Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed: howl for her; take balm for her pain, if so be she may be healed.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Babylon is suddenly fallen . . .—The form of announcement seems taken in part from Isaiah 21:9.
Take balm for her pain . . .—The words are significant. The captive people are not invited simply to raise a shout of triumph at the fall of their oppressor: they are to “take balm” (comp. the use of the same image in Jeremiah 8:22; Jeremiah 46:11), and try to heal her. They are still to “seek the peace of the city” (Jeremiah 29:7), to render kindly service, to pour balm into the bleeding wounds.Jeremiah 51:8-9. Babylon is suddenly fallen — It was one of the aggravations of the punishment of Babylon, that her destruction came upon her suddenly and unexpectedly. Howl for her, &c. — So the kings, the merchants, and other factors, are described as lamenting the destruction of mystical Babylon, Revelation 18:9; Revelation 18:11; Revelation 18:17-19. Take balm for her pain — Use your utmost endeavours, and try every thing you can to save her from destruction. This is spoken ironically, implying her ruin to be irrecoverable. We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed — Some think “this is spoken in the name of God’s prophets, and the other witnesses of his truth, importing that they had sufficiently testified against her errors and idolatries, but that she was irreclaimable; and therefore that it was time for all the lovers of truth to depart out of her, lest they should be involved in her punishments.” But it is more probable that the nations which had been subject to Babylon, and were her allies, are the speakers here, declaring that they had assisted her to the utmost of their power, and had endeavoured to support her sinking cause, but all in vain, nothing which they had done or could do availing to save her from destruction. And therefore, as her case was desperate, it was time for them to shift for themselves, and to leave Babylon to its fate, since it seemed to be the decree of Heaven that it should fall. Those who have written of the downfall of Babylon relate, that when its affairs seemed to grow desperate, it was deserted by most of its allies, few or none of them persevering to lend it any assistance. Her judgment reacheth unto heaven — That is, her sin, bringing down God’s judgments; and is lifted up even to the skies — It comes to the ears of even God himself, and engages him to take account of it and punish her.Jeremiah 50:23. The cup, though of metal, is thrown down so violently as to be shattered by the fall.
Howl for her - The persons addressed are the many inhabitants of Babylon who were dragged from their homes to people its void places, and especially the Israelites. They have dwelt there long enough to feel pity for her, when they contrast her past magnificence with her terrible fall. Compare Jeremiah 29:7.
balm—(Jer 8:22; 46:11).Revelation 18:8;
howl for her; as the inhabitants of Babylon, and her friends and allies that loved her, did no doubt; and as the kings and merchants of the earth, and others, will howl for spiritual Babylon, Revelation 18:9;
take balm for her pain, if so be she may be healed: or balsam; see Jeremiah 46:11; which is said by way of derision and mockery, as Kimchi and Abarbinel observe; or in an ironical and sarcastic manner; suggesting, that, let what means soever be made use of, her wound was incurable, her ruin inevitable, and her case irrecoverable.Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed: howl for her; take balm for her pain, if so be she may be healed.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)8. take balm] See on Jeremiah 46:11.Verse 8. - Destroyed. The Hebrew, more forcibly, has "is broken." The Authorized Version wished, perhaps, to avoid the objection that a golden cup could not, properly speaking, be broken. But if we once begin to harmonize the language of Hebrew poetry, we shall have no end. It is not the cup which falls, but the state, considered as a house (the "breach" of God's people is constantly referred to; e.g. Psalm 60:2; Isaiah 30:26). Howl for her. Sympathetic bystanders are dramatically appealed to. From the next verse it would seem that they are the various foreigners who, whether by choice or force, have been resident in Babylon, and who have acquired an interest in her fate. Hitzig thinks the foreign mercenaries (Jeremiah 50:37) or allies are specially referred to. Take balm for her pain (comp. Jeremiah 8:22; Jeremiah 46:11). The images of fracture and wound are combined, as in Isaiah 30:26. Jeremiah 51:1-4, the terrible character of the hostile nation is further described. Against Babylon and the inhabitants of Chaldea, God stirs up the "spirit of a destroyer," viz., a savage nation that will massacre the Chaldeans without pity. לב , lit., "the heart of mine adversaries," is the word כּשׂדּים, changed, according to the canon Atbash (see on Jeremiah 25:26), for the purpose of obtaining the important meaning that Chaldea is the centre of God's enemies. This explanation of the name involves the thought that all enmity against God the Lord culminates in Babylon; on the basis of this representation Babylon is called, Revelation 17:5, "the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth." רוּח משׁחית does not mean καύσωνα διαφθείροντα (lxx), ventum pestilentem (Vulgate), "a sharp wind" (Luther), nor, as it is usually translated, "a destroying wind;" for העיר רוּח is nowhere used of the rousing of a wind, but everywhere means "to rouse the spirit of any one," to stir him up to an undertaking; cf. Haggai 1:14; 1 Chronicles 5:26; 2 Chronicles 21:16, and 2 Chronicles 36:22. Jeremiah also employs it thus in Jeremiah 51:11, and this meaning is quite suitable here also. משׁחית is a substantive, as in Jeremiah 4:7 : "the spirit of a destroyer." The figure of winnowing, which follows in Jeremiah 51:2, does not by any means necessarily require the meaning "wind," because the figure contained in the word זרוּה was first called forth by the employment of זרים, "strangers" equals barbarians. The sending of the זרים to Babylon has no connection with the figure of the wind, and it even remains a question whether זרוּה really means here to winnow, because the word is often used of the scattering of a nation, without any reference to the figure of winnowing; cf. Leviticus 26:33; Ezekiel 5:10; Ezekiel 12:15, etc., also Jeremiah 49:32, Jeremiah 49:36. However, this thought is suggested by what follows, "they empty her hand," although the clause which assigns the reason, "because they are against her round about" (cf. Jeremiah 4:17), does not correspond with this figure, but merely declares that the enemies which attack Babylon on every side disperse its inhabitants and empty the land.
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