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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 adopts various modes of speaking, and not without reason, because he had to thunder rather than to speak; and then as he spoke of a thing incredible, there was need of no common confirmation; the faithful also, almost pining away in their miseries, could hardly entertain any hope. This is the reason why the Prophet dwells so long and so diffusely on a subject in itself not obscure, for there was not only need of amplifying, but also of great vehemence.

Then, as though he had many heralds ready to obey, he says, Call together the mighty against Babylon Some read “many,” but the word רבים, rebim, means both; and I think that “the mighty” or strong are meant here. Why some render it “arrows” I know not. It is, indeed, immediately added, all who bend the bow, כל-דרכי קשת, caldereki koshet. But the word, without anything added to it, never means an arrow. They refer to a place in Genesis 21:20, where Ishmael is said to be “an archer,” רבה, rebe; but the word “bow” follows it. We cannot then take רבים, rebim here but as signifying many or the mighty; and the latter is the most suitable word. Then the Prophet bids the strong and the warlike to come together, and then he mentions them specifically, all who bend the bow, even all skillful archers. For the Persians excelled in this art, they were archers of the first order. It was indeed a practice common among eastern nations, but the Persians surpassed all others. The Prophet then points them out when he bids archers to assemble. 7070     The early versions and the Targ. render רבים, “many;” and the rendering of the Sept. and Vulg. is to this effect, —
   Proclaim ye to the many at Babylon, To all who bend the bow, — “Encompass her around, Let there be no escape,” etc.

   The first part is a charge like what we find in the second verse; and the second states what they were to do. “Proclaim ye to,” is literally, “‘Make ye to hear,” — “Make ye the many at Babylon to hear,” etc. — Ed.

He adds, encompass or besiege her around, that there may be no escape This also was a thing difficult to be believed, for Babylon was more like a country than a city. Then one could have hardly thought that it could have been besieged around and at length taken, as it happened. Therefore the Prophet here testifies that what exceeded the opinion of all would take place. But he had said before that this would be the work of God, that the faithful might not form a judgment according to their own measure, for nothing is more absurd, as it has been said, than to measure the power of God by our own understanding. As then the Prophet had before declared that the siege of Babylon would be the work of God, he bids them now, with more confidence, to besiege it around, that there might not be an escape

It is then added, Render to her according to her work; according to what she has done, do to her By these words the Prophet shows that the vengeance which God would execute on the Chaldeans would be just, for nothing is more equitable than to render to one what he had done to others.

“With what measure ye mete to others,” says Christ, “it shall be rendered to you.” (Luke 6:38)

As, then, nature itself teaches us that the punishment is most just which is inflicted on the cruel themselves, hence the Prophet reminds us here that God would be a just avenger in his extreme violence against the Babylonians. But he looks farther, for he assumes this principle, that God is the judge of the world. Since he is so, it follows that they who unjustly oppress others must at length receive their own reward; as also Paul says, that the judgment of God, otherwise obscure, will be made evident, when he shall give relief and rest to the miserable who are now unjustly afflicted, and when he shall render their reward to oppressors. (2 Thessalonians 1:6, 7.) The Prophet then takes occasion of confidence from this truth to animate the faithful and to encourage them to entertain hope. How so? Since God is the judge of the world, the Jews ought to have considered what sort of people the Babylonians had been; nay, they had already sufficiently experienced how cruel and barbarous they were. As, then, the avarice and cruelly of the Chaldeans were sufficiently apparent, the Prophet here reminds them, that as God is in heaven, it could not be otherwise but that he would shortly call them to judgment, for otherwise he would not be God. Surely he would not be the judge of the world, were he not to regard the miserable unjustly oppressed, and bring them help, and stretch forth his hand to relieve them; and were he not also, on the other hand, to punish the avaricious and the proud and the cruel. We now understand the meaning of the Prophet.

He adds, in the last place, because she has acted proudly against Jehovah, against the Holy One of Israel By saying that the Babylonians had acted proudly, he means that they had not only been injurious to men, but had been also insolent towards God himself; for the verb here used denotes a sin different from that which happens through levity or want of thought. When any one sins inconsiderately, he is said to have erred; but when one sins knowingly, it is a deliberate wickedness, and he is said to be proud; and this we learn from Psalm 19:12; for David there sets pride in opposition to errors:

“errors,” he says, “who can understand?”

and then he asks God to cleanse him from all pride. David indeed had not designedly raised his horns against God, but he yet feared lest the wantonness of the flesh should lead him to pride. When, therefore, the Prophet now says that the Chaldeans had acted proudly towards God, it is the same as though he accused them of sacrilegious pride, even that they designed to be insolent towards God himself, and not only cruel to his people.

But an explanation follows, against the Holy One of Israel The Babylonians might have raised an objection, and said, that it was not their purpose to act proudly towards God. But the Prophet here brings forward the word Israel, as though he had said, “If there be a God in heaven, our religion is true; then God’s name dwells with us. Since, then, the Babylonians have basely oppressed the people whom God has chosen, it follows that they have been sacrilegious towards him.” And he meant the same thing when he said before, the vengeance of Jehovah our God Why did he add, our God? that the Jews might know that whatever wrongs they had suffered, they reached God himself, as though he were hurt in his own person. So also in this place the Prophet takes away from the Babylonians all means of evasion when he says, that they had acted proudly towards the Holy One of Israel When, therefore, the ungodly seek evasions and say that they do not contend with God, their pretenses are disproved, when they carry on war with his Church, and fight, against his faithful people, whose safety he has undertaken to defend. For God cannot be otherwise the protector of his Church than by setting himself up as a shield in its defense whenever he sees his people unjustly attacked by the reprobate. It follows, —

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