupon that they will communicate the contents to the king, ascertaining by questions that Jeremiah is the sole author, and they advise that he and his amanuensis go into hiding. (iii) Jeremiah 36:21-26. Jehoiakim sends for the Roll, and on hearing the earlier part of its contents, cuts it in pieces and burns it in the brasier before which he is sitting, in spite of the intercession of some of the princes. Moreover he bids that Jeremiah and Baruch should be seized; but they elude him. (iv) Jeremiah 36:27-32. Jehovah bids the prophet re-write the Roll, adding the punishment that shall be the lot of Jehoiakim personally for his refusal to believe in the calamities which were coming on his people. Jeremiah therefore dictates the new edition of the Roll, including further like prophecies.
Here we have the detailed circumstances under which Jeremiah recorded in a permanent form the substance of those prophecies which he had been uttering against Judah and Jerusalem for twenty-three years (see on Jeremiah 25:3). This ch. like the last (see on Jeremiah 36:1 there) forms a break in the historical section (chs. 32–44), and goes back to the time of Jehoiakim.
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.2. Take thee a roll of a book] Several skins were stitched together and attached to a roller of wood at one or both ends. The writing was arranged in columns parallel to the rollers, so that as the parchment was gradually unrolled from one end to the other, the successive columns could be read. Our word volume (that which is rolled up) points by its derivation to this older form of book.
write therein all the words] The prophet’s memory would supply him with the substance at any rate of the prophecies which he had uttered for the twenty-three years of his mission. But we may well believe, from the vivid style in which some of the earlier prophecies have come down to us, that he was able to draw upon some contemporary records of the exact language he had used, occasionally modifying it so as to adapt it to new circumstances.
Israel] Jeremiah addresses the Northern kingdom with promises only (Jeremiah 3:6 ff., Jeremiah 31:2 ff.). Accordingly it is better to read, with considerable support from MSS. of LXX, Jerusalem.
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.3. It may be that the house of Judah, etc.] Cp. ch. Jeremiah 26:3.
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.4. Then Jeremiah called Baruch] mentioned already (Jeremiah 32:12 f.) as the prophet’s attendant. He was grandson of Maaseiah, “governor of the city” (2 Chronicles 34:8) and brother of Seraiah (Jeremiah 51:59).
And Jeremiah commanded Baruch, saying, I am shut up; I cannot go into the house of the LORD:5. I am shut up] The same verb occurs chs. Jeremiah 33:1, Jeremiah 39:15, in the sense of in confinement. Here, however, it cannot have that force (see Jeremiah 36:19), but simply means that he was hindered from addressing the people by ceremonial uncleanness (cp. 1 Samuel 21:7, where the Hebrew verb “detained” is the same) or some other cause, perhaps danger to his life arising from the extreme unpopularity of his recent utterances.
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.6. the fast day] mg. a fast day, probably one specially appointed on account of the critical position of affairs (Jeremiah 36:9).
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.7. they will present their supplication] mg. their supplication will fall. The attitude of the petitioners is transferred in thought to the petition. Cp. the phrase in several other places (Jeremiah 37:20, Jeremiah 38:26, etc.), and sometimes (Jeremiah 37:20, Jeremiah 42:2) with the further sense, which also seems to belong to it here, of acceptance.
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.8. And Baruch … did according to all] This summary statement of the fact that Baruch carried out Jeremiah’s commands is followed by the detailed account in Jeremiah 36:9 f.
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.9. in the ninth month] afterwards called Chisleu, our December (see Jeremiah 36:22), not therefore the annual solemnity of the seventh month, the only stated fast of the Law (Leviticus 16:29; Leviticus 23:27).
9–20. See introd. summary to the chapter.
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.10. Gemariah the son of Shaphan the scribe] Shaphan was himself scribe in the days of Josiah (2 Kings 22:3). If this Shaphan be the one mentioned in Jeremiah 26:24, Gemariah was brother of Ahikam, who was friendly to Jeremiah. He is, of course, distinct from the Gemariah mentioned Jeremiah 29:3.
upper court] the same as the “inner court” of 1 Kings 6:36; 1 Kings 7:12. See on Jeremiah 20:2.
new gate] See on Jeremiah 26:10.
When Michaiah the son of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan, had heard out of the book all the words of the LORD,11. when Micaiah … had heard] As it was in the chamber of Micaiah’s father that Baruch had been allowed to read the roll, Gemariah, engaged at the moment at a council of the princes in another room, would naturally be desirous of learning as soon as might be the particulars of what had occurred.
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.12. he went down] See on Jeremiah 22:1.
Elnathan the son of Achbor] mentioned ch. 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.14. Jehudi … the son of Cushi] Although the first of these names also means a Jew, and the second an Ethiopian, it is more probable that both are distinctly proper names here. There may, however, still be a reference to Ethiopian descent in the latter name. We may note that it is quite usual in mentioning persons of comparatively slight distinction to trace their descent back for three generations.
And they said unto him, Sit down now, and read it in our ears. So Baruch read it in their ears.15. Sit down] These words taken with Jeremiah 36:19 shew that the princes were favourably disposed towards Baruch and Jeremiah. The same fact has been marked already in ch. Jeremiah 26:16. Baruch took the position ordinarily assumed by an Eastern teacher. Cp. Luke 4:20.
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.16. they turned in fear one toward another] lit. they trembled every one to his neighbour, i.e. they looked at each other and trembled.
unto Baruch] omit with LXX.
And they asked Baruch, saying, Tell us now, How didst thou write all these words at his mouth?17. How didst thou write] They desired to know how far the words might be Baruch’s own, so as to be able to state to the king to what extent, if any, the prophet’s amanuensis was responsible.
at his mouth] omit with LXX, as a gloss spoiling the sense here, and introduced from Jeremiah 36:17.
Then Baruch answered them, He pronounced all these words unto me with his mouth, and I wrote them with ink in the book.
Then said the princes unto Baruch, Go, hide thee, thou and Jeremiah; and let no man know where ye be.19. Go, hide thee, thou and Jeremiah] See on Jeremiah 36:5. The princes doubtless had before their minds the fate of Uriah (Jeremiah 26:23). The so-called “Grotto of Jeremiah” near the “Quarries of Solomon” outside the Damascus Gate has been conjectured, owing to its traditional association with his name, to have been their hiding-place. See Pal. Explor. F. Quart. Statement, Jan. 1912, p. 27.
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.20. the court] This would of course be an open place. Cf. Jeremiah 36:22. Read therefore (changing one consonant in MT.) the word which occurs in MT. of 1 Kings 1:15 (“chamber”) and render cabinet. (So Gi., Du., Co.)
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.21–26. See introd. summary to the ch.
Now the king sat in the winterhouse in the ninth month: and there was a fire on the hearth burning before him.22. in the winter house] See on Jeremiah 36:9. It was a cold and rainy time of the year (see Ezra 10:9). Amos (Jeremiah 3:15) mentions both winter and summer houses. “In common parlance the lower apartments are simply el beit—the house; the upper is the ullîyeh, which is the summer house. Every respectable dwelling has both.… If these are on the same storey, then the external and airy apartment is the summer house, and that for winter is the interior and more sheltered room. It is rare to meet a family which has an entirely separate dwelling for summer.”—Thomson, The Land and the Book, p. 309.
in the ninth month] omit with LXX.
there was a fire in the brasier] Brasiers containing charcoal are placed in a depression in the middle of a room for purposes of warming. The change of one Hebrew consonant gives us the right sense. As the MT. stands, it is defective and lacking in grammar.
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.23. when Jehudi had read] rather, as Dr. “as often as J. read”; for Jeremiah 36:24 implies that the king heard all the contents.
leaves] mg. columns, lit. doors (see on Jeremiah 36:2).
that the king cut it, etc.] In the absence of a nominative to the verb in MT., it seems at least as natural to suppose that, as often as Jehudi had read three or four leaves, the king ordered him to cut them off and burn them. Otherwise we must assume that the king himself had the knife and that he repeatedly took pieces of the Roll from the reader.
penknife] lit. scribe’s knife, used for making and mending reed pens, cutting up writing materials, etc.
Yet they were not afraid, nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all these words.24. And they were not afraid … neither the king] Contrast the conduct of the king’s father (2 Kings 22:11).
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.25. Elnathan … had made intercession] See note on Jeremiah 26:22.
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.26. the king’s son] mg. (less well) the son of Hammelech. It probably means simply one of the royal house. So in Jeremiah 38:6. See A. B. Davidson on Zephaniah 1:8 (C.B.).
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,27–32. See introd. summary to the chapter. Du. and Co. consider that the passage, as it stands, shews traces of a later hand, on the ground that the king is represented as addressing Jeremiah (Jeremiah 36:29), though they did not meet. This, however, seems somewhat hypercritical. It is true that Jeremiah 36:30 may seem to imply that Jehoiakim would have no son to succeed him, whereas Jehoiachin reigned, though only for three months (2 Kings 24:8). If this, however, had been the sense attached to the saying when placed here, it probably would not have been inserted, as not being in accordance with the result. “Sit” may quite naturally be taken to mean sit permanently, Jehoiachin’s short reign being ignored.
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?29. Why hast thou written, etc.] a quotation, though not verbatim, from Jeremiah 25:9 f.
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.30. He shall] See on Jeremiah 22:18 f.
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.
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.32. and there were added … many like words] See Intr. ch. 4 § 5.