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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
Jeremiah 36

 

 

Verses 1-32

CHAPTERS 36-38.

NARRATIVE OF EVENTS PRECEDING THE SIEGE OF JERUSALEM.

Jeremiah 36:1-32.

THE ROLL OF PROPHECY DESTROYED BY JEHOIAKIM.

EXPOSITION

In the fourth year of Jehoiakim (which, it is important to remember, was the first of Nebuchadnezzar) Jeremiah was directed to write down all his previous revelations, from the beginning of his ministry to the present day. Such, at least, is the literal meaning of verses 1, 2; but it would seem that the literal meaning can hardly be the right one. First of all, a historically accurate reproduction of the prophecies would not have suited Jeremiah's object, which was not historical, but practical; he desired to give a salutary shock to the people by bringing before them the fatal consequences of their evil deeds. And next, it appears from verse 29 that the purport of the roll which the king burned was that the King of Babylon should "come and destroy this land;" whereas it is clear that Jeremiah had uttered many other important declarations in the course of his already long ministry.

Now, it is remarkable, and points the way to a solution of the problem, that Jeremiah 25:1-38. is said (Jeremiah 25:1) to have been written in the very same year to which the narrative before us refers, and that it is mainly concerned with the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar and its consequences (indeed, entirely so, if we admit that Jeremiah 25:12, Jeremiah 25:26 have received interpolation).

Is not this the prophecy which Jeremiah dictated to Baruch? ‹je-2› and is not verse 2 a loose, inaccurate statement due to a later editor? That the prophetic as well as the historical books have passed through various phases (without detriment to their religious value) is becoming more and more evident. The seventh and eighth chapters of Isaiah, and the thirty-seventh and thirty-eighth of the same book, have demonstrably been brought into their present shape by an editor (see Cheyne's 'Prophecies of Isaiah,' vol. 1.); is it not highly reasonable to conjecture that these narrative chapters of Jeremiah have, to a greater or less extent, passed through a similar process (see below on verse 6)?

Jeremiah 36:4

Baruch. Already mentioned as Jeremiah's attendant, in Jeremiah 32:12. He appears to have been of high rank (see on Jeremiah 32:15), as Josephus, indeed, expressly states ('Ant.,' 10.9, 1). Maaseiah, his grandfather, was governor of the city (2 Chronicles 34:8), and Seraiah his brother (Jeremiah 51:59) held some equally honourable, though not so easily definable, position in the court.

Jeremiah 36:5

I am shut up. Not so; Jeremiah was not detained by material force. Some strong reason he had (perhaps of a ceremonial kind), but as it was irrelevant to the narrative, it is not given. Render, I am detained (same verb as in 1 Samuel 21:7).

Jeremiah 36:6

Upon the fasting day. The mention of the fast day suggests that Jeremiah 36:9 is out of its place, which again confirms the view that the narrative before us has received its present form from an editor. In the ears of all Judah (see Jeremiah 36:9).

Jeremiah 36:7

They will present their supplication; literally, their supplication will fall. The phrase seems to be suggested by the gesture of a suppliant. Hence humility is one idea; but success is entirely another. That which lights down before one's eyes cannot be disregarded. Hence, in Jeremiah 37:20 and Jeremiah 42:2, the Authorized Version renders, "be accepted." This is, at any rate, a better rendering than that quoted above, which is both weak in itself and obscures the connection. And will return; rather, so that they return. "Returning," i.e. repentance, is necessary, because their "evil ways" have provoked Jehovah to "great anger and fury;" but is only possible by the Divine help (comp. Acts 5:31, "To give repentance unto Israel"). Hence prayer is the first duty.

Jeremiah 36:9

In the fifth year of Jehoiakim. It is remarkable that the Septuagint has here the eighth year; and Josephus, too, relates that Jehoiakim paid tribute to Nebuchadnezzar in his eighth year. This latter statement seems to tally with the notices in 2 Kings 24:1-20. The vassalage of Jehoiakim is there said to have lasted three years; this followed the rebellion; while the siege of Jerusalem was reserved for the short reign of Jehoiachin. Now, as this siege must have been the punishment of Jehoiakim's rebellion, and as the reign of the latter king lasted eleven years, we are brought to the same date as that given by Josephus for the commencement of the vassalage, viz. the eighth year. It is to this year, then, that 2 Kings 24:1 refers when it says, "In his days Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant;" and also the narrative before us in the statement that "they proclaimed a fast before Jehovah to all the people in Jerusalem, and to all the people that came from the cities of Judah unto Jerusalem." What other event would have produced such a concourse of worshippers? The battle of Carchemish (which took place in the fourth year of Jehoiakim)? But it was by no means clear as yet that the consequences of this would be disastrous for Judah. Carchemish was too far off for the people of Judah to show such serious alarm. If so, Jeremiah kept his prophecy by him for several years, till the fight moment came. The ninth month. As this is a winter month (see verse 22), Jeremiah evidently reckons by the Babylonian calendar, the ninth month of which, Kisiluv (Hebrew, Chisleu), began from the new moon of December.

Jeremiah 36:10

The chamber (see on Jeremiah 35:4) of Genesisariah …the scribe. Genesisariah was favourably disposed to Jeremiah (verse 25); he was probably the brother of Jeremiah's friend, Ahikam (Jeremiah 26:24). He was one of the royal secretaries, and reckoned among the "princes" (see verse 12). In the higher court. "Higher" equivalent to "inner." The new gate (see on Jeremiah 20:2).

Jeremiah 36:12

He went down (see on Jeremiah 26:10). Sat there. In deliberation on the affairs of the state. Elishama the scribe. Gemariah, then, had a colleague. So in Solomon's cabinet there were two soferim, or secretaries, one perhaps for the civil and one for the military business (1 Kings 4:3; comp, Jeremiah 52:25). Elnathan. Mentioned already, Jeremiah 26:22.

Jeremiah 36:14

Jehudi … the son of Cushi. A genealogy which contains a history. Jehudi is not a true proper name, any more than Gadi ("a Gadite"), the quasi-name of the father of Menahem (2 Kings 15:14), or than Cushi, the quasi-name of Jehudi's great-grandfather. Cushi himself was, doubtless, an Ethiopian, and probably (like Ebed-melech, Jeremiah 38:7) a eunuch, or at least chamberlain; his son and grandson were both worshippers of Jehovah (as their names indicate), but were not qualified to become Jewish citizens. The Egyptian was not, indeed, to be abhorred, but not until the third generation could his descendants be admitted into" the congregation" (Deuteronomy 23:8). Egypt and Ethiopia were historically connected (see Lenormant's 'Ancient History,' index to vol. 1.). For the name of "Jehudi," comp. "Jehudith," daughter of Beeri the Hittite (Genesis 26:34).

Jeremiah 36:15

Sit down now. The princes evidently recognize Baruch as belonging to a family of distinction (see on verse 4); and from verses 19, 25 we may infer that they were favourably inclined beth to Baruch and to his master (comp. ch. 26.).

Jeremiah 36:16

They were afraid both one and other; rather, they turned shudderingly one to another. Such an announcement as Jeremiah's at such a serious crisis startled them by its boldness. We may infer that the prophet had for some time, by Divine command, kept his sombre anticipations in the background. We will surely tell the king; rather, we have to tell the king. Friendly feeling would have prompted them to hush up the affair (see Jeremiah 27:20, Jeremiah 27:21), but duty forbade.

Jeremiah 36:17

How didst thou write all these words at his mouth! Two questions seem to be combined here—"How didst thou write all these words?" and "Didst thou write it all at his mouth?" Baruch's answer is good for both.

Jeremiah 36:18

He pronounced, etc.; rather, He kept dictating while I wrote with ink, etc. The addition of the last clause suggests (and was, perhaps, intended to do so) that Baruch's function was simply mechanical.

Jeremiah 36:20

Into the court; i.e. into the inner court, in which the royal apartments were apparently situated.

Jeremiah 36:21

Which stood beside the king; literally,…above the king. The standing courtiers, of course, rose above the king; comp. Isaiah 6:2, "Seraphim stood above him."

Jeremiah 36:22

In the winter house; i.e. that part of the royal palace which was arranged for a winter habitation (comp. Amos 3:15). According to Dr. Thomson, the more airy part of a house is called "summerhouse," and the more sheltered room "winter house." The ninth month, in which the events now being related took place, corresponded approximately to our December. It was, therefore, the cold and rainy season; December is a stormy month in Palestine. A fire on the hearth; rather, in the chafing dish (or, brazier). It was a vessel with live coals placed in the centre of the room, still used in the East in cold weather.

Jeremiah 36:23

Three or four leaves; rather, columns or compartments. "Leaves" would imply that it was a book out of which Jehudi read, Whereas it was a roll (m'gillah never has any other meaning). But "books" were not yet known, nor would a knife have been necessary to separate the pages. He cut it. The subject may be either the king or Jehudi (at the bidding of the king). The term implies that the action of cutting was repeated several times; but we are not to suppose that each successive portion was cut off as it was read. The indignation of the hearer translated itself into the repeated mutilation of the roll, until all the roll was (east into the fire and) consumed. With the penknife; literally, with the scribe's knife. On the hearth; rather, in the chafing dish (or, brazier).

Jeremiah 36:24

Yet they were not afraid. Unlike Josiah (2 Kings 22:11), and even Ahab (1 Kings, 1 Kings 21:27). Nor any of his servants; i.e. the courtiers, as opposed to the "princes."

Jeremiah 36:26

The son of Hammelech; rather, a royal prince (we should render similarly in Jeremiah 38:6; 1 Kings 22:26; 2 Kings 11:1, 2 Kings 11:2; Zephaniah 1:8). We have seen already that the number of such royal princes was very large (see on Jeremiah 17:9); any one, in fact, who had a king among his ancestors was a "royal prince." The Lord hid them; i.e. saved them from discovery.

Jeremiah 36:27-32

Punishment denounced against Jehoiakim, and second writing of the former prophecy.

Jeremiah 36:29

Thou shalt say to Jehoiakim; rather, concerning Jehoiakim. Intercourse between Jehoiakim and the prophet was broken off by the preceding scene. The speech begins in the oratio directa, but soon passes into the obliqua. Cause to cease … man and beast. A forcible description of the completeness of the devastation.

Jeremiah 36:30

He shall have none to sit, etc. Substantially a repetition of the prophecy in Jeremiah 22:18, Jeremiah 22:19.

Jeremiah 36:31

I will bring upon them, etc. (comp. Jeremiah 35:17; Jeremiah 19:15).

Jeremiah 36:32

Many like words. Thus Jehoiakim gained nothing by his sin (comp. Introduction).

HOMILETICS

Jeremiah 36:1-4

The writing of the roll.

I. WHO WERE ENGAGED IN THE WRITING OF THE ROLL?

1. God.

(a) he will bless the right reading of the Bible, and

(b) he will call us to account for the use we make of it.

2. Jeremiah. God does not speak to mankind by a direct and audible voice as with the thunder tones of Sinai. He speaks through an instrument—a man, a prophet. And this prophet is plainly not just a mechanical mouthpiece to the Divine voice. His personality counts for something. His style, mode of thought, experience, general knowledge, spiritual condition, etc; all mould his utterances of inspired truth. Jeremiah's prophecies are characteristic of Jeremiah.

3. Baruch. The scribe has neither the genius to conceive the thought, nor the oratorical and literary gifts to clothe it in language. He is a simple amanuensis. Yet his work is important. For some reason not expressed, possibly like St. Paul on account of bodily weakness, Jeremiah did not write out his prophecies with his own hand. Thus work was found for Baruch. God finds offices corresponding to all varieties of gifts. But the less gifted are too often ambitious to per, form the more honoured tasks of greater men, or, fading in these, they are often reluctant to fulfil their more lowly calling.

II. WHY WAS THE ROLL WRITTEN? This roll was not to contain a new composition. It was to be only a writing of utterances which had already been made public. Why, then, was it written?

1. That the prophecies might be preserved. Truth is eternal. A truth once discovered should be cherished as a lasting possession. It may be lost, but it can never decay. "The Word of the Lord endureth forever;" therefore the record of it should be preserved as of permanent value.

2. That the prophecies might reach a larger audience. The roll could be frequently perused and by various readers. Revelation is not for the few initiated; it is for all who need its light.

3. That the prophecies might be reread to those who had already heard them. The use of them was not expended when they were first spoken. We are too ready to be attracted by mere novelty. The latest books and the latest ideas are run after to the neglect of greater thoughts and greater works of older date. But truth is more important than novelty. And old truths need to be repeated, because

4. That the prophecies might he studied carefully and compared together. So we should study the Bible, searching the Scriptures and comparing parts together, as we can only do when the whole lies written before us.

III. WHAT WAS THE SCOPE AND AIM OF THE ROLL?

1. It was a record of God's wrath against sin and a denunciation of judgment. The words so important that they needed to be thus recorded were spoken "against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations" (verse 2). People like to forget disagreeable ideas and cherish only those that please them. Yet there are times when it is for our own profit to face them. Surely it is best to know our danger if by the knowledge of it we can find a means to escape it, or, at the worst, be prepared to meet it. But if the revelation of judgment, and of temporal judgment, contained in Jeremiah's prophecies was so precious as to be committed to writing under a solemn Divine commission, what value shall we set on the revelations of heavenly things and declarations of the glad tidings of salvation that are written in other parts of the Bible?

2. It aimed at leading the people to repentance. (Verse 3.) The threats of future calamities were first uttered with this end, and they were to be repeated for the same object. Thus the darkest words of revelation are spoken in mercy. If they are repeated, it is because God is so forbearing and anxious to save that he will not give his people up. The aim of revelation is practical. It is a lamp to our feet (Psalms 119:105). The chief purpose of its warnings and its words of grace is to lead us back from sin to God. Thus the Bible, though the crowning work of all literature, should not be regarded chiefly from a literary point of view, but rather as containing messages from our Father to guide and help our conduct.

Jeremiah 36:5-21

The reading of the roll.

I. THE READER. Baruch, the secretary of Jeremiah, is sent to read the roll. We do not know what cause detains the prophet. He has often made bold utterances in public before this. But if he cannot go the truth must not be hidden. "The Word of God is not bound" (2 Timothy 2:9). Truth is more important than the speaker. It matters little who is the messenger; all importance attaches to the message. Men forget this when they run after a Jeremiah and neglect a Baruch, though the scribe may be the bearer of the prophet's teachings. We should recollect how much more important the gospel preached is than the man who preaches it. If a Chrysostom, a Paul, or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel but the true gospel of Christ, "let him be anathema." But if Christ is proclaimed, we must be thankful for that, though the preacher and his conduct may not quite approve themselves to us (Philippians 1:18). Perhaps it was best that the prophet should not appear in person to repeat his message. His presence might reuse personal feelings to the neglect of bin message. He desired the truth to carry its own fair weight. Baruch did his work bravely and modestly. In repeating the prophet's unpopular words, he would invite the odium that attached to them to pass on to himself. But his duty was to read the roll. God would see to the consequences. With this courage there was a remarkable modesty. The occasion was a tempting opportunity for Baruch to exercise his own powers by way of comment of addition. But he said nothing beyond what was written in the roll. He knew his place. The scribe is not a prophet. Why should not the great sermons of great preachers be sometimes read in our churches?

II. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE READING. The roll was read to three audiences.

1. The people (verses 9, 10). The Bible is a book for the people, not for the priests or the learned only. The occasion of that reading was "a fasting day" (vex. 6). Then the people would be in the best mood for receiving the call to repentance. We should learn to speak "in season." The place of the reading was the temple (verse 10). Instruction should be associated with worship.

