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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 4 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 36:9-10

9. And it came to pass in the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, in the ninth month, that they proclaimed a fast before the LORD to all the people in Jerusalem, and to all the people that came from the cities of Judah unto Jerusalem.

9. Et fuit anno quinto Jehoiakim filii Josiae regis Jehudah, mense nono, indixerunt jejunium coram Jehova toti populo (qui erat, subaudiendum est) Jerosolymae, et toti populo qui venerunt ex urbibus Jehudah Jerosolymam:

10. Then read Baruch in the book the words of Jeremiah in the house of the LORD, in the chamber of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the scribe, in the higher court, at the entry of the new gate of the LORD'S house, in the ears of all the people.

10. Et legit Baruch in libro sermones Jeremiae in domo Jehovae (hoc est, in Templo) in cubiculo Gamarliae filii Saphan scribae, in atrio superiori, in introitu (vel, ingressu) portae novae domus Jehovae (portae novae Templi) in auribus totius populi.

Here is added a fuller explanation; for the Prophet relates nothing new, but according to what is common in Hebrew he expresses at large what he had before briefly stated: for he had said, that Baruch read in the Temple the words of God as he had been commanded; but he now relates when and how this was done, even in the fifth year of Jehoiakim, and when a fast was proclaimed in the ninth month We now then see the design of this repetition, even to point out more clearly the time. He then says that the book was read and recited when a fast was proclaimed in the fifth year of Jehoiakim. The Jews, no doubt, knew that some grievous calamity was at hand, for this proclamation was extraordinary. And we know that when some calamity was apprehended, they usually betook themselves to this remedy, not that fasting in itself was pleasing to God, but because it was a symbol of humiliation, and it also prepared men for prayer. This custom did not creep in without reason, but God designed thus to habituate his people to repentance. When, therefore, God manifested some tokens of his displeasure, the Jews then thought it necessary, not only to seek forgiveness, but also to add fasting to their prayers, according to what we find in the second chapter of Joel as well as in other places. It was then a solemn confession of sin and guilt; for by fasting they acknowledged themselves to be exposed to God's judgment, and also by sackcloth and ashes; for they were wont to throw aside their fine garments and to put on sackcloth, and also to scatter ashes on their heads, or to lie on the ground: and these were the filth as it were of the guilty: and in this state of debasement they sought pardon of God, thus acknowledging in the first place their own filthiness by these external symbols, and secondly, confessing before God and angels that they were worthy of death, and that no hope remained for them except God forgave them.

As, then, Jeremiah writes here that there was a fast proclaimed, there is not the least doubt but that some tokens of God's vengeance then appeared. And though Jehoiakim had provoked the King Nebuchadnezzar by refusing to pay tribute, yet the idea prevailed always among the Jews that nothing happened except through the just vengeance of God. As, then, they knew that they had to do with God, they thought that it behoved them to pacify him.

He afterwards adds, that a fast before Jehovah was proclaimed; not that it was meritorious, or that an expiation would thereby be done, as the Papists imagine, who think that they can redeem their sins by fastings, and hence they call them satisfactions; but the Prophet says that the fast was proclaimed before Jehovah, as an addition to prayer. As, then, it was a solemn meeting for prayer, fasting was, as it were, a part added to it, that they might by this external symbol more fully humble themselves before God, and at the same time testify their repentance. And he says that it was proclaimed to all the people who were at Jerusalem, and to the other Jews who came from other cities to the Temple to pray. And we hence conclude that fasting in itself is of no moment, but that it was an evidence of repentance, and therefore added to prayer. And Christ, having mentioned prayer, added fasting, (Matthew 17:21) not that fasting ought not to be separated from daily prayers; for we ought always to pray; but we are not to fast morning and evening; nay, we pray when our table is prepared for us and meat are set before us; and then when we dine and sup, we pray to God. But this is to be understood of more serious prayers, when, as we have said, God summons us, as it were, before his tribunal, and shews manifest tokens of his displeasure. And for this reason also, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 7:5, when bidding husbands to dwell with their wives, adds this,

|Except it may be for a time|

-- for what purpose? even that they might give themselves wholly to prayer and fasting. We hence see that fasting was not an ordinary thing, but when required by some urgent necessity.

Then, this also is to be noticed, that the fast was proclaimed to the other Jews who had come to Jerusalem; for why was it necessary for them to come to Jerusalem, except humbly to supplicate God's favor.

He says that the roll was then read in the Temple, in the chamber of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan the scribe The chambers, as we have before said, were annexed to the court of the priests; for the Levites were the guardians of the Temple; and every priest also, while performing his duty, remained in the Temple. As to Shaphan, he is called a scribe, not the king's chancellor, who is afterwards called by the same name; for I regard him as being an actuary. For they called the scribes sphrym, sepharim; but sometimes by this name are meant the interpreters of the Law, and sometimes the actuaries, whose office it was to collect the prophecies, or who were engaged in collecting public acts. Then Gemariah, the son of Shaphan the scribe, had his chamber in the Temple; and he says, in the higher court Hence we conclude, according to what I have already said, that these chambers were parts of the court. And he adds, In the entrance of the new gate of the Temple Some think that this was the eastern gate, and that the greatest concourse of people was usually there. We hence see that Baruch boldly performed his duty in reading the roll, though the reading of it must have greatly exasperated the minds of the whole people. It follows, --

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