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Jeremiah 50 Study Notes


50:1-51:64 Jeremiah’s final prophecy against the nations is reserved for Babylon. Almost as much space is devoted to Babylon as to all the other nations combined. This argues against those who felt Jeremiah was so pro-Babylonian that he could see no wrong with them. For Isaiah’s earlier prophecy against Babylon, see Is 13:1-14:23 and 21:1-10. Compare also Rv 18. The book of Revelation contains several allusions to Jeremiah chaps. 50-51. See the chart on p. 1225.

50:1 The land of the Chaldeans reverts to the name of the seminomadic tribe that settled south of Ur (see note at 21:3-4). Nebuchadnezzar’s father, Nabopolassar, was a native Chaldean who ascended the throne in 626 BC and gave birth to the Neo-Babylonian period that continued until the fall of Babylon in 539 BC.

50:2 Bel, meaning “lord,” was the title of the storm god Enlil, chief god of Nippur. Later “Bel” became a name for Marduk. As the major god of Babylon, Marduk was the Babylonian creator-god (by supposedly creating order out of chaos). In the Babylonian creation story of Enuma Elish, he was referred to as the “king of the gods.” Babylon’s idols and her false gods are stigmatized by Jeremiah. The word for false gods in Hebrew is gillulim (lit “balls of excrement”). This term is used of pagan idols (Lv 26:30; Dt 29:17; 1Kg 15:12). It was also used by Ezekiel to demean foreign gods. Similarly, Isaiah used the Hebrew word ‘elilim (lit “nothings”) as a pun, contrasting God (Elohim) with false gods (‘elilim).

50:3 The nation from the north is not immediately identified, but Jeremiah used this phrase so frequently (v. 41; 1:14; 4:6; 6:1; 13:30; 15:12; 46:20; 47:2; 51:48) that it became increasingly clear he usually meant Babylon. This nation had to come out of the north to attack Judah because the desert east of Judah prevented armies from attacking from that direction. But here the prophet seems to refer to Persia, since the attack will be against Babylon.

50:4-5 As promised in chaps. 30-33, a complete restoration of the Israelites and Judeans—a new reunited total Israel—will result. This speaks of a future restoration, unification, repentance, and renewal of the covenant with the people of God. The same permanent covenant referred to in 32:40 (see 31:31-34) is alluded to again.

50:6 Judah’s shepherds, who led the people astray, include their kings, priests, prophets, and other leaders.

50:7 Babylon claimed they were not to blame for their treatment of Israel. They lay the blame on Israel’s God for forsaking them.

50:8 With judgment so certain for Babylon, those who live there are told to escape from Babylon and depart from the Chaldeans’ land. Just as male goats (“rams”) rush out to lead the flock when the pen is opened, so should those left in Babylon scatter before the judgment begins.

50:9 An assembly of great nations from the north country will come against Babylon, and she will be captured.

50:10 To become plunder is also found in Is 42:22; Jr 49:32; Ezk 26:5; 36:4-5; Zph 1:13; Zch 2:9. See also Jr 30:16; Ezk 25:7; Hab 2:8.

50:11-12 God will judge Babylon in retaliation for what she did to Judah. Babylon plundered my inheritance—a reference to Israel—and she frolicked like a young cow treading grain. The image is of a heifer frisking around the threshing floor, eating whatever she wanted to eat. Babylon’s mother is the city of Babylon, the “mother” of all her inhabitants. She who turned so many other cities into dry wastelands would now be treated the same way.

50:13 Travelers would look with disdain at the spoiled greatness of Babylon.

50:14-15 The attacking forces are ordered to line up and let the battle of Babylon begin. Now it is Babylon that will throw up her hands in surrender. This is declared to be the Lord’s vengeance, meaning that Babylon will reap the consequences of her sin.

50:16 The sower and the one who wields the sickle depict the rural population that will feel the onslaught of warfare even before the city dwellers.

50:17-20 In the middle of his declaration of judgment on Babylon, God utters a promise to restore Israel, his stray lamb, back to the promised land. Assyria crushed Israel in the eighth century BC, and the Babylonians did the same thing to Judah in the sixth. God’s forgiveness of Israel’s sin in those days will be complete. Even if someone searched for her guilt, there will be none.

50:21 Babylon’s enemies are to attack Merathaim and those living in Pekod. Merathaim was probably the district of Marratim at the head of the Persian Gulf. Pekod was probably puqudu, a people of eastern Babylonia. The phrase completely destroy them translates the Hebrew word cherem (“to place under the ban” and “to render to God as an involuntary offering”). Several cities in the book of Joshua were designated for total destruction (Dt 20:17; Jos 6:21; 10:1).


Hebrew pronunciation [tah FAS]
CSB translation seize, capture, handle
Uses in Jeremiah 18
Uses in the OT 65
Focus passage Jeremiah 50:16,24,46

Taphas concerns forceful taking hold by the hands (Dt 9:17). It means seize (Is 3:6), grab (Gn 39:12), or grasp (Ezk 29:7). Individuals wield sickles (Jr 50:16) or brandish swords (Ezk 38:4). People arrest (1Kg 13:4), apprehend (Jr 37:13), or catch (Ps 71:11) individuals. Armies capture (Dt 20:19) or take (Jos 8:8) cities. Cities occupy summits (Jr 49:16). God takes hold of Israelite hearts (Ezk 14:5). People profane God’s name (Pr 30:9). Taphas describes ability. People are able to handle shields and bows (Jr 46:9). Sailors are oarsmen (Ezk 27:29). People play lyres and flutes (Gn 4:21). Archer can be literally “one handling the bow” (Am 2:15). Priests were experts in the law (Jr 2:8). Troops going out to war is literally “those who take hold of war” (Nm 31:27). The passive participle depicts plated idols (Hab 2:19). Passive-reflexive verbs indicate being caught, captured, or conquered (Jr 50:46).

50:22-24 Babylon is called the hammer of the whole earth; Persia is referred to with similar imagery (51:20). Babylon had set traps and hunted nations. Now she would be trapped.

50:25 Babylon’s downfall will be the work of the Lord. He has opened his armory and unleashed his weapons of wrath. This is precisely what the Persian conqueror did (Is 44:28-45:1).

50:26-27 Survivors is a term that also means “remnant” (see v. 20). Young bulls probably refers to warriors.

50:28 God’s vengeance is mentioned again (see note at vv. 14-15).

50:29-32 The archers are urged to press the attack against Babylon because of the nation’s insolence, defiance, and arrogance against the Holy One of Israel (Is 1:4; 5:19,24).

50:33-34 All Israel is in view in these verses. The nation is portrayed as waiting for its release. The Lord, who had redeemed (Hb ga’al, Ex 6:6; 15:13) in the past, would be their Redeemer (Hb go’el) again. He would bring rest to the earth.

50:35-38 Babylon’s enemies are depicted as God’s sword that hangs heavy over Babylon’s officials . . . her sages . . . her heroic warriors, their horses and chariots, and her treasuries. The terrifying things (Hb ’emim) is a contemptuous way of referring to Babylon’s gods.

50:39 Desert creatures will inhabit deserted Babylon. John Bright tries to preserve the Hebrew assonance of siyyim and ‘iyyim by rendering them as “goblins and ghouls.” Sometimes these creatures seem to be like animals and at other times like demons and evil spirits that were said to infest deserted areas.

50:40 Babylon’s destruction will be as severe and as permanent as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (49:18; Gn 19:24-25; Is 13:19).

50:41-43 These verses repeat 6:22-24 with only a few minor variations. Previously addressed to Judah, they are now directed to Babylon.

50:44-46 These verses repeat with some minor changes the condemnation of Edom (49:19-21). Perhaps the repetition is based on the similarity of sins between Babylon and Edom.

50:44 The earthly rulers are asked, Who is the shepherd who can stand against me? No one can resist God or overthrow his purposes.