Jeremiah 51:30
The mighty men of Babylon have declined to fight, they have remained in their holds: their might has failed; they became as women: they have burned her dwelling places; her bars are broken.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(30) The mighty men of Babylon have for born to fight.—The verses that follow paint the capture of the city by the stratagem related in the Note on Jeremiah 50:24. Those who “have burned” are, of course, the invaders. They here begin by setting the houses of the city on fire and breaking open the gates that led from the river into the streets of the city, while the panic-stricken people fled to their citadel in despair.

Jeremiah 51:30-32. The mighty men of Babylon have forborne to fight: they have remained, &c. — “The year before the siege of Babylon, Cyrus overthrew Belshazzar in battle, whereupon his army retreated within the walls, where they were shut up by him and besieged. Afterward, when Cyrus entered the city, he ordered public proclamation to be made, that all persons should keep within their houses, and whoever was found abroad should be put to death; and threatened to set their houses on fire, if any offered to hurt the soldiers from the tops of their houses.” They became as women — Timorous, and without courage. They have burned their dwelling-places — The enemy have burned their houses. Her bars are broken — All her fortresses, and what she confided in as her chief defence against the enemy. One post shall run to meet another — Messengers shall run from different parts, and so fall in with one another, all carrying the same intelligence to the same person, that the city was taken on the part every one came from. This is a very natural description of what may be supposed to happen on a city being taken by surprise in the middle of the night; for, as fast as the alarm spread, people would be posting away with the news from all parts to the head-quarters. The translation of the last clause, to show the king of Babylon that his city is taken at one end, is not accurate: the word מקצהdoes not mean at one end, for one is not in the text, but at the extremity. It may not be improper to observe further here, that though it seems unusual to say that one messenger runs to meet another, to acquaint any one with the same news, the usual expression in such a case being, that one messenger follows upon the heels of another; yet, in this matter, this unusual way of speaking was exactly descriptive of the fact; for Babylon being taken by a party of soldiers entering by the channel of the Euphrates at each extremity of the city, the messengers who carried the news to the king at his palace would actually run toward and meet each other at or near the palace, as they came from opposite quarters, to acquaint him that his city was taken at the extremities; for we cannot but suppose that people would run from each end of the city to the palace as soon as Cyrus’s men entered. The passage in the original has great beauty and sublimity, which, however, is almost lost in our translation. Houbigant seems to give it its due force, rendering the verbs in the present tense, and omitting the connecting particles, which greatly augments its energy, thus: “Courier comes to meet courier — messenger meets messenger — to inform the king of Babylon that his city is taken at the extremity, that the passages are stopped, [or surprised, see Jeremiah 51:41,] that fires are burning among the reeds, that the men of war are terrified.” The passages here mentioned “were most probably the entrances into the city from the river side, which were secured by gates that ought, as Herodotus observes, to have been fast barred, which, if it had been done, would have effectually frustrated the attempt of the enemy; but being left open and unguarded, on account of the public festivity, the assailants were in possession of those entrances, and in the heart of the city, before the besieged were aware of it.” The word אגמים, here rendered reeds, properly signifies marshes or lakes; and the phrase here seems to import, that the enemies had burned up all the outworks belonging to the marshy grounds about the river Euphrates. — Lowth.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.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).

30. forborne to fight—for the city was not taken by force of arms, but by stratagem, according to the counsel given to Cyrus by two eunuchs of Belshazzar who deserted.

remained in … holds—not daring to go forth to fight; many, with Nabonidus, withdrew to the fortified city Borsippa.

When God hath determined an end, he ordereth means proportionable to that end. Babylon had many valiant and mighty men, and it is very probable the Babylonians trusted very much to them; but when it came to, God took off their courage, so as they had no heart to fight, but kept themselves in their strong holds, and if at any time they came out, their courage failed them, and they behaved themselves more like women than men of war; so as their enemies burned their cities, brake down their fortifications, and made what havoc they pleased. The mighty men of Babylon have forborne to fight,.... Or, "ceased from fighting" (h) for it seems, upon Cyrus's first coming, the king of Babylon and his army gave him battle; but being overthrown, they retired to the city (i), and dared never fight more:

they have remained in their holds; in the towers and fortresses of Babylon, never daring to sally out of the city, or appear in the field of battle any more; even though Cyrus sent the king of Babylon a personal challenge, to end the quarrel by a single combat (k):

their might hath failed; their courage sunk and was gone; they had no heart to face their enemy:

they became as women; as weak as they, as the Targum; timorous and fearful, having no courage left in them, and behaved more like women than men:

they have burnt her dwelling places; that is, the enemy burnt their houses, when they entered into the city, to inject terror into them:

her bars are broken; the bars of the gates of the city, or of the palaces of the king and nobles, and of the houses of the people, by the soldiers, to get the plunder; see Isaiah 45:1.

(h) "cessaverunt a praelio", V. L. "desinent pugnare", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "cessarunt pugnare", Schmidt. So Pagninus, Montanus. (i) Xenophon, Cyropaedia, l. 5. c. 19. Herodot. l. 1. sive Clio. c. 190. (k) Xenophon, ib. l. 5. c. 10.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
30. Description of the capture of Babylon.

they are become as women] Cp. Jeremiah 50:37.Verse 30. - Despair of the Babylonian warriors. Have forborne to fight should rather be have ceased to fight. In their holds. The word is used of hill or mountain fastnesses (comp. 1 Samuel 23:14, 19; Judges 6:2; 1 Chronicles 11:7), and such presumably are referred to here. Their might; rather, their courage. They have burned, etc. The subject is "the enemies." Her bars; viz. those with which the city gates were secured (comp. Isaiah 45:2; Amos 1:5). The omnipotence of the Lord and Creator of the whole world will destroy the idols of Babylon, and break the mighty kingdom that rules the world. Jeremiah 51:15. "He who made the earth by His strength, establishing the world by His wisdom, and stretched out the heavens by His understanding; Jeremiah 51:16. When, thundering, He makes a roaring sound of water in the heavens, He causes clouds to ascend from the end of the earth, makes lightnings for the rain, and brings forth the wind out of His treasures. Jeremiah 51:17. Every man without knowledge is brutish; every goldsmith is ashamed because of the image: for his molten work is a lie, and there is no spirit in them. Jeremiah 51:18. They are vanity, a work of mockery; in their time of visitation they perish. Jeremiah 51:19. The Portion of Jacob is not like these; for He is the framer of all, and of the tribe of his inheritance: Jahveh of hosts is His name. Jeremiah 51:20. Thou art a hammer to me, weapons of war; and with thee I will break nations in pieces, and with thee destroy kingdoms. Jeremiah 51:21. And with thee I will break in pieces the horse and his rider, and with thee I will break in pieces the chariot and its rider. Jeremiah 51:22. And with thee I will break in pieces man and woman, and with thee I will break in pieces old and young, and with thee I will break in pieces young man and maiden. Jeremiah 51:23. And with thee I will break in pieces the shepherd and his flock, and with thee I will break in pieces the husbandman and his yoke [of oxen], and with thee I will break in pieces governors and deputy-governors. Jeremiah 51:24. And I will recompense to Babylon, and to all the inhabitants of Chaldea, all their evil which they have done in Zion before your eyes, saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 51:25. Behold, I am against thee, O mountain of destruction, saith Jahve, that destroyed all the earth; and I will stretch out my hand against thee, and roll thee down from the rocks, and make thee a burnt mountain, Jeremiah 51:26. So that they shall not take from thee a stone for a corner, or a stone for foundations; but thou shalt be desolations for ever, saith Jahveh."

In order to establish, against all doubt, the fall of Babylon that has been announced under solemn oath, Jeremiah, in Jeremiah 51:15-19. repeats a passage from the address in Jeremiah 10:12-16, in which he holds up before the people, by way of warning, the almighty power of the living God, and the destruction of the idols at the time of the judgment. In Jeremiah 51:10 he wished, by means of this announcement, to combat the fears of the idolatrous people for the power of the heathen gods; here he seeks by the same means to destroy the confidence of the Chaldeans in their gods, and to state that all idols will be destroyed before the almighty power of the Creator and Ruler of the whole world on the day of judgment, and Israel shall then learn that He who formed the universe will show Himself, by the fall of Babylon, as the Creator of Israel. The whole passage is repeated verbatim, on till a change made in Jeremiah 51:19, where ישׂראל is omitted before שׁבט נחלתו, and these words are connected with what precedes: "He is the former of all, and of the tribe which belongs to Him as His own property," i.e., Israel. This alteration is not to be put to the account of a copyist, who omitted the word "Israel" through an oversight, but is due to Jeremiah: there was no need here, as in Jeremiah 10, for bringing into special prominence the relation of Israel to his God.

(Note: In Jeremiah 10:16 the lxx have taken no account either of ישׂראל or שׁבט. Hence Movers, Hitzig, and Ewald infer that these words have found their way into the text as a gloss suggested by Deuteronomy 32:9, and should be deleted. But in this they are wrong. The omission of the two words by the lxx is a result of the erroneous translation there given of the first clause of the verse. This the lxx have rendered ου ̓ τοιαύτη μερὶς τῷ ̓Ιακωβ, instead of ου ̓ τοιαύτη ἡ μερὶς τοῦ ̓Ιακώβ. Having done so, it was impossible for them to continue, ὅτι ὁ πλάσας τὰ πάντα αὐτός, because they could not predicate this of μερίς, which they evidently did not take to mean God. And if they were to connect הוּא with what followed, they were bound to omit the two words, for it would never have done to take together הוּא וישׂראל שׁבט נחלתו. They therefore simply omitted the troublesome words, and went on to translate: ὅτι ὁ πλάσας τὰ πάντα αὐτός κληρονομία αὐτοῦ. Cf. Ngelsbach. Jeremia u. Babylon, S. 94.)

As to the rest, see the exposition of Jeremiah 10:12-16. In Jeremiah 51:20-26 the destruction of Babylon and its power is further carried out in two figures. In Jeremiah 51:20-24 Babylon is compared to a hammer, which God uses for the purpose of beating to pieces nations and kingdoms, with their forces and their inhabitants, but on which He will afterwards requite the evil done to Zion. מפּץ is equivalent to מפיץ ot tnelaviuqe si, Proverbs 25:18, one who breaks in pieces; hence a battle-hammer. Hitzig takes כּלי to be a singular, "formed thus in order to avoid an accumulation of i sounds (cf. פּליטים with פּליטי)." This is possible, but neither necessary nor probable. The plural, "weapons of war," is added, because the battle-hammer is considered as including all weapons of war. By the hammer, Ewald understands "the true Israel;" Hitzig, Cyrus, the destroyer of Babylon; Ngelsbach, an ideal person. These three views are based on the fact that the operation performed by means of the hammer (breaking to pieces) is marked by perfects with ו relative (ונפּצתּי), which is also true of the retribution to be made on Babylon: from this it is inferred that the breaking with the hammer, as well as the retribution, is still future, and that the meaning is, "When I hammer in this way with thee, I will requite Babylon" (Hitzig); while Ewald concludes from nothing but the context that the words refer to Israel.

But none of these reasons is decisive, nor any of the three views tenable. The context gives decided support to the opinion that in Jeremiah 51:20. it is Babylon that is addressed, just as in Jeremiah 51:13. and Jeremiah 51:25; a further proof is, that as early as Jeremiah 50:23, Babylon is called "the hammer of the whole earth." Only very weighty reasons, then, could induce us to refer the same figure, as used here, to another nation. The word פּטּישׁ (Jeremiah 50:23), "hammer, smith's hammer" (Isaiah 41:7), is not essentially different from מפּץ, which is used here. The figure is quite inapplicable to Israel, because "Israel is certainly to be delivered through the destruction of Babylon, but is not to be himself the instrument of the destruction" (Graf). Finally, the employment of the perfect with w relative, both in connection with the shattering to pieces which God accomplishes with (by means of) Babylon, and also the retribution He will execute on Babylon, is explained by the fact, that just as, in prophetic vision, what Babylon does to the nations, and what happens to it, was not separated into two acts, distinct from one another, but appeared as one continuous whole, so also the work of Babylon as the instrument of destruction was not yet finished, but had only begun, and still continuing, was partly future, like the retribution which it was to receive for its offence against Zion; just as in Jeremiah 51:13 Babylon is viewed as then still in the active exercise of its power; and the purpose for which God employs it, as well as the fate that is to befall it, is presented together in something like this manner: "O Babylon, who art my hammer with which I break peoples and kingdoms in pieces, thee will I requite!" There is separate mention made of the instances of breaking, in a long enumeration, which becomes tedious through the constant repetition of the verb - something like the enumeration in Jeremiah 50:35-38, where, however, the constant repetition of חרב gives great emphasis to the address. First comes the general designation, nations and kingdoms; then military forces; then (Jeremiah 51:25) the inhabitants of the kingdoms, arranged, as in Ezekiel 23:6, Ezekiel 23:23, according to sex, age, and class, labouring classes (shepherds, and husbandmen with their cattle); and lastly dignitaries, satraps and lieutenant-governors, פּחות וּסגנים, as in Ezekiel 23:6, Ezekiel 23:23. פּחה probably comes from the Zendic pavan (root pa), of which a dialectic form is pagvan, "upholder of government;" see on Haggai 1:1. סגן corresponds to the ζωγάνης of the Athenians, "lieutenant-governor;" but it is not much that has hitherto been ascertained with regard to this office; see Delitzsch on Isaiah 41:25 Clark's translation. On 'ושׁלּמתּי וגו, cf. Jeremiah 51:6 and Jeremiah 50:15, Jeremiah 50:29; "before your eyes," towards the end of this verse, belongs to this verb in the main clause.

This retribution is set forth in Jeremiah 51:25. under a new figure. Babylon is called the "mountain of destruction;" this name is immediately explained by the predicate, "that destroys the whole earth," brings destruction on it. The name הר המשׁחית is applied in 2 Kings 23:13 to the Mount of Olives, or its southern summit, the so-called mons offensionis vel scandali of ecclesiastical tradition, on which Solomon had erected idolatrous altars for his foreign wives; the name refers to the pernicious influence thereby exercised on the religious life of Israel. In this verse, "destruction" is used in a comprehensive sense of the physical and moral ruin which Babylon brought on the nations. Babylon is a "mountain," as being a powerful kingdom, supereminent above others; whether there is also a reference in the title to its lofty buildings (C. B. Michaelis) seems doubtful. "I will roll thee down from the rocks," de petris, in quarum fastigiis hucusque eminuisti. Non efferes te amplius super alia regna (C. B. Mich.). To this Hitzig adds, by way of explanation: "The summit of the mountain is sometimes changed into the very position occupied by the crater." From what follows, "I will make thee a mountain of burning," i.e., either a burning, or burnt, burnt-out mountain, modern expositors infer, with J. D. Michaelis, that the prophet has before his mind a volcano in active eruption, "for no other kind of mountains could devastate countries; it is just volcanoes which have been hollowed out by fire that fall in, or, it may be, tumble down into the valley below, scattering their constituent elements here and there; the stones of such mountains, too, are commonly so much broken and burnt, that they are of no use for building" (Hitzig). Of the above remarks this much is correct, that the words, "I will make thee a burning mountain," are founded on the conception of a volcano; any more extended application, however, of the figure to the whole verse is unwarranted. The clause, "I will roll thee down from the rocks," cannot possibly be applied to the action of a volcano in eruption (though Ngelsbach does so apply it), unless we are ready to impute to the prophet a false notion regarding the eruptions of volcanoes. By the eruption, a mountain is not loosened from the rock on which it rests, and hurled down into the valleys round about; it is only the heart of the mountain, or the rocks on which its summit rests, that seem to be vomited out of it. Besides, the notion that there is a representation of an active volcano in the first clauses of the verse, is disproved by the very fact that the mountain, Babylon, does not bring ruin on the earth, as one that is burning; it is not to become such until after it has been rolled down from the rocks on which it rests. The laying waste of the countries is not ascribed to the fire that issues from the mountain, but the mountain begins to burn only after it has been rolled down from its rocks. Babylon, as a kingdom and city, is called a mountain, because it mightily surpassed and held sway over them; cf. Isaiah 2:14. It brings ruin on the whole earth by subjugation of the nations and devastation of the countries. The mountain rests on rocks, i.e., its power has a foundation as firm as a rock, until the Lord rolls it down from its height, and burns the strong mountain, making it like an extinct volcano, the stones of which, having been rendered vitreous by the fire, no longer furnish material that can be employed for the foundation of new buildings. "A corner-stone," etc., is explained by C. B. Michaelis, after the Chaldee, Kimchi, and others, to mean, "no one will appoint a king or a prince any more out of the stock of the Chaldeans." This is against the context, according to which the point treated of is, not the fall of the kingdom in or of Babylon, but the destruction of Babylon as a city and kingdom. Hitzig and Graf, accordingly, take the meaning to be this: Not a stone of the city will be used for a new building - no one will any more build for himself among their ruins, and out of the material there. The corner-stone and the foundation (it is further asserted) are mentioned by way of example, not because particularly large and good stones are needed for these parts, but because every house begins with them. But though the following clause, "thou shalt be an everlasting desolation," contains this idea, yet this interpretation neither exhausts nor gives a generally correct view of the meaning of the words, "no one will take from thee a corner-stone or a foundation-stone." The burning of the mountain signifies not merely that Babylon was to be burned to ashes, but that her sway over the world was to be quite at an end; this was only to come about when the city was burnt. When no stone of any value for a new building is to be left after this conflagration, this is equivalent to saying that nothing will be left of the empire that has been destroyed, which would be of any use in the foundation of another state. The last clause also ("for thou shalt be," etc.) refers to more than the destruction of the city of Babylon. This is seen even in the fundamental passage, Jeremiah 25:12, where the same threat is uttered against the land of the Chaldeans.

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