When the Adversary is a King

By Sigrid Fowler

All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views  and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.

            As human adversaries go, kings who oppose God’s word may be the most formidable. Godless captains of industry, impious world leaders or prime influencers, recognized authorities who set themselves against the authority of God are current equivalents. Whoever they are, they have considerable, though not absolute, power to stifle the spread of God’s message. This would be a terrifying opponent if you happened to be speaking for the LORD.

            Jeremiah faced such a person in Jehoiakim, King of Judah. Image this setting: Winter in Jerusalem. The city lies within two degrees of our own n. latitude, and winter there is much like ours. Snow is rare, but sometimes it occurs this time of year. Maybe it is snowing the day Jeremiah’s scroll is brought into the royal residence. “Now it came to pass in the fourth year of Jehoikim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, that this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying: ‘Take a scroll of a book and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel, against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah even to this day. It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the adversities which I purpose to bring upon them that everyone may turn from his evil way, that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.’ Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah, and Baruch wrote on a scroll of a book at the instruction of Jeremiah all the words of the LORD which he had spoken to him” (Jer 36: 1-4).

            Jeremiah tells Baruch, “I am confined, I cannot go into the house of the LORD. You go, therefore, and read from the scroll which you have written at my instruction in the hearing of the people in the LORD’s house on the day of fasting. And you shall also read them in the hearing of all Judah who come from their cities. It may be that they will present their supplication before the LORD, and everyone will turn from his evil way. For great is the anger and the fury that the LORD has pronounced against this people” (Jer 36: 5-7).

            “Then Baruch reads from 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 upper court of the entry of the New Gate of the LORD’s house in the hearing of all the people’ (Jer 36: 10). A man named Michaiah hears and goes to the king’s house to tell the princes gathered there. They listen and chose a certain Jehudi to go and fetch Baruch. He comes in and reads the scroll. “Now it happened, when they had heard all the words that they looked in fear from one to another and said to Baruch, ‘We shall surely tell the king of all these words’” (Jer 36: 16).

            First, they ask Baruch for more particulars, and he explains that he wrote “with ink in the book” everything Jeremiah said. The princes say: “Go and hide, you and Jeremiah; and let no one know where you are” (Jer 36: 19). Hearing the words from the scroll, the princes seem fully aware of the danger to Baruch and Jeremiah, but as they’ve said, they go and, again with Jehudi as spokesman, take the scroll to King Jehoikim. 

            The Bible describes the scene: “Now the king was sitting in the winter house in the ninth month with a fire burning on the hearth before him. And it happened when Jehudi had read three or four columns, that the king cut it up with the scribe’s knife and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth. Yet they were not afraid, nor did they tear their garments, the king or any of his servants who heard all these words. Nevertheless, Elnathan, Delaiah, and Gemariah implored the king not to burn the scroll, but he would not listen to them” (Jer 36: 22-26).

            The Bible has always had its opponents. If you are a student of ancient history, you will remember that the destruction at the heart of Jeremiah’s warning was fully accomplished in 586 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon overthrew and burned Jerusalem, taking the populace captive. The people of Judah would return to the ruins of their city, but only at the end of seventy years in Babylonian captivity.