And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the penknife…
The king's knife and fire did what they could to destroy the prophet's word, but with what result this chapter shows. The king was Jehoiakim; the prophet, Jeremiah; the word, his written prophecies. It was necessary that these should be written down. The army of Babylon was already in the land, and drawing near to the doomed city of Jerusalem, if they had not already captured it for the first time. There was no hope of successful resistance. Therefore, for a testimony when all that had been foretold came to pass, and for a solace and warning to that and to all coming generations, it was necessary that the twenty-three years' witness which the prophet had borne against that guilty nation should be put on record. Jeremiah was "shut up," whether by his own will, or the word of the Lord, or for fear of his enemies, we cannot certainly say; but Baruch, who seems to have been to Jeremiah as Timothy to Paul, was commanded to write these prophecies, and then, on the "fasting day," to read them in the hearing of all the people. He did so. One of his hearers, alarmed and troubled, hastened away to the council of the princes, and told them what he had heard. Baruch was sent for, and declared again what he had before read to the people. The book was too terrible to show to the king; they therefore commanded that it and its author should be concealed, whilst they went in to the king to announce its fearful contents. A third time these prophecies were recited, but the king demanded that the book itself should be read to him. But when brought and the reading had begun, the angry king had no patience to listen beyond the first three or four leaves, but snatching it from the hand of the reader, he vented his rage upon it by cutting and hacking it with his knife, and then, to make short work of it, cast it, in spite of the horror-stricken entreaties of his princes, into the burning coals before him, where it was utterly consumed. Then he commands, but in vain, for "the Lord hid them," that Baruch and Jeremiah be arrested; but the Lord commands that these prophecies be written again, which was done, with the doom of the king added, and "beside them many like words." But this King Jehoiakim, in his dealing with the Word of God, and in its dealing with him, has had many successors. He is the type of -
I. THOSE WHO ARE IMPATIENT WITH THE WORD OF GOD. Jehoiakim only heard three or four leaves read, when he put a stop to the reading altogether in the foolish way we have seen. He would not hear the whole. Did any man ever destroy the Bible who knew it wholly? Many have thrown it into the fire who have heard or read a part only. The difficulty is in the "three or four leaves." How many stumble because they won't read on!
II. THOSE WHO BECOME VERY ANGRY WITH THE BIBLE. To men of this king's stamp the Bible has not one word of comfort, commendation, or hope. It is all full of thunder and storm. It is a dreadful book to the impenitent, No wonder that he snatches it from the reader's hand, and hacks at it with his knife, and then flings it into the blazing fire. Yes; be like this king, and you will do as he did, and be done unto as he.
III. THOSE WHO STRIVE TO DESTROY THE BIBLE.
1. Some would only partly do this. They admit a large amount of good in the book; they only desire to cut out what they think is otherwise. Theologians use their penknives. They practically put out of the Bible what makes against their favourite ideas. Science seems to be forever at this miserable cutting. Philosophy is equally guilty; but sin is worst of all. It loves not the hard things the Bible will keep saying against it; therefore it would cut them out - only it cannot.
2. There are those who would destroy the book altogether. What Bible burnings there have been! The histories of pagan and Romish persecutions are full of them. Are there none now? What is the difference between such burning and utter disregard of the book as too many are guilty of? If we trample it underfoot, in our hearts, our lips, our lives, how could burning it be any worse?
IV. THOSE WHO FIND THE BIBLE TOO STRONG FOR THEM. "O Galilaean, thou hast conquered!" said the Emperor Julian shortly before he died. And that has been the confession in regard to the Word of God on the part of all those who have tried to destroy it (ver. 30). The Word of God can neither be bound nor burned. It has been cut, cast into flames, proscribed, branded, corrupted, and treated with every conceivable form of opprobrium; but here it is today, a living and mighty factor in the lives of the foremost men and nations throughout the whole world. And the ungodly who practically seek to destroy it for themselves, they will find they cannot do this. Its truths will come back, its teachings reassert themselves, and will add beside "many like words" - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: 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, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the brazier.