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A Word of Comfort to Baruch


The word that the prophet Jeremiah spoke to Baruch son of Neriah, when he wrote these words in a scroll at the dictation of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah: 2Thus says the L ord, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch: 3You said, “Woe is me! The L ord has added sorrow to my pain; I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest.” 4Thus you shall say to him, “Thus says the L ord: I am going to break down what I have built, and pluck up what I have planted—that is, the whole land. 5And you, do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for I am going to bring disaster upon all flesh, says the L ord; but I will give you your life as a prize of war in every place to which you may go.”


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.

The word which Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah. We must notice, that the holy man did not spare his own disciple, whom yet he no doubt loved; for he had employed him, and Baruch had acted faithfully, not only as his scribe, but also as his fellow-helper. As then Jeremiah had proved the fidelity, care, and diligence of Baruch in many things, he wished, no doubt, to treat him with kindness; but as God would have this fault in Baruch to be corrected, the Prophet performed this duty that belonged to his office. We hence see that he forgot flesh and blood, when he had to do his work for God. The circumstance as to time is added: and hence we may infer what I have already stated, that Baruch, when in danger of his life, was anxious, and complained of his own case, as though God had laid on him a burden too heavy and hard to be borne; for the Prophet says that he received this command when Baruch wrote the words in the book, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim.

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 when he wrote the words in a book

The prophecy is afterwards more clearly expressed, Thus saith Jehovah of Baruch. The Prophet sets on him and accosts him, in order that he might fill his mind with holy fear, in order to correct that sinful fear, by which he was impeded in strenuously serving God. Thou hast said, the cause of the reproof is expressed thou hast said, Wo is to me now! for Jehovah has added sorrow to my grief Barnch no doubt wished to withdraw from his office, as is the case with those who are too much pressed, when they find that they are unequal to their task; they seek hiding-places and become runagates. Such, then, was the feeling of Baruch when he said, Wo is to me now! It was highly honorable to be a scribe to a Prophet, for it was the same thing as though he received words from the mouth of an angel. It was then unworthy and disgraceful for the holy servant of God to complain of his own misery, when yet it was an evidence of singular favor, that God had been pleased to choose him for such an office. Here then the ingratitude of Baruch is condemned, when he exclaimed that he was miserable, while yet he ought to have deemed it a singular happiness, that God had called him to that work.

He says, Jehovah has added sorrow to my grief Here the ingratitude of Baruch breaks out still more; for he ex-postulated with God, as though he had said, that he was not kindly treated. And there is an implied reproach in this complaint; for it is the same thing as though he called in question God’s justice, and charged him with too much severity. At the same time he complains that there was no end, as though he had said, that he had already suffered too much, and that God was not acting kindly with him, because he added evils to evils, Jehovah, he says, has added sorrow to my grief. It seems that יגון, igun, is more than מכאב, mecab, for Baruch intimates that he had already suffered grief there being an occasion for it; but that now an addition of sorrow or mourning was made to so many griefs.

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; I have labored in my groaning, he says, and found no rest By these words also, he testifies that he had been exposed to various evils, that his troubles were not as yet alleviated, or that he was not freed from dangers, and that at length he succumbed, for no rest was given him. We hence see what I have already stated, that Baruch was not refractory immediately at starting, but that when he had already made progress, having completed a part of the race, he was overcome with trials and overwhelmed, before he reached the goal.

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