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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.


We have explained nearly the same words in the last chapter; for the Prophet not only used the same similitude respecting the Humans, but also added all the words which are found here; nay, the Prophet brings forward nothing new to the end of the chapter, but only repeats what we have seen before.

He first compares either Darius or Cyrus to a lion, who, at, the overflowing of Jordan, removes to another place. This passage, like the former, is indeed variously explained. Some read, “for the pride of Jordan.” But as it appears from other places that lions had their dens near the banks of Jordan, I have no doubt but that the Prophet here compares Cyrus to, a lion, forced to leave his own lair because of the inundation of that river. We know how savage a beast is the lion; but, when he is forced to change his dwelling and to move to another place, his fury rages the more. It is the same, then, as though he had said, that not any sort of lion would attack the Babylonians, but a lion furious through rage. He then adds, to the strong habitation When he spoke of the Idumeans, the allusion might have been to their country, which was elevated, and they had also mountains as their fortresses. But as Babylon was also strongly fortified, and nearly impregnable on account of fire various streams of the Euphrates, what the Prophet says is also suitable, that a lion would come, though there were hindrances which might impede his course; for when a lion rambles, being not hungry nor forced by any necessity, he can turn here and there as he pleases; but when rage drives and constrains him, he will then surmount all obstacles. So also the Prophet says, that how confident soever Babylon might be in its fortresses, yet Cyrus would break through them, for he would be like a lion, who, at the overflowing of Jordan, removes elsewhere, as he can no longer find his wonted dwelling.

We now perceive the meaning of the words, — that the Babylonians would have to do, not with an idle but a terrible enemy, and with one who would surmount all obstacles, as when fury excites a lion when necessity drives him as it were headlong.

What follows is obscure. Some render the words thus, “When I shall make Israel to rest, then I will make them to flee from her.” In the former place (Jeremiah 49:19), we read “him,” in the singular, אריצנו, aritsnu; but here the Prophet uses the plural number, “them,” אריצם, aritsem; it is yet certain that the meaning is the same. Some, at the same time, apply this to the Jews, that God would remove them from Babylon, purposing to give them rest, that is, by dwelling securely in their own country; but as there is no mention made here of his people, this view is forced and far-fetched. I omit other explanations, for the meaning of the Prophet seems to me to be simply this, When I shall make an irruption, or, after I shall have made them rest, I will make them to flee He speaks, as I think, of the Chaldeans; and the particle כי, ki, is to be taken as an adverb of time, when, or after. It is, indeed, often a causative, but it has sometimes this meaning.

Now, these two clauses may be thus explained: When I shall make an irruption, or, when I shall have made them rest; for רגע, rego, means both to break and to rest. It is here in the active or causative conjugation, in Hiphil. If, then, we read, “After I shall have made them to rest,” the sense will be that the: Babylonians had been long tranquil, as there was no one who infested them or disturbed their peace; and we know that men having long rested in their idleness and sloth, become almost stupefied, so that they are touched with no fear. God then shows that the Babylonians were greatly mistaken, if they thought that the rest which they had previously enjoyed would be perpetual; for he would make them to flee from the city, though they had been long there in a tranquil state. The other sense is by no means unsuitable, “When I shall break,” or make an irruption, then all will flee away, that is, leave the city, which was before like a paradise. There is still no doubt but that the Prophet here denounces on the Babylonians a sudden overthrow, which would drive the people here and there in all directions. 7979     See note on Jeremiah 49:19. — Ed.

It now follows, Who is the chosen one whom I shall set over her? God here in a manner deliberates as to the person whom he should make the leader of the war against the Chaldeans; and by these words he intimates that there would be ready for him the best general, and one especially active and also excelling in the art of war. And we know that even the unwilling are made to serve God, when he employs the ungodly as his scourges. In short, God shows that though the Babylonians might have brave leaders and most skillful in war, there yet would be prepared leaders, to whom he would commit the office of taking that city. And thus he teaches us at the same time that men are ruled by his hand, so that he chooses them according to his will and directs them to any work he pleases, Who is the chosen one, he says, whom I shall set over her?

And he adds, and who is like me? Here the Prophet shows that the Babylonians in vain trusted in their own defenses; for after having tried all things, they would find that whatever was set up against God and his invincible power, would be mere smoke. This sentence often occurs; and however common it may appear, yet, if we examine ourselves, we shall find that the Holy Spirit does not so often enforce it without reason; for after we have confessed that none is equal to God or can add to his power, — as soon as any trial assails us, this confession vanishes, and we tremble as though God was nothing, and had no power to bring us help. Diffidence, then, which often creeps in when we are in difficulties or dangers, sufficiently shows that we do not attribute to God the praise due to his power. He does not then exclaim here, as in other places, without reason, Who is like me? as though he had said, that the Babylonians would foolishly seek auxiliaries here and there; for when they had made the utmost exertions, whatever they might think the most useful would all vanish away, so that they would be destitute of all remedies.

He adds, And who will protest against me? Some give this frigid version, Who will prescribe to me the time? but they wholly pervert the meaning of the Prophet; for God in this place declares, that men would in vain contend or litigate with him. It is the same as if he had said, “Though all men were to rise up against, me, yet I will not allow them to litigate with me; and this they would also do in vain.” In short, God intimates that men would in vain clamor against his judgments, for he would nevertheless perform what he has decreed. He does not yet claim for himself that absolute power about which the sophists prattle, while they separate it from justice; but he intimates that the causes are not always manifest to men when he executes his judgments; for it is not without reason that the Scripture testifies that God’s judgments are a deep abyss; but by such an expression it is not meant that anything in God’s judgments is confused or in disorder, what then? even that God works in an extraordinary manner, and that hence his judgments are sometimes hidden from men.

Then God briefly shows, that though the Babylonians were to dispute, and start many objections, all this would be useless, because he would execute what he had decreed, and that without debating.

Let us then learn from these words, that when God’s works have the appearance of being unreasonable, we ought humbly to admire them, and never to judge them according to our computation; for God is not to be judged by us. Therefore, as I have already said, we are then only wise, when we humbly adore him in all his works, without disputing with him; for when we adduce all possible things, he will close our mouth with one word, and check all our presumption; nay, he will ever overcome us by being silent, for his justice will always overthrow whatever may come to our minds. But we must bear in mind what I have stated, that God never so acts by his absolute power as to separate it from his justice; for this would be as it were to wound himself; for these things are undivided, his power and justice, though justice often does not appeal however this may be, his sole and simple will is to us the rule of all justice.

It follows, And who is that shepherd who will stand before me? He alludes to the similitude he had used, for he compared himself before to a lion. he says now, “Since I shall go against Babylon like a lion, what shepherd will dare to oppose me?” We see that there is to be understood a contrast, between a lion and a shepherd; for God would be like a lion to destroy Babylon; hence, by pastor, he denotes any adversary who might come forth to defend the Chaldean flock. It follows, —

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