Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 20: Jeremiah and Lamentations, Part IV, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. And it came to pass in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that this word came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,
1. Et fuit anno quarto Joakim filii Josiae regis Jehudah (fuit inquam) sermo hic ad Jeremiam a Jehova, dicendo,
2. Take thee a roll of a book, 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.
2. Sume tibi volumen libri, et scribe in eo cunctos sermones quos loquutus sum ad to contra Israel et contra Jehudah, et contra eunctos gentes a die quo loquutus sum ad to, a diebus scilicet Josiae usque ad hunc diem.
The Prophet relates in this chapter a history worthy of being remembered, and very useful to us; for he says that he wrote down by God’s command what he had previously taught in the Temple, and also that he sent that summary by Baruch to be recited in the Temple, that the report of this spread, and that the king’s counsellors called to them Baruch, and that when they heard what was written in the volume, they brought word to the king, having, however, first admonished Baruch to conceal himself, together with Jeremiah, lest the king should be exasperated against them. And so it happened, for the king, being instantly filled with indignation, ordered Jeremiah and Baruch to be taken, that they might be put to death; but they were hidden and protected through God’s favor. We shall hereafter see what the king by his obduracy had effected, even to cause the Prophet to speak more boldly against him.
The Prophet then says at the beginning, that the word of Jehovah came, by which he was ordered to write in a volume of a book whatever he had previously spoken By the volume of a book he means the volume in which he was to write; for ספר sepher, does not here mean a written book, for the volume was without any writing. Then the Prophet must have dictated to his servant Baruch. And this mode of speaking occurs also elsewhere, as in Ps 40:7. But the Hebrews, according to an ancient custom, called a volume מגלה, megele; for they had no books in a compact form, such as we have in the present day, but had volumes or rolls; and the same word, volume, is also used in Latin. For as the Hebrews called what is folded up מגלה, megele, which comes from גלל, gelal, to fold up, or to roll; so the Latins also have derived it from a verb (volvo) which means to roll, and we call it rolle; and in Gaul they used the same form of writing; for all ancient documents and also judicial proceedings were wont formerly to be written on rolls, and in the old archieves there is nothing found but what is so written. God then ordered his Prophet to take a roll, and then he commanded him to write all the words which he had heard from the mouth of God, and which he had pronounced against Israel, and against Judah, and against all other nations.
We see here, in the first place, what is the benefit of having the Scripture, even that what would otherwise vanish away or escape the memory of man, may remain and be handed down from one to another, and also that it may be read; for what is written can be better weighed during leisure time. When one speaks only, every one takes in something according to his capacity and his attention; but as words from man’s mouth glide away, the utility of Scripture does hence appear more evident; for when what is not immediately understood is repeated, it brings more light, and then what one reads to-day he may read tomorrow, and next year, and many years after. As then God saw that he had been, as it were, beating the air when he had spoken by his Prophet, his purpose was that those things which Jeremiah had in vain spoken, should be written down. In this manner he, no doubt, intended to condemn both the king and his counsellors, and also the whole people, not only for their idleness, but also for their insensibility, even because all his teaching had been without fruit, though Jeremiah had labored much among them, and had been assiduous and faithful in the discharge of his office as a teacher.
We now perceive the design of God in saying, Take a volume and write in it; and he says, all the words which I have spoken to thee This was said in order that the Jews might understand that Jeremiah did not bring forward his own fictions, but faithfully delivered what he had heard from God’s mouth. He adds, against Israel and affainst Judah For Jeremiah at the beginning had prophesied against the ten tribes; but after the kingdom of Israel was cut off, he performed his office only towards the remaining people, so that his doctrine referred especially to the Jews. It is added, against all nations; and this we shall presently see; and it hence appears that his prophecies were not written according to the order of time, as I have before reminded you, but that the volume was written without regard to order. It was yet so far preserved that this book contains a summary of all the doctrine taught by Jeremiah during the whole course of his ministry. He says, from the day in which he began to speak, even from the days of Josiah, he says, to this day And the Prophet had been performing his duty as a teacher, not for ten, or twenty, or thirty, but for forty years. It follows, —
3. It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil 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.
3. Si forte audiant domus Jehudah omne malum quod ego cogito ad faciendum (hoc est, facere) ipsis, ut revertantur quisque a via sua mala; et propitius sim iniquitati eorum et peccato eorum.
Here God explains the object he had in view, even to make another trial whether the Jews were healable, so that the teaching of the Prophet might be conducive to their salvation. But he uses the particle אולי auli, “it may be,” which implies a doubt; because they had so often, and for so long a time, and in such various ways, shewed themselves to be so obstinate that hardly a hope could be entertained of their repentance. God, however, shews that he was not wearied, provided there remained in them still the smallest particle of religion. It may be then, he says, that the house of Judah will hear all the evil, etc.
We have seen how the Prophet labored, not only to terrify his own nation by threatenings, but also sweetly to allure them to the service of God; but God speaks here of them as of perverse men, who were almost intractable, according to what is said in Ps 18:26, that God would be severe towards the perverse; for God deals with men according to their disposition. As the Jews then were unworthy that God should, according to his gentleness, teach them as children, this only remained for them, to repent under the influence of fear. It may be, he says, that they will bear all the evil, etc. We now see why God touches only on threatenings, for this alone remained for men so obstinate.
He says, The evil which I think to do, etc. God here transfers to himself what belongs to men; for he does not think or deliberate with himself; but as we cannot comprehend his incomprehensible counsel, he sometimes assumes the person of man; and this is what is common in Scripture. But he says, that he thinks of what he pronounces in his word; for as long as God exhorts men to repent, he holds, as it were, his hand suspended, and allows an opportunity to repent. He then says, that he is, as it were, in the midst of his deliberations: as when one wants to know whether an offender will submit, so God transforms himself, in a manner, into what man is, when he says, I think; that is, let them know that vengeance is not in vain denounced in my word; for I will perform whatever I now threaten, except they repent.
He says, That they may turn every one from his evil way This is to hear, previously mentioned, even when men become seriously touched, so as to be displeased with their vices, and to desire from the heart to surrender themselves to God. He joins a promise, for without the hope of pardon it cannot be, that men will repent, as it has been often said; but it must be repeated, because few understand that faith cannot be separated from repentance; and a sinner can never be induced to return truly to God, unless he entertains a hope of pardon, for this is a main truth, according to what is said in Ps 130:4,
“With thee is mercy, that thou mayest be feared.”
Then, according to what is commonly done, the Prophet says, that if the Jews turned to God, he would be propitious to them, as though he had said, that men would not be disappointed, if they repent, because God would readily meet them, and be reconciled to them: for this one thing alone, as I have said, is what can encourage us to repent, that is, when we are convinced that God is ready to give us pardon. He mentions iniquity and sin. The Prophet, no doubt, referred to these two words, in order to shew that we ought by no means to despair, though sins be heaped on sins. It follows —
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.
4. Et vocavit Jeremias Baruch fillium Neriae; et scripsit Baruch ex ore Jeremiae cunctos sermones Jehovae, quos loquutus est ad ipsum, in volumine libri.
5. And Jeremiah commanded Baruch, saying, I am shut up; I cannot go into the house of the LORD:
5. Et praecepit Jeremias ipsi Baruch, dicendo, Ego detineor (vel, sum conclusus) non potero venire in domum Jehovae (hoc est, in Templum:)
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: and also thou shalt read them in the ears of all Judah that come out of their cities.
6. Tu autem vade, et lege in volumine quod scripseris ex ore meo, sermones Jehovae in auribus populi, in domo Jehovae, in die jejunii, atque etiam in auribus totius Jehudab, qui venerint (hoc est, omnium Judaeorum qui venerint) ex urbibus suis, tu leges ipsis.
Here the Prophet declares that he dictated to Baruch, a servant of God, whatever he had previously taught. But there is no doubt but that God suggested to the Prophet at the time what might have been erazed from his memory; for all the things which we have some time ago said, do not always occur to us. Therefore the greater part of so many words must have escaped the Prophet, had not God dictated them again to him. Jeremiah then stood, as it were, between God and Baruch; for God, by his Spirit, presided over and guided the mind and tongue of the Prophet. Now the Prophet, the Spirit being his guide and teacher, recited what God had commanded; and Baruch wrote down, and then proclaimed the whole summary of what the Prophet had taught.
He therefore says, that he called to him Baruch the son of Neria, who wrote from his mouth, and he wrote all the words of Jehovah Jeremiah repeats again that nothing came from himself. We hence see that he did not dictate, according to his own will, what came to his mind, but that God suggested whatever he wished to be written by Baruch. It is added, that he commanded Baruch to recite in the Temple what he had written, because he himself was detained. Some think that he was shut up in prison; and he used the same word before, when he told us that he was cast into prison by Zedekiah. But as sacred history does not say that he suffered any such thing under Jehoiakim, I am inclined to think that he was prevented by God; I do not, however, ascribe it to a divine oracle; for it might have happened either through God’s command, or through some human impediments. 101 If we believe the Prophet to have been in prison, and that he might have gone out, he yet abstained; for the more liberty was given him, the more bound he felt himself to continue in prison, lest he should violate public authority. But the other supposition is more probable, that he was detained by God’s hand. However this may have been, he says that he could not go forth; and he mentioned this, lest it should appear that he was only careful as to himself, and that through fear of danger, he devolved this duty on Baruch. He then shews that he did not shun his office, because it exposed him to hatred, but that he was not at liberty to go forth.
Go thou, then, he says, and read in the volume The Prophet, in this case, was ready to incur any odium which might be, for he did not bid Baruch to relate by memory what he had heard from him, but ordered him to take the volume, and to read, as we shall hereafter see, what he had written. The Prophet then did not, in this instance, avoid danger, and put Baruch in his own place, but he expressly told him to read from the volume: What thou hast written, he says,from my mouth, and, what Jehovah has spoken, these things read thou to the people in the Temple, on a fasting day This day was chosen, first, because there was then a greater concourse of people, according to what immediately follows, for he was to read these things in the ears not only of the citizens, but also of the whole people; and on fast-days they were wont, as it is well known, to come in great numbers to the city for the purpose of sacrificing. It was then God’s purpose that these threatenings should be proclaimed, not only to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but also to all other Jews, that the report of them might spread to every part of the land. In the second place, such a day was much more suitable to the message conveyed; for why was a fast enjoined, except humbly to supplicate God’s mercy, and to deprecate his wrath? As then this was the design of a fast, the Jews ought to have been then, as it were, in a submissive state of mind, prepared calmly to receive these threatenings, and to profit by them.
We then see that there were two reasons why the Prophet, by God’s command, fixed on this day, — first, because there was a larger number of people, — and, secondly, because a fast ought to have rendered them teachable, so that they might more readily submit to God, acknowledge their sins, and, being terrified, might also flee to God’s mercy, and thus loathe themselves on account of their sins. The rest tomorrow.
Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not continually to provoke thine anger against us, we may at length return to thee, and that every one may so examine his life, that being prostrate under a sense of thy wrath, we may betake ourselves to the only true remedy, even to implore thee, and to seek forgiveness; and do thou also so graciously meet us, that we may in sure faith call on thee, and, in the meantime, find really, by experience, that our prayers are not in vain, until we shall at length have a perfect enjoyment of thy mercy, in thy celestial kingdom. — Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Forty-Second
7. It may be they will present their supplication 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.
7. Si forte cadat precatio ipsorum coram facie Jehovae, et convertantur quisque a via sua mala; quia magna est excandescentia et magna iracundia quam locutus est Jehova contra populum hunc.
Jeremiah, after having dictated to the scribe Baruch what he had before preached to the people, repeats what the object was, which we have previously observed; for it was God’s will to make the trial, whether the people could by any means be restored to a sound mind. This had, indeed, been in vain attempted for a long time; but God was yet willing to proceed to the utmost extent in his mercy. Hence Jeremiah now declares the purpose for which he wished the book to be read to the people. Nor is there a doubt but that Baruch had been thus admonished, that he might exhort the people to repentance as it were from the mouth of Jeremiah.
Now, there are two things mentioned as necessary in order to obtain pardon, — prayer, and turning or conversion. For if any one only in words seeks to be reconciled to God, he will not succeed. Turning or conversion cannot be separated from prayer. But then were a sinner to repent a thousand times, he would still remain exposed to God’s judgment; for reconciliation, by which we are absolved, does not depend on repentance, but on the gratuitous favor of God; for God does not receive us into favor because he sees that we are changed to a better mind, as though conversion were the cause of pardon; but he embraces us according to his gratuitous mercy. This, then, is the reason why Jeremiah joins together these two things — prayer, and conversion or repentance; for as I have said, hypocrites confess in words their sins and seek pardon, but it is with a feigned or a double heart. Hence that prayer may be genuine, repentance must be added, by which men shew that they loathe themselves. And then, ou the other hand, it is not enough for us to turn or repent, except the sinner flees to the mercy of God, for pardon flows from that fountain; for God, as it has been said, does not forgive us for any merit in us, but because it seemeth him good to bury our sins. The sum of the whole is, that God would have the prophecies of Jeremiah to be recited before the whole people, as they were conducive to their safety and salvation. The manner is described, — that the people were humbly to pray and also really to repent.
As to the expression, It may be, a prayer will fall, 102 we have elsewhere explained its meaning. The Scripture speaks of prayer, that it rises and that it falls. Both expressions are suitable, though to be understood in a different way; for prayer cannot be rightly offered except man ascends and falls. These two things seem contrary, but they well agree together; nay, they cannot be separated. For in prayer two things are necessary — faith and humility: by faith we rise up to God, and by humility we lie prostrate on the ground. This is the reason why Scripture often says that prayer ascends, for we cannot pray as we ought unless we raise upwards our minds; and faith, sustained by promises, elevates us above all the world. Thus then prayer is raised upwards by faith; but by humility it falls down on the earth; for fear ought to be connected with faith. And as faith in our hearts produces alacrity by confidence, so also conscience casts us down and lays us prostrate. We now understand the meaning of the expression.
He adds, Because great is the wrath and indignation which Jehovah hath pronounced, or hath spoken, against this people. By wrath and indignation we are to understand God’s vengeance, the cause being put for the effect. But the Prophet intimates, that except men are wholly blinded, and as it were estranged in mind, they ought to be very deeply touched, when God sets before them some dreadful judgment. When God chastises some slight fault, and when he does not so very grievously threaten us, we ought to feel alarmed; but when God shews his wrath to be so kindled that final ruin ought to be dreaded, we must be stupid indeed, if such a threatening does not terrify us. Then the Prophet says that there was no hope of relaxation, for God had pronounced no light or common judgment on the people; but he shews that he was prepared to destroy the whole nation, as the Jews had deserved extreme punishment.
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.
8. Et fecit Baruch filius Neriae secundum omnia quae praeceperat ei Jeremias Propheta, legendo in libro sermones Jehovae in domo Jehovae.
Here the promptitude of Baruch is commended, for he did not disobey God’s Prophet, but willingly undertook the office deputed to him. His office, as we have said, was not without danger. As then his message was by no means popular, but on the contrary very disagreeable, hence is seen the devotedness of Baruch. He made no refusal, for he knew that this burden was laid on him for some purpose. Jeremiah then says, that he did as he had been commanded, and read in the Temple the words of Jehovah 103 He calls them a little farther on the words of Jeremiah, but the same thing is meant; for as God is, as it were, represented by his ministers, so he often transfers to them what belongs peculiarly to himself. (Rom. 2:16, Rom. 16:25; 2Ti 2:8) That is called the doctrine of Jeremiah, which yet, properly speaking, has no other author but God. So Paul called that Gospel, of which he was the preacher and witness, his Gospel; and yet he himself had not devised the Gospel, but had received it from Christ, and faithfully delivered it as from his hand.
We ought, therefore, to notice this mode of speaking, which occurs everywhere in Scripture, — the same thing is ascribed to God and to his servants. Thus we find what may seem strange, — the Apostles are said to forgive sins, they are spoken of as bringing salvation; but the reason is, because they were ministers of God’s grace, and exhorted men in Christ’s name to be reconciled to God. They then absolved, because they were the testifiers of absolution. So also the words which God dictated to his servant were called the words of Jeremiah; yet, properly speaking, they were not the words of man, for they did not proceed from a mortal man, but from the only true God. It follows —
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.
9. Et fuit anno quinto Jehoiakim filii Josiae regis Jehudah, mense nono, indixerunt jejunium coram Jehova toti populo (qui erat, subaudiendum est) Jerosolymae, et toti populo qui venerunt ex urbibus Jehudah Jerosolymam:
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, in the higher court, at the entry of the new gate of the LORD’S house, in the ears of all the people.
10. Et legit Baruch in libro sermones Jeremiae in domo Jehovae (hoc est, in Templo) in cubiculo Gamarliae filii Saphan scribae, in atrio superiori, in introitu (vel, ingressu) portae novae domus Jehovae (portae novae Templi) in auribus totius populi.
Here is added a fuller explanation; for the Prophet relates nothing new, but according to what is common in Hebrew he expresses at large what he had before briefly stated: for he had said, that Baruch read in the Temple the words of God as he had been commanded; but he now relates when and how this was done, even in the fifth year of Jehoiakim, and when a fast was proclaimed in the ninth month 104 We now then see the design of this repetition, even to point out more clearly the time. He then says that the book was read and recited when a fast was proclaimed in the fifth year of Jehoiakim. The Jews, no doubt, knew that some grievous calamity was at hand, for this proclamation was extraordinary. And we know that when some calamity was apprehended, they usually betook themselves to this remedy, not that fasting in itself was pleasing to God, but because it was a symbol of humiliation, and it also prepared men for prayer. This custom did not creep in without reason, but God designed thus to habituate his people to repentance. When, therefore, God manifested some tokens of his displeasure, the Jews then thought it necessary, not only to seek forgiveness, but also to add fasting to their prayers, according to what we find in the second chapter of Joel as well as in other places. It was then a solemn confession of sin and guilt; for by fasting they acknowledged themselves to be exposed to God’s judgment, and also by sackcloth and ashes; for they were wont to throw aside their fine garments and to put on sackcloth, and also to scatter ashes on their heads, or to lie on the ground: and these were the filth as it were of the guilty: and in this state of debasement they sought pardon of God, thus acknowledging in the first place their own filthiness by these external symbols, and secondly, confessing before God and angels that they were worthy of death, and that no hope remained for them except God forgave them.
As, then, Jeremiah writes here that there was a fast proclaimed, there is not the least doubt but that some tokens of God’s vengeance then appeared. And though Jehoiakim had provoked the King Nebuchadnezzar by refusing to pay tribute, yet the idea prevailed always among the Jews that nothing happened except through the just vengeance of God. As, then, they knew that they had to do with God, they thought that it behoved them to pacify him.
He afterwards adds, that a fast before Jehovah was proclaimed; not that it was meritorious, or that an expiation would thereby be done, as the Papists imagine, who think that they can redeem their sins by fastings, and hence they call them satisfactions; but the Prophet says that the fast was proclaimed before Jehovah, as an addition to prayer. As, then, it was a solemn meeting for prayer, fasting was, as it were, a part added to it, that they might by this external symbol more fully humble themselves before God, and at the same time testify their repentance. And he says that it was proclaimed to all the people who were at Jerusalem, and to the other Jews who came from other cities to the Temple to pray. And we hence conclude that fasting in itself is of no moment, but that it was an evidence of repentance, and therefore added to prayer. And Christ, having mentioned prayer, added fasting, (Mt 17:21) not that fasting ought not to be separated from daily prayers; for we ought always to pray; but we are not to fast morning and evening; nay, we pray when our table is prepared for us and meat are set before us; and then when we dine and sup, we pray to God. But this is to be understood of more serious prayers, when, as we have said, God summons us, as it were, before his tribunal, and shews manifest tokens of his displeasure. And for this reason also, Paul, in 1Co 7:5, when bidding husbands to dwell with their wives, adds this,
“Except it may be for a time”
— for what purpose? even that they might give themselves wholly to prayer and fasting. We hence see that fasting was not an ordinary thing, but when required by some urgent necessity.
Then, this also is to be noticed, that the fast was proclaimed to the other Jews who had come to Jerusalem; for why was it necessary for them to come to Jerusalem, except humbly to supplicate God’s favor.
He says that the roll was then read in the Temple, in the chamber of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan the scribe The chambers, as we have before said, were annexed to the court of the priests; for the Levites were the guardians of the Temple; and every priest also, while performing his duty, remained in the Temple. As to Shaphan, he is called a scribe, not the king’s chancellor, who is afterwards called by the same name; for I regard him as being an actuary. For they called the scribes ספרים, sepharim; but sometimes by this name are meant the interpreters of the Law, and sometimes the actuaries, whose office it was to collect the prophecies, or who were engaged in collecting public acts. Then Gemariah, the son of Shaphan the scribe, had his chamber in the Temple; and he says, in the higher court Hence we conclude, according to what I have already said, that these chambers were parts of the court. And he adds, In the entrance of the new gate of the Temple Some think that this was the eastern gate, and that the greatest concourse of people was usually there. We hence see that Baruch boldly performed his duty in reading the roll, though the reading of it must have greatly exasperated the minds of the whole people. It follows, —
11. When Michaiah the son of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan, had heard out of the book all the words of the LORD,
11. Et audivit Michas filius Gamariae filii Saphan onmes sermones Jehovae de super libre (hoc est, ut recitabantur ex libre)
12. Then he went down into the king’s house, into the scribe’s chamber: and, lo, all the princes sat there, even Elishama the scribe, and Delaiah the son of Shemaiah, and Elnathan the son of Achbor, and Gemariah the son of Shaphan, and Zedekiah the son of Hananiah, and all the princes.
12. Et descendit in domum regis ad cubiculum scribae; et ecce illic omnes principes sedentes (hoc est, sedebant) Elisama scriba, et Dalaiah filius Semaiah, et Elnathan filius Achobor, et Gamarias filius Saphan, et Zedechias filius Chananiae, et omnes proceres;
13. Then Michaiah declared unto them all the words that he had heard, when Baruch read the book in the ears of the people.
13. Et nuntiavit (indicavit) ipsis Michas omnes sermones quos audierat cum legeret Baruch in libre (hoc est, recitaret ex libre) in auribus populi.
It is not known with what design this Michaiah came to the princes and the king’s counsellors, he may have been an informer, who intended to create ill-will to the Prophet, and to ingratiate himself with the princes, as courtiers usually do. If this was the case, we may learn from this example, that not all who hear are so teachable and ready to obey as to make proficiency in the knowledge of good and holy doctrine: we see that many patiently hear and give some evidence of docility, and yet cherish perverseness in their hearts, and afterwards calumniate what they have heard. Such may have been the character of Michaiah, spoken of here. But his case may have been different, — that being filled with wonder, he conveyed to the king’s counsellors what he deemed new and, as it were, incredible. I leave this without offering an opinion, for we have nothing certain on the subject.
It is said that he came into the king’s palace, where all the princes sat, and into the chamber of the scribe It is probable that this scribe was the king’s chancellor, with whom were all the princes of the court. Some he names, and then says, that they were all there, and that Michaiah read to them the words which he had heard from the mouth of Baruch when he read to the whole people.
Now it was not without the wonderful purpose of God that the king at length came to know what had passed in the Temple, in order that his perverseness against God might be detected, as we shall hereafter see. This messenger, indeed, was the means of bringing danger to Jeremiah as well as to his servant Baruch; but the Lord protected them. However, the impiety and the obstinacy of the king were discovered; for when they were all terrified, he despised God and became enraged against his Prophet. He burnt the book, and wished also to destroy its author. It now follows, —
14. Therefore all the princes sent Jehudi the son of Nethaniah, the son of Shelemiah, the 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.
14. Et miserunt omnes proceres ad Baruch, Jehudi fillium Nathaniae, filii Selemiae, filii Cussi, dicendo, Volumen in quo legisti in auribus populi sume in manum tuam, et veni. Et sumpsit Baruch filius Neriae volumen in manum suam, et yenit ad ipsos.
They ought indeed to have gone up immediately into the Temple; but though they were not wholly irreligious, yet they shewed some pride, as they commonly do who are surrounded with splendor, being not disposed to humble themselves. We see that all courtiers are so inflated with pride, that they think it a disgrace to mingle with the common people. They wish some special honor to be reserved for themselves. This was the reason that they did not go up into the Temple that they might learn the message, but sent for Baruch to come to them. Now it was this that prevented them from the heart to repent.
We shall indeed see that they were smitten with fear, and filled with amazement; and we shall also see that they brought the matter before the king, and yet wished to provide for the safety of the Prophet and his servant; but they ought to have gone farther, even to join the people in the Temple, and make a public confession of their repentance. Why they did not we have explained: pride, vanity, and ambition always accompany wealth and power.
Baruch was then sent for, but in an honorable manner; for they did not send an obscure man; and hence his genealogy is given, and not only the name of his father is mentioned, but that of his grandfather and of his great-grand-father; and hence we conclude that he was a man of some eminence. They commanded him to come, and it is added, that having taken the roll he came to them; by which he manifested his firmness. His promptitude previously was commendable, that he ventured to go forth to the Temple and publicly to recite what tended to kindle the rage of the whole people. As in the beginning, he promptly undertook the office deputed to him, so now he persevered in the same course. He came to the princes; and he did not hide the roll, though he might have been carrying with him his own death, but he boldly went forth to them, for he knew that the whole business was under the direction of God. It follows, —
15. And they said unto him, Sit down now, and read it in our ears. So Baruch read it in their ears.
15. Et dixerunt, sede agedum, et lege ipsum (volumen) in auribus nostris; et legit Baruch in auribus ipsorum.
16. Now it came to pass, when they had heard all the words, they were afraid both one and other, and said unto Baruch, We will surely tell the king of all these words.
16. Et factum est cum audirent cunctos sermones, expaverunt quisque ad propinquum suum, et dixerunt ipsi Baruch,Indicando indicabimus Regi omnes hos sermones.
We see that there was some regard for religion in the princes, for they submitted to hear, and respectfully received the Prophet’s servant. Had Jeremiah himself come, he would, no doubt, have been received as God’s Prophet, as such honor was given to his servant, that the princes ordered him to be seated, which was certainly a favor. It hence appears that they were not profane despisers of God. Then follows another thing, — that they were moved with fear Then as to the king’s counsellors, we see that they were in such a state of mind, that they readily listened to, and dreaded the threatenings of God. But it was a fear that no doubt soon vanished; and what he says, that they feared each as to his neighbor, was a sign of a change; for he who fears as he ought, thinks of himself, and examines himself before God; but when the mind wavers, eyery one looks to another. It was then a sign of repentance not real and genuine, so to fear as to look to one another, for they ought, each of them, to look to God, that they might from an inward consciousness acknowledge their sins, and thus flee to the true remedy.
It follows, that they said, Declaring we shall declare to the king, etc. We hence learn, that their fear was such, that they did not yet wish to offend the king. They then referred the matter to him, being anxious to gratify him. This is the religion of the court, even so to fear God as not to lose favor, but on the contrary, so to perform one’s duty, as not to be liable to the charge of not being sufficiently attentive and devoted to the king’s interest. In short, the Prophet thus represents to us, as in a glass, the religion of the king’s counsellors, and shews to us at the same time that their minds were corrupted by ambition, and that ambition so prevailed, that they paid more regard to a mortal king than to the only true King of heaven.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou art pleased to invite us daily to thyself, we may respond to thy call in the spirit of meekness and obedience; and do thou also so seriously impress our minds, that we may not only confess our sins, but also so loathe ourselves on account of them, that we may without delay seek the true remedy, and, relying on thy mercy, may so repent, that thy name may hereafter be glorified in us, until we shall at length become partakers of that glory, which thy Son has obtained for us by his own blood. — Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Forty-Third
17. And they asked Baruch, saying, Tell us now, How didst thou write all these words at his mouth?
17. Baruch autem interrogarunt, dicendo, Indica agedum nobis quomodo scripseris cunctos sermones istos ex ore ejus?
18. Then Baruch answered them, he pronounced all these words unto me with his mouth, and I wrote them with ink in the book.
18. Et dixit illis Baruch, Ex ore suo pronuntiavit mihi cunctos sermones istos, et ego scripsi super librum cum atramento.
The king’s counsellors were, no doubt, so astonished when they heard that these threatenings had been written as the Prophet had dictated them, that they were agitated by different thoughts, as the unbelieving are wont to be; and not receiving as they ought to have done, the heavenly doctrine, they vacillated, and could not pursue a uniform course. Such, then, was the uncertainty that possessed the minds of the princes; for they could hardly believe that these words had been delivered by memory, but had suspicion of some trickery, as the unbelieving imagine many such things respecting God’s servants; and they seem to act thus designedly, that they may obscure God’s favor, which appears before their eyes. For this purpose, then, they are said to ask Baruch how he took the words from the mouth of Jeremiah 105
He simply answered, that Jeremiah had pronounced these words to him. They might hence have concluded, that Jeremiah had no roll laid before him, and that he had been not long meditating on what he communicated to his scribe Baruch. And though he seems to have said no more than what might satisfy the princes, yet the purport of the whole is, that Jeremiah did not produce the roll from a recess or his desk, but promptly gave utterance to what God’s Spirit suggested to him. Their astonishment, then, must have increased, when the king’s counsellors knew that these commands did not proceed from a mortal man, but that, on the contrary, God spoke them by the mouth of Jeremiah, and by the hand of Baruch. It follows, —
19. Then said the princes unto Baruch, Go, hide thee, thou and Jeremiah; and let no man know where ye be.
19. Et dixerunt principes ipsi Baruch, Vade et absconde to, tu et Jeremias, et vir nesciat (hoc est, nesciat quisqaam) ubinam sitis.
We see that these courtly princes changed, when they perceived that it was indeed God’s hand, and yet they remained in a state of insensibility. God often thus terrifies profane men, and yet they return to their own indifference. They seemed, indeed, to be for a moment awakened, and seriously to acknowledge God’s judgment; but these thoughts presently vanished away. It thus happened, that they allowed that God had spoken, but it was, as it were, to the deaf, for it was in vain, as we shall shortly see.
Then the king’s counsellors derived no benefit; but they were not cruel, for they wished the Prophet to be hidden, lest the king should deal severely with him. We see many such men at this day who are not influenced by divine truth. They nod, indeed, as asses who move their ears; for they confess with their mouths that what is propounded to them is true and right; but as I have said, they either close their eyes, or at least do not attend, so as to know that it is God who speaks. It appears that such were the king’s counsellors, of whom the Spirit of God has declared what we shall presently see. They then counselled Baruch to hide himself, and also Jeremiah to do the same; for they saw that there was danger to them, except they took themselves to flight. It afterwards follows, —
20. And they went in to the king into the court, but they laid up the roll in the chamber of Elishama the scribe, and told all the words in the ears of the king.
20. Et venerunt ad regem in atrium, et volumen deposuerunt in cubiculo Elisamae scribae, et nuntiarunt in auribus regis omnes sermones.
21. So the king sent Jehudi to fetch the roll: 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 which stood beside the king.
21. Et misit Rex Jehudi ad tollendum volumen, et accepit ex cubiculo Elisama scribae, et legit illud Jehudi in auribus regis et in auribus cunctorum principum, qui stabant a conspectu regis.
The Prophet now relates that the princes went to the king, after having first deposited the roll with Elishama the scribe; for as the king’s ears were tender, they were unwilling to perform at once so odious an office. And thus they who are with kings, and engage their attention, fascinate them with their flatteries; for there is in courts no independence, for the greatest flatterer is the highest in favor. As, then, all courtiers seek eagerly to find out how they may please kings, so they carefully beware lest they should offend them. This was the reason why the princes deposited the roll with Elishama. We hence learn that their regard for God was small and frigid; for if they believed that Jeremiah had dictated to his scribe what he had received from the Spirit of God, the offending of the king ought not certainly to have been deemed by them of so much moment. Why, then, did they not venture immediately to bring forward the roll, and to exhort the king to hear, except that adulation, as I have said, is always timid. Hence then it was that they ventured not to shew the roll to the king, but only told him that they had read some dreadful things, so that the king did not find fault with them, as they had not too boldly brought before him what he was unwilling to hear. This, then, is one thing.
It now follows, that the king sent Jehudi to fetch the roll from the chamber of Elishama the scribe In the person of Jehoiakim we see how the unbelieving shun and seek God at the same time, but with a confused mind, as they know not what they seek. The king might have heedlessly despised what had been related to him, for if he wished to be free from all trouble, why did he order the roll to be brought to him, and a part of it to be read? We hence see that the unbelieving, though they wish to go as far as possible from God, yet run to him in a sort of blind manner; but this they do not of their own accord; for God by his secret impulse draws them to himself, so as to render them more inexcusable. Hence it comes, that curiosity leads many to hear the truth, and some madly ask, what is the truth to them? like wild beasts when they run against swords. Such was the disposition of Jehoiakim, for he wished all the prophecies of Jeremiah to be buried; and yet he could not restrain himself, but would know the substance or some part of them. He therefore sent Jehudi to fetch the roll
It is then added, that Jehudi read the roll before the king and before his counsellors. Hence it was that his impiety became more evident, as he was not moved by the predictions read to him. He could not indeed endure the recitation, but after some chapters had been finished, he became so enraged, as we shall see, that he threw the roll into the fire and burnt it. It was, however, God’s purpose to take away from the king as well as from his counsellors every pretext, that they might not afterwards allege that they had fallen through ignorance, for after the roll had been presented to them, it was their own fault if they were not restored to that state of safety from which they had fallen. He now adds —
22. Now the king sat in the winterhouse in the ninth month: and there was a fire on the hearth burning before him.
22. Rex autem sedebat in domo hyemali, mense nono; et focus coram facie ejus accensus (vel, ardebat)
23. And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth.
23. Et factum est, cum legisset Jehudi tres paginas et quatuor (hoc est, tres vel quatuor) scidit cultello scribae (vel, graphio) et projecit in ignem qui crat in foco, usque dum consumeret volumen totum super ignem qui erat in foco.
Here Jeremiah shews how little he had effected; for the king not only cast aside but tore the roll into pieces, and after having torn it, he wished its memory to perish, for he cast it into the fire. This trial must have grievously affected the mind of the Prophet; he had dictated that roll by God’s command; he saw now that all his labor had been in vain. He might then have complained to God that so much labor had been spent without fruit. For why had God bidden the roll to be written, except for the purpose of leading the king and his counsellors to repentance. As to the people, the Prophet could not know whether it had answered the end for which he sent his scribe Baruch to them, for no account is given as to the attention paid by them. But Baruch was led to the king’s palace, so the minds of all were kept in suspense: what was now the issue? The king burnt the roll. There is no doubt then but that the mind of the Prophet was much affected. But God thus exercises his servants when he bids them to speak to the deaf or to bring light to the blind.
Let us then learn simply to obey God, though the labor he requires from us may seem to be useless. And hence Paul rises above all the ingratitude of the world and says, that the ministers of the Gospel are a sweet odor to God, whether for death or for life, (2 Cor. 2:15, 16) for though the greater part are rendered worse by hearing the Gospel, yet the obedience rendered to God by ministers is acceptable to him, nor is the event to be looked to. Jeremiah then saw that the king’s mind was exasperated, but he did not on that account repent of his obedience, for he knew that the event was to be left with God and to his will. The duty of men is to execute whatever God commands, though no fruit may appear to proceed from their labors. This then is one thing.
Now as to the king, we see in him as in a glass how monstrous is their blindness who are the slaves of Satan. Surely the king, when God so thundered in his ears, ought to have been terrified. He could not indeed treat the word with ridicule, but he became enraged, and acted violently like a rabid wild beast, and vented his rage against the roll itself! If he thought Jeremiah to have been the author, why did he not disregard him as a man of no authority in public affairs? for Jeremiah could not have lessened his character as a king. There is then no doubt but that he perceived, though unwillingly, that he had to do with God; why then did he become thus enraged? what could he hope to gain by such madness towards God? But this, as I have said, was that dreadful blindness which is found in all the reprobate, whose minds the devil has fascinated; for on the one hand they perceive, willing or unwilling, that God is present, and that they are in a manner summoned to his tribunal; and on the other, as though they were forgetful of God, they rage madly against him.
It is then said of King Jehoiakim, that while he was in his winter-house and sitting before the fire, 106 when three or four pages had been read, he cut the roll with an iron pen, or with the small knife of a scribe. The word תער tor, means often a razor, but is to be taken here for the knife used by scribes, un canivet. The king, in the first place, did not wait until Jehudi finished the roll; after he had heard three or four leaves, or pages, as we call them, he seized the roll and cut it; and in the second place, being not content with this sacrilege he burnt the roll, as though he could abolish God’s judgment together with the book. But we shall hereafter see what he gained by this intemperate spirit in burning the roll until the whole was consumed in the fire It now follows —
24. Yet they were not afraid, nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all these words.
24. Et non timuerunt et non sciderunt vestes suas rex et cuncti servi ejus, cum audissent cunctos sermones istos.
The Prophet now connects doctrine with the narrative, for what we have hitherto seen would be frigid were no instruction added. The Prophet then shews why he had related what we have read of the king’s impious obstinacy. But there is more force in a simple statement than if the Prophet in high-sounding words inveighed against the king and his counsellors; for he speaks here as one astonished; They rent not, he says, their garments, nor feared when they heard threatenings so dreadful. And doubtless it may be justly deemed as the most monstrous of things, that miserable men should with such contempt disregard the threatenings of God, which yet they ought to have dreaded no less than instant destruction. That mortals then should not be moved when God fulminates by his threatenings against them, but on the contrary become more hardened — this is an evidence of a diabolical madness. It is hence not without reason that the Prophet says, as one astonished, that neither the king nor his counsellors feared nor rent their garments.
Now, we are taught in this passage that it is a sign of reprobation when we are not terrified when God threatens and declares that he will become our judge, and when he brings forward our sins, and also shews what we deserve. When, therefore, all those things produce no effect on us, it is a sure sign of hopeless madness. This is what the Prophet means when he says, they feared not, for his object was to shew that all, as well as himself, ought to stand amazed, that the king and his counsellors could thus fearlessly withstand the threatenings of God.
As to the garments, the sign is put for the thing itself; and then a statement of a part is made for the whole: in the first place, to rend the garments is of no great moment, unless the heart be first rent, as Joel says in the second chapter; but though hypocrites make a shew of repentance by fallacious signs, yet when true and sincere repentance is treated of, the sign is put in the place of the thing signified, as in this passage, they rent not their garments, that is, they manifested no fear. And as the rending of garments was usually done, he says that they rent not their garments, when God by the mouth of Jeremiah and by the hand of Baruch fulminated against them. There is, in the second place, a part stated for the whole, because they were wont to put on sackcloth, and to sprinkle ashes on their heads. There is here a mention made only of garments; but other signs were also included.
He says, When they heard all these words; not that the king heard the whole volume, but three or four chapters were sufficient to condenm him; for there is no doubt but that he was abundantly convicted, and that he threw himself into such a rage as to cut the roll and not to rend his garments, because he dreaded God’s judgment. And there is a striking alliteration in the words קרע koro, to cut, and קרא kora, to read, the first ending with ע, oin, and the other with א, aleph,. He had previously said, that when Jehudah read a part of the roll, the king cut it; the one read and the other cut; and he says here, that the king did not cut (it is the same word) or rend his garments. The king had before cut the roll and torn it in pieces, when, on the contrary, he and the rest ought to have cut or torn their garments, and were it lawful, even themselves, when God terrified them with such dreadful threatenings. It follows —
25. Nevertheless Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah had made intercession to the king that he would not burn the roll: but he would not hear them.
25. Quinetiam Elnathan et Dalaia et Gainaria, intercesserunt regi (vel, prohibuerunt regem, vel rogarunt; ham ענפ omnia hcec significat, occurrere, vel deprecari, vel prohibere, et se interponere; illi ergo conati sunt regi occurrere) ne combureret volumen, et non audivit ipsos.
The Prophet aggravates the wickedness of the king by this circumstance, that three men opposed him, though they thereby subjected themselves to great danger. They saw that the king was carried away by the violence of his temper; and when he resisted God in a manner so insolent, what would he not have dared to do to them? That they notwithstanding hesitated not to intercede with him, was an instance of great courage. But it hence appears, that as the king did not attend to their counsel, his impiety was extreme.
The particle וגם ugam, is to be rendered nevertheless Many interpreters have not attended here to what is emphatical, and have therefore perverted the meaning of the Prophet, or at least have extenuated it so as not to represent faithfully the object of the Prophet; for there is, as I have said, a very emphatic exaggeration in the word Nevertheless And let us learn from this passage, that when God draws us back from wicked designs, we are less excusable if we persevere in executing what he clearly shews ought not to be done. Conscience will indeed always be to us in the place of thousand witnesses; and though no one be present as a witness or an adviser or a monitor, yet we shall in vain try to escape before God by pretending ignorance or mistake or want of thought: but when the Lord by the instrumentality of men calls us back, so that we may not go on in evil ways, if we are not persuaded to desist, then discovered more fully is our incorrigible perverseness, according to what the Prophet intimates here. In short, let us know that any one sins the more grievously, the more means God employs to draw him back from his evil course.
Since, then, we see how obstinate Jehoiakim was, there is no reason for us to wonder, that many at this day go on presumptuously in their course, though God as it were checks them, or at least sends men to restrain them. Let us, then, know that it is an old evil, so that we may not be disturbed by such a presumptuous contempt of the ungodly.
Let us also notice the example given here of a bold admonition: for it is something like a miracle to find those at this day in the courts of princes, who are bold enough to remonstrate when there is much danger; for, as it has been before stated, every one is ingenious in devising means to flatter; and as this is the best and shortest way to elevation, all apply themselves assiduously to this art. The Prophet had indeed said that the king and his counsellors did not rend their garments, and yet he tells us now of three who openly professed that they feared God: but when he spoke before of all the princes, we must understand him as speaking of them as a body. Then the three, mentioned now, must be excepted; nor is there a doubt but that they incurred the displeasure of all the courtiers, as they had them opposed to them, since they must have been ashamed of their own negligence; but they dared to draw on themselves the displeasure both of the king and of all the rest, for they saw that it was God’s cause. It follows —
26. But the king commanded Jerahmeel the son of Hammelech, 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.
26. Et praecepit rex Jerameel filio Hamelek (vel, regis, sed existimant esse nomen proprium, et est probabile) et Seraiae filio Abdeel, et Selemiae filio Abdeel, ut acciperent Baruch seribam et Jeremiam Prophetam; sed abscondit eos Jehova.
Here is described the madness of the king, which was so great, that he vented his rage against the Prophet and his scribe; and he chose no doubt those whom he thought to be most ready to obey him. He would have never taken such ministers as Elnathan or Delaiah or Gemariah, for he knew how much they abhorred such a nefarious deed; but he sent those whom he thought most adapted for such a service as that of killing Jeremiah and Baruch.
It is not improperly conjectured from this passage and a previous one, that Jeremiah was not detained in prison, but that he had been restrained by God from proclaiming his prophecies to the king and from reading thmn to the people. But as the word עצור, otsur, is taken elsewhere for a captive or one bound, we may indeed draw a different conclusion. However, I will not contend on such a point. I have already explained what I most approve, — that Jeremiah was prohibited by a secret revelation, as Paul was forbidden to go to Bithynia. (Ac 16:7) It is certainly not probable that he could escape from the king’s prison, except it be said, that he was not so confined but that he thought himself free to escape when he saw that it was God’s will, or that though Jeremiah would not have departed from prison, he yet privately escaped from the present rage of the king, because he was forced.
However this may have been, we ought to notice the words, that God hid them Jeremiah no doubt accepted the counsel given to him, to take care of his life; he however now acknowledges that he had been preserved by God’s kindness, as though he had said, that though there may be many ways by which we may escape from our present dangers, yet our life is in God’s hand, so that he hides and conceals us; for we ourselves would run headlong unto death, were we not covered by the shadow of his hand. But the rest to-morrow.
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou dost daily invite us kindly to thyself, and dost also terrify us in order to correct our tardiness and sloth, — O grant, that we may not obstinately resist thee and thy word, but be so allured by thy condescension and subdued by thy threatenings, that in real fear we may flee to thy mercy, and never hope for any other remedy, except we obtain salvation through being reconciled to thee, and that we may so seek thee in true penitence and by true faith, that thou mayest come to our aid, and be propitious to us through thine only-begotten Son our Lord. — Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and forty-Fourth
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 of Jeremiah, saying,
27. Et fuit sermo Jehovae ad Jeremiam postquam combusserat rex librum et sermones quos scripserat Baruch ex ore Jeremiae, dicendo,
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.
28. Conversus accipe tibi volumen aliud, et scribe in ipso cunctos sermones prioris, qui fuerunt in volumine priori, et quod combussit Joiakim rex Jehudah.
By these words the Prophet shews what the ungodly gain by contending against God; for however hard and refractory, they must necessarily be broken down by God’s power. This happened to King Jehoiakim. We saw in yesterday’s Lecture how furious he was when he cut and burned the volume, and also ordered the Prophet to be slain. But it now follows, that another volume was written.
Now God deals in different ways with the rebellious. For at one time he passes by or leaves timre, when he sees that he spends in vain his labor in admonishing them. He then sends no more his Prophets to reprove or threaten, but silently executes his judgments. And for this reason it is said,
“My Spirit shall no more contend with man, because he is flesh.” (Ge 6:3)
And similar examples everywhere occur, that is, that when God saw that the prophetic doctrine was despised, he raised his hand against the ungodly, and at the same time ceased to speak to them. But here he purposed in a different way to break down the violence of Jehoiakim, for he caused another volume to be written He foolishly thought that God’s power was in a manner cut off, or extinguished by fire, because the book was reduced to ashes. But God shews that his word cannot be bound or restrained. Then he begins anew to threaten, not because he hoped for any benefit from this repetition, but because it was necessary to expose to ridicule the madness of the king, who had so presumptuously dared to despise both God and his holy Prophet.
The first thing then is, that the Prophet was bidden to write another roll, after the King Jehoiakim vented his rage against the roll read before him; and hence he carefully repeats the words, Take to thee another roll, and write in it the same words which were in the first book; as though he had said, “Let not a syllable be omitted, but let that which I once proclaimed by thy mouth, remain unchanged; and let thus all the ungodly know that thou hast faithfully delivered what thou didst receive from my mouth.” It follows —
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?
29. Et ad Joiakim regem Jehudah dices, Sic dicit Jehova, Tu combussisti librum hunc, dicendo, Quare scripsisti in ipso, dicendo, Veniendo veniet rex Babel (Babylonis) et perdet ex ea hominem et animal (vel, bestiam?)
30. Therefore thus saith the LORD of Jehoiakim king of Judah, He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David: and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost.
30. Propterea sic dixit Jehova ad Joiakim (vel, de Joiakim) regent Jehudah, Non erit ei qui succedat super solium Davidis, et cadaver ejus projectum erit in aestum per diem et in gelu per noctem.
We now see what reward Jehoiakim brought on himself, by his impiety and perverseness. But there are two clauses; in the first, God reproves him for having insolently dared to impose silence on the Prophet; and in the second, he adds a punishment.
