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Print Version Main Index : Commentaries : JFB Commentary : Jeremiah Index : Chapter 51

Jeremiah, Chapter 51
Chapter 50 | Chapter 52
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Bible Version
Cross Reference
Matthew Henry
JFB Commentary
Wesley's Notes
Geneva Study Bible
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      1. in the midst of them that rise . . . against me--literally, "in the heart" of them. Compare Ps 46:2, "the midst of the sea," Margin; Eze 27:4, "the heart of the seas"; Margin; Mt 12:40. In the center of the Chaldeans. "Against Me," because they persecute My people. The cabalistic mode of interpreting Hebrew words (by taking the letters in the inverse order of the alphabet, the last letter representing the first, and so on, Jer 25:26) would give the very word Chaldeans here; but the mystical method cannot be intended, as "Babylon" is plainly so called in the immediately preceding parallel clause.
      wind--God needs not warlike weapons to "destroy" His foes; a wind or blast is sufficient; though, no doubt, the "wind" here is the invading host of Medes and Persians (Jer 4:11 2Ki 19:7).

      2. fanners--(See on Jer 15:7). The farmers separate the wheat from the chaff; so God's judgments shall sweep away guilty Babylon as chaff (Ps 1:4).

      3. Against him that bendeth--namely, the bow; that is, the Babylonian archer.
      let the archer bend--that is, the Persian archer (Jer 50:4). The Chaldean version and JEROME, by changing the vowel points, read, "Let not him (the Babylonian) who bendeth his bow bend it." But the close of the verse is addressed to the Median invaders; therefore it is more likely that the first part of the verse is addressed to them, as in English Version, not to the Babylonians, to warn them against resistance as vain, as in the Chaldean version. The word "bend" is thrice repeated: "Against him that bendeth let him that bendeth bend," to imply the utmost straining of the bow.

      4. (See on Jer 49:26; Jer 50:30; Jer 50:37).

      5. forsaken--as a widow (Hebrew). Israel is not severed from her husband, Jehovah (Isa 54:5-7), by a perpetual divorce.
      though . . . sin--though the land of Israel has been filled with sin, that is, with the punishment of their sin, devastation. But, as the Hebrew means "for," or "and therefore," not "though," translate, "and therefore their (the Chaldeans') land has been filled with (the penal consequences of) their sin" [GROTIUS].

      6. Warning to the Israelite captives to flee from Babylon, lest they should be involved in the punishment of her "iniquity." So as to spiritual Babylon and her captives (Re 18:4).

      7. Babylon is compared to a cup, because she was the vessel in the hand of God, to make drunken with His vengeance the other peoples (Jer 13:12 25:15,16). Compare as to spiritual Babylon, Re 14:8 17:4. The cup is termed "golden," to express the splendor and opulence of Babylon; whence also in the image seen by Nebuchadnezzar (Da 2:38) the head representing Babylon is of gold (compare Isa 14:4).

      8, 9. Her friends and confederates, who behold her fall, are invited to her aid. They reply, her case is incurable, and that they must leave her to her fate. (Isa 21:9 Re 14:8 18:2,9).
      balm--(Jer 8:22 46:11).

      9. We would have healed--We attempted to heal.
      her judgment--her crimes provoking God's "judgments" [GROTIUS].
      reacheth unto heaven--(Ge 18:21 Jon 1:2 Re 18:5). Even the heathen nations perceive that her awful fall must be God's judgment for her crying sins (Ps 9:16 64:9).

      10. Next after the speech of the confederates of Babylon, comes that of the Jews celebrating with thanksgivings the promise-keeping faithfulness of their covenant God.
      brought forth, &c.--(Ps 37:6).
      our righteousness--not the Jews' merits, but God's faithfulness to Himself and to His covenant, which constituted the "righteousness" of His people, that is, their justification in their controversy with Babylon, the cruel enemy of God and His people. Compare Jer 23:6, "The Lord our righteousness"; Mic 7:9. Their righteousness is His righteousness.
      declare in Zion--(Ps 102:13-21).

      11. Make bright--literally, "pure." Polish and sharpen.
      gather--literally, "fill"; that is, gather in full number, so that none be wanting. So, "gave in full tale" (1Sa 18:27). GESENIUS, not so well, translates, "Fill with your bodies the shields" (compare So 4:4). He means to tell the Babylonians, Make what preparations you will, all will be in vain (compare Jer 46:3-6).
      kings of . . . Medes--He names the Medes rather than the Persians, because Darius, or Cyaxares, was above Cyrus in power and the greatness of his kingdom.
      temple--(Jer 50:28).

