Modern-Day Bible Burning Fails of Its Purpose
“He proceeded to tear it apart with the secretary’s knife, pitching it also into the fire that was in the brazier until all the roll ended up in the fire that was in the brazier.”—Jer. 36:23.
1. Why is the burning of the Bible in whole or in part not new?
BURNING of the Holy Bible in whole or in part is not new. The first reported case of such a thing took place more than 2,600 years ago. This was in the days of the third-last king of the nation to which the Bible had originally been given.
2. What led up to the making of Jeremiah’s written prophecy fuel for the flames?
2 The season was that of winter at Jerusalem, where King Jehoiakim was seated near a brazier in which a fire was burning to heat up the throne room. Just how a vital part of the Holy Bible came to be fuel for the flames in this brazier, the factual account informs us. From it we here quote:
Now it came about in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, the king of Judah, that this word occurred to Jeremiah from Jehovah, saying: “Take for yourself a roll of a book, and you must write in it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and against Judah and against all the nations, since the day that I spoke to you, since the days of Josiah, clear down to this day. Perhaps those of the house of Judah will listen to all the calamity that I am thinking of doing to them, to the end that they may return, each one from his bad way, and that I may actually forgive their error and their sin.” (Jer. 36:1-3)
If we read the preceding 35 chapters of the book of Jeremiah, we can appreciate how unpopular his written message was certain to be.
3. Why was Jeremiah not trying to make a nuisance of himself, and how much time yet remained for people to do something about the situation?
3 Today the message that corresponds with what Jeremiah was told to write on the “roll of a book” proves to be just as unpopular. However, the purport of the message is not just to irritate people, to nag them, to plague them with calamity howling. Those Christians who today correspond with the prophet Jeremiah are not trying just to make a nuisance of themselves. No, but they render a public service by warning all the people about the oncoming international catastrophe. This could stir some people to repentance and reform while Jehovah is still favorably inclined. For this course, these could then be spared during the world calamity ahead. Back there in Jeremiah’s day the nation of Judah had just 18 years yet to go till the Babylonians destroyed the holy city Jerusalem. Today, after 60 years of activity by the modern Jeremiah class, how much time does Jerusalem’s counterpart, Christendom, yet have before her calamitous destruction starts off the “great tribulation” for the whole world?—Matt. 24:21, 22.
PUBLIC DELIVERY OF THE MESSAGE OF DOOM
4. After Jeremiah completed the compiling of his prophecies from the start onward, how was the message presented to Jerusalem, and why?
4 Obediently Jeremiah dictated the message to his secretary, Baruch the son of Neriah. The resulting manuscript contained all the words of Jehovah to Jeremiah from the 13th year of the reign of King Josiah onward, the year when Jehovah raised up the young priest-designate Jeremiah to be a prophet. On completion of the manuscript, Jeremiah felt unable to go to Jerusalem, just about three miles (5 km) from his Levite hometown of Anathoth, to read aloud the manuscript in the temple courtyards. Hence, he sent his secretary Baruch there to do so, adding: “Perhaps their request for favor will fall before Jehovah and they will return, each one from his bad way, for great is the anger and the rage that Jehovah has spoken against this people.”—Jer. 36:4-7.
5. What would seem to be the appropriate time for the manuscript of Jeremiah’s prophecies to be read in Jerusalem’s temple?
5 How would any of us have liked to do such an audible reading in a public place through which people coursed? It must have called for courage on Baruch’s part. Yet, with the strength of his God, he did it! But we must remember that it took time on Baruch’s part to copy down all that Jeremiah dictated to him. (Jer. 36:17, 18) Since the manuscript contained Jehovah’s stern messages against all the nations, including Israel and Judah, a public event would furnish the fitting time for such a manuscript to be read aloud. Say, a national fast day! Then the fasters would be thronging Jerusalem’s temple. For such an occasion, time must wait!
6. During the year that Jeremiah wrote his manuscript, how did it become manifest who would be the one used to carry out Jeremiah’s prophecy about Jerusalem’s overthrow?
6 So Baruch’s reading of the completed manuscript publicly did not take place in the fourth year of King Jehoiakim, during which year King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon defeated the military forces of Pharaoh Nechoh of Egypt and established himself as the world’s new dominant ruler. This Nebuchadnezzar was the Gentile ruler whom Jeremiah foretold as the one to overthrow Judah and Jerusalem, this to be followed by the land’s lying desolate without man or domestic animal for 70 years.—Jer. 36:6; 25:1-11.
7. In what year and on what occasion did Baruch read Jeremiah’s manuscript in the temple of Jerusalem?
7 Comes now the fifth year of King Jehoiakim of Judah. This coincides with the second year of Nebuchadnezzar as world ruler. The account of Jeremiah 36:9, 10 makes this certain. It says:
Now it came about in the fifth year [624-623 B.C.E.] of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, the king of Judah, in the ninth month [Chislev, or, November-December], that all the people in Jerusalem and all the people that were coming in from the cities of Judah into Jerusalem proclaimed a fast before Jehovah. And Baruch began to read aloud from the book the words of Jeremiah at the house of Jehovah, in the dining room of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the copyist, in the upper courtyard, at the entrance of the new gate of the house of Jehovah, in the ears of all the people.
8. In what season of the year did Baruch proceed to carry out Jeremiah’s orders to him?
8 Reigns of the kings of Judah were counted from the spring month of Abib, or Nisan. The ninth month of their lunar year, which came to be called Chislev, would fall in the winter season. It would include part of what we call December (this Latin name meaning 10th month). In Maccabean times the “festival of dedication” of Jerusalem’s temple came to be held on Chislev 25, and this was said to be in the “wintertime.” (John 10:22) Despite the wintry weather of the month of Chislev, Baruch, the secretary of Jeremiah, proceeded to carry out his orders from Jeremiah.
9. How did the princes of Judah feel about the manuscript as read to them, and what did they tell Baruch, along with Jeremiah, to do?
9 Jeremiah’s words that Baruch read aloud to the people at the temple were of concern to all the nation. So the princes of Judah called for Baruch to read the prophetic message to them. (Jer. 36:11-15) If we recall what the previous chapters of Jeremiah’s prophecy had to say about the doomed kingdom of Judah, we can appreciate why the princes felt dread on hearing what Baruch read to them. Nationalistically they felt obliged to tell King Jehoiakim. They took the manuscript book from Baruch, but, feeling kindly disposed to the book’s author and the copyist, they told Baruch to go into hiding with Jeremiah. This worked out well.—Jer. 36:16-20.
THE FIRST BIBLE BURNING ON RECORD
10. What did King Jehoiakim do as Jehudi read the book to him, and what was the effect of this outcome?
10 The princes went into the winter house of King Jehoiakim to make their report. He wanted to get his hands on the roll of Jeremiah’s prophecy. So he sent the court official named Jehudi to bring back the book from the temple where it had been left. What happened now as Jehudi proceeded to unroll the scroll and read aloud column after column? “Then it came about that as soon as Jehudi had read three or four page-columns, he [King Jehoiakim] proceeded to tear it apart with the secretary’s knife, pitching it also into the fire that was in the brazier until all the roll ended up in the fire that was in the brazier. And they felt no dread; neither did the king and all his servants, who were listening to all these words, rip their garments apart.”—Jer. 36:21-24.
11. How did Jehoiakim’s conduct differ from that of his father Josiah on hearing Deuteronomy read, and had Jehoiakim obeyed Deuteronomy 17:18-20?
11 What disrespect for the inspired written word of God! How unlike the conduct of his father Josiah this act of King Jehoiakim was! When the roll of the book of Deuteronomy as written by the prophet Moses had been discovered during the cleaning up of the defiled temple, Josiah had one of the priesthood, to which Jeremiah belonged, read it to him. Josiah took it to heart and ripped his garments. Then he led his people in making a special covenant with Jehovah to obey him and to carry out his pure worship. (2 Chron. 34:14-33) Moreover, that very law code commanded any future king of Israel to write an exact copy of the law and read it regularly and keep it. (Deut. 17:18-20) What indications are there that King Jehoiakim did such a godly thing? None! His example was bad!
12. What two incidents are here cited to show whether there are any like King Jehoiakim today?
12 Are there modern Jehoiakims? Yes, as far as burning copies of the Sacred Scriptures is concerned. Yes, right in the realm of Christendom! Recall how, in the year 1961, down in Ejutla, Oaxaca, Mexico, a Roman Catholic priest incited a mob to invade and ransack a home where cultural meetings were regularly held, and they seized all the Bibles to be found and burned them in the public square. The local newspaper reported that they did this as though they were committing “an act of faith.” Also, in February of 1962 a communication was issued in Portugal prohibiting the circulation of the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses through the mail. Though there had been no official notice published by the Portuguese government of banning Jehovah’s Witnesses, large quantities of their religious literature and also Bibles were seized and burned.
13, 14. (a) In this regard, what happened two years ago down in Argentina? (b) What question does that affair raise, and what is the real reason why the religious clergy try to debar Jehovah’s Witnesses from Christian activity?
13 Just two years ago Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned in Argentina, and at their headquarters in Buenos Aires large quantities of their literature was confiscated, including 250 copies of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in Spanish. All of this was sold to paper manufacturers and shredded and boiled to a pulp for cellulose. Furthermore, Jehovah’s Witnesses who were identified when crossing from Uruguay into Argentina had their Bibles taken away from them, and these were burned. Other instances of Bible burning might be set in array before our readers, but all of this raises a question.
14 What is it that makes the Bible seemingly a dangerous instrument in the hands of Jehovah’s Witnesses, so that, even in lands called Christian, it should be confiscated so unjustly and destroyed? Is it because nationalists look upon Jehovah’s Witnesses as King Jehoiakim looked upon Jeremiah and Baruch—as being subversive political dangers to the State, obstructors of defensive measures of the nation? This is what religious leaders of Christendom would like political and other elements of the State to believe! But the real reason why government officials and religious clergymen want to put Jehovah’s Witnesses out of Christian activity is this: They serve the same God that Jeremiah and Baruch did, and they get out of the Hebrew Scriptures God’s message similar to that of the prophet Jeremiah. Then, like Jeremiah, they obey Jehovah’s command as set out in those inspired Scriptures and proclaim His message against the present evil system of things, including Christendom and all the worldly elements with which she keeps up an intimate relationship, to get their active support. So, Down with Jehovah’s Witnesses, who expose Christendom!
15, 16. (a) What instances in the seventh century B.C.E. do we have to show whether all subordinate officials go along with the harassment of Jehovah’s Witnesses? (b) What did Jehovah do for his servants?
15 There have been and still are a few subordinate government officials who do not go along with their superiors in this nasty persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They protest, out of a sense of fairness and out of respect for the God of whom these harassed Christians are witnesses—but all in vain! This is just as in the outstanding case of the seventh century B.C.E. “Even Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah themselves pleaded with the king not to burn the roll, but he did not listen to them. Further, the king commanded Jerahmeel the son of the king and Seraiah the son of Azriel and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel to get Baruch the secretary and Jeremiah the prophet. But Jehovah kept them concealed.”—Jer. 36:25, 26.
16 King Jehoiakim sent not his royal heir Jehoiachin but his “son” Jerahmeel along with two other officials to hunt down Jeremiah and his secretary. The king’s intent was plainly an evil one. But where they had gone into hiding Jehovah did not allow to be found out, whether in Jerusalem or in nearby Anathoth or elsewhere. At the very beginning of his prophetic career, Jeremiah had been given Jehovah’s assurance: “ ‘They will be certain to fight against you, but they will not prevail against you, for “I am with you,” is the utterance of Jehovah, “to deliver you.”’”—Jer. 1:19.
17, 18. (a) According to the earlier prophecy of Isaiah 40:8, how was Jehoiakim’s objective in Bible burning to fare? (b) What was Jeremiah commanded to write upon another roll against Jehoiakim?
17 In the century prior to Jeremiah, the prophet Isaiah wrote: “As for the word of our God, it will last to time indefinite.” (Isa. 40:8; 1 Pet. 1:25) So King Jehoiakim’s burning of the manuscript roll of Jeremiah was bound to fail of its objective, for God saw to that. He purposed that we today should have the full prophecy of Jeremiah, more than two and a half millenniums later. How has this proved to be so? Jeremiah tells us while he and Baruch were being concealed by Jehovah.
18 “The word of Jehovah occurred further to Jeremiah after the king had burned up the roll with the words that Baruch had written at the mouth of Jeremiah, saying: ‘Take again for yourself a roll, another one, and write on it all the first words that proved to be on the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah burned up. And against Jehoiakim the king of Judah you should say, “This is what Jehovah has said: ‘You yourself have burned up this roll, saying, “Why is it that you have written on it, saying: ‘The king of Babylon will come without fail and will certainly bring this land to ruin and cause man and beast to cease from it’?” Therefore this is what Jehovah has said against Jehoiakim the king of Judah, “He will come to have no one sitting upon the throne of David, and his own dead body will become something thrown out to the heat by day and to the frost by night. And I will call to account against him and against his offspring and against his servants their error, and I will bring upon them and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem and upon the men of Judah all the calamity that I have spoken against them, and they did not listen.”’”’”—Jer. 36:27-31.
19. Obeying God’s command meant what kind of work for Jeremiah and Baruch, and how extensive was the replacement manuscript?
19 Obeying God’s command meant underground work for the prophet and his secretary, but did Jeremiah obey? “And Jeremiah himself took another roll and then gave it to Baruch the son of Neriah the secretary, who proceeded to write upon it at the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book that Jehoiakim the king of Judah had burned in the fire; and there were added to them many more words like those.”—Jer. 36:32.
20. What kind of burial did Jehoiakim have at death, and did his son Jehoiachin have any sons mount the throne of Jerusalem?
20 As matters turned out, Jehoiakim experienced a disgraceful death and was not buried in the tombs of the kings at Jerusalem, no more than an ass would be. (Jer. 22:18, 19) His son Jehoiachin (or, Coniah) reigned only three months and 10 days in Jerusalem and then surrendered to the Babylonians and was deported to Babylon, from where he did not return. (Jer. 22:24-30; 37:1) Down to the destruction of the rebuilt city of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E., no descendant of Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, mounted a royal throne in Jerusalem. Jeremiah’s prophetic words, written in his underground location, did not fail to come true!
21. When driven underground, what have Jehovah’s Witnesses of today done, and how effective has modern-day Bible burning proved to be?
21 Nowadays Jehovah’s Witnesses have been driven underground in many lands. When the Bibles owned and used by them are seized and burned, what do they do? They simply print more Bibles themselves or get translations of other Bibles and use these. Even underground, if necessary, they keep proclaiming the message of doom against the God-defying world similar to what Jeremiah proclaimed. Bible burning, in order to silence Jehovah’s Witnesses of today, has failed of its objective. Neither has it frightened them off from distributing Bible literature nor will it prevent Jehovah’s Word from coming true in full force in the fiery times ahead! Opposers simply prove themselves worthy of eternal destruction then!
[Picture on page 17]
Jehoiakim burns God’s word—a pattern followed in modern times