CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—For Chronological Notes, see foregoing chapter.
Geographical References.—Jer . "The kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Ashchenas." These nations of Western Asia are summoned to join the Medes in their attack on Babylon. By "Ararat" is meant the region of Upper or Major Armenia, in the vicinity of the mountain; by "Minni," Lower or Minor Armenia; and by "Ashchenaz," probably Asia Minor, in which "Ascania" stands.
Personal Allusions.—Jer . "Seraiah," brother to Baruch (chap. Jer 32:12) and the king's chamberlain; see below, Lit. Crit. on verse.
Literary Criticisms.—Jer . "A destroying wind:" possibly this should read "a destroying spirit," i.e., Cyrus.
Jer . "Israel hath not been forsaken:" read, "Israel is not widowed nor Judah of his God."
Jer . "The Lord hath brought forth our righteousness:" rather, righteousnesses, pl. צְדָקוֹת, i.e., proofs that we are righteous.
Jer . "Upon the walls," should be against the walls.
Jer . "I will also break in pieces:" Henderson notes that מַפֵּץ, from נָפַץ, to scatter, break, dash in pieces, designates the war-club anciently used by warriors for the purpose of clearing away all with whom they came in contact.
Jer . "Sheshach:" vide Notes on chap. Jer 25:26.
Jer . "Remember the Lord afar off:" i.e., from afar; from Chaldea, far distant from Zion, God's dwelling-place.
Jer . "A quiet prince," שַׂר־מְנוּחָה, has been variously rendered. The Sept., ἄρχων δώρων, as if Seraiah were the distributor of the royal presents. The Vulg., "prince of prophecy." Other renderings are, "chief of the caravan," "lord chamberlain;" but there is warrant for the rendering as the E.V. Comp. אִיש־מְנוּחָה, a man of quietness, 1Ch 22:9.
SUBJECT OF CHAPTER 51: MYSTIC BABYLON ROMANISM DOOMED
General Survey: BABYLON'S DOOM MYSTIC BABYLON'S DESTRUCTION
i. The Median power, which Babylon formerly invited to unite with her for Nineveh's destruction, was made the instrument for her own overthrow. So in the Apocalypse it is revealed that some of the kings who were once vassals of the mystical Babylon will be the instruments in God's hands for chastising her (Rev ).
ii. Babylon's colossal splendour formed no hindrance to God's purposes of her fall, for He opens unlooked-for avenues along which His judgments may invade the strongholds of evil. The Euphrates of her power, which, with mystic Babylon, has flowed on for so many centuries, and in which she has trusted as her defence, the non possumus of the Pontifical arrogance, may prove the cause of her destruction. See Rev . Nor shall all her vaunted majesty and glory save her in the hour of invasion, when God's emissaries of judgment flow in upon her.
iii. The suddenness of Babylon's capture (Jer ; Jer 51:41) may have equal analogy. At a time when she is most exultant, revelling in some imposing festival or carnival, as Babylon was feasting at the time of its invasion, elate with pride, fearless of harm, provoking God by her sacrilege of sacred things, then the fingers of a man's hand shall write her downfall, and she shall be ensnared. See Rev 18:10; Rev 18:17. "In one hour is thy judgment come!"
iv. As with Babylon so with Rome, her fall shall be total and final, leaving her an absolute and hopeless ruin.
The walls of Babylon, of vast dimensions, 87 feet broad and 360 feet in height, the palaces and vast architectures within (Jer ), all suggested imperishable strength; as indeed the vast system of Romanism does to-day. But all her excellency became a ruin (Jer 51:58), and ancient Babylon became a dreary wilderness, unsightly "heaps" (Jer 51:37). Alexander the Great made efforts to rebuild Babylon, and employed 2000 workmen for two months in clearing away the foundations of the Temple of Belus, preparatory to his project: but he died in the midst of his ambitious scheme, and it was abandoned. Nor shall Rome ever exalt her head more when once the hand of doom lays her pride low. "It shall be found no more at all" (Rev 18:21).
