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Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 36". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ jeremiah-36.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 36". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—1. Chronology of the Chapter.—“Fourth of Jehoiakim.” See Note on chap. 25.
2. National Affairs.—Jehoiakim was at that time vassal of Pharoah-Necho; but Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem, carried off a few prisoners and some of the Temple treasures (Daniel 1:1-2), and compelled Jehoiakim to become his vassal, thus subjugating the nation to Babylon instead of Egypt. This was a sore pang and degradation to Jehoiakim; and when Jeremiah prophesied (Jeremiah 36:29) that “the king of Babylon would again come to destroy the land and make man and beast cease from it,” the king’s wrath became ungovernable.
In this critical condition of the nation, invasion begun, conquest sure, and captivity imminent, it became urgent that Jeremiah should collect all his prophecies—covering a period of twenty-three years—into “a book” (Jeremiah 36:2), for their preservation as a witness of God’s pleadings and warnings with the nation. This writing was completed in “the ninth month:” our December.
For Contemporaneous Scriptures and Contemporaneous History, vide Notes in loc. on chap. 25.
3. Manners and Customs.—Jeremiah 36:2. “Take thee a roll of a book and write.” It was a roll of parchment skins. Jeremiah 36:9. “Proclaimed a fast.” The ordinary fast was in the seventh month (Leviticus 16:29); but this was “the ninth month” (Jeremiah 36:9), and was therefore an extra and special fast. Keil thinks this fast was to commemorate by a national humiliation the capture of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans the previous year. Jeremiah 36:22. “The king sat in the winter-house.” A separate portion of the palace specially used in the colder season (Amos 3:15). “A fire on the hearth,” lit. “the fire-pan burning before him;” in the middle of the floor was a brazier in which the fire—charcoal—burned.
4. Personal Allusions.—Jeremiah 36:4. “Baruch” (see on chap. Jeremiah 32:12): Jeremiah 36:10. “Gemariah:” not the Gemariah of chap. Jeremiah 29:3, but brother of Ahikam (Jeremiah 26:24). Jeremiah 36:11. “Michaiah:” grandson of “Shaphan,” of whom see 2 Kings 22:3.Jeremiah 36:12; Jeremiah 36:12. “Elishama:” a court prince, perhaps the same as mentioned Jeremiah 41:1, 2 Kings 25:25. “Elnathan:” already had acted as an evil agent of the king’s (Jeremiah 26:22-23). “Hananiah,” the false prophet (Jeremiah 28:10-17). Jeremiah 36:14. “Jehudi:” doubtless of a good family from his ancestry being so carefully recited; but his office is unknown. Jeremiah 36:26. “Jerahmeel the son of Hammelech;” query, the son of the king? But Jehoiakim had then no grown-up son. Yet he might have been one of royal blood. “Seraiah,” &c., courtiers or princes.
5. Literary Criticisms.—Jeremiah 36:7. “It may be they will present their supplication before the Lord.” The words נָפְלָה תְּהִנָּה mean to allow a petition to be laid at the feet of a superior: lit. “it may be their supplication will fall before Jehovah.” Jeremiah 36:18. “He pronounced all these words,” &c. קָרָא מִפִּיו, definitely—he recited from his mouth; not, read from a book: oral dictation. “Ink:” the only occurrence of the word. דְּיוֹ, ink, may come from דָּיָה, to be black. Jeremiah 36:23. “Cut it with the penknife;” i.e., the scribe’s knife with which he trimmed his reed for writing.
Note.—Chapters 36–44 form a HISTORIC RECORD OF EVENTS (gathered up into a volume by express Divine command), ranging from the fourth year of Jehoiakim to the close of Jeremiah’s ministry. These records divide themselves thus—
A. Chaps. 36–38. Events preceding the Chaldean capture of Jerusalem.
B. Chapters 39–44. Events succeeding that capture.
SUBJECT OF CHAPTER 36—Jeremiah’s prophecies—
Committed to writing by Baruch (Jeremiah 36:1-8).
Rehearsed to all the people (Jeremiah 36:9-10).
Read to the princes (Jeremiah 36:11-19).
Read in part to Jehoiakim, then burnt by the king (Jeremiah 36:20-26).
