As we enter Jeremiah 36 today we come to the third-to-last section in this great book. Let’s quickly note those three sections.
Our third-to-last section starts in Jeremiah 36:1 and ends in 45:5. I have called that section “The Bitter End.” After all the promises and warnings God has made and given, he finally brings the judgement of Babylon to Judah. This section starts with Jehoiakim’s burning God’s word. We’ll study that in a little bit. The section continues displaying the wavering of King Zedekiah. There’s then a brief flash-back about a man named Ebed-Melech. Then there’s record of the fiasco that ensues concerning the Jews that actually make it through the Babylonian attack. And those people in rebellion end up going down to Egypt, where God has a message for them. The section ends with another flashback – this time directed at Baruch, Jeremiah’s personal servant. And that just happens to be the shortest chapter in the book of Jeremiah – Jeremiah 45, with a mere 5 verses.
So, that’s the third-to-last section. And we’ll start studying that today.
After that section, there are six chapters (46-51) given to addressing the nations of the world. Remember that when God commissioned Jeremiah, he told him that he was going to be a “prophet to the nations.” And so, we see God speaking through Jeremiah concerning 8 nations. He proclaims that each one of these nations will fall at the hands of Babylon. And then finally, Jeremiah has the privilege of prophesying the fall of Babylon itself.
That’s the second-to-last section of this book.
The last section of Jeremiah – chapter 52 – consists of a rehashing of the fall of Jerusalem. But then the story goes beyond that to a time when one of the kings of Judah who obeyed God by going out to Babylon is treated well by the king of Babylon. And we’ve already stated that this is likely there to testify to everyone that God will bless those who submit to his authority.
So, that’s a run-down of what’s to come in the next several weeks. 17 chapters left. So, maybe about another four months or so and we might be done with this book. And this is our 40th message in the book, which roughly equates to 10 months. So, there are the numbers!
So, let’s begin to witness the Bitter End of Judah.
Jehoiakim’s 4th Year (36:1-8)
We begin Jeremiah 36 in verse 1 with some background information that will get us ready for the rest of this story.
KJV Jeremiah 36:1 ¶ And it came to pass in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah [605/4 BC], that this word came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,
So, what we’re going to be reading about from verse 1 to verse 8 all happens in Jehoiakim’s 4th year. The year was 605/4 BC. It was about this time – maybe a little bit earlier – that Babylon came and attacked Jerusalem and carried off the prophet Daniel, among other things. But Nebuchadnezzar allowed Jehoiakim to continue to reign over Judah. It seems that this was something of a power shift from Egypt to Babylon. Egypt had been the regional power until about this time in world history. Then Babylon came and defeated Egypt and asserted their control over Judah.
So, this is the timeframe we’re in here in Jeremiah 36. It’s actually about 15 years before Jerusalem was conquered and exiled to Babylon.
God’s Command to Jeremiah (36:2-3)
Within this timeframe we see God giving a command to Jeremiah in verses 2 and 3.
2 Take thee a [roll of a book/scroll], and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day
By the way, this would have represented Jeremiah’s messages from the last 18 years of Josiah, the 3 months of Shallum/Jehoahaz, and then the first 4 years of Jehoiakim.
Why did God want Jeremiah to write down a summary of his prophesies for those last 22 years and then deliver that message to Judah one more time?
3 It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the [evil/disaster] which I purpose to do unto them;
that they may return every man from his evil way;
that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.
So, here’s God’s desire. Is his main aim to punish his people? No. He reveals his heart-desire to be their repentance. Why? So that he can forgive them.
God has not changed at all in this regard. He still demands repentance. And when a person repents – turns from his sin and turns toward the God whom he was rejecting – God will forgive that man. And this is all possible – as we learn in the New Testament – because Jesus was punished for all of those sins.
And if anyone wants to be at peace with God, he needs to repent. There is no other option – in either the Old or the New Testament. Repentance is a requirement with the Lord, always.
Now, let me just point out what you’ve already noticed. God phrases verse 3 as if he’s not quite sure what’s going to happen. Maybe the people will repent.
And this is just part of the mystery regarding how God’s sovereignty works with man’s responsibility.
On the one hand, you have God communicating here as if he’s not quite certain as to how this will all turn out.
And yet, we know that God knows the end from the beginning. He has plans. He told these people back in Josiah’s day that an army from the north was coming. He reveals in the books of Kings that he determined to destroy Judah back before Josiah to the time of Manasseh because of all the wickedness of that king. We have a God who alone knows when the Time of the Gentiles will be filled up and at that point he will bring this age to a close. He is totally sovereign.
And yet, we have statements like this. “Maybe the people will hear my words and repent.”
I think in cases like this, it’s best to take both truths and treat them as complimentary rather than as competitive or contradictory. It might not compute in a tidy neat way in our human minds. But can we be humble enough to recognize that we don’t completely understand how God works? Can we accept that all that we know is what God reveals to us? When we go beyond that, our likelihood of making up strange teachings increases exponentially. I think it’s safest to take both truths together.
So, is God in control and sovereign over all things? Yes. Is he holding out some hope that these people will repent, but at least speaking as if he doesn’t know whether they will or not? Yes.
Very good. Now we can move on. :)
Jeremiah’s Command to Baruch (36:4-7)
Now, what we’ve heard so far in the story is actually good news to the people of Judah in Jeremiah’s day. There’s still time to repent and be made right with God. The possibility still exists! How gracious and merciful of our God. He is so patiently holding out this offer of repentance so that he can avoid destroying these people.
And so Jeremiah is going to try to get this message of good news communicated to his people. In order to do this, he gives some orders to his personal assistant Baruch in verses 4 through 7.
4 ¶ Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah:
and Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the LORD, which he had spoken unto him, upon a roll of a book.
5 And Jeremiah commanded Baruch, saying,
I am [shut up/banned/no longer allowed]; I cannot go into the house of the LORD:
6 Therefore go thou, and read in the roll, which thou hast written from my mouth, the words of the LORD in the ears of the people in the LORD’S house [upon the fasting day/on a day of fasting]: and also thou shalt read them in the ears of all Judah that come out of their cities.
7 It may be they will present their [supplication/plea for mercy] before the LORD, and will return every one from his evil way:
for great is the anger and the fury that the LORD hath pronounced against this people.
Now, if the wording in verse 7 sounds familiar, it should. Similar words were spoken by the godly king Josiah when he was shown the recently-discovered book of the law in his day.
2 Kings 22:13 has Josiah saying “Because great is the wrath of Yahweh.”
2 Chronicles 34:21 has Josiah saying “Because great is the wrath of Yahweh.”
And here in Jeremiah 36:7 we have Jeremiah saying “Because great is the anger (aph) and the fury (chema – same as wrath in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles) of Yahweh.”
And of course, we know that Josiah went on from recognizing God’s burning anger and he repented and led the nation of Judah in that repentance. And God saw fit to delay the punishment.
Here in Jeremiah, we’re witnessing Jeremiah himself recognizing the burning anger of God. And yet, we’re going to see that it’s harder for a prophet to lead a nation in repentance than it is for a king. And it’s nearly impossible for a prophet to lead a nation to repent when the king himself is directly opposed to God’s humbling message.
Baruch’s Obedience Summarized (36:8)
Next we have in verse 8 just a brief summary of Baruch’s obedience.
8 And Baruch the son of Neriah did according to all that Jeremiah the prophet commanded him, reading in the book the words of the LORD in the LORD’S house.
Now, I say this is a summary. Baruch needed to do this on a fast day. Not right away. So even though it might sound like he just went out and gave the message, again this is just a summary of what Baruch eventually ended up doing – which we’ll see in the very next verse. So, let’s move on to that next verse.
Jehoiakim’s 5th Year (36:9-32)
As we pass from verse 8 in this chapter into verse 9 we have maybe a year or a little less pass before us.
As we’ve already seen, Jeremiah is not able to go to the Temple. So, he tells Baruch to go on a fast day – a day on which the people would all agree to fast. And such a day is recorded in verse 9.
9 ¶ And it came to pass in the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, in the ninth month, that they proclaimed a fast before the LORD to all the people in Jerusalem, and to all the people that came from the cities of Judah unto Jerusalem.
Now, this was probably our December timeframe. We know from records of history that one year previous to this time, Babylon came and invaded Jerusalem. And now a year later, Nebuchadnezzar was back in the area again to attack Ashkelon, which is near Jerusalem. So, this is probably the reason for this particular fast.
And does it strike you as strange that these people who are so opposed to God are actually proclaiming a fast “before the Lord?” There’s a disconnect here. But this is exactly what we’ve seen in this book. The people live ungodly lives and then come to the Temple and pretend like all is well between them and God.
And of course, this isn’t an issue that is isolated to Jeremiah’s day. We’ve had people in our church who have come to our worship services and seemed to be very respectful and even godly. And yet, when the truth comes to light we find out that they were like decorated graves full of corruption.