      12. With all your efforts, your city shall be taken.
      standard--to summon the defenders together to any point threatened by the besiegers.

      13. waters--(Jer 51:32,36; see on Isa 21:1). The Euphrates surrounded the city and, being divided into many channels, formed islands. Compare as to spiritual Babylon "waters," that is, "many peoples," Re 17:1,15. A large lake also was near Babylon.
      measure--literally, "cubit," which was the most common measure, and therefore is used for a measure in general. The time for putting a limit to thy covetousness [GESENIUS]. There is no "and" in the Hebrew: translate, "thine end, the retribution for thy covetousness" [GROTIUS]. MAURER takes the image to be from weaving: "the cubit where thou art to be cut off"; for the web is cut off, when the required number of cubits is completed (Isa 38:12).

      14. by himself--literally, "by His soul" (2Sa 15:21 Heb 6:13).
      fill . . . with caterpillars--locusts (Na 3:15). Numerous as are the citizens of Babylon, the invaders shall be more numerous.

      15-19. Repeated from Jer 10:12-16; except that "Israel" is not in the Hebrew of Jer 51:19, which ought, therefore, to be translated, "He is the Former of all things, and (therefore) of the rod of His inheritance" (that is, of the nation peculiarly His own). In the tenth chapter the contrast is between the idols and God; here it is between the power of populous Babylon and that of God: "Thou dwellest upon many waters" (Jer 51:13); but God can, by merely "uttering His voice," create "many waters" (Jer 51:16). The "earth" (in its material aspect) is the result of His "power"; the "world" (viewed in its orderly system) is the result of His "wisdom," &c. (Jer 51:15). Such an Almighty Being can be at no loss for resources to effect His purpose against Babylon.

      20. (See on Jer 50:23). "Break in pieces" refers to the "hammer" there (compare Na 2:1, Margin). The club also was often used by ancient warriors.

      22. old and young--(2Ch 36:17).

      24. The detail of particulars (Jer 51:20-23) is in order to express the indiscriminate slaughters perpetrated by Babylon on Zion, which, in just retribution, are all to befall her in turn (Jer 50:15,29).
      in your sight--addressed to the Jews.

      25. destroying mountain--called so, not from its position, for it lay low (Jer 51:13 Ge 11:2,9), but from its eminence above other nations, many of which it had "destroyed"; also, because of its lofty palaces, towers, hanging gardens resting on arches, and walls, fifty royal cubits broad and two hundred high.
      roll thee down from the rocks--that is, from thy rock-like fortifications and walls.
      burnt mountain--(Re 8:8). A volcano, which, after having spent itself in pouring its "destroying" lava on all the country around, falls into the vacuum and becomes extinct, the surrounding "rocks" alone marking where the crater had been. Such was the appearance of Babylon after its destruction, and as the pumice stones of the volcano are left in their place, being unfit for building, so Babylon should never rise from its ruins.

      26. corner . . . stone . . . foundations--The corner-stone was the most important one in the building, the foundation-stones came next in importance (Eph 2:20). So the sense is, even as there shall be no stones useful for building left of thee, so no leading prince, or governors, shall come forth from thy inhabitants.

      27. (Jer 50:29). As in Jer 51:12 the Babylonians were told to "set up the standard," so here her foes are told to do so: the latter, to good purpose; the former, in vain.
      Ararat--Upper or Major Armenia, the regions about Mount Ararat.
      Minni--Lower or Lesser Armenia. RAWLINSON says that Van was the capital of Minni. It was conquered by Tettarrassa, the general of Tetembar II, the Assyrian king whose wars are recorded on the black obelisk now in the British Museum.
      Ashchenaz--a descendant of Japheth (Ge 10:3), who gave his name to the sea now called the Black Sea; the region bordering on it is probably here meant, namely, Asia Minor, including places named Ascania in Phrygia and Bithynia. Cyrus had subdued Asia Minor and the neighboring regions, and from these he drew levies in proceeding against Babylon.
      rough caterpillars--The horsemen in multitude, and in appearance bristling with javelins and with crests, resemble "rough caterpillars," or locusts of the hairy-crested kind (Na 3:15).

      28. kings of . . . Medes--(Jer 51:11). The satraps and tributary kings under Darius, or Cyaxares.
      his dominion--the king of Media's dominion.
      land shall tremble . . . every purpose of . . . Lord shall be performed--elegant antithesis between the trembling of the land or earth, and the stability of "every purpose of the Lord" (compare Ps 46:1-3).

      30. forborne to fight--for the city was not taken by force of arms, but by stratagem, according to the counsel given to Cyrus by two eunuchs of Belshazzar who deserted.
      remained in . . . holds--not daring to go forth to fight; many, with Nabonidus, withdrew to the fortified city Borsippa.

      31. (See on Jer 50:24).
      One post--One courier after another shall announce the capture of the city. The couriers despatched from the walls, where Cyrus enters, shall "meet" those sent by the king. Their confused running to and fro would result from the sudden panic at the entrance of Cyrus into the city, which he had so long besieged ineffectually; the Babylonians had laughed at his attempts and were feasting at the time without fear.
      taken at one end--which was not known for a long time to the king and his courtiers feasting in the middle of the city; so great was its extent that, when the city was already three days in the enemy's hands, the fact was not known in some parts of the city [ARISTOTLE, Politics, 3.2].

      32. passages are stopped--The guarded fords of the Euphrates are occupied by the enemy (see on Jer 50:38).
      reeds . . . burned--literally, "the marsh." After draining off the river, Cyrus "burned" the stockade of dense tree-like "reeds" on its banks, forming the outworks of the city's fortifications. The burning of these would give the appearance of the marsh or river itself being on "fire."

      33. like a threshing-floor, it is time to thresh her--rather, "like a threshing-floor at the time of threshing," or "at the time when it is trodden." The treading, or threshing, here put before the harvest, out of the natural order, because the prominent thought is the treading down or destruction of Babylon. In the East the treading out of the corn took place only at harvest-time. Babylon is like a threshing-floor not trodden for a long time; but the time of harvest, when her citizens shall be trodden under foot, shall come [CALVIN]. "Like a threshing-floor full of corn, so is Babylon now full of riches, but the time of harvest shall come, when all her prosperity shall be cut off" [LUDOVICUS DE DIEU]. GROTIUS distinguishes the "harvest" from the "threshing"; the former is the slaying of her citizens, the latter the pillaging and destruction of the city (compare Joe 3:13 Re 14:15,18).

      34. me--Zion speaks. Her groans are what bring down retribution in kind on Babylon (Jer 50:17 Ps 102:13,17,20).
      empty vessel--He has drained me out.
      dragon--The serpent often "swallows" its prey whole; or a sea monster [GROTIUS].
      filled his belly . . . cast me out--like a beast, which, having "filled" himself to satiety, "casts out" the rest [CALVIN]. After filling all his storehouses with my goods, he has cast me out of this land [GROTIUS].

      35. my flesh--which Nebuchadnezzar hath "devoured" (Jer 51:34). Zion thus calls her kinsmen (Ro 11:14) slain throughout the country or carried captives to Babylon [GROTIUS]. Or, as "my blood" follows, it and "my flesh" constitute the whole man: Zion, in its totality, its citizens and all its substance, have been a prey to Babylon's violence (Ps 137:8).

      36. plead . . . cause--(Jer 50:34).
      sea--the Euphrates (Jer 51:13 Jer 50:38). Compare Isa 19:5, "sea," that is, the Nile (Isa 21:1).

      37. (Jer 50:26,39 Re 18:2).

      38, 39. The capture of Babylon was effected on the night of a festival in honor of its idols.
      roar . . . yell--The Babylonians were shouting in drunken revelry (compare Da 5:4).

      39. In their heat I will make their feasts--In the midst of their being heated with wine, I will give them "their" potions,--a very different cup to drink, but one which is their due, the wine cup of My stupefying wrath (Jer 25:15 49:12 Isa 51:17 La 4:21).
      rejoice, and sleep . . . perpetual, &c.--that they may exult, and in the midst of their jubilant exultation sleep the sleep of death (Jer 51:57 Isa 21:4,5).

      41. Sheshach--Babylon (compare Note, see Jer 25:26); called so from the goddess Shach, to whom a five days' festival was kept, during which, as in the Roman Saturnalia, the most unbridled licentiousness was permitted; slaves ruled their masters, and in every house one called Zogan, arrayed in a royal garment, was chosen to rule all the rest. He calls Babylon "Sheshach," to imply that it was during this feast the city was taken [SCALIGER].

      42. The sea--the host of Median invaders. The image (compare Jer 47:2 Isa 8:7,8) is appropriately taken from the Euphrates, which, overflowing in spring, is like a "sea" near Babylon (Jer 51:13,32,36).

      43. Her cities--the cities, her dependencies. So, "Jerusalem and the cities thereof" (Jer 34:1). Or, the "cities" are the inner and outer cities, the two parts into which Babylon was divided by the Euphrates [GROTIUS].

      44. Bel . . . swallowed--in allusion to the many sacrifices to the idol which its priests pretended it swallowed at night; or rather, the precious gifts taken from other nations and offered to it (which it is said to have "swallowed"; compare "devoured," "swallowed," Jer 51:34 Jer 50:17), which it should have to disgorge (compare Jer 51:13 Jer 50:37). Of these gifts were the vessels of Jehovah's temple in Jerusalem (2Ch 36:7 Da 1:2). The restoration of these, as foretold here, is recorded in Ezr 1:7-11.
      flow--as a river; fitly depicting the influx of pilgrims of all "nations" to the idol.

      45, 46. (See on Jer 51:6).

      46. And lest--Compare, for the same ellipsis, Ge 3:22 Ex 13:17 De 8:12. "And in order that your heart may not faint at the (first) rumor" (of war), I will give you some intimation of the time. In the first "year" there shall "come a rumor" that Cyrus is preparing for war against Babylon. "After that, in another year, shall come a rumor," namely, that Cyrus is approaching, and has already entered Assyria. Then is your time to "go out" (Jer 51:45). Babylon was taken the following or third year of Belshazzar's reign [GROTIUS].
      violence in the land--of Babylon (Ps 7:16).
      ruler against ruler--or, "ruler upon ruler," a continual change of rulers in a short space. Belshazzar and Nabonidus, supplanted by Darius or Cyaxares, who is succeeded by Cyrus.

      47. GROTIUS translates, "Because then (namely, on the third year) the time shall have come that," &c.
      confounded--at seeing their gods powerless to help them.
      her slain--in retribution for "Israel's slain" (Jer 51:49) who fell by her hand. GROTIUS translates, "her dancers," as in Jud 21:21,23 1Sa 18:6, the same Hebrew word is translated, alluding to the dancing revelry of the festival during which Cyrus took Babylon.

      48. heaven . . . earth . . . sing for Babylon--(Isa 14:7-13 44:23 Re 18:20).

      49. caused . . . to fall--literally, "has been for the falling," that is, as Babylon made this its one aim to fill all places with the slain of Israel, so at Babylon shall all the slain of that whole land (not as English Version, "of all the earth") [MAURER]. HENDERSON translates, "Babylon also shall fall, ye slain of Israel. Those also of Babylon shall fall, O ye slain of all the earth." But, "in the midst of her," Jer 51:47, plainly answers to "at Babylon," Jer 51:49, English Version.

      50. escaped . . . sword--namely, of the Medes. So great will be the slaughter that even some of God's people shall be involved in it, as they had deserved.
      afar off--though ye are banished far off from where ye used formerly to worship God.
      let Jerusalem come into your mind--While in exile remember your temple and city, so as to prefer them to all the rest of the world wherever ye may be (Isa 62:6).

      51. The prophet anticipates the Jews' reply; I know you will say in despair, "We are confounded," &c. "Wherefore (God saith to you) behold, I will," &c. (Jer 51:52) [CALVIN]. I prefer taking Jer 51:51 as the prayer which the Jews are directed to offer in exile (Jer 51:50), "let Jerusalem come into your mind" (and say in prayer to God), "We are confounded." This view is confirmed by Ps 44:15,16 79:4 102:17-20 Isa 62:6,7.
      for strangers--The "reproach," which especially has stung us, came when they taunted us with the fact that they had burned the temple, our peculiar glory, as though our religion was a thing of naught.

      52. Wherefore--because of these sighs of the Jews directed to God (Jer 51:21).
      I . . . judgment upon . . . images--in opposition to the Babylonian taunt that Jehovah's religion was a thing of naught, since they had burned His temple (Jer 51:51): I will show that, though I have thus visited the Jews neglect of Me, yet those gods of Babylon cannot save themselves, much less their votaries, who shall "through all her land" lie and "groan" with wounds.

      53. We are not to measure God's power by what seems to our perceptions natural or probable. Compare Ob 1:4 as to Edom (Am 9:2).

      55. great voice--Where once was the great din of a mighty city. there shall be the silence of death [VATABLUS]. Or, the "great voice" of the revellers (Jer 51:38,39 Isa 22:2). Or, the voice of mighty boasting [CALVIN], (compare Jer 51:53).
      her waves--"when" her calamities shall cause her to give forth a widely different "voice," even such a one as the waves give that lash the shores (Jer 51:42) [GROTIUS]. Or, "when" is connected thus: "the great voice" in her, when her "waves," &c. (compare Jer 51:13). CALVIN translates, "their waves," that is, the Medes bursting on her as impetuous waves; so Jer 51:42. But the parallel, "a great voice," belongs to her, therefore the wave-like "roar" of "their voice" ought also belong to her (compare Jer 51:54). The "great voice" of commercial din, boasting, and feasting, is "destroyed"; but in its stead there is the wave-like roar of her voice in her "destruction" (Jer 51:54).

      56. taken--when they were least expecting it, and in such a way that resistance was impossible.

      57. (Jer 51:39 Da 5:1, &c.).

      58. broad walls--eighty-seven feet broad [ROSENMULLER]; fifty cubits [GROTIUS]. A chariot of four horses abreast could meet another on it without collision. The walls were two hundred cubits high, and four hundred and eighty-five stadia, or sixty miles in extent.
      gates--one hundred in number, of brass; twenty-five on each of the four sides, the city being square; between the gates were two hundred and fifty towers. BEROSUS says triple walls encompassed the outer, and the same number the inner city. Cyrus caused the outer walls to be demolished. Taking the extent of the walls to be three hundred and sixty-five stadia, as DIODORUS states, it is said two hundred thousand men completed a stadium each day, so that the whole was completed in one year.
      labour . . . in the fire--The event will show that the builders of the walls have "labored" only for the "fire" in which they shall be consumed, "In the fire" answers to the parallel, "burned with fire." Translate, "shall have labored in vain," &c. Compare Job 3:14, "built desolate places for themselves," that is, grand places, soon about to be desolate ruins. Jeremiah has in view here Hab 2:13.

      59-64. A special copy of the prophecy prepared by Jeremiah was delivered to Seraiah, to console the Jews in their Babylonian exile. Though he was to throw it into the Euphrates, a symbol of Babylon's fate, no doubt he retained the substance in memory, so as to be able orally to communicate it to his countrymen.
      went with Zedekiah--rather, "in behalf of Zedekiah"; sent by Zedekiah to appease Nebuchadnezzar's anger at his revolt [CALVIN].
      fourth year--so that Jeremiah's prediction of Babylon's downfall was thus solemnly written and sealed by a symbolical action, six whole years before the capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.
      quiet prince--Compare 1Ch 22:9, "a man of rest." Seraiah was not one of the courtiers hostile to God's prophets, but "quiet" and docile; ready to execute Jeremiah's commission, notwithstanding the risk attending it. GLASSIUS translates, "prince of Menuchah" (compare 1Ch 2:52, Margin). MAURER translates, "commander of the caravan," on whom it devolved to appoint the resting-place for the night. English Version suits the context best.

      61. read--not in public, for the Chaldeans would not have understood Hebrew; but in private, as is to be inferred from his addressing himself altogether to God (Jer 51:62) [CALVIN].

      62. O Lord, thou--and not merely Jeremiah or any man is the author of this prophecy; I therefore here in Thy presence embrace as true all that I read.

      63. bind a stone, &c.--(Re 18:21). So the Phoceans in leaving their country, when about to found Marseilles, threw lead into the sea, binding themselves not to return till the lead should swim.

      64. they shall be weary--The Babylonians shall be worn out, so as not to be able to recover their strength.
      Thus far . . . Jeremiah--Hence it is to be inferred that the last chapter is not included in Jeremiah's writings but was added by some inspired man, mainly at 2Ki 24:18-25:30 to explain and confirm what precedes [CALVIN].

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