Jehoiakim’s heavy denunciation (Jeremiah 36:27-31).
The second roll—prophecies rewritten (Jeremiah 36:32)
HOMILIES AND OUTLINES ON CHAPTER 36
Jeremiah 36:2-3. Theme: REVELATION IN WRITING. “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 that 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.”
Ours is a documentary religion; and it is a great advantage to have the principles of our faith in a defined and a written form. The prophet’s pen succeeded his breath.
An abstract of Jeremiah’s preaching for twenty-three years was thus recorded. Baruch was to read it. It excited a great sensation. The princes conveyed it to the king: it was read in his presence: he took his penknife, cut it in pieces, cast it in the fire. But another was written with this awful addition: Say to Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 36:30-31).
Upon this account remark—
I. The Divine authority of the book. “This word came to Jeremiah.”
1. It bears evident marks and indications of having come from God. Ours is a documentary religion—more sure than miracle—“a more sure word of prophecy.” If ye believe not Moses,” &c.
2. The time and the manner in which this word comes to a people. It is distinctly marked by God Himself as a great crisis in their religious history. God dates from this event. Good men date from it too.
3. The Book can never leave us as it finds us.
II. The gracious design of the Scriptures. To bring us to faith, to repentance and reconciliation to God (Jeremiah 36:3-7); not to condemn, but to save. It is to show us our danger and our refuge. Full of Christ.
III. The settled hostility it excites (Jeremiah 36:22-23). Men of corrupt minds love not the truth. Popery hates it. Many false Protestants dislike it too. They who do not take the penknife to destroy it, employ their pens to pervert and extinguish it.
IV. The righteous retribution its rejection incurs (Jeremiah 36:29-31). The Gospel has a condemnation of its own as well as the law.
Comp. also Homily on chap. Jeremiah 30:2.
Jeremiah 36:2. Theme: “LITERA SORIPTA MANET.” The object of the writing was not alone that the word written might remain, but also to collect all the single lightning strokes into one grand prophetic tempest.
The written word was of special use—
i. To contemporaries. For it rendered possible—(1.) Continued study; (2.) quiet contemplation; (3.) careful comparison.
ii. To posterity. (1.) The mouth speaks only to those present; the pen to the absent. (2.) The mouth speaks only to present hours and times; the pen to centuries future.
Comp. Exodus 34:27; Deuteronomy 10:4-5; Deuteronomy 17:18; Isaiah 30:8; Habakkuk 2:2.
—Naegelsbach and Cramer.
Also: The blessings of the written word.
i. That which it has in common with the spoken word. Preparation of the heart for the reception of salvation (ver.).
ii. That which it has in distinction from the spoken word. (a) It is present for every one; (b) it is present at every time and every place; (c) it is present in all its parts (for comparison).
See Addenda: REVELATION IN WRITING.
Jeremiah 36:3. Theme:“IT MAY BE.” “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.”
Jeremiah’s ministry may be regarded as typical of God’s dealings with man in all ages. “It may be.”
I. This word shows us the heart of God. Words are the servants of things. Language is imperfect, but it is the chief interpreter of thought. What has been said of man, may be said, with reverence, of God: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” When God says, “It may be,” we must not imagine that there is anything like doubt or ignorance with Him. It is said that He speaks as a man to men. How wonderful that He should thus condescend to our weakness and necessities! He not only employs human agents, but human speech, to reveal His will to us. Difficulties may be easily raised as to the form of speech here, but there can be no question as to its spirit. The words breathe love, and not hate. God is indeed displeased because of sin, but He longs to show mercy to the sinner. His heart yearns over His rebellious children, as the father over his prodigal son. Judgment is His strange work. Mercy is His delight. He welcomes the penitent. He blesses the obedient. All His counsels and warnings, His promises and threatenings, are for good. Mark the words of Moses (Deuteronomy 5:29-33; Deuteronomy 32:44-47); of the prophets (Isaiah 1:18-20; Jeremiah 8:7-11; Ezekiel 12:3; Ezekiel 18:31; Hosea 11:1-8); of Jesus Christ (John 3:16-17; Luke 19:10; Luke 19:41-42). And so it is still. What John said of his Gospel may be said of the whole Bible, and indeed of all God’s dealings with us in grace—“These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through His name.”
II. This word reveals the grand possibilities of human life. Looking on waste moorland, we may say, this will soon be reclaimed. That soldier standing in the ranks, beside thousands more, may yet rise to high command. That speaker, who has failed in his first effort, may yet lead the House of Commons. That child, over whose cradle his mother bends in fond anxiety, may yet hold a foremost place among men. He who was the joy of his mother’s youth may be the pride and the stay of her old age. These and such like possibilities lie hid in the future. As yet, all is uncertain; we can only say, “It may be.” But can there be such uncertainty with God? No. To His infinite mind, all the possibilities of time, and space, and circumstance, are not matters of doubt, but of certainty (Isaiah 46:9-11). Yet here, as often, He speaks as if it were otherwise. For our sakes He puts aside the must be of the Divine and the absolute, for the may be of the human and the contingent. His dealings with Israel are spoken of as an experiment. The gracious purpose is plain, but the result is hidden. It depends upon causes not yet in full operation. It will be manifested in due time, in the free actings and choices of men. So it is with the ministry of grace in every age. Men are put upon trial (Deuteronomy 8:2; Luke 2:34). Mark the grand possibilities.
1. Earnest attention (Jeremiah 36:3). This is absolutely necessary. God’s Word is truth. If He threatens, it is because there is just cause. His laws must be upheld. Wrath must come to the uttermost on the impenitent. If men considered this, surely it would awaken a holy fear of God’s judgments. The tale of what God purposes to do to the sinner may well make the ears of every one that beareth it to tingle (1 Samuel 3:11). “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
2. Penitential prayer (Jeremiah 36:7). “It may be they will present their supplication before the Lord, and will return every one from his evil way.” God cannot change. It is the sinner who must retrace his steps. He has forsaken God, and turned to his own evil way, and he is bound and besought to return. Prayer is the first step to a true amendment of life. It is when we look upon God as He has revealed Himself in Christ that we are melted to penitence, and that the cry of hope rises from our hearts (Isaiah 27:4-5; Isaiah 55:6-7).
3. Moral reconciliation. The hindrances to peace are not with God, but with us. Mark the touching words, “that I may forgive.” God pities the sinner, but He cannot deal with him, in the way of absolution, till he has come to himself and is in earnest about salvation. God is willing to give, but the sinner may not have the heart to receive. On the other hand, when there is a real turning from sin unto God, how quick is the response! how complete and joyous the reconciliation! (Luke 15:20-24; John 1:5-9.)
III. This word holds out encouragement to all true workers for Christ.
Hope is the spring of all activity. What we deem impossible we do not attempt. Reason forbids. But what we know to be both possible and good, we can strive for with all our strength. Duty is ours, results belong to God. For three-and-twenty years Jeremiah had laboured in Judah. His work seemed in vain. But he must not cease. The mercy of God is great. Another effort must be made. New methods must be tried. The Word must be written, and brought to bear in all its force upon the people, the princes, and the king. “It may be they will hear.” The command given to Jeremiah and Baruch, is just the same in substance as that which was afterwards given to the apostles and ministers of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 5:20; Acts 18:9-10). “It may be,” implies faith, and love, and hope. It holds out encouragement to prayer (David, 2 Samuel 12:22); to holy endeavour (Paul, Philippians 3:8-14; Philippians 4:13); to benevolent and missionary enterprise (Ecclesiastes 9:1-6; Romans 1:16). In all that is for good, friend helping friend, parents training their children, Christian men and women labouring for the advancement of the Gospel, we may say as Jonathan did to his armour-bearer, when summoning him to a deed of high courage and daring, “Come: it may be the Lord will work for us” (1 Samuel 14:6). Nay, we may do more. We may say to ourselves, as Haggai to Zerubbabel, and to Joshua, and to all the people of the land, “Be strong and work, for I am with you, saith the Lord of Hosts” (Haggai 2:4-5). Our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord. For the humblest worker, as well as for the great Master Himself, the word is true, “He shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied.”—Rev. W. Forsyth, from “Homiletic Quarterly.”
