The judgment of Babylon. The redemption of Israel.
Before Christ 595.
Jeremiah 50:1. The word that the Lord spake against Babylon— After having announced to the Philistines, Edomites, and other people, the evils which they should suffer from Nebuchadrezzar, Jeremiah proceeds to foretel what should happen to the Chaldeans themselves from Cyrus and other princes his successors. For the fullest explication of this prophesy, the reader will refer to Isaiah on the same subject; bearing in mind that the prophesy has a further respect to that mystical Babylon mentioned in Revelation; many expressions of it being applied by St. John in that book. Merodach, mentioned in the next verse, seems to have been one of the idol-gods of Babylon; perhaps a deified king.
Jeremiah 50:3. Out of the north there cometh up a nation— The Medes, who lay north of Babylon. See Jeremiah 50:9; Jeremiah 50:41. These people are well and fully described in the subsequent verses.
Jeremiah 50:4. In those days, and in that time— The return of the ten tribes with that of Judah and Benjamin could not have been marked out more expressly. "They shall return to their country amid tears of joy, of tenderness and compunction." See Calmet. But from the next verse we may conclude, that a future and more general restoration of the Jews is also and particularly referred to. See Luke 9:51; Luke 9:53. Jeremiah 42:17; Jeremiah 44:12.
Jeremiah 50:6. Their shepherds—have turned them away— They have turned them aside from the true worship of God performed at Jerusalem, to sacrifice to idols upon the mountains and high-places. See chap. Jeremiah 2:20, Jeremiah 3:23.
Jeremiah 50:7. Their adversaries said, We offend not— "In making them captives." Jeremiah introduces the Chaldean speaking thus by the truest prosopopoeia; 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: Nebuchadrezzar himself is a witness, who gave his captains orders to preserve Jeremiah. See Houbigant.
Jeremiah 50:8. Be as the he-goats before the flocks— "Let each of the princes of Judah endeavour to lead the way to others, and give them an example of speedily obeying God's call, without shewing any fondness to the place, or to the idolatries there practised." See Zechariah 10:3. Homer frequently compares his heroes to rams, bulls, and he-goats.
Jeremiah 50:10. All that spoil her shall be satisfied— "They shall fully revenge themselves upon her, and have as much spoil and plunder as they can desire."
Jeremiah 50:12. Behold, &c.— Behold, she shall be the hindermost of the nations, a wilderness, &c. Houbigant.
Jeremiah 50:13. Because of the wrath of the Lord, it shall not be inhabited— See Isaiah 13:19 to which the following remarkable passage from Rollin's Ancient History, vol. 2: book 4: may be added: "After its capture by Cyrus, Babylon ceased to be a royal city; the kings of Persia choosing some other place for their residence. The Macedonians, who succeeded the Persians, did not only neglect it, but built Seleucia in its neighbourhood, on purpose to draw away its inhabitants, and caused it to be deserted: the new kings of Persia completed its ruin by building Ctesiphon, which carried away all the remainder of its inhabitants. She was so totally forsaken, that, in the time of Pausanias, nothing remained but the bare walls. The kings of Persia, finding the place deserted, converted it into a park, chace, or menagerie, in which they kept wild beasts for hunting. But it was still too much that the walls of Babylon were standing: at length they fell down in several places, and never were repaired. The animals which were kept for the pleasure of the Persian monarchs, abandoned the place, and were succeeded by serpents and scorpions. In the time of Alexander the Great, the river had quitted its ordinary channel by means of the sluices made by Cyrus; which sluices and outlets being ill-stopped, had occasioned a great inundation, and the place where Babylon stood was covered by an inaccessible pool. By all these changes Babylon became an absolute desart, and all the country round fell into the same state of horror and desolation; so that the most able geographers at this day cannot ascertain the place where it stood."
Jeremiah 50:15. She hath given her hand— Giving the hand, is a token of consenting to any conditions offered. See 2 Kings 10:15 and Lamentations 5:6. Dare manus, (to give the hand,) 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.
Jeremiah 50:16. 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. Others understand by Babylon here, not the city only, but the whole province: the latter part of the verse is spoken of the Babylonish allies. See Isaiah 13:14.
Jeremiah 50:17. Israel is a scattered sheep— See Jeremiah 50:6. "As a lion coming among a flock of sheep scatters them one from another; so have these foreign invaders served my people." See chap. Jeremiah 2:15, Jeremiah 5:6. Instead of, A scattered sheep, Houbigant reads, a dispersed flock; and he reads the latter part of the verse thus, First the king of Assyria devoured him, and last this Nebuchadrezzar—hath eaten up his bones; the first lion devoured his flesh, the last his bones.
Jeremiah 50:20. In those days, &c.— That is, "I will be perfectly reconciled to them, as if they had never offended." The Hebrew expresses the utter ceasing of any thing by seeking and not finding. Compare Psalms 10:15; Psalms 37:36. Isaiah 41:12.
Jeremiah 50:21. Go up, &c. The two places here mentioned, though unknown, are supposed to have been situate in the Babylonish dominions. The meaning of the words is, the land of the rebels—and the inhabitants of visitation: and some understand them of the Babylonians in the sense here given. These are the commands of God to Cyrus, though then unborn. Instead of after them, the Hebrew might be rendered their posterity; "Cut off from Babylon the name and remnant," as God threatens, Isaiah 14:22.
Jeremiah 50:23. How is the hammer of the whole earth cut asunder, &c.— Divided and broken. Houbigant. "How is that oppressive empire which smote the nations with a continual stroke, broken and destroyed!" The figure is strong and expressive.
Jeremiah 50:24. I have laid a snare for thee— Cyrus took the city by surprise, entering it when the walls were intire, the city full of provisions, and the people in high spirits, to their utter consternation, by having drained the Euphrates. See Jeremiah 50:38.
Jeremiah 50:26. Cast her up as heaps— The marginal rendering of our Bibles, which is followed by Houbigant, seems preferable; Tread her as heaps, that is to say, as the corn is trodden down when it is threshed. The phrase alludes to the eastern way of threshing.
Jeremiah 50:27. Slay all her bullocks— The Vulgate and Chaldee have explained the sense of this figure by rendering it, her strong men.
Jeremiah 50:28. The voice of them that flee, &c.— Some of those who were more than ordinarily zealous for the welfare of God's church and people, were ready, upon the first news of the taking of Babylon, to bring the glad tidings to Judaea, that God had avenged his people, and executed his judgments on those who destroyed his temple. Compare ch. Jeremiah 51:51 and Daniel 5:1-2; Daniel 5:30.
Jeremiah 50:34. That he may give rest, &c.— Houbigant renders it, Rest to their land; that is to say, to the Jews.
Jeremiah 50:36. A sword is upon the liars— The diviners, and they shall be mad. Houbigant.
Jeremiah 50:38. A drought is upon her waters— A sword is upon her waters, that they may be dried up; because it is a land of idols, and they glory in vain gods. Our translators, after the example of the Vulgate and others, read חרב choreb, in this place a drought, differently from the reading and sense given to it in the preceding verses, חרב chereb, a sword, as supposing that a sword has nothing to do with waters, But the sword 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.
Jeremiah 50:39. Therefore, &c.— Therefore wild cats, with jackals, shall dwell there; and the daughters of the ostriches shall dwell therein. &c.
Jeremiah 50:44. Behold, &c.— See the note and alterations of the version, ver. Jeremiah 49:19, &c.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here,
1. The destruction of Babylon foretold, with her idols. And great joy would it administer, when these glad tidings were spread among the nations, that the rod of the oppressor was broken. From the north the evil comes; Media and Persia: and by the northern princes (north of Rome) shall the mystical Babylon be destroyed, and the joyful cry go forth, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, Revelation 14:6-8.
2. The people of God have a comfortable prospect opened before them: they shall return to God and their own land. Israel and Judah, now re-united (many of the ten tribes joining with their brethren), shall go weeping, with penitential tears, confessing their provocations, and seek the Lord their God, in faith trusting on the divine covenant, established in the Messiah, and still encouraged to make their humble supplications to him from whom they have so greatly departed: for it is a sure symptom for good, when God bestows godly sorrow; and never can it be too late to return to him, when with weeping we seek his face. Restored to God's favour, they are in the way to recover their lost inheritance, and, dismissed by Cyrus, inquire the way to Zion, stedfastly setting their faces thitherward, encouraging one another to come and renew their broken covenant, and henceforth approve themselves to God with more unshaken fidelity. And this is most applicable to all God's believing people, who, when rescued from the dominion of sin, with shame lament their past departures, with diligence enquire after God, and in all his holy ways desire to be found walking before him. This may also particularly refer to the penitent return of the Jews at the last day.
3. Their past miseries, here lamented, should quicken them to improve the moment of opportunity given them by Cyrus. Like lost sheep they had long wandered, and those who should have led them aright, contributed to their errors: thus exposed, they fell an easy prey to the devourers, who vindicated the cruelties they exercised upon them, as if it were no offence to punish those severely who had transgressed so greatly against JEHOVAH and his worship. Therefore no sooner are they permitted to remove from Babylon, than they must eagerly seize the permission, and be as the he-goat before the flocks, each willing to lead the way, and encourage their brethren to follow them. And this is exceedingly applicable to the Jews in their present dispersion, who are wanderers in all lands; still deceived by their teachers; forgetting their resting-place, Christ Jesus; and a prey to all nations in which they are scattered: yea, many to this day think it no crime to plunder a Jew: but the days will come, when they shall be called home to the Lord, the hope of their fathers. Note; (1.) Opportunity is precious, and should be embraced. (2.) In promoting a good cause, it is well to be zealously affected, and among the first to lead the way.
2nd, God's controversy with Babylon proceeds.
1. She is given into the hands of the Medes and Persians. At God's command their army assembles, and he directs their arrows to the mark, that none return in vain. Devoted to the spoil, Chaldea falls, depopulated and desolate; every one that passeth by shall hiss in derision, and be astonished at her plagues. The mother-city, Babylon shall be confounded and ashamed to find her helpless state, unable to make head against her besiegers, and forced to submit and yield her land. She, who was once the golden head of nations, shall sink into the lowest place, and be as a desart, barren and uninhabited, her walls razed from the foundations; not so much as the dregs of the people left, and her auxiliaries fled for fear of the Persian sword.
2. The cause of her fall is God's wrath and vengeance, provoked by the abuse of his people; for, though the Chaldeans were commissioned of God to afflict them for their sins, they meant only to gratify their own enmity and pride, and therefore exulted at the fall of Judah, fattened on their spoils, and bellowed as bulls with loud shouts, or neighed as horses, making their unhappy captives subservient to their bestial passions. Note; (1.) Though God over-rules men's wickedness for purposes of his own glory, that does not exculpate them. (2.) None may expect severer judgment from God than those who have persecuted God's people, or have maliciously rejoiced at their fall.
3. God promises mercifully to visit his people, and punish their oppressors. They had been as defenceless sheep worried by the lions: the king of Assyria had scattered the ten tribes, and now Nebuchadnezzar had crushed the very bones of the other two. But the king of Babylon shall be punished, as the king of Assyria had been; and righteous retaliation be rendered to their foes, while Israel shall be restored to their own habitation; and God will give them peace and plenty, and every temporal blessing; and, better than all the rest, pardon every returning penitent freely, fully, and reserve the faithful for an habitation in a better country, that is, an heavenly. Note; (1.) They who imitate other men's sins, may expect to share their plagues. (2.) When we return to God in penitence, we shall find him meeting us with pardon. (3.) Temporal mercies are doubly sweet when coming in the way of divine love. (4.) When God pardons, he does it abundantly.
3rdly, Babylon being doomed to ruin, we have,
1. A commission given to Cyrus; his way pointed out; his conquest assured to him. He is directed to march by the country of the Mardi, and through Pekod in Assyria, beginning his conquests with these, and to execute exactly the instructions given him; for, though a mighty conqueror, he is but God's servant, Isaiah 44:28. Great is the destruction that he shall work, for the day of vengeance shall come. God's armoury is opened; he is furnished with weapons; both power and policy are given him from God. Caught as a beast in a snare, by stratagem the city is taken, and ravage universal ensues, God having enjoined the conqueror of Babylon to retaliate the injuries that she did to Zion; none must escape; her mighty men, like bullocks, shall be slaughtered; her young men fall in the streets; and her riches be a prey to the captors; the fire of God's wrath, thus kindled, shall burn till all the cities follow the fate of the capital, and none be ever able to restore the ruined monarchy. Note; The sinner, when rioting in plenty, is but as the ox fattening for the slaughter.
2. God is most righteous in these his judgments; for the sins of Babylon are increased. [1.] Her tyranny. She had been the hammer of the whole earth, breaking in pieces all who opposed her; but now, astonishing to behold! she is herself cut asunder and broken. [2.] Her impious defiance of God. Thou hast striven against the Lord; oppressing his people, and challenging him to vindicate their quarrel. But woe to him that contendeth with his Maker. [3.] Her profanation of the temple, and the vessels of the sanctuary: for, though he suffers for a while the enemies of his church to triumph, he will speedily avenge her wrongs. [4.] Her intolerable pride, behaving most arrogantly even against the Lord himself, and thereby provoking his indignation: I am against thee, O thou most proud: and who can stand when God riseth up as an enemy? Note; Unhumbled pride will have a fall, often in this world, into abject wretchedness; certainly in the next, into the belly of hell.
4thly, We have,
1. The recovery of God's people from their state of oppression. Israel and Judah both groaned under the yoke, and their conquerors refused to let them go: but, when God determines their deliverance, who can stay him? Their Redeemer is strong, yea, almighty to save, the Lord of Hosts is his name, whom all the armies of heaven and earth obey. He shall throughly plead their cause, avenge their wrongs, restore them to their own land, and punish their oppressors. And this is true of all the faithful Israel of God, suffering under antichristian tyranny: though their enemies refuse to let them go, the Lord is their avenger, to recompense tribulation to them that trouble them, to break the power of their persecutors; to set his faithful people free, to give them rest spiritually on earth, and eternally with himself in heaven. Let us therefore trust in the Lord, and rejoice in the comfort of his salvation.
2. The ruin of Babylon for her sins; particularly for her detention of God's Israel, and her abominable idolatries. They are mad upon their idols, so superstitiously devoted to them; or their terrors, their images being frightful, and their worshippers terrified with fear of them. And very applicable is this to the idolatries of Babylon mystical, where image worship so abounds. For this God's sword is drawn, and terribly descends upon her princes, her wise counsellors, her soothsayers, who deceived the people with their lies; upon her mighty warriors, her cavalry, her chariots, her auxiliaries, who should through fear become weak as women; and upon her treasures, devoted to the spoil. A drought is sent upon her waters in general, whence the land becomes barren, and famine ensues; or upon the river which ran through Babylon in particular, the course of which was turned; and, the bed of it, left dry, opened a passage into the city. So utterly shall this proud city be overthrown, that the wild beasts shall take up their abode in her ruinous palaces; and, like the cities of Gomorrah, her desolations shall be perpetual. From the north their merciless destroyers come, completely armed, and spreading their terrors on every side. Confounded at the report, the king of Babylon, like a travailing woman, loses all power of resistance, and falls an easy prey. The very same expressions are used as in chap. Jeremiah 6:22-24 to shew how exactly Babylon was to be punished according to her former treatment of Jerusalem. And as Nebuchadrezzar had served Edom, chap. Jeremiah 49:19-21 such a lion should Cyrus prove to Chaldea, devouring and destroying all before him. And as Babylon of old, so shall Babylon mystical be destroyed, when the saints of God will for ever triumph, and their enemies be eternally tormented, Revelation 14:8; Revelation 18:2-19.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 50". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany