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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Jeremiah 50

 

 

Verse 1

THE TITLE, Jeremiah 50:1.

1. The word… against Babylon — Rather, concerning.

By Jeremiah — Literally, as in the margin, by the hand of Jeremiah, suggesting not a spoken, but a written, message. The and should be omitted, and so land of the Chaldeans is simply an appositive of Babylon, which is thus shown to be not the city but the land.

The circle of the nations is completed in this prophecy against Babylon, which is much the most elaborate of all, containing one hundred verses. The genuineness of the passage is assailed by several critics on such grounds as these: 1) Elsewhere Jeremiah is the friend of the Chaldeans; here he is their enemy, and thirsts for their overthrow: 2) The style is repetitious. 3) New words and thoughts, foreign to Jeremiah, are introduced. 4) It shows a striking resemblance to certain passages in Isaiah 5) It displays an intimate knowledge of Babylonian topography and customs.

We reply: 1) Jeremiah indeed recognises the Chaldeans as the ministers of God’s justice, but still this does not change the fact that they are the enemies of the theocracy; and Jeremiah’s loyalty as a Jew and a worshipper of the Most High cannot be questioned. 2) That the style contains repetitions is eminently characteristic of Jeremiah, the warmth of whose emotional nature continually leads him to dwell on and to repeat matters of supreme interest. 3) There is no proof that new words and thoughts, novel to Jeremiah, have been introduced. 4) The introduction of passages from other prophets, such as Isaiah, Obadiah, and Nahum, has already been illustrated; and in this Jeremiah is simply consistent with himself. 5) The knowledge of Babylon is only of such general character as every intelligent Jew must have possessed.

In favor of the genuineness of this passage we may note — 1) Its own distinct and formal claim, so that if it be not genuine it is a base forgery. 2) The style is characteristically Jeremiah’s. 3) The local and historical allusions are fully in harmony with this view. One illustrative passage, the fifth verse, has been repeatedly quoted: “They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward.” The exact reading is hitherward, showing that the writer was at Jerusalem.


Verse 2

THE FALL OF BABYLON AND DELIVERANCE OF ISRAEL, Jeremiah 50:2-10.

2. Set up (rather, as the margin, lift up) a standard — As a means of spreading the good news.

Bel… Merodach — These are not two separate deities, but rather two names suggesting two aspects of one deity. “Bel” is the Aramean divinity answering to the Phenician Baal, the Phenician and Babylonian Jupiter. “Merodach” is the same, as the tutelar god of Babylon.


Verse 3

3. Out of the north — The Medes were the destroyers of Babylon, and came from the northwest. They shall remove, etc. — Literally, from man to beast they are fled, they are gone.


Verse 4

4. In those days, etc. — When Babylon shall have fallen, Israel and Judah, reunited in their common penitence and their common joy, shall come back again, seeking the Lord their God, and asking the way to Zion.


Verse 5

5. Thitherward — Rather, hither-ward, showing the standpoint.

Perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten — A repetition which suggests the contrast between this new covenant and the old one which they had broken.


Verse 6

6. Lost sheep — So they have the most urgent reasons for seeking again the fold.

They have forgotten their resting place — Alas, how universally true! And here is the great secret of unrest, this perpetual going from mountain to hill. The only proper resting-place of the flock of God is in his fold.

“‘Tis there, with the lambs of thy flock,

There only, I covet to rest,

To lie at the foot of the rock,

Or rise to be hid in thy breast:

‘Tis there I would always abide,

And never a moment depart,

Concealed in the cleft of thy side,

Eternally held in thy heart.” C. Wesley.


Verse 8

8. As the he goats before the flocks — Israel should be as an example and leader, strengthening the weak, guiding the bewildered, and animating and encouraging the despondent.


Verse 9

9. I will raise Stir up.

An assembly of great nations — A very just description of these heterogeneous oriental monarchies.

From thence — From the place where these nations come together against her.

Their arrows — Literally, his arrows, implying the union of all these peoples as one enemy.


Verse 11

BABYLON’S HUMILIATION AND ISRAEL’S GLORY, Jeremiah 50:11-20.

11. Ye were glad… ye destroyers of mine heritage — They not only executed God’s will of just judgment, but their own will of selfish ambition and bitter hate. This verse assigns the reason why Chaldea is given over to destruction.

Because ye are grown fat… bellow — Better, Though thou leapedst proudly like a heifer threshing, and neigh like strong horses.


Verse 12

12. Your mother — Babylon, the nation considered as a unit.

Hindermost of the nations — Balaam calls Amalek “the first of the nations.” Babylon, the “head of gold,” is here called the last “of the nations.”


Verses 14-16

14-16. Put yourselves in array, etc. — These verses are a command to the nations to gather themselves together to execute the purposes of Jehovah. The language is vivid and graphic, and the picture truthful and impressive. The battle array, the bended bow, the thickly flying arrows, the shout of battle, the shattered buttresses, the falling walls and the wholesale and indiscriminate slaughter, are all crowded into this brief description.

She hath given her hand — Ordinarily a pledge of faithfulness; here a sign of submission.

Foundations — The original occurs only here, but cannot mean “foundations,” as that is quite unsuitable to the connexion. Better, buttresses or battlements.

Sower… handleth the sickle — No fields are richer than those on the plains of Babylon. Herodotus represents them as yielding two hundred fold. But sower and reaper shall be cut off, and these rich fields shall remain untilled.


Verse 17

17. Scattered — “Scattered sheep” postulates a flock, and this conception lies in the background of this verse. But attention is fixed on the individual sheep separated from the flock and chased by the lions. These “lions” were the king of Assyria, who had scattered Israel, and the king of Babylon, who had scattered Judah.


Verse 18

18. I will punish… Babylon — Assyria has already been destroyed, and a like destruction shall come upon Babylon. Nothing could be in itself more incredible than that Nineveh should be overthrown; but now that this had actually taken place, it adds force and probability to the threatened overthrow of Babylon.


Verse 19

19. Again to his habitation,… Carmel and Bashan,… Ephraim and Gilead — The most famous localities for pasturage.


Verse 20

20. I will pardon — The supreme promise is reserved for the last. Not only shall the penalty be cancelled, but the sin itself shall be removed. The pain has ceased, indeed, but what is more and better, the disease is cured. Great as Israel’s sin is, it is not so great as God’s mercy. Deep as are the depths of evil, they are not so deep as God’s purposes of love.


Verse 21

PUNISHMENT FOR SIN, Jeremiah 50:21-28.

21. Land of Merathaim — Not rebels, as in the margin, but double rebellion, a dual word. But why is Babylon called so? Various answers have been given. 1) Double, as against both God and man. But this has nothing in favour of it, and is opposed to Old Testament usage. 2) Double, first, in the tower of Babel experience, and now in this last assault upon the theocracy. This is less unsatisfactory, and yet seems too artificial to comport with the general usage of the Old Testament. 3) Double, in the sense of beyond ordinary bounds, an intensive form. This is the view to be preferred.

Pekod — Literally, to visit with punishment; here used as a name of Babylon and suggestive of its immediate future.


Verse 23

23. The hammer of the whole earth — Babylon is here so called because it had been used to break in pieces other nations and kingdoms.


Verse 24

24. Laid a snare for thee — Babylon was thought impregnable, but was literally caught in a snare which she herself had been at much pains to lay. Cyrus captured her by diverting from its natural channel the Euphrates, and thus opened up through its old watercourse a highway for his army.


Verse 25

25. Weapons of his indignation — The Medes and Persians. For this is the work, etc. — Better, for the Lord Jehovah of hosts hath a work in the land of the Chaldeans.


Verse 26

26. From the utmost border — And all intervening. The meaning is, let all come.

Storehouses — Literally, granaries.

Cast her up as heaps — Rather, “cast” it — namely, the grain — into heaps, that it may be devoted to destruction.


Verse 27

27. Bullocks — Her warlike young men, the flower of her population.


Verse 28

28. From Babylon the scene changes to Jerusalem, where we hear the voice of the fugitives who bring to Zion the tidings of God’s fearful judgments on Babylon.


Verse 29

PRIDE AND HUMILIATION, Jeremiah 50:29-40.

29. Call together the archers — The meaning of this verse is slightly disguised by an inaccuracy in the translation. The reading should be, Summon the archers to Babylon, all those who bend the bow, etc.


Verse 30

30. Therefore, etc. — Identical with the words used of Damascus in chap.

Jeremiah 49:26.


Verse 32

32. The most proud shall stumble — The marginal reading should be preferred, so as to read: And pride shall stumble and fall, and none shall raise him up; and I will kindle a fire in his cities, and it shall devour all round about him.


Verse 33

33. Were oppressed — In this verse there has been an unfortunate rendering as to tense. The reading should be, are oppressed… their captors have kept hold… they have refused to let them go.


Verse 34

34. Give rest to the land — Rather, to the earth; which has been disquieted by the warlike ambition of Babylon. This will be done by suppressing the power of Babylon.


Verse 35

35. A sword is upon the Chaldeans — The verb inserted by the translators takes away from the dramatic character of the passage. The original has the form of an exclamation, on account of the feeling which pervades it.

Princes — Rulers in peace, leaders in war.

Wise men — Magicians or savants.


Verse 36

36. Liars — The original word means to babble, to talk at random, and here the sense is soothsayers.

Dismayed — Better, confounded.


Verse 37

37. They shall become as women — Their wise ones shall become as fools, their soldiers and heroes shall “become as women;” that is, destitute of all warlike qualities.


Verse 38

38. A drought — The consonants of the original for “drought” are the same with those for sword in the verse preceding; the only difference is in the vowel pointings of the Masoretes. Hence there are not a few who believe that the true form of this word is sword, and not drought. But the consistency of the MSS. with one another, the general uniformity of the Versions, and the more exact fitness of the sense, vindicate the present reading, even if they do not demonstrate its correctness; and hence it is better to retain it.

Waters — The canals and watercourses constituting the system of irrigation for the Babylonian plain, which system was doubtless at this time, the most perfect on the face of the earth.


Verses 41-46

THE AGENTS OF THIS DESTRUCTION, Jeremiah 50:41-46.

41-46. A people shall come from the north, etc. — A more particular description of the agents of Babylon’s overthrow, consisting, however, almost exclusively of the materials found in previous passages.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Jeremiah 50:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/jeremiah-50.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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