Jeremiah 36:7. Theme: AN OPEN DOOR OF HOPE. “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.”
I. Menacing doom.
1. Definite in its direction. “Against this people.”
2. Terrible in its character. “Great is the anger and the fury.”
3. Ominous as to its origin. “That the Lord hath pronounced.”
4. Positive as to its announcement. “Hath prouounced.”
II. Possible escape. “It may be.”
1. Doom tarries till all conditional exigences are expended. God holds back the stroke till every possibility of averting it is exhausted. He is “slow to anger.”
2. Sinners have the power of arresting their own doom. Though it has been “pronounced” against them. As Nineveh.
3. Threatenings of God are designed to act as appeals to men to avert them. They are stern voices of love. His menaces are severe, and will eventually be fulfilled if not averted; but He makes them severe in order to arouse us to seek reconciliation and escape.
III. Conditions of deliverance.
1. Not hard to comply with.
2. Not beyond the absolute necessities of the case. They are—
(a) Penitential prayer. “Present their supplication.”
(b) Individual reformation. “Return every one from his evil way.”
Note.—This was urged “upon the fasting day” (Jeremiah 36:6). So that fasting was not enough of itself (see Isaiah 58:3; Isaiah 58:5; Zechariah 5:5; Zechariah 5:7). And this appeal followed the reading of the roll (Jeremiah 36:6). Thus reading Scripture and self-mortification should be added to penitence and reformation. All which, in this Gospel age, become summed up in—(a) “Search the Scriptures, for they testify of Me;” (b) Take up thy cross daily and follow Me;” (c) “Repentance towards God;” and (d) “Laying aside every weight and the sin that doth so easily beset us, let us run, looking unto Jesus!”
Jeremiah 36:11; Jeremiah 36:13. Theme: THE HEARER BECOMES A PREACHER. “When Michaiah had heard out of the book all the words of the Lord, he went down to the king’s house and declared unto [the princes] all the words he had heard,” &c.
I. A hearer’s responsibility. To carry tidings to absent ones. “Let him that heareth say, Come.” If the Lord’s words are good for him, they are also good for others.
II. A hearer’s opportunity. He can reach an audience from which the preacher is excluded. Family circles, official circles [as in this case] may be brought to hear God’s truth by one person reciting what he has heard.
III. A hearer’s prompt anxiety. What he heard was urgent, was ominous. Others were entailed in the messages of God’s Word. It was not right for him to be silent. The doom or salvation of others depended on his telling what he had heard. Forthwith he went, and faithfully he recited the facts of warning and counsel from God.
(1.) He became thus a herald from God to his friends.
(2.) He opened the way for Jeremiah’s roll to be read in their hearing (Jeremiah 36:15).
(3.) He brought them under very solemn convictions (Jeremiah 36:16.)
(4.) He won for God’s servants influential friends, who protected them from the anger of the king (Jeremiah 36:19; Jeremiah 36:25).
“Can we whose souls are lighted
With wisdom from on high,
Can we, to men benighted,
The light of life deny?”
Jeremiah 36:20. Theme: READING GOD’S WORD TO A KING. These princes showed a gracious mind toward Baruch and Jeremiah; for they did not force Baruch into the angry king’s presence.
Yet they showed also a timid and half-hearted sympathy; for if they thought the “words of the Lord” urgent and important, why did they not boldly go in to the king and plead with him to heed the message?
Had they been true patriots, and loyal to Gods truth, they would have acted a more emphatic part than they did.
But they secured this: the king heard God’s word.
I. An involuntary hearer. They seem all together to have gone in and recited what they had heard (Jeremiah 36:20). Jehoiakim was thus taken by surprise—stormed in his unsuspecting ease. Often God sends messages to and against us—
1. Without our wishing to have them.
2. Without our power to prevent them.
3. In a manner wholly unexpected.
II. An inquisitive hearer. The fragmentary recital of “the words of the Lord” by the princes excited him to desire to hear from the roll itself. So (Jeremiah 36:21)—
1. There may be an inquisitiveness born of doubt. Jehoiakim may have questioned whether they repeated the words correctly.
2. Or an inquisitiveness prompted by anxiety. He may have felt disturbed by what he heard, and wished to know the matter more fully.
3. Or an inquisitiveness quickened by hope. Possibly these princes stated only the dark side of things: if he heard more it might be less menacing.
4. Or an inquisitiveness actuated by scorn. So far from his being alarmed by the eager words of the princes, he was quite ready to hear more—let him hear it all: it mattered not to him!
III. An infuriated hearer. There “burned before him a fire” (Jeremiah 36:22); and it but represented the fury which burned within him.
1. He burned with mad impatience. Stopped the reading: could not sit out the reading: heard only “three or four leaves” (Jeremiah 36:23).
2. He burned with impotent rage. Became violent: paid no heed to the “intercessions” (Jeremiah 36:25) of the three princes: wanted Jeremiah apprehended (Jeremiah 36:26): issued a mandate then and there to Baruch that the prophet should be “taken.”
3. He burned with silly revenge. He would destroy “the roll;” so “cut it with a penknife”—venting his malice on the innocent parchment! and then cast the roll into the fire, gratifying his ridiculous animosity by watching its consumption! (Jeremiah 36:23.)
See Addenda: INFURIATED HEARERS. Note—
1. Fires can consume books, but they cannot consume truths!
2. God’s enemies who make fires may one day feed them! “The fire shall try every man’s work.” “He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” See Addenda: BURNING BIBLES.
Jeremiah 36:23. Theme: THE RECKLESS PENKNIFE. “When Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with a penknife.”
We look in upon a room in Jerusalem. Two men there: Jeremiah, walking the floor, agitated, in the spirit of prophecy. Baruch, writing out the scathing words of the Almighty against the city.
It is winter. Jehoiakim sits in “winter house.” Silence among his lords, princes, while the parchment is read. Every eye is fixed; king frowns, cheeks burn; foot comes down with thundering indignation; seizes penknife, and lashes it into the parchments.
Was the book destroyed? Did the king escape? In a little while Jehoiakim’s dead body is hurled forth to blacken in the sun, “buried with the burial of an ass,” while Baruch again writes the terrible prophecy which Jeremiah anew dictates.
It would take more penknives than cutler ever sharpened to hew into permanent destruction the Word of God. Yet that Oriental scene has been often repeated: there are thousands of Jehoiakims who cut the Word of God with their penknives.
I. The first to be mentioned is the man who receives a part of the Bible, but cuts out portions and rejects them.
But the genuineness of the entire Bible is established, and there may be no cutting out of books against which cavillers rail. If any part of the Old Testament had been uninspired, Christ would have said, “Search the Scriptures, except the book of—Jonah or Esther.” And with all the Christian world watching, and our enemies also, you might as well attempt to insert an entire canto in Milton’s Paradise Lost as a fresh page into the New Testament.
A man dies; people assemble to hear the Will read. One interrupts: “I reject that passage.” But they must take the will as a whole, or not at all.
Remove one orb from this constellation of Bible books that revolve in splendour about Jesus, the central Sun, and heaven itself would weep at the catastrophe.
II. He who runs his knife through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and rejects everything.
The hostility in the “winter house” exists yet. Enemies of this Book have tried to marshal on their side chemist’s laboratory, astronomer’s telescope, geologist’s pry, mineralogist’s hammer, &c. With the black hulk of their priestcraft they have tried to run down this Gospel ship speeding on errands of salvation.
Men strike their knife through this Book because they say that—
1. The light of nature is sufficient. Have the fire-worshippers of India, the Borneoian cannibal, &c., found it so? The pagodas of superstition, the infanticides of the Ganges, the gory wheels of Juggernaut, declare it is not sufficient. A star is beautiful, but it pours no light on the midnight of a sinful soul. “What must I do to be saved?” Sweltering nations have knelt at the foot of the Himalayan mountains for ages asking the question; but the mountain made no response. The cry has gone round the world, but the stars were dumb, and the Alps were silent, &c.
2. That the Book is cruel and indecent. But show one man made cruel or obscene by the Bible. Thousands have been lifted by it out of their sin.
3. That it is so full of unexplained mysteries. What! will you believe only in what can be explained? Gravitation? Your finger nails; how do they grow? I would know that the heights and depths of God’s truth were not very great if I could, with my finite mind, read everything.
