Jeremiah 50:1-3. The word that the Lord spake against Babylon — This prophecy was delivered and sent to Babylon in the fourth year of Zedekiah’s reign, as appears from Jeremiah 51:59. Declare ye among the nations — The downfall of Babylon was an event in which many nations were concerned, that empire having been a common oppressor. Set up a standard — To call people together, and impart unto them these good tidings. The destruction of Babylon was likewise a sort of signal to the Jews to assemble together, in order to their return to their own land, the time of their captivity being then to expire. Bel is confounded, Merodach is broken to pieces — When God punishes an idolatrous nation he is said to confound its idols, because they do not bring assistance to their worshippers, nor deliver them out of his hands. Bel is the same with Baal, a name common to the idols of the eastern countries, and at first probably given to some of the heavenly bodies: see note on Isaiah 39:1. For out of the north there cometh a nation against her — The Medes, who lay north of Babylon.
Jeremiah 50:4-5. In those days — Wherein God shall begin to execute judgment on Babylon; the children of Israel shall come, &c. — This passage is primarily meant of the return of the Jews from their captivity, upon the destruction of the Babylonish monarchy. Many of the ten tribes, here termed the children of Israel, which had been carried captive into Assyria, hearing that their brethren of the two tribes were permitted and encouraged by Cyrus and his successors to return to their own land, undoubtedly associated themselves with them, and returned also from the several places where they had been settled: see Calmet’s Dissertation on the Return of the Ten Tribes. Going and weeping — Weeping, partly with sorrow for the sins which had brought the calamities of the captivity upon them, and partly for joy, that God should show them such mercy as to bring them again to their own country. They shall go and seek the Lord their God — They shall inquire after Jehovah, their own God, and seek his favour, protection, and aid, and shall now have no more to do with idols. Observe, reader, those that seek the Lord must seek him sorrowing; and those that sorrow and are in trouble must seek him, and then their sorrow will soon be turned into joy, for he will be found of those that seek him. We learn from Ezra 3:13, that the people both wept and rejoiced aloud at the laying of the foundation of the temple after their return from captivity, and that the noise of the weeping of some was equal to the shouts of joy raised by others. They shall ask the way to Zion — The city of their ancient solemnities; with their faces thitherward — Determined to return to it, now that the ruin of Babylon and the decree of Cyrus had opened the way for their release. The journey, indeed, is long and difficult, and they know not the road, but they will make inquiry concerning it, and trust in God to enable them to surmount all the difficulties and dangers of the way. Reader, wouldst thou arrive at the heavenly Canaan, and dost ask the way thither? Then see that thy face be thitherward, and not toward the world. In these words the prophet seems to allude to the Jews going in companies to Jerusalem at the solemn festivals. Saying, Let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant — They had broken the covenant which their fathers had made with God, and which had been often solemnly renewed, especially a little time before the captivity, in the days of Josiah; but here they exhort one another to join themselves to him again, by engaging afresh to be his, and that not for a time merely, but for ever; even in a perpetual, or everlasting covenant. as the Hebrew, ברית עולם, signifies, and is translated, Jeremiah 32:40; a covenant that must not be broken, and therefore must not be forgotten: for a due remembrance of it will be the means of a due observance of it.
