Jeremiah 36:1. The fourth year of Jehoiakim. Though this chapter seems out of its place, yet it may not be so, but may be a reference to past events.
Jeremiah 36:2. Take thee a roll of a book. Ancient volumes of parchment were rolled, and sometimes on a staff. The writing was in columns from the right to the left, so that the reader could with ease coil up in his right hand what he had read.
Jeremiah 36:3. It may be that the house of Judah will hear—that I may forgive their iniquity. This was, in fact, the last summons to the rebellious court of king Zedekiah. Bad as their affairs were, an unfeigned act of fasting and prayer would even then have saved the nation.
John Chrysostom, on this passage asserts, that the divine prescience is not the cause of sin. “God says, perhaps. Was he then ignorant of the future? Did he not know whether the Jews would hear; he who knows all events before they happen; he who searches the hearts and tries the reins; he who penetrates the secrets of man, and before whose eyes all things are manifest, and without a veil?
Let us examine why he says, it may be, or perhaps. Had he said, they will hear, without adding perhaps, it had been untrue, seeing that they did not hearken. Had he said what was true, they will not hear, it would have been in vain to send a prophet to men who would not hear. This is our first reason, which implies a second. If he here employed a contingent or doubtful language, it is that mankind may not believe that the prescience of God forces the human will; it is that no one might say, that what God has foreseen must of necessity occur, as some men affirm of Judas.
Jesus Christ, they say, foresaw that Judas would prove a traitor, and for that reason Judas was a traitor. What folly—what blindness, oh man! Prescience is not the cause of sin. God forbid. It never necessitates future actions. It merely gives us to perceive them. Judas was not a traitor because Jesus Christ foresaw it; but Jesus Christ foresaw the treason, because Judas would commit the crime. Lest therefore you should say, that God having foretold the obduration of the Jews, implied that he had shut up against them all the avenues of repentance, God himself here anticipates your objection by saying to his prophet, It may be that the house of Judah will hear, that I may forgive their iniquity.”—Homily on the obscurity of the Prophets.
Jeremiah 36:5. I am shut up, either in prison, or confined at home by infirmities, or by an injunction of government. The last idea seems the most probable, though he might be released by the day that Baruch read. The same Hebrew word is used in Nehemiah 6:10.
Jeremiah 36:12. Elnathan, son of Achbor. He is also named Urijah, and was arrested in Egypt: Jeremiah 26:22.
Jeremiah 36:23. Leaves. The LXX use the word σελιδας, selidas, which signifies columns.
Jeremiah 36:30. His dead body shall be cast out. This was done by the Chaldean soldiers, when they ravaged the tombs for treasures: Jeremiah 22:18-19.
The eyes of the Lord are ever watchful of the weal of man. An extraordinary fast had already been appointed, that the Lord would avert the calamity of the menaced invasion: and the Lord was graciously pleased to send them an additional sermon to promote the recollections of the day. This sermon was an epitome of all that God had said to them by the ministry of Jeremiah; for while the people retained their sins, God would not relax his threatenings.
The communication made from the Lord, contained an overture of grace. It may be, said the Lord, 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; and that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin. God addressed them in similar words by Ezekiel 12:3; and by Amos 5:15. They are repeated also by Jeremiah 26:12; and by Zephaniah 2:9. Hence we learn, that there is a harmony between the purposes of providence and the repentance of man; for the goodness of God, in the suspension of punishment, leadeth to repentance. He foretels evil as a father when addressing a profligate son, whose tears attest that he by no means wills the evils to come upon his own child. If this had been a genuine fast, as in the days of Hezekiah, the Lord would really have delivered them from the king of Babylon. The Lord commanding the substance of his terrors to be written, principally designed to convey the warning to the court. And as they would not stoop to hear a solitary prophet, he knew that a manuscript was most likely to interest their attention. How kind and condescending is the Lord to the weakness and prejudice of erring man. But ah, unbelief, that fatal root of Satan in the human heart, frustrated all the good. The terrible word of the Lord produced no confession, no tears, no rending of raiment, and no amendment of life. The council thought it a great favour that they desired the scribe and the prophet to hide themselves. They seemed friendly, but followed the royal passion.
Wicked men not only reject the word of the Lord, but they have enmity in their hearts against both the word and its ministers. The king, through curiosity or fear, heard indeed the writing read; but he burnt it as Jehudi proceeded, and then sought to wreak his vengeance on the scribe and the prophet. What would the wicked do? They cannot pull thee from thy high throne; therefore they turn their fury against thy servants. Thus the sacred ministry is sure to produce effect. It is the savour of life unto life, or of death unto death.
Men who spurn at the gracious overtures of mercy, rush on the sharp sword of divine justice. The king, by adding this insult to all his former sins, forfeited the throne, and brought wrath on his family. Jehoiakim, a child, did indeed succeed his father, but he was deposed in three months; and Zedekiah, his uncle, though called his brother, was placed by Nebuchadnezzar on the throne. 2 Chronicles 36:10. Thus the wicked by a single stroke of the axe are cut off, and wither under the displeasure of the Almighty. What a mirror for the infidels of all ages! Who ever hardened themselves against the Lord, and prospered?
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 36". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany