The ruin of Babylon. (1-3,8-16,21-32,35-46;) The redemption of God's people. (4-7,17-20,33,34)
Verses 1-7 The king of Babylon was kind to Jeremiah, yet the prophet must foretell the ruin of that kingdom. If our friends are God's enemies, we dare not speak peace to them. The destruction of Babylon is spoken of as done thoroughly. Here is a word for the comfort of the Jews. They shall return to their God first, then to their own land; the promise of their conversion and reformation makes way for the other promises. Their tears flow not from the sorrow of the world, as when they went into captivity, but from godly sorrow. They shall seek after the Lord as their God, and have no more to do with idols. They shall think of returning to their own country. This represents the return of poor souls to God. In true converts there are sincere desires to attain the end, and constant cares to keep in the way. Their present case is lamented as very sad. The sins of professing Christians never will excuse those who rejoice in destroying them.
Verses 8-20 The desolation that shall be brought upon Babylon is set forth in a variety of expressions. The cause of this destruction is the wrath of the Lord. Babylon shall be wholly desolated; for she hath sinned against the Lord. Sin makes men a mark for the arrows of God's judgments. The mercy promised to the Israel of God, shall not only accompany, but arise from the destruction of Babylon. These sheep shall be gathered from the deserts, and put again into good pasture. All who return to God and their duty, shall find satisfaction of soul in so doing. Deliverances out of trouble are comforts indeed, when fruits of the forgiveness of sin.
Verses 21-32 The forces are mustered and empowered to destroy Babylon. Let them do what God demands, and they shall bring to pass what he threatens. The pride of men's hearts sets God against them, and ripens them apace for ruin. Babylon's pride must be her ruin; she has been proud against the Holy One of Israel; who can keep those up whom God will throw down?
Verses 33-46 It is Israel's comfort in distress, that, though they are weak, their Redeemer is strong. This may be applied to believers, who complain of the dominion of sin and corruption, and of their own weakness and manifold infirmities. Their Redeemer is able to keep what they commit to him; and sin shall not have dominion over them. He will give them that rest which remains for the people of God. Also here is Babylon's sin, and their punishment. The sins are, idolatry and persecution. He that will not save his people in their sins, never will countenance the wickedness of his open enemies. The judgments of God for these sins will lay them waste. In the judgments denounced against prosperous Babylon, and the mercies promised to afflicted Israel, we learn to choose to suffer affliction with the people of God, rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.
Jeremiah 50:1-46 . BABYLON'S COMING DOWNFALL; ISRAEL'S REDEMPTION.
After the predictions of judgment to be inflicted on other nations by Babylon, follows this one against Babylon itself, the longest prophecy, consisting of one hundred verses. The date of utterance was the fourth year of Zedekiah, when Seraiah, to whom it was committed, was sent to Babylon ( Jeremiah 51:59 Jeremiah 51:60 ). The repetitions in it make it likely that it consists of prophecies uttered at different times, now collected by Jeremiah to console the Jews in exile and to vindicate God's ways by exhibiting the final doom of Babylon, the enemy of the people of God, after her long prosperity. The style, imagery, and dialogues prove its genuineness in opposition to those who deny this. It shows his faithfulness; though under obligation to the king of Babylon, he owed a higher one to God, who directed him to prophesy against Babylon.
1. Compare Isaiah 45:1-47:15'. But as the time of fulfilment drew nearer, the prophecies are now proportionally more distinct than then.
2. Declare . . . among . . . nations--who would rejoice at the fall of Babylon their oppressor.
standard--to indicate the place of meeting to the nations where they were to hear the good news of Babylon's fall [ROSENMULLER]; or, the signal to summon the nations together against Babylon ( Jeremiah 51:12 Jeremiah 51:27 ), [MAURER].
Bel--the tutelary god of Babylon; the same idol as the Phoenician Baal, that is, lord, the sun ( Isaiah 46:1 ).
confounded--because unable to defend the city under their protection.
Merodach--another Babylonian idol; meaning in Syria "little lord"; from which Merodach-baladan took his name.
3. a nation--the Medes, north of Babylon ( Jeremiah 51:48 ). The devastation of Babylon here foretold includes not only that by Cyrus, but also that more utter one by Darius, who took Babylon by artifice when it had revolted from Persia, and mercilessly slaughtered the inhabitants, hanging four thousand of the nobles; also the final desertion of Babylon, owing to Seleucia having been built close by under Seleucus Nicanor.