2. The princes (verses 11-19). Divine truth is of importance to all classes. They who are in responsible positions are especially called upon to study the signs of the times.

3. The king (verses 20, 21). It was necessary that what concerned the fate of the kingdom should receive the most careful consideration of its monarch. Even kings must bow before the utterance of truth. A prophet can speak with authority to a king.

III. THE EFFECT OF READING. The effect on the people is not here indicated. Probably little moral good came of it; but there was evidently some impression made if the feelings of one man, Michaiah, may be taken in illustration. This man was so much stirred by what he heard that he immediately reported it to the princes at the court (verses 11-13). From this report other consequences flowed. If but one man out of a great congregation is seriously impressed by a sermon, that sermon has not failed; possibly through the one man it may be instrumental in effecting vast and lasting good. When the roll was read to the princes they were first dismayed (verse 16). How graphic is that picture of the great men of the kingdom as "they turned shuddering one to another," terrified and confounded by the prophet's words! Perhaps some of them had heard the same words before unmoved. The time may come when the most hardened will be roused. The terror of princes might be a wholesome beginning of a genuine repentance. But if no appropriate action followed, it would soon die away, leaving the conscience the more hardened and demoralized. We need to "bring forth fruits meet for repentance." The princes inquired as to the origin of the roll. Were its words true? On what authority were they written? Such inquiries are reasonable. We should have a reason for accepting what we believe to be a Divine message. Yet it is dangerous to divert attention from the moral weight of truth by too much intellectual criticism about literary curiosities. The princes reported the matter to the king with a warning to Baruch—patriotic and generous conduct. The king's reception of the book was very different. Unlike the princes, who neither accepted the message without question, nor rejected it for its unpleasant contents, but inquired calmly and carefully as to the authority of it, Jehoiakim flew into a rage and hastily destroyed it. What an act of supreme folly! The truth was not the less important because the record of it was burnt. "We can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth" (2 Corinthians 13:8).

Jeremiah 36:22-26

The burning of the roll.

When the princes informed Jehoiakim of the circumstances connected with the reading of Jeremiah's prophecies, the king sent an attendant, Jehudi, to fetch the roll and read it to him. It has been said that he showed contempt for the Word of God by relegating the reading to a page instead of sending for Baruch. But Baruch had probably escaped to seclusion at the warning of the courtiers (verse 19), and as he had left the roll in other hands, what was more natural than that Jehoiakim should send for it without a thought of Jeremiah's appointment of a reader? Indeed, it matters little who reads; the question is—How is the reading received?

I. CONSIDER THE ACTION OF THE KING. It was December—the cold and rainy month. A fire blazed on the brazier. As the roll was read, the king cut it up and flung the sections into the fire, till he had destroyed the whole of it. His action was one of rage and folly. He would have no more of the prophet's dreadful words for himself; he would prevent them from further influencing others; he would vent his rage upon the record, though he could not touch the truths contained in it. Are there not many who inwardly sympathize with this violence of Jehoiakim? They dare not say they wish the Bible to be destroyed. But there are things in it which testify against them so strongly that they would keep them forever out of sight. The special features of Jehoiakim's action are significant.

1. It was beyond his rights. King as he was, the roll did not belong to him. Neither had he any authority over the inspired word of prophecy. Earthly power confers no privilege and power in Divine things.

2. It was brutally violent. Jehoiakim cut up and burnt the roll—that was all he could do. To refute its contents was beyond his power.

3. It was vain and futile. The roll might be burnt, but the truth it contained could not be destroyed, nor could it even be suppressed. Another roll could be written, and the burning of the first would be an advertisement for the second. Violent opposition thus benefits the cause it would destroy. The burning of Tyndale's Bibles was one of the best means for securing the circulation of a larger number of English Bibles.

4. It was suggested by a temptation. The fire was at hand—an unusual thing, apparently, just suited to the occasion. There is an evil providence as well as a higher providence of good. It is not safe to follow the superficial indication of events. That is as likely to come from below as from above.

5. It was deliberate. Piece by piece the roll was cut up and burnt. Hasty passion might excuse the first burning, but not the whole process.

6. It was complete. All the roll was consumed. There was no discrimination. The act was symbolical. The rejection Of one part of truth will lead to the rejection of the whole of it.

7. It was really injurious only to the perpetrator. The roll could not feel; the truth could not be destroyed; another roll could be written. But the burning of the roll was to the king's own loss. That roll contained the only available prescription for the healing of the distresses of himself and his kingdom. The Bible is really sent for the good of the worst of men. Their rejection of it is only to their own loss.

II. CONSIDER THE CONDUCT OF THE COURTIERS.

1. Some stood by and watched the burning. They did not aid it; but they did not hinder it. Therefore they shared the responsibility of the king. For we are responsible for the evil we will not restrain as well as for that we commit, so that in doing little harm we may yet be guilty of much. The courtiers had no valid excuse for their indifference. Royal authority cannot justify acquiescence in wrong. Personal fear is no excuse, since it is better to die for the right than desert it in sheer cowardice. These men showed no fear (verse 24). They had been alarmed (verse 16). But religious fears are transitory, and if not acted on leave the heart more hardened than they find it.

2. Some expostulated. These men had been more permanently affected by the reading of Baruch. They carried the impressions made in the temple to their conduct at the court. That is a proof of a real influence of the words of Jeremiah upon them. It is little that we feel the weight of religion in church. The test is how far this dwells with us in the world, and when it would urge to unpopular, difficult, or dangerous actions.

Jeremiah 36:27-32

The rewriting of the roll.

Under the inspiration of God Jeremiah requires Baruch to write another roll, containing all that was in the burnt roll and also some additional matter. We may take the following points connected with the rewriting of the roll—

I. THE FRUSTRATION OF ALL ATTEMPTS TO SUPPRESS DIVINE TRUTH. Jehoiakim is a king and a tyrant. But there is a limit to his power. It is vain for him to attempt to hinder the declaration of God's truth. If one roll is burnt another can be written. If one prophet were killed another could be raised up. Truth is eternal. It will survive all enmity, and it will find its way ultimately to the light. He who is against it plays a losing game.

II. THE PERSISTENCE OF GOD'S DESIGNS. They are not to be set aside by all the scheming and all the violence of men. God does not change because we oppose his will. There is something awful in the thought of that great, inflexible will, firm as granite against all the raging of man's foolish passions. By opposition we can only bring ourselves into collision with it to our hurt, as the waves dash themselves to spray on the rock they cannot break. We cannot stay its invincible progress—

"Though the mills of God grind slowly,

Yet they grind exceeding small."

If we wish to find God's will working with us and for our good, we must submit to it. We cannot expect the great God to change his plans to suit our inclinations.

III. THE CONTINUANCE OF GOD'S MERCY. Why should the roll be rewritten? The threats it contained could be executed without any reissue of them. If all fair warnings were disregarded, no more could be required. True, and no more were required, Yet out of his great, long suffering grace God issued his warnings afresh. This is the deeper truth that underlies the command to write out the prophecies once more. The same truth is illustrated in all the history of the Jews. God sent a succession of prophets, "rising up early and sending," to impress upon the people the same unheeded lessons. The continuance of revelation with us is a reminder of God's forbearing mercy.

Jeremiah 36:32

(last clause)

The development of revelation.

"And there were added besides unto them many like words." The second roll was a transcript of the first, but with numerous additions, though these were all similar in character to the original prophecies. We have here, on a small scale, an instance of that development of revelation which is evolved on similar principles through the whole realm of knowledge.

I. REVELATION FOLLOWS A PROCESS OF GRADUAL DEVELOPMENT. There are those to whom the word "development" has an evil sound, because of the excuse Roman Catholics have found in it for perversions of New Testament doctrines; while others object to it on account of its use in the scientific world, where they think it is meant to take the place of the will and wisdom of God. But the abuse of a word should not hide us from the important idea that it naturally denotes. Nothing is more true and grand and wonderful in all God's works than the principle of development which his great power and wisdom has made to run through them. The dawn advances through twilight to full day; the seed grows slowly—"first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear;" man begins life as an infant, and toils up to his full stature through years of childhood and youth; the kingdom of heaven began as a grain of mustard seed, and is slowly spreading till, from the work of that little company in the upper room at Jerusalem, "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." Revelation is no exception to the same universal Divine process. God did not flash all his truth upon the world in one dazzling moment. The Bible is a slow growth of many centuries. Progress is observable in the Old Testament. Isaiah saw further than it was given to Abraham to see. Jeremiah's vision of the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34) is in advance of the Levitical Law. The New Testament is a decided manifestation of broader knowledge and fuller light than the earlier revelation contained. Christ said to his disciples, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now" (John 16:12). St. Paul's teachings go beyond the doctrines held in his day by the Church at Jerusalem. We cannot say that God has nothing further to reveal. The Christian believes that "holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation." But all the analogy of God's past action would lead us to think that there may be much truth which men were not at first able to see in the Scripture, and yet which may be known in successive ages and found to be of great profit.

1. The human occasion of this development of revelation may be seen in the fact that the thoughts of men grow. God reveals his truth in human thinking. Men must seek him, and, feeling after the truth, are rewarded by God's revelation. But the revelation is proportionate to the progress of the search.

2. The Divine purpose of this development may be noted in such facts as these: God reveals truth as man is able to receive it, as he is spiritually educated to understand it, as he is in a moral condition to profit by it, as changing circumstances may bring need for new stages in the development of it.

II. THE DEVELOPMENT OF REVELATION IS CONSISTENT WITH ITSELF.

1. It does not set aside old truth. In the new roll all the contents of the old roll were rewritten, so that the fresh matter was not a substitute but an addition. Christ came to fulfil the Law and the prophets, not to destroy them (Matthew 5:17). The gospel exceeds but does not supersede the spiritual truth of the Old Testament. No new discovery can ever destroy what is once known to be real and true.

2. This development maintains an essential likeness between its earliest and its latest stages. The added Words of Jeremiah's roll were "like unto those which were first written. All truth must ultimately harmonize. One great test of a new doctrine is its agreement with previously established truth. All Christian truth must agree with the teachings of Christ and his apostles. That many so called developments of truth are really perversions of truth may be proved by the application of this test. Thus to us Protestants it seems clear that many Roman Catholic dogmas which profess to be developments of Christianity are so utterly contrary to its spirit that they must be regarded either as pagan additions or as relapses towards Judaism. So there are "liberal" notions that are really negations of essential elements of the gospel. It is monstrous to call these developments. The oak is a development of the acorn; but the hollow, blasted stump, which is the last stage in the history of the tree, is surely not a further result of the same process. Decay is not development.

HOMILIES BY A.F. MUIR

Jeremiah 36:1-4

(Vide Jeremiah 30:1-3.)—M.

Jeremiah 36:5-8

Vicarious ministry in holy things.

The "vicar," an ecclesiastical officer of mediaeval times,—explain the origin and nature of his duties. Show how large this question of vicarious service, and how universal its necessity, in business, society, the state, the Church, etc. This incident illustrates—

I. ITS ESSENTIAL NATURE. Not merely that one should do, be, or suffer instead of another, but as representative of him. More or less consciously, sympathetically, adequately. That one man and not another should do a given duty, for instance, may be but the chance of fortune; but that he should do it for and in place of that other is for him to be that other's "vicar." This essential character of the transaction is not altered by the fact of the superiority, equality, or inferiority of the substitute.

II. ITS SUGGESTIVE INTEREST. An element of pathos and mystery. Perhaps the end better served in this than in the alternative way. Conceivable that the reading, the authoritative publication, and the supernatural interest, may have been enhanced rather than otherwise by the substitution.

1. The community of true service. How different in importance, etc; the function of the prophet in receiving the message and communicating it from that of the scribe! yet both are on this occasion indispensable. One man's service the condition of another's or its complement. All true service associated in relation to final ends and rewards (John 4:37, John 4:38; Hebrews 11:40).

2. An impression of urgency produced. This was the message it was absolutely important for Judah to hear at that time. God always speaks at the right time, even when that requires extraordinary efforts and unusual means. The latter on this occasion must have eloquently suggested that now was the "accepted time" and "the day of salvation."

3. The earnestness of the prophet and his Inspirer. Jeremiah was the true friend of the nation and the devoted servant of Jehovah, therefore he did not excuse himself from the task because of its difficulties.

4. How inevitable the message? It was not to be evaded or suppressed. From the prison or hiding place the prophet wilt still be heard.

III. ITS ETHICS. Service of the kind here described was justifiable only on the supposition that the original or principal in responsibility is unable to do his own proper work, or that it can be better done by being delegated to another. Jeremiah is careful to explain why he does not do it himself. Would that the reasons for non-attendance in the sanctuary, or inoccupation in spiritual work, were as real and valid in the case of professing Christians!

1. On the part of the person instead of whom the service was rendered. He did not ask his substitute to do what he could do himself; and what he alone could do was done with the utmost care and diligence. It is calculated that the writing out of the roll from the prophet's dictation occupied nine months, and many delays and difficulties must have been experienced. His solicitude, too, on behalf of the proper delivery of the message by Baruch, is very instructive and inspiring. He sought (God's end in) the repentance of the people, and everything was to conspire to produce this. By example and moral influence he sought to fill Baruch with his own enthusiasm, and a sense of the importance of the task. The preacher is the vicar of the Church; so with the Sunday school teacher, etc. By prayer, sympathy, and loving cooperation Christians should encourage these.

2. On the part of the substitute. Baruch sought to do his part faithfully and with minute exactitude. His success in producing an impression proved how he exerted himself. A sense of responsibility should ever rest upon those who minister in the house of God. A certain measure of boldness was also required to do such a thug. The people or their princes might turn against him. Boldness is essential to the preaching of the gospel. But there cannot but occur to most readers the parallelism there is in all this to what Christ has undertaken for us. Another temple from whose service we are "shut up" by reason of personal unfitness, or that we remain in the flesh. Christ, our great Forerunner and Vicar, or Substitute, has entered into its holy of holies, with his own eternal sacrifice and intercession. Upon him all our hope must be placed; we must follow him in spirit; and we must imitate Jeremiah in the zeal and labour with which we execute our part of the great process of salvation.—M.

Jeremiah 36:9-16

Free course of the Word of God.

The progress made by the messages of Jeremiah when read aloud in the scribe's cell at the entrance of the higher court of the temple was very remarkable, and fully justified the great care and ingenuity with which it was effected.

I. A SANCTIFIED INGENUITY SHOULD BE SHOWN IN TAKING ADVANTAGE OF OR CREATING SUITABLE OCCASIONS FOR MAKING KNOWN GOD'S WORD.

II. THE WORD OF GOD IS COMMENDED BY ITS GENERAL AND SPECIAL HUMAN INTEREST.

III. WHEN ONE INSTRUMENTALITY FAILS, GOD WILL RAISE UP ANOTHER, UNTIL HIS MESSAGE ATTAINS ITS DESTINATION.—M.

Jeremiah 36:16-18

The mystery of inspiration.

I. THE NATURAL DESIRE TO SOLVE IT.

1. This has its root in mere curiosity. A desire to know for the sake of knowing—laudable enough in itself, but in danger of passing into irreverence and idle speculation. Religious movements and supernatural phenomena have excited this wonder in all ages. Religion interests many as a problem, where it is refused attention or respect as a law.

2. This is increased by the attraction of the forbidden and unlawful. An anticipation of the "profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science [the knowledge] falsely so called," against which Timothy is warned (1 Timothy 6:20; cf. Colossians 2:8, Colossians 2:18, Colossians 2:19). The sin of Simon Magus was analogous.

3. It is also increased by the natural mind's intolerance of mystery. There are multitudes who would willingly inquire how a miracle may be wrought, who have no desire to learn why. It is humiliating to our natural pride to realize that there are so many things in the universe we cannot explain. The authority which the supernatural lends to the doctrines and revelations of religion is resented.

II. HOW IT IS SATISFIED.

1. The direction of their questioning. They asked concerning the mechanical process—the manner, etc; of the prophet, apparently unconscious that the real problem lay behind all that. "Did the prophet stammer whilst the inspiration was upon him? Was his manner wild or strange?" Now, we know that the manner of the person receiving Divine inspiration may be perfectly indistinguishable from that of those who are under ordinary human conditions. But they fell into the error of supposing that, when that was determined, the solution of the problem would be advanced.

2. Where it ended. There is no further curiosity; they remain at arm's length from the kernel of the whole question. The moral conditions of it are of no concern to them. Theirs is the radical carelessness with respect to religion as such which characterizes the carnal mind. Their inquiries ended just where they ought to have begun; just as those of many nowadays—lingerers or loiterers in the perch, who never enter into the temple. Conscience could answer much that curiosity leaves untouched. The deep necessity of God communion forevery man and nation to which it witnesses, is what the whole process of revelation presupposes. God will not leave man alone. His supernatural workings continually witness to his presence and authority. And man cannot do without God and his Word.—M.

Jeremiah 36:20-26

Jehoiakim's penknife,

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.

II. THE HARDNESS OF HEART PRODUCED BY CONTINUAL SIN.

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 (Jeremiah 36:30, Jeremiah 36:31).

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.

Jeremiah 36:26

The Lord hid them.

I. TO WHAT STRAITS THE CAUSE OF GOD IS SOMETIMES REDUCED! Those in high position are opposed to it, and its advocates and representatives have to seek concealment. No open ministry was, therefore, possible. Self-preservation had to be first attended to. There have been times when religion was tolerated, but as under apology; this was an instance of utter exclusion. How good men must have despaired and bad men triumphed! All that God could do for his servants seemed to be to hide them. At the same time, how easy it would be to miscalculate the moral power of the Word! Is not persecution better than languid indifference?

II. HOW HOPELESS THEIR EFFORTS WHO CONTEND WITH GOD! With seeming ease and yet mysterious skill, the secrets of nature are made to subserve his will. And even that which is, as it were, an extremity—a last resource—is so mysteriously effected as to convey the impression of infinite skill and endless resources.

1. They are baffled at the very outset. There seems to have been some interposition of the Divine in making the concealment of the prophet and his companion so inscrutable; and it impressed men. All the means at their disposal were exhausted in their efforts to discover them, but in vain. It is:

2. With an apparent ease. It is but one move on the great chessboard, but it is effectual and sufficient. It is even conceivable that the pursued took no special pains to conceal themselves, but left it in the hand of him whom they served.

3. And with significant gentleness. Some grander deliverance he might have effected, but this is enough. And it simply prevents the wicked king and his court from adding further to their guilt. How thankful ought wicked men to be that they are not suffered to carry out all their evil designs! So God sometimes "prevents," that he may not have to pursue and destroy.

III. HOW SECURE GOD'S SERVANTS ARE WHEN HE UNDERTAKES FOR THEM! It is merely said he "hid them," that their concealment was effectual and inviolate being understood without further words. Elijah (1 Kings 17:2) and his successor (2 Kings 6:1-33.) were so hidden. The Lord of the universe knows its every secret.

1. In temporal things. The children of God will not escape misfortune or sorrow. Persecutions are amongst the promises. But the true evil of evil will not reach them. They cannot know it. He hides them in his "secret place" until the storm and fury are overpast. Nay, in distress his tenderness will be the more conspicuous and manifest. "Hide me under the shadow of thy wings" (Psalms 17:8); "I flee unto thee to hide me" (Psalms 143:9). There is an inward, inaccessible peace, which is the gift of every true disciple (John 14:27).

2. In things spiritual. Isaiah spoke of the day when "a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind," etc. (Isaiah 32:2). And we know that our "life is hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3). When the unpardoned shall call upon the rocks to fall on them, and the hills to cover them from his wrath, they that believe shall be safe in the keeping of their Lord.

3. And this is so because the saints are precious in his sight. He keeps them as the apple of his eye. Not a hair of their head shall fall to the ground without their Father. They are the firstfruits of his Son's agony and sacrifice, and bear his likeness. All the resources of his kingdom are held in readiness for their salvation.—M.

Jeremiah 36:27-32

The Word of God: wherein it can and wherein it cannot be destroyed.

I. WHEREIN IT CAN BE DESTROYED.

1. In its outward form and medium. The roll; inspired records; religious institutions and means of grace; individual believers and Churches.

2. As a vehicle of blessing to a man's own soul. Jehoiakim deliberately cut off his own salvation, and, destroying the roll, he caused his name to be blotted out of the book of life. To him it brought no blessing. We can destroy the Word of God in this way for ourselves, by heedlessness, unbelief, disrespect, enmity.

II. WHEREIN IT CANNOT BE DESTROYED. Even over the material embodiment and vehicle of the Word shall we not believe that Providence watches? God restores, enlarges, multiplies his Word. But:

1. The spiritual Word cannot be destroyed. It is independent of stone, or parchment, or paper; is continually renewed by the Divine Spirit in its communications with the children of men. Even at the worst there is a "law written upon the heart." It cannot be too strongly impressed upon men's minds that, were all the Bibles and manuscripts in the world destroyed, God would restore his Word and continue to reveal himself; like that temple which, destroyed, would be raised in three days again.

2. The consequences of God's Word, whether these be good or evil. What he willeth will be, and his Word stands sure. "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away," etc.; i.e. what it foretells and declares will remain certain and will fulfil itself. It secures to the saint an indestructible life and inheritance, and to the sinner the reward of his transgression. The true escape from the thrcatenings of the Divine Word is not to destroy it, but to obey its teachings and yield ourselves to the discipline and grace of Christ.—M.

HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY

Jeremiah 36:1-32

Hearers of God's Word.

This chapter brings before us an instructive variety of these hearers.

I. SUCH AS THE PROPHET. To him and such as he the Word of God came, and was received with reverent submission and diligently obeyed at all costs. They could say, "Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth."

II. SUCH AS THE PEOPLE GENERALLY. (Jeremiah 36:10.) The mass seemed unaffected. We do not read of their being in any wise wrought upon by what they had heard. But there was an exception (Jeremiah 36:11). Michaiah was really aroused, impressed, and alarmed. Often it is thus; the general congregation unmoved, but one here, one there, touched and led to God.

III. SUCH AS MICHAIAH. We have seen how it affected him. He could not keep it to himself, but went to tell the princes of it (Jeremiah 36:12). He unfeignedly believed. Now, he came of a godly house. It was his grandfather who, in King Josiah's day, had first received the book of the Law which had been found in the temple. Hilkiah the high priest gave it to him, knowing, no doubt, that it would be reverently dealt with. And so it was; for first he read it himself, and then read it aloud to the young king, and that led to the reformation which the king carried out. And the father of this Michaiah was a man of a like spirit. From the balcony of his house Baruch had read his book to the people; Michaiah's father had lent him a pulpit. And it was this same man who, with two others, tried, but in vain, to stay the king's hand when about to burn the book (verse 25). Hence Michaiah came of a godly stock. It is the training of such homes that more than aught else prepares and predisposes the heart to receive the Word of God.

