Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Baruch's Jerusalem: The Conception of Jerusalem in 1 Baruch 4:5-5:9

Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Baruch's Jerusalem: The Conception of Jerusalem in 1 Baruch 4:5-5:9

Article excerpt

The final section of the book of 1 Baruch (4:5-5:9) is a poetic composition that shows considerable diversity, creativity, and originality in its development of some well-known prophetic themes-the destiny of Jerusalem and her relationship to her exiled children. Jerusalem, presented as a mother city, is viewed dramatically through the lens of a wide range of scriptural sources and from the perspective of two fixed points in her history and destiny-the Jerusalem of the past, destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and the Jerusalem of the future, described in the yet-to-be-fulfilled prophecies of Isaiah and other prophets. In this composition, the author deals with the problem of how to bridge the gap between these two conceptions by relating his scriptural sources to the present situation of the city in the second century BCE.

For too long scholars have too readily attributed the entire final section of the book (4:4-5:9) to the influence of Isa 40-66. This misconception has been recently criticized by Sean A. Adams, who has questioned the extent of the formative and stylistic influence of these Isaianic chapters on 1 Bar 4:4-5:9.1 Adams argues that, while it is obvious that the author of 1 Bar 4:5-5:9 knew and engaged with Isaiah and other Jewish writings, this pericope needs to be understood as a distinctive work in its own right, with a unique theological perspective, literary ingenuity, and creative purpose, rather than in terms of its literary borrowing of scriptural sources. 2 In this study I will reexamine the way in which Scripture has been creatively used in 1 Bar 4:5-5:9, with particular emphasis on the third section (4:17-29), in order to determine the ideological perspective of the author concerning the city of Jerusalem and his purpose in penning this creative poetic composition.

I. Jerusalem in the Introduction and Final Section of 1 Baruch

It is clear that a sense of unity in the composition of the book of 1 Baruch has been created by means of the juxtaposition of the focus on Jerusalem in the first (1:1-14) and final (4:5-5:9) sections of the work. The fourfold mention of Jerusalem in the introduction (1:2, 6, 8, 9) corresponds to the fourfold reference to her in the final section (4:30, 36; 5:1, 5). In these two sections the devastated, punished Jerusalem of the past has been intentionally contrasted with the glorious, vindicated Jerusalem of the future. In the introduction, the perspective is from the viewpoint of the exiles in Babylonia looking toward Jerusalem (1:7-14). In the final section, this perspective is reversed: Jerusalem looks toward her returning exiles (4:36-37, 5:5). In 1:5-7, 10-13, the exiles in Babylonia send gifts to the priests and all the people in Jerusalem with the request that they make intercession for them. In the final section, Jerusalem, personified as the mother city, promises to cry ceaselessly to God for her exiled children (4:20). Jerusalem appears in the introduction as a depopulated, devastated city burned with fire by the Babylonians as punishment for the sins of her people (1:2, 9). In the final section of the book, Jerusalem is depicted as a glorious city restored to God's favor (5:1-3). Her exiled children, whose loss she has lamented, are to be returned to her (4:36-37, 5:5-9), while the fate of Babylon, who appears as Israel's vanquisher and master in 2:2, 8-9, 11-12, is reversed at the end of the book. Babylon is herself to become depopulated, devastated by fire and a habitation of demons (4:31-35).3

II. Jerusalem in 1 Baruch 4:4-5:9

The fourth and final part of 1 Baruch (4:5-5:9) can be divided into four major poetic sections: an exhortation addressed by Baruch to exiled Israel, in which the people are arraigned for their sin of rebellion against God but, nevertheless, are encouraged with the hope of restoration (4:5-9a); a second section, in which Jerusalem utters a lament to her neighbors (4:9b-16); a third section, spoken by Jerusalem to her exiled children, in which she encourages them to endure exile, hoping and waiting for their restoration (4:17-29); and a fourth and final section, in which Jerusalem, addressed by the poet, is reassured with the hope of the overthrow of her enemies, her glorious destiny to come, and the return of her exiled children (4:30-5:9). …

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