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Judgment on Babylon


The word that the L ord 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 L ord, the people of Israel shall come, they and the people of Judah together; they shall come weeping as they seek the L ord their God. 5They shall ask the way to Zion, with faces turned toward it, and they shall come and join themselves to the L ord 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 L ord, the true pasture, the L ord, 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 L ord.



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 L ord 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 L ord.


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 L ord:

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 L ord 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 L ord, 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 L ord;

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 L ord.


The L ord has opened his armory,

and brought out the weapons of his wrath,

for the Lord G od 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 L ord 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 L ord, 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 L ord.



I am against you, O arrogant one,

says the Lord G od 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 L ord 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 L ord 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 L ord,

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 L ord, 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 L ord 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.


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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