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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Jeremiah 51

 

 

Verses 1-64

Jeremiah 50:1 to Jeremiah 51:58. Babylon.—This long and monotonous prophecy, which is without order or logical development of ideas, is largely a compilation from the prophetic writings of Jeremiah and others (cf., e.g., Jeremiah 50:41 ff., Jeremiah 51:15). It presupposes the destruction of Jerusalem, apparently as a remote rather than a recent event. Its idea of Babylon is that of a cruel tyrant to be punished by Yahweh, not that of a Divinely commissioned agent of Yahweh's wrath against Israel, as Jeremiah teaches. We are not at liberty to make it contemporaneous with such exilic writings as Isaiah 13, 40-55, because of its obvious dependence on these amongst other prophecies (see the notes); but the survival of Babylon (under the Persian empire) in the post-exilic period would provide later occasion for such a compilation. Moreover, the narrative of Jeremiah 51:59-64, which tells of a (private) scroll of prophecy sent by Jeremiah to Babylon, foretelling its end, would easily give rise to such a compilation by some later writer. In the present (editorial) arrangement of the text, this narrative is made to date the prophecy of Jeremiah 50:1 to Jeremiah 51:58 in 593 B.C., which is impossible (cf. Jeremiah 27-29 for the actual conditions about that date).

Jeremiah 51:1-10. Yahweh is stirring up "the spirit of a destroyer" (so render for "a destroying wind"; cf. Jeremiah 51:11 and 2 Chronicles 36:22) against Babylon (cypher as mg.; cf. Jeremiah 25:26), which shall be "fanned", i.e. winnowed", by her assailants. Yahweh's people are not abandoned; Babylon is held guilty. Let the Jews flee from Babylon (cf. Jeremiah 51:45) to escape the vengeance on her guilt. Babylon has been a cup from which other nations drank frenzy (Jeremiah 25:15 f.); now the cup is broken (so Hebrew for "destroyed", Jeremiah 51:8), and her hurt is incurable. The Jews recognise this, and urge other foreigners to depart (Jeremiah 51:9); the justice ("righteousness", Jeremiah 51:10) of the Jewish cause is to be manifested by the overthrow of Babylon.

Jeremiah 51:2. strangers: point as mg.2 with Syr., Vulg., Targ.

Jeremiah 51:3. Omit the first and second "not", with LXX, making the whole verse refer to the assailants of Babylon (so Cornill); as it stands, the first half refers to the Babylonians, the second to their enemies.

Jeremiah 51:5. Render "but their land", i.e. that of the Babylonians.

Jeremiah 51:11-14. Let the assailants polish their arrows and put on their shields, for the king (sing. with LXX, i.e. Cyrus) of the Medes (cf. Isaiah 13:17) is executing Divine vengeance on Babylon; let the blockade be begun, because the measure of Babylon's destiny (Jeremiah 51:13, lit. "cutting off", rather than "gain"; cf. Isaiah 38:12) is accomplished, and a swarm of invaders shall fill her.

Jeremiah 51:13. many waters: with reference to the canals and water-defences of Babylon.

Jeremiah 51:14. cankerworm: the locust in its chrysalis stage; cf. Jeremiah 51:27.

Jeremiah 51:15-19. Yahweh's power and the powerlessness of the idols are contrasted. The verses are repeated from Jeremiah 10:12 ff. (mg.).

Jeremiah 51:20-27. Babylon has been Yahweh's war-club to destroy other nations; now it shall be repaid in the sight of Israel for its own evil-doing, and the destroyer shall be destroyed.

Jeremiah 51:20. Render "do I break", and so throughout; cf. Jeremiah 50:23. Others, with the rendering of the RV, suppose that Cyrus is addressed in Jeremiah 51:20-23.

Jeremiah 51:25. mountain: purely figurative.

Jeremiah 51:26. The stone is made useless for building by being burnt; cf. Isaiah 33:12.

Jeremiah 51:27-33. The nations, especially those of (the present) Armenia ("Ararat", etc.), and the Medes, are called out against Babylon, which is defenceless; its capture is described (Jeremiah 51:30-32). Babylon's time of suffering is come.

Jeremiah 51:27. The rough cankerworm: the "bristling" locust-chrysalis, its most destructive stage.

Jeremiah 51:28. kings: sing. with LXX.

Jeremiah 51:32. For the corrupt pools of Hebrew text (see mg.,) read "their palisades" (i.e. muzzabhem; cf. Isaiah 29:3), which LXX implies (though it pointed the consonants mazzabhem, "their garrisons").

Jeremiah 51:33. The earth of the threshing-floor is trodden hard in preparation for the threshing.

Jeremiah 51:34-44. Israel declares the wrongs done to her by Nebuchadrezzar, and invokes a curse on Babylon. Yahweh promises vengeance through the desolation of Babylon. The Babylonians, amid the very feasting on their prey, are "stupefied" (Jeremiah 51:39; so LXX, for "may rejoice") and brought to slaughter; the city that is the glory of the earth is captured. A sea of invaders (cf. Isaiah 8:7 f.) floods her, and Babylon is compelled to disgorge her prey (i.e. the captured nations).

Jeremiah 51:34. crushed: "discomfited"; made: "set" (as); cast: "driven" (re-pointed). For the figure of the dragon or sea-monster, cf. Ezekiel 29:3, Isaiah 27:1.

Jeremiah 51:36. her sea: possibly the lake for defensive purposes made by Nebuchadrezzar.

Jeremiah 51:38. Omit "shall" in both cases.

Jeremiah 51:44. Bel: see on Jeremiah 50:2.

Jeremiah 51:44-58. Israel is told to escape, and not to be afraid amid wars and rumours of wars; the judgment of Babylon is greeted with universal joy. Israel is bidden remember Jerusalem (Jeremiah 51:50); has not Jerusalem been defiled? (Jeremiah 51:51). Hence the irresistible judgment which sweeps over Babylon, even to the destruction of her walls and gates. LXX omits Jeremiah 51:44 b - Jeremiah 51:49 a.

Jeremiah 51:49. The doubtful text should be rendered with Driver, "Yea, Babylon must fall, O ye slain of Israel; yea, for Babylon have fallen the slain of all the earth."

Jeremiah 51:55. the great voice: referring to the din of a great city's life, here overcome by the greater tumult of invasion.

Jeremiah 51:57. Cf. Jeremiah 51:39.

Jeremiah 51:58. walls: sing, with LXX and Vulg., and with its Heb. adjective "broad".—overthrown: should be as mg. (the foundations are bared).

Jeremiah 51:58 b. Note reference of mg.; the two passages are drawn from some common source; here the application is to the vanity of human achievements, as represented by the fortifications of Babylon.

Jeremiah 51:59-64. The Mission of Seraiah.—This royal official (the brother of Baruch, Jeremiah 32:12) was journeying to Babylon with the king in 593, being concerned with the halting-places, etc. of the journey (Jeremiah 51:59 mg.). Jeremiah gave him a scroll containing a prophecy against Babylon. He is to read this at Babylon, to remind Yahweh of His word, and to sink the scroll in the Euphrates, as a symbolic anticipation of the sinking of Babylon (see on Jeremiah 13:1 ff., for the force of such symbolism). The closing sentence of Jeremiah 6:4 is editorial, and is omitted by LXX, as also are the words, "and they shall be weary", which are a scribal repetition from Jeremiah 51:58, by error.—

Jeremiah 51:59. with Zedekiah: nothing is known of this visit, though see on Jeremiah 27:12 ff. for its possible object.

Jeremiah 51:60. Omit "even all these words," etc., which has been added to identify the scroll with the prophecy of Jeremiah 50:1 to Jeremiah 51:58.

Jeremiah 51:62. thou: emphatic.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Jeremiah 51:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/jeremiah-51.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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