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Jeremiah 50


(The parentheses represent poetic literary units)

Prophecy Against Babylon Judgment On Babylon and Babylonia Against Babylon
Babylon's Capture Prophecy Against Babylon
      Israel's Return The Fall of Babylon and the Liberation of Israel
50:4-5 50:4-5
50:4-5 50:4-5 50:4-5
50:6-7 50:6-7 50:6-10
50:8-10 50:8-10  
      Babylon's Fall  
50:11-13 50:11-13
  50:14-16 50:14-16
      Israel's Return  
50:17-20 50:17-20
50:17-20 50:17-20 50:17a
  (18b-20)     50:17b-18
      God's Judgment on Babylon The Fall of Babylon Proclaimed to Jerusalem
50:21-27 50:21-22
  50:28 50:28 50:28
        The Sin of Arrogance
50:29-32 50:29-30 50:29
    (31-32) 50:31-32 50:31-32
        Yahweh the Redeemer of Israel
50:33-34 50:33-34 50:33-34
(39-40) 50:39-40 50:39-43
        The Enemy From the North and the Lion of Judah
  (43) 50:43
50:44-46 (44) 50:44-46 50:44-46 50:44-46 

READING CYCLE THREE (see introductory section)


This is a study guide commentary,which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. Chapters 50 and 51 are a literary unit which describe

1. the fall of Babylon (both the capital and the nation as a whole)

2. the restoration of God's people to their land (cf. 50:4-5,6-10,17-20,33-34; 51:36-40) 


B. This prophecy is characterized by YHWH's (through His prophet) commands to

1. the destroyer of Babylon (i.e., Persia, Cyrus II), 50:2,14,21,26-27,29

2. the Jewish exiles, 50:8


C. The destruction of Babylon is also found in Isaiah 13; 14:22-27; 21:1-9; 47:5,9; 48:14


1The word which the Lord spoke concerning Babylon, the land of the Chaldeans, through Jeremiah the prophet:
2"Declare and proclaim among the nations.
Proclaim it and lift up a standard.
Do not conceal it but say,
'Babylon has been captured,
Bel has been put to shame, Marduk has been shattered;
Her images have been put to shame, her idols have been shattered.'"
 3For a nation has come up against her out of the north; it will make her land an object of horror, and there will be no inhabitant in it. Both man and beast have wandered off, they have gone away!

50:2 This verse is characterized by

1. a series of imperatives from YHWH to publicize Babylon's demise

a. declare - BDB 616, KB 665, Hiphil imperative

b-c. proclaim - BDB 1033, KB 1570, Hiphil imperative (twice)

d. lift up a standard - BDB 669, KB 724, Qal imperative

e. do not conceal - BDB 470, KB 469, Piel imperfect used in a jussive sense

f. say - BDB 55, KB 65, Qal imperative

2. a series of perfects denoting a complete action (i.e., prophetic perfects) of events yet to occur, but which surely will occur because of YHWH"s stated will

a. Babylon has been captured - BDB 539, KB 530, Niphal perfect

b. Bel has been put to shame - BDB 101, KB 116, Hiphil perfect

c. Marduk has been shattered - BDB 369, KB 365, Qal perfect

d. her images have been put to shame - same as #b

e. her idols have been shattered - same as #c


▣ "Bel" Below are my notes from Isa. 40:1. Bel, like Ba'al, means "lord," "master," "owner."

Isa. 46:1 "Bel" Bel (BDB128, KB 132, Akkadian for "lord") is a similar title to the Canaanite title Ba'al. This is an allusion to the chief god of the Akkadian pantheon (Enlil, who was called "lord"). As Babylon came to power the chief deity's name was changed to Marduk (BDB 597, cf. Jer. 50:2).

