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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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JEREMIAH 50

PROPHECY AGAINST BABYLON

Here we have a collection of prophecies against Babylon and also many references to the deliverance of Israel from captivity. The chapter cannot be outlined. True to the pattern throughout Jeremiah, and also applicable to the whole book itself, it appears to be a somewhat haphazard collection of many prophecies including not only many which were previously spoken through Jeremiah, but also including a number of prophecies given through other prophets, notably Isaiah.

NO VALID CRITICISM

Of course, there have been assaults upon the integrity of the chapter as belonging to Jeremiah, and futile efforts to late-date it, but none of these actually has any importance. The "inherent weakness"F1 of such criticism, mentioned by Payne Smith, lies in the simple fact that there is no factual, physical, or textual evidence whatever behind any of them.

"This prophecy (both Jer. 50 and Jer. 51) contains nothing which Jeremiah could not have written in the fourth year of Zedekiah,"F2 this being the true date of both chapters, as given in Jer. 51:59. The subjective guesses and imaginations of men have no substantive weight at all against the plain Word of God. See the writings of C.F. Keil, in which many pages are devoted to a definitive refutation of critical denials regarding this long prophecy.

What some consider the strongest argument against Jeremiahic authorship is the assertion that Jeremiah's writings in early chapters manifest "friendliness" to Babylon, whereas, these two chapters reveal the wrath of God poured out against Babylon. This argument is false, because, "The germ of these two chapters is found in Jer. 25:12,26, where God's punishment of Babylon, and his making them an everlasting desolation is categorically stated."F3 In fact, both these chapters together are but an expansion of the thought given there.

All of the "hubba-hubba" about portions of Jeremiah being partly in poetry and partly in prose is absolutely useless. He was the author of both, just as Sir Walter Scott wrote both the Waverley Tales in prose and some of the best poetry in the English language. Cawley and Millard commented on all the criticisms thus: "The (alleged) reasons for rejecting the prophecy as an authentic prophecy of Jeremiah are not conclusive."F4

This writer has not discovered any reason whatever for allowing any doubt as to the date and authenticity of this extended prophecy. The destruction of the temple and the exile of Israel are predicted in this chapter; and the allegation that those events are "spoken of as past events" is simply an unsupported error invented to support the critical falsehood that predictive prophecy is impossible.

Furthermore, Jeremiah is clearly stated to be the author of this prophecy (Jeremiah 51:60).

With regard to the alleged "literary evidence," based upon similarities of language, Cheyne remarked that, "The number of parallel passages between Jer. 51 and Jer. 52 and the other writings of Jeremiah is very large, and they agree with no one more than with Jeremiah."F5

There are actually two themes in these chapters, "The fall of Babylon, and the return of the Jews from exile." a The same author also tells us that the critics who think of Jeremiah as pro-Babylonian, "misunderstand him."F7 Jeremiah did indeed urge the people to submit to Babylon, because it was his duty so to do. He was never pro-Chaldean, for he loved Israel with an undying love; and the same God who had commanded Jeremiah to advise submission earlier, has in these chapters commanded him to reveal the ultimate destruction of Babylon.

Jer. 50:1-5


 
Verses 1-5
The word that Jehovah spake concerning Babylon, concerning the land of the Chaldeans, by Jeremiah the prophet. Declare ye among the nations and publish, and set up a standard; publish, and conceal not: say, Babylon is taken, Bel is put to shame, Merodach is dismayed; her images are put to shame, her idols are dismayed. For out of the north there cometh up a nation against her, which shall make her land desolate, and none shall dwell therein: they are fled, they are gone, both man and beast. In those days, and in that time, saith Jehovah, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together; they shall go on their way weeping, and shall seek Jehovah their God. They shall inquire concerning Zion with their faces thitherward, [saying], Come ye, and join yourselves to Jehovah in an everlasting covenant that shall not be forgotten.

Babylon is taken…
(Jeremiah 50:2). This seemed an impossible prophecy in the fourth year of Zedekiah, because, at that time, Babylon dominated the whole known world. Yet God announced her destruction.

Bel is put to shame, Merodach is dismayed…
(Jeremiah 50:2). Merodach in the inscriptions was the tutelary god of Babylon; and Nebuchadnezzar named a son Evil-Merodach, indicating that Nebuchadnezzar was especially devoted to that god. Merodach was actually identical with Bel. He was identified with Jupiter among the planets, and he was styled, `King of heaven and earth.'F8

Her idols are dismayed…
(Jeremiah 50:2). The word for idols in the Hebrew literally means dung balls.F9 This word was a favorite of Ezekiel who used it 38 times in speaking of pagan idols. The word is also used in Lev. 26:30.

Out of the north there cometh up a nation against her…
(Jeremiah 50:3). We remember that Babylon herself was the country out of the north that came against Israel. In the fall of Babylon, this was literally true, because the Medes were northwest of Babylon;F10 and Cyrus captured the city, according to Herodotus, by diverting the Euphrates out of its channel, a diversion that took place up-stream from Babylon, which was northward.

"A mystery in the Hebrew mind attached to the north, the very word `north' in Hebrew meaning `hidden.' The burnt offering was to be sacrificed on the north side of the altar (Leviticus 1:11); and the four cherubim in the vision of Ezekiel were described as coming from the north (Ezekiel 1:4)."F11 In the prophecies, therefore, the mention of unknown future dangers might have referred also to the mysterious and hidden nature of the revelation.

In those days…
(Jeremiah 50:4). These words show that the capture of Babylon, spoken of in Jer. 50:2 as a past event, is still future, and that the words there are the prophetic perfects.F12

Thitherward…
(Jeremiah 50:5). These words show that the writer of this prophecy was in Jerusalem, not Babylon.F13


 
Verses 6-10
My people have been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray; they have turned them away on the mountains; they have gone from mountain to hill; they have forgotten their resting-place. All that found them have devoured them; and their adversaries said, We are not guilty, because they have sinned against Jehovah, the habitation of righteousness, even Jehovah, the hope of their fathers. Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and go forth out of the land of the Chaldeans, and be as the he-goats before the flocks. For, lo, I will stir up and cause to come up against Babylon a company of great nations from the north country; and they shall set themselves in array against her; from thence she shall be taken: their arrows shall be as of an expert mighty man; none shall return in vain. And Chaldea shall be a prey: all that prey upon her shall be satisfied, saith Jehovah.

Their shepherds have caused them to go astray…
(Jeremiah 50:6). These evil shepherds here blamed for Israel's apostasy were their kings, judges, priests, and false prophets.

I will cause to come against Babylon. they shall set themselves against her ... she (Babylon) shall be taken
(Jeremiah 50:9). There are no less than six verbs, all in the future tense, which here announce that Babylon shall be taken, making it an absolute certainty that Jer. 50:2 is in the prophetic past perfect tense.

Be as the heights of the flocks…
(Jeremiah 50:8). Judah here was admonished to be the leader (like the heights) in fleeing from Babylon. They did not heed this. As a matter of fact, they were hardly willing to leave at all, and many never left. The metaphor here is drawn from the fact that, Once the sheepfold was opened, the male goats would rush from the enclosure first.F14

All that prey upon her shall be satisfied…
(Jeremiah 50:10). The total destruction of Babylon is here promised, including the destruction even of her walls (Jer. 50:15, below). It is known that when Cyrus took the city, he did not need to break down the walls; and some careless commentators have faulted the prophecy in this instance; but they are in error.

"Cyrus did not destroy Babylon when he took it; but a little later in the Persian period the city revolted; and Darius Hystaspis captured it and destroyed its walls in 514 B.C. That was the beginning of the final and total ruin that eventually came to Babylon."F15


 
Verses 11-16
Because ye are glad, because ye rejoice, O ye that plunder my heritage, because ye are wanton as a heifer that treadeth out [the grain], and neigh as strong horses; your mother shall be utterly put to shame; she that bare you shall be confounded: behold, she shall be the hindermost of the nations, a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert. Because of the wrath of Jehovah she shall not be inhabited, but she shall be wholly desolate: every one that goeth by Babylon shall be astonished, and hiss at all her plagues. Set yourselves in array against Babylon round about, all ye that bend the bow; shoot at her, spare no arrows: for she hath sinned against Jehovah. Shout against her round about: she hath submitted herself; her bulwarks are fallen, her walls are thrown down; for it is the vengeance of Jehovah: take vengeance upon her; as she hath done, do unto her. Cut off the sower from Babylon, and him that handleth the sickle in the time of harvest: for fear of the oppressing sword they shall turn every one to his people, and they shall flee every one to his own land.

The reasons for God's anger against Babylon are noted here. They rejoiced with a sadistic hatred against the calamities of Israel, aggravating their sorrows in every possible way. They were having a high old time destroying God's heritage and are compared here to a well-fed heifer, or neighing horses.

Your mother shall be utterly put to shame…
(Jeremiah 50:12). The mother here is the city of Babylon.

The hindermost of the nations…
(Jeremiah 50:12). A study of the prophecies reveals that, although God prophesied the total and final desolation of Babylon, he did not prophecy that this would happen immediately. There would be a long period of her decline: (1) She would be the hindermost of the nations, but still a nation. (2) Then she would be: (a) a wilderness, (b) a dry land and (c) a desert. Many centuries were involved in the complete fulfillment of all that.


 
Verses 17-20
Israel is a hunted sheep; the lions have driven him away: first, the king of Assyria devoured him; and now at last Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon hath broken his bones. Therefore thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria. And I will bring Israel again to his pasture, and he shall feed on Carmel and Bashan, and his soul shall be satisfied upon the hills of Ephraim and in Gilead. In those days, and in that time, saith Jehovah, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I leave as a remnant.

This paragraph mentions two past events, the destruction of Samaria and the Northern Israel in 722 B.C., and that by Nebuchadnezzar in 597 B.C., at which time the first wave of captives were carried to Babylon and Zedekiah became regent king for Nebuchadnezzar. This was four years later.

The message is that God had humiliated and destroyed the king of Assyria at Nineveh, and that he would bring a similar destruction upon Babylon.

In those days…
(Jeremiah 50:20).These words are the usual Messianic formula,F16 indicating that the pardon and forgiveness promised to Israel will come in the times of the Messiah in their acceptance and obedience to the Gospel of Christ.


 
Verses 21-28
Go up against the land of Merathaim, even against it, and against the inhabitants of Pekod: slay and utterly destroy after them, saith Jehovah, and do according to all that I have commanded thee. A sound of battle is in the land, and of great destruction. How is the hammer of the whole earth cut asunder and broken! how is Babylon become a desolation among the nations! I have laid a snare for thee, and thou art also taken, O Babylon, and thou wast not aware: thou art found, and also caught, because thou hast striven against Jehovah. Jehovah hath opened his armory, and hath brought forth the weapons of his indignation; for the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, hath a work [to do] in the land of the Chaldeans. Come against her from the utmost border; open her store-houses; cast her up as heaps, and destroy her utterly; let nothing of her be left. Slay all her bullocks; let them go down to the slaughter: woe unto them! for their day is come, the time of their visitation. The voice of them that flee and escape out of the land of Babylon, to declare in Zion the vengeance of Jehovah our God, the vengeance of his temple.

The land of Merathaim... land of Pekod…
(Jeremiah 50:21). Some scholars try to locate these places as provinces of Babylonia, but Keil suggested that the words were invented by Jeremiah,F17 and Graybill gave their meaning as double bitterness for Merathaim, and punishment for Pekod.F18 The names therefore are symbols of the punishment coming upon them.

The hammer of the whole earth…
(Jeremiah 50:23). Babylon is here called the hammer of the whole earth, and that is a name which historically has been used of (1) Judas Maccabaeus for his victory over Syria, (2) of Charles Martel, which means `Charles the Hammer,' the victor in the Battle of Tours in 732 A.D., and (3) of Edward I of England, upon whose tomb in Westminster Abbey are the words (in Latin) `Hammer of the Scots.'F19

I have laid a snare for thee…
(Jeremiah 50:24). Babylon imagined herself impregnable; but, according to Herodotus, Cyrus took the city by stratagem, diverting the Euphrates out of its channel, and entering the city beneath the gates over the river.F20

Bullocks…
(Jeremiah 50:27). This word is used figuratively for warriors.F21


 
Verses 29-32
Call together the archers against Babylon, all them that bend the bow; encamp against her round about; let none thereof escape: recompense her according to her work; according to all that she hath done, do unto her; for she hath been proud against Jehovah, against the Holy One of Israel. Therefore shall her young men fall in her streets, and all her men of war shall be brought to silence in that day, saith Jehovah. Behold, I am against thee, O thou proud one, saith the Lord, Jehovah of hosts; for thy day is come, the time that I will visit thee. And the proud one shall stumble and fall, and none shall raise him up; and I will kindle a fire in his cities, and it shall devour all that are round about him.

Barnes, stressing Jer. 50:28, believed that the capture of Babylon, "was regarded as the vengeance of God upon them for burning the temple";F22 but "in the fourth year of Zedekiah' (the date of this prophecy), the temple had not yet been burned. The holy vessels had been carried away to Babylon, but the burning of the temple occurred a few years later when Jerusalem again fell and Zedekiah was captured.

Jer. 50:30 here is the same as Jer. 49:26. Jeremiah often repeated his own words.


 
Verses 33-40
Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: The children of Israel and the children of Judah are oppressed together; and all that took them captive hold them fast; they refuse to let them go. Their Redeemer is strong; Jehovah of hosts is his name: he will thoroughly plead their cause, that he may give rest to the earth, and disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon. A sword is upon the Chaldeans, saith Jehovah, and upon the inhabitants of Babylon, and upon her princes, and upon her wise men. A sword is upon the boasters, and they shall become fools; a sword is upon her mighty men, and they shall be dismayed. A sword is upon their horses, and upon their chariots, and upon all the mingled people that are in the midst of her; and they shall become as women: a sword is upon her treasures, and they shall be robbed. A drought is upon her waters, and they shall be dried up; for it is a land of graven images, and they are mad over idols. Therefore the wild beasts of the desert with the wolves shall dwell there, and the ostriches shall dwell therein: and it shall be no more inhabited for ever; neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation. As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbor cities thereof, saith Jehovah, so shall no man dwell there, neither shall any son of man sojourn therein.

They refuse to let them go…
(Jeremiah 50:33). Although Babylon will not let God's people go, God Himself will deliver them. He is here called Their Redeemer. The reference is to the concept of the [~go'el] (Lev. 25:25 and Num. 35:21), or the near kinsman who was pledged to serve as the protector or avenger of one enslaved, or murdered. Only here, God Himself will be the [~go'el] (the Redeemer) to rescue Israel. Much of this paragraph is found elsewhere in Jeremiah and Isaiah. On Jer. 50:34, cf. Isa. 43:14; 44:6. On Jer. 50:39,40, see Isa. 13:19-22. Jer. 50:40 also corresponds with Jer. 49:18. It should be noted here that Jeremiah quoted from Isaiah, from both the First Isaiah and the alleged Deutero-Isaiah, a strong evidence of the unity of Isaiah.

A sword upon thy waters, and they shall be dried up…
(Jeremiah 50:38). This, of course, is another reference to the method of Cyrus' capture of Babylon by diverting the Euphrates out of its channel. Both Babylon and Nineveh were on mighty rivers, Nineveh upon the Tigris, and Babylon upon the Euphrates. Yet the prophets of God made this distinction in their prophecies against the two cities. Nahum declared of Nineveh that God prophesied, With an overrunning flood will I make a full end of thee (Nahum 1:8), whereas Jeremiah here declares that The waters of Babylon shall be dried up! What a remarkable proof that what we have here is the Word of God, not the word of men.


 
Verses 41-46
Behold, a people cometh from the north; and a great nation and many kings shall be stirred up from the uttermost parts of the earth. They lay hold on bow and spear; they are cruel, and have no mercy; their voice roareth like the sea; and they ride upon horses, every one set in array, as a man to the battle, against thee, O daughter of Babylon. The king of Babylon hath heard the tidings of them, and his hands wax feeble: anguish hath taken hold of him, [and] pangs as of a woman in travail. Behold, [the enemy] shall come up like a lion from the pride of the Jordan against the strong habitation: for I will suddenly make them run away from it; and whoso is chosen, him will I appoint over it: for who is like me? and who will appoint me a time? and who is the shepherd that can stand before me? Therefore hear ye the counsel of Jehovah, that he hath taken against Babylon; and his purposes, that he hath purposed against the land of the Chaldeans: Surely they shall drag them away, [even] the little ones of the flock; surely he shall make their habitation desolate over them. At the noise of the taking of Babylon the earth trembleth, and the cry is heard among the nations.

Jer. 50:41-43 here are the same as in Jer. 49:19-21 and in Isa. 6:22-24. See my comments there.

Many kings shall be stirred up (against Babylon)…
(Jeremiah 50:41). At the time Jeremiah wrote this, he could not have known the composition of the invading force against Babylon.F23 Nevertheless the prophecy was literally fulfilled. `The many kings' is a reference to the vassal-kings assisting their overlord, this being the normal part of a suzerain-vassal treaty; and, when Cyrus conquered Babylon, his army contained a number of such vassal contingents.F24

Harrison pointed out that Jer. 50:44-46 here repeat substantially the prediction against Edom (Jeremiah 49:19-21), but apply it to Babylon. The significant difference is that, "Little Edom's cry would be heard only as far as the Red Sea; but Babylon's anguished howl would be heard throughout the Near East!F25

This prophecy against Babylon is continued through the following chapter, which is the longest in Jeremiah. The two chapters are actually a single prophecy.


Footnotes for Jeremiah 50
1: Scribner's Bible Commentary (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1898), p. 555.
2: C. F. Keil, Keil-Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 263.
3: Ibid., p, 266.
4: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 656.
5: T. K. Cheyne, Jeremiah in the Pulpit Commentary, p. 269.
6: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 691.
7: Ibid.
8: Barnes' Notes (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House), p. 267.
9: Anthony L. Ash, Psalms (Abilene, Texas: A.C.U. Press, 1987), p. 310.
10: Scribner's Bible Commentary (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1898), p. 556.
11: T. K. Cheyne, Jeremiah in the Pulpit Commentary, p. 270.
12: Scribner's Bible Commentary (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1898), p. 556.
13: Ibid.
14: J. A. Thompson, The Bible and Archeology (Grand Rapid, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972) p. 734.
15: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 691.
16: Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, p. 185.
17: C. F. Keil, Keil-Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 278.
18: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 691.
19: J. R. Dummelow's Commentary, p. 481.
20: Barnes' Notes (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House), p. 269.
21: H. Wheeler Robinson, Jeremiah, p. 494.
22: Barnes' Notes (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House), p. 270.
23: J. A. Thompson, The Bible and Archeology (Grand Rapid, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972) p. 746.
24: Ibid.
25: R. K. Harrison, Jeremiah in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, p. 186.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Jeremiah 50". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=jer&chapter=050>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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