4. An infidel strikes his penknife through the Bible because, he says, if it were God’s Book, the whole world would have it. He pleads that if God had anything to say to the world, He could not say it to only a small part of the race. But how is it God gives oranges and bananas to only a small part of our race? There are millions who have never seen an orange or a banana! If all the human race had the same climate, harvests, health, advantages, then, by analogy, you might argue God should give the Bible, if at all, to the whole world.
5. Objectors cut the Bible because they urge that other books have in them great value and beauty. True: Confucius taught kindness to enemies; the Shaster has great affluence of beauty; the Veda of the Brahmins has ennobling sentiments; but what is proved thereby?—that after searching all lands, and ages, and literature, there has been found but a portion of the wisdom and beauty which God’s Book contains! Let Voltaire come on with his acute philosophy, and Hume with his scholarship, and Gibbon with his one-sided statements, and Hobbes with his subtlety; and the band of mountain shepherds and Galilee fishermen will beat all back with the cry of “Victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
III. No better proof of the Divinity of this Book can be desired than that it has withstood this mighty and continuous attack, and come down to us without a chapter effaced, a miracle injured, or a promise scarred.
No other book has passed through such hostility. Yet this Book to-day is foremost. In Philosophy, it is honoured above the works of Descartes, Bacon, Aristotle, and Socrates. In History, it wins more respect than Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon. In Poetry, it outshines the Iliad and Odessey, the Inferno and Paradise Lost. It has been published in more than two hundred languages; the earth quakes with the quick revolutions of its printing-press.
One verse of this Book above the throne of tyranny, and it shall fall; above the temples of superstition, and they shall crumble; above the vilderness, and it shall bloom as the Garden of the Lord. Thou Prince of Books, we hail thee to thy coronation! the wheeling earth thy chariot! the bending sky thy triumphal arch! the great heavens thy star-studded banner!
1. We have, then, many reasons for believing the Bible.
2. Raise the Book higher in your estimation.
3. Take it to your heart, your house. Though you seem to get along very well without the Bible in your prosperity, there will come a time when your only consolation will be this blessed Gospel.
A blind girl had been in the habit of reading the Bible with raised letters; by an accident her fingers lost their sensitiveness. In her sorrow, she raised the Book to her lips, to kiss it a farewell. As she did so she felt the letters with her lips—“The Gospel according to Mark.” “Thank God!” she exclaimed, “I can read my Bible with my lips!”
Oh, in our last hour, when the world goes from our grasp, press this precious Gospel to our lips, that, in the dying kiss, we may taste its sweet promises.—De Witt Talmage, 1870.
Jeremiah 36:23. Theme: LABORIOUS SERVICE WASTED. “All the roll was consumed in the fire.”
I. A vast and toilsome task.
i. It occupied a considerable time in preparation: doubtless “the nine months,” at least, of the fifth year of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 36:9).
ii. And it was undertaken at God’s command (Jeremiah 36:2).
iii. It had an urgent and solemn aim in view (Jeremiah 36:3).
iv. It was performed with anxious fidelity (Jeremiah 36:4).
v. It occupied the energies of two devoted and gifted servants of Jehovah (Jeremiah 36:4; Jeremiah 36:17-18).
II. Destroyed in a moment’s caprice.
i. Within a few hours of its completion. Its reading before the people, princes, and king was all on the same day; and then it was destroyed.
ii. Utterly destroying the entire product of devoted toil. Not a vestige, not a leaf remaining.
iii. Apparently rendering all the labour fruitless. There on the fire smouldered the ashes of destroyed toil. “Strength spent for nought.”
III. Yet effecting its full Divine purpose.
i. Mighty consequences result from moments. A lightning flash lasts but a second, yet it fells a forest, shivers a rock, blasts an edifice, scorches a life into instant death.
This roll was read, and though, but once heard, it yet conveyed its message, and wrought its different results: on the people (Jeremiah 36:7), on the princes (Jeremiah 36:16), on the king (Jeremiah 36:23).
ii. Man’s wanton act of destruction is included in God’s arrangements. He intended it as a test for the king, and it revealed to both people and princes (who had been solemnised by the reading) that the king was hopelessly defiant and merited the destruction so soon to follow.
iii. Hence godly work should be done and left with God. We may well be satisfied with the consciousness that we have carried out His bidding. If foes seem to render our obedience useless, that is God’s matter, not ours. Sometimes best results follow the apparent ruin of our labours. It makes the way clear for God to follow on with His judgments (Jeremiah 36:31).
IV. Ruined work should inspire to renewed service. “Then took Jeremiah another roll” (Jeremiah 36:32).
i. Go over again the path of obedience, even though with bleeding feet.
ii. Lose not faith in God though the toil seem monotonous.
iii. The recompleted service shall have something added. “Many like words.” For all work done over again becomes both enlarged and improved; and its disciplinary effect upon the worker may prove not the least of the advantageous results of the reattempted service. For the heart will learn to be patient in Divine employ, and submissive to the Providential conditions (of failure or success) amid which work for Him is fulfilled.
Paul said, “I have learned both how to be abased and how to abound.”
Jeremiah 36:24. Theme: HARDENED HEARERS. “Yet they were not afraid, nor rent their garments;” that is, the king and his attendant princes. Jeremiah records this with amazement, sorrow, and alarm.
I. Contrast the solemn fear of Josiah, this king’s father (2 Kings 22:11; 2 Kings 22:19). The difference in their acts and their end. Jehoiakim’s guilt was aggravated by reason of his good father’s example.
II. Ponder the stolidity which habitual disobedience produces. This defiant effrontery in the king was the climax of long rejection of God’s messages. This immovable indifference in his princes was the result of the king’s example and influence.
III. Beware of hearing God’s messages with heedlessness.
1. Begins with inattention.
2. Progresses into wilful disobedience.
3. Culminates in hardened indifference.
IV. Receive God’s word with a chastened seriousness of spirit.
1. Warnings from God should produce alarm. “Afraid.”
2. Convictions of sin should lead to repentance. “Rend garments.”
3. Divine threatenings should urge to seek hiding in Christ.
Note.—The guilt of indifference. It shows—(a.) contempt of God; (b.) recklessness of soul; (c.) hardness of heart.
Jeremiah 36:31. Theme: THREATENED PUNISHMENT. “And I will punish him, and his seed, and his servants, for their iniquity.” A current sentiment that God is too merciful to punish. This shows—
i. A misconception of the character of God.
ii. A wilful ignorance of the facts of history.
iii. Forgetfulness of the suffering condition of this present evil world. For, was not Adam driven from Eden? Did not the deluge sweep the ungodly from the earth? Were not Sodom and Gomorrah overthrown? Has God never sent famine, pestilence, &c., to punish the sins of the people? Has He not so constituted the human mind as that transgression entails misery? No error could be more irrational and unscriptural. Yet it is—
I. Pleaded that punishment is inconsistent with mercy. Because “God is love” and merciful, He cannot and will not punish. But—1. Punishment, instead of being destructive of mercy, is itself merciful. To let transgressors go would foster evil and spread ruin.
2. Hence God could not be merciful did He not punish.
II. Yet no sin in human history has been committed with impunity.
1. Every transgression and disobedience has received or will receive a just recompense of reward.
2. How then, if sinners must be punished, can they be pardoned and saved? Christ “was wounded for our transgressions.”
3. Had the saved been saved without their sins being borne by their Surety, law in that case had been ignored, and Justice slain on the altar of Mercy.
III. Since justice and mercy are alike attributes of God, He can never be other than both just and merciful.
1. In the economy of redemption they exist in friendly alliance.
2. They are never separated either in the Divine nature or the Divine government.
IV. In all God’s judgments on rebellious Israel there were both justice and mercy. Justice towards them that fell, mercy towards those spared. “Behold the goodness and severity of God,” &c.
V. However obscured, still mercy always tempers justice in God’s administrations. Difficult to discern mercy in the deluge; yet it arrested aboundings of iniquity and acted beneficially on the new world.
In some cases mercy is more conspicuous than justice. Yet Heaven is not all mercy unmixed with justice: in the redeemed we see the mercy of God; but in the Redeemer, with His scars, we see the justice. And Hell is not all justice unmixed with mercy: in the suffering there we see the justice of God, but in the effect of their doom on others (and other worlds) we may see the mercy.
