Devotional Commentary on Jeremiah 36


It is fitting to start this chapter with a citation from Ellen White: “This chapter is a record of historical events that will be repeated. Let all who desire to receive warning, read carefully”. Most preterists would say that it refers to that year in Jehoiakim’s reign in 605/604 BCE only. That is not what Ellen White is saying. She seems to pull things in this chapter through to the End Time beyond her own, thus beyond 1915. She is not the only one. Two rabbis, one from 1509, Abarbanel and the other one Mezudath David in the 18th century said that Jeremiah was to write “all that had transpired to Israel and Judah, as well as the future prophecies destined to befall the nations”.


When Neb came in 605 BCE and took Jerusalem, he made Jehoiakim his tributary. In the same year Jeremiah told them about the 70 years and that they will be given up to Babylon for that time (Jeremiah 25). This was before he was asked here to write down all what he wrote before. He was asked to XEROX his work up to this time. God had a plan with him.


According to verse 9, it was to be written down before the Fast to be held in the 9th month of the fifth year, probably 604 BCE. The question scholars had, is whether the writing and destruction of it took place before Neb came or after it. Some say before because they say that in verse 29 the Babylonians did not yet come to the country. That would mean the writing took place before 605 BCE. But, it is maybe not a correct reading of verse 29 since that verse may talk about what is going to happen on that fateful day as described by Adventist F. Holbrook in his Sabbath School Quarterly on Jeremiah of 1994 page 97: “On January 15, 588 B.C., the Babylonian army laid siege to Jerusalem. Thirty months later, on July 19, 586 B.C., the city fell (Jer. 39:1, 2; 52:4-7). A month later the temple, palaces, and city were burned, and the walls were thrown down (Jer. 52:12-14)”.


“Perhaps the house of Judah will hear all the evil that I plan to do to them” and the evolutionist, creation debunking agitator Richard Dawkins in his interview with Ben Stein (see online) had a long list of how bad God is, would grab this phrase to prove his point, but the sentence is not finished, because two points stands out: “in order that they should repent” is one of them and the second one gives the reason why, namely, “each man from his evil way” (verse 3). There you have it. Evil leads to evil results. What you sow is what you reap.


The Xerox of Jeremiah was Baruch the son of Neriah and Jeremiah dictated to him what he should write (verse 4).


Jeremiah said to Baruch that he is imprisoned and cannot enter the House of the Lord so someone else need to (verse 5). Jehoiakim was the bad king who killed someone who was giving the same message as Jeremiah in Jehoiakim’s first year in 609 BCE. The Lachish Ostracon explains this situation in that year. Jeremiah escaped due to the help of one of the people that were present there. But later he was caught and brought to the prison. That was at the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim in 609 BCE (see Jeremiah 26:1, 8).


On a fastday Baruch was to read the scroll, now a book, in the ears of the people in the House of the Lord (verse 6). Then if they repent and approach the Lord, maybe (ulay) their repentance request will fall before the Lord for their sins are great (verse 7). Does it mean that God will perhaps listen to them? No. Perhaps they will repent. The Perhaps is not closer to the Lord but to them repenting. “Perhaps shall fall…”


Baruch did everything that Jeremiah requested (verse 8). May the Lord bless his willing heart.


In the fifth year of Jehoiakim in the ninth month was the fast (verse 9). The words were read in the chamber of Gemariah the son of Saphan the scribe. His seal was found in the excavation as was presented earlier here. It was at the entrance of the new gate of the House of the Lord. One can say in the area that they found the seal, the new gate was?


Seal below: lgmryhw [b]n spn "belonging to Gemaryahu the son of Shaphan" (Location: City of David)

(A. Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible [New York: Doubleday, 1990], 519)

Seal of Gemariyahu 1.jpg

The seals displayed at the Israel Museum are from three spots: Temple Mound (Benjamin Mazar); Jewish Quarter (Nahman Avigad) and City of David (Yigael Shiloh). Many seals were found in this last instance. They are at the City of David Exhibition. Some of those items there were in the hands of the people in the Book of Jeremiah.


Micaiah heard all the words (verse 11). He went to officials: Elishama` the scribe. In the Israel Museum I saw the name Elishama` on a number of seals. “(Belonging) to syl’ the son of Elishama`;” “(Belonging) [to U]zziyahu [Eli]shama`;” “(Belonging) to Elishama` son of Semachyah[u];” “(Belonging) to Elishama` son of Yeho`ab;” “(Belonging) to ‘Ai`ab son of Yeho`ab.” When I saw this I was wondering if they had double names and when the father died they took the names of their grandfathers either on their father or mother’s side?


Shemaiah I saw in the Israel Museum both on seals as Shema`yahu and in the Arad Ostracon. Both Shemaiah (line 5) and Gemaryahu’s (line 8) names appear on this “King’s Roster” that was found in stratum VII dating to circa 625 BCE, the time of Josiah. Gemariah also appear on another ostracon from Lachish which was my classwork as a student. It is the first name in line 1 in Ostracon 1 from Lachish. Shemaiah’s name also appears on Lachish Ostracon 4 dating to the same time as Jeremiah in line 6. He brought somebody to the city it says. So the evidence is strong regarding the personality of a person working in or for the city of David in this time that Jeremiah is referring to.

 Arad Kings Roster text.jpg

 Arad Ostracon Kings Roster Stratum VII in 625 BCE Translation.jpg

 Lachish Ostracon Text Gemaryahu in line one on left first word.jpg

Lachish Ostracon 1 Gemaryahu in line 1 word one.jpg

 Lachish Ostracon 4  Text Name of Shemayahu in line 6.jpg

 Lachish Ostracon 4 Translation Name of Shemayahu in line 6.jpg

Zedekiah the son of Hananiah and other officers were also there (verse 12). The reality of these events gives us confidence in Jeremiah’s existence, these officers he talked about and suddenly Jewish Literature in Classical Hebrew is not just propaganda material concocted and shaped to serve selfish interests. Beside party and counter-party, it is about evil party, faithful party and God on the side of the faithful in a drama of history. So Micaiah told all the words that he heard Baruch read from the book (verse 13). It reads “in the ears of the people” not going from one after the other and whisper about it, but speaking clearly that everyone heard it. That is the idiom of meaning involved here.


Now they sent Jehudi the son of Nethaniah the son of Shelemiah the son of Cushi to Baruch (verse 14). Cushi is probably an Ethiopian name. That means these descendants could be Ethiopian from lineage. In the Israel Museum there is a jar handle from the Persian Period (after 539 BCE) that reads yhd or yehud. The Ethiopian empire was earlier under the rulership of Tirhaka and his ancestors. They ruled Egypt and at that time when one reads about Egypt, the Ethiopian management of affairs was at the order of the day. He was to call Baruch to bring the book to them (verse 14).


They invited Baruch to sit down and read the Book for them. It is better to sit down since it is going to be a long reading (verse 15). The repetition of “in their ears” may sound redundant to us in modern society, but it was their idiom of expressing that it was not whispered to one, not privately related and then indirectly to the others. It was publically notified so that no-one did not hear it. “They feared each man his friend” (verse 16). This means that they were doing some serious thinking of their lives and found out that if they did not have evil in their lives, who did? Then their “friends” are not good friends but bad ones. They should be feared since this evil is about to come upon all. Bad friends can bring a lot of suffering over innocent people. So they are feared. They wanted to get to the king to tell him.


The legitimacy of the Book is necessary to ascertain since they do not know whether Baruch concocted the story by himself and act as a con-artist blaming Jeremiah. He said that Jeremiah dictated the words and he wrote it down (verse 17). He is not trying to blame Jeremiah, he is trying to establish that it is from a prophet, from a true prophet now in jail, and that it is really from the Lord, so they have to pay attention to it. It is not encounter theology of Martin Buber where revelation comes to the person but he has to use his own words and ways to describe it and those words may be in error or the way it is described is not really true with lots of gaps in the reality of the Revelation originally given. So that is why they select some data as true and others not. Baruch said, that he wrote like a stenographer from a dictation, acting as a modern XEROX copier. “From his mouth he would pronounce all these words to me and I would write in the Book with ink”. J. Balogh said in 1927 cited by Skeat 1956: 187 that “in the ancient world all readers whether of book or documents, normally pronounced aloud the words as they read them and that the silent reading which is so universal today was then looked upon as something phenomenal.” To understand why “in the ears” of all is repeated and so many legitimacy questions were asked, the example from the days of Ashurbanipal (650 BCE) is that he “took pride in his library and in having collected it from all parts of the then known world. His official seal is an example of this pride. On it, after invoking the aid of his favorite god, Nabu, he says: ‘I have collected these tablets, I have had them copied, I have marked them with my name, and I have deposited them in my palace.’ One of his scribe-librarians is reported to have said: ‘I shall place in it whatever is agreeable to the king; what is not agreeable to the king, I shall remove from it’ (Johnson and Harris 1976: 21). This is the reason that Baruch is so detailed and careful. He did not add and did not remove like the scribe of Ashurbanipal did. Ever heard of the Gilgamesh Flood Story that compares so wonderfully with the Genesis account of Noah that made scholars in the 1920’s cry that Moses copied Genesis from this Gilgamesh Epic? Wait a minute. The scribe was in the Niniveh Library just like this scribe who just gave his method of omission and addition to us. He was also copying the Gilgamesh Epic in 650 BCE there when Hebrews with their Moses book of Genesis written in 1460 BCE in Midian was already in the area of this Gilgamesh Epic compiler since 723 BCE. Ever heard of Nabu-Levi or Nabu-Cohen in the Niniveh Library? Scholar need to think twice before they leap to conclusions.


The officers then said that Baruch and Jeremiah need to be hidden. Since Jeremiah was in jail, he was probably just under room arrest and could move (verse 19). The prison yard is not that great that Jeremiah could find a space to hide and this suggestion of the Middle Age Rabbi Redak is not acceptable here. A good point by Rabbi Malbim (1879) is that Jehoiakim sought to kill Jeremiah but the officers want to save him but in Zedekiah’s time it was the opposite that the officers sought to kill Jeremiah but Zedekiah wanted to save him (38:10).


They took the book to the chamber of Elishama the scribe and told the king (verse 20). The king sent Jehudi to take the scroll and he did and Jehudi read it to the king, a learned Ethiopian indeed (verse 21). The officers were standing over the king. They also heard it. It was not private to the king alone. “In the ears” of all parties around the king.


The king was sitting in the Winterhouse in the ninth month and a fire was burning before him (verse 23). Every time Jehudi read three “doors” or four, the king rent it with a scribe’s razor. Here we must stop and for one moment listen to Middle Ages Rabbi Redak 1157-1236, who said that “three doors” “to mean, pages, called so because they open and close like doors”. Targum Jonathan to the Prophets thought that maybe “doors” mean the columns that one can see when it is rolled open. Rabbi Kara (also in 12th century) thought that each section was composed of three columns attached to the following section with stiches. Doors?

 Book at Nimrud Seton Lloyd 1987 page 214.jpg This one was found by Layard and at the British Museum Laboratory the book consisted of 15 or more leaves joined by golden rings. It was found in a well in the Assyrian city of Nimrud excavation consisting of “wax” boards of ivory. This is dating to about a century or century and a half before Jeremiah.

  Book in Nimrud.jpg

It is very likely that Jeremiah wrote in similar “Japanese/Korean Screen” like boards that looked like doors.


The King threw it into the fire until all was consumed (verse 23). Maybe the vellums were bound with stiches into the folding book.


The king and his servants heard the words but were not afraid and did not rend their clothes (verse 24).


Elnathan, Delaiah and Gemariah pleaded with the king not to burn the book, but he did not listen to them (verse 25). In the Israel Museum at the City of David Exhibition I saw a seal reading “El-natan the son of Bilgai” from Area G on the floor. This chapter is as real as real can be.


The King was not done. He sent Jerahmeel, Seraiah and Shelemiah to arrest Baruch and Jeremiah (verse 26). Dictators cannot stand the free press or the freedom of expression even if it is a true situation that he is called upon to take note of seriously. They want to arrest anyone pointing out the wrongs of the ruler. Jeremiah should not have the freedom to speak and Baruch the freedom to write. Even if Baruch was just the XEROX of Jeremiah.  “But the Lord concealed them”.


Again the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah to take a roll and write upon it all the original words that was on the first scroll (verse 28).


The message to Jehoiakim is: Because he questioned the prediction of the fall of Jerusalem by Babylon (verse 29), therefore no one shall sit of his house on the throne of David and his corpse shall be cast to the heat of day and the frost of night (verse 30).


God will visit upon them their evil and refusal to repent (verse 31). Jeremiah and his XEROX set to task and wrote again the words from the Lord “and there were yet added to them many words like those”. What could have been added is just this event that just occurred, namely chapter 36. The Rabbis speculated about Lamentations been added but that is not necessary.


Dear God

Indeed this test of faith and fear of predictions by this dictator will be replayed near the End of Time when rulers fear religion and any future predictions regarding themselves. Give us the courage to be like Baruch and Jeremiah. In Jesus Name. Amen.