CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—1. Chronology of the Chapter: "Fourth year of Jehoiakim" (Jer ). It is stated the third year in Dan 1:1; but Hales ("Sacred Chron.") shows that Jehoiakim was made king by Pharaoh Necho of Egypt in July B.C. 607; whereas Nebuchadnezzar mounted the throne January 21, B.C. 604: and thus Nebuchadnezzar's first year included parts of both the third and fourth of Jehoiakim. In the Chaldean cylinders [placing all chronology back by twenty-two years] these dates are B.C. 590 for Jehoiakim's accession, and B.C. 586 for Nebuchadnezzar's. Cf. notes in loc. to chapters 7 and 10. This chapter formed part of Jehoiakim's roll (cf. chap, Jer 36:29).
2. Contemporary Scriptures.—Daniel 1; Jeremiah 36; 2Ki ; 2Ch 36:5-7.
3. National Affairs.—Cf. notes in loc. to chapters 7 and 10. This date formed a momentous crisis in the history of the kingdom of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar, having defeated Pharaoh Necho at Charchemish, came, in pursuit of the Egyptian fugitives, to Judah; took Jerusalem, made Jehoiakim vassal-king, and carried the best life of the nation away into Babylon—thus beginning the seventy years' Babylonian captivity, which Jeremiah in Jer foretells. For twenty-three years Jeremiah had now been God's prophet in Judah, calling his nation to repentance and reformation. Jeremiah was, during this "fourth year of Jehoiakim," amid his most energetic labours, persuading Jehoiakim from reliance upon Egypt, and counselling, both as a matter of policy and of religious duty, allegiance with Babylon. This incensed the king against Jeremiah, and led him angrily to burn the roll.
4. Contemporaneous History.—Nabopolassar, king of Babylon, being old and decrepit, entrusted to his son, Nebuchadnezzar, the war against Pharaoh Necho, who had penetrated to the very Euphrates in lust of empire. He won supremacy over his Egyptian rival by a victorious and decisive war at Charchemish. Cf. notes in loc., chapters 7 and 10. "The mingled people:" Ionian and Carian settlers in Egypt, to whom Psammetichus had given territory.
5. Geographical References.—Jer . "Uz:" lying between Egypt and the states of the Mediterranean, north of Arabia-Petrea, between the sea and Idumea. (Not the Uz of Job 1:1.) In this geographical survey, after reference to Pharaoh of Egypt, first we have mentioned "the races of Arabia and Philistia that bordered on Egypt to the east and west (Jer 25:20); then the Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites to the east (Jer 25:21); the Phoeniciana, with their colonies, to the west (Jer 25:22); next the Arabian tribes of the desert, extending eastward from Palestine to the Euphrates (Jer 25:23-24); then the Elamites and Medes in the distant east (Jer 25:25); the near and distant kings of the North; and last of all the king of Babylon (Jer 25:26)."—Kiel. Jer 25:20. "Azzah:" i.e., Gaza. "The remnant of Ashdod:" this is one of those pregnant sentences which none but a contemporary writer could have used. Psammetichus, after a siege of twenty-nine years, had captured and destroyed Ashdod, excepting only a feeble remnant (Herod, 2:157).—Payne Smith. [Gath is not mentioned, for it was destroyed in the same war.] Jer 25:22. "The isles:" properly the coastland (sing.), or the maritime regions of the Mediterranean, where the Phœnicians had planted colonies. Jer 25:23. "Dedan:" North Arabia (Gen 25:3-4). "Tema and Buz:" tribes north of Arabia (Job 32:2). "All that are in the utmost corners:" see note on Jer 9:26. The tribe of Kedar. Jer 25:24. "Mingled people that dwell in the desert:" tribes of Cusbite origin, such as Kenites. By intermarriage these tribes had become of mixed blood. Jer 25:25. "Zimri:" unmentioned elsewhere. Zimran was the eldest son of Abraham by Keturah (Gen 25:2). This was probably a district east of the Arabian desert towards Persia. Ptolemy mentions a Zabra between Mecca and Medina. "Elam:" west of Persia, but used in Scripture for Persia generally. Jer 25:26. "Sheshach" (cf. chap. Jer 51:41), Babylon. See Lit. Crit. on word below.
6. Personal Allusions.—Jer . "Jehoiakim and Josiah:" see notes on chapter 1. "Nebuchadrezzar:" notes on Jer 21:2. Jer 25:3. "Amon king of Judah:" son of Manasseh, fifteenth king of Judah, and father of Josiah. For his character see Zep 1:4; Zep 3:3-4; Zep 3:11.
7. Natural History.—Jer . "Principal of the flock" (also in Jer 25:35): means the best and fattest of the sheep. Jer 25:38. "Forsaken his covert as the lion:" i.e., ventures forth in quest of prey.
