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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Jeremiah 36

 

 

Verse 1

Jeremiah 36:1. And it came to pass, &c. — Jeremiah here inserts a history of some things which related to, or had a connection with, his prophecies; (as we find Isaiah did with regard to his;) and, accordingly, we are here informed how they came to be written, namely, by the express order of God, that they might stand upon record before the things foretold came to pass; so that there might be no room to say he had never prophesied such and such things, or that the prophecies were made after the things they pretended to foretel had happened. In the fourth year of Jehoiakim this word came unto Jeremiah — It is uncertain whether what is related in this chapter happened during the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, (for the city was besieged in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, 2 Kings 24:1-2,) or after the siege, when Jehoiakim was escaped from the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. It seems probable from what follows, particularly from Jeremiah 36:9, that it happened at or near the end of the fourth year, when Nebuchadnezzar was retired. For Jeremiah says nothing of the siege, and he orders Baruch to read his prophecies before an assembly of the people who had come to Jerusalem out of their cities, Jeremiah 36:6, which certainly implies that Jerusalem was not then in a state of siege. See Calmet.


Verse 2

Jeremiah 36:2. Take thee a roll of a book — Compare Isaiah 8:1; Ezekiel 2:9; Zechariah 5:1. The ancient manner of writing was upon long scrolls of parchment, which they afterward rolled upon sticks. On these words it is remarked by Harmer, (vol. 4. chap. 7, obs. 122,) “Many things were rolled up, much in the shape of an ancient Jewish manuscript, which yet were not fit to write upon; the words then in this, and some other similar cases, may be understood to mean, Take thee a roll, or volume, fit to be made a book of, fit to be written on.” And write therein all the words that I have spoken against Israel and Judah — Jeremiah prophesied against Israel as well as against Judah, Jeremiah 2:4; Jeremiah 3:12; Jeremiah 3:14; Jeremiah 23:13; Jeremiah 32:30. The kingdom of Israel was indeed destroyed by Shalmaneser, before the time of Jeremiah; but yet the prophet was ordered to reprove their sins, both to make the justice of God appear in punishing them so severely, and withal to warn the Jews by their example. Besides, there were some remains of these tribes still left, who joined themselves to the tribe of Judah. And against all the nations — See Jeremiah 25:15-16. From the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah — Namely, all the revelations which he had had from God for twenty-two years last past; for he began to prophesy in the thirteenth year of Josiah, who reigned thirty-one years, so that he prophesied eighteen years during Josiah’s life, and this was the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim, his successor. God would have his prophecies recorded, that there might be a memorial of them, that so the truth of them might appear when God should bring them to pass; the time of which now drew near.


Verse 3

Jeremiah 36:3. It may be that the house of Judah will hear, &c. — That is, will hearken, and lay to heart, all the evil, &c., that they may return, &c. — Blaney translates the verse, “Peradventure the house of Judah may hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them, so as to return every one from his evil way, and I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.” See the like expression, Jeremiah 36:7; Jeremiah 26:3; Ezekiel 12:3; Amos 5:15; in which places God is introduced as speaking after the manner of men, and using such methods as, in human probability, might be most likely to prevail: compare Jeremiah 8:6. These, and expressions of the like kind, sufficiently indicate that God’s foreknowledge of future events lays no restraint on the will of man, nor takes away the liberty of human actions. That I may forgive their iniquity and their sin — Forgiveness of sin in Scripture sometimes signifies the acquitting of a sinner from the obligation sin had laid him under to eternal death; sometimes the remission of a temporal punishment: it may here be understood as comprehending both, though it is probable the latter is principally intended.


Verse 4

Jeremiah 36:4. Then Jeremiah called Baruch — Baruch was the most faithful disciple of this prophet: he served him as long as he lived in the capacity of his secretary, and never left him till his death. And Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words, &c. — We need not ask how Jeremiah could remember all the prophecies that he had prophesied, for twenty-two years before, considering who it was that commanded him to put them in writing. God undoubtedly brought them to his remembrance, otherwise it would have been impossible for him to have recollected them all. The Spirit of God dictated to Jeremiah, and he to Baruch.


Verse 5-6

Jeremiah 36:5-6. Jeremiah commanded Baruch, saying, I am shut up — It is not said, that “he was shut up in prison” at this time: but barely that he was shut up, or confined, as עצורsignifies, that is, under some such confinement, or restraint, as precluded his going to the house of the Lord. Therefore go thou and read in the roll, &c., upon the fasting day — Not the day of the yearly fast, mentioned Leviticus 23:27, but on a day appointed for a national fast, of which we read more, Jeremiah 36:9, proclaimed by Jehoiakim, probably to avert the calamity hanging over them from the Chaldeans, or from the drought. And it was undoubtedly because of the concourse of people which the prophet knew would then be in the temple that he chose that day, when some would be present from all parts of Judah. It was the opinion, indeed, of Archbishop Usher and Dean Prideaux, that the roll was twice read by Baruch in the temple, and that the first reading was on the tenth day of the seventh month, being the great day of atonement, in the fourth year of King Jehoiakim. “But this,” says Blaney, “I am persuaded is a mistake; and that the reasons urged by the latter of those two learned men, in support of this hypothesis, are by no means conclusive. I see no good reason for concluding that the roll was read publicly in the temple more than once; nor does Josephus, who speaks of its being read in the ninth month of the fifth year, (Antiquities, lib. 10. cap. 6,) give the least hint of its having been read before; if it had been, I think we might naturally expect to be informed how it was received by those who heard it the first time, as well as by those who heard it the second. From the utter silence on this head, the contrary may be presumed, and we may fairly conjecture the case to have been pretty nearly as follows. Toward the latter end of Jehoiakim’s fourth year, after Nebuchadnezzar had replaced him on the throne, and had left the city, it is possible that both king and people, freed from former apprehensions, began again to indulge their wicked inclinations; and therefore Jeremiah was ordered to lay before them at once all the evils that still threatened them, and from which nothing but speedy repentance could protect them. In consequence of this charge, he caused Baruch to write a collection of all his prophecies, and to have them in readiness to read at a fit opportunity. Perhaps the collection was not fully completed before the fifth year was already begun; but the season pitched on, as most convenient for reading this tremendous publication, was the day on which the people should assemble to deplore, before God, the calamity with which he had visited them just twelve months before. Accordingly, at that time Baruch read openly in the temple what he had written, and the immediate consequences of such reading are here related at large.”


Verse 7-8

Jeremiah 36:7-8. It may be they will present their supplications — Hebrew, תפל תחנתם לפני יהוה, peradventure they may prostrate themselves in supplication before Jehovah; or, more literally, their supplication may fall before Jehovah, which, undoubtedly, says Blaney, “respects the humble posture of the supplicant in presenting it:” see note on Jeremiah 36:3. In the subsequent part of the verse, the words anger and fury (or, wrath, as החמה, should rather be rendered) are put by a metonymy for the effects of them, namely, the heavy judgments which, in consequence thereof, Jehovah had denounced against this people. We learn from this verse that prayer and reformation are the most likely means that can be used to turn away God’s wrath when it is ready to fall upon a sinful nation.


Verse 9-10

Jeremiah 36:9-10. In the fifth year, &c., they proclaimed a fast — “It was customary among the Jews to proclaim anniversary fasts upon certain days, in memory of some great calamities which had befallen them at that time. Of this kind were the fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh, and tenth months, mentioned Zechariah 7:5; Zechariah 8:19; the first instituted in remembrance of the city’s being taken by Nebuchadnezzar; the second in memory of the temple’s being burned in that month; the third for the murder of Gedaliah; the fourth in memory of the siege which then began. Then read Baruch the words of Jeremiah, in the house of the Lord — It has been before observed, that by the house of the Lord is meant all that is included within the sacred precincts of the temple; not only the sanctuary, or house properly so called, but all the out-buildings, and the courts around, both the inner court of the priests, and the outer court, which was open to all the people. In the chamber of Gemariah the scribe — This chamber was undoubtedly in the great outer court, either close to, or over the gateway of the eastern gate; so that if he read, as is supposed, from a window, or balcony, he would be heard by the concourse of people that came flocking into the court through that gate: see Jeremiah 26:10.


Verses 11-15

Jeremiah 36:11-15. When Michaiah, the son of Shaphan, had heard, &c. — Shaphan’s family were all great men at court: see note on Jeremiah 26:24; he went down into the king’s house, &c. — It is uncertain whether this Michaiah went to make this relation to the princes, who sat in the secretary’s chamber, as a piece of news only, or out of a malicious design to accuse the prophet and Baruch, as persons guilty of a seditious practice, in what they had done. Then Michaiah declared unto them all the words that he had heard — That is, the substance of all the words, &c.; for none can imagine that a hearer could remember every word. Therefore all the princes sent Jehudi, &c. — That is, all the princes who at that time sat there in council sent a messenger with a command to Baruch to appear before them, and to bring the roll which he had read in the ears of the people. And they said, Sit down now and read it. So Baruch read it — The courage of Baruch is admirable; he was now before the council, in the king’s house; the substance of the prophecies was, to threaten heavy judgments to the king, and court, and all the people; and the king, as appears by all history, was of a vindictive spirit, and a persecutor of God’s prophets; and yet Baruch is not afraid, but reads the prophecy in their ears.


Verses 16-19

Jeremiah 36:16-19. When they heard all the words — It is hardly to be imagined that all these counsellors would sit still till they had heard all the prophecies read which Jeremiah had uttered for the last twenty-two years; but all signifies many, or, the substance of all his prophecies. They were afraid both one and other — That is, they were all of them afraid. The judgments denounced were so terrible as to make the ears of them that heard them tingle. Jeremiah had now been above twenty years a prophet to this people, and doubtless had been in great esteem for eighteen years of that time, while Josiah was alive, and they could not but observe that his prophecies had been often accomplished. They were, therefore, it seems, afraid that they should see these fulfilled also. And they asked Baruch, saying, Tell us now, How didst thou write all these words? — This seemed a reasonable question, considering they were the substance of what he had been prophesying for so many years. The matter seemed strange to the princes, the prophets not being used to study and write their discourses, but to preach them extempore. Baruch answered, He pronounced all these words, and I wrote them, &c. — This could not but add to the princes’ fear that these prophecies would be accomplished, for they must needs conceive that, without a special influence of God, it would have been a thing impossible that Jeremiah should have called to mind all that he had spoken at sundry times for so many years. Then said the princes unto Baruch, Go hide thee, thou and Jeremiah — They thought it their duty to acquaint the king with the matter, and yet were unwilling that Jeremiah and Baruch should feel the effects of his displeasure.


Verse 20

Jeremiah 36:20. And they went in to the king into the court — “They were before, it is said, Jeremiah 36:12, in the king’s house, that is, in the exterior precincts of the palace, where were apartments and offices fitted up for the principal officers of state, and for the attendants of the court. But, from what is here said, there was an interior body of building for the king’s personal residence, ranged, as is the fashion of the great houses of the East at this day, round an open court, or quadrangle, and containing apartments separately appropriated for summer and winter use.” — Blaney. But they laid up the roll, &c. — They were obliged by their office, as counsellors to the king, to acquaint him with what they heard, which might be prejudicial to him and his nation; and indeed this was the very end for which God commanded the enrolling of these prophecies, that both the king and his counsellors, together with all the people, might take notice of them; but they did not carry the book with them, but laid it up in the secretary’s chamber.


Verse 22

Jeremiah 36:22. Now the king sat in the winter-house — The princes and great men had distinct houses, or apartments, fitted for the several seasons of the year, Amos 3:15. In the ninth month — Which answers to the latter end of our November and part of December. And there was a fire on the hearth burning before him — Hebrew, יאת האח לפניו מבערת, et focus coram ipso ardebat, Buxtorff: literally, And a hearth, or, fire-pan was burning before him. Thus the LXX., και εσγαρα πυρος κατα

προσωπον αυτου: and a pan of fire before him. To the same purpose the Vulgate, et posita erat arula coram eo plena prunis, There was set before him a little altar, or fire-pan, full of burning coals. The reason of this phraseology we have in the account which Lightfoot gives us from Maimonides, namely, that chimneys were not admitted at Jerusalem by reason of the smoke. And Mr. Harmer tells us, (chap. 3. obs. 24,) that Sir John Chardin, in his MS. notes, supposes that the fire which was burning before Jehoiakim was a pan of coals; and cites a passage from him, which says, in French, “This was just as persons of quality warm themselves in winter in Persia, and particularly in Media, and wherever there is no want of wood. The manner in which they sit will not allow them to be near a chimney: in these places, therefore, of the East, they have great brasiers of lighted coals.” Harmer likewise informs us, that “the fires used at Aleppo, in the lodging rooms, are of charcoal in pans; and that pans of coals are the fires which are often made use of in winter in Egypt.” It may be observed further here, that this description of Jehoiakim sitting in his winter-house, in the ninth month, with a pan of fire before him, answers to Dr. Russel’s account, who says, that the most delicate in those countries make no fires till the end of November. How long they continue the use of them he does not say: but we learn from other sources, that in Judea they are continued far into the spring: see John 18:18.


Verse 23

Jeremiah 36:23. When Jehudi had read three or four leaves — Hebrew, דלתות, rolls, or scrolls, for their books, as we have observed, consisted of several pieces of parchment rolled upon each other. Dr. Waterland renders the word columns, and Blaney, sections, observing that to render it leaves, “seems rather to carry an eye to the books of modern times, than to suit that ancient mode of writing.” The word primarily signifies doors, that open and shut, and therefore is properly enough put for distinct and separate rolls, or parts of those prophecies which, being delivered at different times, and having a relation to different subjects, have each a proper beginning and ending of its own. Houbigant reads, pages, which he says, “were the same with those now found in the parchments called, ‘The Volumes of the Synagogue,’ in which the parchments are not sewed one beneath another; for if this were the case, the volume would only have one page, whose beginning would be at the top, and its end at the bottom of the parchment; but the parchments are sewed one to another on their sides, and are read by unfolding the volume either to the right or left; so that there are as many pages as there are parchments.” He cut it with a penknife — Hebrew, בתער הספר, the knife of the scribe. It seems the implements for writing were lying on the table before the king, ready for the scribe’s or secretary’s use, in case there was any call for writing orders, or despatches. Among these was the knife he used, either for cutting the pen when necessary, or for making erasures. And cast into the fire until all the roll was consumed — Not considering or not regarding its containing a revelation of the will of God, and a divine message to him in particular: a piece this of as daring impiety as a man could easily be guilty of, and a most impudent affront to the God of heaven!


Verse 24

Jeremiah 36:24. Yet they were not afraid — No, not those princes that trembled at the word when they heard it the first time, Jeremiah 36:16. The fear with which they were then seized quickly wore off, or else they durst not discover it in the king’s presence, who showed no concern himself. Nor rent their garments — A custom observed among the Jews at the hearing of any dreadful news; neither the king nor any of his servants that heard all these words — How different was the spirit of this king and his courtiers from that of his father Josiah, who, when he heard the words of the law read to him by Shaphan the scribe, both rent his clothes and wept before the Lord in the deepest humiliation and distress, persuaded that great was the wrath about to be poured upon the nation; and yet the parts of the law read to him were certainly neither so particular, nor so immediately adapted to the present state of affairs in the country as the contents of this roll were.


Verse 25-26

Jeremiah 36:25-26. Nevertheless, Elnathan, Delaiah, and Gemariah had made intercession, &c. — These three princes appear to have had a greater dread of God upon their hearts than the rest, for, so far as they durst, they interposed and besought the king not to burn the roll; but he would not hearken to their advice; so far from it that he gives orders to apprehend both Jeremiah and Baruch. But the Lord bid them — God by his providence kept them both out of their hands, directing them to such a place of recess as the king’s messengers could not find out.


Verses 27-29

Jeremiah 36:27-29. Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, &c. — Jeremiah now receives orders to write in another roll the same words that were written in that which Jehoiakim had burned. Observe well, reader, though the attempts of hell against the word of God are very daring, yet not one tittle of it shall fall to the ground; nor shall the unbelief of man make the truth of God of none effect. Its enemies may prevail to burn many of the Bibles which contain it, yet they cannot abolish the word of God; they can neither extirpate it, nor defeat the accomplishment of it. And thou shalt say to Jehoiakim — Or, of Jehoiakim; as עלis translated, Jeremiah 36:30; for this command seems to have been given to Jeremiah during the time of his confinement. Thou hast burned this roll, saying, Why, &c. — We learn here what was the cause of the king’s anger; Jeremiah had prophesied, that the king of Babylon should come and take Jerusalem, and lay the country waste, which was fulfilled within six years after this, and more fully still in eighteen years.


Verse 30-31

Jeremiah 36:30-31. He shall have none to sit on the throne of David — That is, none that shall be king any considerable time; Jeconiah, his son, was set up, but kept his throne only three months, and left none to succeed him in a direct line. And his dead body shall be cast out — See note on Jeremiah 22:19. And I will punish him and his seed, &c. — Even his seed and his servants shall fare the worse for their relation to him: for they shall be punished, not indeed for his iniquity, but the sooner for their own. And as to the people, God threatens that they should feel what they were not willing to hear, even all the evil which God by his prophet had pronounced against them. Though the roll, the copy of the divine decree, was burned, the original remained, which should again be copied out after another manner in bloody characters. There is no escaping God’s judgments by striving against them. Who ever hardened his heart against God and prospered?


Verse 32

Jeremiah 36:32. Then took Jeremiah another roll — Here we are shown, that wicked men gain nothing by opposing themselves to the revealed will of God, how ungrateful soever it may be to them, but the addition of guilt to their souls, and the increase of divine wrath; God’s counsels shall stand, and what he speaks shall most certainly be accomplished. Here is another roll written, with additional threatenings, confirming what God had before said. There were added unto them, besides, many like words — Blaney translates the clause, And there was a further addition made unto them of many words of the same sort. “From hence we may infer,” says Lowth, “that God’s Spirit did not always endite the very form of words which the holy writers have set down, but, directing them in general to express his sense in proper words, left the manner of expression to themselves. From whence proceeds that variety of style which we may observe in the Scriptures, suitable to the different genius and education of the writers.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 36:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/jeremiah-36.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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