He proceeds with the same subject. Jeremiah seems, indeed, to have used more words than necessary; but we have stated the reason why he dwelt at large on a matter so clear: His object was not only to teach, for this he might have done in a few words, and have thus included all that we have hitherto seen and shall find in the whole of this chapter; but as it was an event hardly credible, it was necessary to illustrate the prophecy respecting it with many figures, and to inculcate with many repetitions what had been already said, and also to confirm by many reasons what no one hardly admitted.
He then says, Behold, I will, etc. God is made the speaker, that the word might have more force and power. Behold, he says, I will raise up a destroying wind against the Chaldeans. The similitude of wind is very appropriate, for God thus briefly reminded them how easy it was for him to destroy the whole world even by a single blast. The wind is, indeed, indirectly set in opposition to instruments of war; for when any one seeks to overcome an enemy, he collects many and strong forces, and procures auxiliaries on every side; in short, he will not dare to attempt anything without making every possible preparation. As, then, men dare not attack their enemies without making strenuous efforts, God here extols his own power, because it is enough for him to raise up a wind. We now, then, perceive the design of the similitude, when he says, that he would raise up a wind that would destroy or scatter the Chaldeans.
In the following words there is an obscurity; literally, they are, the inhabitants of the heart; for as the word ישבי ,ishebi, is in construction, another word necessarily follows it, as for instance, the country of the Chaldeans. But the relative, ה, He, referring to Babylon, ought to have been put down. Yet as the words occur, we are compelled to read, and against the inhabitants of the heart Some will have the relative, אשר, asher, to be understood, but that is harsh, for it is an unnatural mode of speaking. They, however, give this rendering of אשר לב , asher leb, “those who in heart rose up against me.” But what if we read the words inhabitants of the heart metaphorically, as meaning those who gloried in their own wisdom? for the Babylonians, as it is well known, thought other men dull and foolish, and were so pleased with their own astuteness, as though they were fortified by inclosures on every side. They dwelt then in their own heart, that is, they thought themselves well fortified around through their own wisdom. In this sense the Prophet seems to call the Babylonians the inhabitants of the heart (80)
He adds, at the same time, that they rose, up against God, even because they had cruelly treated his people, and nearly destroyed them. And we know that God undertook the cause of his Church, and therefore complained that war was made on him by the ungodly, whenever they molested the faithful. It is also at the same time generally true, that all who arrogate to themselves wisdom rise up against God, because they rob God of the honor due to him. But it ought properly to be referred to the union which exists between God and his Church, when he charges the Chaldeans, that they rose up against him. It follows,—
Against the inhabitants of the metropolis
of my adversaries.
Here he explains himself more clearly, without the metaphor he had used. He no longer uses the similitude of wind when he declares that he would send fanners At the same time some take זארים, zarim, in the sense of aliens, who would banish her; but this would be harsh. I then doubt not but that the Prophet alludes to the wind before mentioned. He does not indeed continue that metaphor; but yet what he says corresponds with it. Instead of wind he now mentions fanners, or winnowers; but this cannot be understood except of enemies. A clearer explanation is still found in the word empty, after having said that the Persians and the Medes would fan or winnow Babylon. He compares her, no doubt, to chaff. As then the chaff, when ventilated, falls on the ground, so he says a similar thing would happen to the Babylonians.
But he adds, And shall make empty her land, that is, the land of Babylon. He says that the whole country would be so plundered, that nothing would be left remaining. And he confirms this declaration, because they shall be, he says, around her. By this expression he intimates that there would be no escape for the Chaldeans.
It often happens that men stealthily escape, when pressed by their enemies; for though enemies may watch all passages, yet they often do not find out all hiding-places. But the Prophet says, that their enemies would so surround them, that the Chaldeans would not be able to take with them anything which they might save from their enemies’ hands. He adds, in the day of evil. By this phrase he intimates again, that the Chaldeans were already devoted by God to destruction. It is, then, the same thing as though he had said, that as soon as her enemies came, it would be all over with Babylon and the whole nation, — how so? for it would be the day of her utter ruin. It follows, —
Interpreters give various expositions of this verse. Some understand a soldier of light armor by him who bends the bow; and by him who elevates himself in his coat of mail, they understand a heavy-armed, soldier, There is also another difference; some take אל, al, for לא, la, when it is said ואל יתעל , veal itol, because a copulative follows; and the words seem not to be well connected, if we read thus, “As to him who raises himself up in his coat of mail, and spare ye not,” etc.; and hence they take negatively the particle אל, al, instead of לא la, “and he may not raise up himself in his coat of mail.” But it is probable that the copulative in the second place is redundant The simple meaning would therefore be, As to him who bends the bow, and who raises himself up in his coat of mall (81)
I do not, indeed, give such a refined interpretation as some do, respecting the light and heavy armed soldiers. I doubt not, then, but that he points out the archers, and those clad in mail. If, however, any one prefers the other explanation, let him enjoy his own opinion. As to the main point, it is evident that the Prophet exhorts the Persians and the Medes not to spare the young men among the Chaldeans, but to destroy their whole army, so that no part of it should be left remaining.
At him who bends let the bender bend his bow, And at him who glories in his coat of mail; And spare ye not her chosen men, Utterly destroy all her host.
There is here perfect consistency. They who take אל as a negative say, that the first part is addressed to the Chaldeans, and the second to their enemies; but this would be strangely abrupt. — Ed.
HE proceeds with what we began yesterday to explain, — that the time was nigh when God would take vengeance on the Babylonians. As, then, this could not be without great destruction in a city so very populous, and as it could not be overthrown except calamity extended itself through the whole country, hence, he says, that though Babylon should prepare great and powerful armies, it would yet be in vain, because they shall fall, he says, wounded everywhere in the land; and then he adds, and pierced through in her streets By these words he means, that the Chaldeans would be slain not only in the open fields, but also in the midst of the city. he afterwards adds, —
The Prophet shows here the cause why God had resolved to treat the Babylonians with so much severity, even because he would be the avenger of his own people. He also obviates a doubt which might have disturbed weak minds, for he seemed to have forsaken his people when he suffered them to be driven into exile. As this was a kind of repudiation, as we have seen elsewhere, the Prophet says now, that Israel had not been wholly widowed, nor Judah, by his God; as though he had said, that the Jews and the Israelites were indeed, for a time, like widows, but this was not to be perpetual. For, as we have said, the divorce was temporary, when God so forsook his Temple and the city, that the miserable people was exposed to plunder. As long, then, as the will of their enemies prevailed, God seemed to have forsaken his people. It is of this widowhood that the Prophet now speaks; but he yet testifies that Israel would not be wholly widowed by Jehovah his God.
He indeed alludes to that spiritual marriage, of which frequent mention is made; for God had, from the beginning, united the Church to himself, as it were, by a marriage-bond; and the people, as it is well known, had been so received into covenant, that there was contracted, as it were, a spiritual marriage. Then the Prophet now says, that they were not widowed; in which he refers to the hope of deliverance; for it could not have been denied but that God had repudiated his people. But he shows that their chastisement would not be perpetual, because God would at length reconcile to himself the people from whom he had been alienated, and would restore them to the ancient condition and honor of a wife. He speaks of both kingdoms.
Then he adds, by Jehovah of hosts By this title he sets forth the power of God, as though he had said, that as God is faithful in his promises, and constantly keeps his covenant, so he is not destitute of power, so as not to be able to save his people and to rescue them, when it pleases him, from death itself. He confirms this truth, when he says, for the land of the Chaldeans is filled with sin on account of the Holy One of Israel, as though he had said, that the land was abominable, because it carried on war against God.: For when he speaks of the Holy One of Israel, he shows that God had such a care for his people that he was prepared, when the suitable time came, to show himself as their avenger. We now perceive what the Prophet means when he says, that Chaldea was filled with sin, even because it provoked God when it thought that the wrong was done only to men. (82) It follows, —
For not widowed is Israel, By his God, by Jehovah of hosts; Though their land has been filled With judgement by the Holy One of Israel.
But if we render מ before or against, then the last line would be, —
With guilt (or sin) before the Holy One of Israel.
He goes on with the same subject, but illustrates it by various figures; for otherwise he would not have penetrated into the hearts of the godly. Were any at this day to predict the destruction of Rome, it could hardly be believed; and yet we know that it has in our life been stormed, and now it hangs as it were by a thread, though hitherto it has been supported and fortified by the greatest forces. But the dignity of the city so confounded the minds of men, that it was hardly credible that it could have been so soon subverted. How, then, was it possible for such a thing to have happened at that time? for Babylon was the mistress of the East. The Assyrians had previously possessed the empire; but they had been subdued, and had, as it were, been brought under the yoke. As, then, Babylon now flourished in power so great and invincible, Jeremiah seemed to be labeling when he spoke of its approaching destruction. It was hence necessary that what he said should be confirmed, as it is now done. And so he now turns to foreigners and guests, and exhorts them to flee lest they should perish in the accursed city.
Flee, he says, from the midst of Babylon But there was then no safer place in the land; for had all the regions of the world been shaken, yet Babylon would have been deemed beyond any danger. But he says that all guests were to flee from the midst of it, if they wished to save their lives. Then he adds, lest ye perish in her iniquity He assigns a reason why those who then dwelt in Babylon could not be safe except they fled, even because God was about to punish the city for its iniquities. He then sets the iniquity of Babylon in opposition to the multitude of its men, as well as to its wealth and defenses, and other means of strength. Babylon was populous; it might also be aided by many auxiliaries; and there were ready at hand those who might hire their services. As, then, there was nothing wanting to that city, the Prophet here shows that wealth and abundance of people, and all other helps would be of no moment, because it was God’s will to punish her iniquity. This is the reason why Jeremiah now says, lest ye perish in her iniquity; that is, “do not mingle with those ungodly men whom God has given up to destruction.”
And for the same purpose he adds, For it is the time of the vengeance of Jehovah Here, again, he obviates an objection; for as God had suspended his judgment, no one thought it possible that a fire could so soon, and, as it were, in a moment be kindled to destroy Babylon. Then the Prophet says, that it was the time; by which he intimates, that though God does not immediately execute his judgments, yet he does not he down as it were idly, so as to forget what he has to do, but that he has his own times. And this doctrine deserves to be noticed, because through our intemperate zeal we make much ado, except God brings us help as soon as we are injured; but if he delays even a short time, we complain and think that he has forgotten our welfare. And even saints, in depositing familiarly their cares and anxieties in his bosom, speak thus,
“Arise, O Lord, why sleepest thou” (Psalms 44:23)
As, then, we are by nature inclined to impatience, we ought to observe what Scripture so often inculcates, even this — that God has his certain and fixed times for punishing the wicked. Hence Jeremiah now teaches us, that the time of God’s vengeance was come.
He then adds, A reward will he render to her; as though he had said, that though Babylon would not have to suffer punishment immediately, yet she would not escape from God’s hand, for the reward which God would render her was already prepared. And this doctrine arises from a general principle, that God will ever render to every one his just reward. We now, then, perceive the design of the Prophet.
We have said that the words were addressed to the strangers and the guests who were in Chaldea, or in the city Babylon. They then pervert this passage, who think that the faithful are here exhorted immediately to depart from Babylon, That is, to withdraw themselves from superstitions and the defilements of the world; for the Prophet means no such thing. A passage might, however, be made from one truth to another. It now follows, —
Here again he anticipates an objection which might have been made; for we know that the kingdoms of the world neither rise nor stand, except through the will of God; as, then, the Prophet threatens destruction to Babylon, this objection was ready at hand. “How comes it, then, that this city, which thou sayest is accursed, has hitherto so greatly flourished? for who hath honored Babylon with so great dignity, with so much wealth, and with so many victories? for it has not by chance happened that this monarchy has been elevated so high; for not only all Assyria has been brought, under its yoke, but also the kingdom of Israel, and the kingdom of Judah is not far from its final ruin.” To this the Prophet answers, and says, that Babylon was a cup in God’s hand to inebriate the earth; as though he had said, that God was by no means inconsistent with himself when he employed the Babylonians as his scourges, and when he now chastises them in their turn. And he shows also, that when things thus revolve in the world, they do not happen through the blind force of chance, but through the secret judgments of God, who so governs the world, that he often exalts even the ungodly to the highest power, when his purpose is to execute through them his judgments.
We now, then, understand the design of this passage; for otherwise what the Prophet says might seem abrupt. Having said that the time of God’s vengeance had already come, he now adds, A golden cup is in God’s hand; — to what purpose was this added? By what has been stated, it appears evident how aptly the words run, how sentences which seem to be wide asunder fitly unite together; for a doubt might have crept in as to this, how could it be that God should thus bestow his benefits on this city, and then in a short time destroy it. As, then, it seems unreasonable that God should vary in his doings, as though he was not consistent with himself, the Prophet on the other hand reminds us, that when such changes happen, God does in no degree change his purposes; for he so regulates the government of the world, that those whom he favors with remarkable benefits, he afterwards destroys, they being worthy of punishment on account of their ingratitude, and that he does not without reason or cause use them for a time as scourges to chastise the wickedness of others. And it is for this reason, as I think, that he calls it a golden cup; for God seemed to pour forth his benefits on the Babylonians as with a full hand. When, therefore, the splendor of that city and of the monarchy was so great, all things were there as it were golden.
Then he says, that it was a golden cup, but in the hand of God By saying that it was in God’s hand, he intimates that the Babylonians were not under the government of chance, but were ruled by God as he pleased, and also that their power, though very great, was yet under the restraint of God, so that they did nothing but by his permission, and even by his command.
He afterwards adds how God purposed to carry this cup in his hand, a cup so splendid as it were of gold; his will was that it should inebriate the whole earth These are metaphorical words; for the Prophet speaks here, no doubt, of punishments which produce a kind of fury or madness. When God then designed to take vengeance on all these nations, he inebriated them with evils, and this he did by the Babylonians. For this reason, therefore, Babylon is said to have been the golden cup which God extended with his own hand, and gave it to be drunk by all nations. This similitude has also been used elsewhere, when Jeremiah spoke of the Idumeans,
“All drank of the cup, yea, drank of it to the dregs, so that they were inebriated,”
He there also called the terrible punishment that was coming on the Idumeans the cup of fury. Thus, then, were many nations inebriated by the Babylonians, because they were so oppressed, that their minds were infatuated, as it were, with troubles; for we know that men are stupefied with adversities, as though they were not in a right mind. In this way Babylon inebriated many nations, because it so oppressed them that they were reduced to a state of rage or madness; for they were not in a composed state of mind when they were miserably distressed. (83)
To the same purpose is what is added: The nations who drank of her cup became mad. Here he shows that the punishments were not ordinary, by which divers nations were chastised by the Babylonians, but such as deprived them of mind and judgment, as it is usually the case, as I have just said, in extreme evils.
Moreover, this passage teaches us, that when the wicked exercise their power with great display, yet God overrules all their violence, though not apparently; nay, that all the wicked, while they seem to assume to themselves the greatest license, are yet guided, as it were, by the hand of God, and that when they oppress their neighbors, it is done through the secret providence of God, who thus inebriates all who deserve to be punished. At the same time, the Prophet implies, that the Babylonians oppressed so many nations neither by their own contrivance, nor by their own strength; but because it was the Lord’s will that they should be inebriated: otherwise it would have greatly perplexed the faithful to think that no one could be found stronger than the Babylonians. Hence the Prophet in effect gives this answer, that all the nations could not have been overcome, had not the Lord given them to drink the wine of fury and madness. It follows, —
Therefore shall nations glory, [saying,] Babylon is suddenly fallen, etc.
The Prophet now declares that the fall of Babylon would be sudden, that the faithful might understand that God could accomplish in one moment what he had decreed. For when the prophets spoke of God’s judgments, the people questioned among themselves, how could that be which surpassed the common ideas of men. That men, therefore, might not estimate God’s power according to their own thoughts, he introduces this word, suddenly; as though he had said, that God had no need of warlike forces; for though he makes no preparations, yet he can subvert every power that exists in the world.
He then adds, Howl for her; and this is said, because it could not be but that many nations would either bewail the ruin of so great a monarch, or be astonished at her, and thus many things would be said. He then says, that though the whole world were to howl for Babylon, it would yet fall and be suddenly broken, whenever it pleased God. And he says, by way of irony, Take balm, if peradventure it can be healed The word צרי, tsari, is, by some, rendered balsam, but it means rosin, for we know that it was deemed precious in Judea; and the Prophet no doubt accommodated what he said to what was commonly known. As then that medicament was in common use among the Jews, he now says, Take rosin As there is hardly any country which has not its peculiar remedies; so we see that Jeremiah refers not to what was usually done at Babylon, or to medicaments used by the Chaldeans, but to what was commonly used in his own country, as it appears from other places. Now rosin was a juice which flowed from trees, and it was a thick juice. The best rosin which we now use is from the terebinth; but in these parts they have what proceeds from the fir, for here the terebinth is not found. But Judea had a most valuable rosin, as we learn from many parts of Scripture. And under this one thing is included everything, Take rosin; as though he had said, “Let physicians come together (otherwise she will perish) from every place, if peradventure she can be healed. ” This is said ironically, that the faithful might know that the diseases of Babylon would be incurable.
We have said elsewhere, that Babylon was not wholly demolished when taken by Cyrus, and that the people were not then driven away. They dwelt there as usual, though made tributary, as they were afterwards, under the dominion of the Persians. Babylon was also grievously oppressed, when punished for its revolt, until what Jeremiah and others prophesied was fulfilled. Then the time of which he speaks ought not to be confined to one calamity only, which was only a prelude to others still greater. He afterwards adds, —
The Prophet assumes different characters; he speaks here in the person of those who of themselves brought help to the Babylonians. And many, no doubt, would have been ready to assist them, had King Belshazzar wished to accept aid; and we know also, that the city had a large army. He compares, then, the nations subject to the Babylonians, and also the hired and foreign soldiers, to physicians, as though he had said, “Babylon has been, with great care, healed.” As when a great prince is taken ill, he sends here and there for the best and most skillful physicians; but when the disease is incurable, they all strive in vain to save his life: so now the Prophet speaks, using a metaphor; but he speaks in the person of those who either had set to hire their services, or had come from a sense of duty to heal Babylon. “See,” they said, “the fault is not with us, for we have faithfully and carefully done our best to heal her, but she has not been healed.”
He then adds, Leave her, and let us depart, every one to his own land. This was the language of foreign soldiers and mercenaries. When they saw that the safety of the city was hopeless, they began to counsel one another, “What do we? Ought we not rather to consult our own safety? for our efforts are wholly useless. It is then time for every one to return to his own country, for the end of Babylon is come.” But the change of person has much more force than if the Prophet had spoken thus, “The time shall come when the auxiliaries shall flee away, for they will see that it would be all in vain to defend her.” But when he compares them to physicians, this similitude more fully illustrates the case; and then when he speaks in their person, this renders what is said still more emphatieal.
He at length adds, For her judgment has reached to the heavens, and has been elevated to the clouds. Jeremiah could not have properly addressed what he said to the unbelieving, if you explain this of God being adverse and hostile to the Babylonians; for it never occurred to the hired soldiers,
that Babylon perished through the just judgment of God. But the Prophet, according to a usual mode of speaking, says, Her judgment (that is, her destruction) reached to the heavens, and has been elevated to the clouds; that is, no aid shall be found under heaven, which can deliver Babylon, — how so? because it will be the same as though destruction came from heaven itself, and from the clouds. For when danger is nigh either from behind or from before us, we can turn aside either to the right hand or to the left, so that we may escape the evils which men may bring on us: but when heaven itself seems to threaten our heads, then an escape is attempted in vain. This then is the reason why the Prophet says that the judgment of Babylon had reached to the heavens and had been elevated to the clouds. (84) It follows, —
For to the heavens has reached her judgement,
And it has risen up to the ethereal regions.
By “heavens,” are often meant the skies. — Ed.
The Prophet here addresses the faithful, and especially shows, that the ruin of Babylon would be a sure evidence of God’s paternal favor towards his Church. And it was no common consolation to the faithful, in their extreme miseries, to know, that so dear and precious to God was their salvation, that he would by no means spare the Babylonians, whom the whole world regarded as half gods; for, as I have said, the power of that monarchy filled the minds of men with astonishment. When the faithful, then, knew that the Babylonians were to perish, because they had oppressed and cruelly treated them, an invaluable consolation, as I have said, must hence have been conveyed to them. The Prophet then reminds us here, that it would be a singular testimony as to God’s favor to his Church, when he subverted Babylon, and he also exhorts the faithful to gratitude: for it is the design of all God’s benefits, that his name may be celebrated by us, according to what David says:
“What shall I render to the Lord for all the benefits which he has bestowed on me? The cup of salvation will I take and call on the name of the Lord.” (Psalms 116:12.)
He then says, first, Brought forth hath Jehovah our righteousness Here, some anxiously toil to untie a knot, where there is none; for fearing lest the word, righteousness, should be laid hold on for the purpose of setting up merits, they say that righteousness is the remission of sins. Then they thus explain the words of the Prophet,” God has at length unfolded his mercy towards us, and it is our righteousness when all our iniquities are buried.” But this is forced. When the Prophet speaks here of righteousnesses, he does not mean the merits by which the Jews were to obtain what had been promised to them; but righteousnesses he calls their good cause with regard to the Babylonians. For righteousness has various meanings; and when a comparison is made between men, God is said to bring forth our righteousness, when he vindicates our integrity from the calumnies of the wicked. So Jacob said,
“The Lord will bring forth my righteousness as the dawn.”
But in this sense our righteousness has a reference to our adversaries. So whenever David asked of God to regard his righteousness, he no doubt compared himself with his enemies. And righteousness here is to be taken simply with reference to the Babylonians. For though God had punished the Jews as they deserved, yet as to the Babylonians they were cruel tyrants and wicked robbers. The cause, then, of the chosen people was just, with regard to them. This is the reason why he says, that God brought forth their righteousnesses The rest to-morrow.
These words might have been addressed to the Medes as well as to the Babylonians. If the latter meaning be approved, that is, that the Prophet addresses the Babylonians, the words are a taunt, as though he had said, that they were to no purpose spending their labors in preparing their armies, because God would be stronger than they, and that the Medes would carry on war under his banner and authority. Nor would what I have also stated, be unsuitable, that is, that the Prophet bids the Medes to prepare themselves and to put on their arms, that they might fight courageously against the Babylonians. (85)
He now adds the main thing, — that the kings of the Medes would come against Babylon, because they had been called from above; and he mentions the word spirit, that he might more fully express that men’s minds are ruled and turned by the secret power of God, and also that whatever power or boldness is found in them, proceeds altogether from God; as though he had said, that God would so prepare the Medes and the Persians, that he would not only strengthen their arms, hands, and feet, for the war, but would also lead them, and overrule their passions — that he would, in short, turn their spirit here and there, according to his will. He does not now speak of the wind, as before; nor does he point out the enemies generally, but expressly names the Medes. For though Cyaxares, or Darius, as he is called by Daniel, was not a very prudent man, nor skillful in war, yet, as he was higher in dignity, the Prophet here mentions the Medes rather than the Persians. Cyrus excelled in celerity, and was also a man of singular wariness, activity, and boldness: but as he was by no means wealthy, and ruled over a rustic nation, and the limits of his kingdom were confined, the Prophet rightly speaks here of the Medes only, whose power far exceeded that of the Persians.
But we hence learn, that Jeremiah did not speak as a man, but was the instrument of the Spirit; for it was an indubitable seal to his prophecy, that he predicted an event a long time before the war took place. Cyrus was not yet born, who was the leader in this war: nor was Darius as yet born; for seventy years elapsed from the time the Prophet spoke to the taking of Babylon. We then see that this passage is a sure proof of his faithfulness and authority.
He afterwards adds, that God’s thought respecting Babylon was to destroy her He still speaks after the manner of men, and at the same time obviates an objection which might have disturbed weak minds, because Babylon not only remained safe and secure for a long time, but also received an increase of power and dignity. The minds then of the godly might have desponded, when there seemed to be no accomplishment of this prophecy. Hence the Prophet calls attention to the thought of God, as though he had said, that though God did not immediately put forth his hand, if, was yet enough for the faithful to know what he had decreed. in short, the Prophet reminded, them, that they ought to acquiesce in God’s decree, though his work was yet hid.
And he again confirms the Jews, by adding, that it would be his vengeance, even that of God, because he disregarded not his Temple. By these words he intimates that the worship, according to the law, was pleasing to God, because the Jews became a distinct people from heathen nations, when the rule as to religion was prescribed to them. Then the Prophet intimates, that though any sort of religion pleased men, there is yet but one which is approved by God, even that which he himself has commanded. The case being so, we may conclude, that God cannot long endure his worship to be scoffed at. For we know how scornfully and proudly the Chaldeans spoke of the Temple, so that they not only uttered blasphemies, but also heaped every reproach they could think of on the Temple. Since that religion was founded on God’s word, it follows that it could not be but that he must have at length risen and vindicated the wrongs done to him by the Chaldeans. We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet, when he says, that it would be the vengeance of God; and he adds, because God will avenge his temple. He confirms the Jews, when he declares that God would be the vindicator of his own worship; and he, at the same time, shows, that the worship according to the law, which had been taught by Moses, was the only worship in the world which God approved. It afterwards follows, —
These words seem to have been addressed to the Chaldeans rather than to the Medes or the Persians, as some expound them; for this is favored by the context; for as he bids them first to raise a standard on the walls, so he adds, Increase the watch, which refers to the citizens of Babylon, and then he says, set the watchmen All this cannot apply to the Persians and the Medes, but must be referred to the besieged, as being most suitable to them. I do not then doubt but that the Prophet here treats, with a taunt, all the efforts the Chaldeans would make for the defense of their city. For not only they who attack a city raise a standard, but also they who are besieged, and this as a sign of confidence, in order to show that they possess sufficient courage to check their enemies, and to sustain all their attacks. It was then the design of the Prophet to show, that however strenuously the Chaldeans might defend themselves, yet all their exertions would be in vain, because God would, without labor, destroy the city.
Raise, he says, the banner on the walls of Babylon, and strengthen, or increase the watch; and afterwards, set watchmen, so that every one might watch with more care than usual. He says at last, set in order the ambushes “When all things have been tried by you, your labor will be without any advantage, for the Lord hath spoken ” When the particle גם, gam, is repeated, it ought to be rendered as and so — for as the Lord hath thought, so will he do what he hath said, etc. He says again that God had thought, lest the faithful should imagine that he heedlessly casts forth threatenings; for this thought often occurs to the mind, that God terrifies without effecting anything, Hence the Prophet, that he might more fully confirm his prophecy, says, that the thing had been meditated upon by God; and we said yesterday that God does not deliberate with himself like men; but as we cannot otherwise understand the certainty and unchangeableness of his secret counsel, nor form an idea of the validity of his decrees, the word thought is mentioned. The Prophet, in short, means, that he brought forth nothing but what God had decreed. For words are often heedlessly uttered, and the reality and the words are not always connected; but Jeremiah testifies that he had taken what he announced from the hidden and immutable counsel of God. Then he adds, what he hath spoken or said; and this refers to his doctrine or his prediction. It follows, —
The word שכנתי, shekenti, is to be taken here for שכנת, shekenet, a dweller; and the passage is more clear when we take it as the title of Babylon. And he says that she was a dweller among waters, because the Euphrates not only flowed by the city, (and we know that it was a very large river,) but it surrounded it; and it, was indeed divided above Babylon into many streams, so that it made as it were many islands, and thus access to the city was more difficult. This circumstance served not only for a defense to it, but also for other advantages.: For these streams or channels were navigable; and the land also was made more fertile by the irrigation they supplied. Thus these streams contributed to its wealth as well as to its defense in time of war. And though Babylon was deemed on this account impregnable, and was also a very fertile land, yet the Prophet says here that its end was come
Now, except he had made this preface, that Babylon was situated among the rivers or many waters, and that it was also a city full of wealth, all this might have seemed a hindrance to prevent God from executing on it his vengeance; for this objection was ready at hand, “How can Babylon be taken, which is seated between many waters? for without great force and number of soldiers it cannot but remain in safety, since it is protected by so many rivers.” Then another objection might have been brought forward, that Babylon was an opulent city, so that it could hire auxiliaries on every side, and that having such abundance of money, it would never be unprotected. Hence the Prophet here mentions these two things; but what he says ought to be taken adversatively, as if he said, “Though thou dwellest among many waters, and art great in treasures, that is, hast large treasures, yet thine end is come.”
He adds, the measure of thy cupidity. Some render אמת, amet, “end, ” but improperly; and the Prophet has not without reason introduced the word אמת, amet, which properly means a cubit, but is to be taken here for measure. Jerome renders it “a foot,” a word in use in his age. But the meaning is sufficiently clear, that though Babylon had exhausted all the wealth of the world as an insatiable gulf, yet the measure of her cupidity would come. For the cupidity of that nation was unlimited, but God at length brought it to an end — not that they were amended, but that God checked their coveting. And according to this sense the Prophet says, that though they had been hitherto devouring the wealth of many countries, yet the measure of her cupidity was come, even because the Lord would take away, together with the monarchy, the power and opportunity of doing wrong. For the Chaldeans were able to act licentiously, when they had so many nations subject to them; but the measure of their cupidity was come, when God in a manner cut off their strength, not that they then desisted, or that their rapacious disposition was amended — for they changed not their nature; but cupidity is to be referred here to its exercise, even because their power was then taken from them, so that they could not carry on their plunders as they had used to do. He afterwards adds, —
The Prophet more fully confirms what he had said by introducing God as making an oath; and it is the most solemn manner of confirmation when God swears by his own name. But he speaks of God in the language of men when he says that he swears by his own soul; for it is a kind of protestation when men swear by their own souls, as though they laid down or pledged their own life. Whoever then swears by his own soul, means that as his own life is dear to him, he thus lays it down as a pledge, that were he to deceive by perjury, God would be an avenger and take it away. This is suitable to men, not to God; but what does not properly belong to God is transferred to him; nor is this uncommon, as we have seen it in other places. And the more familiar is the manner of speaking adopted by God, the more it ought to touch men when he makes himself like them, and in a manner assumes their person as though he lived in the midst of them.
But we must still remember why the Prophet introduces God as making an oath, even that all doubtfulness might be removed, and that more credit might be given to his prophecy; for it not only proceeded from God, but was also sealed by an oath. If I shall not fill Babylon, he says, with men as with locusts
The multitude of enemies is here opposed to the multitude of the citizens, which was very large. For we have said elsewhere that Babylon surpassed all other cities, nor was it less populous than if it were all extensive country. As then it was full of so many defenders, it might have been objected and said, “Whence can come such a number of enemies as can be sufficient to put to flight the inhabitants? for were a large army to enter, it would yet be in great danger in contending with so vast a multitude.” But the Prophet compares here the Persians and the Medes to locusts; and we know that Cyrus collected from various nations a very large army, nay, many armies. Fulfilled then was what had been predicted by the Prophet, for Cyrus made up his forces not only from one people, but he brought with him almost all the Medes, and also led many troops from other barbarous nations. Hence then it happened, that what had been said by Jeremiah was proved by the event.
He also adds, that they would be victorious; for by thevintage song, or shout, he no doubt means a song or shout of triumph. But this song, הידד, eidad, was then in use among the Jews. Then as they did after vintage sing in token of joy, so also conquerors, exulting after victory over their enemies, had a triumphant song. And the Greek translators have rendered it κέλευσμα , or κελευμα , which is properly the song of sailors; when they see the harbor they exult with joy and sing, because they have been delivered from the dangers of the Sea, and also have completed their sailing, which is always perilous, and have come to the harbor where they more fully enjoy life, where they have pleasant air, wholesome water, and other advantages. But the simple meaning of the Prophet is, that when the Persians and the Medes entered Babylon, they would become immediately victorious, so that they would exult without a contest and without any toil, and sing a song of triumph. The Prophet now confirms his prophecy in another way, even by extolling the power of God, —
The Prophet commends here, as I have already said, in high terms, the power of God; but we must bear in mind his purpose, for abrupt sentences would be otherwise uninteresting. His object was to encourage the Jews to entertain hope; for they were not to judge of Babylon according to its splendor, which dazzled the eyes of all; nor were they to measure by their own notions what God had testified, he bids the faithful to raise all their thoughts above the world, and to behold with admiration the incomprehensible power of God, that they might not doubt but that Babylon would at length be trodden under foot; for had they fixed their eyes on that monarchy, they could have hardly believed the words of prophecy; for the Prophet spoke of things which could not be comprehended by the human mind.
We now then understand why the Prophet set forth the power of God, even that. the faithful might learn to think of something sublimer than the whole world, while contemplating the destruction of Babylon, for that would not be effected in a way usual or natural, but through the incredible power of God. The same words are also found in the tenth chapter; and the five verses we meet with here were there explained. But Jeremiah had then a different object in view, for he addressed the Jewish exiles, and bade them firmly to persevere in the worship of God: though religion was oppressed, and though the victorious Chaldeans proudly derided God, he yet bade them to stand firm in their religion, and then said,
“When ye come to Babylon, say, Cursed are all the gods who made not the heaven and the earth.” (Jeremiah 10:11)
And there, indeed, he used a foreign language, and taught them to speak in the Chaldee, that they might more plainly profess that they would persevere in the worship of the only true God. He afterwards added what he now repeats, even that the power of God was not diminished, though he had chastised for a time his own people. But now, as we have said, he speaks in sublime terms of the power of God, in order that the faithful might know that what the judgment of the flesh held as impossible, could easily be done by that God who can do all things.
He says first, He who made the earth He does not mention God’s name; but the expression is more emphatical, when he says, the Maker of the earth; as though he had said, “Who can be found to be the creator of the heaven and the earth except the only true God?” We hence see more force in the sentence than if God’s name had been expressed; for he thus excluded all the fictitious gods, who had been devised by the heathens; as though he had said, “The only true God is He who made the earth.” Then he says, by his power He speaks of God’s power in connection with the earth, as it is probable, on account of its stability.
He afterwards adds, Who hath constituted the world by his wisdom, and by his knowledge extended the heavens The wisdom of God is visible through the whole world, but especially in the heavens. The Prophet indeed speaks briefly, but he leads us to contemplate God’s wonderful work in its manifold variety, which appears above and below. For though it may seem a light matter, when he says, that the world was constituted by the wisdom of God, yet were any one to apply his mind to the meditation of God’s wisdom in the abundance of all fruits, in the wealth of the whole world, in the sea, (which is included in the world,) it could not, doubtless, be, but that he must be a thousand times filled with wonder and admiration: for the more carefully we attend to the consideration of God’s works, we ourselves in a manner vanish into nothing; the miracles which present themselves on every side, before our eyes, overwhelm us. As to the heavens, what do we see there? an innumerable multitude of stars so arranged, as though an army were so in order throughout, all its ranks; and then the wandering planets, not fixed, having each its own course, and yet appearing among the stars. Then the course of the sun, how much admiration ought it to produce in us! — I say, not in those only who understand the whole system of astronomy, but also in those who see it only with their own eyes; for when the sun, in its daily course, completes so great and so immense a distance, they who are not amazed at such a miracle must be more than stupid; and then the sun, as it is well known, has its own course, which is performed every year, and never passes in the least beyond its own boundaries; and the bulk of that body is immense (for, as it is well known, it far exceeds the earth,) and yet it rolls with great celerity and at the same time in such order as though it advanced by degrees quietly. Surely it is a wonderful specimen of God’s wisdom. The Prophet, then, though he speaks in an ordinary way, yet suppress the godly with materials of thought, so that they might apply their minds to the consideration of God’s works. Some explain the words, that God expands the heavens whenever they are covered with clouds; but this is wholly foreign to the meaning of the Prophet; for there is no doubt but that he points out in this verse the perpetual order of nature, as in the next verse he speaks of those changes which sometimes happen.
This, then, is the reason why the Prophet, after having briefly touched on what we have seen, adds, as evidences of God’s power and wisdom, those things which appear to us in their various changes. He then says, that by his voice alone he gives abundance of waters in the heavens, and then that he raises vapors from the extremity of the earth, that he creates lightnings and the rain, which yet seem to be contrary things. At last he says, that he brings the winds out of his treasures Philosophers indeed mention the causes of these things, but we ought to come to the fountain itself, and the original cause, even this, that things are so arranged in the world, that though there are intermediate and subordinate causes, yet the primary cause ever appears eminently, even the wisdom and power of God. Winds arise from the earth, even because exhalations proceed from it; but exhalations, by whom are they created? not by themselves: it hence follows, that God is their sole author. And he calls hidden places treasures: as when one draws out this or that from his storehouse, so he says that winds come forth from hidden places, not of themselves, but through God, who holds them as though they were shut up. I pass by these things by only touching on them, because I have already reminded you that we have before explained, in the tenth chapter (Jeremiah 10:0), what is here literally repeated. It now follows, —
This verse is usually explained, as though the Prophet pointed out how men glide into errors and fancies, even because they seek to be wise according to their own notions; and Paul, in the first chapter to the Romans, assigns it as the cause of idolatry, that men become vain in their own wisdom, because they follow whatever their own brains suggest to them. This doctrine is in itself true and useful; for men have devised idols for themselves, because they would not reverently receive the knowledge of God offered to them, but rather believed their own inventions: and as mere vanity is whatever man imagines according to his own thoughts, it is no wonder that those who presumptuously form their own ideas of God, become wholly foolish and infatuated. But it is evident from the context, that the Prophet means here another thing, even that the artificers who cast or forge idols, or form them in any other way, are wholly delirious in thinking that they can, by their own art and skill, make gods. A log of wood lies on the ground, is trodden under foot without any honor; now when the artificer adds form to it, the log begins to be worshipped as a god; what madness can be imagined greater than this? The same thing may be said of stones, of silver, and of gold; for though it may be a precious metal, yet no divinity is ascribed to it, until it begins to put on a certain form. Now when a melter casts an idol, how can a lump of gold or silver become a god? The Prophet then upbraids this monstrous madness, when he says, that men are in their knowledge like brute beasts, that is, when they apply their skill to things so vain and foolish. But he mentions the same thing twice, according to the common usage of the Hebrew style; for we know that the same thing is often said twice for confirmation by the prophets.
After then having said that men are infatuated by knowledge, he adds, that they were made ashamed by the graven image There seems to be an impropriety in the words; for פסל, pesal, “graven,” does not well agree with צרף, tsareph, “the caster,” or founder; but the Prophet, stating a part for the whole, simply means, that all artificers are foolish and delirious in thinking that they can by their own hand and skill cast or forge, or in any way form gods. And to prove this he says, that there is no spirit or breath in them; and this was a sufficient proof; for we know that God is the fountain of life, and hence he is called by Moses
“the God of the spirits of all flesh.” (Numbers 16:22)
Whatever life, then, is diffused through all creatures, flows from God alone as the only true fountain. What, then, is less like divinity, or has less affinity to it, than a lump of gold or of silver, or a log of wood, or a stone? for they have no life nor rigor. Nothing is more fading than man, yet while he has life in him, he possesses something divine; but a dead body, what has it that is like God? But yet the form of a human body comes nearer to God’s glory than a log of wood or a stone formed in the shape of man. It is not, then, without reason that the Prophet condemns this madness of all the heathens, that they worshipped fictitious gods, in whom yet there was no spirit. It follows, —
As he had called idols a lie, so now in the same sense he declares that they were vanity, even because they were nothing real, but vain pomps, or phantoms, or masks; and he afterwards expresses himself more clearly by saying that they were the work of illusions But he does not seem to take the word תעתעים , toroim, in a passive but in an active sense. He then means that it was a deceptive work, which was a snare to men; as though he had said, that they were the work of imposture, or impostures.
This passage, and such as are like it, ought to be carefully noticed; because the Papists seem to themselves to find a way to escape when they confess their images are not to be worshipped, but that they are books for the unlearned. They who are moderate in their views have recourse to this evasion. This was once suggested by Gregory, but very foolishly; and they who wish to appear more enlightened than others under the papacy repeat the same saying, that images ought to be tolerated, because they are the books of the ignorant. But what does the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, declare here, and also by the Prophet Habakkuk? that they are the work of impostures, even mere snares or traps. (Habakkuk 2:18.) All, then, who seek instruction from statues or pictures gain nothing, but become entangled in the snares of Satan, and find nothing but impostures. And doubtless, whatever draws us away from the contemplation of the only true God, ought justly to be deemed an imposture or a deception; for who by the sight of a picture or a statue can form a right idea of the true God? Is not the truth respecting him thus turned into falsehood? and is not his glory thus debased? For we have then only the true knowledge of God, when we regard him to be God alone, when we ascribe to him an infinite essence which fills heaven and earth, when we acknowledge him to be a spirit, when, in short, we know that he alone, properly speaking, exists, and that heaven and earth, and everything they contain, exist through his power. Can a stone or wood teach us these things? No; but on the contrary, I am led by the stone to imagine that God is fixed and confined to a certain place. And then the life of God, does it appear in the stone or in the wood? Besides, what likeness has a body, and that lifeless, to an infinite spirit? It. is, then, not without reason that he complains, as it is recorded by Isaiah, that he is thus wholly degraded:
“To whom have ye made me like? for I contain the earth in my fist, and ye confine me to wood or stone.” (Isaiah 40:12)
If, in a word, the minds of men received no other error from idols than the thought that God is corporeal, what can be more preposterous?
We hence see that the Prophet does not here say without cause, that all idols are vanity, and the work of imposture or deception.
He lastly adds, that all fictitious gods would perish at the time of visitation In this clause he exhorts the faithful to patience, and in a manner sustains their minds, that they might not despond; for it was not a small trial to see the monarchy of Babylon flourishing, when yet it had no other protection than that of idols. As, then, the Babylonians thought flint fictitious gods were the guardians and defenders of their safety, and that through them they had subdued all their neighbors, they became thus more and more addicted to their superstitions, the reward of which they regarded all their wealth and power. Inasmuch as the minds of the godly could not have been otherwise than shaken by such a trial, the Prophet here supports them, and reminds them to wait for the time of visitation when the idols were to perish. However, a reference may be intended to the Babylonians as well as to the idols, when he says, They shall perish at the time of their visitation, that is, when the Chaldeans shall be visited. But it is probable that the time of visitation refers here especially to idols, because the Prophet had spoken before of all the wicked and reprobate. However this may be, we understand that his object was to show that however prosperous idolaters might be for a time, yet the hand of God was to be patiently borne until the suitable time came, which is here called the time of visitation. And the metaphor refers to the notions of men, for we think that God dwells idly in heaven and turns away his eyes from us, while he spares the ungodly. Hence the Prophet calls the judgment of God a visitation, because he then shows really, by evident proofs, that he does not disregard the affairs of men. It now follows, —
Had the Prophet only said that idols were mere impostures and mockeries, it would have been indeed something; but this part of his teaching would have been cold and uninteresting, had he not, on the other hand, proclaimed the glory of the one and only true God. We ought, indeed, to know that idols are nothing, that men are most foolishly deceived, and are wholly infatuated, when they imagine that there is in them some divinity. But the main thing is, that the true God himself is brought before us, and that we are taught to direct all our thoughts to him. This, then, is what is now done by the Prophet; for after having exposed the folly of the heathens in worshipping idols, and having shown that the whole is nothing but deception and falsehood, he now says, Not as they, the fictitious gods, is the portion of Jacob; that is, the God who had revealed himself to the chosen people is very far different from all idols.
And, doubtless, the vanity which the Prophet before mentioned cannot be adequately understood, except the true God be known. For though some of the ancient philosophers ridiculed the grossest errors of the common people, yet they had nothing fixed or certain on which they could rest, like him, who, when asked, “What was God?” requested time to consider, and who after several delays confessed that the more he inquired into the nature of God, the more absorbed were all his thoughts. And this must necessarily be the case with men until they are taught what God is, which can never be done until he himself represents himself and his glory as it were in a mirror.
This is then the reason why the Prophet, while setting the only true God in opposition to idols and all the inventions of mortals, calls him the portion of Jacob, because the law was as it were the representation of the glory of God. As then he had plainly shown himself there, as far as it was needful for the salvation of the chosen people, the Prophet, in order to invite men to the true knowledge of the true God, calls him the portion of Jacob, as though he had set the law as a mirror before their eyes. The portion of Jacob then is God, who is not like fictitious gods; how so? because he is the framer of all things. It is indeed by a few words that he makes the distinction between the only true God and the fictitious gods; but in this brief sentence he includes what I have before explained, even that God is the fountain of life, and the life of all, and then that his essence is spiritual and also infinite; for as he has created the heaven and the earth, so of necessity he sustains both by his power.
We then see that the Prophet speaks briefly but not frigidly; and from this passage we learn a useful doctrine, even that God cannot be comprehended by us except in his works. As then vain men weary themselves with speculations, which have not in them, so to speak, any practical knowledge, it is no wonder that they run headlong into many delirious things. Let us then be sober in this respect, so that we may not inquire into the essence of God more than it becomes us. When therefore we seek to comprehend what God is, or how to attain the knowledge of him, let us direct all our thoughts, and eyes, and minds to his works.
So also by this passage, when the Prophet calls God the worker or framer of all things, is exposed the vanity of all superstitions; and how? because we hence learn that the power which made not the heaven and the earth, is vain and worthless; but the only maker of heaven and earth is God, then he is God alone. Since he is the only true God, it follows that the inventions or figments of men are altogether delirious, and are therefore the artifices and impostures of the devil to deceive mankind. We hence see that the doctrine of the Prophet is exclusive, when he says that God is the maker of all things; for where the maker of all things is not found, there certainly no divinity can be.
He adds, the rod of his inheritance This seems to refer to God, but in the tenth chapter the word Israel is introduced; otherwise these five verses literally agree, but in that passage the Prophet says that Israel was the rod of God’s inheritance Here the rod means a measuring pole; for the similitude is taken from lands being measured; for the ancients used poles of certain length for measuring. Hence the Hebrews called an inheritance the rod of inheritance, because it was what had been measured and had certain limits: as when one possesses a field, he knows how many acres it contains, it having been measured. But both things may be fitly and truly said, even that Israel is the rod of God’s inheritance, and also that God himself is a rod of inheritance; for there is a mutual union. For as God favors us with this honor, to make us his inheritance, and is pleased to have us as his own, so also he offers himself to us as an inheritance. David says often, “The Lord is my portion,” and “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance,” that is, my hereditary portion. So in this place the meaning would not be unsuitable were we to apply the words to God. As, however, the word Israel is found in the former place, it may be deemed as understood here. (86)
He says at last, Jehovah of hosts is his name There is implied a contrast here; for he does not honor God with this character, as though it was a common or ordinary name; but he claims for him his own right, and thus distinguishes him from all idols. By saying, then, that this name belongs only to the true God, even the God of Israel, he intimates that by this distinction he differs from all idols, and that men are sacrilegious when they transfer any power to idols, and expect safety from them, and flee to them. As then this name belongs only to God, it follows that in Him dwells a fullness of all power and might. Since it is so, then wholly worthless is everything that the world has ever imagined respecting the number and multitude of gods. It now follows, —
The Prophet here obviates the doubts of many; for as he had spoken of the destruction of Babylon, it might have been readily objected, that the monarchy which was fortified by so many defenses, and which had subjugated all the neighboring nations, was impregnable. Hence the Prophet here shows that the power and wealth of Babylon were no hindrances that God should not destroy it whenever he pleased; for it is an argument derived from what is contrary. We have before seen that God roots up what he has planted, (Jeremiah 45:4;) and then we have seen the metaphor of the potter and his vessels. When the Prophet went down to the potter, he saw a vessel formed and then broken at the will and pleasure of the potter (Jeremiah 18:2.) So also now God shows that the destruction was as it were in his hand, because the Chaldeans had not raised themselves to eminence through their own power, but he had raised them, and employed them for his own purpose. In short, he compares the Babylonians in this passage to a formed vessel, and he makes himself the potter:
“I am he who has raised Babylon to so great a height; it therefore belongs to me to pull it down whensoever it pleases me.”
We now understand the design of this passage, though the Prophet employs different words.
He says that Babylon was a hammer and weapons of war to break in pieces the nations. The verb נפף, nuphets, means to break in pieces, and carelessly to scatter here and there, and also violently to scatter. He says then, “I have by thee scattered the nations, and by thee have destroyed kingdoms.” But as the Chaldeans had enjoyed so many victories and had subjugated so many nations, he adds, I have by thee broken in pieces the horse and his ride,; the chariot and its rider; and then, I have broken in pieces men and women, old men and children, the young men and the maidens, the shepherds and also their flocks He enumerates here almost all kinds of men. He then mentions husbandmen and yokes of oxen, or of horses; and lastly, he mentions captains and rulers (87) All these things are said by way of concession; but yet the Prophet reminds us that no difficulty would prevent God to destroy Babylon, because Babylon in itself was nothing. According to this sense, then, it is called a hammer. In short, the Prophet takes away the false opinion which might have otherwise disturbed weak minds, as though Babylon was wholly invincible. He shows at the same time that God executed his judgments on all nations by means of Babylon. Thus the faithful might have been confirmed; for otherwise they must have necessarily been cast down when they regarded the formidable power of Babylon; but when they heard that it was only a hammer, and that they would not have been broken in pieces by the Babylonians had they not been armed from above, or rather had they not been driven on by a celestial power, it then appeared that the calamity which the Jews had suffered was nothing more than a punishment inflicted by God’s hand. When, therefore, they heard this, it was no small consolation; it kept them from succumbing under their miseries, and from being swallowed up with sorrow and despair. But it now follows, —
20.A scatterer (or a hammer) art thou to me, A weapon of war; But I will scatter in thee nations, And destroy in thee kingdoms;
21.And I will scatter in thee the horse and its rider, And I will scatter in thee the chariot and its rider;
22.And I will scatter in thee the husband and the wife, And I will scatter in thee the old and the child, And I will scatter in thee the young man and the maid;
23.And I will scatter in thee the shepard and his flock, And I will scatter in thee the plougman and his team, And I will scatter in thee the governors and princes.
The comes, naturally, a summary of the whole, —
24.And I will render to Babylon And to all the inhabitants of Chaldea, All the evil which they have done in Sion, Before your eyes, saith Jehova.
The in the two following verse Babylon is still addressed.
“Scatter” is according to the Sept., the Syr., and the Targ. ; “dash against one another” is the Vulg. — Ed.
The Prophet, after having reminded the Jews that all that they had suffered from the Babylonians had been justly inflicted on account of their sins, and that God had been the author of all their calamities, now subjoins, I will render to Babylon and to the Chaldeans what they have deserved. It may, however, appear strange at the first view, that God should here threaten the Babylonians; for if their services depended on his command, they seemed doubtless to have deserved praise rather than punishment; nay, we know what the Holy Spirit declares elsewhere,
“I gave Egypt as a reward to my servant Nebuchadnezzar, because he has faithfully performed my work,” (Ezekiel 29:20)
for Nebuchadnezzar had afflicted the Jews, therefore he obtained this, says Ezekiel, as his reward. It seems then an inconsistent thing when God declares that the Chaldeans deserved punishment because they had afflicted the Jews. But both declarations agree well together; for when God declared by Ezekiel that he gave Egypt as a reward to his servant Nebuchadnezzar, he had a regard to the Jews and to their perverseness, because they had not as yet been sufficiently humbled; nay, they thought that it was by chance that they had been subdued by the Babylonians. God then declares that he had executed his judgment on them by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. It was afterwards necessary that the faithful should be raised up in their extreme distress; and this was regarded by our Prophet when he said — Behold, I will render to Babylon and to the Chaldeans all their evils They then obtained Egypt for a short time, but afterwards all the evils they had brought on other nations recoiled on their own heads.
But this promise was in a peculiar manner given to the Church; for though the vengeance executed on the Chaldeans was just, because they exercised extreme cruelty towards all nations; yet God, having a care for his own Church, thus undertook its cause; therefore he speaks not here generally of the punishment inflicted on the Chaldeans for their cruelty; but God, as I have said, had a regard to his own Church. Hence, he says, I will render to the Babylonians and to all the Chaldeans, all the evil which they had done in Sion We now see that this punishment had a special reference to the chosen people, in order that the faithful might know that they had been so chastised by God, that yet the memory of his covenant had never failed, and that thus in the midst of death they might have some hope of salvation, and that they might feel assured that God would at length be merciful; not that God would ever restore the whole body of the people; but this promise, as it has been elsewhere stated, is addressed only to the remnant. Yet fixed remains the truth, that God, after having broken in pieces the Jews and other nations by means of one nation, would yet be the avenger of his Church, because he could never forget his covenant. He adds, before your eyes, that the faithful might with calmer minds wait for the vengeance of which they themselves would be eye-witnesses.
There is no doubt but that the Prophet speaks of Babylon. But it may seem strange to call it a mountain, when that city was situated in a plain, as it is well known; nay, it has no mountains near it. It was a plain, so that streams might be drawn here and there in any direction. Hence they think that the city was called a mountain on account of the height of its walls and also its great buildings. And this is probable, as though the Prophet called it a great mass; for historians tell us that its walls were very high, about two hundred feet, and a foot commonly exceeded three fingers. Then the towers were very high. In short, Babylon was a prodigy for the quantity of its bricks, for the walls were not built with squared stones, but formed of bricks. Their breadth also was incredible; for chariots drawn by four horses could go along without touching one another. Their breadth, according to Strabo and also Pliny, was fifty feet. Then this metaphor was not used without reason, when the Prophet, regarding in one respect the state of the city, called Babylon a mountain, as though Ninus, or Semiramis, or others, had contended with nature itself. The beginning of Babylon was that memorable tower mentioned by Moses, but then the work was left off. (Genesis 11:0) Afterwards, either because such a beginning inflamed the desire of men, or because the place was very pleasant and fertile, it happened that a city of great size was built there. In short, it was more like a country than a city; for, as Aristotle says, it was not so much a city as a country or a province. This much as to the word mountain.
Now God himself declares war against Babylon, in order that more credit might be given to this prophecy; for the Prophet had no regard to the Chaldeans, but to his own nation, and especially to the remnant of the godly. The greater part derided his prophecy, but a few remained who received the Prophet’s doctrine with becoming reverence. It was then his object to consult their good and benefit; and, as we shall see at the end of this chapter, he wished to lay up this treasure with them, that they might cherish the hope of restoration while they were as it were lost in exile. God then does here encourage them, and declares that he would be an enemy to the Babylonians.
Behold, he says, I am against thee, O mountain of perdition The mountain of perdition is to be taken in an active sense, for destroying mountain, as also a clearer explanation follows, when he says that it had destroyed all the earth For the Babylonians, as it is well known, had afflicted all their neighbors, and had transferred the imperial power of the Medes to their own city. When they subdued the Assyrians they extended their power far and wide, and at length advanced to Syria, Judea, and Egypt. Thus it happened that the Babylonians enjoyed the empire of the east till the time of Cyrus; and then the monarchy was possessed by the Persians. But our Prophet had respect to the former state of things; for he said that the Chaldeans had been like a hammer, which God had employed to break in pieces all the nations; and, according to the same meaning, he now says that all the earth had been destroyed by the Babylonians.
But God here declares that he would be their judge, because he would extend his hand over Babylon, and roll it down from the rocks, he proceeds still with the same metaphor; for as he called Babylon a mountain on account of its great buildings, and especially on account of its high walls and lofty towers, so now he adopts the same kind of language, I will cast thee down, or rather roll thee, from the rocks, and make thee a mountain of burning. He thus intimates that Babylon would become a heap of ashes, though this was not immediately fulfilled; for as we have said, it was so taken as not to be entirely laid waste. For in the time of Alexander the Great, many years after, Babylon was standing, and there Alexander died. It then follows that it was not reduced to solitude and ashes by Darius and Cyrus. But we have already untied this knot, that is, that the Prophet does not only speak of one vengeance of God, but includes others which followed. For Babylon soon after revolted and suffered a grievous punishment for its perfidy, and was then treated with great contempt. Afterwards, Seleucus tried in various ways to destroy it, and for this end Seleucia was built, and then Ctesiphon was set up in opposition to Babylon. Babylon then was by degrees reduced to that solitude of which the Prophet here speaks. Pliny says that in his time the temple of Bel was there, whom they thought to have been the founder of the city; but he afterwards adds that the other parts of the city were deserted. If Jerome, as he says, visited it, we ought; to believe what he had seen; and he says that Babylon was a small ignoble town, and ruins only were seen there. There is, then, nothing unreasonable in this prophecy, for it ought not to be restricted to one calamity only; for God ceased not in various ways to afflict Babylon until it was wholly laid waste, according to what our Prophet testifies. According to this view, then, he says that Babylon would become a mountain of burning, or a burnt mountain, (88) for ruins only would remain; and in the same sense he immediately adds, —
He confirms the former verse, that when Babylon was destroyed, there would be no hope of restoration. It often happens, that those cities which have been wholly destroyed are afterwards built up again; but God says that this would not be the case with Babylon, for it was given over to perpetual destruction. By corner and foundations he understands the strength of the buildings, he then says, that there was no hope that the stones would be again fitted together, for the building of the city, for Babylon would become a perpetual waste or desolation.
We have, indeed, said, that the walls of Babylon were not made of stones but of bricks: but the Prophet simply speaks according to the common manner, in order to show that its ruin would be for ever. (89) We have also said elsewhere that a difference is commonly made by the prophets between the people of God and the reprobate, that God promises to his Church a new state as a resurrection from death, but that he denounces on the unbelieving perpetual desolation. This course is now followed by our Prophet when he says, that the desolations there would be for ever, because there is no hope of pardon or of mercy to the unbelieving. It afterwards follows, —
The Prophet here confirms what he had before taught, even that Babylon, however proud on account of its strongholds, would not yet escape God’s hand. Had he used a simple mode of speaking, hardly any one would have ventured to look for what the Prophet said. It was then necessary to introduce figurative expressions, of which we have before spoken. Here, then, with the highest authority, he commands the nations to raise up war against Babylon.
We must observe, as I have before reminded you, that by such modes of speaking, the effect of prophetic doctrine is set forth. For the unbelieving deride whatever they hear, because the voice of God is the same to them as though it were a sound flowing through the air. Hence the Prophet shows that he was endued with the power of God, and that the hand of God was connected with his mouth, so that he fulfills whatever he predicts. Raise, he says, a standard. This might have appeared ludicrous, for we know that the Prophet was despised, not only at Jerusalem, but also in his own town where he had been born: by what right, then, or on what ground does he now boldly command all nations, and bid the banners to be raised? But as I have said, he shows that a false judgment would be formed of what he said, except the people thought that God himself spoke.
Sound with the trumpet, he says, among all nations, and then, sanctify against her the nations; and further, assemble, literally, “make to hear,” but it means, in Piel, to collect, to assemble. As to the word Ararat, it may be taken for Armenia. I know not why some have taken Minni to be the lower Armenia, for there is no creditable author for such an opinion. Nor is it certain what country the Prophet designates by Ashchenaz. But it is evident from histories, that the great army which Darius, or Cyrus under the authority of Darius, led with him, had been collected from various and even remote nations. For he brought with him the Hyrcanians and the Armenians, and some from many unknown places. As, then, heathen authors declare that this army was collected indiscriminately from many nations and almost unknown, it is nothing strange that the Hebrew names are at this day unknown. And there is no doubt but that the Prophet here indirectly intimates some great shaking of the world, as though he had said, that even barbarous nations, The name of whom hath not hitherto been heard of, would come like all overwhelming flood to destroy Babylon. He will hereafter speak of the Medes; but here he treats the subject in a different way, as though he had said, that so great would be the multitude of enemies, that Babylon, notwithstanding its largeness, would be easily overthrown. We now perceive the Prophet’s design as to these obscure words.
He says afterwards, Set up a leader against her This is to be understood of Cyrus, whose vigor was especially apparent in that war. Nor is there a doubt but that he led his uncle and father-in-law to undertake the war. For those historians fable, who say that Cyrus was cast away by his grandfather, and that he was brought up privately by Astyages, and that he afterwards made war with his grandfather. All these things have been invented. For it is quite evident that Darius, the king of the Medes, was the chief in that war, and Daniel is our best witness on this point. Heathen writers imagine that there was no king of the Medes except under the authority of Cyrus. But Cyrus did not rule until after the death of his father-in-law, or his uncle, whose daughter he had married. It then follows, that he was the general, so that he carried on the war under the authority of Darius. Cyrus then was, as it were, the hired soldier of his uncle and father-in-law, but at length he obtained the kingdom of the Medes and the whole empire of the East. Of this leader, then, I understand this passage, when the Prophet says, Set up or appoint a leader against Babylon: (90) he adds, Bring forth, or make to ascend, the horse as the locust This refers to their number; as though he had said, Bring forth against Babylon horses without number, who shall be as locusts. He compares them to locusts, not for strength or skill in war, but only with regard to their number. But as the locusts are frightful, he applies to them the word סמר, samer, “dreadful,” as though he had said, They are, indeed, locusts as to their abundance, but they are at the same time dreadful, as though they had on them frightful hairs. It afterwards follows, —
He now repeats what he had said of preparing the nations; but he mentions them first generally, and then he comes to specify them particularly. He then bids the nations to be sent for, and then he shows who they were, even the kingdoms of the Medes (91) There was, indeed, but one kingdom, but many kings were subject to it. Then, on account of the many provinces over which satraps ruled, and also on account of many tributary countries, the Prophet was not satisfied to use the singular number, but calls them in the plural number, the kingdoms of the Medes; for that monarchy had extended itself far and wide, so that many kings were subject to Darius.
And it tended, in no small degree, to show the certainty of this prophecy, that Jeremiah declared, before Cyrus or even Darius was born, that the Medes would come. But we have stated, that though Cyrus, being singularly active and a good warrior, carried on the war, yet Darius was the first in authority. Then Babylon obeyed the Medes for a time; but as Darius was now old, Cyrus succeeded him; and then the monarchy was transferred to Persia; and laws issued thence until the time of Alexander the Great, who, together with his catamite, burnt the tower. Nor is there a doubt but that many memorable transactions were deposited there. But Alexander being drunk, seized a torch and burnt the tower; for he thought that the memory of the Oriental monarchy could thus be abolished.
We now then perceive why the Prophet expressly mentions here the Medes; and he adds, the captains and princes He includes, no doubt, under these names, all the satraps and kings. At length he adds, the whole land of its dominion, or jurisdiction; and by this word he designates the kingdoms already mentioned. It now follows, —
The Prophet no doubt endeavored to remove all doubts from the minds of the godly, which would have otherwise weakened confidence in his doctrine. It might have occurred to the minds of all, that the whole world would sooner come to nothing than that Babylon should fall. Though it were so, says the Prophet, that the whole earth trembled, yet Babylon will be destroyed. Hence, he says, Tremble shall the land and be in pain, even because confirmed, etc. There is here a striking contrast between the moving of the earth and the stability of God’s purpose. The verb means properly to rise, but it is taken in many places in the sense of confirming or establishing, and necessarily so in this passage. he then says, Tremble shall the land, (92) even because confirmed shall be the thoughts of God respecting Babylon
But he mentions thoughts in the plural number, as though he had said, that whatever God had appointed and decreed would be unchangeable, and that the whole earth would sooner be shaken than that the truth of God should lose its effect. Then this verse contains nothing else but a confirmation of the whole prophecy. But the Prophet shows, that if even all the hindrances of the world were in favor of the perpetuity of Babylon, yet what God had decreed respecting its destruction, would be fixed and unchangeable. It afterwards follows, —
And tremble shall the land and be in pain; For confirmed respecting Babylon shall be the purposes of Jehovah, To set the land of Babylon a waste, Without an inhabitant.
The Prophet shows here, as by the finger, the manner of the destruction of Babylon, such as it is described by heathen authors. He then says, that the valiant men of Babylon, even those who had been chosen to defend the city, ceased to fight For the city was taken rather by craft than by open force; for after a long siege, Cyrus was laughed to scorn by the Babylonians; then they securely held a feast. In the meantime two eunuchs of Belshazzar passed over to Cyrus; for; as Xenophon relates, the tyrant had slain the son of one, and by way of disgrace castrated the other. Hence, then, it was that they revolted from him; and Cyrus was instructed by them how he could take the city. The fords were dried-up, when Belshazzar suspected no such thing, and in the night he heard that the city was taken. Daniel gives a clearer description; for he says that there was held a stated feast, and that the hand of a writer appeared on the wall, and that the king, being frightened, had heard from Daniel that the end of his kingdom was near at hand, and that the city was taken that very night. (Daniel 5:25.) hence the Prophet says now that the valiant men desisted, so that they did not fight. He indeed speaks of what was future, but, we know what was the manner of the prophets, for they related what was to come as though it had already taken place.
He afterwards adds, that they sat down in their fortresses, for the city was not taken by storm — there was no fighting; but the forces passed silently through the fords, and the soldiers entered into the middle of the city; the king was slain together with all his satraps, and then all parts of the city were taken possession of. We now, then, see that the Spirit of God spoke by the mouth of Jeremiah, as of a thing that had already taken place.
He then adds, that their valor had failed or languished, even because terror stupefied them when they heard that the city was taken. So also true became what is added, that they became women, that they were like women as to courage, for no one dared to oppose the conquerors. Fighting might have still been carried on by so large a multitude, yea, they might have engaged with their enemies in hundred or in thousand of the streets of the city, for it would have been easy in the night to distress them: but the Prophet says, that they all became women as to courage. At last, he adds, that that burnt by enemies were the palaces, and that the bars of the gates were broken; for no one dared to summon to arms after it was heard that the city was taken. It follows, —
This also was fulfilled according to the testimony of heathen authors, as well as of Daniel. They do not indeed repeat these words, but according to the whole tenor of history we may easily conclude that messengers ran here and there, for the Babylonians never thought that the enemy could so suddenly penetrate into the city, for there was no entrance. We have seen how high the walls were, for there were no muskets then, and the walls could not have been beaten down. There were indeed battering-rams; but what was the breadth of the walls? even fifty feet, as already stated, so that four horses abreast could pass without coming into contact. There was then no battering-ram that could throw down walls so thick. As to the fords, the thing seemed incredible; so that they kept a feast in perfect security. In such an irruption, what our Prophet testifies here must have necessarily happened. But it is quite evident that he was the instrument of the Holy Spirit; for Cyrus was not as yet born when this prophecy was announced. We hence then know, that the holy man was guided from above, and that what he said was not produced in his own head, but was really celestial; for he could not have divined any such thing, nor was it through probable conjecture that he was able thus to speak and lead the Jews, as it were, into the very scene itself.
Nor is there a doubt but that this authority was afterwards confirmed when the fathers told their children, “So have we heard from the mouth of the Prophet what we now see with our eyes; and yet no man could have conjectured any such thing, nor have discovered it by reason or clearsightedness: hence Jeremiah must have necessarily been taught by the Spirit of God.” This, then, is the reason why God designed that the destruction of Babylon should be, as we see, so graphically described.
He then says, A runner ran to meet a runner, and then, a messenger to meet a messenger, to tell the king of Babylon that his city was taken at its extremity ? (93) Had this been said of a small city, it might have appeared ridiculous: why are these runners? one might say. But it has been sufficiently shown, that so extensive was that city, that runners, passing through many fields, might have come to the king, and convey the news that the city was taken at one of its extremities. And heathen writers cannot sufficiently eulogize the contrivance and skill of Cyrus, that, he thus took possession of so great a city; for he might have only secured one half of it, and Belshazzar might have retained the other half, and might have bravely contested with Cyrus and all his forces; and he would have no doubt overcome him, had it not been for the wonderful and unusual expedition of Cyrus. This haste, then, or expedition of Cyrus, is what the Prophet now sets forth, when he says that messengers ran to the king to tell him that the city was taken He now adds, respecting other things, what no one could have divined, —
This verse most clearly proves that Jeremiah was God’s herald, and that his language was under the guidance of the celestial Spirit; for he sets forth the manner in which Babylon was taken, as though he had witnessed it with his own eyes.
He says that the fords were taken, and that the pools were burnt with fire. We do not read that Cyrus had made use of fire; and some render pools, reeds, but there is no reason to constrain us so to render the word; for the Prophet speaks metaphorically. Their object was to give a literal rendering, by saying that reeds were burnt; but the Prophet shows, speaking hyperbolically, that the fords of the Euphrates were dried up, as though one burned wood by applying fire to it. This, indeed, is not suitable to water; but he, by a hyperbole, expresses more fully the miracle which might have otherwise exceeded human comprehension. He then says, that the fords were dried up, and then adds, that the pools were burnt. The same thing is expressed twice, but in a different way; and as I have already said, he states hyperbolically, that such was the skill of Cyrus and his army, that he made dry the fords and the pools, as though one collected a large heap of wood and consumed it with fire. (94) We now perceive the design of the Prophet.
He afterwards adds, that the men of war were broken in pieces For though the fords were made dry, that is, the streams which were drawn from the Euphrates, vet. the guards of the city might have still kept possession of a part of it, and have manfully resisted, so as to prevent the soldiers of Cyrus from advancing farther; but the city was so craftily taken, that the Babylonians were so terrified as not to dare to raise up a finger, when yet they might have defended a part of the city, though one part of it was taken.
BY this similitude the Prophet confirms what he had before said, even that God would be the avenger of his Church, and would justly punish the Babylonians, but at the suitable time, which is usually called in Scripture the time of visitation, He then compares Babylon to a threshing-floor, not indeed in the sense which interpreters have imagined, but because the threshing-floor only serves for the time of harvest, and is afterwards closed up and not used. Babylon, then, had been for a long time like a threshing-floor, because there had been no treading there, that is, no noise or shouting. But God declares that the time of harvest would come, when the threshing-floor would be used. Oxen did then tread the corn; for the corn was not beaten out with flails, as with us and in most places in France, though the inhabitants of Provence still use the treading. In Judea they tread out the corn on floors, and oxen were used for the purpose. Now, the reason for the similitude seems evident; for the time would come when God would smite Babylon, as oxen after harvest tread out with their feet the corn on the threshing-floor, which for the rest of the year is not wanted, but remains closed up and quiet. Hence I have said that what we have before seen as to the time of visitation is confirmed; for it was strange at the first view to promise deliverance to the Jews, while yet Babylon was increasing more and more and extending the limits of its monarchy. (Isaiah 28:24.) God shows in that passage that it was no matter of wonder if he did not daily exercise his judgments in an equal degree; and he bids us to consider how husbandmen act, for they do not sow at the same time wheat and barley and other kinds of grain; nor do they always plough, or always reap, but wait for seasonable times. “Since, then, husbandmen are endowed with so much care and foresight as I have taught them, why may not I also have my times rightly distributed, so that there may be now the harvest, and then the treading or threshing? and should I not at one time sow wheat, and at another cumin?” for the Prophet adds these several sorts. The same is the mode of reasoning in this place, though the Prophet speaks more briefly.
He then says that Babylon would be like a threshing-foor, and how? because it had been as a place closed up and wholly quiet; for God had spared the Chaldeans, and, as we shall hereafter see, they had been so inebriated with pleasures that they feared no danger.
And then immediately he explains himself, — it is time to tread or thresh her. Then Babylon became like a threshing-fioor, for she had not been trodden or threshed for a long time, as the threshing-floor is not used for nine or ten months through the whole year. But he adds, yet a little while, and come will her harvest
We learn from this and other passages that treading or threshing was in use among the Jews and other eastern nations only during harvest. In other places, corn is often kept in the ears for five and six years. Some thresh the corn after six, or eight, or nine months, as it suits their convenience. But there are many countries where the corn is immediately threshed; it is not stored up, but is immediately conveyed to the threshing-floor, and there it is trodden by oxen or threshed with flails. As then it was usual immediately to tread the corn, hence God declares that the time of harvest would come when Babylon would be trodden, as the threshing-floor is trodden after harvest. (95)
We must observe that a little while is not to be understood according to the notions of men; for though God suspends his judgments, he yet never delays beyond the time; on the contrary, he performs his work with all due celerity The Prophet Haggai says,
“Yet a little while, and I will shake the heaven and the earth.”
But this was not fulfilled till many years after. But we must remember what is in Habakkuk, —
“If the vision delays, wait for it, for it will come
and will not be slow.” (Habakkuk 2:5)
He says that prophecies delay, that is, according to the judgment of men, who make too much haste, and are even carried away headlong by their own desires. But God performs his work with sufficient celerity, provided we allow him to arrange the times according to his own will, as it is just and right for us to do. Whenever, then, the ungodly enjoy ease and securely indulge themselves, let this fact come to our own minds, that the threshing-floor is not always trodden, but that the time of harvest will come whenever it pleases God. This is the use we ought to make of what is here said. It follows, —
33.For thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, — Babylon shall be like a threshing-floor; Come shall the time of threshing her; Yet a little while, and come to her shall the time of harvest.
The order as to the threshing and harvest is similar to what is often found in the prophets, — the last thing, being the main thing, is mentioned first, and then what precedes or leads to it. — Ed.
Here is mentioned the complaint of the chosen people, and this was done designedly by Jeremiah, in order that the Jews might feel assured that their miseries were not overlooked by God; for nothing can distress us so much as to think that God forgets us and disregards the wrongs done to us by the ungodly, hence the Prophet here sets the Israelites in God’s presence, that they might be convinced in their own minds that they were not disregarded by God, and that he was not indifferent to the unjust and cruel treatment they received from their enemies. For this complaint is made, as though they expostulated with God in his presence.
He then says, Devoured me and broken me in pieces has Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon (96) The word, to eat, or devour, was enough; but Jeremiah wished to express something more atrocious by adding the word, to break in pieces; (97) for he intimates that Babylon had not been like a man who devours meat set before him, but that she had been a cruel wild beast, who breaks in pieces the very bones. We now, then, understand the design of the Prophet; he amplifies the savageness of the king of Babylon, by saying that God’s people had not only been devoured by him as men swallow down their food, but that they had also been torn in pieces by his teeth, as though he had been a lion, or a bear, or some other wild animal; for these not only devour their prey, but also with their teeth break in pieces whatever is harder than flesh, such as bones.
For the same purpose he adds, He has set me an empty vessel, that is, he has wholly exhausted me, as when one empties a flagon or a cask. Then he says, he has swallowed me like a dragon (98) It is a comparison different from the former, but yet very suitable; for dragons are those who devour a whole animal; and this is what the Prophet means. Though these comparisons do not in everything agree, yet as to the main thing they are most appropriate, even to show that God suffered his people to be devoured, as though they had been exposed to the teeth of a lion or a bear, or as though they had been a prey to a dragon.
He adds, Filled has he his belly with my delicacies, that is, whatever delicate thing I had, he has consumed it. He then says, he has cast off the remnants, like wolves and lions and other wild beasts, who, when they have more prey than what suffices them, choose what is most savory; for they choose the head of man that they may eat the brain; they suck the blood, but leave the intestines and whatever they do not like. So also the Prophet says here of the miserable Jews, that they had been so devoured that the enemy, having been satiated, had cast. off the remainder. (99)
We hence learn that God’s people had been so exposed to plunder, that the conqueror was not only satisfied, but cast away here and there what remained; for satiety, as it is well known, produces loathsomeness. But the Prophet refers to the condition of the miserable people; for their wealth had been swallowed up by the Chaldeans, but their household furniture was plundered by the neighboring nations; and the men themselves had been driven into exile, so that there came a disgraceful scattering. They were then scattered into various countries, and some were left through contempt in the land; thus was fulfilled what is said here, “He has cast me out,” even because these wild beasts, the Chaldeans, became satiated; meat was rejected by them, because they could not consume all that was presented to them.
By these figurative terms, as it has been stated, is set forth the extreme calamity of the people; and the Prophet no doubt intended to meet such thoughts as might otherwise have proved very harassing to the Jews. For as they found no end to their evils, they might have thought that they had been so cast away by God as to become the most miserable of men. This is the reason why our Prophet anticipates what might have imbittered the minds of the godly, and even driven them to despair, he then says, that notwithstanding all the things which had happened, yet God had not forgotten his people; for all these things were done as in his sight.
With regard to us, were God not only to double the calamities of his Church, but also to afflict it in an extreme degree, yet what the Prophet says here ought to afford us aid, even that God’s chosen people were formerly so consumed, that the remainder was cast away in contempt; for the conqueror, though insatiable, could not yet consume all that he got as a prey, because his cupidity could not contain it. It now follows, —
Jeremiah goes on with the same subject; for, after having shown that the calamities of the people were not unknown to God, he now, in an indirect way, exhorts the faithful to deposit their complaints in the bosom of God, and to apply, or appeal to him, as their defender. The design, then, of the Prophet is, (after having explained how grievously the Jews had been afflicted,) to show them that their only remedy was, to flee to God, and to plead their cause before him.
And this passage is entitled to particular notice, so that we may also learn in extreme evils, when all things seem hopeless, to discover our evils to God, and thus to unburden our anxieties in his bosom. For how is it, that sorrow often overwhelms us, except that we do not follow what God’s Spirit prescribes to us? For it is said in the Psalms,
“Roll thy cares into God’s bosom, and he will sustain thee, and will not give the righteous to a perpetual change.”
We may, then, by prayer, unburden ourselves, and this is the best remedy: but we murmur, and sometimes clamor, or at least we bite and champ the bridle, according to a common proverb; and, in the meantime, we neglect the chief thing, and what the Prophet teaches us here.
We ought, then, carefully to mark the design of what is here taught, when it is said, my violence and my flesh be upon Babylon When he adds, Say will (or let) the daughter of Sion, he no doubt shows that the faithful have always this consolation in their extreme calamities, that they can expostulate with God as to their enemies and their cruelty. Then he says, my plunder or violence; some render it “the plunder of me,” which is harsh. But the meaning of the Prophet is not ambiguous, for it follows afterwards, my flesh Then violence was that which was done by enemies. But the people is here spoken of under the name of a woman, according to what is commonly done, Let the inhabitress of Sion say, My plunder and my flesh. By the second word the Prophet shows sufficiently plain what he understood by plunder. My flesh, he says, (even that which the Chaldeans had devoured and consumed,) be on Babylon This is of the greatest weight, for by these words he intimates, that though the Chaldeans thought that they had exercised with impunity their cruelty towards the Jews, yet their innocent blood cried, and was opposed to them as an enemy.
To the same purpose he afterwards adds, Let Jerusalem say, My blood is upon the Chaldeans.
Then follows a clearer explanation, when God promises that he would be the avenger of his chosen people, and that whatever the Jews had suffered would be rendered to Babylon: Therefore thus saith Jehovah, Behold, I will litigate thy quarrel. By this passage we are taught to present our complaints to God, if we wish him to undertake our cause; for when we are silent, he will in his turn rest, as he considers us unworthy of being helped. But if we cry to him, he will doubtless hear us. Then we must remember the order of things, for the Prophet says on the one hand, Let Jerusalem cry, let the daughter of Sion say; and on the other hand he says, Therefore God will come and hear the cry of his people.
He says, first, Behold, I will plead thy cause, and then, I will vindicate or avenge thy vengeance. These are hard words to Latin ears; but yet they contain more force and power than if we were to follow the elegance of the Latin tongue. It is then better to retain the genuine terms than to study neatness too much.
In short, God promises to be the defender of his people, and by using the demonstrative particle, he doubtless removes every doubt, as though the thing was now present. We know that more than seventy years had elapsed since God had spoken thus; for as it has been already stated, it was not after the taking of the city that Jeremiah prophesied against the Chaldeans: but though God suspended his judgment and vengeance for seventy years after the destruction of the city, yet this was said, Behold, I, as though he brought the faithful to witness the event; and this was done for the sake of certainty.
Now, we hence learn, that though God humbles his people, and suffers them even to be overwhelmed with extreme miseries, he will at length become the avenger of all the wrongs which they may have endured; for what has been said of the destruction of the people has a reference to us; nay, what is here said, has not been left on record except for our benefit. And further, let us learn, as I have before reminded you, to prepare our minds for patience whenever God seems to forsake us. Let us, at the same time exercise ourselves constantly in prayer, and God will hear our groans and complaints, and regard our tears.
It is afterwards added, I will make dry her sea; for Babylon, as it has been already stated, was surrounded by the streams of the Euphrates; and there was no easy access to it. The Prophet then compares the fortifications of Babylon to a sea and a fountain. For who would have thought that the Euphrates could be dried up, which is so large a river, and has none equal to it in all Europe? Even the Danube does not come up to the largeness of that river. Who then would have thought it possible that such a river could be made dry, which was like a sea, and its fountain inexhaustible? God then intimates by these words, that such was his power, that all obstacles would vanish away, and that he was resolved at the same time to execute his judgment on the Babylonians. It afterwards follows, —
He confirms what he had said, that when God raised his hand against Babylon, such would be its destruction, that the splendor, which before astonished all nations, would be reduced to nothing. Perish, he says, shall all the wealth of Babylon — its towers and its walls shall fall, and its people shall disappear; in short, it shall become heaps of stones, as he said before, that it would become a mountain of burning. It is then for the same purpose that he now says that it would become heaps. But we must bear in mind what we observed yesterday, that it would become such heaps that they would not be fit for corners, that they could not be set in foundations; for the ruins would be wholly useless as to any new building.
He says that it would become an astonishment and a hissing Moses also used these words, when he threatened the people with punishment, in case they transgressed the law of God. (Deuteronomy 28:37.) But these threatenings extend to all the ungodly, and the despisers of God. Then God fulfilled as to the Babylonians what he had denounced by Moses on all the despisers of his law. It then follows, —
Here, by another figure, Jeremiah expresses what he had said of the destruction of Babylon, even that in the middle of the slaughter, they would have no strength to resist: they would, at the same time, perish amidst great confusion; and thus he anticipates what might have been advanced against his prophecy. For the Babylonians had been superior to all other nations; how then could it be, that a power so invincible should perish? Though they were as lions, says the Prophet, yet that would avail nothing; they will indeed roar, but roaring will be of no service to them; they will roar as the whelps of lions, but still they will perish.
We now, then, understand the object of this comparison, even that the superior power by which the Babylonians had terrified all men would avail them nothing, for nothing would remain for them in their calamity except roaring. (100) It follows, —
Together as young lions shall they roar. And rouse themselves as whelps of lionesses.
There is a ו wanting before the last verb, which is supplied by the Vulg., Syr., and the Targ. ; and it is rendered necessary by the tense of the verb. — Ed
Here, also, he describes the manner in which Babylon was taken. And hence we learn, that the Prophet did not speak darkly or ambiguously, but so showed, as it were by the finger, the judgment of God, that the prophecy might be known by posterity, in order that they might understand that God’s Spirit had revealed these things by the mouth of the Prophet: for no mortal, had he been a hundred times endowed with the spirit of divination, could ever have thus clearly expressed a thing unknown. But as nothing is past or future with God, he thus plainly spoke of the destruction of Babylon by his Prophet, that posterity, confirmed by the event, might acknowledge him to have been, of a certainty, the instrument of the Holy Spirit. And Daniel afterwards sealed the prophecy of Jeremiah, when he historically related what had taken place; nay, God extorted from heathen writers a confession, so that they became witnesses to the truth of prophecy. Though Xenophon was not, indeed, by design a witness to Jeremiah, yet that unprincipled writer, whose object was flattery, did, notwithstanding, render service for God, and sealed, by a public testimony, what had been divinely predicted by Jeremiah.
In their heat, he says, I will make their feasts, that is, I will make them hot in their feasts; for when the king of Babylon was drunk, he was slain, together with his princes and counselors. I will inebriate them that they may exult, that is, that they may become wanton. This refers to their sottishness, for they thought that they should be always safe, and ridiculed Cyrus for suffering so many hardships. For he lived in tents, and the siege had been now long, and there was no want in the city. Thus, then, their wantonness destroyed them. And hence the Prophet says that God would make them hot, that they might become wanton in their pleasures; and then, that they might sleep a perpetual sleep, that is, that they might perish in their luxury: (101) though they had despised their enemy, yet they should never awake; for Babylon, as we observed yesterday, might have resisted for a long time, but it was at once taken. The Babylonians were not afterwards allowed to have arms. Cyrus, indeed, suffered them to indulge in pleasures, but took away from them the use of arms, deprived them of all authority, so that they lived in a servile state, in the greatest degradation: and then, in course of time, they became more and more contemptible, until at length the city was so overthrown, that nothing remained but a few cottages, and it became a mean village. We hence see that whatever God had predicted by his servant Jeremiah was at length fulfilled, but at the appropriate time, — at the time of treading or threshing, as it has been stated. It follows, —
In their heat I will set for them their drink, And will make them drunk, that they may leap for joy; And they shall sleep a perpetual sleep, And shall not awake, saith Jehovah.
It is a clear allusion to the feast celebrated in Babylon the very night it was taken. — Ed.
This is a comparison different from the former, when the Prophet said that they would be like lions, but as to roaring only. But he now shows how easy would that ruin be when it should please God to destroy the Babylonians. Then as to their cry, they were like lions; but as to the facility of their destruction, they were like lambs led to the slaughter. God does not mean here that they would be endued with so much gentleness as to give themselves up to a voluntary death; but he means, that however strong the Babylonians might have previously been, and however they might have threatened all other nations, they would then be women in courage, and be led to the slaughter as though they were lambs or rams.
This is a comparison which occurs often in the prophets, for sacrifices were then daily made; and then the prophets considered the destruction of the ungodly as a kind of sacrifice; for as sacrifices were offered under the Law as evidences of piety and worship, so when God appears as a judge and takes vengeance on the reprobate, it is the same as though he erected an altar, and thus exhibited an evidence of the worship that is due to him; for his glory and worship is honored, yea, and celebrated by such sacrifices. Then the destruction of all the ungodly, as we have said, may be justly compared to sacrifices; for in such instances the glory of God shines forth, and this is what especially belongs to his worship. It at length follows, —
Here the wonder expressed by the Prophet tended to confirm what he had said, for he thus dissipated those things which usually disturbed the minds of the godly, so as not to give full credit to his predictions. There is indeed no doubt but that the godly thought of many things when they heard Jeremiah thus speaking of the destruction of Babylon. It ever occurred to them, “How can this be?” Hence Jeremiah anticipated such thoughts, and assumed himself the character of one filled with wonder — How is Shesbach taken? as though he had said, “Though the whole world should be astonished at the destruction of Babylon, yet what I predict is certain; and thus shall they find who now admit not the truth of what I say, as well as posterity.”
But he calls Babylon here Sheshach, as in Jeremiah 25:0. Some think it to be there the proper name of a man, and others regard it as the name of a celebrated city in Chaldea. But we see that what they assert is groundless; for this passage puts an end to all controversy, for in the first clause he mentions Sheshach, and in the second, Babylon. That passage also in Jeremiah 25:0 cannot refer to anything else except to Babylon; for the Prophet said,
“Drink shall all nations of God’s cup of fury,
and after them the king of Sheshach,”
that is, when God has chastised all nations, at length the king of Babylon shall have his turn. But in this place the Prophet clearly shows that Sheshach can be nothing else than Babylon. The name is indeed formed by inverting the alphabet. Nor is this a new notion; for they had this retrograding alphabet in the time of Jerome. They put ת, tau, the last letter, in the place of א, aleph, the first; then ש, shin, for ב, beth, thus we see how they formed Shesbach. The ש, shin, is found twice in the word, the last letter but one being put for ב , beth, the first, letter but one; and then כ, caph, is put in the place of ל, lamed, according to the order of the retrograde alphabet. There is no good reason for what some say, that the Prophet spoke thus obscurely for the sake of the Jews, because the prophecy was disliked, and might have created dangers to them; for why did he mention Sheshach and then Babylon in the same verse?
Many understand this passage enigmatically; but there is no doubt but that that alphabet was then, as we have stated, in common use, as we have Ziphras, as they call it, at this day. In the meantime, though the Prophet was not timid, and encouraged his own people to confidence, it yet pleased God that this prophecy should in a manner be hidden, but not that it should be without evidence of its certainty, for we shall see in the last verse but one of this chapter that he commanded the volume to be thrown into the Euphrates, until the event itself manifested the power of God, which for a long time remained as it were buried, until the time of visitation which of which he had spoken.
THE Prophet here employs a comparison, in order more fully to confirm his prophecy respecting the destruction of Babylon; for, as it was incredible that it could be subdued by the power or forces of men, he compares the calamity by which God would overwhelm it to a deluge. He then says that the army of the Persians and of the Medes would be like the sea, for it would irresistibly overflow; as when a storm rises, the sea swells, so he says the Medes and the Persians would come with such force, that Babylon would be overwhelmed with a deluge rather than with the forces of men. We now then understand the Prophet’s meaning, when he says that Babylon would be covered with waves when the Medes and the Persians came It then follows, —
He repeats what he had previously said, but we have before reminded you why he speaks so largely on a subject in itself not obscure. For he might have comprehended in a few words all that he had said in the last chapter and also in this; but it was difficult to convince men of what he taught — it was therefore necessary to dwell at large on the subject.
He says now that the cities of Babylon, that is, of that monarchy, would become a desolation. He seems to have hitherto directed his threatenings against the city itself; but now he declares that God’s vengeance would extend to all the cities under the power of the Chaldean nation; and he speaks at large of their desolation, for he says that it would be a land of desert, a land of drought, or of filthiness, so that no one would dwell in it. And though he uses the singular number and repeats it, yet he refers to cities, Pass through it shall no man, dwell in it shall no man (102) He indeed speaks of the whole land, but so that he properly refers to the cities, as though he had said, that so great would be the destruction, that however far and wide the monarchy of Babylon extended, all its cities would be cut off. It afterwards follows, —
43.Become have her cities a desolation, Like a land of drought and a wilderness; Dwell in them shall no man, And pass through them shall no son of man.
The second “land” is omitted in two MSS.; and one has “in her,” instead of “in them.” — Ed.
God again declares that he would take vengeance on the idols of Babylon; not that God is properly incensed against idols, for they are nothing but things made by men; but that he might show how much he detests all superstitious and idolatrous worship. But he speaks of Bel as though it was an enemy to himself; yet God had no quarrel with a dead figure, void of reason and feeling; and such a contest would have been ridiculous. God, however, thus rises up against Bel for the sake of men, and declares that it was an enemy to himself, not because the idol, as we have said, of itself deserved any punishment.
But we hence learn how detestable was that corruption and that false religion. It appears evident from beathen writers that Bel was the supreme god of the Chaldean nation; nay, that idol was worshipped throughout all Assyria, as all testify with one consent. They thought that there had been a king skillful in the knowledge of the stars, and hence he was placed by erring men among the gods. But we learn from the prophets that this was a very ancient superstition; and it is hardly probable that there had been any king of this name — for otherwise Isaiah and Jeremiah, when predicting the ruin of this idol, would not have been silent on the subject. That common opinion, then, does not appear to me probable; but I think that on the contrary this name was given to the idol according to the fancies of men; for no reason can be found why heathen nations so named their false gods. It is indeed certain that divine honor was given to mortals by the Greeks and the Romans, and by barbarous nations. But the worship of Bel was more ancient than the time when such a thing was done. And in such veneration was that idol held, that from it they called some of their precious stones. They consecrated the eye-stone to the god of the Assyrians, because it was a gem of great price. (See Plin. lib. 37, chap. 10.)
Jeremiah, then, now declares that Bel would be exposed to God’s vengeance, not that God, as we have said, was angry with that statue, but he intended in this way to testify how much he abominated the ungodly worship in which the Chaldeans delighted. Nor did he so much regard the Chaldeans as the Jews; for I have often reminded you that it was a hard trial, which might have easily endangered the faith of the people, to think that the Chaldeans had not obtained so many and so remarkable victories, except God had favored them. The Jews might on this account have had some doubts respecting the temple and the law itself. As then the Babylonians triumphed when success accompanied them, it was necessary to fortify the minds, of the godly, that they might remain firm, though the Babylonians boasted of their victories. Lest the faithful should succumb under their trials, the prophets supplied a suitable remedy, which is done here by Jeremiah. God then declares that he would visit Bel; for what reason and to what purpose? that the Jews might be convinced that that idol could do nothing, but that they had been afflicted by the Babylonians on account of their sins. That true religion, then, might not be discredited, God testified that he would some time not only take vengeance on the Chaldeans themselves, but also on their idol, which they had devised for themselves; I will then visit Bel in Babylon
And he adds, and I will bring or draw out of his mouth what he has swallowed The word בעי, belo, means indeed what is devoured; but the Prophet refers here to the sacred offerings by which Bel was honored until that time. And there is no doubt but that many nations presented gifts to that idol for the sake of the Chaldean nation, as we find that gifts were brought from all parts of the world to Jupiter Capitolinus when the Roman empire flourished; for when the Greeks, the Asiatics, or the Egyptians, wished to obtain some favor, they sent golden crowns, or chandeliers, or some precious vessels; and they sought it as the highest privilege to dedicate their gifts to Jupiter Capitolinus. So, then, there is no doubt but that many nations offered their gifts to Bel, when they wished to flatter the Chaldeans. And hence the Prophet declares that when God visited that idol, he would make it disgorge what it had before swallowed. This is indeed not said with strict propriety; but the Prophet had regard to the Jews, who might have doubted whether the God of Israel was the only true God, while he permitted that empty image to be honored with so many precious offerings; for this was to transfer the honor of the true God to a dead figure. Then he says, I will draw out, as though Bel had swallowed what had been offered to it, — I will draw out from its mouth what it has swallowed Though the language is not strictly correct, yet we see that it was needful, so it might not disturb the minds of the Jews, that almost all nations regarded that idol with so much veneration.
He afterwards expresses his meaning more clearly by adding, the nations shall no more flow together (103) We hence then see what he meant by the voracity of Bel, even because there was a resort from all parts to this temple, for the nations, seeking to ingratiate themselves with the Babylonians, directed their attention to their god. We, indeed, know that the temple of Bel remained even after the city was conquered; there is yet no doubt but that the predictions of Jeremiah and of Isaiah have been accomplished. For Isaiah says,
“Lie prostrate does Bel, Nebo is broken.” (Isaiah 46:1)
He names some other god, who is not made known by heathen writers; but it is sufficiently evident from this testimony that Bel was in high repute. He afterwards says that it would “be a burden to the beasts even to weariness.” We hence learn that Bel was carried away, not that it was worshipped by the Medes and the Persians, but because all the wealth was removed, and probably that idol was made of gold.
It afterwards follows, Even the wall of Babylon has fallen We have said elsewhere that this prophecy ought not to be restricted to the first overthrow of Babylon, for its walls were not then pulled down except in part, where the army entered, after the streams of the Euphrates had been diverted. However, the ancient splendor of the city still continued. But when Babylon was recovered by Darius, the son of Hystaspes, then the walls were pulled down to their foundations, as Herodotus writes, with whom other heathen authors agree. For Babylon had revolted together with the Assyrians when the Magi obtained the government; but when Darius recovered the kingdom, he prepared an army against the Assyrians who had resorted to Babylon; and their barbarous cruelty is narrated, for they strangled all the women that they might not consume the provisions. Each one was allowed to keep one woman as a servant to prepare food and to serve as a cook; but they spared neither matrons nor wives, nor their own daughters. For a time the Persians were stoutly repulsed by them. At length, through the contrivance of Zopyrus, Darius entered the city; he then demolished the walls and the gates, and afterwards Babylon was no better than a village. Then also he hung the chief men of the city, tothe number of three or four thousand, which would be incredible were we not to consider the extent of the city; for such a slaughter would be horrible in a city of moderate size, even were men of all orders put to death. But it hence appears what an atrocious cruelty it must have been, when all the chief men were hung or fixed to crosses; and then also the walls were demolished, though they were, as it has been elsewhere stated, of incredible height and width. Their width was fifty feet; Herodotus names fifty cubits, but I rather think they were feet; and yet their feet were longer than common.
As, then, Jeremiah now says, that the wall of Babylon had fallen, there is no doubt but his prophecy includes this second calamity, which happened under Darius; and this confirms what I have referred to elsewhere. It now follows, —
Here the Prophet exhorts the Israelites to flee from Chaldea and Assyria. Yet this exhortation was intended for another purpose, to encourage them in the hope of deliverance; for it was hardly credible that they should ever have a free exit, for Babylon was to them like a sepulcher. As then he exhorts them as to their deliverance, he intimates that God would be their redeemer, as he had promised. But he shows that God’s vengeance on Babylon would be dreadful, when he says, Flee from the indignation of God’s wrath.
We must, however, observe, that the faithful were thus awakened, lest, being inebriated with the indulgences of the Chaldeans, they should obstinately remain there, when God stretched forth his hand to them; for we know what happened when liberty to return was given to the Israelites — a small portion only returned; some despised the great favor of God; they were so accustomed to their habitations, and were so fixed there, that they made no account of the Temple, nor of the land promised them by God. The Prophet, then, that he might withdraw the faithful from such indulgences, says, that all who, in their torpor, remained there, would be miserable, because the indignation of God would kindle against that city. We now perceive the object of the Prophet.
It appears, indeed, but a simple exhortation to the Jews to remove, that they might not be polluted with the filth of Babylon, but another end is also to be regarded, proposed by the holy Prophet. This exhortation, then, contains in it a promise of return, as though he had said, that they were not to fear, because liberty would at length be given them, as God had promised. In the meantime, a stimulant is added to the promise, lest the Israelites should be delighted with the pleasures of Chaldea, and thus despise the inheritance promised them by God; for we know how great was the pleasantness of that land, and how great was the abundance it possessed of all blessings; for the fruitfulness of that land is more celebrated than that of all other countries. No wonder, then, that the Prophet so strongly urged the Jews to return, and that he set before them the vengeance of God to frighten them with terror, in case they slumbered in Chaldea. And he afterwards adds, —
Here the Prophet in due time anticipates a danger, lest the Jews should be disturbed in their minds, when they saw those dreadful shakings which afterwards happened; for when their minds were raised to an expectation of a return, great commotions began to arise in Babylon. Babylon, as it is well known, was for a long time besieged, and, as is usual in wars, every day brings forth something new. As, then, God, in a manner, shook the whole land, it could not be, especially under increasing evils, but that the miserable exiles should become faint, being in constant fear; for they were exposed to the wantonness of their enemies. Then the Prophet seasonably meets them here, and shows that there was no cause for them to be disturbed, whatever might happen.
Come, he says, and rise shall various rumors; but stand firm in your minds. Interpreters confine these rumors to the first year of Belshazzar; but I know not whether such a view is correct. I consider the words simply intended to strengthen weak minds, lest they should be overwhelmed, or at least vacillate, through trials, when they heard of grievous commotions.
But there is a doctrine here especially useful; for when God designs to aid his Church, he suffers the world to be, in a manner, thrown into confusion, that the favor of redemption may appear more remarkable. Unless, then, the faithful were to have some knowledge of God’s mercy, they could never endure with courageous minds the trials by which God proves them, and while Satan, on the other hand, seeks to upset their faith. There is the prelude of this very thing to be seen in the ancient people: God had promised to be their redeemer; when the day drew nigh, war suddenly arose, and the Medes and the Persians, as locusts, covered the whole land. We know what various evils war brings with it. There is, then, no doubt but that the children of God sustained many and grievous troubles, especially as they were exiles there; they must have suffered want, they must have been harassed in various ways. Now, as the event of war was uncertain, they might have fainted a hundred times, had they not been supported by this prophecy. But, as I have said, so now also God deals with his Church; for when a deliverer appears, all things seem to threaten ruin rather than to promise a joyful and happy deliverance. It is then necessary, that these prophecies should come to our minds, and that we should apply, for our own benefit, what happened formerly to our fathers, for we are the same body. There is, therefore, no reason for us at this day to wonder, if all things seem to get worse and worse, when yet God has promised that the salvation of his Church will ever be precious to him, and that he will take care of her: how so? because it is said, Let not your heart be faint, fear ye not when rumors arise, one after another; when one year brings tumults, and then another year brings new tumults, yet let not all this disturb your minds. (104)
And Christ seems to allude to these words of the Prophet, when he says,
“Wars shall arise, and rumors of wars: be ye not troubled.” (Matthew 24:6)
These words of Christ sufficiently warn us not to think it strange, if the Church at this day be exposed to violent waves, and be tossed as by continual storms: why so? because it is right and just that our condition should be like that of the fathers, or at least approach to it. We now, then, understand the design of the Prophet, and the perpetual use that ought to be made of what is here taught.
He afterwards adds, Violence in the land, and a ruler upon or after a ruler. This refers to Cyrus, who succeeded Darius, whom some call Cyaxares. They, indeed, as it is well known, both ruled; but Darius, who was older, had the honor of being the supreme king. Afterwards Cyrus, when Darius was dead, became the king of the whole monarchy. And Darius the Mede lived only one year after Babylon was taken. But I doubt not but that the Prophet here bids the Jews to be of good courage and of a cheerful mind, though the land should often change its masters; for that change, however often, could take away nothing from God’s authority and government. It afterwards follows, —
And lest your heart faint, And ye be afraid of the rumor rumored in the land, — For it shall come in one year, the romor, etc.
But if פן, rendered lest, be taken, as it is sometimes, a dissuasive particle, then the rendering would be as follows, —
And let not your heart be faint, Nor be ye afraid of the rumor rumored in the land; When it shall come in one year, the rumor, And afterwards in a year, the rumor, And violence shall be in the land, ruler against ruler.
The reference seems to be to the commotions in Babylon before the liberation of the Jews. — Ed.
He repeats a former sentence, that God would visit the idols of Babylon He does not speak now of Bel only, but includes all the false gods. We have already said why God raised his hand against idols, which were yet mere inventions of no account. This he did for the sake of men, that the Israelites might know that they had been deceived by the wiles of Satan, and that the faithful might understand that they ought not to ascribe it to false gods, when God for a time spared the ungodly. However wanton, then, they might be, in their prosperity, yet when they perished together with their idols, the faithful would then learn by experience, that idols obtained no victory for their worshippers.
When, therefore, the Prophet now says, Behold, the days are coming, and I will visit, etc., he no doubt intended to support the minds of the godly, who otherwise would have been cast down. And it was the best support, patiently to wait for the time of visitation, of which he now speaks;. I will visit, he says, all the images of Babylon; and then he adds, her whole land shall be ashamed. He speaks of the land, because the dominion of that monarchy extended far, so that it was difficult to travel through all its regions, and enemies could hardly have access to them. At length he adds, all her slain shall fall in the midst of her (105) He then speaks first of the country, and then he adds, that however fortified the city might be, yet. its walls and towers would be of no moment, for conquerors would march through her very streets, and everywhere kill those who thought themselves hid in a safe place, and set, as it were, above the clouds. He then adds, —
And all her slain, they shall fall in the midst of her.
That, he might more fully convince the Jews of the truth of all that he has hitherto said of the destruction of Babylon, he declares that God would effect it, and that it would be applauded by all the elements. Shout, he says, shall heaven and earth; which is a kind of personification — for he ascribes knowledge to heaven and earth. It might, indeed, be more refinedly explained, that angels and men would shout for joy, but it would be a frigid explanation; and the Prophet removes every ambiguity, by adding, and all that is in them: he includes, no doubt, the stars, men, trees, fishes, birds, fields, stones, and rivers. And the expression is very emphatical when he says, that all created things, though without reason and understanding, would yet be full of joy, so that they would, in a manner, rejoice and sing praise. If such would be the feeling in dead creatures, when God put forth his hand against Babylon, would it be possible for that city to remain safe, which was so hated by heaven and earth, and which was accursed by birds and wild beasts, by trees, and everything void of understanding!
We hence see that the Prophet heaps together all kinds of figures and modes of speaking, in order to confirm weak minds, so that they might confidently look forward to the destruction of Babylon. He at the same time intimates that Babylon was hated by all creatures, because it had reached to the highest pitch of wickedness. He then shows the cause by the effect, as though he had said that Babylon was hated by heaven and earth, so that heaven and earth seemed as though they deemed themselves in a manner polluted by the sight of that city. As long, then, as Babylon stood, heaven and earth sighed: but, on the contrary, when God appeared as an avenger, then heaven and earth, and all things in them, would shout with joy. Could it then be that God, the judge of the world, would always connive at its sins? If heaven and earth could not endure it, and Babylon was so loathsome to all, and joy would arise from its destruction, could God possibly allow that city, filled with so many sins, and detested by heaven and earth, to escape with impunity his judgment?
We now, then, more fully understand why the Prophet says that triumph and joy would be in heaven and earth, and among all created things.
He says, because; but the particle כי, ki, may be taken for an adverb of time: then he says, when from the north shall come wasters He alludes to the Medes, for the Persians were eastward. But as the Medes were nigher, and also their monarch hr wealthier, the Prophet refers especially to the Medes when he says that evil would come from the north. For the Medes were north of Chaldea, as the Persians were eastward.
THE words literally read thus, “As Babylon, that they might fall, the slain of Israel, so for Babylon they shall fall, the slain of all the lands.” Some, omitting the ל, lamed, in the second clause, render the passage thus, “As the slain of Israel have fallen through Babylon, so by Babylon shall they fall: “and others render the last like the first, “through Babylon.” But the simpler rendering is that which I have given, even that this would be the reward which God would render Babylon, that they would fall everywhere through its whole land, as it had slain the people of Israel. For the Prophet no doubt had this in view, to alleviate the sorrow of the godly by some consolation; and the ground of consolation was, that God would be the avenger of all the evils which the Babylonians had brought on them. For it is a heavy trial when we think that we are disregarded by God, and that our enemies with impunity oppress us according to their own will. The Prophet, then, testifies that God would by no means suffer that so many of the Israelites should perish unpunished, for he would at length render to the Babylonians what they deserved, even that they who destroyed others should in their turn be destroyed.
We may now easily gather what the Prophet means, “As Babylon,” he says, “has made many in Israel to fall, so now the Babylonians themselves shall fall.” To render ל, lamed, by “through,” or, on account of, is improper. Then he says the Babylonians themselves shall fall, the slain of the whole land. By the whole land, I do not understand the whole world, as other interpreters, but Chaldea only. Then everywhere in Chaldea, they who had been so cruel as to shed innocent blood everywhere would perish. (106) And though that saying is generally true, Whoso sheddeth man’s blood shall be punished; yet the word is especially addressed to the Church. God, then, avenges all slaughters, because he cannot bear his own image to be violated, which he has impressed on men. But as he has a paternal care for his Church, he is in an especial manner the avenger of that cruelty which the ungodly exercise towards the faithful.
In short, the Prophet means, that though God may suffer for a time the ungodly to rage against his Church, yet he will be at the suitable season its avenger, so that they shall everywhere be slain who have been thus cruel.
But we hence learn that we ought by no means to despair when God allows so much liberty to the ungodly, so that they slay the miserable and the innocent, for the same thing happened formerly to the ancient people. It was the Church of God in which the Chaldeans committed that carnage of which the Prophet speaks: the children of God were then slain as sheep. If the same thing should happen to us at this day, there would be no reason for us to despond, but to wait for the time of vengeance of which the Prophet speaks here; for experience will then show how precious to God is the life of all the godly. It now follows, —
“As Babylon made to fall the slain of Israel, So for Babylon have fallen the slain of all the land.”
It is said before, in Jeremiah 51:47, that her slain should fall in the midst of her land. “For Babylon” means, on account of what she had done. But if it be “in Babylon,” means, on account of what she had done. But of Babylon; and the intimation is, that there would be none led captive, but slain in the land, except “all” be taken, as is often the case, as signifying a large number. — Ed.
The Prophet again bids the faithful quickly to flee from Chaldea; but he says, They who remain from the sword He then intimates that the slaughter would be such, that it would include many of God’s people, and that they would be destroyed. And we know that many among them deserved such a sad end; but the Prophet now turns to address those who had been preserved through God’s special favor. He then bids them to depart and not to stand still or stay.
Now, we said yesterday what was the object of this exhortation, even that the faithful might feel assured of their free return to their own country, from which, nevertheless, they thought they were perpetually excluded; for they had wholly despaired of deliverance, though it had been so often promised. This exhortation, then, contains a promise; and in the meantime the Prophet reminds us, that though God inflicted a temporary punishment on the chosen people, yet his vengeance on the Babylonians would be perpetual. For God not only tempers his rigor towards the faithful when he chastises them, but he also gives them a happy issue, so that all their afflictions become helps to their salvation, as Paul also teaches us. (Romans 8:28.) In short, the punishments inflicted by God on his children are so many medicines; for he always consults their safety even when he manifests tokens of his wrath. But the case with the ungodly is different; for all their punishments are perpetual, even those which seem to have an end. How so? because they lead to eternal ruin. This is what the Prophet means when he bids those who remained, to flee from Chaldea, according to what we observed yesterday, when he said, Flee ye from the indignation of God’s wrath. There is, then, an implied comparison between the punishment which brings ultimate ruin on the reprobate, and the temporary punishment inflicted by God on his children.
He bids them to remember Jehovah from afar Some apply this to the seventy years, but, in my view, in a sense too restricted. I then doubt not but that the Prophet bids them to entertain hope and to look to God, however far they may have been driven from him, as though he were wholly alienated from them. The Israelites had then been driven into distant lands, as though God never meant to restore them. As, then, the distance was so great between Chaldea and Judea, what else could come into the minds of the miserable exiles but that God was far removed from them, so that it was in vain for them to seek or call upon him? The Prophet obviates this want of faith, and raises their confidence, so that they might not cease to flee to God, though they had been driven into distant lands: Be, then, mindful of Jehovah from afar
Then he adds, Let Jerusalem ascend on your heart; that is, though so many obstacles may intercept your faith, yet think of Jerusalem. The condition of the people required that they should be thus animated, for they might otherwise, as it has been said, have a hundred times despaired, and have thus become torpid in their calamities. Then the Prophet testifies that an access to God was open to them, and that though they were removed far, he yet had a care for them, and was ready to bring help whenever called upon And for the same reason he bids them to direct their minds to Jerusalem, so as to prefer the Temple of God to all the world, and never to rest quiet until God restored them, and liberty were given them of worshipping him there.
Now this passage deserves special notice, as it applies to us at this day; for when the scattering of the Church takes place, we think that we are forsaken by God, and we also conclude that he is far away from us, so that he is sought in vain. As, then, we are wont, being inclined to distrust, to become soon torpid in our calamities, as though we were very remote from God, and as though he did not turn his eyes to look on our miseries, let us apply to ourselves what is here said, even to remember Jehovah from afar; that is, when we seem to be involved in extreme miseries, when God hides his face from us and seems to be afar off; in short, when we think ourselves forsaken, and circumstances appear as proving this, we ought still to contend with all such obstacles until our faith triumphs, and to employ our thoughts in remembering God, though he may be apparently alienated from us. Let us also learn to direct our minds to the Church; for however miserable our condition may be, it is yet better than the happiness which the ungodly seek for themselves in the world. When, therefore, we see the ungodly flattering themselves as to their possessions, when we see them pleased and delighted as though God were dealing indulgently with them, let then Jerusalem come to our minds, That is, let us prefer the state of the Church, which may be yet sad and deformed, and such as we would shun, were we to follow our own inclinations. Let then the condition of the Church come to our minds, that is, let us embrace the miseries common to the godly, and let it be more pleasant to us to be connected with the children of God in all their afflictions, than to be inebriated with the prosperity of those who only delight in the world, and are at the same time accursed by God. This is the improvement which we ought to make of what is here taught. It now follows, —
It is thought that these words were spoken by the Prophet to the faithful, to confirm them as to their return. But I rather think that they were spoken by way of anticipation. They who think that they were spoken as a formula to the Israelites, that they might with more alacrity prepare themselves for their return, suppose a verb understood, “Say ye, we are confounded (or ashamed), because we have heard reproach;” even that sorrow would wound the minds of the faithful, to the end that they might nevertheless go through all their difficulties. But as I have said, the Prophet here repeats what the faithful might have of themselves conceived in their own minds; and he thus speaks by way of concession, as though he said, “I know that you have in readiness these words, ‘We are ashamed, we are overwhelmed with reproaches; strangers have entered into the sanctuary of God: since the temple is polluted and the city overthrown, what any more remains for us? and doubtless we see that all things supply reasons for despair.’”
As, then, the thoughts of the flesh suggested to the faithful such things as might have dejected their minds, the Prophet meets them and recites their words. He then says, as in their person, We are confounded, because we have heard reproach; that is, because we have been harassed by the reproaches of our enemies. For there is no doubt but that the Chaldeans heaped many reproaches on that miserable people; for their pride and their cruelty were such that they insulted the Jews, especially as their religion was wholly different. As, then, the ears of the people were often annoyed by reproaches, the Prophet declares here that they had some cause according to the flesh, why they could hardly dare to entertain the hope of a return.
To the same purpose is what he adds, Shame hath covered our faces, because strangers have come into the sanctuaries of Jehovah For it was the chief glory of the chosen people that they had a temple where they did not in vain call upon God; for this promise was like an invaluable treasure,
“I will dwell in the midst of you; this is my rest, here will I dwell.” (Psalms 132:13)
As, then, God was pleased to choose for himself that throne and habitation in the world, it was, as I have said, the principal dignity of the people. But when the temple was overthrown, what more remained for them? it was as though religion was wholly subverted, and as though God also had left them and moved elsewhere; in short, all their hope of divine aid and of salvation was taken away from there.
We now, then, understand why the Prophet speaks thus according to the common thoughts of the people, even that they were covered with shame, because strangers had come into God’s sanctuaries; for that habitation, which God had chosen for himself, was polluted. And he says “sanctuaries,” in the plural number, because the temple had many departments, as the tabernacle had; for there was rite vestibule or the court where they killed the victims; and then there was the holy place, and there was the holy of holies, which was the inner sanctuary. It was then on this account that he said that the sanctuaries of the house of God were possessed by strangers; for it was a sad and shameful pollution when strangers took possession of God’s temple, where even the common people were not admitted; for though the whole of the people were consecrated to God, yet none but the priests entered the temple. It was therefore a dreadful profanation of the temple, when enemies entered it by force and for the sake of degrading it. What then remained for the people, except despair?
“This is your glory,” said Moses, “before all nations; for what people so noble, what nation so illustrious, as to have gods so near to it!” (Deuteronomy 4:6)
When, therefore, God ceased to dwell familiarly with the Jews, all their glory fell, and they were overwhelmed with shame. But after the Prophet recited these complaints, he immediately subjoins a consolation, —
The design of the Prophet is, as I have reminded you, to raise up the minds of the godly that they might not succumb under their trials, on seeing that they were exposed to shame and were destitute of all honors. He then says that the time would come when God would take vengeance on the idols of Babylon. And thus God claims for himself that power which seemed then to have almost disappeared; for the temple being overthrown, the Babylonians seemed in a manner to triumph over him, as God’s power in the temple was overcome. Then as the ruin of it, as we have said, seemed to have extinguished God’s power, the Prophet applies a remedy, and says that though the temple was overthrown, yet God remained perfect and his power unchangeable. But among other things he bids the faithful patiently to wait, for he invites their attention to the hope of what was as yet hidden.
We now see how, these things, agree, and why the Prophet uses the particle “therefore,” לכן, laken: Therefore, behold, the days are coming, that is, though ye are confounded, yet God will give you a reason for glorying, so that ye shall again sing joyfully his praises. But he says, “the days will come;” by these words he reminds us that we are to cherish the hope of the promises until God completes his work; and thus he corrected that ardor by which we are seized in the midst of our afflictions, for we wish immediately to fly away to God. The Prophet, then, here exhorts the faithful to sustain courage until the time fixed by God; and so he refers them to God’s providence, lest they assumed too much in wishing him to act as their own minds led them. Come then shall the days when I shall visit the graven images of Babylon; and groan or cry, etc.; for the word אנק , anak, means to cry. Some render thus, “groan shall the wounded;” and they render the last word “wounded,” because they think it improper to say that the slain cry or groan. But the Prophet means that the cry in that slaughter would be great, that is, that while the Babylonians were slain, a great howling would be everywhere. It follows, —
The Prophet again teaches us, that however impregnable Babylon might be, there was yet no reason to fear but that God would be its judge; for it is by no means right to measure his power by our thoughts. And nothing does more hinder or prevent us from embracing the promises of God, than to think of what may be done naturally, or of what is probable. When, therefore, we thus consult our own thoughts, we exclude the power of God, which is superior to all the means that may be used.
Hence the Prophet says here, that though Babylon ascended above the heavens, and in the height fortified strength for itself, yet from me, he says, shall come wasters to it (107) There is to be understood here a contrast between God and men; for if there be a contest between men, they fight one with another; but the way of God is different, for he can thunder from heaven, and thus lay prostrate the highest mountains. We now, then, perceive the purpose of the Prophet by saying, that desolators would come from God to destroy Babylon, were it to ascend above the clouds. It follows, —
Though Babylon mounted the skies, And though she fortified the height as her strength, From me would come to her destroyers, saith Jehovah. — Ed
Jeremiah in a manner exults over Babylon, in order that the faithful, having had all obstacles removed or surmounted, might feel assured that what the Prophet had predicted of the fall of Babylon would be confirmed, he then brings them to the very scene itself, when he says, that there would be the voice of a cry from Babylon, and that there would be great breaking or distress from the land of the Chaldeams
We, at the same time, may render שבר, shober, here “crashing,” so that it may correspond with the previous clause: he had said, The voice of a cry from Babylon; now he says,a crashing from the land of the Chaldeans They call that sound crashing, which is produced by some great shaking; as when a great mass falls, it does not happen without a great noise. This, then, is properly what the Prophet means. We have already stated why he used these words, even that the faithful might have before their eyes the event itself, which as yet was incredible. It follows, —
The reason for the crashing is now added, even because God had resolved to lay waste Babylon, and to reduce it to nothing. Jeremiah again calls the faithful to consider the power of God. He then says, that it would not be a work done by men, because God would put forth his great power, which cannot be comprehended by human minds. He then sets the name of God in opposition to all creatures, as though he had said, that what exceeds all the efforts of men, would yet be easily done by God. He, indeed, represents God here as before our eyes, and says that Babylon would perish, but that it was God who would lay it waste. He thus sets forth God here as already armed for the purpose of cutting off Babylon. And he will destroy from her the magnificent voice, that is, her immoderate boasting.
What follows is explained by many otherwise than I can approve; for they say that the waves made a noise among the Babylonians at the time when the city was populous; for where there is a great concourse of men, a great noise is heard, but solitude and desolation bring silence. They thus, then, explain the words of the Prophet, that though now waves, that is, noises, resounded in Babylon like great waters, and the sound of their voice went forth, yet God would destroy their great or magnificent voice. But I have no doubt but that what the Prophet meant by their great voice, was their grandiloquent boasting in which the Babylonians indulged during their prosperity. While, then, the monarchy flourished, they spoke as from the height. Their silence from fear and shame would follow, as the Prophet intimates, when God checked that proud glorying.
But what follows I take in a different sense; for I apply it to the Medes and the Persians: and so there is a relative without an antecedent — a mode of speaking not unfrequent in Hebrew. He then expresses the manner in which God would destroy or abolish the grandiloquent boasting of the Babylonians, even because their waves, that is, of the Persians, would make a noise like great waters; that is, the Persians, and the Medes would rush on them like impetuous waves, and thus the Babylonians would be brought to silence and reduced to desolation. (108) When they were at peace, and no enemy disturbed them, they then gave full vent to their pride; and thus vaunting was the speech of Babylon as long as it flourished; but when suddenly the enemies made an irruption, then Babylon became silent or mute on account of the frightful sound within it. We hence see why he compares the Persians and the Medes to violent waves which would break and put an end to that sound which was before heard in Babylon. It follows, —
55.For Jehovah is laying waste Babylon and destroying her: From her comes a loud voice! And roar do their waves like great waters, Going forth is the tumult of their voice.
According to the preceding verse, the destruction of Babylon is represented as then taking place, —
54.A voice of howling from Babylon! And of great destruction from the land of the Chaldeans!
The commotions and tumults, arising from the invasion of enemies, seem to be set forth in Jeremiah 51:55; and the beginning of the following, Jeremiah 51:56, ought to be rendered in the present tense, the first verb being a participle. — Ed.
He confirms the former verse; for as the thing of which he speaks was difficult to be believed, he sets God before them, and shows that he would be the author of that war. He now continues his discourse and says, that desolators shall come against Babylon. He had ascribed to God what he now transfers to the Medes and the Persians. He had said, Jehovah hath desolated or wasted, שדד יהוה, shedad Jeve; he says now, coming is a desolator, שודד , shudad. Who is he? not God, but Cyrus, together with the united army of the Persians and the Medes; yea, with vast forces assembled from many nations, Now that the same name is given to God and to the Persians, this is done with regard to the ministration. Properly speaking, God was the desolator of Babylon; but as in this expedition he employed the services of men, and made the Persians and the Medes, as it were, his ministers, and the executioners of his judgment, the name which properly belongs to God is transferred to the ministers whom he employed. The same mode of speaking is also used when blessings are spoken of. He is said to have raised up saviors for his people, while yet he himself is the only Savior, nor can any mortal assume that name without sacrilege. (Jude 3:15; 2 Kings 13:5.) For God’s peculiar glory is taken away, when salvation is sought through the arm of men, as we have seen in Jeremiah 17:0. But though God is the only author of salvation, yet it is no objection to this truth, that he employs men in effecting his purposes. So also he converts men, illuminates their minds by the ministers of the gospel, and also delivers them from eternal death. (Luke 1:17.) Doubtless were any one to arrogate to himself what Christ is pleased to concede to the ministers of his gospel, he could by no means be endured; but as I have already said, we must bear this in mind, that though God acts by his own power and never borrows anything from any one, nor stands in need of any help, yet what properly belongs to him is, in a manner, applied to men, at least by way of concession. So now, then, the Prophet calls God the desolator, and afterwards he honors with the same title the Persians and the Medes.
He adds, that the valiant men of Babylon were taken, according to what we have before seen, that the city was so taken that no one resisted. Then he adds, that their bow was broken, there is a part stated for the whole; for under the word bow he includes all kinds of armor. But as bows were used at a distance, and as enemies were driven from the walls by casting arrows, the Prophet says that there would be no use made of bows, because the enemies would skew themselves in the middle of the city before the watchmen saw them, as we know that such was really the case. We now perceive why the Prophet mentions the bow rather than swords or other weapons.
The reason follows, Because Jehovah is the God of retributions, and recompensing her recompenses, that is, he will recompense. The Prophet here confirms all that he had said, and reasons from the nature or character of God himself. As then the fall of Babylon would hardly be believed by the faithful, the Prophet does not ask what God is in himself, but declares that he is the God of retributions, as though he had said, that it belonged to God, and that it could not be separated from his nature, to be the God of retributions, otherwise his judgment would be nothing, his justice would be nothing. For if the reprobate succeeded with impunity, and if the righteous were oppressed without any aid, would not God be like a stock of wood or an imaginary thing? For why has he power, except that he may exercise justice? But God cannot be without power.
We now, then, see how forcible is this confirmation, with which the Prophet doses his discourse: for it is the same as if he had said, that no doubt could possibly be entertained as to the fall of Babylon, because God is the God of retributions. Either there is no God, he says, or Babylon must be destroyed; how so? for if there be a God, he is the God of retributions; if he is the God of retributions, then recompensing he will recompense. Now, it is well known how wicked Babylon was, and in what various ways it had provoked the wrath of God. Then it was impossible for it to escape his hand unpunished, since it had in so many ways sought its own ruin.
Jeremiah pursues the same subject, he said yesterday that desolators would come to destroy Babylon. He now confirms this by a similitude; and God himself speaks, I will inebriate the princes and captains as well as the soldiers and all the counselors. He seems here to allude to that feast of which Daniel speaks, and of which heathen authors have written. (Daniel 5:1) For while the feast was celebrated by the Babylonians, the city was that night taken, not only through the contrivance and valor of Cyrus, but also through the treachery of those who had revolted from Belshazzar. As, then, they were taken while at the feast, and as the king was that night slain together with his satraps, God seems to refer to this event when he declares, that when he had inebriated them, they would be overtaken with perpetual sleep; for death immediately followed that feasting. They had prolonged their feast to the middle of the night; and while they were sitting at table, a tumult arose suddenly in the city, and the king heard that he was in the hand of his enemies. As, then, feasting and death followed in close succession, it is a striking allusion given by the Prophet, when God threatens the Babylonians with perpetual sleep, after having inebriated them.
But he mentions here the rulers and the captains, as well as the counsellors and the wise men. We, indeed, know that the Babylonians were inflated by a twofold confidence, — they thought themselves endued with consummate wisdom, and also that they possessed warlike valor. This is the reason why the Prophet expresses so distinctly, that all the captains and rulers in Babylon, however superior in acuteness and prudence, would yet be overtaken with perpetual sleep before they rose from their table. And we must observe that Jeremiah had many years thus prophesied of Babylon; and hence we conclude that his mind as well as his tongue was guided by the Spirit of God, for he could not have possibly conjectured what would be after eighty years: yet so long a time intervened between the prediction and its accomplishment, as we shall presently see.
Moreover, the Prophet uses here a mode of speaking which often occurs in Scripture, even that insensibility is a kind of drunkenness by which God dementates men through his hidden judgment. It ought, then, to be noticed, that whatever prudence and skill there is in the world, they are in such a way the gifts of God, that whenever he pleases the wisest are blinded, and, like the drunken, they either go astray or fall. But we must bear in mind what I have already said, that the Prophet alludes to that very history, for there was then an immediate transition from feasting to death. It now follows,
The Prophet again introduces God as the speaker, that what he said might obtain more attention from the Jews; and for this reason he subjoined a eulogy to the last verse, and said that the king spoke, whose name is Jehovah of hosts We have stated elsewhere what is the design of such expressions, even that men may rise above everything seen in the world when God’s power is mentioned, that they may not try to contain it in their own small measure. Then the Prophet now again repeats the name of God, that the Jews might receive with becoming reverence what he announced.
And what he says is, The wall of Babylon, however wide it may be, shall yet be surely demolished. We have said that the walls were fifty feet wide, and the feet were indeed long, though Herodotus, as I have said, mentions cubits and not feet. The width, indeed, was such that four horses abreast meeting, could pass, there being space enough for them. It hence, then, appears, that their thickness was so great, that the Babylonians confidently disregarded whatever had been predicted by the Prophet; for no engines of war could have ever beaten down walls so thick, especially as they were made of bricks and cemented by bitumen. As, then, the material, beside the thickness, was so firm and strong, this prophecy was incredible. It did not indeed reach the Babylonians, but the Jews themselves regarded as a fable all that they had heard from the mouth of the Prophet. Yet God did not in vain refer to width of the wall, in order that the faithful might feel assured that the walls of Babylon could not possibly resist him, however firm they might be in their materials and thickness. The wall, he says, shall surely be demolished.
He afterwards mentions the gates, which Herodotus says were of brass when Darius took them away. He, indeed, means the doors, but the Prophet includes the framework as well as the brazen doors. He then says, they shall be consumed with fire The Babylonians might have laughed at this threatening of Jeremiah, for brass could not have been consumed with fire, even if enemies had been permitted to set fire to them — for brass could not have been so soon melted. But as the Prophet had predicted this by God’s command, so at length his prophecy was verified when he was dead, because it was proved by the event that this proceeded from God; for when the doors were removed, the gates themselves were demolished; and it may have been that Darius put fire to them, that he might the sooner destroy the gates and the towers, which were very high, as well as the walls.
He afterwards adds, Labor shall the people in vain, and the nations in the fire; they shall be wearied So this passage is commonly explained, as though the Prophet had said, that when the walls of Babylon had begun to burn, and the gates to be consumed with fire, there would be no remedy, though the Babylonians might greatly weary themselves and fatigue themselves in attempting to quench the fire. But this exposition seems to be forced and unnatural. I therefore take the words, though future, in the past tense. And as the walls of Babylon had not been erected without great labor, and a vast number of men had been hired, some to bring bitumen, others to heap up the earth, and others to make the bricks, the Prophet in this place intimates that all this labor would be in vain, even because it was spent for the fire, — that whatever they did who had been either hired for wages or forced by authority to erect the walls, was labor for the fire; that is, they labored that their work might eventually be consumed by fire. This seems to me to be the real meaning of the Prophet. He then says that the people had labored in vain, or for nothing, and why? because they labored for the fire. The second clause is in my view an explanation of the former. (109) It now follows, —
Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, The wall of Babylon, the brroad one, It shall be utterly laid in ruins; And her gates, the lofty ones, They shall be consumed with fire: So that people had labored for vanity, And nations for the fire, and wearied themselves.
Several MSS. have חמת, wall, and so it is in the Sept., as required by “broad,” which is in the singular number. “For vanity” is for the vain object; and “for the fire” means for what was to be consumed by fire. The last words may be rendered “though they wearied themselves.” — Ed
This is a remarkable sealing of the whole of what we have hitherto found said respecting the destruction of Babylon; for the Prophet not only spoke and promulgated what the Spirit of God had dictated, but also put it down in a book; and not contented with this, he delivered the book to Seraiah the son of Neriah, when he went to Babylon by the command of Zedekiah the king, that he might read it there, east it into the Euphrates, and strengthen himself in the hope of all those things which had been divinely predicted.
He says first that he commanded Seraiah what he was to do, even to read the volume and to throw it into the Euphrates, as we shall hereafter see. But he points out the time and mentions the disposition of Seraiah, that we might not think it strange that the Prophet dared to give an authoritative command to the king’s messenger, which a man of another character would have refused. As to the time, it was the fourth year of the reign of Zedekiah; seven years before the city was taken, being besieged the ninth year and taken the eleventh. Then seven years before the destruction and ruin of the city, Seraiah was sent by the king to Babylon. There is no doubt but that the message was sent to pacify the king of Babylon, who had been offended with the fickleness and perfidy of King Zedekiah; an ambassador was then sent to seek pardon. But what the Jews say, that Zedekiah went to Babylon, is wholly groundless; and we know that Sederola, whence they have taken this, is full of all kinds of fables and trifles; and on such a point as this, sacred history would not have been silent, for it was a thing of great moment; and then the particle את, at, expresses no such thing, but may be rendered in this sense, that the messenger was sent for, or by, or in the place of Zedekiah. Let us then be satisfied with this simple and obvious explanation, that Seraiah was the king’s messenger sent to remove the offenses taken by the Babylonians. (110) And this happened in the fourth year of Zedekiah.
Now, by calling Seraiah a prince of quietness, I doubt not but that a reference is made to his gentleness and meekness; and I wonder that in so plain a thing interpreters have toiled so much. One renders it, even the Chaldean paraphrase, “the prince of the oblations,” as though he was set over to examine the presents offered to the king. Others imagine that he was a facetious man who amused the king in his fears; and others think that he was called “prince of quietness,” because he preserved the city in a quiet state. But all these things are groundless. (111) No other view, then, seems to me right, but that he was a prince of a quiet disposition. Therefore the word “quietness” ought not to be referred to any office, but a noun in the genitive case used instead of an adjective. He was, then, a quiet prince, or one of a placid disposition. And this commendation was not without reason added, because we know how haughtily the princes rejected everything commanded them by the servants of God. Seraiah might have objected, and said that he was sent to Babylon, not by a private person, and one of the common people, but by the king himself. He might then have haughtily reproved the Prophet for taking too much liberty with him, “Who art thou, that thou darest to command me, when I sustain the person of the king? and when I am going in his name to the king of Babylon? and then thou seekest to create disturbances by ordering me to read this volume. What if it be found on me? what if some were to suspect that I carry such a thing to Babylon? would I not, in the first place, carry death in my bosom? and would I not, in the second place, be perfidious to my king? for thus my message would be extremely disliked.”
As then Seraiah might have stated all these things, and have rejected the command which Jeremiah gave him, his gentleness is expressly mentioned, even that he was a meek man, and who withheld not his service — who, in short, was ready to obey God and his servant. What, in a word, is here commended, is the meekness of Seraiah, that he received the Prophet with so much readiness, — that he suffered himself to be commanded by him, and that he also hesitated not to execute what he had commanded, when yet it might have been a capital offense, and it might especially have been adverse to his mission, which was to reconcile the king of Babylon. And surely it is an example worthy of being noticed, that Seraiah was not deterred by danger from rendering immediate obedience to the Prophet’s command, nor did he regard himself nor the omee committed to him, so as to reject the Prophet, according to the usual conduct of princes, under the pretext of their own dignity; but laying aside his own honor and forgetting all his greatness, he became a disciple to Jeremiah, who yet, as it is well known, had been long despised by the people, and had sometimes been nearly brought to death. It was, then, a remarkable instance of virtue in Seraiah, that he received with so much modesty and readiness what had been said to him by the Prophet, and that he obeyed his command, to the evident danger of his own life. It now follows, —
Here we see, on one hand, what courage the Prophet had, who dared to command the king’s messenger; for though Seraiah was a meek man, so as to render himself submissive, yet Jeremiah exposed himself to danger; for he might have been timid, though he was neither proud nor arrogant; and thus, as men are wont to do when terrified, he might have referred to the king what he had heard from the Prophet. Then Jeremiah did what we here read, not without danger; and hence appears his firmness. We then see that he was endued with the spirit of invincible courage, so as to discharge his office freely and intrepidly.
On the other hand, we have to observe not only the meekness of Seraiah, but also his piety, together with his modesty; for except he had in him a strong principle of religion, he might have adduced plausible reasons for refusing. As, then, he was so submissive, and dreaded no danger, it is evident that the real fear of God was vigorous in his soul.
And these things ought to be carefully noticed; for who of our cornfly princes can be found at this day who will close his eyes to all dangers, and resolutely disregard all adverse events, when God and his servants are to be obeyed? And then we see how pusillanimous are those who profess to be God’s ambassadors, and claim to themselves the name of Pastors. As, then, teachers dare not faithfully to perform their office, so on the other hand courtly princes are so devoted to themselves and to their own prudence, that they are unwilling to undertake duties which are unpopular. On this account, then, this passage, with all its circumstances, ought to be carefully noticed.
Jeremiah, then, wrote in a book all the evil which was to come on Babylon, even all those words, (he refers to the prophecies which we have seen;) and Jeremiah said to Seraiah, (112) etc. Here the boldness of Jeremiah comes to view, that he hesitated not to command Seraiah to read this book when he came to Babylon and had seen it. To see it, is not mentioned here without reason, for the splendor of that city might have astonished Seraiah. Then the Prophet here seasonably meets the difficulty, and bids him to disregard the height of the walls and towers; and that however Babylon might dazzle the eyes of others, yet he was to look down, as from on high, on all that pomp and pride: When thou enterest the city, and hast seen it, then read this book The verb קרא , kora, means to call, to proclaim, and also to read. Then Seraiah must have read this book by himself; nor do I doubt but that the words ought to be so understood, as we shall see. It was not then necessary for Seraiah to have a pulpit, or in a public way to read the book to an assembled people; but it was sufficient to read it privately by himself, without any witnesses; and this may be gathered from the context.
And thou shalt say, Jehovah, thou hast spoken against this place It hence appears that Seraiah was commanded to read the book, not for the benefit of hearers, for they would have been doubly deaf to the words of Seraiah. And it is not probable that the Hebrew language was then familiar to the Chaldeans. There is a great affinity, as it is well known, in the languages, but there is also some difference. But we conclude, from this passage, that the reading was in a chamber, or in some secret place; for Seraiah is bidden to fix all his thoughts on God, and to address his words to him. He did not then undertake the work or office of a preacher, so as openly to proclaim all these things to the Babylonians. But having inspected the city, he was to read the book by himself, that is, what had been written.
And this also deserves to be noticed; for however courageous we may be, yet our constancy and boldness are more apparent when we have to do with men than when we are alone, and God is the only witness; for when no one sees us, we tremble; and though we may have previously appeared to have manly courage, yet when alone, fear lays hold on us. There is hardly one in a hundred who is so bold as he ought to be when God alone is witness. But shame renders us courageous and constrains us to be firm, and the vigor which is almost extinct in private is roused in public. As, then, ambition almost always rules in men, this passage ought to be carefully noticed, where the Prophet commands Seraiah to deal alone with God, and, though no mortal was present, to strengthen himself, by relying on the certain and infallible fidelity of God; Thou shalt then say, Jehovah, etc. And it is doubtless a real experiment of faith, when we consider within ourselves the promises of God, and go not forth before the public to avow our firmness; for when any one in silence acknowledges God to be true, and strengthens himself in his promises, and so disregards the false judgments of all, that were he alone in the world, he would not yet despond, — this is a true and real trial of faith.
Thou shalt then say, Jehovah, thou hast spoken against this place The design of the words was, that Seraiah might feel assured that God was true, and embrace in his presence what he read, and not doubt but that the word, which came from God, would, in due time, be accomplished: how so? because God is true. The word Jehovah, then, ought to be regarded as emphatical; and thou shalt say, Thou, Jehovah, hast spoken against this place; that is, neither Jeremiah, nor any other mortal, is the author of this prophecy; but thou, O Lord, has dictated to thy servant whatever is contained in this volume.
To destroy it, so that there should not be an inhabitant in it, neither man nor beast: how so? because it shall be reduced to desolations, or the particle כי , ki, may be taken adversatively, but it shall be reduced to perpetual desolations (113)
For desolations of perpetuity shall it (or she) be.
Babylon is sometimes referred to as masculine, and sometimes as feminine. — Ed.
He afterwards adds, And when thou hast made an end of reading, thou shalt tie a stone to it and cast it into the Euphrates, and shalt say, Thus sink shall Babylon Here is added an external symbol to confirm the faith of Seraiah. We must yet bear in mind, that this was not said to Seraiah for his own sake alone, but that the people might also know, that the king’s messenger, who had been sent for the sake of conciliating, was also the messenger of God and of the Prophet, who might have otherwise been despised by the people. When, therefore, the faithful knew this, they were in no ordinary way confirmed in the truth of the prophecy. Jeremiah, then, not only consulted the benefit of Seraiah alone, but that of all the godly; for though this was unknown for a long time, yet the messenger afterwards acknowledged that this command had been given him by Jeremiah, and that he took the book and cast it into the Euphrates. This, then, was given as a confirmation to all the godly.
As to the symbols by which God sealed the prophecies in former times, we have spoken elsewhere; I therefore pass them by slightly now: only we ought to bear in mind this one thing, that these signs were only temporary sacraments; for ordinary sacraments are permanent, as the holy supper and baptism. But the sign mentioned here was temporary, and referred, as they say, to a special action: it yet had the force and character of a sacrament, as to its use, the confirmation of this prophecy. Seraiah was then bidden to tie a stone to the book, and then to cast it into the Euphrates: why so? that the volume might not swim on the surface of the water, but be sunk down to the bottom; and the application follows, Thou shalt say, etc. We see that words ought ever to be connected with signs. We hence conclude how fatuous the Papists are, who practice many ceremonies, but without knowledge. They are, indeed, dead and empty things, whatever signs men may devise for themselves, except God’s word be added. Thou shalt then say, Thus sink shall Babylon, and shall not rise from the evil which I shall bring upon her In short, Seraiah was commanded, as the Prophet’s messenger, to predict by himself concerning the fall of Babylon; but it was for the sake of all the godly, who were afterwards taught what had been done. (114)
The emendator, Houbigant, proposes to read the word, ויספו, “and they shall come to an end.” This agrees nearly with the Targ., “and they shall fail.” — Ed
The Conclusion follows, Thus far the words of Jeremiah We have said that the prophets, after having spoken in the Temple, or to the people, afterwards collected brief summaries, and that these contained the principal things: from these the prophetic books were made up. For Jeremiah did not write the volume as we have it at this day, except the chapters; and it appears evident that it was not written in the order in which he spoke. The order of time is not, then, everywhere observed; but the scribes were careful in this respect, that they collected the summaries affixed to the doors of the Temple; and so they added this conclusion, Thus far the words of Jeremiah But this, in my view, is not to be confined to the prophecies respecting the fall of Babylon; for I doubt not but that the scribe who had collected all his prophecies, added these words, that he had thus far transcribed the words of Jeremiah.
We hence conclude that the last chapter is not included in the prophetic book of Jeremiah, but that it contains history only as far as was necessary to understand what is here taught: for it appears evident that many parts of the prophecy could not be understood without the knowledge of this history. As to the book of Lamentations, we know that it was a work distinct from the prophecies of Jeremiah: there is, then, no wonder that it has been added, Thus far the words of Jeremiah
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 51". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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