Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Jeremiah 50

Verses 1-46

Jeremiah 50:1. The word that the Lord spake against Babylon. Messiah in person spake to the prophet, as is stated in Jeremiah 48:1. But while he spake against Babylon, his lips dropped with grace and mercy upon Zion, the habitation of his holiness. Of the fall of Babylon, see on Isaiah 13, 14. 21., where the poetry is beautiful and sublime. Fragments however remain to be gleaned here. The city, according to the best accounts which can be collected from Herodotus, Xenophon, Diodorus Siculus, Josephus and others, was “a regular square, forty five miles in compass, enclosed by a wall of two hundred feet high and fifty broad, in which there were a hundred gates of brass. Its principal ornaments were the temple of Belus, in the middle of which was a tower of eight stories of building, upon a base of a quarter of a mile square—a most magnificent palace—and the famous hanging gardens, which were an artificial mountain raised upon arches, and planted with trees of the largest as well as the most beautiful sorts.” Bp. Lowth. Strabo fixes the height of the walls but at fifty cubits. The Euphrates, about twelve feet deep, and two hundred and fifty paces broad, ran through the city, fertilized all the plain, and contributed to the salubrity and glory of the place. Of the population I have found no estimate: it must have borne a fair proportion to the dimensions of the city. Of their commerce also no calculation can be made. Their shipping sailed from the Persian gulph to all parts; and the Tigris communicated with Babylon by a canal above the city. But all this glory, deeply tarnished by the habits of confirmed crimes, served only to make their fall the more conspicuous, and to render the oppressor an execration in all the earth. See Bp. Newton on the Prophecies.

Jeremiah 50:3. Out of the north. Cyrus made a circuitous route by the north in his slow approaches to Babylon, and seized on the riches of Crœsus, king of Lydda. Having gained every nation through which he marched, by his humanity, he turned his route against Babylon. The Chaldeans were infatuated by slumber. They perceived no danger till it entered their country. Their gods Bel, Nebo, and Merodach had given no alarm!

Jeremiah 50:4-7. In those days the children of Israel shall come—and seek the Lord. The fall of Babylon shall be the restoration of Israel. They shall return to Zion and seek the Lord, and join themselves to him in a perpetual covenant; not the old covenant alone, with the offering of bulls and of goats, but the new covenant, which shall be written upon the heart. This, and this alone is the perpetual covenant, or the everlasting righteousness which the Messiah shall bring in. These then are the double promises of earth and heaven to an afflicted people.

Jeremiah 50:8. Remove out of the midst of Babylon. I doubt whether Prideaux be right in referring this to the siege of Babylon by Darius Hystaspes, when they rebelled against the Medes, and when, through the pressure of famine, they slew their redundant wives as Isaiah had foretold: Isaiah 47:9. It might be a warning to the captive Jews to shun the siege by Cyrus, as the assemblage of the nations against the city plainly indicates: Jeremiah 50:9. Zechariah however gives the same exhortation, in Zechariah 2:6-7; and it is a fact that several parts of this and other prophecies expressly refer to times when the city was utterly forsaken, which happened in the time of the Parthians: Jeremiah 50:29; Jeremiah 50:40.

Jeremiah 50:12. Your mother shall be sorely confounded. Keen is the satire of the prophet. Your mother that bare you shall soon say, “I travail not, nor bring forth children; neither do I nourish young men, nor bring up virgins.”

Isaiah 23:4. No, no: Babylon shall bring up no more children, in all her sorceries and habitudes of wickedness. Behold she is become the hindermost of nations, a wilderness, a desert!

Jeremiah 50:14. Put yourselves in array against Babylon. Every soldier was a hero, for the Lord inspired them to do his pleasure. He said to them in a high and martial spirit—

Jeremiah 50:21. Go up against the land of Merathaim. Such is the Hebrew; but the Chaldaic reads, the land of domination. The critics can only guess that it was the district adjacent to Babylon. Montanus reads, the land of rebellion. Others call it the land of disobedience.—Go up against the inhabitants of Pekod, the capital of that rebellious land. Then the plowers and the reapers should cease from the devoted city.

Jeremiah 50:24. I have laid a snare for thee, oh Babylon. While the Chaldeans were praising their gods, feasting and drinking wine, Cyrus cut the banks of the river, and let the waters into the flood-channels, which so diminished the river that the cavalry could ford it. The gates at the quays they found open, and for three days they slew all that they found in the streets. So it was foretold in Jeremiah 50:35-38; and so it came to pass, according to the words of Xenophon in his Cyropediæ.

Jeremiah 50:26. Open her storehouses—let nothing be left. The immense treasures of Babylon was a strong inducement to the allied armies to storm the city: they did the Lord’s work for good hire. Her riches, like those of Crœsus, were a lure to robbers; for Babylon had taught them to rob.

Jeremiah 50:29. Call together the archers against Babylon, the far-famed Elamites for drawing the bow: Jeremiah 49:35. The Ethiopians equalled them in archery, having bows four cubits long.

Jeremiah 50:30. Her young men, a Hebrew word for soldiers, shall fall in the streets. This was most exactly fulfilled. Xenophon relates that they killed all they found in the streets; that Gadatus and Gobryas marched directly to the palace, made a carnage, and led Cyrus to the king. Herodotus affirms that the slaughter lasted for three days.

Jeremiah 50:36. A sword is upon the liars. Upon the wizards, sorcerers, dreamers, and prognosticators of every description, who had promised Babylon eternal glory, having taught her to say, “I AM, and besides me there is none else.” The sword on them had two edges.

Jeremiah 50:38. A drought is upon her waters, and they shall be dried up. Both Herodotus and Zenophon relate the singular circumstance of Cyrus draining the river into his trenches, till it was fordable for his army. The river also continued to flow in the new channel, so as gradually to divert its course and destroy the navigation to the city. Thus Babylon utterly became as Gomorrah, and the kindness of Persian kings could not hinder the decree of God.

Jeremiah 50:40. As God overthrew Sodom, so shall no man abide in Babylon. Modern travel is agreed, that the mass of this bloody city is overgrown, and destitute of culture. A dead instructive extension, which lives and speaks to posterity. Though the Persians favoured Babylon, and though it feebly existed to the time of Alexander, yet Seleucia, (now Bagdad, built on its ruins on the eastern shore of the Tigris) rising as a new city at the distance of forty miles, and which Selucus made the capital of his kingdom, gradually drew off the people; so that Babylon was utterly deserted, that posterity might contemplate in its ruins the righteousness of God, and the truth of prophecy.

Jeremiah 50:44. He shall come up like a lion from the swelling of Jordan, full of anger, the inundation having driven him from his lair. See Jeremiah 12:5. Such was the anger of Nebuchadnezzar against every nation that dared to oppose his ambition to put the world under his feet.

REFLECTIONS.

How vain is the most impregnable fortress when God does not defend it. The Babylonians trusted in their walls and projecting towers, and they were building them for their enemies to enjoy. Wicked men may defend themselves to the utmost of their skill, but they cannot shut the avenues of divine justice.

In the fall of Babylon, Israel in particular, and all other nations, might trace a striking connection between the crimes of that empire and her punishment. This remark is the natural result of a review of all the prophecies against her collectively. The oppressor was oppressed—the plunderer was plundered—she who opened not the prison doors, nor emancipated her captives, went herself into captivity. She who laid cities waste, filled the streets with carnage, and made the world a wilderness, was herself drenched with blood, and ultimately deserted. Thus her pride was humbled, and all her glory covered with shame, that all other nations and ages might receive instruction. Like Nineveh she was a rejoicing city; and now, being blinded, she fell at a feast. Yea, she fell when her sun of splendour shone with the brightest beams. She had filled streets, and cities, and temples with blood; now her streets and places are filled with the slain.

When God commissions an army to destroy a nation he gives them a heart to do his will. The enemies of the Medes joined the Medes, and the allies of Babylon readily followed the same example. The vulture is not more greedy of the prey, nor the hounds more eager of the chase, than all those nations were to give Babylon a fall. How then is it that the proud, the impure and profligate, can hope to escape the judgments of God. Is it because they have despised instruction till they are infatuated, and evil comes upon them when they are not aware.

In the fall of Babylon we see the absolute certainty of the scripture prophecies. Isaiah’s prophecies were dispersed among the Jews, for Jeremiah frequently uses Isaiah’s words. But Babylon was not totally deserted till after the scriptures were translated into Greek; hence forgery was impossible; and the Jews and proselytes of all nations were compelled to revere the memory of those men as divinely inspired by Him to whom futurity is without a veil. Let us therefore read the holy scriptures with attention and prayer, that we may behold wonderful things therein, and imbibe the spirit in which they were composed.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 50". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/jeremiah-50.html. 1835.