Jeremiah 50:6-7. My people hath been lost sheep — All men are compared to sheep that go astray, Isaiah 53:6. Here this character is applied to the Jews, whom God calls his people, because of the ancient covenant made with their fathers. They are said to have been lost, either on account of their captivity, being cast out of the land which God gave them, as sheep are lost out of their pasture, or in respect of their idolatries and other sins. Their shepherds have caused them to go astray — Their civil and ecclesiastical governors have been the principal causes of their sins and miseries: the former, by their wicked commands and example, the latter also by example as well as doctrine. They have turned them away on the mountains — They have turned them aside from the right worship of God, performed at the temple, to sacrifice to idols upon the mountains and high places. He alludes to sheep straying hither and thither, through the windings and turnings of the mountains. They have gone from mountain to hill — From one species of idolatry to another. They have forgotten their resting place — Or, their fold, namely, they have forgotten me, in whose love and service, in whose favour, protection; and care they could only find rest, safety, and comfort. All that found them have devoured them — They have been a prey to their enemies on all sides. And their adversaries said, We offend not — “In making them captives. Jeremiah introduces the Chaldeans speaking thus by the truest prosopopœia; for it could not be but the Chaldeans must have known those things which the prophets had foretold concerning the future captivity of the Jews; Nebuchadnezzar is a witness, who gave his captains orders to preserve Jeremiah:” see Houbigant. Because they have sinned against the Lord, the habitation of justice — A refuge and protection for those that are just and good, and consequently one that would not have cast off the Jews if they had not first forsaken him. This interpretation supposes God to be here called, The habitation of justice, which he undoubtedly is, but whether the Chaldeans would term him so may be a question. Others, therefore, think the preposition in is understood, making this the aggravation of the Jews’ sins, that they were committed in a land which ought to have been a habitation of justice. Thus it is said, (Isaiah 26:10,) that the wicked man will deal unjustly in a land of uprightness.
Jeremiah 50:8. Remove out of the midst of Babylon — All exhortation often used by the prophets on this subject: see the margin. Some learned men suppose that this exhortation relates to the siege of Babylon carried on by Darius Hystaspes in the fifth and sixth years of his reign. Before which time God had warned the Jews, by the Prophet Zechariah, (Zechariah 2:6-7,) to flee out of Babylon, and to deliver themselves from the miseries that should befall that city during the siege: see Dr. Prideaux. And be as the he-goats before the flocks — “Let every one strive to lead the way to others, and give them an example of speedily obeying God’s call, without showing any fondness to the place, or the idolatries there practised.”
Jeremiah 50:9-11. For, lo, I will raise against Babylon, &c. — See Jeremiah 50:41, and Jeremiah 51:27. From thence, or, as משׁם, may be rendered, immediately, she shall be taken. Their arrows, &c. — The Medes and Persians were famous for the use of the bow. And Chaldea shall be a spoil — To all her destroyers, who shall enrich themselves by plundering her. All that spoil her shall be satisfied — Namely, with spoil and plunder, for Chaldea, with Babylon its metropolis, was, at that time, the richest country in the world. Because ye were glad, &c. — They rejoiced at the ruin of the Jews, a sin laid also to the charge of the Edomites, Obadiah 1:12. Though the Chaldeans were the executioners of God’s judgments upon the Jews, yet he punished them, because they were influenced in what they did purely by their own ambition and covetousness and acted with inhumanity and cruelty toward the conquered, though Providence directed their cruelties and oppressions, to the fulfilling its own ends and purposes. In like manner, God threatens to punish the king of Assyria after he had been the executioner of his judgments upon Jerusalem. Because ye are grown fat, &c. — The insolence and rudeness of oppressors are often compared to the wantonness of full-fed cattle.
Jeremiah 50:12-16. Your mother shall be sore confounded — Namely, Babylon the metropolis, or mother-city of the empire. Or, your country shall be ashamed of you, her children, who are not able to defend her. Behold, the hindermost of the nations, &c. — The translation of this clause in the Vulgate seems much preferable to ours, Ecce novissima erit in gentibus, et deserta, invia, et arens, behold, she shall be the hindermost of the nations, a wilderness, desolate and dry. Because of the wrath of the Lord, it shall not be inhabited — See this illustrated in the notes on Isaiah 13:19-22. Every one that goeth by Babylon shall be astonished — See note on chap. Jeremiah 18:16. For she hath sinned against the Lord — She hath been in a remarkable manner an enemy to God’s truth and people. This may be especially applied to mystical Babylon: see Jeremiah 50:29-31. Shout against her round about — As conquerors do when a city is taken. She hath given her hand — That is, she hath surrendered herself: she hath submitted and promised obedience to the conqueror. The phrase occurs in the same sense Lamentations 5:6 and also 1 Chronicles 29:24, where see the margin. Thus, dare manus, to give the hands, in Latin, signifies to yield; and most probably alludes to the act of the vanquished, who, throwing down his arms, and stretching forth his defenceless hands, acknowledges himself to be in the victor’s power; her foundations are fallen — Namely, the foundations of her walls, laid in a marshy soil, and surrounded with a deep ditch full of water, to the undermining power of which they were continually exposed: see Herodot. lib. 1. cap. 178. Cut off the sower from Babylon — “Babylon resembled a country walled in rather than a city; the walls, according to Herodotus, being sixty miles in compass. Within this large circuit a great deal of ground was cultivated with corn. So that enough grew within the walls to support the inhabitants during a long siege.” — See Prideaux’s Connections, page 187. Or, by Babylon here, may be understood, not the city only, but the whole province. They shall turn every one to his people — This is spoken of the allies of the Babylonians.
Jeremiah 50:17. Israel is a scattered sheep — See note on Jeremiah 50:6. The lions have driven him away — As a lion coming among a flock of sheep scatters them one from another; so have these foreign invaders, enemies cruel as lions, served my people. First, the king of Assyria hath devoured him — Namely, Shalmaneser, who carried away the ten tribes into captivity, whence they never in general returned. And last this Nebuchadrezzar hath broken his bones — Hath entirely ruined Judah and Jerusalem, hath destroyed or carried captive the whole nation.
Jeremiah 50:18. Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon, and his land — God may justly punish those who do the things that he hath commanded them to do, if they do them not in that manner in which he directs, or, if what they do be not done in obedience to his command, but for the satisfaction of their own lusts: which was the case, as with the king of Assyria, Isaiah 10:5-7, so also with the king of Babylon; as I have punished the king of Assyria — Some refer this to the punishment of the Assyrians, in the destruction of Sennacherib and his army, in the time of Hezekiah; but the prophet seems rather to speak of a destruction of Assyria which followed the carrying of the ten tribes into captivity, and therefore may most probably be understood of the destruction of Nineveh, the chief seat of the Assyrian empire, by Nebuchadnezzar, and Assuerus or Astyages, as it is related in Tobit, chap. Jeremiah 14:15. At the taking of this great city, foretold by Jonah, Nahum, and Zephaniah, Chynadanus, the last king of the Assyrian race, was killed; and the seat and title of the empire removed to Babylon, which was no longer called the Assyrian, but the Babylonian monarchy. See Dr. Prideaux, pages 47, 48.
Jeremiah 50:19-20. I will bring Israel again to his habitation — I will take care of Israel as a shepherd does of his flock, and bring them back to their ancient habitations, and to their former peace and plenty. By Israel here is meant the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, the Levites and some Israelites who joined with them, after the carrying away of the ten tribes. “As several parts of this prophecy,” says Lowth, “relate to that mystical Babylon whose destruction is foretold Revelation 18., so these promises of grace and favour to the Jewish nation are chiefly to be understood of the general restoration of that people, which we may expect after the downfall of the anti-christian empire.” In those days the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none — That is, I will be perfectly reconciled to them, as if they had never offended. The Hebrew language often expresses the utter ceasing of any thing by seeking and not finding it. This promise seems principally to respect the times of the gospel, and the remnant of the Jews that shall be saved according to the election of grace: compare Jeremiah 31:34; Jeremiah 33:8; Romans 11:5; Romans 11:26-27.
Jeremiah 50:21. Go up against the land of Merathaim, and against Pekod — Although these two words מרתים, Merathaim, and פקוד, Pekod, are considered by our translators as proper names; and the latter is so understood by the Chaldee paraphrast: yet all the other ancient versions agree in representing the former word as an appellative, and the latter as a verb. The former, which is the dual number of מרה, marah, may signify either bitterness, or rebellion; and Blaney thinks that “Babylon is called the land of bitterness, or of redoubled bitterness here, because it had proved such to the Jewish nation, whose country had been ruined, and the people held in slavery there.” Accordingly he translates the verse as follows: “Against the land of bitterness go up; upon it, and upon its inhabitants visit, O sword, and utterly destroy their posterity, saith Jehovah, and perform according to all that I have charged thee.” The command seems to be directed to Cyrus and his confederates.
Jeremiah 50:22-24. A sound of battle is in the land — That is, in the land of Chaldea. How is the hammer of the whole earth broken! — That oppressive empire that smote the nations with a continual stroke, as is said Isaiah 14:6, and brought them under subjection to it. I have laid a snare for thee; and thou art also taken, O Babylon — Cyrus took the city by surprise and in an unexpected manner, entering it, by draining the river Euphrates, at a time when the walls were entire, the city full of provisions, and the people in high spirits, and in a state of the utmost security, dreading no such event. According to Herodotus, part of the city was taken before those who dwelt in the midst of it knew any thing about it; so that with propriety they might be said to be caught as in a snare. Because thou hast striven against the Lord — The reason of this unexpected ruin coming on this great people was their sinning against the Lord: see Jeremiah 50:14; here called a striving against him, as indeed all sin is.
Jeremiah 50:25-32. The Lord hath opened his armory, &c. — God hath raised up enemies to subdue the Chaldeans, namely, Cyrus and his confederates, and hath furnished them with all the means necessary for such an undertaking. Come against her from the utmost border — From distant parts, namely, from the Caspian and Euxine seas. Cast her up as heaps — The marginal rendering seems preferable; Tread her, trample over her, as heaps of ruins; or tread her as the corn is trodden down when it is thrashed. Slay her bullocks — That is, Her strong men, as the Vulgate and the Chaldee interpret the expression. Wo unto them, for their day is come — The time in which they are to be punished. The voice of them that escape, to declare in Zion, &c. — This may either foretel that some of the Babylonians would flee as far as Judea for refuge, and there publish what had befallen Babylon, or, which seems more likely, that some of those Jews or proselytes to the Jewish religion in Chaldea, who were more than ordinarily zealous for the welfare of God’s church and people, would be ready, upon the first news of the taking of Babylon, to bring the glad tidings to Judea, that God had avenged his people, and executed his judgments on those who destroyed his temple, and profaned the holy vessels of it: see Jeremiah 51:51; Daniel 5:1-3; Daniel 5:5; Daniel 5:30. Call together the archers — See Jeremiah 50:9; Jeremiah 50:14. Recompense her according to her work — This is applied to mystical Babylon, Revelation 18:6, which, when fulfilled, will be a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, as St. Paul speaks, 2 Thessalonians 1:5, at which all good men ought to rejoice, and give glory to God when they see it effected. For she hath been proud against the Lord — Hath exalted herself against God, saying, I am, and there is none besides me, Isaiah 47:7-8, where see the notes. Therefore shall her young men fall in the streets — Xenophon relates, lib. 7., that when Gobryas and Gadates, two of Cyrus’s generals, with their soldiers, had got into the city, they marched directly toward the palace, killing all they met, and, having surprised the guards, cut them in pieces, and slain the king himself, they, without difficulty, made themselves masters of the palace. I will kindle a fire in his cities — This may be meant of the destruction made in the Babylonian territories, in the several expeditions Cyrus undertook against that monarchy before the taking of Babylon.
Jeremiah 50:33-34. Israel and Judah were oppressed together — Not together with respect to times, for there was a distance of one hundred and fifty years between the time of Israel’s and Judah’s being carried away captive; nor by the same enemy; Israel being carried away by the Assyrians, Judah by the Chaldeans. Together here signifies no more than that they were both oppressed, or alike oppressed. And all that took them captives held them fast — Were determined not to release them. The prophet seems here to intimate, that as their enemies were not only very powerful, but fully resolved to detain them in captivity, his predictions of their deliverance might seem to some but vain words, never likely to be fulfilled. Hence he adds, in the next verse, Their Redeemer is strong — Or, their Avenger, as the word also signifies. He that has a right to them will claim his right, and make good his claim. He is stronger than their enemies who hold them fast, and can, with infinite ease, overpower all their force, and baffle all their subtlety, and put strength into his own people, though they may be very weak. The Lord of hosts is his name — And he will answer his name, and make it appear that he is what his people call him. He shall thoroughly plead their cause — Hebrew, ריכ וריב את ריבם, pleading he will plead it, plead it with jealousy, and effectually plead it and carry it; that he may give rest to the land — To his people’s land, rest from all their enemies round about; or, to the earth, as ארצmore properly signifies, namely, rest from the oppressions of the Babylonish empire; and disquiet — Or, cause to tremble, as some render הרגיז, the inhabitants of Babylon — Because they have disquieted his people, and caused them to tremble, for whose honour and comfort he is jealous.
Jeremiah 50:35-37. A sword is upon the Chaldeans — That is, there shall come a sword upon them. Upon Babylon and her princes — Who were slain together with their king, Belshazzar, at a feast, Jeremiah 51:39; Daniel 5:2-30. And upon her wise men — The Chaldeans were famous for their skill in astrology, and other arts of divination; and yet the learned in those sciences were not able to foresee or prevent the dangers coming upon themselves in the common calamity. A sword is upon the liars — Upon the diviners, or the pretenders to the knowledge of future events; and they shall dote — They shall be proved to be foolish and ignorant, by things happening directly contrary to what they had thought and said. Thus Isaiah, speaking of the same kind of men, says, He (namely, God) frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad. A sword is upon all the mingled people — Upon her auxiliaries, made up of several nations: see Ezekiel 30:5. And they shall become as women — Fearful, and having neither courage nor any thing else manly in them. A sword is upon her treasures, &c. — “Her treasures shall be a prey to such as come with sword in hand to rifle them: as Solon said to Crœsus, who, by way of ostentation, showed him his treasures, “Sir, if any one come that has better iron than you, he will be master of all your gold.” — Lowth.
Jeremiah 50:38-40. A drought is upon all her waters — Our translators, after the example of the Vulgate and others, have rendered חרב, a drought, here, whereas they have translated it a sword in the preceding verses, as supposing, it seems, that a sword has nothing to do with waters. But they might very properly have rendered it a sword here also: for this term is used metaphorically, to denote either the instrument of divine vengeance generally, or the operations and effects of war in particular; in either of which senses it may be applied to waters as well as to treasures. And the allusion here is evidently to the stratagem of Cyrus, who drained off the waters of the Euphrates, which ran through the city of Babylon, by means of which his troops, by night, marched along the bed of the river into the heart of the city, and surprised it. For it is the land of graven images, &c. — This vengeance comes upon them, because they have been the great encouragers and supporters of idolatry. It may be remarked, that the executioners of the divine judgments were the Persians, who, in opposition to the Sabians, (whose notions the Chaldeans embraced,) followed the ancient discipline of the magi, or wise men among them, and had neither altars nor images; as is attested by Strabo and Herodotus: see Prideaux’s Connections, p. 177, and Lowth. And they are mad upon their idols —
See note on Isaiah 57:5. They may well be termed mad who make a god of any creature, and especially those who worship images which their own hands have made. Therefore the wild beasts of the desert, &c. — Blaney renders this clause, Therefore shall wild cats, with jackals dwell, the daughters of the ostrich also shall dwell in her; and refers to Bochart in justification of the propriety of his translation. Compare this passage with the parallel one, Isaiah 13:19-22, where see the notes.
Jeremiah 50:41-46. Behold, a people shall come from the north — Namely, the Medes; and a great nation — That is, who are a great nation; for this is no more than an explicative of the foregoing sentence. And many kings — Namely, the kings of the Persians, Armenians, Hyrcanians, Cadusians, and others who fought under Cyrus’s banner, as allies or friends to him. Their voice shall roar like the sea — The noise of an army is fitly compared to the roaring of the sea when it rages and is tempestuous. Every one put in array — In exact and firm order, as if the whole host were but one man. The king of Babylon hath heard, &c. — Belshazzar was of himself a weak and dissolute prince, and was soon routed in the field; and so dismayed that he shut himself up in Babylon. Behold, he shall come up like a lion — See notes on Jeremiah 49:19-21, where we have applied unto Edom what is here spoken against Babylon. At the noise of the taking of Babylon the earth is moved, and the cry is heard, &c. — These words are intended to express the greatness of the destruction of Babylon, which should be such as should make all that part of the world to shake and tremble; and the nations, whether near or far remote, should be astonished at the downfall of so great a city and potent an empire.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 50". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany