Monday, September 11, 2006
Rooted In History; Real in the Present
whykrbl Belonging to Baruch
whyrn /b Son of Nariah
rpsh The Scribe
I recently translated and researched this seal for a Paleo-Hebrew class assignment and I found it a real uplifting spiritual experience. "Ah!?" Says the reader, "you are crazy!" But give me a chance to explain. Sometimes it is easy to get into the habit of thinking of Biblical persons as characters from a story, or perhaps a television show. But we need to keep in mind, that they are real, living, breathing, historical personages, like Napoleon, or Charles Spurgeon. Here we have a concrete piece of evidence, helping us not only to understand the reality of this historical figure, but also to know him a little better and provide commentary to our understanding of Jeremiah's ministry.
Baruch, the Son of Neriah
As a student of the Bible this Seal is a really cool find. In 1975 some archeologist discovered about 200 clay pieces called "bullae":
Bullae are lumps of clay which were attached to documents and impressed with a seal. From the shape of its Hebrew characters (which vary throughout history) scholars date the collection to the 6th century BC, the time of Jeremiah. Within this collection are two bullae believed to have belonged to Baruch, and Jerahmeel (http://home.att.net/~kmpope/SealofBaruch.html).
In the Society of Biblical Literature Forum, Lawrence J. Mykytiuk writes:
The bullae made from Baruch's seal read, "Belonging to Berekyahu, the son of Neriyahu, the scribe." Jeremiah 36:32 almost exactly matches this identifying phrase with "Baruch, the son of Neriyahu, the scribe." (http://www.sbl-site.org/Article.aspx?ArticleId=292).
This means we are looking at a belonging, a tool of one of the Bible's most exciting prophetic periods. The book of Jeremiah gives a treasure trove of information regarding the owner of this 2700 year old artifact. Through the difficult years of Jeremiah's ministry God supplied Baruch as a faithful companion whom we see first appearing in Jeremiah chapter thirty-two (cf. 32:12).
Baruch served as Jeremiah's Personal Secretary, actually writing the words of what we know as the Biblical book of Jeremiah (Jer. 45:1).
He was more then a mere scribe, as we can see him oberating as an agent for Jermiah's business affairs (cf. 32:12-15).
Evidently he had a great deal of real, or perceived influence over the prophet as his enemies accuse him: "Baruch the son of Neriah is inciting you against us to give us over into the hand of the Chaldeans, so they will put us to death or exile us to Babylon (Jer. 43:3).
Baruch, was very important in Israel:
Here the title "scribe" does not just describe a general occupation. Especially on a personal seal or bulla, as in this instance, it is an official, governmental title granted to a very high official in the royal administration. Doubtless after his seal was made, Baruch fell out of royal favor; he allied himself with the prophet Jeremiah, perceived by some to be a pro-Babylonian traitor. Still, having borne such a title, Berekyahu/Baruch would have easy access to the official workspaces of his former colleagues, where Jeremiah 36:9-19 places him (http://www.sbl-site.org/Article.aspx?ArticleId=292).
This certainly leaves the reader with a greater appreciation of the ins and outs of Jeremiah's ministry, his methods and his contacts. Perhaps the son of a High priest and the son of a high official (cf. 51:59), had a childhood friendship.
Baruch's life ended, scholars believe, in Egypt, after we last hear of him in Jer 43:6-7, being carted off during the invasion if Jerusalem.
When we look at his seal, we are brought to "know" that Jeremiah and his companions were real, historical people. There message was presented in History, and we need to heed their words as real words, from the prophets and servants of God, coming to us almost 3000 years later:
Hear the word, which the Lord speaks to you… (Jer 10:1)