So, may the Lord help that to not be the case with anyone here tonight.
And so, yes, this is a confusing reality. Ungodly people parading as godly individuals – even fasting before the Lord. And yet, it is a reality. It’s not uncommon in our day. And it wasn’t in Jeremiah’s day either.
So, here the people are – ready to fast before the Lord.
Baruch’s Obedience (36:10)
And so, Baruch obeys Jeremiah and takes God’s message to the people in the Temple in verse 10.
10 Then read Baruch in the book the words of Jeremiah in the house of the LORD, in the chamber of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the [scribe/secretary], in the [higher/upper] court, at the entry of the new gate of the LORD’S house, in the ears of all the people.
Now, I see another sign here that God wants us to have Josiah’s repentance in mind as we read this chapter. There’s mention in verse 10 of a man who lived in the time of Josiah. His name is Shaphan and he was a scribe who was involved in the episode of Hilkiah the priest finding the book of the Law and then giving that message to Josiah – who immediately repented. I think that’s beyond coincidence. I think God is highlighting that the exact same thing could happen here as happened in Josiah’s day.
So, will it??
Well, let’s see the reactions that God’s message receives. First of all, we see the response of a man named Michaiah in verses 11 through 13.
11 ¶ When Michaiah the son of Gemariah, the [grand-…] son of Shaphan [another mention of Shaphan…], had heard out of the book all the words of the LORD,
12 Then he went down into the king’s [house/palace], into the [scribe’s/secretary’s] chamber:
and, lo, all the [princes/officials/court officials] [sat/were in session] there, even
Elishama the [scribe/secretary], and
Delaiah the son of Shemaiah, and
Elnathan the son of Achbor [killed a prophet, but later urges Jehoiakim to hear Jeremiah…], and
Gemariah the son of Shaphan [there he is again…], and
Zedekiah the son of Hananiah, and
all the [princes/officials].
13 Then Michaiah declared unto them all the words that he had heard, when Baruch read the book in the ears of the people.
So, Michaiah hears God’s message from Baruch. After all, Baruch was in the chamber of his father Gemariah when he proclaimed his message.
And then Michaiah goes to the king’s palace and finds these five royal officials involved in some official business. That’s what it means when it says that they “sat.” They “sat” just like Boaz did in the book of Ruth when he “sat” in the city gate – he was there to conduct some official business. That’s what these five are doing.
One of those five is a concern. His name is Elnathan. He’s the son of Achbor. We’re told in Jeremiah 26 that this is the man who pursued a fugitive prophet who was hiding in Egypt and brought him back to king Jehoiakim to have him killed for his prophesying. So, we might assume that this man’s reaction is not going to be positive to Jeremiah’s message.
So, Michaiah comes in to interrupt the official business of these men. And he gives them God’s message as Baruch delivered it.
The Officials (36:14-19)
How do these officials react to this news? That’s what we’ll see in verses 14 through 19.
14 Therefore all the princes sent
the son of Nethaniah,
the son of Shelemiah,
the [grand-…] son of Cushi,
unto Baruch, saying,
Take in thine hand the roll wherein thou hast read in the ears of the people, and come.
So Baruch the son of Neriah took the roll in his hand, and came unto them.
15 And they said unto him,
Sit down now, and read it in our ears.
So Baruch read it in their ears.
16 Now it came to pass, when they had heard all the words,
they [were afraid both one and other/turned to one another in fear/expressed their alarm to one another],
and said unto Baruch,
We [will surely tell/must report to] the king of all these words.
17 And they asked Baruch, saying,
Tell us now, How didst thou write all these words[?] [Was it…] at [his/Jeremiah’s] [mouth/dictation]?
18 Then Baruch answered them,
He pronounced all these words unto me with his mouth, and I wrote them with ink in the [book/scroll].
19 Then said the princes unto Baruch,
Go, hide thee, thou and Jeremiah; and let no man know where ye be.
So, the officials reacted with fear. They seemed to get it right. They know what’s in store for them and their nation if these words come to pass.
So they seem to get it right.
But then they need to take that news to the king, because he’s the one who would ultimately need to do something about the state of their nation. And it seems like they’re not so sure that the king will have the same reaction. That’s what we see in verse 19 where they warn Baruch to hide himself and Jeremiah. It’s like the officials are expecting a poor reaction from Jehoiakim.
King Jehoiakim (36:20-23)
And the king delivers on their expectation in verses 20-23.
