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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 4 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 36:22-23

22. Now the king sat in the winterhouse in the ninth month: and there was a fire on the hearth burning before him.

22. Rex autem sedebat in domo hyemali, mense nono; et focus coram facie ejus accensus (vel, ardebat)

23. And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth.

23. Et factum est, cum legisset Jehudi tres paginas et quatuor (hoc est, tres vel quatuor) scidit cultello scribae (vel, graphio) et projecit in ignem qui crat in foco, usque dum consumeret volumen totum super ignem qui erat in foco.

Here Jeremiah shews how little he had effected; for the king not only cast aside but tore the roll into pieces, and after having torn it, he wished its memory to perish, for he cast it into the fire. This trial must have grievously affected the mind of the Prophet; he had dictated that roll by God's command; he saw now that all his labor had been in vain. He might then have complained to God that so much labor had been spent without fruit. For why had God bidden the roll to be written, except for the purpose of leading the king and his counsellors to repentance. As to the people, the Prophet could not know whether it had answered the end for which he sent his scribe Baruch to them, for no account is given as to the attention paid by them. But Baruch was led to the king's palace, so the minds of all were kept in suspense: what was now the issue? The king burnt the roll. There is no doubt then but that the mind of the Prophet was much affected. But God thus exercises his servants when he bids them to speak to the deaf or to bring light to the blind.

Let us then learn simply to obey God, though the labor he requires from us may seem to be useless. And hence Paul rises above all the ingratitude of the world and says, that the ministers of the Gospel are a sweet odor to God, whether for death or for life, (2 Corinthians 2:15, 16) for though the greater part are rendered worse by hearing the Gospel, yet the obedience rendered to God by ministers is acceptable to him, nor is the event to be looked to. Jeremiah then saw that the king's mind was exasperated, but he did not on that account repent of his obedience, for he knew that the event was to be left with God and to his will. The duty of men is to execute whatever God commands, though no fruit may appear to proceed from their labors. This then is one thing.

Now as to the king, we see in him as in a glass how monstrous is their blindness who are the slaves of Satan. Surely the king, when God so thundered in his ears, ought to have been terrified. He could not indeed treat the word with ridicule, but he became enraged, and acted violently like a rabid wild beast, and vented his rage against the roll itself! If he thought Jeremiah to have been the author, why did he not disregard him as a man of no authority in public affairs? for Jeremiah could not have lessened his character as a king. There is then no doubt but that he perceived, though unwillingly, that he had to do with God; why then did he become thus enraged? what could he hope to gain by such madness towards God? But this, as I have said, was that dreadful blindness which is found in all the reprobate, whose minds the devil has fascinated; for on the one hand they perceive, willing or unwilling, that God is present, and that they are in a manner summoned to his tribunal; and on the other, as though they were forgetful of God, they rage madly against him.

It is then said of King Jehoiakim, that while he was in his winter-house and sitting before the fire, when three or four pages had been read, he cut the roll with an iron pen, or with the small knife of a scribe. The word tr tor, means often a razor, but is to be taken here for the knife used by scribes, un canivet. The king, in the first place, did not wait until Jehudi finished the roll; after he had heard three or four leaves, or pages, as we call them, he seized the roll and cut it; and in the second place, being not content with this sacrilege he burnt the roll, as though he could abolish God's judgment together with the book. But we shall hereafter see what he gained by this intemperate spirit in burning the roll until the whole was consumed in the fire It now follows --

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