GOD’S MESSAGE OF JUDGMENT CANNOT BE ERASED OR DENIED
Accountability can be a sore subject for those who do not want to face up to the consequences of their actions. When hit with a prophecy of impending divine judgment, people resort to the standard defense mechanisms:
– Deny the reality of the message
– Question the source or authority of the message
– Attack the messenger
– Ignore the message
– Oppose the message in any way possible
But here we will see the futility of trying to cut out the portions of God’s Word we don’t want to obey; the futility of trying to burn the Word of God; the futility of trying to attack God’s messengers.
Parunak: How do you react to bad news? Say, the message that you have been declared a political enemy and the government is looking for you. You may mourn over it; you may take steps to avoid capture. One thing doesn’t make sense: shoot the messenger and deny the message. Yet many people take exactly that action when they hear God’s condemnation of their sin. Instead of acting responsibly on that information, they deny it and reject the messenger. Today, we learn of a Hebrew king who acted just that way.
GOD’S MESSAGE OF JUDGMENT CANNOT BE ERASED OR DENIED
I. (:1-19) SCROLL OF CALAMITY WRITTEN, READ AND REPORTED –
APART FROM REPENTANCE, CALAMITY IS COMING
“In the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,”
People don’t want to believe calamity is coming. They close their ears to the warnings from God’s Word. They assume that all things will continue on just as they have been for the past decades.
A. (:2-4) Scroll of Calamity Written
1. (:2) Preparation of the Scroll
“Take a scroll and write on it all the words which I have spoken to you concerning Israel and concerning Judah, and concerning all the nations, from the day I first spoke to you, from the days of Josiah, even to this day.”
Guzik: God commanded Jeremiah to do this so that the message might be more effectively delivered. If the word was present in written form it could be more easily remembered, consulted, and meditated upon.
Mackay: The papyrus was fairly narrow, about 10 inches (25 cm) high, and would be rolled lengthwise on two pieces of wood. Scrolls could be up to 30 feet (9 m) long. The writing would be in columns of a standard width and would run from top to bottom and right to left. The scroll would be read as the papyrus was rolled off the left stick onto the right one.
2. (:3) Purpose of the Scroll
“Perhaps the house of Judah will hear all the calamity which I plan to bring on them, in order that every man will turn from his evil way; then I will forgive their iniquity and their sin.”
Clarke: This was still almost 20 years before the final conquest of Jerusalem, and it was still possible to see God rescue Judah. It was yet possible to avert the judgments which had been so often denounced against them. But in order to this they must:
– Hear what God has spoken.
– Every man turn from his evil way.
– If they do so, God graciously promises to forgive their iniquity and their sin.
3. (:4) Process of Dictation and Writing on the Scroll
“Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah, and Baruch wrote on a scroll at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the LORD which He had spoken to him.”
B. (:5-10) Scroll of Calamity Read
1. (:5-7) Commissioning of Baruch to Deliver the Message
a. (:5) Limitation on Jeremiah’s Movements
“Jeremiah commanded Baruch, saying, ‘I am restricted; I cannot go into the house of the LORD.’”
Guzik: It appears that Jeremiah was excommunicated from the Temple because of his outspoken comment in his Temple Sermon (Jeremiah 5, cf. Jeremiah 7:26). The word ‘debarred’ (‘shut up’, AV [KJV]) could indicate ritual defilement, but this was usually for a limited period.
b. (:6) Delegation to Baruch of Responsibility to Deliver the Message
“So you go and read from the scroll which you have written at my dictation the words of the LORD to the people in the LORD’s house on a fast day. And also you shall read them to all the people of Judah who come from their cities.”
Mackay: The whole people and not just the king and his courtiers were to be challenged with the message, because nothing less was at stake than the continuing existence of the nation. So it is addressed not just to the townspeople of Jerusalem, but to those from the surrounding districts who have gathered for this special act of worship in the Temple.
c. (:7) Supplication and Repentance Needed to Avoid Divine Wrath
“Perhaps their supplication will come before the LORD, and everyone will turn from his evil way, for great is the anger and the wrath that the LORD has pronounced against this people.”
2. (:8-10) Carrying out of the Responsibility to Read the Prophetic Message
a. (:8) Baruch Reads the Scroll
“Baruch the son of Neriah did according to all that Jeremiah the prophet commanded him, reading from the book the words of the LORD in the LORD’S house.”
Guzik: It is difficult to know if this was the reading of the scroll first described in Jeremiah 36:8 or a second public reading of the scroll some weeks or months later.
b. (:9) People Assembled in Jerusalem for a Fast
“Now in the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, in the ninth month, all the people in Jerusalem and all the people who came from the cities of Judah to Jerusalem proclaimed a fast before the LORD.”
c. (:10) Baruch Reads the Scroll – (READING #1)
“Then Baruch read from 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 upper court, at the entry of the New Gate of the LORD’S house, to all the people.”
Longman: it appears that Gemariah is part of a circle of powerful families that have had a close tie to the prophet (and likely to Josiah’s earlier reforms).
C. (:11-19) Scroll of Calamity Reported to the Officials
1. (:11-13) Micaiah
“Now when Micaiah the son of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan,, had heard all the words of the LORD from the book, he went down to the king’s house, into the scribe’s chamber. And behold, all the officials were sitting there—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 other officials. Micaiah declared to them all the words that he had heard when Baruch read from the book to the people.”
2. (:14-19) Baruch (READING #2)
a. (:14-15) Reading of the Scroll
“Then all the officials sent Jehudi the son of Nethaniah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Cushi, to Baruch, saying, ‘Take in your hand the scroll from which you have read to the people and come.’ So Baruch the son of Neriah took the scroll in his hand and went to them. They said to him, ‘Sit down, please, and read it to us.’ So Baruch read it to them.”
b. (:16) Reporting of the Message
“When they had heard all the words, they turned in fear one to another and said to Baruch, ‘We will surely report all these words to the king.’”
c. (:17-18) Identifying the Source of the Message
“And they asked Baruch, saying, ‘Tell us, please, how did you write all these words? Was it at his dictation?’ Then Baruch said to them, ‘He dictated all these words to me, and I wrote them with ink on the book.’”
Constable: They asked Baruch how he wrote the scroll, and Baruch replied that he had written it as Jeremiah dictated the prophecies to him. They evidently wanted to make sure that Jeremiah was the source of the prophecies, and not Baruch.
Longman: Lundbom reports that “lack ink for writing was made from carbon, usually being soot scraped from cooking vessels or else specially prepared, and then mixed with a solution of gum and water and dried into cakes” and that “pens were made from a piece of thin rush (Phragmites communis), but from one end on the bias and then frayed to form a brush” (p. 602).
d. (:19) Protecting Jeremiah and Baruch
“Then the officials said to Baruch, ‘Go, hide yourself, you and Jeremiah, and do not let anyone know where you are.’”
II. (:20-26) SCROLL OF CALAMITY BURNED –
ACCOUNTABILITY CAN STIR REACTIONS OF DENIAL AND OPPOSITION
A. (:20-21) The King Retrieves the Scroll
1. (:20) Informal Reporting
“So they went to the king in the court, but they had deposited the scroll in the chamber of Elishama the scribe, and they reported all the words to the king.”
They had sought to protect the scroll from any angry reaction on the part of the king
2. (:21) Formal Reporting
“Then the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and he took it out of the chamber of Elishama the scribe. And Jehudi read it to the king as well as to all the officials who stood beside the king.”
B. (:22-23) The King Reacts With Defiance Against God’s Word =
Burning the Scroll as it is Read
“Now the king was sitting in the winter house in the ninth month, with a fire burning in the brazier before him. When Jehudi had read three or four columns, the king cut it with a scribe’s knife and threw it into the fire that was in the brazier, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the brazier.”
Parunak: Why is he so angry personally against what he hears, to the point of refusing to listen to all of it, and of destroying the scroll so violently? In his heart, the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, has struck home. He knows he is guilty and that judgment is coming, and the only alternative to repentance is rejection.
Kidner: Jehoiakim’s slow, methodical destruction of the scroll made his rejection of its message a much more emphatic gesture than if he had burned the whole thing at once in a fit of rage.
Mackay: Jehoiakim’s treatment of the scroll was influenced by semi-magical ideas of its inherent power. By ostentatiously destroying it he sought to counter the power of God’s word, just as Hananiah would later do by breaking Jeremiah’s yoke (28:10-11). But his gesture of brazen defiance was ineffective in the face of the power of God.
C. (:24-25) The King Refuses the Counsel of His Officials
1. (:24) No Fear of God or Remorse
“Yet the king and all his servants who heard all these words were not afraid, nor did they rend their garments.”
2. (:25) No Listening to Counsel
“Even though Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah pleaded with the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them.”
D. (:26) The King Reacts With Malice Against God’s Messengers =
Seeking to Capture Baruch and Jeremiah
“And the king commanded Jerahmeel the king’s son, Seraiah the son of Azriel, and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel to seize Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet, but the LORD hid them.”
Constable: This king’s response to hearing the Lord’s Word stands in stark contrast to that of his father Josiah, who tore his clothes in remorse when he heard the law scroll read to him (2 Kings 22:11-20). Josiah had feared and called the people to repentance, but Jehoiakim feared nothing and called for the prophet’s arrest.
III. (:27-32) SCROLL OF CALAMITY REWRITTEN –
ATTEMPTS AT RESISTING ACCOUNTABILITY ARE FUTILE
“Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah after the king had burned the scroll and the words which Baruch had written at the dictation of Jeremiah, saying,”
A. (:28) Command to Rewrite the Scroll
“Take again another scroll and write on it all the former words that were on the first scroll which Jehoiakim the king of Judah burned.”
B. (:29-31) Condemnation of Jehoiakim King of Judah
1. (:29) For Scoffing at God’s Word
“And concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah you shall say, ‘Thus says the LORD, You have burned this scroll, saying, Why have you written on it that the king of Babylon will certainly come and destroy this land, and will make man and beast to cease from it?’”
2. (:30-31) For Rebellion and Rejecting God’s Word
“Therefore thus says the LORD concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah, ‘He shall have no one to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat of the day and the frost of the night. I will also punish him and his descendants and his servants for their iniquity, and I will bring on them and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the men of Judah all the calamity that I have declared to them—but they did not listen.’”
D. (:32) Compilation of a Second Scroll
“Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to Baruch the son of Neriah, the scribe, and he wrote on it at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire; and many similar words were added to them.”
Guzik: In fact, the opposition of Jehoiakim made his cause worse, not better. Responding to the king’s cutting and burning of His word, God was determined to bring more words of judgment, not fewer.
Mackay: Though Jehoiakim wanted his own way, that was not to be. The rewritten scroll served as a sign that the word of the Lord cannot be set aside by human endeavor, however forceful and radical. The burned scroll testified that the king and the people he led had no time for the word of the Lord, but they would not on that account escape its dire predictions. The word of the Lord would not pass away, and their obstinacy would bring on them the predicted calamity.