Jehoiakim Burns Jeremiah’s Scroll

This chapter as a dramatised reading

Dramatised Reading – Jeremiah 36

(Adapted from Contemporary English Version)

Narrator, Jeremiah, Baruch, King Jehoiakim, king’s secretary

Narrator – stands at lectern
Jeremiah – stands front of stage, organ side
Baruch – sitting in congregation
King Jehoiakim – sits regally centre-stage, wearing his crown.
King’s secretary – stands beside Jehoiakim.

Props: scroll, crown, large pair of scissors, paper shredder

The scroll should be in three sections, with the following words on sec. 1:

“Who will have pity on you, O Jerusalem?
Who will mourn for you?

sec. 2:

Who will stop to ask how you are?
You have rejected me,” declares the Lord.

sec. 3:

“You keep on backsliding.
So I will lay hands on you and destroy you;
I can no longer show compassion.”


 

Narrator: During the fourth year that Jehoiakim son of Josiah was king of Judah, the LORD said to Jeremiah, “Jeremiah, since the time Josiah was king, I have been speaking to you about Israel, Judah, and the other nations. Now, get a scroll and write down everything I have told you, then read it to the people of Judah. Maybe they will stop sinning when they hear what terrible things I plan for them. And if they turn to me, I will forgive them.”

Jeremiah sent for Baruch son of Neriah.

[Baruch comes and stands next to Jeremiah]

Jeremiah: Baruch, I need your help.  I want you to take this scroll, and write down everything that the Lord has told me.  The officials refuse to let me go into the LORD’s temple, so you must go instead. Take the scroll to the temple and read it aloud. The LORD is furious, but if the people hear how he is going to punish them, maybe they will ask to be forgiven.

[Jeremiah hands the scroll to Baruch.  Baruch goes up into pulpit]

Baruch [reading from scroll]:

“Who will have pity on you, O Jerusalem?
Who will mourn for you?
Who will stop to ask how you are?
You have rejected me,” declares the Lord.
“You keep on backsliding.
So I will lay hands on you and destroy you;
I can no longer show compassion.”

Narrator: When the king’s officials heard about this, they decided that the king must be told.  So they told the king about the scroll, and he sent his secretary to get it.

[Secretary fetches the scroll from Baruch, brigs it to the king, and reads from it]

Secretary [reading from scroll]:
“Who will have pity on you, O Jerusalem?
Who will mourn for you?”

[King cuts off a piece of the scroll and puts it in the shredder]

Secretary: “Who will stop to ask how you are?
You have rejected me,” declares the Lord.

[King cuts off a piece of the scroll and puts it in the shredder]

Secretary: “You keep on backsliding.
So I will lay hands on you and destroy you;
I can no longer show compassion.”

[King puts last piece of the scroll in the shredder]

The king’s officials begged him not to destroy the scroll, but he ignored them.

Jeremiah: I had told Baruch what to write on that scroll, but King Jehoiakim destroyed it. So the LORD told me to get another scroll and write down everything that had been on the first one. Then he told me to say to King Jehoiakim:

[Jeremiah turns to Jehoiakim]

I warned you and the people of Judah and Jerusalem that I would bring disaster, but none of you have listened. So now you are doomed!

[Jeremiah turns back to face front]

After the LORD finished speaking to me, I got another scroll and gave it to Baruch. Then I told him what to write, so this second scroll would contain even more than was on the scroll Jehoiakim had destroyed.

Jer 36:1 In the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD:

This chapter tells of a ‘fateful day, when king and people set their course towards the shipwreck of their kingdom, nearly twenty years distant.’ (Kidner)

The report of how Jehoiakim treated the word of God contrasts greatly with the actions of his father Josiah,. (cf. 2 Kings 22:11-20)

Jer 36:2 “Take a scroll and write on it all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel, Judah and all the other nations from the time I began speaking to you in the reign of Josiah till now.”

The scroll is to contain an anthology of all that Jeremiah has prophesied (626-605 BC).

The present account is an important guide to understanding how prophetic books were written. Jeremiah’s oracles were spoken over a long period (25:3), and are here gathered into a collection. (Isa 8:16)

Jer 36:3 “Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, each of them will turn from his wicked way; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin.”

Kidner draws attention to the ‘provisional nature of prophecy,’ adding, ‘Why else should God pour out threats rather than immediate actions, unless it is to bring us to our senses and to his feet? Why make promises, unless it is to rouse us to the partnership of trust?’

Jer 36:4 So Jeremiah called Baruch son of Neriah, and while Jeremiah dictated all the words the LORD had spoken to him, Baruch wrote them on the scroll.

Jer 36:5 Then Jeremiah told Baruch, “I am restricted; I cannot go to the Lord’s temple.”

“I am restricted” – Jeremiah was probably banned from the temple on account of his unpopular activity.

Jer 36:6 So you go to the house of the LORD on a day of fasting and read to the people from the scroll the words of the LORD that you wrote as I dictated. Read them to all the people of Judah who come in from their towns.

‘A “fast day,” other than the one associated with the Day of Atonement, was not a part of the regular religious calendar but instead was called in the face of some emergency that required the full religious energies of the people. This was likely based on the arrival of Babylonian forces in Palestine (December 604).’ (IVP Background Commentary)

Jer 36:7 Perhaps they will bring their petition before the LORD, and each will turn from his wicked ways, for the anger and wrath pronounced against this people by the LORD are great.”

Jer 36:8 Baruch son of Neriah did everything Jeremiah the prophet told him to do; at the Lord’s temple he read the words of the LORD from the scroll.

Jer 36:9 In the ninth month of the fifth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, a time of fasting before the LORD was proclaimed for all the people in Jerusalem and those who had come from the towns of Judah.

The first reading of the scroll took place before all the people on a solemn day of fasting. But there was no general repentance. Maybe the people felt that their outward act of religious observance was piety enough. We have already seen that sacraments were more important to these people than words from God. (Jer 6:19-20)

According the Harrison, the fast took place in December 604 BC, when the Babylonians overthrew Ashkelon in the plain of Philistia.

Jer 36:10 From the room of Gemariah son of Shaphan the secretary, which was in the upper courtyard at the entrance of the New Gate of the temple, Baruch read to all the people at the Lord’s temple the words of Jeremiah from the scroll.

Jer 36:11 When Micaiah son of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan, heard all the words of the LORD from the scroll,

Jer 36:12 he went down to the secretary’s room in the royal palace, where all the officials were sitting: Elishama the secretary, Delaiah son of Shemaiah, Elnathan son of Acbor, Gemariah son of Shaphan, Zedekiah son of Hananiah, and all the other officials.

It was lay officials such as these who had saved Jeremiah from death not long before, Jer 26:1,16.

Jer 36:13 After Micaiah told them everything he had heard Baruch read to the people from the scroll,

Jer 36:14 all the officials sent Jehudi son of Nethaniah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Cushi, to say to Baruch, “Bring the scroll from which you have read to the people and come.” So Baruch son of Neriah went to them with the scroll in his hand.

Jer 36:15 They said to him, “Sit down, please, and read it to us.” So Baruch read it to them.

Jer 36:16 When they heard all these words, they looked at each other in fear and said to Baruch, “We must report all these words to the king.”

Jer 36:17 Then they asked Baruch, “Tell us, how did you come to write all this? Did Jeremiah dictate it?”

Jer 36:18 “Yes,” Baruch replied, “he dictated all these words to me, and I wrote them in ink on the scroll.”

Jer 36:19 Then the officials said to Baruch, “You and Jeremiah, go and hide. Don’t let anyone know where you are.”

Jer 36:20 After they put the scroll in the room of Elishama the secretary, they went to the king in the courtyard and reported everything to him.

Jer 36:21 The king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and Jehudi brought it from the room of Elishama the secretary and read it to the king and all the officials standing beside him.

Jer 36:22 It was the ninth month and the king was sitting in the winter apartment, with a fire burning in the firepot in front of him.

Jer 36:23 Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe’s knife and threw them into the firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire.

Ancient Hebrew scrolls were written in parallel columns.

‘The slow, methodical destruction of the scroll, keeping pace with the steady progress of the reading, made his rejection a far more emphatic gesture than a swift reaction in hot blood.’ (Kidner)

Jer 36:24 The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes.

Jer 36:25 Even though Elnathan, Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them.

Jer 36:26 Instead, the king commanded Jerahmeel, a son of the king, Seraiah son of Azriel and Shelemiah son of Abdeel to arrest Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet. But the LORD had hidden them.

This action perhaps indicates the fear that lay behind the cool defiance when he burnt the scroll, piece by piece.

Jer 36:27 After the king burned the scroll containing the words that Baruch had written at Jeremiah’s dictation, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah:

‘The first recorded attempt to obliterate the word of God is something of a foretaste of the attacks on it in days to come: by sceptics, by persecutors, and, with whatever good intent, by the rash use of the scholar’s knife.’ (Kidner)

Jer 36:28 “Take another scroll and write on it all the words that were on the first scroll, which Jehoiakim king of Judah burned up.

Jer 36:29 Also tell Jehoiakim king of Judah, ‘This is what the LORD says: You burned that scroll and said, “Why did you write on it that the king of Babylon would certainly come and destroy this land and cut off both men and animals from it?”

Jer 36:30 Therefore, this is what the LORD says about Jehoiakim king of Judah: He will have no one to sit on the throne of David; his body will be thrown out and exposed to the heat by day and the frost by night.

Jer 36:31 I will punish him and his children and his attendants for their wickedness; I will bring on them and those living in Jerusalem and the people of Judah every disaster I pronounced against them, because they have not listened.'”

Jer 36:32 So Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to the scribe Baruch son of Neriah, and as Jeremiah dictated, Baruch wrote on it all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to them.

The king might destroy the scroll; but he could not touch the Author of the scroll, who ensured its preservation and completion.