Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Many critics have endeavored to show that this prophecy Jer. 50-51 was not written by Jeremiah. Others grant that Jeremiah was the true author, yet assert that the prhophecy has been largely interpolated. The arguments for its authenticity are briefly stated in the following:
(a) The superscription Jer 50:1, and the appended history Jer 51:59-64;
(b) The general admission that the style is Jeremiah's;
(c) The fact that the author was living at Jerusalem (Jer 50:5, where read "hitherward," not "thitherward");
(d) The Medes and not the Persians are described as the future conquerors of Babylon Jer 51:11, Jer 51:28.
The knowledge of topography and Babylonian customs is not more than Jeremiah may have learned from the Chaldaeans when they were at Jerusalem in the fourth, and again in the eleventh year of Jehoiakim: and there was constant contact by letter and otherwise between Babylon and Jerusalem.
The prophecy may be considered essential to the right discharge by Jeremiah of the duties of his office. He had foretold the capture and ruin of Jerusalem, not from love to Babylon, but as a necessary act of the divine justice, and as the one remedy for Judah's sins. He recognized the Chaldaeans as Yahweh's ministers; but recognizing also that they practiced wanton barbarities, and claimed the g ory for themselves and their gods, he proclaimed that Babylon must be punished for its cruelty, its pride, and its idolatry.
The date is fixed by Jer 51:59. With this agrees the internal evidence.
Though deficient in arrangement the prophecy is full of grand ideas; and the similarity between passages in this prophecy and Isaiah illustrates the large knowledge which Jeremiah evidently possessed of the earlier Scriptures, and the manner in which, consciously or unconsciously, he has perpetually imitated them in his own writings.
Against ... against - Concerning.
Confounded ... confounded - ashamed ... ashamed.
Merodach - This deity, in the inscriptions Marduk, was the tutelary god of Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar, who called his son Evil-Merodach, appears to have been especially devoted to his service. He was really identical with Bel, and his equivalent among the planets was Jupiter: and as such he was styled "King of heaven and earth."
Out of the north - Media lay to the northwest of Babylon. This constant use of the north, the quarter where the sun never shines, and therefore the region of darkness, is symbolic of the region from where danger ever comes.
They shall remove ... - Translate it (as in Jer 9:10): "from man even to cattle they are fled, they are gone."
The fall of Babylon is to be immediately followed by the return of the exiles homewards, in tearful procession, because they go as penitents; and yet with joy, because their faces are toward Zion. The cessation moreover of the schism between Israel and Judah is one of the signs of the times of the Messiah Isa 11:12-13, and symbolically represents the gathering together of the warring empires of the world under the peaceful scepter of the Church's King.
Going and weeping: they shall go - Omit the colon; i. e., "they go ever onward weeping."
Thitherward - Hereward; the writer evidently was at Jerusalem.
Their shepherds ... mountains - Some translate it: Their shepherds, i. e., civil rulers (Jer 2:8 note) "have led them astray upon the seducing moutains." - the mountains being the usual places where idolatry was practiced.
Their restingplace - Their fold Psa 23:2.
Offend not - i. e., "are not guilty." Israel having left the fold, has no owner, and may therefore be maltreated with impunity.
Habitation of justice - In Jer 31:23 applied to Jerusalem: here, Yahweh alone is the true pasturage, in whom His people will find safety, rest, and plenty.
So firmly did the Jews settle themselves in Babylon under Jeremiah's counsels, that they were the last to abandon the place.
He goats - See Isa 14:9 note.
I will raise - Or, stir up.
An assembly of great nations - The Medo-Persian empire was as much an aggregate of discordant nations as that of Babylon.
From thence - From the north, i. e., by the great nations coming thence.
Return in vain - A proverbial expression for ill success (compare Isa 55:11). Here the skillful warrior returns not empty.
Or, "Chaldaea shall become a spoil ... for thou wast glad, thou exultedst, ye plunderers of mine heritage."
Because ye are grown fat - Rather, for thou leapedst, skippedst as an animal does when playing.
As the heifer at grass - Or, as a heifer threshing. When threshing cattle were allowed to eat their fill Deu 25:4, and so grew playful.
Bellow as bulls - Better as in the margin.
Your mother - i. e., Babylon. Confounded ... ashamed. Or, ashamed ... blush.
Behold ... - Translate, "Behold she is the hindermost of the nations, a desert, a thirsty land, and a waste:" - the reason why Babylon is to blush. Once the head of gold Dan 2:32, she is now the lowest of earthly powers.
place the colon after bow.
Shout - i. e., spoken of the war-cry. So in Isa 42:13, where God is compared to a warrior, it is said He shall shout (the King James Version cry), i. e., raise the war-cry.
Site hath given her hand - The sign of submission (compare Ch1 29:24 margin).
Foundations - Or, buttresses. The Septuagint: "battlements."
The population is to be destroyed so utterly that the rich fields of Babylonia are to remain untilled.
They shall turn - The full force of the words will be seen if it be remembered that it had been the policy of Nebuchadnezzar to compel citizens selected from the vanquished nations to settle in Babylonia.
Israel is a scattered sheep - i. e., is like a flock which has been scared and driven in all directions, for lions have chased him.
First the king ... - Rather, the first lion "ate him, even the king of Assyria; and this one, the last, heath picked his bones, even Nebuchadrezzar etc." The constant wasting of the land by the Assyrians had so lessened the number of Israel, that Nebuchadnezzar had but the bones to pick.
Or, "I will bring Israel (the scared sheep) back to his pasturage (see Jer 50:7) and he shall graze etc." The places named are the districts of Palestine most famous for their rich herbage.
Those days - The days of the Messiah.
Reserve - Or, permit to remain: hence, the remnant, a word pregnant with meaning in the language of the prophets. See Isa 8:18 note (2).
The land of Merathaim - of double rebellion. Like Mitsraim, i. e., the two Egypts, Aram-Naharaim, i. e., Syria of the two rivers, or Mesopotamia, it is a dual. It may have been a real name; or - the dual ending being intensive - it may mean the land of very great rebelliousness.
Pekod - Possibly a Babylonian town.
Waste - Rather, slay, Jer 50:27.
The hammer - Babylon, by whose instrumentality Yahweh had crushed the nations, is now cut asunder, i. e., the head of iron or bronze is cut away from the wooden handle, and broken.
I have laid a snare for thee - Babylon, the impregnable, was taken (according to Herodotus) by Cyrus by stratagem. Having diverted the waters of the Euphrates, he entered the city by the river channel: but see Dan 5:1 note.
And thou wast not aware - Better literally, and thou didst not know it.
By a grand figure the prophet describes Yahweh arming Himself that in person He may execute justice upon the wicked city.
For this is the work - Rather, for my Lord Yahweh of hosts hath a work to do in the land of the Chaldaeans.
Against her - Or, to her, in order to plunder her. Her storehouses (literally granaries) are to burst open, the grain piled up in heaps, and finally they are to devote her to destruction, i. e., to burn her wealth with fire.
From the utmost border - (Or, "from the first of you even to the last").
Let nothing of her be left - literally, let her have no remnant. Contrast Jer 5:10.
Her bullocks - Her strong youths.
The voice of them ... - i. e., There is a sound of fugitives escaping from Babylonia. The Jews saw in the fall of Babylon Yahweh's vengeance for His temple.
Or, "Summon the archers to Babylon, even all who bend the bow: encamp against her etc." In this portion of the prophecy the capture of Babylon is regarded as the punishment due to her for burning the temple Jer 50:28.
Babylon is here called Pride, just as in Jer 50:21 she was called Double-rebellion.
Him ... his ... him - Or, her.
Were oppressed - are "oppressed together: and all their captors have laid firm hold upon them: they have refused to let them go." The restoration of Israel and Judah to their land is necessary. As Babylon will not let them go, it must be broken, and its empire destroyed.
Redeemer - i. e., גאל gā'al. Yahweh is Israel's next relative, bound by law to avenge him, as well as to ransom him from captivity. It was the Go'el's duty also to plead his kinsman's cause. How thoroughly Yahweh will execute this duty for Israel is shown in the Hebrew by the triple repetition of the same word; literally "in pleading He will plead their plea."
The land ... - Rather, "the earth." Babylon has hitherto by its ambition kept the world in unrest: now by its fall men everywhere can dwell in security.
Omit "is." A summons comes from Yahweh, Israel's Goel, to the sword to fall upon all the elements of Babylon's greatness. The princes were her rulers at home and her generals in war. The wise men were those upon whose learning she so prided herself (Dan 1:4 note).
Liars - Soothsayers, fortune-tellers.
The mingled people - i. e., the foreigners serving as mercenaries in her army.
A drought - Rather, "a sword," i. e., military skill and forethought.
They are mad upon their idols - Omit their. The word for idols, literally terrors Psa 88:16 is used in this one place only of objects of worship. Probably it refers to those montrous forms invented as representations of their deities.
Wild beasts of the islands - Jackals.
Owls - Ostriches (marginal reference note).
An application to Babylon of the doom against Jerusalem Jer 6:22-24.
The coasts of the earth - See the Jer 6:22 note.
A similar application to Babylon of what was said of Edom (marginal reference).