Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Because of the righteousness of Israel, Babylon is to be irretrievably destroyed. Jer 51:5. "For Israel is not forsaken, nor Judah of his God, of Jahveh of hosts; but their land is full of guilt because of the Holy One of Israel. Jer 51:6. Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and save ye every one his life: do not perish for her iniquity; because it is a time of vengeance for Jahveh; He renders to her what she has committed. Jer 51:7. Babylon [was] a golden cup in the hand of Jahveh, that intoxicated all the earth. Nations have drunk of her wine, therefore nations are mad. Jer 51:8. Babylon has fallen suddenly and been broken: howl over her: take balsam for her pain; perhaps she may be healed. Jer 51:9. 'We have tried to heal Babylon, but she is not healed. Leave her, and let us go each one to his own land; for her judgment reaches unto heaven, and is lifted up to the clouds.' Jer 51:10. Jahveh hath brought forth our righteousnesses; come, and let us declare in Zion the doing of Jahveh our God. Jer 51:11. Sharpen the arrow, fill the shields: Jahveh hath roused the spirit of the kings of Media; for His counsel is against Babylon, to destroy it; because it is the vengeance of Jahveh, the vengeance of His temple. Jer 51:12. Against the walls of Babylon raise a standard; strengthen the watch, set watchmen, prepare the ambushes: for Jahveh hath both devised and done what He spake against the inhabitants of Babylon. Jer 51:13. O thou that dwellest upon many waters, rich in treasures, thine end hath sworn by Himself, 'Surely I have filled thee with men, as [with] the locust; and they shall raise a shout of joy against thee.'"
The offence of Babylon against the Holy One of Israel demands its destruction. In Jer 51:5, two reasons are given for God's determination to destroy Babylon. The Lord is induced to this (1) by His relation to Israel and Judah, whom Babylon will not let go; (2) by the grave offence of Babylon. Israel is לא אלמן, "not widowed," forsaken by his God; i.e., Jahveh, the God of hosts, has not rejected His people for ever, so as not to trouble Himself any more about them; cf. Isa 50:1; Isa 54:4. "Their land" - the land of the Chaldeans - "is full of guilt before the Holy One of Israel," partly through their relation to Israel (Jer 50:21), partly through their idolatry (Isa 50:2, 38). מן does not mean here "on the side of," but "on account of," because they do not acknowledge Jahveh as the Holy One of Israel.
In order to escape the punishment that is to fall on the guilt-laden city, the Israelites living in Babylon must flee to save their lives; cf. Jer 50:8, and on the mode of expression, Jer 48:6. "Be not destroyed בּעונהּ, for her iniquity," (בּ of price), not "in her guilt" = punishment for sin (Graf), or "through her guilt" (Ngelsbach). Both of these last two views are against the context; for the idea is, that Israel must flee to save his life, and that he too may not atone for the guilt of Babylon. On the expression, "It is a time of vengeance," etc., cf. Jer 50:15, Isa 34:8. גּמוּל , as in Isa 59:18; Isa 66:6. גּמוּל, prop. accomplishment, actual proof, is used both of human and divine doing and working, of human misdeeds and divine recompense. הוּא is used emphatically.
Babylon, certainly, in its former power and greatness, was a golden goblet, by means of which Jahveh presented to the nations the wine of His wrath, and intoxicated them; but now it is fallen, and broken without remedy. Isa 21:9 finds an echo in the expression, "Babylon is fallen." The figure of the cup refers us back to Jer 25:15., where, however, it is applied in a different way. The cup is said to be of gold, in order to point out the splendour and glory of Nebuchadnezzar's dominion. "In the hand of Jahveh," i.e., used by Him as His instrument for pouring out His wrath to the nations. But Babylon has suddenly fallen and been broken in pieces. At this point Jeremiah drops the figure of the cup, for a golden cup does not break when it falls. The fall is so terrible, that the nations in Babylon are summoned to participate in the lamentation, and to lend their aid in repairing her injuries. But they answer that their attempts to heal her are fruitless. (On צרי, cf. Jer 46:11 and Jer 8:22.) The terrible and irreparable character of the fall is thus expressed in a dramatic manner. We must neither think of the allies and mercenaries as those who are addressed (Schnurrer, Rosenmller, Maurer, Hitzig), nor merely the Israelites who had been delivered from Babylon (Umbreit). The latter view is opposed by the words which follow, "Let every one go to his own country;" this points to men out of different lands. And the former assumption is opposed by the consideration that not merely the mercenaries, but also the allies are to be viewed as fallen and ruined together with Babylon, and that Babylon, which had subdued all the nations, has no allies, according to the general way in which the prophet views these things. Those addressed are rather the nations that had been vanquished by Babylon and detained in the city, of which Israel was one. Inasmuch as these were the servants of Babylon, and as such bound to pay her service, they are to heal Babylon; and because the attempts to heal her prove fruitless, they are to leave the ruined city. They answer this summons by the resolve, "We will go every one to his own land;" cf. Jer 50:8, Jer 50:16. The motive for this resolution, "for her guilt reaches up to heaven," certainly shows that it is Israelites who are speaking, because it is only they who form their opinions in such a way; but they speak in the name of all the strangers who are in Babylon. משׁפּט is the matter upon which judgment is passed, i.e., the transgression, the guilt, analogous to משׁפּט דּמים, Eze 7:23, and משׁפּט מות , Deu 19:6; Deu 21:22; it does not mean the punishment adjudged, of which we cannot say that it reaches up to heaven. On this expression, cf. Psa 57:11; Psa 108:5. Through the fall of Babylon, the Lord has made manifest the righteousness of Israel; the redeemed ones are to proclaim this in Zion. צדקות does not mean "righteous acts" (Jdg 5:11), but proofs of the righteousness of Israel as opposed to Babylon, which righteousness Babylon, through tyrannical oppression of the people that had been delivered up to it merely for chastisement, has failed to perceive, and which, so long as the Lord did not take His people to Himself again in a visible manner, was hidden from the world; cf. Psa 37:6.
The instruments which the Lord employs in bringing about the fall of Babylon are the kings of the Medes, i.e., the provincial governors, or heads of the separate provinces into which the Medes in ancient times were divided, until, after revolting from the Assyrians in the year 714 b.c., they put themselves under a common head, in order to assert their independence, and chose Dejokes as their monarch. See Speigel's Ern (1863, S. 308ff.), and Delitzsch on Isa 13:17, who rightly remarks that in Isa 13:17, as well as here, מדי is a general designation for the Aryan tribes of Iran, taken from the most important and influential nation. In Jer 21:2, Isaiah mentions Elam in the first series, along with Media, as a conqueror of Babylon; and the Babylonian kingdom was destroyed by Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian. But the Persians are first named in the Old Testament by Ezekiel and Daniel, while the name "Elam" as a province of the Persian kingdom is gradually lost, from the times of Cyrus onwards, in that of the "Persians." The princes of Media are to prepare themselves for besieging and conquering Babylon. הבר (from בּרר), prop. to polish, cleanse from dirt and rust. The arrows are thereby sharpened; cf. Isa 49:2. מלאוּ השּׁלטים is variously explained. The meaning of "shields" is that best established for שּׁלטים (see on Sa2 8:7); while the meaning of "armour equipment," which is defended by Thenius, is neither very suitable for Sa2 8:7 nor for Kg2 11:10 and Sol 4:4. There is no the least foundation for the meaning "quiver," which is assumed merely for this passage. מלאוּ is to be explained in accordance with the analogous expression in Kg2 9:24, מלּא ידו בקשׁת, "he filled his hand with the bow," i.e., seized the bow. "Fill the shields" with your bodies, or with your arms, since we put these among the straps of the shields. Those addressed are the kings of the Medes, whose spirit God has stirred up to make war against Babylon; for it is against her that His mind or plan is directed. As to the expression, "for it is the vengeance of Jahveh," etc., cf. Jer 50:15, Jer 50:28. The attack is to be directed against the walls of Babylon. נס, "standard," is the military sign carried before the army, in order to show them the direction they are to take, and the point of attack. משׁמר "watch," is the force besieging the city; cf. Sa2 11:16. "Make the watch strong," i.e., enclose the city firmly. This is more exactly specified in the following clauses. "Set watches," not as a guard for their own camp (Hitzig), but against the city, in order to maintain a close siege. "Place the ambushes," that they may peep into the city whenever a sally is made by the besieged; cf. Jos 8:14., Jdg 20:33. "For what Jahveh hath determined, He will also perform." גּם־גּם, "as well as:" He has resolved as well as done, i.e., as He has resolved, He also executes.
All the supports of the Babylonian power, its strong position on the Euphrates, and its treasures, which furnished the means for erecting strong fortifications, cannot avert the ruin decreed by God. As to the form שׁכנתּי, see on Jer 22:23. It is the city with its inhabitants that is addressed, personified as a virgin or daughter. The many waters on which Babylon dwells are the Euphrates, with the canals, trenches, dykes, and marches which surrounded Babylon, and afforded her a strong protection against hostile attacks, but at the same time contributed to increase the wealth of the country and the capital.
(Note: Duncker, Gesch. d. Alterth. i. S. 846, remarks: "The fertility of the soil of Babylon - the produce of the fields - depended on the inundations of the Euphrates. By means of an extensive system of dykes, canals, and river-walls, Nebuchadnezzar succeeded not only in conducting the water of the Euphrates to every point in the plain of Babylon, but also in averting the formation of marshes and the occurrence of floods (which were not rare), as well as regulating the inundation." The purpose for which these water-works were constructed, was "first of all, irrigation and navigation; but they at the same time afforded strong liens of defence against the foe" (Niebuhr, Gesch. Assyr. u. Bab. S. 219). See details regarding these magnificent works in Duncker, S. 845ff.; Niebuhr, S. 218ff.)
The great riches, however, by which Babylon became רבּת אוצרות, "great in treasures," so that Aeschylus (Pers. 52) calls it Βαβυλῶν ἡ πολύχρυσος, were derived from the enormous spoils which Nebuchadnezzar brought to it, partly from Nineveh, partly from Jerusalem, and from the tribute paid by Syria and the wealthy commercial cities of Phoenicia. "Thine end is come;" cf. Gen 6:13. אמּת בּצעך, "the ell (i.e., the measure) of thy gain," i.e., the limit put to thine unjust gain. The words are connected with "thine end is come" by zeugma. This explanation is simpler than the interpretation adopted by Venema, Eichhorn, and Maurer, from the Vulgate pedalis praecisionis tuae, viz., "the ell of cutting thee off." Bttcher (Proben, S. 289, note m) seeks to vindicate the rendering in the following paraphrase: "The ell at which thou shalt be cut off, like something woven or spun, when it has reached the destined number of ells." According to this view, "ell" would stand for the complete number of the ells determined on; but there is no consideration of the question whether בּצע, "to cut off the thread of life," Isa 38:12, can be applied to a city.
The Lord announces destruction to Babylon with a solemn oath. Many take כּי אם in the sense of אם לא in oaths: "truly, certainly." But this use of the expression is neither fully established, nor suitable in this connection. In Sa2 15:21 (the only passage that can be cited in its behalf), the meaning "only" gives good enough sense. Ewald (356, b) wrongly adduces Kg2 5:20 in support of the above meaning, and three lines below he attributes the signification "although" to the passage now before us. Moreover, the asseveration, "Verily I have filled thee with men as with locusts, and they shall sing the Hedad over thee," can have a suitable meaning only if we take "I have filled thee" prophetically, and understand the filling with men as referring to the enemy, when the city has been reduced (Hitzig). But to fill a city with men hardly means quite the same as to put a host of enemies in it. כּי serves merely to introduce the oath, and אם means "although," - as, for instance, in Job 9:15. The meaning is not, "When I filled thee with men, as with locusts, the only result was, that a more abundant wine-pressing could be obtained" (Ngelsbach), for this though is foreign to the context; the meaning rather is, "Even the countless multitudes of men in Babylon will not avail it" (Ewald), will not keep it from ruin. הידד, the song sung at the pressing of wine, is, from the nature of the case, the battle-song; see on Jer 25:30.
The omnipotence of the Lord and Creator of the whole world will destroy the idols of Babylon, and break the mighty kingdom that rules the world. Jer 51:15. "He who made the earth by His strength, establishing the world by His wisdom, and stretched out the heavens by His understanding; Jer 51:16. When, thundering, He makes a roaring sound of water in the heavens, He causes clouds to ascend from the end of the earth, makes lightnings for the rain, and brings forth the wind out of His treasures. Jer 51:17. Every man without knowledge is brutish; every goldsmith is ashamed because of the image: for his molten work is a lie, and there is no spirit in them. Jer 51:18. They are vanity, a work of mockery; in their time of visitation they perish. Jer 51:19. The Portion of Jacob is not like these; for He is the framer of all, and of the tribe of his inheritance: Jahveh of hosts is His name. Jer 51:20. Thou art a hammer to me, weapons of war; and with thee I will break nations in pieces, and with thee destroy kingdoms. Jer 51:21. And with thee I will break in pieces the horse and his rider, and with thee I will break in pieces the chariot and its rider. Jer 51:22. And with thee I will break in pieces man and woman, and with thee I will break in pieces old and young, and with thee I will break in pieces young man and maiden. Jer 51:23. And with thee I will break in pieces the shepherd and his flock, and with thee I will break in pieces the husbandman and his yoke [of oxen], and with thee I will break in pieces governors and deputy-governors. Jer 51:24. And I will recompense to Babylon, and to all the inhabitants of Chaldea, all their evil which they have done in Zion before your eyes, saith Jahveh. Jer 51:25. Behold, I am against thee, O mountain of destruction, saith Jahve, that destroyed all the earth; and I will stretch out my hand against thee, and roll thee down from the rocks, and make thee a burnt mountain, Jer 51:26. So that they shall not take from thee a stone for a corner, or a stone for foundations; but thou shalt be desolations for ever, saith Jahveh."
In order to establish, against all doubt, the fall of Babylon that has been announced under solemn oath, Jeremiah, in Jer 51:15-19. repeats a passage from the address in Jer 10:12-16, in which he holds up before the people, by way of warning, the almighty power of the living God, and the destruction of the idols at the time of the judgment. In Jer 51:10 he wished, by means of this announcement, to combat the fears of the idolatrous people for the power of the heathen gods; here he seeks by the same means to destroy the confidence of the Chaldeans in their gods, and to state that all idols will be destroyed before the almighty power of the Creator and Ruler of the whole world on the day of judgment, and Israel shall then learn that He who formed the universe will show Himself, by the fall of Babylon, as the Creator of Israel. The whole passage is repeated verbatim, on till a change made in Jer 51:19, where ישׂראל is omitted before שׁבט נחלתו, and these words are connected with what precedes: "He is the former of all, and of the tribe which belongs to Him as His own property," i.e., Israel. This alteration is not to be put to the account of a copyist, who omitted the word "Israel" through an oversight, but is due to Jeremiah: there was no need here, as in Jer 10, for bringing into special prominence the relation of Israel to his God.
(Note: In Jer 10:16 the lxx have taken no account either of ישׂראל or שׁבט. Hence Movers, Hitzig, and Ewald infer that these words have found their way into the text as a gloss suggested by Deu 32:9, and should be deleted. But in this they are wrong. The omission of the two words by the lxx is a result of the erroneous translation there given of the first clause of the verse. This the lxx have rendered ου ̓ τοιαύτη μερὶς τῷ ̓Ιακωβ, instead of ου ̓ τοιαύτη ἡ μερὶς τοῦ ̓Ιακώβ. Having done so, it was impossible for them to continue, ὅτι ὁ πλάσας τὰ πάντα αὐτός, because they could not predicate this of μερίς, which they evidently did not take to mean God. And if they were to connect הוּא with what followed, they were bound to omit the two words, for it would never have done to take together הוּא וישׂראל שׁבט נחלתו. They therefore simply omitted the troublesome words, and went on to translate: ὅτι ὁ πλάσας τὰ πάντα αὐτός κληρονομία αὐτοῦ. Cf. Ngelsbach. Jeremia u. Babylon, S. 94.)
As to the rest, see the exposition of Jer 10:12-16. In Jer 51:20-26 the destruction of Babylon and its power is further carried out in two figures. In Jer 51:20-24 Babylon is compared to a hammer, which God uses for the purpose of beating to pieces nations and kingdoms, with their forces and their inhabitants, but on which He will afterwards requite the evil done to Zion. מפּץ is equivalent to מפיץ ot tnelaviuqe si, Pro 25:18, one who breaks in pieces; hence a battle-hammer. Hitzig takes כּלי to be a singular, "formed thus in order to avoid an accumulation of i sounds (cf. פּליטים with פּליטי)." This is possible, but neither necessary nor probable. The plural, "weapons of war," is added, because the battle-hammer is considered as including all weapons of war. By the hammer, Ewald understands "the true Israel;" Hitzig, Cyrus, the destroyer of Babylon; Ngelsbach, an ideal person. These three views are based on the fact that the operation performed by means of the hammer (breaking to pieces) is marked by perfects with ו relative (ונפּצתּי), which is also true of the retribution to be made on Babylon: from this it is inferred that the breaking with the hammer, as well as the retribution, is still future, and that the meaning is, "When I hammer in this way with thee, I will requite Babylon" (Hitzig); while Ewald concludes from nothing but the context that the words refer to Israel.
But none of these reasons is decisive, nor any of the three views tenable. The context gives decided support to the opinion that in Jer 51:20. it is Babylon that is addressed, just as in Jer 51:13. and Jer 51:25; a further proof is, that as early as Jer 50:23, Babylon is called "the hammer of the whole earth." Only very weighty reasons, then, could induce us to refer the same figure, as used here, to another nation. The word פּטּישׁ (Jer 50:23), "hammer, smith's hammer" (Isa 41:7), is not essentially different from מפּץ, which is used here. The figure is quite inapplicable to Israel, because "Israel is certainly to be delivered through the destruction of Babylon, but is not to be himself the instrument of the destruction" (Graf). Finally, the employment of the perfect with w relative, both in connection with the shattering to pieces which God accomplishes with (by means of) Babylon, and also the retribution He will execute on Babylon, is explained by the fact, that just as, in prophetic vision, what Babylon does to the nations, and what happens to it, was not separated into two acts, distinct from one another, but appeared as one continuous whole, so also the work of Babylon as the instrument of destruction was not yet finished, but had only begun, and still continuing, was partly future, like the retribution which it was to receive for its offence against Zion; just as in Jer 51:13 Babylon is viewed as then still in the active exercise of its power; and the purpose for which God employs it, as well as the fate that is to befall it, is presented together in something like this manner: "O Babylon, who art my hammer with which I break peoples and kingdoms in pieces, thee will I requite!" There is separate mention made of the instances of breaking, in a long enumeration, which becomes tedious through the constant repetition of the verb - something like the enumeration in Jer 50:35-38, where, however, the constant repetition of חרב gives great emphasis to the address. First comes the general designation, nations and kingdoms; then military forces; then (Jer 51:25) the inhabitants of the kingdoms, arranged, as in Eze 23:6, Eze 23:23, according to sex, age, and class, labouring classes (shepherds, and husbandmen with their cattle); and lastly dignitaries, satraps and lieutenant-governors, פּחות וּסגנים, as in Eze 23:6, Eze 23:23. פּחה probably comes from the Zendic pavan (root pa), of which a dialectic form is pagvan, "upholder of government;" see on Hag 1:1. סגן corresponds to the ζωγάνης of the Athenians, "lieutenant-governor;" but it is not much that has hitherto been ascertained with regard to this office; see Delitzsch on Isa 41:25 Clark's translation. On 'ושׁלּמתּי וגו, cf. Jer 51:6 and Jer 50:15, Jer 50:29; "before your eyes," towards the end of this verse, belongs to this verb in the main clause.
This retribution is set forth in Jer 51:25. under a new figure. Babylon is called the "mountain of destruction;" this name is immediately explained by the predicate, "that destroys the whole earth," brings destruction on it. The name הר המשׁחית is applied in Kg2 23:13 to the Mount of Olives, or its southern summit, the so-called mons offensionis vel scandali of ecclesiastical tradition, on which Solomon had erected idolatrous altars for his foreign wives; the name refers to the pernicious influence thereby exercised on the religious life of Israel. In this verse, "destruction" is used in a comprehensive sense of the physical and moral ruin which Babylon brought on the nations. Babylon is a "mountain," as being a powerful kingdom, supereminent above others; whether there is also a reference in the title to its lofty buildings (C. B. Michaelis) seems doubtful. "I will roll thee down from the rocks," de petris, in quarum fastigiis hucusque eminuisti. Non efferes te amplius super alia regna (C. B. Mich.). To this Hitzig adds, by way of explanation: "The summit of the mountain is sometimes changed into the very position occupied by the crater." From what follows, "I will make thee a mountain of burning," i.e., either a burning, or burnt, burnt-out mountain, modern expositors infer, with J. D. Michaelis, that the prophet has before his mind a volcano in active eruption, "for no other kind of mountains could devastate countries; it is just volcanoes which have been hollowed out by fire that fall in, or, it may be, tumble down into the valley below, scattering their constituent elements here and there; the stones of such mountains, too, are commonly so much broken and burnt, that they are of no use for building" (Hitzig). Of the above remarks this much is correct, that the words, "I will make thee a burning mountain," are founded on the conception of a volcano; any more extended application, however, of the figure to the whole verse is unwarranted. The clause, "I will roll thee down from the rocks," cannot possibly be applied to the action of a volcano in eruption (though Ngelsbach does so apply it), unless we are ready to impute to the prophet a false notion regarding the eruptions of volcanoes. By the eruption, a mountain is not loosened from the rock on which it rests, and hurled down into the valleys round about; it is only the heart of the mountain, or the rocks on which its summit rests, that seem to be vomited out of it. Besides, the notion that there is a representation of an active volcano in the first clauses of the verse, is disproved by the very fact that the mountain, Babylon, does not bring ruin on the earth, as one that is burning; it is not to become such until after it has been rolled down from the rocks on which it rests. The laying waste of the countries is not ascribed to the fire that issues from the mountain, but the mountain begins to burn only after it has been rolled down from its rocks. Babylon, as a kingdom and city, is called a mountain, because it mightily surpassed and held sway over them; cf. Isa 2:14. It brings ruin on the whole earth by subjugation of the nations and devastation of the countries. The mountain rests on rocks, i.e., its power has a foundation as firm as a rock, until the Lord rolls it down from its height, and burns the strong mountain, making it like an extinct volcano, the stones of which, having been rendered vitreous by the fire, no longer furnish material that can be employed for the foundation of new buildings. "A corner-stone," etc., is explained by C. B. Michaelis, after the Chaldee, Kimchi, and others, to mean, "no one will appoint a king or a prince any more out of the stock of the Chaldeans." This is against the context, according to which the point treated of is, not the fall of the kingdom in or of Babylon, but the destruction of Babylon as a city and kingdom. Hitzig and Graf, accordingly, take the meaning to be this: Not a stone of the city will be used for a new building - no one will any more build for himself among their ruins, and out of the material there. The corner-stone and the foundation (it is further asserted) are mentioned by way of example, not because particularly large and good stones are needed for these parts, but because every house begins with them. But though the following clause, "thou shalt be an everlasting desolation," contains this idea, yet this interpretation neither exhausts nor gives a generally correct view of the meaning of the words, "no one will take from thee a corner-stone or a foundation-stone." The burning of the mountain signifies not merely that Babylon was to be burned to ashes, but that her sway over the world was to be quite at an end; this was only to come about when the city was burnt. When no stone of any value for a new building is to be left after this conflagration, this is equivalent to saying that nothing will be left of the empire that has been destroyed, which would be of any use in the foundation of another state. The last clause also ("for thou shalt be," etc.) refers to more than the destruction of the city of Babylon. This is seen even in the fundamental passage, Jer 25:12, where the same threat is uttered against the land of the Chaldeans.
A summons addressed to the nations to fight against Babylon, in order that, by reducing the city, vengeance may be taken for the offence committed against Israel by Babylon. Jer 51:27. "Lift up a standard on the earth, sound a trumpet among the nations, prepare the nations against her, call the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz against her; appoint troops against her; bring up horses lie horrid locusts. Jer 51:28. Prepare nations against her, the kings of the Medes and her governors, and all her lieutenant-governors, and all the land of his dominion. Jer 51:29. Then the earth quakes and trembles: for the purposes of Jahveh against Babylon are being performed, to make the land of Babylon a desolation, without an inhabitant. Jer 51:30. The heroes of Babylon have ceased to fight, they sit in the strongholds: their strength is dried up; they have become women; they have set her habitations on fire; her bars are broken. Jer 51:31. One runner runs against another, and one messenger against another, to tell the king of Babylon that his city is wholly taken. Jer 51:32. And the crossing-places have been seized, and the marches have they burned up with fire, and the men of war are confounded. Jer 51:33. For thus saith Jahveh of hosts, the God of Israel: The daughter of Babylon is like a threshing-floor at the time when it is trodden; yet a little, and the time of harvest will come to her. Jer 51:34. Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon hath devoured us, and ground us down; he hath set us down [like] an empty vessel, he hath swallowed us like a dragon, he hath filled his belly with my dainties; he hath thrust me out. Jer 51:35. Let the inhabitress of Zion say, 'My wrong and my flesh [be] upon Babylon;' and let Jerusalem say, 'My blood be upon the inhabitants of Chaldea.' Jer 51:36. Therefore thus saith Jahveh: Behold, I will plead thy cause, and execute vengeance for thee; ad I will dry up her sea, and make her fountain dry. Jer 51:37. And Babylon shall become heaps [of ruins], a dwelling-place of dragons, an astonishment, and a hissing, without an inhabitant."
The lifting up of the standard (Jer 51:27) serves as a signal for the nations to assemble for the struggle against Babylon. בּארץ does not mean "in the land," but, as the parallel "among the nations" shows, "on the earth." קדּשׁוּ, "consecrate prepare against her (Babylon) nations" for the war; cf. Jer 6:4; Jer 22:7. השׁמיעוּ, as in Jer 50:29. The kingdoms summoned are: Ararat, i.e., the middle (or eastern) province of Armenia, in the plain of Araxes, which Moses of Chorene calls Arairad, Araratia (see on Gen 8:4); Minni, which, according to the Syriac and Chaldee, is also a name of Armenia, probably its western province (see Gesenius' Thesaurus, p. 807); and Ashkenaz, which the Jews take to be Germany, although only this much is certain, that it is a province in the neighbourhood of Armenia. For Askên is an Armenian proper name, and az an Armenian termination; cf. Lagarde's Gesammelte Abhandll. S. 254, and Delitzsch on Gen 10:3, Gen 10:4 ed. פּקדוּ, "appoint, order against her." טפסר does not mean "captains" or leaders, for this meaning of the foreign word (supposed to be Assyrian) rests on a very uncertain etymology; it means some peculiar kind of troops, but nothing more definite can be affirmed regarding it. This meaning is required by the context both here and in Nah 3:17, the only other place where the word occurs: see on that passage. The sing. טפסר corresponds with the sing. סוּס, and is therefore to be taken collectively, "troops and horses." Whether the simile כּילק ס belongs merely to "horses," or to the combination "troops and horses," depends on the meaning attached to the expression. Modern expositors render it "bristly locusts;" and by that they understand, like Credner (Joel, S. 298), the young grasshopper after it has laid aside its third skin, when the wings are still enveloped in rough horny sheaths, and stick straight up from the back of the animal. But this explanation rests on an erroneous interpretation of Nah 3:17. סמר means to shudder, and is used of the shivering or quivering of the body (Psa 119:120), and of the hair (Job 4:15); and ילק does not mean a particular kind of locusts, through Jerome, on Nah 3:17, renders it attelabus (parva locusta est inter locustam et bruchum, et modicis pennis reptans potius quam volans, semperque subsiliens), but is a poetic epithet of the locust, "the devourer." If any one prefers to view סמר as referring to the nature of the locusts, he may with Bochart and Rosenmller, think of the locustarum species, quae habet caput hirsutum. But the epithet "horrid" is probably intended merely to point out the locusts as a fearful scourge of the country. On this view, the comparison refers to both clauses, and is meant to set forth not merely the enormous multitude of the soldiery, but also the devastation they make of the country. In Jer 51:28 mention is further made of the kings of the Medes (see on Jer 51:11), together with their governors and lieutenant-governors (see on Jer 51:23), and, in order to give prominence to the immense strength of the army, of "all the land of his dominion;" on these expressions, cf. Jer 34:1 and Kg1 9:19. The suffix refers to the king of Media, as the leader of the whole army; while those in "her governors, and all her lieutenant-governors," refer to the country of Media.
On the advance of this mighty host against Babylon, to execute the judgment determined by the Lord, the earth quakes. The mighty men of Babylon cease to offer resistance, and withdraw dispirited, like women, into inaccessible places, while the enemy sets fire to the houses, breaks the bars, and captures the city. The prophet views all this in spirit as already present, and depicts in lively colours the attack on the city and its capture. Hence the historic tenses, ותּרעשׁ, ותּחל, חדלוּ, etc. קמה is used of the permanence, i.e., of the realization of the divine counsels, as in Jer 44:23. On the singular, see Ewald, 317, a. "To make the land," etc., as in Jer 4:7; Jer 18:16, etc. "They sit (have taken up their position) in the strongholds" (Mountain fastnesses), i.e., in inaccessible places; cf. Sa1 13:16; Sa2 23:14. נשׁתה is but to be regarded as a Kal form from נשׁת; on its derivation from שׁתת, see on Isa 41:17. "They have become women;" cf. Jer 50:37. The subject of the verb הצּיעתוּ is the enemy, who set fire to the dwellings in Babylon. "Runner runs against runner," i.e., from opposite sides of the city there come messengers, who meet each other running to tell the king in his castle that the city is taken. The king is therefore (as Graf correctly remarks against Hitzig) not to be thought of as living outside of the city, for "in this case לקראת would have no meaning," but as living in the royal castle, which was situated in the middle of the city, on the Euphrates. Inasmuch as the city is taken "from the end" (מקּצה), i.e., on all sides, the messengers who bring the news to the king's fortress must meet each other.
Permits of being taken as a continuation of the message brought to the king. מעבּרות, "crossing-places," do not here mean "fords" (Jdg 3:28); for such shallow places, where one could go through the river, are not to be found in the Euphrates. at Babylon: they mean bridges and ferries, because, in addition to the stone bridge built by Nebuchadnezzar (Herodotus, i. 186; see Duncker's Geschichte, i. S. 859), there must also have been at Babylon, throughout its large extent, other means of crossing, either by bridges of boats or ferries. נתפּשׁוּ, "they have been taken," seized by the enemy; cf. Jer 48:41. אגמּים are ponds and artificial lakes which had been formed for the protection of the city, of the waters of the Euphrates (Herodotus, i. 185; Arrian. Jer 7:17); these "they have burned with fire." Inasmuch as a burning of ponds is an impossibility, many, with Kimchi, would understand אגמים of the reeds of the marshes. But the word has no such meaning; moreover, even if it had, the burning of the reeds would have no significance for the taking of the city. Others think of the sluices and the enclosures of the artificial waters, which enclosures were constructed of wood-work; but apart from the basin of water at Sepharvaim, which could be opened by sluices, the enclosure of the ponds with wood-work is a matter of much doubt, and a burning of the wood-work is not a burning of the ponds. The expression, as Calvin long ago remarked, is hyperbolic, and not to be pressed: Propheta hyperbolice ostendit, siccata fuisse vada Euphratis ac si quis lignum exureret igni supposito; hoc quidem aquis non convenit, sed hyperbolice melius exprimit miraculum. On the whole, the picture is not to be taken as a description of the historical circumstances connected with the taking of Babylon by Cyrus; neither, therefore, is the burning of the ponds to be referred to the fact that the bed of the Euphrates was made dry through diversion of the stream (Herodotus, i. 191); but we have here a poetic colouring given to the thought that all Babylon's means of offence and defence will fall into the power of the enemy and be destroyed by them. For (according to the reason assigned in Jer 51:33 for what has been described) the Almighty God of Israel has decreed the destruction of Babylon. "The daughter of Babylon (i.e., not merely the city, but the kingdom of Babylon) is like a threshing-floor at the time when they tread it," i.e., stamp on it, make the ground into a threshing-floor by treading it hard.
(Note: "The threshing-floor is an open spot in the field, carefully levelled and cleared from stones, etc., that the grain may be spread out on it for threshing." - Paulsen, Ackerbau der Morgenl. S. 123. "A level spot is selected for the threshing-floors, which are then constructed near each other, of a circular form, perhaps fifty feet in diameter, merely by beating the earth hard." - Robinson's Pal. ii. 227.)
הדריכהּ might be the infinitive (Ewald, 238, d): it is simpler, however, to take it as a perfect, and supply the relative אשׁר. The meaning is, that Babylon is ripe for judgment. עוד מעט, "yet a little while" (i.e., soon), comes the time of harvest, so that the grain will be threshed, i.e., the judgment will be executed. The figure reminds us of Isa 21:10, cf. Joe 3:13, Mic 4:13, etc.
This judgment comes on Babylon for its offences against Israel. The king of Babylon has devoured Israel, etc. Those who complain, in Jer 51:34, are the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem, in whose name the prophet enumerates the crimes of Babylon. "Nebuchadnezzar has devoured us," i.e., oppressed us. The plural suffixes to the verbs have been needlessly changed in the Qeri into singulars, for the simple reason, perhaps, that with מעדני and in Jer 51:35 the address makes a transition into the singular. המם signifies to throw enemies into confusion by causing a panic, for the purpose of destroying them; hence to destroy, see on Deu 2:15; here to destroy, crush. "He set us down like an empty vessel" refers to the country and the people; he has swept the country of human beings, and robbed the people of everything. תּנּין, usually a sea-monster, crocodile (Isa 27:1; Isa 51:9, etc.); here a beast of prey which devours everything. מעדנים, "delights," then "dainty meats," Gen 49:20.
(Note: The form actually found in the Masoretic text is מעדני, "from (out of, with) my dainties." - Tr.)
הדיח, from דּוּח, signifies to wash away, push away (see Delitzsch on Isa 4:4); in other places Jeremiah uses הדּיח, Jer 8:3; Jer 16:15, etc. "Let my wrong (i.e., the wrong done me) come upon Babylon." This wrong is more fully specified, with reference to the figure of swallowing, by "my flesh and blood;" cf. Mic 3:3. The Lord will avenge this wrong, Jer 51:36, cf. Jer 50:34; Jer 51:6, Jer 51:11; He will also dry up the sea of Babylon, and make her spring dry up. Many expositors understand these latter words metaphorically, as referring to the sea of nations surging in Babylon (Jer 51:42, Jer 51:55), and view the treasures and riches as the fountain from which the sea of nations sprang up (Hitzig); but the context demands a literal interpretation, inasmuch as in Jer 51:37 the subject treated of is the laying waste of the country. The sea of Babylon is the Euphrates, with its canals, lakes, and marshes, i.e., the abundance of water to which Babylonia owed its fertility, and the city its influence as the centre of the then known world. Isaiah (Isa 21:1) accordingly calls Babylon, emblematically, the desert of the sea, inasmuch as the region in which Babylon stands is a plain, broken in such a manner by the Euphrates, as well as by marshes and lakes, as that the city, so to speak, swims in the sea (Delitzsch). The source of spring of the sea is the Euphrates, and the drying up of this spring is not to be understood literally of the drying up of the Euphrates, but signifies a drying up of the springs of water that fertilize the country. On the figures employed in Jer 51:37, cf. Jer 9:10; Jer 18:16; Jer 49:33.
The inhabitants of Babylon fall; the city perishes with its idols, to the joy of the whole world. - Jer 51:38. "Together they roar like young lions, they growl like the whelps of lionesses. Jer 51:39. When they are heated, I will prepare their banquets, and will make them drunk, that they may exult and sleep an eternal sleep, and not awake, saith Jahveh. Jer 51:40. I will bring them down like lambs to be slaughtered, like rams with he-goats. Jer 51:41. How is Sheshach taken, and the praise of the whole earth seized! How Babylon is become an astonishment among the nations! Jer 51:42. The sea has gone up over Babylon: she is covered with the multitude of its waves. Jer 51:43. Her cities have become a desolation, a land of drought, and a steppe, a land wherein no man dwells, and through which no son of man passes. Jer 51:44. And I will punish Bel in Babylon, and will bring out of his mouth what he has swallowed, and no longer shall nations go in streams to him: the wall of Babylon also shall fall. Jer 51:45. Go ye out from the midst of her, my people! and save ye each one his life from the burning of the wrath of Jahveh. Jer 51:46. And lest your heart be weak, and ye be afraid because of the report which is heard in the land, and there comes the [= this] report in the [= this] year, and afterwards in the [= that] year the [= that] report, and violence, in the land, ruler against ruler. Jer 51:47. Therefore, behold, days are coming when I will punish the graven images of Babylon; and her whole land shall dry up,
(Note: Rather, "shall be ashamed;" see note at foot of p. 311. - Tr.)
and all her slain ones shall fall in her midst. Jer 51:48. And heaven and earth, and all that is in them, shall sing for joy over Babylon: for the destroyers shall come to her from the north, saith Jahveh. Jer 51:49. As Babylon sought that slain ones of Israel should fall, so there fall, in behalf of Babylon, slain ones of the whole earth."
This avenging judgment shall come on the inhabitants of Babylon in the midst of their revelry. Jer 51:38. They roar and growl like young lions over their prey; cf. Jer 2:15; Amo 3:4. When, in their revelries, they will be heated over their prey, the Lord will prepare for them a banquet by which they shall become intoxicated, so that they sink down, exulting (i.e., staggering while they shout), into an eternal sleep of death. חמּם, "their heat," or heating, is the glow felt in gluttony and revelry, cf. Hos 7:4., not specially the result or effect of a drinking-bout; and the idea is not that, when they become heated through a banquet, then the Lord will prepare another one for them, but merely this, that in the midst of their revelry the Lord will prepare for them the meal they deserve, viz., give them the cup of wrath to drink, so that they may fall down intoxicated into eternal sleep, from which they no more awake. These words are certainly not a special prediction of the fact mentioned by Herodotus (i. 191) and Xenophon (Cyrop. vii. 23), that Cyrus took Babylon while the Babylonians were celebrating a feast and holding a banquet; they are merely a figurative dress given to the thought that the inhabitants of Babylon will be surprised by the judgment of death in the midst of their riotous enjoyment of the riches and treasure taken as spoil from the nations. In that fact, however, this utterance has received a fulfilment which manifestly confirms the infallibility of the word of God. In Jer 51:40, what has been said is confirmed by another figure; cf. Jer 48:5 and Jer 50:27. Lambs, rams, goats, are emblems of all the classes of the people of Israel; cf. Isa 34:6; Eze 39:18.
The fearful destruction of Babylon will astonish the world. - Jer 51:41 is an exclamation of astonishment regarding the conquest of the city which was praised throughout the world. As to שׁשׁך, see on Jer 51:1 and Jer 25:26. תּהלּה, "praise," is here used for "a subject of praise and fame;" cf. Jer 49:25.
Description of the fall. The sea that has come over Babylon and covered it with its waves, was taken figuratively, even by the Chaldee paraphrasts, and understood as meaning the hostile army that overwhelms the land with its hosts. Only J. D. Michaelis was inclined to take the words in their proper meaning, and understood them as referring to the inundation of Babylon by the Euphrates in August and in winter. But however true it may be, that, in consequence of the destruction or decay of the great river-walls built by Nebuchadnezzar, the Euphrates may inundate the city of Babylon when it wells into a flood, yet the literal acceptation of the words is unwarranted, for the simple reason that they do not speak of any momentary or temporary inundation, and that, because Babylon is to be covered with water, the cities of Babylonia are to become an arid steppe. The sea is therefore the sea of nations, cf. Jer 46:7; the description reminds us of the destruction of Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea. On Jer 51:43, cf. Jer 48:9; Jer 49:18, Jer 49:33., Jer 50:12. The suffix in בּהן refers to "her cities;" but the repetition of ארץ is not for that reason wrong, as Graf thinks, but is to be explained on the ground that the cities of Babylonia are compared to a barren land; and the idea is properly this: The cities become an arid country of steppes, a land in whose cities nobody can dwell.
With the conquest of Babylon, Bel, the chief deity of the Babylonians (see on Jer 50:2), is punished; and not only is his prey torn from him, but his fame also, which attracted the nations, is destroyed. Under the prey which Bel has swallowed, and which is to be torn out of his mouth, we must include not merely the sacred vessels which had been deposited in the temple of Belus (Dan 1:3), and the voluntary offerings presented him (Hitzig), but all the property which Babylon had taken as spoil from the nations; and the nations themselves, with life and property, Babylon has swallowed (see 34 and Jer 50:17). All this is now to be torn out of his jaws. Bel falls with the fall of Babylon (cf. Isa 46:1), so that nations no longer come in streams to him, to dedicate their goods and treasures to him. The description ends with the sentence, "the wall of Babylon also is fallen," which Hitzig and Graf wrongly suspect, on the ground that it is insipid. Ewald, on the contrary, perceives in the very same expression a brief and emphatic conclusion; because the famous wall of Babylon, strong in every part, was the main defence of this great city of the world. For explaining this sentence, therefore, it is unnecessary to assume that the walls of Babylon seem to have been regarded as sacred to Bel, as Ngelsbach is inclined to infer from the names which are said to be given to these walls in an inscription translated by Oppert.
(Note: Cf. J. Oppert, Expdition en Msopot. i. p. 227, where, on the strength of an inscription of Asarhaddon, which is read, "Imgur-Bel is its (Babylon's) chief wall, Ninivitti-Bel its rampart," the expressions found in the inscriptions of Nebuchadnezzar before the mention of the walls - viz. "Imgur-Bel" (may Bel-Dagon protect him) and "Ninivitti-Bel" (the abode of Bel) - have been explained by Rawlinson and Oppert as names of the first and second lines of fortification round Babylon.)
Since Babylon will be punished by the Lord with destruction, the people of God are to flee out of it, and to preserve their lives from the fierce anger of Jahveh, which will discharge itself on Babylon. חרון אף, as in Jer 4:8, Jer 4:26, etc.
Yet they are not to despair when the catastrophe draws near, and all kinds of rumours of war and oppression are abroad. The repetition of השּׁמוּעה expresses the correlative relation, - this and that report; cf. Ewald, 360, c. The suffix in אחריו has a neuter sense; the word means "afterwards" (= אחרי זאת, Job 42:16). וחמס בּארץ is also to be taken as dependent, grammatically, on וּבא: "and when a deed of violence is committed in the land, one ruler (rises up) against the other." These words presuppose not merely a pretty long duration of the war, but also rebellion and revolution, through which Babylon is to go to ruin. In this sense they are employed by Christ for describing the wars and risings that are to precede His advent; Mat 24:6; Mar 13:7; Luk 21:9.
Therefore, viz., because what has been stated above will happen, or because the events mentioned in Jer 51:46 are harbingers of the judgment on Babylon, - therefore days are coming when God shall execute judgment on the idols of Babylon, and dry up the land
(Note: Keil has here misread the Hebrew text, which runs כּל־ארצהּ תּבּושׁ. The verb does not come from יבשׁ, to become dry, but from בּושׁ, to be ashamed; hence the correct rendering is, "all her land shall be ashamed," not "shall be dried up." - Tr.)
(cf. Jer 51:43), and all her slain ones, i.e., all her inhabitants shall fall down, slain in the midst of her. לכן הנּה ימים בּאים, "Therefore, behold, days are coming," is a formula very frequently found in Jeremiah; cf. Jer 7:32; Jer 16:14; Jer 19:6; Jer 23:7, etc.
Heaven and earth, with all that is in them (i.e., the whole world, with its animate and inanimate creatures), break out into rejoicing over the fall of Babylon (cf. Isa 44:23), for Babylon has enslaved and laid waste all the world. The second part of Jer 51:48, "for the destroyers shall come from the north," is logically connected with Jer 51:47, to which Jer 51:48 is to be taken as subordinate, in the sense, "over which heaven and earth rejoice." On Jer 51:48, cf. Jer 50:3, Jer 50:9,Jer 50:41. Both parts of Jer 51:49 are placed in mutual relation by גּם־גּם. These two particles, thus used, signify "as well as," "not only...but also," or "as...so." Ewald, Hitzig, and Graf have quite missed the meaning of both clauses, since they take חללי ישׂראל as a vocative, and render the whole thus: "Not only must Babylon fall, O ye slain ones of Israel, but slain ones of the whole earth have fallen on the side of Babylon (or through Babylon)." This view of the expression "slain ones of Israel" cannot be established, either from grammatical considerations or from a regard to the meaning of the whole. Not only is there no occasion for a direct address to the slain ones of Israel; but by such a view of the expression, the antithesis indicated by גּמרררגּם, between "the slain ones of Israel" and "the slain ones of the earth," is thereby destroyed. Viewed grammatically, "the slain ones of Israel" can only be the subject dependent on the inf. לנפּל: "the fall of the slain ones of Israel." Kimchi has long ago hit the meaning in the explanation, גּם בּבל היתה סבּת לנפּל, "as Babylon was the cause of the slain ones of Israel falling." Similarly Jerome: et quomodo fecit Babylon ut caderent occisi ex Israel. This paraphrase may be vindicated on grammatical grounds, for the inf. constr. with ל, with or without היה, is used to express that on which one is engaged, or what one is on the point of doing; cf. Gesenius, 132, 3, Rem. 1. In this meaning, לנפּל stands here without היה: "Just as Babylon was concerned in making the slain ones of Israel fall;" or better: "Just as Babylon was intent on the fall of slain ones in Israel, so also there fall because of Babylon (prop. dative, for Babylon) slain ones of all the earth;" because there are to be found, in the capital of the empire, people from all quarters of the world, who are slain when Babylon is conquered. The perf. נפלוּ is prophetic, like פּקדתּי in Jer 51:47.
Final summing up of the offence and the punishment of Babylon. Jer 51:50. "Ye who have escaped the sword, depart, do not stay! remember Jahveh from afar, and let Jerusalem come into your mind. Jer 51:51. We were ashamed, because we heard reproach; shame hath covered our face, for strangers have come into the holy places of the house of Jahveh. Jer 51:52. Therefore, behold, days are coming, saith Jahveh, when I will take vengeance on her graven images; and through all her land shall the wounded groan. Jer 51:53. Though Babylon ascended to heaven, and fortified the height of her strength, yet from me there shall come destroyers to her, saith Jahveh. Jer 51:54. The noise of a cry [comes] from Babylon, and great destruction from the land of the Chaldeans. Jer 51:55. For Jahveh lays waste Babylon, and destroys out of her the great noise; and her waves sound like many waters: a noise of their voice is uttered. Jer 51:56. For there comes against her, against Babylon, a destroyer, and her heroes are taken; each one of their bows is broken: for Jahveh is a God of retributions, He shall certainly recompense. Jer 51:57. And I will make drunk her princes and her wise men, her governors and her lieutenant-governors, and her heroes, so that they shall sleep an eternal sleep, and not awake, saith the King, whose name is Jahveh of hosts. Jer 51:58. Thus saith Jahveh of hosts: The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly destroyed, and her high gates shall be burned with fire, so that nations toil for nothing, and peoples for the fire, and thus are weary."
Once more there is addressed to Israel the call to return immediately; cf. Jer 51:45 and Jer 50:8. The designation, "those who have escaped from the sword," is occasioned by the mention in Jer 51:49 of those who are slain: it is not to be explained (with Ngelsbach) from the circumstance that the prophet sees before him the massacre of the Babylonians as something that has already taken place. This view of the matter agrees neither with what precedes nor what follows, where the punishment of Babylon is set forth as yet to come. It is those who have escaped from the sword of Babylon during the exercise of its sway that are meant, not those who remain, spared in the conquest of Babylon. They are to go, not to stand or linger on the road, lest they be overtaken, with others, by the judgment falling upon Babylon; they are also to remember, from afar, Jahveh the faithful covenant God, and Jerusalem, that they may hasten their return. הלכוּ is a form of the imperative from הלך; it occurs only here, and has probably been chosen instead of לכוּ, because this form, in the actual use of language, had gradually lost its full meaning, and become softened down to a mere interjection, while emphasis is here placed on the going. After the call there follows, in Jer 51:51, the complaint, "We have lived to see the dishonour caused by the desecration of our sanctuary." This complaint does not permit of being taken as an answer or objection on the part of those who are summoned to return, somewhat in this spirit: "What is the good of our remembering Jahveh and Jerusalem? Truly we have thence a remembrance only of the deepest shame and dishonour" (Ngelsbach). Such an objection the prophet certainly would have answered with a reproof for the want of weakness of faith. Ewald accordingly takes Jer 51:51 as containing "a confession which the exiles make in tears, and filled with shame, regarding the previous state of dishonour in which they themselves, as well as the holy place, have been." On this view, those who are exhorted to return encourage themselves by this confession and prayer to zeal in returning; and it would be necessary to supply dicite before Jer 51:51, and to take בּשׁנוּ as meaning, "We are ashamed because we have heard scoffing, and because enemies have come into the holy places of Jahveh's house." But they might have felt no shame on account of this dishonour that befell them. בּושׁ signifies merely to be ashamed in consequence of the frustration of some hope, not the shame of repentance felt on doing wrong. Hence, with Calvin and others, we must take the words of Jer 51:51 as a scruple which the prophet expresses in the name of the people against the summons to remember Jahveh and Jerusalem, that he may remove the objection. The meaning is thus something like the following: "We may say, indeed, that disgrace has been imposed on us, for we have experienced insult and dishonour; but in return for this, Babylon will now be laid waste and destroyed." The plural המּקדּשׁים denotes the different holy places of the temple, as in Ps. 68:36. The answer which settles this objection is introduced, Jer 51:52, by the formula, "Therefore, behold, days are coming," which connects itself with the contents of Jer 51:51 : "Therefore, because we were obliged to listen to scoffing, and barbarians have forced their way into the holy places of the house of our God, - therefore will Jahveh punish Babylon for these crimes," The suffixes in פּסיליה and ארצהּ refer to Babylon. חלל is used in undefined generality, "slain, pierced through."
Babylon shall by no means escape punishment. Even though it mounted up to heaven (cf. Job 20:6; there may, at the same time, be an allusion to Isa 14:12, and possibly also to the tower at Babylon), and תּבצּר, "cut off (i.e., made inaccessible) the height of its strength," i.e., the height in which its strength consists, its lofty wall of defence (probably an allusion to the lofty walls of Babylon; see on Jer 51:58), yet destroyers are to come against it from Jahveh.
The prophet in the spirit sees these destroyers as already come. A cry of anguish proceeds from Babylon, and great destruction; cf. Jer 50:22, Jer 50:46, and Jer 48:3. For (Jer 51:55) Jahveh lays waste Babylon, and destroys out of her קול גּדול, properly "the loud voice," i.e., the loud noise and bustle of the city. "Their waves," i.e., the surging masses of the conquering army, roar like many or great waters; cf. Isa 17:12. נתּן , lit., "there is given" (i.e., there sounds) "the noise of their voice," i.e., of the roaring of their waves. "For there comes on Babylon a destroyer, so that her heroes are made prisoners, and her bows (by synecdoche for weapons) broken in pieces." The Piel חתּתה has here an intransitive sense, "to break or shiver into pieces," like פּתּח, Isa 48:8; Isa 60:11. This must take place, for Jahveh is a God of retribution; cf. Jer 51:24. This retribution He will execute in such a way as to make the princes, wise men, rulers, and heroes of Babylon sink down into an eternal sleep, by presenting to them the cup of wrath. On השׁכּרתּי and וישׁנוּ, cf. Jer 51:39. On the enumeration of the different classes of leaders and supporters of the state, cf. Jer 51:23 and Jer 50:35; and on the designation of Jahveh as King, Jer 48:15, with the remark there made.
And not only are the defenders of the city to fall, but the strong ramparts also, the broad walls and the lofty towers, are to be destroyed. The adjective הרחבה is joined in the singular with the plural חמות, because the complex notion of the walls of Babylon, denoted by the latter word, is viewed as a unity; cf. Ewald, 318. ערר, in Hithpael, means "to be made bare," i.e., to be destroyed down to the ground; the inf. abs. Pilel is added to intensify the expression. Regarding the height and breadth and the extent of the walls of Babylon, cf. the collection of notices by the old writers in Duncker's Gesch. des Alt. i. S. 856ff. According to Herodotus (i. 178f.), they were fifty ells "royal cubits," or nearly 85 feet thick, and 200 ells 337 1/2 feet high; Ctesias assigns them a height of 300 feet, Strabo that of 50 ells cubits, or 75 feet, and a breadth of 32 feet. On this Duncker remarks: "The height and breadth which Herodotus gives to the walls are no doubt exaggerated. Since the wall of Media, the first line of defence for the country, had a height of 100 feet and a breadth of 20 feet, and since Xenophon saw in Nineveh walls 150 feet in height, we shall be able with some degree of certainty to assume, in accordance with the statement of Pliny (vi. 26), that the wall of Babylon must have had a height of 200 feet above the ditch, and a proportionate breadth of from 30 to 40 feet. This breadth would be sufficient to permit of teams of four being driven along the rampart, between the battlements, as Herodotus and Strabo inform us, without touching, just as the rampart on the walls of Nineveh is said to have afforded room for three chariots."
(Note: For details as to the number of the walls, and statistics regarding them, see Duncker, S. 858, Anm. 3, who is inclined to understand the notice of Berosus regarding a triple wall as meaning that the walls of the river are counted as the second, and those round the royal fortress as the third line of circumvallation. J. Oppert, Expd. en Msop. i. p. 220ff., has given a thorough discussion of this question. By carefully comparing the accounts of the ancient writers regarding the walls of Babylon, and those given in the inscriptions, lately discovered and deciphered, found on the buildings of Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar, with the vast extent of the long mounds of rubbish on the places where the ruins are met with, he has obtained this result, - that the city was surrounded by a strong double wall with deep ditches, an outer and an inner enceinte, and that the outer or large wall enclosed a space of 513 square kilometres, i.e., a piece of ground as large as the department of the Seine, fifteen times the extent of the city of Paris in the year 1859, seven times that of the same city in 1860, while the second or inner wall enclosed an area of 290 square kilometres, much larger than the space occupied by London.)
The gates leading into the city were, according to Herodotus, l.c., provided with beautifully ornamented gateways; the posts, the two leaves of the gates, and the thresholds, were of bronze. The prophecy concludes, Jer 51:58, with some words from Hab 2:13, which are to be verified by the destruction of Babylon, viz., that the nations which have built Babylon, and made it great, have laboured in vain, and only wearied themselves. Habakkuk probably does not give this truth as a quotation from an older prophet, but rather declares it as an ordinance of God, that those who build cities with blood, and strongholds with unrighteousness, make nations toil to supply food for fire. Jeremiah has made use of the passage as a suitable conclusion to his prophecy, but made some unimportant alterations; for he has transposed the words בּדי אשׁ and בּדי ריק, and changed יעפוּ into ויעפוּ, that he may conclude his address with greater emphasis. For, according to the arrangement here, וּלאמּים בּדי־אשׁ still depends on ויגעוּ, and ויעפוּ indicates the result of this toil for the enslaved nations, - they only weary themselves thereby. The genuineness of this reading is put beyond a doubt by the repetition of ויעפוּ at the close of the epilogue in Jer 51:64. What Habakkuk said generally of the undertakings of the Chaldeans, Jeremiah applied specially to the fall of the city of Babylon, because it was to exhibit its fulfilment most plainly in that event.
Epilogue. - Jer 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. Jer 32:12. שׂר מנוּחה does not mean "a peaceful prince" (Luther), "a quiet prince," English Version, but "prince of the resting-place" (cf. Num 10:33), i.e., the king's "quartermaster-general." What Jeremiah commanded Seraiah, or charged him with, does not follow till Jer 51:61; for the words of Jer 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, Jer 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 Jer 51:59, after which "the word which he commanded" is not resumed till Jer 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. Gen 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 Jer 51:62, cf. Jer 50:3; Jer 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 Jer 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 Jer 50:1, but was afterwards placed at the end; moreover, that the transposer cut off from Jer 51:58 the concluding remark, "Thus far," etc., and put it at the end of the epilogue (Jer 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, Jer 51:59-64, was an integral portion of the prophecy itself. And there would be no meaning in placing the epilogue before Jer 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 Jer 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; Ch2 36:22., Ezr 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, Ezr 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 Jerem. 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 (Rev. 16ff.), whose fall is not to begin till the kingdom of God is completed in glory through the return of our Lord.