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Judgment on Babylon


The word that the Lord spoke concerning Babylon, concerning the land of the Chaldeans, by the prophet Jeremiah:


Declare among the nations and proclaim,

set up a banner and proclaim,

do not conceal it, say:

Babylon is taken,

Bel is put to shame,

Merodach is dismayed.

Her images are put to shame,

her idols are dismayed.

3 For out of the north a nation has come up against her; it shall make her land a desolation, and no one shall live in it; both human beings and animals shall flee away.


4 In those days and in that time, says the Lord, the people of Israel shall come, they and the people of Judah together; they shall come weeping as they seek the Lord their God. 5They shall ask the way to Zion, with faces turned toward it, and they shall come and join themselves to the Lord by an everlasting covenant that will never be forgotten.


6 My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains; from mountain to hill they have gone, they have forgotten their fold. 7All who found them have devoured them, and their enemies have said, “We are not guilty, because they have sinned against the Lord, the true pasture, the Lord, the hope of their ancestors.”


8 Flee from Babylon, and go out of the land of the Chaldeans, and be like male goats leading the flock. 9For I am going to stir up and bring against Babylon a company of great nations from the land of the north; and they shall array themselves against her; from there she shall be taken. Their arrows are like the arrows of a skilled warrior who does not return empty-handed. 10Chaldea shall be plundered; all who plunder her shall be sated, says the Lord.



Though you rejoice, though you exult,

O plunderers of my heritage,

though you frisk about like a heifer on the grass,

and neigh like stallions,


your mother shall be utterly shamed,

and she who bore you shall be disgraced.

Lo, she shall be the last of the nations,

a wilderness, dry land, and a desert.


Because of the wrath of the Lord she shall not be inhabited,

but shall be an utter desolation;

everyone who passes by Babylon shall be appalled

and hiss because of all her wounds.


Take up your positions around Babylon,

all you that bend the bow;

shoot at her, spare no arrows,

for she has sinned against the Lord.


Raise a shout against her from all sides,

“She has surrendered;

her bulwarks have fallen,

her walls are thrown down.”

For this is the vengeance of the Lord:

take vengeance on her,

do to her as she has done.


Cut off from Babylon the sower,

and the wielder of the sickle in time of harvest;

because of the destroying sword

all of them shall return to their own people,

and all of them shall flee to their own land.


17 Israel is a hunted sheep driven away by lions. First the king of Assyria devoured it, and now at the end King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon has gnawed its bones. 18Therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I am going to punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I punished the king of Assyria. 19I will restore Israel to its pasture, and it shall feed on Carmel and in Bashan, and on the hills of Ephraim and in Gilead its hunger shall be satisfied. 20In those days and at that time, says the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and none shall be found; for I will pardon the remnant that I have spared.



Go up to the land of Merathaim;

go up against her,

and attack the inhabitants of Pekod

and utterly destroy the last of them,

says the Lord;

do all that I have commanded you.


The noise of battle is in the land,

and great destruction!


How the hammer of the whole earth

is cut down and broken!

How Babylon has become

a horror among the nations!


You set a snare for yourself and you were caught, O Babylon,

but you did not know it;

you were discovered and seized,

because you challenged the Lord.


The Lord has opened his armory,

and brought out the weapons of his wrath,

for the Lord God of hosts has a task to do

in the land of the Chaldeans.


Come against her from every quarter;

open her granaries;

pile her up like heaps of grain, and destroy her utterly;

let nothing be left of her.


Kill all her bulls,

let them go down to the slaughter.

Alas for them, their day has come,

the time of their punishment!


28 Listen! Fugitives and refugees from the land of Babylon are coming to declare in Zion the vengeance of the Lord our God, vengeance for his temple.


29 Summon archers against Babylon, all who bend the bow. Encamp all around her; let no one escape. Repay her according to her deeds; just as she has done, do to her—for she has arrogantly defied the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. 30Therefore her young men shall fall in her squares, and all her soldiers shall be destroyed on that day, says the Lord.



I am against you, O arrogant one,

says the Lord God of hosts;

for your day has come,

the time when I will punish you.


The arrogant one shall stumble and fall,

with no one to raise him up,

and I will kindle a fire in his cities,

and it will devour everything around him.


33 Thus says the Lord of hosts: The people of Israel are oppressed, and so too are the people of Judah; all their captors have held them fast and refuse to let them go. 34Their Redeemer is strong; the Lord of hosts is his name. He will surely plead their cause, that he may give rest to the earth, but unrest to the inhabitants of Babylon.



A sword against the Chaldeans, says the Lord,

and against the inhabitants of Babylon,

and against her officials and her sages!


A sword against the diviners,

so that they may become fools!

A sword against her warriors,

so that they may be destroyed!


A sword against her horses and against her chariots,

and against all the foreign troops in her midst,

so that they may become women!

A sword against all her treasures,

that they may be plundered!


A drought against her waters,

that they may be dried up!

For it is a land of images,

and they go mad over idols.


39 Therefore wild animals shall live with hyenas in Babylon, and ostriches shall inhabit her; she shall never again be peopled, or inhabited for all generations. 40As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighbors, says the Lord, so no one shall live there, nor shall anyone settle in her.



Look, a people is coming from the north;

a mighty nation and many kings

are stirring from the farthest parts of the earth.


They wield bow and spear,

they are cruel and have no mercy.

The sound of them is like the roaring sea;

they ride upon horses,

set in array as a warrior for battle,

against you, O daughter Babylon!



The king of Babylon heard news of them,

and his hands fell helpless;

anguish seized him,

pain like that of a woman in labor.


44 Like a lion coming up from the thickets of the Jordan against a perennial pasture, I will suddenly chase them away from her; and I will appoint over her whomever I choose. For who is like me? Who can summon me? Who is the shepherd who can stand before me? 45Therefore hear the plan that the Lord has made against Babylon, and the purposes that he has formed against the land of the Chaldeans: Surely the little ones of the flock shall be dragged away; surely their fold shall be appalled at their fate. 46At the sound of the capture of Babylon the earth shall tremble, and her cry shall be heard among the nations.


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Jer 50:1-46. Babylon's Coming Downfall; Israel's Redemption.

After the predictions of judgment to be inflicted on other nations by Babylon, follows this one against Babylon itself, the longest prophecy, consisting of one hundred verses. The date of utterance was the fourth year of Zedekiah, when Seraiah, to whom it was committed, was sent to Babylon (Jer 51:59, 60). The repetitions in it make it likely that it consists of prophecies uttered at different times, now collected by Jeremiah to console the Jews in exile and to vindicate God's ways by exhibiting the final doom of Babylon, the enemy of the people of God, after her long prosperity. The style, imagery, and dialogues prove its genuineness in opposition to those who deny this. It shows his faithfulness; though under obligation to the king of Babylon, he owed a higher one to God, who directed him to prophesy against Babylon.

1. Compare Isa 45:1-47:15. But as the time of fulfilment drew nearer, the prophecies are now proportionally more distinct than then.

2. Declare … among … nations—who would rejoice at the fall of Babylon their oppressor.

standard—to indicate the place of meeting to the nations where they were to hear the good news of Babylon's fall [Rosenmuller]; or, the signal to summon the nations together against Babylon (Jer 51:12, 27), [Maurer].

Bel—the tutelary god of Babylon; the same idol as the Phœnician Baal, that is, lord, the sun (Isa 46:1).

confounded—because unable to defend the city under their protection.

Merodach—another Babylonian idol; meaning in Syria "little lord"; from which Merodach-baladan took his name.

3. a nation—the Medes, north of Babylon (Jer 51:48). The devastation of Babylon here foretold includes not only that by Cyrus, but also that more utter one by Darius, who took Babylon by artifice when it had revolted from Persia, and mercilessly slaughtered the inhabitants, hanging four thousand of the nobles; also the final desertion of Babylon, owing to Seleucia having been built close by under Seleucus Nicanor.

4. Fulfilled only in part when some few of the ten tribes of "Israel" joined Judah in a "covenant" with God, at the restoration of Judah to its land (Ne 9:38; 10:29). The full event is yet to come (Jer 31:9; Ho 1:11; Zec 12:10).

weeping—with joy at their restoration beyond all hope; and with sorrow at the remembrance of their sins and sufferings (Ezr 3:12, 13; Ps 126:5, 6).

seek … Lord—(Ho 3:5).

5. thitherward—rather, "hitherward," Jeremiah's prophetical standpoint being at Zion. "Faces hitherward" implies their steadfastness of purpose not to be turned aside by any difficulties on the way.

perpetual covenant—in contrast to the old covenant "which they brake" (Jer 31:31, &c.; Jer 32:40). They shall return to their God first, then to their own land.

6. (Isa 53:6).

on the mountains—whereon they sacrificed to idols (Jer 2:20; 3:6, 23).

resting-place—for the "sheep," continuing the image; Jehovah is the resting-place of His sheep (Mt 11:28). They rest in His "bosom" (Isa 40:11). Also His temple at Zion, their "rest," because it is His (Ps 132:8, 14).

7. devoured—(Ps 79:7). "Found them" implies that they were exposed to the attacks of those whoever happened to meet them.

adversaries said—for instance, Nebuzara-dan (Jer 40:2, 3; compare Zec 11:5). The Gentiles acknowledged some supreme divinity. The Jews' guilt was so palpable that they were condemned even in the judgment of heathens. Some knowledge of God's peculiar relation to Judea reached its heathen invaders from the prophets (Jer 2:3; Da 9:16); hence the strong language they use of Jehovah here, not as worshippers of Him themselves, but as believing Him to be the tutelary God of Judah ("the hope of their fathers," Ps 22:4; they do not say our hope), as each country was thought to have its local god, whose power extended no farther.

habitation—(Ps 90:1; 91:1). Alluding to the tabernacle, or, as in Eze 34:14, "fold," which carries out the image in Jer 50:6, "resting-place" of the "sheep." But it can only mean "habitation" (Jer 31:23), which confirms English Version here.

hope of their fathers—This especially condemned the Jews that their apostasy was from that God whose faithfulness their fathers had experienced. At the same time these "adversaries" unconsciously use language which corrects their own notions. The covenant with the Jews' "fathers" is not utterly set aside by their sin, as their adversaries thought; there is still "a habitation" or refuge for them with the God of their fathers.

8. (Jer 51:6, 45; Isa 48:20; Zec 2:6, 7; Re 18:4). Immediately avail yourselves of the opportunity of escape.

be as … he-goats before … flocks—Let each try to be foremost in returning, animating the weak, as he-goats lead the flock; such were the companions of Ezra (Ezr 1:5, 6).

9. from thence—that is, from the north country.

expert—literally, "prosperous." Besides "might," "expertness" is needed, that an arrow may do execution. The Margin has a different Hebrew reading; "destroying," literally, "bereaving, childless-making" (Jer 15:7). The Septuagint and Syriac support English Version.

In vain—without killing him at whom it was aimed (2Sa 1:22).

11. (Isa 47:6).

grown fat—and so, skip wantonly.

at grass—fat and frisky. But there is a disagreement of gender in Hebrew reading thus. The Keri is better: "a heifer threshing"; the strongest were used for threshing, and as the law did not allow their mouth to be muzzled in threshing (De 25:4), they waxed wanton with eating.

bellow as bulls—rather, "neigh as steeds," literally, "strong ones," a poetical expression for steeds (see on Jer 8:16) [Maurer].

12. Your mother—Babylon, the metropolis of the empire.

hindermost—marvellous change, that Babylon, once the queen of the world, should be now the hindermost of nations, and at last, becoming "a desert," cease to be a nation!

13. (Isa 13:20).

14. Summons to the Median army to attack Babylon.

against the Lord—By oppressing His people, their cause is His cause. Also by profaning His sacred vessels (Da 5:2).

15. Shout—Inspirit one another to the onset with the battle cry.

given … hand—an idiom for, "submitted to" the conquerors (1Ch 29:24, Margin; La 5:6).

as she hath done, do unto her—just retribution in kind. She had destroyed many, so must she be destroyed (Ps 137:8). So as to spiritual Babylon (Re 18:6). This is right because "it is the vengeance of the Lord"; but this will not justify private revenge in kind (Mt 5:44; Ro 12:19-21); even the Old Testament law forbade this, though breathing a sterner spirit than the New Testament (Ex 23:4, 5; Pr 25:21, 22).

16. Babylon had the extent rather of a nation than of a city. Therefore grain was grown within the city wall sufficient to last for a long siege [Aristotle, Politics, 3.2; Pliny, 18.17]. Conquerors usually spare agriculturists, but in this case all alike were to be "cut off."

for fear of … oppressing sword—because of the sword of the oppressor.

every one to his people—from which they had been removed to Babylon from all quarters by the Chaldean conquerors (Jer 51:9; Isa 13:14).

17. lions—hostile kings (Jer 4:7; 49:19).

Assyria—(2Ki 17:6, Shalmaneser; Ezr 4:2, Esar-haddon).

Nebuchadnezzar—(2Ki 24:10, 14).

18. punish … king of Babylon—Nabonidus, or Labynitus.

as … punished … Assyrian—Sennacherib and other kings [Grotius] (2Ki 19:37).

19. (Isa 65:10; Eze 34:13, 14).

20. The specification of "Israel," as well as Judah, shows the reference is to times yet to come.

iniquity … none—not merely idolatry, which ceased among the Jews ever since the Babylonian captivity, but chiefly their rejection of Messiah. As in a cancelled debt, it shall be as if it had never been; God, for Christ's sake, shall treat them as innocent (Jer 31:34). Without cleansing away of sin, remission of punishment would be neither to the honor of God nor to the highest interests of the elect.

whom I reserve—the elect "remnant" (Isa 1:9). The "residue" (Zec 14:2; 13:8, 9).

21. Merathaim—a symbolical name for Babylon, the doubly rebellious, namely, against God. Compare Jer 50:24, "thou hast striven against the Lord"; and Jer 50:29, "proud against the Lord." The "doubly" refers to: first, the Assyrian's oppression of Israel; next, the kindred Chaldean's oppression of Judah (compare Jer 50:17-20, 33; especially Jer 50:18).

Pekod—(Eze 23:23); a chief province of Assyria, in which Nineveh, now overthrown, once lay. But, as in Merathaim, the allusion is to the meaning of Pekod, namely, "visitation"; the inhabitants whose time of deserved visitation in punishment is come; not, however, without reference to the now Babylonian province, Pekod. The visitation on Babylon was a following up of that on Assyria.

after them—even their posterity, and all that is still left of Babylon, until the very name is extinct [Grotius]. Devastate the city, after its inhabitants have deserted it.

all … I … commanded—by Isaiah (Isa 13:1, &c.).

23. hammer—that is, Babylon, so called because of its ponderous destructive power; just as "Martel," that is, "a little hammer," was the surname of a king of the Franks (Isa 14:6).

24. I—Thou hast to do with God, not merely with men.

taken … not awareHerodotus relates that one half of the city was taken before those in the other half were "aware" of it. Cyrus turned the waters of the Euphrates where it was defended into a different channel, and so entered the city by the dried-up channel at night, by the upper and lower gates (Da 5:30, 31).

25. weapons of his indignation—the Medes and Persians (Isa 13:5).

26. from the utmost border—namely, of the earth. Or, from all sides [Ludovicus De Dieu].

storehouses—or, "her houses filled with men and goods" [Michaelis]. When Cyrus took it, the provisions found there were enough to have lasted for many years.

as heaps—make of the once glorious city heaps of ruins. Vast mounds of rubbish now mark the site of ancient Babylon. "Tread her as heaps of corn which are wont to be trodden down in the threshing-floor" [Grotius].

27. bullocks—that is, princes and strong warriors (Jer 46:21; Ps 22:12; Isa 34:7).

go down to … slaughter—The slaughterhouses lay low beside the river; therefore it is said, "go down"; appropriate to Babylon on the Euphrates, the avenue through which the slaughterers entered the city.

28. declare in Zion … temple—Some Jews "fleeing" from Babylon at its fall shall tell in Judea how God avenged the cause of Zion and her temple that had been profaned (Jer 52:13; Da 1:2; 5:2).

29. archers—literally, "very many and powerful"; hence the Hebrew word is used of archers (Job 16:13) from the multitude and force of their arrows.

according to all that she hath done—(See on Jer 50:15).

proud against the Lord—not merely cruel towards men (Isa 47:10).

30. (See on Jer 49:26).

in the streets—The Babylonians were so discouraged by having lost some battles that they retired within their walls and would not again meet Cyrus in the field.

31. most proud—literally, "pride"; that is, man of pride; the king of Babylon.

visit—punish (Jer 50:27).

33. Israel and … Judah were oppressed—He anticipates an objection, in order to answer it: Ye have been, no doubt, "oppressed," therefore ye despair of deliverance; but, remember your "Redeemer is strong," and therefore can and will deliver you.

34. strong—as opposed to the power of Israel's oppressor (Re 18:8).

plead … cause—as their advocate. Image from a court of justice; appropriate as God delivers His people not by mere might, but by righteousness. His plea against Satan and all their enemies is His own everlasting love, reconciling mercy and justice in the Redeemer's work and person (Mic 7:9; Zec 3:1-5; 1Jo 2:1).

give rest … disquiet—There is a play on the similarity of sounds in the two Hebrew verbs to express more vividly the contrast: "that He may give quiet to the land of Judah (heretofore disquieted by Babylon); but disquiet to the inhabitants of Babylon" (heretofore quietly secure) (Isa 14:6-8).

35-37. The repetition of "A sword" in the beginning of each verse, by the figure anaphora, heightens the effect; the reiterated judgment is universal; the same sad stroke of the sword is upon each and all connected with guilty Babylon.

wise men—(Isa 47:13). Babylon boasted that it was the peculiar seat of wisdom and wise men, especially in astronomy and astrology.

36. liars—Those whom he before termed "wise men," he here calls "liars" (impostors), namely, the astrologers (compare Isa 44:25; Ro 1:21-25; 1Co 1:20).

37. as women—divested of all manliness (Na 3:13).

38. drought—Altering the pointing, this verse will begin as the three previous verses, "A sword." However, all the pointed manuscripts read, "A drought," as English Version. Cyrus turned off the waters of the Euphrates into a new channel and so marched through the dried-up bed into the city (Jer 51:32). Babylonia once was famed for its corn, which often yielded from one to two hundredfold [Herodotus]. This was due to its network of water-courses from the Euphrates for irrigation, traces of which [Layard] are seen still on all sides, but dry and barren (Isa 44:27).

their idols—literally, "terrors." They are mad after idols that are more calculated to frighten than to attract (Jer 51:44, 47, 52; Da 3:1). Mere bugbears with which to frighten children.

39. wild beasts of the desert—wild cats, remarkable for their howl [Bochart].

wild beasts of the islands—jackals (See on Isa 13:21).

owls—rather, "female ostriches"; they delight in solitary places. Literally, "daughters of crying." Compare as to spiritual Babylon, Re 18:2.

no more inhabited for ever—The accumulation of phrases is to express the final and utter extinction of Babylon; fulfilled not immediately, but by degrees; Cyrus took away its supremacy. Darius Hystaspes deprived it, when it had rebelled, of its fortifications. Seleucus Nicanor removed its citizens and wealth to Seleucia, which he founded in the neighborhood; and the Parthians removed all that was left to Ctesiphon. Nothing but its walls was left under the Roman emperor Adrian.

40. (Isa 13:19). Repeated from Jer 49:18.

41-43. (Compare Jer 6:22-24). The very language used to describe the calamities which Babylon inflicted on Zion is that here employed to describe Babylon's own calamity inflicted by the Medes. Retribution in kind.

kinds—the allies and satraps of the various provinces of the Medo-Persian empire: Armenia, Hyrcania, Lydia, &c.

coasts—the remote parts.

42. cruel—the character of the Persians, and even of Cyrus, notwithstanding his wish to be thought magnanimous (Isa 13:18).

like a man—So orderly and united is their "array," that the whole army moves to battle as one man [Grotius].

43. hands waxed feeble—attempted no resistance; immediately was overcome, as Herodotus tells us.

44-46. Repeated mainly from Jer 49:19-21. The identity of God's principle in His dealing with Edom, and in that with Babylon, is implied by the similarity of language as to both.

46. cry … among the nations—In Edom's case it is, "at the cry the noise thereof was heard in the Red Sea." The change implies the wider extent to which the crash of Babylon's downfall shall be heard.