THE BOOK OF BARUCH
The opening verses ascribe the book to the well-known assistant to Jeremiah (Jer 32:12; 36:4, 32; 45:1). It is a collection of four very different compositions, ending with a work entitled “The Letter of Jeremiah,” which circulated separately in major manuscripts of the Greek tradition. The original language may have been Hebrew, but only the Greek and other versions have been preserved. The fictional setting is Babylon, where Baruch reads his scroll to King Jechoniah (Jehoiachin) and the exiles; they react by sending gifts and the scroll to Jerusalem (1:1–14), presumably by the hand of Baruch (1:7). No certain date can be given for the book, but it may have been edited in final form during the last two centuries B.C. The work attempts to explain the trauma of the exile in terms of a Deuteronomic cycle: sin (of Israel), punishment, repentance, and return (cf. Jgs 2; also Dt 28–33).
The prayer of the exiles (2:11–3:8) is a confession of sin and a request for mercy, and has remarkable similarities to Dn 9 and to parts of Jeremiah. The poem on personified Wisdom is concerned with three themes: the importance of Wisdom, the elusive character of Wisdom (cf. Jb 28), and the identification of Wisdom with Torah (cf. Sir 24:23). Baruch’s Poem of Consolation resembles parts of Is 40–66, and it offers encouragement to the exiles in view of their eventual return; there are two addresses by personified Zion. The Letter of Jeremiah, unlike the letter in Jer 29, is a polemic against idolatry, a well-known theme (cf. Jer 10:2–11; Ps 115:4–8; 135:15–18; Is 44:9–20; Wis 13:10–15:17). It contains ten warnings that end in a kind of refrain that the idols are not gods and are not to be feared (vv. 14, 22, 28, 39, 44, 51, 56, 64, 68).
The book can be divided thus:
- Letter to Jerusalem (1:1–3:8)
- Praise of Wisdom (3:9–4:4)
- Importance of Wisdom (3:9–23)
- Inaccessibility of Wisdom (3:24–36)
- Wisdom Contained in the Law (3:37–4:4)
- Baruch’s Poem of Consolation (4:5–5:9)
- Baruch Addresses Diaspora (4:5–9a)
- Jerusalem Addresses Neighbors (4:9b–16)
- Jerusalem Addresses Diaspora (4:17–29)
- Baruch Addresses Jerusalem (4:30–5:9)
- Letter of Jeremiah (6:1–72)