And they went to the king, into the court; but they stored the scroll in the chamber of Elishama the scribe, and told all the words in the hearing of the king. So the king sent Jehudi to bring the scroll, and he took it from Elishama the scribe’s chamber. And Jehudi read it in the hearing of the king and in the hearing of all the princes who stood beside the king. Now the king was sitting in the winter house in the ninth month, with a fire burning on the hearth before him. And it happened, when Jehudi had read three or four columns that the king cut it with the scribe’s knife and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth. Yet they were not afraid, nor did they tear their garments, the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words. Nevertheless Elnathan, Delaiah, and Gemariah implored the king not to burn the scroll; but he would not listen to them. And the king commanded Jerahmeel the king’s son, Seraiah the son of Azriel, and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel, to seize Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet, but the Lord hid them. Now after the king had burned the scroll with the words which Baruch had written at the instruction of Jeremiah, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying: “Take yet another scroll, and write on it all the former words that were in the first scroll which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned. And you shall say to Jehoiakim king of Judah, ‘Thus says the Lord: “You have burned this scroll, saying, ‘Why have you written in it that the king of Babylon will certainly come and destroy this land, and cause man and beast to cease from here?’ Therefore thus says the Lord concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: ‘He shall have no one to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat of the day and the frost of the night. I will punish him, his family, and his servants for their iniquity; and I will bring on them, on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and on the men of Judah all the doom that I have pronounced against them; but they did not heed.’ Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah, who wrote on it at the instruction of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And besides, there were added to them many similar words. (Jeremiah 36:20-32)
It was the beginning of the end for God’s people. Their disobedience and willful rejection of the warnings from the prophets had brought them to the point of utter destruction from the Lord. Jeremiah had been instructed by the Lord to write a scroll containing all the words spoken against Israel, Judah and all the nations in a final effort to bring the people to repentance. The scribe of Jeremiah was Baruch. He took the scroll and read it before the people at the entry of the New Gate of the Lord’s house in the hearing of all the people. When the princes of the king’s palace heard what Baruch had done they commanded he bring the scroll to them so they may hear what had been written. Hearing the words of the scroll the princes were fearful and told Baruch to take Jeremiah and go into hiding as they reported to king Jehoiakim. Jehudi began reading the words of the scroll to king Jehoiakim and had not gotten as far as a few columns before the king took the scroll from his hand, cut it with the scribe’s knife and threw the scroll into the fire. Some of the king’s advisors implored him not to burn the scroll but the king was defiant. He then ordered the arrest of Baruch and Jeremiah (but God had hidden them).
The scroll was the last hope for the king and his people. It was a blistering charge of rebellion as the people fell deeper into idol worship. Prophets unnumbered had pleaded with Israel and Judah to return to the Lord. Israel had been decimated by the Assyrians and yet Judah would not learn her lessons. The people of God were on a collision course of destruction if they did not repent. Jehoiakim’s attitude summed up the spirit of the nation. He did not care what the word of God said. His contempt for the Lord was evident by his destruction of the scroll. Jeremiah also notes that no one grew fearful at the reading of the scroll. The word of God was nothing to them.
Jeremiah shows his courage by writing another scroll as directed by God. The Babylonians were still going to come and destroy the nation and Jehoiakim would be deposed. At the age of thirty-six Jehoiakim lost his throne. It seems Nebuchadnezzar intended to take the king to Babylon in chains but changed his mind. Jeremiah had prophesied earlier that Jehoiakim would be buried with the burial of a donkey, dragged and cast out beyond the gates of Jerusalem. Burning the scroll did not change the word of the Lord. It did not change the will of the Lord. Rejecting the words of the scroll did not move the will of God from its purpose.
The Bible is viewed in much the same way today. Most people look at the word of God with disdain. Burning the Bible is of no consequence but rejecting the words will bring an eternity of misery. King Jehoiakim could not change the word of God by cutting it with a knife or burning it. The problem was the heart. There was no fear at the words of judgment. Fear would come later when in his last moments of life the arrogant king realized the word of God was true. Sadly all those who reject the message of Jesus Christ will learn too late the word of the Lord is true. It has remained unchanged since God first spoke to Adam and Eve. Jehoiakim should be a lesson but who listens? Now that is a great story.
Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven. (Psalm 119:89)