8. Manners and Customs.—Jer . "Voice of mirth, and of the bride:" cf. notes in loc. on Jer 7:34, Jer 16:9. "Sound of the millstones, and the light of the candle:" i.e., the day's industries, and the evening social fellowships after the day's toils are over. See Addenda on Jer 25:10. Jer 25:15. "Take the wine-cup:" the metaphor of an intoxicating cup is commonly used in Scripture to denote affliction or misery. Cf. Isa 51:17-22; Jer 49:12; Jer 51:7; Lam 4:21, &c. Jer 25:30. "Give a shout, as they that tread the grapes:" as the vintagers trampled the grapes they raised a loud song or cry.
9. Literary Criticisms.—General remark: the text of this chapter is disfigured by numerous interpolations, some of which are absent from the Septuagint. Thus, from Jer disappear the words, "saith the Lord, and Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, My servant." In Jer 25:11, instead of "shall serve the king of Babylon," the Septuagint reads. "serve among the nations." From Jer 25:12 are omitted the words, "the king of Babylon" and "and the land of the Chaldeans." From Jer 25:13 are omitted the gloss "which Jeremiah hath prophesied against all the nations." In Jer 25:26, "and the king of Sheshach shall drink after them" are left out in the Septuagint. All these interpolations were doubtless inserted by a copyist from the later prophecies of Jeremiah, chapters 50 and 51.
Jer . "Sheshach:" this is a cypher form of the word Babylon, and is done thus:—The alphabet letters are reversed in order, and instead of the proper letter of the word being used, its number from the beginning of the alphabet is counted, and then the same number-letter reckoned from the end of the alphabet is inserted in its place. Thus, ב is the second letter from the beginning; so ש is the second letter from the end of the alphabet; and ל is the twelfth from the beginning, while כ is the twelfth from the end. Babylon is in Hebrew, BABEL but, instead, the letters are altered into SHESHACH. This is the Cabalistic system. Michaelis, however, explains the term as meaning "brazen-gated" (cf. Isa 45:2); others suggest "house of a prince;" Glassius argues that it comes from the Babylonian goddess Sach, by reduplication of the first letter. From this goddess Misael's name was altered to Me-shach. Further, the term Shace was applied to a Babylonish festival alluded to in chap. Jer 51:39; Jer 51:57; Isa 21:5. It was during this feast that Cyrus took Babylon (Herod. i). Thus Jeremiah mystically denoted the time of its capture by this term.
Jer . "Mightily roar upon his habitation." נָוֶה means both habitation and pasture; and the text better reads, "roar mightily over his pasturage." Jer 25:37. "Peaceable habitations." Here, as in Jer 25:30, habitation should be pastures.
HOMILETIC SURVEY OF CHAPTER 25
THE MANIFOLD JUDGMENTS OF GOD
The chapter distributes itself into sections thus:—Judah's captivity (Jer ); Babylon's fall (vers,. 12-14); The wine-cup of fury for the nations (Jer 25:15-29); Tribulations throughout the world (Jer 25:30-38).
Glancing over the whole chapter, we are impressed with the theme of the Divine dispensations of judgment in relation to individuals, nations, and the whole world. Lange suggests the following: We can speak of—
I. The judicial acts of God according to the conditions of their manifestations. They are—
1. Required by the sins of men (Jer ).
2. Deferred by the love of God (Jer ).
3. Driven to accomplishment by the impenitence of mankind (Jer, seq.).
II. The judicial acts of God according to the stages of their manifestation.
1. This applies to current preliminary judgments. (1.) In the life of individuals. (2.) In the life of nations. God judges continually here below, both single individuals and entire nations (Jer ).
2. It applies to the final judgment. (1.) In so far as it has already begun (Jer ; Jer 25:29; 1Pe 4:17; Matthew 24). The theocracy in its outer relations is already judged; in this sense the universal "judgment has begun at the house of God." (2.) In so far as it is still future. Single empires have already been destroyed, as well as single men; but the judgment of the world as a whole is still impending (Jer 25:30, seq.).
III. The judicial acts of God differently represented in the Old and New Testaments.
1. In the Old Testament they are—(1.) Represented in figures (Jer, seq. 38). (2.) Limited to the earth (Jer 25:30; Jer 25:33).
In the New Testament they are represented—(1.) In their full super-terrestrial reality. (2.) As extended over heaven and earth. (Comp., in contrast to this passage, Matthew 25; 1 Corinthians 15; 1 Thessalonians 4; 2 Peter 3).
IV. The judicial acts of God differently felt according to the inward conditions of men.
1. As destruction on the part of the godless (Jer, seq.).
2. As deliverance on the part of the pious (Jer ).
TOPICAL SURVEY OF CHAPTER 25 HOMILETICALLY ARRANGED
Topic: PROPHETS AND THEIR MISSION. (Jer ; Jer 25:13; Jer 25:15; Jer 25:30.)
"The word of the Lord hath come unto me, and I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye have not hearkened. And the Lord hath sent unto you all His servants the prophets, rising early and sending them" (Jer ).
This is the first place in the book where Jeremiah speaks of himself as "the prophet" (Jer ). He here records the term of his labours (Jer 25:3), and alludes to the changes which had come upon his nation during his mission among them.
I. A survey of prophetic work.
1. His vast and manifold audience (Jer ). 2. The lengthened period of his ministry (Jer 25:3). Nineteen years under Josiah, three months under Jehoahaz, four years under Jehoiakim.
II. A testimony to prophetic fervour.
1. His own persevering activity (Jer : "For three and twenty years, rising early and speaking"). 2. A succession of Divine messengers (Jer 25:3), so that the messages and expostulations of prophets were never silenced.
III. A statement of prophetic authority.
1. He prophesied only because commissioned by God. "The word of the Lord came," &c. (Jer ). Comp. also Jer 25:15; Jer 30:2. The prophets were divinely constrained to their work and witness (Jer 25:4).
IV. A summary of prophetic teaching.
1. A call to reformation (Jer ). 2. A promise of a goodly heritage (Jer 25:5). 3. A warning against impiety (Jer 25:6). 4. An exhibition of the consequences of sin: "do you hurt" (Jer 25:6); "provoke Me to anger" (Jer 25:7). 5. Predictions of judgment (Jer 25:15; Jer 25:30).
V. An indication of the variety characterising prophetic labours.
1. Preaching (Jer ). 2. Writing (Jer 25:13). 3. Visiting (Jer 25:15). 4. Denouncing (Jer 25:30).
VI. A protest against prophetic rejection.
1. The people had persistently refused to hear prophetic messages (Jer ; Jer 25:8). 2. They had shown no inclination towards the messages God sent (Jer 25:4). Comp. Addenda on Jer 25:4 : "Jehovah hath sent to you all the prophets."
His had not been an easy ministry; comp. Jer ; Jer 20:14-18. But he was now firmly established as a prophet, and had become "unto the people a fenced brazen wall" (comp. Jer 1:18; Jer 6:27; Jer 15:20). But, alas! how little had his nation benefited! Repudiating such a messenger of God, and for so long, their sin was the greater, and their doom righteously severe.
Topic: NEBUCHADREZZAR, GOD'S SERVANT. (Jer .)
The bestowment of this title by Jehovah is both rare and significant. It is given in the Old Testament Scriptures emphatically to three persons: first to Moses (Deu ; Jos 1:2), as the Leader and Lawgiver of his people; to Nebuchadrezzar (Jer 25:9; Jer 27:6; Jer 43:10), as the Punisher, yet Preserver, of Judah; and to MESSIAH (Isa 52:13; Isa 53:11), as the Redeemer and King of Israel. Note: Cyrus is called by a similar name (Isa 44:28; Isa 45:1), as the Liberator and Restorer of the exiled people. See Addenda, Jer 25:9. "Nebuchadrezzar, My servant."
I. A discredited and astonishing appointment. Facts seemed to refute the idea that Nebuchadnezzar was to be commissioned and empowered to conquer the nations and possess the heritage of Israel. Egypt had been the Great Power. Pharaoh Necho it was who had slain Josiah, and had established his authority between Egypt and the Euphrates (2Ki ). And now Nineveh was captured by him, the Assyrian empire had fallen, and Nabopolassar, king of Babylon, was infirm and old. Jehoiakim, their own king, was a vassal of Pharaoh. All these facts seemed to declare that Egypt under Pharaoh, and not Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar, was destined to be the supreme arbiter and ruler of nations.
But—1. God purposed otherwise; and "none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest thou?"
2. God was preparing another, who was merely a young military leader, and was hitherto unknown—Nebuchadnezzar. "Things despised God hath chosen; and things which are not, to bring to nought things which are, that no flesh should glory in His presence." That very year in which Nabopolassar died, Nebuchadnezzar, his son, succeeded to the throne, and began a series of brilliant victories which raised him to the highest position among the potentates of the earth.
II. An unchallengeable temporary supremacy. To this person, whom God would "send for and take," should be given victory over Egyptian arms (at Char-chemish), dominion over the mighty realm of Egypt, over the destinies of God's own people, and over all neighbouring nations. Jer declares that (1) God will gather together all the northern nations; (2) place them under Nebuchadnezzar as sovereign and general; (3) bring them against Judah.
The period of this ascendancy is definitely limited; but it is equally definitely determined; nothing can prolong, nor can shorten it.
1. God's omnipotence decides national and individual ascendancy. "He raiseth up one, and putteth down another." Powerful nations are weak indeed in His all-powerful hands; while weakest forces can be made "mighty through God."
2. God's omnipotence is thus to be honoured in human affairs. Because Nebuchadnezzar failed to revere God's power as higher than his own, and indeed the source of his own, therefore he was degraded. (See Dan ; Dan 4:25; Dan 4:29-37; also Dan 5:18-23.)
III. A minister of God's righteous judgments (Jer ; Jer 25:11).
1. Specially employed by Jehovah for punishing wrong. Guilt in Judah and the nations had to be scourged, and God used him for this.
2. Unconsciously employed by Jehovah for ends he did not appreciate. Himself no worshipper of Jehovah, no willing "servant" of the Divine Master, he yet did God's behest effectually. "He maketh the wrath of man to praise Him;" "Men are Thy hand."
IV. A guardian of the covenant nation.
1. Judah was to be chastised for its idolatry, yet preserved from destruction. Captivity effected both ends.
2. Judah was to fulfil Divine prophecies and vindicate God's faithfulness to His covenants before the world. Prophecy had for ages threatened captivity as the penalty of idolatry; therefore it came. Yet prophecy had as emphatically guaranteed that God's people should be restored to and repossess their land; therefore their exile was made safe to them, and really preserved them intact as a nation, while it also disciplined their heart and prepared them for return to Canaan.
God has His own methods of effecting His plans; yet His plans cannot fail. By ways and agencies we should not select He works our "good" (chap. Jer ). Over all the powers and projects of man He sways, and does according to His will among the inhabitants of the earth.
(a.) It is well to be reconciled to so great a God. (b.) We are safe in the covenant care of so faithful a God. (c.) It is hopeless to resist the purposes of so omnipotent a God.
Topic: SEVENTY YEARS' CAPTIVITY. (Jer .)
Rationalistic criticism is, of course, offended by this specification beforehand of the term of Babylon's ascendancy and of the Jewish captivity. The period "seventy years" must have been interpolated after the captivity was over and the time known! says Hitzig. "Such coincidence of history with prophecy would be a surprising accident," says Hitzig again. Graf thinks that the prediction of Babylon's destruction, at the very time when it is described as a power divinely commissioned to execute judgment, is somewhat unsuitable and improbable.
To this the reply may be: 1. As the Babylonish ascendancy began with the year of this prophecy, the fourth of Jehoiakim's reign, this was a suitable time for predicting the term of its continuance. 2. As God's judgments on the nations were now being passed before the prophet's vision, beginning with Jerusalem and comprehending all the earth, Babylon could not reasonably be omitted. 3. Since the future of Judah in captivity was so bound up with the future of Babylon, the prediction of the term of exile was naturally accompanied with this prediction of Babylon's fall. 4. Inasmuch also as the Jewish captivity now began, it was needful—in order to save the exiles from despair, to encourage their submission to expatriation, to sustain their faith in God, and thus to keep alive a religious life in their souls—to show beforehand the limit of the term of discipline.
I. The historic reckoning of this period. These "seventy years" began with "the fourth year of Jehoiakim and the first of Nebuchadrezzar" (Jer ), when he first captured Jerusalem, i.e., B.C. 606. They end with the capture of Babylon in the first year of Cyrus, and the restoration of the Jews, B.C. 536 (Ezr 1:1). About the filling up of those years in Babylonish history there seems some slight difficulty. Nebuchadnezzar reigned forty-four years; his son Evil-Merodach, two years; Neriglissar, who murdered Evil-Merodach (the Nergal-Sharezer mentioned in Jer 39:3-13), Nebuchadnezzar's son-in-law, four years; his infant son, Laborosoarchad, nine months, he being then murdered; Nabonedus, seventeen years. To these sixty-seven years and nine months may, however, be added the necessary interval until the Jews were really in repossession of their country, which may fully account for the literal "seventy years."
II. The theocratic purpose of this captivity.
1. The assignment of His people to captivity was intended by God—(a) to punish their apostasy from Him; (b) to restore their fidelity to Him; (c) to enlighten them concerning the true and only God, in distinction from the revolting forms of idolatry and the consequent degradations they would witness in Babylon (chap. Jer ).
2. The limitation of the term of His people's captivity was intended by God—(a) to declare that the committal of Judah to Nebuchadnezzar was not an abdication of His claim to them and control over their destiny; (b) to vindicate His power over the mighty monarchy of Nebuchadnezzar, His "servant," whom He had exalted to carry out the Divine plans; (c) to foster the hope of restoration in the hearts of His people, and thus dispose them to accept the chastisement and renew their faith in Jehovah. They would only "hang their harps on the willows," not cast them away in despair.
III. The supernatural termination of Babylon's power.
1. The empire rose and ended within the predetermined period of "seventy years." A short-lived wonder; and apparently called into existence only for the temporary expatriation, and therefore preservation, of Judah. Within the term of Judah's exile, Babylon rose and fell. Babylonia and the captivity were synchronous: commenced simultaneously, closed simultaneously. This suggests the vast importance Judah assumed in God's esteem. For her He created Babylon! Nebuchadnezzar was "His servant" to punish and preserve her.
2. The precision with which God limited Babylon's ascendancy sublimely vindicates God's supremacy as the Governor of nations. "The mighty monarchy of Chaldea was under the control of the God of Israel, and He who made it flow like a stormy ocean, and overwhelm the nations with its flood, could say to its proud waves, Hitherto shalt thou go, and no farther."—Wordsworth.
3. The predicted overthrow of Babylon was a judgment by God upon the lust of empire. Although the Chaldeans were a Divine instrument for punishing the Jews, they knew it not, but merely gratified their cruel passions and impious greed of power, thereby contracting guilt which in its turn called for punishment (Jer ). Under Cyrus' command the allied Medes and Persians, after a long and difficult siege, captured Babylon, B.C. 538; and Darius the Mede assumed the throne. "The empire of Babylon," says Dr. Payne Smith, "was practically the work of one man. After Nebuchadnezzar's death it continued for a few years, during which its history is a series of murders and usurpations, and then it fell for ever, and its ruins form its only lasting memorial. Contrast with this the promise to Judah in chap. Jer 4:27."
Topic: PROPHECY VINDICATED IN BABYLON'S FALL. "And I will bring upon that land all My words which I have pronounced against it" (Jer )
The fall of Babylon proves the truth of prophecy, and prophecy proved attests the Divine inspiration of prophets. Isaiah and Jeremiah predicted events which befell mighty empires; they must, therefore, have been moved by the Omniscient Spirit. Man himself "knoweth not what a day may bring forth;" how shall he foresee the fate of cities and destiny of nations, and at a time when nothing could indicate such events? Consider—
I. God minutely declared His prophetic purpose against Babylon. "My words which I have pronounced against it."
1. He pronounced the destruction of Babylon by the Medes and Persians (Isa ; Jer 51:11). History fulfilled this; for under the command of Cyrus, who was announced a hundred years before he was born, Babylon was besieged by the united forces of the Medes and Persians.
2. God declared that the river of Babylon should be dried up (Isa ; Jer 50:38). This river was two furlongs broad, and more than twelve feet deep; and was thought to be a surer fortification than the city's massive walls. Prophecy was strikingly fulfilled; for Cyrus turned the course of the Euphrates and drained the channel, so that his soldiers crossed and entered the city.
3. Further, Jehovah proclaimed that Babylon should become a desolation. So complete should this desolation be that the Arabian would not be able even to pitch his tent on the site (Isa ). All this came to pass. One part of the country was overflowed by the river which Cyrus diverted, making the land a boggy marsh, which became so overrun with serpents and venomous creatures that not even the wild Arab could dwell near it.
Comparing history with prophecy, in every minute particular God's "words which He pronounced against" Babylon are seen to be startlingly verified.
II. When God denounces a city or nation, His decision is not arbitrary, but is justified by some foreseen fact. He foresees Babylon's idolatry, iniquity, and impious pride, and therefore determined its destruction. Hence this overthrow was not the result of caprice or arbitrariness on God's part; but sin was the cause of Babylon's fall. Sin saps the foundation of cities and empires.
III. When, because of iniquity, God determines the destruction of a city or empire, nothing can save it. If ever a city appeared impregnable, it was Babylon. Its walls, says one writer, "were above 300 feet high, 87 feet broad, and 48 miles in compass." In addition, the river Euphrates appeared an insuperable barrier to an enemy entering the city. Yet, notwithstanding its mighty wall with its hundred gates of solid brass, notwithstanding its wide and deep river, Babylon was taken, according to the word of the Lord.
Men talk of impregnability—the impregnability of walls, forts, and bulwarks. But only what God defends is impregnable, and nothing can stand when God determines its fall. Babylon, Nineveh, Tyre and Sidon, all illustrate this—the power of God to fulfil His counsel. "Hath He said, and shall He not do it?"
IV. The fidelity of God, in the execution of His threatened judgments, is presumptive proof that He will fulfil all His gracious promises. Hath He more delight in punishing the wicked than in blessing the righteous? Nay; He is "slow to anger," but He is also "not slack concerning His promises." Sure in the fulfilment of His threatenings, certainly "all His promises are Yea and Amen."
V. Divine threatenings have in some cases been recalled, but there are no instances where Divine promises have not been fulfilled. The sins which incurred the threatenings have been repented of, as with Nineveh, and so the stroke has been turned aside. But all God's promises spring from His grace and love. And, while man's sin may cease, and so the judgment be escaped, God's "love never faileth," therefore the promises can never be recalled. Promises may be delayed, but Divine love and faithfulness are guarantees that what He has promised He will assuredly perform.—Arranged from Rev. D. Pledge's "Walks with Jeremiah."
Topic: THE WINE-CUP OF WRATH. (Jer .)
A bold image, and not infrequently used by the sacred writers (comp. Psa, Isa 51:22, Lam 4:21, Rev 16:19, &c.). Dr. Adam Clarke points out that Plato has a similar idea: "Suppose," says Plato, "God had given to men a medicating potion inducing fear, so that the more any one should drink of it, so much the more miserable he should find himself at every draught, and become fearful of everything both present and future; and, at last, though the most courageous of men, should become totally possessed by fear" (De Leg. 1, near the end). Homer also (Iliad 24:527-533) places two vessels at the disposal of Jupiter, one of good, the other of evil, in which potions are ready for men to drink:—
"Two urns by Jove's high throne have ever stood:
The source of evil one, and one of good;
From thence the cup of mortal man he fills,
Blessings to these, to those distributes ills;
To most he mingles both: the wretch decreed
To taste the bad unmixed, is cursed indeed;
Pursued by wrongs, by meagre famine driven,
He wanders outcast both of earth and heaven."—Pope.
Henry, in general, suggests the following:—"The cup in the vision is to be a sword in the accomplishment of it (Jer ). (1.) The just anger of God sends His judgment (Jer 25:15; comp. Job 21:20, Rev 14:10). The wrath of God in this world is but a "cup," contrasted with the full streams of it hereafter. (2.) By human hands the judgment was to be executed. Jeremiah enforces the cup (Jer 25:17); Nebuchadnezzar wields the sword. (3.) On whom the judgment should fall: all the nations within the verge of Israel's acquaintance. (4.) The certainly and irresistibleness of the coming judgment (Jer 25:28-29). They will not only be loath to take the cup, but will refuse to believe the judgment will ever come; but God will see to it that they drink it." Suggestions:—
(i.) There is a God who judges in the earth, to whom all nations are accountable, and by whose judgments they must abide.
(ii.) God can easily bring to ruin the greatest nations—the most numerous, powerful, and secure.
(iii.) Those who have maltreated God's people will be certainly reckoned with for their deeds. The year of recompense will come on all who have vexed and afflicted Israel.
(iv.) The predictions of God's prophets will in due time assuredly be accomplished. Isaiah had long before this prophesied of these nations (chap. 13, &c.), and now at length these predictions will have complete fulfilling.
(v.) Those who are ambitious of power and dominion commonly become the plagues of their generation. Nebuchadnezzar was so proud of his might that he became lost to the sense of right.
(vi.) The greatest pomp and power of this world are of very uncertain continuance. Before Nebuchadnezzar's greater force kings themselves must yield and become captives. (See Addenda on Jer : THE WINE-CUP OF FURY.)
Topic: "SHESHACH:" BABYLON REVERSED BABYLON'S FATE. (Jer .)
I. The term "Sheshach" was a disguised name for magnificent Babylon.
1. There was a prudential reason at this crisis for concealment of the reference of this prediction. This prophecy of Babylon's overthrow was one sure to become known to the Chaldeans, and then might have incensed them against the captives. The mention of "the king of Babylon" and "the land of the Chaldeans" in Jer, was doubtless a later insertion into the text, and has no place in the Septuagint (See Lit. Crit., supra.) But this hidden reference would not be understood by the captors, though well known in its reference by the captives. Consequently there was no severity shown in Chaldea, either to Jeremiah (chap. Jer 39:11), nor those of his nation who favoured surrender to Chaldea rather than to Egypt.
2. There was much ingenuity shown in the literary method of concealment. (See Lit. Crit., supra, on the inverted letters which are here used for Babel.) Also (and we may accept the further idea), since Shace was the name of the festival which would be held at the very hour of Babylon's overthrow, the name would indicate to the exiles not only the city's fall, but the actual season of the year when the event should transpire. Yet the Chaldeans themselves would decipher no meaning in this mysterious term. Nevertheless this dexterous use of the peculiarly Chaldean syllable "Shach" (as in Me-shach), would suffice to connect the name with the city in the hour of its fall, when the prediction was pointed out by the Hebrews to their Babylonish captors.
II. The term "Sheshach" became a significant watchword among the Jewish exiles.
1. Its meaning was to them a gracious prophecy. Among the exiles it became a pledge of deliverance. It counselled patience, animated hope, and sustained faith. It led them to refuse to "sing the Lord's songs in a strange land," yet to preserve their silenced and suspended harps for future use. It disarmed all inducements to fall into Chaldean idolatry, for it reminded them that as their Jerusalem had fallen because of her apostasy to idols, so would Babylon: for Jehovah was a jealous. God and His glory He would not give to others.
2. Its suggestiveness informed them of the issues of the final siege. When the Medes and Persians arrived at the walls of Babylon and laid siege, the Chaldeans were proudly scornful of their demands to surrender, and trusted to the strength of their walls, the splendour of their fortifications, the resources of their city, and contemned the daring foe! But Judah "knew the time of her visitation," and "Sheshach" became the watchword which sufficed to interpret the meaning of the siege and forecast the issues thereof. When Cyrus was at the gates of Babylon, the festival Shace was being held, and both king and people had abandoned themselves to idolatrous carousals. While they besotted themselves, the exiles, on the other hand, would eagerly scan "the signs of the times," praying to the God of Israel for the fulfilment of their ardent hopes, that the "set time to favour Zion might come," and "Sheshach" would be whispered among them as indicating their confidence as to the nearness of the end. (See Addenda on Jer : THE KING OF SHESHACH SHALL DRINK.)
III. The term "Sheshach," then, held a definite prediction of the city's fall. 1. In the inversion of the letters ("Sheshach" for "Babel") there was signified the inverted fortunes of the city. It would come to pass that the pride of Babel would be reversed; all its glory should be changed, and its lofty name be covered with discredit.
2. This final overthrow of the conqueror and captor was required in order to vindicate God's righteousness. "If Judah was to be punished, and Chaldea be invested with universal empire, was it," asks Dr. Payne Smith, "because the Chaldeans were more approved by God in religion and morals than the Jews? No. They were simply God's scourge, made fit to be so by the vigour of one man; and at his death punishment will befall them also for their own sins; and in little more than twenty years after Nebuchadnezzar's death, their empire will cease for ever. They existed only to do the base office of an executioner, and, that done, they will be laid aside."
Topic: GOD'S CONTROVERSY WITH HUMANITY. "A noise shall come even to the ends of the earth; for the Lord hath a controversy with the nations, He will plead with all flesh; He will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith the Lord" (Jer ).
Universal disturbance is predicted. It would come in this instance through the military aggressions and devastations of Nebuchadnezzar, who would march over the nations in irresistible conquests. But behind Nebuchadnezzar's armies Jehovah would stand, vindicating the laws which those nations had violated, and punishing the wicked with the sword. (See Addenda on Jer .)
(i.) In world-wide commotions we must recognise the direct action of the Lord God. "When judgments are abroad" there is evidence that God has arisen to "shake terribly the earth" (Isa ).
(a.) These universal commotions occur not by haphazard. (b.) Natural agencies [as now Nebuchadnezzar's armies] are supernatural instrumentalities. (c.) There is a purpose and a providence in such vast and solemn commotions. (d.) Reverently yield to these "pleadings" of God whenever they occur.
(ii.) Great crises occur when God places humanity in arraignment. He may send out war over the earth, or pestilence, or fruitless seasons, or paralysis of industries; but in human history there do periodically occur such grave epochs when God manifestly enters into controversy with His creatures.
(a.) Wrong, which is in the world, seems at definite periods to culminate. Iniquity gets into the ascendant everywhere, and requires a mighty shaking and shattering to be cast down again into shame and defeat. (b.) God calls humanity to answer for its wrongdoing. He has His own manifold ways of doing this—war, disaster, &c. (c.) Judgments sweep over the earth in stern protestations. Calamities are God's proclamations of displeasure.
A controversy implies that wrong exists which God will have set right.
I. There is just cause why God should come into controversy with humanity.
1. He has given us natural revelation, yet we have misused it (Rom ).
2. He has made Himself and His will known in human history, yet we have ignored Him (Pro ).
3. He has sent His messengers to the world, yet we have repudiated them (comp. Jer with Mat 21:35, &c.; Jer 23:34, to the end).
4. He sought to reconcile humanity to Himself, yet we have refused His grace (comp. 2Co with Heb 2:3; Heb 10:28).
II. Human history has been interrupted by epochs in which God has pleaded with all flesh.
1. Recall to thought the black dates which have become marked on all national records. Not a nation has been without them; times of awful solemnity and sorrow.
2. Grave crises have also come upon many nations simultaneously. International calamities and wars and plagues, by which countries and peoples have been plunged into common distress and amaze.
3. Over the whole habitable world great controversies have gone forth from God. What was the ancient Flood, what the first preaching of the Cross, what the Reformation, what those modern evangelistic and revival movements, but occasions when God "pleaded with all flesh"?
III. A delinquent world will assuredly be brought to judgment by Jehovah.
1. It is an eternal law and necessity that wickedness shall be rebuked and punished (comp. 2Pe ).
2. It is predetermined that the lives of men shall be brought before the throne of God for judgment (Act ).
Application.—(a.) God now "pleads" with us for our reconciliation and salvation. (b.) His "controversy" will be the more dreadful with us if, by rejecting His grace, we compel Him to "plead" with us in judgment. (See Addenda on Jer .)
ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 25: NOTES AND ILLUSTRATIONS
Jer . "THE FOURTH YEAR OF JEHOIAKIM." This date was the turning-point in Oriental history. The armies of Egypt and Babylon met in deadly and decisive battle at Charchemish, and God gave the ascendancy to Nebuchadnezzar. Immediately after this battle, and probably before Nebuchadnezzar and his victorious army appeared in Palestine, Jeremiah delivered this prophecy, which foretells the greatness of the Babylonish empire, mentions the countries over which it is to extend, and the exact term of its duration. During this year Jeremiah had, in vain, been seeking, with the wisdom of a statesman and the fervour of a patriot, to detach Jehoiakim from Egypt and induce him to accept Nebuchadnezzar's supremacy. This led Jehoiakim—a year later—both to burn the prophet's roll (comp. chap. Jer 36:32), to endeavour to slay the prophet (ibid. 26), and thereby to silence all further Divine messages to him, till, at the close of his reign, the Chaldeans were marching upon Jerusalem.—Comp. Speaker's Commentary.
Jer . "JEHOVAH HATH SENT TO YOU ALL HIS PROPHETS." God is a long-suffering God, who desireth not the death of a sinner; therefore He gives the first world one hundred and twenty years' time for repentance (Gen 6:3). Lot preaches to Sodom and Gomorrah more than twenty-five years (Gen 13:13; Gen 29:14). Christ preaches repentance three and a half years, and the Apostles forty years, before the destruction of Jerusalem. But dost thou not know that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?—Cramer.
Jer . "TURN YE EVERY ONE FROM HIS EVIL WAY." Each must separately repent and turn from his own sin. None is excepted, lest they should think their own guilt extenuated because the evil is general.—Jamieson.
Jer . "NEBUCHADNEZZAR, MY SERVANT." This title, so remarkable in the Old Testament as the especial epithet, first of Moses, and then of the Messiah, is thrice given to Nebuchadnezzar, and marks the greatness of the commission intrusted to him.—Payne Smith.
The Jews boasted that they were the servants of Jehovah. Yet a heathen king is here called God's servant, as being more His servant than they were, and as serving God in destroying them!
