JEREMIAH 36: JEHOIAKIM REJECTS GOD’S WORD
When This Happened
This verse says that this word from the Lord came in the 4th year of King Jehoiakim, which was 605-604 B.C. The Jewish year ran from Nisan to Nisan, or April to April
Chapter 35 was set in the reign of Jehoiakim also. Jehoiakim was a son of Josiah the reformer. But unlike his father, he did not keep the covenant with God.
2 Kings 23 tells us his name was actually Eliakim. But Pharoah Neco subjugated Judah and captured King Jehoaz and took him to Egypt. He put Eliakim, Jehoaz’s brother, on the throne and changed his name to Jehoiakim. He was a vassal of Egypt and paid tribute to Pharoah (king of Egypt).
But then, Nebuchadrezzar had defeated the Egyptian forces at Carchemish and begun moving into Syria on the way to Palestine. Judah became a vassal of Babylon. They rebelled and Babylon retaliated harshly, taking the leading people into exile.
Daniel stated that he went into exile in the 3rd year of Jehoiakim. (Daniel 1:1)
The scroll was not read until the 9th month of the 5th year of Jehoiakim’s reign. That was the very month the Babylonian army destroyed the city of Ashkelon of the Philistines. This fast day may have been called in response, to prevent the destruction of Jerusalem. It is interesting to think the scroll was read in December 604 B.C. Here at the end of November 2012, we are 2,616 years and a few days from the reading of the scroll.
So chapters 35 and 36 take a break from the story of the Lord dealing with Zedekiah, the last king before total destruction, to tell events of God dealing with Jehoiakim. Why? It shows again that when Jeremiah prophesied, he delivered the word of the Lord, and those prophesies came true. The Lord performed his word as he stated he would through Jeremiah.
It also gives us context for the way the King and the priests treated Jeremiah in the following chapters.
God told Jeremiah to get a scroll and write down all the words the Lord had spoken to Jeremiah in prophecy against Israel and Judah and other nations. This was to be a record of everything Jeremiah prophesied from the time of King Josiah to the time of this chapter. This would be from 627 to 605 B.C., about 22 years. Jeremiah 1:1 tells us Jeremiah first prophesied in the 13th year of Josiah’s reign. This would be a big scroll of prophecies.
The purpose of this writing was to call Judah to repentance. They could read all of God’s accusations against them, the punishments he threatened to impose and repent so that God could forgive them. Even after all this time of rebellion, God still extended mercy in calling for repentance, so that he could extend grace and save them from calamity.
God acts this way today, exposing us to the gospel so we can repent and obey him and avoid disaster. Remember how God called the 7 churches of Asia to repent in Revelation 1-3.
Jeremiah instructs Baruch
Baruch served as a secretary to Jeremiah. Jeremiah dictated the prophecies and Baruch wrote them on the scroll.
Next, Jeremiah instructed Baruch to read the scroll at the Temple on a day of fasting when men from all over Judah had come to Jerusalem and the Temple. (6) It may have been a special day to fast for protection, maybe from an invasion by Babylon. An example of this would be in Joel 2:15. There, in a call to repentance, Joel said "Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast."
Jeremiah had been banned from coming to the Temple. (5) Likely, Jeremiah had been banned from the Temple for preaching that it would be destroyed. Remember the Temple Sermon of chapter 7, when Jeremiah preached that the Lord would do to the Temple what he did to Shiloh. He destroyed Shiloh through the Philistines during the time Eli was high priest and judge. (1 Samuel 4)
Jeremiah repeated God’s the purpose of their work: that they might repent and God might relent and have mercy on them. It seems, then, that the people had gathered to fast and ask for mercy. But God would not extend mercy unless they repented.
If you like to tie together the historical threads of the Bible (and I do), note that Baruch read the scroll in the chamber of Gemariah the son of Shaphan. Shaphan was the state secretary. When the book of the law was found during Josiah’s reign, it was read by Shaphan. (2 Kings 22:3)
Since Gemariah let Baruch read the scroll from his room, he must have been favorable to Jeremiah. Plus, the room or chamber was in the upper court, so Baruch could stand above the people and be heard and seen by everyone.
We should note that Baruch was faithful. He did all that Jeremiah ordered. (8) He had to know that, if Jeremiah was banned from the Temple, the one that read his message at the Temple could get into trouble. But he did it anyway.
It also shows that many play a part in the mission of God. Not everyone becomes a prophet, a preacher or a teacher. But we all have a part and must be faithful to do it.
In 1975, a clay seal with Baruch's name was discovered. It is now in the Israel Museum. The inscription, is:
[belonging] to Berachyahu
son of Neriyahu
Cause For Alarm
Micaiah heard the prophecy and had Baruch read it to several of the officials. One of those officials was Elnathan on of Achbor. His father had been part of the story of finding the book of the law during Josiah’s time also.
