Scroll Burned and Rewritten

Third of a six-week preaching series on Jeremiah.

Jeremiah, image by Holly Hayes via Flickr; licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

June 13, 2021

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Commentary on Jeremiah 36:1-8, 21-23, 27-31

• 5/30/2021: Jeremiah 1:1-10; 7:1-11 Call and Temple Sermon
• 6/6/2021: Jeremiah 18:1-11 Potter and the Clay
• 6/13/2021: Jeremiah 36:1-8, 21-23, 27-31 Scroll Burned and Rewritten
• 6/20/2021: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-14 Letter to the Exiles
• 6/27/2021: Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15 Planting and Building
• 7/4/2021: Jeremiah 33:14-18; 31:31-34 Messiah and New Covenant

Week 3: Scroll Burned and Rewritten

Jeremiah 36:1-8, 21-23, 27-31

Memory fails at some point and requires the assistance of recording technology. In this chapter, Jeremiah relies upon the skill of the scribe Baruch to record the words that he has been speaking. The expectation is that his words can be repeated and perhaps heard in a context where they can be followed (36:7). This expectation is threatened by those who are uncomfortable with Jeremiah’s words, noticeably a number of powerful people (36:11-12). There are several instances in the book where Jeremiah and his words are an unwelcome presence (20:7-10; 26:10-11; 28:10-11). Recording Jeremiah’s words to preserve them for a longer time and a wider audience seems unsettling to those in power. The various attempts to silence Jeremiah fails (36:26). Here King Jehoiakim approaches the written text as a magical product believing that by burning the scroll, the words and their impact will also disappear. He succeeds in destroying Jeremiah’s words and their painful implications for the ruling power. Yet only for a time. The burned scroll is re-written and the word resurfaces, and creates a memory with significant consequences for Jehoiakim’s lineage (36:30-31). These consequences cannot be avoided by because they result from Jehoiakim’s decisions. He can no more bury these implications as he can erase the evidences of his poor choices. The scroll serves as a memory aid to a future generation who will feel in their bodies the histories of their ancestors.

What pandemic memories that need to be written, even if we would wish to destroy them, because they reflect inevitable consequences?