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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Jeremiah 51

 

 

Verses 1-64

Jeremiah 51:7. Babylon is a golden cup in the hands of Jehovah. All the captives and allies are intoxicated with it. All nations bow to her idols, submit to her power, wonder at her riches, applaud her victories, and adore her splendour. Little indeed suspecting that her power should fall headlong from the highest pinnacle of elevation, and all her allies be instantaneously converted into foes.

Jeremiah 51:11. Make bright the arrows. Sharpen their points, rouse the spirit of the Median kings to war, and plant the standards of Elam upon her highest towers.

Jeremiah 51:13. Oh thou that dwellest upon many waters. All resources of wealth are at thy command, yet thy waters shall be drained. The Euphrates, which ran through the city, was two hundred and fifty paces broad; and a communication was opened with the Tigris by a canal. These waters supplied her with merchandise; but the river once opened by Cyrus into the lower channel, almost forsook the city, and diminished the navigation.

Jeremiah 51:14. The Lord of hosts hath sworn by himself—I will fill thee with men. As when a cloud of locusts descends on the fields and vineyards, and cease not their depradations till the verdure is all consumed, so shall the allied armies enter Babylon. And who can say what their licentiousness would be. They were all learned in the crimes of the Babylonian armies. True is the proverb, the laws are silent in war.

Jeremiah 51:15. He hath made the earth by his power. These words are of the same import as in Jeremiah 10:13.

Jeremiah 51:20. Thou art my battle-axe. This is an apostrophe to Nebuchadnezzar, who is called the hammer of the whole earth, Jeremiah 50:23; the hammer that dashed Nineveh to pieces. Nahum 2:1. Now the axe should be turned against Babylon, to which city the apostrophe is continued, as in the following words.

Jeremiah 51:25. Oh destroying mountain. Though situate on a plain, Babylon was a very high mountain in regard of power over all Asia. I will roll thee down from the rocks, and make thee a burnt mountain, or a mountain of combustion. Babylon was not burned by the Persians, the prophet might therefore have in view the sublime irruptions of volcanic mountains, which sometimes burst at once. Pliny names an earthquake which destroyed twelve cities of Asia; and Hecla, by one irruption, covered the sea for seventy miles with pumice. Babylon had so vomited fire and devastations on the nations, as to merit the appellation of a destroying mountain.

Jeremiah 51:26. They shall not take of thee a stone for a corner, nor a stone for a foundation, as from other ruins. See on Jeremiah 50:40.

Jeremiah 51:27. Ararat is a mountain in Armenia, isolated, very high and pointed, with a double summit, inaccessible and covered with snow. The lower hills abound with ruins. Minni seems to be Armenia the less, as the Chaldaic reads. N. Damascenus, in Josephus, calls it Minias, a mountain. Strabo and Pliny call it Mylias. By Ashchenaz, some understand the country which reached to Scythia. Others, with more propriety, understand it of Phrygia and Mysia, as part of this country is called by Homer Ascaria. Poole has a long criticism on this verse.

Jeremiah 51:31. One post shall run to meet another— to show the king of Babylon that his city is taken at one end. Here the prediction and the events are so striking, that I would translate the words of Herodotus, a pure and unsuspected historian. After stating how the flood-banks of Semiramis had been cut, and the river made fordable; and how the troops had boldly entered the river, and thence ascended into the city; he adds, “If the Chaldeans had conceived the least idea of Cyrus’s design, they could without doubt have prevented the entrance of the Persians, and repulsed them. Had they closed the smaller ports which led to the river, and posted themselves on the quays, they would have fought their enemies from above, and defeated them with ease. But the Persians surprised them when they had not the least idea of their movements; and the city was so great, if one may believe the inhabitants, that those who lived in the end were already taken, before those who lived in the middle were apprised of the event. Add to this, that as the day (Xenophon says night) on which they were taken was a day of festivity, they were wholly occupied with games and rejoicings when apprised of their calamity.”— Clio, or book 1.

Jeremiah 51:38. They shall roar together like lions. Shut up in their dens, and unable to escape, their fury would be beyond description. Spirit in their soldiers existed no more. In one hour their wanton songs were changed to doleful cries. Oh what curses did they belch out against their rulers, and against their gods! Oh what echoes would conscience make of their former bloody deeds.—How different is the state of Zion in the day of visitation! He that believeth shall not make haste.

Jeremiah 51:41. How is Sheshach taken. A name of some palace in Babylon, or some temple, as in Jeremiah 25:26. See the note on that verse.

Jeremiah 51:43. Her cities are a desolation. This is strictly true; travellers describe Babylon as a mass overgrown and uncultivated.

Jeremiah 51:44. I will punish Bel—I will bring forth out of his mouth that which he hath swallowed up. The treasures of the plundered and demolished temples of Asia were deposited in the temple of Belus; and it is supposed that they amounted to twenty one millions of our money. See Prideaux’s Connection.

Jeremiah 51:45. My people, go ye out of the midst of her. These words the prophet often repeated to the Jews, and the Spirit in the Revelation of John, repeats them to the church. Let christians avoid associations with the ungodly, and cherish the sweet communion of saints. God warned his people to leave Babylon in time, for a succession of calamities would yet come on those who, for the time, had escaped the visitations of justice.

Jeremiah 51:59. Seraiah was a quiet prince, of the legation which Zedekiah had sent to Babylon; but the Seraiah mentioned in Jeremiah 52:24 was a priest, and not the person to whom Jeremiah wrote.

Jeremiah 51:63. Thou shalt bind a stone, and cast it into the Euphrates. The angel threw a millstone into the sea, with the like execration on mystical Babylon. Revelation 18:21. An instance of the like nature is recorded by Herodotus in Euterpe. “When the Phoceans, of Ionia in Asia, said to be the first who made long voyages, were driven from their country by the Persians, they resolved to go to Cyrnos, now Corsica; but on quitting Phocea, they sunk a mass of iron into the sea, and bound themselves with an oath never to return till that iron could swim on the water.” This was a curse on the Persians, as the sinking of the stone was an execration on Babylon.

REFLECTIONS.

In this sublime and beautiful elegy on the fall of Babylon, we are struck with the grandeur, the boldness, and the glory of the figures employed by the prophet to depict the scene. Inspiration elevated the prophet’s soul; ideas and figures crowded on his mind, and he could scarcely restrain the impetuosity of his spirit.

In addition to the reflections in the preseding chapter, we may here remark, it is foretold in Jeremiah 51:8, that the fall of Babylon should be sudden and unexpected. It was to happen in one day. Isaiah 49:9. Cyrus’s army was at first too small to excite suspicion, and his object was to reduce the nations which had been subject to Media, to their former homage. Besides, his operations were chiefly in the north of Asia minor, which excited the less suspicion and fear in the effeminate Chaldeans. Hence when he found himself sufficiently strong, and supported by allies, to make a direct approach to Babylon, terror came upon them suddenly; yet deeming their walls impregnable, and having plenty of provisions, they were lulled into a fatal slumber that time would compel him to retire. They never dreamed that their waters could be drained. Their king and their nobles were feasting and drunk, when God spread a net for their feet. The cry of terror ran through the streets, Babylon is suddenly fallen, while the Medes roared like lions when they make a carnage of the flock.

The prophecies of the fall of Babylon were purposely written to support the Jews in their long captivity, that they might abstain from idolatry, from intermarrying with the heathen, and keep their eye on the promises of restoration. By so doing, piety would comfort them in affliction, and faith would anticipate happier times.

Seraiah was to read these words, and to sink with a stone the scroll in the Euphrates, with a predictive malediction that Babylon shall so sink, as it appears literally to have done in a considerable degree. St. John, speaking of mystic Babylon, or the power of Rome to set up her decrees and doctrines above the bible, uses those very words, when he saw the angel casting a millstone into the sea. Revelation 18:21. Hence the prophecies, that bible christianity shall fill the earth, should in like manner support and comfort the christian world. Let us constantly keep our eye on the glorious things which are spoken of the church, as suggested in the general reflections at the end of Isaiah’s prophecies; and let us rest assured that the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 51:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/jeremiah-51.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, January 28th, 2020
the Third Week after Epiphany
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