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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 (31:31-34).

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. 



•  609 BC  Josiah dies opposing Pharoah Necho at Megiddo. Jehoahaz reigns 3 months & is imprisoned by Necho.  Necho makes Eliakim (Jehoiakim) king. 
•  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 is besieged.
•  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.

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).

       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 land”  (32:14,15).

     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 above). 

Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Kyle Pope

      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 past. 

 1 Shanks, Hershel.  “Jeremiah’s Scribe and Confidant Speaks from a Hoard of Clay Bullae.”  Biblical Archeology Review 4 (1987): 58-65.
 2 Gesenius, William.  Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament.  (Boston: Crocker and Brewster.  1860). p. 382.
 3 Shanks, Hershel.  “Fingerprint of Jeremiah’s Scribe.”  Biblical Archeology Review 2      (1996): 36-38.   

* The Baruch “Fingerprint” Bulla has been included among a number of other items in a forgery indictment involving collector Oded Golan and antiquities dealers Robert Deutsch and Rafael Brown. The bulla represented above, has not been included in the indictment nor yet received laboratory examination. It is displayed in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. For detailed discussions of the case see the following articles posted by the Society of Biblical Literature:

Pope, Kyle. "The Seal of Baruch: Jeremiah's Scribe" Biblical Insights 1.2 (February 2001): 20.  

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