Jeremiah 36:23
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.
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(23) Three or four leaves . . .—The English words suggest the idea of a papyrus book rather than a parchment roll (see Note on Jeremiah 36:4), but the Hebrew word (literally = a door) may indicate the column of writing on such a roll, as well as a leaf. The act, in its childish impatience, betrayed the anger of the king. He could not bear to hear of the seventy years of exile which were in store for his people, and which, if we assume the roll to have included the substance of Jeremiah 25, would have come into one of the earlier columns. The word for “pen-knife” is used generally for any sharp instrument of iron—for a razor (Ezekiel 5:1), and for a sword (Isaiah 7:20). Here it is the knife which was used to shape the reed, or calamus, used in writing. It should, perhaps, be noted that the Hebrew, like the English, leaves it uncertain whether the king himself cut and burnt the roll, or Jehudi with his approval. Jeremiah 36:25 is in favour of the former view. We are reminded, as we read the words, of like orders given by Antiochus Epiphanes for the destruction of the Law (1 Maccabees 1:56), by Diocletian for that of the sacred books of the Christians, perhaps also of those of the Court of Rome for the destruction of the writings of Wyclif and Luther.

Jeremiah 36:23. When Jehudi had read three or four leaves — Hebrew, דלתות, rolls, or scrolls, for their books, as we have observed, consisted of several pieces of parchment rolled upon each other. Dr. Waterland renders the word columns, and Blaney, sections, observing that to render it leaves, “seems rather to carry an eye to the books of modern times, than to suit that ancient mode of writing.” The word primarily signifies doors, that open and shut, and therefore is properly enough put for distinct and separate rolls, or parts of those prophecies which, being delivered at different times, and having a relation to different subjects, have each a proper beginning and ending of its own. Houbigant reads, pages, which he says, “were the same with those now found in the parchments called, ‘The Volumes of the Synagogue,’ in which the parchments are not sewed one beneath another; for if this were the case, the volume would only have one page, whose beginning would be at the top, and its end at the bottom of the parchment; but the parchments are sewed one to another on their sides, and are read by unfolding the volume either to the right or left; so that there are as many pages as there are parchments.” He cut it with a penknife — Hebrew, בתער הספר, the knife of the scribe. It seems the implements for writing were lying on the table before the king, ready for the scribe’s or secretary’s use, in case there was any call for writing orders, or despatches. Among these was the knife he used, either for cutting the pen when necessary, or for making erasures. And cast into the fire until all the roll was consumed — Not considering or not regarding its containing a revelation of the will of God, and a divine message to him in particular: a piece this of as daring impiety as a man could easily be guilty of, and a most impudent affront to the God of heaven!36:20-32 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!Leaves - Columns: literally folding-doors; the word exactly describes the shape of the columns of writing upon the scroll.

Penknife - "Scribe's knife;" used to shape the reed for writing, and to make erasures in the parchment.

On the hearth - Or, in the fire-pan. The conduct of the king shows how violent was his temper.

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 (Jer 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; Jer 36:24, "all these words," implies that the whole volume was read through, not merely the first three or four columns (1Ki 22:8).

He, that is, the king, not having patience to hear above three or four columns, or periods, or titles, took the penknife that (it is like) Jehudi had, and cut it in pieces, and burned it in the fire that was before him, not considering that it was the revelation of the will of God, but exalting himself above all that was called God. This showed both the wickedness and passionate temper of this prince, and his high contempt of God and his prophets. And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves,.... Either three or four of the breadths of parchment, which were glued together, and rolled up; or three or four of the columns in those breadths. The meaning is, he had read a few of them. The Rabbins (s) would have it, that three or four verses in the book of the Lamentations are meant:

he cut it with the penknife; that is, he cut the roll to pieces with a penknife he had in his hand, or lay near him. It is difficult to say who it was that did this; whether Jehudi that read the roll, or Jehoiakim the king that heard it; most interpreters understand it of the latter; but the connection of the words carries it to the former; for the nearest antecedent to the relative he is Jehudi; though it is highly probable he did it at the king's command; or, however, saw by his countenance and behaviour that such an action would be grateful to him; and that he was highly displeased with what had been read, and could not hear any longer with patience:

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; that is, he cast it into the fire, and there let it lie, until it was wholly consumed; a very impious action, to burn the word of God; a full evidence of an ungodly mind; a clear proof of the enmity of the heart against God, and of its indignation against his word and servants; and yet a vain attempt to frustrate the divine predictions in it, or avert the judgments threatened; but the ready way to bring them on.

(s) T. Hieros. Moed Katon, fol. 83. 2.

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.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). Meanwhile, in order to inform themselves more exactly regarding what had happened, they ask Baruch, "Tell us, how hast thou written all these words at his mouth?" Thereupon Baruch replied, "He used to call aloud these words to me," i.e., he used to dictate them to me by word of mouth, "and I wrote them in the book with ink." The imperfect expresses the repeated or continued doing of anything; hence יקרא here means to dictate, which requires considerable time. In the following circumstantial clause is found the participle ואני כתב, while I was writing; and so I myself was doing nothing else all the time than writing down what was dictated. Some commentators have found a stumbling-block in מפּיו in the question of the princes (Jeremiah 36:17); the lxx and Ewald omit this word, inasmuch as Baruch does not explain till afterwards that he had written down the words from the mouth of Jeremiah. Others, like Venema, take מפּיו as a question equals המפּיו. Both explanations are arbitrary and unnecessary. The princes knew quite well that the substance of the book was from the mouth of Jeremiah, i.e., contained his addresses; but Baruch, too, might have composed the book from the oral discourses of the prophet without being commissioned by him, without his knowledge also, and against his will. Accordingly, to attain certainty as to the share of the prophet in this matter, they ask him, and Baruch answers that Jeremiah had dictated it to him.
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