|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 58. - The broad walls of Babylon... and her high gates. See Herod., 1:179, 181, and the parallel accounts from other authors, cited by Duncker ('Hist. of Antiquity,' 3:373, etc.), who taxes Herodotus with exaggeration, but admits as probable that the walls were not less than forty feet broad. Utterly broken; rather, destroyed even to the ground (literally, made bare). The people; rather, peoples.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Thus saith the Lord of hosts,.... Because what follows might seem incredible ever to be effected; it is introduced with this preface, expressed by him who is the God of truth, and the Lord God omnipotent:
the broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken; or rased up; the foundations of them, and the ground on which they stood made naked and bare, and open to public view; everyone of the walls, the inward and the outward, as Kimchi and Ben Melech interpret it. Curtius says (s) the wall of Babylon was thirty two feet broad, and that carriages might pass by each other without any danger. Herodotus (t) says it was fifty royal cubits broad, which were three fingers larger than the common measure; and both Strabo (u) and Diodorus Siculus (w) affirm, that two chariots drawn with four horses abreast might meet each other, and pass easily; and, according to Ctesias (x), the breadth of the wall was large enough for six chariots: or the words may be read, "the walls of broad Babylon" (y); for Babylon was very large in circumference; more like a country than a city, as Aristotle (z) says. Historians differ much about the compass of its wall; but all agree it was very large; the best account, which is that of Curtius (a), makes it to be three hundred and fifty eight furlongs (about forty five miles); with Ctesias it was three hundred and sixty; and with Clitarchus three hundred and sixty five, as they are both quoted by Diodorus Siculus (b); according to Strabo (c) it was three hundred and eighty five; and according to Dion Cassius (d) four hundred; by Philostratus (e) it is said to be four hundred and eighty; as also by Herodotus; and by Julian (f) the emperor almost five hundred. Pliny (g) reckons it sixty miles:
and her high gates shall be burnt with fire; there were a hundred of them, all of brass, with their posts and hinges, as Herodotus (h) affirms:
and the people shall labour in vain, and the folk in the fire, and they shall be weary; which some understand of the builders of the walls, gates, and city of Babylon, whose labour in the issue was in vain, since the end of them was to be broken and burned; but rather it designs the Chaldeans, who laboured in the fire to extinguish and save the city and its gates, but to no purpose.
(s) Hist. l. 5. c. 1.((t) L. 1. sive Clio, c. 178. (u) Geograph l. 16. p. 508. (w) Bibl. l. 2. p. 96. (x) Apud Diodor. ib. (y) "mari Babelis lati", Schmidt. (z) Politic. l. 3. c. 3.((a) Hist. l. 5. c. 1.((b) Ut supra. (Bibl. l. 2. p. 96.) (c) Ut supra. (Geograph l. 16. p. 508.) (d) Apud Marsham Canon. p. 590. (e) Vita Apollon. l. 1. e. 18. (f) Orat. 3. p. 236. (g) Nat. Hist. l. 6. c. 26. (h) L. 1. sive Clio, c. 179.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
58. broad walls—eighty-seven feet broad [Rosenmuller]; fifty cubits [Grotius]. A chariot of four horses abreast could meet another on it without collision. The walls were two hundred cubits high, and four hundred and eighty-five stadia, or sixty miles in extent.
gates—one hundred in number, of brass; twenty-five on each of the four sides, the city being square; between the gates were two hundred and fifty towers. Berosus says triple walls encompassed the outer, and the same number the inner city. Cyrus caused the outer walls to be demolished. Taking the extent of the walls to be three hundred and sixty-five stadia, as Diodorus states, it is said two hundred thousand men completed a stadium each day, so that the whole was completed in one year.
labour … in the fire—The event will show that the builders of the walls have "labored" only for the "fire" in which they shall be consumed, "In the fire" answers to the parallel, "burned with fire." Translate, "shall have labored in vain," &c. Compare Job 3:14, "built desolate places for themselves," that is, grand places, soon about to be desolate ruins. Jeremiah has in view here Hab 2:13.
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