IV. SUCH AS THE PRINCES. These are a very instructive group, (verses 11-26). They listened patiently to the Word, and gave it much attention. They were much moved, and desired to hear it over again exactly as it had been given, and so they sent for Baruch, and listened in like manner to him. They seriously deliberate, and resolve to go and warn the king; for that in all probability was their motive. They show affection to God's servants, and desire to protect both them and the written Word. They go in to the king, notwithstanding they must have known the peril of so doing. And some of them endeavour to stay the king from his evil intent to destroy the book. But there they stop. The king's rage overpower them, and they keep silence when they ought to utter strong protest. They are an illustration of "the fear of man which bringeth a snare." How often the like cause leads to like unfaithfulness still!

V. SUCH AS THE KING. The words fix his attention, but they excite his rage and then they ensure his doom. He comes to hate both the Word and the writers of the Word, and he disregards the feeble remonstrances of its timid friends. Thus he seals his own destruction, as such ever do. We are hearers of the Word. To which class do we belong?—C.

Jeremiah 36:2

The written Word.

"Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee" "This is the first recorded instance of the formation of a canonical book, and of the special purpose of its formation." No doubt other prophets had committed to writing more or less of their teachings—the quotations of one prophet from another, the later from the earlier, prove this; but here is the first record of any such act, and hence it has especial interest. It is the forerunner of all those several Scriptures which together form now the depository of our religion, and justify the well known saying of Chillingworth, "The Bible and the Bible only is the religion of Protestants." For note—

I. OUR RELIGION DEPENDS ON THE WRITTEN WORD. Great contempt has been poured on the idea of a "book revelation." As if there were something even ridiculous in the idea of God revealing himself by means of a book. A recent missionary traveller (Gilmour) among the Mongols states that they feel the force of this objection very strongly, and that when the missionary holds up his little Bible as the revelation of God, it seems to them very absurd. But these people can claim distinguished companionship amongst our own countrymen. And in addition to the rejection of a book revelation at all, this particular book, the Bible, is objected to exceedingly. All manner of ridicule is poured on it, and there is scarce a single ground on which fault could be found with it which some one has not occupied. But in reply note—

II. THE WRITTEN WORD IS, HOWEVER, NOT THE REVELATION BUT ONLY THE RECORD OF IT. It is not claimed for it to be more than this. God did not give to mankind a book, but he revealed himself to "holy men of old," and especially through the Lord Jesus Christ. And this book is the record of that revelation. Hence the only question that concerns us is—Is it a faithful record?

III. BUT SUCH A RECORD WAS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. For if the existence of God be allowed, and that it is his desire to reclaim men from their sin and to bring them back to himself, it may be asked:

1. How could this be done except by his revealing himself to men? They must be enabled to know him, and to know him in such manner as would be likely to move them in the direction desired.

2. But if it be granted that a revelation was a necessity, how could that revelation be of use to mankind at large unless it were put on record? For all events are related to time and space; they must have happened—God's revelation of himself amongst others—somewhen and somewhere. But how, except by a record, could those who dwelt in other generations and in other parts of the world know of this revelation? But for that it may as well not have been.

3. And so long as the Divine ideas are conveyed to our mind, what does it matter about the means employed? All the magnificence of nature—the Alpine heights, the starry universe, etc.—serve us only as they convey true and worthy ideas, as they wake up in us fit and appropriate thoughts. If they fail in this, they might as well not be so far as we are concerned. But there are many who never have opportunities of beholding the magnificence of nature—their lives are one long round of sordid toil in scenes dark and squalid; and others who have such opportunities are too little educated to learn from them what they assuredly have to tell. The road that leads from nature up to nature's God is a thinly travelled one; few go that way. But now, if by the written Word, which can be carried everywhere, perpetuated, multiplied, and is everywhere and at all times accessible—if by this there can be conveyed to the mind fit, true, and heart moving ideas about God, what an advantage this is! Instead of being a cause of scorn, it should awaken our gratitude.

4. And those features in this record which seem to some unworthy of its great mission, these really are of great service. No doubt there is much of homeliness and of trivial and seemingly insignificant detail in this record. It is a very plain, prosaic book in many parts. But is not this a great boon? Had God's revelation of himself to us been accompanied by a blaze of splendour, with such manifestations of Divine power to the senses or to the intellect as some seem to desire, the revelation would have been lost in the record; no one would look at the picture, their attention being so much occupied with the setting. Hence it is good for us that we live so long after the times of the Bible. It is expedient for us that Christ has gone away. For in proportion to men's nearness to those times "events having God in them took a more forcible hold upon their mind than God in the events." The atmosphere of time is needed in order to our right viewing of the marvellous facts of the Bible.

IV. OUR ONE QUESTION ISIS THE RECORD FAITHFUL?.

1. As to the facts themselves—in their main substance and meaning. This question is quite apart from inspiration. Nothing but honesty and intelligence are asked for here. Of course, if any start with the assumption that the supernatural is not, and hence miracles are by their very nature impossible, and the belief of them absurd, such a one will refuse all credence to this record. But first let his assumption be proved ere doubt be thrown on either the honesty or the intelligence of the writers of the Bible.

2. As to the interpretation and meaning of the facts they record. "Just as on gazing at a picture of Raphael's we should rejoice to have at hand a companion who had familiarized himself with the spirit of the great artist and acquired an insight into his genius, to furnish us with such brief notices as might assist us to a comprehension of the profounder ideas expressed by the painting, for want of which it would lose very much of its intellectual meaning; so with the memoirs of Christ before us, as the spiritual revelation of God to our religious sense, we require, in order to adequate instruction and profit, the comments of … those who shall be qualified to point it out to our duller vision. What poets are to the natural exhibition of God in his works, these men will be to the moral exhibition of God in his Son." Now, that the sacred writers answer to this need is shown by the fact that they "commend the truth to every man's conscience in the sight of God." In this commendation to our conscience is the evidence that they have read aright the facts they record. And to this we may fearlessly appeal. We do not assert this of men's theologies and divinity schemes—too many of them outrage the conscience and trouble the moral sense; but we do assert it of the great verities of the faith, as taught in the Scriptures, and of the doctrines which the Bible as a whole plainly teaches.

"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

Than read to doubt or read to scorn."

Cf. on this whole subject Miall's 'Bases of Belief.'—C.

Jeremiah 36:3

It may be.

We can understand the prophet thus speaking, but how can there be anything uncertain or contingent with God? And yet it is he who here speaks and says, "It may be." We are accustomed to say, "God knows all the past, and all the present, and all the future (cf. Isaiah 46:9-11). Reason and Scripture alike seem to say that there can be nothing probable with God. But yet this is his word. Why does he thus speak? Perhaps—

I. BECAUSE THERE WAS NO LAW, NO DECREE, AGAINST THE PEOPLE'S REPENTANCE. He had made no such law, and man had not. There is no decree of reprobation.

II. IT MAY BE CONSISTENT, AFTER ALL, WITH THE TRUTH OF THINGS FOR GOD THUS TO SPEAK, THOUGH WE CANNOT SEE HOW. We infer certain conclusions from what we read and learn about God, and these conclusions seem to deny the possibility of there being any "it may be" with him. But we may be wrong after all, and the fact that he does thus speak lends to the suspicion that we are.

III. BECAUSE IT WOULD BE ILL FOR US WERE HE TO REVEAL THE CERTAINTIES OF THINGS. If they were to be such as we would desire, we should cease to labour for them. If otherwise, we should sit down in despair. But God desires us to labour and pray, and therefore hides the future from our eyes. Presumption and despair are both great evils; therefore to prevent them, God speaks after the manner of men, if not after the manner of God.

IV. BECAUSE HE INTENDS HIS "MAY BE" TO BECOME "SHALL BE." He would have us fellow workers with him, and therefore he encourages our efforts, but hides from us be that which would lead us to think them unnecessary. And probably the "may be" will become "shall be," though not at the time nor in the manner we expect. Let us, therefore, be ever cheered forward when God says, "It may be."—C.

Jeremiah 36:23

The indestructible Word.

