Jehoiakim's Penknife
Jeremiah 36:20-26
And they went in to the king into the court, but they laid up the roll in the chamber of Elishama the scribe…

This became a proverbial phrase for religious indifference of the most callous description. Not that Jehoiakim actually cut the roll himself; but Jehudi, who did it, was evidently under his orders. It is a little uncertain as to whether the whole of the manuscript, or a part only, was read; but as "had read" represents an imperfect tease, and the words "till all the roll was consumed" imply a gradual process, it seems more probable that the former was the ease. There is here the same unconquerable spirit of curiosity to know what the prophet said, utterly separated from religious earnestness or obedience. It is a fearfully impressive tableau which is presented, suggestive of -

I. THE ENMITY OF THE CARNAL MIND TO DIVINE TRUTH, The king cannot leave the manuscript alone, but he strives to make up for that weakness by:

1. Contempt. A page or domestic scribe is employed to read, instead of the king reading for himself; whilst the chief officers sit with their royal master, ridiculing it. There are many who dare not part company with religion, who revenge themselves by making light of its warnings and ordinances. Their contempt is a little overdone, in proportion to the latent, unconfessed fear.

2. Destruction. Dislike of the truth itself transfers itself also to the vehicle by which it is conveyed. It is a sign of the indwelling of the evil one, who seeks to destroy the works of God.

3. Persecution. The servants of God who have communicated his Word are also hated, and they are sought out with a view to their hurt. This is a characteristic of the confirmed sinner, which repeats itself over and over again in history. The world hates the servants of Christ because it hates their Master.


1. Deliberate profanity. If the text is rightly interpreted, it describes a repeated action, performed with the greatest coolness and clearest intention. How different from that young king who rent his garments at the message from the book so mysteriously lost and found again!

2. Resolute disobedience. The treatment to which the roll was subjected showed how thoroughly the mind of the king was made up. And the remonstrances of his councillors were unheeded. Evidently the messages of God would be wasted upon such a king, and consequently his doom would be forthwith pronounced (vers. 30, 31).

III. THE FOOLISHNESS OF THOSE WHO FIGHT AGAINST GOD. This is revealed in their methods. Here the burning of the book and the persecution of its authors are all that occurs to the infatuated king to do. But the prophet and his scribe are nowhere to be found, for "God hid them;" and the burnt manuscript appears in a second and enlarged edition. Persecution and the Index Expurgatorius have been potent allies of the truth they have been used to suppress. It is an unequal warfare when God is on one side and man on the other. In such a ease the truest wisdom is capitulation. God's indictment against us is unanswerable, and there is no escaping his judgments. When such devices occur to the sinner, he may well fear for himself. Truly understood, these warnings are but the efforts of Divine love to awaken to repentance, and thus afford opportunity for its free and uninterrupted exercise. - M.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: 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.

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