Several things happen in this chapter of which we did not know in the previous 35 chapters. One thing to keep in mind, Jeremiah is going back to the reign of Jehoiakim; his 4th year out of his 11 years on the throne of the Kingdom of Judah. Jeremiah reminds the King that since the days of his father Josiah, the last God-fearing king on the throne, he has been warning Judah of their pending and irreversible doom. His prophecies didn’t only include Judah, but verse 2 informs us that he also prophesied about Israel (Kingdom of) and other nations as regards End Time; God’s judgement on those who are His chosen and those who are Gentile.
God tells Jeremiah to get a scroll and begin writing all that HE has told him. Baruch now enters the picture. Jeremiah calls upon him to take the dictations and write for him. God tells Jeremiah to not only write it all down, but to read it to the people and the leadership of Judah. Jeremiah 36:4 is where we finally find out about Baruch being the one to actually write what Jeremiah had experienced and was told by God per his constant message and prophecy. This is simple to understand. God needed Jeremiah through the Holy Spirit to recall all that had happened up to this point; not spend a great deal of time actually writing.
At this time, Jeremiah is “shut up” as it says in the king James. There are a few translations that differ enough with this comment that it begs additional explanation. Some say “shut up;” a few say “restrained;” some translate “detained, banned, or not allowed to go there” It is simple enough to put it the way it was; Jeremiah was sequestered from preaching in the synagogue and not allowed to venture anywhere. He had made enemies of his own kindred Tribe of Judah and its spiritual and secular leadership.
Then, by the direction of Jeremiah, Baruch took the scroll/manuscript to the Temple and read it aloud to the spiritual leadership. This reading of the Jeremiah scroll had such an influence on the Temple leadership that they declared a fasting. Not only had the leadership heard what Baruch wrote then read, but so did many of the populace who were in the Temple at that time. Most of the “princes” and officials were not at the Temple. They were conversing in the King’s Court or Palace. They heard about Baruch reading the scroll and sent someone to fetch him. At first glance they were simply wanting to hear what had been read by Baruch even though it was something they had heard for years from the mouth of Jeremiah; the scrolls author.
Upon hearing what Jeremiah dictated to Baruch and after Baruch read to them in the King’s Palace, they suddenly felt a fear come upon them. These officials questioned Baruch as to where he had gotten the information to put on the scroll. He told them “from Jeremiah.” They felt it necessary to inform the King (Jehoiakim). We don’t know if it was a tattle-tail forwarding of information to the king or if they had a fear since the word came to them from someone other than Jeremiah. However, knowing King Jehoiakim’s hate for Jeremiah and the “surrender to Babylon message” Jeremiah kept repeating, the royal officials told Baruch to get Jeremiah and go hide in a secret place. They already knew how Jehoiakim would react. However, the royal officials kept the scroll in their possession.
Here is where so many get the history of this event wrong. It was neither Jeremiah nor Baruch who read the scroll to the King. It was his servant Jehudi who read the words from the scroll. Since it was winter time in Judah, the King was in his heated winter rooms of the palace. We know this as verse 22 tells us this is so. There was a fire in the fireplace in which Jehoiakim was sitting. AS Jehudi read from the scroll, the King would grab it, cut off the section Jehudi had read, than toss the scrap into the fire place. He had total contempt for the Word of God.
Here is another HOWEVER… those in the room did hear the prophecy so they KNEW what was coming. Somehow they and Jehoiakim figured by destroying the message, it would not come true as they were “not afraid.” Some of the leaders from the Temple tried to get King Jehoiakim to not tear up and burn the scroll. He refused them. As it reads in Jeremiah 36:26…the king ordered both Jeremiah and Baruch arrested. But… these men sent to arrest Baruch and Jeremiah came back empty handed. They could not find the men.
So still being free of the clutches of the King, God told Jeremiah to re-dictate the message to Baruch and write it once again. There is a sever consequence for having burned the scroll. God tells Jeremiah that after re-writing the book to go and tell Jehoiakim the penalty for having done so. It is a brutal commandment from God and punishment to Jehoiakim.
“So this is what the LORD says about King Jehoiakim of Judah: Jehoiakim’s descendants will not sit on David’s throne. When Jehoiakim dies, he will not get a king’s funeral, but his body will be thrown out on the ground. His body will be left out in the heat of the day and the cold frost of the night.” [Jeremiah 36:30]
This warning should have brought Jehoiakim to his knees. It didn’t. We find out later on that this is precisely what happened to King Jehoiakim. Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians were less than honoring to their captors. There are exceptions but this will not be one of them. During the rewrite of the Book of Jeremiah, the final verse in chapter 36 tells us that some additional information was added at this time…”And many other words like those messages were added to the second scroll.” We do not know what was added and what was in the original scroll text before Jehoiakim burned it piece by piece. We do know that all in the original text was rewritten and “some additional words were added.”
Immediately in the next chapter (C37) we find that Nebuchadnezzar removed Jehoiakim from the throne and installed his uncle to the throne of Judah, albeit a puppet king at best. We should be reminded that during this history of Judah, they were pawns of Egypt and then Babylon. Jehoiakim’s older brother had only ruled for three months when Necho II, Pharaoh of Egypt, had him removed and Jehoiakim installed.
“Rabbinical literature describes Jehoiakim as a godless tyrant who committed atrocious sins and crimes. He is portrayed as living in incestuous relations with his mother, daughter-in-law, and stepmother, and was in the habit of murdering men, whose wives he then violated and whose property he seized. He also had tattooed his body” [Jewish Encyclopedia].
JIV: Tattooed? Is this God’s feeling about such a practice?
In short, Jehoiakim was a bottom of the barrel ruler in Judah. He paid a severe price for it. There was another prophet during this time by the name of Uriah Ben Shemaiah. He apparently told the king the same things as did Jeremiah per his evil living style. Uriah suffered death at the hands of Jehoiakim for it. We find this information back in Jeremiah 26:20-23. Uriah Ben Shemaiah fled to Egypt to avoid the wrath of King Jehoiakim but was soon sought out and arrested. Upon his being returned to Judah, Jehoiakim had him executed. This is all we hear of and know about this “other prophet.”
Recall that back in Jeremiah 1 God told Jeremiah he would suffer for being a prophet but he would protect him from being executed.
How fitting it was to be that King Jehoiakim had slaughtered then tossed this minor prophet into the slums of a pit to rot and be exposed to the heat and wild animals. This is precisely what Jeremiah told Jehoiakim would be his own death treatment. It should have scared him but it only showed his contempt for prophets of God and God himself.