JeremiahProphet who condemned Judah's infidelity to God, warned of Babylonian conquest, and promised a new covenant More has his oracles committed to writing with the help of his amanuensis BaruchThe scribe of the prophet Jeremiah. More. They announce a certain judgment for Israel.
This remarkable narrative is set in the fourth year of King JehoiakimOne of the last kings of Judah. Jehoiakim was the son of Josiah. More, which was also the year that NebuchadnezzarBabylonian king who conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, and exiled the people More defeated the Egyptians at Carchemish and threatened the future of Israel. This chapter is focused on the commitment of some of Jeremiah’s oracles to writing and the negative response of the king to them; it introduces the story of Jeremiah’s life of suffering (37-45).
Two scrolls, dictated by Jeremiah and written by Baruch, are mentioned. The chapter is concerned primarily with the first (36:1-26). After the first scroll was destroyed by the king, a second was prepared, adding “many similar words” (36:32), including the words of a certain judgment on Israel (36:29-31). The point of the chapter is not to specify the means by which the book of Jeremiah began to be produced (though that testimony is unique in the Old Testament). Rather, the concern centers on the response to the (written!) word of God on the part of the king and his officials.
King Jehoiakim’s response to the word of God is portrayed in a graphic way; he destroys the first scroll himself, using a penknife and throwing the pieces into the fireplace. Destruction of a book speaks more loudly than rejection of a word that is spoken; the entire self becomes involved. This action seems to close off any positive possibilities regarding Israel’s future.
At the same time, some positive response to the written word of God is reported (see 36:11-19, 25). Some persons take steps to protect Jeremiah from the wrath of the king. This step on the part of a few illustrates that there were persons at the time who supported the prophet (see also 38:7-13 on the rescue of Jeremiah from the pitA pit is a hole or a cavity in the ground. While a pit can be actual in the Bible, it is often a metaphor for separation or abandonment. The Psalms frequently speak about going down to the pit, a place from which - it... More).
The importance of writing down Jeremiah’s words cannot be overestimated. It gives readers a glimpse into the process by which the spoken word of prophecyProphecy is the gift, inspired by God, of speaking and interpreting the divine will. Prophets such as Amos, Isaiah, and Ezekiel spoke words of judgment and comfort to the people of Israel on behalf of God. More becomes the written word. Such an action assures that Jeremiah’s words will live on in the community beyond the prophet’s lifetime. Spoken words disappear in time; written words are more enduring. The spoken words have been rejected; written words will persist through time and will have either a judgmental or a salutary effect on subsequent generations of readers.