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Jeremiah 51

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

(The parentheses represent poetic literary units)

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Babylon Judged For Sins Against Israel The Utter Destruction of Babylon God's Judgment Against Babylon Further Judgment on Babylon Yahweh Makes War on Babylon
51:1-4
(1-4)
51:1-5
(1-5)
51:1-10
(1-10)
51:1-9 51:1-5
(1-5)
51:5-10
(5-10)
       
  51:6-8
(6-8)
    51:6-10
(6-10)
  51:9-10
(9-10)
     
      51:10  
51:11-14
(11-14)
51:11-14
(11-14)
51:11-14
(11a)
(12-14)
51:11a 51:11
(11a)
      51:11b-12a  
      51:12b-14 51:12
(12)
      A Hymn of Praise To God 51:13-14
(13-14)
51:15-23
(15-23)
51:15-16
(15-16)
51:15-19
(15-19)
51:15-19
(15-19)
51:15-19
(15-19)
  51:17-19
(17-19)
  The LORD's Hammer Yahweh's Hammer and the Giant Mountain
  51:20-23
(20-23)
51:20-23
(20-23)
51:20-23
(20-23)
51:20-23
(20-23)
      Babylonia's Punishment  
51:24-26
(25-26)
51:24 51:24 51:24-26 51:24
  51:25-26
(25-26)
51:25-33
(25-33)
  51:25-26
(25-26)
        The End of Babylon Is Imminent
51:27-32
(27-32)
51:27-32
(27-32)
  51:27-35 51:27
(27)
        51:28
        51:29
(29)
        51:30-33
(30-33)
51:33
(33)
51:33
(33)
    Yahweh's Vengeance
51:34-40
(34-40)
51:34-35
(34-35)
51:34-37
(34-37)
(34-35) 51:34-35
(34-35)
      The Lord Will Help Israel  
  51:36-40
(36-40)
  51:36-40 51:36-40
(36-40)
    51:38-40
(38-40)
Babylon's Fate A Dirge For Babylon
51:41-44
(41-44)
51:41-44
(41-44)
51:41-49
(41-49)
51:41-44a 51:41-43
(41-43)
        Yahweh Punishes the Idols
      51:44b-49 51:44-45
(44-45)
51:45-48
(45-48)
51:45-48
(45-48)
     
        51:46
        51:47-52
(47-52)
51:49-51
(49-51)
51:49-50
(49-50)
  God's Message to the Israelites in Babylonia  
    51:50-53
(50-53)
51:50-53  
  51:51
(51)
     
51:52-53
(52-53)
51:52-53
(52-53)
     
        51:53-57
(53-57)
      Further Destruction Of Babylon  
51:54-58
(54-58)
51:54-56
(54-56)
51:54-57
(54-57)
51:54-58
(54-58)
 
  51:57
(57)
    Babylon Razed to the Ground
  51:58
(58)
51:58
(58)
  51:58
(58)
  Jeremiah's Command To Seraiah   Jeremiah Message Is Sent To Babylonia The Written Prophecy Thrown Into the Euphrates
51:59-64 51:59-64 51:59-64 51:59-64 51:59-64

READING CYCLE THREE (see introductory section)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

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.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 51:1-4
1Thus says the Lord:
"Behold, I am going to arouse against Babylon
And against the inhabitants of Leb-kamai
The spirit of a destroyer.
2I will dispatch foreigners to Babylon that they may winnow her
And may devastate her land;
For on every side they will be opposed to her
In the day of her calamity.
3Let not him who bends his bow bend it,
Nor let him rise up in his scale-armor;
So do not spare her young men;
Devote all her army to destruction.
4They will fall down slain in the land of the Chaldeans,
And pierced through in their streets."

51:1 "Leb-Kamai" This is a construct of "heart" (BDB 524) and the verb "arise" or 'stand up" (BDB 877, Qal active participle). It could be translated literally as

1. UBS Text Project - "heart of my adversaries"

2. NKJV (footnote) - "the midst of those who rise up against Me"

3. AB and UBS Handbook - "the heart of those who rise up against Me"  

The LXX and most English commentators and translations take it as an Atbash cipher (letters of the alphabet are reversed to make them into a code) for "Kasdim" (i.e., Chaldean referring to Babylon). Another cipher for Babylon is "Sheshack" of 25:26 or "Sheshak" of 51:40. The Apostle John used a similar code mechanism in Revelation 18, where "Babylon" refers to Rome.

NASB"that spirit of a destroyer"
NKJV, NRSV,
TEV, NJB,
LXX, REB,
JPSOA"a destroying wind"

The Hebrew word ruah (BDB 924) can mean "wind," "breath," or "spirit" (see Special Topic at 10:14-15). Only context can determine which is intended by the original author. In this context (i.e., Jeremiah) "wind" fits best (cf. 4:11-12; 13:24; 18:17; 22:22; 49:32,36). Verse 11b demands a translation of "spirit." Context, context, context!

Verse 17 demands a translation of "breath."

51:2

NASB, TEV "foreigners"
NKJV, NRSV,
NJB"winnowers"
JPSOA"strangers"

The MT has "strangers" (BDB 266 I, cf. 5:19; 30:8; 51:2,51; Lam. 5:2), but other ancient versions read "winnowers" (BDB 279, cf. 4:11; 15:7; the same root is translated "scatter" in 49:32,26). The UBS Text Project gives "strangers" a "C" rating.

The LXX translates this term as "spoilers" or "insolent men."

51:3 This verse is uncertain. It could be addressing the invaders to charge ahead or it could address the defenders that all their efforts are useless. The invaders are called on

1. not to spare (BDB 328, KB 328, negated Qal imperfect, cf. v. 4)

2. to devote to God (BDB 355, KB 353, Hiphil imperative, i.e., put under the ban, cf. 25:9; 50:21,26)

All of Babylon's defenders are helpless, just as they mercilessly defeated others, so now no mercy to them!

51:4 "pierce" This verb (BDB 201, KB 230, Pual participle) denotes a badly wounded person (cf. 37:10).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 51:5-10
5For neither Israel nor Judah has been forsaken
By his God, the Lord of hosts,
Although their land is full of guilt
Before the Holy One of Israel.
6Flee from the midst of Babylon,
And each of you save his life!
Do not be destroyed in her punishment,
For this is the Lord's time of vengeance;
He is going to render recompense to her.
7Babylon has been a golden cup in the hand of the Lord,
Intoxicating all the earth.
The nations have drunk of her wine;
Therefore the nations are going mad.
8Suddenly Babylon has fallen and been broken;
Wail over her!
Bring balm for her pain;
Perhaps she may be healed.
9We applied healing to Babylon, but she was not healed;
Forsake her and let us each go to his own country,
For her judgment has reached to heaven
And towers up to the very skies.
10The Lord has brought about our vindication;
Come and let us recount in Zion
The work of the Lord our God!

51:5 In light of 33:24-26, this is an important affirmation that YHWH has not permanently rejected the descendants of Abraham, but only temporarily judged them for their sin (cf. Isa. 54:7-8). They, both Israel and Judah, have now been "widowed" (BDB 48).

51:6 There is a series of imperatives very similar in meaning to 50:8.

1. flee - BDB 630, KB 681, Qal imperative

2. save - BDB 572, KB 589, Piel imperative 

3. do not be destroyed - BDB 198, KB 226, negated Niphal imperfect used in a jussive sense

YHWH commands the Jewish exiles to leave Babylon before His judgment comes! One wonders how exiles could leave before Persia's victory and Cyrus' decree. Possibly they could leave the capital city of Babylon, not the country.

51:7 Babylon served as YHWH's instrument of judgment (cf. 25:15; Hab. 2:16). The "cup" was an idiom for judgment (i.e., drunkenness, cf. Rev. 14:8, see note at Jer. 49:12).

▣ "the nations are going mad" This verb (BDB 237, KB 248, Hithpoel imperfect) is also used in 25:16.

51:8 This is sarcasm addressed to Babylon's subservient nations.

1. wail over her - BDB 410, KB 413, Hiphil imperative

2. bring balm for her pain - BDB 542, KB 534, Qal imperative

 

51:9 All the efforts of the subservient nations are to no avail. Therefore,

1. forsake her - BDB 736, KB 806, Qal imperative

2. let us each go to his own country - BDB 229, KB 246, Qal imperfect used in a cohortative sense (cf. 50:16; Isa. 13:14)

 

▣ "has reached to heaven. . .up to the very skies" Poetry is difficult to interpret because of its brevity and imagery.

 These verbs seem to imply that

1. the sins of Babylon have come to YHWH's notice

2. YHWH's judgment of Babylon is so extensive that it symbolically reaches to the heavens

 

51:10 As v. 5 promised YHWH's forgiveness and restoration, v. 10 demands that the covenant people share His victory in Zion.

1. come - BDB 97, KB 112, Qal imperfect

2. let us recount - BDB 707, KB 765, Piel cohortative, cf. 50:28; Isa. 40:2

a. in Zion

b. the work of YHWH

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 51:11-14
11Sharpen the arrows, fill the quivers!
The Lord has aroused the spirit of the kings of the Medes,
Because His purpose is against Babylon to destroy it;
For it is the vengeance of the Lord, vengeance for His temple.
12Lift up a signal against the walls of Babylon;
Post a strong guard,
Station sentries,
Place men in ambush!
For the Lord has both purposed and performed
What He spoke concerning the inhabitants of Babylon.
13O you who dwell by many waters,
Abundant in treasures,
Your end has come,
The measure of your end.
14The Lord of hosts has sworn by Himself:
"Surely I will fill you with a population like locusts,
And they will cry out with shouts of victory over you."

51:11-14 This poem addresses the invading army. TEV attributes the commands to the Persian army officers.

1. sharpen the arrows, v. 11 - BDB 140, KB 162, Hiphil imperative

2. fill the quivers, v. 11 - BDB 569, KB 583, Qal imperative

3. lift up a signal, v. 12 - BDB 669, KB 724, Qal imperative

4. post a strong guard, v. 12 - BDB 304, KB 302,, Hiphil imperative

5. station sentries, v. 12 - BDB 877, KB 1086, Hiphil imperative

6. place men in ambush, v. 12 - BDB 465, KB 464, Hiphil imperative

However, #3-#6 could refer, in sarcasm, to the ineffective Babylonian defenders (cf. v. 13). The reason they are ineffective is because YHWH is against them (cf. vv. 12e-f, 14).

51:11

NASB, NRSV,
NJB, JPSOA,
REB"fill the quivers"
NKJV"gather the shields"
TEV"get your shields ready"

The MT has "fill the shields" (BDB 1020), but KB (1522-23) shows that this root was used in the Dead Sea Scrolls for "quiver." There is an Akkadian root with the same meaning. "Quiver" fits this context best in linking with

1. the previous line of poetry

2. the verb "fill"

The word "shields" in the Dead Sea Scrolls could refer to a throwing (i.e., spear), slinging, or shooting (i.e., arrow) weapon.

▣ "the kings of the Medes" The invader from the north is now identified (i.e., Medo-Persia under King Cyrus II, "Cyrus the Great"). The MT has "kings" (plural) but the LXX has the singular. Cyrus' empire was made up of several small nations, or it may be the Hebrew grammatical feature called the "plural of majesty," denoting Cyrus' greatness.

51:11d This last line of poetry repeats the message of 50:28. Babylon will be destroyed with its magnificent pagan temples, as they destroyed YHWH's temple (i.e., 586 b.c.).

51:13 "you who dwell by many waters" This phrase refers to the southern part of Babylon which was made up of marshes formed at the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

▣ "measure" This is literally "cubit" (BDB 52 II, see Special Topic at 13:12). The phrase, line 4, refers to the thread being cut from a loom. Here it is an idiom for death (cf. Job 6:9; Isa. 38:12).

51:14 "the Lord of hosts has sworn by Himself" This concept goes back to Gen. 22:16 and 26:3. There is no one or power greater than YHWH, so to swear (BDB 989, KB 1396, Niphal perfect) by Him is the ultimate oath. This same imagery is used in Jer. 22:5; 44:26; 49:13 and Isa. 14:24; 45:23; 62:8. The thing YHWH purposes (cf. v. 12e) He will perform (cf. v. 12e)!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 51:15-23
15It is He who made the earth by His power,
Who established the world by His wisdom,
And by His understanding He stretched out the heavens.
16When He utters His voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens,
And He causes the clouds to ascend from the end of the earth;  
He makes lightning for the rain
And brings forth the wind from His storehouses.
17All mankind is stupid, devoid of knowledge;
Every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols,
For his molten images are deceitful,
And there is no breath in them.
18They are worthless, a work of mockery;
In the time of their punishment they will perish.
19The portion of Jacob is not like these;
For the Maker of all is He,
And of the tribe of His inheritance;
The Lord of hosts is His name.
20He says, "You are My war-club, My weapon of war;
And with you I shatter nations,
And with you I destroy kingdoms.
21With you I shatter the horse and his rider,
And with you I shatter the chariot and its rider,
22And with you I shatter man and woman,
And with you I shatter old man and youth,
And with you I shatter young man and virgin,
23And with you I shatter the shepherd and his flock,
And with you I shatter the farmer and his team,
And with you I shatter governors and prefects."

51:15-23 The NASB sees this as one literary unit but most other English translations see vv. 15-19 and vv. 20-23 as separate. There is no textual marker to insure the division of ancient texts into literary units. However, the task is primary in interpretation. This is where checking several modern versions can be helpful (see the paragraph divisions on the first page of each chapter).

51:15-19 This is a comparison of YHWH, the God who knows and acts, with the idols who are blind, dumb, uninformed, and cannot act!

Notice the attributes of YHWH listed.

1. creator, v. 15

2. provider, v. 16

3. covenant God of Jacob, v. 19

Notice the characterization of the idols.

1. made by mankind, v. 17

2. worthless to help, even provide false hope, v. 18

This strophe is paralleled in 10:12-16. These truths were a recurrent theme of YHWH's reality versus the idols of the nations' non-existence.

51:17 "there is no breath in them" This same phrase describing the lifeless idols is in 10:14. The word "breath" is ruah, translated "spirit" in vv. 1,11. See Special Topic: "Spirit" in the Bible at 10:14-15. The prophets regularly "make fun of" and ridicule the non-existence of pagan idols (i.e., Isa. 40:18-20; 41:6-7; 44:9-11,12-17; 46:5-7). They "cannot"; YHWH can and does!

51:20-23 The only true God (see Special Topic at 1:5) will bring judgment on Babylon by His chosen instrument (i.e., war-club, lit. "hammer," BDB 659), Persia and Cyrus II, who are named by a specific prophecy in Isa. 44:28; 45:1.

1. shatter nations 

destroy kingdoms

2. shatter horse and its rider

shatter chariot and its rider

3. shatter man

shatter woman

4. shatter old men

shatter youth

5. shatter young men

shatter virgins

6. shatter the shepherd

shatter his flock

7. shatter the farmer

shatter his team

8. shatter governors

shatter prefects

All levels of society will be "shattered" (BDB 658, KB 711, nine Piel perfects).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 51:24-26
24"But I will repay Babylon and all the inhabitants of Chaldea for all their evil that they have done in Zion before your eyes," declares the Lord.
25"Behold, I am against you, O destroying mountain,
Who destroys the whole earth," declares the Lord,
"And I will stretch out My hand against you,
And roll you down from the crags,
And I will make you a burnt out mountain.
26They will not take from you even a stone for a corner
Nor a stone for foundations,
But you will be desolate forever," declares the Lord.

51:24-26 This poem (vv. 25-26) describes the destruction of Babylon ("O destroying mountain") in highly figurative language. The book that has helped me understand this genre is by D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic.

It is possible that this imagery relates to the Babylonian sky gods who were worshiped on the tops of ziggurats (i.e., the tower of Babel, Genesis 11). These manmade mud brick structures dominated the flat river plains of Babylon's chief cities. Each one had their own god and tower. The great ziggurat of Marduk was in the city of Babylon.

The violent and complete destruction of the city of Babylon did not occur in 539 b.c., when the city was taken without a fight and with minimal destruction, by the Persian army. However, it did occur later in history (i.e., by Xerxes I in 482 b.c.).

