BOOK ENDS. Seraphim, April 2009.
JB BARUCH Chapter 1
Baruch and the Jews in Babylon
1:1 These are the words of the book written in Babylon by Baruch son of Neraiah, son of Mahseiah, son of Zedekiah, son of Hasadiah, son ofHilkiah,
1:2 in the fifth year,[*a] on the seventh day of the month, at the time when the Chaldaeans captured Jerusalem and burned it down.
1:3 Baruch read the words of this book aloud to Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and to all the people who had come to hear the reading,
1:4 to the nobles and the sons of the king, and to the elders; to the whole people that is, least no less than greatest, to all who lived in Babylon beside the river Sud.
1:5 On hearing it they wept, fasted and prayed before the Lord;
1:6 and they collected as much money as each could afford
1:7 and sent it to Jerusalem for the priest Jehoiakim son of Hilkiah, son of Shallum, and the other priests, and for as many of the people as were with him in Jerusalem.
1:8 It was Baruch who on the tenth day of Sivan had recovered the utensils of the house of the Lord, which had been removed from the Temple, to take them back to the land of Judah: these were silver utensils which Zedekiah son of Josiah, king of Judah, had had made
1:9 when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had deported Jeconiah from Jerusalem to Babylon, together with the princes, the metalworkers, the men of rank and the common people.
1:10 With this – they wrote – we are sending you money with which to pay for holocausts, offerings for sin, and incense; prepare oblations, and offer them on the altar of the Lord our God.
1:11 Pray for the long life of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and of his son Belshazzar, and that their days on earth may endure as the heavens;
1:12 pray that the Lord may give us strength and clear understanding so that we may lead our lives under the protection of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and of his son Belshazzar, and by our long service win their favour.
1:13 Also pray to the Lord our God for us, because we have sinned against him, and the anger, the fury of the Lord, has still not yet been turned away from us.
1:14 Lastly, you are to read the book aloud which we send you with this and so make public confession in the house of the Lord on thefeastday[*b] and on days of solemn assembly.
1:15 You are to say:
II THE PRAYER OF THE EXILES
Confession of sins
Integrity belongs to the Lord our God; to us the look of shame we wear today, to us, the people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem,
1:16 to our kings and princes, our priests, our prophets, as to our ancestors,
1:17 because we have sinned in the sight of the Lord,
1:18 have disobeyed him, and have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God telling us to follow the commandments which the Lord had ordained for us.
1:19 From the day when the Lord brought our ancestors out of the land of Egypt until today we have been disobedient to the Lord our God, we have been disloyal, refusing to listen to his voice.
1:20 And so the disasters, and the curse which the Lord pronounced through his servant Moses the day he brought our fathers out of Egypt to give us a land where milk and honey flow, have seized on us, disasters we experience today.
1:21 Despite all the words of those prophets whom he sent us, we have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God,
1:22 but, each following the dictates of his evil heart, we have taken to serving alien gods, and doing what is displeasing to the Lord our God.
JB BARUCH Chapter 2
2:1 And so the Lord has carried out the sentence which he passed on us, on our judges who governed Israel, on our kings and leaders, on the men of Israel and of Judah;
2:2 what he did to Jerusalem has never been paralleled under the wide heavens – all this in conformity with what was written in the Law of Moses;
2:3 we were all reduced to eating the flesh of our own sons and daughters.
2:4 Furthermore, he has handed them over into the power of all the kingdoms that surround us, to be loathed and avoided by all the neighbouringnations among whom he scattered them.
2:5 Instead of being masters; they found themselves enslaved, because we had sinned against the Lord our God by not listening to his voice.
2:6 Integrity belongs to the Lord our God; to us the look of shame we wear today, to us, as to our ancestors.
2:7 All those disasters which the Lord pronounced against us have now happened to us.
2:8 And yet we have not tried to win the favour of the Lord by each one of us renouncing the dictates of his own wicked heart;
2:9 and so the Lord has watched for the right moment to bring disaster on us, since the Lord gives a just return for what we do of all that he has ordered us to do,
2:10 and we have not listened to his voice telling us to follow the commandments which the Lord had ordained for us.
2:11 And now, Lord, God of Israel, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, with signs and wonders, with great power and with outstretched arm, to win yourself a name renowned today,
2:12 we have sinned, we have been irreligious; Lord our God, we have broken all your commandments.
2:13 Let your anger turn from us since we are no more than a poor remnant among the nations where you have dispersed us.
2:14 Listen, Lord, to our prayer, to our entreaty; deliver us for the sake of your honour and grant us your favour for all our captors to see it,
2:15 so that the whole world may know that you are the Lord our God, since Israel and his descendants bear your name.
2:16 Look down, Lord, from your holy dwelling place and give a thought to us, take heed of us and listen,
2:17 look at us, Lord, and consider; the dead down in Sheol, whose breath has been taken from their bodies, are not the ones to give glory and due observance to the Lord;
2:18 the person overcome with affliction, who goes his way bowed down and frail, with failing eyes and hungering soul, he is the one to give you glory, Lord, and due observance.
2:19 We do not rely on the merits of our ancestors and of our kings to offer you our humble plea, Lord our God.
2:20 No. You have sent down your anger and your fury on us, as you promised through your servants the prophets when they said,
2:21 ‘The Lord says this: Bend your necks and submit to the king of Babylon, and you will remain in the land which I gave your ancestors.
2:22 But if you do not listen to the voice of the Lord and submit to the king of Babylon,
2:23 then I will silence the shouts of rejoicing and mirth and the voices of bridegroom and bride in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, and the whole land will be reduced to desert, without inhabitants.’
2:24 But we did not listen to your voice and submit to the king of Babylon, and so you carried out what you had promised through your servants the prophets: that the bones of our kings and of our ancestors would be dragged from their resting places.
2:25 They were indeed tossed out to the heat of the day and the frost of the night. And people died in dreadful agony, from famine, sword and plague.
2:26 And so, because of the wickedness of the House of Israel and the House of Judah, you have made this House, that bears your name, what it is today.
2:27 And yet, Lord our God, you have treated us in a way worthy of all your goodness and boundless tenderness,
2:28 just as you had promised through your servant Moses, the day you told him to write your Law in the presence of the sons of Israel, and said this,
2:29 ‘If you do not listen to my voice, this great and innumerable multitude will certainly be reduced to a tiny few among the nations among which I shall disperse them,
2:30 and I know very well that this people will not listen, it is so stubborn. But in the country of their exile they will take all this to heart
2:31 and acknowledge that I am the Lord their God. I will give them a heart and an attentive ear.
2:32 They will sing my praises in the country of their exile, they will remember my name;
2:33 they will not be stubborn any more, but, remembering what became of their ancestors who sinned in the sight of the Lord, will turn from their evil deeds.
2:34 Then I will bring them back to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and make them masters in it. I will increase their number: they shall not dwindle.
2:35 And I will make an everlasting covenant with them; I will be their God and they shall be my people. And I will never again drive my people Israel out of the land that I have given them.’
JB BARUCH Chapter 3
3:1 Almighty Lord, God of Israel, a soul in anguish, a troubled heart now cries to you:
3:2 Listen and have pity, Lord, for we have sinned in your sight.
3:3 You sit enthroned for ever, while we perish continually.
3:4 Almighty Lord, God of Israel, hear the prayer of the dead of Israel,[*a] of the sons of those who have sinned against you and have not listened to the voice of the Lord their God, hence the disasters that have seized on us.
3:5 Do not call to mind the misdeeds of our ancestors, but remember instead your power and your name.
3:6 You are indeed the Lord our God and we long to praise you, Lord,
3:7 since you have put respect for you in our hearts to encourage us to call on your name. We long to praise you in our exile, for we have emptied our hearts of the evil inclinations of our ancestors who sinned against you.
3:8 Look on us today, still in exile where you have dispersed us as something execrable, accursed, condemned, in punishment for all the misdeeds of our ancestors who had abandoned the Lord our God.
III. WISDOM, THE PREROGATIVE OF ISRAEL
3:9 Listen, Israel, to commands that bring life; hear, and learn what knowledge means.
3:10 Why, Israel, why are you in the country of your enemies, growing older and older in an alien land,
3:11 sharing defilement with the dead, reckoned with those who go to Sheol?
3:12 Because you have forsaken the fountain of wisdom.
3:13 Had you walked in the way of God, you would have lived in peace for ever.
3:14 Learn where knowledge is, where strength, where understanding, and so learn where length of days is, where life, where the light of the eyes and where peace.
3:15 But who has found out where she lives, who has entered her treasure house?
3:16 Where now are the leaders of the nations and those who ruled even the beasts of earth,
3:17 who had the birds of heaven at their beck and call, who accumulated silver and gold on which mankind relies, and whose possessions had no limits,
3:18 those who displayed such artistry in silver that their masterpieces beggar imagination?
3:19 They have vanished, gone down to Sheol. Others have risen to their places,
3:20 more recent generations have seen the day and peopled the earth in their turn: but the way of knowledge is something they have not known,
3:21 they have not recognised the paths she treads. Nor have their sons had any grasp of her, remaining far from her way.
3:22 Nothing has been heard of her in Canaan, nothing has been seen of her in Teman;
3:23 the sons of Hagar in search of worldly wisdom, the merchants of Midian and Tema, the tale-spinners and the philosophers have none of them found the way to wisdom, or discovered the paths she treads.
3:24 How great, Israel, is the house of God, how wide his domain,
3:25 immeasurably wide, infinitely lofty!
3:26 In it were born the giants, famous to us from antiquity, immensely tall, expert in war;
3:27 God’s choice did not fall on these, he did not reveal the way to knowledge to them;
3:28 they perished for lack of wisdom, perished in their own folly.
3:29 Who has ever climbed the sky and caught her to bring her down from the clouds?
3:30 Who has ever crossed the ocean and found her to bring her back in exchange for the finest gold?
3:31 No one knows the way to her, no one can discover the path she treads.
3:32 But the One who knows all knows her, he has grasped her with his own intellect, he has set the earth firm for ever and filled it with four-footed beasts,
3:33 he sends the light – and it goes, he recalls it – and trembling it obeys;
3:34 the stars shine joyfully at their set times:
3:35 when he calls them, they answer, ‘Here we are’; they gladly shine for their creator.
3:36 It is he who is our God, no other can compare with him.
3:37 He has grasped the whole way of knowledge, and confided it to his servant Jacob, to Israel his well-beloved;
3:38 so causing her to appear on earth and move among men.
JB BARUCH Chapter 4
4:1 This is the book of the commandments of God, the Law that stands for ever; those who keep her live, those who desert her die.
4:2 Turn back, Jacob, seize her, in her radiance make your way to light:
4:3 do not yield your glory to another, your privilege to a people not your own.
4:4 Israel, blessed are we: what pleases God has been revealed to us.
- THE COMPLAINTS AND HOPES OF JERUSALEM
4:5 Take courage, my people, constant reminder of Israel.[*a]
4:6 You were sold to the nations, but not for extermination. You provoked God; and so were delivered to your enemies,
4:7 since you had angered your creator by offering sacrifices to demons, not to God.
4:8 You had forgotten the eternal God who reared you. You had also grieved Jerusalem who nursed you,
4:9 for when she saw the anger fall on you from God, she said: Listen, you neighbours of Zion: God has sent me great sorrow.
4:10 I have seen my sons and daughters taken into captivity, to which they have been sentenced by the Eternal.
4:11 I had reared them joyfully; in tears, in sorrow, I watched them go away.
4:12 Do not, any of you, exult over me, a widow, deserted by so many; I suffer loneliness because of the sins of my own children, who turned away from the Law of God,
4:13 who did not want to know his injunctions, and would not follow the ways of his precepts, or tread the paths of discipline as his justice directed.
4:14 Let them come here, those neighbours of Zion. Let me remind you of the captivity of my sons and daughters to which they have been sentenced by the Eternal:
4:15 how he brought a distant nation down on them, a ruthless nation speaking a foreign language, having neither respect for the aged, nor pity for the child;
4:16 they carried off the widow’s cherished sons, they left her quite alone, bereft of her daughters.
4:17 For my part, how can I help you?
4:18 He who brought those disasters down on you, he is the one to deliver you from the hands of your enemies.
4:19 Go, my children, go your way! I must stay bereft and lonely;
4:20 I have taken off the clothes of peacetime, and put on the sackcloth of entreaty; I will cry to the Eternal all my life.
4:21 Take courage, my children, call on God: he will deliver you from tyranny, from the hands of your enemies;
4:22 for I look to the Eternal for your rescue, and joy has come to me from the Holy One at the mercy soon to reach you from your saviour, the Eternal.
4:23 In sorrow and tears I watched you go away, but God will give you back to me in joy and gladness for ever.
4:24 As the neighbours of Zion now witness your captivity, so will they soon see you rescued by God, who will intervene, in the great glory andsplendour of the Eternal.
4:25 My children, patiently bear the anger brought on you by God. Your enemy has persecuted you, but soon you will witness his destruction and set your foot on his neck.
4:26 My favourite children have travelled by rough roads, carried off like a flock by a marauding enemy.
4:27 Take courage, my children, call on God: he who brought disaster on you will remember you.
4:28 As by your will you first strayed away from God, so now turn back and search for him ten times as hard;
4:29 for as he brought down those disasters on you, so will he rescue you and give you eternal joy.
4:30 Take courage, Jerusalem: he who gave you that name will console you.
4:31 Trouble will come to all who have ill-treated you and gloated over your fall.
4:32 Trouble will come, to the cities where your children were slaves; trouble will come to the city which received your sons,
4:33 for just as she rejoiced at your fall and was happy to see you ruined, so shall she grieve over her own desolation.
4:34 I will deprive her of that joy known to populous cities, her boasting shall be turned into mourning,
4:35 fire from the Eternal will burn in her for many a day and demons will dwell in her for ages.
4:36 Jerusalem, turn your eyes to the east, see the joy that is coming to you from God.
4:37 Look, the sons you watched go away are on their way home; reassembled from east and west, they are on their way home at the command of the Holy One, jubilant at the glory of God.
JB BARUCH Chapter 5
5:1 Jerusalem, take off your dress of sorrow and distress, put on the beauty of the glory of God for ever,
5:2 wrap the cloak of the integrity of God around you, put the diadem of the glory of the Eternal on your head:
5:3 since God means to show your splendour to every nation under heaven,
5:4 since the name God gives you for ever will be, ‘Peace through integrity, and honour through devotedness’.
5:5 Arise, Jerusalem, stand on the heights and turn your eyes to the east: see your sons reassembled from west and east at the command of the Holy One, jubilant that God has remembered them.
5:6 Though they left you on foot, with enemies for an escort, now God brings them back to you like royal princes carried back in glory.
5:7 For God has decreed the flattening of each high mountain, of the everlasting hills, the filling of the valleys to make the ground level so that Israel can walk in safety under the glory of God.
5:8 And the forests and every fragrant tree will provide shade for Israel at the command of God;
5:9 for God will guide Israel in joy by the light of his glory with his mercy and integrity for escort.
JB BARUCH Chapter 6
- THE LETTER OF JEREMIAH
A copy of the letter which Jeremiah sent to those about to be led captive to Babylon by the king of the Babylonians, to inform them of the instructions which God had given him.
6:1 Because of the sins you have committed before God you are to be deported to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar king of the Babylonians.
6:2 Once you have reached Babylon you will stay there for many years, as long as seven generations; after which I shall bring you home in peace.
6:3 Now in Babylon you will see gods made of silver, of gold, of wood, being carried shoulder-high, and filling the pagans with fear.
6:4 Be on your guard. Do not imitate the foreigners, do not have any fear of their gods
6:5 as you watch their worshippers flocking before and behind them. Instead, say in your hearts, ‘Master, it is you that we have to worship’.
6:6 For my angel is with you; your lives will be in his care.
6:7 Plated with gold and silver, their tongues polished smooth by a craftsman, they are counterfeit and have no power to speak.
6:8 As though for a girl fond of finery, these pagans take gold and make crowns for the heads of their gods.
6:9 Sometimes, the priests actually filch gold and silver from their gods to spend themselves, even using it on presents for the temple prostitutes.
6:10 They dress up these gods of silver, gold and wood, in clothes, like human beings, although they cannot protect themselves either from tarnish or woodworm,
6:11 in spite of the purple cloaks they drape them in. Their faces even have to be dusted, owing to the dust of the temple which settles thick on them.
6:12 One holds a sceptre like the governor of a province, yet is powerless to put anyone who offends him to death;
6:13 another holds sword and axe in his right hand, yet is powerless to defend himself against war or thieves.
6:14 From this it is evident that they are not gods; do not be afraid of them.
6:15 Just as a pot in common use becomes useless once it is broken, so are these gods enshrined inside their temples.
6:16 Their eyes are full of dust raised by the feet of those who enter.
6:17 Just as the doors are locked on all sides on the man who has offended the king and is under sentence of death, so the priests secure the temples of these gods with gates and bolts and bars for fear of burglary.
6:18 They light more lamps than for themselves, and the gods cannot see one of them.
6:19 They are like one of the temple beams, gnawed away from within, so they say, by termites which creep out of the ground and eat them, and their fine clothes too. They are unaware
6:20 that their faces are blackened by the smoke that rises from the temple.
6:21 Bats, swallows, birds of every kind flutter over their bodies and heads, and cats prowl there.
6:22 From all this you can see for yourselves that they are not gods: do not be afraid of them.
6:23 The gold with which they are plated is fine enough to look at, but if someone does not rub off the tarnish, these gods will not do much shining on their own. They felt nothing while they were being cast.
6:24 However much was paid for them, there is still no breath of life in them.
6:25 Being unable to walk, they have to be carried on men’s shoulders, which shows how futile they are. It is humiliating for their worshippers, too, who have to stand them up again if they fall over.
6:26 Once they have been stood up, they cannot move on their own; if they tilt askew, they cannot right themselves; offerings made to them might as well be made to dead men.
6:27 Whatever is sacrificed to them, the priests re-sell and pocket the profit; while their wives salt down part of it, but give nothing to the poor or to the helpless. As to the sacrifices themselves, why, women during their periods and women in childbed are not afraid to touch them!
6:28 As you can see from these examples that they are not gods, do not be afraid of them.
6:29 Indeed, how can they even be called gods, when women do the offering to these gods of silver, gold and wood?
6:30 In their temples, the priests stay sitting down, their garments torn, heads and beard shaved and with heads uncovered;
6:31 they roar and shriek before their gods as people do at funeral feasts.
6:32 The priests take the robes of the gods to clothe their own wives and children.
6:33 Whether these gods are treated badly or well, they are incapable of paying back either treatment; as incapable too of making or unmaking kings,
6:34 equally incapable of distributing wealth or money. If anyone fails to honour a vow he has made to them, they cannot call him to account.
6:35 They can neither save a man from death nor rescue the weak from the strong,
6:36 nor restore sight to the blind, nor save someone in trouble,
6:37 nor take pity on a widow, nor be generous to an orphan.
6:38 These wooden gods plated with gold and silver are about as much use as rocks cut out of the mountain side. Humiliation awaits their worshippers.
6:39 So how can anyone think or say that they are gods?
6:40 The Chaldaeans themselves do them no honour; if they find someone who is dumb and cannot speak, they present him to Bel, entreating him for the gift of speech, as if he could hear them!
6:41 And they are incapable of drawing the conclusion and abandoning those gods – such is their lack of commonsense.
6:42 Women with strings round their waists sit in the streets, burning bran like incense;
6:43 when one of these has been picked up by a passer-by and been to bed with him, she then twits her neighbour for not being singled out and for not having her string broken.
6:44 Everything going on anywhere near these gods is spurious. So how can anyone think or say that they are gods?
6:45 Made by woodworkers and goldsmiths, they are only what those workmen decide to make them.
6:46 The makers have not long to live themselves, so how can the things they make be gods?
6:47 Their legacy to their descendants is nothing but illusion and disappointment.
6:48 If war or disasters occur, the priests discuss where best to hide themselves and these gods;
6:49 how can anyone fail to realise that they are not gods, if they cannot save themselves from war or from disasters?
6:50 And since in any case they are only made of wood plated with gold or silver, it must be obvious from all this that they are spurious; and plain to everyone, to nations as to kings, that they are not gods but the work of human hands, and that there is no divine activity in them.
6:51 Can there be anyone still unconvinced that they are not gods?
6:52 They can neither appoint a king over a country, nor give rain to mankind,
6:53 nor regulate their own affairs, nor rescue anyone who suffers a wrong; they are as helpless as crows between sky and ground.
6:54 If fire falls on the temple of these wooden gods plated with gold or silver, their priests fly to safety while they for their part stay there like beams, to be burnt.
6:55 They cannot put up any resistance to a king or to enemies.
6:56 So how can anyone think or say that they are gods?
6:57 These wooden gods plated with gold or silver cannot evade thieves or marauders; violent men may rob them of their gold and silver and make off with the robes they are dressed in; yet they are powerless to help even themselves.
6:58 Better to be a king displaying his prowess, a household pot of use to its owner, than to be these false gods; or merely the door of a house, protecting what is inside, than these false gods; or a wooden pillar in a palace than these false gods.
6:59 The sun, the moon and the stars, which shine and have been given work to do, are obedient;
6:60 similarly, the lightning, as it flashes, is a fine sight; in the same way, the wind blows across every country,
6:61 the clouds execute the order God gives them to pass over the whole earth, and the fire, sent from above to consume mountain and forest, carries out its orders.
6:62 Now these gods are not their equal, either in beauty or in power.
6:63 So, no one can think or say that they are gods, powerless as they are to administer justice or to do men any good.
6:64 Therefore, knowing that they are not gods, do not be afraid of them.
6:65 They can neither curse nor bless kings,
6:66 nor produce signs in heaven for the nations, nor shine like the sun, nor shed light like the moon.
6:67 The animals are better off than they are, being able to make for cover and look after themselves.
6:68 There is not the slightest shred of evidence that they are gods; do not be afraid of them!
6:69 Their wooden gods plated with gold and silver are like a scarecrow in a melon patch – protecting nothing.
6:70 Again, their wooden gods plated with gold and silver are like a thornbush in a garden – any bird may perch on it – or like a corpse thrown into the dark.
6:71 From the purple and fine linen rotting on their backs you will recognise that they are not gods; and in the end, eaten away themselves, they will be a disgrace to the country.
6:72 Better, then, a virtuous man who has no idols; disgrace will never come near him.
END OF JB BARUCH [6 Chapters].