Jeremiah 51
Pulpit Commentary
Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will raise up against Babylon, and against them that dwell in the midst of them that rise up against me, a destroying wind;
Verse 1. - Against them that dwell in the midst of them that rise up against me. The Hebrew has leb-kamai, which is Kasdim, or Chaldea, written in the cypher called Athbash (see on Jeremiah 25:26); just as Sheshach in ver. 41 is equivalent to Babel. The question arises whether the prophet himself is responsible for this covert way of writing, or a scribe in later times (so Ewald). In favour of the former view it may be urged that Babylon and Chaldea receive symbolic names (though not in Athbash) in the connected chapter (Jeremiah 50:21, 31, 32); in favour of the latter, that the Septuagint has Ξαλδαίους in ver. 1, and does not express Sheshach in ver. 41, also that the clause to which Sheshach belongs in Jeremiah 25:26 is of very dubious genuineness. A destroying wind; rather, the spirit (ruakh) of a destroyer (or perhaps, of destruction). The verb rendered in this verse "raise up," when used in connection with ruakh, always means "to excite the spirit of any one" (ver. 11; Haggai 1:14; 1 Chronicles 5:26).
And will send unto Babylon fanners, that shall fan her, and shall empty her land: for in the day of trouble they shall be against her round about.
Verse 2. - Farmers. This is supported by the Septuagint, Peshito, Targum, Vulgate, according to the Massoretic pointing, however, we should render "enemies." Possibly the prophet intended to suggest both meanings, a and o being so nearly related. Shall empty her land. The original has a much mere striking word, shall pour out (for the figures, comp. Jeremiah 48:12), which occurs again in similar contexts in Isaiah 24:1; Nahum 2:3 (Hebrew, 2).
Against him that bendeth let the archer bend his bow, and against him that lifteth himself up in his brigandine: and spare ye not her young men; destroy ye utterly all her host.
Verse 3. - Against him that bendeth, etc. There are two readings in the Hebrew Bible - one that given by the Authorized Version; the other, "Against him that bendeth (let) him that bendeth his bow (come)." The difficulty, however, is in the first two words of the clause, which are the same in either reading. It would be much simpler to alter a single point, and render, "Let not the archer bend his bow; and let him not lift himself up in his coat of mail" (for the old word "brigandine," see on Jeremiah 46:4); which might be explained of the Babylonians, on the analogy of Jeremiah 46:6, "Let him not bend his bow, for it will be useless;" but then the second half of the verse hardly suits the first - the prohibitions seem clearly intended to run on in a connected order. On the other hand, the descriptions, "him that bendeth," and "him that lifteth himself up in his brigandine," seem hardly a natural way of putting "the Chaldean army."
Thus the slain shall fall in the land of the Chaldeans, and they that are thrust through in her streets.
Verse 4. - In her streets; i.e. in the streets of Babylon.
For Israel hath not been forsaken, nor Judah of his God, of the LORD of hosts; though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel.
Verses 5-14. - The covenant between Jehovah and Israel is one reason why Babylon must fall; and Babylon's own guilt is another. Hence pity is out of place.

"Here liveth piety where pity ends;
Can any man be guilty more than he
Whose bias with the doom of God contends?"

(Dante, 'Inferno,' 20:28, Cayley.) Flee, therefore, lest ye be involved in Babylon's ruin. For Jehovah's purpose of vengeance cannot be reversed. Verse 5. - Hath not been forsaken. The Hebrew is much more forcible, "is not widowed" - alluding to the fundamental Old Testament idea of a mystic marriage between God and his people (comp. Isaiah 50:1; Isaiah 54:4-6; Hosea 2.). Was filled with sin; rather, with guilt (Hebrew, asham).
Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in her iniquity; for this is the time of the LORD'S vengeance; he will render unto her a recompence.
Babylon hath been a golden cup in the LORD'S hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad.
Verse 7. - Babylon, as the instrument used by God for his judicial purposes, is likened to a wine cup, which "made all the earth drunken" (comp. Jeremiah 25:15, 16); and, more than this, to a golden cup, such was the impression made upon the Jewish prophets, by Babylon's unexampled splendour. (Golden cups were not unknown in Palestine; Jehu sent some to Shalmaneser; Smith, 'Assyrian Canon,' p. 114.) So, in Nebuchadnezzar's vision of the image, the head of the image is of gold (Daniel 2:32, 38). But neither her splendour nor her honourable position as God's minister could save her from merited destruction.
Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed: howl for her; take balm for her pain, if so be she may be healed.
Verse 8. - Destroyed. The Hebrew, more forcibly, has "is broken." The Authorized Version wished, perhaps, to avoid the objection that a golden cup could not, properly speaking, be broken. But if we once begin to harmonize the language of Hebrew poetry, we shall have no end. It is not the cup which falls, but the state, considered as a house (the "breach" of God's people is constantly referred to; e.g. Psalm 60:2; Isaiah 30:26). Howl for her. Sympathetic bystanders are dramatically appealed to. From the next verse it would seem that they are the various foreigners who, whether by choice or force, have been resident in Babylon, and who have acquired an interest in her fate. Hitzig thinks the foreign mercenaries (Jeremiah 50:37) or allies are specially referred to. Take balm for her pain (comp. Jeremiah 8:22; Jeremiah 46:11). The images of fracture and wound are combined, as in Isaiah 30:26.
We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed: forsake her, and let us go every one into his own country: for her judgment reacheth unto heaven, and is lifted up even to the skies.
Verse 9. - We would have healed Babylon. Experience shows that it is useless to attempt to correct such inveterate evils. Everyone into his own country (as Jeremiah 50:16). Her judgment; i.e. her punishment. Perhaps there is an allusion to the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, burned by fire from heaven. But we might also render "her crime" (comp. Deuteronomy 19:6, where "worthy of death" is more strictly "a capital crime").
The LORD hath brought forth our righteousness: come, and let us declare in Zion the work of the LORD our God.
Verse 10. - Our righteousness; literally, our righteousnesses; not in the sense of "righteous deeds "(as in Isaiah 64:6; Judges 5:11), but "those things which prove us to righteous; i.e. by punishing Babylon he hath justified us" (Payne Smith).
Make bright the arrows; gather the shields: the LORD hath raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes: for his device is against Babylon, to destroy it; because it is the vengeance of the LORD, the vengeance of his temple.
Verse 11. - Make bright; rather, polish, so that the arrows may penetrate easily (comp. Isaiah 49:2, "a polished shaft"). Gather the shields; rather, fill the shields (viz. with your arms); i.e. take hold of them. Comp. the phrase, "to fill the hand with the bow" (2 Kings 9:24). The rendering" quivers" is wanting in philological authority, and seems to have been inferred from this passage, where, however, it is unnecessary. The kings of the Medes. The prophet speaks of the Medes and not the Persians (comp. Isaiah 13:17). "The reason, probably, is twofold:

(1) that the name Madai became known to the Jews at an earlier period than Paras, 'Persia;' and

