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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 20–32
Verses 20–32

We have traced the roll to the people, and to the princes, and here we are to follow it to the king; and we find,

I. That, upon notice given him concerning it, he sent for it, and ordered it to be read to him, Jer. 36:20, 21. He did not desire that Baruch would come and read it himself, who could read it more intelligently and with more authority and affection than any one else; nor did he order one of his princes to do it (though it would have been no disparagement to the greatest of them), much less would he vouchsafe to read it himself; but Jehudi, one of his pages now in waiting, who was sent to fetch it, is bidden to read it, who perhaps scarcely knew how to make sense of it. But those who thus despise the word of God will soon make it to appear, as this king did, that they hate it too, and have not only low, but ill thoughts of it.

II. That he had not patience to hear it read through as the princes had, but, when he had heard three or four leaves read, in a rage he cut it with his penknife, and threw it piece by piece into the fire, that he might be sure to see it all consumed, Jer. 36:22, 23. This was a piece of as daring impiety as a man could lightly be guilty of, and a most impudent affront to the God of heaven, whose message this was. 1. Thus he showed his impatience of reproof; being resolved to persist in sin, he would by no means bear to be told of his faults. 2. Thus he showed his indignation at Baruch and Jeremiah; he would have cut them in pieces, and burnt them, if he had had them in his reach, when he was in this passion. 3. Thus he expressed an abstinent resolution never to comply with the designs and intentions of the warnings given him; he will do what he will, whatever God by his prophets says to the contrary. 4. Thus he foolishly hoped to defeat the threatenings denounced against him, as if God knew not how to execute the sentence when the roll was gone in which it was written. 5. Thus he thought he had effectually provided that the things contained in this roll should spread no further, which was the care of the chief priests concerning the gospel, Acts 4:17. They had told him how this roll had been read to the people and to the princes. “But,” says he, “I will take a course that shall prevent its being read any more.” See what an enmity there is against God in the carnal mind, and wonder at the patience of God, that he bears with such indignities done to him.

III. That neither the king himself nor any of his princes were at all affected with the word: They were not afraid (Jer. 36:24), no, not those princes that trembled at the word when they heard it the first time, Jer. 36:16. So soon, so easily, do good impressions wear off. They showed some concern till they saw how light the king made of it, and then they shook off all that concern. They rent not their garments, as Josiah, this Jehoiakim’s own father, did when he had the book of the law read to him, though it was not so particular as the contents of this roll were, nor so immediately adapted to the present posture of affairs.

IV. That there were three of the princes who had so much sense and grace left as to interpose for the preventing of the burning of the roll, but in vain, Jer. 36:25. If they had from the first shown themselves, as they ought to have done, affected with the word, perhaps they might have brought the king to a better mind and have persuaded him to bear it patiently; but frequently those that will not do the good they should put it out of their own power to do the good they would.

V. That Jehoiakim, when he had thus in effect burnt God’s warrant by which he was arrested, as it were in a way of revenge, now that he thought he had got the better, signed a warrant for the apprehending of Jeremiah and Baruch, God’s ministers (Jer. 36:26): But the Lord hid them. The princes bade them abscond (Jer. 36:19), but it was neither the princes’ care for them nor theirs for themselves that secured them; it was under the divine protection that they were safe. Note, God will find out a shelter for his people, though their persecutors be ever so industrious to get them into their power, till their hour be come; nay, and then he will himself be their hiding place.

VI. That Jeremiah had orders and instructions to write in another roll the same words that were written in the roll which Jehoiakim had burnt, Jer. 36:27, 28. Note, Though the attempts of hell against the word of God are very daring, yet not one iota or tittle of it shall fall to the ground, nor shall the unbelief of man make the word of God of no effect. Enemies may prevail to burn many a Bible, but they cannot abolish the word of God, can neither extirpate it nor defeat the accomplishment of it. Though the tables of the law were broken, they were renewed again; and so out of the ashes of the roll that was burnt arose another Phoenix. The word of the Lord endures for ever.

VII. That the king of Judah, though a king, was severely reckoned with by the King of kings for this indignity done to the written word. God noticed what it was in the roll that Jehoiakim took so much offense at. Jehoiakim was angry because it was written therein, saying, Surely the king of Babylon shall come and destroy this land, 36:29. And did not the king of Babylon come two years before this, and go far towards the destroying of this land? He did so (2 Chron. 36:6, 7) in his third year, Dan. 1:1. So that God and his prophets had therefore become his enemies because they told him the truth, told him of the desolation that was coming, but at the same time putting him into a fair way to prevent it. But, if this be the thing he takes so much amiss, let him know, 1. That the wrath of God shall come upon him and his family, in the first place, by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. He shall be cut off, and in a few weeks his son shall be dethroned, and exchange his royal robes for prison-garments, so that he shall have none to sit upon the throne of David; the glory of that illustrious house shall be eclipsed, and die in him; his dead body shall lie unburied, or, which comes all to one, he shall be buried with the burial of an ass, that is, thrown into the next ditch; it shall lie exposed to all weathers, heat and frost, which will occasion its putrefying and becoming loathsome the sooner. “Not that his body” (says Mr. Gataker) “could be sensible of such usage, or himself, being deceased, of aught that should befal his body; but that the king’s body in such a condition should be a hideous spectacle, and a horrid monument of God’s heavy wrath and indignation against him, unto all that should behold it.” Even his seed and his servants shall fare the worse for their relation to him (Jer. 36:31), for they shall be punished, not for his iniquity, but so much the sooner for their own. 2. That all the evil pronounced against Judah and Jerusalem in that roll shall be brought upon them. Though the copy be burnt, the original remains in the divine counsel, which shall again be copied out after another manner in bloody characters. Note, There is no escaping God’s judgments by struggling with them. Who ever hardened his heart against God, and prospered?

VIII. That, when the roll was written anew, there were added to the former many like words (Jer. 36:32), many more threatenings of wrath and vengeance; for, since they will yet walk contrary to God, he will heat the furnace seven times hotter. Note, As God is in one mind, and none can turn him, so he has still more arrows in his quiver; and those who contend with God’s woes do but prepare for themselves heavier of the same kind.