Go up against the land of Merathaim, even against it, and against the inhabitants of Pekod: waste and utterly destroy after them…
Babylon was to be crushed by Persia - one hammer by another. As universal world powers, the rise and fall of these had immense importance, and they illustrate the duties and responsibilities of power.
I. ALL POWER IS A STEWARDSHIP FROM GOD. The vast extent and influence of those empires, and the special mission divinely appointed them, cannot but impress one with a sense of special responsibility. There seems something supernatural in their very origin and continuance. And yet it is equally true that the humblest power is a responsibility. It might be said that a great deal of the influence of great nations arises unconsciously, mechanically, and as it were as the result of their own momentum; and also that the distribution of official duties divides, if it does not quite dissipate, individual responsibility. Yet each contributes his quota to the general result, and in the end each will have to account for his own influence. The nation as a whole will be judged, and in that judgment each will be apportioned his due share. How much more, therefore, may the individual be held responsible for the use of those powers belonging to his own nature and person, and which are under his own control or have been in great part created by his own cultivation. We are doubly responsible, viz.
(1) for the acquisition, and
(2) for the use of power.
II. IT IS POSSIBLE TO BE THE INSTRUMENT OF DIVINE JUSTICE AND YET BE GUILTY. Babylon was clearly and definitely "commanded" to perform its work of conquest and destruction. But it overdid its task through arrogance and unbelief. It was the land of "Double defiance" (Merathaim), inasmuch as it had first illegitimately acquired its position by revolt against Assyria, and secondly it had triumphed in a cruel and unseemly manner over Israel (Naegelsbach). For this it was brought to account, and, therefore, is again named "Visitation." This self-sufficiency and unbelief rendered it guilty ("Against Jehovah hast thou striven," ver. 24), and yet the work it did, even in excess, was turned to account by God. We are responsible, not only for doing what God commands, but for doing it in the right spirit and manner. That God should overrule our evil for the good of others does not alter its character, which depends upon motives and dispositions. Especially in judging or punishing others ought we to keep watch over ourselves and examine our own hearts. National and official action will entail moral responsibility as much as personal, although, it may be, not so directly.
III. THE ABUSE OF POWER WILL BE TERRIBLY AVENGED. In the case of Babylon it involved it in complete destruction. The influence which had in part been a Divine creation rapidly degenerated into a merely human and sinful one.
1. Because the consciousness of power tempts to greater arrogance and depravity; and:
2. Because all power has. involved in it corresponding moral capacity.
3. It is the perversion and abuse of a gracious privilege. - M.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.