April 8, 2010
OCBS Year 4
Instructor: Sharon Nelsen
Whoever heard of Baruch? Do you know where to find Baruch in the
Bible? My lady friend’s husband approached me with those questions late in 2009 or early in 2010 after mass one Sunday when one of the readings was from that old testament scripture.
Most of us hardly realize when we were introduced to this talented, faithful servant of the Lord. Probably it was in the book of Jeremiah. Baruch is the son of Neriah. Baruch was the companion and scribe of the prophet Jeremiah. I seem to like and admire him. This fondness most likely started because first I liked Jeremiah. Then, when I read about Baruch in the Book of Jeremiah found in the Old Testament scripture, I saw how tenacious and dedicated he was.
The story that really impressed me about the noble character of Baruch is found in chapter 36 of the Book of Jeremiah. The truth was that the people of Judah did not want to hear the truth about their take-over by the Babylonians. This was especially true of their petty, tyrant King Jehoiakim and his temple court.
Jeremiah dictated and Baruch wrote down, in the form of a scroll, all of Jeremiah’s prophecies since the day of King Josiah (640-609 B.C.E.) as he had been ordered. The main message from God to Jeremiah was that the Babylonians will come and overtake Palestine/Judah including the city of Jerusalem and its temple. Really bad news for the Hebrews as the temple in Jerusalem was the mainstay of their religion here on earth and the connections there were very important in their beliefs and practices.
One day Baruch read this scroll to the people who had gathered in the temple. The words moved his listeners. It wasn’t long before the king and his authorities heard of the reading and asked for a reading in their presence. The princes, knowing the terrible temper and authority of King Jehoiakim, recommended that both Jeremiah and Baruch go into hiding for their safety.
The year is 605 B.C.E. The reading before the king and his court did happen. Baruch read. As the king listened great displeasure and anger rose within him. As Baruch would finish reading a part of the script King Jehoiakim would use Baruch’s knife to cut it off. He would then throw it into the fire and let it burn! All that time, effort, prophecy and history had gone up in smoke! Can you imagine how Baruch must have felt? He dared not show his frustration and sorrow.
The king would not tolerate the truth of the situation so he attempted to use his powerful influence to subdue what he perceived as verbal insurrection from those traitors, Jeremiah and Baruch.
An order was issued for imprisonment of both Jeremiah and Baruch. But, do you know what? When the authorities sought to arrest Baruch, the secretary, and the prophet Jeremiah, neither could be found. Can you imagine?
Though that scroll had been destroyed by fire the words that had been written upon it and more came back to Jeremiah and, again, his faithful servant, Baruch, wrote what was dictated.
Do you see the admirable qualities in Baruch’s actions? He could so easily have been martyred.
The year is now 587 B.C.E. King Zedekiah was ruling over Judah from the city of Jerusalem. King Nebuchadnezzar’s armies had come from Babylon and were besieging Jerusalem-and winning! Jeremiah is already imprisoned in the quarters of the guard. It is a time, not only of turmoil, but of defeat for the Hebrew people. Yikes! What does Jeremiah do? He buys a now worthless field from his cousin. Why? It certainly wasn’t as a monetary investment. Property during a siege is worth nothing. Why, then? His purchase of the property amounts to a parable in action, a profession of faith in God’s promise of restoration. WOW! What an expression of hope. And hope and faith were in high demand here.
As you can see the situation was desperate. And to whom do you suppose Jeremiah entrusted the deed of purchase for the property? To trustworthy Baruch, with the assurance that this land would one day again belong to the Israeli people.
Baruch was blamed for Jeremiah’s speaking out against the survivors of the fall of Jerusalem migrating to Egypt. It ended with both Baruch and Jeremiah being forced to go with the Jewish refugees to Egypt. Here Baruch’s personal history becomes obscure. Some believe from Egypt he traveled on to Babylon to continue his work there.
Though Jeremiah speaks of God’s mercy to Israel and the nations, his main job seems to be the herald of God’s chastisement.
As Jeremiah was God’s mouthpiece Baruch was Jeremiah’s mouthpiece. Jeremiah was shy and sensitive. Baruch would assert himself and Jeremiah’s messages as well as his own.
The resource person, Mowvinckel, believes Baruch wrote the biographical prose narrative parts of the Book of Jeremiah. This is evidenced on page 602 under the heading 487g in A New Catholic Commentary On Holy Scripture.
There is a deuterocanonical book located near the end of the Old Testament section of the Catholic Bible which bears Baruch’s name. This book is preserved in Greek only, but is probably Hebrew in its original form. Many believe this book is authored by many including Baruch. In Old Testament times it was common to borrow another’s name to give credibility to writing.
“It was probably put together during the Maccabean period and before the end of
the first century B.C.”
Its third and fourth chapters are used as the sixth reading in our Holy Saturday night services. This reading praises wisdom and prudence. In the Book of Baruch the conditions for survival of Israel as a nation, if she was to remain spiritually healthy, was to practice true contrition and a firm purpose of amendment. That would indicate an interruption of the historical round-robin recycling of: sin, God’s punishment, repentance.
The organization of the book of Baruch is: Introduction, a prayer of confession of national guilt with a petition for forgiveness with an expectation of Israel’s restoration, a poem of praise of wisdom, a poem in which a personified Jerusalem encourages the nation and instills hope, and the letter which Jeremiah addressed to the exiles in Babylon condemning idolatry.
“Under the name, or rather pseudonym, Baruch have come down two
apocryphal apocalyptic works. Apocalypse of Baruch, composed around
100A.D. and the Greek Apocalypse of Baruch, still more recent (c. 150A.D.).”
The Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch describes revelations made to Baruch when
Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians. It goes into the Pharisaic view of doctrines regarding the Messiah and His kingdom, original sin and freewill, the future judgment and resurrection.
The Greek Apocalypse of Baruch is of Jewish origin and relates his journey through the five heavens.
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Ellis, Peter F., Baruch, Jeremiah.
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Year four O.C.B.S, 2009 – 2010
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copyright 2011 Marilyn Roche
copyright 2011 Marilyn Roche