Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-Fourth
1. The word that Jeremiah the prophet spake unto Baruch the son of Neriah, when he had written these words in a book at the mouth of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying,
1. Sermo quem loquutus est Jeremias Propheta ad Baruch filium Neriae cum scriberet sermones istos in libro ex ore Jeremiae anno quarto Joiakim filii Josiae regis Jehudah, dicendo,
2. Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, unto thee, O Baruch;
2. Sic dicit Jehova, Deus Israel ad to (vel, de to) Baruch,
3. Thou didst say, Woe is me now! for the Lord hath added grief to my sorrow; I fainted in my sighing, and I found no rest.
3. Dixisti, Vae nunc mihi, quia addidit Jehova moerorem super dolorem meum, laboravi (vel, defessus sum) in gemitu meo et requiem non inveni:
4. Thus shalt thou say unto him, The Lord saith thus, Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up, even this whole land.
4. Sic dices ad eum, Sic dicit Jehova, Ecce quae aedificavi ego diruo, et quae plantavi evello, nempe totam terram hanc;
5. And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the Lord; but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest.
5. Et tu quaeres tibi magnifica? Ne quaesieris; quia ego adducam malum super universam carnem, dicit Jehova; et dabo tibi animam tuam in spolium omnibus locis quocunque tu veneris.
We have said that prophetic books were not written by their authors in the order in which they are now read. But when a Prophet had preached, and committed to writing a summary of his doctrine, he fixed it to the doors of the Temple. And there were scribes who collected the summaries, and the volumes now extant were made from these. I now repeat the same thing, because some one may wonder that the order of time was not observed by Jeremiah: for hereafter he will prophesy of heathen nations; and it is certain, that these prophecies were announced, in part, before the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim, some during his reign, and some in the time of Zedekiah. But the reason I have stated ought to be borne in mind, that this book we have now in our hands was not written by Jeremiah himself, but that it contains collected summaries, afterwards formed into one volume.
Here is told us a special prophecy concerning Baruch, who, as we know, was the Prophet's scribe, and not only his scribe or amanuensis, but also his disciple. And here Jeremiah relates, that he was gravely and severely reproved, because he shewed not a mind sufficiently firm, when the book mentioned in chapter thirty-six was to be written. Some think that there was a just reason for his grief, because Jeremiah declared that the ruin of the city and the people was nigh at hand. They then think that Baruch was anxious, nay, oppressed with sorrow when he heard that so dreadful a judgment of God was near; for there is no doubt but that he regarded his country with becoming devotion, and that he was solicitous concerning the worship of God, and for the safety of the people whom God had chosen out of all nations, and adopted. But as we shall hereafter see, he looked rather to himself, and was led to grief and sorrow on his own account; and for this he was severely reproved by the Prophet. Others bring forward an explanation by no means satisfactory, that he coveted the gift of prophecy, when he saw that Jeremiah pronounced, as from on high, words so weighty, and was the instrument of the Holy Spirit, as though he exercised a celestial judgment. They hence think that Baruch was stimulated by a vain desire for the prophetic office, and that he was reproved because he assumed more than what was right. But this fiction, as I have already said, has nothing to support it.
I do not doubt, therefore, but that he apprehended danger to himself, because the message which the Prophet had committed to him was greatly disliked. For we see in the chapter to which I have referred, that the Prophet did not go to the king, but dictated the contents of the book, and gave it to Baruch. When, therefore, he saw that he could not discharge his duty without danger, he began to complain and to murmur; and it was on this account that the Prophet, by God's command, reproved his weakness. The meaning then is, that Baruch, as he feared for his life, was affected with too much grief, so that he wished to be freed from all trouble, and that God was offended with this extreme fear, and gave a command to his Prophet to reprove Baruch, as he deserved. Let us now come to the words.
We have briefly related how this happened; but it must be added, that Baruch did not fear without reason, because the king was already displeased with Jeremiah. He was not indeed altogether cruel, but he had bad counselors, who were like fans, ready to kindle up his rage; and the issue proved, that this fear was not without cause; for the king took a penknife and cut the book in pieces, and then threw it into the fire: and if Jeremiah could then have been found, no doubt all would have been over with him, as to his life. But Baruch had been warned by kind men to conceal himself together with the Prophet. We hence see that Baruch was frightened, because his message was so disagreeable, and calculated to drive the king to extremities, as it happened. At the same time, he was too much given to care for himself, for he ought to have presented his life as a sacrifice to God. For all who are called to such an office, are in duty bound to undergo all dangers with courage, so as to disregard life when necessary, or at least to commit it to the care of God; and when they see dangers nigh, they ought still to proceed in the course of their office. Though, then, Baruch wished faithfully to serve God, yet in the conflict he was overcome by temptation, so that he was more anxious for his life than animated to proceed in his course. It is to this that the time mentioned by the Prophet refers, when he says, that Baruch was reproved
The prophecy is afterwards more clearly expressed,
We hence conclude, that Baruch did not shrink immediately at the first conflict, as slothful men do; but that he vacillated in the middle of his course. And this ought to be carefully observed; for they who have once courageously performed their office, think themselves endued as with angelic fortitude. Hence it comes that they boldly disregard all dangers, because they believe themselves to be invincible. But we see that Baruch was for a time a strenuous and courageous servant of God; but when there appeared no end, he began to grow faint. Let us then learn constantly to flee to God and to seek of him a new increase of grace, so that he may sustain us by the power of his Spirit, and raise us up, when fallen, for otherwise we cannot but fall every moment, even when our career seems glorious; but let us learn, being mindful of our infirmities, to ask the Lord to hold us up and to stretch forth his hand to us every day. This is what we are to observe in the example of Baruch, when he says, that sorrow was added to his grief.
But he afterwards expresses the same thing more clearly;
He afterwards adds,
These metaphors of building and planting often occur in Scripture, I shall not therefore dwell on them here. But we must observe, that though God be the creator of the whole world, yet the people of Israel were peculiarly his work, and also the land of Israel. For God had consecrated that land to himself that he might be served in it, and had adopted the people. Hence he often compares that people to a vineyard.
"O my vineyard, I have planted thee."
(Jeremiah 2:21; Isaiah 5:l-7)
I will not multiply quotations, for in a thing so easy it would be a foolish ostentation to heap together many texts. God, then, had built his people, because they dwelt there as in their own habitations, and the land was called his rest. He had also planted his people. We may remark, in short, that the building mentioned here and also the plantation, refer to those special favors which God had bestowed on that people. For though he had planted the whole world and all nations, yet the people of Israel was especially his planting, as it is said by Isaiah,
"The planting of the Lord is for glory,"
that is, this people had been planted, that God through them might manifest his own glory. (Isaiah 61:3)
Let us come now to what is here declared; he says,
It afterwards follows,
But as Baruch might as yet flatter himself, he immediately restrains him;