v. Babylon's ruin became the signal for Israel's release and redemption. The faithful Jews in captivity there found liberty once more, and returned to rebuild Jerusalem and restore the desolations of Zion. Even so shall the fall of Rome set free the souls of men from the galling captivities of superstition, and the true Israel, the Church of Christ, shall rise into honour, prosperity, and power (Rev ).
vi. Israel was admonished and enjoined to flee from Babylon and "deliver every man his soul" (Jer ; Jer 51:45); so from mystic Babylon the voice of inspiration urges men to separate themselves from her sins and escape her impending destruction. "I heard a voice from heaven saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues" (Rev 18:4).
General Topic: THE PREDICTED OVERTHROW OF BABYLON
Probably no people were ever more luxurious and licentious than the Babylonians at the time of their overthrow. Disgusting excesses marked the pleasures of the table, and debauchery crowned the banquet. Profligacy especially characterised the female sex; hence the image in Revelation of mystic Babylon as a vile woman (Jer ; Jer 17:18, Jer 19:2, &c.), hurled from the seat of her effeminacy into total misery and degradation, is used to represent Babylon's doom.
I. Prophecy literally vindicated. Almost every step in the fall of Babylon, and its subsequent reverses, is the accomplishment of a prophecy.
1. The name of the victor, with his appointment by Providence to the work of retribution, was given more than a century before his birth (Isa ).
2. The varied character of the besieging host which would be engaged in the assault is minutely described. Not only the Medo-Persian army, but auxiliaries drawn from the highlands of Armenia, the provinces of Asia Minor, and the great deserts bordering on the Indian Caucasus (Jer ; Jer 51:11; Jer 51:27-28).
3. Some leading circumstances of the capture are also unequivocally pointed out. (1.) The intemperate festivity of the population (Jer ). (2.) The negligence of the guards in charge of the portals of the river: "gates not shut" (Isa 45:1). (3) The remarkable operation upon the Euphrates (Isa 44:27; Jer 50:38; Jer 51:32; Jer 51:36). (4.) The suddenness and surprise of the capture (Jer 50:24).
Nothing can be more exact that the correspondence between the futures of Babylon and the language of prophecy. Its story, viewed in connection with the previous announcement dictated by the Spirit of inspiration, is—
i. A bright evidence of the truth of the Holy Scripture and of the divinity which breathes in its pages.
ii. A confirmation of the religious system revealed in God's Word, from the first promise made to the first transgressor, to its perfect realisation in the Gospel of Christ.
II. Sacred lessons emphatically enforced. The records of Babylon's overthrow should be read—
1. By the believer.
(1.) With trembling awe, as an illustration of the divine anger against the sinfulness of man.
(2.) With grateful feelings also, as strengthening the conviction that the foundations of his faith and hope are solid.
(3.) With assurance of the verity of God's promises, that, as He fulfilled the words of awful retribution, so will He His promises of gracious deliverance: for "light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart."
2. By the enemies of God's people—with the appalling thought that as Babylon, the great oppressor of God's ancient people, has been reduced to nothingness, so certainly will all the persecuting enemies of the Church of Christ, of which that people is the selected type, be brought to confusion.
3. By the sceptic and infidel. The whole case is abundantly admonitory to such. Well would it be for them to compare the convincing evidences of the religious system they reject with the difficulties and hollowness of their own theories; to remember that if Christianity be true, its truth is awful to those who repudiate it; and to turn from their own delusive dogmas to receive the revelation of the Bible, while yet an insulted but still merciful God is waiting to be gracious to the chief of sinners through the mediation of the Son of His love.—Babylon and Nineveh.
HOMILIES AND COMMSNTS ON CHAPTER 51
Jer . Theme: ISRAEL NOT ABANDONED.
See Lit. Cri.t on verse: "Not widowed," not deserted by the Lord, who is her Husband.
Comp. chap. 3, Jer ; Homilies on p. 60. "Banished yet still beloved;" and 66. "God a loving Husband," et seq.
Jer . Theme: ROMANISM RENOUNCED.
"Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in her iniquity."
I. A doomed system entails the doom of its votaries. As they who will not leave a sinking vessel, sink with her.
II. Identification with a false religion is culpable in God's regard. "Her iniquity" becomes the iniquity of each individual adherent, and each will be "cut off" as being responsible for and sharing her sins. Men cannot screen themselves on the plea that they have always been what they are, and therefore they should stay where they are. "Flee out," &c.
III. The soul's safety is jeopardised by delusive systems. "Deliver every man his soul."
False beliefs are as fatal as no beliefs. "Refuges of lies" will be destroyed, and houses built on sand will fall.
IV. Prompt and earnest separation from Babylon's errors is enjoined. "Flee out of the midst of Babylon."
1. We have responsibilities towards truth, and should flee from error.
2. We have duties to our souls, and should separate ourselves from known spiritual delusions and dangers.
3. We have clear forewarnings of judgment, and should haste to escape from the coming tribulation.
"A time may come when it is well to separate one's self. There may come moments in the life of a Church when it will be a duty to leave the community. Such a moment is come when the community has become a Babylon. When the soul can no longer find in the Church the pure and divine bread of life, it is well "to deliver the soul that it perish not in the iniquity of the Church."—Article on Sects in Herzog, R.-Enc.
Jer . Theme: ROME'S LUXURIANCE.
"Babylon hath been a golden cup in the Lord's hand, that made all the earth drunken."
For the metaphor see Topic, chap. Jer seq.; "The wine-cup of wrath" (p. 474).
Compare for identification of Babylon with Rome, Rev ; Rev 17:4.
I. "A golden cup" dazzles and fascinates the beholder. Men's eyes are bewitched and dazed by the glitter and splendour of gold, by the gilded errors of Rome, so that they do not inquire what the "cup" contains. (So suggests Origen.)
II. From "a golden cup" men may drink maddening intoxicants. "The nations have drunken of her wine: therefore the nations are mad." This suggests that the errors and blandishments of Rome, her opulence and splendour, stupefy men's reason and conscience, as "wine" does the inebriate.
III. In Rome's golden chalice are delusive and destructive drinks. "Mark well," says Origen, "in the golden cup of Babylon is the poison of idolatry, the poison of false doctrines, which destroy the souls of men. I have often seen such a ‘golden cup' in the fair speeches of seductive eloquence, and when I have examined the various ingredients of the golden chalice, I have recognised the cup of Babylon."
IV. From this "golden cup" the Lord administers judgment to Rome's intoxicated dupes. "A golden cup in the hand of the Lord." Jehovah used ancient Babylon to punish the godless nations and apostate Israel. He now uses Rome as an agency of judgment on faithless souls. They who will not use their endowments and opportunities aright, who prostitute their reason, conscience, and will before the fascination of these "golden" errors of Rome, who neglect the sacred chalice of the Holy Bible and prefer to drink from Rome's cup of errors, God uses Romanism to punish such: "Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, that they may believe a lie" (2Th ).
Jer . Theme: ROME'S REJECTION OF HEALING.
I. Health-giving teaching, if received, might have healed the errors of Rome. This was offered Babylon; her remedy lay in receiving God's Word, urged upon her by God's prophets. So with mystical Babylon: she has been offered instruction and warning by Paul (2Th ), by the Apocalypse (Revelation 13-18) Protestantism has been attempting to heal Rome by the literature diffused and arguments addressed against Rome's errors, and by appeals to Scripture truth.
II. Besotted attachment to wrong leads to the refusal of God's truth. Saving doctrines are rejected when they would save from cherished errors and beloved sins and profitable lies. So still: light shines in Christian teaching sufficient to scatter the darkness. "But men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil." Rome refuses healing, rejects truth, because errors are her traffic.
III. From the outraged heavens doom hangs over deceitful and destructive Rome. "Her sins have reached unto heaven" (Rev ). Therefore "her judgment reacheth unto heaven," as if pressing upon God the urgency of executing her overthrow. And certainly God hath sent the forewarnings of Rome's doom from the heavens in His Word, and ere long the thunders of His destructive wrath will sweep down upon the Antichrist.