51:25 "O destroying mountain" This imagery is uncertain. It is obviously figurative language referring to Babylon as a military victor. But why "mountain"?

1. the home of the gods (i.e., divine empowerment, i.e., Isa. 14:13)

2. the God of Mt. Moriah (i.e., the Jewish temple, i.e. Isa. 2:2-3)

3. the military advantage of "higher ground"

4. the awesome physical sites of mountains and their strength

5. root of the mountains as the entrance to the underworld

6. imagery used of a mountain where pagan altars were located (cf. II Kgs. 23:13)

This destroying mountain will be destroyed (i.e., fire, see Special Topic at 4:4) by YHWH. He sends and uses Babylon but also holds them responsible!

51:26 This is imagery of a complete and lasting destruction (cf. 50:13). Usually in the ANE the sites of major cities were advantageous sites (i.e., water, protection, fertility), so destroyed cities were quickly rebuilt, often using the building material lying around. This verse prophesies no habitation. Note the ruins of Babylon today!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 51:27-32
27Lift up a signal in the land,
Blow a trumpet among the nations!
Consecrate the nations against her,
Summon against her the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni and Ashkenaz;
Appoint a marshal against her,
Bring up the horses like bristly locusts.
28Consecrate the nations against her,
The kings of the Medes,
Their governors and all their prefects,
And every land of their dominion.
29So the land quakes and writhes,
For the purposes of the Lord against Babylon stand,
To make the land of Babylon
A desolation without inhabitants.
30The mighty men of Babylon have ceased fighting,
They stay in the strongholds;
Their strength is exhausted,
They are becoming like women;
Their dwelling places are set on fire,
The bars of her gates are broken.
31One courier runs to meet another,
And one messenger to meet another,
To tell the king of Babylon
That his city has been captured from end to end;
32The fords also have been seized,
And they have burned the marshes with fire,
And the men of war are terrified.

51:27-32 YHWH calls on the Persian Empire to take up arms against Babylon in a series of imperatives.

1. lift up a signal - BDB 669, KB 724, Qal imperative, cf. v. 12; 50:2; Isa. 5:26; 13:2

2. blow a trumpet - BDB 1075, KB 1785, Qal imperative

3. consecrate the nations - BDB 872, KB 1073, Piel imperative

4. summon. . .kingdoms - BDB 1033, KB 1570, Hiphil imperative

5. appoint a marshal - BDB 823, KB 955, Qal imperative, cf. 49:19; 50:44

6. bring up horses - BDB 748, KB 828, Hiphil imperative

7. in v. 28a #3 is repeated

 

51:27 "Ararat" This nation is located around Lake Van. Today its territory is in Armenia, Russia, and Iran. It was known as Urartu by the Assyrians. This ethnic group participated in the Persian attack on Babylon.

▣ "Minni" This refers to the people group south of Lake Van. They were later known as Scythians but at this time as "Mannaeans."

▣ "Ashkenaz" This group of people is mentioned in Gen. 10:3; I Chr. 1:6, living east of Lake Urmia. They are also part of what later became the Scythians.

51:30 This is ANE imagery of dis-spirited soldiers.

1. they have ceased fighting

2. they stay in the stronghold

3. their strength is exhausted

4. they are like women

Their fortifications are breached.

1. set on fire

2. gate bars broken

 

51:31-32 This is a message to be delivered to the king of Babylon by the city's defenders.

1. the city is captured

2. fords seized

3. marshes burned

4. soldiers terrified

There was no way to escape!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 51:33
33For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel:
"The daughter of Babylon is like a threshing floor
At the time it is stamped firm;
Yet in a little while the time of harvest will come for her."

51:33 It is uncertain if this should be a separate literary unit or part of vv. 27-32. The speaker of vv. 22-32 is YHWH, so too, here. Babylon's fate is set. Her doom is sure! What she did to others will be done to her.

