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Jeremiah 25:26

26. And all the kings of the north, far and near, one with another, and all the kingdoms of the world, which are upon the face of the earth: and the king of Sheshach shall drink after them.

26. Et omnibus regibus Aquilonis tam iis ui propinqui sunt quam qui remoti, viro (hoc est, cuique) contra fratrem suum, et omnibus regnis terrae, quae sunt super faciem terrae (mutatur quidem nomen, ponit הארף, ponit חאדמה: et rex Sesach bibet post eos.

 

The Prophet speaks now of the kings of the north who bordered on the king of Babylon; for as to Judea, Babylon was northward. He calls all those who were towards Chaldea the kings of the north. He then says, Whether near or remote, every one shall be against his brother, and, in short, all the kingdoms of the earth on the face of the earth There is no doubt, as we shall see, but that the Prophet put in the last place the Chaldeans and their king. It is hence probable that what he here predicts was to be accomplished by the hand and power of the king of Babylon, who executed God’s vengeance on all these nations. God, then, chose for himself the king of Chaldea as a scourge, and guided him by his hand in punishing all the lands mentioned here.

I have already reminded you that this was not predicted for the sake of the Jews, that they might derive any alleviation to their grief from the circumstance of having associates, because the condition of others was nothing better; but that God’s design was another, that is, that in so great a confusion of all things, when heaven and earth, as they say, were blended together, they might know that nothing happens through the blind will of fortune. For God had already testified by the mouth of his servant what he would do, and from this prophecy it was easy to conclude that all these changes and violent commotions were the effects of God’s judgment.

The Prophet, after having shewn that the most grievous calamities were nigh all the nations who were neighbors to the Jews, and whose fame had reached them, says, in the last place, that the king of Sheshach would drink after them Hitherto the Prophet seems to have exempted the king of Babylon from all trouble and danger; for he has mentioned all the nations, and has spoken not only of those who were nigh the Jews, but also of the Persians, the Medes, and others. What, then, could have been the design of all this, if the king of Babylon had been passed by? It might have been asked, how can it be right and consistent that this tyrant should escape punishment, though he was of all the most cruel and the most wicked? Hence the Prophet now says, that the king of Babylon, how much soever his violence prevailed among all nations, and raged unpunished, would yet in his time be brought to a reckoning. The meaning then is, that God would defer the punishment of the Chaldeans until he employed them in destroying all the nations of which Jeremiah has hitherto spoken.

Respecting the king of Babylon being called the king of Sheshach, a question has been raised, and some think that some unknown king is intended; for we know that the word is a proper name, as it appears from some passages of Scripture. (1 Kings 11:40; 2 Chronicles 12:2.) But this opinion is not well founded; for the Prophet no doubt speaks here of some remarkable king; and there is also no doubt but that he reminded them of some most important event, so that there was no reason why delay should depress the minds of the faithful, though they saw that this Sheshach was not immediately punished with the rest. Others conjecture that Sheshach was a renowned city in Chaldea. But there is no necessity for us to adopt such light and frivolous conjectures. I have no doubt but that the opinion which the Chaldee paraphraser has followed is the true one, that is, that Sheshach was Babylon. For the sort of alphabet which the Jews at this day call אתבש, atbash, is no new invention; it appears from Jerome it had been long known; he, indeed, derived from great antiquity the practice, so to speak, of counting the letters backwards. They put, the last letter, ת, in the place of א, the first, and then ש in the place of ב, and כ being in the middle of the letters was put for ל; and so they called Babel Sheshach. 145145     Both Venema and Gataker regard this as one of the vagaries of the Rabbins, though countenanced by Jerome. Various have been the reasons assigned for calling Babylon Sheshach. Some derive the word from שיש, which means in Syriac, to dwell, to rest, and consider K a formative letter; and then they render it “a great habitation.” Others derive it from an Arabic root which means to be swift or to advance swiftly — the character of the sun or fire, which was deified. The third party say, that it signifies a feast, like the Saturnalian, which the Chaldeans σακέαν; for it was during a feast that Babylon was taken, so that there was thus an intimation given of this by calling him the king of this feast. See Jeremiah 51:39
   But the most probable account is that given by Gataker, that Babylon was thus called from an idol in great repute in the city, named Sheshach or Shach, and that it was on the festival of this idol that the city was taken. This accounts for this name being given to it, when its destruction is especially referred to. Mishael, which terminated with God’s name, was changed into Meschach, or rather Mishach, which contained the name of the Babylonian idol. (Daniel 1:7.) — Ed
And to designate Babylon by an obscure name was suitable to the design of the Prophet. But every doubt is removed by another passage in this Prophet,

“How is Sheshach demolished! how fallen is the glory (or praise) of the whole earth! how overthrown is Babylon!”
(Jeremiah 51:40.)

There, no doubt, the Prophet explains himself; there is therefore no need to seek any other interpretation. It is a common thing, as we know, with the prophets to repeat the same thing in other words; as he had mentioned Sheshach in the first clause, to prevent any doubt he afterwards mentioned Babylon.

But here a question arises; why did not the Prophet openly and plainly denounce ruin on the king as well as on the Chaldean nation? Many think that this was done prudently, that he might not create an ill-will towards his own people; and Jerome brings forward a passage from Paul, but absurdly, where he says,

“Until a defection shall come,” (2 Thessalonians 2:3)

but he did not understand that passage, for he thought that Paul spoke of the Roman empire. One error brings another; he supposed that Paul was cautious that he might not excite the fury of the Roman Emperor against the Church; but it was no such thing. Now, they who reject the opinion, which is the most correct, that Sheshach was Babylon, make use of this argument, — that the Prophet was not afraid to speak of Babylon, because he had declared openly of it what he had to say, as we have already seen in other places, and as it will appear more clearly hereafter. But I do not allow that the Prophet was afraid to speak of Babylon, for we find that he boldly obeyed God, so that he stood firm, as we may say, in the midst of many deaths; but I think that he concealed the name for another reason, even that the Jews might know that they had no cause to be in a hurry, though the punishment of Babylon had been predicted, for the prophecy was, as it were, buried, inasmuch as the Prophet withheld the very name of Babylon. It was not, then, his purpose to provide for the peace of the Church, nor was he afraid of the Chaldeans, lest he should kindle their fury against God’s people; he had no such thing in view, but wished rather to restrain too much haste.

And this appears from the context; Drink, he says, shall the king of Sheshath after them; that is, all these nations must drink before God shall touch the king of Babylon. He will not, then, be an idle spectator of all these calamities, but his severity will proceed through all lands until it reaches its summit; and then, he says, this king shall drink after the rest. Now, it might have seemed a poor consolation that God would for so long a time spare the king of Babylon; but all God’s children ought nevertheless to have acquiesced in the admonition given them, that though they were to bear in mind that each of these nations were to be punished by God’s hand, they were yet to believe that the king of Babylon would have his turn, and that they therefore were to restrain themselves, and not to be carried away by too hasty a desire to look for his punishment, but patiently to bear the yoke of tyranny laid on them, until the seasonable time came of which they had been reminded. It follows, —


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