1. Son of Zabbai or Zaccai, who took part in strengthening the wall of Jerusalem in the time of Nehemiah (Neh. iii. 20).
2. A priest who signed the covenant with Nehemiah (Neh. x. 7).
3. A Judahite whose son Maaseiah was a resident of Jerusalem (Neh. xi 5).
The disciple, secretary, and devoted friend of the prophet Jeremiah. He was a son of Neriah, and brother of Seraiah, King Zedekiah's chamberlain (Jer. li. 59), and, according to Josephus ("Ant." x. 9, § 1), a member of a very distinguished family. That he had ambitions which he had reason for believing he was capable of realizing is suggested by Jeremiah's solemn warning, uttered during the fourth year of Jehoiakim, when Baruch was deciding upon his life-work: "Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not" (Jer. xlv. 5). To the teachings and ideals of the great prophet he remained true, although like his master he was at times almost overwhelmed with despondency. He it was who wrote down the first and second editions of Jeremiah's prophecies as they were dictated to him by the prophet (Jer. xxxvi.). The supreme test came when he was commanded by his master to read to the people gathered in the temple on a fast day certain of the prophecies of warning (Jer. xxxvi. 1-8). Jeremiah himself was in concealment to avoid the wrath of the unprincipled Jehoakim, and the task was both difficult and dangerous; but Baruch performed it without flinching. It was probably on this occasion that the prophet gave him the personal message preserved in Jer. xlv. In the final siege of Jerusalem (586
Baruch's prominence, by reason of his intimate association with Jeremiah, led later generations to exalt his reputation still further. To him were attributed two later Jewish books (see
Faithful helper and blood-relation of Jeremiah. Both Baruch and Jeremiah being priests and descendants of the proselyte Rahab, they served as a humiliating example to their contemporaries, inasmuch as they belong to the few who harkened to the word of God (Sifre, Num. 78 [ed. Friedmann, p. 20b], and elsewhere; compare also Pesiḳta xiii. 3b). Baruch is identical with the Ethiopian Ebed-melech, who rescued Jeremiah from the dungeon (Jer. xxxviii. 7 et seq.); and he received his appellation because of his piety, which contrasted with the loose life of the court, as the skin of an Ethiopian contrasts with that of a white person (Sifre, Num. 99). As his piety might have prevented the destruction of the Temple, God commanded him to leave Jerusalem before the catastrophe, so as to remove his protective presence (Syriac Apoc. Baruch, ii. 1, v. 5). Baruch then saw, from Abraham's oak at Hebron, the Temple set on fire by angels, who previously had hidden the sacred vessels (ib. vi. vii.).Counted Among the Prophets.
The Tannaim are much divided on the question whether Baruch is to be classed among the Prophets. According to Mekita (Bo, end of the introduction), Baruch complained (Jer. xlv. 3 et seq.) becausethe gift of prophecy had not been given to him. "Why," he said, "is my fate different from that of all the other disciples of the Prophets? Joshua served Moses, and the Holy Spirit rested upon him; Elisha served Elijah, and the Holy Spirit rested upon him. Why is it otherwise with me?" God answered him: "Baruch, of what avail is a hedge where there is no vineyard, or a shepherd where there are no sheep?" Baruch, therefore, found consolation in the fact that when Israel was exiled to Babylonia there was no longer occasion for prophecy. The "Seder 'Olam" (xx.), however, and the Talmud (Meg. 14b), include Baruch among the Prophets, and state that he prophesied in the period following the destruction. It was in Babylonia also that Ezra studied the Torah with Baruch. Nor did he think of returning to Palestine during his teacher's lifetime, since he considered the study of the Torah more important than the rebuilding of the Temple (Meg. 16b); and Baruch could not join the returning exiles by reason of his age (Cant. R. v. 5; see also Seder 'Olam, ed. Ratner, xxvi.).Baruch's Grave.
Baruch's grave became the subject of later legends. An Arabian king once ordered it to be opened; but all who touched it fell dead. The king thereupon commanded the Jews to open it; and they, after preparing themselves by a three days' fast, succeeded without a mishap. Baruch's body was found intact in a marble coffin, and appeared as if he had just died. The king ordered that it should be transported to another place; but, after having dragged the coffin a little distance, the horses and camels were unable to move it another inch. The king, greatly excited by these wonders, went with his retinue to Mohammed to ask his advice. Arrived at Mecca, his doubts of the truth of the teachings of Islam greatly increased, and he and his courtiers finally accepted Judaism. The king then built a "bet ha-midrash" on the spot from which he had been unable to move Baruch's body; and this academy served for a long time as a place of pilgrimage.
Baruch's tomb is a mile distant from that of Ezekiel, near Mashhad 'Ali; and a strange plant, the leaves of which are sprinkled with gold dust, grows on it ("Gelilot Ereẓ Yisrael," as quoted in Heilprin's "Seder ha-Dorot," ed. Wilna, i. 127, 128; variant in "Itinerary" of Pethahiah of Regensburg, ed. Jerusalem, 4b). According to the Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch, he was translated to paradise in his mortal body (xiii., xxv.). The same is stated in "Derek Ereẓ Zuṭṭa" (i.) of Ebed-Melech, and since, as shown above, Baruch and Ebed-melech were held to be identical, the deduction is evident.
The Arabic-Christian legends identify Baruch with Zoroaster, and give much information concerning him. Baruch, angry because the gift of prophecy had been denied him, and on account of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, left Palestine to found the religion of Zoroaster. The prophecy of the birth of Jesus from a virgin, and of his adoration by the Magi, is also ascribed to Baruch-Zoroaster (compare the complete collection of these legends in Gottheil, in "Classical Studies in Honor of H. Drisler," pp. 24-51, New York, 1894; Jackson, "Zoroaster," pp. 17, 165 et seq.). It is difficult to explain the origin of this curious identification of a prophet with a magician, such as Zoroaster was held to be, among the Jews, Christians, and Arabs. De Sacy ("Notices et Extraits des MSS. de la Bibliothèque du Roi," ii. 319) explains it on the ground that in Arabic the name of the prophet Jeremiah is almost identical with that of the city of Urmiah, where, it is said, Zoroaster lived. However this may be, the Jewish legend mentioned above (under Baruch in Rabbinical Literature), according to which the Ethiopian in Jer. xxxviii. 7 is undoubtedly identical with Baruch, is connected with this Arabic-Christian legend. As early as the Clementine "Recognitiones" (iv. 27), Zoroaster was believed to be a descendant of Ham; and, according to Gen. x. 6, Cush, the Ethiopian, is a son of Ham. It should furthermore be remembered that, according to the "Recognitiones" iv. 28), the Persians believed that Zoroaster had been taken into heaven in a chariot ("ad cœlum vehiculo sublevatum"); and according to the Jewish legend, the above-mentioned Ethiopian was transported alive into paradise ("Derek Ereẓ Zuṭṭa," i. end), an occurrence that, like the translation of Elijah (II Kings ii. 11), must have taken place by means of a "vehiculum." Another reminiscence of the Jewish legend is found in Baruch-Zoroaster's words concerning Jesus: "He shall descend from my family" ("Book of the Bee," ed. Budge, p. 90, line 5, London, 1886), since, according to the Haggadah, Baruch was a priest; and Maria, the mother of Jesus, was of priestly family. Compare Ebed-Melech in Rabbinical Literature.