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Saturday, June 15th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 50

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Verses 1-10

Jer 50:1-10

Jeremiah 50:1-5

The word that Jehovah spake concerning Babylon, concerning the land of the Chaldeans, by Jeremiah the prophet. Declare ye among the nations and publish, and set up a standard; publish, and conceal not: say, Babylon is taken, Bel is put to shame, Merodach is dismayed; her images are put to shame, her idols are dismayed. For out of the north there cometh up a nation against her, which shall make her land desolate, and none shall dwell therein: they are fled, they are gone, both man and beast. In those days, and in that time, saith Jehovah, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together; they shall go on their way weeping, and shall seek Jehovah their God. They shall inquire concerning Zion with their faces thitherward, [saying], Come ye, and join yourselves to Jehovah in an everlasting covenant that shall not be forgotten.

Babylon is taken...

(Jeremiah 50:2). This seemed an impossible prophecy in the fourth year of Zedekiah, because, at that time, Babylon dominated the whole known world. Yet God announced her destruction.

Bel is put to shame, Merodach is dismayed...

(Jeremiah 50:2). Merodach in the inscriptions was the tutelary god of Babylon; and Nebuchadnezzar named a son Evil-Merodach, indicating that Nebuchadnezzar was especially devoted to that god. Merodach was actually identical with Bel. He was identified with Jupiter among the planets, and he was styled, ’King of heaven and earth.’

Her idols are dismayed...

(Jeremiah 50:2). The word for idols in the Hebrew literally means dung balls. This word was a favorite of Ezekiel who used it 38 times in speaking of pagan idols. The word is also used in Leviticus 26:30.

Out of the north there cometh up a nation against her...

(Jeremiah 50:3). We remember that Babylon herself was the country out of the north that came against Israel. In the fall of Babylon, this was literally true, because the Medes were northwest of Babylon; and Cyrus captured the city, according to Herodotus, by diverting the Euphrates out of its channel, a diversion that took place up-stream from Babylon, which was northward.

"A mystery in the Hebrew mind attached to the north, the very word ’north’ in Hebrew meaning ’hidden.’ The burnt offering was to be sacrificed on the north side of the altar (Leviticus 1:11); and the four cherubim in the vision of Ezekiel were described as coming from the north (Ezekiel 1:4)." In the prophecies, therefore, the mention of unknown future dangers might have referred also to the mysterious and hidden nature of the revelation.

In those days...

(Jeremiah 50:4). These words show that the capture of Babylon, spoken of in Jeremiah 50:2 as a past event, is still future, and that the words there are the prophetic perfects.


(Jeremiah 50:5). These words show that the writer of this prophecy was in Jerusalem, not Babylon.

Jeremiah 50:6-10

My people have been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray; they have turned them away on the mountains; they have gone from mountain to hill; they have forgotten their resting-place. All that found them have devoured them; and their adversaries said, We are not guilty, because they have sinned against Jehovah, the habitation of righteousness, even Jehovah, the hope of their fathers. Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and go forth out of the land of the Chaldeans, and be as the he-goats before the flocks. For, lo, I will stir up and cause to come up against Babylon a company of great nations from the north country; and they shall set themselves in array against her; from thence she shall be taken: their arrows shall be as of an expert mighty man; none shall return in vain. And Chaldea shall be a prey: all that prey upon her shall be satisfied, saith Jehovah.

Their shepherds have caused them to go astray...

(Jeremiah 50:6). These evil shepherds here blamed for Israel’s apostasy were their kings, judges, priests, and false prophets.

I will cause to come against Babylon. they shall set themselves against her ... she (Babylon) shall be taken

(Jeremiah 50:9). There are no less than six verbs, all in the future tense, which here announce that Babylon shall be taken, making it an absolute certainty that Jeremiah 50:2 is in the prophetic past perfect tense.

Be as the heights of the flocks...

(Jeremiah 50:8). Judah here was admonished to be the leader (like the heights) in fleeing from Babylon. They did not heed this. As a matter of fact, they were hardly willing to leave at all, and many never left. The metaphor here is drawn from the fact that, Once the sheepfold was opened, the male goats would rush from the enclosure first.

All that prey upon her shall be satisfied...

(Jeremiah 50:10). The total destruction of Babylon is here promised, including the destruction even of her walls (Jeremiah 50:15, below). It is known that when Cyrus took the city, he did not need to break down the walls; and some careless commentators have faulted the prophecy in this instance; but they are in error.

"Cyrus did not destroy Babylon when he took it; but a little later in the Persian period the city revolted; and Darius Hystaspis captured it and destroyed its walls in 514 B.C. That was the beginning of the final and total ruin that eventually came to Babylon."


Jeremiah 50:1 to Jeremiah 51:64 e

Eichorn was the first to deny the authenticity of chapters 50–51 and he has been followed by most modern critics. Cornill affirms in regard to these chapters that “their non-genuineness has been so convincingly demonstrated that now hardly anyone can be found to defend their authenticity." The critics generally consider the oracle against Babylon to be “a great conglomeration” which cannot possibly be traced back to Jeremiah. They think these chapters to be the work of an anonymous prophet of the later period of the captivity who by “artistic copying and imitation” attempted to pass off his writing as the work of Jeremiah. Pfeiffer contends that the forger “concocted” this poem in order to supply the missing book Jeremiah is said to have sent to the exiles in Babylon (Jeremiah 51:59-64).

The critics contend that the historical situation of the Babylon oracle is not that of Zedekiah’s fourth year as claimed in Jeremiah 51:59. The people are in exile (Jeremiah 50:4-5; Jeremiah 51:54), the Temple has been destroyed (Jeremiah 50:23; Jeremiah 51:11), the author looks for a speedy overthrow of Babylon (Jeremiah 50:8-10; Jeremiah 51:24). All of these considerations lead the critics to suggest a date of about 540 B.C., long after the time of Jeremiah, as the date for the composition of this poem.

This critical objection can be met by the simple hypothesis of E. J. Young. Young proposes that Jeremiah wrote a first draft of this oracle in the fourth year of Zedekiah and sent it to Babylon by Seraiah precisely as recorded in Jeremiah 51:19-61. But during his days in Egypt, after the Temple had been destroyed and the nation had gone completely into exile, Jeremiah expanded that original draft to form the oracle as it stands in the Hebrew Bible. Another possibility is that Jeremiah regarded the exile as already in progress and considered the impending destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple as so certain that he could speak of it having already occurred in the fourth year of Zedekiah. The present writer tends to follow this latter alternative.

A second critical contention is that the Babylon oracle is inconsistent with Jeremiah’s attitude concerning Babylon. Jeremiah considered Babylon to be the servant of the Lord, appointed by God to rule the world. The Babylon oracle could hardly have come from the pen of a Chaldean sympathizer like Jeremiah. Here the critics have an erroneous view of Jeremiah’s attitude toward Babylon. Jeremiah had not predicted the successes of the Chaldeans because of sympathy or admiration for them but because that nation was to be used as God’s instrument of judgment upon the nations of his day. Jeremiah certainly did not regard the world rule of Babylon as interminable. He placed a limit of seventy years on Chaldean supremacy. After other nations had tasted of the wine of God’s wrath then the king of Babylon must drink also. In the light of Jeremiah 25:12; Jeremiah 25:26, it is appropriate that the section of foreign nation oracles should conclude with an oracle against Babylon. It would be puzzling if such an oracle were absent.

The argument is made that an oracle against Babylon would only serve to undercut the strong emphasis in chapters 27–29 that the exile would be of long duration. The delusion of an imminent overthrow of Babylon was rampant among the Jewish captives and Jeremiah had done all that he could to dispel the delusion. If this oracle was sent to Babylon shortly after the deportation of 597 B.C. it would only serve to reinforce that very delusion. But the text specifically declares that the Babylon oracle was not circulated throughout the exilic community but was sunk in a symbolic act in the river Euphrates.

The critics think that the length of the Babylon oracle argues against its genuineness. It is twice as long as the somewhat lengthy oracle against Moab. Furthermore, the Babylon oracle is marked by frequent repetitions: the approach of desolation is mentioned eleven times; the capture and destruction of Babylon nine times; Israel’s flight and return to Jerusalem seven times. Surely if this oracle as it stands is the product of the pen of Jeremiah it lacks originality. In reply to this criticism it should be pointed out that repetition is characteristic of the Book of Jeremiah. Surely it is not critically sound to declare a passage spurious because it can be found elsewhere in the writings of the same author. As for the length of this oracle, it is not surprising that it should be the longest. Babylon exerted a tremendous influence on tiny Judah and thus would demand from the prophet more than a passing allusion. Furthermore, it was necessary for this oracle to be included in the Book of Jeremiah so that later generations might be able to properly evaluate his attitudes toward the Chaldean conquerors.

The question of the genuineness of the Babylon oracle should not require much debate since the text itself (Jeremiah 50:1 and Jeremiah 51:60) attributes these chapters to Jeremiah. While the Babylon oracle is attributed to Jeremiah in the Hebrew text, the Septuagint translation omits “by the hand of Jeremiah” in Jeremiah 50:1. Even the most determined negative critics admit that many Jeremian utterances, turns of thought and ideas appear in these chapters. Furthermore, the narrative epilogue (Jeremiah 51:59-64), the genuineness of which is generally conceded, presupposes the existence of an extended anti-Babylon prophecy by Jeremiah. Finally, the appearance of the Medes as the conquerors (Jeremiah 51:11; Jeremiah 51:28) may be taken as proof that the oracle was written a long time before the end of the exile when the participation of the Persians would of necessity have been mentioned. On the basis of these several lines of thought the Jeremianic authorship of the oracle against Babylon appears to be fully vindicated.

The background of the Babylon oracle is related in Jeremiah 51:59-64. Seraiah, Zedekiah’s chief chamberlain, was about to accompany his king on a trip to Babylon. Jeremiah, taking advantage of this opportunity, “wrote in a book all the evil that should come upon Babylon.” Seraiah is commanded to read the prophetic message aloud in the face of the city. Then the book containing the message is to be sunk in the Euphrates river. By the first act Seraiah testifies that the Lord has now declared to the city its fate; by the second, that the city will sink like the stone, never to rise again. It is clearly implied that the message read by Seraiah over the doomed city was the Babylon oracle of Jeremiah 50:1 to Jeremiah 51:58.

The material in the Babylon oracle is put together in an unusual fashion. The oracle consists of a series of poems with prose sections interspersed here and there. The basic theme is the destruction of Babylon and the deliverance of Israel. Following almost every message of doom for Babylon is a message of hope for Israel. Logical progression in the theme is difficult to detect as the prophet chooses to drive home again and again his basic point. Any outline of the oracle is arbitrary and in the very nature of the case the subdivisions will overlap.

THE DEFEAT OF BABYLON Jeremiah 50:1-34

In the first part of the Babylon oracle the major theme of Babylon’s defeat and the minor theme of Israel’s return are skillfully blended. A four-fold breakdown is observable: (1) Babylon’s destruction and Israel’s deliverance (Jeremiah 50:2-10); (2) Babylon’s desolation and Israel’s restoration (Jeremiah 50:11-20); (3) Babylon’s visitation and Israel’s vindication (Jeremiah 50:21-28); and (4) Babylon’s recompense and Israel’s redemption (Jeremiah 50:29-34).

Babylon’s Destruction ad Israel’s Deliverance

Jeremiah 50:1-10

The oracle begins with an announcement to all the nations of the destruction of Babylon. The news spreads like wild fire as signal standards are raised in the market places of lands under Babylonian hegemony. Bel-Merodach (Marduk), the chief god of Babylon, has been shamed by what has happened to his city. The idols and images of man’s making are absolutely useless when God begins to intervene in human history (Jeremiah 50:2). In spite of all those gods can do, an army attacking from the north, the Medo-Persian armies led by Cyrus the Great, have defeated Babylon. The picture is so plain in the mind of the prophet that he can describe those events in 539 B.C. as though they had already taken place. The defeat of Babylon by Cyrus was the first in a long series of disasters which that city would suffer and the place would eventually become an uninhabited desolation (Jeremiah 50:3). Jeremiah 50:3 is actually a generic prophecy, a prophetic snapshot of the fall of Babylon considered as a whole, Centuries would elapse between the events predicted in the first half of the verse and the desolation pictured in the second half of the verse.

The overthrow of Babylon is the signal for the deliverance and return of Israel and Judah. The passage is devastating to the Anglo-Israel theory which contends that Israel, the Northern Kingdom, migrated to Europe after the collapse of the Assyrian empire. Here both of the former kingdoms join together in returning in repentance to the Lord their God (Jeremiah 50:4) and to Zion the holy city. Jeremiah hears the remnant of Israel exhorting one another to join themselves to the Lord in an “everlasting covenant that shall not be forgotten” (Jeremiah 50:5). The prophecy of Israel’s deliverance began to be fulfilled when Cyrus, the conqueror of Babylon, issued a decree granting the captives the right to return home. From that remnant which returned, God raised Up the promised Messiah who established with spiritual Israel the New Covenant, the everlasting covenant, for Which the remnant yearns in this verse.

How did God’s people come to be captives in far off Babylon? Like lost sheep abandoned by their shepherds (their spiritual and political leaders) Israel had wandered away from the fold. on the mountains of Palestine they worshiped their pagan gods with immoral acts. Their resting place, the habitation of righteousness, the hope of their fathers was completely forgotten (Jeremiah 50:6). The enemies of Israel used this apostasy as an excuse for their heartless and cruel oppression of the people of God (Jeremiah 50:7). But now Jeremiah foresees an end to that dreary period of Israel’s history. The hour of deliverance will come, for the Lord will stir up “a company of great nations from the north country” (Jeremiah 50:9) who will defeat and plunder Babylon (Jeremiah 50:10). For this reason Israel is urged to flee from the midst of Babylon, to be as he-goats who lead the flock (Jeremiah 50:8). When Cyrus conquered Babylon he allowed all peoples held captive in Babylon to return to their native lands. Israel is urged to be among the first to take advantage of this gracious act, to lead the way.

Verses 11-20

Jer 50:11-20

Jeremiah 50:11-16

Because ye are glad, because ye rejoice, O ye that plunder my heritage, because ye are wanton as a heifer that treadeth out [the grain], and neigh as strong horses; your mother shall be utterly put to shame; she that bare you shall be confounded: behold, she shall be the hindermost of the nations, a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert. Because of the wrath of Jehovah she shall not be inhabited, but she shall be wholly desolate: every one that goeth by Babylon shall be astonished, and hiss at all her plagues. Set yourselves in array against Babylon round about, all ye that bend the bow; shoot at her, spare no arrows: for she hath sinned against Jehovah. Shout against her round about: she hath submitted herself; her bulwarks are fallen, her walls are thrown down; for it is the vengeance of Jehovah: take vengeance upon her; as she hath done, do unto her. Cut off the sower from Babylon, and him that handleth the sickle in the time of harvest: for fear of the oppressing sword they shall turn every one to his people, and they shall flee every one to his own land.

The reasons for God’s anger against Babylon are noted here. They rejoiced with a sadistic hatred against the calamities of Israel, aggravating their sorrows in every possible way. They were having a high old time destroying God’s heritage and are compared here to a well-fed heifer, or neighing horses.

Your mother shall be utterly put to shame...

(Jeremiah 50:12). The mother here is the city of Babylon.

The hindermost of the nations...

(Jeremiah 50:12). A study of the prophecies reveals that, although God prophesied the total and final desolation of Babylon, he did not prophecy that this would happen immediately. There would be a long period of her decline: (1) She would be the hindermost of the nations, but still a nation. (2) Then she would be: (a) a wilderness, (b) a dry land and (c) a desert. Many centuries were involved in the complete fulfillment of all that.

Jeremiah 50:17-20

Israel is a hunted sheep; the lions have driven him away: first, the king of Assyria devoured him; and now at last Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon hath broken his bones. Therefore thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria. And I will bring Israel again to his pasture, and he shall feed on Carmel and Bashan, and his soul shall be satisfied upon the hills of Ephraim and in Gilead. In those days, and in that time, saith Jehovah, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I leave as a remnant.

This paragraph mentions two past events, the destruction of Samaria and the Northern Israel in 722 B.C., and that by Nebuchadnezzar in 597 B.C., at which time the first wave of captives were carried to Babylon and Zedekiah became regent king for Nebuchadnezzar. This was four years later.

The message is that God had humiliated and destroyed the king of Assyria at Nineveh, and that he would bring a similar destruction upon Babylon.

In those days...

(Jeremiah 50:20).These words are the usual Messianic formula, indicating that the pardon and forgiveness promised to Israel will come in the times of the Messiah in their acceptance and obedience to the Gospel of Christ.

Babylon’s Desolation and Israel’s Restoration Jeremiah 50:11-20

The Chaldeans discharged their office as chastiser of Israel with arrogant and malicious joy. The satisfaction which they received in plundering Jerusalem is compared to a heifer calf frisking about the threshing floor eating her fill. Like strong stallions which neigh in triumph and challenge, the Chaldeans raise a loud and boastful cry after they have subdued Jerusalem (Jeremiah 50:11). But God has taken note of the arrogant amusement of the Chaldean conquerors and has decreed that the “mother” of Babylon (i.e., the land of Babylonia) “shall be utterly put to shame and confounded.” Proud Babylon shall become the very least of nations—a wilderness, a dry land, a barren desert (Jeremiah 50:12). She shall experience the wrath of the God of Israel; she shall be utterly uninhabited. Visitors to the ruined city will be astonished by the desolation which marks the spot (Jeremiah 50:13).

The prophet next turns to the attacking armies and in direct address urges them to execute the divine vengeance on Babylon. He urges the nations to put themselves in battle array round about Babylon and unleash their deadly arrows “for she has sinned against the Lord” (Jeremiah 50:14). No defense of the city will be able to repel the attacking force for this is “the vengeance of the Lord.” Realizing the futility of further resistance, the Chaldeans “give the hand” i.e., they surrender to the invader. Subsequently the walls of the famous city are razed and Babylon experiences the same humiliation which she has inflicted on others (Jeremiah 50:15). The agricultural regions of Babylon, famous in antiquity for abundant productivity, will be destroyed by the invader. Herodotus (1. 193) declares that the yield in Babylonia was commonly two hundred-fold and sometimes even three hundred-fold, When Babylon is laid waste, the exiles from all nations flee to their respective lands (Jeremiah 50:16). The picture of the destruction of Babylon in Jeremiah 50:14-16 is a composite which includes prophetic allusions to many different sieges of Babylon. These verses were not entirely fulfilled by the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C. because Cyrus did not raze the walk of the city and he was very careful to spare the rural regions of Babylonia. At least these two elements must point to subsequent sieges of the city.

In contrast to the devastation that awaits Babylon the prophet points out the glory that Israel shall experience. Hitherto Israel had been a poor, frightened sheep, driven and devoured by two mighty lions, Assyria and Babylonia (Jeremiah 50:17). But the tables are due to be turned. Assyria has already received its chastisement; that of Babylon will not be delayed (Jeremiah 50:18). Note that it is Nebuchadnezzar who devours Israel but it is “the king of Babylon” who is punished. This king was Nabonidus, whose son Belshazzar was co-ruler in 539 B.C. when Cyrus conquered the city. Then will Israel again feed peaceably on its own pasture both west of Jordan (Carmel; Mt. of Ephraim) and east of Jordan (Bashan; Gilead) where they shall enjoy the spiritual and material blessings of the Lord (Jeremiah 50:19). In the postexilic times God will provide for the remnant of His people, the spiritual Israel of God, absolute forgiveness (Jeremiah 50:20). This verse looks ahead to the cross of Calvary where the Son of God bore the sins of the world. The efficacy of that sacrifice was retroactive to sins committed under the old law as well as sins of the present and future. The remnant of Israel, the spiritual Israel, in both Testaments consists of those who turn to the Lord in faith, repent of their iniquities and obey the commandments of God appropriate to that dispensation of time. Thus Jeremiah 50:20 states the grounds of the promise of restoration in Jeremiah 50:19. God can restore the remnant of Israel to spiritual blessing and prosperity because they have repented; God can pardon this remnant because of what He knows will transpire at Calvary.

Verses 21-28

Jer 50:21-28

Jeremiah 50:21-28

Go up against the land of Merathaim, even against it, and against the inhabitants of Pekod: slay and utterly destroy after them, saith Jehovah, and do according to all that I have commanded thee. A sound of battle is in the land, and of great destruction. How is the hammer of the whole earth cut asunder and broken! how is Babylon become a desolation among the nations! I have laid a snare for thee, and thou art also taken, O Babylon, and thou wast not aware: thou art found, and also caught, because thou hast striven against Jehovah. Jehovah hath opened his armory, and hath brought forth the weapons of his indignation; for the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, hath a work [to do] in the land of the Chaldeans. Come against her from the utmost border; open her store-houses; cast her up as heaps, and destroy her utterly; let nothing of her be left. Slay all her bullocks; let them go down to the slaughter: woe unto them! for their day is come, the time of their visitation. The voice of them that flee and escape out of the land of Babylon, to declare in Zion the vengeance of Jehovah our God, the vengeance of his temple.

The land of Merathaim... land of Pekod...

(Jeremiah 50:21). Some scholars try to locate these places as provinces of Babylonia, but Keil suggested that the words were invented by Jeremiah, and Graybill gave their meaning as double bitterness for Merathaim, and punishment for Pekod. The names therefore are symbols of the punishment coming upon them.

The hammer of the whole earth...

(Jeremiah 50:23). Babylon is here called the hammer of the whole earth, and that is a name which historically has been used of (1) Judas Maccabaeus for his victory over Syria, (2) of Charles Martel, which means ’Charles the Hammer,’ the victor in the Battle of Tours in 732 A.D., and (3) of Edward I of England, upon whose tomb in Westminster Abbey are the words (in Latin) ’Hammer of the Scots.’

I have laid a snare for thee...

(Jeremiah 50:24). Babylon imagined herself impregnable; but, according to Herodotus, Cyrus took the city by stratagem, diverting the Euphrates out of its channel, and entering the city beneath the gates over the river.


(Jeremiah 50:27). This word is used figuratively for warriors.

Babylon’s Visitation and Israel’s Vindication Jeremiah 50:21-28

Again the adversaries of Babylon are addressed. They are called upon to go up against the land of Merathaim (i.e., “double rebellion”) and the inhabitants of Pekod (i.e., “punishment”) and utterly destroy (Jeremiah 50:21). Some think that Merathaim and Pekod refer to actual districts of Babylonia but the geographical reference seems rather doubtful. The idea in these two enigmatic designations for Babylon is that God will punish that land because of her excessive rebellion. Following this summons the prophet describes the execution of the commission. He hears the terrible noise of war and destruction in the land (Jeremiah 50:22). “How sad it is,” he says sarcastically, “that the hammer of the whole earth is broken and smashed.” Babylon, the instrument which has smashed the whole world into submission, has served its purpose and is now broken. The once proud land has become a desolation among the nations (Jeremiah 50:23).

In Jeremiah 50:24 the prophet indicates that the element of secrecy and surprise which excludes all resistance will prevail at the capture of Babylon. Like an unsuspecting beast caught in the snare of the trapper, so has Babylon been captured. The reason for the calamitous fall of the city is that Babylon had “striven against the Lord.” Babylon had exceeded the bounds of the divine commission to punish the nations and had thus in effect pitted herself against the Lord.” The quick and surprising capture of the city will be possible because the Lord of Hosts has opened his armory and brought into use all the means of attack which it affords. Though God uses secondary agents to accomplish his purposes against Babylon that which they do there is the work of God (Jeremiah 50:25).

As the Lord has emptied His arsenal against Babylon so also shall all the storehouses in Babylon be emptied and the contents destroyed. The phrase “cast her up as heaps” refers to the huge piles of rubble which were left after a city had been totally demolished (Jeremiah 50:26). The doomed warriors of Babylon are compared to sacrificial animals (bullocks) to be slaughtered. Woe unto those armies! The time of their punishment has come, the day of national accountability (Jeremiah 50:27). Meanwhile the Jewish captives shall hasten to Zion to proclaim the good news that the Lord has executed vengeance upon the enemies of His people. The destruction of God’s Temple has been avenged! (Jeremiah 50:28). Israel has been vindicated by the divine visitation upon Babylon.

Verses 29-40

Jer 50:29-40

Jeremiah 50:29-32

Call together the archers against Babylon, all them that bend the bow; encamp against her round about; let none thereof escape: recompense her according to her work; according to all that she hath done, do unto her; for she hath been proud against Jehovah, against the Holy One of Israel. Therefore shall her young men fall in her streets, and all her men of war shall be brought to silence in that day, saith Jehovah. Behold, I am against thee, O thou proud one, saith the Lord, Jehovah of hosts; for thy day is come, the time that I will visit thee. And the proud one shall stumble and fall, and none shall raise him up; and I will kindle a fire in his cities, and it shall devour all that are round about him.

Barnes, stressing Jeremiah 50:28, believed that the capture of Babylon, "was regarded as the vengeance of God upon them for burning the temple"; but "in the fourth year of Zedekiah’ (the date of this prophecy), the temple had not yet been burned. The holy vessels had been carried away to Babylon, but the burning of the temple occurred a few years later when Jerusalem again fell and Zedekiah was captured.

Jeremiah 50:30 here is the same as Jeremiah 49:26. Jeremiah often repeated his own words.

Jeremiah 50:33-40

Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: The children of Israel and the children of Judah are oppressed together; and all that took them captive hold them fast; they refuse to let them go. Their Redeemer is strong; Jehovah of hosts is his name: he will thoroughly plead their cause, that he may give rest to the earth, and disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon. A sword is upon the Chaldeans, saith Jehovah, and upon the inhabitants of Babylon, and upon her princes, and upon her wise men. A sword is upon the boasters, and they shall become fools; a sword is upon her mighty men, and they shall be dismayed. A sword is upon their horses, and upon their chariots, and upon all the mingled people that are in the midst of her; and they shall become as women: a sword is upon her treasures, and they shall be robbed. A drought is upon her waters, and they shall be dried up; for it is a land of graven images, and they are mad over idols. Therefore the wild beasts of the desert with the wolves shall dwell there, and the ostriches shall dwell therein: and it shall be no more inhabited for ever; neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation. As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbor cities thereof, saith Jehovah, so shall no man dwell there, neither shall any son of man sojourn therein.

They refuse to let them go...

(Jeremiah 50:33). Although Babylon will not let God’s people go, God Himself will deliver them. He is here called Their Redeemer. The reference is to the concept of the [~go’el] (Leviticus 25:25 and Numbers 35:21), or the near kinsman who was pledged to serve as the protector or avenger of one enslaved, or murdered. Only here, God Himself will be the [~go’el] (the Redeemer) to rescue Israel. Much of this paragraph is found elsewhere in Jeremiah and Isaiah. On Jeremiah 50:34, cf. Isaiah 43:14; Isaiah 44:6. On Jeremiah 50:39-40, see Isaiah 13:19-22. Jeremiah 50:40 also corresponds with Jeremiah 49:18. It should be noted here that Jeremiah quoted from Isaiah, from both the First Isaiah and the alleged Deutero-Isaiah, a strong evidence of the unity of Isaiah.

A sword upon thy waters, and they shall be dried up...

(Jeremiah 50:38). This, of course, is another reference to the method of Cyrus’ capture of Babylon by diverting the Euphrates out of its channel. Both Babylon and Nineveh were on mighty rivers, Nineveh upon the Tigris, and Babylon upon the Euphrates. Yet the prophets of God made this distinction in their prophecies against the two cities. Nahum declared of Nineveh that God prophesied, With an overrunning flood will I make a full end of thee (Nahum 1:8), whereas Jeremiah here declares that The waters of Babylon shall be dried up! What a remarkable proof that what we have here is the Word of God, not the word of men.

Babylon’s Recompense and Israel’s Redemption Jeremiah 50:29-34

Again the prophet calls upon the archers to encamp round about Babylon and to thereby prevent the escape of any of the defenders of that doomed city. Again he calls upon the invaders to recompense Babylon, to do to her as she has done to others. The reason for the divine antagonism against Babylon is made perfectly clear: Babylon “has been proud against the Lord” (Jeremiah 50:29). Those who attempt to defend the doomed city will fall in the streets (Jeremiah 50:30). “Behold I am against you O Pride,” declares the Lord. The exact background of this formula is unclear. The formula “behold I am against you” also occurs in Ezekiel 26:3; Ezekiel 28:22; Ezekiel 29:10 and with slight variation in Zephaniah 2:5. The rather intriguing suggestion has been made that it originated in the formula of challenge with which a champion summoned his rival to combat. Babylon is Pride personified and the Lord of hosts has appointed the day of her punishment (Jeremiah 50:31). The Lord will bring that proud one to totter and fall and no one will be able to lift her up again. God’s judgment, like a fire, shall consume the cities of Babylonia (Jeremiah 50:32). Thus will the pride of Babylon be humbled.

In contrast to the recompense of Babylon is the redemption of Israel. As in the days of the Egyptian bondage the children of Israel and Judah are held fast in the iron grip of an oppressor (Jeremiah 50:33). Yet to those disheartened and discouraged captives Jeremiah strikes a note of hope. Their Redeemer, the Lord of Hosts, is strong! He will take up the cause of His helpless people. The word translated here “Redeemer” is the Hebrew goel, the title of the near kinsman, to whom belonged, according to ancient law, the duty of revenging a murder, as well as that of advocate and general protector. So now the Lord is about to rescue His people and take vengeance upon their foe. Actually all the nations had been troubled by the Babylonian oppressor. Therefore, when God acts on behalf of His people to disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon the world at large will reap the benefits of peace and tranquility (Jeremiah 50:34). It was the policy of Cyrus, the conqueror of Babylon, to gain the good will of subject peoples by permitting all deported people to return to their native land. This was not the first nor will it be the last time that the world has enjoyed blessing because of some action which God has performed on behalf of His people.


Jeremiah 50:35 to Jeremiah 51:26

In this section of the Babylon oracle the major theme of the fall of Babylon becomes more prominent. The minor theme of the deliverance of Israel occurs only in Jeremiah 51:5-6; Jeremiah 51:10.

A. Thorough Destruction Jeremiah 50:35-40

The Lord will use the agents of sword and drought through the centuries to destroy all which supports Babylon’s power and glory: the inhabitants of the city as well as the civil and religious leaders (Jeremiah 50:35), the liars, boasters or soothsayers, the strong armies and foreign mercenaries, the treasures of the city (Jeremiah 50:37), and the ancient and elaborate irrigation system (Jeremiah 50:38). One of the keys to the agricultural prosperity of Babylonia was the irrigation system which dates back to the time of Hammurapi in the eighteenth century before Christ. In fulfillment of the prophecy the famous canals of Babylon have silted up and all but disappeared. This tidal wave of destruction will sweep Babylonia because that land was “a land of graven images and they are mad over idols” (Jeremiah 50:38). The Hebrew word translated “idols” literally means “horrors” or “terrors.” The cruel, bloodthirsty and immoral gods of Babylon were indeed horrible creations of the depraved mind of man. What a pity that the highly cultured Babylonians had not used their wisdom and knowledge to turn to the true and living God. Certainly through their contacts with the people of Israel they had numerous opportunities to come to know the Lord of glory. Surely it was of such people that the apostle Paul spoke when he wrote: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things” (Romans 1:22-23).

The sword and the drought will eventually make Babylon “as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.” The point of comparison here is not the manner of Sodom’s destruction but the results of that overthrow. Following its destruction Babylon will never again be inhabited by human beings (Jeremiah 50:40). The place will be fit only for desert creatures, the wolves or jackals (lit., “howling creatures”) and the owls or ostriches (Jeremiah 50:39). In this description of the desolation of Babylon Jeremiah is echoing the prophecy of Isaiah where many of the same thoughts occur (cf. Isaiah 13:19-22).

Verses 41-46

Jer 50:41-46

Jeremiah 50:41-46

Behold, a people cometh from the north; and a great nation and many kings shall be stirred up from the uttermost parts of the earth. They lay hold on bow and spear; they are cruel, and have no mercy; their voice roareth like the sea; and they ride upon horses, every one set in array, as a man to the battle, against thee, O daughter of Babylon. The king of Babylon hath heard the tidings of them, and his hands wax feeble: anguish hath taken hold of him, [and] pangs as of a woman in travail. Behold, [the enemy] shall come up like a lion from the pride of the Jordan against the strong habitation: for I will suddenly make them run away from it; and whoso is chosen, him will I appoint over it: for who is like me? and who will appoint me a time? and who is the shepherd that can stand before me? Therefore hear ye the counsel of Jehovah, that he hath taken against Babylon; and his purposes, that he hath purposed against the land of the Chaldeans: Surely they shall drag them away, [even] the little ones of the flock; surely he shall make their habitation desolate over them. At the noise of the taking of Babylon the earth trembleth, and the cry is heard among the nations.

Jeremiah 50:41-43 here are the same as in Jeremiah 49:19-21 and in Isaiah 6:22-24. See my comments there.

Many kings shall be stirred up (against Babylon)...

(Jeremiah 50:41). At the time Jeremiah wrote this, he could not have known the composition of the invading force against Babylon. Nevertheless the prophecy was literally fulfilled. ’The many kings’ is a reference to the vassal-kings assisting their overlord, this being the normal part of a suzerain-vassal treaty; and, when Cyrus conquered Babylon, his army contained a number of such vassal contingents.

Harrison pointed out that Jeremiah 50:44-46 here repeat substantially the prediction against Edom (Jeremiah 49:19-21), but apply it to Babylon. The significant difference is that, "Little Edom’s cry would be heard only as far as the Red Sea; but Babylon’s anguished howl would be heard throughout the Near East!

This prophecy against Babylon is continued through the following chapter, which is the longest in Jeremiah. The two chapters are actually a single prophecy.

Ruthless Destruction Jeremiah 50:41 to Jeremiah 51:5

For the third time the prophet announces the approach of the conquerors of Babylon: “Behold, a people shall come from the north.” No doubt the prophet is presenting here a composite picture of the several conquerors who would attack the city of Babylon beginning with the Medo-Persian armies of Cyrus and concluding with Parthian armies of Mithridates II. The enemy is described as a “great nation” because of the size of the host. Many kings all over the world are being stirred up to the attack against Babylon (Jeremiah 50:41). The vast host surges forward towards Babylon armed for war. The sound of their coming is likened to the roar of the sea. They are cruel and ruthless warriors who show no pity to the daughter of Babylon, (i.e., the inhabitants of the city Jeremiah 50:42). The king of Babylon is petrified at the news of the approaching host. His hands become limp; distress seizes his heart like that of a woman beginning her travail (Jeremiah 50:43). One cannot read this description of the terror of the king of Babylon without thinking of what is said of Belshazzar in the Book of Daniel when he hears the prophetic interpretation of the handwriting of doom on the walls of his palace: “Then the king’s countenance was changed in him, and his thoughts troubled him; and the joints of his knees smote one against another (Daniel 5:6).

Babylon’s judgment shall be that Edom (cf. Jeremiah 49:19-21). It matters nothing to the Lord whether the nation be small and insignificant like Edom or a mighty empire like Babylon. Any nation which proudly lifts itself up against the Holy One of Israel will be punished. Babylon’s conqueror will burst upon the land like a lion from the pride (jungle) of the Jordan leaping upon a helpless and unsuspecting flock. No shepherd or leader of Babylon will be able to withstand the impact of this divinely appointed one (Jeremiah 50:44). The Lord God has taken counsel against Babylon and has laid plans for the destruction of that land. The invader will make desolate the inhabitants of that land like helpless sheep (Jeremiah 50:45). The earth trembles in astonishment at the news of Babylon’s fall. The final gasping cry of Babylon is heard throughout the nations of the earth (Jeremiah 50:46).

Prophecies about Foreign Nations - Jeremiah 46:1 to Jeremiah 51:64

Open It

1. What, in your mind, is a good example of a situation in which justice was served?

2. In what strategic defense or weapon would you have the most confidence during a personal attack?

Explore It

3. Why did Jeremiah say that the mighty warriors of Egypt would cower before Nebuchadnezzar? (Jeremiah 46:13-17)

4. Despite the judgment coming on Egypt, what did God promise them eventually? (Jeremiah 46:25-26)

5. What promises did God make to Israel with honesty, justice, and hope? (Jeremiah 46:27-28)

6. To what terrifying natural disaster did God compare the Egyptian conquest of Philistia? (Jeremiah 47:2-5)

7. Where did the people of Moab misplace their trust, sending themselves and their idols into captivity? (Jeremiah 48:6-9)

8. In the context of judging the nations, what curse did Jeremiah pronounce on the lax or merciful? (Jeremiah 48:10)

9. Why would it be particularly appropriate when Moab became an object of scorn and ridicule? (Jeremiah 48:26-27)

10. What brought about Moab’s destruction as a nation? (Jeremiah 48:42)

11. What was the source of Ammon’s false sense of security? (Jeremiah 49:4)

12. What did God promise to the Ammonites when their punishment was complete? (Jeremiah 49:6)

13. How did God say He would treat the helpless, even within the borders of His enemy, Edom? (Jeremiah 49:11)

14. Why did Edom think its location made it invincible? (Jeremiah 49:15-16)

15. How would Damascus along with Kedar and the kingdoms of Hazor also fall under God’s judgment? (Jeremiah 49:23-33)

16. What would eventually happen to the nation of Elam after it was defeated and taken into exile? (Jeremiah 49:37-39)

17. With their enemies facing God’s wrath, what did Jeremiah predict Israel and Judah would do? (Jeremiah 50:4-5)

18. What attitude of the Babylonians in relation to God’s people convinced God to leave them desolate? (Jeremiah 50:11-13)

19. Since the Babylonians had exiled many of the peoples they conquered from their own land, what would happen when God punished them? (Jeremiah 50:16)

20. When Babylon was made accountable to God, what would become of Israel’s guilt? (Jeremiah 50:20)

21. What did Jeremiah tell us about Israel’s Redeemer? (Jeremiah 50:34)

22. To what historic event did God compare the coming destruction of Babylon? (Jeremiah 50:39-40)

23. What were the Babylonians failing to take into account about God’s relationship to Israel? (Jeremiah 51:5)

24. What nation was to become God’s instrument of justice against Babylon? (Jeremiah 51:11-14)

25. How did Jeremiah contrast the God of Israel with the idols of the other nations? (Jeremiah 51:17-19)

26. What religious disgrace of the people of Israel would be remedied by God Himself? (Jeremiah 51:51-53)

27. What message about Babylon was Seraiah to deliver to the exiles in Babylon? (Jeremiah 51:59-64)

Get It

28. Why was it important for the Jews exiled in Babylon to know that Babylon’s great power would soon fall?

29. Why was it important that each instrument of God’s wrath not be lax?

30. In what ways does modern society practice some of the same evil and rebellious attitudes that brought on God’s punishments for these nations?

31. What will become of those who rejoice when one of God’s servants stumbles morally?

32. How does our worship become acceptable to God?

Apply It

33. In what situation can you demonstrate a new attitude toward a Christian who has stumbled?

34. Through what difficult circumstance will you ask God to give you perspective, patience, and (eventually) freedom?

Questions On Jeremiah Chapter Fifty

By Brent Kercheville

1 What is the initial message to Babylon (Jeremiah 50:1-3)?

2 What will happen “in those days” (Jeremiah 50:4-5)? Explain how this was fulfilled.

3 What is the reason for Babylon’s judgment (Jeremiah 50:11-13)? Explain the imagery.

4 Describe what God is going to do (Jeremiah 50:19-20).

5 What else is described as the reason for Babylon’s judgment (Jeremiah 50:29-32)?

6 What hope does God give in Jeremiah 50:33-34? What lessons do we learn about us and about God?


How does this relationship change your relationship with God?

What did you learn about him?

What will you do differently in your life?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Jeremiah 50". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/jeremiah-50.html.
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