Jeremiah 50:3
For out of the north there comes up a nation against her, which shall make her land desolate, and none shall dwell therein: they shall remove, they shall depart, both man and beast.
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(3) Out of the north there cometh up a nation.—It is significant that the very phrase which had described the danger that threatened Judah from Babylon (Jeremiah 1:10) is now used for the danger that threatened Babylon itself from Media. It is as though the prophet watched that northern quarter of the heavens, and saw storm after storm, torrent after torrent, bursting out upon the south. The nations are named in Jeremiah 51:27-28. We are almost irresistibly reminded of the language in which the historians of the fourth and fifth centuries speak of the Gothic and Teutonic tribes that poured down upon the Roman Empire.

50:1-7 The king of Babylon was kind to Jeremiah, yet the prophet must foretell the ruin of that kingdom. If our friends are God's enemies, we dare not speak peace to them. The destruction of Babylon is spoken of as done thoroughly. Here is a word for the comfort of the Jews. They shall return to their God first, then to their own land; the promise of their conversion and reformation makes way for the other promises. Their tears flow not from the sorrow of the world, as when they went into captivity, but from godly sorrow. They shall seek after the Lord as their God, and have no more to do with idols. They shall think of returning to their own country. This represents the return of poor souls to God. In true converts there are sincere desires to attain the end, and constant cares to keep in the way. Their present case is lamented as very sad. The sins of professing Christians never will excuse those who rejoice in destroying them.Out of the north - Media lay to the northwest of Babylon. This constant use of the north, the quarter where the sun never shines, and therefore the region of darkness, is symbolic of the region from where danger ever comes.

They shall remove ... - Translate it (as in Jeremiah 9:10): "from man even to cattle they are fled, they are gone."

3. a nation—the Medes, north of Babylon (Jer 51:48). 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. From Media, which lay northward to Babylon and Assyria, through which Cyrus’s way to Babylon lay. This prophecy seemeth not to relate only to Cyrus’s first taking of Babylon, who dealt very gently with it, but to a second taking of it by Darius the king of the Medes, who upon their defection from the Persian monarchy came and made a horrible devastation amongst them, hanging up (as some tell us) four thousand of their nobles, and slaying multitudes of the common people; or of the mischief done them afterward by Seleucus Nicanor, who is said to have built a city, which he called Seleucia, within fourscore and ten miles of Babylon, by which means he brought Babylon to an utter desolation. For out of the north there cometh up a nation against her,.... The Medes and Persians, which under Cyrus were one nation; and which not only lay north of Judea, where this prophecy came, but of Babylon, against which they were to come; and might lay more north to it, before the enlargement of their dominions; and besides, Cyrus came through Assyria to Babylon, which lay north of it; see Isaiah 41:25. Thus, as Rome Pagan was sacked and taken by the Goths and Vandals, that came out of the north; so Rome Papal, and the antichristian states, will be destroyed by the Christian princes of the north, or those who have embraced what the Papists call the northern heresy; tidings out of the north shall trouble antichrist, Daniel 11:44;

which shall make her land desolate, and none shall dwell therein; that is, in process of time; for this desolation was not made at once; it was begun by Cyrus, made greater by Darius, and completed by Seleucus Nicator;

they shall remove, they shall depart, both man and beast; or, "from man to beast" (d); such as were not slain should either flee away or be carried captive; so that in time none should remain, either of man or beast; see Isaiah 13:19; and for the accomplishment of it on mystical Babylon see Revelation 18:2.

(d) "ab homine et usque ad animal", Pagninus, Montanus; "ad bestiam", Schmidt.

For out of the north {c} there cometh a nation against her, which shall make her land desolate, and none shall dwell in it: they shall remove, they shall depart, both man and beast.

(c) That is, the Medes and the Persians.

3. out of the north] characteristic of Jeremiah, but meaning with him first the Scythians and then the Babylonians, whereas the Persians are here meant.

they are fled, etc.] Cp. Jeremiah 9:10.Verse 3. - Out of the north. There was a peculiar mystery attaching to the north in the Hebrew mind, as, in fact, the word very for "north" in Hebrew (literally, the hidden) indicates. The burnt offering was to be sacrificed on the north side of the altar (Leviticus 1:11), and the four cherubim, in the vision of Ezekiel, are described as coming from the north (Ezekiel 1:4). The horror with which Babylon was regarded was intensified, apparently, by its northern position (Jeremiah 1:14), and now the "hidden" north again pours forth its swarms of warriors against Babylon herself. They shall remove, they shall depart; rather, they are fled, they are gone; almost the same clause occurs in Jeremiah 9:10. The prediction is realized as past. Through the working of God's power, the Elamites shall be dispersed to all the four winds, i.e., to all parts of the earth. This exercise of power is represented under the figure of the four winds. The wind is the most appropriate among all earthly things for symbolizing the Spirit of God, or the energy of the divine operation; cf. Zechariah 6:5; Daniel 7:2. The Kethib עולם in Jeremiah 49:36 has evidently been written by mistake for עילם. The meaning of the figure is this: Elam is to be attacked on all sides by enemies, and be scattered in every direction. This is evident from Jeremiah 49:37, where the figurative is changed for the literal, and the thought further extended. החתּתּי, Hiphil from חתת, be broken to pieces, in Hiphil to dispirit through fear and terror; cf. Jeremiah 1:17. On the form of the text, which is shortened from החתּותי through the shifting of the tone to the last syllable, cf. Ewald, 234, e. רעה, "evil, misfortune," is marked by the apposition, "the heat of mine anger," as the emanation of God's judgment of wrath. On 37b, cf. Jeremiah 9:15. The Lord will sit in judgment on king and princes, and punish them with death. The throne is set for the Judge to sit in judgment; see Jeremiah 43:10. Yet (Jeremiah 49:39), in the Messianic future, blessing shall come on Elam; cf. Jeremiah 49:6; Jeremiah 48:7.

If we compare this prophecy with the remaining prophecies of Jeremiah regarding the heathen nations, we shall find that it contains no reference whatever to any execution by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon of the judgment with which the Elamites are threatened; but it announces the fall of Elam and the dispersion of its inhabitants by enemies in a way so general, that, as Hvernick (on Daniel, p. 549) has remarked, it is an arbitrary addition for any one to make, if he thinks definitely of the Chaldeans as the enemies of Elam, because, correctly viewed, the contents rather declare against a conquest by Nebuchadnezzar. "Jeremiah," says Hvernick, "announces the utter extinction of the state as such, a general dispersion and annihilation of the people, a tribunal of punishment which the Lord Himself will hold over them, - features which are far too strongly marked, and far too grand, to let us think that Elam is merely to be rendered tributary and incorporated into a new state. If we connect with this the deliverance of Elam mentioned at the close of Jeremiah 49:39, viz., his conversion, then we will not hesitate to take the meaning of the oracle, in a more general way, as referring to the gradual fall of this heathen nation, for which, however, a future deliverance is in store, as is fully shown by the issue." This view is at least much more correct than the current tone, still maintained by Ewald, Hitzig, Graf, etc., according to which the prophecy refers to a conquest of Elam by Nebuchadnezzar. M. von Niebuhr (Gesch. Assyr. und Bab. S. 210) attempts to show its probability from a notice in Strabo (xi. 524), and (on S. 212) from the intimation given in the book of Judith, Jeremiah 1, of a war between Nebuchadnezzar and Media, which was successfully concluded in the twelfth year of his reign. But the statement in Strabo, that the Kossaites, a nation of robbers, once sent 13,000 archers to help the Elamites against the Susites and Babylonians, is far too indefinite for us to be able to apply it to a war which Nebuchadnezzar in company with Media carried on against Elam; for the Susites are at least not Medes. And the notice in the book of Judith is self-evidently unhistorical; for it says that Nebuchadnezzar was king of the Assyrians and resided in the great city of Nineveh, and that he defeated Arphaxad the king of Media in the seventeenth year of his reign (Judith 1:1, 13). But Nebuchadnezzar neither resided in Nineveh, which had been destroyed shortly before; nor could he have made war on Arphaxad king of Media in the seventeenth year of his reign, because he had in that year begun to besiege Jerusalem with all his forces. But the additional considerations which Niebuhr brings forward in support of his hypothesis can as little stand the test. Neither Jeremiah 25:25, where the kings of Media and Elam are mentioned among those who are to drink the cup of wrath, nor Ezekiel 32:24., where Elam and the whole multitude of its people are brought forward as among those who were slain, and who sank into the nether parts of the earth, furnish proofs of the conquest and destruction of Elam by Nebuchadnezzar, or of a war between that king and Media. For the funeral-song in Ezekiel bears a thoroughly ideal character, and announces the fall of all the heathen powers, without any regard to Nebuchadnezzar. This holds, too, in a sense, of Jeremiah 25, where Nebuchadnezzar is certainly mentioned as the ruler into whose power all the nations are to be delivered for the space of seventy years, inasmuch as this announcement also launches out into the idea of a judgment of all nations; so that we are not entitled to assume that all the kingdoms of the earth, to whom the cup of wrath is presented, were to be conquered and brought under subjection by Nebuchadnezzar. Still less reason is there for inferring from Jeremiah 27:3, that Nebuchadnezzar was involved in a war with Media at a time when, as is there stated, at the beginning of Zedekiah's reign, the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, and Phoenicia sent ambassadors to Jerusalem to recommend a coalition against the power of Babylon. Even if Nebuchadnezzar were then occupied in the eastern portion of his kingdom, yet there is nothing at all to prove that he was involved in war with Media or Elam. History says nothing of a war waged by Nebuchadnezzar on Elam, nor does this prophecy furnish any support for such an assumption. Although it does not set before us a "gradual ruin" of Elam (Hvernick), but rather a catastrophe brought on by God, yet the description is given in terms so general, that nothing more specific can be inferred from it regarding the time and the circumstances of this catastrophe. In this prophecy, Elam is not considered in its historical relation to the people of Israel, but as the representative of the heathen world lying beyond, which has not hitherto come into any relation towards the people of Israel, but which nevertheless, along with it, falls under the judgment coming on all nations, in order that, through the judgment, it may be led to the knowledge of the true God, and share in His salvation.

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