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Jeremiah 51:8

8. Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed: howl for her; take balm for her pain, if so be she may be healed.

8. Subito cecidit Babylon et confracta est; ululate super eam; tollite resinam (alii, balsamum) ad dolorem ejus, si forte sanetur.


The Prophet now declares that the fall of Babylon would be sudden, that the faithful might understand that God could accomplish in one moment what he had decreed. For when the prophets spoke of God’s judgments, the people questioned among themselves, how could that be which surpassed the common ideas of men. That men, therefore, might not estimate God’s power according to their own thoughts, he introduces this word, suddenly; as though he had said, that God had no need of warlike forces; for though he makes no preparations, yet he can subvert every power that exists in the world.

He then adds, Howl for her; and this is said, because it could not be but that many nations would either bewail the ruin of so great a monarch, or be astonished at her, and thus many things would be said. He then says, that though the whole world were to howl for Babylon, it would yet fall and be suddenly broken, whenever it pleased God. And he says, by way of irony, Take balm, if peradventure it can be healed The word צרי, tsari, is, by some, rendered balsam, but it means rosin, for we know that it was deemed precious in Judea; and the Prophet no doubt accommodated what he said to what was commonly known. As then that medicament was in common use among the Jews, he now says, Take rosin As there is hardly any country which has not its peculiar remedies; so we see that Jeremiah refers not to what was usually done at Babylon, or to medicaments used by the Chaldeans, but to what was commonly used in his own country, as it appears from other places. Now rosin was a juice which flowed from trees, and it was a thick juice. The best rosin which we now use is from the terebinth; but in these parts they have what proceeds from the fir, for here the terebinth is not found. But Judea had a most valuable rosin, as we learn from many parts of Scripture. And under this one thing is included everything, Take rosin; as though he had said, “Let physicians come together (otherwise she will perish) from every place, if peradventure she can be healed.” This is said ironically, that the faithful might know that the diseases of Babylon would be incurable.

We have said elsewhere, that Babylon was not wholly demolished when taken by Cyrus, and that the people were not then driven away. They dwelt there as usual, though made tributary, as they were afterwards, under the dominion of the Persians. Babylon was also grievously oppressed, when punished for its revolt, until what Jeremiah and others prophesied was fulfilled. Then the time of which he speaks ought not to be confined to one calamity only, which was only a prelude to others still greater. He afterwards adds, —

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