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Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Jeremiah 51

Verses 1-64

Jeremiah 50:1 to Jeremiah 51:58 . Babylon.— This long and monotonous prophecy, which is without order or logical development of ideas, is largely a compilation from the prophetic writings of Jeremiah and others ( cf., e.g., Jeremiah 50:41 ff., Jeremiah 51:15). It presupposes the destruction of Jerusalem, apparently as a remote rather than a recent event. Its idea of Babylon is that of a cruel tyrant to be punished by Yahweh, not that of a Divinely commissioned agent of Yahweh’ s wrath against Israel, as Jeremiah teaches. We are not at liberty to make it contemporaneous with such exilic writings as Isaiah 13, 40-55, because of its obvious dependence on these amongst other prophecies (see the notes); but the survival of Babylon (under the Persian empire) in the post-exilic period would provide later occasion for such a compilation. Moreover, the narrative of Jeremiah 51:59-64, which tells of a (private) scroll of prophecy sent by Jeremiah to Babylon, foretelling its end, would easily give rise to such a compilation by some later writer. In the present (editorial) arrangement of the text, this narrative is made to date the prophecy of Jeremiah 50:1 to Jeremiah 51:58 in 593 B.C., which is impossible ( cf. Jeremiah 27-29 for the actual conditions about that date).

Jeremiah 51:1-10 . Yahweh is stirring up “ the spirit of a destroyer” (so render for “ a destroying wind” ; cf. Jeremiah 51:11 and 2 Chronicles 36:22) against Babylon (cypher as mg.; cf. Jeremiah 25:26), which shall be “ fanned” , i.e. winnowed” , by her assailants. Yahweh’ s people are not abandoned; Babylon is held guilty. Let the Jews flee from Babylon ( cf. Jeremiah 51:45) to escape the vengeance on her guilt. Babylon has been a cup from which other nations drank frenzy ( Jeremiah 25:15 f.); now the cup is broken (so Hebrew for “ destroyed” , Jeremiah 51:8), and her hurt is incurable. The Jews recognise this, and urge other foreigners to depart ( Jeremiah 51:9); the justice (“ righteousness” , Jeremiah 51:10) of the Jewish cause is to be manifested by the overthrow of Babylon.

Jeremiah 51:2 . strangers: point as mg. 2 with Syr., Vulg., Targ.

Jeremiah 51:3 . Omit the first and second “ not” , with LXX, making the whole verse refer to the assailants of Babylon (so Cornill); as it stands, the first half refers to the Babylonians, the second to their enemies.

Jeremiah 51:5 . Render “ but their land” , i.e. that of the Babylonians.

Jeremiah 51:11-14 . Let the assailants polish their arrows and put on their shields, for the king (sing. with LXX, i.e. Cyrus) of the Medes ( cf. Isaiah 13:17) is executing Divine vengeance on Babylon; let the blockade be begun, because the measure of Babylon’ s destiny ( Jeremiah 51:13, lit. “ cutting off” , rather than “ gain” ; cf. Isaiah 38:12) is accomplished, and a swarm of invaders shall fill her.

Jeremiah 51:13 . many waters: with reference to the canals and water-defences of Babylon.

Jeremiah 51:14 . cankerworm: the locust in its chrysalis stage; cf. Jeremiah 51:27.

Jeremiah 51:15-19 . Yahweh’ s power and the powerlessness of the idols are contrasted. The verses are repeated from Jeremiah 10:12 ff. ( mg.).

Jeremiah 51:20-27 . Babylon has been Yahweh’ s war-club to destroy other nations; now it shall be repaid in the sight of Israel for its own evil-doing, and the destroyer shall be destroyed.

Jeremiah 51:20 . Render “ do I break” , and so throughout; cf. Jeremiah 50:23. Others, with the rendering of the RV, suppose that Cyrus is addressed in Jeremiah 51:20-23.

Jeremiah 51:25 . mountain: purely figurative.

Jeremiah 51:26 . The stone is made useless for building by being burnt; cf. Isaiah 33:12.

Jeremiah 51:27-33 . The nations, especially those of (the present) Armenia (“ Ararat” , etc.), and the Medes, are called out against Babylon, which is defenceless; its capture is described ( Jeremiah 51:30-32). Babylon’ s time of suffering is come.

Jeremiah 51:27 . The rough cankerworm: the “ bristling” locust-chrysalis, its most destructive stage.

Jeremiah 51:28 . kings: sing. with LXX.

Jeremiah 51:32 . For the corrupt pools of Hebrew text (see mg.,) read “ their palisades” ( i.e. muzzabç hem; cf. Isaiah 29:3), which LXX implies (though it pointed the consonants mazzabç hem, “ their garrisons” ).

Jeremiah 51:33 . The earth of the threshing-floor is trodden hard in preparation for the threshing.

Jeremiah 51:34-44 . Israel declares the wrongs done to her by Nebuchadrezzar, and invokes a curse on Babylon. Yahweh promises vengeance through the desolation of Babylon. The Babylonians, amid the very feasting on their prey, are “ stupefied” ( Jeremiah 51:39; so LXX, for “ may rejoice” ) and brought to slaughter; the city that is the glory of the earth is captured. A sea of invaders ( cf. Isaiah 8:7 f.) floods her, and Babylon is compelled to disgorge her prey ( i.e. the captured nations).

Jeremiah 51:34 . crushed: “ discomfited” ; made: “ set” (as); cast: “ driven” (re-pointed). For the figure of the dragon or sea-monster, cf. Ezekiel 29:3, Isaiah 27:1.

Jeremiah 51:36 . her sea: possibly the lake for defensive purposes made by Nebuchadrezzar.

Jeremiah 51:38 . Omit “ shall” in both cases.

Jeremiah 51:44 . Bel: see on Jeremiah 50:2.

Jeremiah 51:44-58 . Israel is told to escape, and not to be afraid amid wars and rumours of wars; the judgment of Babylon is greeted with universal joy. Israel is bidden remember Jerusalem ( Jeremiah 51:50); has not Jerusalem been defiled? ( Jeremiah 51:51). Hence the irresistible judgment which sweeps over Babylon, even to the destruction of her walls and gates. LXX omits Jeremiah 51:44 b Jeremiah 51:49 a.

Jeremiah 51:49 . The doubtful text should be rendered with Driver, “ Yea, Babylon must fall, O ye slain of Israel; yea, for Babylon have fallen the slain of all the earth.”

Jeremiah 51:55 . the great voice: referring to the din of a great city’ s life, here overcome by the greater tumult of invasion.

Jeremiah 51:57 . Cf. Jeremiah 51:39.

Jeremiah 51:58 . walls: sing, with LXX and Vulg., and with its Heb. adjective “ broad” .— overthrown: should be as mg. (the foundations are bared).

Jeremiah 51:58 b. Note reference of mg.; the two passages are drawn from some common source; here the application is to the vanity of human achievements, as represented by the fortifications of Babylon.

Jeremiah 51:59-64 . The Mission of Seraiah.— This royal official (the brother of Baruch, Jeremiah 32:12) was journeying to Babylon with the king in 593, being concerned with the halting-places, etc. of the journey ( Jeremiah 51:59 mg.) . Jeremiah gave him a scroll containing a prophecy against Babylon. He is to read this at Babylon, to remind Yahweh of His word, and to sink the scroll in the Euphrates, as a symbolic anticipation of the sinking of Babylon (see on Jeremiah 13:1 ff., for the force of such symbolism). The closing sentence of Jeremiah 6:4 is editorial, and is omitted by LXX, as also are the words, “ and they shall be weary” , which are a scribal repetition from Jeremiah 51:58, by error.—

Jeremiah 51:59 . with Zedekiah: nothing is known of this visit, though see on Jeremiah 27:12 ff. for its possible object.

Jeremiah 51:60 . Omit “ even all these words,” etc., which has been added to identify the scroll with the prophecy of Jeremiah 50:1 to Jeremiah 51:58.

Jeremiah 51:62 . thou: emphatic.

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Jeremiah 51". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/jeremiah-51.html. 1919.