Baruch—A Secretary Who Received a Prophetic Message
DURING the last quarter of the seventh century B.C.E., Baruch served as a secretary to the prophet Jeremiah. He lived at a time when his fellow Israelites had no regard for the word of Jehovah but insisted on following their own ways. Therefore, the prophecies that Baruch recorded at Jeremiah’s direction largely pointed to calamity. Since these prophecies were very unpopular, Baruch at times shared the unpleasant experiences of the prophet Jeremiah. On one occasion, the impact of the circumstances surrounding him and the content of the prophetic messages even unbalanced Baruch, and this resulted in his having a specific prophetic message directed to him.
It was in the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign that Jeremiah dictated to Baruch the prophetic message respecting Jerusalem’s destruction at the hands of the Chaldeans. On a special fast day in the late fall of the next year, Baruch, with the scroll he had written, appeared in the temple courtyard. Why Baruch and not Jeremiah? Jeremiah was prevented from going there, possibly by decree of the temple officials. So Jeremiah sent Baruch to read the word of Jehovah to the assembled Israelites. One of the men hearing the public reading was a certain Micaiah. At once he made report regarding this to King Jehoiakim’s secretary and the princes.—Jer. 36:1-13.
The princes then sent Jehudi to Baruch, requesting that he come with the prophetic roll. Baruch was treated kindly, being invited to sit down and to read from the roll. On hearing the strong denunciatory message, the princes became fearful, their faces and bearing doubtless revealing their apprehension. They felt under obligation to inform King Jehoiakim regarding the contents of the roll. To determine just what share Baruch might have had in producing the prophetic roll, the princes asked: “How did you write all these words from his mouth?” Baruch’s answer made it clear that he was merely the secretary who faithfully recorded what Jeremiah dictated. He said: “Out of his mouth he kept declaring to me all these words, and I was writing in the book with ink.” Realizing that the prophetic message would arouse the king’s anger, the princes advised that Baruch and Jeremiah go into hiding. As the princes had anticipated, Jehoiakim commanded that the two men be seized. However, on account of Jehovah’s protection, the hiding place of Jeremiah and Baruch remained undiscovered.—Jer. 36:14-26.
This experience must have greatly encouraged Baruch, because earlier a prophetic message had been directed to him personally. That message served to set his thinking straight. It was during the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign that Baruch exclaimed: “Woe, now, to me, for Jehovah has added grief to my pain! I have grown weary because of my sighing, and no resting-place have I found.” (Jer. 45:3) The pain that Baruch experienced was the distress that resulted from dwelling among his lawless countrymen. They were corrupt, stubborn and unrepentant. Baruch may well have felt like Lot in Sodom, of whom the Bible says: “That righteous man by what he saw and heard while dwelling among them from day to day was tormenting his righteous soul by reason of their lawless deeds.” (2 Pet. 2:8) In addition to being pained at heart, Baruch experienced grief. Why did he feel that Jehovah God had added such grief to his pain?
The word of Jehovah did not hold forth a change for the better during Baruch’s lifetime. Rather, it was a gloomy message, pointing to certain doom. This prospect filled Baruch with grief. From a personal standpoint, he had no hope of bettering his position. So he simply gave way to sighing. He could find no peace, no “resting-place.”
Baruch’s attitude was not a wholesome one. He needed to be corrected. Jehovah’s word to him was: “Look! What I have built up I am tearing down, and what I have planted I am uprooting, even all the land itself. But as for you, you keep seeking great things for yourself. Do not keep on seeking. For here I am bringing in a calamity upon all flesh, . . . and I will give you your soul as a spoil in all the places to which you may go.”—Jer. 45:4, 5.
Since the destruction that Jehovah had decreed through the mouth of his prophet Jeremiah was bound to come, it was certainly no time for any individual to think about “great things” for himself. It was no time to think about material security, prosperity, possessions or prominence. Baruch was urged to be content, satisfied in escaping the coming destruction with his life. What could compare with that in value? (Matt. 16:26) Though assured of surviving, Baruch was to share in the hardships of the people generally. He was given a foretaste of the kind of protection he would be given when Jehovah shielded both him and Jeremiah from falling into the hands of King Jehoiakim.
Even after the destruction of Jerusalem, Baruch found that he still needed endurance and had to rely on Jehovah’s protection. When Jeremiah told the people the word of Jehovah, advising that they not flee to Egypt, they paid no attention. To excuse their rejection of Jehovah’s word through Jeremiah, they misrepresented Baruch, saying: “Baruch the son of Neriah is instigating you against us for the purpose of giving us into the hand of the Chaldeans, to put us to death or to take us into exile in Babylon.” (Jer. 43:3) Thus they claimed that Jeremiah, who was now old, was under the influence of his secretary and was no longer speaking the word of Jehovah but was presenting the message of his secretary as the message of the Almighty. In the face of such an attitude, Baruch needed to maintain faith in Jehovah’s promise to preserve him.
We today can benefit from the experience of Baruch. His serving Jehovah faithfully as Jeremiah’s secretary did not result in his receiving special material rewards. Likewise, we today should not expect some special treatment when suffering and hardships befall people as a whole. We should be willing to suffer hardship also during the coming “great tribulation,” satisfied with Jehovah’s assurance: “Probably you may be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger.” (Matt. 24:21, 22; Zeph. 2:3) Then, when we see the execution of God’s judgment against the wicked, we can look forward confidently to receiving our soul or life as a spoil by surviving the “great tribulation” into Jehovah’s new order of righteousness and peace.