They ascertained it was from Jeremiah. The prophecy must have said something against the king, for they felt they had to tell him about it. But they were concerned for the safety of Baruch and Jeremiah and told them to hide. This indicates they feared the king would receive the message badly and kill them.
Burning the Scroll
So, the officials brought the scroll to the king and read it to him. A nice amount of detail is told here. The king was in his winter house. It had a fire pot to keep him warm. As the scroll was read, the king would cut off a portion and burn it in the pot until the whole scroll was burned up. The officials even urged him not to burn the scroll, but he kept doing it. He showed utter contempt for the word of God.
The King also did not believe the message. Verse 24 said he was not afraid. If you believed the Babylonians would come and destroy your city and kill your people, you would be afraid. So he obviously did not believe it.
The King was also not moved to repent. Verse 24 said he and his attendants did not tear their clothes. Tearing of clothes was a sign of remorse or sadness, as you would have under conviction of sin.
The writer seems to be drawing a comparison for us, showing the response to God’s word in Josiah’s time (as set out in 2 Kings 22) and the response of Jehoiakim. In each story, a scroll is brought to the king. In each story the scroll first came into the hands of a government official. Both stories record the reaction of the king to the scroll. Josiah immediately set about to obey the law. Jehoiakim did not. Josiah tore his clothes in despair over the his sin and that of his people. (2 Kings 22:11-20) Verse 24 specifically says Jehoiakim did not tear his clothes. In both stories, a further word from God follows the king’s response. (2 Kings 22:15-20; Jeremiah 36:28-31) I think the writer expected his audience to know the story of Josiah well enough to understand these references and make the comparison.
So the King completely ignored Jeremiah’s message. The one thing the message did was make him angry. The King saw it as treason. So he ordered both Jeremiah and Baruch arrested.
Despite the king’s order, the men could not be found. That was because the Lord hid them. As long as the Lord has work for you to do, you cannot be harmed. Jesus walked through crowds untouched and avoided arrest until the right time came. Peter was delivered from prison by an angel.
A New Scroll
The Lord had Jeremiah write a new scroll. The Lord is not defeated and his word is not stopped. Jesus said “heaven and earth shall pass away but my words will not pass away. (Matthew 24:35) God said “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but is shall accomplish that which I purpose and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)
This time the Lord added a punishment for King Jehoiakim. Since he personally scorned the word of the Lord, he would personally suffer judgment. The Lord said he shall have none to sit on the throne of David. He would not have an heir to sit on the throne. This is shown to be true in 37:1.
And even greater, the Messiah would not come through his line. (30) And if we look at Matthew 1 we see this came true. Josiah is listed as the father of Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of deportation. (Matthew 1:11-12) He also does not appear in Luke’s genealogy.
Additionally, he would be killed and not buried. (30) 2 Kings 36:5-6 tells us that Jehoiakim was taken in the first exile. He went in chains to Babylon. There is a play on words here. The King cast the pieces of the scroll into the fire and he would be cast into the heat of day and frost of night.
Many Similar Words
The last sentence in the chapter says many similar words were added to them. We do not know what those words were.
Not every word spoken or written is preserved by the Holy Spirit. For example, Paul quotes Jesus saying it is better to give than receive. (Acts 20:35) Yet we do not have that in the gospels.
John ended his gospel with these words: “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written”. (John 21:25)
So the Bible does not tell us everything that was said or everything that was done. It does not claim to do so.
God decided what to preserve. He does not preserve or reveal everything. But he revealed to us what he chose to reveal and preserve. And he gives us all we need.
2 Peter 1:3 says “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence…” The Westminster Confession affirms the sufficiency of Scripture. Here's what the Westminster Confession says,
The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life is either expressly set down in Scripture or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.
There have been many attacks on God’s word and many attempts to eradicate it. It began in the garden with Satan saying “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1) God did not say that of course.
In Matthew 4, Satan tempted Jesus by misapplying God’s word. But Jesus resisted him by properly applying God’s word.
In the 1800s, Joseph Smith attacked the sufficiency of the Word by authoring other books that he said were equal to it as scripture.
Today the Bible is attack, almost unwittingly, by those within the church that do not believe in the sufficiency of scripture. They believe we need to add to it. We need psychology, or corporate management techniques, or extra rules or church growth manuals.
Then there are many, like King Jehoiakim, who ignore the parts they do not like, or who remain unaffected by it when it is read or preached. Instead, we should take the advice of James: “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
That starts with believing the gospel: repenting of sin and trusting Christ for salvation. It continues by applying God’s words to our lives without explaining it away or ignoring the hard parts, but rather humbly bowing before God and saying I believe and I will obey.