Read It and Weep.

In the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Take a scroll and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and Judah and all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah until today. It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the disaster that I intend to do to them, so that every one may turn from his evil way, and that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.”

Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah, and Baruch wrote on a scroll at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the Lord that he had spoken to him. And Jeremiah ordered Baruch, saying, “I am banned from going to the house of the Lord, so you are to go, and on a day of fasting in the hearing of all the people in the Lord‘s house you shall read the words of the Lord from the scroll that you have written at my dictation. You shall read them also in the hearing of all the men of Judah who come out of their cities. It may be that their plea for mercy will come before the Lord, and that every one will turn from his evil way, for great is the anger and wrath that the Lord has pronounced against this people.” And Baruch the son of Neriah did all that Jeremiah the prophet ordered him about reading from the scroll the words of the Lord in the Lord‘s house.

In the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, in the ninth month, all the people in Jerusalem and all the people who came from the cities of Judah to Jerusalem proclaimed a fast before the Lord. Then, in the hearing of all the people, Baruch read the words of Jeremiah from the scroll, in the house of the Lord, in the chamber of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the secretary, which was in the upper court, at the entry of the New Gate of the Lord’s house.

When Micaiah the son of Gemariah, son of Shaphan, heard all the words of the Lord from the scroll, he went down to the king’s house, into the secretary’s chamber, and all the officials were sitting there: Elishama the secretary, Delaiah the son of Shemaiah, Elnathan the son of Achbor, Gemariah the son of Shaphan, Zedekiah the son of Hananiah, and all the officials. And Micaiah told them all the words that he had heard, when Baruch read the scroll in the hearing of the people. Then all the officials sent Jehudi the son of Nethaniah, son of Shelemiah, son of Cushi, to say to Baruch, “Take in your hand the scroll that you read in the hearing of the people, and come.” So Baruch the son of Neriah took the scroll in his hand and came to them. And they said to him, “Sit down and read it.” So Baruch read it to them. When they heard all the words, they turned one to another in fear. And they said to Baruch, “We must report all these words to the king.” Then they asked Baruch, “Tell us, please, how did you write all these words? Was it at his dictation?” Baruch answered them, “He dictated all these words to me, while I wrote them with ink on the scroll.” Then the officials said to Baruch, “Go and hide, you and Jeremiah, and let no one know where you are.” – Jeremiah 36:1-19 ESV

It has been about 22 years since Jeremiah began his prophetic ministry in Judah. He started when Josiah was king in Judah. Now Jehoiakim sits on the throne. In the two decades he has been acting as God’s spokesman, he has said many things. He has provided the people of Judah with many warnings and pleaded with them repeatedly to return to God and find grace, mercy and forgiveness. But there has been little to no positive response to his messages. The people remain stubbornly opposed to any form of repentance. They refuse to change their ways. So, God instructs Jeremiah to put it all in writing on a scroll. This would create a permanent record of God’s words and a tangible reminder of just how many times He has patiently pleaded with His people to change their ways.

Jeremiah enlisted the aid of Baruch, who carefully recorded on the scroll all that Jeremiah dictated to him. When this process was complete, Jeremiah instructed Baruch to take the scroll and read it in the presence of all the people at the temple on a fast day. It seems that Jeremiah was under some sort of civil restriction that prevented him from going to the temple himself, which is why he sent Baruch. And when the day came, Baruch did as instructed and read from the scroll. The text tells us, “People from all over Judah had come to Jerusalem to attend the services at the Temple on that day” (Jeremiah 36:9 NLT). It was a full house. We’re told that Baruch “stood in front of the Temple room of Gemariah, son of Shaphan the secretary. This room was just off the upper courtyard of the Temple, near the New Gate entrance” (Jeremiah 36:10 NLT). This is an important point of interest, because Gemariah’s father, Shaphan, was the one who had read the rediscovered book of the Law to King Josiah. During Josiah’s reign, he had committed himself to restoring and revitalizing Judah’s spiritual heritage. He instituted a wide range of reforms, including making much-needed repairs to the temple of God. In the process, they discovered the book of the Law.

And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. And Shaphan the secretary came to the king, and reported to the king, “Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house and have delivered it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the Lord.” Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king. – 2 Kings 22:8-10 NLT

Now, nearly two decade later, Baruch is reading the scroll containing God’s pronouncements against Judah from the room that belonged to the secretary for the temple, Gemariah, son of Shaphan. This note provides a tangible link back to the days when the book of the Law had been rediscovered and read to the king. And when King Josiah had heard what was written in the book of the Law, he had responded in fear and remorse. He told his spiritual advisors:

“Go, seek an oracle from the Lord for me and the people—for all Judah. Find out about the words of this scroll that has been discovered. For the Lord’s fury has been ignited against us, because our ancestors have not obeyed the words of this scroll by doing all that it instructs us to do.” – 2 Kings 22:13 NLT

These men ended up seeking the help of a woman known as Huldah the prophetess. And she gave them a word from God.

Say this to the man who sent you to me: “This is what the Lord says: ‘I am about to bring disaster on this place and its residents, the details of which are recorded in the scroll which the king of Judah has read. This will happen because they have abandoned me and offered sacrifices to other gods, angering me with all the idols they have made. My anger will ignite against this place and will not be extinguished!’” – 2 Kings 22:15-17 NLT

Fast-forward twenty years later and you have Baruch reading a scroll containing the words of God given to Jeremiah. Nothing had changed. The reforms of Josiah had failed to change the hearts of the people. They had continued to abandon God and follow after false gods. Their wickedness had increased rather than diminish.

And when Micaiah, the son of Gemariah and grandson of Shaphan, heard the words that Baruch read, he went immediately to the palace and reported what he had heard to a group of administrative officials who in the midst of a meeting. Notice that these men were not attending the fast day at the temple. They were too busy working. But when Micaiah told them what was happening at the temple, they immediately sent for Baruch and, when he arrived, they had him read the contents of the scroll to them. Upon hearing the words read by Baruch and, after having determined that they were from Jeremiah himself, they decided that this news needed to get to the king. And knowing that this news was not going to be received well, they instructed Baruch:

“You and Jeremiah should both hide,” the officials told Baruch. “Don’t tell anyone where you are!” – Jeremiah 36:19 NLT

They told Baruch and Jeremiah to go into hiding and then they secreted the scroll itself in the secretary’s office in the palace. Once again, it is interesting to note that there had been a group of men gathered for a meeting in the secretary’s office. One of them was Elnathan son of Acbor. Elnathan’s father had been present at the reading of the law scroll in Josiah’s day, and he had been one of the men sent to seek an omen from the prophetess. So, there is another detail provided that forms a generational link between the days of King Josiah to those of King Jehoiakim. Twenty years had passed, but no read change had taken place, except that the people had actually become worse, not better. The sins of Judah had increased, not decreased. The book of 2 Kings tells us that King Josiah, “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22:2 ESV). But of Jehoaikim it says: “he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done” (2 Kings 23:37 ESV).

Two decades had passed. Three different kings had reigned in Judah. And during that time, God had spoken time and time again through Jeremiah, calling the people of Judah to repentance. But no one would listen. And yet, God had told Jeremiah, “Perhaps the people of Judah will repent when they hear again all the terrible things I have planned for them. Then I will be able to forgive their sins and wrongdoings” (Jeremiah 36:3 NLT). That was not to be the case. And God was not surprised by their response. He knew the condition of their hearts. They were incapable of turning from their sins. They were addicted to their spiritual adultery and apostasy. So, judgment was inevitable.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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