20 After they put the scroll in the room of Elishama the secretary, they went to the king in the courtyard and reported everything to him. 21 The king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and Jehudi brought it from the room of Elishama the secretary and read it to the king and all the officials standing beside him. 22 It was the ninth month and the king was sitting in the winter apartment, with a fire burning in the firepot in front of him.23 Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe’s knife and threw them into the firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire. 24 The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes. 25 Even though Elnathan, Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them. 26 Instead, the king commanded Jerahmeel, a son of the king, Seraiah son of Azriel and Shelemiah son of Abdeel to arrest Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet. But the Lord had hidden them.
27 After the king burned the scroll containing the words that Baruch had written at Jeremiah’s dictation, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah:28 “Take another scroll and write on it all the words that were on the first scroll, which Jehoiakim king of Judah burned up. 29 Also tell Jehoiakim king of Judah, ‘This is what the Lord says: You burned that scroll and said, “Why did you write on it that the king of Babylon would certainly come and destroy this land and wipe from it both man and beast?”30 Therefore this is what the Lord says about Jehoiakim king of Judah: He will have no one to sit on the throne of David; his body will be thrown out and exposed to the heat by day and the frost by night. 31 I will punish him and his children and his attendants for their wickedness; I will bring on them and those living in Jerusalem and the people of Judah every disaster I pronounced against them, because they have not listened.’”
32 So Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to the scribe Baruch son of Neriah, and as Jeremiah dictated, Baruch wrote on it all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to them.
(Jeremiah 36:20-32 NIV)
In yesterday’s passage, Jeremiah’s scribe Baruch read the words of the Lord at the Temple, then later to the king’s cabinet members at their request. After hearing the warnings from the Lord, the council members know their responsibility – they must inform the king.
Today’s text details the reading of the scroll in King Jehoiakim’s presence, his reaction, and the subsequent word of the Lord to Jeremiah.
In verses 20 – 26, the cabinet members inform the king of the scroll and its contents. The king orders the scroll to be brought to him and read in his presence. In a cold-hearted act of defiance to the Lord’s warnings, the king cuts up the scroll as it was read and threw the pieces into the fire.
There are many similarities between the events that happened in King Josiah’s life and what happened in his son King Jehoiakim’s life, but their responses could not have been further apart. During their reigns, both had a scroll found and read to them, and both responded. 2 Kings 22 is the account of King Josiah’s discovery of and reaction to the lost scroll. King Josiah responded in repentance by rending (tearing) his clothes; King Jehoiakim responded by rending (cutting) the scroll and throwing the pieces into the fire. King Josiah took the scroll and had it read in public to bring about a national reform and repentance and turning to the Lord. King Jehoiakim took the scroll and burned it so no one else would hear God’s words of warning, despite the pleas and warnings of his cabinet officials.
The cabinet members’ concerns for Baruch and Jeremiah (v. 19) were justified; after the scroll was read and destroyed, the king sent his son and some others to arrest Baruch and Jeremiah. We can only surmise that Jeremiah and Baruch would meet the same fate as Uriah, who Jehoiakim tracked down to Egypt, extradited, and executed for his preaching and prophecies (26:20-23). Verse 26 shows the sovereignty of God – the Lord had hidden Baruch and Jeremiah, so there was no possibility that the king’s soldiers would find them.
In verses 27 – 32, the word of the Lord comes again to Jeremiah. The Lord tells Jeremiah to get another scroll and write everything down again. The Lord then pronounces judgment upon Jehoiakim and his attendants for their callous disregard for God’s word. The Lord also pronounced judgment upon Jerusalem and Judah for not listening to the Lord.
The chapter ends with Jeremiah and Baruch beginning the dictation and writing process over again. The two had invested more than a year in the previous scroll; there is no indication how long the second one took to dictate and record.
The last phrase “And many similar words were added to them” is a bit vague. Was the first scroll a “highlights” document, and this time they added many details? Or was this Jeremiah’s version of an ancient “blog”, where they re-recorded all the words of the Lord as before, then kept a running diary of the events as they unfolded?
May we remember that the Lord is sovereign over all, and despite humanity’s attempts to eliminate God’s word and influence, He rules all.
May we remember and rest in Isaiah’s words: “The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:8 NIV)