The Word Made Fresh
1This word came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the fourth year of Judah’s King Jehoiakim son of Josiah:
2“Write on a scroll all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel and Judah and all the nations, from the day I spoke to you during the reign of Josiah until now. 3Perhaps when they hear of all the disasters I have planned for them they might turn from their wicked ways and then I can forgive them of their sins.”
4Then Jeremiah summoned Baruch son of Neriah, who wrote on a scroll what Jeremiah dictated, all the words the LORD had spoken to him. 5Then Jeremiah told Baruch, “I am forbidden to enter the LORD’s house. 6You go, and on a day of fasting read the word of the LORD that you have written at my dictation in the hearing of all the people. Also read them to the people of Judah who have come up from their towns. 7Perhaps they will plead with the LORD and turn away from their wickedness, because the anger the LORD has pronounced against these people is great.” 8Baruch son of Neriah did what Jeremiah the prophet told him to do and read the words of the LORD from the scroll in the LORD’s house.
9In the ninth month of the fifth year of the reign of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah all the people in Jerusalem, plus those who came from the towns of Judah, proclaimed a fast before the LORD. 10Then Baruch read Jeremiah’s words from the scroll in the hearing of all the people. He read it in the LORD’s house in the room of Gemariah son of Shaphan the secretary in the upper court at the entry of the New Gate of the LORD’s house.
11When Micaiah son of Gemariah son of Shaphan heard the LORD’s words from the scroll 12he went to the king’s house and entered the secretary’s office where all the officials were sitting – Elishama the secretary, Delaiah son of Shemaiah, Elnathan son of Achbor, Gemariah son of Shaphan, Zedekiah son of Hananiah, and the other officers. 13Micaiah told them what Baruch had read from the scroll in the hearing of the people. 14Then they sent Jehudi son of Nethaniah son of Shelemiah son of Cushi to tell Baruch to bring them the scroll he had read in the hearing of the people. So, Baruch son of Neriah came to them with the scroll in his hand. 15They said, “Sit down, and read the scroll to us.” Baruch read it to them. 16When they heard the words they looked at each other in alarm and said to Baruch, “We must let the king hear these words.” 17They asked Baruch if Jeremiah had dictated the words of the scroll to him. 18Baruch said, “Yes, he dictated the words to me, and I wrote them in ink on the scroll.” 19They said, “Go and hide, you and Jeremiah, and tell no one where you are.”
20They left the scroll in the office of Elishama the secretary and went to the king’s court and reported all the words to the king. 21Then the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll. He took it from Elishama’s office and read it to the king and all the officials who stood beside him. 22This was in the ninth month, and the king was sitting in his winter office with a fire burning in the brazier in front on him. 23As Jehudi read, the king would cut three or four columns off with his penknife and throw them into the fire until the entire scroll had been burned in the brazier. 24Neither the king nor any of his officers who heard the words in the scroll tore their garments for they were not alarmed. 25Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, but he wouldn’t listen to them. 26The king ordered his son Jerahmeel and Seraiah son of Azriel and Shelemiah son of Abdeel to arrest Jeremiah the prophet and his secretary Baruch, but the LORD hid them.
27After the king had burned the scroll containing the words Jeremiah had dictated to Baruch, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying, 28“Find another scroll and write on it the words that were in the first scroll which King Jehoiakim of Judah burned. 29As far as King Jehoiakim of Judah is concerned, say, ‘This is what the LORD says: You have dared to burn this scroll and you have said, why have you written that the king of Babylon will surely come and destroy this land and will empty it of people and animals? 30So, this is what the LORD says concerning King Jehoiakim of Judah: None of his sons will sit on the throne of David, and his dead body will be thrown out to lie in the heat of the day and the frost of the night. 31And I will punish him and his children and his servants for their foolishness. I will bring on them and on the people of Jerusalem and Judah all the disasters with which I threatened them, but they wouldn’t listen.'”
32Then Jeremiah gave another scroll to his secretary, Baruch son of Neriah, who then wrote on it at Jeremiah’s dictation the words that had been on the first scroll King Jehoiakim of Judah had burned, and Jeremiah added to them many similar words.
1-3: Another flashback, this time to the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim, who ruled from about 608 B.C. until 597 B.C. Jehoiakim’s reign began under Egyptian domination (2 Kings 23:34-35) and ended in exile to Babylon (2 Kings 25:6-7). Thus, the actions in this chapter take place during the same timeframe as chapters 25 and 45. It is a crucial year in Judah’s history because it is the year in which the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptians under Neco and brought to an end Egypt’s brief domination of the area. Because of this event, this may be a time in which the residents of Jerusalem are breathing a bit easier knowing they won’t have to bow and scrape to the Egyptians anymore. So, it is in this watershed year that God tells Jeremiah to write down all the terrible things that will happen to them if they don’t mend their ways.
4-8: We met Baruch in chapter 32:9-15 when Jeremiah bought the field from his cousin Hanamel. He is a scribe who is faithful to Jeremiah and may have been in his employ. Jeremiah instructs him to write down the prophecy of the destruction God is planning for Jerusalem and to read it in the temple where Jeremiah is not currently permitted to go.
9-10: Baruch waits nearly a year for a fast to be called so that a large crowd would be present, and then carries out Jeremiah’s instructions by reading the scroll in the hearing of as many people as possible.
11-19: A court official named Micaiah hears Baruch reading the scroll and goes to inform King Jehoiakim. Some 18 years earlier, about 621 B.C., during the reign of Josiah, the temple had undergone major repairs. The high priest, Hilkiah, had found a scroll of the Law which he passed on to one Shaphan, who read the scroll to Josiah. Josiah was overcome with contrition, tore his clothes as a sign of it, and undertook major religious reforms in Judah. That Shaphan is the grandfather of the Micaiah mentioned here, who hears Baruch reading the scroll and goes to inform the head priests, including his father Gemariah son of Shaphan. Don’t you love these little connections? They summon Baruch, who reads the scroll to them. They realize they must tell the king what Jeremiah had publicized in the city but take the precaution of telling Baruch that he and Jeremiah need to hide.
20-26: A man named Jehudi, a government functionary, is alerted and tells the king about Baruch’s actions. The king orders him to bring the scroll and read it to him. It strikes me during all this drama that the religious establishment, at least at this juncture, is not in the king’s pocket. Jehudi reads the scroll to Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim calmly burns each column after it is read. The three priests try to persuade the king not to burn the scroll, but they are ignored. Neither the king nor any of his officials tear their clothes at the reading of the scroll, a little detail designed to let us know that Jehoiakim is not the man his father was. When the scroll is completely consumed in the fireplace Jehoiakim orders the arrest of Baruch and Jeremiah. Of course, Baruch and Jeremiah are now in hiding and escape capture. We wonder what the king is planning for them — he just burned the evidence!
27-32: God tells Jeremiah to redo the scroll and add a particularly gnarly prophecy just for Jehoiakim.
It is a time in history when Jerusalem is being overrun from all sides, most notably Egypt from the south and Babylon to the north. We have to wonder how things would have turned out if they had remained faithful to God. We might also raise a prayer that we will never have to face God’s wrath at our having abandoned the faith.