Egypt is a beautiful civilised place. I had always imagined that I would either die in Jerusalem or be carried off with the rest of my people to Babylon. I had long been told by Yahweh that the core of my people would grow and prosper in Babylon. I had sent them word again and again that they would be safe there, should settle down, marry, trade, learn. It is an utter blessing that my Baruch is a scribe. How simple that made these long-distance conversations.
I had seen other things too – that Baruch, younger than I, would live a long and peaceful life, travelling where he chose, always protected by Yahweh, and that this was a reward. Yahweh was right, that was exactly the reward I would have chosen for my service. He had also shown me something of what it had cost him to destroy Judah, which had been his own work. I had a glimpse into his pain, and did not fully understand, only wondered. It made my own suffering easier to accept, and his promises easier to believe, that life in Babylon would be for the good of the people.
But I did not end up in Babylon. I ended, with a tiny dissolute rump, in Egypt. It should have been a time of horror. Egypt is a place of exile, of slavery. It was not terrible. It was a time of peace. Although I continued to try and call them to obey the will of Yahweh, and continued to fail, I knew we were safe.
I had word from Babylon that my people there were beginning to turn to Yahweh. To learn from what had happened, and to gather themselves for that return to their home, to Jerusalem, which I was sure would follow one day. I had utter confidence that when they had learned enough they would go to Jerusalem, and there it would indeed become true that they would learn how to worship Yahweh with their hearts and lives, offering the truest worship of a life well lived, of justice and – well, frankly if you do not know the rest by now …
One day I suggested to Baruch that we might go to Babylon and see the people there. We were sitting under a date palm with a small jar of wine, and a loaf of bread. He had been singing to me. He has a beautiful voice. He looked down at me as I lolled in the shade. ‘Let us stay here, where Yahweh has brought us,’ he said gently, ‘Let us enjoy the peace.’