VI. The conduct of some transgressors leads to justice being allowed to take its course untempered by mercy. E.g., the fallen angels. So with impenitent and unbelieving men. Yet while Mercy does not intervene with such, it is merciful to others that such should be punished; as it is merciful now to society to banish great criminals from their midst.
In God’s dealings with our fallen world, “grace reigns, through righteousness,” in relation to all who believe; whereas justice reigns in harmony with mercy, in reference to those who “neglect the great salvation.”—Rev. D. Pledge, “Walks with Jeremiah.”
Jeremiah 36:32. Theme: “ANOTHER ROLL,” WITH “ADDED WORDS.”
I. God’s judgments against sin.
II. Man’s attempt to evade them.
III. How Divine condemnations reappear.
IV. How they reappear with additions.—Rev. John Farren.
ADDENDA TO CHAP. 36: ILLUSTRATIONS AND SUGGESTIVE EXTRACTS
REVELATION IN WRITING. “This is the first recorded instance of the formation of a Canonical Book, and of the special purpose of its formation. ‘The Book’ now, as often afterwards, was to be the death-blow of the old regal, aristocratic, sacerdotal exclusiveness, as represented in Jehoiakim. The ‘Scribe,’ now first rising into importance in the form of Baruch, to supply the defects of the living Prophet, was as the printing-press, in far later ages, supplying the defects of both Prophet and Scribe, and handing on the word of truth, which else might irretrievably have perished.”—Stanley, “Jewish Church,” ii. 456.
The British and Foreign Bible Society have during the last fifty years spread, mainly among English readers, about fifty million copies of God’s Word; and from their press six copies are now issued every minute of the day (of ten hours), or 3600 daily; and this at a price enabling the poorest to possess a Bible.
And the Scriptures have been circulated now in almost every tongue and dialect under heaven, and are being circulated in every country.
“Within this ample volume lies
The mystery of mysteries:
Happiest they of human race
To whom their God has given grace
To read, to fear, to hope, to pray,
To lift the latch and force the way;
And better had they ne’er been born,
That read to doubt, or read to scorn.”
INFURIATED HEARERS. Vespasian is said to have been patientissimus veri (Quintilian), “very patient of truth;” so was the good Josiah. But Jehoiakim “was more like Tiberius, that tiger who tore with his teeth what displeased him; or like Vitellius the tyrant, of whom Tacitus saith “that his ears were of that temper that he could hear no counsel, though never so profitable, unless it were pleasant, and did suit with his humours (Lib. 3: Hist.)—Trapp.
BURNING BIBLES. See article in “Secular Annotations on Scripture Texts,” Second Series, by Francis Jacox, pp. 180–189, on “Baruch’s Burnt Book.”
Jehoiakim is the first we read of that ever offered to burn the Bible. Antiochus, indeed, did the like afterwards, and Diocletian the tyrant, and later the Pope. A bad confederacy!
Dean Stanley, in his “Jewish Church,” vol. ii. pp. 455, 456, says, “Three or four columns exhausted the royal patience. He seized a knife, such as Eastern scribes wear for the sake of erasures, cut the parchment into strips, and threw it into the brazier till it was burnt to ashes. Those who had heard from their fathers of the effect produced on Josiah by the recital of the warnings of Deuteronomy might well be startled at the contrast. None of those well-known signs of astonishment and grief were seen; neither king nor attendants rent their clothes. It was an outrage long remembered. Baruch, in his hiding-places, was overwhelmed (Jeremiah 36:15) with despair at this failure of his mission. But Jeremiah had now ceased to waver. He bade his timid disciple take up the pen, and record once more the terrible message.… But the Divine Oracle could not be destroyed in the destruction of its outward framework. It was the new form of the vision of the ‘bush burning, but not consumed:’ a sacred book, the form in which Divine truths were now first beginning to be known, burnt as sacred books have been burnt again and again, in the persecutions of the fourth or of the sixteenth century, yet multiplied by that very cause; springing from the flames to do their work, living in the voice and life of men, even when their outward letter seemed to be lost.”