(2) that the generals of Cyrus were apparently Medes (e.g. Mazares and Harpagus, Herod., 1:157, 162)" (Cheyne's 'Prophecies of Isaiah,' 2:275, 276). The new Cyrus inscription throws light on the latter circumstance.
Set up the standard upon the walls of Babylon, make the watch strong, set up the watchmen, prepare the ambushes: for the LORD hath both devised and done that which he spake against the inhabitants of Babylon.
Verse 12. - Upon the walls of Babylon; rather, toward the walls (as Jeremiah 4:6). The "standard" was carried before the army, to show the direction of the march. Make the watch strong. Not merely for the safety of the invaders, but to blockade the city. Comp. the phrase, "Watchers [a synonymous Hebrew word is used] came from a far country" (Jeremiah 4:16); i.e. besiegers. Prepare the ambushes. To press into the city when the besieged have made a sally (as Joshua 8:14-19; Judges 20:33, 37).
O thou that dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures, thine end is come, and the measure of thy covetousness.
Verse 13. - Babylon is addressed as thou that dwellest upon many waters, with reference, not only to the Euphrates, but to the canals, dykes, and marshes which surrounded the city. The measure of thy covetousness. A strange expression, even when we have supplied (and have we a right to do so?) a suitable verb, such as "is full." "Measure" is, literally, ell, "covetousness" should rather be gain, or spoil. Another possible rendering is, "The ell measure of thy cutting off." In fact, the root meaning of the word rendered "gain," or "covetousness," is "to cut off;" and the figure of cutting off a man's half-finished life, like a web from the loom, is familiar to us from the psalm of Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:12; comp. Job 6:9).
The LORD of hosts hath sworn by himself, saying, Surely I will fill thee with men, as with caterpillers; and they shall lift up a shout against thee.
Verse 14. - Surely I will fill thee, etc. This is the rendering of Hitzig and Graf; the enemies are compared to locusts, as in Jeremiah 46:23. But the expression, "to fill a city with men," is more naturally taken of the increase of the population of the city; and it is better to render, with Ewald and Keil, "Even though [or, 'Surely even though'] I have filled thee with men, as with locusts, they shall raise over thee the cheer of the vintage;" i.e. the millions of Babylon's population will not save her from the most utter ruin. For the vintage cheer, see on Jeremiah 25:30; and for the figures, see especially, Isaiah 63:1-6.
He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heaven by his understanding.
Verses 15-19. - Probably interpolated from Jeremiah 10:12-16 (the only verbal difference is in ver. 19, where "Israel" is left out before "the rod of his inheritance"). But may not Jeremiah have quoted himself? Conceivably, yes; but he would surely not have quoted such a passage here, where it spoils the context. For granting that a point of contact with ver. 14 may be found for vers. 15, 16 (Jehovah who has sworn has also the power to accomplish), yet the passage on the idols stands quite by itself, and distracts the attention of the reader.
When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens; and he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth: he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures.
Every man is brutish by his knowledge; every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them.
They are vanity, the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish.
The portion of Jacob is not like them; for he is the former of all things: and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: the LORD of hosts is his name.
Thou art my battle axe and weapons of war: for with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy kingdoms;
Verses 20-26. - Israel is now to be Jehovah's hammer, striking down everything, even the Chaldean colossus. But though Babylon may be as great and as destructive as a volcanic mountain, it shall soon be quite burnt out. Verse 20. - My battle axe; or, my mace. The mace (for a picture of which, see Rawlinson, 'Ancient Monarchies,' 1:459) was a weapon constantly employed by the Assyrians and presumably by the Babylonian kings. The battle axe was much less frequently used. But who is addressed by this terrible title? The commentators are divided, some inclining to Babylon,

(1) because Babylon was the last person addressed (see ver. 14), and

(2) because a similar title was given to Babylon in Jeremiah 50:23: others to Israel, on the ground that the tenses are the same throughout the passage (vers. 20-24). The latter view is probably the best. How could Babylon be said to shatter her own "governors" and "viceroys" (for the prophet deliberately chooses the Babylonian official names)? The argument from the context is not very weighty; for it is clear that the connection of the parts of this prophecy is very loose. We may assume, then, that ver. 20 begins a fresh paragraph, standing quite apart from that which precedes. The objection of Graf and Keil, is that Israel could not himself be styled a "mace," it being Israel's destiny to be delivered by others. But is not a very similar statement made of Israel in Isaiah 41:15; Psalm 149:7-9? (Kuenen offers a third explanation - Cyrus.) The nations... kingdoms. First the great social organisms are mentioned; next comes the military power; next the population, according to sex, age, and class.
And with thee will I break in pieces the horse and his rider; and with thee will I break in pieces the chariot and his rider;
With thee also will I break in pieces man and woman; and with thee will I break in pieces old and young; and with thee will I break in pieces the young man and the maid;
I will also break in pieces with thee the shepherd and his flock; and with thee will I break in pieces the husbandman and his yoke of oxen; and with thee will I break in pieces captains and rulers.
Verse 23. - Captains; rather, governors. It is the Hebraized form (pekhah) of the official name of an Assyrian or Babylonian governor (pahhat). Rulers; rather, viceroys; Hebrew, segamin (plural). The singular, sagan, is Hebraized from the Assyrian sakun, Babylonian sagun.
And I will render unto Babylon and to all the inhabitants of Chaldea all their evil that they have done in Zion in your sight, saith the LORD.
Behold, I am against thee, O destroying mountain, saith the LORD, which destroyest all the earth: and I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and roll thee down from the rocks, and will make thee a burnt mountain.
Verses 25, 26. - Another image for the destruction of Babylon. Verse 25. - O destroying mountain. The description evidently points to a volcano.

