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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Jeremiah 45



Verses 1-5

YHWH’s Assurance Given To The Faithful Baruch In The Days Of Jehoiakim That He Would Be With Him, Come What May, And Would Preserve Him To The End (Jeremiah 45:1-5).

This section of Jeremiah’s work, which commenced at Jeremiah 26:1, now closes with a reference to YHWH’s watch over the faithful Baruch. We can compare the earlier reference to His watch over Ebed-melech (Jeremiah 39:16-18). This prophecy occurred in the days of Jehoiakim, and is thus ‘out of place’ chronologically. But Jeremiah’s prophecy is not wholly chronological and it may well have been intended as a postscript bringing out what happened to those who faithfully served under Jeremiah, in contrast to the awful end of Judah as a whole. It emphasised that in all His judgments YHWH did not overlook those who faithfully served Him.

In this regard it will be noted that it refers to the plucking up of Judah (Jeremiah 45:4), and was thus given in the light of Judah’s final end, and that its purport was to assure Baruch that whatever the future held, YHWH would preserve him to the end. In that sense it does tie in chronologically, for it is Judah’s final end that had just been dealt with.

Baruch was Jeremiah’s helper and Scribe. He came from an important family. He was the grandson of Mahseiah (Jeremiah 32:12) who had been governor of Jerusalem during the reign of Josiah (2 Chronicles 34:8). Baruch’s brother Seraiah was an officer at Zedekiah’s court (Jeremiah 51:59). But Baruch had bravely publicly identified himself with Jeremiah at great risk to himself, had written down his prophecies, and had bravely read some of them publicly in the Temple at Jeremiah’s request (Jeremiah 36:4-10).

Jeremiah 45:1

‘The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah, when he wrote these word in a book at the mouth of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying,’

This short chapter gives us words spoken by Jeremiah to Baruch in the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim (and thus four years after the death of Josiah), which Baruch wrote down at his request. It prophesies the plucking up of Judah from the land, and the preservation of Baruch throughout all that would occur. Whilst therefore, from the point of view of when the prophecy was given, it is not in order chronologically, it will be apparent that it is very much in order chronologically in its thought for it is a guarantee of preservation to the end.

Jeremiah 45:2

“Thus says YHWH, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch.”

The prophecy is stated to be a personal word from YHWH to Baruch, and an indication therefore of YHWH’s personal interest in and concern for Baruch. It is a reminder that God does not overlook the needs of his second-string servants.

Jeremiah 45:3

“You did say, ‘Woe is me now! for YHWH has added sorrow to my pain. I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest’.”

YHWH here indicates that Baruch had gone at this time through similar soul searching to his master. It is a reminder that it was no easier being a faithful prophet’s assistant and supporter, than it was being a faithful prophet. These could easily have been words of Jeremiah for at times he complained against his lot in a similar way (Jeremiah 15:10-21; Jeremiah 20:7-18). Master and assistant suffered together. Baruch’s complaint may indeed have occurred as a result of what followed his reading of the scroll in the Temple (Jeremiah 36:4-10). It may well be that he had expected that there would be a remarkable response to his reading of Jeremiah’s words. And in a sense there was. But it had not been what he had expected, and he had subsequently had to go into hiding along with Jeremiah. What he had hoped would be a triumph had turned out to be a disaster. We can understand his discouragement and disillusionment. He felt that YHWH had added to his already deep anguish further sorrow and pain. It is an experience endured by many of God’s servants as God brings us to an end of ourselves. And he had grown weary of his need to groan, and of the fact that he did not seem able to find rest. He had almost reached the end of his tether. But as with Baruch it is at such times that God speaks to us.

Jeremiah 45:4-5

“Thus shall you say to him, ‘Thus says YHWH. Behold, what I have built I will break down, and what I have planted I will pluck up, and this in the whole land. And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not. For, behold, I will bring evil on all flesh, the word of YHWH, but your life will I give to you for a prey in all places to which you go.”

It would appear that at that time Baruch had been confident that through the words of Jeremiah Jerusalem would be restored, with the result that he himself would receive accreditation as Jeremiah’s scribe, and be held in honour. He was sure that eventually he would be seen as a great man (‘do you seek great things for yourself?’), the scribe of a successful prophet.

But YHWH here informs him that that is not to be. For the truth is that Jerusalem will not repent at the words of Jeremiah, with the result that what He, YHWH, has built up, He will break down, and what He has planted He will pluck up, and this not only in Jerusalem but also throughout the land. And now this has come about with the result that the words of the prophecy become directly relevant.

But YHWH assures Baruch that, while this may be so, in the midst of the disaster he, like Jeremiah, need not be afraid, for he can be assured that he will be preserved by YHWH until his time comes. YHWH’s promise is that he will not be caught up in the final disaster coming on the people of Judah, for whilst evil will be brought on all Judah, Baruch himself will be preserved through it, and will be one of the remnant who escape. The section thus ends with a message of hope in the midst of the gloom. It is a reminder that God never forgets His people, even in the midst of disaster, and provides the assurance that whenever things might appear to be at their darkest, those who are His can be confident that He is there with them in the midst of it all. It is the guarantee that His people will survive, and that His purposes will finally come to fruition. It is a fitting climax to the section.

‘And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not.’ There are no words that better express what is to be the attitude of the true people of God. They are words that should be written on the hearts of all who would seek to serve God. It is doubtful whether they are to be seen as a rebuke levelled at Baruch’s general attitude, but rather as a warning in a moment of temporary exultation. YHWH gently warns His servant that it is not outward success that must be sought, but the will of God, and that that does not necessarily come to fruition within one person’s lifetime. Let him therefore be content with this, the assurance that YHWH will be with him whatever the future may hold.

Indeed, as He points out, for Jeremiah and Baruch there is no short term solution. Judah’s sin is such that they can only be broken down and uprooted, something that had now happened. But that is not to be a matter of despair, for Baruch will himself be an evidence of the fact that God preserves His remnant ready for another day. In the face of this they must persevere in the midst of hardship, and must not become discouraged, for God’s Day will finally dawn.

The words are a reminder to us that our thoughts also should not be set on what we can achieve, or have achieved, but should be fixed on a desire for the fulfilling of the will of God. They are words that should be inscribed on every preacher’s rostrum. And they remind us that whether we live at times of success, or of outward failure, our confidence should be in the fact that God watches over His people and will see His purposes through in the end, and this whether the way be rough or the way be smooth. For with God there can be no failure, with the result that we may be sure that what may seem to us sometimes to signal the end of hope, will only turn out to be a part of His plan, and a stepping stone in the carrying forward of His will.


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Jeremiah 45:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

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