▣ "Nebo" This was the son of Marduk (named only here in the OT) and was the god of learning and writing (BDB 612). Bel and Nebo can be seen in many of the Babylonian names of the period (Nebuchadnezzar [Dan. 1:1]; Nebushazban [Jer. 39:13]; Nebuzaradan [Jer. 39:9]; Nabopolassar [first king of Neo-Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar's father]; Nabonidus [Beshazzar's father, last king of Neo-Babylon]; Belteshazzar [Dan. 1:7]; Belshazzar [Dan. 5:1]). These were the two chief gods of the Babylonian pantheon.

NJB, REB"Marduk"

The MT has "Merudack" (BDB 597). It is another way to transliterate the consonants for Marduk. The Summerian pantheon is fluid. Originally the title "lord" was applied to Enlil, but when the city of Babylon became more important, her chief deity, Markuk, took the place of Enlil/Bel as the head of the pantheon. For a further outline of these Summerian gods and their myths, see my commentary on Genesis 1-11, the introduction, online at

The last king of Babylon (i.e., Nabonidus) depreciated Marduk for the worship of the moon goddess (see Special Topic at 19:13). When the Persians attacked the city of Babylon they were supported by the priests and followers of Marduk.

50:3 As the covenant people had to fear the enemy from the north (i.e., 1:13-15; 4:6; 6:1,22), now that very enemy (i.e., Babylon) must fear another instrument of God's judgment from the north (i.e., Cyrus and the armies of Persia).

Notice the two prophetic perfects," like the five of v. 2.

1. have wandered off - BDB 626, KB 678, Qal perfect

2. have gone away - BDB 229, KB 246, Qal perfect

Babylon's judgment is sure because YHWH wills it, plans it, and will bring it to pass.

 4"In those days and at that time," declares the Lord , "the sons of Israel will come, both they and the sons of Judah as well; they will go along weeping as they go, and it will be the Lord their God they will seek. 5They will ask for the way to Zion, turning their faces in its direction; they will come that they may join themselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten."

50:4-5 These verses are a ray of hope and promise that YHWH will restore His covenant people to their promised homeland.

Notice that the returnees are repentant descendants of both Israel and Judah. Also notice they came for the purpose of finding and fellowshiping with their covenant God. This new day of fellowship through repentance and faith is the essence of the "new covenant" of 31:31-34.

The NASB version translated the second verb of v. 5 (BDB 97, KB 112, Qal imperative) in a future sense, "they will come," but it is an imperative "come" (UBS Text Project gives the imperative a "B" rating, p. 314). This is the invitation to faith, repentance, and intimate worship which brings the exiles home to the temple and the Promised Land. There is both divine sovereignty and human free will involved. See Special Topic at 18:8.

6"My people have become lost sheep;
Their shepherds have led them astray.
They have made them turn aside on the mountains;
They have gone along from mountain to hill
And have forgotten their resting place.
7All who came upon them have devoured them;
And their adversaries have said, 'We are not guilty,
Inasmuch as they have sinned against the Lord who is the habitation of righteousness,
Even the Lord, the hope of their fathers.'"

50:6-10 This is a poem that describes

1. the past sins of the covenant people (i.e., fertility worship, v. 6 and faithlessness to YHWH, v. 7)

2. YHWH command for them to leave Babylon (v. 8) because God is bringing a destroyer from the north (i.e., Persia, vv. 9-10)


8"Wander away from the midst of Babylon
And go forth from the land of the Chaldeans;
Be also like male goats at the head of the flock.
9For behold, I am going to arouse and bring up against Babylon
A horde of great nations from the land of the north,
And they will draw up their battle lines against her;
From there she will be taken captive.
Their arrows will be like an expert warrior
Who does not return empty-handed.
10Chaldea will become plunder;
All who plunder her will have enough," declares the Lord.

50:8 "Babylon. . .the Chaldeans" These are two ways of referring to the peoples/nations of the southern area of the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers (cf. vv. 1,8,35,45). The terms "Babylonian" and Chaldean" are parallel.

50:9 There is a sound play between the first three verbs of v. 9.

1. עור - BDB 734, KB 802, "arouse"

2. עלה - BDB 748, KB 828, "bring up"

3. ערך - BDB 789, KB 884, "draw up their battle lines"


▣ "a horde of great nations" The Persian army was made up of Medes and Persians and the mercenaries of conquered armies (cf. 51:27-28).

LXX"an expert warrior"
NRSV, JPSOA"a skilled warrior"
TEV"skillful hunters"
NJB"experienced soldiers"

The MT has the verb "miscarry" (BDB 1013, KB 1491, Hiphil participle, i.e., "make childless"). Most translations take it from the root "skilled" (BDB 968). The first letter in MT is ש, but in the other versions, . The rest of the consonants are the same. These were lethal archers!

11"Because you are glad, because you are jubilant,
O you who pillage My heritage,
Because you skip about like a threshing heifer
And neigh like stallions,
12Your mother will be greatly ashamed,
She who gave you birth will be humiliated.
Behold, she will be the least of the nations,
A wilderness, a parched land and a desert.
13Because of the indignation of the Lord she will not be inhabited,
But she will be completely desolate;
Everyone who passes by Babylon will be horrified
And will hiss because of all her wounds.
14Draw up your battle lines against Babylon on every side,
All you who bend the bow;
Shoot at her, do not be sparing with your arrows,
For she has sinned against the Lord.
15Raise your battle cry against her on every side!
She has given herself up, her pillars have fallen,
Her walls have been torn down.
For this is the vengeance of the Lord:
Take vengeance on her;
As she has done to others, so do to her.
16Cut off the sower from Babylon  
And the one who wields the sickle at the time of harvest;
From before the sword of the oppressor
They will each turn back to his own people
And they will each flee to his own land."

50:11 There are several suggestions from the Masoretic scholars (Qere) about changing the verbs in the MT (Kethiv), which are feminine singular, to masculine plural.

1. you are glad

2. you are jubilant

3. you skip about

4. neigh like stallions (lit. "mighty ones")

When you read vv. 12-13 you see where the feminine understanding came from in v. 11. Verse 11 addresses the people of Babylon who have had such victory and easy living. All of that will change (cf. vv. 12-16)!

50:13 "will be horrified. . .will hiss" This imagery is recurrent; see notes at 18:16 and 49:17.

50:14 In vv. 14-16 YHWH uses imperatives to address the invading and victorious Persian army. This verse uses imagery from archery.

1. "bend the bow" (lit. "tread" so as to bend the bow for the string)

2. shout

3. do not be sparing with your arrows

4. the LXX refers to archers in v. 29

The reason for the military attack is that Babylon sinned against YHWH.

1. vv. 29-32 - arrogance

2. Hab. 2:8,17 - murder and idolatry

3. v. 38; Hab. 2:19- idolatry

As she did to others, so now it will be done to her (cf. v. 15f, 29f).



NRSV, LXX"bulwarks"
NET Bible"towers"

The word in the MT (BDB 78, KB 04) occurs only here. It is spelled אשׁהי. A similar word, אשׁהד, means "foundation," found in Deuteronomy and Joshua. The KB lists several cognate options.

1. Assyrian - tower

2. Aramaic - wall

3. Syrian - pillar

4. Arabian - columns

It refers to some type of protective structure/fortification.

50:16 The first two lines predict the complete collapse of commerce and food production.

The next three lines are a warning for all foreigners to flee.

1. mercenaries

2. merchants 

3. possibly even exiles/captives who could


17"Israel is a scattered flock, the lions have driven them away. The first one who devoured him was the king of Assyria, and this last one who has broken his bones is Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. 18Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: 'Behold, I am going to punish the king of Babylon and his land, just as I punished the king of Assyria. 19And I will bring Israel back to his pasture and he will graze on Carmel and Bashan, and his desire will be satisfied in the hill country of Ephraim and Gilead. 20In those days and at that time,' declares the Lord, 'search will be made for the iniquity of Israel, but there will be none; and for the sins of Judah, but they will not be found; for I will pardon those whom I leave as a remnant.'"

50:17-20 This prose paragraph connects with vv. 4-5. God's people are coming home!

This paragraph lists the covenant people's two main enemies of this period.

1. Assyria who took the northern ten tribes into exile with the fall of Samaria in 722 b.c.

2. Neo-Babylon who took Judah into exile with the fall of Jerusalem in 586 b.c.

The nation that God will use to bring judgment on the Mesopotamia powers and restore His people is Persia, under Cyrus II (cf. Isa. 44:28; 45:1).


TEV, NJB"Nebuchadnezzar"
LXX(leaves out the name but has) "king of Babylon"

Both of these refer to the same person, son of Nabopolassar. There are several forms of his Babylonian name in Hebrew letters. It is difficult to transliterate names from one language to another.

50:20 This is such an important theological text. The faithful remnant of YHWH's people have been forgiven (i.e., 31:31-34) and restored!

In the future period ("in those days") a repentant and obedient Israel and Judah will be united in restoration and forgiveness.

21"Against the land of Merathaim, go up against it,
And against the inhabitants of Pekod.
Slay and utterly destroy them," declares the Lord,
"And do according to all that I have commanded you.
22The noise of battle is in the land,
And great destruction.
23How the hammer of the whole earth
Has been cut off and broken!
How Babylon has become
An object of horror among the nations!
24I set a snare for you and you were also caught, O Babylon,
While you yourself were not aware;
You have been found and also seized
Because you have engaged in conflict with the Lord."
25The Lord has opened His armory
And has brought forth the weapons of His indignation,
For it is a work of the Lord God of hosts
In the land of the Chaldeans.
26Come to her from the farthest border;
Open up her barns,
Pile her up like heaps
And utterly destroy her,
Let nothing be left to her.
27Put all her young bulls to the sword;
Let them go down to the slaughter!
Woe be upon them, for their day has come,
The time of their punishment.

50:21-28 YHWH calls on (i.e., commands) His instrument of judgment (i.e., Persia) to attack and conquer Babylon.

1. go up against it, v. 21 - BDB 748, KB 828, Qal imperative

2. slay, v. 21 - BDB 352, KB 349 (lit. "attack"), Qal imperative

3. utterly destroy, v. 21 - BDB 355, KB 353, (lit. "under the ban"), Hiphil imperative

4. do according to all that I have commanded you, v. 21 - BDB 793, KB 889, Qal imperative

5. come to her, v. 26 - BDB 97, KB 112, Qal imperative

6. open up her barns, v. 26 - BDB 834, KB 986, Qal imperative

7. pile her up, v. 26 - BDB 699, KB 757, Qal imperative

8. utterly destroy, v. 26 - same as #3

9. let nothing be left, v. 26 - BDB 224, KB 243, Qal jussive

10. put. . .to the sword, v. 27 - same as #2

11. let them go down to slaughter, v. 27 - BDB 432, KB 434, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense


50:21 "Merathaim. . .Pekod" There seems to be a word play between these terms and some people/areas of Babylon (i.e., south and east). The word play is difficult to bring into English in a meaningful way. Poetry often uses the sound association to make a point to its original hearers/readers.

Merathaim would mean "double rebellion" (BDB 601) and Pekod would mean "punishment" or "visitation" (BDB 824). YHWH will judge all of Babylon and its surrounding allies.

▣ "utterly destroy" This is an important verb. Below is my note from Deut. 3:6. It is available online free at in OT Studies section, under Written Commentaries.

Deuteronomy 3:6

NRSV"utterly destroyed"
NJB"the curse of destruction"
REB"under solemn ban"

This verb (BDB 355, KB 353) is used twice in this verse (Hiphil imperative and Hiphil infinitive absolute). Its basic meaning is to devote something to God whereby it becomes too holy for human use and must be destroyed. It is regularly used in "holy war" contexts (cf. 2:34; 7:2; Exod. 22:20; Josh. 6:17,21) to assert that the victory and, thereby, the spoils belong to YHWH. In these conquest contexts the things devoted to God are Canaanites and their property. They are judged because of their abominable sins and unwillingness to repent (cf. Gen. 15:16; Lev. 18:24-26; Deut. 9:5).

For a good discussion of "holy war" see Ancient Israel, by Roland deVaux, vol. 1, pp. 258-267.

50:23-24 There is a series of seven perfect tense verbs that describe Babylon's fall and destruction as if it already happened (prophetic perfects).

50:24 One wonders if this verse, especially line 2, is a historical prediction about the unexpected fall of Babylon in 539 b.c. by Cyrus' army. They took the city by surprise with almost no opposition (cf. 51:8; Daniel 5).

50:25 This imagery describes YHWH as having an armory of stored weapons. This is referring to the weaponry of the Persian army acting as YHWH's instrument of wrath.

28There is a sound of fugitives and refugees from the land of Babylon,
To declare in Zion the vengeance of the Lord our God,
Vengeance for His temple.

50:28 Notice how YHWH and His temple are identified together. As His "name" stands for Him, so too, "the place He caused His name to dwell" (repeated phrase in Deuteronomy).

The UBS Handbook asserts that this verse is a parenthesis (TEV, NET Bible) referring to the returning Jewish exiles sharing how YHWH judged Babylon (p. 946).

29"Summon many against Babylon,
All those who bend the bow:
Encamp against her on every side,
Let there be no escape.
Repay her according to her work;
According to all that she has done, so do to her;
For she has become arrogant against the Lord,
Against the Holy One of Israel.
30Therefore her young men will fall in her streets,
And all her men of war will be silenced in that day," declares the Lord.
31"Behold, I am against you, O arrogant one,"
Declares the Lord God of hosts,
"For your day has come,
The time when I will punish you.
32The arrogant one will stumble and fall
With no one to raise him up;
And I will set fire to his cities
And it will devour all his environs."

50:29 "she has become arrogant against the Lord" Verses 29-32 are a poem about Babylon's arrogance (BDB 267, KB 268). Daniel 4 is addressed to Nebuchadnezzar on this same issue.

▣ "the Holy One of Israel" Notice that this phrase and "the Lord God of hosts," both covenant titles for Israel's Deity (see Special Topic at 1:2), are named in this condemnation of Babylon's arrogance.

The title is used often in Isaiah, but rarely in Jeremiah (cf. 51:5).

33Thus says the Lord of hosts,
"The sons of Israel are oppressed,
And the sons of Judah as well;
And all who took them captive have held them fast,
They have refused to let them go.
34Their Redeemer is strong, the Lord of hosts is His name;
He will vigorously plead their case
So that He may bring rest to the earth,
But turmoil to the inhabitants of Babylon.
35A sword against the Chaldeans," declares the Lord,
"And against the inhabitants of Babylon
And against her officials and her wise men!
36A sword against the oracle priests, and they will become fools!
A sword against her mighty men, and they will be shattered!
37A sword against their horses and against their chariots
And against all the foreigners who are in the midst of her,
And they will become women!
A sword against her treasures, and they will be plundered!
38A drought on her waters, and they will be dried up!
For it is a land of idols,
And they are mad over fearsome idols."

50:33-40 This poem is directed at the Jewish exiles and promises that their God will defeat their Babylonian captors and bring them home.

50:34 Notice the names of God.

1. Redeemer (see Special Topic at 15:21)

2. Lord of hosts (twice)

3. God (Elohim, see Special Topic at 1:2)


▣ "He will vigorously plead their case" This is the infinitive absolute and imperfect verb of the same root (BDB 936, KB 1224), which denoted a vigorous legal defense (cf. I Sam. 24:15; Ps. 35:1; 119:154; Isa. 50:8-9; 51:22; Micah 7:9). One wonders if the title for Jesus and the Spirit as "advocate" came from this imagery. Below is my note from I John 2:1.

I John 2:1 "we have an Advocate with the Father" This is a present active indicative which refers to Jesus' ongoing intercession as our heavenly Advocate (paraklētos). This was a legal term for a defense lawyer or "one called alongside to help" (from para, beside and kaleō, to call). It is used in the upper room discourse in the Gospel of John, for the Holy Spirit, our earthly, indwelling advocate (cf. John 14:16,25; 15:26; 16:7). However, this is the only use of the term for Jesus (although it is implied in John 14:16; Rom. 8:34; Heb. 4:14-16; 7:25; 9:24). Paul used this same concept for the intercessory work of Christ in Rom. 8:34. In this same passage he also speaks of the intercession of the Holy Spirit in Rom. 8:26. We have an Advocate in heaven (Jesus) and an Advocate within (the Spirit), both of whom the loving Father sent on His behalf.

50:35-37 There is a repeated pattern (i.e., "a sword against. . ."): 

1. the Chaldeans, v. 35

2. inhabitants of Babylon, v. 35 (parallel)

3. her officials, v. 35

4. her wise men, v. 35 (parallel)

5. the oracle priests, v. 36

6. her mighty men, v. 36

7. their horses, v. 37

8. their chariots, v. 37

9. all the foreigners (possibly mercenary military), v. 37

10. her treasures, v. 37

11. v. 38 could also have "sword" instead of "drought"; both have the same consonants (BDB 351, KB 352)

YHWH's judgments fall on every aspect of Babylonian society!

50:38 "they are mad over fearsome idols" The word translated "mad" could also mean "glory in" (cf. REB). Both make sense in this context. The difference is only one vowel in the Hebrew text.

1. the idols are afraid (as are their priests, cf. v. 36)

2. the idol worshipers glory in their idols but to no avail (cf. 36a). Terror falls on all!

The UBS Text Project gives the text followed by NASB a "C" rating (p. 318).

39"Therefore the desert creatures will live there along with the jackals;
The ostriches also will live in it,
And it will never again be inhabited
Or dwelt in from generation to generation.
40As when God overthrew Sodom
And Gomorrah with its neighbors," declares the Lord,
"No man will live there,
Nor will any son of man reside in it."

50:39-40 These two verses bring together two idioms of destruction.

1. the presence of wild animals in her ruins, which was a symbol of

a. complete destruction

b. no human habitation

c. the presence of the demonic (cf. Ps. 74:14; Isa. 13:21; 23:13; 34:14)

2. the allusion to the complete destruction of the cities of the plain in Genesis 19 and it's perpetual non-habitation (cf. 49:18)


41"Behold, a people is coming from the north,
And a great nation and many kings
Will be aroused from the remote parts of the earth.
42They seize their bow and javelin;
They are cruel and have no mercy.
Their voice roars like the sea;
And they ride on horses,
Marshalled like a man for the battle
Against you, O daughter of Babylon.
43The king of Babylon has heard the report about them,
And his hands hang limp;
Distress has gripped him,
Agony like a woman in childbirth."

50:41-43 As Babylon was "a people from the north" to judge God's people (cf. 1:13-15; 4:6; 6:1,22), now a people from the north (i.e., Persia) will come and defeat them! As they did to others now it will be done to them (cf. vv. 15, 29).

These verses are very similar to 6:22-24, where YHWH's judgment is directed at Jerusalem, but now Babylon.

50:41 The Persian army, like the Babylonian army, was made up of many mercenary soldiers.

50:42 This describes in poetic terms the Persian army.

50:43 As other nations feared the Babylonians, now they fear.

1. hands hang limp

2. distress like child birth


 44"Behold, one will come up like a lion from the thicket of the Jordan to a perennially watered pasture; for in an instant I will make them run away from it, and whoever is chosen I will appoint over it. For who is like Me, and who will summon Me into court? And who then is the shepherd who can stand before Me?" 45Therefore hear the plan of the Lord which He has planned against Babylon, and His purposes which He has purposed against the land of the Chaldeans: surely they will drag them off, even the little ones of the flock; surely He will make their pasture desolate because of them. 46At the shout, "Babylon has been seized!" the earth is shaken, and an outcry is heard among the nations.

50:44-46 This prose section continues the context of Babylon's defeat. Verses 44-45 are very similar to 49:19-20. See notes there.


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