Jeremiah 51:59
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.
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(59) Seraiah the son of Neriah.—The great prophecy has reached its close, and the remainder of the chapter is of the nature of an historical appendix. The mention of both father and grandfather leaves no doubt that Seraiah was the brother of Jeremiah’s friend and secretary, Baruch (Jeremiah 32:13). It was, therefore, natural that the prophet should select him as the depository of the great prediction. The term “quiet prince,” which the Authorised version adopts from Luther, means really prince of the resting-place, and describes an office like that of our quartermaster-general. He would seem to have been attendant on Zedekiah, probably appointed by Nebuchadnezzar to regulate the details of the journey to Babylon, and arrange the resting-places at its several stages. The versions seem to have been perplexed by the unusual title, the LXX. giving “ruler of the gifts,” and the Vulgate “prince of prophecy.” The prediction would seem to have been of the nature of a parting gift to him.

In the fourth year of his reign.—The date is significant as giving a missing link in the history. The beginning of Zedekiah’s reign was memorable for the gathering at Jerusalem of ambassadors from the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Zidon, obviously for the purpose of forming a confederacy against Nebuchadnezzar, and Jeremiah had condemned all such schemes as contrary to the will of Jehovah (Jeremiah 27:1-13). It is probable that Nebuchadnezzar summoned the king of Judah to Babylon to question him as to this scheme, and to demand an act of renewed homage. On this journey he was accompanied by the brother of the prophet’s friend and fellow-worker, and Jeremiah takes the opportunity of committing to his charge what we may call an esoteric prophecy, lifting up the veil of the future. He counselled submission for the present, because resistance was premature, and would prove futile. He looked forward to the time when the law of retribution would be fulfilled in Babylon as it had been fulfilled in Jerusalem. The whole proceeding was in perfect harmony with the prediction of Jeremiah 27:7, that all nations should serve Nebuchadnezzar and his son and his son’s son till the “very time of his land” should come. It lies in the nature of the case that a duplicate copy was kept by Baruch or Jeremiah, of which the present text of Jeremiah 50, 51 is a transcript.

Jeremiah 51:59. The word which Jeremiah commanded Seraiah. when he went with Zedekiah — The Hebrew בלכתו את צדקיהו, is rendered by the LXX., οτε επορευετο παρα Σεδεκιου, when he went from Zedekiah, on his behalf, or by virtue of his commission; which seems to be the meaning of the clause; for we have no reason to suppose that Zedekiah went in person to Babylon at that time. Instead of, This Seraiah was a quiet prince, as our translators render שׁר מנוחה, the LXX. read, αρχων δωρων, a prince, or chief master of gifts, which Blaney interprets to mean, chief of the embassy, or who had the principal charge of the present sent from Zedekiah to the king of Babylon, judging, that in these words is specified the business on which Seraiah was sent. He was employed to carry the present, or customary tribute, which Zedekiah was obliged to pay to the king of Babylon, in acknowledgment of his subjection and vassalage.

51:59-64 This prophecy is sent to Babylon, to the captives there, by Seraiah, who is to read it to his countrymen in captivity. Let them with faith see the end of these threatening powers, and comfort themselves herewith. When we see what this world is, how glittering its shows, and how flattering its proposals, let us read in the book of the Lord that it shall shortly be desolate. The book must be thrown into the river Euphrates. The fall of the New Testament Babylon is thus represented, Re 18:21. Those that sink under the weight of God's wrath and curse, sink for ever. Babylon, and every antichrist, will soon sink and rise no more for ever. Let us hope in God's word, and quietly wait for his salvation; then we shall see, but shall not share, the destruction of the wicked.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.

59-64. A special copy of the prophecy prepared by Jeremiah was delivered to Seraiah, to console the Jews in their Babylonian exile. Though he was to throw it into the Euphrates, a symbol of Babylon's fate, no doubt he retained the substance in memory, so as to be able orally to communicate it to his countrymen.

went with Zedekiah—rather, "in behalf of Zedekiah"; sent by Zedekiah to appease Nebuchadnezzar's anger at his revolt [Calvin].

fourth year—so that Jeremiah's prediction of Babylon's downfall was thus solemnly written and sealed by a symbolical action, six whole years before the capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.

quiet prince—Compare 1Ch 22:9, "a man of rest." Seraiah was not one of the courtiers hostile to God's prophets, but "quiet" and docile; ready to execute Jeremiah's commission, notwithstanding the risk attending it. Glassius translates, "prince of Menuchah" (compare 1Ch 2:52, Margin). Maurer translates, "commander of the caravan," on whom it devolved to appoint the resting-place for the night. English Version suits the context best.

Of this

Seraiah we read no more than we have in this verse, though, Jeremiah 36:26, there be mention made of another Seraiah.

When he went with Zedekiah the king of Judah into Babylon: we no where read of any journey Zedekiah made into Babylon till he was carried a prisoner thither, it is therefore probable that with should be translated from, as the same particle is in other places, Genesis 4:1 44:4, it being not usual with great princes to make visits one to another at such distances, though the Jews tell us a story of some such thing.

In the fourth year of his reign: the expressing of this circumstance of time lets us know that this prophecy was many years before Babylon was destroyed, for it was seven years before Jerusalem was taken; so as it must be above sixty years before it was fulfilled in the first degree.

And this Seraiah was a quiet prince: the Hebrew word admits of various interpretations; some think that Menucha was a place over which Seraiah had some authority under Zedekiah, the same with Manahath, 1 Chronicles 8:6. Others think it was a name of office, and signified lord chamberlain; but the best interpreters see no reason to vary from our translation, the sense of which is, that he was a man of a moderate, quiet temper, that persuaded to peace.

The word which Jeremiah the prophet commanded Seraiah,.... This word is no other than the above prophecy concerning the destruction of Babylon, contained in this and the preceding chapter; or rather the order the prophet gave this prince to take a copy of it with him to Babylon, and there read it, and their cast it into the river Euphrates, with a stone bound it. Of this Seraiah we read nowhere else: he is further described as

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; the Jews say (i) that Zedekiah, in the fourth year of his reign, went to Babylon, to reconcile himself to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and took Seraiah with him, and returned and came to his kingdom in Jerusalem; but we have no account in Scripture of any such journey he took. The Septuagint and Arabic versions render it, "when he went from Zedekiah"; as this particle is sometimes (k) elsewhere rendered, Genesis 4:1; and so the Targum explains it,

"when he went on an embassy of Zedekiah;''

and Abarbinel, by the command of the king; it seems he was ambassador from the king of Judah to the king of Babylon upon some business or another; and Jeremiah took this opportunity of sending a copy of the above prophecy by him, for the ends before mentioned: this was in the fourth year of Zedekiah's reign, seven years before the destruction of Jerusalem, and sixty years before the taking of Babylon; so long before was it prophesied of. The Syriac version wrongly reads it "in the eleventh year"; the year of Jerusalem's destruction; supposing that Seraiah's going with Zedekiah to Babylon was his going with him into captivity:

and this Seraiah was a quiet prince; one of a peaceable disposition, that did not love war, or persecution of good men; and so a fit person for Zedekiah to send upon an embassy of peace; and for Jeremiah to employ in such service as he did; for, had he been a hot and haughty prince, he would have despised his orders and commands. Some render it, "prince of Menuchah" (l); taking it to be the proper name of a place of which he was governor; thought to be the same with Manahath, 1 Chronicles 8:6. The Targum and Septuagint version call him "the prince of gifts": one by whom such were introduced into the king's presence that brought treasure, gifts, or presents to him, as Jarchi interprets it; according to Kimchi, he was the king's familiar favourite, with whom he used to converse and delight himself when he was at rest and at leisure from business. Some take him to be the lord of the bedchamber, or lord chamberlain; and others lord chief justice of peace. The first sense seems most agreeable.

(i) Seder Olam Rabba, c. 25. p. 72, 73. (k) Vid. L'Empereur, Not. in Mosis Kimchii, p. 254, 255. & Noldii Concordant. Ebr, p. 114. No. 577. (l) "princeps Menuchae", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.

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 {k} fourth year of his reign. And this Seraiah was a quiet prince.

(k) This was not in the time of his captivity but seven years before, when he went either to congratulate Nebuchadnezzar or to intreat of some matters.

59. Seraiah … when he went with Zedekiah] See introd. note.

chief chamberlain] mg. (rightly) quartermaster, lit. captain of the camping place. His duty, as in attendance on the king in a journey, was to arrange that matters should be in readiness at the next halting place. The LXX, however, have commissary (lit. ruler) of the presents. The change involved in MT.’s reading is but slight.

59–64. Seraiah’s mission

The rejection as non-Jeremianic of the preceding prophecy against Babylon (see introd. note to chs. 50, 51) by no means need involve suspicion of this section. Here impassioned denunciation finds no place and the forecast of the overthrow of the great Eastern power is quite in keeping with the attitude of the prophet in Jeremiah 29:10 in limiting her dominion over Israel to seventy years. It is true that the latter part of Jeremiah 51:60 identifies the prophecy conveyed by Seraiah to Babylon with the preceding utterances; but see note there. That Zedekiah should himself visit Babylon at the time here specified has been already shewn to be by no means improbable (see introd. note on Jeremiah 27:2-11). Even those who doubt the king’s journey thither are mostly willing to accept that of Seraiah, who, as Baruch’s brother (cp. his ancestry here with that given in Jeremiah 32:12 for Baruch), would very naturally bring a message of hope from Jeremiah to the exiles.

We may summarize the section as follows.

Jeremiah 51:59-64. The directions given by the prophet to Seraiah when the latter accompanied Zedekiah to Babylon. He was to take with him a scroll containing the doom of the city, and after reading it aloud there, to attach to it a stone and sink it in the river as a symbol of Babylon’s approaching fall.

Verses 59-64. - Epilogue. The word, etc. (see ver. 61). Seraiah. Apparently the brother of Baruch. With Zedekiah. The Septuagint has "from Zedekiah," which is referred by Bleek and Gratz. It would thus be an embassy, of which Seraiah was the head. According to the ordinary reading, Zedekiah went himself. A quiet prince. Not so. The Hebrew means probably, "in command over the resting place," i.e. he took charge of the royal caravan, and arranged the halting places. But the Targum and the Septuagint have a more probable reading (not, however, one involving a change in the consonants of the text, "in command over the gifts," i.e. the functionary who took charge of the presents made to the king. M. Lenormant speaks of an official called "magister largitionum" (bel tabti) in the Assyrian court ('Syllabaires Cundiformes,' par. 1877, p. 171). Jeremiah 51:59Epilogue. - Jeremiah 51:59. "The word which Jeremiah the prophet commanded Seraiah the son of Nerijah, the son of Maaseiah, when he went with Zedekiah the king of Judah to Babylon, in the fourth year of his reign. Now Seraiah was 'quartermaster-general'" (Ger. Reisemarschall).

(Note: The Peshito renders שׂר מנוּחה by "chief of the camp," evidently reading מחנה. Gesenius, following in this line, though that Seraiah held an office in the Babylonian army similar to that of quartermaster-general. It is evident, however, that he was rather an officer of the Jewish court in attendance on the king. Maurer, who is followed by Hitzig, and here by Keil, in his rendering "Reisemarschall," suggested the idea that he was a functionary who took charge of the royal caravan when on the march, and fixed the halting-place. - Tr.)

Seraiah the son of Nerijah was, no doubt, a brother of Baruch the son of Nerijah; cf. Jeremiah 32:12. שׂר מנוּחה does not mean "a peaceful prince" (Luther), "a quiet prince," English Version, but "prince of the resting-place" (cf. Numbers 10:33), i.e., the king's "quartermaster-general." What Jeremiah commanded Seraiah, or charged him with, does not follow till Jeremiah 51:61; for the words of Jeremiah 51:60, "And Jeremiah wrote in a book all the evil that was to come on Babylon, namely all these words which are written against Babylon" (in the preceding address, Jeremiah 50 and 51), form a parenthetic remark, inserted for the purpose of explaining the charge that follows. This remark is attached to the circumstantial clause at the end of Jeremiah 51:59, after which "the word which he commanded" is not resumed till Jeremiah 51:61, with the words, "and Jeremiah spake to Seraiah;" and the charge itself is given in vv. 61b-64: "When thou comest to Babylon, then see to it, and read all these words, and say, O Jahveh, Thou hast spoken against this place, to destroy it, so that there shall be no inhabitant in it, neither man nor beast, but it shall be eternal desolations. And it shall be, when thou hast finished reading this book, that thou shalt bind a stone to it, and cast it into the midst of the Euphrates (v. 64), and say, Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise again, because of the evil that I bring upon her; and they shall be weary." כּבאך בבל does not mean, "when thou shalt have got near Babylon, so that thou beholdest the city lying in its full extent before thee" (Hitzig), but, according to the simple tenor of the words, "when thou shalt have come into the city." The former interpretation is based on the erroneous supposition that Seraiah had not been able to read the prophecy in the city, from fear of being called to account for this by the Babylonians. But it is nowhere stated that he was to read it publicly to the Babylonians themselves in an assembly of the people expressly convened for this purpose, but merely that he is to read it, and afterwards throw the book into the Euphrates. The reading was not intended to warn the Babylonians of the destruction threatened them, but was merely to be a proclamation of the word of the Lord against Babylon, on the very spot, for the purpose of connecting with it the symbolic action mentioned in v. 63f. וראית does not belong to כּבאך ("when thou comest to Babylon, and seest"), but introduces the apodosis, "then see to it, and read," i.e., keep it in your eye, in your mind, that you read (cf. Genesis 20:10); not, "seek a good opportunity for reading" (Ewald). At the same time, Seraiah is to cry to God that He has said He will bring this evil on Babylon, i.e., as it were to remind God that the words of the prophecy are His own words, which He has to fulfil. On the contents of Jeremiah 51:62, cf. Jeremiah 50:3; Jeremiah 51:26.

After the reading is finished, he is to bind the book to a stone, by means of which to sink it in the Euphrates, uttering the words explanatory of this action, "Thus shall Babylon sink," etc. This was to be done, not for the purpose of destroying the book (which certainly took place, but was not the object for which it was sunk), but in order to symbolize the fulfilment of the prophecy against Babylon. The attachment of the stone was not a precautionary measure to prevent the writing from being picked up somewhere, and thus bringing the writer or the people of the caravan into trouble (Hitzig), but was merely intended to make sure that the book would sink down into the depths of the Euphrates, and render it impossible that it should rise again to the surface, thus indicating by symbol that Babylon would not rise again. the words which Seraiah is to speak on throwing the book into the Euphrates, contain, in nuce, the substance of the prophecy. The prophet makes this still more plain, by concluding the words he is likewise to utter with ויעפוּ as the last word of the prophecy. Luther has here well rendered יעף, "to weary," by "succumb" (erliegen). The Babylonians form the subject of יעפוּ.

(Note: Mistaking the meaning of the repetition of the word ויעפוּ, Movers, Hitzig, and Graf have thereon based various untenable conjectures. Movers infers from the circumstance that the whole epilogue is spurious; Hitzig and Graf conclude from it that the closing words, "Thus far are the words of Jeremiah," originally came after Jeremiah 51:58, and that the epilogue, because it does not at all admit of being separated from the great oracle against Babylon, originally preceded the oracle beginning Jeremiah 50:1, but was afterwards placed at the end; moreover, that the transposer cut off from Jeremiah 51:58 the concluding remark, "Thus far," etc., and put it at the end of the epilogue (Jeremiah 51:64), but, at the same time, also transferred ויעפוּ, in order to show that the words, i.e., the prophecies of Jeremiah, strictly speaking, extend only thus far. This intimation is, indeed, quite superfluous, for it never could occur to the mind of any intelligent reader that the epilogue, Jeremiah 51:59-64, was an integral portion of the prophecy itself. And there would be no meaning in placing the epilogue before Jeremiah 50:1.)

The symbolic meaning of this act is clear; and from it, also, the meaning of the whole charge to the prophet is not difficult to perceive. The sending of the prophecy through Seraiah, with the command to read it there, at the same time looking up to God, and then to sink it in the Euphrates, was not intended as a testimony to the inhabitants of Babylon of the certainty of their destruction, but was meant to be a substantial proof for Israel that God the Lord would, without fail, fulfil His word regarding the seventy years' duration of Babylon's supremacy, and the fall of this great kingdom which was to ensue. This testimony received still greater significance from the circumstances under which it was given. The journey of King Zedekiah to Babylon was, at least in regard to its official purpose, an act of homage shown by Zedekiah to Nebuchadnezzar, as the vassal of the king of Babylon. This fact, which was deeply humiliating for Judah, was made use of by Jeremiah, in the name of the Lord, for the purpose of announcing and transmitting to Babylon, the city that ruled the world, the decree which Jahveh, the God of Israel, as King of heaven and earth, had formed concerning the proud city, and which He would execute in His own time, that He might confirm the hope of the godly ones among His people in the deliverance of Israel from Babylon.

The statement, "Thus far are the words of Jeremiah," is an addition made by the editor of the prophecies. From these words, it follows that Jeremiah 52 does not belong to these prophecies, but forms a historical appendix to them.

Finally, if any question be asked regarding the fulfilment of the prophecy against Babylon, we must keep in mind these two points: 1. The prophecy, as is shown both by its title and its contents, is not merely directed against the city of Babylon, but also against the land of the Chaldeans. It therefore proclaims generally the devastation and destruction of the Chaldean kingdom, or the fall of the Babylonian empire; and the capture and destruction of Babylon, the capital, receive special prominence only in so far as the world-wide rule of Babylon fell with the capital, and the supremacy of the Chaldeans over the nations came to an end. 2. In addition to this historical side, the prophecy has an ideal background, which certainly is never very prominent, but nevertheless is always more or less to be discovered. Here Babylon, as the then mistress of the world, is the representative of the God-opposing influences on the earth, which always attempt to suppress and destroy the kingdom of God. The fulfilment of the historical side of this prophecy began with the capture of Babylon by the united forces of the Medes and Persians under the leadership of Cyrus, and with the dissolution of the Chaldean empire, brought about through that event. By this means, too, the people of Israel were delivered from the Babylonish captivity, while Cyrus gave them permission to return to their native land and rebuild the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem; 2 Chronicles 36:22., Ezra 1:1. But Babylon was not destroyed when thus taken, and according to Herodotus, iii. 159, even the walls of the city remained uninjured, while, according to a notice of Berosus in Josephus, contra Ap. i. 19, Cyrus is said to have given orders for the pulling down of the outer wall. Cyrus appointed Babylon, after Susa and Ecbatana, the third city in the kingdom, and the winter residence of the Persian kings (according to Xenophon, Cyrop. viii. 6. 22). Darius Hystaspes, who was obliged to take the city a second time, in consequence of its revolt in the year 518 b.c., was the first who caused the walls to be lowered in height; these were diminished to 50 ells royal cubits - about 85 feet, and the gates were torn away (Herodotus, iii. 158f.). Xerxes spoiled the city of the golden image of Belus (Herodot. i. 183), and caused the temple of Belus to be destroyed (Arrian, vii. 17. 2). Alexander the Great had intended not merely to rebuild the sanctuary of Belus, but also to make the city the capital of his empire; but he was prevented by his early death from carrying out this plan. The decay of Babylon properly began when Seleucus Nicator built Seleucia, ion the Tigris, only 300 stadia distant. "Babylon," says Pliny, vi. 30, "ad solitudinem rediit, exhausta vicinitate Seleuciae." And Strabo (born 60 b.c.) says that, even in his time, the city was a complete wilderness, to which he applies the utterance of a poet: ἐρημία μεγάλη ἐστὶν ἡ μεγάλη πόλις (xvi. l. 5). This decay was accelerated under the rule of the Parthians, so that, within a short time, only a small space within the walls was inhabited, while the rest was used as fields (Diodorus Siculus, ii. 9; Curtius, Ezra 1:4. 27). According to the statements of Jerome and Theodoret, there were still living at Babylon, centuries afterwards, a pretty considerable number of Jews; but Jerome (ad Jeremiah 51) was informed by a Persian monk that these ruins stood in the midst of a hunting district of the Persian kings. The notices of later writers, especially of modern travellers, have been collected by Ritter, Erdkunde, xi. S. 865f.; and the latest investigations among the ruins are described in his Expdition scient. en Msopotamie, i. pp. 135-254 (Paris, 1863).

(Note: Fresh interest in Babylonian archaeology has of late been awakened, especially in this country, by Mr. George Smith, of the British Museum, who has collected and deciphered about eighty fragments of some tablets that had been brought from Assyria, and that give an account of the deluge different in some respects from the Mosaic one. The proprietors of the Daily Telegraph have also shown much public spirit in sending out, at their own cost, an expedition to Assyria, for further investigation of the ruins there. - Tr.)

John the evangelist has taken the ideal elements of this prophecy into his apocalyptic description of the great city of Babylon (Revelation 16ff.), whose fall is not to begin till the kingdom of God is completed in glory through the return of our Lord.

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