Historical Introduction (Bar 1:1-1:2)

“These are the words

Of the book

That Baruch,

The son of Neriah,

The son of Mahseiah,

The son of Zedekiah,

The son of Hasadiah,

The son of Hilkiah,

Wrote in Babylon.

This was

In the fifth year,

On the seventh day

Of the month,

At the time

When the Chaldeans

Took Jerusalem.

They burned it

With fire.”

This is a historical introduction to this book that gives a name and specific date with a reference to a book, not merely a scroll. The author is Baruch, the same Baruch that was mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah, chapters 32, 36, 43, and 45. This Baruch was a scribe, friend, and follower of Jeremiah. He was clearly identified with a long genealogy. His father was Neriah. His brother Seraiah worked with King Zedekiah. He traced his family back to Hilkiah. Mahseiah, his grandfather was mentioned in Jeremiah also. There were many people with the name of Zedekiah, including the king so that it is hard to pinpoint one. Hasadiah was another common name, while over 30 biblical people have the name Hilkiah. Baruch was in Babylon. However, the last time he was mentioned in Jeremiah, he was with Jeremiah in Egypt. Perhaps, he may have left Jeremiah there. This book is placed 5 years after the fall of Jerusalem and the burning of Jerusalem, around 582 BCE on the 7th day of the month that Jerusalem was destroyed.

The book of Jeremiah in the Euphrates River (Jer 51:63-51:64)

“When you finish

Reading this scroll,

Tie a stone to it.

Throw it into

The middle

Of the Euphrates River.

Say.

‘Thus shall Babylon sink.

It will rise no more,

because of the disasters

That I am bringing on her.’”

When Seraiah had finished reading the scroll, he was to tie a stone to it and throw it into the middle of the Euphrates River. This symbolic act was to show that just as the words in this scroll sank with the stone, so would Babylon sink also. It would never rise again, because of all the disasters that Yahweh was going to bring to Babylon. Thus we have another example of biblical writings and how they were used.

The book of Jeremiah (Jer 51:60-51:62)

“Jeremiah wrote

In a scroll

All the disasters

That would come

Upon Babylon.

All these words

Were written

Concerning Babylon.

Jeremiah said

To Seraiah.

‘When you come

To Babylon,

See that you read

All these words.

Say!

‘Yahweh!

You yourself threatened

To destroy this place.

Neither human beings

Or animals

Shall live in it.

It shall be desolate forever.’”

Jeremiah or his secretary Baruch wrote on a scroll about all the disasters that would come to Babylon. Then Jeremiah told Seraiah to read all these words in Babylon. Then he was to say that Yahweh has threatened to destroy Babylon so that no humans or animals would live in it. It would become desolate forever. Thus Seraiah was to bring this bad news to Babylon, even though they still had not invaded Judah or Jerusalem at this time.

The order of Jeremiah (Jer 51:59-51:59)

“The word that

The prophet Jeremiah

commanded Seraiah,

The son of Neriah,

The son of Mahseiah,

When he went

With King Zedekiah,

Of Judah

To Babylon,

In the fourth year

Of his reign.

Seraiah was the quartermaster.”

Now we are back at the 4th year of the Judean reign of King Zedekiah, about 594 BCE, years before the Babylonian captivity. Jeremiah told Seraiah, the quartermaster or bearer of gifts of the king to go with King Zedekiah to Babylon. Jeremiah’s secretary Baruch and Seraiah had the same father, Neriah, and grandfather, Mahseiah, so that they were brothers.

The king reacts (Jer 36:24-36:26)

“Yet neither the king,

Nor any of his servants,

Who heard

All these words,

Was afraid.

They did not tear

Their garments.

Even when Elnathan,

Delaiah,

With Gemariah

Urged the king

Not to burn the scroll,

He would not listen to them.

The king commanded

Jerahmeel,

The king’s son,

With Seraiah,

The son of Azriel,

To arrest

The secretary Baruch

With the prophet Jeremiah.

But Yahweh hid them.”

Neither the king of Judah, King Jehoiakim, nor his servants, was alarmed by the words of the scroll. They did not tear their garments as a sign of sorrow or repentance. Instead, the king burned the scroll in its various pieces as mentioned above, despite the protests of some of his senior officials like Elnathan, Delaiah, and Gemariah, who had demanded the first reading, earlier in this chapter. They did not want the king to burn the scroll, but he would not listen to them. Instead, he sent his son Jerahmeel with his friend Seraiah, someone in the royal service, to arrest Baruch and Jeremiah. However, Yahweh hid them, but it is not clear where or how.

The priests with Zerubbabel (Neh 12:1-12:7)

“These are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua. They were Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, Shecaniah, Rehum, Meremoth, Iddo, Ginnethoi, Abijah, Mijamin, Maadiah, Bilgah, Shemaiah, Joiarib, Jedaiah, Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah, and Jedaiah. These were the leaders of the priests and of their associates in the days of Jeshua.”

Now suddenly we are back to the list of those who came with Zerubbabel some 90 years earlier. This is like an appendix to this document. It refers to Ezra, chapter 2. There are 22 priests listed here. Of the 22, only 2 were listed in Ezra, chapter 2, Seraiah and Rehum. Jedaiah is listed twice. Clearly Zerubbabel and Jeshua were the leaders. 11 off these same people, Seraiah, Jeremiah, Amariah, Hattush, Malluch, Meremoth, Ginnethon, Abijah, Mijamin, and Shemaiah, signed the agreement with Nehemiah in chapter 10 of this book. However this took place about 90-100 years after the original group, which would make it difficult for these same people to sign the document, after having returned 90 years earlier. Ezra is mentioned with this group but he did not return until about 10 years before Nehemiah.   Iddo was with Ezra so that he would not have been with the original group. Shecaniah and Meremoth were builders of the wall so that they could not have come with the original group, almost a century earlier. This is the only mention of Maadiah, Bilgah, and Amok so they are real possibilities. Jedaiah was the son of Joiarib, so that he could not have come with the original group, but Joiarib might have. Sallu was the son of Meshullam so that he could not have been there 100 years earlier. Seraiah was the son of Hilkiah, so that he could have been with the original group. Thus, not more than 4 or 5 of the named priests could have come back with Zerubbabel, unless the ones at the time of Nehemiah had the same name as the ones who came nearly a century earlier.

The priests living in Jerusalem (Neh 11:10-11:14)

“Of the priests, there were Jedaiah son of Joiarib, Jachin, Seraiah son of Hilkiah, son of Meshullam, son of Zadok, son of Meraioth, son of Ahitub, officer of the house of God. Their associates who did the work of the house were eight hundred twenty-two. Adaiah son of Jeroham, son of Pelaliah, son of Amzi, son of Zechariah, son of Pashhur, son of Malchijah, and his associates, heads of ancestral houses were two hundred forty-two. Amashsai son of Azarel, son of Ahzai, son of Meshillemoth, son of Immer, and their associates, valiant warriors were one hundred twenty-eight. Their overseer was Zabdiel son of Haggedolim.”

The priests in Jerusalem were Jedaiah, Jachin, and Seraiah, who was the chief officer or the high priest. Their associates worked in the house of God and numbered 822. Adaiah and his associates were the heads of the ancestral houses and numbered 242. Then there was Amashsai the warrior priests that numbered 128. Their overseer was Zabdiel. This seems like a lot of people, over 1,000, for a relatively small Temple in Jerusalem.