Thou shalt say to Jeholakim We are to take על ol, here for אל, al, as it appears from the context; it indeed properly means concerning, or upon, as in the next verse, God thus speaks of Jehoiakim. But as the Prophet is here bidden in the second person to address him, the other meaning, to, is better, even that he was bidden to address the king, and to address him by name: Then it is, “Thou shalt speak to Jehoiakim, the king of Judah.” The word king, is mentioned not so much for honor’s sake, as to shew that he in vain gloried in honor, or in a title of dignity; for as we have elsewhere seen, the Prophet had been sent to reprove mountains and hills, and not to spare kings or kingdoms. (Mic 6:1; Jer 1:10) It had then been said to him,
“I have set thee over nations and kingdoms.”
As then Jehoiakim could not be so filled with pride as to think that everything was lawful to him, God intimates that there was no reason that royal splendor should dazzle his mind and his senses, for he made no account of such masks, and that no elevation in the world could intercept the course of prophetic truth. In a word, Jeremiah is here encouraged to persevere, lest the high position of the king should terrify him, or enervate his mind, so as not to declare faithfully the commands of God.
A twofold admonition may be hence gathered. The first belongs to kings, and to those who are great in wealth or power on the earth; they are warned to submit reverently to God’s word, and not to think themselves exempted from what is common to all, or absolved, on account of their dignity, for God has no respect of persons. The other admonition belongs to teachers, and that is, that they are, with closed eyes, to do whatever God commands them, without shewing any respect of persons; and thus they are to fear no offenses, nor even the name of a king, nor a drawn sword, nor any dangers.
The crime is in the first place mentioned, Thou hast burnt the book, saying, Why hast thou written in it, By coming come shall the king of Babylon, and shall destroy this city Here God shews what especially was the reason why Jehoiakim cast the book into the fire, even because he could not endure the free reproofs and the threatenings contained in it. When God spares hypocrites, or does not touch their vices, they can bear prophetic teaching; but when the sore is touched, immediately they become angry; and this was the continual contest which God’s Prophets had with the ungodly: for if they had flattered them and spoken smooth words to them, if they had always promised something joyful and prosperous to the ungodly, they would have been received with great favor and applause; but the word of God was unpleasant and bitter; and it exasperated their minds when they heard that God was displeased and angry with them.
This passage then ought to be carefully noticed; for the Spirit of God points out, as by the finger, the fountain of all contumacy, even because hypocrites wish to agree or to make a covenant with God, that he should not deal severely with them, and that his Prophets should only speak smoothly. But it is necessary that God’s word should correspond with the nature of its author. For, as God knows the heart, he penetrates into the inmost recesses; and so also his word is a two-edged sword, and thus it pierces men even to the very marrow, and discerns between the thoughts and the affections, as the Apostle teaches us. (Heb 4:12) Hence it is, that hypocrites become mad, when God summons them to judgment. When any one handles gently a man full of ulcers, there is no sign of uneasiness given; but when a surgeon presses the ulcers, then he becomes irritated, and then also comes out what was before hidden. Similar is the case with hypocrites; for as it has been said, they do not clamor against God, nor even make any complaints, when the simple truth is declared; but when they are urged with reproofs and with threatenings, then their rage is kindled, then they manifest in every way their virulence. And this is set forth here, when the Prophet says, that the book was burnt, because it was written in it that the king of Babylon would come to destroy or lay waste the land, and to remove from it both man and beast
So we see that the prophecy of Micah exasperated all the Jews, when he said that Jerusalem would be reduced into heaps of stones. (Mic 3:12)
But the Prophet immediately shows that the ungodly in vain resist God, when they kick against the goad; they must necessarily be torn in pieces by the stone with which they contend, because their hardness cannot hinder God from executing his judgments. It is therefore added, Thus saith Jehovah of the king Jehoiakim, Be shall have no one to succeed him on the throne of David By saying, that he should have no successor, he means that he should have none of his own posterity; for though his son Jeconiah was made king in his stead, yet as he reigned only for three months, this short time was not counted. Then Jeremiah declares, by God’s cmnmand, that King Jehoiakim should not have a legitimate successor, for his son Jeconiah was led into exile at the end of three months; and Zedekiah was not counted as a legitimate successor, because he was the uncle. And there is also no doubt but that Nebuchadnezzar, from ill-will and hatred, set him on the throne, for he thus raised him in order to degrade Jehoiakim and Jeconiah.
We now then perceive in what sense God threatened that there would be none to succeed King Jehoiakim; for it is not simply said, “There shall be none to sit on the throne of David;” but, “There shall be none to him,” לא יהיה לו la ieie lu, that is, “There shall be none of his children, or of his offspring, to succeed him on the throne of David.” For the last king was Zedekiah, and he, as I have said, was the uncle; so that the whole royal seed were cast off, for no one after this time ever succeeded to the throne.
But it may be asked, How can this prophecy agree with the promise, that the posterity of David should continue as long as the sun and moon shone as faithful witnesses in the heavens? (Ps. 89:37, 38) God had promised that the kingdom of David should be perpetual, and that there would be some of his posterity to rule as long as the sun and moon shone in the heavens; but what does our Prophet mean now, when he says, that there shall not be a successor? This is, indeed, to be confined to the posterity of Jehoiakim; but yet we must bear in mind what we have seen elsewhere, and that is, that he speaks here of an interruption, which is not inconsistent with perpetuity; for the perpetuity of the kingdom, promised to David, was such, that it was to fall and to be trodden under foot for a time, but that at length a stem from Jesse’s root would rise, and that Christ, the only true and eternal David, would so reign, that his kingdom should have no end. When, therefore, the Prophets say, that there would be none to sit on David’s throne, they do not mean this strictly, but they thus refer only to that temporary punishment by which the throne was so overturned, that God at length would, in his own time, restore it, according to what Amos says,
“For come shall the time when God shall raise up the fallen tabernacle of David.”
We now perceive in what sense hath stood firm the promise respecting the perpetuity of the kingdom, and that the kingdom had yet ceased for a time, that is, until Christ came, on whose head was placed the diadem, or the royal crown, as Ezekiel says. (Eze 21:26) There is yet no doubt but this great inconsistency was made an objection to Jeremiah:
“What! can it be that the throne of David should be without a legitimate heir? Canst thou draw down the sun and moon from the heavens?”
In like manner, when the Prophets spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem, they said:
“What! Is it not said, ‘This is my rest for ever, here will I dwell?’ (Ps 83:14)
Can it be that God will be without his habitation on earth, especially when he calls it his rest?” But the answer to all this was not difficult, even that God remained faithful to his promises, though his favor was, for a time, as it were, under a cloud, so that the dreadful desolation both of the city and of the kingdom might be an example to all.
There is no doubt, then, but that they shewed to the Prophet that the kingdom would be hid, as though it were a treasure concealed in the earth, and that still the time would come when God would again choose both the city and the kingdom, and restore them to their pristine dignity, as the Papists say, who boast in high terms of everything said in Scripture respecting the perpetual preservation of the Church:
“Christ promises to be with his people to the end of the world, that he will be where two or three meet together in his name, that the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth.”
(Mt 28:20; 1Ti 3:15)
They heap together all these things, in order to shew that God is in a manner tied and bound to them. But we can easily dissipate these frivolous objections; for God does wonderfully and invisibly preserve his Church in the world; and then the outward face of the Church does not always appear, but it is sometimes hid, and afterwards it emerges and recovers its own dignity, which, for a time, might seem to have been extinguished. Hence we give now the same answer to the Papists as the Prophets formerly did to the ancient people, — that God is a faithful preserver of his Church, but not according to the perception of the flesh, for the Church is in a wonderful manner sustained by God, and not in a common way, or as they say, according to the usual order of things.
