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Jeremiah 50:21

21. Go up against the land of Merathaim, even against it, and against the inhabitants of Pekod: waste and utterly destroy after them, saith the LORD, and do according to all that I have commanded thee.

21. Super terram exasperantium ascende super eam (sod abundat) et super habitatores visitationis (et habitatores visitationis;) occide et disperde post eos, dicit Jehova; et fac omnia quae praecepi tibi.


The Prophet here undertakes the office of a herald, and animates the Persians and the Medes to make war with Babylon. This prophecy indeed never came to these nations, but we have stated why the Prophets proclaimed war and addressed at one time heathen nations, at another time the Jews — now one people, then another; for they wished to bring the faithful to the very scene of action, and connected the accomplishment with their predictions. By this mode of speaking, the Prophet then teaches us, that he did not scatter words into the air, but that the power of God was connected with the word which he spoke, as though God had expressly commanded the Medes and the Persians to execute his vengeance on Babylon. And doubtless Jeremiah did not thus speak; according to his own thoughts, nor did he thus speak in the person of man; but on the contrary, he introduced God as the speaker, as it appears front the end of the verse.

He then says, Ascend on the land of the exasperating; others read, “of bitterness,” but improperly. God indeed calls the Chaldeans rebellious, for though they were for a time the scourges of his wrath, they yet had cruelly treated many nations, being impelled only by their own pride and avarice; he justly calls them “the exasperating,” and then adds, Slay the inhabitants of visitation Some regard פקוד, pekud, as a proper name; and they first imagine that it was a town of some note in Chaldea, which is groundless; and then they give a frigid explanation by saying that it was some mean and obscure place. There is then no doubt but that the Prophet calls the Chaldeans the inhabitants of visitation, because God’s vengeance awaited them, nay, it was even suspended over their heads, as he afterwards declares. But this way of speaking frequently occurs in the Prophets. 6363     Merathaim and Pekod are appellatives, and not proper names, in the early versions, and the first is so in the Targ. and rendered “rebellious;” but by the Sept. “bitterly;” by the Vulg. “rulers;” and by the Syr. “exasperating.” The most probable derivation of the word is from מרה, to rebel, with a dual termination, doubly rebellious, i.e., very rebellious. As to “Pekod,” the versions give it the idea of visiting by way of punishment: “Avenge thou with the sword,” is the Sept.; “Visit her inhabitants,” the Vulg.; “Assail ye her and her inhabitants,” the Syr.; the Targ. has “the inhabitants of Pekod.” It is better to take both words as appellatives: —
   21. Against the land of the most rebellious, against her ascend, And to the inhabitants of visitation; Slay and utterly destroy their posterity, saith Jehovah, And do according to all that I have commanded thee.

   As to Babylon being “rebellious,” see Jeremiah 50:24, 33. “Inhabitants of visitation” were such as were to be visited, i.e., with judgment; see Jeremiah 50:31. The repetition, “against her,” is emphatical. “posterity,” i.e., children, or young men, as in Jeremiah 50:30. See 1 Kings 16:3. — Ed.

He afterwards adds, and destroy after or behind them There is an alliteration in the words החרם אתריהם, etherem acheriem; and he means that the slaughter would be extreme, so that the Medes and Persians would not cease to destroy until they had extinguished the name of Babylon. Yet we know that this was not done by Cyrus and Darius; for as we have already stated several times, the city was taken by fraud and treachery in the night, and the king and the princes were slain, for Darius, or rather Cyrus, spared the rest of the people; for though Darius had the name of being king, yet Cyrus was by far the most renowned, as he was a valiant soldier, and only on account of his fame accompanied his father-in-law and uncle. As then the sword did not destroy all the Chaldeans when Babylon was taken, we conclude that the Prophets, when they denounced slaughter and destruction on Babylon, did not confine what they said to that time, but included also other slaughters; for Babylon was often taken. It revolted from the Persians; and when it was recovered, it suffered very severe punishment; for, by way of reproach, those who were first in power and authority were hung, and there was also great cruelty exercised towards men and women. There is no doubt then but that the Prophets, in speaking of the destruction of Babylon, referred to God’s judgments inflicted at various times. However this may have been, we learn that though God may long connive, or suspend extreme judgments, yet the ungodly cannot possibly escape his hand, though they may long be spared.

He then adds, Do to them as I have commanded thee This prophetic mode of speaking ought also to be noticed; for the Medes and the Persians never thought that they fought under the authority of God; why then is the word “commanded” used? even because God rules by his secret power ungodly men, and leads them wheresoever he pleases, though nothing of the kind is ever thought of by them. To explain the matter more fully, we must observe flint God commands in two ways; for he commands the faithful when he shows to them what is right and what they ought to follow. Thus daily God may be said to exercise his authority or right of ruling, when he exhorts us to do our duty, when he sets his law before us. And it is the proper way of commanding, or of exercising authority, when God expresses what he would have us to do, or what he requires from us. But God commands the unbelieving in another way; for though he does not declare to them what he would have them to do, he yet draws them, willing or unwilling, where-ever he pleases. Thus, by his secret operation, he induced Cyrus and Darius to take up arms against Babylon.

We now then understand what the Prophet meant by this expression; for he did not mean that Darius and Cyrus obeyed God from the heart, because they knew not that he was the leader and author of that war; no such thing ever entered into their minds. The former mode of commanding, as I have said, is peculiar to the Church; for God is pleased to bestow on us a peculiar privilege and favor, when he shows to us what is right, and prescribes the rule of life. But yet his hidden providence, by which he influences the ungodly, takes the place of a command, as it is said,

“The king’s heart is in the hand of God.” (Proverbs 21:1)

But Solomon speaks of a king rather than of common men, because, if there be any liberty among mankind, it belongs to kings, for they seem exempt from every yoke; and Solomon declares that the hearts of kings are ruled by God. Though then Darius and Cyrus were carried away by their own cupidity when they made war, yet God, as we shall hereafter see more clearly, guided their hearts. So also he is said to command the heavens and the earth-not that the heavens, being without ears and reason, hear his voice, but because God powerfully moves and influences the heavens; for when he intends to punish us, he commands the heaven not to rain. This command of God the heaven executes, and the earth also obeys God; but there is no word of command given to them, — what then? it is God’s providence which is hid from us. It follows, —

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