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,
I. The case of the Rechabites is the extreme of obedience; the story of Jehoiakim's burning the roll represents the extreme of disobedience. Between these two cases, thus brought into contrast with one another, almost within the same page, the conduct of the great mass of mankind is always hovering. Few equal the extreme of obedience set forth on the one hand, as few the extreme of disobedience set forth on the other. Thousands who disobey the Bible every day would shrink from the thought of burning it in utter defiance. Thousands who will do what they see to be just and reasonable will make no scruple of breaking a command which seems to them, in its own nature, indifferent.
II. That we are almost all of us, old and young, wanting in the principle of obedience, might be concluded pretty surely from the simple fact that we do not like the very word. The word "independence," which is the opposite to obedience, is, on the contrary, a great favourite with us; we consider that it is at once delightful and honourable. Tracing this up to its origin, it is certainly in part, nothing but evil; for it is made up largely of pride, and pride is ignorance of God. What is called the feeling of independence, is admired chiefly because it shows the absence of fear. But if obedience were rendered, not from fear, but from principle, it would then be nobler, because it would imply greater self-denial than the feeling of independence; for the feeling of independence is, in other words, a wish to have our own way, a wish in which there is nothing at all noble or admirable, except in as far as it is exercised in the face of the fear of danger. Set aside the existence of fear, and independence becomes no better than self-will; while obedience becomes self-denial for the sake of others—that is benevolence or charity.
III. There can be no obedience to God without virtue and duty, but the word implies something more; it implies doing our duty because God commands it; it implies a deep and abiding sense of our relation to Him; that we are not, nor ever can be, independent beings but dependent creatures; and that, by practising obedience to our Maker, by doing His will because it is His will, and because we love Him, we shall be raised to a higher and more endearing name; no longer creatures, but children.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iii., p. 210.
Jeremiah 36:23I. Why has God given us the Bible? Not to bewilder us, not to tempt our curiosity, not to found rival sects, but to bring us to Himself to obtain forgiveness of iniquity and sin. The one object of the Bible is the salvation of mankind.
II. Man is so unwilling to hear anything unpleasant or disagreeable about himself that he gets into a wrong temper before he actually knows what God's object is. Jehoiakim did not hear the whole roll. Did any man ever destroy the Bible who knew it wholly? The difficulty is in the "three or four leaves."
III. Men have not destroyed revelation when they have destroyed the Bible. The penknife cannot reach its spirit, the fire cannot touch its life. The history of the Bible is one of the proofs of its inspiration.
IV. The desire to cut the Bible with the penknife and to cast it into the fire, is quite intelligible, because in a sense profoundly natural.
V. This desire to mutilate the Holy Word shows itself in various ways, some of them apparently innocent*; others of them dignified with fine names, and claiming attention as the last developments of human progress. Human nature shows itself most vividly in the treatment of the Bible.
Parker, The Ark of God, p. 217; see also Penny Pulpit, No. 899.
Notice some lessons which this subject suggests.
I. Those who in their early days have resisted holy influences, generally turn out the most wicked of men. When a man deliberately tramples on conviction, and resists the dealings of God's spirit, he uses the most effectual means to sear his conscience and harden his heart.
II. If a man's religion is not genuine and heart deep, it often happens that troubles and calamities only drive him further away from God. What effect had all his misfortunes and disasters on Jehoiakim? Did they soften him? Did they incline him to a better course of life? Not a bit. He grew worse than ever.
III. As the heart gets hardened in sin, there is a growing unwillingness to listen to the voice of God. As soon as a young man begins an evil course, and resolves to take his fill of sinful pleasures, he acquires a hatred of his Bible, and a disinclination to attend the house of God. If he cannot silence God's ministers, he will keep as far as possible from them, and shut his ears against all good counsel.
J. Thain Davidson, The City Youth, p. 225.
References: Jeremiah 36:3.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 551. Jeremiah 36:22, Jeremiah 36:23.—J. Cox, Expositions, 2nd series, p. 192. Jeremiah 36:23.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 231; D. Moore, Penny Pulpit, No. 3504.