He says that the dead body of Jehoiakim would be cast out, to be exposed to the cold in the night, and to the heat in the day This might seem unimportant, like what we threaten children with, when we mention some phantoms to them; for what harm could it have been to Jehoiakim to have his dead body exposed to the cold in the night? for no injury or feeling of sorrow can happen to a dead body, as a dead man as to his body can have no feeling. It seems then that it is to little purpose that the Prophet says, that his dead body would be exposed to the heat in the day, and to the cold at night. But this is to be referred to the common law of nature, of which we have spoken elsewhere; for it is a sad and disgraceful thing, nay, a horrid spectacle, when we see men unburied; and the duty of burying the dead has from the beginning been acknowledged, and burial is an evidence of a future resurrection, as it has been before stated. When, therefore, the body of man lies unburied, all men shun and dread the sight; and then when the body gets rigid through cold, and becomes putrid through the heat of the day, the indignity becomes still greater. God then intended to set forth the degradation that awaited Jehoiakim, not that any hurt could be done to him when his body was cast out, and not honored with a burial, but that it would be an evidence of God’s vengeance, when a king was thus cast out as an ass or a dog, according to what we have seen elsewhere, “With the burial of an ass shall he be buried,” that is, he will be deemed unworthy of common honor; for as it falls to the lot of the lowest of men to find a pit where their bodies lie buried, it was a rare and unusual proof of God’s vengeance, that a king should he exposed as a prey to birds and wild beasts. We know what Jehu said of Jezebel,
“Let her be buried, for she is a king’s daughter.”
She was worthy to be torn to pieces a hundred times. She had been cast out from a chamber, and the dogs licked her blood; yet an enemy ordered her to be buried — and why? because she was a king’s daughter, or descended from a royal family, (1Ki 21:23:) then, he said, let her be buried.
We now then understand the meaning of the Prophet, or rather of the Holy Spirit, that it would be a remarkable proof of God’s vengeance, when the body of King Jehoialdm should be exposed at night to the cold, and in the day to the heat. This has also happened sometimes to the saints, as we have before said; but it was a temporal punishment common to the good and to the bad. We ought yet always to consider it as God’s judgment. When a godly man is left without burial, we must know that all things happen for good to God’s children, according to what Paul says, whether it be life or death, it is for their salvation. (Ro 8:28) But when God gives a remarkable proof of his wrath against an ungodly man, our eyes ought to be opened; for it is not right to be blind to the manifest judgments of God; for it is not in vain that Paul reminds us that God’s judgment will come on the ungodly; but he would have us carefully to consider how God punishes the reprobate in life and in death and even after death. It follows —
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.
31. Et visitabo super eum et super semen ejus, et super servos ejus iniquitatem eormn, et evenire faciam illis (super eos, ad verbum) et super habitatores Jerusalem, et super virum Jehudab omne malum quod pronuntiavi adversus cos, et non a udierunt.
Here a reason is given for what the former verse contains; for if the Prophet had only said, that the dead body of the king would remain unburied and cast out in dishonor to be exposed in the night to the cold and in the day to the heat, the narrative would not have produced the effect intended; but God shews here the cause, which was this, that he had forewarned King Jehoiakim and all his counsellors, (called here servants) and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all the Jews universally: as then they had been in due time clearly told what calamity was near at hand, and yet no one had repented, for this so great an obstinacy God says now that he would take vengeance, I will visit him and his seed and the whole people for their iniquity — what was the iniquity? even that they had so grievously and in so many ways provoked God, and had not returned to a sound mind, though reproved by the Prophet, but had become more and more hardened.
The extremity of their iniquity the Prophet thus points out, because they hearkened not to the threatenings, by which God had endeavored to rescue them from the coming ruin: for there would have been some hope of deliverance, had they deprecated God’s wrath; but as his threatenings had been despised, it was, as I have said, an extreme iniquity. And we see elsewhere how much God abominates this diabolical presumption of men,
“I have called to sackcloth and ashes; but ye have called to the harp and to joy, and have said, ‘Let us feast and drink, for to-morrow we shall die:’ as I live, this iniquity shall not be blotted out.”
(Isa. 22:12, 13)
God swore by himself, that this sin should not be expiated, for the Jews repented not when he kindly invited them to himself, and declared to them that they could not escape extreme punishment. It is therefore no wonder that God in this place also represents their obstinate wickedness as being the greatest, the Jews having not hearkened to the reproofs conveyed to them by the mouth of Jeremiah. It follows —
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 burnt in the fire: and there were added besides unto them many like words.
32. Et (tunc) Jeremias scripsit volumen aliud, et dedit Baruch filio Neriae, qui scripsit in ipso ex ore Jeremiae cunctos sermones libri, quem combusserat Joiakim rex Jehudah igne, et adhuc additi sunt cum illis sermones multi similes illis.
Here the Prophet tells us that he faithfully obeyed God in writing another volume; and his constancy in this affair deserves no common praise; for he had lately fled in fear, he knew that the king was his enemy, as he had already ordered him and Baruch to be slain. As then he knew that the king burned with so much rage and hatred, how came he to be so bold as to exasperate him still more? But we see that the Prophets were not exempt from the influence of fear, and were often anxious about their own safety; and yet they ever preferred the duty imposed on them by God to their own life. The Prophet, no doubt, trembled, but as he felt bound to obey God’s command, he disregarded his own life, when he had to make the choice, whether to refuse the burden laid on him, or to provide for his own safety. Thus then he offered his own life as a sacrifice, though he was not free from fear and other infirmities. This is one thing.
But Baruch, I doubt not, again proclaimed these words; how was it then that the king abstained from cruelty? Had his madness been by any means mitigated? It is certain that he did not become changed, and that he did not through kindness spare God’s servants; but God restrained his cruelty; for when it is not his will to soften the hearts of the ungodly, he yet bridles their violence, so that they either dare not, or cannot find the way, to execute with their hands what they have intended in their minds, however much they may strive to do so. I therefore consider that the King Jehoiakim was restrained by the hidden power of God, so that he could not do any harm to Jeremiah and his scribe Baruch; and that in the meantime the magnanimity of the Prophet and also of his scribe remained invincible; for it was God’s will to fight as it were hand to hand, with this impious king, until he was ignominiously cast from his throne, which happened, as we shall see, soon after.
Grant, Omnipotent God, that since thou warnest us by so remarkable examples, that the ungodly by obstinately resisting thee, do nothing but aggravate their own ruin, — O grant, that we may receive with meek hearts the admonitions of thy Prophets, and submit to thee, and be so humbled by thy threatenings and tremble at thy word, that being touched with the feeling of true repentance, and reconciled to thee by faith, we may find thee to be the best and the kindest Father to obedient children, until we shall at length enjoy that eternal inheritance which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.
Blaney’s suggestion is not improbable, that the Prophet, having been before tried before the princes, (Jeremiah 26) was put under some restraint, probably forbidden to enter the precincts of the Temple. — Ed.
So the verb is rendered in the Sept. and Vulg.; but “accepted” by the Syr. and Targ. Our version is a paraphrase; to convey fully the meaning the word “humbly” ought to have been introduced,” It may be, they will humbly present their supplication,” etc. — Ed.
I render this verse as follows, —
8. And Baruch, the son of Neriah, did according to all that Jeremiah the prophet commanded him, in order to read in the book the words of Jehovah in the house of Jehovah.
What Jeremiah had commanded Baruch was to take a roll and to write the words from his mouth: this Baruch did, and for this purpose, that he might read the words (as the Targum has it) in the Lord’s house. — Ed.
The latter part of the verse is differently rendered in the Sept., Syr., and the Targ., and more consistently with the Hebrew, —
— proclaim a fast before Jehovah did all the people in Jerusalem, and all the people that came from the cities into Jerusalem.
It was a fast that the people proclaimed, and not the king, who was a very ungodly one. His conduct on this occasion proved his great impiety. — Ed.
Some have made two questions here, — “How didst thou write all these words? from his mouth?” The answer seems to favor this construction; as usual in Scripture, the last question is answered first, and then the first: Baruch said, “From his mouth he pronounced to me all these words;” and then he adds, answering the first question, “and I wrote on the book with ink.” — Ed.
There were no chimneys, and therefore no “hearths” in the East. The word rendered “hearth” here means properly a brasier, and את before it is a preposition. The verse may be thus rendered, —
And the king was sitting in the winter-house, in the ninth month, and at the brasier burning (or, which was burning) before him.
It is “a small altar, arula,” in the Vulg.; “fire” in the Syr. and Targ.; but “hearth” in the Sept. — Ed.