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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Jeremiah 51

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. LI.

The severe judgment of God against Babylon, in vindication of Israel. Jeremiah delivereth the book of this prophesy to Seraiah, to be cast into the Euphrates, in token of the perpetual sinking of Babylon.

Before Christ 595.


Verse 1

Jeremiah 51:1. Them that rise up against me, &c.— See chap. Jeremiah 4:11.


Verse 2

Jeremiah 51:2. Fanners, &c.— Winnowers, &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 Isaiah 21:10.


Verse 3

Jeremiah 51:3. Against him that bendeth Let not him who bendeth the bow relax his hand; let him not put off his armour. Houbigant.

And against him that lifteth himself up in his brigandine And let him not lift up himself in his brigandine. This is exactly parallel in sense to the preceding part of the verse, if the posture of him that stoops to bend the bow be considered. For in using the large and strong steel bows, which could not be bent by the force of the arms, they rested one end upon the ground, and pressing the other with the foot or knee, they drew back the arrow with their hands as far as ever they could, in order that it might fly with greater force. Hence the archer is called קשׁת דרךֶ dorec kesheth, one that treadeth the bow. And therefore when he is bid not to lift himself up in his coat of mail, it is the same as bidding him not to desist from shooting with his bow.


Verse 4

Jeremiah 51:4. Thus the slain shall fall Let the wounded fall in the land of the Chaldeans. Houbigant. Dr. Kennicott would render it, Thus the soldiers shall fall; which seems to agree well with the 13th verse of the preceding chapter.


Verse 5

Jeremiah 51:5. For Israel hath not been forsaken For Israel shall not therefore be forsaken, or Judah without his God, the Lord of Hosts, because their land hath been filled with desolation by the Holy One of Israel. Houbigant. Though God was justly displeased with his people; yet he will not cast them off utterly as a nation, or deprive them of his protection, though he will do so to those who have been the rod in his hand to chastise and scourge his people.


Verse 7

Jeremiah 51:7. Babylon hath been a golden cup "The Lord has presented by the hand of Babylon and her kings the cup of his wrath to all the people of the earth: Egypt, Judaea, Phoenicia, Syria, Idumaea, and many other countries, have been drunk with the wine of the fury of the Lord, by the ministration of Nebuchadrezzar." The sense of this verse is plainly applied by St. John to spiritual Babylon, Revelation 14:8; Revelation 17:4. See the note on ch. Jeremiah 25:15.


Verse 10

Jeremiah 51:10. The Lord hath brought forth our righteousness "The Lord hath made manifest the equity of our cause by the judgment which he hath brought upon Babylon." See Jeremiah 51:9.


Verse 11

Jeremiah 51:11. Gather the shields Fill the quivers. Houbigant. 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. This Cyaxares, king of Media, called in Scripture Darius the Mede, was the uncle of Cyrus; and it was properly his army which 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 Lowth, and Xenophon's Cyropaed. lib. 1.


Verse 13

Jeremiah 51:13. O thou that dwells, &c.— Upon the river Euphrates, which encompassed Babylon, and was thought to render the city impregnable. Many waters also signify mystically the many people over whom this was the reigning city. Compare Revelation 17:1; Revelation 17:15.


Verse 14

Jeremiah 51:14. As with caterpillars Locusts.


Verse 15

Jeremiah 51:15. He hath made the earth In this and the following verses we have an elegant and sublime description of the power and wisdom of the Almighty, in opposition to the weakness and inanity of idols. See Psalms 135:7. At the beginning of the 17th verse we may read, Brutish, for want of knowledge.


Verse 19

Jeremiah 51:19. The Portion of Jacob, &c.— Not such a one is he who hath Jacob for his portion; for he hath created all things: not such a one is he who hath the sceptre of his inheritance; whose name is the Lord of Hosts. Houbigant.


Verse 20

Jeremiah 51:20. Thou art my battle-axe Thou hast broken for me the weapons of war; I have broken by thee the nations, and destroyed kingdoms; Houbigant: who renders the following verses also to the 24th in the perfect tense; and he understands the whole as spoken of the dominion of the Babylonians, and not, as is commonly done, of Cyrus their conqueror.


Verse 24

Jeremiah 51:24. And I will render unto Babylon "But, though I have made Babylon the instrument of my vengeance towards others, I will render unto Babylon all the evil which they have done in Zion, and these things shall be done before your eyes, saith the Lord." See Houbigant.


Verse 25

Jeremiah 51:25. Behold, I am against thee, O destroying mountain The Vulgate renders it more properly, O corrupting mountain, which corruptest the whole earth. Babylon, though seated in a low watery plain, is here called a mountain, not only on account of its lofty buildings, but of its pride, and as being the first and most haughty seat of idolatry. See Revelation 17:5. The similitude made use of in the subsequent part of the verse is strong and expressive. Earthquakes were frequent in Palestine; and the sacred writers have embellished their writings with repeated allusions to this terrible phaenomenon. 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 be so entirely wasted by its flames, that its very stones would be rendered useless. See Michaelis's notes, and Newton's Dissertations, vol. 1: p. 279.


Verse 27

Jeremiah 51:27. Ararat, Minni, and Ashchenaz See Isaiah 13:4-5. Instead of rough caterpillars, Bochart reads bristled locusts.


Verse 31-32

Jeremiah 51:31-32. One post shall run to meet another As Babylon was taken by surprise, this occasioned many messengers to run one after another, to acquaint the king with this sudden and unexpected event. Herodotus says, that the extreme parts of the city were taken before those who lived in the centre were sensible of the danger. The beauty and sublimity of this passage, which describes this event as immediately before our eyes, is lost by our translation. Houbigant renders the 30th and these verses in the present tense, which gives the passage its due force; and he omits the connecting particles, which greatly augments its energy, Jeremiah 51:31. Courier comes to meet courier,—messenger meets messenger,—to inform the king of Babylon that his city is taken at one side, Jeremiah 51:32. 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.


Verse 34

Jeremiah 51:34. Nebuchadrezzar—hath crushed me This is a pathetic description of the calamities brought upon the Jews by Nebuchadrezzar and his forces; who, after devouring the wealth, and laying waste the beauty of their country, carried them away captives into a strange land. The imprecation in the following verse is very similar to that in Psalms 137:8.


Verse 36

Jeremiah 51:36. Her sea That is to say, her river [Euphrates]


Verse 39

Jeremiah 51:39. In their heat I will make their feasts I will give them their cup when they are now heated, and I will make them drunken, that they may be sick, and sleep, &c. "While they are feasting themselves, I will provide them another cup to drink; namely, that of my fury and indignation." See the note on Jeremiah 51:7. It is very well known, that Babylon was taken on a night of public rejoicing, in honour of the goddess Sheshach, mentioned in the next note.


Verse 41

Jeremiah 51:41. How is Sheshach taken! That is, Babylon; called Sheshach from the goddess of that name, which the Babylonians worshipped, and which is supposed by Calmet to have been the same with the moon. See ch. Jeremiah 25:26. The prophet calls Babylon the praise of the whole earth, as it was esteemed one of the wonders of the world, for the height, breadth, and compass of its wall, the palace and hanging-gardens belonging to it, the temple of Belus, &c. See chap. Jeremiah 49:25. Daniel 4:30 and Isaiah 13:19.


Verse 42

Jeremiah 51:42. The sea is come up A multitude of people, which, like an inundation, carry all before them.


Verse 44

Jeremiah 51:44. And I will punish Bel And I do take vengeance or judgment upon Bel in Babylon, and I will draw his morsel out of his mouth; and the nations, &c. That is, the presents which have been brought to his temple from foreign nations shall be restored; which was particularly verified with respect to the holy vessels of the temple at Jerusalem. Xerxes too plundered the temple of Belus of immense wealth. This passage may be further explained from the apocryphal history of Bel and the Dragon. This verse, I apprehend, should close with the words, shall not flow any more unto him; and the 45th begin, The very walls of Babylon shall fall; go ye therefore, my people, out of the midst, &c.


Verse 46

Jeremiah 51:46. And lest your heart faint Let not your heart faint, neither do ye tremble when a rumour shall be heard in the land. One year a rumour shall come, and then another rumour in the same year. Then the spoiler shall come into the land, ruler after ruler. Houbigant. The prophet gives these tokens, that they may know that the time of the dissolution of the Babylonish empire is drawing near; namely, that the first rumour of war denounced against the head of that empire shall be the year before the siege, when Cyrus and Belshazzar shall engage in a battle, and the latter shall be defeated: upon which the conqueror in the following year shall lay siege to Babylon itself. See Lowth and Calmet.


Verse 47

Jeremiah 51:47. Therefore, behold For, behold. Instead of all her slain, Houbigant reads all her wounded, as in Jeremiah 51:4 and Kennicott all her soldiers: and so in the 49th verse, the latter reads, as Babylon hath caused the soldiers of Israel to fall, so at Babylon shall fall the soldiers of all that country, or land. The next verse should be read, And the heavens and the earth shall shout over Babylon.


Verse 49

Jeremiah 51:49. So at Babylon shall fall the slain of all the earth So through Babylon have fallen the slain of the whole earth. The reason is here assigned, why the heavens and the earth, and all that were 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 by the power of that ambitious nation.


Verse 51

Jeremiah 51:51. We are confounded The prophet repeats the words of those pious exiles, when they reflected upon the desolation of God's people and sanctuary. See Lamentations 2:15-16. Psalms 44:15-16; Psalms 79:4.


Verse 55

Jeremiah 51:55. 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 expressively calls it. In this manner the mystical Babylon is threatened, Revelation 18:22-23. Compare ch. Jeremiah 7:34, Jeremiah 16:9, Jeremiah 25:10.


Verse 57

Jeremiah 51:57. I will make drunk, &c.— See Jeremiah 51:39. This refers to the same remarkable circumstance in the capture of Babylon.


Verse 58

Jeremiah 51:58. The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken See Isaiah 47:7-8; Isaiah 47:13. Houbigant reads the latter part of the verse, And the people shall labour for a thing of nought, and exhaust their strength for the flames, &c.


Verse 59

Jeremiah 51:59. The word, &c.— This was the commandment which Jeremiah the prophet gave to Seraiah,—when he went in the retinue of Zedekiah, &c. But this Seraiah was the chief chamberlain, Jeremiah 51:60. For Jeremiah, after he had written, &c. Jeremiah 51:61, said to Seraiah, &c. Houbigant.


Verse 63

Jeremiah 51:63. Thou shalt bind a stone to it, &c.— The prophets, as we have seen, frequently gave sensible representations of judgments which they foretold. The present was a sufficient and striking emblem of Babylon's sinking irrecoverably under the judgments here denounced against her. 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 current of the river that way; for no care being afterwards taken to repair the breach, the whole country round it was overflowed. See Isaiah 14:23. Houbigant ends the 64th verse with the words I will bring upon her; and reads the last clause thus, Here the words of Jeremiah are ended, which plainly shews that the next chapter was added by the person who collected this prophecy into a volume, who most probably was Ezra. See the note on the first verse of that chapter.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, For the comfort of God's people, and the confusion of his enemies, the destruction of Babylon is at large insisted on.

1. God sends forth and commissions the Medes and Persians to destroy that proud city: like a whirlwind they shall sweep the earth, and scatter the Chaldeans as chaff, killing all who dared resist them, without mercy or pity. The Persian standard is erected, and multitudes flock to it, thick as the caterpillars or locusts cover the ground; for when God hath work to do, instruments shall never be wanting.

2. Notwithstanding all the former might of this famed city, it shall now be weak, and unable to resist. Once God had clothed her with strength, and, as his battle-ax, sent her to break in pieces the nations, their forces, and all their inhabitants small and great; but now in vain they prepare their weapons of war, and furbish their armour, rusty with long peace: in vain they erect their standard, and summon their soldiers to attend, to guard the walls, or prepare an ambush for their enemies. Their courage is utterly gone, they are become as timorous as women, and fall without resistance; so easily can God, when he sends his terrors forth, make cowards of the bravest.

3. The provocation that Babylon had given was great: her sins cried to heaven for vengeance. [1.] They have risen up against me, in daring rebellion against God, and defiance of his power. [2.] Babylon is a golden cup, that made all the earth drunken with her wrath; or, she hath been the head seat of idolatry, and the great temptress to all the nations over whom her power extended; by force or fraud engaging them to partake of her abominations, and, like her, become mad upon idols. [3.] Her incorrigibleness: We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed. The faithful among the Jews that dwelt there would have turned them from their idolatries, but they were hardened in them. Though this may also be understood of her auxiliary forces, who in vain attempted to rescue her from ruin, her time to fall being come. [4.] Her covetousness was insatiable, grasping still at farther conquests and spoils. [5.] Her tyranny over God's people: as a dragon, Nebuchadrezzar had swallowed and devoured them; broke all their bones as a lion; and emptied them of all that was valuable; for which violence and bloodshed, the inhabitants of Zion imprecate just vengeance upon their ravagers; and these appeals of God's oppressed people shall not be long unanswered.

4. God in just judgment brings on Babylon the terrible ruin that she has provoked by her sin against the Holy One of Israel. He will plead the cause of his distressed people, who seemed to be deserted and forsaken, and will take vengeance for them. The time is fixed, when the wrongs of Zion shall be requited; and God's people shall see the day when Babylon shall fall as the slain of Israel, who fell by her sword. And this is the work of the Lord, and to be declared in Zion to his praise, vindicating his people's cause, and with a mighty and out-stretched arm punishing their foes. He hath sworn their destruction and is fully able to execute his threatenings, being the almighty Lord, the maker and governor of all, whom heaven and earth obey, and against whom the Babylonish idols can avail nothing; as he had before declared, chap. Jeremiah 10:12-16 where the very same expressions are used. When this Lord of Hosts arises, sure desolation marks his way: Babylon is fallen, though now in all her pride: since God hath pronounced her doom, it is as sure as if already executed. The waters on which she dwelt shall afford her no defence, their course being diverted, and her rivers dried up by the besiegers; nor her treasures protect her, when her time is come. Though strong as a mountain, and late the destroyer of the nations, she is now made a threshing-floor, where all her inhabitants should be beaten in pieces. From year to year the rumour comes of the vast preparations made by the Persians; at last they approach; a battle ensues; the Babylonians are routed, and driven within their walls, nor can these protect them; while there secure they revel, sudden their enemies enter through the bed of the river, and surprise them in their drunken feast. Swift flies the dreadful news; messenger upon messenger informs the affrighted king that his city is taken, the passages seized, and resistance vain. The houses are on fire, the bars of the gates broken: roaring at their impious carousal, and drunken, they are slain, and lie down to wake no more, slaughtered as easily as sheep. Deluged by the army of the Persians breaking in like the waves of the sea, and utterly desolate, the land becomes a wilderness, the cities uninhabited, their gods falling in the common ruin, and, so far from helping their votaries, that they are unable to defend themselves. Yea, so entirely demolished shall these proud walls be, the wonder of the world, on which several chariots might strive abreast, that there should not be a stone left fit for any use; her gates burnt with fire, the very foundations razed; and every attempt to repair these desolations for ever fruitless.

5. The people of God are warned to flee when they see the ruin approaching, that they may not be involved in it, nor overwhelmed with the terror of the destroying enemy, and gladly to accept the offer of liberty which Cyrus shall proclaim to them. They who had escaped the sword of the Chaldeans, reserved in mercy for such a time, must haste away to their own land. They are called to remember the Lord afar off, in the land of their captivity, and to think of Jerusalem, the city of their solemnities, with eager longing to return thither, notwithstanding its present desolate state; at which they had been confounded, ashamed to think of their abominations, which had provoked God to give up his sanctuary to the profanation of the heathen. But God now hath avenged their quarrel and his own, and condignly punished the Chaldeans and their gods, over whom Israel now may triumph. Note; (1.) When we know that the wrath of God is revealed against a world lying in wickedness, it is our wisdom to come out from among them, and be separate. (2.) In whatever state of affliction or distress we are, it is our duty, and will be our comfort, to think upon God, and remember his faithfulness, mercy, and truth.

6. According to their several interests, those who hear of Babylon's fall will be greatly affected. Some with astonishment and deep concern behold her sudden fall, and with an exceeding great and bitter cry bewail her desolations; others shall rejoice in it, yea, the very heaven and the earth shall sing, giving praise to God for avenging the blood of his saints, and for the recovery of his people from captivity. Throughout the whole description, if we compare Revelation 18 with this chapter, we shall see the strongest resemblance in the expressions; and as now this proud city, here devoted to ruin, has been for many ages desolate, according to the prophetic word; so surely shall Babylon mystical, the city of Rome, and the tyranny of popery, be destroyed, when God's time of vengeance comes.

2nd, The prophesy concerning Babylon was long and terrible. We have,

1. A copy of it written and sent to the captive Jews in Babylon, by Seraiah, a quiet prince in those turbulent times, who was for peace; and it is spoken of to his honour. He went with Zedekiah, as our version renders the words, or was sent from Zedekiah, as his ambassador to Nebuchadrezzar, in the fourth year of his reign, and sixty years before the destruction of Babylon.

2. He is enjoined to read the words of the roll when he came to Babylon, in the presence of the captive Jews, for their encouragement; for, however improbable the event, when they considered that vast city, so populous, and strongly fortified, the accomplishment of God's word was sure. Note; The eye of faith staggers at no difficulties; if God hath promised, that is enough.

3. He must make a solemn profession of his own faith in the truth of what he had read, that it would surely be fulfilled; and then in the presence of the people must tie a stone to the roll, and cast it into the river Euphrates, explaining the sign, that thus should Babylon sink, and not rise up again; wearied out with her plagues, exhausted, and unable to repair her desolations. Thus far are the words of Jeremiah; not that this was the last of his prophesies, but that here the burden of Babylon ends. With still greater magnificence is the fall of Babylon mystical represented, Revelation 18:21.; and when God's final wrath is poured out upon the ungodly, their ruin will be irrecoverable and eternal.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 51:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/jeremiah-51.html. 1801-1803.

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Monday, November 11th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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