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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 4 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 36:29-30

29. And thou shalt say to Jehoiakim king of Judah, Thus saith the LORD; Thou hast burned this roll, saying, Why hast thou written therein, saying, The king of Babylon shall certainly come and destroy this land, and shall cause to cease from thence man and beast?

29. Et ad Joiakim regem Jehudah dices, Sic dicit Jehova, Tu combussisti librum hunc, dicendo, Quare scripsisti in ipso, dicendo, Veniendo veniet rex Babel (Babylonis) et perdet ex ea hominem et animal (vel, bestiam?)

30. Therefore thus saith the LORD of Jehoiakim king of Judah, He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David: and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost.

30. Propterea sic dixit Jehova ad Joiakim (vel, de Joiakim) regent Jehudah, Non erit ei qui succedat super solium Davidis, et cadaver ejus projectum erit in aestum per diem et in gelu per noctem.

We now see what reward Jehoiakim brought on himself, by his impiety and perverseness. But there are two clauses; in the first, God reproves him for having insolently dared to impose silence on the Prophet; and in the second, he adds a punishment.

Thou shalt say to Jeholakim We are to take l ol, here for 'l, al, as it appears from the context; it indeed properly means concerning, or upon, as in the next verse, God thus speaks of Jehoiakim. But as the Prophet is here bidden in the second person to address him, the other meaning, to, is better, even that he was bidden to address the king, and to address him by name: Then it is, |Thou shalt speak to Jehoiakim, the king of Judah.| The word king, is mentioned not so much for honor's sake, as to shew that he in vain gloried in honor, or in a title of dignity; for as we have elsewhere seen, the Prophet had been sent to reprove mountains and hills, and not to spare kings or kingdoms. (Micah 6:1; Jeremiah 1:10) It had then been said to him,

|I have set thee over nations and kingdoms.|

As then Jehoiakim could not be so filled with pride as to think that everything was lawful to him, God intimates that there was no reason that royal splendor should dazzle his mind and his senses, for he made no account of such masks, and that no elevation in the world could intercept the course of prophetic truth. In a word, Jeremiah is here encouraged to persevere, lest the high position of the king should terrify him, or enervate his mind, so as not to declare faithfully the commands of God.

A twofold admonition may be hence gathered. The first belongs to kings, and to those who are great in wealth or power on the earth; they are warned to submit reverently to God's word, and not to think themselves exempted from what is common to all, or absolved, on account of their dignity, for God has no respect of persons. The other admonition belongs to teachers, and that is, that they are, with closed eyes, to do whatever God commands them, without shewing any respect of persons; and thus they are to fear no offenses, nor even the name of a king, nor a drawn sword, nor any dangers.

The crime is in the first place mentioned, Thou hast burnt the book, saying, Why hast thou written in it, By coming come shall the king of Babylon, and shall destroy this city Here God shews what especially was the reason why Jehoiakim cast the book into the fire, even because he could not endure the free reproofs and the threatenings contained in it. When God spares hypocrites, or does not touch their vices, they can bear prophetic teaching; but when the sore is touched, immediately they become angry; and this was the continual contest which God's Prophets had with the ungodly: for if they had flattered them and spoken smooth words to them, if they had always promised something joyful and prosperous to the ungodly, they would have been received with great favor and applause; but the word of God was unpleasant and bitter; and it exasperated their minds when they heard that God was displeased and angry with them.

This passage then ought to be carefully noticed; for the Spirit of God points out, as by the finger, the fountain of all contumacy, even because hypocrites wish to agree or to make a covenant with God, that he should not deal severely with them, and that his Prophets should only speak smoothly. But it is necessary that God's word should correspond with the nature of its author. For, as God knows the heart, he penetrates into the inmost recesses; and so also his word is a two-edged sword, and thus it pierces men even to the very marrow, and discerns between the thoughts and the affections, as the Apostle teaches us. (Hebrews 4:12) Hence it is, that hypocrites become mad, when God summons them to judgment. When any one handles gently a man full of ulcers, there is no sign of uneasiness given; but when a surgeon presses the ulcers, then he becomes irritated, and then also comes out what was before hidden. Similar is the case with hypocrites; for as it has been said, they do not clamor against God, nor even make any complaints, when the simple truth is declared; but when they are urged with reproofs and with threatenings, then their rage is kindled, then they manifest in every way their virulence. And this is set forth here, when the Prophet says, that the book was burnt, because it was written in it that the king of Babylon would come to destroy or lay waste the land, and to remove from it both man and beast

So we see that the prophecy of Micah exasperated all the Jews, when he said that Jerusalem would be reduced into heaps of stones. (Micah 3:12)

But the Prophet immediately shows that the ungodly in vain resist God, when they kick against the goad; they must necessarily be torn in pieces by the stone with which they contend, because their hardness cannot hinder God from executing his judgments. It is therefore added, Thus saith Jehovah of the king Jehoiakim, Be shall have no one to succeed him on the throne of David By saying, that he should have no successor, he means that he should have none of his own posterity; for though his son Jeconiah was made king in his stead, yet as he reigned only for three months, this short time was not counted. Then Jeremiah declares, by God's cmnmand, that King Jehoiakim should not have a legitimate successor, for his son Jeconiah was led into exile at the end of three months; and Zedekiah was not counted as a legitimate successor, because he was the uncle. And there is also no doubt but that Nebuchadnezzar, from ill-will and hatred, set him on the throne, for he thus raised him in order to degrade Jehoiakim and Jeconiah.

We now then perceive in what sense God threatened that there would be none to succeed King Jehoiakim; for it is not simply said, |There shall be none to sit on the throne of David;| but, |There shall be none to him,| l' yhyh lv la ieie lu, that is, |There shall be none of his children, or of his offspring, to succeed him on the throne of David.| For the last king was Zedekiah, and he, as I have said, was the uncle; so that the whole royal seed were cast off, for no one after this time ever succeeded to the throne.

But it may be asked, How can this prophecy agree with the promise, that the posterity of David should continue as long as the sun and moon shone as faithful witnesses in the heavens? (Psalm 89:37, 38) God had promised that the kingdom of David should be perpetual, and that there would be some of his posterity to rule as long as the sun and moon shone in the heavens; but what does our Prophet mean now, when he says, that there shall not be a successor? This is, indeed, to be confined to the posterity of Jehoiakim; but yet we must bear in mind what we have seen elsewhere, and that is, that he speaks here of an interruption, which is not inconsistent with perpetuity; for the perpetuity of the kingdom, promised to David, was such, that it was to fall and to be trodden under foot for a time, but that at length a stem from Jesse's root would rise, and that Christ, the only true and eternal David, would so reign, that his kingdom should have no end. When, therefore, the Prophets say, that there would be none to sit on David's throne, they do not mean this strictly, but they thus refer only to that temporary punishment by which the throne was so overturned, that God at length would, in his own time, restore it, according to what Amos says,

|For come shall the time when God shall raise up the fallen tabernacle of David.|
(Amos 9:11)

We now perceive in what sense hath stood firm the promise respecting the perpetuity of the kingdom, and that the kingdom had yet ceased for a time, that is, until Christ came, on whose head was placed the diadem, or the royal crown, as Ezekiel says. (Ezekiel 21:26) There is yet no doubt but this great inconsistency was made an objection to Jeremiah:

|What! can it be that the throne of David should be without a legitimate heir? Canst thou draw down the sun and moon from the heavens?|

In like manner, when the Prophets spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem, they said:

|What! Is it not said, This is my rest for ever, here will I dwell?' (Psalm 83:14)

Can it be that God will be without his habitation on earth, especially when he calls it his rest?| But the answer to all this was not difficult, even that God remained faithful to his promises, though his favor was, for a time, as it were, under a cloud, so that the dreadful desolation both of the city and of the kingdom might be an example to all.

There is no doubt, then, but that they shewed to the Prophet that the kingdom would be hid, as though it were a treasure concealed in the earth, and that still the time would come when God would again choose both the city and the kingdom, and restore them to their pristine dignity, as the Papists say, who boast in high terms of everything said in Scripture respecting the perpetual preservation of the Church:

|Christ promises to be with his people to the end of the world, that he will be where two or three meet together in his name, that the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth.|
(Matthew 28:20; 1 Timothy 3:15)

They heap together all these things, in order to shew that God is in a manner tied and bound to them. But we can easily dissipate these frivolous objections; for God does wonderfully and invisibly preserve his Church in the world; and then the outward face of the Church does not always appear, but it is sometimes hid, and afterwards it emerges and recovers its own dignity, which, for a time, might seem to have been extinguished. Hence we give now the same answer to the Papists as the Prophets formerly did to the ancient people, -- that God is a faithful preserver of his Church, but not according to the perception of the flesh, for the Church is in a wonderful manner sustained by God, and not in a common way, or as they say, according to the usual order of things.

He says that the dead body of Jehoiakim would be cast out, to be exposed to the cold in the night, and to the heat in the day This might seem unimportant, like what we threaten children with, when we mention some phantoms to them; for what harm could it have been to Jehoiakim to have his dead body exposed to the cold in the night? for no injury or feeling of sorrow can happen to a dead body, as a dead man as to his body can have no feeling. It seems then that it is to little purpose that the Prophet says, that his dead body would be exposed to the heat in the day, and to the cold at night. But this is to be referred to the common law of nature, of which we have spoken elsewhere; for it is a sad and disgraceful thing, nay, a horrid spectacle, when we see men unburied; and the duty of burying the dead has from the beginning been acknowledged, and burial is an evidence of a future resurrection, as it has been before stated. When, therefore, the body of man lies unburied, all men shun and dread the sight; and then when the body gets rigid through cold, and becomes putrid through the heat of the day, the indignity becomes still greater. God then intended to set forth the degradation that awaited Jehoiakim, not that any hurt could be done to him when his body was cast out, and not honored with a burial, but that it would be an evidence of God's vengeance, when a king was thus cast out as an ass or a dog, according to what we have seen elsewhere, |With the burial of an ass shall he be buried,| that is, he will be deemed unworthy of common honor; for as it falls to the lot of the lowest of men to find a pit where their bodies lie buried, it was a rare and unusual proof of God's vengeance, that a king should he exposed as a prey to birds and wild beasts. We know what Jehu said of Jezebel,

|Let her be buried, for she is a king's daughter.|
(2 Kings 9:34)

She was worthy to be torn to pieces a hundred times. She had been cast out from a chamber, and the dogs licked her blood; yet an enemy ordered her to be buried -- and why? because she was a king's daughter, or descended from a royal family, (1 Kings 21:23:) then, he said, let her be buried.

We now then understand the meaning of the Prophet, or rather of the Holy Spirit, that it would be a remarkable proof of God's vengeance, when the body of King Jehoialdm should be exposed at night to the cold, and in the day to the heat. This has also happened sometimes to the saints, as we have before said; but it was a temporal punishment common to the good and to the bad. We ought yet always to consider it as God's judgment. When a godly man is left without burial, we must know that all things happen for good to God's children, according to what Paul says, whether it be life or death, it is for their salvation. (Romans 8:28) But when God gives a remarkable proof of his wrath against an ungodly man, our eyes ought to be opened; for it is not right to be blind to the manifest judgments of God; for it is not in vain that Paul reminds us that God's judgment will come on the ungodly; but he would have us carefully to consider how God punishes the reprobate in life and in death and even after death. It follows --

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