(1) Jehovah says that he will roll the mountain down from the rocks, which can only be understood of the stones and lava hurled down from the crater;

(2) that he will make it a "mountain of burning," i.e. either to a burning, or, more forcibly, a burnt out mountain; and

(3) that, as a consequence of this, its stones shall be unsuitable for the purposes of the builder. Now, Palestine, it has been clearly made out, "lies almost in the centre of one great volcano region of the earth's surface, that, namely, which includes the basin of the Mediterranean and the provinces of Western or Central Asia. Traces of that volcanic action are found in every direction. The black basaltic rock of the Hauran, the hot springs of Tiberius and Emmaus and Gadara, the naphtha fountains near the Dead Sea, the dykes of porphyry and other volcanic rooks that force their way through the limestone, the many eaves in the limestone rocks themselves, - all these show that we are treading on ground where the forces of the hidden fires of earth have been in times past in active operation. We are, that is, in a zone of earthquakes" (Plumptre, 'Biblical Studies,' p. 136; comp. Pusey's note on Amos 4:11). There is a striking parallel to this prophetic description in Revelation 8:8, where the destruction of a great empire is likened to the submersion in the sea of a great burning mountain, (Vitringa has noticed the parallel.)
And they shall not take of thee a stone for a corner, nor a stone for foundations; but thou shalt be desolate for ever, saith the LORD.
Verse 26. - And they shall not take of thee, etc. "Of thee," i.e. "of the Babylonian power" personified - not "of Babylon," which was built of brick, not of stone. The figure of the mountain is still preserved.
Set ye up a standard in the land, blow the trumpet among the nations, prepare the nations against her, call together against her the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Ashchenaz; appoint a captain against her; cause the horses to come up as the rough caterpillers.
Verses 27-37. - A more detailed sketch of the conquest of Babylon; followed (somewhat out of the natural order) by a complaint on the part of Israel, and a promise of championship on that of Jehovah. Verse 27. - Prepare the nations; literally, consecrate the nations; viz. by religious rites. It is in an especial sense a religious war to which they are summoned (see on Jeremiah 6:4, and comp. Isaiah 13:3). Ararat. Ararat appears in the cuneiform inscriptions under the form "Urartu? In Isaiah 37:38 the Authorized Version renders correctly by "Armenia." The Assyrian kings, since Shalmaneser, were constantly at war with the Armenians; Assurbanipal reduced them to pay tribute. Minni. The Mannai of the cuneiform inscriptions. The locality of this tribe has been hitherto wrongly given as the mountain country about Lake Vau. But Professor Sayco has shown that they are rather to be looked for to the southwest of Lake Urumiyeh. A captain. The word (tifsar) is singular, but is probably to be understood collectively as equivalent to "captains," like the word (sus, "horse," equivalent to "horses") to which it is parallel. It is here used loosely of certain officials of the Armenians; but properly it is an Assyrian word (adopted from the Accadian or proto-Babylonian), meaning "tablet writer," and derived, according to Friedrich Delitzsch, from dip or dup, a tablet, and sat, to write (Accadian words). As the rough caterpillars. This is the third of the four kinds of locusts mentioned in Joel 1:4; or, to speak more precisely, it is the locust in its penultimate stage, when its wings are already visible, but enveloped in horn-like sheaths, which stand up upon its back. Hence the epithet "rough," or "bristling." Keil's rendering, "as the dreadful (horrifying) locust," implies a faulty interpretation of Joel 1:4. It would be strange indeed if Joel had accumulated four synonymous terms for locust in such a peculiar context.
Prepare against her the nations with the kings of the Medes, the captains thereof, and all the rulers thereof, and all the land of his dominion.
Verse 28. - The captains... the rulers; rather, the governors... the viceroys (as ver. 23). Thereof refers to the land of Medea; his dominion to the King of Medea, as the suzerain of the inferior chiefs.
And the land shall tremble and sorrow: for every purpose of the LORD shall be performed against Babylon, to make the land of Babylon a desolation without an inhabitant.
Verse 29. - Shall tremble and sorrow. The Hebrew has "trembled and sorrowed" (or, "quaked and writhed for pain"); and in the sequel, have stood (i.e. been ratified by the event, as Jeremiah 44:28). The prophet here, as so often, regards what is still future as past from the point of view of eternity.
The mighty men of Babylon have forborn to fight, they have remained in their holds: their might hath failed; they became as women: they have burned her dwellingplaces; her bars are broken.
Verse 30. - Despair of the Babylonian warriors. Have forborne to fight should rather be have ceased to fight. In their holds. The word is used of hill or mountain fastnesses (comp. 1 Samuel 23:14, 19; Judges 6:2; 1 Chronicles 11:7), and such presumably are referred to here. Their might; rather, their courage. They have burned, etc. The subject is "the enemies." Her bars; viz. those with which the city gates were secured (comp. Isaiah 45:2; Amos 1:5).
One post shall run to meet another, and one messenger to meet another, to shew the king of Babylon that his city is taken at one end,
Verse 31. - One post shall run to meet another, etc. The wall being broken through at various points, couriers would meet each other on their way to the royal palace. This was itself a fortress in the centre of the city, on the Euphrates. The newly discovered cylinder inscription, however, shows that Nabonidus, the last King of Babylon, was not actually in the city at the time of the capture. At one end; rather, from end to end (see on Jeremiah 50:26).
And that the passages are stopped, and the reeds they have burned with fire, and the men of war are affrighted.
Verse 32. - And that the passages are stopped; rather, are seized (as Jeremiah 48:41). Babylon, it should be remembered, was divided nearly in half by the Euphrates. It was guarded, says Professor Rawlinson, "by two walls of brick, which skirted them along their whole length. In each of these walls were twenty-five gates, corresponding to the number of the streets which gave upon the river; and outside each gate was a sloped landing place, by which you could descend to the water's edge, if you had occasion to cross the river. Boats were kept ready at these landing places to convey passengers from side to side; while for those who disliked this method of conveyance, a bridge was provided of a somewhat peculiar construction" ('Ancient Monarchies,' 2:514). The reeds they have burned with fire. This rendering is no doubt tenable, though it gives an unusual meaning to the first noun. The "reeds" would be those of the marshes in the neighbourhood of Babylon; and Kimchi suggests that these would be cut down to facilitate the entrance of the army into the city, Surely a very forced explanation. The natural meaning of the first noun is "pools" or "lakes," and, considering that Herodotus (1:185) speaks of a lake in connection with the defences of Babylon, it has been thought (e.g. by Vitringa) that the prophet may refer to something which was to happen to this and similar lakes; "burned with fire" is then regarded as a hyperbolical expression equivalent to "dried up" (comp. ver. 36). This, however, is hardly less forced than the first interpretation; and we seem almost compelled to assume s corruption of the text, and to read (for 'agammin) 'armonim, palaces. If "palaces" (i.e. lofty houses, for such is the etymological meaning) were not uncommon at Jerusalem (Isaiah 32:14), much more frequent must they have been at Babylon, Or perhaps the prophet refers to the two magnificent royal palaces, which, together with the temple of Bel, constituted the wonders of Babylon. They were on opposite sides of the river, and were guarded with triple enclosures, the circumference in the one case amounting to sixty stadia (nearly seven miles), and in the other to thirty (Rawlinson, 'Ancient Monarchies,' 2:514, etc.).
For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; The daughter of Babylon is like a threshingfloor, it is time to thresh her: yet a little while, and the time of her harvest shall come.
Verse 33. - It is time to thresh her; rather, at the time when it is trodden (i.e. made level by treading or trampling); comp. Isaiah 21:10; Micah 4:13.
Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon hath devoured me, he hath crushed me, he hath made me an empty vessel, he hath swallowed me up like a dragon, he hath filled his belly with my delicates, he hath cast me out.
Verse 34. - The Jewish captives are introduced, describing the offences of Babylon. Hath devoured me; rather, hath devoured us, and so on. "My delicates" (delights), however, is correct. He hath made me; rather, he hath set us (down) as. Swallowed me up like a dragon; or, literally, like the dragon. Comparing this with ver. 44, it is difficult not to see an allusion to the Babylonian myth of the Serpent, who in the fight with Marduk (Meredach) devoured the tempest, which rent asunder her belly. The cuneiform text is given in Transactions of Society of Biblical Archaeology, vol. 4. part 2, appendix plate 6. Part of it runs thus -

25. ip-te-ra pi-i-sa Ti-amtu a-na la-h-a-h-sa

Opened also her mouth Tiamtu to swallow it.

26. rukhu limnu yus-te-ri-ba a-na la ca-par sap-ti-sa

The evil wind he caused to enter into the uncovering of her lips [ = into her lips before she could close them]

27. iz-zu-ti rukhi car-sa-sa i-tsa-mi-va

violent (were) the winds her belly filled; and

28. in-ni-kud lib-ba-sa va-pa-a-sa yus-pal-ki

she was pierced in her heart and her mouth it caused to divide.

Readers of Smith's 'Chaldean Genesis' will remember Tiamtu the dragon, and the representations thereof given from the gems. In line 27 the word rendered "her belly" contains the Babylonian analogue of the word rendered in this verse "his belly" (k'res). With my delicates, he hath cast me out; rather,... cast us out; or, from my delights he hath cast as out. For the variation of person, comp. Judges 11:19, "Let us pass, we pray thee, through thy land into my place;" and on the whole phrase, Micah 2:9, " have cast out from their pleasant homes."
The violence done to me and to my flesh be upon Babylon, shall the inhabitant of Zion say; and my blood upon the inhabitants of Chaldea, shall Jerusalem say.
Verse 35. - And to my flesh; rather, and my (eaten)flesh (comp. Micah 3:3). Inhabitant; rather, inhabitress; i.e. virgin inhabiting.
Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will plead thy cause, and take vengeance for thee; and I will dry up her sea, and make her springs dry.
Verse 36. - Her sea; i.e. the Euphrates (comp. Isaiah 21:1), or perhaps the lake dug by Nitocris to receive the waters of the Euphrates, Herod., 1:185 (Payne Smith). Comp. on "the reeds," ver. 32. Her springs, rather, her reservoirs. There are no springs, remarks Dr. Payne Smith, in the flat alluvial soil of Babylonia. The Hebrew word makor is used here collectively for the whole system of canals and reservoirs for the storing of the water.
And Babylon shall become heaps, a dwellingplace for dragons, an astonishment, and an hissing, without an inhabitant.
Verse 37. - Heaps. "Vast 'heaps,' or mounds, shapeless and unsightly, are scattered at intervals over the entire region where it is certain that Babylon anciently stood" (Rawlinson, 'Ancient Monarchies,' 2:521). Dragons; rather, jackals.
They shall roar together like lions: they shall yell as lions' whelps.
Verses 38-49. - Fall of Babylon; joy of the whole world. Verses 38, 39. - They shall roar .... In their heat; rather, They may roar... (yet) when they wax warm (with lust) I will prepare. The banquet which Jehovah will prepare is the "cup of bewilderment" spoken of in Psalm 60:3; comp. Isaiah 51:17 (i.e. a calamitous judgment).
In their heat I will make their feasts, and I will make them drunken, that they may rejoice, and sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the LORD.
I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter, like rams with he goats.
Verse 40. - I will bring them down, etc. (comp. Isaiah 34:6; Ezekiel 39:18).
How is Sheshach taken! and how is the praise of the whole earth surprised! how is Babylon become an astonishment among the nations!
Verse 41. - How is Sheshach taken! The Septuagint omits "Sheshach" (see, on the name, Jeremiah 25:26), and very possibly rightly.
The sea is come up upon Babylon: she is covered with the multitude of the waves thereof.
Verse 42. - The sea is come up, etc. It is not clear whether this is to be taken literally or metaphorically (of the sea of nations, comp. ver. 55). Probably it is meant literally. It is said that the annual inundations of the Euphrates at present render many parts of the ruins of Babylon inaccessible.
Her cities are a desolation, a dry land, and a wilderness, a land wherein no man dwelleth, neither doth any son of man pass thereby.
And I will punish Bel in Babylon, and I will bring forth out of his mouth that which he hath swallowed up: and the nations shall not flow together any more unto him: yea, the wall of Babylon shall fall.
Verse 44. - Bel; i.e. Merodach, the patron deity of Babylon (see on Jeremiah 50:2). Swallowed up. An allusion to the myth mentioned above (see ver. 34). That which Bel, i.e. Babylon, has "swallowed up" is not only the spoil of the conquered nations, but those nations themselves. Yea, the wall of Babylon shall fall; literally, is fallen (is as good as fallen). The famous wall of Babylon (comp. ver. 58) is described by Herodotus (1:179, 181). From this clause down to the first half of ver. 49 is omitted in the Septuagint.
My people, go ye out of the midst of her, and deliver ye every man his soul from the fierce anger of the LORD.
And lest your heart faint, and ye fear for the rumour that shall be heard in the land; a rumour shall both come one year, and after that in another year shall come a rumour, and violence in the land, ruler against ruler.
Verse 46. - And lest your heart faint, etc.; rather, and (beware) lest, etc. A rumour shall both come; rather, for a rumour shall come. The war, then, will last some time, and all kinds of rumours will be in the air. Keil compares Matthew 24:6.
Therefore, behold, the days come, that I will do judgment upon the graven images of Babylon: and her whole land shall be confounded, and all her slain shall fall in the midst of her.
Then the heaven and the earth, and all that is therein, shall sing for Babylon: for the spoilers shall come unto her from the north, saith the LORD.
Verse 48. - From the north. The same statement as in Jeremiah 50:3, 9, 41.
As Babylon hath caused the slain of Israel to fall, so at Babylon shall fall the slain of all the earth.
Verse 49. - As Babylon hath caused, etc. The verse is very difficult. Ewald and others render thus: "Not only must Babylon fall, O ye slain ones of Israel, but slain ones of the whole earth have fallen because of Babylon." But why this address to the slain ones of Israel? Besides, the antithesis indicated in the Hebrew is thereby destroyed. Hell explains the antithesis thus: "Just as Babylon was intent on the fall of slain ones in Israel, so also there fall because of Babylonian slain ones of all the earth," viz. because there are to be found, in the capital of the empire, people from all quarters of the world, who are slain when Babylon is conquered. A better antithesis seems to be gained if we follow the Peshito, and read, at the end of the verse, "in the whole earth." It will then be asserted by the prophet that, just as Babylon was the cause of the slaying of Israelites, so (as a punishment) the Babylonian fugitives shall be slain wherever they may wander.
Ye that have escaped the sword, go away, stand not still: remember the LORD afar off, and let Jerusalem come into your mind.
Verses 50-58. - Conclusion of the prophecy. Verse 50. - Ye that have escaped the sword. Evidently Jews are the persons addressed. It is not, however, perfectly clear whether the escape is from the sword of Babylon or from that of Divine vengeance. The parallel of Isaiah 24:14 would suggest the latter; but in the following verses the fall of Babylon is described as still to come. Stand not still. Lest ye be overtaken by the judgment.
We are confounded, because we have heard reproach: shame hath covered our faces: for strangers are come into the sanctuaries of the LORD'S house.
Verse 51. - We are confounded. A reflection of the exiles, expressing their deep shame at the ignominy which has been their lot. Are come; or, came.
Wherefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will do judgment upon her graven images: and through all her land the wounded shall groan.
Though Babylon should mount up to heaven, and though she should fortify the height of her strength, yet from me shall spoilers come unto her, saith the LORD.
Verse 53. - The height of her strength; i.e. her lofty walls and towers.
A sound of a cry cometh from Babylon, and great destruction from the land of the Chaldeans:
Because the LORD hath spoiled Babylon, and destroyed out of her the great voice; when her waves do roar like great waters, a noise of their voice is uttered:
Verse 55. - The great voice; rather, the loud sound; i.e. the tumult of the city. When her waves; rather, and her waves; i.e. the conquering hosts (comp. Jeremiah 46:7).
Because the spoiler is come upon her, even upon Babylon, and her mighty men are taken, every one of their bows is broken: for the LORD God of recompences shall surely requite.
Verse 56. - The Lord God of recompenses shall, etc.; rather, The Lord is a God of recompense; he will, etc.
And I will make drunk her princes, and her wise men, her captains, and her rulers, and her mighty men: and they shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts.
Verse 57. - Her captains, and her rulers (see on ver. 23).
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken, and her high gates shall be burned with fire; and the people shall labour in vain, and the folk in the fire, and they shall be weary.
Verse 58. - The broad walls of Babylon... and her high gates. See Herod., 1:179, 181, and the parallel accounts from other authors, cited by Duncker ('Hist. of Antiquity,' 3:373, etc.), who taxes Herodotus with exaggeration, but admits as probable that the walls were not less than forty feet broad. Utterly broken; rather, destroyed even to the ground (literally, made bare). The people; rather, peoples.
The word which Jeremiah the prophet commanded Seraiah the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah, when he went with Zedekiah the king of Judah into Babylon in the fourth year of his reign. And this Seraiah was a quiet prince.
Verses 59-64. - Epilogue. The word, etc. (see ver. 61). Seraiah. Apparently the brother of Baruch. With Zedekiah. The Septuagint has "from Zedekiah," which is referred by Bleek and Gratz. It would thus be an embassy, of which Seraiah was the head. According to the ordinary reading, Zedekiah went himself. A quiet prince. Not so. The Hebrew means probably, "in command over the resting place," i.e. he took charge of the royal caravan, and arranged the halting places. But the Targum and the Septuagint have a more probable reading (not, however, one involving a change in the consonants of the text, "in command over the gifts," i.e. the functionary who took charge of the presents made to the king. M. Lenormant speaks of an official called "magister largitionum" (bel tabti) in the Assyrian court ('Syllabaires Cundiformes,' par. 1877, p. 171).
So Jeremiah wrote in a book all the evil that should come upon Babylon, even all these words that are written against Babylon.
And Jeremiah said to Seraiah, When thou comest to Babylon, and shalt see, and shalt read all these words;
Verse 61. - (Comp. 50:3; 51:26.) And shalt see, and shalt read; rather, See that thou read.
Then shalt thou say, O LORD, thou hast spoken against this place, to cut it off, that none shall remain in it, neither man nor beast, but that it shall be desolate for ever.
And it shall be, when thou hast made an end of reading this book, that thou shalt bind a stone to it, and cast it into the midst of Euphrates:
And thou shalt say, Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her: and they shall be weary. Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.
Verse 64. - And they shall be weary. Accidentally repeated from ver. 59 (see introduction to ch. 1.). Thus far, etc. Proving that the Book of Jeremiah once ended with ch. 51.

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