The book of Jeremiah in the Euphrates River (Jer 51:63-51:64)

“When you finish

Reading this scroll,

Tie a stone to it.

Throw it into

The middle

Of the Euphrates River.

Say.

‘Thus shall Babylon sink.

It will rise no more,

because of the disasters

That I am bringing on her.’”

When Seraiah had finished reading the scroll, he was to tie a stone to it and throw it into the middle of the Euphrates River. This symbolic act was to show that just as the words in this scroll sank with the stone, so would Babylon sink also. It would never rise again, because of all the disasters that Yahweh was going to bring to Babylon. Thus we have another example of biblical writings and how they were used.

Baruch writes the book of Jeremiah (Jer 45:1-45:3)

“The word

That the prophet Jeremiah

Spoke to Baruch,

The son of Neriah,

When he wrote

These words

In a scroll,

At the dictation

Of Jeremiah,

In the fourth year

Of King Jehoiakim

The son of King Josiah

Of Judah.

Thus says Yahweh!

The God of Israel!

To you!

O Baruch!

You said.

‘Woe is me!

Yahweh has added sorrow

To my pain.

I am weary

With my groaning.

I find no rest.’”

This is a very brief chapter that almost seems like it should have been after chapter 36, where Baruch was writing the scroll dictated by Jeremiah. In fact, the dating of this section puts it back during the 4th year of King Jehoiakim (609-598 BCE) around 605 BCE, at least 20 years prior to the passages just concluded. These words of Yahweh, via Jeremiah, are addressed to Baruch himself, the secretary scribe of Jeremiah. Baruch had said that Yahweh was adding to his sorrow and pain. He was getting weary because he had no rest. Like the preceding chapter, this small chapter has a different numbered chapter in the Greek translation of the Septuagint, chapter 51, not chapter 45 as here.

The king reacts (Jer 36:24-36:26)

“Yet neither the king,

Nor any of his servants,

Who heard

All these words,

Was afraid.

They did not tear

Their garments.

Even when Elnathan,

Delaiah,

With Gemariah

Urged the king

Not to burn the scroll,

He would not listen to them.

The king commanded

Jerahmeel,

The king’s son,

With Seraiah,

The son of Azriel,

To arrest

The secretary Baruch

With the prophet Jeremiah.

But Yahweh hid them.”

Neither the king of Judah, King Jehoiakim, nor his servants, was alarmed by the words of the scroll. They did not tear their garments as a sign of sorrow or repentance. Instead, the king burned the scroll in its various pieces as mentioned above, despite the protests of some of his senior officials like Elnathan, Delaiah, and Gemariah, who had demanded the first reading, earlier in this chapter. They did not want the king to burn the scroll, but he would not listen to them. Instead, he sent his son Jerahmeel with his friend Seraiah, someone in the royal service, to arrest Baruch and Jeremiah. However, Yahweh hid them, but it is not clear where or how.

The reading of the scroll to the king (Jer 36:21-36:23)

“Then King Jehoiakim

Sent Jehudi

To get the scroll.

He took it

From the chamber

Of Elishama the secretary.

Jehudi read it to the king

With all the officials

Who stood beside the king.

The king was sitting

In his winter apartment.

It was the ninth month.

There was a fire burning

In the brazier before him.

As Jehudi read

Three or four columns,

The king would cut them off

With a penknife.

He would then throw them

Into the fire

In the brazier,

Until the entire scroll

Was consumed in the fire

That was in the brazier.”

The king was not satisfied with a mere report about the scroll. He wanted the scroll itself. Thus he sent Jehudi to get the scroll and read it to them. Jehudi went back to the chamber of the secretary, Elishama, where the scroll was. He got it and came back to the king. There he read it to the king and all the royal officials. Since the king was at his winter home, there was a fire in the brazier or the fireplace, a brass coal burning stove. Thus as Jehudi read the scroll, King Jehoiakim would take 3 or 4 columns of it, cut them with a small knife that they used for the trimming of writing reeds. Then he would throw these pieces of the scroll into the fire, until they were all burned up. Thus you get some idea of the king’s opinion about the writings of Jeremiah via Baruch.

Baruch explains his writing (Jer 36:17-36:19)

“Then they asked Baruch.

‘Tell us now!

How did you write

All these words?

Was it at his dictation?’

Baruch answered them.

‘He dictated

All these words to me.

I wrote them

With ink on the scroll.’

Then the officials said

To Baruch.

‘Go!

Hide!

You!

As well as Jeremiah!

Let no one know

Where you are.’”

These royal officials interrogated Baruch. They wanted to know if he wrote this himself or had someone dictated it to him. Baruch answered that Jeremiah had dictated the words to him. He wrote them down on the scroll with ink. Then the officials told Baruch to hide, both he and Jeremiah, so that no one would know where they were. They thought that the king might have an adverse reaction to this news.

Micaiah informs other officials (Jer 36:11-36:13)

“When Micaiah,

The son of Gemariah,

The son of Shaphan,

Heard all the words

Of Yahweh

From the scroll,

He went down

To the king’s house.

He went into

The secretary’s chamber.

All the officials

Were sitting there.

That is

Elishama the secretary,

Delaiah the son of Shemaiah,

Elnathan the son of Achbor,

Gemariah the son of Shaphan,

Zedekiah the son of Hananiah,

With all the officials.

Micaiah told them

All the words

That he had heard,

When Baruch read

The scroll

In the hearing

Of the people.”

Apparently not everyone was listening to Baruch in the Temple. Micaiah, the son of Gemariah and grandson of Shaphan, was there listening to Baruch. When the reading of the scroll was over, he went to the royal palace to meet with all the other royal officials in the secretary’s chamber. All the officials were there, since they had not been at the reading in the Temple, including Elishama, Delaiah, Elnathan, and Gemariah himself. Elnathan may have been the same one who King Jehoiakim sent to Egypt to get the prophet Uriah in chapter 26 of this work. Micaiah then told them everything that he heard during Baruch’s reading of the scroll in the Temple courtyard. It is hard to believe that he memorized everything, so he must have just presented the highlights.

King Hezekiah receives the letter from the messengers (Isa 37:14-37:14)

“King Hezekiah received the letter

From the hand of the messengers.

He read it.

Then King Hezekiah went up

To the house of Yahweh.

He spread the letter before Yahweh.”

Once again, this is almost word for word from 2 Kings, chapter 19. King Hezekiah took the letter or the scroll from the messengers and brought it to the house of Yahweh, the temple. He spread it out before Yahweh as a sign of respect.