MAJOR PROPHETS: Baruch
Who has gone up into heaven, and taken Wisdom,
and brought her down from the clouds?
…No one knows the way to her,
or is concerned about the path to her.
But the one who knows all things knows her.
Baruch was, you could say, the “executive assistant” to the prophet Jeremiah. They lived at the tumultuous time just before and during the exile to Babylon. The book of Baruch, one of the deutero-canonical books (AKA apocryphal books), is reported to be a letter from Baruch to his countrymen who remain back at the ruins of Jerusalem. Stuck to the end of Baruch’s letter is another letter, this one from the prophet Jeremiah to the Israelites in exile.
The book of Baruch begins with a tale of exiles in Babylon gathering together money and all sorts of deported booty from the Temple and sending it all back to. The letter that accompanies it is most of the book. After a prologue with instructions about the people resuming sacrifice, Baruch gets right to the point, confessing the sins of his people (that led to the exile–some pretty shocking) and praying they all be delivered by God. Next comes a poem about divine Wisdom and her wondrous attributes. The book continues with a poem of consolation to the Jerusalemites, promising them God is coming to their rescue. Finally, in the letter of Jeremiah added to the whole thing, Jeremiah warns his people about the dangers of idolatry and paganism.
Though all this (except the letter of Jeremiah) is assigned to the pen of Baruch, most Bible scholars think it is a combination of much later disparate pieces, all originally written in Hebrew in Palestine, that were edited together and united by this scheme of a letter from Baruch. Incidentally, the book of the prophet Jeremiah tells us that Baruch went into exile with Jeremiah in Egypt! Nevertheless, the times when these sections were written were still very challenging and the temptation to abandon the worship of God was great. Plus confession of sins and words of consolation are always appropriate, to help us deal with the challenges of our own era.