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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 45

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-5



Jeremiah 45:1

These words; i.e. the revelations which Baruch had committed (or was committing) to writing.

Jeremiah 45:3

Hath added grief to my sorrow. Baruch felt "sorrow" or "pain" at the sinfulness of the people; "grief" or "anxiety" was added by Jeremiah's announcement of the judgment. I fainted in my sighing; rather, I am weary with my sighing; comp. Psalms 6:7 (Authorized Version, 6).

Jeremiah 45:4

That which I have built (comp, Jeremiah 1:10 and parallel passages). Even this whole land; rather, and that is the whole earth.

Jeremiah 45:5

Seekest thou great things, etc.? All around is passing through a sore crisis, and canst thou expect a better lot? It is no time for personal ambition, when the very foundations of the state are crumbling. In all places whither thou goest. This seems to indicate that Baruch's time of exile would be a restless one; it would nowhere be safe for him to take up a settled habitation.


Jeremiah 45:1-5

The grief of one soul, and its consolation.

This chapter is devoted to one man. Among the large prophecies concerning whole nations, room is found for a prophecy to a single individual. The Bible is at once universal and individualistic in character. Its narratives alternate history with biography. God cares for the whole world, and truth is largess the universe; yet God does not forget one soul in its private distress, and truth has special applications to special cases.

I. THE GRIEF. Baruch had a double distress—grief added to sorrow.

1. The first sorrow. Probably this arose from a consideration of the wretched condition of the nation in its vice and decay. It is right and natural that good men should feel deep concern at the state of their country. The Christian should have the spirit of him who "when he beheld the city, wept over it." Moreover, if we see much of the wickedness of the world, we should not be satisfied with steadily condemning it, nor with congratulating ourselves on our own superior goodness. The sight should fill us with sorrow. They who go thus astray are our own brethren. And is not there much of the same sin in all of us? Often the wickedness which shocks us in others is only the full development of the very sin that lurks in our own hearts.

2. The added grief.

(1) This came from the prophecy. Baruch was commissioned to write and read. His privileged position, so near to the fountain of inspiration, only deepened his distress. High spiritual privilege may bring only sadness in this world's experience. Increase of knowledge may be increase of sorrow. Revelation is sometimes a cause of distress. In the present case the prophecy was a declaration of the approaching doom of Jerusalem. We should contemplate the punishment of the impenitent with profound grief. Revengeful, triumphant, or self-complacent feelings in regard to this terrible subject are quite unchristian.

(2) Baruch had personal grounds for his distress. In the approaching overthrow of his nation all his cherished hopes of personal ambition were shattered. The most sanguine too often suffer the bitterest disappointments.

(3) Jeremiah's grief would add to that of Baruch. Sorrow is contagious. He who is much with "the Man of sorrows" will be likely to feel strange grief in contemplating the evil of the world. Baruch could find no rest in his grief. The greatest weariness is not the result of hard work; it comes from distress of heart. It is trouble, not work, that breaks down the strong life to premature old age. The blessedness of the heavenly rest is that it is rest from sorrow as well as from toil.

II. THE CONSOLATION. Jeremiah has a prophecy for Baruch. God speaks to individual souls, The preacher must be preached to. Has not he who would save others a soul of his own to be saved. How sad that any preacher should declare the Divine message to the people, but hear no voice speaking peace to his own troubled soul! If he were as faithful as Baruch, he might expect, like Baruch, to receive a Divine consolation. Note the characteristics of this consolation. It did not deny the cause of grief. Much comfort is unreal and false in trying to do this. The consolation for Baruch consisted chiefly in furnishing him with advice regarding his views of God's action and his own aims in life.

1. A lesson of acquiescence in the Divine will. God is acting within his rights. It is vain to rebel. Peace is found in submission.

2. A rebuke to ambition. Self-seeking brings distress. As we live out of self we gain Divine peace.

3. A promise of safety. After the lessons intended to lead Baruch into a right mood, God promises him his life—only this, but this is much for a humble man who knows he does not deserve it, and a good man who will devote it to God's service.

Jeremiah 45:4

Divine destruction.

I. GOD CAN DESTROY HIS OWN WORK. What he made he can unmake. People dogmatize about the indestructibility of matter, of atoms, of souls. How do we know they are indestructible? Is God's omnipotence limited by the properties of his own works? But apart from all metaphysics, the complex world, being constructed, is plainly subject to destruction. It is monstrous to think the universe is a huge Frankenstein, able to escape from the power of its Maker.

II. GOD HAS A RIGHT TO DESTROY HIS OWN WORK. There is no property so clearly belonging to a person as the work of his own hands. All things that exist were made by God, and all belong to him. What he gave us he has a right to withdraw. His gifts are loans, talents to be used for a season and then returned. No creature has a right to its own life before God. He freely gave it; he may withdraw it. Much less have we sinful creatures any such right.

III. GOD WILL NOT DESTROY HIS OWN WORK WITHOUT GOOD REASON. A power is not necessarily always put forth nor a right in perpetual exercise. God does not act capriciously nor cruelly. He is the Creator rather than the Destroyer. He delights in creating because he loves his creatures. He takes no pleasure in destroying, but will only do it under urgent necessity.

IV. NEVERTHELESS THERE ARE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH GOD WILL DESTROY HIS OWN WORK. All things were good when they came from their Maker's hands. But some have been corrupted. When a thing is hopelessly corrupt there is no reason for preserving it and much for destroying it. See this in earthly experience—the Flood, the destruction of Jerusalem, and m greater judgments—the wages of sin, death, and the final destruction of the world. Therefore let us not presume that any work or institution is eternal because it was established by the eternal God, that any possession of ours must be permanent because it came from him, or that our own life is safe because God breathed it into us.

Jeremiah 45:5


Self-seeking is treated in the Bible, especially in the New Testament, as both wrong and not really profitable to the self-seeker, although it seems be prompted by natural instincts and supported by good reasons. Let us consider the grounds of these representations.

I. WHY SELF-SEEKING IS WRONG. God does not require absolute altruism; we are only commanded to love our neighbours as ourselves. Natural self-regarding instincts created by God can surely be innocently exercised. It cannot be necessary for all efforts of men to rise in social position, etc; to be condemned. What, then is the self-seeking which is blameworthy?

1. That which offends against justice by seeking selfish gain at the expense of others. What frightful injustice ambition must answer for, in liberty destroyed, lives sacrificed, confusion and misery sown broadcast!

2. That which offends against charity by disregarding the good of others. In the spirit of Cain it cries, "Am I my brother's keeper?" So long as it attains its own ends, it will not lift a finger to move another man's burden. But Christ teaches us that it is not enough that we do not injure others, we must also actively help them; it is not enough that we do not steal, we midst go further and "give to him that asketh."

3. That which offends against duty by sacrificing the vocation of life to private gain. We are not free to live to ourselves, because we are not our own masters. We are called to God's service. Our duty is to serve God, not self, so that whatsoever we do may be done "unto the Lord." Self-seeking is rebellion against our Lord and Master. In times of public distress self-seeking is peculiarly odious. Such were the times in which Baruch lived. Then there are loud calls of duty and noble tasks to be done. The general grief makes the thought of one's own pleasure and profit out of place. To use that distress as a ladder by which to rise to greatness is indeed despicable.

II. WHY SELF-SEEKING IS NOT PROFITABLE. In a worldly sense and for a time it may be, but not really and ultimately. Even in the lower human relations, how often do the seeds of ambition bring a harvest of anxiety! The self-seeker reaches the climax of his endeavours, his most brilliant dream is realized, he is a king—and he wears a hidden coat of mail, hides himself in a fortress-castle, has not the liberty of his meanest subject, is driven near to madness by the fear of assassination.

