My understanding of Baruch

The Book of Baruch is named after Baruch, Jeremiah’s scribe and secretary mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah. However, this work appears to be written during or shortly after the period of the Maccabees, between 200 and 60 BCE.  There seems to be some sort of relationships to the Book of Daniel, written about the same time. Although not in the Hebrew Bible, Baruch is found in the Septuagint and the Vulgate Bible, where it is grouped with the prophetical books after Lamentations.  In the Vulgate, the Letter of Jeremiah is appended to the end of the Book of Baruch as the sixth chapter.

There are many legends and stories about Baruch. Some even maintain that he was the Deuteronomist most responsible for that work. We know that he knew how to write from the Book of Jeremiah. Among later Jews, he was considered a pious prophet with many mothers naming their children after him. In the Greek Orthodox Church he is a saint. He even has an Islamic following, as they venerate his grave site. The Book of Baruch is included in some Jewish worship services and various Christian denominational services as well. The Roman Catholics have used this book in many of its documents.

This Book of Baruch probably had a variety of authors and editors. There are different names for God with many allusions to biblical passages, particularly to Job and Wisdom. Copies of the Letter of Jeremiah have also been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. There are allusions to this letter in the early Christian writers of the New Testament, thus making it a sacred writing in the first century CE.

According to the text of this letter, the author is the biblical prophet Jeremiah.   The biblical Book of Jeremiah already contained the words of a letter in chapter 29 sent by Jeremiah from Jerusalem to the captives in Babylon.  This lettter seems to be like that other letter. The author of this letter may have been a Hellenistic Jew, who lived in Alexandria. The  earliest Greek fragment was discovered in Qumran.  However, it may have been originally composed in Hebrew or Aramaic.  The date of this work is uncertain. It is dependent on certain biblical passages, especially Isaiah, with some references to 2 Maccabees. Aound the year 300 BCE is a probable date, since it was included in the Greek Septuagint translations.

The introduction to this work of Baruch indicates that Baruch wrote this work in Babylon. When the people there heard it, they wept, fasted, and prayed to God. Thus there was a historical introduction with a reading of this book. Then there was a collection for the people of Jerusalem. They were going to send back sacred vessels and money for the temple worship services, as if there was a lot of people left in Jerusalem. There also was a prayer for King Nebuchadnezzar and for all the sinners, as they read this scroll.

The prayer for the exiles came next, as they confessed their sins for not listening to the voice of God. They and their ancestors were sinners also. The Lord showed their shameful sinful behavior. Thus they confessed their guilt to the powerful God of Israel, as sinners prayed. They wanted God to be aware of their situation. They had failed to serve God and the king of Babylon. They had not obeyed God. They had hoped that the kindness of God, as in the speech of Moses, would bring them repentance in exile. These Israelites had not remembered the sins of their ancestors.

This book then has an introduction to wisdom. They should not follow false pursuits. They lacked knowledge of the great house of God. Even the giants have perished without wisdom. Wisdom was unreachable, but tied to creation and incarnation. True wisdom was to be found in the Law of God.

Next was the message to those in captivity, hope. They were sent into exile not for destruction, but because they had angered God. Jerusalem was like a grieving widow. They had failed to follow the statutes of God. Thus Jerusalem was wearing sack cloth. However, they needed to have courage, hope and patience. The enemies of Jerusalem would soon suffer as there would be a return of the exiles. They would put on the robe of glory as they returned from exile.

The last chapter of this work is actually a satire against idols and idolatry, with a simple serious practical purpose. The captives from Israel and Judah were not to worship the gods of the Babylonians, but to worship only the God of Israel.  They were told about these idols that were created by men. They had no power to speak, hear or preserve themselves. There was a strong satirical denunciation of these idols.  The message was clear. Avoid idolatry.

Thus the Letter of Jeremiah is the sixth chapter of this work with another historical introduction. While they were in captivity in Babylon, they should avoid the worship of the colorful useless idol gods. They protected these foreign temples that had strange creatures crawling all around. These idol gods had no feelings. They needed caretakers. In fact, females touched these idol gods. These gods were like dead people at a funeral, because of the futile activities of these temple priests. These were the weak false idol gods. There even was the example of mute persons at the temple for Bel. Another example was the temple prostitutes. These were human made false idols. Both the priests and the idols were powerless against any robbers. There was no comparative value to these false idols. Nature, heavenly bodies, and wild animals were much better than these useless false wooden gods.

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