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Purpose of The Book of Baruch:
The book of Baruch, according to the text, is a letter from Baruch to his countrymen who still remain in Jerusalem the 5th year of the exile of King Jechoniah in the 5th year of Zedekiah. The work offers an explanation of the trauma of the exile in terms of a Deuteronomic cycle: sin (of Israel), punishment, repentance, and return.
Summary of The Book of Baruch:
The book of Baruch is composed of three basic parts. The first part (1:1-3:8) is a preface which includes a penitential prayer by the exiles in Babylon. The second part (3:9-5:9) is poetry by Baruch in which he offers prayers of praise, remembrance and trust. The final part (Ch 6) is actually a separate work entitled the Letter of Jeremiah, which in ancient Greek manuscripts was not part of the text of Baruch, but was a separate book in the Bible. Ancient Latin versions attached the Letter of Jeremiah to Baruch.
The first part is basically a "cover letter" for the second part. It narrates how Baruch read his prophecy aloud to the displaced king Jeconiah and the other exiles in Babylon (1:3-4). In response to his prophecy the exiles repent to the Lord and send the priest Jehoiakim and a large sum of money to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the place where the Temple had been. Interestingly, they commission sacrifices to be offered for their Babylonian oppressors Nebuchadnezzer and Belshazzar (1:11). But mainly, they offer a prayer of repentence and ask God for his deliverance, counting on his mercy and reminding him of his promises. Many commentators see a relationship between this part of Baruch and Daniel 9.
The second part begins with a poem about God's wisdom (3:9-4:4). His wisdom is to be preferred over gold and silver and its light is a gift from God (3:17, 27). The Lord's wisdom is the same as the Law of Moses (4:1). Then we find a poem that gives a voice to Jerusalem herself (4:5-29). The city speaks to her children. Though she is sorrowful over the sins of Israel, she urges the people to call upon God for mercy and deliverance (4:21). The last section of the second part is a poem about the vindication of Jerusalem, the defeat of Israel's enemies and the joy that God will bring upon Israel (4:30-5:9). Some see similarities between this second part and Job 28, 38, Prov 28 and Sir 24.
The third part is the Letter of Jeremiah. Jeremiah's authorship of the Letter is disputed, but the prophet was known to be a letter writer (Jer 29). The Letter has many similarities to Jeremiah 10, for example, Jer 10:5 and Bar 6:69. It is a parody of Babylonian idol worship, which mocks the powerless statues of gold-plated wood. The Letter shows the practice of worshiping man-made idols to be foolish and contrary to reason.
Author and Dates of The Book of Baruch:
Baruch 1:1–14 gives a narrative account of an occasion when Baruch ben Neriah reads the book of "these words" before the Israelites in Babylon, and then sends that book (together with collected funds) to be read in Jerusalem. Where the Book of Baruch is considered to be a distinct work of scripture, it is commonly identified as the book that Baruch reads; and hence Baruch himself has traditionally been credited as the author of the whole work. However, the syntactical form of Baruch chapter 1 has been held rather to imply that "these words" correspond to a preceding text – which might then be identified with Lamentations or with the Book of Jeremiah; in which case comparison may be made with a corresponding notice of Baruch writing down reading the prophecies of Jeremiah, recorded at Jeremiah chapter 36. These considerations underlie an alternative tradition (found for instance in Augustine) in which all four works (Book of Jeremiah, Baruch, Lamentations, Letter of Jeremiah) are credited to Jeremiah himself as author.
Critical scholarship is, however, united in rejecting either Baruch or Jeremiah as author of the Book of Baruch, or in dating the work in the period of its purported context; the Babylonian Exile. Rather they have seen clear thematic and linguistic parallels with later works; the Book of Daniel and the Book of Sirach. Many scholars have noted that the restoration of worship in the Jerusalem Temple following its pollution by Antiochus Epiphanes could provide a counterpart historical context in which the narrative of Baruch may equally be considered to apply; and consequently a date in the period 200 BCE-100 BCE has been proposed.
Outline of The Book of Baruch:
Themes of The Book of Baruch:
The work attempts to explain the trauma of the exile in terms of a Deuteronomic cycle: sin (of Israel), punishment, repentance, and return. The prayer of the exiles 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, and the identification of Wisdom with Torah. 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. It contains ten warnings that end in a kind of refrain that the idols are not gods and are not to be feared.