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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 51

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3409. B.C. 595.

The prophet in this chapter proceeds with the prediction of the fall of Babylon: in the description of which he enlarges much for the encouragement of the pious captives, whose deliverance depended upon it, and was to be the result of it. Here is,

(1,) The record of Babylon’s doom, with the particulars of it, intermixed with the grounds of God’s controversy with her, many aggravations of her fall, and great encouragements given from thence to the Israel of God, that suffered such hard things by her, Jeremiah 51:1-58 .

(2,) The representation and ratification of this by Seraiah’s sinking a copy of these predictions in the river Euphrates, near Babylon, after he had reed it to the Jewish captives there, Jeremiah 51:59-64 .

Verses 1-2

Jeremiah 51:1-2. Behold, I will raise up against Babylon Darius and Cyrus, who came against Babylon, came by a divine instinct. God excited their spirits to accomplish his purpose against that idolatrous city, and the oppressive government which had its seat there. Against them that dwell in the midst Hebrew, in the heart; of them that rise up against me That is, in the centre of the country of mine adversaries, which by a circumlocution means the same as Babylon itself. A destroying wind See note on Jeremiah 4:11, where the prophet describes the Chaldean army coming up for the destruction of Judea under the same metaphor. The Chaldeans had been like a destroying, blasting wind to the Jews, and now the Medes and Persians are to be like one to them. And will send unto Babylon fanners Enemies who shall drive them away as chaff is driven away by the fan; or those who shall disperse her forces, and empty or spoil her land of all its riches, &c. This image is frequently made use of by the Hebrew prophets, to represent the ease with which the Almighty disperses and destroys his enemies: see notes on Jeremiah 15:7; Isaiah 21:10; Isaiah 41:16. For in the day of trouble they shall be against her, &c. Or, as the words may be rendered, When they shall come round her on every side in the evil (or adverse) day.

Verses 3-5

Jeremiah 51:3-5. Against him that bendeth let the archer bend See Jeremiah 50:14; and against him, that lifteth up himself in his brigandine Or, coat of mail: suffer not them who are skilful in using the bow, or armed in coats of mail, to avail themselves any thing of their skill or their armour, but oppose them with superior skill and force. Thus the slain shall fall in the land of the Chaldeans There seems to be a transposition of words in this sentence, the sense certainly being, Thus the Chaldeans shall fall down slain to the earth. For Israel hath not been (or rather, shall not be) forsaken, nor Judah of his God “Though God was justly displeased with his people, yet he would not cast them off utterly, or deprive them of his protection, though he would do so to those that were the rod in his hand, to chastise and scourge his people.”

Verses 6-7

Jeremiah 51:6-7. Flee out of the midst of Babylon, &c. God’s people are here exhorted to flee out of Babylon with all haste, as Lot did out of Sodom, lest they should be consumed in the iniquity of that place: see Jeremiah 50:8. Babylon hath been a golden cup in the Lord’s hand In what sense Babylon is called a cup may be seen by comparing Jeremiah 25:15. Her greatness and glory enticed and drew in many nations to be confederate with her, in hopes of enriching or aggrandizing themselves; but thereby they drew down destruction upon themselves. They thought to drink, or be in alliance with the Babylonians, was drinking out of a golden cup, but it proved to them a deadly draught. For she was a splendid instrument of vengeance, ordained by God against them; and as they all had suffered by her, so they are all here represented as glorying over her, and rejoicing when her turn of suffering came. By making all the earth drunken, is meant either making all the neighbouring nations act foolishly, and contrary to true wisdom and prudence, or the causing them, as it were, to stagger and fall through the terror and astonishment, the confusion and dismay, which God’s judgments should produce among them: see note on Jeremiah 25:15. We may observe further here, that this golden cup is said to be in the Lord’s hand, to signify that these things had been brought about by the divine providence, and that God had used Babylon as an instrument to bring the nations to that condign punishment which they had deserved.