Jer . "SOUND OF THE MILLSTONES." As a household morning employment, all the mills of a town would be heard together, since the custom was for only enough corn for the day's need to be ground at a time. The labour was severe.
"LIGHT OF THE CANDLE," i.e., night-light. These are so common in use in the East that the poorest burn candles all through the night.
Payne Smith suggest beautifully that the "sound of the millstones" was the sign of the preparation of the daily meal, and that the "light of the candle" was the sign of the assembling of the family after the labours of the day were over.
Jer . THE WINE-CUP OF FURY. A "cup" is often in Scripture put for affliction, and "wine" for extreme confusion and wrath. Here the figure indicates stupifying judgments (comp. chaps. Jer 49:12; Jer 51:7.) We need not suppose, with Michaelis, that Jeremiah actually offered a winecup to the ambassadors of the nations assembled at Jerusalem. "Make them drink," i.e., by denunciations of their sins and prediction of their doom.
Jer . "THE KING OF SHESHACH SHALL DRINK." "Belshazzar, the bezzling king of Babylon, whilst he is quaffing in the vessels of God's house to the honour of Shat (Shesac, id est poculum lœtitiœ aut vanitatis, vel sericum tuum), the Babylonian goddess, whence those feast days were called σακέαι ἡμέραι, being like the Roman Saturnalia. Antichrist also, who hath troubled all the kingdoms of the earth, shall himself perish, together with his Babylon the great, which hath made the nations drunk with the wine of her fornications."—Trapp.
Jer . "YE SHALL CERTAINLY DRINK." No effort of theirs to escape the destruction will avail.
"If they either do not believe thy threatenings, or else disregard them, as thinking themselves sufficiently provided against hostile invasion, you shall let them know that the judgments denounced against them are God's irreversible decree."—Lowth.
"The destruction of the heathen nations was fixed and certain. Of this they might be assured by the fact that the Jews, who were Jehovah's peculiar people, were not spared."—Henderson.
Jer . "I BEGIN TO BRING EVIL ON THE CITY WHICH IS CALLED BY MY NAME." "If God spares not the city in which He has chosen a temple for Himself, and designed His name to be invoked, how can He spare aliens to whom He has never made any promise, as He regarded them as strangers? If, then, the green tree is consumed, how can the dry remain safe? This is the import of the passage. The Apostle uses the same argument in other words; for after having said that judgment would begin at God's house, he immediately shows how dreadful the vengeance of God would be upon His open enemies (1Pe 4:17).… It is better for us that God should begin with us, as at length the wicked shall in their turn be destroyed; and that we should endure temporal evils, that God may at length raise us up to the enjoyment of His paternal favour. And for this reason Paul also says that it is a demonstration of the just judgment of God when the faithful are exposed to many evils (2Th 1:4-5)."—Calvin.
Jer . "THE LORD SHALL ROAR." In highly poetic language the judgment of the Gentiles is described. Jehovah has risen like a lion from his covert, and at His roaring the whole world is filled with terror and confusion. Sheep and shepherds roll on the ground in consternation, but cannot escape; for, like a storm wind, judgment stalks abroad, and the slain of the land cover the ground from one end of the earth unto the other, and lie unwept and without burial.—Payne Smith.
The roar was first to go forth over Judea, wherein were "the sheep of His pasture" (Psa ), and thence into heathen lands.
"HE WILL MIGHTILY ROAR." Pliny reporteth of the lioness, that she bringeth forth her whelps dead, and so they remain for the space of three days, until the lion, coming near to the den where they lay, lifteth up his voice and roareth so fiercely that they presently revive and rise. The "Lion of the tribe of Judah" will roar to like purpose at the last day; and doth afore, when He pleaseth, roar terribly upon His enemies, to their utter amazement (Joe ; Amo 1:2; Amo 3:8).—Trapp.
"The strict judgment of God sounds much stronger and clearer than we can bear. Hence the six hundred thousand men were so terrified when they heard the voice of God, that they said, ‘Let not God speak with us lest we die' (Exo ). It is well that we do not refuse to hear, or stop our ears against the sweet sound of God's voice in the sacred office of the preacher, because we can have it (Psa 95:8); or the time will come when we shall be obliged to hear its awful roaring, which God forbid. For when the lion roars, who shall not be afraid? (Amo 3:8.)"—Cramer.
Jer . Theme: PEACEABLE HABITATIONS OVERTHROWN. "The peaceable habitations are cut down, because of the fierce anger of the Lord."
I. Wrath destroys the peacefulness of any habitation into which it enters, be it (a) a home; (b) the heart; (c) a church.
II. Divine displeasure, if provoked, will drive us into homeless desolation.
(a.) All refuges will fail to shelter us. (b.) Pleasant scenes are wrecked if God be angry. (c.) "Peaceable habitations" require, for their very existence, that we be "at peace with God."
III. Peace and safety are possible to those who live in God's love. All others will be homeless in the evil day. But sudden destruction shall not come upon them. Their souls shall dwell in peace, always secure and at rest.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 25". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany