John T. Willis

Monday, June 13, 2011

The King Burns the Bible--Jeremiah 36

A careful study of the Book of Jeremiah reveals that Jeremiah 36 is a focal chapter in the entire book for many reasons. The date of Jeremiah 36 is closely related to the date of the previous chapter, Jeremiah 35. The composer dates Jeremiah 35 "in the days of King Jehoiakim"--35:1, and the composer dates Jeremiah 36 in the fourth and fifth years of King Jehoiakim--36:1, 9. Hence, the date of Jeremiah 36 is 605 and 604 BCE. The year 605 BCE is obviously a very important year in the life of Jeremiah--see Jeremiah 7:1-8:3; 25:1-14; 26:1-24. In a series of historical events, probably Jeremiah proclaimed his message that the Babylonians will come into the land, overthrow God's people, carry them into exile, and destroy the Jerusalem temple, recorded in 7:1-8:3, the leaders of Judah responded by forbidding him to preach ever again in 26:1-24, so Jeremiah dictated his former oral oracles to Baruch to write them down and instructed Baruch to read these in the presence of God's people during a fast at the Jerusalem temple, 36:1-10. Jeremiah 36 explains HOW the oral oracles of Jeremiah later came to be written down and eventually resulted in the present Book of Jeremiah. [An earlier blog worked through this process, which you might wish to recall for study].

Jeremiah 36 relates four events in connection with the interaction between Jeremiah and King Jehoiakim of Judah, who reigned from 609 to 598 or 597 BCE. This blog briefly follows the account in Jeremiah 36.

I. Yahweh tells Jeremiah to dictate his oral oracles to Baruch from his call to the present time [627-605 BCE]; Jeremiah did this, and Baruch read this to God's people at the Jerusalem temple approximately a year later. Jeremiah 36:1-10.
a. The composer of the Book of Jeremiah tells his readers that in the fourth year of Jehoiakim King of Judah [605 BCE] Yahweh's word came to Jeremiah to write on a scroll all the words Jeremiah had spoken against Israel and Judah and all the nations from the time of the call of Jeremiah during the reign of King Josiah of Judah [who reigned from 640 to 609 BCE] until today [605 BCE]. Since Yahweh called Jeremiah to be a prophet in the thirteenth year of Josiah's reign [627 BCE], this introduction extends from 627 to 605 BCE, a period of twenty-three years [Jeremiah 25:1-3 make clear this time period]. Yahweh hopes that when God's people hear Jeremiah's oracles over 23 years will "turn from their evil ways so that Yahweh may forgive their iniquity and their sin." 36:1-3.
b. Jeremiah responds to Yahweh's instructions by going to his secretary Baruch son of Neriah and telling Baruch to write down by dictation Jeremiah's words. 36:4.
c. The reason Yahweh tells Jeremiah to do this through Baruch is because the leaders of God's people had forbidden Jeremiah to appear at the Jerusalem temple [this is probably the result of Jeremiah's bold message that Jerusalem and the temple will be destroyed by the Babylonians as related in Jeremiah 7:1-8:3]. 36:5.
d. Thus,as an alternative way to proclaiming Yahweh's message through Jeremiah is to instruct Baruch to go himself on a fast day and then read out loud to the people the words of Jeremiah which he had dictated to Baruch. The hope is that these hearers will repent and turn back to Yahweh. Baruch writes down these words of Jeremiah by dictation. 36:6-8.
e. In the ninth month of the fifth year of King Jehoiakim's reign [thus probably approximately a year after Jeremiah dictating his words to Baruch in 605 BCE], all the people of Judah came from the towns of Judah to Jerusalem to proclaim a fast. During the fast, Baruch reads aloud orally the written messages of Jeremiah "in the chamber of Gemariah son of Shaphan the secretary" in the Jerusalem temple. 36:9-10

II. Micaiah reports Baruch's scroll to the officials of King Jehoiakim. Jeremiah 36:11-19.
a. Micaiah son of Gemariah son of Shaphen heard Baruch's words, and went to the officials of the king and told them the words of Jeremiah through Baruch. 36:11-13
b. Jehudi sends for Baruch, and instruct Baruch to read this scroll again. When Baruch reads this scroll, the officials say this must be carried to the king. 36:14-16.
c. The officials question Baruch as to HOW this scroll came into being, and Baruch replies that Jeremiah dictated these words for Baruch to write them down on a scroll. The officials tell Baruch to go with Jeremiah to hide so that no one will know where Jeremiah and Baruch are. 36:17-19.

III. Jehoiakim King of Judah burns the scroll of Jeremiah. Jeremiah 36:20-26.
a. The officials of Judah carry the scroll of Jeremiah to King Jehoiakim of Judah, and Jehudi reads this scroll aloud to Jehoiakim. 36:20-21.
b. The ninth month of the fifth year of King Jehoiakim's reign was winter, and Jehoiakim was sitting beside the brazier where there was a fire. As Jehudi reads three or four columns in the scroll, Jehoiakim the king cuts off each page and throws the scroll into the fire until the whole scroll is consumed and thus destroyed. Some of Jehoiakim's associates urge him not to burn this scroll, but Jehoiakim ignores their pleas. 36:22-25.
c. Jehoiakim commands Jerahmeel the king's son and Seraiah son of Azriel and Shelemiah son of Abdeel to arrest Jeremiah and Baruch. But Yahweh hid them. 36:26

IV. Yahweh tells Jeremiah to write down his words on a scroll that he had written formerly. This happens, and many similar words are added to them. Jeremiah 36:27-32
a. After Jehoiakim burns the scroll of Jeremiah, Yahweh tells Jeremiah to write down all the former words he had composed by dictation to Baruch, and declare that declare to King Jehoiakim of Judah that the king of Babylon, Nebuchadrezzar II, will destroy the land of Israel and Jehoiakim will have no on to sit on the throne of David and his dead body will be cast out. And Yahweh will bring on his sinful people all the "evils" he had announced through Jeremiah. 36:27-31.
b. Jeremiah follows Yahweh's instructions: Jeremiah dictates all the words he had spoken to Baruch: "and many similar words were added to them." 37:32.

Jeremiah 36 highlights several important truths.
1. Influential religious people frequently oppose God's people and God's word. The Bible contains numerous examples of this. Think of the Pharisees who often oppose Jesus.
2. Human beings can oppress, threaten, and even kill godly people, but Yahweh and his people will ultimately prevail.
3. The Book of Jeremiah is the product of a prior long history. Jeremiah 36 helps one understand part of HOW the Book of Jeremiah came into existence.
4. God has the power and wisdom to hide and protect godly people who are trying to serve and honor God.

Share YOUR insights and thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Prayer is a Two Way Communication

God ALWAYS ACTS FIRST--then God expects that we REACT, that we respond to what God has ALREADY SAID and DONE.

One significant REACTION to God is PRAYER. But when we SPEAK to God, prayer does not end there. God responds to our response. Prayer is a two way communication. We speak and God responds. We ask and God gives. God always invites us to respond in this way.

Here are a few reminders of this truth.

Matthew 7:7-11:
"ASK, and it WILL BE GIVEN you;
KNOCK, and the door WILL BE OPENED for you.
For everyone who ASKS RECEIVES, and everyone who SEARCHES FINDS, and for everyone who KNOCKS, the door WILL BE OPENED. Is there anyone among you who, if your child ASKS for bread, IS GIVEN a stone? Or if the child ASKS for a fish, will GIVE a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to GIVE good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven GIVE good things to those who ASK him."

Isaiah 65:24: [Yahweh gives this promise to his people]
"Before they CALL I will ANSWER,
while they are yet SPEAKING I will HEAR."
This is indeed an amazing promse. God is always ready to hear and answer to the prayers of those who seek and love him.

1 John 5:14-15:
"And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ASK anything according to his will, he HEARS us. And if we know that he HEARS us in whatever we ASK, we know that we have obtained the REQUESTS made of him."

It is true that God may ANSWER in various ways, but his ANSWERS are ALWAYS in our behalf and for our good. God is a loving, compassionate God. Let us pray often daily, and then expect his wonderful, surprising, amazing responses.

Share YOUR experiences and advances with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis