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Against Babylon - Jeremiah 50-51
The genuineness of this prophecy has been impugned by the newer criticism in different ways; for some quite refuse to allow it as Jeremiah's, while others consider it a mere interpolation.
(Note: With regard to the special attacks and their refutation, see details on Keil's Manual of Introduction to the Old Testament translated by Prof. Douglas, in Clark's F.T.L. vol. i. p. 342ff.. To the list there given of the defenders of this prophecy (of whom Kueper, Hävernick, and Nägelsbach in the monograph entitled der Prophet Jeremias und Babylon, 1850, have thoroughly discussed the question), we must add the name of Graf, who, in the remarks prefixed to his commentary on Jer 50f., has thoroughly examined the arguments of his opponents, and reached this result: "The prophecy contains nothing which Jeremiah could not have written in the fourth year of Zedekiah; and the style of writing itself exhibits all the peculiarities which present themselves in his book. This prophecy is therefore as much his work as the prophecies against the other foreign nations." Only the passage Jeremiah 51:15-19, a repetition of Jeremiah 10:12-16, is said to proceed from another hand, because it stands out of all connection with what precedes and what follows it (but see the exposition); while he has so fully vindicated, as genuine portions of the prophecy, other passages which had been assumed as interpolations, even by Nägelsbach in his monograph, that the latter, in treating of Jeremiah in Lange's Bibelwerk see Clark's Translation, p. 419, has renounced his former doubts, and now declares that it is only the passage in Jeremiah 51:15-19 that he cannot regard as original.)
Hitzig ( Exeg. Handb. 2 Aufl.) considers that this oracle, with its epilogue, Jeremiah 51:59-64, is not to be wholly rejected as spurious, as has been done by Von Cölln and Gramberg; he is so much the less inclined to reject it, because, although there is many an interpolated piece here and there (?), yet no independent oracle has hitherto been found in Jeremiah that is wholly interpolated. "In fact," he continues, "this oracle shows numerous traces of its genuineness, and reasons for maintaining it. The use of particular words (Jeremiah 50:6; Jeremiah 51:1, Jeremiah 51:5, Jeremiah 51:7, Jeremiah 51:14, Jeremiah 51:45, Jeremiah 51:55), and the circle of figures employed (Jeremiah 51:7-8, Jeremiah 51:34, Jeremiah 51:37), as well as the style (Jeremiah 50:2-3, Jeremiah 50:7-8, Jeremiah 50:10), especially in turns like Jeremiah 51:2; the concluding formula, Jeremiah 51:57; the dialogue introduced without any forewarning, Jeremiah 51:51, - all unmistakeably reveal Jeremiah; and this result is confirmed by chronological data." These chronological data, which Hitzig then extracts from particular verses, we cannot certainly esteem convincing, since they have been obtained through a method of exegesis which denies the spirit and the essential nature of prophecy; but his remarks concerning Jeremiah's use of words and his circle of images are perfectly well-founded, and may be considerably corroborated if the matter were more minutely investigated. Notwithstanding all this, Ewald has again repeated, in the second edition of his work on the Prophets, the assertion first made by Eichhorn, that this prophecy is spurious. He does not, indeed, deny that "this long piece against Babylon has many words, turns of expression, and thoughts, nay, even the whole plan, in common with Jeremiah; and since Jeremiah is often accustomed in other places also to repeat himself, this might, at the first look, even create a prepossession favouring the opinion that it was composed by Jeremiah himself. But Jeremiah repeats himself in a more wholesale style, and is not unfaithful to himself in his repetitions: here, however, the Jeremianic element peers through only in single though very numerous passages, and the repeated portions are often completely transformed. What, therefore, appears here as Jeremianic is rather a studied repetition and imitation, which would require here to be all the stronger, when the piece was intended to pass as one of Jeremiah's writings." Ewald goes on to say that Babylon appears already as directly threatened by Cyrus; and the whole view taken of Babylon as a kingdom utterly degenerated, and unable any longer to escape the final destruction, - the prophetic impetuosity shown in rising up against the Chaldean oppression, - the public summons addressed to all the brethren living in Babylon, that they should flee from the city, now irrecoverably lost, and return to the holy land, - the distinct mention of the Medes and other northern nations as the mortal enemies of Babylon, and of the speedy and certain fall of this city; - all this, says Ewald, is foreign to Jeremiah, nay, even conflicting and impossible. For particular proof of this sweeping verdict, Ewald refers to the name שׁשׁך (Jeremiah 51:41, as in Jeremiah 25:26) for Babylon, לב for כּשׂדּים , Jeremiah 51:1, and similar circumlocutions for Chaldean names, Jeremiah 51:21. He refers also to certain words which are quite new, and peculiar only to Ezekiel and later writers: סגן פּחה , Jeremiah 51:23, Jeremiah 51:25, Jeremiah 51:27; גּלּוּלים , Jeremiah 50:2; בּדּים as a designation of false prophets, Jeremiah 50:36; also to החרים , to devote with a curse, Jeremiah 50:21, Jeremiah 50:26; Jeremiah 51:3, which in the rest of Jeremiah occurs only Jeremiah 25:9. Further, he refers to the headings found in Jeremiah 50:1 and Jeremiah 51:59, which are quite different from what Jeremiah himself would have written; and lastly, to the intimate connection subsisting between Jeremiah 50:27; Jeremiah 51:40, and Isaiah 34:6., between Jeremiah 50:39 and Isaiah 34:14, and between 51:60ff. and Jeremiah 34:16.
But all these considerations are much too weak to prove the spuriousness of the passage before us. The connection with Isa 34 quite agrees with Jeremiah's characteristic tendency to lean on older prophecies, and reproduce the thoughts contained in them (we merely recall the case of the prophecy concerning Moab in Jer 48, against whose genuineness even Ewald has nothing to say); and it can be brought to tell against the genuineness of this oracle only on the groundless supposition that Isa 34 originated in exile times. The headings given in Jeremiah 50:1 and Jeremiah 51:59 contain nothing whatever that would be strange in Jeremiah: Jeremiah 51:59 is not a title at all, but the commencement of the account regarding the charge which Jeremiah gave to Seraiah when he was going to Babylon, with reference to his carrying with him the prophecy concerning Babylon; and the heading in Jeremiah 50:1 almost exactly agrees with that in Jeremiah 46:13 (see the exposition). Of the alleged later words, החרים and גּלּוּלים are derived from the Pentateuch, בּדּים from Isaiah 44:25. סגן and פּחה certainly were not known to the Hebrews till the invasions of Judah by the Assyrians and Chaldeans; but he latter of the two words we find as early as in the address of the Assyrians in Isaiah 36:9, and the former in Isaiah 41:25: thus, not a single one of the words alleged to have been first used by Ezekiel is peculiar to him. Finally, of the circumlocutions used for the names "Babylon" and "Chaldeans," Ewald himself confesses that שׁשׁך in Jeremiah 25:26 may be Jeremiah's; and he has yet to give proof for the assertion that the names cited are merely circumlocutions in which a play is made on words that did not come into vogue till after Jeremiah's time. And as little has been even attempted in the way of establishing the opinion he has expressed regarding what is Jeremianic in the prophecy, - that it is a studied repetition and imitation, - or the assertion that Babylon is represented as being directly threatened by Cyrus. In the Old Testament Scriptures, Cyrus is represented as the king of Persia, which he was; but this prophecy says nothing of the Persians. Thus, the learned supplementary matter with which Ewald seeks to support his general assertions is by no means fitted to strengthen his position, but rather shows that the proper argument for rejecting this oracle as spurious is not to be found in the nature of this particular prophecy, but in the axiom openly expressed by Eichhorn, von Cölln, Gramberg, and other followers of the "vulgar rationalism," that Jeremiah could not have announced the destruction of Babylon by the Medes, because at his time the Medes had not yet appeared on the scene of history as a conquering nation; for, according to the principles of rationalism, the prophets could merely prophesy of things which lay within the political horizon. It has not escaped the acute observation of Hitzig, that the genuineness of this prophecy could not be shaken by such general assertions; hence he has adopted Movers' hypothesis of numerous interpolations, in order thereby to account for the use made of portions of Isaiah, which, on dogmatic grounds, are referred to the exile. But for this assumption also there are wanting proofs that can stand the test. Besides the general assertion that Jeremiah could not have repeated earlier prices word for word, the arguments which Movers and Hitzig bring forward from the context, or from a consideration of the contents, in the case of isolated verses, depend upon false renderings of words, conjectures of a merely subjective character, and misunderstandings of various kinds, which at once fall to the ground when the correct explanation is given.
