Verses 9–19

It should seem that Baruch had been frequently reading out of the book, to all companies that would give him the hearing, before the most solemn reading of it altogether which is here spoken of; for the directions were given about it in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, whereas this was done in the fifth year, Jer. 36:9. But some think that the writing of the book fairly over took up so much time that it was another year ere it was perfected; and yet perhaps it might not be past a month or two; he might begin in the latter end of the fourth year and finish it in the beginning of the fifth, for thee ninth month refers to the computation of the year in general, not to the year of that reign. Now observe here, 1. The government appointed a public fast to be religiously observed (Jer. 36:9), on account either of the distress they were brought into by the army of the Chaldeans or of the want of rain (Jer. 14:1): They proclaimed a fast to the people; whether the king and princes or the priests, ordered this fast, is not certain; but it was plain that God by his providence called them aloud to it. Note, Great shows of piety and devotion may be found even among those who, though they keep up these forms of godliness, are strangers and enemies to the power of it. But what will such hypocritical services avail? Fasting, without reforming and turning away from sin, will never turn away the judgments of God, Jonah 3:10. Notwithstanding this fast, God proceeded in his controversy with this people. 2. Baruch repeated Jeremiah’s sermons publicly in the house of the Lord, on the fast-day. He stood in a chamber that belonged to Gemariah, and out of a window, or balcony, read to the people that were in the court, Jer. 36:10. Note, When we are speaking to God we must be willing to hear from him; and therefore, on days of fasting and prayer, it is requisite that the word be read and preached. Hearken unto me, that God may hearken unto you. Jdg. 9:7. For our help in suing out mercy and grace, it is proper that we should be told of sin and duty. 3. An account was brought of this to the princes that attended the court and were now together in the secretary’s office, here called the scribe’s chamber, Jer. 36:12. It should seem, though the princes had called the people to meet in the house of God, to fact, and pray, and hear the word, they did not think fit to attend there themselves, which was a sign that it was not from a principle of true devotion, but merely for fashion sake, that they proclaimed this fast. We are willing to hope that it was not with a bad design, to bring Jeremiah into trouble for his preaching, but with a good design, to bring the princes into trouble for their sins, that Michaiah informed the princes of what Baruch had read; for his father Gemariah so far countenanced Baruch as to lend him his chamber to read out of. Michaiah finds the princes sitting in the scribe’s chamber, and tells them they had better have been where he had been, hearing a good sermon in the temple, which he gives them the heads of. Note, When we have heard some good word that has affected and edified us we should be ready to communicate it to others that did not hear it, for their edification. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 4. Baruch is sent for, and is ordered to sit down among them and read it all over again to them (Jer. 36:14, 15), which he readily did, not complaining that he was weary with his public work and therefore desiring to be excused, nor upbraiding the princes with their being absent from the temple, where they might have heard it when he read it there. Note, God’s ministers must become all things to all men, if by any means they may gain some, must comply with them in circumstances, that they may secure the substance. St. Paul preached privately to those of reputation, Gal. 2:2. 5. The princes were for the present much affected with the word that was read to them, Jer. 36:16. Observe, They heard all the words they did not interrupt him, but very patiently attended to the reading of the whole book; for otherwise how could they form a competent judgment of it? And, when they had heard all, they were afraid, were all afraid, one as well as another; like Felix, who trembled at Paul’s reasonings. The reproofs were just, the threatenings terrible, and the predictions now in a fair way to be fulfilled; so that, laying all together, they were in a great consternation. We are not told what impressions this reading of the roll made upon the people (Jer. 36:10), but the princes were put into a fright by it, and (as some read it) looked one upon another, not knowing what to say. They were all convinced that it was worthy to be regarded, but none of them had courage to second it, only they agreed to tell the king of all these words; and, if he think fit to give credit to them, they will, otherwise not, no, though it were to prevent the ruin of the nation. And yet at the same time they knew the king’s mind so far that they advised Baruch and Jeremiah to hide themselves (Jer. 36:19) and to shift as they could for their own safety, expecting no other than that the king, instead of being convinced, would be exasperated. Note, It is common for sinners, under convictions, to endeavour to shake them off, by shifting off the prosecution of them to other persons, as these princes here, or to another more convenient season, as Felix. 6. They asked Baruch a trifling question, How he wrote all these words (Jer. 36:17), as if they suspected there was something extraordinary in it; but Baruch gives them a plain answer, that there was nothing but what was common in the manner of the writing—Jeremiah dictated and he wrote, Jer. 36:18. But thus it is common for those who would avoid the convictions of the word of God to start needless questions about the way and manner of the inspiration of it.