JEREMIAH CHAPTER 50.
Babylon's Downfall. Israel's Redemption.
CHALDEA PUNISHED; ISRAEL REDEEMED. — V. 1. The word that the Lord spake against Babylon and against the land of the Chaldeans by Jeremiah, the prophet, when Seraiah, to whom it was committed, was sent to Babylon, chap. 51, 59. 60. It seems that the various prophecies against Babylon were collected at this time, to be sent as one message, partly to pronounce the doom of the oppressor, chap. 25, 12, partly to console the captive Jews and to remind them of the eventual end of their captivity. V. 2. Declare ye among the nations and publish and set up a standard, to call the attention of all men to the importance and the significance of this announcement; publish, and conceal not; say, Babylon is taken; Bel, the chief deity of the Chaldeans, is confounded; Merodach, another name for the same idol, is broken in pieces. Her idols are confounded, covered with shame and confusion, her images are broken in pieces, powerless before the almighty power of Jehovah. V. 3. For out of the North, whence the army of the Modes approached some sixty years later, there cometh up a nation against her which shall make her land desolate, and none shall dwell therein; they shall remove, they shall depart, both man and beast, making the former populous land a desolate waste. V. 4. In those days and in that time, when the punishment would strike Babylon, saith the Lord, the children of Israel shall come, the members of the Lord's Church of believers among His chosen people, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping, with tears of joy over the restoration which had been almost beyond their hopes; they shall go and seek the Lord, their God, with a repentant heart. V. 5. They shall ask the way to Zion, the habitation of Jehovah, with their faces thitherward, set with steadfast purpose not to be daunted or to be turned aside by difficulties along the way, saying, Come and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten, as the first covenant had been act aside by an apostate nation. V. 6. My people hath been lost sheep; their shepherds have caused them to go astray, the very men who were entrusted with their care being guilty of this gross neglect; they have turned them away on the mountains, the places of idolatry; they have gone from mountain to hill, from one altar of idolatrous worship to the next; they have forgotten their resting-place, in the care of Jehovah, where they could lie down in safety. V. 7. All that found them have devoured them, the enemies everywhere making a practice of preying on the Lord's people; and their adversaries said, We offend not, because they have sinned against the Lord, the Habitation of justice, He who is the essence of righteousness, the Fountain of Israel's salvation, even the Lord, the Hope of their fathers, in whom the true believers had ever trusted for help. Their adversaries felt that they incurred no guilt, that they were, in fact, justified in taking advantage of the children of Israel. V. 8. Remove out of the midst of Babylon, so all Israelites in truth are now warned, and go forth out of the land of the Chaldeans, where they were as yet held in captivity, and be as the he-goats before the flocks, the leaders of all oppressed nations, as they now turned to flee. V. 9. For, lo, I will raise, and cause to come up, against Babylon an assembly of great nations from the North country, an army composed of representatives of many nations; and they shall set themselves in array against her, with full equipment for warfare; from thence, or "there," she shall be taken, namely, where the hostile nations have assembled themselves; their arrows shall be as of a mighty expert man, one well versed in the art of warfare; none shall return in vain, none of them would fail to perform its deadly work. V. 10. And Chaldea shall be a spoil, a prey ready for the invaders; all that spoil her shall be satisfied, saith the Lord, since they were getting all that their heart desired in the way of rich booty. In this sense the Lord now turns directly to Babylon in pronouncing sentence upon the Chaldean Empire. V. 11. Because ye were glad, because ye rejoiced, O ye destroyers of Mine heritage, the Chaldeans called so on account of the pillage committed by them in destroying Judah, because ye are grown fat as the heifer at grass, skipping like a threshing calf or heifer, with proud insolence, and bellow as bulls, or, "neigh as steeds," in overweening, challenging pride, v. 12. your mother shall be sore confounded, the nation as such being heaped with disgrace; she that bare you shall be ashamed, blushing with the shame of it all. Behold, the hindermost of the nations, for this was the station to which Babylon had now been reduced, shall be a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert, the nation itself, of course, having been destroyed. V. 13. Because of the wrath of the Lord it shall not be inhabited, but it shall be wholly desolate, since His anger had caused the inhabitants to be driven away or slaughtered; every one that goeth by Babylon shall be astonished and hiss at all her plagues, in sneering derision. In order to carry out this judgment upon Babylon, the nations everywhere are now called upon to take the city. V. 14. Put yourselves in array against Babylon round about, to surround the city and to attack her from all sides simultaneously; all ye that bend the bow, the archers representing the entire army of the enemy, shoot at her, spare no arrows; for she hath sinned against the Lord, she has fully deserved the punishment being meted out to her. V. 15. Shout against her round about, encouraging one another with loud and fierce battle-cries; she hath given her hand, thereby submitting to the conquerors; her foundations are fallen, the fortifications in which she trusted for safety, her walls are thrown down, so that she is now helpless before the invaders; for it is the vengeance of the Lord, the destruction of Babylon was a punishment determined by Him; take vengeance upon her, retaliation being permitted in this instance; as she hath done, do unto her. V. 16. Cut off the sower from Babylon and him that handleth the sickle, or scythe, in the time of harvest, so that both sowers and reapers would be destroyed, and there could be no harvesting in the entire country; for fear of the oppressing sword they shall turn every one to his people, and they shall flee every one to his own land, the strangers in the country getting ready to preserve their lives before the threatening catastrophe comes. Over against this fate of Babylon is placed the deliverance of Judah from oppression and exile. V. 17. Israel is a scattered sheep, like a lonely sheep driven away from its flock, the lions have driven him away, the enemies chasing him far from his homeland; first, the king of Assyria hath devoured him, especially in the campaigns at the time of Hezekiah; and last, this Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, hath broken his bones, like a beast of prey striking down his victim. V. 18. Therefore, thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land as I have punished the king of Assyria, whose judgment had already been brought about. V. 19. And I will bring Israel, His own congregation, again to his habitation, and he shall feed on Carmel and Bashan, occupying the richest sections of his fertile land, and his soul shall be satisfied upon Mount Ephraim and Gilead, the northern part of Canaan, which included the rich Valley of Jezreel. V. 20. In those days and in that time, saith the Lord, the prophecy now again turning to the Messianic trend, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none, no longer any guilt would be charged against it; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found; for I will pardon them whom I reserve, granting them forgiveness and pardon by virtue of the Messiah's merits. If enemies of the Lord, whom He, for any reason whatever, has used as His instruments to carry out His plans, become overbearing and insolent as a consequence, He readily plunges them from the height of their pride to the depths of humiliation and confusion.
THE ENEMIES OF BABYLON SUMMONED TO THE ATTACK. — V. 21. Go up against the land of Merathaim, "of double defiance," a name applied to Babylon on account of its rebellion against Jehovah and His commandments, even against it and against the inhabitants of Pekod, "of visitation," since Babylon was now to be visited by the punishment of God; waste and utterly destroy after them, saith the Lord, to the point of total extermination, and do according to all that I have commanded thee, the heathen power here being regarded as the servant of Jehovah in carrying out His counsel of destruction upon Babylon. V. 22. A sound of battle is in the land, the din of war, and of great destruction. V. 23. How is the hammer of the whole earth, as Babylon is called on account of the fact that the Lord used it to strike and destroy many nations, cut asunder and broken! itself subject to crushing blows. How is Babylon become a desolation among the nations! so that men stand aghast at the horror of her downfall. V. 24. I have laid a snare for thee, and thou art also taken, O Babylon, and thou wast not aware, the calamity overtaking her before she realized it; thou art found and also caught because thou hast striven against the Lord. When Cyrus took the city, his stratagem in diverting the waters of the Euphrates caught the inhabitants by surprise to such an extent that parts of the city were in the hands of his soldiers before those living in its center were aware of it. V. 25. The Lord hath opened His armory and hath brought forth the weapons of His indignation, Jehovah Himself going forth to battle; for this is the work of the Lord God of hosts in the land of the Chaldeans, His business being to punish them for their obstinacy. V. 20. Come against her from the utmost border, from the most remote corner of the earth, or, "all men, down to the very last," open her storehouses; cast her up as heaps, that is, all the plunder of the city, and destroy her utterly; let nothing of her be left, the city with all its possessions and treasures was to be burned with fire. V. 27. Slay all her bullocks, her entire population; let them go down to the slaughter. Woe unto them! for their day is come, the time of their visitation, their punishment at the hands of Jehovah. V. 28. The voice of them that flee and escape out of the land of Babylon, the fugitives saving their lives in the midst of the general destruction, to declare in Zion the vengeance of the Lord, our God, the vengeance of His Temple, for by the destruction of Babylon the Lord punished the Chaldeans for their profanation of His Sanctuary on Zion. Once more the call to carry out the judgment of the Lord upon Babylon goes forth. V. 29. Call together the archers against Babylon, for the siege of the city; all ye that bend the bow, camp against it round about, leaving no loophole for escape; let none thereof escape. Recompense her according to her work, cp. v. 15; according to all that she hath done, do unto her, paying her back in her own coin; for she hath been proud against the Lord, against the Holy One of Israel, this pride being the fundamental transgression and fault of Babylon, a form of blasphemy challenging the Lord's honor. V. 30. Therefore shall her young men fall in the streets, and all her men of war shall be cut off in that day, saith the Lord. Cp. chap. 49, 26. V. 31. Behold, I am against thee, O thou most proud, saith the Lord God of hosts, coming to teach her humility; for thy day is come, the time that I will visit thee, to bring His punishment upon her in full measure. V. 32. And the most proud shall stumble and fall, literally, "Then pride totters and falls," the abstract being used to emphasize Babylon's guilt, and none shall raise him up; and I will kindle a fire in his cities, and it shall devour all round about him, the smaller cities sharing the fate of the metropolis. V. 33. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, The children of Israel and the children of Judah were oppressed together, in the captivity of the exile, and all that took them captives held them fast, were still holding them at the time when this prophecy was given; they refused to let them go, so that it might seem as though deliverance were a matter far beyond any possibility. Over against this, however, stands the strong assurance of Jehovah. V. 34. Their Redeemer is strong, the Lord of hosts is His name, the Commander of all the heavenly armies; He shall throughly plead their cause, taking their part with all needed energy, that He may give rest to the land, so that Judah would once more enjoy peace and security, and, on the contrary, disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon, who thought that they were altogether secure against all enemies. In order to take the part of His people with the proper zeal, the Lord now calls upon the sword to perform its work against the Chaldeans. V. 35. A sword is upon the Chaldeans, saith the Lord, and upon the inhabitants of Babylon and upon her princes and upon her wise men, for whom Chaldea was noted. The sentence is really in the form of an exclamation, a call, bidding the sword do its work of slaughtering. V. 36. A sword is upon the liars, the idle talkers, the astrologers of Babylon, and they shall dote, become fools with their empty and deceitful statements; a sword is upon her mighty men, the Chaldean champions, and they shall be dismayed. V. 37. A sword is upon their horses and upon their chariots, which were her boast in warfare, and upon all the mingled people that are in the midst of her, her mercenaries and allies, and they shall become as women, weak and utterly unable for effective resistance; a sword is upon her treasures, the wealth which she had accumulated in the course of her campaigns, and they shall be robbed. V. 38. A drought is upon her waters, and they shall be dried up, the dams and irrigation canals being destroyed by the invading army; for it is the land of graven images, and they are mad upon their idols, literally, "their objects of horror or terror," for the images which are usually found in heathen sanctuaries are really more likely to frighten than to attract. They have indulged in gross and revolting idolatry and must therefore bear their iniquity. V. 39. Therefore the wild beasts of the desert with the wild beasts of the islands, the jackals, shall dwell there, and the owls, literally, "daughters of crying," that is, the female ostriches, shall dwell therein, and it shall be no more inhabited forever, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation. Cp. Is. 13, 20-22; 34, 14. V. 40. As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbor cities thereof, the smaller towns of Admah and Zeboim, saith the Lord, so shall no man abide there, in Babylon, neither shall any son of man dwell therein. V. 41. Behold, a people shall come from the North, the armies of the Modes and Persians, and a great nation and many kings shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth, from the remote parts of Asia. V. 42. They shall hold the bow and the lance, weapons of attack; they are cruel and will not show mercy, give no quarter in battle; their voice shall roar like the sea, in their fierce battle-cry, and they shall ride upon horses, every one put in array like a man to the battle, all of them a unit in their desire to work mischief, against thee, O daughter of Babylon. The very words the prophet used to describe the calamity which would come upon Judah, chap. 6, 22-24, are here used to picture the destruction which would strike the Chaldeans. V. 43. The king of Babylon hath heard the report of them, of their victorious advance, and his hands waxed feeble, terror so overwhelmed him that he did not even attempt resistance; anguish took hold of him and pangs as of a woman in travail. V. 44. Behold, he, the invader, shall come up like a lion from the swelling of Jordan, from his den in its thickets, unto the habitation of the strong, chap. 49, 19; but I will make them, the Babylonians, suddenly run away from her, from the dwelling where they felt so secure; and who is a chosen man that I may appoint over her? to carry out the Lord's counsel. For who is like Me? And who will appoint Me the time? And who is that shepherd that will stand before Me? V. 45. Therefore hear ye the counsel of the Lord that He hath taken against Babylon, and His purposes that He hath purposed against the land of the Chaldeans, Surely the least of the flock shall draw them out, or, "verily, they will be dragged along," the feeble little sheep, surely he shall make their habitation desolate with them, their pasturage, their own homeland, being amazed concerning them. V. 46. At the noise of the taking of Babylon the earth is moved, that is, when that cry, "Babylon is taken," goes forth, the earth trembles, and the cry is heard among the nations. Cp. chap. 49, 19-21. In the history of nations, as well as in that of individual people, it is true that God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble.