The opening verses of this book ascribe it, or at least its first part, to Baruch, the well-known secretary of the prophet Jeremiah. It contains five very different compositions, the first and the last in prose, the others in poetic form. The prose sections were certainly composed in Hebrew, though the earliest known form of the book is in Greek.
An observance of the feast of Booths with a public prayer of penitence and petition (⇒ Baruch 1:15-⇒ 3:8), such as is supposed by the introduction (⇒ Baruch 1:1-14), would not have been possible during the lifetime of Baruch after the fall of Jerusalem; this indeed is suggested in the prayer itself (⇒ Baruch 2:26). The prayer is therefore to be understood as the pious reflection of a later Jewish writer upon the circumstances of the exiles in Babylon as he knew them from the Book of Jeremiah. He expresses in their name sentiments called for by the prophet, and ascribes the wording of these sentiments to the person most intimately acquainted with Jeremiah’s teaching, namely, Baruch. The purpose of this literary device is to portray for his own and later generations the spirit of repentance which prompted God to bring the exile to an end.
The lesson thus gained is followed by a hymn in praise of Wisdom (⇒ Baruch 3:9-⇒ 4:4), exalting the law of Moses as the unique gift of God to Israel, the observance of which is the way to life and peace. The ideal city of Jerusalem is then represented (⇒ Baruch 4:5-29) as the solicitous mother of all exiles, who is assured in the name of God that all her children will be restored to her (⇒ Baruch 4:30-⇒ 5:9).
The final chapter is really a separate work, with a title of its own (⇒ Baruch 6:1). It is patterned after the earlier letter of Jeremiah (Jer 29), in the spirit of the warnings against idolatry contained in Jer 10 and Isa 44. Its earnestness is impressive, but in restating previous inspired teachings at a later day, it does so with no special literary grace.
Thus the principal divisions of the book are seen to be:
- Prayer of the Exiles (⇒ Baruch 1:1-⇒ 3:8)
- Praise of Wisdom in the Law of Moses (⇒ Baruch 3:9-⇒ 4:4)
- Jerusalem Bewails and Consoles Her Captive Children (⇒ Baruch 4:5-29)
- Jerusalem Consoled: The Captivity about To End (⇒ Baruch 4:30-⇒ 5:9)
- The Letter of Jeremiah against Idolatry ((Bar) Let 6:1-7)
Now these are the words of the scroll which Baruch, son of Neriah, son of Mahseiah, son of Zedekiah, son of Hasadiah, son of Hilkiah, wrote in Babylon,
1 in the fifth year (on the seventh day of the month, at the time when the Chaldeans took Jerusalem and burnt it with fire).
And Baruch read the words of this scroll for Jeconiah, son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, to hear it, as well as all the people who came to the reading:
2 the nobles, the kings’ sons, the elders, and the whole people, small and great alike – all who lived in Babylon by the river Sud.
They wept and fasted and prayed before the LORD,
and collected such funds as each could furnish.
These they sent to Jerusalem, to Jehoiakim, son of Hilkiah, son of Shallum, the priest, and to the priests and the whole people who were with him in Jerusalem.
3 (This was when he received the vessels of the house of the Lord that had been removed from the temple, to restore them to the land of Judah, on the tenth of Sivan. These silver vessels Zedekiah, son of Josiah, king of Judah, had had made
after Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, carried off Jeconiah, and the princes, and the skilled workers, and the nobles, and the people of the land from Jerusalem, as captives, and brought them to Babylon.)
Their message was: “We send you funds, with which you are to procure holocausts, sin offerings, and frankincense, and to prepare cereal offerings; offer these on the altar of the LORD our God,
4 and pray for the life of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and that of Belshazzar, his son, that their lifetimes may equal the duration of the heavens above the earth;
and that the LORD may give us strength, and light to our eyes, that we may live under the protective shadow of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and that of Belshazzar, his son, and serve them long, finding favor in their sight.
“Pray for us also to the LORD, our God; for we have sinned against the LORD, our God, and the wrath and anger of the LORD have not yet been withdrawn from us at the present day.
And read out publicly this scroll which we send you, in the house of the LORD, on the feast day and during the days of assembly:
“Justice is with the LORD, our God; and we today are flushed with shame, we men of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem,
that we, with our kings and rulers and priests and prophets, and with our fathers,
have sinned in the LORD’S sight
and disobeyed him. We have neither heeded the voice of the LORD, our God, nor followed the precepts which the LORD set before us.
From the time the LORD led our fathers out of the land of Egypt until the present day, we have been disobedient to the LORD, our God, and only too ready to disregard his voice.
And the evils and the curse which the LORD enjoined upon Moses, his servant, at the time he led our fathers forth from the land of Egypt to give us the land flowing with milk and honey, cling to us even today.
For we did not heed the voice of the LORD, our God, in all the words of the prophets whom he sent us,
but each one of us went off after the devices of our own wicked hearts, served other gods, and did evil in the sight of the LORD, our God.
1  In the fifth year on the seventh day of the month: Jerusalem fell on the seventh day of the fifth month; cf ⇒ 2 Kings 25:8; ⇒ Jeremiah 52:12. Either the text read originally “the fifth month,” or it refers to the observance of an anniversary of the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.
2  The river Sud: one of the Babylonian canals, not otherwise identified. In ancient non-Biblical Hebrew fragments discovered in 1952, there is reference to a river “Sur” in a similar context.
3 [8-9] He: possibly Baruch; less likely Jehoiakim . . . the priest (⇒ Baruch 1:7), a member of the high-priestly family not mentioned elsewhere. The silver vessels here described are distinct from the vessels referred to in ⇒ 2 Kings 25:14 and ⇒ Ezra 1:7-9. The author of this note may have thought of the fifth year (v 1) of Zedekiah, in view of ⇒ Jeremiah 28:1; ⇒ 29:1-3. A “fifth year,” again with no month mentioned, is given in ⇒ Ezekiel 1:2 for the inaugural vision of Ezekiel’s prophetic career.
4  Nebuchadnezzar . . . Belshazzar, his son: as in ⇒ Daniel 5:1-2. Later Jewish tradition seems to have simplified the history of the past by making the last Chaldean ruler of Babylon the son of the conqueror of Jerusalem.