20 ¶ [And/So] they went in to the king into the court, but they [laid up the roll/put the scroll] [for safekeeping…] in the [chamber/room] of Elishama the [scribe/secretary], and told all the words in the ears of the king.
21 So the king sent Jehudi to fetch the roll [seems like Jehudi is a go-for…]: and he took it out of Elishama the scribe’s chamber. And Jehudi read it in the ears of the king, and in the ears of all the [princes/officials] which stood beside the king.
22 Now the king sat in the winterhouse [maybe lower part of a two-story building…] in the ninth month: and there was a fire on the [hearth/firepot] burning before him.
23 And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four [leaves/“doors”/columns of the scroll], [he/the king] cut [it/them off] with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was [on the hearth/in the firepot], until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth.
So, the buck stops here, so to speak. Until now there’s been this hopeful air. God says “maybe these people will repent.” Then Baruch speaks the word and Michaiah hears and reports to the officials. The officials hear and tremble. That’s a good thing. Then they bring the word to the king – the son of Josiah, the son of the man who heard the same kind of message of judgement and he trembled and repented. But, for Jehoiakim, in the spiritual realm it was not “like father, like son.”
This was a message from the God of heaven. The God who was uniquely the God of Israel and Judah. He is all they had. And yet this proud and godless king takes that message and rips it up and burns it.
The Leadership of Judah as a Whole (36:24-26)
And the king is not alone in his hard-heartedness. He had likeminded proud men attending him that we hear about in verses 24-26. And yet, that wasn’t the whole story, according to those verses. Some were trembling at God’s word and some were not.
24 Yet they were not afraid, nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all these words.
25 [Nevertheless/Even when] Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah had made intercession to the king that he would not burn the roll: but he would not hear them.
26 But the king commanded Jerahmeel the son of [Hammelech/The king] [Jehoiakim was 30, so maybe this was just a royal prince…], and Seraiah the son of Azriel, and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel, to take Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet:
but the LORD hid them.
So, three of the five officials we saw earlier pled with the king to humbly receive God’s word. And yet, Jehoiakim would not listen.
We see Jehoiakim here as a man who is totally proud and wicked. He hears God’s message and doesn’t tremble. He doesn’t even just quietly and politely ignore it. He actively opposed it by burning it. And not only that, but he also seeks to kill God’s mouthpiece – Jeremiah and his mouthpiece at this point – Baruch.
I get angry just reading about it.
The Lord (36:27-31)
And if I get angry about it, how much angrier do you think would the Lord be – the one whose word Jehoiakim burned? We get the answer to that question in verses 27 through 31.
27 ¶ Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah,
after that the king had burned the roll, and the words which Baruch wrote at the [mouth/dictation] of Jeremiah, saying,
28 Take thee again another roll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah hath burned.
29 And thou shalt say to Jehoiakim king of Judah,
Thus saith the LORD;
Thou hast burned this roll, saying,
Why hast thou written therein, saying,
The king of Babylon shall certainly come and destroy this land,
and shall cause to cease from thence man and beast? [By the way, that’s the gist of Jeremiah’s message that Jehoiakim heard…]
30 Therefore thus saith the LORD of Jehoiakim king of Judah;
He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David [Jehoiachin did rule but only for 3 months, then Jehoiachin was promised to have no son on the throne in 22:30]:
and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost. [Jer 22]
31 And I will punish him and his seed and his servants for their iniquity;
and I will bring upon them, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and upon the men of Judah, all the evil that I have pronounced against them; but they hearkened not.
Jeremiah Rewrites the Book (36:32)
32 ¶ Then took Jeremiah another roll, and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah; who wrote therein from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire: and there were added besides unto them many like words.
So, Jehoiakim can rage all he wants against the Lord and his message. And yet, when it comes down to it, God’s word stands.
And that’s exactly the case even today in our context. We have high and mighty people in this land who oppose God’s word. They mock. They persecute. They try to fit everyone into their godless mold. They think they’re winning. And in this life, they might win. But God’s word stands. It will forever. It doesn’t matter how much anyone rages against it. It will surely stand.
Therefore, how should we respond to these realities? Read God’s word. Can I encourage us all to be daily in God’s word? It takes discipline and it’s not always easy. But it’s something we need to do if there’s any way possible.
And then we need to stand on God’s word without shame. Don’t be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord or of his servants who proclaim his word.
Don’t be worried. Don’t let this world shake you. God’s word will surely stand and will forever. You can count on it.