For the Love of God, Volume 2/August 8
From Gospel Translations
Ruth 1; Acts 26; Jeremiah 36, 45; Psalm 9
THESE TWO CHAPTERS, JEREMIAH 36, 45, provide valuable insights into two realms: the relationship between Jeremiah and Baruch, and how Jeremiah’s prophecies came to be written down.
(1) Baruch, son of Neriah (36:4) and brother of Seraiah, who was a staff officer serving King Zedekiah (51:59), first appears in this book in chapter 32, where he serves as a legal witness. It now transpires that Baruch was Zedekiah’s amanuensis (his scribe, more or less his secretary).
(2) Clearly at some point Baruch thought that being attached to a prophet like Jeremiah would contribute to his advancement. He is deeply disappointed to find things not working out that way (Jer. 45). The import of the messages he has been transcribing sinks into his own soul, and he is terribly depressed. Jeremiah responds in two ways. (a) He rebukes the young man for thinking so narrowly of his own future when the entire nation is going down. That is a rebuke that many in the individualistic West need to hear. (b) He provides him with some assurance: despite the catastrophe about to fall on the city, Baruch will survive.
(3) We are not always provided precise information as to how the revelation God gave to particular prophets reached the written form we have in the Bible. Here the information is wonderfully specific. God himself instructs Jeremiah to write the words down, and Jeremiah carefully dictates them to Baruch, who transcribes them. Since this was the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign (36:1), it was 605/604 B.C., the year of the Battle of Carchemish when Babylon replaced Egypt as the regional power.
(4) It appears that, at least at first, the written form of Jeremiah’s prophecies carried more weight with the authorities than the oral form for which Jeremiah was incarcerated (36:8-19). Even today a public medium—newspapers, radio, television—is more likely to be believed than mere word of mouth from a friend. The tragedy is that when the king hears the words read to him, he responds with cynical defiance, cutting up the scroll section by section and throwing it into the fire. His action provides an ugly foil to the response of King Josiah when the rediscovered law scroll was read to him (2 Kings 22:11). Worse yet, if what he is destroying really is the scroll of God’s words, how utterly stupid to think that God’s words can be overthrown and destroyed so easily. Is God’s memory so short that he cannot remember what he has said? Can he not raise up human servants who will transcribe the material afresh and even include fresh revelation (36:27- 32)? So too with all the efforts across history to destroy the Scriptures: is God so impotent that he cannot defend his words and destroy those who mock them?