|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.
Verses 20-26. - Israel is now to be Jehovah's hammer, striking down everything, even the Chaldean colossus. But though Babylon may be as great and as destructive as a volcanic mountain, it shall soon be quite burnt out. Verse 20. - My battle axe; or, my mace. The mace (for a picture of which, see Rawlinson, 'Ancient Monarchies,' 1:459) was a weapon constantly employed by the Assyrians and presumably by the Babylonian kings. The battle axe was much less frequently used. But who is addressed by this terrible title? The commentators are divided, some inclining to Babylon,
(1) because Babylon was the last person addressed (see ver. 14), and
(2) because a similar title was given to Babylon in Jeremiah 50:23: others to Israel, on the ground that the tenses are the same throughout the passage (vers. 20-24). The latter view is probably the best. How could Babylon be said to shatter her own "governors" and "viceroys" (for the prophet deliberately chooses the Babylonian official names)? The argument from the context is not very weighty; for it is clear that the connection of the parts of this prophecy is very loose. We may assume, then, that ver. 20 begins a fresh paragraph, standing quite apart from that which precedes. The objection of Graf and Keil, is that Israel could not himself be styled a "mace," it being Israel's destiny to be delivered by others. But is not a very similar statement made of Israel in Isaiah 41:15; Psalm 149:7-9? (Kuenen offers a third explanation - Cyrus.) The nations... kingdoms. First the great social organisms are mentioned; next comes the military power; next the population, according to sex, age, and class.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Thou art my battle axe and weapons of war,.... This is said by the Lord, either to Cyrus, as some, to which our version inclines, whom God made use of as an instrument to subdue nations and kingdoms, and destroy them; see Isaiah 45:1; or rather Babylon, and the king of it, who had been the hammer of the earth, Jeremiah 50:23; as it may be rendered here, "thou art my hammer" (s); or, "hast been"; an instrument in his hands, of beating the nations to pieces, as stones by a hammer, and of destroying them, as by weapons of war: this, and what follows, are observed to show, that though Babylon had been used by the Lord for the destruction of others, it should not be secure from it itself, but should share the same fate; unless this is to be understood of the church of God, and kingdom of Christ, which in the latter day will break in pieces all the kingdoms of the earth, Daniel 2:44; which sense seems to have some countenance and confirmation from Jeremiah 51:24 "in your sight". The Targum is,
"thou art a scatterer before me, a city in which are warlike arms;''
which seems to refer to Babylon:
for with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy kingdoms; or, "with thee I have broke in pieces, and have destroyed"; the future instead of the past (t); as the nations and kingdoms of Judea, Egypt, Edom, Moab, Ammon, and others: or, "that I may break in pieces" (u), &c. and so it expresses the end for which he was a hammer, as well as the use he had been or would be of.
(s) "malleus es, vel fuisti mihi", Pagninus, Piscator, Cocceius, Schmidt. (t) "Dispersi, perdidi", Lutherus; "conquassavi", Munster; "dissipavi", Piscator. (u) "ut dissiparem", Junius & Tremellius; "ut dispergam", Schmidt.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
20. (See on Jer 50:23). "Break in pieces" refers to the "hammer" there (compare Na 2:1, Margin). The club also was often used by ancient warriors.
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