Verses 8-9

Jeremiah 51:8-9. Babylon is suddenly fallen It was one of the aggravations of the punishment of Babylon, that her destruction came upon her suddenly and unexpectedly. Howl for her, &c. So the kings, the merchants, and other factors, are described as lamenting the destruction of mystical Babylon, Revelation 18:9; Revelation 18:11; Revelation 18:17-19. Take balm for her pain Use your utmost endeavours, and try every thing you can to save her from destruction. This is spoken ironically, implying her ruin to be irrecoverable. We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed Some think “this is spoken in the name of God’s prophets, and the other witnesses of his truth, importing that they had sufficiently testified against her errors and idolatries, but that she was irreclaimable; and therefore that it was time for all the lovers of truth to depart out of her, lest they should be involved in her punishments.” But it is more probable that the nations which had been subject to Babylon, and were her allies, are the speakers here, declaring that they had assisted her to the utmost of their power, and had endeavoured to support her sinking cause, but all in vain, nothing which they had done or could do availing to save her from destruction. And therefore, as her case was desperate, it was time for them to shift for themselves, and to leave Babylon to its fate, since it seemed to be the decree of Heaven that it should fall. Those who have written of the downfall of Babylon relate, that when its affairs seemed to grow desperate, it was deserted by most of its allies, few or none of them persevering to lend it any assistance. Her judgment reacheth unto heaven That is, her sin, bringing down God’s judgments; and is lifted up even to the skies It comes to the ears of even God himself, and engages him to take account of it and punish her.

Verse 10

Jeremiah 51:10. The Lord hath brought forth our righteousness Hath made manifest the equity of our cause, revenged the wrongs we have suffered, and shown ours to be the true religion, by bringing such remarkable judgments upon our enemies. Come, and let us declare in Zion, &c. Therefore let us give glory to him in the assemblies of his church, and in the most public manner imaginable. This is spoken in the persons of the captive Jews.

Verses 11-12

Jeremiah 51:11-12. Make bright the arrows, gather the shields Hebrew, מלאו השׁלשׂים , the quivers. Thus the LXX., πληρουτε τας φαρετρας , with whom agree the Vulgate, Castalio, and others. The meaning is, Prepare all the instruments of war to defend yourselves, ye Babylonians, for you will have need of them all. The Lord hath raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes Neriglissar, king of Babylon, having formed an alliance against the Medes, Cambyses sent his son Cyrus with an army of thirty thousand Persians to join the Medes, commanded by Cyaxares, king of Media, Cyrus’s uncle; called in Scripture, Darius the Mede. It was properly his army that made the expedition against the Babylonians, Cyrus being employed as his general. Persia was then a small part of the empire of Media, and of little account till Cyrus advanced its reputation; and even then it was called the kingdom of the Medes and Persians, the Medes having still the preference: see Xenophon’s Cyropæd., lib. 1. and Lowth. Set up the standard upon, or rather, before the walls of Babylon; and proceed to take all the necessary steps to distress her, and make yourselves masters of her: for the Lord hath both devised, &c. For God will both favour your undertaking, and will enable you to accomplish it.

Verses 13-19

Jeremiah 51:13-19. O thou that dwellest upon many waters The river Euphrates ran through the midst of Babylon, and there was a prodigious lake of water on one side of the city, besides other lesser waters near it, so that it was in a manner encompassed with waters. Many waters do likewise signify mystically the many people over which this was the reigning city: see Revelation 17:15. Abundant in treasures Not only enriched by traffic, but by the conquest and spoil of many nations. Thine end is come, and the measure of thy covetousness God has set bounds to thy covetousness, which it shall not pass over: thou shalt no more increase in wealth, but an end shall be put to all thy designs of this sort. The Lord of hosts hath sworn by himself The Lord, who is well able to make his words good, hath sworn by himself, for he could swear by no greater, saying, Surely I will fill thee with men as with caterpillars Or, locusts, as, according to Bochart, the word ילק properly signifies. Armies are often compared to caterpillars, locusts, and such like devouring insects. He hath made the earth by his power, &c. It is he who, by his immense power, has made all these wonderful things which we see about us, and adorned and settled them by his wisdom, that has pronounced this concerning Babylon: and therefore you need not be doubtful respecting its accomplishment, since he who could create these mighty works, can certainly, whenever he pleases, effect what is infinitely more easy, the ruin of Babylon. But for an elucidation of this, and the four following verses, see notes on Jeremiah 10:12-16.

Verses 20-24

Jeremiah 51:20-24. Thou art my battle-axe, &c. Cyrus, or rather the army of the Medes and Persians, seems to be intended here; compare Jeremiah 51:11-12; as elsewhere the instrument of God’s vengeance is called a sword, a rod, a scourge. This army, with Cyrus, their general, God here says he will make use of for destroying the whole power of the Babylonish empire, and all orders and degrees of men in it, as he had formerly made that empire the executioner of his judgments upon other countries, Jeremiah 50:23. “Or else,” says Lowth, “the words may be understood of the church, and imply, that God will destroy all those earthly powers and kingdoms which are adversaries to his truth and people, in order to establish and advance his church. This will be fulfilled at the fall of mystical Babylon, when God’s kingdom shall break in pieces all the kingdoms of the earth, in the destruction of that remnant of the fourth monarchy, according to Daniel’s prophecy, Daniel 2:44.” And I will render unto Babylon all their evil (see Jeremiah 51:11, and Jer 50:28 ) that they have done in Zion, in your sight This may either refer to the evil done at Jerusalem and in Judea, by the Chaldeans, in the sight of God’s people, or to the open and public manner in which judgment would be executed on Babylon.

Verses 25-26

Jeremiah 51:25-26. Behold, I am against thee, O destroying mountain Babylon was situate in a plain, but is called a mountain here, by reason of its superiority and eminence above all other places; and perhaps also on account of its lofty walls, palaces, and other edifices; and it has the epithet of destroying, on account of its being the cause of the destruction of many nations. Or, the words הר המשׁחית may properly be rendered, mountain of corruption, a name given by way of reproach to the mount of Olives, after it was defiled by idolatry, 2 Kings 23:13, where see the note. The same appellation is here given to Babylon, because it was the seat of idolatry; which was derived from thence into other countries under its government and jurisdiction. This is remarkably true of mystical Babylon. I will roll thee down from the rocks That is, from thy strong holds. I will dismantle all thy walls and forts, and then set thee on fire, (see Jeremiah 51:58-59,) so that thou shalt appear like a great mountain burning. “Earthquakes were frequent in Palestine, and the sacred writers have embellished their writings with repeated allusions to this terrible phenomenon. The prophet here compares a powerful nation, doomed to destruction, to a ruinous mountain, or rather a volcano, which would soon be consumed, and involve other mountains in its ruins.” And they shall not take of thee a stone There shall not be left, in thee a stone fit to be used in any principal part of a building, either for a foundation or for a corner-stone. This seems to be spoken figuratively, and to signify that they should no longer have kings and governors taken from among themselves, but should be under the dominion of foreigners.

Verses 27-29

Jeremiah 51:27-29. Set ye up a standard blow the trumpet These were common signals for assembling armies together. Call together the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Ashehenaz These were countries under the dominion of the Medes. The two former probably the greater and lesser Armenia, and the latter a part of Phrygia, near the Hellespont: so Bochart thinks. And that both Armenians and Phrygians composed part of the army which Cyrus led against Babylon, may be seen in Xenophon. Cyropœd., lib. 3. and lib. 7. Appoint a captain against her Appoint a proper person, who has skill, courage, and conduct, to command and direct all these nations. Such was Cyrus, who was accordingly appointed to this purpose. Cause her horses to come up as the rough caterpillars Or, the rough locusts, as Bochart renders it, who observes, that there are some insects of that kind rough and hairy. Blaney reads, bristled locusts. Locusts represent horses, not only in their swiftness, but likewise in the shape of their heads, and Joel 2:4, Revelation 9:7, they are said to have the appearance of horses and horsemen. Prepare against her the kings of the Medes The several princes or viceroys of the provinces belonging to the Median empire, with their people. All princes and governors are called kings in the Hebrew language. The land shall tremble and sorrow An expression commonly used to express the confusion of the inhabitants under some great calamity. For every purpose of the Lord shall be performed, &c. See notes on Jeremiah 50:16-40.

Verses 30-32

Jeremiah 51:30-32. The mighty men of Babylon have forborne to fight: they have remained, &c. “The year before the siege of Babylon, Cyrus overthrew Belshazzar in battle, whereupon his army retreated within the walls, where they were shut up by him and besieged. Afterward, when Cyrus entered the city, he ordered public proclamation to be made, that all persons should keep within their houses, and whoever was found abroad should be put to death; and threatened to set their houses on fire, if any offered to hurt the soldiers from the tops of their houses.” They became as women Timorous, and without courage. They have burned their dwelling-places The enemy have burned their houses. Her bars are broken All her fortresses, and what she confided in as her chief defence against the enemy. One post shall run to meet another Messengers shall run from different parts, and so fall in with one another, all carrying the same intelligence to the same person, that the city was taken on the part every one came from. This is a very natural description of what may be supposed to happen on a city being taken by surprise in the middle of the night; for, as fast as the alarm spread, people would be posting away with the news from all parts to the head-quarters. The translation of the last clause, to show the king of Babylon that his city is taken at one end, is not accurate: the word מקצה does not mean at one end, for one is not in the text, but at the extremity. It may not be improper to observe further here, that though it seems unusual to say that one messenger runs to meet another, to acquaint any one with the same news, the usual expression in such a case being, that one messenger follows upon the heels of another; yet, in this matter, this unusual way of speaking was exactly descriptive of the fact; for Babylon being taken by a party of soldiers entering by the channel of the Euphrates at each extremity of the city, the messengers who carried the news to the king at his palace would actually run toward and meet each other at or near the palace, as they came from opposite quarters, to acquaint him that his city was taken at the extremities; for we cannot but suppose that people would run from each end of the city to the palace as soon as Cyrus’s men entered. The passage in the original has great beauty and sublimity, which, however, is almost lost in our translation. Houbigant seems to give it its due force, rendering the verbs in the present tense, and omitting the connecting particles, which greatly augments its energy, thus: “Courier comes to meet courier messenger meets messenger to inform the king of Babylon that his city is taken at the extremity, that the passages are stopped, [or surprised, see Jeremiah 51:41,] that fires are burning among the reeds, that the men of war are terrified.” The passages here mentioned “were most probably the entrances into the city from the river side, which were secured by gates that ought, as Herodotus observes, to have been fast barred, which, if it had been done, would have effectually frustrated the attempt of the enemy; but being left open and unguarded, on account of the public festivity, the assailants were in possession of those entrances, and in the heart of the city, before the besieged were aware of it.” The word אגמים , here rendered reeds, properly signifies marshes or lakes; and the phrase here seems to import, that the enemies had burned up all the outworks belonging to the marshy grounds about the river Euphrates. Lowth.

Verse 33

Jeremiah 51:33. The daughter of Babylon is like a thrashing-floor God’s people have been sorely bruised and trodden under foot by the Babylonians, as corn in a thrashing-floor: see note on Isaiah 21:10. It is time to thrash her It is time for her to feel the miseries she has made others suffer. The word thrash often signifies to subdue by force and power. Yet a little while and the time of her harvest shall come There shall be a clear riddance made of her inhabitants and their treasures, as the harvest clears the fields, and leaves them empty and bare. By her harvest may be meant the slaughter and spoiling of her inhabitants; and by the thrashing, or treading, which follows the harvest, the destruction of the city itself.

Verses 34-35

Jeremiah 51:34-35. Nebuchadrezzar hath devoured me Zion and Jerusalem, which are both expressed in the next verse, are the speakers here, and the words contain a pathetical description of the calamities brought upon the Jews by Nebuchadnezzar and his forces, who, after they had devoured the wealth and laid waste the beauty of Judea, then turned the inhabitants out of it, and led them captives into a strange land. The violence done to me and my flesh be upon Babylon Let God return upon her the violence she has done to me and to my children. Our nearest relations are called our flesh in Scripture. This imprecation is very similar to that in Psalms 137:8, where see the note.

Verses 36-39

Jeremiah 51:36-39. Thus saith the Lord, I will plead thy cause This is, as it were, God’s answer to the prayers and imprecations of the Jewish people, mentioned in the two foregoing verses. I will dry up her sea, and make her springs dry This some think is spoken figuratively, meaning, I will exhaust her multitudes of people, and dry up all those sources from whence she derived her immense wealth and power. But this was literally fulfilled in Cyrus’s draining the river, and thereby gaining an entrance into the city. All great waters are called seas in the Hebrew language. And Babylon shall become heaps See note on Jeremiah 50:39-40. They shall roar together like lions, &c. This is either expressive of their grief and anguish of mind, or else the prophet describes the revels and riotous noise which they made upon the night of that public festival in which the city was taken: see below. In their heat I will make their feasts Or, I will supply them with drink, as Blaney renders משׁתיהם , observing, that all the ancient versions give the word that sense, and that it agrees with the use of it, Daniel 1:8; Daniel 1:10; Daniel 1:16. And I will make them drunken I will suffer them to give a loose to joy in their feasts, and to be intoxicated with wine: God is frequently said in Scripture to do those things which he permits to be done. Or the words may be taken figuratively, as signifying, While they are feasting I will prepare for them another cup to drink, namely, that of my fury and indignation. History informs us that Babylon was taken at a time when the Babylonians were so engaged in feasting and revelling, and so intoxicated with liquor, that the gates leading down to the river, which used to be shut every night, were left open, which gave a free passage to Cyrus and his army into the city. That they may rejoice and sleep a perpetual sleep That, in the midst of their jollity and security, they may sleep the sleep of death.

Verses 41-43

Jeremiah 51:41-43. How is Sheshach taken! That Babylon is meant by Sheshach is certain; but why it is so called is yet matter of doubt: see note on Jeremiah 25:26. Some indeed have supposed that it is called so from a goddess of that name, which the Babylonians worshipped, and which is supposed by Calmet to have been the same with the moon; but of these things there does not appear to be satisfactory proof. How is the praise of the whole earth surprised Babylon was esteemed the wonder of the world, for the height, breadth, and compass of its walls, the palaces and hanging gardens belonging to it, for the temple of Belus, for the banks and facing of the river, and the artificial lakes and canals made for the draining of it, and for its riches and greatness. The sea is come up upon Babylon, &c. A numerous army, or a vast multitude of people, carrying all before them like an inundation. Her cities are a desolation All the lesser cities, within the territories of Babylon, are become an uninhabited, uncultivated desert: see note on Isaiah 13:20.

Verse 44

Jeremiah 51:44. And I will punish Bel in Babylon The heathen ascribed the honour of all their successes to their idols; and, upon any great victory, offered the best part of the spoils to their gods, and deposited them in their temples, as a grateful acknowledgment that the success was owing to their assistance. So Nebuchadnezzar, upon every victory over the Jews, carried away part of the furniture of the sanctuary and put it in the temple of his idol: see 2 Chronicles 36:7; Daniel 1:2. The restoring of the holy vessels to their right owner, and to their former use, is what is here foretold by bringing forth out of his mouth that which he hath swallowed, which was done by Cyrus, upon his proclamation for rebuilding the temple, Ezra 1:7. But the full accomplishment of this prediction Dr. Prideaux places in Xerxes’ demolishing the temple of Belus, and plundering it of its vast wealth, which, from Diodorus Siculus’s account of it, he computes to amount to twenty-one millions of our money: see his Connect., pp. 100, 101. And the nations shall not flow together any more unto him There shall be no more costly presents brought by foreign nations unto the temple of Bel, as a compliment to that monarchy; just as, under the Roman empire, people that were conquered by it, sent golden crowns to Jupiter Capitolinus: see Lowth.

Verses 45-46

Jeremiah 51:45-46 . My people, go ye out of the midst of her, &c. See note on Jeremiah 50:8. And lest your heart faint, and ye fear for the rumour, &c. “Lest the rumours of new forces, ready to join themselves to the Babylonians, dishearten you, and make you despair of seeing so great an empire subdued by any human power.” A rumour shall come one year, and after that in another year This seems to be an idiomatic phrase, denoting that terrifying rumours should continue year after year. And in these words the prophet, by God’s direction, gives signs or tokens to the captive Jews, whereby they might know the exact time when Babylon should be taken, and, consequently, when they should remove from the city into some other place, that they might not be terrified, and induced to quit the city before there was any occasion for their doing so; and he acquaints them that there should come a rumour one year, namely, of Cyrus’s preparations against the Babylonians; and that the next year there should be another rumour, namely, as we may suppose, of Cyrus’s march into Asia, and his victories there, and of his drawing nearer and nearer to Babylon every day. And violence in the land, ruler against ruler “It is possible,” says Blaney, “that the contests between the adverse powers of Babylon and Media, during which the dominions of the former were subjected to the miseries of foreign invasion, may alone be here intended. But Berosus, the Chaldean historian, as cited by Josephus, Contra Apion, lib. 1., gives an account of civil violences and disorders that were committed in the land after the death of Nebuchadnezzar, whose son, Evil-merodach, was, after a short reign, murdered, and his throne usurped by one of his subjects. The usurper’s son, who succeeded him, was also murdered in his turn, and the kingdom restored to the lawful heir; and all this happened in the course of a few years previous to the foreign invasion. These therefore, I think, are more likely to be the violence in this passage alluded to, and introduced as the forerunners of still greater devastations.”

Verses 47-49

Jeremiah 51:47-49. Therefore behold, or rather, Then soon, the days come that I will do judgment upon the graven images, &c. That is, cause the statues of the gods of Babylon to be broken to pieces, or carried away. Then the heaven and the earth, &c., shall sing for Babylon The angels in heaven, and many nations of the earth, shall rejoice and praise God for the just punishment brought upon Babylon. So at Babylon shall fall, or rather, Through Babylon have fallen, as נפלו should be rendered, the slain of all the earth The reason is here assigned why the heavens and the earth, and all that are therein, should rejoice at the fall of Babylon, because not only the people of Israel, but of the whole earth likewise had been greatly annoyed, oppressed, and diminished by the power of that ambitious nation.

Verses 50-51

Jeremiah 51:50-51. Ye that have escaped the sword Namely, the sword which wasted Babylon. Go away, stand not still This is spoken to the Jews, who, attending to the advice given them, Jeremiah 51:45, withdrew from Babylon in time, and so escaped the sword by which they otherwise might have fallen. And here they are advised to flee still farther and farther off; but amidst all to remember their native country, and in particular Jerusalem, and the God they had worshipped there; and to pray for the restoration of the city and temple; and that he would avenge himself of the Babylonians for laying them in ruins. We are confounded, because we have heard reproach The prophet here represents the words or thoughts of the pious exiles, when they heard the Babylonians speaking of Jehovah with contempt, and deriding them for worshipping him, who could not, they said, deliver his city and temple out of their hands, or preserve them from being destroyed. For strangers are come into the sanctuaries of the Lord’s house The word sanctuaries, in the plural, is likewise used Psalms 73:17, though our English reads there, sanctuary. Probably the several courts of the temple are meant by sanctuaries.

Verse 53

Jeremiah 51:53. Though Babylon should mount up to heaven Though Babylon were built upon the most lofty and inaccessible mountain, and though it were made as strong as nature and art could make it, yet still I would cause it to be spoiled.

Verses 55-57

Jeremiah 51:55-57. Because the Lord hath spoiled Babylon, and destroyed out of her the great voice “When cities are populous, they are of course noisy: see Isaiah 22:2. Silence is therefore a mark of depopulation; and in this sense we are to understand God’s destroying, or taking away out of Babylon, the great noise, which, during the time of her prosperity, was constantly heard there, ‘the busy hum of men,’ as the poet very expressly calls it. In this manner the mystical Babylon is threatened, Revelation 18:22-23. Compare Jeremiah 7:34; Jeremiah 16:9; Jeremiah 25:10.” Blaney. Every one of their bows is broken Their strength is quite broken, and they cannot defend themselves, or hurt their enemies. I will make drunk her princes and her wise men, &c. I will permit her princes, her commanders, and directors to be intoxicated, so that they shall neglect what should be done for their defence, and thereby be slain.

Verse 58

Jeremiah 51:58 . The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken, &c. That the walls of Babylon were of a prodigious height and thickness, Herodotus tells, who says, they were 200 cubits high, and 50 cubits in breadth, lib. 1. cap. 178. “We are astonished,” says Bishop Lowth, in his note on Isaiah 13:19, “at the accounts which ancient historians of the best credit give, of the immense extent, height, and thickness of the walls of Nineveh and Babylon; nor are we less astonished, when we are assured by the concurrent testimony of modern travellers, that no remains, not the least traces, of these prodigious works, are to be found. Our wonder will, I think, be moderated in both respects, if we consider the fabric of these celebrated walls, and the nature of the materials of which they consisted. Buildings in the East have always been, and are to this day, made of earth or clay mixed, or beat up with straw, to make the parts cohere, and dried only in the sun. This is their method of making bricks. The walls of the city were built of the earth, digged out of the spot, and dried upon the place; by which means both the ditch and the wall were at once formed; the former furnishing materials for the latter. That the walls of Babylon were of this kind is well known; and Berosus expressly says, (apud Joseph. Antiq. Jeremiah 10:11,) that Nebuchadnezzar added three new walls, both to the old and new city, partly of brick and bitumen, and partly of brick alone. A wall of this sort must have a great thickness in proportion to its height, otherwise it cannot stand. The thickness of the walls of Babylon is said to have been one-fourth of their height; which seems to have been no more than was absolutely necessary.” Her high gates shall be burned, and the people shall labour in vain, &c. If the Chaldeans take never so much pains to quench the fire, it shall be to no purpose; and all their efforts to preserve their empire and city shall be as insignificant as if men wrought in the fire, which immediately destroys all the fruits of their labours. The words may be better translated, “And the people have laboured for a thing of naught, and the folks have wearied themselves for that which shall be fuel for the fire;” that is, the works which have been erected with such incredible labour and expense, shall be a prey to the flames.

Verse 59

Jeremiah 51:59. The word which Jeremiah commanded Seraiah. when he went with Zedekiah The Hebrew בלכתו את צדקיהו , is rendered by the LXX., οτε επορευετο παρα Σεδεκιου , when he went from Zedekiah, on his behalf, or by virtue of his commission; which seems to be the meaning of the clause; for we have no reason to suppose that Zedekiah went in person to Babylon at that time. Instead of, This Seraiah was a quiet prince, as our translators render שׁר מנוחה , the LXX. read, αρχων δωρων , a prince, or chief master of gifts, which Blaney interprets to mean, chief of the embassy, or who had the principal charge of the present sent from Zedekiah to the king of Babylon, judging, that in these words is specified the business on which Seraiah was sent. He was employed to carry the present, or customary tribute, which Zedekiah was obliged to pay to the king of Babylon, in acknowledgment of his subjection and vassalage.

Verses 60-62

Jeremiah 51:60-62. So Jeremiah wrote in a book Namely, in the two foregoing chapters; all the evil that should come upon Babylon This was done that it might be known even in Babylon itself that Jeremiah had foretold the destruction of that city, six years before the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem. And Jeremiah said, When thou shalt see and read all these words This is probably to be understood, not of a mere private reading of them by himself, but of his reading them to the Jews in Babylon, (namely, those that had been carried thither in Jehoiakim’s captivity,) to comfort them under their exile, and, perhaps, in the hearing of some of the Babylonians themselves. Then shalt thou say Looking up to God, and making a solemn protestation of the divine authority, and unquestionable certainty, of that which thou hast read; O Lord, thou hast spoken against this place And I believe what thou hast spoken. Thou hast passed sentence upon Babylon, and it shall be executed. This is like the angel’s protestation, Revelation 19:9, concerning the destruction of the New Testament Babylon, These are the true sayings of God: and Revelation 21:6, These words are true and faithful. To cut it off, that none shall remain in it, &c. Though Seraiah and the captive Jews see Babylon flourishing, yet, having read this prophecy, they must foresee Babylon falling, and by virtue of this foresight, must learn neither to envy its pomp nor fear its power. Thus, reader, when we observe what this world is, how glittering are its shows, and how flattering its proposals, let us read in the book of the Lord, that its fashion passeth away, and that it shall shortly be cut off, and made desolate for ever, and we shall learn to look upon it with a holy contempt, and to die to all its false glories and illusive joys.

Verses 63-64

Jeremiah 51:63-64. And thou shalt bind a stone to it, and cast it into the midst of Euphrates The prophets, as we have seen, frequently gave sensible representations of the judgments they foretold: see Jeremiah 19:10. This now given was a significant emblem of Babylon’s sinking irrecoverably under the judgments here denounced against her: compare Revelation 18:21. This threatening was in a literal sense fulfilled by Cyrus’s breaking down the head or dam of the great lake, which was on the west side of the city, in order to turn the course of the river that way; for no care being afterward taken to repair the breach, the whole country round it was overflowed. And the prophecy of Isaiah 14:23, foretelling that the country of Babylon should become a possession for the bittern and pools of water, was literally fulfilled. Prideaux and Lowth. And they shall be weary This clause, expressed by one word in the Hebrew, namely, ויעפו , is not to be met with in the translation of the LXX., “nor does it appear to me,” says Blaney, “to be authentic, notwithstanding the concurrence of the later versions and MSS. The sense is entire and complete without it; and the addition serves only to cause perplexity and confusion. The word seems to have been added by some transcriber, whose eye was caught by it at the close of the preceding paragraph, Jeremiah 51:58,” where the same word occurs. Thus far are the words of Jeremiah Here the prophecies of Jeremiah end: the following chapter being added by some other hand, either in the lifetime of Jeremiah, and by his consent, or after his death.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 51". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/jeremiah-51.html. 1857.
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