Jeremiah 45 The Scribe and The Word Endure the Ending

Baruch ben Neriah from Promptuerri Iconum Insigniorum, Published by Guillaume Rouille 1553

Baruch ben Neriah from Promptuerri Iconum Insigniorum, Published by Guillaume Rouille 1553

The word that the prophet Jeremiah spoke to Baruch son of Neriah, when he wrote these words in a scroll at the dictation of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah: 2 Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch: 3 You said, “Woe is me! The LORD has added sorrow to my pain; I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest.” 4 Thus you shall say to him, “Thus says the LORD: I am going to break down what I have built, and pluck up what I have planted– that is, the whole land. 5 And you, do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for I am going to bring disaster upon all flesh, says the LORD; but I will give you your life as a prize of war in every place to which you may go.”

 

This little chapter which marks a closing of this part of the story, after all the desolation there is a small word of hope to Baruch. Like Jeremiah’s offer in the time of Zedekiah and the promise to Ebed-Melech, now Baruch also receives this consolation prize. There is no promise of wealth, riches, power or prosperity, greatness and good fortune-do not seek that in this book, in this time, in this story. This is a story of endings, of pain, of collapse and relationships that come to an end, and death. Yet in the midst of the death there is life for those who hear, who work with God, who are willing to take the more difficult path. It is perhaps important to notice that the opening line takes us way back in the story, to the time of chapter 36 and not in sequence with what has come before, and yet here at the dark end with the people in Egypt turning away from God and God’s prophet, perhaps it is the only way to end this part-to go back to the promise to Baruch, the one who took the spoken word and recorded them and to allow us to know that the words of the LORD, the life of the prophet and the scribe who stood by him will endure beyond the ending of this tragic story. That in the midst of all the harshness that Jeremiah and Baruch go through in being caught between God and the people that there is life in their path. Perhaps the mere existence of this book in all its dark and painful story do indeed bring hope in the midst of hopelessness. The book of Jeremiah is not complete, even though this is culmination of the words to Judah and Israel, there are still words to be spoken to the nations and a final attempt at this book which cannot end with a happily ever after. With the collapse of the world that the people of Judah knew there are no easy answers in their relationship with their God and as Kathleen O’Connor states:

By not settling matters prematurely, by refusing to reduce disaster to one final, settled interpretation. Jeremiah’s three endings honor victims of the Babylonian disaster. They acknowledge the difficulties of closing matters, at least not quickly, not clearly, not finally. The endings leave readers with a set of questions about justice, about Judah’s relationship with God, and about whether or not the nation will have a future. (O’Conner, 2011, p. 116)

Or to end in a more poetic way I will close this section with the words of the poet Uri Zvi Greenberg

                Like chapters of prophecy my days burn, in all the revelations,
                And my body between them’s a block of metal for smelting,
                And over me stands my god, the Smith, who hits hard:
                Each wound that Time has opened in me opens its mouth to him
                And pours forth in a shower of sparks the intrinsic fire.
 
                This is my just lot—until dusk on the road.
                And when I return to throw my beaten block on a bed,
                My mouth is an open wound,
                And naked I speak with my god: You worked hard.
                Now it is night; come let us both rest. (Lau, 2013, p. 98.)
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