The king's knife and fire did what they could to destroy the prophet's word, but with what result this chapter shows. The king was Jehoiakim; the prophet, Jeremiah; the word, his written prophecies. It was necessary that these should be written down. The army of Babylon was already in the land, and drawing near to the doomed city of Jerusalem, if they had not already captured it for the first time. There was no hope of successful resistance. Therefore, for a testimony when all that had been foretold came to pass, and for a solace and warning to that and to all coming generations, it was necessary that the twenty-three years' witness which the prophet had borne against that guilty nation should be put on record. Jeremiah was "shut up," whether by his own will, or the word of the Lord, or for fear of his enemies, we cannot certainly say; but Baruch, who seems to have been to Jeremiah as Timothy to Paul, was commanded to write these prophecies, and then, on the "fasting day," to read them in the hearing of all the people. He did so. One of his hearers, alarmed and troubled, hastened away to the council of the princes, and told them what he had heard. Baruch was sent for, and declared again what he had before read to the people. The book was too terrible to show to the king; they therefore commanded that it and its author should be concealed, whilst they went in to the king to announce its fearful contents. A third time these prophecies were recited, hut the king demanded that the book itself should be read to him. But when brought and the reading had begun, the angry king had no patience to listen beyond the first three or four leaves, but snatching it from the hand of the reader, he vented his rage upon it by cutting and hacking it with his knife, and then, to make short work of it, cast it, in spite of the horror-stricken entreaties of his princes, into the burning coals before him, where it was utterly consumed. Then he commands, but in vain, for "the Lord hid them," that Baruch and Jeremiah be arrested; but the Lord commands that these prophecies be written again, which was done, with the doom of the king added, and "beside them many like words." But this King Jehoiakim, in his dealing with the Word of God, and in its dealing with him, has had many successors. He is the type of—

I. THOSE WHO ARE IMPATIENT WITH THE WORD OF GOD. Jehoiakim only heard three or four leaves read, when he put a stop to the reading altogether in the foolish way we have seen. He would not hear the whole. Did any man ever destroy the Bible who knew it wholly? Many have thrown it into the fire who have heard or read a part only. The difficulty is in the "three or four leaves." How many stumble because they won't read on!

II. THOSE WHO BECOME VERY ANGRY WITH THE BIBLE. To men of this king's stamp the Bible has not one word of comfort, commendation, or hope. It is all full of thunder and storm. It is a dreadful book to the impenitent, No wonder that he snatches it from the reader's hand, and hacks at it with his knife, and then flings it into the blazing fire. Yes; be like this king, and you will do as he did, and be done unto as he.

III. THOSE WHO STRIVE TO DESTROY THE BIBLE.

1. Some would only partly do this. They admit a large amount of good in the book; they only desire to cut out what they think is otherwise. Theologians use their penknives. They practically put out of the Bible what makes against their favourite ideas. Science seems to be forever at this miserable cutting. Philosophy is equally guilty; but sin is worst of all. It loves not the hard things the Bible will keep saying against it; therefore it would cut them out—only it cannot.

2. There are those who would destroy the book altogether. What Bible burnings there have been! The histories of pagan and Romish persecutions are full of them. Are there none now? What is the difference between such burning and utter disregard of the book as too many are guilty of? If we trample it underfoot, in our hearts, our lips, our lives, how could burning it be any worse?

IV. THOSE WHO FIND THE BIBLE TOO STRONG FOR THEM. "O Galilaean, thou hast conquered!" said the Emperor Julian shortly before he died. And that has been the confession in regard to the Word of God on the part of all those who have tried to destroy it (verse 30). The Word of God can neither be bound nor burned. It has been cut, cast into flames, proscribed, branded, corrupted, and treated with every conceivable form of opprobrium; but here it is today, a living and mighty factor in the lives of the foremost men and nations throughout the whole world. And the ungodly who practically seek to destroy it for themselves, they will find they cannot do this. Its truths will come back, its teachings reassert themselves, and will add beside "many like words"—C.

Jeremiah 36:26

The Lord's hidden ones.

"But the Lord hid them." He has many such, and in all manner of unthought of places. If we read the history of the world aright, how continually God is bringing forth his hidden ones to render service to their fellow men! "Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee!" Think of some of these hidden ones.

I. SUCH AS THE PROPHET HERE TOLD OF. And how God has hidden his people from the rage of men! "In the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me." Let the records of the martyr Churches in Rome, Switzerland, and wherever God's saints have been persecuted—let all these tell how he has often hidden his servants. Moses was hidden three months when an infant; then again with Jethro in Midian afterwards. How God hid David again and again from Saul!

II. THOSE DESTINED FOR GREAT SERVICE. How often, when a Church seems to have been brought to its lowest, God raises up some one who is the means of reviving it! David amongst the sheepfolds. Gideon and the judges. Our Lord at Nazareth. In all unlikeliest places God has his hidden ones, whom in due time he will manifest to the surprise and joy of his Church.

III. SUCH AS ARE NOT YET IN THE VISIBLE CHURCH. Amongst those whom we deem outside the Church, God has his chosen, whom one day he will call. Who, looking on the murderers of St. Stephen, would have thought that amongst them God had one of his choicest servants? This is the dispensation, not of universal conversion—that is to come—but of calling out those who shall be the instruments of the universal ingathering. God is blessing his Church that "his way may be known upon earth." etc. We are therefore to despair of no nation, community, class, family, or neighbourhood. In all God has his hidden ones.

"O grace, into unlikeliest hearts

It is thy wont to come."

IV. THE BLESSED DEAD. There is to be a manifestation of the sons of God. Meanwhile their "life is hid with Christ in God." "Wherefore comfort one another with these words."—C.

Jeremiah 36:28

Disaster not defeat.

What dismay must have filled the minds of those who saw the book destroyed, and of those who heard of it—Baruch, Jeremiah, and others!

I. IT WAS GREAT DISASTER. The book was most precious. See its gracious intent. See how it had already moved many for good. What might not be expected from it?

II. AND IT SEEMED IRRETRIEVABLE. There was no copy of it kept. No human memory could reproduce it. The word had not sunk into the hearts of the people so as to render it no longer needed.

III. BUT THE DISASTER WAS NOT DEFEAT. God interposed, commanded the prophet to write again, enabled him to do so, supplied him with many more like words.

IV. BY MEANS OF IT MORE GOOD WAS WROUGHT. What endorsement of the Word did its remarkable reproduction supply! How it would show the vanity of all human rage against the Divine will! How the faith of the godly would be strengthened, whilst the daring of the wicked would be rebuked!

V. AND THIS INSTANCE IS BUT ONE OUT OF MYRIADS MORE. Read the history of the Church, and see how perpetually out of seeming disaster God has brought real good and increased good. And so in our own personal histories, providential and spiritual alike. "Trust thou in the Lord at all times."—C.

HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG

Jeremiah 36:3

God's eye to every possibility.

I. THE THING WHICH GOD GREATLY DESIRES. That man may repent, thus enabling him to forgive. He ever has his eyes on the ways of evil men, noticing the slightest sign of their weariness in them and disposition to leave them. This is always a thing to be suspected and prepared for. That any man should suddenly become uneasy and hesitating in the midst of evil courses is nothing wonderful when we consider that man was made for goodness and holiness. Thus what else should we look for than frequent expressions of desire on the part of God that man should again be found in the right way?

II. GOD LEAVES NOTHING UNDONE TO BRING THIS ABOUT. There is something even touching about this word, "it may be." As if it were allowed that probabilities all pointed in one unfavourable direction, but still not one of them was such a certainty that the contrary possibility should be excluded. As the common proverb says, "While there's life there's hope." Every instance of a rejected appeal and an abused prophet lessens the probability, but it does not destroy the possibility. God goes on sending his prophets. Each man comes with his own personality, his own peculiar emphasis, and thus with evermore the same message there is variety both in the messenger and the form of his message. And at last, when the messenger gets shut up, his words are written down and transmitted by another. We cannot get rid of the Word of God. There are a thousand channels to the heart of man, and the violent stoppage of some may only result in the enlargement and efficacy of others.

III. THERE IS AN EXAMPLE FOR US IN GOSPEL WORK. Scripture shows us God using many ways in trying to get at the human heart. Surely the great principle in this matter is that every way is right if it be not wrong in itself. We must not do evil that good may come; but we must be all things to all men that we may save some.

IV. THERE MAY BE ADDED GUILT TO THOSE REJECTING THE GOSPEL. It was one of the worst elements in the guilt of Israel that it had been indifferent to so many appeals and such various ones. God did not send these people into exile upon one refusal or even upon a few. There was sufficient intimation of his demands and his designs. And we may take it that there always is sufficient intimation. With the constant extension of gospel effort and the wider diffusion of Bibles, tracts, and all sorts of printed agencies, we may say that each generation gets more of light than the one before it. Indeed, we may lay it down as a general principle that when all the opportunities of every human being are summed up, it will be found that he is without any excuse for pleading ignorance or doubt as to God's demands.—Y.

Jeremiah 36:6

Things new and old.

I. THE OLD. The message itself was old. It had been proclaimed before in parts and on different occasions. There was not, indeed, opportunity for anything new. The audience also was to some extent old. But then let it always be understood that God speaks according to the necessities of the case, not according to the itching ear of man ever clamouring for novelty and relief from ennui. "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither wilt they be persuaded though one rose from the dead." There may come a time in every man's life, when it is not the new but the old and neglected or misunderstood that will prove the necessity of the soul.

II. THE NEW.

1. The messenger. Not Jeremiah, but Baruch; not a prophet, but a prophet's deputy; not a word spoken, but a word read; not a part of Jeremiah's utterances, but the whole, so that people might have it brought home to them how much they had neglected. Old truth appears in new framework and new relations, so that it may arrest people who have become indifferent to the old associations. There was a time when Jeremiah's face was fresh, and curiosity would make people stop to hear what this babbler might say. But after hearing him often, they ceased to heed him. Then Baruch comes forward, and words that were an exact repetition of words heard before got a flavour of novelty.

2. The occasion. The fasting day. Read Isaiah 58:1-14, carefully to discover the avowed purpose and yet utter uselessness of the fasting day in Israel. The people met together to acknowledge their sins, to punish their bodies, to please God, to avert his displeasure. It might, therefore, be assumed that then, if ever, they were in a state prepared to listen to the volume of one great prophet's utterance. If anything was to be got out of seizing the best available occasion, then surely it was to be got here. Thus we learn how occasion adds responsibility to utterance; responsibility both for him who speaks and those who hear. These people were not stopped in the street or the market; their homes were not invaded by prophetic messages; they had no pretence for saying they were interfered with. They put themselves in Baruch's way. His work, as reader of Jeremiah's prophecies, was in exact harmony with what ought to have been the feelings and desires of his audience.

3. The audience. That audience, as we have said above, was to some extent old, but to some extent also it would be new. A new message to some people in Jerusalem, and quite new doubtless to the bulk of those who came from the cities of Judah to Jerusalem. The whole proceeding helps us to see how valuable the public reading of the Scriptures may be. For old as they are, with so much in them that savours of vanished ages and customs, their have, nevertheless, to do with perennial wants, miseries, and possibilities.—Y.

Jeremiah 36:23

Burning the Word of the Lord.

I. THE KING'S MOTIVES IN THIS ACT. Perhaps he was not conscious of any distinct set of motives. He was but a despot, and despots are in many things like spoiled children; they act not from any clear reason, good or bad, so much as from the caprice of the moment. If this act had been a singularity of Jehoiakim's, there would have been less need to attend to it, but unhappily it only illustrates a whole series of acts by those occupying stations of power among men. Putting Jeremiah in prison, burning Baruch's roll, slaying the innocents at Bethlehem, putting apostles in prison, and all the long list of martyrdoms,—what are these but the same essential act all through? Jehoiakim would have been in full sympathy with Roman Catholic priests burning the Scriptures in translations understood of the common people. Jehoiakim was a man buttressed with privileges, pampered with privileges; and here he had a document forced upon his ears which contained assertions by no means compatible with the continuance of his privileges. And there was one thing he could do—he could get rid of the offensive document. He stands before us a great example of those—and how many there are!—who, in their eagerness to get rid of an unpleasant subject, take the first means that comes to hand for getting rid of it.

II. LOOK AT THE ACT IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORY. Jehoiakim burnt Baruch's roll, but he did not destroy Jeremiah's prophecies; nor did he nullify the truth of Jeremiah's predictions; nor did he stop other prophetic utterances. If Jehoiakim can, he may burn, not only Baruch's roll, but Baruch and Jeremiah as well. Suppose this done; yet Ezekiel, Daniel, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, and probably many more, of whose words we know nothing, have to be reckoned with. This is the peculiar folly of men like Jehoiakim, that they perform acts monumental of their folly. Jehoiakim might have quietly said, "If these words are true, then we cannot make them false; and if they be false, time will show their falsity, and bring to shame both the dictator and the writer of them." Instead of acting thus with dignified endurance, Jehoiakim, in burning the roll, challenged the attention not only of his own people but of all ages. He did what there was no sort of need for him to do. It may be said—Why not apply the same line of remark to Luther burning the pope's bull? To this the answer is obvious, that Luther's act was a message of renunciation, a summons of the papacy's bondslaves to freedom, an act of sublime trust in God. Looked at from the point of view given in the present, it is seen to have been an inspiration. But what did Jehoiakim's act amount to? Only empty bravado. He had nothing to fear from men. Luther did something when he burnt the bull. Jehoiakim did nothing but proclaim his own shame, and advertise the glory of that God over against whose throne his paltry throne had been set up.—Y.

Jeremiah 36:26

Jehovah hiding his servants.

I. THE NEED OF SUCH INTERPOSITION. Baruch and Jeremiah had already been told by the princes to hide (verse 19); but what was any effort purely of their own likely to avail? Indeed, it is only as we appreciate the uselessness of a purely human effort for this purpose that we shall see the need of a Divine intervention. God does not mean miracles and special providences to do the work of man's prudence. But when it is made evident that man can do little or nothing, then God's action appears manifest and admonitory. It may be too much to say that this action of God was intended as an answer to Jehoiakim's audacity in burning the roll; but it was an answer nevertheless.

II. THE MANNER OF THE INTERPOSITION. This is left untold. Either Jeremiah could not explain the manner of his hiding, or it was purposely left unexplained to heighten the impressiveness of the fact. It may have been through a marvellous combination of human kindness and sympathy, such as showed a Divine directing hand; or there may have been miracle. God is an effectual hider. How much there is hidden away in the very things we see, so that knowledge may be kept from all but the humble and obedient! God could not be the revealer that he is, unless he were also an effectual hider. The great end was gained if people of the right sort in Jerusalem were made to feel that this hiding was in no sort the work of man, and could only be explained by the intervention of a higher power.

III. THE RESULT OF THE INTERPOSTION. Jeremiah was hidden and preserved because his work was not yet done. HIS words had to be put down in writing; and it is interesting to notice that the second copy was an improvement on the first. All that was in the first was also in the second, and many like words were added. God never does wonders for the mere sake of doing wonders. When he hides his servants, or delivers them from prison, it is soon made manifest that he had a purpose in view. We have to remember this in reading such a book as the Acts of the Apostles. Stephen is left to be stoned to death, while Peter has an angel to take him out of prison. The fact was Stephen had the greatest work of his life to do in the hour of his death. "Man is immortal till his work is done." Whatsoever God has clearly given us to do, we must go on with it boldly, yet prudently, sure that he will take care of us who hid Jeremiah in the hour of his danger.—Y.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Jeremiah 36:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/jeremiah-36.html. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 24th, 2019
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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