Jeremiah 36:24The conduct which we read of in the text seems to be nothing out of the way, nothing strange, nothing which we cannot enter into and cannot explain, but only an instance of what goes on now, and always has gone on since the beginning of the world; it is an instance of the hardening power of sin.
I. This is what makes a sin, even a little sin, enormously great when considered as the seed of the whole crop of sins afterwards, even as a single seed of the wrong kind may be enough to overrun a field with thistles. A single sin is but the leader of a whole band, and when once the barrier has been broken, a legion of others swarm in; and a single sin is but the beginning of the hardening process, is but the beginning of a state of disease which ends in utter blindness and want of feeling. This I understand by the deceitfulness of sin to which the Apostle refers its hardening power; it is deceitful because what we call a small sin appears trifling, because we judge of sins merely in ourselves, without considering to what they lead; if in war a general were to see a few of the enemy's soldiers straggling over the hills, he might say that they were so few that they were not worth considering, but would he say so? or would he not rather look upon them as the forerunners of a great army; would he not prepare at once to resist the hosts of enemies which he must know lurked behind? In like manner the sins of childhood are the forerunners of the great army of the world, the flesh, and the devil, which comes up in maturer years; and the only safe course is to look upon no sin as trifling, but to root out every enemy, whether small or great, lest perhaps we allow our enemy to gain such strength as shall end in our overthrow.
II. There is such a thing as being gospel-hardened; there is such a thing as listening to God's word, and to preaching, without doing, until the sound of the most solemn truths becomes as useless as that of a tinkling cymbal, until the sword of the Spirit is unable to cut or pierce. Persons who have become thus are like the king of Judah and his servants, who hear the threatened vengeance of Almighty God, and yet are not afraid, nor rend their garments.
Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 1st series, p. 222.
References: Jeremiah 36:24.—J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 2nd series, p. 36; Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. i., p. 177.
Jeremiah 36:32I. Baruch, the friend and amanuensis of Jeremiah, was directed in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, to write all the prophecies of Jeremiah delivered up to that period, and to read them to the people, which he did, from a window in the Temple, on two solemn occasions. But where was Jeremiah himself? He was under sentence of death, and the people were infuriated against him. He was in so much danger from the animosity of his opponents that it would have been imprudent for him to appear in public. This prudence was indeed one of the marks of Jeremiah's piety, as well as his wisdom. Our life and health are not our own. We are stewards of God, and to Him we are accountable for the preservation of the life which He has given us until the time shall come when He shall Himself take it.
II. Baruch could probably perform the work in hand better than Jeremiah himself. Had Jeremiah appeared in public, the people would have been so exasperated that they would not even have heard him, for he would have come before them as one under sentence of death, and in defiance of the advice of those powerful friends who would by his conduct have been equally with himself exposed to danger. Wisdom and sound policy are parts of piety. We are not only to do the work which is providentially assigned to us, but to do it in the best and most effective manner.
III. Jeremiah foretold destruction to the city unless the people amended their ways. The people did not deny that l Jeremiah was an inspired prophet, but they would not heed what he said, and seemed to think that if they prohibited him from speaking, or if they destroyed his book, they would be exempted from responsibility or danger. But the decree of God remained; the words of Jeremiah were fearfully fulfilled. The fact remains the same, whether we believe it or not. The Bible and the preacher do not alter the fact or make the fact.
W. F. Hook, Parish Sermons, p. 165.
References: Jeremiah 36:32.—J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays after Trinity, Part II., p. 176. Jeremiah 38:6.—J. Kennedy, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 124.
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.
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.
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.
And Jeremiah commanded Baruch, saying, I am shut up; I cannot go into the house of the LORD:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When Michaiah the son of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan, had heard out of the book all the words of the LORD,
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.
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.
And they said unto him, Sit down now, and read it in our ears. So Baruch read it in their ears.
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.
And they asked Baruch, saying, Tell us now, How didst thou write all these words at his mouth?
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.
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.
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.
Now the king sat in the winterhouse in the ninth month: and there was a fire on the hearth burning before him.
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.
Yet they were not afraid, nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all these words.
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.
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.
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,
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?
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.
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.