The Anointed One Will Appear – 2 Baruch 22-34

After Baruch prays this, he sees heaven open and his strength returns and a second dialogue begins (chapter 22). This time the Lord questions Baruch – does someone start something they cannot finish? The obvious negative answer is supplied by Baruch and the Lord continues to ask Baruch why he is so disturbed (chapter 23). When Adam sinned death was decreed, but the days are coming when the books will be opened and the righteous will be proven to be righteous (chapter 24).

JerusalemBaruch has acknowledged God’s control and ultimate foreknowledge, but he also admits man does not know the things God does. He asks to know what will happen so that he can instruct the people (24:3-4). God promises to preserve Baruch until the sign the Most High gives to the whole world at the end of days (chapter 25, cf. the “sign of the Son of Man” in Mt. 24:30). In those days great terror and tribulations will seize the earth and people will say that the Most High God has forgotten the earth; people will lose hope. Baruch asks how long the distress will last (chapter 26), and the Lord responds it will be divided into twelve parts (chapter 27), which are listed, but then the duration of the time is “weeks of seven weeks” (chapter 28). Kiljn says this is an unclear indication, although Baruch himself does not complain (OTP 1:620, note a). The time is obviously based on Daniel 12 and the other references to a time, times and a half a time as well as the “seventy weeks” prophecy (Dan. 9). Perhaps the translation from Hebrew into Syriac has obscured the reference. Perhaps the “twelve times” are to be taken as kingdoms or rulers (as in 4 Ezra, The Eagle Vision, 11:1-12:51).

When that time is accomplished, the Anointed One will appear and the whole world will be fruitful and prosperous (chapter 29). This is a very significant chapter since it clearly refers to the Messiah who will put an end to a period of suffering and introduce a period of peace and prosperity. This will be a time when the clouds “distill the dew of health” and the “treasury of manna will come down from on high.” The Anointed One appears in his glory (Mt 25:31f) and all those who “sleep in hope of him will rise” (cf. 1 Thess. 4:13-17, 1 Cor. 15:51f) and the treasury of the souls will open up and huge multitudes of souls will appear (chapter 30).

This is a clear reference to the resurrection at the time of the Messiah, but it is not a resurrection to an eternal life in heaven, but rather a resurrection to a very real earthly life in a peaceful world ruled by the Anointed one. What is significant is description of those who are; they are those who “put their hope in him.” The people who are raised appear to be the Jews from the Old Testament period who were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah.

Baruch reports his vision to the people (chapters 31-34) and encourages them to “sow into their minds the fruit of the law (32:1). The building of Zion will be shaken, destroyed and left desolate, but will be rebuilt again. The Mighty one will renew is creation (32:6). The people think Baruch is going away from them, but he reassures them he will remain and do what Jeremiah command him.

A Vision on Zion – 2 Baruch 13-21

While standing on Mt. Zion, Baruch hears a voice from heaven. The Lord answers an objection Baruch raised in his lament (chapter 13). This is a dialogue between God and Baruch which deals with the problem of the destruction of temple (13-20). What good is it to follow God if he allows the Temple to be destroyed and the people judged so harshly? People may ask, “why has God brought this sort of destruction down on his people?” When these people wonder if such a retribution will come upon them, Baruch is to tell them that they will also drink the wine of God’s wrath down to the dregs. After hearing this, Baruch asks the Lord what benefit is there in being righteous if everyone will be punished by the Lord (chapter 14).

Glory-of-GodThe Lord’s reply (chapter 15) is that it is true all will be judged, but the righteous will have a crown of great glory waiting for them as a reward for their great struggle. Baruch wonders if the few evil years of this life are enough to inherit an unmeasurable reward (chapter 16). The Lord’s reply (chapter 18) is that the Lord does not take account of years. Adam lived 930 years but it was no profit for him if he transgressed God’s commands. Moses lived 120 years, but it would profit him nothing if he had not been the “lamp which lighted a generation.” But Baruch objections that while Moses was a lamp, few followed his light (chapter 18).

In chapter 19), The Lord points out Moses who gave them the covenant and they were judged by that standard. How happy a person is while young does not really matter if at the end of his life he transgresses and is judged. The Lord’s point seems to be that there is still time for repentance near the “end of days” for the nation. Baruch is told to go and fast for seven days and the Lord will continue his revelation to Baruch (chapter 20).

Chapter 21 contains a prayer of Baruch in response to the dialogue of chapters 13-20. In verse 4-11 he calls out to the Lord as the creator God, the God who is sovereign and in control of his creation. He decrees things so minutely he knows how many raindrops will fall on a given head (cf. Mt. 10:30, the hairs on one’s head are numbered.) Verses 12-18 develop this theme of God’s knowledge acknowledge that God has preserved the life of those who have sinned so that they may be proved righteous. Men are changeable even if God is not and God takes the time to change men. In verses 19-25 Baruch asks how long it will be that the world will continue to be polluted by sin.

Finally, He asks for God to act to reveal his glory in the world and restore creation. The restoration in mind is Israel, but this restoration will mean salvation for all creation. This resonates with Revelation, at least in the sense that the final restoration is the return of the glory of God and a “new heavens and new earth.”

2 Baruch and the Fall of Jerusalem

Baruch-and-Jeremiah2 (Syriac Apocalypse of) Baruch appears to have been written in the late first century, probably around A.D. 100. Like 4 Ezra, the book is a response to the recent fall of Jerusalem. Using the persona of Jeremiah’s scribe Baruch, the author of this book is answering a theological question, why has god allowed the Temple to be destroyed a second time? Has God cancelled his promises to his people? Is there any future for Israel? Since it was written about the same time as the New Testament’s Revelation, it is one of the more significant Second Temple period apocalypses.

4 Ezra and 2 Baruch share many similarities, although the direction of the influence is hard to determine. Klijn is inclined to see 2 Baruch as dependent on 4 Ezra; he therefore dates the book to the first part of the second century (OTP 1:616-52). Collins argues for a date a bit earlier based on the fall of Jerusalem in the twenty-fifth year of king Jeconiah in the first verse of 2 Baruch. This is not historically accurate, so it is possible the author is referring to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, twenty-five years in the past (Apocalyptic Imagination, 212-3). The book was written in Palestine and most likely in Hebrew originally. The book is closely related to the rabbinic literature and seems to be exhorting diaspora Jews from the perspective of Palestinian Jews (OTP 1:617).

2 Baruch 1-4 forms an introduction to the book. The author takes on the guise of Baruch son of Neriah, the companion of Jeremiah. He is told by the Lord that all of the things which happened to the northern ten tribes will happen to the south as well. Jerusalem will fall and the people will be punished. Baruch agrees this punishment cannot be resisted, but asks the Lord what will happen after the city is destroyed. Are the promises of God ever to be fulfilled?  The Lord’s answer is that a New Jerusalem has been built, but it is in Paradise.

In chapter 5-9 Baruch prepares for the Babylonian invasion. He tells the people what the Lord has told him and they sit in the valley of Kidron and fast until evening. The city is surrounded the next day (ch. 6). Baruch sees four angels at the corners of the city with burning torches. He sees the temple and the Holy of Holies, including the ephod, precious stone and other temple items. These buildings are swallowed up by the earth, then the angels put their torches to the city and destroyed its foundations. Babylon enters the city and plunders it and kill many people.

The word of the Lord comes to Baruch and he is command to tell Jeremiah to go to support the captives in Babylon. Baruch delivers a lengthy lament for the city in chapter 9, striking many themes found in later apocalyptic (“better never to have been born,” verse 6, for example.) He condemns Babylon although it is not as brutal as it might be. He asks how the Lord has borne the destruction of the city (chapter 11-12).

As Baruch weeps for fallen Jerusalem, the Lord will answer his questions through a series of visions

The New Testament and 4 Ezra

The Jewish Apocalypse of Ezra deals with the problem of the Jews in the post-70 world.  Has God abandoned his people?  This is extremely important for New Testament studies since the “Jewish problem” arises in nearly every context.  The New Testament passage which deals with this problem in the most detail is Romans 9-11. While Paul reaches a similar conclusion, he does so in a non-apocalyptic manner.  Paul is obviously writing well before the fall of Jerusalem, so this is not the “crisis” which has caused Paul to ask about the fate of the nation of Israel.  In Paul’s case the “crisis” is the resurrection of Jesus in general and more specifically his own calling to be the apostle to the Gentiles which raises the question of what happens to the Jews in the new era of “church.”

ApocryphalPaul deals with the problem much differently than 4 Ezra.  Rather than question God’s fairness or badger God with questions about his management of the universe, Paul grounds his understanding of Israel in the election of the nation to be the people of God and in the unalterable promises of God (9:1-21).  Even there, Paul is willing to accept that God makes some things for destruction, as objects of his wrath.  But Israel is not by nature an object of wrath, although they have “experienced a hardening in part” (9:30, 11:25).  Romans 10 makes clear it is God’s desire for Israel to be saved, they are not cut off from God and a remnant of Israel will be saved in the future.  Romans 11:1 cannot be clearer:  God has not rejected his people, and eventually “all Israel will be saved” (11:26).

Paul is writing in the pre-A.D. 70 world.  Israel still exists as a political reality, Jerusalem and the Temple still stand.  4 Ezra is on the other side of the terrible destruction of Jerusalem asking a legitimate question – does God still care for Israel? This question may be at the heart of the closest parallel in the New Testament to 4 Ezra, the Book of Revelation.

While Revelation never states the question in quite the same way 4 Ezra does, the fate of Israel in the post-A.D. 70 world is near the center of the theology of the book.  That Israel will continue to suffer and pass through torment is a given in the book; the nation will ultimately be tested to the point of death.  At the last moment, the Messiah will appear and vindicate his people and establish them in peace and safety in Jerusalem (and later the New Jerusalem) with a restored temple and renewed worship.  Revelation demonstrates, like 4 Ezra, that God has a plan to set things right in the future for the nation of Israel.

Another text which deals with the problem of Israel in the period after the fall of Jerusalem may be the book of Hebrews.  This book deals with the theological problems caused by a belief in Jesus as Messiah, especially the sacrificial system in the light of the death and resurrection.  The sacrifices are no longer necessary for a Jew to approach God since Jesus has given access to all through his blood.  The temple and Jerusalem are therefore no longer needed.  This is argued in non-eschatologically and would have appealed to Jews in the Diaspora.

Ezra’s Seventh Vision – 4 Ezra 14:1-48

Ezra has his final vision three days later while sitting under an oak (14:1-18).  The Lord calls to him and tells him to store up all of the visions he has received because the ages are growing old and the time of the end is drawing near.  History has been divided into twelve parts, and nine of these parts are already past as well as half of the tenth part.  The eagle of the last vision is “already hastening to come.”

Ezra the requests the Lord allow him to rewrite the scripture so the present generation will know what has happened (14:19-26). The Law was burned along with the Temple, therefore the people need new copies given to them by the Lord.  The Lord allows this, but some of the books are kept secret (14:26).  He announces his intention to rewrite the scripture to the people (14:27-36), and for forty days he goes into a field along with five scribes.

He is given a drink by an angel which will give him complete understanding and total recall as he dictates all day long.  After forty days ninety-four books were created:  the twenty-four canonical books and the seventy “hidden” books (14:37-48). This can be taken as a reference to an Old Testament canon since the 24 books are obviously the books of the Hebrew Bible. If 4 Ezra is dated to the end of the first century, then we have at least some indication that the canon was fixed by that date (for the author of 4 Ezra, at least!)