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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.


Jeremiah goes on with the same subject; for he tells us how miserable was the condition of the people until God looked on them to relieve them from their evils. And this comparison, as I have before said, more fully sets forth the favor of God, because he raised up his people as it were from hell at a time when they were reduced to despair.

He says first, All who found them devoured them; that is, all who came in contact with them thought them a prey. He, in short, means that they were plundered by all who met them; and then that enemies were so far from sparing them that they gloried in their cruelty towards them. Hence he adds, Their enemies said, We sin not, because they have acted wickedly against Jehovah. By these words the Prophet intimates, that their enemies indulged in greater wantonness, because they thought that what they did would not be punished. Almost the same sentiment is found in Zechariah, where it is said,

“All who devoured them sinned not, and they who devoured them said, Blessed be the Lord who has enriched us.” (Zechariah 11:5)

But we must more closely consider the design of the Holy Spirit. The Prophet indeed shows that the Jews were reduced to extremities, so that they were not only cruelly treated by their enemies, but were also exposed to the greatest contempt. He, however, reminded them at the same time of their duty to repent, for when the whole world condemned them, it was but right that God should call them to an account for their sins. As then he had set over them all men as their judges, he indirectly touched and goaded their consciences, so that they might know that they had to do with God. When therefore Zechariah said,

“All who devoured thee said, Blessed be the Lord,”

he meant, that the sins of the people were so manifest to all, that all the heathens declared that they deserved extreme punishment; for by the words, “Blessed be the Lord who hath enriched us,” he intimated that heathens, in spoiling and plundering the Jews, would be so far from feeling any shame, that they would rather glory in being enriched with prey as it were by the hand of God. So also in this place, All who found them devoured them, and their enemies said, We sin, not, — and why? because they have acted wickedly against Jehovah.

In short, the Prophet means, that the Jews would not only be exposed to the rapacity, avarice, and cruelty of enemies, but also to the greatest contempt and reproach. At the same time he exhorted them to repent; for if they were thus condemned by the judgment of the whole world, it was not unreasonable to direct their thoughts to the tribunal of God. Nor was it a strange thing that the unbelieving referred to God, for it is what we commonly meet with in all the prophets; and it was ever a principle held by all nations, that there is some supreme Deity; for though they devised for themselves various gods, yet they all believed that there is one supreme God. So the name, Jehovah, was known in common by all nations: and hence the Prophet here introduced the Chaldeans as speaking, that the Jews had acted wickedly against Jehovah; not indeed that they ascribed to God his honor, but because this opinion, that there is some God, was held by all; and this God they all indiscriminately worshipped according to their own forms of religion, but they still thought that they worshipped God.

What follows, interpreters explain as though the Prophet in the person of enemies intended to exaggerate the sin of the chosen people; they therefore connect the words thus, “They have been wicked against Jehovah, who is the habitation of justice, and has always been the hope of their fathers.” If we take this meaning, it is no wonder that their sin is amplified, because the Jews had forsaken not some unknown God, whose favor and power they had not experienced, but because they had been perfidious against the God who had by many proofs testified his paternal love towards them. It was then an impiety the more detestable, because they had thus dared to forsake the only true God.

But I approve of a different meaning, — that the Prophet answers by God’s command, that their enemies deceived themselves, when they thus confidently trod under foot the chosen people, and thought that everything was lawful for them. The Prophet, I doubt not, now checks the wantonness of which he speaks, as though he had said, “Ye think that this people are wholly rejected by me, and hence there are no limits to your cruelty; but I have so adopted them, that my covenant can never be rendered void.” We may better understand what Jeremiah means by a similar example: when Isaiah answered King Hezekiah that God would be the defender of the city, when they recited to him the words of Sennacherib or of Rabshakch, who brought his orders, (Isaiah 37:24) he said,

“But he thinks not that I have founded Sion.” 5353     Calvin, in his exposition of Isaiah 37:26, applies what is said to Sion, and not to Sennacherib, as it is commonly done. — Ed.

That answer seems to me to be wholly like this passage. Sennacherib said, “I will go up and take the city and the temple;” he, in short, triumphed as though he was a conqueror; but God, on the other hand, restrained his confidence in these words, “But that impious and proud enemy knows not that I have created Sion, and have been from the beginning its maker: can I then now bring upon it such a destruction as would wholly cut off the memory of it? Many cities have indeed perished, and there is no place so illustrious which may not sometime be destroyed; but the condition of the holy city (says God) is different.” And he adds the reason, Because he had created it. So in this place, Jehovah is the habitation, of justice and the hope of their fathers For God’s enemies almost always form their judgment according to the present state of things; for in prosperity they are inflated with so much pride that they dare insolently to utter blasphemies against God. For though the Chaldeans had spoken thus, that they sinned not, because the Jews had been wicked, there is yet no doubt but that their boasting was insulting to God, as it is said in Isaiah 37:22, 23,

“The virgin, the daughter of Zion, hath despised and derided thee, and drawn out the tongue against thee; me, the God of hosts, he says, hath he despised.”

By these words God shows that he was derided in the person of his Church. For this reason, then, God himself now comes forth and declares that he is the habitation of justice and the hope of his chosen people, in order that the Chaldeans might not promise themselves prosperity perpetually.

We hence see that these sentences are set in opposition one to another rather than connected together, and spoken in the person of the ungodly. The Chaldeans said, “We sin not, because they have acted wickedly against Jehovah;” then the Prophet responds and shows that they deceived themselves if they thought that God’s covenant was abolished, because he for a time chastised his people, as it is said by Isaiah,

“What shall the messengers of the nations declare?”


“What shall be told by the messengers of the nations? that God hath founded Sion.” (Isaiah 14:32)

When he spoke of the deliverance of the people and city, he added this acclamation, that it would be a memorable benefit, the report of which would be known among all nations, that is, that God had founded Sion, that it had been wonderfully delivered as it were from present destruction.

He first calls God the habitation of justice; and he alludes, as I think, to the tabernacle; and then he more clearly expresses himself, that God was the hope of their fathers The Jews were indeed unworthy of being protected by God; but he speaks not here of their merits, but, on the contrary, God himself affirms the perpetuity of his covenant, and the constancy of his faithfulness, in opposition to the ungodly. For since the Chaldeans had already possessed the greater part of the country, and had taken all the cities except Jerusalem, they thought that the people were forsaken by their God; and this tended to cast reproach on God himself. Hence he declares here, that though the Jews had been wicked, yet his covenant was so far from being extinct, that he was a habitations, that is, like a place of refuge. And he calls him the habitation of justice, that is, firm or faithful; for justice is not to be taken here in its proper sense, but, as in many other places of Scripture, it means firmness or rectitude; as though he had said, “God has once extended his wings to cherish his people, (as it is said elsewhere;) he will therefore be always a sure habitation.”

He had also been the hope of their fathers, according to what is said by Isaiah, that he had created Sion from the beginning; but he renews the memory of his covenant, as though he had said, “It is not today that I have first received this people into favor, but I made a covenant with their father Abraham, which will remain fixed.” So, also, he says in this place, that he was the hope of their fathers, even because he had adopted the whole race of Abraham, and showed them mercy through all ages. Then the Prophet indirectly infers that it would not be possible for their enemies perpetually to possess power over them, because God, after having chastened his people, would again gather the dispersed, and thus heal all their evils. 5454     The most approved exposition is the first, which makes the latter words to be in apposition with Jehovah, as given in the Versions, though the last clause seems to be a separate sentence, —
   Because they have sinned against Jehovah, The habitation of righteousness; And the hope of their fathers was Jehovah.

   By calling God the habitation of righteousness, what is implied is, as Lowth suggests, that they would not have been banished, had they not justly deserved to be so treated, God being the seat or dwelling-place of justice or righteousness. And in addition to this, he had been the hope of their fathers. See Jeremiah 40:3, where we have an example of what their enemies alleged. — Ed.

A useful doctrine may be hence gathered, that whenever the Church seems to be so oppressed by enemies as to exclude any hope of restoration, this ought always to be borne in mind by us, that as God has once chosen it, it cannot be but that he will manifest his faithfulness even in death itself, and raise from the grave those who seem to have been already reduced to ashes. Let this passage, then, come to our minds, when the calamities of the Church threaten utter ruin, and nothing but despair meets us; and when enemies insolently arrogate everything to themselves, and boastingly declare that we are accursed. But God is a habitation of justice, and was the hope of our fathers; let us, then, recumb on that grace which he has once promised, when he deigned to choose us for himself, and to adopt us as his peculiar people. Such is the import of the passage. It follows, —

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