Bar 5:1 Put off, O Jerusalem, the garment of thy mourning, and affliction: and put on the beauty, and honour of that everlasting glory which thou hast from God.
Put off, O Jerusalem. Earlier in the book Jerusalem was personified as a mother mourning for her exiled children: For she saw the wrath of God coming upon you, and she said: Give ear, all you that dwell near Sion, for God hath brought upon me great mourning: For I have seen the captivity of my people, of my sons, and my daughters, which the Eternal hath brought upon them. For I nourished them with joy: but I sent them away with weeping and mourning (Bar 4:9-11). It was a common practice of the time to put on simple clothing for the act of mourning (Joel 1:13), and this Mother Jerusalem did: I have put off the robe of peace, and have put upon me the sackcloth of supplication, and I will cry to the most High in my days (Bar 4:20).
And put on the beauty, and honor of that everlasting glory. A change of clothing (“and put on”) meant a change in status, and in the Bible often signifies divine blessings. Joseph’s status (for example) is closely associated with clothing. His status as his father’s favorite was symbolized by a tunic (Gen 37:3-4). His jealous brother’s stripped him of the tunic when they sought to rid themselves of him (Gen 37:23). Later, Pharaoh showed him favor by placing him in charge of all Egypt and bestowing upon him a fine linen robe (Gen 41:39-42). All of this related to the divine plan (Gen 45:4-5). The long naked Gerasene demoniac was found fully clothed after being healed by Jesus (Luke 8:26-39, esp. verse 35). The repentant son in the Parable of the Prodigal is clothed with his father’s finest robe (Luke 15:11-32, esp. verse 22). See also Revelation 3:4-5, Gal 3:27; Eph 4:24, Eph 6:11, etc).
Bar 5:2 God will clothe thee with the double garment of justice, and will set a crown on thy head of everlasting honour.
Garment of justice. Reverses the guilt and shame mentioned in their confession of sin: To the Lord our God belongeth justice: but to us, and to our fathers confusion (shame) of face, as at this day (Bar 2:6).
Will set a crown on thy head. Reversing the situation of punishment that resulted because of their sins. The kingdom centered in Jerusalem had fell into abeyance and the children of the kingdom scattered to serve pagan monarchs: And he hath delivered them up to be under the hand of all the kings that are round about us, to be a reproach, and desolation among all the people, among whom the Lord hath scattered us (Bar 2:4).
Bar 5:3 For God will shew his brightness in thee, to every one under heaven.
God will shew His brightness in thee. His salvation.
To every one under heaven. Those Gentile peoples who were bidden by Mother Jerusalem to witness the exile (Bar 4:14) are now called upon to witness its end. For as the neighbours of Sion have now seen your captivity from God: so shall they also shortly see your salvation from God, which shall come upon you with great honour, and everlasting glory (Bar 4:24).
Bar 5:4 For thy name shall be named to thee by God for ever: the peace of justice, and honour of piety.
The repentant, having appealed to the name of God will themselves be given a name: Remember not the iniquities of our fathers, but think upon thy hand, and upon thy name at this time: For thou art the Lord our God, and we will praise thee, O Lord: Because for this end thou hast put thy fear in our hearts, to the intent that we should call upon thy name, and praise thee in our captivity, for we are converted from the iniquity of our fathers, who sinned before thee (Bar 3:5-7).
Like clothing, a new name indicates a change in status (Gen 17:5; Matt 16:17-19; Isa 62:2; Rev 2:17, etc.). “The conferring of a name in a context such as the present one involves not only the giving of the name, but the bestowal of the attributes indicated” (Jerome Biblical Commentary 37:20).
Bar 5:5 Arise, O Jerusalem, and stand on high: and look about towards the east, and behold thy children gathered together from the rising to the setting sun, by the word of the Holy One rejoicing in the remembrance of God.
Arise…stand on high. A reversal of their exile: And we are brought low, and are not raised up: because we have sinned against the Lord our God, by not obeying his voice (Bar 2:5).
And behold thy children gathered together. Mother Jerusalem, who saw the captivity of her children (Bar 4:10) is bidden to witness their being gathered together, reversing the punishment of exile and bring the relief for which they had prayed (Bar 2:4, Bar 2:13).
Bar 5:6 For they went out from thee on foot, led by the enemies: but the Lord will bring them to thee exalted with honour as children of the kingdom.
Some translations, such as the RSV and NAB speak of the return in this fashion: “but God will bring them back to you, carried in glory, as on a royal throne, ” thus emphasizing the contrast and reversal of their situation: led out on foot by enemies, carried back on thrones by God.
Bar 5:7 For God hath appointed to bring down every high mountain, and the everlasting rocks, and to fill up the valleys to make them even with the ground: that Israel may walk diligently to the honour of God.
See Isaiah 40:3-4 and Luke 3:4-6 (part of today’s Gospel reading). A kingly people carried on thrones deserves a king’s welcome. In ancient times, when a king or royal figure was traveling to a city in the kingdom, it was expected that the roads be put into good repair before his arrival, such is the underlying imagery here. God has decreed that all the obstacles for his people’s return be removed. High mountains were often an image of (or associated with) arrogance and opposition to God (Jer 51:24-25; Zech 4:7; Isa 2:11-15; Isa 37:24), perhaps because they were often associated with pagan worship (Hosea 4:13). Valleys, ravines, etc., also were associated with sin (Isa 57:5; 2 Kings 23:10). It’s not hard to understand how the image came to be associated with repentance; human pride and sin must be brought down before one can return to God.
Bar 5:8 Moreover the woods, and every sweet-smelling tree have overshadowed Israel by the commandment of God.
Like mountains, trees were also a symbol of pride, arrogance (Isa 2:11-15; Isa 10:33-34), and false worship (Isa 1:29; Isa 57:5; Hosea 4:13; 1 Kings 14:23; 2 Kings 16:4). Here they serve God for the sake of his people
Bar 5:9 For God will bring Israel with joy in the light of his majesty, with mercy, and justice, that cometh from him.
God will bring Israel with joy. Thus is reversed the prophecy of Jeremiah 7:34 which was quoted in Baruch 2:23: And I will take away from you the voice of mirth, and the voice of joy, and the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, and all the land shall be without any footstep of inhabitants. God’s punishment having had it desired effect-opening his people to the grace of repentance-God’s mercy now comes to the fore.