Introduction
The book of Baruch is intended to be read as though directly written by the famous sixth century b.c. scribe and secretary of Jeremiah (see Jer 32.12; 36.4). However, internal textual evidence reveals that the book came together over a long period of time, from several different sources, all of which were later than the sixth century b.c. The unknown authors, writing in the name of Baruch, have put together a moving work of spiritual guidance and encouragement. Jews in the second century b.c. were suffering vicious persecution by Seleucid occupation forces in Judea, and Baruch offered them a way of interpreting their distress. The authors draw on familiar texts from the canonical Jewish scriptures, and set their work during the Exile in Babylonia. While carrying the cachet of Baruch to enhance the authority of the message, the authors extol repentance as the path to hope, freedom, and renewal.
The first half of Baruch (1.1—3.8) is prose and culminates in a profound national prayer of repentance (based on Daniel 9). The second half (3.9—5.9) is set in two distinct poetic sections. A Wisdom poem (3.9—4.4) employs the experience of the Exile as a way of explaining the Judean people's present suffering. The following consolation poem (4.5—5.9), borrowing generously from Isaiah's consolation poems (Isa 40.1—55.13), portrays a more hopeful future through themes of return and renewal. Just as disobedience to God in the past was seen as the reason for the Exile, so now, in another age of oppression, repentance and devotion to God's teachings are needed to lead Judeans to social restoration, political freedom, and spiritual renewal.
Although the book of Baruch survives only in Greek and in later secondary versions, recent studies have clearly demonstrated that its three sections were all originally written in Hebrew. The date of the writing and compilation of the book of Baruch is approximately 180 to 100 b.c.
The scribe Baruch served the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah in the sixth/seventh centuries b.c., so it is perhaps understandable that The Epistle of Jeremiah (Bar 6), a distinct work written from the point of view of someone other than Baruch, would, in some traditions, be attached to the book of Baruch. In this regard, the KJV follows the traditional arrangement established by the Latin Vulgate Bible. The central prescript of the Epistle of Jeremiah is its vigorous condemnation of idols and idolatry, closely modeled on the content of Jeremiah 10, and addressed to exiled Judeans in Babylonia.
Outline
Baruch Returns to Jerusalem from Babylon (1.1-14)
A Prayer Confessing Sins and Asking for God's Forgiveness (1.15—3.8)
A Poem in Praise of Wisdom (3.9—4.4)
A Consolation Poem: Words of Hope and Promise (4.5—5.9)
The Foolishness of Worshipping Idols (Epistle of Jeremiah) (6.1-73)
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