The Apocrypha, Lesson 20: Baruch

A Picture of Baruch Writing at his desk from an old BibleIntro

We know of Baruch from the book of Jeremiah, where he is presented as Jeremiah’s scribe (Jeremiah 32:10-16; 36:1-31).  Baruch means “blessed one,” a shortened form of Berechyahu, “blessed by Yahweh.”

Near the end of Jeremiah’s and Baruch’s career in Judea, Baruch read aloud what Jeremiah told him to write.  Baruch did this, and soon Jeremiah and Baruch were exiled.  Some scholars think they were exiled in Egypt and died there.  Baruch, however, states it was written in Babylon, which makes sense, for this was before many of the Jews lost their ability to speak, write, and read Hebrew.

Baruch was probably first written in Hebrew, later translated into Greek.  We have several clues:

20, Dalet and ReshA city which Baruch mentions, “Merran” (3:23), is probably “Midian,” for the d (dalet) and r (resh) in Hebrew are easily confused, followed by the Greek grammar of doubling of the r.  We find this elsewhere in the Septuagint, such as “Sarra” in Genesis 7:19 and “Gomorra” in Genesis 18:20.

Also, the writing style in Baruch is more reminiscent of Hebrew writing with its vocatives (example, O Israel), imperatives, and parallelism.

Dependent on other Old-Testament texts in nearly every verse, Baruch becomes a summary statement of the Old Testament.  The structure of Baruch is interesting, laid out as if it were a synagogue service.

 

Baruch: A Synagogue Service and Liturgy

Confession (Baruch 1:15-2:10)

Baruch 1:1-2:

1:1 These are the words of the book that Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah son of Zedekiah son of Hasadiah son of Hilkiah wrote in Babylon, 2 in the fifth year, on the seventh day of the month, at the time when the Chaldeans took Jerusalem and burned it with fire.

  • Who is the author (and presider of this stylized Synagogue service in written form)?

 

Baruch 1:15-18:

15 The Lord, our God, is in the right, but there is open shame on us today, on the people of Judah, on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, 16 and on our kings, rulers, priests, prophets, and ancestors, 17 because we have sinned before the Lord.  18 We have disobeyed him, and have not heeded the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in the statutes of the Lord that he set before us.

  • How does the ritualized and written service begin?

 

  • Why would a service start with a confession of sins if such an act also recognizes who is present among them?

 

Baruch contains a lengthy confession of sin (Baruch 1:15-2:10).  The people admit “they followed the intents of [their] wicked hearts” (1:22; 2:7), did “evil in God’s sight” (1:22), and did not turn “from the designs of [their] evil hearts” (2:8).  The only particular sin mentioned is “serving other gods” (1:22).

  • What does Baruch teach us even about the value of a general confession of sin?

 

The Kyrie, the Cry for Mercy (Baruch 2:11-3:8)

After the admission of guilt, the service changes focus.  In Baruch 2:11:

And now, O Lord God of Israel, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand and with signs and wonders and with great power and outstretched arm, and made yourself a name that continues to this day …

  • What is happening here?

 

Based on who God is and what He does, they now petition God.

O Lord our God, we pray to you for mercy, not because of any righteous deeds of our fathers or our kings … [Baruch 2:19]

27 Yet you have dealt with us, O Lord our God, in all your kindness and great mercy, 28 as you spoke by your servant Moses … [Baruch 2:27-28]

  • What does a prayer for mercy imply? In other words, who must be present in some way to grant it?

 

We find similar prayers of confession in Scripture.

Daniel 9:4-19:

4 O Lord—the great and awe-inspiring God who keeps his gracious covenant with those who love him and keep his commandments— 5 we have sinned, done wrong, acted wickedly, rebelled, and turned away from your commands and laws.  7 O Lord, righteousness belongs to you… 9 But to the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against him …  15 Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a strong hand and made your name renowned as it is this day, we have sinned, we have acted wickedly…. 18 We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy….

Ezra 9:6-15:

6 My God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face toward you, my God, because our iniquities are higher than our heads and our guilt is as high as the heavens….  8 But now, for a brief moment, mercy came to us from the Lord, our God … 9 Though we are slaves, our God has not abandoned us in our slavery.  He has extended grace to us …

  • What do all these prayers of confession and calling out to God for mercy reveal about our ability to keep God’s Law?

 

  • What then is someone’s only hope, which all three prayers reveal?

 

The New Covenant is Promised

Within the Kyrie, Baruch promises the mercy of God will come in a New Covenant: “I will make an everlasting covenant with them to be their God, and they shall be my people” (Baruch 2:35).  The former covenant was conditional: “If you will not obey … the whole land will be a desolation without inhabitants” (Baruch 2:22-23).  “If you will not obey my voice, you will be reduced to a handful among the nations” (Baruch 2:29).

The New Covenant will be one in which God will give to the people what they cannot do.  “I am the Lord their God.  I will give them a heart that obeys and ears that hear” (Baruch 2:31).

 

The Sermon—Wisdom (Baruch 3:9-4:4)

Instruction now takes place, elaborating on the Law—but does so using poetry!  Though still living under the Old Covenant, the people are rewarded and punished based on how faithful they are in following the Old Covenant.  Even so, they are still pointed to the Promise.

“Hear the commandments of life, O Israel; give ear, and learn wisdom!” (Baruch 3:9).  “If you had walked in the way of God, you would be living in peace forever” (Baruch 3:13).

  • How does this still express the public nature of what happened with God’s people in the Old Covenant?

 

  • If the people walked in the way of God, what would they have?

 

The problem is, they can’t.  So, Baruch directs them, not to their works but, but somewhere else.  “Learn where there is wisdom … where there is light for the eyes, and peace” (Baruch 3:14).

  • From whom or what will the people receive “light for their eyes and peace”?

 

Excursus 1: Baruch 3:29-31 and Romans 10:6-7 and Following

Baruch 3:29-31 [LXX]:

29 Who has gone up into heaven and taken hold of her, and brought her down from the clouds?  30 Who has crossed the sea and found her, and brought her back for pure gold?  31 No one knows her way, nor does anyone ponder her path.

Deuteronomy 30:12-13 [LXX]:

12 It is not in heaven above, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear and do it?’  13 Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear and do it?’

Romans 10:6-7:

6 But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, “Who will go up to heaven?” that is, to bring Christ down 7 or, “Who will go down into the abyss?” that is, to bring Christ up from the dead.”

We may think Paul is adapting Deuteronomy 30:12-14.  Not so, he is more influenced more by Baruch’s adaptation of that text and the wisdom thinking found in Baruch, not Deuteronomy.  For example:

  • Romans 10:6: But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, “Who will go up to heaven?” that is, to bring Christ down
  • Baruch 3:29: Who has gone up into heaven and taken hold of her, and brought her down from the clouds?
  • Deuteronomy 30:12 [LXX]: Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear and do it? [Notice “down” is not in Deuteronomy.]
  • How does the difference in wording show Paul is using Baruch, not Deuteronomy?

 

  • Romans 10:7: … or, “Who will go down into the abyss?” that is, to bring Christ up from the dead.
  • Baruch 3:29: Who has gone up into heaven and taken hold of her, and brought her down from the clouds?
  • Deuteronomy 30:13 [LXX]: Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear and do it?”
  • Again, how do the similarities and differences in wording show what Old Testament text Paul is referencing?

 

Now, Paul goes back to Deuteronomy, not Baruch’s interpretation of it, to assert:

  • Romans 10:8-9: 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart.” This is the message of faith that we proclaim: 9 If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
  • Deuteronomy 30:14 [LXX]: But the word is very near you, in your mouth, in your heart, and in your hands, that you may do it.

Paul then finishes his thought:

  • Romans 10:11: For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
  • Isaiah 28:16 [LXX]: “Behold, I lay for the foundations of Zion a costly stone, a chosen and precious cornerstone for its foundations, and whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.

For Paul, Christ is the embodiment of wisdom, who manifests Himself in the Word of faith “we proclaim.”  This isn’t strange, for Paul elsewhere states as much directly: “Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24).  The parallels between what Baruch affirmed of Wisdom, as embodied in the Torah, Paul claims as fulfilled by Christ and the preaching of Him.

————–

Excursus 2: Jesus as Wisdom [Sophia] become Incarnate

John 1:14: “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.  We gazed on his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Baruch 3:35-37:

35 This is our God; no other can be compared to him.  36 He uncovered the whole way to knowledge and gave Wisdom to his servant Jacob and to Israel, whom he loved.  37 Afterward, Wisdom appeared on earth and lived among us.

  • How did God give Wisdom to Jacob, renamed “Israel” afterward? (Genesis 32:24-25, 28-30)

 

  • How did “the Wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24) appear on earth and live among us?

 

Baruch teaches that the incomparable God will reveal Himself on the earth and live among us.  When did God do this?  Baruch was pointing forward (“afterward”) to Christ’s incarnation, where the Word, who was with God and was God, “… became flesh and tabernacled among us” (John 1:14).

—————

Baruch’s finishes his sermon on Wisdom with the promise of life that awaits those take hold of Wisdom (4:1).  “All who cling to Wisdom will live, but those who forsake her [remember sophia is a feminine gendered word] will die” (Baruch 4:1).

 

Baruch’s Poem of Comfort and Encouragement

Baruch continues, now in a long conclusion. “Take courage, my people!  Remember, O Israel!  It was not for destruction that you were sold to the nations, but you were handed over to your enemies because you angered God” (Baruch 4:5-6).

  • If Israel was not handed over for destruction, what does that mean for the future awaiting God’s people?

 

Baruch encourages the people to:

  • Be confident, for he who named you will comfort you (4:30)
  • Look to the East and see the joy that is coming from God (4:36)
  • Cast off the garment of sorrow and affliction and put on … the robe of righteousness (5:1-2)
  • Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height … and see your children gathered from the west and east at the word of the Holy One (5:5)
  • How does this point to the New Covenant to come?

 

Baruch ends with, “For God will lead Israel with joy, in the light of his glory, with the mercy and righteousness that come from him” (Baruch 5:9).

  • Why will Israel live in joy?

 

  • In the end, our life with God depends on whom?

 

This ends our series on the Apocrypha.

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