A ‘Christian Writer’ from the Sixth Century BC


If you’re looking in the Old Testament for a Christian Writer role model (for some reason the OT is often the first stop for role models), you can’t do much better than Barukh ben Neriyah. Barukh was the close associate, friend, and amanuensis of the prophet Yirmeyahu (aka, in the mangled English form, Jeremiah). It’s evident that he did his job faithfully, for Yirmeyahu’s prophecies have come down to us complete, though possibly in a slightly jumbled order, and with a few explanatory add-ons.


As I’m sure you know, Yirmeyahu’s message was a tough one. The Lord commissioned him to announce to his fellow Judaeans that they were about 90% likely to meet with total national catastrophe. This would be the result of persistent worship of false gods, oppression of the poor and weak, injustice, faithlessness, cheating, corruption, and refusal to adhere to a supranational power bloc. They had a faint chance of escape, dependent on a change of heart. In the event they did not take this path, and Yirmeyahu was called to confront the rulers as they pursued their headlong career into destruction, while Barukh’s role was to stand beside Yirmeyahu and pen the often terrifying messages coming to him from the Lord. This led to vilification, rejection, death threats, and imprisonment for Yirmeyahu. He must have been immensely grateful for the companionship of his writer friend Barukh.

By Berachyahu ben Neriah - https://ift.tt/3x0McsK, Public Domain, https://ift.tt/36TtKaO


The third from last king of Judah, Yehoyakim, was a particularly unsuitable ruler, an unbelieving, incestuous, adulterous murderer. During his reign, the Lord instructed Yirmeyahu to record his warning prophecies, which he had Barukh do, and then proclaim them publicly in the temple. But Yirmeyahu was now a public enemy, so he asked Barukh to carry out the public reading. The people who heard this were terrified and inclined towards assent, but government officials who were present asked Barukh to let them have the book, telling him and Yirmeyahu to go into hiding. After the officials had studied the prophecies, one of them undertook to read them aloud to King Yehoyakim. The story tells that as the reader finished every four or five lines, the king took a knife, cut the passage from the book, and threw it on the fire.


After Yehoyakim’s degrading death and the brief reign of his son, his brother Tzidkiyahu was installed as king by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. Against the advice of Yirmeyahu, he rebelled against the Babylonians, who besieged Jerusalem for a second time. Yirmeyahu begged his country to remain under Babylonian sovereignty. If they tried to go it alone the result would be catastrophe. They rejected the warning, Jerusalem fell, the temple was destroyed, and with it the nation, 2608 years ago.


One can only speculate how it felt to be Barukh, the ‘Christian Writer’ of his time. He had to transmit divine reproof to an arrogant, immoral, hard-hearted ruler with the blood of many on his hands. He had to pass on divine warnings to a nation where rich exploited poor and many followed false gods. He had to communicate the unpopular truth that small-scale sovereignty was an unworkable option in a world of large cosmopolitan states. And in the end he had to accept that Yirmeyahu’s and his mission, though faithfully carried out, was a failure, and had to share in the collapse of his homeland. Let us pray that if a similar crisis should arise in our world, the Lord will raise up Christian prophets and Christian writers as courageous as Yirmeyahu and Barukh.



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