The Seal of Baruch, Jeremiah’s Scribe
By Kyle Pope
The prophet Jeremiah was asked to carry out one of the most difficult tasks
ever assigned to any servant of God. During the last years of the kingdom of Judah
Jeremiah was to prophesy that because of their sin they must accept the yoke of
Babylon and not resist. He was imprisoned, opposed by false prophets,
threatened with death, and viewed as a traitor. Yet through him God prophesied
the exile and return of the Jews and ultimately the coming of the new covenant
Baruch, the Son of Neriah
Jeremiah, like all servants of God, had
co-workers who contributed to his work and shared his hardship. Scripture
tells of one companion named Baruch, the son of Neriah, his friend, co-worker
and scribe in these difficult years.
From the fourth year of
Jehoiakim’s reign (605 BC), God assured Baruch that his life would be
spared when Jerusalem fell (45:1-5). le>He was not to seek “great
things” but was promised, “I will give your life to you as a prize
in all places wherever you go” (45:5, NKJV).
609 BC Josiah dies opposing Pharoah Necho at Megiddo. Jehoahaz
reigns 3 months & is imprisoned by Necho. Necho makes Eliakim
• 605 BC Nebuchadnezzar becomes king of Babylon
& defeats Neco at Carchemish.
• 598 BC Egyptian alliance fails. Jerusalem
is captured by Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar takes Jehoiakim to Babylon.
Coniah (Jehoiachin) reigns 3 months & is also taken to Babylon.
Mattaniah (Zedekiah) is made king.
• 589 BC Zedekiah rebels against Babylon & Jerusalem
• 587 BC Jerusalem falls to Babylon & both the city
and temple are burned. Zedekiah is blinded, imprisoned & sons are
killed before him. Captives are taken to Babylon. Gedeliah is
made Babylonian governor.
• 586 BC Gedeliah is murdered.
The same year, when Jeremiah was prevented from going into the temple, he
dictated a scroll to Baruch which he read in the temple (36:1-10). The
scroll urged the people to accept the inevitability of Babylon’s
control and repent. When Michaiah and some noblemen heard the words they took
Baruch aside. Michaiah urged Baruch and Jeremiah to hide while they
appealed to the king (36:11-19). As the scroll was read to Jehoiakim, he cut
it in two and burned it. He then commanded his son Jerahmeel, and others to
seize Baruch and Jeremiah (36:20-26). When Jeremiah learned of the
king’s response he dictated another scroll to Baruch with the same
words and a prophecy against Jehoiakim (36:27-32).
Seventeen years later (588 BC), when Jeremiah
was imprisoned by Zedekiah during the Babylonian siege, Baruch was entrusted
with the the purchase deeds of a field Jeremiah bought as a sign of the
Jews return (32:1-16). Baruch was to put the deeds in an earthen
vessel, “that they may last many days.” This demonstrated that,
“houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this
When the city fell and captives were taken away
Gedaliah was made the governor of Judah (ca. 587-6 BC.). After Gedaliah was
murdered, some desired to flee to Egypt to escape the control of Babylon.
When Jeremiah declared God’s opposition to this plan, some charged:
“Baruch the son of Neriah has set you against us, to deliver us into the
hand of the Chaldeans, that they may put us to death or carry us away captive
to Babylon (43:3). This suggests that Baruch was also falsely viewed as an ally
of Babylon because he declared God’s punishment by their hand. Both
Baruch and Jeremiah were taken by force to Egypt with others who had been
spared captivity (43:1-7). Here they may have died.
Discovery of Baruch’s Seal*
In 1975 the first few pieces of 200 clay bullae
were discovered in the shop of an antiquities dealer in East Jerusalem.1 Bullae are lumps of clay which
were attached to documents and impressed with a seal. From the shape of its
Hebrew characters (which vary throughout history) scholars date the collection
to the 6th century BC, the time of Jeremiah. Within this collection are
two bullae believed to have belonged to Baruch, and Jerahmeel (see
The three lines on the Baruch bulla read:
“(Belonging) to Berekhyahu, the son of Neriyahu, the scribe.”
The suffix -yahu was a common epithet attached to names in Judah, meaning,
“blessed of Jehovah.” While translations sometimes render
it “-iah” (cf. Baruch’s father Ner-iah), some texts
drop it altogether.2 The
bulla is now displayed in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
The March/April 1996 issue of Biblical
Archeology Review featured an article on another bulla belonging to a
private collector from the same seal. What is unique about this is the
clear impression of a fingerprint on the upper left of the bulla. The
article suggested this was the “fingerprint of Jeremiah’s
scribe.” 3 While it
is presumptuous to assume this is Baruch’s fingerprint, at the very least
discoveries such as this remind us that the people of the Bible were not
imaginary figures from fairy tales, but real souls who served our God in the