On the Structure of 2 Baruch

During my period of studying the Eagle Vision of 4 Ezra (pages of notes are here), I became interested in the subject of the structure of the pseudepigraphic work 2 Baruch. Most commentators present various similarities between 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch, one of these similarities being a sevenfold structure. This has become almost a given and is at least commonplace. Note the utter lack of discussion in the fullest treatment to date on the subject, where Frederick James Murphy simply states “I have accepted the common division of [2 Baruch] into seven parts” (Structure, 12). Michael Stone states “The book falls into seven distinct sections, each separated by a fast” (Writings, 409), but then also states “New divisions commence at 5:7, 9, 12:5, 21, 35, 47. Following chap. 35 a fast is not mentioned” (Writings, 409 n. 144). It appears that the undue emphasis on fasting as section marker in 2 Baruch comes solely from the perception of fasting as a section marker in 4 Ezra. There, fasting is sometimes part of the preparation for a coming vision: 4Ezra 5.20 in preparation for the second vision; 6.35 before the third vision; 9.23-24, 26 seven days without a fast before the fourth vision; 10.59, 11.1 on the second night is the fifth vision; 12.51 seven days of fasting on flowers until the sixth vision; 13.1 seven days until seventh vision. Note that there is no fasting involved in preparation for the first, fourth, fifth and seventh visions. Thus it is clearly not even the majority usage in 4 Ezra that fasting (seven days of it or not) is an indicator for a section break. Much less is it so in the case of 2 Baruch. In fact, rather than take the (seven days of) fasting as an unproven though convenient literary device used to separate sections of a work, it would be better to understand the fasting indicated as an integral part of religious practice held in common in the culture of the writers of the two separate books. We see fasting utilized in times of both lamentation (2Bar 5.7; 9.2; 12.5; 4Ezra 5.20; 6.35; 10.4) and in sanctification (2Bar 21.1; 47.2; 4Ezra 6.31-32) in both texts. Thus we should rely on other factors than simply the mention of fasting in 2 Baruch in order to determine the structure of the book.

The notes below are intended to present my own understanding of the structure of 2 Baruch. In order to determine the section headings, I’ve variously paid attention to the visions and dialogues, and also those separators of time or place that are generally so used in storytelling. In the end, I find a separation into sections by the time/place indicators to be more natural in reading/hearing the book than a separation into visions and/or dialogues. This progession toward that conclusion is presented fully here.


1-2 Lord to Baruch: I will destroy Jerusalem
3 Baruch to Lord
4 Lord to Baruch: the Real Jerusalem is with Him
5.1 Baruch to Lord
5.2-4 Lord to Baruch
5.5-7 Baruch et al. fast all night
6.1-9 Chaldean siege. Angels set at wall. Angel hides Temple items.
7.1-8.5 Angels break down walls. City taken.
9 Baruch and Jeremiah fast seven days
10.1-5 Word of God comes to Baruch, to tell Jeremiah to go support the captives to Babylon
10.6-19 Baruch’s Lamentation
11.1-3 Baruch’s address to Babylon
11.4-7 Baruch to Lord: the dead are happier
12.1-4 Address to the Land
12.5 After saying those things, Baruch fasts seven days
13 Voice to Baruch: Nations will be judged
14 Baruch to Lord: What good comes of the righteous?
15 Lord to Baruch: The world and that to come are for the righteous
16 Baruch to Lord: Time is short
17 Lord to Baruch: Time is irrelevant to God. Examples of Adam and Moses.
18 Baruch to Lord: Many followed Adam after Moses taught them.
19-20 Lord to Baruch: Law and Lord judge. End comes quickly
21 Baruch fasts seven days. Baruch’s prayer: hurry the end.
22 Lord to Baruch: End comes in time
23.1 Baruch to Lord: No.
23.2-7 Lord to Baruch: Resurrection comes after all have lived.
24.1-2 Lord to Baruch: The Judgment
24.3-4 Baruch to Lord: Wants to know the fate of “our enemies”
25 Lord to Baruch: Trouble and horror will befall them
26 Baruch to Lord: How long will it last?

27 Lord to Baruch: Twelve parts to the time of troubles:

1.) the beginning of commotions

2.) the slaughtering of the great

3.) the fall of many into death

4.) the drawing of the sword

5.) famine and drought

6.) earthquakes and terrors

7.) [missing]

8.) ghosts and demons appear

9.) fall of fire

10.) rape and much violence

11.) injustice and unchastity

12.) disorder and mixture of all the previous

28.1-2 Lord to Baruch: It’s be in two parts: “weeks of seven weeks” [Perhaps the first “weeks” in the phrase was dual in the Hebrew original? The implication is, in any case, two groups of seven weeks or forty-nine days, as the text stands.]
28.3-7 Baruch to Lord: Where will the troubles be and will the righteous care?
29 Lord to Baruch: The Land protected and superabundant [very millennarian!]
30 Anointed One comes, Resurrection occurs
31-34 Baruch addresses the People
31.1-2 The people are assembled in the Kidron Valley
31.3-5 Baruch to the People: City about to be destroyed
32.1-6 Obey the Law and be protected. The “building of Zion” (the Temple) will be shaken and rebuilt, but not remain. It’ll be uprooted a second time, and desolate. After that it will be renewed in glory and last forever.
32.7-9 Baruch leaves for a while. The People lament his leaving.
33 People remind Baruch of Jeremiah’s commission for him to watch over them
34 Baruch tells them he’s going to the Holy of Holies to seek help for them from God.
35 Baruch’s prayer “O that my eyes were springs….”
36-37 Vision of the Cedar and the Vine
38 Baruch prays for interpretation [Note that interpretation is given only to those who obey the Law. Quite Essene.]

39-40 Interpretation of the Vision:

Four kingdoms, beginning with the one that destroyed Zion [Babylonian], fourth one worse that others [Rome], reigning a long time (the many trees).

Dominion of the Anointed One = the fountain and the vine. The last great cedar is the last ruler, captured, convicted and killed by the Anointed One, whose reign will last forever.

41 Baruch to Lord: What about apostates and proselytes?
42-43 Lord to Baruch: Former lives of those are “like mountains” (=like the mountains in the vision, washed away?), with time of obedience factored in. Baruch exhorted, told to fast seven days.
44-47 Baruch addresses the People
44-45 Baruch to a group of friends, son, and elders: admonish the People to keep the Law
46.1-3 Son and elders lament loss of interpreter of Law
46.4-6 Baruch exhorts them to obey the Law and they won’t lack interpreters
46.7 Aside from Baruch: he will be taken up, not just die.
47 Baruch goes to Hebron, fasts seven days
48.1-25 Baruch’s prayer, “O Lord, you summon the coming of the times….”
48.26-41 Lord to Baruch: Punishment comes on the wicked
48.42-49.3 Baruch to Lord: What of the righteous and their form then?
50 Lord to Baruch: the resurrection is to former bodies
51 In Judgment, the bodies are changed: righteous like angels and wicked into horrible shapes
52 Baruch: Prepare selves now for reward, enjoy selves in suffering. Falls asleep.
53 Black and Bright Rain: twelve times, with the black more/longer thatn the bright water rains
54 Baruch prays for the interpretation

55-76 Interpretation of the Vision

55 Ramael sent to Baruch with the interpretation

56 The first black waters: Adam’s transgression

57 Second bright waters: Abraham and his generation

58 Third black waters: wickedness in Egypt

59 Fourth bright waters: Aaron and Moses

60 Fifth black waters: Amorites

61 Sixth bright waters: David and Solomon

62 Seventh black waters: Jeroboam and kings of Israel, Jezebel [Northern Kingdom]

63 Eighth bright waters: Hezekiah

64-65 Ninth black waters: Manasseh

66 Tenth bright waters: Josiah

67 Eleventh black waters: Destruction and Captivity

68 Twelfth bright waters: Zion rebuilt

69-71 Last blackest waters: Wickedness at end of age; righteous escape to Holy Land, to Anointed One

72 Last bright waters: Those nations called by the Anointed One

73-74 Kingdom of the Anointed One

75 Baruch’s prayer of praise: “Who can equal your goodness, O Lord?”

76 Lord to Baruch: Instruct the People. Prepare to have vision of world and to go in forty days

77.1-10 Baruch to People: punishment on nation was for not obeying the Law
77.11-14 People ask Baruch to write letter to exiles in Babylon
77.15-26 Baruch agrees, writes two letters: one to Babylon, delivered by men [=1Baruch], one to the nine and a half tribes [see below, 78-86] to be delivered by an eagle

78-86 The Letter of Baruch to the Nine and a Half Tribes

78.1 Title of the letter

78.2 Address

78.3-7 Kinship in captivity and troubles

79-80 What happened in Zion

81-82 Vengeance to come upon the enemies

83-85 Time is coming; obey in preparation of judgment

86 Epistolary postscript to share the letter, remember the sender

87 Baruch sends the letter by the eagle


1.) Sections in this book appear to be composed of a prayer of Baruch, followed by a vision (auditory or visual), except for the initiation of the series by a Word of the Lord in chs 1-2. Note:

a.) 10-12, Baruch’s lamentation, etc, followed by voice on Mt. Zion in 13, initiating dialogue btw Baruch and Lord

b.) 21, Baruch’s prayer followed by voice in 22 and dialogue

c.) 35, Baruch’s prayer/lament, followed by 36, vision of Cedar and Vine

d.) Baruch’s prayer in 48-49, answered in 50-51, followed by waters vision in 53

e.) Baruch’s prayer in 54 is followed by waters vision interpretation in 55-76
(d and e are a bit different in that there’s not a clear prayer immediately before 53, indicating the interplay of other elements, like place or waking state change, as potential sectional indicators)

2.) Fasting alone is insufficient as an indicator of the sections, as it only occurs in 5.7, 9.2, 12.5, 21.1, and 47.2.

3.) Location and other changes:

5.5-7: Baruch, friends, and nobles go to Valley of Kidron, lament and fast

8.3: Baruch “went away”

9.1-2: Baruch and Jeremiah fast seven days

10.1: Word of God comes to Baruch after seven days

12.5: Baruch fasts for seven days

13: Voice from above Mt. Zion

21.1: Baruch goes to cave in Kidron, fasts seven days

31.1: Goes to tell the people

34.1/35.1: Goes to Holy Place

36.1: Falls asleep, sees Cedar and Vine vision

37.1: Awakes

44.1: Goes to speak to people

47.2: Goes to Hebron, fasts seven days

48.1, 25: Prayer after seven days; becomes weak just before response

52.7: Falls asleep, waters vision follows

53.12: Awakes

55.1: Sits under a tree

77.1: Goes to the people

77.18: Sits under “the oak” [the oak of Mamre?]



Following indications of both dialogue and visions, this seems to be the general structure:

1.) 1-8 Jerusalem’s Destruction

2.) 9-20 First Dialogue

3.) 21-30 Second Dialogue

4.) 31-34 First Address to the People

5.) 35-43 First Vision (35-40) / Third Dialogue (41-43)

6.) 44-47 Second Address to the People

7.) 48-76 Fourth Dialogue (48-52) / Second Vision (53-76)

8.) 77 Third Address to the People

9.) 78-86 Epistle of Baruch

10.) 87 Sending the Epistle


Part 5, the First Vision/Third Dialogue, chapters 35-43, I retain in one unit
as the material of the Third Dialogue is so related to the vision and interpretation.

For 7, the Fourth Dialogue/Second Vision, chapters 48-76, there is the odd chapter 52, seemingly a combination prayer and address to the people, immediately followed by “And when I had said this I fell asleep there (52.7). (53.1) And I saw a vision. And behold….” Although the transition is abrupt, the link between sleep and vision is clear. This ties the previous dialogue to the vision. The vision is obviously tied to its interpretation in the following chapters, as well, in this: (53.12) “And because of my fear I awoke. (54.1) And I asked the Mighty One and said….” Again, awkward but the link is there.

However, it is also acceptable to separate the sections 5 and 7 to yield the following:
1.) 1-8 Jerusalem’s Destruction
2.) 9-20 First Dialogue
3.) 21-30 Second Dialogue
4.) 31-34 First Address to the People
5.) 35-40 First Vision
6.) 41-43 Third Dialogue
7.) 44-47 Second Address to the People
8.) 48-52 Fourth Dialogue
9.) 53-76 Second Vision
10.) 77 Third Address to the People
11.) 78-86 Epistle of Baruch
12.) 87 Sending the Epistle

Such a sectioning, however descriptive it is of the contents, which it surely is, still doesn’t scan well in reading the text. For the sectioning that I hold to be the easiest “heard” in the text, see the outline in section Time and Place below.


Charles (APOT 2.474) provides the following outline based on the fasting connection, but excluding the Epistle:
1.) 1-5.6
2.) 5.7-8
3.) 9-12
4.) 12.5-20
5.) 21-35
6.) 36-46
7.) 47-77

Charles’ arrangement yields highly disproportionate sections, which is one of the reasons I don’t hold to the fasting as being a good indicator of new sections.

Murphy provides this outline:
1.) 1.1-9.2 [Destruction of the city]
2.) 10.1-20.6 God to Baruch
3.) 21.1-34.1 Baruch to elders
4.) 35.1-47.1 Baruch to his son, friends, and seven elders
5.) 47.2-52.7 Baruch to the righteous
6.) 53.1-77.17 Baruch to the people, “from the greatest to the least”
7.) 77.18-87.1 All of Jewry

Murphy sees the five central sections as all composed of a prayer/lament of Baruch, followed by a dialogue with God, followed by an address (either of Baruch to the people or God to Baruch) (Murphy 11-13). Murphy’s scheme is identical to that of Thompson, except for joining the lament of Baruch to the second section, following Violet (Murphy, 11).

Klijn in OTP provides the following sectioning. Note that he does not subscribe to the presumed necessity of fitting the material into a sevenfold structure. (His descriptions of the sections are too long to include here):
1.) 1.1-8.5
2.) 9.1-12.4
3.) 12.5-20.4
4.) 20.5-30.5
5.) 31.1-34.1
6.) 35.1-43.3
7.) 44.1-46.7
8.) 47.1-48.50
9.) 49.1-52.7
10.) 53.1-74.4
11.) 75.1-77.26
12.) 78.1-87.1

Charlesworth in ABD provides the following sevenfold organization:
1.) 1-12: The destruction of Jerusalem
2.) 13-20: The impeding judgment
3.) 21-34: Retribution and the Messianic era
4.) 35-46: Baruch’s lament and an allegory of the vine and the cedar
5.) 47-52: The endtime, the resurrected body, paradise
6.) 53-76: Baruch’s vision of a cloud
7.) 77-87: The Epistle of Baruch

Collins (Apocalyptic Imagination, 213) uses the fasting and the addresses to the people to yield seven sections:
1.) 1.1-9.2
2.) 10.1-12.5
3.) 13.1-20.6
4.) 21.1-34.1
5.) 35.1-47.2
6.) 48.1-77.26
7.) 78.1 to end [87.1]

Collins’ scheme cuts across the prayer-dialogue join between 12 and 13 on. Collins appears also to be affected by focusing on similarities to the far more clearly organized 4 Ezra.

The problem with sectioning this book is that the transtions are varied. The seven day fasts are not the only indicators of transition. Sometimes movement is. Commentators are not in agreement or inconsistent as well, which only highlights how complex the problem is. Perhaps a broader understanding of organization is the only resolution to dealing with what actually appears to be a sloppily constructed work at first glance. The fact that we have only one manuscript of the apocalypse is not doubt a factor. In common to all of the above is the unwarranted separation between chapters 52 and 53, which as I noted above are clearly tied together by Baruch falling asleep in 52, and having the vision beginning in 53. Chapter 52 seems to be actually an address to the people, but in the current form of the text is an answer to the Lord’s previous address. That is such a vague sectional transition that I don’t think it would be heard as such, but rather as a continuation of a visionary episode, first auditory, then visual. For this reason, I’d rather not place a separation there, and have made a section of 48-76, which is lengthy, but obviously necessary:
47: Baruch goes to Hebron, fasts seven days
48-52: Baruch’s prayer; dialogue with Lord
53: Vision of waters
54: Prayer of Baruch for interpretation of vision
55-76: Interpretation


My outline of the book as given below is based on a combination of the time and place indicators in the narrative sections of the book, as these are the clearest indicators of the framework upon which the various visions and dialogues are hung by the author, and, I also think, would be the clearest indicators of points of change to an audience.

1.) 1-5 begins with: “And it happened in the twenty-fifth year of Jeconiah…” [beginning of book]
ends with: “And we sat there and fasted until the evening”

2.) 6-9 beg: “Now it happened the following day”
end: “…and fasted for seven days”

3.) 10-12 beg: “And it happened after seven days”
end: “I fasted for seven days”

4.) 13-20 beg: “And after these things, it happened”
end: “…and will not tarry.”

5.) 21-30 beg: “I went from there and sat”
end: “…and that their predictions have arrived.”

6.) 31-34 beg: “And it happened after these things”
end: “…I shall return to you.”

7.) 35-43 beg: “And I, Baruch, went from there…”
end: “…fast seven days. And then I shall come and speak to you.”

8.) 44-47 beg: “And I, Baruch, went from there”
end: “…and I sat there and fasted seven days.”

9.) 48-76 beg: “And it happened after seven days”
end: “…they live in the end times.”

10.) 77-87 beg: “And I, Baruch, went away from there”
end: “The end of the letter of Baruch, the son of Neriah” [end of book]


That, I think is the overall structure of the book of 2 Baruch. Notice the clear indicators of a shift in either time or place which are involved at all the sectional junctions. Not only do they function to mark change, but by their nature are usually tied to the former section. What seems a messily compiled and poorly organized book can be seen with this outline to actually be quite well and sensibly structured, relying on simple narrative methods of storytelling in order to switch to the next cycle of narrative setting, prayer/lament, vision, and dialogue/address.


Charles, R. H. “2 Baruch, or The Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch” in Charles, R. H. ed., Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament. 2 vols. Oxford, 1913.

Charlesworth, James H. “Baruch, Book of 2 (Syriac)” in Freedman, David N. ed., Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

Collins, John J. The Apocalyptic Imagination. 2d ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1998.

Klijn, A. F. J. “2 (Syriac Apocalypse of) Baruch” in Charlesworth, James H. ed., Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1983, 1985.

Murphy, Frederick James. The Structure and Meaning of Second Baruch. SBLDS 78. Atlanta, Georgia: Scholars Press, 1985.

Stone, M. E., “Apocalyptic Literature” in Stone, M. E. ed. Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984.