Jer . Theme: ISRAEL JUSTIFIED AGAINST BABYLON. "The Lord hath brought forth our righteousness."
I. Punishment of sinners testifies of the advantages of righteousness.
II. Overthrow of error testifies to the veracity of divine truth, on which righteous souls lived by faith.
III. Defeat of God's foes testifies to the blessedness of His people, whom He befriends.
IV. Deliverance of the righteous testifies that, though their adversaries may for a while prevail, the injustice of evildoers and the goodness of God's children will ultimately be vindicated.
1. Wait patiently under endurance of wrong. God will work your justification against evil-doers (Psa ).
2. Believe in God's watchfulness of you in the day of your oppression. He marks your conduct during your "captivity," remembers to your account your "righteousness," and will "bring it forth" in due season. "Then shall thy light break forth as the morning" (Isa ).
Jer . Theme: ROME'S RESOURCES DESOLATED. "O thou that dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures, thine end is come, and the measure of thy covetousness."
"Many waters." Not only was Babylon protected and nourished by the mighty river Euphrates, but by numerous canals and streams. These were essential to her very existence—for drink, food, health, transit, and safety. Thus with Romanism, "that sitteth upon many waters" (Rev ); and "the waters are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues" (Jer 51:15). These form the tributary streams to nourish Rome by gifts, money, popular sympathy.
"Abundant treasures." The immense booty of Nineveh, the plunder of Jerusalem, the tributes which Syrian and Phoenician cities furnished, the fruitfulness of the Babylonian territory itself. Comp. Rev ; Rev 18:19.
"Her end come." The words are, "Thy end is come," i.e., the retribution for (or limitation of the period of) thy covetousness. Babylon's day for spoiling others and enriching herself closed. So shall Rome's (Revelation 18.)
Jer . Theme: AN APPEAL TO GOD'S WORKS.
See Homily on p. 219, chap. Jer, verbatim.
Jer . Theme: VOLCANIC ROME.
"O destroying mountain."
The imagery here is of a volcano, whose burning lava "rolls down," itself "a burnt mountain;" lit., a mount of burning.
Such was Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar; its destructive energy was like the fierce outbreak of volcanic fires, and its rapid collapse was as a volcano whose fires had burned themselves extinct.
Rome, which has raised itself up to heaven in lofty assumption, which has surrounded itself with bewitching charms, like the luxuriancies of nature that abound in warm and fertile volcanic regions, which has proudly domineered like a lofty mountain over surrounding lands, will also, like a volcano, bring ruin on itself and on all it overshadows by the fires which are ready to burst forth in God's time.
I. A volcano impresses beholders with its majestic beauty. So does Rome.
II. A volcanic mountain wears the appearance of enduring strength. So does Rome.
III. Near a volcano residents dwell oblivious of perils. So with the adherents of Rome.
IV. The absence of fiery portents in a volcano is a sign to the wise of gathering fury. So when Rome shows no threatening signs she is most seductive.
V. Within a volcano slumber ruinous fires. And Rome will be both destroyed herself and all who trust in her.
Note: The mystical Babylon will be overthrown with fire: Rev ; Rev 18:8-9; Rev 18:18—"the smoke of her burning."
Jer . BABYLON'S CAPTURE BY CYRUS.
For historic records comp. on chap. 25 pp. 473, 474.
Note: Prophets beforehand and historians afterwards coincide in describing the events.
Jer . Theme: A COMING HARVEST. "Yet a little while and the time of the hervest shall come."
The noble practice of Jewish antiquity was that the harvest should never be gathered in till the first ripe sheaf was brought into the Temple of the Lord, and presented as an acknowledgment to the Lord of the harvest (Lev ). This was to connect the Giver with His gifts, to associate our temporal mercies with the sanctuary of religion, and to hold communion with God in the enjoyment of His favours.
Ought we not to be thankful to the God of our mercies when we see a smiling spring followed by a joyful harvest, &c.? Always the practice of saints (Psalms 65)
The very constancy of Nature banishes our Creator from our thoughts. We need to be told there is going on everywhere around us a vast system utterly independent of human wisdom; need to be reminded of invisible dominion and concealed omnipotence.
Text points us to another harvest; and the plain doctrine is every man has a harvest of his own daily ripening, and may be unexpectedly gathered in:—A harvest of punishment for the ungodly (from this our only refuge is the Cross of Christ); of mercy to the penitent (through Christ); of consolation to the sorrowful; of final blessedness to the righteous.
I. There is a harvest of punishment for the ungodly. Prophecy against Babylon, type of all sinners.
Life is the seedtime of an immortal harvest. It is the scene of a mighty preparation; it is the first step of an infinite series; it is the dawn of an everlasting day. We are beginning to be what we shall for ever be. In your nature are united mortality and immortality.
God has made a seedtime of iniquity the certain forerunner of a harvest of shame and punishment—partly present, partly future. He has laid it down as an unalterable maxim of His government that what a man soweth he shall reap. The law that regulates the return of day and night and the renewal of seedtime and harvest is not more sure than that sin brings sorrow here or hereafter. These are things of every day's experience. A wild and wasteful youth makes an unhappy and unrespected manhood. He who neglects the cultivation of his mind and the formation of his character when young can never repair the damage afterwards; just as if the husbandmen let his seedtime pass without sowing, the whole year is lost to him beyond recovery. The same law prevails in much higher matters. The man that lives without Christ usually dies without Him; and he who dies without Christ perishes to all eternity without Him. Every day the sinner carries a brand to his own burning.
Inquire what seed you are sowing? What a harvest you expect to reap? "The wages of sin is death." "The way of transgressors is hard." And if it be solemn now for sinners to eat the fruit of their own ways, to be caught in their own snare, and even on earth to be pierced through with many sorrows—what will it be in eternity, when "righteousness shall be laid to the line and judgment to the plummet," when they shall be resigned to the evil they have chosen, and when God shall verify to the wicked the anticipations of their own remorse, and give them bread (the bread of sorrow) to eat unto the full? We rejoice in the return of harvest; but know you not that there is a harvest of which God is the proprietor, angels are the reapers, and the souls of men are to be gathered in? Know you not that the world is ripening for the harvest, and you are ripening with it? Know you not that that Saviour who was once crucified on Calvary, and has been often crucified by you, is about to ascend the throne of judgment, and to "send forth His angels and gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and cast them into the lake of fire?" Soon shall the signal be given, "Thrust in thy sickle."
"Yet a little while." All your hope hangs upon those two short words—a little while. What a revolution may be accomplished! You may flee for refuge; may exercise repentance and faith; may obtain salvation with eternal glory; may share the sanctifying influence of the Spirit; may have the tide of damnation rolled back; may have incorruptible seed sown in your souls.
It is but "a little while." Oh, delay not. Escape for life. Listen not to tempter. Better Councillor asks your heed.
II. A harvest of mercy to the penitent. "They that sow in tears," &c. All the provisions of the Gospel covenant go to assure peace and pardon to those who, renouncing self-dependence and relying on the mercy of God in Christ, place all their hope where God placed all their help.
But we are no strangers to the anxiety of the penitent on this head. Our fears are usually in proportion to our hopes. You may be assaulted with many temptations, the subject of many apprehensions, doubtful whether your sins are not too many and aggravated, alarmed lest you should not have come aright. "We are not ignorant of Satan's devices," nor of the misgivings of the burdened mind. But "strong consolation" is promised to them that flee for refuge. Prayers and tears and desires for pardon and purity offered by faith in Christ will produce a harvest nothing else will. The promise is sure: "Him that cometh." "Ask and you shall."
III. A harvest of consolation to the sorrowful. "Comfort ye." "He that goeth forth," &c. Many afflictions are the Christian's portion. But God "gives songs in the night." And the time is limited—the night is followed by morning. "Our light afflictions but for a moment—far more." God tempers and mitigates trial. God fortifies the mind under it, strengthening to bear that the prospect of which would have overwhelmed. Internal peace in outward trial. Harvest now—hereafter. No one of that palm-bearing company regrets past trials (Rev ).
IV. A harvest of final blessedness to the righteous. "Be faithful unto death," &c.—S. Thodey, 1825.
Jer . "SHESHACH." Comp. p. 475.
Jer . QUITTING BABYLON. See on Jer 51:6.
Jer . Theme: FOREWARNINGS OF EVIL.
"Ye fear for the rumour that shall be heard."
The fall of Babylon was to be preceded by a state of disquiet, men's minds being unsettled partly by rumours of the warlike preparations of the Medes and of actual invasions, in repelling one of which Neriglissar fell; partly by intestine feuds, in which Evil-Merodach and Latorosoarchod was murdered. So before the conquest of Jerusalem by the Romans the Church had similar warnings (Mat ).
I. Opportunity precedes impending judgment.
II. God thus ameliorates the severity of grave crises.
III. Responsibility is thereby thrown upon us to heed His warnings and utilise the interval of grace.
IV. Neglect of such interludes, during which God stays the judgment, much increases the anguish when the storm at length bursts.
V. Spiritual wisdom in discerning the propitious hour is given to and distinguishes those who are appointed to salvation.
VI. Senselessness of danger amid these forewarnings shows men to be ripe for destruction.
These Babylonians laughed danger to scorn on the very night when doom fell upon them. "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."
Jer . Theme: JOY IN HEAVEN OVER BABYLON'S FALL.
I. Songs of judgment upon the enemies of Israel. See Exo seq.; Psa 118:12; Psa 118:15-16; Rev 18:20.
II. Songs of deliverance for God's people redeemed. Comp. Jer .
This is in effect the joy described in Luk .
III. Songs of celebration of God's promises fulfilled.
For the heavenly hosts surely watch the accomplishment of Jehovah's pledges to His afflicted people, and hail the day of their completion (Isa ).
Jer . Theme: REVIVED MEMORIES OF SPIRITUAL PRIVILEGES. "Remember the Lord afar off, and let Jerusalem come into your mind."
This is an appeal to the Jews to turn all their longings Zionward so soon as Cyrus opens Babylon for them to escape.
I. Sorrowing exiles of Zion cherish tender memories of long-lost privileges.
II. Freedom regained should be promptly used for our glad return to God.
III. Sacred heritages in God and Zion await the ransomed of the Lord on their return.
Or, Valedictory address to missionaries or emigrants.
Lange's Commentary says—
"This text may be used at the sending out of missionaries or the departure of emigrants. Occasion may be taken to speak—
"1. Of THE GRACIOUS HELP AND DELIVERANCE which the Lord hath hitherto shown to the departing. ‘Ye that have escaped of the sword.'
"2. They may be ADMONISHED TO FIDELITY in that distant land.
"(1.) In ‘remembering the Lord,' i.e., ever remaining sincerely devoted to Him, and trusting Him as the shield of our salvation.
"(2.) In faithfully serving Jerusalem, i.e., the Church and cause of Christ, with all their powers, keeping the progress of the kingdom of our Lord ever near their hearts."
Jer . Theme: RECOMPENSES. "The Lord God of recompenses shall surely requite."
I. All history illustrates and establishes this fact.
Not an evil has been committed, not a good has been done, but has been followed with recompense. The sin of Adam, of Cain, of Sodom, of the Antediluvians, all were recompensed.
Nor does good fail of reward. "He is not unmindful to forget your labour of love." Even the gift of a cup of cold water is to be rewarded. Comp. Mat seq.
II. The requiting of men's deeds often finds illustration in the laws of our physical and mental being.
God has so constituted us that evil is productive of evil and good of good. By the very laws of our nature the drunkard is recompensed by loss of reason, the libertine by loss of health, &c.; so by the same laws of our being the kind, the compassionate, &c., are requited with joy, peace, &c.; a "great recompense of reward."
These are the natural recompenses which flow from the operation of Nature's laws apart from God's judgments.
III. There still remains to be superadded the judicial recompense, which the Righteous Judge will administer.
"He will render to every man according to his deeds:" deeds of wickedness by the frown of His anger and the sentence, "Depart, ye cursed;" deeds of righteousness by the smile of His favour and the welcome, "Come, ye blessed."
IV. Yet notwithstanding this natural and judicial recompense, men are not deterred from evil nor constrained to do good.
How astounding the depravity of the human heart! "Desperately wicked" indeed, when the fearful consequences of evil and the blessed results of good, here and hereafter, fail to influence the heart.
V. From the ultimate consequences of our deeds there can be no possible escape. "The Lord God of recompenses shall surely requite." "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord." "With the merciful Thou wilt show Thyself merciful, with the upright man Thou wilt show Thyself upright; with the pure Thou wilt show Thyself pure, and with the froward Thou wilt show Thyself froward."
Compare "Walks with Jeremiah."—Pledge.
Jer . "THE BROAD WALLS OF BABYLON."
These walls were 85 English feet in width (according to Herodotus), 32 feet (according to Strabo and Q. Curtius). Their height was 335 feet (Herodotus), 235 (Pliny), 150 (Curtius), 75 (Strabo). But as there was an outer and inner enclosure, they may not all have been referring to the same walls, or the outer wall may have differed in height in different parts. The entire length of the walls was (according to lowest estimate) 41 miles, and by other authorities is estimated at 48, and by Herodotus at 60 miles in extent.
Berosus says that triple walls encompassed the outer, and the same number the inner city; and that Cyrus ordered the outer walls to be demolished. A cylindrical inscription records that Esar-haddon was the real builder of the walls of Babylon, and that Nebuchadnezzar only completed them.
"HER HIGH GATES." One hundred in number, twenty-five on each of the four sides of the square-built city. An ancient inscription exists which says, "In the thresholds of the great gates I inserted folding-doors of brass, with very strong railings and gratings (?)."
Jer . SERAIAH CARRYING THE PREDICTION OF DELIVERANCE TO THE EXILES IN BABYLON.
Zedekiah the king may have journeyed voluntarily to Babylon in order to obtain some favour from Nebuchadnezzar, or because he was summoned to be present, as Nebuchadnezzar's vassal, on some state occasion; or Nebuchadnezzar might have distrusted Zedekiah's fidelity, and have demanded an explanation of the presence of those ambassadors who met that year at Jerusalem from Moab, &c. (chap. Jer ).
Jeremiah used the opportunity for intrusting Seraiah, the king's chief attendant, with these predictions for the exiles at Babylon. (He had already sent them a letter full of affection and hope, chap. 29.)
As Zedekiah's retinue paused each night on the journey across the desert, it is quite conjectural that Seraiah, his chief courier, may have read to the king the contents of this prophetic roll. "What an interesting subject for conjecture (says Wordsworth) does this view open upon us! How many thoughts may have passed through the mind of the king and of Seraiah his chamberlain at the time! How many conversations may they have had—or certainly might they have had—concerning the destiny of Jerusalem and of Babylon, and concerning things in the far-off future—the liberation and return of the captives of Israel from Babylon by the same road on which they were travelling; and even with regard to blessings more remote, which Jeremiah had pre-announced—the graces and glories of the Gospel of Christ!"
Jer . THE PROPHETIC ROLL SUNK IN THE EUPHRATES.
Not in order to destroy it, but as symbolic of events to come. It signified that Babylon should be likewise overwhelmed and sink from sight. It foreshadowed the like fate of mystic Babylon—Antichristian Rome (see Rev, "A mighty angel took up a stone," &c.) The reiteration of the weird and pensive words—
"THEY SHALL BE WEARY," is also suggestive. They were the final words Jeremiah's prophecy contained (Jer ), and their reiteration as the roll sank would pronounce (what the words imply) the decayed energy and life of the Chaldeans, a worn-out power—a fit requiem to accompany the symbolic burial of Babylon.
ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 51: HISTORICAL SUMMARY OF EVENTS IN BABYLON'S FALL
"In his father's absence Belshazzar took the direction of affairs within the city, and met and foiled for a considerable time all the assaults of the Persians. He was young and inexperienced, but he had the counsels of the queen-mother to guide and support him, as well as those of the various lords and officers of the court. So well did he manage the defence, that after awhile Cyrus despaired; and, as a last resource, ventured on a stratagem in which it was clear that either he must succeed or perish.
"Withdrawing the greater part of the army from the vicinity of the city, and leaving behind him only certain corps of observation, Cyrus marched away up the course of the Euphrates for a certain distance, and there proceeded to make a vigorous use of the spade. His soldiers dug a channel or channels from the Euphrates, by means of which a great portion of its waters could be drawn off, and hoped in this way to render the natural course of the river to be fordable.
"When all was prepared, Cyrus determined to wait for the arrival of a certain festival, during which the whole population were wont to engage in drinking and revelling, and then silently, in the dead of the night, to turn the water of the river and make his attack. All fell out as he hoped and wished. The festival was even held with greater pomp and splendour than usual, for Belshazzar, with the natural insolence of youth, to mark his contempt of the besieging army, abandoned himself wholly to the delights of the season, and himself entertained a thousand lords in his palace. Elsewhere the rest of the population was occupied in feasting and dancing. Drunken riot and mad excitement held possession of the town; the siege was forgotten; ordinary precautions were neglected. The non-closing of the river gates must have been a neglect of this kind. Had the sentries even kept proper watch, the enemy's approach must have been perceived.
"Following the example of their king, the Babylonians gave themselves up for the night to orgies, in which religious frenzy and drunken excess formed a strange and revolting medley.
"Meanwhile, outside the city, in silence and darkness, the Persians watched at two points where the Euphrates entered and left the walls. Anxiously they noted the gradual sinking of the water in the river-bed; still more anxiously they watched to see if those within the walls would observe the suspicious circumstance and sound an alarm through the town. Should such an alarm be given, all their labours would be lost. If, when they entered the river-bed, they found the river walls manned, and the river gates fast locked, they would be indeed ‘caught in a trap' (Herod. i. 191). Enfiladed on both sides by an enemy they could neither see nor reach, they would be overwhelmed and destroyed by his missiles before they could succeed in making their escape. But as they watched, no sounds of alarm reached them, only a confused noise of revel and riot, which showed that the unhappy townsmen were quite unconscious of the approach of danger.
"At last shadowy forms began to emerge from the obscurity of the riverbed, and on the landing-places opposite the river gates scattered clusters of men grew into solid columns; the undefended gateways were seized, a war-shout was raised, the alarm was taken and spread, and swift runners started off to ‘show the king of Babylon that his city was taken at one end' (Jer ). In the darkness and confusion of the night a terrible massacre ensued (Xenophon, Cyrop. vii. 5). The drunken revellers could make no resistance. The king, paralysed with fear at the awful handwriting upon the wall, which, too late, had warned him of his peril, could do nothing even to check the progress of the assailants, who carried all before them everywhere. Bursting into the palace, a band of Persians made their way to the presence of the monarch and slew him on the scene of his impious revelry. Other bands carried fire and sword through the town (Xenophon, Cyrop. vii. 5). When morning came, Cyrus found himself undisputed master of the city, which, if it had not despised his efforts, might with the greatest ease have baffled them."—Robinson's Ancient Monarchies, vol. iii. p. 515.
"The Persians came upon them unawares, and on account of the extent of the city, as is said by those who dwelt there, when the extremities of it were taken, the Babylonians who dwelt in the middle of it were not aware that they were captured, but were dancing at the time (for it happened to be a festival), and were rejoicing, until they perceived it in very deed."—Herodotus, i. 191.
"Babylon was more like a nation than a city, and it is said that when it was taken, some of its inhabitants did not hear of the capture till the third day."—Aristotle, Polit., iii. c. l.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 51". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany