|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
51:1-58 The particulars of this prophecy are dispersed and interwoven, and the same things left and returned to again. Babylon is abundant in treasures, yet neither her waters nor her wealth shall secure her. Destruction comes when they did not think of it. Wherever we are, in the greatest depths, at the greatest distances, we are to remember the Lord our God; and in the times of the greatest fears and hopes, it is most needful to remember the Lord. The feeling excited by Babylon's fall is the same with the New Testament Babylon, Re 18:9,19. The ruin of all who support idolatry, infidelity, and superstition, is needful for the revival of true godliness; and the threatening prophecies of Scripture yield comfort in this view. The great seat of antichristian tyranny, idolatry, and superstition, the persecutor of true Christians, is as certainly doomed to destruction as ancient Babylon. Then will vast multitudes mourn for sin, and seek the Lord. Then will the lost sheep of the house of Israel be brought back to the fold of the good Shepherd, and stray no more. And the exact fulfilment of these ancient prophecies encourages us to faith in all the promises and prophecies of the sacred Scriptures.
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).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
O thou that dwellest upon many waters,.... Here Babylon is addressed, either by the Lord, or by the prophet, or the godly Jews; who is described by her, situation, which was by the great river Euphrates; which being branched out into several canals or rivers, both ran through it, and encompassed it; hence mention is made of the rivers of Babylon, Psalm 137:1; and a fit emblem this city was of mystical Babylon, which is also said to sit on many waters, interpreted of people and nations, Revelation 17:1; and which Kimchi here interprets of an affluence of good things, though he admits of the literal sense of the words:
abundant in treasures: of corn, and of the fruits of the earth, and so in condition to hold out a siege, as well as strongly fortified by art and nature, before described; and of gold and silver, the sinews of war, which she had got together, partly by commerce, and partly by the spoil of other nations; and yet neither her situation nor her affluence could secure her from ruin:
thine end is come, and the measure of thy covetousness; this flourishing city was now near its end, and with it the whole Babylonish monarchy; the time fixed by the Lord, for the duration of one and the other, was now come; and whereas her covetousness was insatiable, and would have known no bounds, for the enlargement of her dominions, and for the accumulation of more wealth and riches; God set a limit to it, beyond which it should not go; which measure was now filled up, and the time for it expired. The Targum is,
"the day of thy destruction is come, and the time of the visitation of thy wickedness,''
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
13. waters—(Jer 51:32, 36; see on Isa 21:1). The Euphrates surrounded the city and, being divided into many channels, formed islands. Compare as to spiritual Babylon "waters," that is, "many peoples," Re 17:1, 15. A large lake also was near Babylon.
measure—literally, "cubit," which was the most common measure, and therefore is used for a measure in general. The time for putting a limit to thy covetousness [Gesenius]. There is no "and" in the Hebrew: translate, "thine end, the retribution for thy covetousness" [Grotius]. Maurer takes the image to be from weaving: "the cubit where thou art to be cut off"; for the web is cut off, when the required number of cubits is completed (Isa 38:12).
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