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Jeremiah 36:1-2

1. And it came to pass in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that this word came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,

1. Et fuit anno quarto Joakim filii Josiae regis Jehudah (fuit inquam) sermo hic ad Jeremiam a Jehova, dicendo,

2. Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day.

2. Sume tibi volumen libri, et scribe in eo cunctos sermones quos loquutus sum ad to contra Israel et contra Jehudah, et contra eunctos gentes a die quo loquutus sum ad to, a diebus scilicet Josiae usque ad hunc diem.

 

The Prophet relates in this chapter a history worthy of being remembered, and very useful to us; for he says that he wrote down by God’s command what he had previously taught in the Temple, and also that he sent that summary by Baruch to be recited in the Temple, that the report of this spread, and that the king’s counsellors called to them Baruch, and that when they heard what was written in the volume, they brought word to the king, having, however, first admonished Baruch to conceal himself, together with Jeremiah, lest the king should be exasperated against them. And so it happened, for the king, being instantly filled with indignation, ordered Jeremiah and Baruch to be taken, that they might be put to death; but they were hidden and protected through God’s favor. We shall hereafter see what the king by his obduracy had effected, even to cause the Prophet to speak more boldly against him.

The Prophet then says at the beginning, that the word of Jehovah came, by which he was ordered to write in a volume of a book whatever he had previously spoken By the volume of a book he means the volume in which he was to write; for ספר sepher, does not here mean a written book, for the volume was without any writing. Then the Prophet must have dictated to his servant Baruch. And this mode of speaking occurs also elsewhere, as in Psalm 40:7. But the Hebrews, according to an ancient custom, called a volume מגלה, megele; for they had no books in a compact form, such as we have in the present day, but had volumes or rolls; and the same word, volume, is also used in Latin. For as the Hebrews called what is folded up מגלה, megele, which comes from גלל, gelal, to fold up, or to roll; so the Latins also have derived it from a verb (volvo) which means to roll, and we call it rolle; and in Gaul they used the same form of writing; for all ancient documents and also judicial proceedings were wont formerly to be written on rolls, and in the old archieves there is nothing found but what is so written. God then ordered his Prophet to take a roll, and then he commanded him to write all the words which he had heard from the mouth of God, and which he had pronounced against Israel, and against Judah, and against all other nations.

We see here, in the first place, what is the benefit of having the Scripture, even that what would otherwise vanish away or escape the memory of man, may remain and be handed down from one to another, and also that it may be read; for what is written can be better weighed during leisure time. When one speaks only, every one takes in something according to his capacity and his attention; but as words from man’s mouth glide away, the utility of Scripture does hence appear more evident; for when what is not immediately understood is repeated, it brings more light, and then what one reads to-day he may read tomorrow, and next year, and many years after. As then God saw that he had been, as it were, beating the air when he had spoken by his Prophet, his purpose was that those things which Jeremiah had in vain spoken, should be written down. In this manner he, no doubt, intended to condemn both the king and his counsellors, and also the whole people, not only for their idleness, but also for their insensibility, even because all his teaching had been without fruit, though Jeremiah had labored much among them, and had been assiduous and faithful in the discharge of his office as a teacher.

We now perceive the design of God in saying, Take a volume and write in it; and he says, all the words which I have spoken to thee This was said in order that the Jews might understand that Jeremiah did not bring forward his own fictions, but faithfully delivered what he had heard from God’s mouth. He adds, against Israel and affainst Judah For Jeremiah at the beginning had prophesied against the ten tribes; but after the kingdom of Israel was cut off, he performed his office only towards the remaining people, so that his doctrine referred especially to the Jews. It is added, against all nations; and this we shall presently see; and it hence appears that his prophecies were not written according to the order of time, as I have before reminded you, but that the volume was written without regard to order. It was yet so far preserved that this book contains a summary of all the doctrine taught by Jeremiah during the whole course of his ministry. He says, from the day in which he began to speak, even from the days of Josiah, he says, to this day And the Prophet had been performing his duty as a teacher, not for ten, or twenty, or thirty, but for forty years. It follows, —

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