The germ of this prophecy lies in the word of the Lord, Jeremiah 25:12, "When seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and make it everlasting desolations;" and its position with regard to the other prophecies of Jeremiah against the nations has already been given in outline in the statement of Jeremiah 25:26, "And the king of Sheshach (Babylon) shall drink after them." Just as these utterances (Jeremiah 25:12, Jeremiah 25:26) stand in full accord with the announcement that, in the immediate future, all nations shall be given into the power of the king of Babylon, and serve him seventy years; so, too, the prophecy against Babylon now lying before us not only does not stand in contradiction with the call addressed to Jeremiah, that he should proclaim to his contemporaries the judgment which Babylon is to execute on Judah and all nations, but it rather belongs to the complete solution of the problems connected with this call. The announcement of the fall of Babylon, and the release of Israel from Babylon, form the subject of the prophecy, which is more than a hundred verses in length. This double subject, the two parts of which are so closely connected, is portrayed in a series of images which, nearly throughout, are arranged pretty loosely together, so that it is impossible to summarize the rich and varied contents of these figures, and to sketch a correct plan of the course of thought and of the divisions of the oracle. Hence, too, the views of expositors with regard to the division of the whole into parts or strophes widely differ;
(Note: Thus, according to Eichhorn, Dahler, and Rosenmüller, the whole consists of several pieces (three or six) which originally belonged to different periods; according to Schmieder, it consists of "seven different poems of songs, all having the same subject, which, however, they set forth from different sides, and under countless images." Nägelsbach at first assumed that there were three main divisions, with thirteen subdivisions; afterwards, in Lange's Bibelwerk see Clark's Foreign Theol. Library, he thinks he is able also to distinguish three stages of time, which, however, do not permit of being sharply defined, so that he continues to divide the whole prophecy into nineteen separate views or figures.)
we follow the view of Ewald, that the whole falls into three main parts (Jer 50:2-28, Jeremiah 50:29 on to Jeremiah 51:26, and 51:27-58), every one of which begins with a spirited exhortation to engage in battle. These three main portions again fall into ten periods, of which the first three (Jeremiah 50:2-10, Jeremiah 50:11-20, and Jeremiah 50:21-28) form the first main division; the four middle ones form the second main portion (Jeremiah 50:29-40, Jeremiah 50:41 to Jeremiah 51:4, Jeremiah 51:5-14, and Jeremiah 51:15-26); while the following three form the last (vv. 27-37, 38-49, and 50-58). We further agree with what Ewald says regarding the contents of the first two parts in general, viz., that in the first the prevailing view is the necessity for the deliverance of Israel, and that in the second, the antithesis between Babylon on the one hand, and Jahveh together with Israel, His spiritual instrument, on the other, is fully brought out; but we do not agree with his remark concerning the third part, that there the prevailing feature is the detailed description of the condition of Israel at that time, for this does not at all agree with the contents of 51:27-58. Rather, the address rises into a triumphant description of the fall of Babylon, in which the Lord will show Himself as the avenger of His people. On the whole, then, the prophecy is neither wanting in arrangement nor in that necessary progress in the development of thought which proves unity of conception and execution.
The title, "The word which Jahveh spake concerning Babylon, concerning the land of the Chaldeans, by Jeremiah the prophet," follows Jeremiah 46:13 in choosing אשׁר דּ instead of the usual אשׁר היה , and deviates from that passage only in substituting "by the hand of Jeremiah" for "to Jeremiah," as in Jeremiah 37:2. The preference of the expression "spake by the hand of" for "spake to," is connected with the fact that the following prophecy does not contain a message of the Lord which came to Jeremiah, that he might utter it before the people, but a message which he was to write down and send to Babylon, Jeremiah 51:60. The apposition to "Babylon," viz., "the land of the Chaldeans," serves the purpose of more exactly declaring that "Babylon" is to be understood not merely of the capital, but also of the kingdom; cf. Jeremiah 50:8, Jeremiah 50:45, and 51, 54.
The fall of Babylon, and deliverance of Israel. - Jeremiah 50:2. "Tell it among the nations, and cause it to be heard, and lift up a standard; cause it to be heard, conceal it not: say, Babylon is taken, Bel is ashamed, Merodach is confounded; her images are ashamed, her idols are confounded. Jeremiah 50:3. For there hath come up against her a nation out of the north; it will make her land a desolation, and there shall be not an inhabitant in it: from man to beast, [all] have fled, are gone. Jeremiah 50:4. In those days, and at that time, saith Jahveh, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together; they shall go, weeping as they go, and shall seek Jahveh their God. Jeremiah 50:5. They shall ask for Zion, with their faces [turned to] the road hitherwards, [saying], Come, and let us join ourselves to Jahveh by an eternal covenant [which] shall not be forgotten. Jeremiah 50:6. My people have been a flock of lost ones; their shepherds have misled them [on] mountains which lead astray: from mountain to hill they went; they forgot their resting-place. Jeremiah 50:7. All who found them have devoured them; and their enemies said, We are not guilty, for they have sinned against Jahveh, the dwelling-place of justice, and the hope of their fathers, Jahveh. Jeremiah 50:8. Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and from the land of the Chaldeans; let them go forth, and let them be like he-goats before a flock. Jeremiah 50:9. For, behold, I will stir up, and bring up against Babylon, an assembly of great nations out of the land of the north: and they shall array themselves against her; on that side shall she be taken: his arrows [are] like [those of] a skilful hero [who] does not return empty. Jeremiah 50:10. And [the land of the] Chaldeans shall become a spoil; all those who spoil her shall be satisfied, saith Jahveh."
In the spirit Jeremiah sees the fall of Babylon, together with its idols, as if it had actually taken place, and gives the command to proclaim among the nations this event, which brings deliverance for Israel and Judah. The joy over this is expressed in the accumulation of the words for the summons to tell the nations what has happened. On the expression, cf. Jeremiah 4:5-6; Jeremiah 46:14. The lifting up of a standard, i.e., of a signal-rod, served for the more rapid spreading of news; cf. Jeremiah 4:6; Jeremiah 6:1, Isaiah 13:2, etc. "Cause it to be heard" is intensified by the addition of "do not conceal it." The thing is to be proclaimed without reserve; cf. Jeremiah 38:14. "Babylon is taken," i.e., conquered, and her idols have become ashamed, inasmuch as, from their inability to save their city, their powerlessness and nullity have come to light. Bel and Merodach are not different divinities, but merely different names for the chief deity of the Babylonians. Bel = Baal, the Jupiter of the Babylonians, was, as Bel-merodach, the tutelary god of Babylon. "The whole of the Babylonian dynasty," says Oppert, Expיd. en Mיsopot. ii. p. 272, "places him [Merodach] at the head of the gods; and the inscription of Borsippa calls him the king of heaven and earth." עצבּים , "images of idols," and גּלּוּלים , properly "logs," an expression of contempt for idols (see on Leviticus 26:30), are synonymous ideas for designating the nature and character of the Babylonian gods.
Babylon is fallen by a people from the north, that has gone out against her, and makes her land a desolation. This nation is described in Jeremiah 50:9 as a collection, union of great nations, that are enumerated especially in Jeremiah 51:27-28. On "it [the nation] shall make her land," etc., cf. Jeremiah 2:15; Jeremiah 48:9; on the expression "from man to beast," cf. Jeremiah 33:12; Jeremiah 9:9. נדוּ is from נוּד , Jeremiah 50:8 and Jeremiah 49:30 = נדדוּ , from נדד , Jeremiah 9:9.
Then, when Babylon shall have fallen, the children of Israel and Judah return out of their captivity, seeking Jahveh their God with tears of repentance, and marching to Zion, for the purpose of joining themselves to Him in an eternal covenant. The fall of Babylon has the deliverance of Israel as its direct result. The prophet views this in such a way, that all the steps in the fulfilment (the return from Babylon, the reunion of the tribes previously separated, their sincere return to the Lord, and the making of a new covenant that shall endure for ever), which will actually follow successively in long periods, are taken together into one view. By the statement made regarding the time, "In those days, and at that time," the fall of Babylon and the deliverance of Israel (which Jeremiah sees in the spirit as already begun) are marked out as belonging to the future. Israel and Judah come together, divided no more; cf. Jeremiah 3:18. "Going and weeping they go," i.e., they always go further on, weeping: cf. Jeremiah 41:6; 2 Samuel 3:16; Ewald, §280, b. Cf. also Jeremiah 3:21; Jeremiah 31:9. Seeking the Lord their God, they ask for Zion, i.e., they ask after the way thither; for in Zion Jahveh has His throne. "The way hither" (i.e., to Jerusalem) "is their face," sc. directed. "Hither" points to the place of the speaker, Jerusalem. באוּ are imperatives, and words with which those who are returning encourage one another to a close following of the Lord their God. נלווּ is imperative for ילּווּ , like נקבּצוּ in Isaiah 43:9, Joel 3:11; cf. Ewald, §226, c. It cannot be the imperfect, because the third person gives no sense; hence Graf would change the vowels, and read נלוה . But suspicion is raised against this by the very fact that, excepting Ecclesiastes 8:15, לוה , in the sense of joining oneself to, depending on, occurs only in the Niphal. בּרית עולם is a modal accusative: "in an eternal covenant which shall not be forgotten," i.e., which we will not forget, will not break again. In fact, this is the new covenant which the Lord, according to Jeremiah 31:31., will make in time to come with His people. But here this side of the matter is withdrawn from consideration; for the point treated of is merely what Israel, in his repentant frame and returning to God, vows he shall do.
Israel comes to this determination in consequence of the misery into which he has fallen because of his sins, Jeremiah 50:5-7. Israel was like a flock of lost sheep which their shepherds had led astray. צאן , a flock of sheep that are going to ruin. The participle in the plural is joined with the collective noun ad sensum, to show what is imminent or is beginning to happen. The verb היה points to the subject צאן ; hence the Qeri היוּ is unnecessary. The plural suffixes of the following clause refer to עמּי as a collective. The shepherds led the people of God astray on הרים שׁובבים (a local accusative; on the Kethib שׁובבים , cf. Jeremiah 31:32; Jeremiah 49:4; it is not to be read שׁובבים ), mountains that render people faithless. These mountains were so designated because they were the seats of that idolatry which had great power of attraction for a sinful people, so that the seduction or alienation of the people from their God is ascribed to them. שׁובב is used in the sense which the verb has in Isaiah 47:10. The Qeri שׁובבוּם gives the less appropriate idea, "the shepherds made the sheep stray." Hitzig's translation, "they drove them along the mountain," does to suit the verb שׁובב . Moreover, the mountains in themselves do not form unsuitable pasture-ground for sheep, and הרים does not mean "a bare, desolate mountain-range." The objection to our view of הרים , that there is no very evident proof that worship on high places is referred to (Graf), is pure fancy, and the reverse only is true. For the words which follow, "they (the sheep) went from mountain to hill, and forgot their resting-place," have no meaning whatever, unless they are understood of the idolatrous dealings of Israel. The resting-place of the sheep ( רבחם , the place where the flocks lie down to rest), according to Jeremiah 50:7, is Jahveh, the hope of their fathers. Their having forgotten this resting-place is the result of their going from mountain to hill: these words undeniably point to the idolatry of the people on every high hill (Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:2; Jeremiah 17:2, etc.).
The consequence of this going astray on the part of Israel was, that every one who found them devoured them, and while doing so, cherished the thought that they were not incurring guilt, because Israel had been given up to their enemies on account of their apostasy from God; while the fact was, that every offence against Israel, as the holy people of the Lord, brought on guilt; cf. Jeremiah 2:3. This befell Israel because they have sinned against Jahveh. נוה צדק , "the habitation (or pasture-ground) of righteousness." So, in Jeremiah 31:23, Zion is called the mountain on which Jahveh sits enthroned in His sanctuary. As in other places Jahveh Himself is called a fortress, Psalms 18:3; a sun, shield, Psalms 84:12; a shade, Psalms 121:5; so here He is called the One in whom is contained that righteousness which is the source of Israel's salvation. As such, He was the hope of the fathers, the God upon whom the fathers put their trust; cf. Jeremiah 14:8; Jeremiah 17:13; Psalms 22:5. The repetition of יהוה at the end is intended to give an emphatic conclusion to the sentence.
To escape from this misery, Israel is to flee from Babylon; for the judgment of conquest and plunder by enemies is breaking over Babylon. The summons to flee out of Babylon is a reminiscence of Isaiah 38:20. The Kethib יצאוּ may be vindicated, because the direct address pretty often makes a sudden transition into the language of the third person. They are to depart from the land of the Chaldeans. No more will then be necessary than to change והיוּ into והיוּ . The simile, "like he-goats before the flock," does not mean that Israel is to press forward that he may save himself before any one else (Graf), but that Israel is to go before all, as an example and leader in the flight (Nägelsbach).
For the Lord arouses and leads against Babylon a crowd of nations, i.e., an army consisting of a multitude of nations. As mee עיר reminds us of Isaiah 13:17, so קהל גּוים גּ remind us of ממלכות גּוים נאספים in Isaiah 13:4. ערך ל , to make preparations against. משּׁם is not used of time (Rosenmüller, Nägelsbach, etc.), for this application of the word has not been established from the actual occurrence of instances, but it has a local meaning, and refers to the "crowd of nations:" from that place where the nations that come out of the north have assembled before Babylon. In the last clause, the multitude of great nations is taken together, as if they formed one enemy: "his arrows are like the arrows of a wisely dealing (i.e., skilful) warrior."
(Note: Instead of משׂכּיל , J. H. Michaelis, in his Biblia Halens., has accepted the reading משּׁכּיל on the authority of three Erfurt codices and three old editions (a Veneta of 1618; Buxtorf's Rabbinic Bible, printed at Basle, 1720; and the London Polyglott). J. D. Michaelis, Rosenmüller, Maurer, and Umbreit have decided for this reading, and point to the rendering of the Vulgate, interfectoris, and of the Targum, מתכּיל , orbans. On the other hand, the lxx and Syriac have read and rendered משׂכּיל ; and this reading is not merely presented by nonnulli libri, as Maurer states, but by twelve codices of de Rossi, and all the more ancient editions of the Bible, of which de Rossi in his variae lectiones mentions forty-one. The critical witnesses are thus overwhelming for משׂכּיל ; and against משּׁכּיל there lies the further consideration, that שׁכל has the meaning orbare, to render childless, only in the Piel, but in the Hiphil means abortare, to cause or have miscarriages, as is shown by רחם משּׁכּיל , Hosea 9:14.)
The words לא ישׁוּב do not permit of being referred, on the strength of 2 Samuel 1:22, to one particular arrow which does not come back empty; for the verb שׁוּב , though perhaps suitable enough for the sword, which is drawn back when it has executed the blow, is inappropriate for the arrow, which does not return. The subject to ישׁוּב is גּבּור si , the hero, who does not turn or return without having accomplished his object; cf. Isaiah 55:11. In Jeremiah 50:10, כּשׂדּים is the name of the country, "Chaldeans;" hence it is construed as a feminine. The plunderers of Chaldea will be able to satisfy themselves with the rich booty of that country.
The devastation of Babylon and glory of Israel. - Jeremiah 50:11. "Thou ye rejoice, though ye exult, O ye plunderers of mine inheritance, though ye leap proudly like a heifer threshing, and neigh like strong horses, Jeremiah 50:12. Your mother will be very much ashamed; she who bare you will blush: behold, the last of the nations [will be] a wilderness, a desert, and a steppe. Jeremiah 50:13. Because of the indignation of Jahveh it shall not be inhabited, and it shall become a complete desolation. Every one passing by Babylon will be astonished, and hiss because of all her plagues. Jeremiah 50:14. Make preparations against Babylon round about, all ye that bend the bow; shoot at her, do not spare an arrow, for she hath sinned against Jahveh. Jeremiah 50:15. Shout against her round about; she hath given herself up: her battlements are fallen, her walls are pulled down; for it is Jahveh's vengeance: revenge yourselves on her; as she hath done, do ye to her. Jeremiah 50:16. Cut off the sower from Babylon, and him that handles the sickle in the time of harvest. From before the oppressing sword each one will turn to his own nation, and each one will flee to his own land. Jeremiah 50:17. Israel is a scattered sheep [which] lions have driven away: the first [who] devoured him [was] the king of Babylon; and this, the last, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, hath broken his bones. Jeremiah 50:18. Therefore thus saith Jahveh of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon ad his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria. Jeremiah 50:19. And I will bring back Israel to his pasture- ground, and he shall feed on Carmel and Bashan, and on the mountains of Ephraim his soul shall be satisfied. Jeremiah 50:20. In those days, and at that time, saith Jahveh, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, but it shall not be; and the sins of Judah, but they shall not be found: for I will pardon those whom I will leave remaining."
Jeremiah 50:11 does not permit of being so closely connected with what precedes as to separate it from Jeremiah 50:12 (De Wette, Nהgelsbach). Not only is the translation, "for thou didst rejoice," etc., difficult to connect with the imperfects of all the verbs in the verse, but the direct address also does not suit Jeremiah 50:10, and rather demands connection with Jeremiah 50:12, where it is continued. כּי , of course, introduces the reason, yet not in such a way that Jeremiah 50:11 states the cause why Chaldea shall become a spoil, but rather so that Jeremiah 50:11 and Jeremiah 50:12 together give the reason for the threatening uttered. The different clauses of Jeremiah 50:11 are the protases, to which Jeremiah 50:12 brings the apodosis. "You may go on making merry over the defeat of Israel, but shame will follow for this." The change of the singular forms of the verbs into plurals ( Qeri) has been caused by the plural ' שׁסי , but is unnecessary, because Babylon is regarded as a collective, and its people are gathered into the unity of a person; see on Jeremiah 13:20. "Spoilers of mine inheritance," i.e., of the people and land of the Lord; cf. Jeremiah 12:7; Isaiah 17:14. On פּוּשׁ , to gallop (of a horse, Habakkuk 1:8), hop, spring (of a calf, Mal. 3:20), see on Habakkuk 1:8. דּשׁא is rendered by the lxx ἐν βοτάνη , by the Vulgate super herbam; after these, Ewald also takes the meaning of springing like a calf through the grass, since he explains דּשׁא as exhibiting the correct punctuation, and remarks that פּוּשׁ , like הלך , can stand with an object directly after it; see §282, a. Most modern expositors, on the other hand, take דּשׁא as the fem. participle from דּוּשׁ , written with א instead of ה : "like a threshing heifer." On this, A Schultens, in his Animadv. philol., on this passage, remarks: Comparatio petita est a vitula, quae in area media inter frumenta, ore ex lege non ligato (Deuteronomy 25:10), prae pabuli abundantia gestit ex exsultat. This explanation also gives a suitable meaning, without compelling us to do violence to the language and to alter the text. As to אבּירים , stallions, strong horses (Luther), see on Jeremiah 8:16 and Jeremiah 47:3. "Your mother" is the whole body of the people, the nation considered as a unity (cf. Isaiah 50:1; Hosea 2:4; Hosea 4:5), the individual members of which are called her sons; cf. Jeremiah 5:7, etc. In Jeremiah 50:12, the disgrace that is to fall on Babylon is more distinctly specified. The thought is gathered up into a sententious saying, in imitation of the sayings of Balaam. "The last of the nations" is the antithesis of "the first of the nations," as Balaam calls Amalek, Numbers 24:20, because they were the first heathen nation that began to fight against the people of Israel. In like manner, Jeremiah calls Babylon the last of the heathen nations. As the end of Amalek is ruin (Numbers 24:20), so the end of the last heathen nation that comes forward against Israel will be a wilderness, desert, steppe. The predicates (cf. Jeremiah 2:6) refer to the country and kingdom of Babylon. But if the end of the kingdom is a desert, then the people must have perished. The devastation of Babylon is further portrayed in Jeremiah 50:13, together with a statement of the cause: "Because of the anger of Jahveh it shall not be inhabited;" cf. Isaiah 13:20. The words from והיתה onwards are imitated from Jeremiah 49:17 and Jeremiah 19:8.
In order to execute this judgment on Babylon, the nations are commanded to conquer and destroy the city. The archers are to place themselves round about Babylon, and shoot at the city unsparingly. ערך does not mean to prepare oneself, but to prepare מלחמה , the battle, combat. The archers are mentioned by synecdoche, because the point in question is the siege and bombardment of Babylon; cf. Isaiah 13:18, where the Medes are mentioned as archers. ידה is used only here, in Kal, of the throwing, i.e., the shooting of arrows, instead of ירה , which is elsewhere the usual word for this; and, indeed, some codices have the latter word in this passage. "Spare not the arrow," i.e., do not spare an arrow; cf. Jeremiah 51:3. הריע , to cry aloud; here, to raise a battle-cry; cf. Joshua 6:16. The effect and result of the cry is, "she hath given her hand," i.e., given herself up. נתן יד usually signifies the giving of the hand as a pledge of faithfulness (2 Kings 10:15; Ezekiel 17:18; Ezra 10:19), from which is derived the meaning of giving up, delivering up oneself; cf. 2 Chronicles 30:8. Cf. Cornelius Nepos, Hamilc. c. 1, donec victi manum dedissent. The ἁπ. λεγ . אשׁויתיה (the Kethib is either to be read אשׁויּתיה , as if from a noun אשׁוית , or to be viewed as an error in transcription for אשׁיותיה , which is the Qeri) signifies "supports," and comes from אשׁה , Arab. asâ , to support, help; then the supports of a building, its foundations; cf. אשּׁיּא , Ezra 4:12. Here the word signifies the supports of the city, i.e., the fortifications of Babylon, ἐπάλξεις , propugnacula, pinnae , the battlements of the city wall, not the foundations of the walls, for which נפל is unsuitable. "It (sc., the destruction of Babylon) is the vengeance of Jahveh." "The vengeance of Jahveh" is an expression derived from Numbers 31:3. "Avenge yourselves on her," i.e., take retribution for what Babylon has done to other nations, especially to the people of God; cf. 27f. and Jeremiah 51:11. The words, "cut off out of Babylon the sower and the reaper," are not to be restricted to the fields, which, according to the testimonies of Diod. Sic. ii. 7, Pliny xviii. 17, and Curtius Jeremiah 51:1, lay within the wall round Babylon, but "Babylon" is the province together with its capital; and the objection of Nägelsbach, that the prophet, in the whole context, is describing the siege of the city of Babylon, is invalid, because Jeremiah 50:12 plainly shows that not merely the city, but the province of Babylon, is to become a wilderness, desert, and steppe. The further threat, also, "every one flees to his own people from before the oppressing sword" (cf. Jeremiah 25:38; Jeremiah 46:16), applies not merely to the strangers residing in Babylon, but generally to those in Babylonia. Hitzig would arbitrarily refer these words merely to the husbandmen and field-workers. The fundamental passage, Isaiah 13:14, which Jeremiah had before his mind and repeats verbatim, tells decidedly against this view; cf. also Jeremiah 51:9, Jeremiah 51:44.
This judgment comes on Babylon because of her oppression and scattering of the people of Israel, whom the Lord will now feed in peace again on their native soil. Israel is like שׂה פזוּרה , a sheep which, having been scared away out of its stall or fold, is hunted into the wide world; cf. פּזּרוּ בגּוים , Joel 3:2. Although פּזר , "to scatter," implies the conception of a flock, yet we cannot take שׂה as a collective (Graf), since it is nomen unitatis. The point in the comparison lies on the fact that Israel has been hunted, like a solitary sheep, up and down among the beasts of the earth; and pizeer is more exactly specified by the following clause, "lions have chased after it." The object of הדּיחוּ is easily derived from the context, so that we do not need to follow Hitzig in changing הדּיחוּ הראשׁון into הדּיחוּה ראשׁון . These kings are, the king of Assyria first, and the king of Babylon last. The former has dispersed the ten tribes among the heathen; the latter, by destroying the kingdom of Judah, and carrying away its inhabitants, has shattered the theocracy. The verbs apply to the figure of the lion, and the suffixes refer to Israel. אכל is used of the devouring of the flesh; עצּם is a denominative from עצם , and means the same as גּרם , Numbers 24:8, to break bones in pieces, not merely gnaw them. So long as the flesh only is eaten, the skeleton of bones remains; if these also be broken, the animal is quite destroyed.
The Assyrian has already received his punishment for that-the Assyrian kingdom has been destroyed; Babylon will meet with the same punishment, and then (Jeremiah 50:19) Israel will be led back to his pasture-ground. נוה , pasture-ground, grass-plot, where sheep feed, is the land of Israel. Israel, led back thither, will feed on Carmel and Bashan, the most fertile tracts of the country, and the mountains of Ephraim and Gilead, which also furnish fodder in abundance for sheep. As to Gilead, see Numbers 32:1; Micah 7:14; and in regard to the mountains of Ephraim, Exodus 34:13., where the feeding on the mountains of Israel and in the valleys is depicted as fat pasture. The mountains of Israel here signify the northern portion of the land generally, including the large and fertile plain of Jezreel, and the different valleys between the several ranges of mountains, which here and there show traces of luxuriant vegetation even yet; cf. Robinson's Physical Geography, p. 120. Then also the guilt of the sins of Israel and Judah shall be blotted out, because the Lord grants pardon to the remnant of His people. This promise points to the time of the New Covenant; cf. Jeremiah 31:34 and Jeremiah 33:8. The deliverance of Israel from Babylon coincides with the view given of the regeneration of the people by the Messiah, just as we find throughout the second portion of Isaiah. On the construction ' יבקּשׁ את־עון ישׂ , cf. 35:14, and Gesenius, §143, 1. On the form תּמּצאינה , with y after the manner of verbs ה '' ל , cf. Ewald, §198, b.
The pride and power of Babylon are broken, as a punishment for the sacrilege he committed at the temple of the Lord. Jeremiah 50:21. "Against the land, - Double-rebellion, - go up against it, and against the inhabitants of visitation; lay waste and devote to destruction after them, saith Jahveh, and do according to all that I have commanded thee. Jeremiah 50:22. A sound of war [is] in the land, and great destruction. Jeremiah 50:23. How the hammer of the whole earth is cut and broken! how Babylon has become a desolation among the nations! Jeremiah 50:24. I laid snares for thee, yea, and thou hast been taken, O Babylon; but thou didst not know: thou wast found, and also seized, because thou didst strive against Jahveh. Jeremiah 50:25. Jahveh hath opened His treasure-house, and brought out the instruments of His wrath; for the Lord, Jahveh of hosts, hath a work in the land of the Chaldeans. Jeremiah 50:26. Come against her, [all of you], from the last to the first; open her storehouses: case her up in heaps, like ruins, and devote her to destruction; let there be no remnant left to her. Jeremiah 50:27. Destroy all her oxen; let them go down to the slaughter: woe to them! for their day is come, the time of their visitation. Jeremiah 50:28. [There is] a sound of those who flee and escape out of the land of Babylon, to declare in Zion the vengeance of Jahveh our God, the vengeance of His temple."
The punishment of Babylon will be fearful, corresponding to its crimes. The crimes of Babylon and its punishment Jeremiah has comprised, in Jeremiah 50:21, in two names specially formed for the occasion. The enemy to whom God has entrusted the execution of the punishment is to march against the land מרתים . This word, which is formed by the prophet in a manner analogous to Mizraim, and perhaps also Aram Naharaim, means "double rebellion," or "double obstinacy." It comes from the root מרה , "to be rebellious" against Jahveh and His commandments, whence also מרי , "rebellion;" Numbers 17:1-13:25, Ezekiel 2:5, Ezekiel 2:7, etc. Other interpretations of the word are untenable: such is that of Fürst, who follows the Vulgate " terram dominantium ," and, comparing the Aramaic מרא , "Lord," renders it by "dominion" ( Herschaft). Utterly indefensible, too, is the translation of Hitzig, "the world of men" ( Menschenwelt), which he derives from the Sanskrit martjam, "world," on the basis of the false assumption that the language of the Chaldeans was Indo-Germanic. The only doubtful points are in what respect Babylon showed double obstinacy, and what Jeremiah had in his mind at the time. The view of Hitzig, Maurer, Graf, etc., is certainly incorrect, - that the prophet was thinking of the double punishment of Israel by the Assyrians and by the Babylonians (Jeremiah 50:17 and Jeremiah 50:33); for the name is evidently given to the country which is now about to be punished, and hence to the power of Babylon. Nägelsbach takes a twofold view: (1) he thinks of the defiance shown by Babylon towards both man and God; (2) he thinks of the double obstinacy it exhibited in early times by building the tower, and founding the first worldly kingdom (Genesis 10:8.), and in later times by its conduct towards the theocracy: and he is inclined rather to the latter than to the former view, because the offences committed by Babylon in early and in later times were, in their points of origin and aim, too much one and the same for any one to be able to represent them as falling under two divisions. This is certainly correct; but against the first view there is also the important consideration that מרה is pretty constantly used only of opposition to God and the word of God. If any one, notwithstanding this, is inclined to refer the name also to offences against men, he could yet hardly agree with Nägelsbach in thinking of the insurrections of Babylon against the kings of Assyria, their masters; for these revolts had no meaning in reference to the position of Babylon towards God, but rather showed the haughty spirit in which Babylon trod on all the nations.
The opinion of Dahler has most in its favour: "Doubly rebellious, i.e., more rebellious than others, through its idolatry ad its pride, which was exalted it against God, Jeremiah 50:24, Jeremiah 50:29." Rosenmüller, De Wette, etc., have decided in favour of this view. Although the dual originally expresses the idea of pairing, yet the Hebrew associates with double, twofold, the idea of increase, gradation; cf. Isaiah 40:2; Isaiah 66:7. The object is prefixed for the sake of emphasis; and in order to render it still more prominent, it is resumed after the verb in the expression "against it." פּקוד , an infinitive in form, "to visit with punishment, avenge, punish," is also used as a significant name of Babylon: the land that visits with punishment is to be punished. Many expositors take חרב as a denominative from חרב , "sword," in the sense of strangling, murdering; so also in Jeremiah 50:27. But this assumption is far from correct; nor is there any need for making it, because the meaning of destroying is easily obtained from that of being laid waste, or destroying oneself by transferring the word from things to men. החרים , "to proscribe, put under the ban," and in effect "to exterminate;" see on Jeremiah 25:9. On "after them," cf. Jeremiah 49:37; Jeremiah 48:2, Jeremiah 48:9, Jeremiah 48:15, etc.
After the command there immediately follows its execution. A sound of war is heard in the land. The words are given as an exclamation, without a verb. As to שׁבר , which is an expression much used by Jeremiah, see on Jeremiah 4:6.
Babylon, "the hammer of the whole earth," i.e., with which Jahveh has beaten to pieces the nations and kingdoms of the earth (Jeremiah 51:20), is itself now being beaten to pieces and destroyed. On the subject, cf. Isaiah 14:5-6. Babylon will become the astonishment of the nations, Jeremiah 51:41. "How!" is an exclamation of surprise, as in Zephaniah 2:15 -a passage which probably hovered before the mind of the prophet.
This annihilation will come unexpectedly. As the bird by the snare of the fowler, so shall Babylon be laid hold of by Jahveh, because it has striven against Him. The Lord lays the snare for it, that it may be caught. יקושׁ , "to lay snares;" cf. Psalms 141:9, where פּח is also found. ולא , "and thou didst not perceive," i.e., didst not mark it: this is a paraphrase of the idea "unexpectedly," suddenly; cf. Jeremiah 51:8; Isaiah 47:11. This has been literally fulfilled on Babylon. According to Herodotus (i. 191), Cyrus took Babylon by diverting the Euphrates into a trench he had dug. By this stratagem the Persians threw themselves so unexpectedly on the Babylonians ( ἐξ ἀπροσδοκήτου σφι παρέστησαν οἱ Πέρσαι ), that when the outmost portions of the city had been already seized, those who lived in the middle had not observed at all that they were captured ( τοὺς τὸ μέσον οἰκέοντας ου ̓ μανθάνειν ἑαλωκότας ). Similarly, when the city was taken under Darius Hystaspes, they were surprised that Zopyrus traitorously opened the gates to the besiegers (Herodotus, iii. 158). Babylon has contended against Jahveh, because, in its pride, it refused to let the people of God depart; cf. Jeremiah 50:29 and Jeremiah 50:33. In Jeremiah 50:25 the sudden devastation of Babylon is accounted for. Jahveh opens His armoury, and brings out the instruments of His wrath, in order to execute His work on the land of the Chaldeans. אוצר , "magazine, treasure-chamber," is here applied to an armoury. The "instruments of His wrath" are, in Isaiah 13:5, the nations which execute the judgment of god-here, the instruments of war and weapons with which Jahveh Himself marches into battle against Babylon. On ' מלאכה וגו , cf. Jeremiah 48:10. The business which the Lord has there regards the chastisement of Babylon for its insolence. For the transaction of this business He summons His servants, Jeremiah 50:26. באוּ־להּ , as in Jeremiah 46:22; Jeremiah 49:9, is substantially the same as באוּ עליה , Jeremiah 49:14; Jeremiah 48:8. מקּץ , "from the end," or from the last hitherwards, the same as מקּצה , Jeremiah 51:31, i.e., all together on to the last; cf. Genesis 19:4; Genesis 47:2, etc. "Open her (Babylon's) barns" or granaries; "heap it up (viz., what was in the granaries) like heaps" of grain or sheaves, "and devote it to destruction," i.e., consume it with fire, because things on which the curse was imposed must be burnt; cf. Joshua 11:12 and Joshua 11:13. All the property found in Babylon is to be collected in heaps, and then burnt with the city. The use of the image is occasioned by the granaries. מאבסיה is ἅπ. λεγ. , from אבס , to give fodder to cattle, - properly a stall for fodder, then a barn, granary. ערמה is a heap of grain (Song of Solomon 7:3), sheaves (Ruth 3:7), also of rubbish (Neh. 3:34). As Jeremiah 50:26 declares what is to be done with goods and chattels, so does Jeremiah 50:27 state what is to be done with the population. The figure employed in Jeremiah 50:26 is followed by the representation of the people as oxen destined for slaughter; in this Jeremiah had in his mind the prophecy found in Isa 34, in which the judgment to come on Edom is depicted as a slaughter of lambs, rams, and he-goats: the people of Edom are thus compared to cattle that may be offered in sacrifice. This figure also forms the basis of the expression ירד לטּבח in Jeremiah 48:15, where this style of speaking is used with regard to the youths or the young troops; cf. also Jeremiah 51:40. The פּרים , accordingly, designate not merely the chief among the people, or the men of rank, but represent the whole human population. In the last clause ("for their day is come," etc.), there is a transition in the discourse from the figure to the real subject itself. The suffix in עליהם does not refer to the oxen, but to the men over whose murder there is an exclamation of woe. In like manner, "their day" means the day of judgment for men, viz., the time of their visitation with punishment; see on Jeremiah 46:21. Fugitives and escaped ones will bring to Zion, and proclaim the news of the execution of this fearful judgment, that the Lord has fulfilled the vengeance of His temple, i.e., avenged on Babylon the burning of His temple by the Chaldeans. The fugitives and escaped ones are the Israelites, who were summoned to flee from Babylon, Jeremiah 50:3. On "the vengeance of Jahveh," cf. Jeremiah 50:15 and Jeremiah 51:11.
The pride of Babylon is humbled through the utter destruction of the people and the land. - Jeremiah 50:29. "Summon archers against Jerusalem, all those who bend the bow; encamp against her round about. Let there be no escape for her; recompense to her according to her work; according to that which she hath done, do ye to her: for she hath presumed against Jahveh, against the Holy One of Israel. Jeremiah 50:30. Therefore shall her young men fall in her streets, and all her men of war shall fail in that day, saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 50:31. Behold, I am against thee, O Pride! said the Lord, Jahveh of hosts; for thy day hath come, the time [when] I visit thee. Jeremiah 50:32. And Pride shall stumble and fall, and he shall have none to lift him up; and I will kindle fire in his cities, and it shall devour all that is round about him. Jeremiah 50:33. Thus saith Jahveh of hosts, the Children of Israel and the children of Judah are oppressed together, and all who led them captive kept hold of them; they refused to let them go. Jeremiah 50:34. Their Redeemer is strong; Jahveh of hosts is His name: He shall surely plead their cause, that He may give rest to the earth, and make the inhabitants of Babylon tremble. Jeremiah 50:35. A sword [is] against the Chaldeans, saith Jahveh, and against the inhabitants of Babylon, and against her princes, and against her wise men. Jeremiah 50:36. A sword [is] against the liars, and they shall become fools; a sword is against her heroes, and they shall be confounded. Jeremiah 50:37. A sword [is] against his horses, and against his chariots, and against all the auxiliaries which [are] in the midst of her, and they shall become women; a sword is against her treasures, and they shall be plundered. Jeremiah 50:38. A drought is against her waters, and they shall become dry; for it is a land of graven images, and they are mad upon idols. Jeremiah 50:39. Therefore shall wild beasts dwell [there] with jackals, and ostriches shall dwell in it; and it shall no more be inhabited for ever, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation. Jeremiah 50:40. As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and their inhabitants, saith Jahveh, no man shall dwell there, nor shall a son of man sojourn in it."
Further description of the execution of God's wrath. Archers shall come and besiege Babylon round about, so that no one shall escape. The summons, "Call archers hither," is a dramatic turn in the thought that the siege is quickly to ensue. השׁמיע is used here as in Jeremiah 51:27, to summon, call by making proclamation, as in 1 Kings 15:22. רבּים does not signify "many," as the ancient versions give it; this agrees neither with the apposition which follows, "all that bend the bow," nor with Jeremiah 50:26, where all, to the last, are summoned against Babylon. Raschi, followed by all the moderns, more correctly renders it "archers," and derives it from רבה רבב , Genesis 49:23, cf. with Jeremiah 21:10, like רב , Job 16:13. The apposition, "all those who bend the bow," gives additional force. חנה with accus. means to besiege; cf. Psalms 53:6. "Let there be no escape" is equivalent to saying, "that none may escape from Babylon." The Qeri להּ after יהי is unnecessary, and merely taken from Jeremiah 50:26. On the expression "render to her," etc., cf. Jeremiah 25:14; and on "according to all," etc., f. Jeremiah 50:15. "For she hath acted presumptuously against Jahveh," by burning His temple, and keeping His people captive: in this way has Babylon offended "against the Holy One of Israel." This epithet of God is taken from Isaiah, cf. Isaiah 51:5. This presumption must be punished.