4. Fulfilled only in part when some few of the ten tribes of "Israel" joined Judah in a "covenant" with God, at the restoration of Judah to its land ( Nehemiah 9:38 , 10:29 ). The full event is yet to come ( Jeremiah 31:9 , Hosea 1:11 , Zechariah 12:10 ).
weeping--with joy at their restoration beyond all hope; and with sorrow at the remembrance of their sins and sufferings ( Ezra 3:12 Ezra 3:13 , Psalms 126:5 Psalms 126:6 ).
seek . . . Lord--( Hosea 3:5 ).
5. thitherward--rather, "hitherward," Jeremiah's prophetical standpoint being at Zion. "Faces hitherward" implies their steadfastness of purpose not to be turned aside by any difficulties on the way.
perpetual covenant--in contrast to the old covenant "which they brake" ( Jeremiah 31:31 , &c. Jeremiah 32:40 ). They shall return to their God first, then to their own land.
6. ( Isaiah 53:6 ).
on the mountains--whereon they sacrificed to idols ( Jeremiah 2:20 , Jeremiah 3:6 Jeremiah 3:23 ).
resting-place--for the "sheep," continuing the image; Jehovah is the resting-place of His sheep ( Matthew 11:28 ). They rest in His "bosom" ( Isaiah 40:11 ). Also His temple at Zion, their "rest," because it is His ( Psalms 132:8 Psalms 132:14 ).
7. devoured--( Psalms 79:7 ). "Found them" implies that they were exposed to the attacks of those whoever happened to meet them.
adversaries said--for instance, Nebuzara-dan ( Jeremiah 40:2 Jeremiah 40:3 ; compare Zechariah 11:5 ). The Gentiles acknowledged some supreme divinity. The Jews' guilt was so palpable that they were condemned even in the judgment of heathens. Some knowledge of God's peculiar relation to Judea reached its heathen invaders from the prophets ( Jeremiah 2:3 , Daniel 9:16 ); hence the strong language they use of Jehovah here, not as worshippers of Him themselves, but as believing Him to be the tutelary God of Judah ("the hope of their fathers," Psalms 22:4 ; they do not say our hope), as each country was thought to have its local god, whose power extended no farther.
habitation--( Psalms 90:1 , 91:1 ). Alluding to the tabernacle, or, as in Ezekiel 34:14 , "fold," which carries out the image in Jeremiah 50:6 , "resting-place" of the "sheep." But it can only mean "habitation" ( Jeremiah 31:23 ), which confirms English Version here.
hope of their fathers--This especially condemned the Jews that their apostasy was from that God whose faithfulness their fathers had experienced. At the same time these "adversaries" unconsciously use language which corrects their own notions. The covenant with the Jews' "fathers" is not utterly set aside by their sin, as their adversaries thought; there is still "a habitation" or refuge for them with the God of their fathers.
8. ( Jeremiah 51:6 Jeremiah 51:45 , Isaiah 48:20 , Zechariah 2:6 Zechariah 2:7 , Revelation 18:4 ). Immediately avail yourselves of the opportunity of escape.
be as . . . he-goats before . . . flocks--Let each try to be foremost in returning, animating the weak, as he-goats lead the flock; such were the companions of Ezra ( Ezra 1:5 Ezra 1:6 ).
9. from thence--that is, from the north country.
expert--literally, "prosperous." Besides "might," "expertness" is needed, that an arrow may do execution. The Margin has a different Hebrew reading; "destroying," literally, "bereaving, childless-making" ( Jeremiah 15:7 ). The Septuagint and Syriac support English Version.
In vain--without killing him at whom it was aimed ( 2 Samuel 1:22 ).
11. ( Isaiah 47:6 ).
grown fat--and so, skip wantonly.
at grass--fat and frisky. But there is a disagreement of gender in Hebrew reading thus. The Keri is better: "a heifer threshing"; the strongest were used for threshing, and as the law did not allow their mouth to be muzzled in threshing ( Deuteronomy 25:4 ), they waxed wanton with eating.
bellow as bulls--rather, "neigh as steeds," literally, "strong ones," a poetical expression for steeds [MAURER].
12. Your mother--Babylon, the metropolis of the empire.
hindermost--marvellous change, that Babylon, once the queen of the world, should be now the hindermost of nations, and at last, becoming "a desert," cease to be a nation!
13. ( Isaiah 13:20 ).
14. Summons to the Median army to attack Babylon.
against the Lord--By oppressing His people, their cause is His cause. Also by profaning His sacred vessels ( Daniel 5:2 ).
15. Shout--Inspirit one another to the onset with the battle cry.
given . . . hand--an idiom for, "submitted to" the conquerors ( 1 Chronicles 29:24 , Margin; Lamentations 5:6 ).
as she hath done, do unto her--just retribution in kind. She had destroyed many, so must she be destroyed ( Psalms 137:8 ). So as to spiritual Babylon ( Revelation 18:6 ). This is right because "it is the vengeance of the Lord"; but this will not justify private revenge in kind ( Matthew 5:44 Romans 12:19-21 ); even the Old Testament law forbade this, though breathing a sterner spirit than the New Testament ( Exodus 23:4 Exodus 23:5 , Proverbs 25:21 Proverbs 25:22 ).
16. Babylon had the extent rather of a nation than of a city. Therefore grain was grown within the city wall sufficient to last for a long siege [ARISTOTLE, Politics, 3.2; PLINY, 18.17]. Conquerors usually spare agriculturists, but in this case all alike were to be "cut off."
for fear of . . . oppressing sword--because of the sword of the oppressor.
every one to his people--from which they had been removed to Babylon from all quarters by the Chaldean conquerors ( Jeremiah 51:9 , Isaiah 13:14 ).
17. lions--hostile kings ( Jeremiah 4:7 , 49:19 ).
Assyria--( 2 Kings 17:6 , Shalmaneser; Ezra 4:2 , Esar-haddon).
Nebuchadnezzar--( 2 Kings 24:10 2 Kings 24:14 ).
18. punish . . . king of Babylon--Nabonidus, or Labynitus.
as . . . punished . . . Assyrian--Sennacherib and other kings [GROTIUS] ( 2 Kings 19:37 ).
19. ( Isaiah 65:10 , Ezekiel 34:13 Ezekiel 34:14 ).
20. The specification of "Israel," as well as Judah, shows the reference is to times yet to come.
iniquity . . . none--not merely idolatry, which ceased among the Jews ever since the Babylonian captivity, but chiefly their rejection of Messiah. As in a cancelled debt, it shall be as if it had never been; God, for Christ's sake, shall treat them as innocent ( Jeremiah 31:34 ). Without cleansing away of sin, remission of punishment would be neither to the honor of God nor to the highest interests of the elect.
whom I reserve--the elect "remnant" ( Isaiah 1:9 ). The "residue" ( Zechariah 14:2 , Zechariah 13:8 Zechariah 13:9 ).
21. Merathaim--a symbolical name for Babylon, the doubly rebellious, namely, against God. Compare Jeremiah 50:24 , "thou hast striven against the Lord"; and Jeremiah 50:29 , "proud against the Lord." The "doubly" refers to: first, the Assyrian's oppression of Israel; next, the kindred Chaldean's oppression of Judah (compare Jeremiah 50:17-20 Jeremiah 50:33 ; especially Jeremiah 50:18 ).
Pekod--( Ezekiel 23:23 ); a chief province of Assyria, in which Nineveh, now overthrown, once lay. But, as in Merathaim, the allusion is to the meaning of Pekod, namely, "visitation"; the inhabitants whose time of deserved visitation in punishment is come; not, however, without reference to the now Babylonian province, Pekod. The visitation on Babylon was a following up of that on Assyria.
after them--even their posterity, and all that is still left of Babylon, until the very name is extinct [GROTIUS]. Devastate the city, after its inhabitants have deserted it.
all . . . I . . . commanded--by Isaiah ( Isaiah 13:1 , &c.).
23. hammer--that is, Babylon, so called because of its ponderous destructive power; just as "Martel," that is, "a little hammer," was the surname of a king of the Franks ( Isaiah 14:6 ).
24. I--Thou hast to do with God, not merely with men.
taken . . . not aware--HERODOTUS relates that one half of the city was taken before those in the other half were "aware" of it. Cyrus turned the waters of the Euphrates where it was defended into a different channel, and so entered the city by the dried-up channel at night, by the upper and lower gates ( Daniel 5:30 Daniel 5:31 ).
25. weapons of his indignation--the Medes and Persians ( Isaiah 13:5 ).
26. from the utmost border--namely, of the earth. Or, from all sides LUDOVICUS DE DIEU].
storehouses--or, "her houses filled with men and goods" [MICHAELIS]. When Cyrus took it, the provisions found there were enough to have lasted for many years.
as heaps--make of the once glorious city heaps of ruins. Vast mounds of rubbish now mark the site of ancient Babylon. "Tread her as heaps of corn which are wont to be trodden down in the threshing-floor" [GROTIUS].
27. bullocks--that is, princes and strong warriors ( Jeremiah 46:21 , Psalms 22:12 , Isaiah 34:7 ).
go down to . . . slaughter--The slaughterhouses lay low beside the river; therefore it is said, "go down"; appropriate to Babylon on the Euphrates, the avenue through which the slaughterers entered the city.
28. declare in Zion . . . temple--Some Jews "fleeing" from Babylon at its fall shall tell in Judea how God avenged the cause of Zion and her temple that had been profaned ( Jeremiah 52:13 , Daniel 1:2 , 5:2 ).
29. archers--literally, "very many and powerful"; hence the Hebrew word is used of archers ( Job 16:13 ) from the multitude and force of their arrows. in the streets
according to all that she hath
proud against the Lord--not merely cruel towards men ( Isaiah 47:10 ).
--The Babylonians were so discouraged by having lost some battles that they retired within their walls and would not again meet Cyrus in the field.
31. most proud--literally, "pride"; that is, man of pride; the king of Babylon.
visit--punish ( Jeremiah 50:27 ).
33. Israel and . . . Judah were oppressed--He anticipates an objection, in order to answer it: Ye have been, no doubt, "oppressed," therefore ye despair of deliverance; but, remember your "Redeemer is strong," and therefore can and will deliver you.
34. strong--as opposed to the power of Israel's oppressor ( Revelation 18:8 ).
plead . . . cause--as their advocate. Image from a court of justice; appropriate as God delivers His people not by mere might, but by righteousness. His plea against Satan and all their enemies is His own everlasting love, reconciling mercy and justice in the Redeemer's work and person ( Micah 7:9 Zechariah 3:1-5 1 John 2:1 ).
give rest . . . disquiet--There is a play on the similarity of sounds in the two Hebrew verbs to express more vividly the contrast: "that He may give quiet to the land of Judah (heretofore disquieted by Babylon); but disquiet to the inhabitants of Babylon" (heretofore quietly secure) ( Isaiah 14:6-8 ).
35-37. The repetition of "A sword" in the beginning of each verse, by the figure anaphora, heightens the effect; the reiterated judgment is universal; the same sad stroke of the sword is upon each and all connected with guilty Babylon.
wise men--( Isaiah 47:13 ). Babylon boasted that it was the peculiar seat of wisdom and wise men, especially in astronomy and astrology.
36. liars--Those whom he before termed "wise men," he here calls "liars" (impostors), namely, the astrologers (compare Isaiah 44:25 , Romans 1:21-25 , 1 Corinthians 1:20 ).
37. as women--divested of all manliness ( Nahum 3:13 ).
38. drought--Altering the pointing, this verse will begin as the three previous verses, "A sword." However, all the pointed manuscripts read, "A drought," as English Version. Cyrus turned off the waters of the Euphrates into a new channel and so marched through the dried-up bed into the city ( Jeremiah 51:32 ). Babylonia once was famed for its corn, which often yielded from one to two hundredfold [HERODOTUS]. This was due to its network of water-courses from the Euphrates for irrigation, traces of which [LAYARD] are seen still on all sides, but dry and barren ( Isaiah 44:27 ).
their idols--literally, "terrors." They are mad after idols that are more calculated to frighten than to attract ( Jeremiah 51:44 Jeremiah 51:47 Jeremiah 51:52 , Daniel 3:1 ). Mere bugbears with which to frighten children.
39. wild beasts of the desert--wild cats, remarkable for their howl [BOCHART].
wild beasts of the
owls--rather, "female ostriches"; they delight in solitary places. Literally, "daughters of crying." Compare as to spiritual Babylon, Revelation 18:2 .
no more inhabited for ever--The accumulation of phrases is to express the final and utter extinction of Babylon; fulfilled not immediately, but by degrees; Cyrus took away its supremacy. Darius Hystaspes deprived it, when it had rebelled, of its fortifications. Seleucus Nicanor removed its citizens and wealth to Seleucia, which he founded in the neighborhood; and the Parthians removed all that was left to Ctesiphon. Nothing but its walls was left under the Roman emperor Adrian.
40. ( Isaiah 13:19 ). Repeated from Jeremiah 49:18 .
41-43. (Compare Jeremiah 6:22-24 ). The very language used to describe the calamities which Babylon inflicted on Zion is that here employed to describe Babylon's own calamity inflicted by the Medes. Retribution in kind.
kinds--the allies and satraps of the various provinces of the Medo-Persian empire: Armenia, Hyrcania, Lydia, &c.
coasts--the remote parts.
42. cruel--the character of the Persians, and even of Cyrus, notwithstanding his wish to be thought magnanimous ( Isaiah 13:18 ).
like a man--So orderly and united is their "array," that the whole army moves to battle as one man [GROTIUS].
43. hands waxed feeble--attempted no resistance; immediately was overcome, as HERODOTUS tells us.
44-46. Repeated mainly from Jeremiah 49:19-21 . The identity of God's principle in His dealing with Edom, and in that with Babylon, is implied by the similarity of language as to both.
46. cry . . . among the nations--In Edom's case it is, "at the cry the noise thereof was heard in the Red Sea." The change implies the wider extent to which the crash of Babylon's downfall shall be heard.