"He who ascends to mountain tops shall find
The loftiest peaks most wrapped in clouds and snow;
He who surpasses or subdues mankind
Must look down on the hate of those below."

When extreme greatness and extreme disappointment are neither realized, lesser self-seeking brings its corresponding trouble. It narrows the heart and destroys the purest and best delights—the joys of human sympathy. Christ shows to us deeper grounds for regarding it as a vain pursuit. "The first shall be last, and the last first." The reason he gives is that "Whosoever would save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall save it." Only in proportion as we live out of self can we enjoy a life worth living; only then, indeed, do we truly live at all. By trying to make ourselves great, though we may reach a high external position, we fall to a low internal condition—we become mean and small; while in forgetting self and sacrificing self for God and for mankind we become unconsciously great.


Jeremiah 45:1-5

Baruch's message; or, God's consideration for his servant.

It is not always well to know more than others. Future things are for the most part mercifully bidden from us. The prophecies of God's kingdom in the world, as they awaken new hopes, also occasion new anxieties; and the latter will be the greater in proportion to our failure to comprehend and sympathize with the Divine purpose. Baruch was not in the same relation of spiritual sympathy and self-effacement with relation to the Word as Jeremiah was; he did not share the same moral elevation, and therefore his perplexities. In reward of his faithful, self-denying work as amanuensis to the prophet, a special communication is made to him with reference to his state of mind on hearing the threatenings of God against Israel and the nations.

I. TO RECEIVE SUCH A COMMUNICATION WAS A DISTINGUISHED HONOUR. In identifying his name with the book he wrote it immortalized him. His work was a comparatively humble one, but it required its own virtues, and these are recognized. Nothing done for God in a right spirit is forgotten by him. Amidst imperial and world wide changes the interests of his servants are ever watched over with special care. When we see the Sovereign Disposer of events, when empires are as small dust in his balance, arranging for the welfare of a single individual, merely because of help given to one of his prophets, shall we not acknowledge how precious in his eyes is even the least of his servants? They are children of the great King.

II. IT MINISTERED TO HIS PERSONAL COMFORT AND PEACE OF MIND. The anxiety and fear which weighed upon Baruch are thereby dissipated. God loves to see his children cheerful and in sympathy with his will. It is just from the "sorrow of the world that worketh death," he seeks to deliver us. The work of Baruch would be easier and less oppressive when he was assured that his own safety would be secured. But how poor is this promise compared with the" life and immortality brought to light in the gospel"! The children of promise are not only delivered from the sorrows and disappointments of this present evil world, but made sharers in the final triumphs of redemptive love.


1. The caution. "And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not." Earthly ambition has often crept into the heart of God's servants. It is not consistent with faithful, single-eyed service. They that would further the kingdom of God in the world must seek it first. Baruch was reminded that this is not our rest. And when the powers of the world were being shaken was no time for self-advancement. His sighs were not pure. He mourned over opportunities lost, not of laying up treasure in heaven, but of accumulating it on earth.

2. The promise. "Thy life will I give unto thee for a prey." It seems poor, compared with his hopes. He perhaps anticipated a slight rebuke and chastisement of Israel, a few changes and adjustments, and the carrying on of the Divine purposes to a speedy issue. This illusion is gently but firmly checked. The world has a severer ordeal to pass through ere the ancient offence can be expiated, and the arena cleared for the Divine future. His hopes are, therefore, not wholly destroyed, but transferred. He will be spared to see the things beyond, and meanwhile it will be his privilege to help on that better time. Happy for him if, thus corrected, he attains to a diviner calm of spirit and a more thorough acceptance of the Divine terms and conditions. He too was but a sinner, whose deliverance was in itself a great and undeserved mercy (cf. Matthew 24:1-51.).—M.


Jeremiah 45:1-5

Baruch; or, the young recruit reheartened.

Baruch reminds of Mark (Acts 13:13). Both were good and faithful men; both became discouraged; both were reheartened; both found profitable to the ministry and true to the end. Now, as we look on this Divine reheartening of Baruch, we are taught much—


1. We see his grace. He does not overlook or forget his servants. He notes their distresses and devises means for their relief. "Like as a father pitieth," etc.

2. We see his methods with those who are as Baruch was.

(1) Though animated by love, they were severe rather than soothing; stern rather than gentle and consolatory. We have many parallels to this. Cf. ch. 12; "If thou hast run with the footmen," etc. How stern the dealing of God with Moses! No entreaty could procure the alteration of the sentence of exclusion from Canaan that had gone out against him. See also our Lord's message to John the Baptist in prison: "Go, tell John," etc. No gentle message of sympathy, but rather of rebuke for his failure of faith. So with Paul's thorn in the flesh, the Lord would not remove it. In all these cases there is rather the sharp, bracing, rousing summons to duty than words of soothing pity and tenderness. Far more like Paul's dealing with the recreant Mark—he virtually cashiered him—than that of Barnabas, who, Son of Consolation that he was, was all for comforting him and dealing gently with him.

(2) God tells him that he has heard his complainings. When we talk to ourselves, we often forget that every word is audible to God. The people about our Lord were often talking to themselves concerning him, and, though they said nothing out loud, we constantly read how "Jesus answered and said," showing that he had heard all they said.

(3) He gives him to understand that his purpose is not to be set aside because of his complainings. "The Lord saith thus." It we cannot bring our circumstances to our mind, our wisdom is to bring our mind to our circumstances. Baruch was shown that he must do this.

(4) He implies that a seeking after "high things" for himself had much to do with his complaining. He was of great ability, of noble lineage (Jeremiah 51:59; Josephus, 'Ant.,' 10. Jeremiah 6:2; Jeremiah 9:1), the grandson of Maasiah (2 Chronicles 34:8), and this may well have animated him with hopes of high office in the state, such as his brother had held; or his nearness to Jeremiah may have led him to believe that he should be the prophet's successor.

(5) He promises him that his life shall be spared, though with much difficulty—"given to him as a prey." We cannot tell what afterwards became of him. Tradition varies. There was not much comfort in all this, but rather a "What doest thou here, Elijah?" (1 Kings 19:1-21.).

3. His motives. The leaders of an army must not be weaklings. Those who have stern work to do must themselves be stern. Luther, not Erasmus, must head the Reformation movement. Hence God disciplines his most trusted servants by very severe methods. Even our Lord, "He learned obedience by the things that he suffered;" "He was made perfect through sufferings."

4. His success. That which he purposes is ever done. Baruch here, as Mark afterwards, was reheartened and did good service again.

II. CONCERNING THE PROPHETIC WORK. Demands self-denial, involves much suffering, and has much sorrow in it. No wonder that in ancient days men shrank from the pastoral office. "Nolo episcopari" meant something then. Are any thinking of it? Count the cost. Are any in it? Let them, as they need, seek daily strength from God.

"Chief Shepherd of thy chosen sheep,

From sin and death set free,

May every under shepherd keep

His eye intent on thee."

Let those not so charged of the Lord pray for those that are.


1. There is much that is delightful in them. Their ardour, their zeal, their affection. Elisha to Elijah, Timotheus to Paul, so here Baruch to Jeremiah.

2. But they are apt to be discouraged and desponding. They need enduring power. Melancthon thought he should soon convert men to the truth. But Luther tolls how the old Adam was soon found to be too hard for the young Melancthon.

3. Let them submit cheerfully to the methods of discipline God has appointed for them, and be on their guard against all self-seeking ambition.

4. And they are to remember that, though their life be given to them, it shall be "as a prey." They wilt have to watch, to toil, to contend, to struggle, even for that.

"The Son of God goes forth to war …

Who follows in his train?"


Jeremiah 45:5

Ambition prohibited.

"Seekest thou great things," etc.? God searches the heart, and probably discovered that, lurking secretly there, there was somewhat of an unhallowed ambition. Had he been other than one of God's chosen messengers, such ambition would have been natural and reasonable (cf. former homily). God does not directly charge him with this, but sets him on self-examination. This ever the Divine method. Are we seeking great things for ourselves? If we are, God says to us, "Seek them not." And the reasons are many. Some of them are such as these—

I. We cannot tell whether they are designed for us. If they are not, they will bring us only misery; cf. David in Saul's armour. If they are, they will come without our seeking.

II. To make ourselves our supreme object is ever wrong, despicable, and in the end ruinous. The corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die, give up its own life. If it do not, it abideth alone; if it do, it bringeth forth fruit. "He that loveth his life shall lose it, but he," etc. (John 12:1-50.).

III. Great things mean great responsibilities and terrible possibilities of great guilt and harm done to others and ourselves.

IV. Whilst seeking them, we let go what is more precious than them all. "Whilst I was busy here and there, lo, he was gone."

V. They tend to tie us down to earth and to fill our hearts with that love of the world which is death. "Ah! Davie, Davie," said Johnson to Garrick, as they wandered through the beautiful demesne of a great nobleman, "these are the things that make it so hard for a man to die." A similar story is told of Cardinal Richelieu, who caused himself, when near death, to be borne into his magnificent picture gallery, and there is reported to have made, to one near him, a like remark.—C.


Jeremiah 45:1-5

Counsel and comfort for the man overcome with bad tidings.

I. CONSIDER THE EFFECT ON BARUCH'S OWN MIND OF WHAT HE HAD HAD TO WRITE. Baruch came in simply to be a scribe and transmitter. Seemingly a friend of Jeremiah, he must have been in considerable sympathy with the prophet in his purposes and predictions. Doubtless he had made himself acquainted with each prophetic utterance as it came forth from Jehovah. But he had never had them all before his mind at one time, as now became necessary, through his having to write them down. Hence we have here an illustration of how more is required than the mere utterance of a word of God in order to produce a deep effect from it. A man may think he understands and receives it, and yet the understanding and reception may be far from what they ought to be. Not till Jeremiah's prophecies stand before Baruch in one mass does he fully discern the trouble coming on his people. Jehovah has spoken many times, and always in the same way, against the wicked and their wickedness. And so we see how important it is to get the impression, not only of successive parts of God's words, but of that Word as a whole. Moreover, if Baruch was oppressed by the consistent mass of threatening, it is equally possible for us to be uplifted and strengthened by a consistent mass of promises and encouragements. We shall ever find in the Scriptures that which we look for and prepare ourselves to find.

II. SOME INDICATION OF BARUCH'S OWN CHARACTER. Baruch seems to have been not exactly what we should call an ambitious man, but still one who wanted to get on in the world. Perhaps he had a position which made it reasonable for him to expect influence and authority. But what can a man of this sort look for in a state rapidly declining to its fall? Baruch had to learn all at once that he must seek for such things as God would have him seek for. Thus we see God combining a lesson for the individual with the message for the nation. Baruch could hardly have been the only man competent to act as a scribe, but God, in taking him, took one who needed correction, needed to have his purposes turned into a more submissive way and a less self-seeking one.

III. TEMPORAL BLESSINGS MUST DEPEND UPON CIRCUMSTANCES. There had been times in the Jewish state when Baruch might have been a very useful man in some high position. But every man must accept the conditions of the time in which he lives. At one time the great temporal blessings may be those of attainment, at another those of escape. And so, to some extent, it is in spiritual things. There are times when what Christ does for us puts on the aspect of salvation; we are glad because of the great evils from which we are delivered. There arc other times when we are not contented with merely thinking of deliverance; we want something positive—growth, fruitfulness, perfection. Then we are seeking great things spiritually—things which are always to be sought. And we may add they are always to be found, however adverse temporal conditions may be.—Y.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Jeremiah 45". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/jeremiah-45.html. 1897.
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