Last week we started talking about the prophet Jeremiah. He was a major prophet during the years before the Exile, and he went around telling all of Judah about the coming disaster and destruction if they did not turn back to God. But as we talked about last week, the people and especially the leadership of Judah were not receptive to his words. They wanted to kill Jeremiah for what he said, instead of listen and repent.
If they had repented, God would have stopped the coming disaster. Instead, they stayed stubborn in their ways of worshipping other gods and being unjust to each other.
If I was Jeremiah, after they threatened to kill me for my words, I probably would have given up, and been like “I can’t do this any more God. They don’t listen anyway, so what’s the point?” But Jeremiah didn’t stop. He didn’t give up. He continued to work hard and warn people.
Someone please read Jeremiah 36:1-10.
36 In the fourth year of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 Take a scroll and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and Judah and all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah until today. 3 It may be that when the house of Judah hears of all the disasters that I intend to do to them, all of them may turn from their evil ways, so that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.
4 Then Jeremiah called Baruch son of Neriah, and Baruch wrote on a scroll at Jeremiah’s dictation all the words of the Lord that he had spoken to him. 5 And Jeremiah ordered Baruch, saying, “I am prevented from entering the house of the Lord; 6 so you go yourself, and on a fast day in the hearing of the people in the Lord’s house you shall read the words of the Lord from the scroll that you have written at my dictation. You shall read them also in the hearing of all the people of Judah who come up from their towns. 7 It may be that their plea will come before the Lord, and that all of them will turn from their evil ways, for great is the anger and wrath that the Lord has pronounced against this people.” 8 And Baruch son of Neriah did all that the prophet Jeremiah ordered him about reading from the scroll the words of the Lord in the Lord’s house.
9 In the fifth year of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, in the ninth month, all the people in Jerusalem and all the people who came from the towns of Judah to Jerusalem proclaimed a fast before the Lord. 10 Then, in the hearing of all the people, Baruch read the words of Jeremiah from the scroll, in the house of the Lord, in the chamber of Gemariah son of Shaphan the secretary, which was in the upper court, at the entry of the New Gate of the Lord’s house.
So it’s the fourth year that Jehoaikim is king, four years then since his father Josiah—the last good king of Judah ruled. And Jeremiah has already gotten in trouble with the current king and administration and is basically forbidden from every stepping foot in the Temple again—because that’s where he last addressed the people when we discussed him last week and everyone wanted to kill him. He’s not allowed there anymore to address the people, or for any other reason.
But God still has work for Jeremiah, so he tells him to write down everything he has told him, so the people can still hear it, even if Jeremiah himself can’t go to them. Some people think that this scroll would contain the first few chapters of Jeremiah, probably 1-15, so basically a lot of prophecy of what is to come, that they need to repent, and God will restore them.
So Jeremiah calls a guy named Baruch, who is Jeremiah’s faithful scribe. He dictates the words to Baruch, and Baruch writes it all down. It’s likely that Jeremiah may not know how to write or may not be very good at it, which is why he has a scribe, who is trained in reading and writing do this work for him. But Jeremiah doesn’t just ask Baruch to write down the words, he asks him to go out and read them. Which is asking a lot, since Baruch would be reading the words of a guy who is basically at this time an enemy of the crown. People might want to kill Baruch just like they wanted to kill Jeremiah. But Baruch does in fact obey Jeremiah.
Baruch goes to the Temple during a time period where a special fast has been called by the king, so everyone is in Jerusalem, even the people who don’t normally live there. And during a fast, a lot of these people, especially the men, are going to be in the Temple, which is where Baruch is reading this scroll.
Alright flip back to Jeremiah 25:1-14, but keep a finger in chapter 36 because we’re coming back to it. This section is the sort of thing that Baruch would be saying and that Jeremiah had been saying for years at this point. Someone read it please.
25 The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah (that was the first year of King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon), 2 which the prophet Jeremiah spoke to all the people of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem: 3 For twenty-three years, from the thirteenth year of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah, to this day, the word of the Lord has come to me, and I have spoken persistently to you, but you have not listened. 4 And though the Lord persistently sent you all his servants the prophets, you have neither listened nor inclined your ears to hear 5 when they said, “Turn now, every one of you, from your evil way and wicked doings, and you will remain upon the land that the Lord has given to you and your ancestors from of old and forever; 6 do not go after other gods to serve and worship them, and do not provoke me to anger with the work of your hands. Then I will do you no harm.” 7 Yet you did not listen to me, says the Lord, and so you have provoked me to anger with the work of your hands to your own harm.
8 Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words, 9 I am going to send for all the tribes of the north, says the Lord, even for King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these nations around; I will utterly destroy them, and make them an object of horror and of hissing, and an everlasting disgrace.[a] 10 And I will banish from them the sound of mirth and the sound of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp. 11 This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, says the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste. 13 I will bring upon that land all the words that I have uttered against it, everything written in this book, which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations. 14 For many nations and great kings shall make slaves of them also; and I will repay them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.
A lot of these are point we already studied last week. God—through Jeremiah and the prophets before him—has been pretty consistently telling people the same thing. To turn back to God, and not worship other gods. But the people haven’t listened.
So he tells them he will use the new emperor of Babylon, a guy named Nebudchadrezzar to conquer and punish Judah for seventy years. But he also says the Babylonians won’t get off scot-free either, that eventually they will be punished for their wrong-doings too. But for seventy years, the people of Judah, the remaining Israelites, will live under Babylonian rule. And it will be a very bad time for them.
Alright let’s flip back to Jeremiah 36. Someone please read Jeremiah 36:11-19. We are now back to Baruch reading Jeremiah’s words from the scroll in the temple.
11 When Micaiah son of Gemariah son of Shaphan heard all the words of the Lord from the scroll, 12 he went down to the king’s house, into the secretary’s chamber; and all the officials were sitting there: Elishama the secretary, Delaiah son of Shemaiah, Elnathan son of Achbor, Gemariah son of Shaphan, Zedekiah son of Hananiah, and all the officials. 13 And Micaiah told them all the words that he had heard, when Baruch read the scroll in the hearing of the people. 14 Then all the officials sent Jehudi son of Nethaniah son of Shelemiah son of Cushi to say to Baruch, “Bring the scroll that you read in the hearing of the people, and come.” So Baruch son of Neriah took the scroll in his hand and came to them. 15 And they said to him, “Sit down and read it to us.” So Baruch read it to them. 16 When they heard all the words, they turned to one another in alarm, and said to Baruch, “We certainly must report all these words to the king.” 17 Then they questioned Baruch, “Tell us now, how did you write all these words? Was it at his dictation?” 18 Baruch answered them, “He dictated all these words to me, and I wrote them with ink on the scroll.” 19 Then the officials said to Baruch, “Go and hide, you and Jeremiah, and let no one know where you are.”
A guy named Micaiah hears Baruch read from the scroll and he basically runs over to the king’s house and finds a bnch of officials. He tells them what Baruch is reading to everyone, and they’re like, “oh boy, we better hear this for ourselves.” So they send for Baruch and have him to come to them and read it—which Baruch does without complaint.
And the officials hear the words and are like “oh dear, we better tell the king.” But first they question to make sure where the words came from. Baruch confirms that it was Jeremiah who dictated and he just wrote them down.
And basically the officials are like, “dude, you better get out of here before we tell the king. Go hide with Jeremiah where no one knows where you are so when the king hears he doesn’t kill you.” Basically they know the king isn’t going to be happy about this.
Someone please read Jeremiah 36:20-26.
20 Leaving the scroll in the chamber of Elishama the secretary, they went to the court of the king; and they reported all the words to the king. 21 Then the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and he took it from the chamber of Elishama the secretary; and Jehudi read it to the king and all the officials who stood beside the king. 22 Now the king was sitting in his winter apartment (it was the ninth month), and there was a fire burning in the brazier before him. 23 As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king[a] would cut them off with a penknife and throw them into the fire in the brazier, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the brazier. 24 Yet neither the king, nor any of his servants who heard all these words, was alarmed, nor did they tear their garments. 25 Even when Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them. 26 And the king commanded Jerahmeel the king’s son and Seraiah son of Azriel and Shelemiah son of Abdeel to arrest the secretary Baruch and the prophet Jeremiah. But the Lord hid them.
Baruch leaves the scroll with the officials. The officials then tell the king what the scroll said and at the king’s demand, bring the actual scroll before him.
The text says it was winter. The ninth month, is approximately December, so it’s cold. So there is a fire burning before the king. As the scribe reads, the king cuts the words out of the scroll and throws them into the fire until the entire thing is burned.
Some of his servants tell him not to burn it, but no one is really surprised when he does it. And then instead of listening, the king commands Baruch and Jeremiah both be arrested.
Once again this goes back to the idea of “killing the messenger.” That by somehow getting rid of the people saying the words you’ll stop what is going to happen. But on the other hand, maybe the king didn’t really believe the words at all, and thought that Jeremiah and Baruch were just sewing fear and discord amongst the people. Or maybe the king himself was afraid, and thought that if he pretended nothing bad could be happening, nothing bad would.
Denial is rarely the best method of dealing with anything.
Alright now we’re going to turn back to 2 Kings, because remember the Bible is not chronological. The events of Jeremiah take place during the events of Kings. Remember Kings is written more like a history, and Jeremiah is a book by a prophet about what he’s been told to communicate by God and maybe a little with his own life in it. So Kings can help ground us on where we are chronologically in the Bible.
Someone please read 2 Kings 24:1-4.
24 In his days King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came up; Jehoiakim became his servant for three years; then he turned and rebelled against him. 2 The Lord sent against him bands of the Chaldeans, bands of the Arameans, bands of the Moabites, and bands of the Ammonites; he sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by his servants the prophets. 3 Surely this came upon Judah at the command of the Lord, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, for all that he had committed, 4 and also for the innocent blood that he had shed; for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord was not willing to pardon.
Earlier in Jeremiah it referred to the Babylonian king as Nebuchadrezzar and here as Nebuchadnezzar. Those are the same person just different spellings. It can be weird when you translate names between languages, and we’ll see this again with the king in the book of Esther. If you look at the way the Bible spells the name verses the way modern scholars spell it—it all has to do with who is translating and what.
So this guy, Nebudchanezzar, becomes emperor of Babylon. And for three years it says Jehoaikim is his servant, probably meaning Judah is a vassal state, allowed to stay in tact as long as it pays taxes and stays under the rule of Babylon. But then Jehoiakim rebels.
And for that, the Babylonians destroy Judah. It says Chaldeans, but in the Bible “Chaldeans” and “Babylonians” are generally used interchangeably. And those other tribes mentioned were all probably conquered by Babylon at this time, so basically it’s just saying Babylon comes in and conquers Judah completely.
It says in this text that it’s God that sends them to destroy Judah. But I think it’s more that God allows it to happen. The Babylonians had formed a massive empire that would eventually threaten all the smaller lands around them, but God could have kept Judah safe. But because of Judah’s actions, God chose not to, and allowed Babylon to conquer them.
Someone please read 2 Kings 24:5-9.
5 Now the rest of the deeds of Jehoiakim, and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah? 6 So Jehoiakim slept with his ancestors; then his son Jehoiachin succeeded him. 7 The king of Egypt did not come again out of his land, for the king of Babylon had taken over all that belonged to the king of Egypt from the Wadi of Egypt to the River Euphrates.
8 Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign; he reigned three months in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Nehushta daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem. 9 He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, just as his father had done.
Now this section is important and I included it for two reasons. (1) It points out that not even Egypt was able to stand against Babylon. We’ve talked about how before Egypt was the super power of the world and no one could even compare to it. This is the time period where that is no longer beginning to be the case. Babylon has not conquered all of Egypt, but it has conquered some of what used to be Egypt’s lands, and Egypt was unable to defend and maintain those lands. That’s a big deal.
The second thing is that a new king is instated after Jehoiakim. We’re going to see that for a little while the Babylonians allow Judah to still have a king of the line of David, though this king would be less of a king and more of a governor supposed to rule for the Babylonians, a vassal. But this new king? It says he only rules for three months. That’s not very long at all.
And this is where we’re going to stop for this week. Next week we’ll pick up with the actual Exile itself, which we’ve been leading up to, and some of the more famous stories in the Bible in the book of Daniel.