Jeremiah 50:30 is a repetition of Jeremiah 49:26. - Jeremiah 50:31. The Lord will now visit the presumption of Babylon. The day of punishment has arrived. On "behold, I am against thee," cf. Jeremiah 21:13. "O arrogance, pride!" is directly addressed to Babylon: in Jeremiah 50:32 also there is a like designation of Babylon as the personification of pride. On the words "for thy day is come," cf. Jeremiah 50:27. "And I will kindle a fire," etc., stands as in Jeremiah 21:14, where, however, "in its forest" is found instead of "in his cities." The former, indeed, is the reading rendered by the lxx in this passage; but they have acted quite arbitrarily in this, since Jeremiah, for the most part, varies individual words when he repeats a thought. "In his cities" does not suit very well, inasmuch as the other cities of the country belonged to Babylon, the μητρόπολις as hers, and in Jeremiah 51:43 they are spoken of as hers; cf. Jeremiah 19:15; Jeremiah 34:1; Jeremiah 49:13, etc.
Further description of the guilt and punishment of Babylon. The presumptuous pride manifests itself in the fact that Israel and Judah still languish in exile. All those who have been seized and carried away they have kept hold of. שׁביהם is used as in Isaiah 14:2. They refuse to let them go, as Pharaoh once did, Exodus 7:14, 27; Exodus 9:2; cf. Isaiah 14:17. Jahveh, the deliverer of Israel, cannot endure this. As the strong One, the God of hosts, He will lead them in the fight; as their advocate, He will obtain their dues for them; cf. Jeremiah 25:31; Isaiah 49:25. Dahler, Ewald, and Umbreit follow the Vulgate and the Chaldee in taking ' למען הרגּיע as synonymous with הרגּיז , in the sense of shaking, rousing, a meaning which רגע has in the Kal, but which cannot be made out for the Hiphil. In the Hiphil it means to give rest, to come to rest, Deuteronomy 28:65; Isaiah 34:14; Isaiah 61:4; Jeremiah 31:2; and in the Niphal, to rest, keep quiet, Jeremiah 47:6. This is the meaning given by the Syriac, Raschi, Kimchi, Rosenmüller, Maurer, Hitzig, etc., and supported by a comparison with Isaiah 14:7, Isaiah 14:3, Isaiah 14:16. Babylon has hitherto kept the earth in unrest and anxiety (Isaiah 14:16); now it is to get rest (Isaiah 14:3, Isaiah 14:7), and trembling or quaking for fear is to come on Babylon. The two verbs, which have similar sounds, express a contrast. On the form of the infinitive הרגּיע , cf. Ewald, §238, d. In order to conduct the case of Israel as against Babylon, the Lord (Jeremiah 50:35-38) calls for the sword against the Chaldeans, the inhabitants of Babylon, on their princes, wise men, heroes, and the whole army, the treasures and the waters. There is no verb following חרב , but only the object with על , the words being put in the form of an exclamation, on account of the passion pervading them. The sword is to come and show its power on the Chaldeans, i.e., the population of the rural districts, on the inhabitants of the capital, and further, on the princes and wise men (magicians). A special class of the last named are the בּדּים , properly "babblers," those who talk at random, here "soothsayers" and lying prophets, the astrologers of Babylon; see Delitzsch on Isaiah 44:25 [Clark's translation, For. Theol. Lib.]. ונאלוּ , "And they shall be as fools;" see on Jeremiah 5:4. Further, on the warriors, the horses, and war-chariots, the main strength of the Asiatic conquerors, cf. Jeremiah 46:9, Isaiah 43:17; Psalms 20:8. כּל־הערב , "all the mixed multitude" in the midst of Babylon: these are here the mercenaries ad allies (as to this word, see on Jeremiah 25:20). These shall become women, i.e., weak and incapable of resistance; see Nahum 3:13. The last objects of vengeance are the treasures and the waters of Babylon. In Jeremiah 50:38 the Masoretes have pointed חרב , because חרב , "sword," seemed to be inapplicable to the waters. But indeed neither does the sword, in the proper sense of the word, well apply to treasures; it rather stands, by synecdoche, for war. In this improper meaning it might also be used with reference to the waters, in so far as the canals and watercourses, on which the fertility of Babylonia depended, were destroyed by war. Hence many expositors would read חרב here also, and attribute the employment of this word to the rhetorical power connected with enumeration. Others are of opinion that חרב may also mean aridity, drought, in Deuteronomy 28:22; but the assumption is erroneous, and cannot be confirmed by that passage. Neither can it be denied, that to confine the reference of the expression "her waters" to the canals and artificial watercourses of Babylonia seems unnatural. All these received their water from the rivers Euphrates and Tigris, the volume of water in which remained uninfluenced by war. We therefore follow Hitzig in holding that חרב is the correct punctuation; in the transition from חרב into חרב , with its similar sound, we neither perceive any injury done to rhetorical force, derived from an enumeration of objects, nor any need for referring the following clause, which assigns the reason merely to such rhetorical considerations as Graf does. In the drying up of the water there is no allusion to the diversion of the Euphrates, by which Cyrus opened up for himself an entrance into the city (Herodotus, i. 190); the drying up is merely appointed by God, as a consequence of continued drought, for the purpose of destroying the land. Hitzig's opinion neither suits the context, nor can be justified otherwise; he holds that water is the emblem of the sea on nations, the surging multitude of people in the streets of the city, and he refers for proof to Jeremiah 51:36 and Isaiah 21:1 (!). The clauses in Jeremiah 50:38, which assign the reason, refer to the whole threatening, Jeremiah 50:35-38. Babylon is to be destroyed, with its inhabitants and all its means of help, because it is a land of idols (cf. Jeremiah 51:52 and Isaiah 21:9), and its inhabitants suffer themselves to be befooled by false gods. התהולל means to act or behave like a madman, rave, Jeremiah 25:16; here, to let oneself be deprived of reason, not (as Graf thinks) to fall into a sacred frenzy. אימים , terrors, Psalms 88:16; here, objects of fear and horror, i.e., idols.
Therefore shall Babylon become an eternal waste, where none but beasts of the desert find shelter, where no human being dwells. This threat is formed out of reminiscences from Isaiah 13:20-22 and Isaiah 34:14. For ציּים and איּים , see on Isaiah 34:14; for בּנות יענה , see on Isaiah 13:21. The second half of the verse agrees word for word with Isaiah 13:20.
Jeremiah 50:40 is a repetition of Jeremiah 49:18, and in its first half is founded on Isaiah 13:19.
The agents who execute the judgment. - Jeremiah 50:41. "Behold, a people shall come from the north, and a great nation, and many kings shall be raised up from the most distant sides of the earth. Jeremiah 50:42. Bow and javelin shall they seize: they are cruel, and will not pity; their voice shall sound like the sea, and they shall ride upon horses, [each one] arrayed like a man for the battle, against thee, O daughter of Babylon. Jeremiah 50:43. The king of Babylon hath heard the report concerning them, and his hands have fallen down: distress hath seized him, writing pain, like [that of] the woman in childbirth. Jeremiah 50:44. Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the glory of Jordan to a habitation of rock; but in a moment will I make them run away from her, and will set over her him who is chosen: for who is like me, and who will appoint me a time [to plead my defence]? and what shepherd [is there] that will stand before me? Jeremiah 50:45. Therefore hear ye the counsel of Jahveh which He hath taken against Babylon, and His purposes which He hath purposed against the land of the Chaldeans: Assuredly they shall drag them away, the smallest of the flock; assuredly [their] habitation shall be astonished at them. Jeremiah 50:46. At the cry, 'Babylon is taken,' the earth is shaken, and a cry [for help] is heard among the nations.
"Thus saith Jahveh: Behold, I will stir up against Babylon, and against the inhabitants of [as it were] the heart of mine opponents, the spirit of a destroyer. Jeremiah 51:2. And I will send against Babylon strangers, and they shall winnow her, and empty her land, because they are against her round about in a day of evil. Jeremiah 51:3. Against [him who] bends let the bender bend his bow, and against [him who] lifts up himself in his coat of mail: and do not spare her young men; devote to destruction all her host, Jeremiah 51:4. That slain ones may fall in the land of the Chaldeans, and those that are pierced through in her streets."
The greater portion of this strophe consists of quotations from former utterances. Jeremiah 51:41-43 are taken from Jeremiah 6:22-24, and Jeremiah 51:44-46 from Jeremiah 49:19-21; here they are applied to Babylon. What is said in Jeremiah 6:22-24 concerning the enemy out of the north who will devastate Judah, is here transferred to the enemy that is to destroy Babylon. For this purpose, after the words "and a great nation," are added "and many kings," in order to set forth the hostile army advancing against Babylon as one composed of many nations; and in consequence of this extension of the subject, the verb יערוּ is used in the plural, and אכזרי is changed into אכזרי המּה . Moreover, the mention of the "daughter of Babylon" instead of the "daughter of Zion" is attended by a change from the directly communicative form of address in the first person ("We have heard," etc., Jeremiah 51:43) into the third person ("The king of Babylon hath heard," etc.). In applying the expression used in Jeremiah 49:19-21 regarding the instrument chosen for the destruction of Edom, to the instrument selected against Babylon (Jeremiah 51:44-46), the names "Babylon" and "and land of the Chaldeans" are substituted for "Edom" and "the inhabitants of Teman" (Jeremiah 49:20); but beyond this, only the last verse is changed, in accordance with the change of circumstances. The thought that, in consequence of the fall of Edom, the earth trembles, and Edom's cry of anguish is heard on the Red Sea, is intensified thus: by the sound or cry, "Babylon is taken," the earth is shaken, and a cry is heard among the nations. The conquest of Babylon, the mistress of the world, puts the whole world in anxiety and fear, while the effects of Edom's fall extend only to the Red Sea. The Kethib ארוצם , Jeremiah 51:44, seems to come from the verb רצץ , in the sense of pushing, so that it is not a mere error in transcription for אריצם . Moreover, such changes made on former utterances, when they are repeated and applied to Babylon, show that these verses are not glosses which a reader has written on the margin, and a later copyist inserted into the text, but that Jeremiah himself has applied these earlier words in his address against Babylon. The two passages are not merely quite appropriately arranged beside one another, but even present in their connection a thought which has not hitherto been met with in the address against Babylon, and which does not recur afterwards. The enemy that is to conquer Babylon is certainly pointed out, so early as v. 9, as an assemblage of great nations out of the north, but not more particularly characterized there; but the nations that are to constitute the hostile army are not further designated till Jeremiah 51:11 and Jeremiah 51:27. The second quotation, Jeremiah 51:44-46, adds the new thought that the appearance of this enemy against Babylon is owing to a decree of the Lord, the execution of which no man can prevent, because there is none like Jahveh. The figurative description of the enemy as a lion coming up out of the thicket of reeds at the Jordan, frightening the herd feeding on their pasture-ground, and carrying off the weakly sheep, is appropriate both to Nebuchadnezzar's expedition against Edom, and to the invasion of Babylonia by the Medes and their allies, for the purpose of laying waste the country of the Chaldeans, smiting the inhabitants of Babylon, and conquering it. Even the expression נוה permits of being applied to Babylonia, which was protected by its canal system and the strong walls of its capital.
In Jeremiah 51:1-4, the terrible character of the hostile nation is further described. Against Babylon and the inhabitants of Chaldea, God stirs up the "spirit of a destroyer," viz., a savage nation that will massacre the Chaldeans without pity. לב , lit., "the heart of mine adversaries," is the word כּשׂדּים , changed, according to the canon Atbash (see on Jeremiah 25:26), for the purpose of obtaining the important meaning that Chaldea is the centre of God's enemies. This explanation of the name involves the thought that all enmity against God the Lord culminates in Babylon; on the basis of this representation Babylon is called, Revelation 17:5, "the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth." רוּח משׁחית does not mean καύσωνα διαφθείροντα (lxx), ventum pestilentem (Vulgate), "a sharp wind" (Luther), nor, as it is usually translated, "a destroying wind;" for העיר רוּח is nowhere used of the rousing of a wind, but everywhere means "to rouse the spirit of any one," to stir him up to an undertaking; cf. Haggai 1:14; 1 Chronicles 5:26; 2 Chronicles 21:16, and 2 Chronicles 36:22. Jeremiah also employs it thus in Jeremiah 51:11, and this meaning is quite suitable here also. משׁחית is a substantive, as in Jeremiah 4:7: "the spirit of a destroyer." The figure of winnowing, which follows in Jeremiah 51:2, does not by any means necessarily require the meaning "wind," because the figure contained in the word זרוּה was first called forth by the employment of זרים , "strangers" = barbarians. The sending of the זרים to Babylon has no connection with the figure of the wind, and it even remains a question whether זרוּה really means here to winnow, because the word is often used of the scattering of a nation, without any reference to the figure of winnowing; cf. Leviticus 26:33; Ezekiel 5:10; Ezekiel 12:15, etc., also Jeremiah 49:32, Jeremiah 49:36. However, this thought is suggested by what follows, "they empty her hand," although the clause which assigns the reason, "because they are against her round about" (cf. Jeremiah 4:17), does not correspond with this figure, but merely declares that the enemies which attack Babylon on every side disperse its inhabitants and empty the land.
These strangers shall kill, without sparing, every warrior of Babylon, and annihilate its whole military forces. In the first half of the verse the reading is doubtful, since the Masoretes would have the second ידרד ( Qeri) expunged, probably because (as Böttcher, N. Aehrenl. ii. S. 166, supposes) they considered it merely a repetition. The meaning is not thereby changed. According to the Qeri, we would require to translate, "against him who bends the bow, may there be, or come, one who bends his bow;" according to the Kethib, "against him who bends the bow, may he who bends his bow bend it." As to אל־ידרך with אשׁר omitted, cf. 1 Chronicles 15:12; 2 Chronicles 1:4, and Ewald, §333, b. יתעל בּס ' stands in apposition to אל־ידרך יתעל is the Hithpael from עלה , and means to raise oneself: it is to be taken as the shortened form of the imperfect passive; cf. Gesenius, §128, Rem. 2. Certainly, the Hithpael of עלה occurs nowhere else, but it is quite appropriate here; so that it is unnecessary, with Hitzig, to adduce, for explanation, the Arabic tl', to stretch the head out of anything, or, with Ewald, to derive the form from the Aramaic עלל , Arabic gl, to thrust in. Neither is there any foundation for the remark, that the abbreviated form of the imperfect would be admissible only if אל were found instead of אל . Indeed, the Syriac, Targum, and Vulgate have actually read and rendered from אל , which several codices also present, "Let him not bend his bow, nor stretch himself in his coat of mail." But by this reading the first half of the verse is put in contradiction to the second; and this contradiction is not removed by the supposition of J. D. Michaelis and Hitzig, who refer these clauses to the Chaldeans, and find the thought expressed in them, that the Chaldeans, through loss of courage, cannot set themselves for defence. For, in that case, we would be obliged, with Hitzig, to explain as spurious the words that follow, "and spare ye not her young men;" but for this there is no valid reason. As to החרימוּ , cf. Jeremiah 50:21, Jeremiah 50:26. On Jeremiah 51:4, cf. Jeremiah 50:30 and Jeremiah 49:26. The suffix in "her streets" refers to Babylon.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Jeremiah 50". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany