Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
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
(Jer 51:59, 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.
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
(Jer 51:12, 27),
Bel--the tutelary god of Babylon; the same idol as the
Phœnician Baal, that is, lord, the sun
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
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
(Ne 9:38; 10:29).
The full event is yet to come
weeping--with joy at their restoration beyond all hope; and with
sorrow at the remembrance of their sins and sufferings
(Ezr 3:12, 13;
Ps 126:5, 6).
seek . . . Lord--
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"
&c.; Jer 32:40).
They shall return to their God first, then to their own land.
on the mountains--whereon they sacrificed to idols
(Jer 2:20; 3:6, 23).
resting-place--for the "sheep," continuing the image;
Jehovah is the resting-place of His sheep
They rest in His "bosom"
Also His temple at Zion, their "rest," because it is His
(Ps 132:8, 14).
"Found them" implies that they were exposed to the attacks of those
whoever happened to meet them.
adversaries said--for instance, Nebuzara-dan
(Jer 40:2, 3;
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
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,"
they do not say our hope), as each country was thought to have
its local god, whose power extended no farther.
(Ps 90:1; 91:1).
Alluding to the tabernacle, or, as in
"fold," which carries out the image in
"resting-place" of the "sheep." But it can only mean "habitation"
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.
(Jer 51:6, 45;
Zec 2:6, 7;
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
(Ezr 1:5, 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,
The Septuagint and Syriac support English Version.
In vain--without killing him at whom it was aimed
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
they waxed wanton with eating.
bellow as bulls--rather, "neigh as steeds," literally, "strong
ones," a poetical expression for steeds
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!
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
15. Shout--Inspirit one another to the onset with the battle cry.
given . . . hand--an idiom for, "submitted to" the conquerors
as she hath done, do unto her--just retribution in kind. She had
destroyed many, so must she be destroyed
So as to spiritual Babylon
This is right because "it is the vengeance of the Lord"; but
this will not justify private revenge in kind
even the Old Testament law forbade this, though breathing a sterner
spirit than the New Testament
(Ex 23:4, 5;
Pr 25:21, 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
every one to his people--from which they had been removed to Babylon
from all quarters by the Chaldean conquerors
17. lions--hostile kings
(Jer 4:7; 49:19).
(2Ki 24:10, 14).
18. punish . . . king of Babylon--Nabonidus, or Labynitus.
as . . . punished . . . Assyrian--Sennacherib and other kings
Eze 34:13, 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
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"
(Zec 14:2; 13:8, 9).
21. Merathaim--a symbolical name for Babylon, the doubly rebellious,
namely, against God. Compare
"thou hast striven against the Lord"; and
"proud against the Lord." The "doubly" refers to: first, the
Assyrian's oppression of Israel; next, the kindred
Chaldean's oppression of Judah (compare
Jer 50:17-20, 33;
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
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
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
(Da 5:30, 31).
25. weapons of his indignation--the Medes and Persians
26. from the utmost border--namely, of the earth. Or, from all sides
storehouses--or, "her houses filled with men and goods"
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"
27. bullocks--that is, princes and strong warriors
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
Da 1:2; 5:2).
29. archers--literally, "very many and powerful"; hence the Hebrew word is used of archers
from the multitude and force of their arrows.
according to all that she hath
proud against the Lord--not merely cruel towards men
30. (See on
in the streets--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
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
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
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)
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.
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
37. as women--divested of all manliness
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
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
their idols--literally, "terrors." They are mad after idols that are
more calculated to frighten than to attract
(Jer 51:44, 47, 52;
Mere bugbears with which to frighten children.
39. wild beasts of the desert--wild cats, remarkable for their howl
wild beasts of the
islands--jackals (See on
owls--rather, "female ostriches"; they delight in solitary places.
Literally, "daughters of crying." Compare as to spiritual Babylon,
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.
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
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
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.