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Jeremiah 51:35-36

35. The violence done to me and to my flesh be upon Babylon, shall the inhabitant of Zion say; and, my blood upon the inhabitants of Chaldea, shall Jerusalem say.

35. Violentia mea (sed passive accipitur, alii vertunt, rapinam, quod idem est) et caro mea contra Babylonem, dicet (vel, dicat) habitatrix Sion, sanguis mens contra habitatores Chaldaeae, dicat Jerusalem.

36. Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will plead thy cause, and take vengeance for thee; and I will dry up her sea, and make her springs dry.

36. Propterea sic dicit Jehova, Ecce ego litigans litem tuam (hoc est, disceptans causam tuam, vel, cognitor causae tuae,) et vindleans vindictam tuam; et arefaciam mare ejus, et exsiccabo fontem ejus.

 

Jeremiah goes on with the same subject; for, after having shown that the calamities of the people were not unknown to God, he now, in an indirect way, exhorts the faithful to deposit their complaints in the bosom of God, and to apply, or appeal to him, as their defender. The design, then, of the Prophet is, (after having explained how grievously the Jews had been afflicted,) to show them that their only remedy was, to flee to God, and to plead their cause before him.

And this passage is entitled to particular notice, so that we may also learn in extreme evils, when all things seem hopeless, to discover our evils to God, and thus to unburden our anxieties in his bosom. For how is it, that sorrow often overwhelms us, except that we do not follow what God’s Spirit prescribes to us? For it is said in the Psalms,

“Roll thy cares into God’s bosom, and he will sustain thee, and will not give the righteous to a perpetual change.”
(Psalm 55:23)

We may, then, by prayer, unburden ourselves, and this is the best remedy: but we murmur, and sometimes clamor, or at least we bite and champ the bridle, according to a common proverb; and, in the meantime, we neglect the chief thing, and what the Prophet teaches us here.

We ought, then, carefully to mark the design of what is here taught, when it is said, my violence and my flesh be upon Babylon When he adds, Say will (or let) the daughter of Sion, he no doubt shows that the faithful have always this consolation in their extreme calamities, that they can expostulate with God as to their enemies and their cruelty. Then he says, my plunder or violence; some render it “the plunder of me,” which is harsh. But the meaning of the Prophet is not ambiguous, for it follows afterwards, my flesh Then violence was that which was done by enemies. But the people is here spoken of under the name of a woman, according to what is commonly done, Let the inhabitress of Sion say, My plunder and my flesh. By the second word the Prophet shows sufficiently plain what he understood by plunder. My flesh, he says, (even that which the Chaldeans had devoured and consumed,) be on Babylon This is of the greatest weight, for by these words he intimates, that though the Chaldeans thought that they had exercised with impunity their cruelty towards the Jews, yet their innocent blood cried, and was opposed to them as an enemy.

To the same purpose he afterwards adds, Let Jerusalem say, My blood is upon the Chaldeans.

Then follows a clearer explanation, when God promises that he would be the avenger of his chosen people, and that whatever the Jews had suffered would be rendered to Babylon: Therefore thus saith Jehovah, Behold, I will litigate thy quarrel. By this passage we are taught to present our complaints to God, if we wish him to undertake our cause; for when we are silent, he will in his turn rest, as he considers us unworthy of being helped. But if we cry to him, he will doubtless hear us. Then we must remember the order of things, for the Prophet says on the one hand, Let Jerusalem cry, let the daughter of Sion say; and on the other hand he says, Therefore God will come and hear the cry of his people.

He says, first, Behold, I will plead thy cause, and then, I will vindicate or avenge thy vengeance. These are hard words to Latin ears; but yet they contain more force and power than if we were to follow the elegance of the Latin tongue. It is then better to retain the genuine terms than to study neatness too much.

In short, God promises to be the defender of his people, and by using the demonstrative particle, he doubtless removes every doubt, as though the thing was now present. We know that more than seventy years had elapsed since God had spoken thus; for as it has been already stated, it was not after the taking of the city that Jeremiah prophesied against the Chaldeans: but though God suspended his judgment and vengeance for seventy years after the destruction of the city, yet this was said, Behold, I, as though he brought the faithful to witness the event; and this was done for the sake of certainty.

Now, we hence learn, that though God humbles his people, and suffers them even to be overwhelmed with extreme miseries, he will at length become the avenger of all the wrongs which they may have endured; for what has been said of the destruction of the people has a reference to us; nay, what is here said, has not been left on record except for our benefit. And further, let us learn, as I have before reminded you, to prepare our minds for patience whenever God seems to forsake us. Let us, at the same time exercise ourselves constantly in prayer, and God will hear our groans and complaints, and regard our tears.

It is afterwards added, I will make dry her sea; for Babylon, as it has been already stated, was surrounded by the streams of the Euphrates; and there was no easy access to it. The Prophet then compares the fortifications of Babylon to a sea and a fountain. For who would have thought that the Euphrates could be dried up, which is so large a river, and has none equal to it in all Europe? Even the Danube does not come up to the largeness of that river. Who then would have thought it possible that such a river could be made dry, which was like a sea, and its fountain inexhaustible? God then intimates by these words, that such was his power, that all obstacles would vanish away, and that he was resolved at the same time to execute his judgment on the Babylonians. It afterwards follows, —

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