Author: Baruch, son of Neriah and Jeremiah, son of Nebat

Date Written: 582-550 BC


Baruch was Jeremiah's scribe and is mentioned several times in the book of Jeremiah (Jer 32, 36, 43, 45).  Baruch's name means "blessed."  Baruch was most likely written in Hebrew, but only the Greek text survives.  The date and authorship of the book are disputed and there are few pieces of external evidence to help solve the problem.


The book of Baruch is composed of three basic parts.  The first part (1:1-3:8) is a preface which includes a penitential prayer by the exiles in Babylon.  The second part (3:9-5:9) is poetry by Baruch in which he offers prayers of praise, remembrance and trust.  The final part (6) is actually a separate work entitled the Letter of Jeremiah, which in ancient Greek manuscripts was not part of the text of Baruch, but was a separate book in the Bible.  Ancient Latin versions attached the Letter of Jeremiah to Baruch.  It was also most likely written in Hebrew originally.


The first part is basically a "cover letter" for the second part.  It narrates how Baruch read his prophecy aloud to the displaced king Jeconiah and the other exiles in Babylon (1:3-4).  In response to his prophecy the exiles repent to the Lord and send the priest Jehoiakim and a large sum of money to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the place where the Temple had been.  Interestingly, they commission sacrifices to be offered for their Babylonian oppressors Nebuchadnezzer and Belshazzar (1:11).  But mainly, they offer a prayer of repentence and ask God for his deliverance, counting on his mercy and reminding him of his promises.  Many commentators see a relationship between this part of Baruch and Daniel 9.


The second part begins with a poem about God's wisdom (3:9-4:4).  His wisdom is to be preferred over gold and silver and its light is a gift from God (3:17, 27).  The Lord's wisdom is the same as the Law of Moses (4:1).  Then we find a poem that gives a voice to Jerusalem herself (4:5-29).  The city speaks to her children.  Though she is sorrowful over the sins of Israel, she urges the people to call upon God for mercy and deliverance (4:21).  The last section of the second part is a poem about the vindication of Jerusalem, the defeat of Israel's enemies and the joy that God will bring upon Israel (4:30-5:9).  Some see similarities between this second part and Job 28, 38, Prov 28 and Sir 24.


The third part is the Letter of Jeremiah.  Jeremiah's authorship of the Letter is disputed, but the prophet was known to be a letter writer (Jer 29).  The Letter has many similarities to Jeremiah 10, for example, Jer 10:5 and Bar 6:69.  It is a parody of Babylonian idol worship, which mocks the powerless statues of gold-plated wood.  The Letter shows the practice of worshiping man-made idols to be foolish and contrary to reason.  Why worship a powerless item of wood and metal that can do nothing?


While religious idol worship is not a common problem in our times, imagine all the things that our age does worship by placing human trust in them.  Whether it be fame, money, power or sexual immorality, these false gods are just as incapable of giving us salvation as were the Babylonian idols.


Baruch reveals part of the Lord's relationship with his people.  The exile was necessary to teach Israel to trust in him (2:5).  The nation acknowledges its sin and spiritually returns to the Lord by seeking his wisdom and law.  While they praise him in captivity (3:7), their fear is removed (4:21) and God leads them in joy (5:9).  They trust in the Lord's promise of deliverance (2:34) and reject the idol worship of the Babylonians (6).  Baruch is a book of hope which reveals the transformative power of trusting in God with sincere repentence.  The Church uses Baruch as the sixth reading in the Easter Vigil liturgy.


By Mark Giszczak

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April 25, 2014

Friday within the Octave of Easter

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