Jeremiah 51:12
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) Set up the standard upon the walls of Babylon.—The Authorised version, following the LXX. and the Vulgate, takes the words as an ironical summons to a defence which will prove fruitless. The preposition for “upon” may, however, mean against, and this agrees better with the context. The “standards” are the banners or signals that direct an attack on a given point of the walls. The “watch” and “watchmen” are the scouts and sentinels placed to give notice of any attempt at a sally on the part of the besieged. The “ambush” may indicate generally any sudden attack, or, more specifically, the stratagem of a feigned flight, like that employed by Joshua in the attack on Ai (Joshua 8:14-16; comp. Judges 20:33-35).

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.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. 12. With all your efforts, your city shall be taken.

standard—to summon the defenders together to any point threatened by the besiegers.

Some judge these words spoken to the Medes, declaring the will of God, that they should use all probable means to conquer Babylon, or (as some would have it) display their banners upon the walls of it, as signs of its being already conquered: but certainly it is more reasonable to conclude them the prophet’s words to the Babylonians, either rousing them out of their security, (for it appears they were strangely secure from Da 5; historians tell us that the city was fortified by walls fifty cubits high, and two hundred cubits broad, and by a very deep and large ditch, besides that on one side it had the river Euphrates,) or at least quickening them to make all the preparation they could, though all would be to very little purpose, for God had resolved upon what he would do upon Babylon, and it was already as good as done.

Set up the standard upon the walls of Babylon,.... This is not said to the Medes and Persians, to put up a flag on the walls of Babylon, as a sign of victory, as Kimchi, Abarbinel, and others think; for as yet the city is not supposed to be taken by what follows; but rather to the Babylonians, to set up an ensign on their walls, to gather the inhabitants together, to defend their city, and the bulwarks of it; which, with what follows, is ironically spoken:

make the watch strong; to guard the city; observe the motions of the enemy, and give proper and timely notice; increase and double it:

set up watchmen; meaning the keepers of the walls; place them upon them, to keep a good look out, that they might not be surprised: this seems to respect the great carelessness and security the whole city was in the night it was taken; being wholly engaged in feasting and revelling, in rioting and drunkenness, having no fear of danger, or concern for their safety; with which they are tacitly upbraided:

prepare the ambushes; or, "liers in wait" (p); to second or relieve those on the walls upon occasion; or seize unawares the besiegers, should they attempt to scale the walls, and enter the city:

for the Lord hath devised and done that which he spoke against the inhabitants of Babylon; or as he hath devised, so hath he done, or will do: his purposes cannot be frustrated, his counsel shall stand; and therefore had the Babylonians been ever so industrious in their own defence, they could never have prevented their ruin and destruction, which was resolved upon, and accordingly effected.

(p) "insidiatores", Montanus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius, Schmidt.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. Exhortation to commence the blockade.

watchmen] those of the attacking force who were appointed to see that the investiture was thorough.

the ambushes] to attack any of the besieged that ventured beyond the walls; or (better) to take advantage of a sortie to push their way through the opened gates. Cp. Joshua 8:12 ff.; Jdg 20:29 ff.

Verse 12. - Upon the walls of Babylon; rather, toward the walls (as Jeremiah 4:6). The "standard" was carried before the army, to show the direction of the march. Make the watch strong. Not merely for the safety of the invaders, but to blockade the city. Comp. the phrase, "Watchers [a synonymous Hebrew word is used] came from a far country" (Jeremiah 4:16); i.e. besiegers. Prepare the ambushes. To press into the city when the besieged have made a sally (as Joshua 8:14-19; Judges 20:33, 37). Jeremiah 51:12The instruments which the Lord employs in bringing about the fall of Babylon are the kings of the Medes, i.e., the provincial governors, or heads of the separate provinces into which the Medes in ancient times were divided, until, after revolting from the Assyrians in the year 714 b.c., they put themselves under a common head, in order to assert their independence, and chose Dejokes as their monarch. See Speigel's Ern (1863, S. 308ff.), and Delitzsch on Isaiah 13:17, who rightly remarks that in Isaiah 13:17, as well as here, מדי is a general designation for the Aryan tribes of Iran, taken from the most important and influential nation. In Jeremiah 21:2, Isaiah mentions Elam in the first series, along with Media, as a conqueror of Babylon; and the Babylonian kingdom was destroyed by Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian. But the Persians are first named in the Old Testament by Ezekiel and Daniel, while the name "Elam" as a province of the Persian kingdom is gradually lost, from the times of Cyrus onwards, in that of the "Persians." The princes of Media are to prepare themselves for besieging and conquering Babylon. הבר (from בּרר), prop. to polish, cleanse from dirt and rust. The arrows are thereby sharpened; cf. Isaiah 49:2. מלאוּ השּׁלטים is variously explained. The meaning of "shields" is that best established for שּׁלטים (see on 2 Samuel 8:7); while the meaning of "armour equipment," which is defended by Thenius, is neither very suitable for 2 Samuel 8:7 nor for 2 Kings 11:10 and Sol 4:4. There is no the least foundation for the meaning "quiver," which is assumed merely for this passage. מלאוּ is to be explained in accordance with the analogous expression in 2 Kings 9:24, מלּא ידו בקשׁת, "he filled his hand with the bow," i.e., seized the bow. "Fill the shields" with your bodies, or with your arms, since we put these among the straps of the shields. Those addressed are the kings of the Medes, whose spirit God has stirred up to make war against Babylon; for it is against her that His mind or plan is directed. As to the expression, "for it is the vengeance of Jahveh," etc., cf. Jeremiah 50:15, Jeremiah 50:28. The attack is to be directed against the walls of Babylon. נס, "standard," is the military sign carried before the army, in order to show them the direction they are to take, and the point of attack. משׁמר "watch," is the force besieging the city; cf. 2 Samuel 11:16. "Make the watch strong," i.e., enclose the city firmly. This is more exactly specified in the following clauses. "Set watches," not as a guard for their own camp (Hitzig), but against the city, in order to maintain a close siege. "Place the ambushes," that they may peep into the city whenever a sally is made by the besieged; cf. Joshua 8:14., Judges 20:33. "For what Jahveh hath determined, He will also perform." גּם־גּם, "as well as:" He has resolved as well as done, i.e., as He has resolved, He also executes.
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