Jeremiah 51:13
O you that dwell on many waters, abundant in treasures, your end is come, and the measure of your covetousness.
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(13) O thou that dwellest upon many waters.—The words find an illustration of singular interest in an inscription of Nebuchadnezzar’s given by Oppert (Expéd. en Mésop. i. p. 231): “I made water to flow all around in this immense dyke of earth. I carried an aqueduct across these great waters that are like unto the depths of the sea.” See also Records of the Past, v. 128. The channels which were cut for the waters of the Euphrates seemed at once intended for a line of defence against attack, and for irrigation and navigation. To some extent Babylon, though an inland city, must have presented an appearance like that of Venice or Amsterdam.

The measure of thy covetousness.—The measure is literally “an ell,” and for “covetousness” many commentators give the meaning of “that which is cut off,” a “piece” or “section.” So taken, we may translate the ell-measure of thy portion, the allotted time of prosperity decreed in the Divine counsels. Others, following the Vulgate, “pedalis precisionis tuœ,” give “the ell-measure of thy cutting off,” i.e., the appointed time of destruction.

Jeremiah 51:13-19. O thou that dwellest upon many waters — The river Euphrates ran through the midst of Babylon, and there was a prodigious lake of water on one side of the city, besides other lesser waters near it, so that it was in a manner encompassed with waters. Many waters do likewise signify mystically the many people over which this was the reigning city: see Revelation 17:15. Abundant in treasures — Not only enriched by traffic, but by the conquest and spoil of many nations. Thine end is come, and the measure of thy covetousness — God has set bounds to thy covetousness, which it shall not pass over: thou shalt no more increase in wealth, but an end shall be put to all thy designs of this sort. The Lord of hosts hath sworn by himself — The Lord, who is well able to make his words good, hath sworn by himself, for he could swear by no greater, saying, Surely I will fill thee with men as with caterpillars — Or, locusts, as, according to Bochart, the word ילקproperly signifies. Armies are often compared to caterpillars, locusts, and such like devouring insects. He hath made the earth by his power, &c. — It is he who, by his immense power, has made all these wonderful things which we see about us, and adorned and settled them by his wisdom, that has pronounced this concerning Babylon: and therefore you need not be doubtful respecting its accomplishment, since he who could create these mighty works, can certainly, whenever he pleases, effect what is infinitely more easy, the ruin of Babylon. But for an elucidation of this, and the four following verses, see notes on Jeremiah 10:12-16.51:1-58 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 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.

13. waters—(Jer 51:32, 36; see on [1002]Isa 21:1). The Euphrates surrounded the city and, being divided into many channels, formed islands. Compare as to spiritual Babylon "waters," that is, "many peoples," Re 17:1, 15. A large lake also was near Babylon.

measure—literally, "cubit," which was the most common measure, and therefore is used for a measure in general. The time for putting a limit to thy covetousness [Gesenius]. There is no "and" in the Hebrew: translate, "thine end, the retribution for thy covetousness" [Grotius]. Maurer takes the image to be from weaving: "the cubit where thou art to be cut off"; for the web is cut off, when the required number of cubits is completed (Isa 38:12).

Babylon is said to dwell upon many waters, because upon the great river Euphrates, which they say did not only run by it, but almost encompass it, branching itself into many smaller rivers, which made several parts of the city islands.

Abundant in treasures; it is a city much noted in Scripture for wealth, and made much more wealthy than it was by traffic by the conquest of many nations.

Thine end is come, and the measure of thy covetousness: the prophet tells them that now their gathering time was over, there was now a boundary set to their covetousness; in the Hebrew it is, the cubit of thy covetousness, which is by our translators well translated a measure, because it was amongst the Jews the common measure of height and depth. The word by us translated covetousness, as Exodus 18:21, may either signify riches, the object of their covetousness, or prosperity, or that unlawful desire of having more, which is properly called covetousness, either because they should be destroyed utterly, or because they should prosper no more; there was no end put to the Babylonians’ lusts, but there was an end put to the satisfaction of their lusts. O thou that dwellest upon many waters,.... Here Babylon is addressed, either by the Lord, or by the prophet, or the godly Jews; who is described by her, situation, which was by the great river Euphrates; which being branched out into several canals or rivers, both ran through it, and encompassed it; hence mention is made of the rivers of Babylon, Psalm 137:1; and a fit emblem this city was of mystical Babylon, which is also said to sit on many waters, interpreted of people and nations, Revelation 17:1; and which Kimchi here interprets of an affluence of good things, though he admits of the literal sense of the words:

abundant in treasures: of corn, and of the fruits of the earth, and so in condition to hold out a siege, as well as strongly fortified by art and nature, before described; and of gold and silver, the sinews of war, which she had got together, partly by commerce, and partly by the spoil of other nations; and yet neither her situation nor her affluence could secure her from ruin:

thine end is come, and the measure of thy covetousness; this flourishing city was now near its end, and with it the whole Babylonish monarchy; the time fixed by the Lord, for the duration of one and the other, was now come; and whereas her covetousness was insatiable, and would have known no bounds, for the enlargement of her dominions, and for the accumulation of more wealth and riches; God set a limit to it, beyond which it should not go; which measure was now filled up, and the time for it expired. The Targum is,

"the day of thy destruction is come, and the time of the visitation of thy wickedness,''

O thou that dwellest upon many {i} waters, abundant in treasures, thy end is come, and the measure of thy covetousness.

(i) For the land of Chaldea was full of rivers which ran into the Euphrates.

13. upon many waters] See on Jeremiah 50:38.

abundant in treasures] conveyed to Babylon from the conquered provinces.

the measure of thy covetousness] better, the cubit where thou shalt be cut off. The metaphor is taken from weaving. “The web of thy destiny is finished. Cf. for the figure Isaiah 38:12 (where the word for ‘cut off’ is the same as here).” Dr.Verse 13. - Babylon is addressed as thou that dwellest upon many waters, with reference, not only to the Euphrates, but to the canals, dykes, and marshes which surrounded the city. The measure of thy covetousness. A strange expression, even when we have supplied (and have we a right to do so?) a suitable verb, such as "is full." "Measure" is, literally, ell, "covetousness" should rather be gain, or spoil. Another possible rendering is, "The ell measure of thy cutting off." In fact, the root meaning of the word rendered "gain," or "covetousness," is "to cut off;" and the figure of cutting off a man's half-finished life, like a web from the loom, is familiar to us from the psalm of Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:12; comp. Job 6:9). Babylon, certainly, in its former power and greatness, was a golden goblet, by means of which Jahveh presented to the nations the wine of His wrath, and intoxicated them; but now it is fallen, and broken without remedy. Isaiah 21:9 finds an echo in the expression, "Babylon is fallen." The figure of the cup refers us back to Jeremiah 25:15., where, however, it is applied in a different way. The cup is said to be of gold, in order to point out the splendour and glory of Nebuchadnezzar's dominion. "In the hand of Jahveh," i.e., used by Him as His instrument for pouring out His wrath to the nations. But Babylon has suddenly fallen and been broken in pieces. At this point Jeremiah drops the figure of the cup, for a golden cup does not break when it falls. The fall is so terrible, that the nations in Babylon are summoned to participate in the lamentation, and to lend their aid in repairing her injuries. But they answer that their attempts to heal her are fruitless. (On צרי, cf. Jeremiah 46:11 and Jeremiah 8:22.) The terrible and irreparable character of the fall is thus expressed in a dramatic manner. We must neither think of the allies and mercenaries as those who are addressed (Schnurrer, Rosenmller, Maurer, Hitzig), nor merely the Israelites who had been delivered from Babylon (Umbreit). The latter view is opposed by the words which follow, "Let every one go to his own country;" this points to men out of different lands. And the former assumption is opposed by the consideration that not merely the mercenaries, but also the allies are to be viewed as fallen and ruined together with Babylon, and that Babylon, which had subdued all the nations, has no allies, according to the general way in which the prophet views these things. Those addressed are rather the nations that had been vanquished by Babylon and detained in the city, of which Israel was one. Inasmuch as these were the servants of Babylon, and as such bound to pay her service, they are to heal Babylon; and because the attempts to heal her prove fruitless, they are to leave the ruined city. They answer this summons by the resolve, "We will go every one to his own land;" cf. Jeremiah 50:8, Jeremiah 50:16. The motive for this resolution, "for her guilt reaches up to heaven," certainly shows that it is Israelites who are speaking, because it is only they who form their opinions in such a way; but they speak in the name of all the strangers who are in Babylon. משׁפּט is the matter upon which judgment is passed, i.e., the transgression, the guilt, analogous to משׁפּט דּמים, Ezekiel 7:23, and משׁפּט מות , Deuteronomy 19:6; Deuteronomy 21:22; it does not mean the punishment adjudged, of which we cannot say that it reaches up to heaven. On this expression, cf. Psalm 57:11; Psalm 108:5. Through the fall of Babylon, the Lord has made manifest the righteousness of Israel; the redeemed ones are to proclaim this in Zion. צדקות does not mean "righteous acts" (Judges 5:11), but proofs of the righteousness of Israel as opposed to Babylon, which righteousness Babylon, through tyrannical oppression of the people that had been delivered up to it merely for chastisement, has failed to perceive, and which, so long as the Lord did not take His people to Himself again in a visible manner, was hidden from the world; cf. Psalm 37:6.
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