Jeremiah 51
Barnes' Notes
Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will raise up against Babylon, and against them that dwell in the midst of them that rise up against me, a destroying wind;
In the midst of them that rise up against me - Or, in Leb-kamai, the cipher for Kasdim, i. e., Chaldaea. This cipher was not necessarily invented by Jeremiah, or used for concealment. It was probaby first devised either for political purposes or for trade, and was in time largely employed in the correspondence between the exiles at Babylon and their friends at home. Thus, words in common use like Sheshach Jeremiah 25:26 and Leb-kamai, would be known to everybody.

And will send unto Babylon fanners, that shall fan her, and shall empty her land: for in the day of trouble they shall be against her round about.
Fanners - Or, winnowers.

Against him that bendeth let the archer bend his bow, and against him that lifteth himself up in his brigandine: and spare ye not her young men; destroy ye utterly all her host.
The man who bends the bow, and the heavy-armed soldier who vaunts himself in his coat of mail (Jeremiah 46:4 note), represent the Babylonians who defend the city.

Thus the slain shall fall in the land of the Chaldeans, and they that are thrust through in her streets.
Translate it: "And they," i. e., the young men who form her host Jeremiah 51:3, "shall fall slain in the land of the Chaldaeans, and pierced through in her streets," i. e., the streets of Babylon.

For Israel hath not been forsaken, nor Judah of his God, of the LORD of hosts; though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel.
Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in her iniquity; for this is the time of the LORD'S vengeance; he will render unto her a recompence.
Babylon hath been a golden cup in the LORD'S hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad.
Literally, "A golden cup is Babel in the hand of Yahweh, intoxicating the whole earth." Jeremiah beholds her in her splendor, but the wine whereof she makes the nations drink is the wrath of God. As God's hammer Jeremiah 50:23, Babylon was strong: as His cup of gold, she was rich and beautiful, but neither saves her from ruin.

Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed: howl for her; take balm for her pain, if so be she may be healed.
Destroyed - literally, broken, as was the hammer Jeremiah 50:23. The cup, though of metal, is thrown down so violently as to be shattered by the fall.

Howl for her - The persons addressed are the many inhabitants of Babylon who were dragged from their homes to people its void places, and especially the Israelites. They have dwelt there long enough to feel pity for her, when they contrast her past magnificence with her terrible fall. Compare Jeremiah 29:7.

We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed: forsake her, and let us go every one into his own country: for her judgment reacheth unto heaven, and is lifted up even to the skies.
Omit would. All was done that it was possible to do to heal her.

To the skies - Or, to the clouds.

The LORD hath brought forth our righteousness: come, and let us declare in Zion the work of the LORD our God.
Yahweh hath brought to the light those things which prove us to be righteous: i. e., by punishing Babylon He hath justified

Make bright the arrows; gather the shields: the LORD hath raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes: for his device is against Babylon, to destroy it; because it is the vengeance of the LORD, the vengeance of his temple.
Make bright - Rather, Sharpen.

The Medes Genesis 10:2 were a branch of the great Aryan family, who as conquerors had seized upon the vast regions extending from the Caspian Sea to the eastern borders of Mesopotamia, but without being able to dispossess the Turanian tribes who had previously dwelt there. They were divided into numerous clans, each with its own local chief, the leaders of the larger sections being those who are here called kings.

Set up the standard upon the walls of Babylon, make the watch strong, set up the watchmen, prepare the ambushes: for the LORD hath both devised and done that which he spake against the inhabitants of Babylon.
Upon the walls of Babylon - Or, "against the walls." The King James Version takes the word ironically, as a summons to Babylon to prepare for her defense; others take it as a summons to the army to make the attack.

O thou that dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures, thine end is come, and the measure of thy covetousness.
Upon many waters - The great wealth of Babylonia was caused not merely by the Euphrates, but by a vast system of canals, which served for defense as well as for irrigation.

The measure of thy covetousness - i. e., the appointed end of thy gain. Some render it: the ell of thy cutting off, i. e., the appointed measure at which thou art to be cut off, at which thy web of existence is to be severed from the loom.

The LORD of hosts hath sworn by himself, saying, Surely I will fill thee with men, as with caterpillers; and they shall lift up a shout against thee.
Rather, "Surely I have filled thee with men as with locusts, and they shall sing over thee the vintage-song." The vintage-shout suggests the idea of trampling Babylon under foot, as the vintagers trample the grapes; a metaphor of the divine wrath.

He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heaven by his understanding.
A transcript of Jeremiah 10:12-16.

When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens; and he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth: he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures.
Every man is brutish by his knowledge; every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them.
They are vanity, the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish.
The portion of Jacob is not like them; for he is the former of all things: and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: the LORD of hosts is his name.
Thou art my battle axe and weapons of war: for with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy kingdoms;
Or, Thou art my maul, weapons of war etc. The maul or mace Proverbs 25:18 only differs from the hammer Jeremiah 50:23 in being used for warlike purposes.

Omit the "will" in "will I break." The crushing of the nations was going on at the time when the prophet wrote. Most commentators consider that Babylon was the mace of God.

And with thee will I break in pieces the horse and his rider; and with thee will I break in pieces the chariot and his rider;
With thee also will I break in pieces man and woman; and with thee will I break in pieces old and young; and with thee will I break in pieces the young man and the maid;
I will also break in pieces with thee the shepherd and his flock; and with thee will I break in pieces the husbandman and his yoke of oxen; and with thee will I break in pieces captains and rulers.
Captains ... rulers - Jeremiah 51:28. Pashas and Sagans. The prophet dwells at length upon Babylon's destructiveness.

And I will render unto Babylon and to all the inhabitants of Chaldea all their evil that they have done in Zion in your sight, saith the LORD.
Behold, I am against thee, O destroying mountain, saith the LORD, which destroyest all the earth: and I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and roll thee down from the rocks, and will make thee a burnt mountain.
O destroying mountain - A volcano which by its flames and hot lava-streams "destroys the whole land."

A burnt mountain - A burned-out mountain, of which the crater alone remains. Such was Babylon. Its destructive energy under Nebuchadnezzar was like the first outbreak of volcanic fires; its rapid collapse under his successors was as the same volcano when its flames have burned out, and its crater is falling in upon itself.

And they shall not take of thee a stone for a corner, nor a stone for foundations; but thou shalt be desolate for ever, saith the LORD.
The prophet means that:

(1) Babylon would never again be the seat of empire. Nor

(2) would any new development of events take its rise thence.

Set ye up a standard in the land, blow the trumpet among the nations, prepare the nations against her, call together against her the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Ashchenaz; appoint a captain against her; cause the horses to come up as the rough caterpillers.
Ararat, see the Genesis 8:4 note. Minni, probably the western portion of Armenia, as Ararat was that in the center and to the east. Armenia was at this time subject to Media. Ashchenaz was between the Euxine and the Caspian Seas.

A captain - Some prefer the Septuagint rendering in Nahum 3:17 : "a mingled mass of people." (Others, a "scribe," an Assyrian term.)

The rough caterpillers - i. e., locusts in their third stage, when their wings are still enveloped in rough horny cases, which stick up upon their backs. It is in this stage that they are so destructive.

Prepare against her the nations with the kings of the Medes, the captains thereof, and all the rulers thereof, and all the land of his dominion.
His dominion - This belonged not to the subordinate rulers, but to the chief, e. g., to Cyrus.

And the land shall tremble and sorrow: for every purpose of the LORD shall be performed against Babylon, to make the land of Babylon a desolation without an inhabitant.
The literal translation is:

Then the earth quaked and writhed;

For the thoughts of Yahweh against

Babel have stood fast;

To make Babel a waste without inhabitant.

The mighty men of Babylon have forborn to fight, they have remained in their holds: their might hath failed; they became as women: they have burned her dwellingplaces; her bars are broken.
Have forborn to fight - Or, have ceased to fight: in despair when they saw that the conflict was hopeless.

Holds - The word properly means an acropolis, and so any inaccessible place of refuge.

They have burned - i. e., the enemy have burned.

Bars - i. e., fortifications (compare Amos 1:5).

One post shall run to meet another, and one messenger to meet another, to shew the king of Babylon that his city is taken at one end,
The royal palace was a strong fortification in the heart of the city. The messengers thus met one another.

At one end - Rather, from all sides, entirely, completely.

And that the passages are stopped, and the reeds they have burned with fire, and the men of war are affrighted.
The passages are stopped - The ferries are seized, occupied. The historians state that when Cyrus captured the city his troops moved down the bed of the river and occupied all these ferries, finding at each of them the gates negligently left open. See the Daniel 5:1 note.

The reeds - literally, the marshes or pools, which formed an important part of the defenses of Babylon, were dried up as completely as a piece of wood would be consumed by fire.

For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; The daughter of Babylon is like a threshingfloor, it is time to thresh her: yet a little while, and the time of her harvest shall come.
Translate, "The daughter of Babylon is as a threshing-floor at the time when it is trampled," i. e., trodden hard in readiness for the threshing: "yet a little while and the harvest-time" shall come to her, i. e., overtake her. In the East, the grain when reaped is carried at once to the threshing-floor, a level spot carefully prepared beforehand, usually about 50 feet in diameter, and trampled hard. The grain after it has been beaten out by a sledge drawn over it by oxen is separated from the chaff and stored up in granaries.

Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon hath devoured me, he hath crushed me, he hath made me an empty vessel, he hath swallowed me up like a dragon, he hath filled his belly with my delicates, he hath cast me out.
Literally, "Nebuchadrezzar ... hath devoured us, hath crushed us, he hath set as aside as an empty vessel, he hath swallowed as like a crocodile, he hath filled his maw with my delicacies Genesis 49:20, he hath cast us out. My wrong and my flesh be upon Babylon, shall the inhabitress of Zion say: and my blood be etc." Nebuchadnezzar had devoured Jerusalem, had treated her as ruthlessly as a crocodile does its prey, and for this cruelty he and Babylon are justly to be punished.

The violence done to me and to my flesh be upon Babylon, shall the inhabitant of Zion say; and my blood upon the inhabitants of Chaldea, shall Jerusalem say.
Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will plead thy cause, and take vengeance for thee; and I will dry up her sea, and make her springs dry.
Her sea - Probably the great lake dug by Nitocris to receive the waters of the Euphrates.

Her springs - Her reservoir; the whole system of canals dug Jeremiah 51:13. The wealth of Babylonia depended upon irrigation.

And Babylon shall become heaps, a dwellingplace for dragons, an astonishment, and an hissing, without an inhabitant.
Heaps - Of rubbish, formed in this case by the decay of the unburned bricks of which Babylon was built. It is these heaps which have yielded such a large wealth of historical documents in our own days.

Dragons - Jackals Jeremiah 10:22.

They shall roar together like lions: they shall yell as lions' whelps.
Yell - Or, growl.

In their heat I will make their feasts, and I will make them drunken, that they may rejoice, and sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the LORD.
In their heat ... - While, like so many young lions, they are in the full glow of excitement over their prey, God prepares for them a drinking-bout to end in the sleep of death. Compare Daniel 5:1.

I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter, like rams with he goats.
Lambs ... rams ... he goats - i. e., all classes of the population (see Isaiah 34:6 note).

How is Sheshach taken! and how is the praise of the whole earth surprised! how is Babylon become an astonishment among the nations!
Sheshach - Babylon: see the Jeremiah 51:1 note.

Surprised - i. e., seized, captured.

The sea is come up upon Babylon: she is covered with the multitude of the waves thereof.
By a grand metaphor the invading army is compared to the sea.

Her cities are a desolation, a dry land, and a wilderness, a land wherein no man dwelleth, neither doth any son of man pass thereby.
A wilderness - Or, a desert of sand.

A land wherein - Rather, "a land - no man shall dwell in them (i. e., its cities), and no human being shall pass through them."

And I will punish Bel in Babylon, and I will bring forth out of his mouth that which he hath swallowed up: and the nations shall not flow together any more unto him: yea, the wall of Babylon shall fall.
The sacred vessels plundered from Jerusalem, and laid up in the very temple of Bel, should be restored; the men and women dragged from other lands to people the city, released; and its wall falling would show the insignificance to which it should be reduced.

My people, go ye out of the midst of her, and deliver ye every man his soul from the fierce anger of the LORD.
The fierce anger of the Lord - i. e., against Babylon. The people of God are to flee away that they may not be involved in the miseries of Babylon. See the Jeremiah 50:8 note.

And lest your heart faint, and ye fear for the rumour that shall be heard in the land; a rumour shall both come one year, and after that in another year shall come a rumour, and violence in the land, ruler against ruler.
Literally, "And beware lest your heart faint, and ye be afraid because of the rumour that is heard in the land: for in one year shall one rumour come, and afterward in another year another rumour; and violence shall be in the land etc." The fall of Babylon was to be preceded by a state of unquiet, men's minds being unsettled partly by rumors of the warlike preparations of the Medes, and of actual invasions: partly by intestine feuds. So before the conquest of Jerusalem by the Romans the Church had similar warnings Matthew 24:6-7.

Therefore, behold, the days come, that I will do judgment upon the graven images of Babylon: and her whole land shall be confounded, and all her slain shall fall in the midst of her.
Therefore - The exiles were to note these things as signs of the approach of God's visitation.

Confounded - Or, ashamed.

Then the heaven and the earth, and all that is therein, shall sing for Babylon: for the spoilers shall come unto her from the north, saith the LORD.
As Babylon hath caused the slain of Israel to fall, so at Babylon shall fall the slain of all the earth.
Render, "As Babylon caused the slain of Israel to fall, so because of Babylon, hare fallen the slain of (or, in) the whole earth." Babylon has to answer for the general carnage caused by its wars.

Ye that have escaped the sword, go away, stand not still: remember the LORD afar off, and let Jerusalem come into your mind.
Afar off - Or, from afar, from Chaldaea, far away from Yahweh's dwelling in Jerusalem. The verse is a renewed entreaty to the Jews to leave Babylon and journey homewards, as soon as Cyrus grants them permission.

We are confounded, because we have heard reproach: shame hath covered our faces: for strangers are come into the sanctuaries of the LORD'S house.
Confounded - Or, ashamed. The verse is a statement of the wrong done to the exiles by Babylon, and so leads naturally to Babylon's punishment Jeremiah 51:52.

Wherefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will do judgment upon her graven images: and through all her land the wounded shall groan.
Though Babylon should mount up to heaven, and though she should fortify the height of her strength, yet from me shall spoilers come unto her, saith the LORD.
A sound of a cry cometh from Babylon, and great destruction from the land of the Chaldeans:
A cry - i. e., the war-cry.

Because the LORD hath spoiled Babylon, and destroyed out of her the great voice; when her waves do roar like great waters, a noise of their voice is uttered:
Render, "For Yahweh wasteth Babylon, and will make to cease from her the loud noise (of busy life); and their wares (the surging masses of the enemy) roar like many waters: the noise of their shouting is given forth, i. e., resounds."

Because the spoiler is come upon her, even upon Babylon, and her mighty men are taken, every one of their bows is broken: for the LORD God of recompences shall surely requite.
Every one ... - Or, "Their bows are broken, for Yahweh is a God of recompenses; He will certainly requite."

And I will make drunk her princes, and her wise men, her captains, and her rulers, and her mighty men: and they shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken, and her high gates shall be burned with fire; and the people shall labour in vain, and the folk in the fire, and they shall be weary.
The broad walls - Herodotus makes the breadth of the walls 85 English feet.

Broken - See the margin. i. e., the ground beneath them shall be laid bare by their demolition.

The people - Or, peoples. Jeremiah concludes his prophecy with a quotation from Habakkuk; applying the words to the stupendous works intended to make Babylon an eternal city, but which were to end in such early and utter disappointment.

The word which Jeremiah the prophet commanded Seraiah the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah, when he went with Zedekiah the king of Judah into Babylon in the fourth year of his reign. And this Seraiah was a quiet prince.
Historical appendix. In his fourth year Zedekiah journeyed to Babylon either to obtain some favor from Nebuchadnezzar, or because he was summoned to be present on some state occasion. Jeremiah took the opportunity of sending to the exiles at Babylon this prophecy.

Jeremiah 51:59

Seraiah - Brother to Baruch.

A quiet prince - literally, "prince of the resting place, i. e., quartermaster." It was his business to ride forward each day, and select the place where the king would halt and pass the night.

So Jeremiah wrote in a book all the evil that should come upon Babylon, even all these words that are written against Babylon.
In a book - literally, in one book, on one scroll of parchment.

And Jeremiah said to Seraiah, When thou comest to Babylon, and shalt see, and shalt read all these words;
And shalt see, and shalt read - Or, then see that thou read etc.

Then shalt thou say, O LORD, thou hast spoken against this place, to cut it off, that none shall remain in it, neither man nor beast, but that it shall be desolate for ever.
The sinking of the scroll was not for the purpose of destroying it, but was a symbolic act (compare the marginal reference); and the binding of a stone to it signified the certainty of the hasty ruin of the city.

And it shall be, when thou hast made an end of reading this book, that thou shalt bind a stone to it, and cast it into the midst of Euphrates:
And thou shalt say, Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her: and they shall be weary. Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.
Thus far ... - Whoever added Jeremiah 52, evidently felt it his duty to point out that it was not written by Jeremiah.

Notes on the Bible by Albert Barnes [1834].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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