Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
The word that the LORD spake against Babylon and against the land of the Chaldeans by Jeremiah the prophet.
Jer 50:1-46. Babylon's Coming Downfall; Israel's Redemption.
After the predictions of judgment to be inflicted on other nations by Babylon, follows this one against Babylon itself, the longest prophecy, consisting of one hundred verses. The date of utterance was the fourth year of Zedekiah, when Seraiah, to whom it was committed, was sent to Babylon (Jer 51:59, 60). The repetitions in it make it likely that it consists of prophecies uttered at different times, now collected by Jeremiah to console the Jews in exile and to vindicate God's ways by exhibiting the final doom of Babylon, the enemy of the people of God, after her long prosperity. The style, imagery, and dialogues prove its genuineness in opposition to those who deny this. It shows his faithfulness; though under obligation to the king of Babylon, he owed a higher one to God, who directed him to prophesy against Babylon.
1. Compare Isa 45:1-47:15. But as the time of fulfilment drew nearer, the prophecies are now proportionally more distinct than then.
Declare ye among the nations, and publish, and set up a standard; publish, and conceal not: say, Babylon is taken, Bel is confounded, Merodach is broken in pieces; her idols are confounded, her images are broken in pieces.
2. Declare … among … nations—who would rejoice at the fall of Babylon their oppressor.
standard—to indicate the place of meeting to the nations where they were to hear the good news of Babylon's fall [Rosenmuller]; or, the signal to summon the nations together against Babylon (Jer 51:12, 27), [Maurer].
Bel—the tutelary god of Babylon; the same idol as the Ph�nician Baal, that is, lord, the sun (Isa 46:1).
confounded—because unable to defend the city under their protection.
Merodach—another Babylonian idol; meaning in Syria "little lord"; from which Merodach-baladan took his name.
For out of the north there cometh up a nation against her, which shall make her land desolate, and none shall dwell therein: they shall remove, they shall depart, both man and beast.
3. a nation—the Medes, north of Babylon (Jer 51:48). The devastation of Babylon here foretold includes not only that by Cyrus, but also that more utter one by Darius, who took Babylon by artifice when it had revolted from Persia, and mercilessly slaughtered the inhabitants, hanging four thousand of the nobles; also the final desertion of Babylon, owing to Seleucia having been built close by under Seleucus Nicanor.
In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the LORD their God.
4. Fulfilled only in part when some few of the ten tribes of "Israel" joined Judah in a "covenant" with God, at the restoration of Judah to its land (Ne 9:38; 10:29). The full event is yet to come (Jer 31:9; Ho 1:11; Zec 12:10).
weeping—with joy at their restoration beyond all hope; and with sorrow at the remembrance of their sins and sufferings (Ezr 3:12, 13; Ps 126:5, 6).
seek … Lord—(Ho 3:5).
They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the LORD in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten.
5. thitherward—rather, "hitherward," Jeremiah's prophetical standpoint being at Zion. "Faces hitherward" implies their steadfastness of purpose not to be turned aside by any difficulties on the way.
perpetual covenant—in contrast to the old covenant "which they brake" (Jer 31:31, &c.; Jer 32:40). They shall return to their God first, then to their own land.
My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace.
6. (Isa 53:6).
on the mountains—whereon they sacrificed to idols (Jer 2:20; 3:6, 23).
resting-place—for the "sheep," continuing the image; Jehovah is the resting-place of His sheep (Mt 11:28). They rest in His "bosom" (Isa 40:11). Also His temple at Zion, their "rest," because it is His (Ps 132:8, 14).
All that found them have devoured them: and their adversaries said, We offend not, because they have sinned against the LORD, the habitation of justice, even the LORD, the hope of their fathers.
7. devoured—(Ps 79:7). "Found them" implies that they were exposed to the attacks of those whoever happened to meet them.
adversaries said—for instance, Nebuzara-dan (Jer 40:2, 3; compare Zec 11:5). The Gentiles acknowledged some supreme divinity. The Jews' guilt was so palpable that they were condemned even in the judgment of heathens. Some knowledge of God's peculiar relation to Judea reached its heathen invaders from the prophets (Jer 2:3; Da 9:16); hence the strong language they use of Jehovah here, not as worshippers of Him themselves, but as believing Him to be the tutelary God of Judah ("the hope of their fathers," Ps 22:4; they do not say our hope), as each country was thought to have its local god, whose power extended no farther.
habitation—(Ps 90:1; 91:1). Alluding to the tabernacle, or, as in Eze 34:14, "fold," which carries out the image in Jer 50:6, "resting-place" of the "sheep." But it can only mean "habitation" (Jer 31:23), which confirms English Version here.
hope of their fathers—This especially condemned the Jews that their apostasy was from that God whose faithfulness their fathers had experienced. At the same time these "adversaries" unconsciously use language which corrects their own notions. The covenant with the Jews' "fathers" is not utterly set aside by their sin, as their adversaries thought; there is still "a habitation" or refuge for them with the God of their fathers.
Remove out of the midst of Babylon, and go forth out of the land of the Chaldeans, and be as the he goats before the flocks.
8. (Jer 51:6, 45; Isa 48:20; Zec 2:6, 7; Re 18:4). Immediately avail yourselves of the opportunity of escape.
be as … he-goats before … flocks—Let each try to be foremost in returning, animating the weak, as he-goats lead the flock; such were the companions of Ezra (Ezr 1:5, 6).
For, lo, I will raise and cause to come up against Babylon an assembly of great nations from the north country: and they shall set themselves in array against her; from thence she shall be taken: their arrows shall be as of a mighty expert man; none shall return in vain.
9. from thence—that is, from the north country.
expert—literally, "prosperous." Besides "might," "expertness" is needed, that an arrow may do execution. The Margin has a different Hebrew reading; "destroying," literally, "bereaving, childless-making" (Jer 15:7). The Septuagint and Syriac support English Version.
In vain—without killing him at whom it was aimed (2Sa 1:22).
And Chaldea shall be a spoil: all that spoil her shall be satisfied, saith the LORD.
Because ye were glad, because ye rejoiced, O ye destroyers of mine heritage, because ye are grown fat as the heifer at grass, and bellow as bulls;
11. (Isa 47:6).
grown fat—and so, skip wantonly.
at grass—fat and frisky. But there is a disagreement of gender in Hebrew reading thus. The Keri is better: "a heifer threshing"; the strongest were used for threshing, and as the law did not allow their mouth to be muzzled in threshing (De 25:4), they waxed wanton with eating.
bellow as bulls—rather, "neigh as steeds," literally, "strong ones," a poetical expression for steeds (see on Jer 8:16) [Maurer].
Your mother shall be sore confounded; she that bare you shall be ashamed: behold, the hindermost of the nations shall be a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert.
12. Your mother—Babylon, the metropolis of the empire.
hindermost—marvellous change, that Babylon, once the queen of the world, should be now the hindermost of nations, and at last, becoming "a desert," cease to be a nation!
Because of the wrath of the LORD it shall not be inhabited, but it shall be wholly desolate: every one that goeth by Babylon shall be astonished, and hiss at all her plagues.
13. (Isa 13:20).
Put yourselves in array against Babylon round about: all ye that bend the bow, shoot at her, spare no arrows: for she hath sinned against the LORD.
14. Summons to the Median army to attack Babylon.
against the Lord—By oppressing His people, their cause is His cause. Also by profaning His sacred vessels (Da 5:2).
Shout against her round about: she hath given her hand: her foundations are fallen, her walls are thrown down: for it is the vengeance of the LORD: take vengeance upon her; as she hath done, do unto her.
15. Shout—Inspirit one another to the onset with the battle cry.
given … hand—an idiom for, "submitted to" the conquerors (1Ch 29:24, Margin; La 5:6).
as she hath done, do unto her—just retribution in kind. She had destroyed many, so must she be destroyed (Ps 137:8). So as to spiritual Babylon (Re 18:6). This is right because "it is the vengeance of the Lord"; but this will not justify private revenge in kind (Mt 5:44; Ro 12:19-21); even the Old Testament law forbade this, though breathing a sterner spirit than the New Testament (Ex 23:4, 5; Pr 25:21, 22).
Cut off the sower from Babylon, and him that handleth the sickle in the time of harvest: for fear of the oppressing sword they shall turn every one to his people, and they shall flee every one to his own land.
16. Babylon had the extent rather of a nation than of a city. Therefore grain was grown within the city wall sufficient to last for a long siege [Aristotle, Politics, 3.2; Pliny, 18.17]. Conquerors usually spare agriculturists, but in this case all alike were to be "cut off."
for fear of … oppressing sword—because of the sword of the oppressor.
every one to his people—from which they had been removed to Babylon from all quarters by the Chaldean conquerors (Jer 51:9; Isa 13:14).
Israel is a scattered sheep; the lions have driven him away: first the king of Assyria hath devoured him; and last this Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon hath broken his bones.
17. lions—hostile kings (Jer 4:7; 49:19).
Assyria—(2Ki 17:6, Shalmaneser; Ezr 4:2, Esar-haddon).
Nebuchadnezzar—(2Ki 24:10, 14).
Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria.
18. punish … king of Babylon—Nabonidus, or Labynitus.
as … punished … Assyrian—Sennacherib and other kings [Grotius] (2Ki 19:37).
And I will bring Israel again to his habitation, and he shall feed on Carmel and Bashan, and his soul shall be satisfied upon mount Ephraim and Gilead.
19. (Isa 65:10; Eze 34:13, 14).
In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve.
20. The specification of "Israel," as well as Judah, shows the reference is to times yet to come.
iniquity … none—not merely idolatry, which ceased among the Jews ever since the Babylonian captivity, but chiefly their rejection of Messiah. As in a cancelled debt, it shall be as if it had never been; God, for Christ's sake, shall treat them as innocent (Jer 31:34). Without cleansing away of sin, remission of punishment would be neither to the honor of God nor to the highest interests of the elect.
whom I reserve—the elect "remnant" (Isa 1:9). The "residue" (Zec 14:2; 13:8, 9).
Go up against the land of Merathaim, even against it, and against the inhabitants of Pekod: waste and utterly destroy after them, saith the LORD, and do according to all that I have commanded thee.
21. Merathaim—a symbolical name for Babylon, the doubly rebellious, namely, against God. Compare Jer 50:24, "thou hast striven against the Lord"; and Jer 50:29, "proud against the Lord." The "doubly" refers to: first, the Assyrian's oppression of Israel; next, the kindred Chaldean's oppression of Judah (compare Jer 50:17-20, 33; especially Jer 50:18).
Pekod—(Eze 23:23); a chief province of Assyria, in which Nineveh, now overthrown, once lay. But, as in Merathaim, the allusion is to the meaning of Pekod, namely, "visitation"; the inhabitants whose time of deserved visitation in punishment is come; not, however, without reference to the now Babylonian province, Pekod. The visitation on Babylon was a following up of that on Assyria.
after them—even their posterity, and all that is still left of Babylon, until the very name is extinct [Grotius]. Devastate the city, after its inhabitants have deserted it.
all … I … commanded—by Isaiah (Isa 13:1, &c.).
A sound of battle is in the land, and of great destruction.
How is the hammer of the whole earth cut asunder and broken! how is Babylon become a desolation among the nations!
23. hammer—that is, Babylon, so called because of its ponderous destructive power; just as "Martel," that is, "a little hammer," was the surname of a king of the Franks (Isa 14:6).
I have laid a snare for thee, and thou art also taken, O Babylon, and thou wast not aware: thou art found, and also caught, because thou hast striven against the LORD.
24. I—Thou hast to do with God, not merely with men.
taken … not aware—Herodotus relates that one half of the city was taken before those in the other half were "aware" of it. Cyrus turned the waters of the Euphrates where it was defended into a different channel, and so entered the city by the dried-up channel at night, by the upper and lower gates (Da 5:30, 31).
The LORD hath opened his armoury, and hath brought forth the weapons of his indignation: for this is the work of the Lord GOD of hosts in the land of the Chaldeans.
25. weapons of his indignation—the Medes and Persians (Isa 13:5).
Come against her from the utmost border, open her storehouses: cast her up as heaps, and destroy her utterly: let nothing of her be left.
26. from the utmost border—namely, of the earth. Or, from all sides [Ludovicus De Dieu].
storehouses—or, "her houses filled with men and goods" [Michaelis]. When Cyrus took it, the provisions found there were enough to have lasted for many years.
as heaps—make of the once glorious city heaps of ruins. Vast mounds of rubbish now mark the site of ancient Babylon. "Tread her as heaps of corn which are wont to be trodden down in the threshing-floor" [Grotius].
Slay all her bullocks; let them go down to the slaughter: woe unto them! for their day is come, the time of their visitation.
27. bullocks—that is, princes and strong warriors (Jer 46:21; Ps 22:12; Isa 34:7).
go down to … slaughter—The slaughterhouses lay low beside the river; therefore it is said, "go down"; appropriate to Babylon on the Euphrates, the avenue through which the slaughterers entered the city.
The voice of them that flee and escape out of the land of Babylon, to declare in Zion the vengeance of the LORD our God, the vengeance of his temple.
28. declare in Zion … temple—Some Jews "fleeing" from Babylon at its fall shall tell in Judea how God avenged the cause of Zion and her temple that had been profaned (Jer 52:13; Da 1:2; 5:2).
Call together the archers against Babylon: all ye that bend the bow, camp against it round about; let none thereof escape: recompense her according to her work; according to all that she hath done, do unto her: for she hath been proud against the LORD, against the Holy One of Israel.
29. archers—literally, "very many and powerful"; hence the Hebrew word is used of archers (Job 16:13) from the multitude and force of their arrows.
according to all that she hath done—(See on Jer 50:15).
proud against the Lord—not merely cruel towards men (Isa 47:10).
Therefore shall her young men fall in the streets, and all her men of war shall be cut off in that day, saith the LORD.
30. (See on Jer 49:26).
in the streets—The Babylonians were so discouraged by having lost some battles that they retired within their walls and would not again meet Cyrus in the field.
Behold, I am against thee, O thou most proud, saith the Lord GOD of hosts: for thy day is come, the time that I will visit thee.
31. most proud—literally, "pride"; that is, man of pride; the king of Babylon.
visit—punish (Jer 50:27).
And the most proud shall stumble and fall, and none shall raise him up: and I will kindle a fire in his cities, and it shall devour all round about him.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The children of Israel and the children of Judah were oppressed together: and all that took them captives held them fast; they refused to let them go.
33. Israel and … Judah were oppressed—He anticipates an objection, in order to answer it: Ye have been, no doubt, "oppressed," therefore ye despair of deliverance; but, remember your "Redeemer is strong," and therefore can and will deliver you.
Their Redeemer is strong; the LORD of hosts is his name: he shall throughly plead their cause, that he may give rest to the land, and disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon.
34. strong—as opposed to the power of Israel's oppressor (Re 18:8).
plead … cause—as their advocate. Image from a court of justice; appropriate as God delivers His people not by mere might, but by righteousness. His plea against Satan and all their enemies is His own everlasting love, reconciling mercy and justice in the Redeemer's work and person (Mic 7:9; Zec 3:1-5; 1Jo 2:1).
give rest … disquiet—There is a play on the similarity of sounds in the two Hebrew verbs to express more vividly the contrast: "that He may give quiet to the land of Judah (heretofore disquieted by Babylon); but disquiet to the inhabitants of Babylon" (heretofore quietly secure) (Isa 14:6-8).
A sword is upon the Chaldeans, saith the LORD, and upon the inhabitants of Babylon, and upon her princes, and upon her wise men.
35-37. The repetition of "A sword" in the beginning of each verse, by the figure anaphora, heightens the effect; the reiterated judgment is universal; the same sad stroke of the sword is upon each and all connected with guilty Babylon.
wise men—(Isa 47:13). Babylon boasted that it was the peculiar seat of wisdom and wise men, especially in astronomy and astrology.
A sword is upon the liars; and they shall dote: a sword is upon her mighty men; and they shall be dismayed.
36. liars—Those whom he before termed "wise men," he here calls "liars" (impostors), namely, the astrologers (compare Isa 44:25; Ro 1:21-25; 1Co 1:20).
A sword is upon their horses, and upon their chariots, and upon all the mingled people that are in the midst of her; and they shall become as women: a sword is upon her treasures; and they shall be robbed.
37. as women—divested of all manliness (Na 3:13).
A drought is upon her waters; and they shall be dried up: for it is the land of graven images, and they are mad upon their idols.
38. drought—Altering the pointing, this verse will begin as the three previous verses, "A sword." However, all the pointed manuscripts read, "A drought," as English Version. Cyrus turned off the waters of the Euphrates into a new channel and so marched through the dried-up bed into the city (Jer 51:32). Babylonia once was famed for its corn, which often yielded from one to two hundredfold [Herodotus]. This was due to its network of water-courses from the Euphrates for irrigation, traces of which [Layard] are seen still on all sides, but dry and barren (Isa 44:27).
their idols—literally, "terrors." They are mad after idols that are more calculated to frighten than to attract (Jer 51:44, 47, 52; Da 3:1). Mere bugbears with which to frighten children.
Therefore the wild beasts of the desert with the wild beasts of the islands shall dwell there, and the owls shall dwell therein: and it shall be no more inhabited for ever; neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation.
39. wild beasts of the desert—wild cats, remarkable for their howl [Bochart].
wild beasts of the islands—jackals (See on Isa 13:21).
owls—rather, "female ostriches"; they delight in solitary places. Literally, "daughters of crying." Compare as to spiritual Babylon, Re 18:2.
no more inhabited for ever—The accumulation of phrases is to express the final and utter extinction of Babylon; fulfilled not immediately, but by degrees; Cyrus took away its supremacy. Darius Hystaspes deprived it, when it had rebelled, of its fortifications. Seleucus Nicanor removed its citizens and wealth to Seleucia, which he founded in the neighborhood; and the Parthians removed all that was left to Ctesiphon. Nothing but its walls was left under the Roman emperor Adrian.
As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbour cities thereof, saith the LORD; so shall no man abide there, neither shall any son of man dwell therein.
40. (Isa 13:19). Repeated from Jer 49:18.
Behold, a people shall come from the north, and a great nation, and many kings shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth.
41-43. (Compare Jer 6:22-24). The very language used to describe the calamities which Babylon inflicted on Zion is that here employed to describe Babylon's own calamity inflicted by the Medes. Retribution in kind.
kinds—the allies and satraps of the various provinces of the Medo-Persian empire: Armenia, Hyrcania, Lydia, &c.
coasts—the remote parts.
They shall hold the bow and the lance: they are cruel, and will not shew mercy: their voice shall roar like the sea, and they shall ride upon horses, every one put in array, like a man to the battle, against thee, O daughter of Babylon.
42. cruel—the character of the Persians, and even of Cyrus, notwithstanding his wish to be thought magnanimous (Isa 13:18).
like a man—So orderly and united is their "array," that the whole army moves to battle as one man [Grotius].
The king of Babylon hath heard the report of them, and his hands waxed feeble: anguish took hold of him, and pangs as of a woman in travail.
43. hands waxed feeble—attempted no resistance; immediately was overcome, as Herodotus tells us.
Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the swelling of Jordan unto the habitation of the strong: but I will make them suddenly run away from her: and who is a chosen man, that I may appoint over her? for who is like me? and who will appoint me the time? and who is that shepherd that will stand before me?
44-46. Repeated mainly from Jer 49:19-21. The identity of God's principle in His dealing with Edom, and in that with Babylon, is implied by the similarity of language as to both.
Therefore hear ye the counsel of the LORD, that he hath taken against Babylon; and his purposes, that he hath purposed against the land of the Chaldeans: Surely the least of the flock shall draw them out: surely he shall make their habitation desolate with them.
At the noise of the taking of Babylon the earth is moved, and the cry is heard among the nations.
46. cry … among the nations—In Edom's case it is, "at the cry the noise thereof was heard in the Red Sea." The change implies the wider extent to which the crash of Babylon's downfall shall be heard.