▣ "threshing" This is often used in judgment imagery (cf. Isa. 21:10; 41:15-16).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 51:34-40
34"Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has devoured me and crushed me,
He has set me down like an empty vessel;
He has swallowed me like a monster,
He has filled his stomach with my delicacies;
He has washed me away.
35May the violence done to me and to my flesh be upon Babylon,"
The inhabitant of Zion will say;
And, "May my blood be upon the inhabitants of Chaldea,"
Jerusalem will say.
36Therefore thus says the Lord,
"Behold, I am going to plead your case
And exact full vengeance for you;
And I will dry up her sea
And make her fountain dry.
37Babylon will become a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals,
An object of horror and hissing, without inhabitants.
38They will roar together like young lions,
They will growl like lions' cubs.
39When they become heated up, I will serve them their banquet
And make them drunk, that they may become jubilant
And may sleep a perpetual sleep
And not wake up," declares the Lord.
40"I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter,
Like rams together with male goats."

51:34-39 Jerusalem/Judah (v. 35d) is personified as a devastated people (v. 34).

1. Babylon has devoured me - BDB 37, KB 46, Qal perfect

2. Babylon has crushed me - BDB 243, KB 251, Qal perfect

3. Babylon has set me down as an empty vessel - BDB 426, KB 427, Hiphil perfect

4. Babylon has swallowed me like a monster - BDB 118, KB 134, Qal perfect

5. Babylon has filled his stomach with my delicacies - BDB 569, KB 583, Piel perfect

6. Babylon has washed me away - BDB 188, KB 216, Hiphil perfect

Every one of these (except #5) has a Kethiv and Qere form related to plural or singular.

51:34

NASB"washed me away"
NKJV"spit me out"
NRSV, REB "spewed me out"
TEV"threw the rest away"
NJB"threw me out"
JPSOA"rinsed me out"
LXX --- omit -

The MT has the verb "rinse" or "cleanse away" (BDB 188, KB 216, Hiphil perfect). The verb can refer to

1. ritual washing - II Chr. 4:6; Ezek. 40:38

2. cleansing - Isa. 4:4

3. here the context seems to demand a mouth rinse and expulsion of the liquid

The point is Babylon used Jerusalem and then spit her out as useless!

51:35a This is praying/wishing that what Babylon did to Jerusalem/Judah, others will do to her (cf. 50:15,29). The speaker is personified Jerusalem.

51:36-40 YHWH describes what He will do to Babylon and for Judah.

1. for Judah

a. plead your case, 10:22; 50:34; 51:6,11 (i.e., act as your advocate)

b. exact full vengeance on her behalf

2. to Babylon

a. dry up her sea (i.e., commerce)

b. become a heap of ruins

c. become a haunt of jackals, cf. 49:33

d. become an object of horror, cf. 18:16

e. become an object of hissing, cf. 19:8; 25:9,18; 29:18

f. make them the food of a banquet

g. make then drunk (lit. "rejoice"), cf. v. 57

h. make them sleep forever

i. make them sacrificial animals

51:38-39 The context demands that this refers to Babylon. They are enjoying their spoils in v. 38. However, their victories make them vulnerable to excess (drunkenness), which leads to destruction and death (v. 39, lines 3 & 4, v. 40).

In v. 40 the Babylonians are like animals being led to slaughter. They cannot defend themselves. As they treated others, now they will receive!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 51:41-44
41"How Sheshak has been captured,
And the praise of the whole earth been seized!
How Babylon has become an object of horror among the nations!
42The sea has come up over Babylon;
She has been engulfed with its tumultuous waves.
43Her cities have become an object of horror,
A parched land and a desert,
A land in which no man lives
And through which no son of man passes.
44I will punish Bel in Babylon,
And I will make what he has swallowed come out of his mouth;
And the nations will no longer stream to him.
Even the wall of Babylon has fallen down!"

51:41-44 Another poem of YHWH's judgment on Babylon (there are several separate poems in this chapter brought together by topic). Most of the verbs are prophetic perfects describing future events as completed actions.

51:41 "Sheshak" See note at 25:26. This is another atbash cipher.

51:42 Babylon was a country of rivers, canals, and marshes (cf. 51:13a); her waterways are disrupted as an idiom of divine judgment (cf. v. 36). YHWH, the creator God, controls the waters (cf. 5:22; 31:35). The nation of "waters" will be dry (v. 42b).

51:44 "Bel" See note at 50:2.

▣ "what he has swallowed" This is the imagery of eating used to describe conquest. As Babylon "ate" Jerusalem in v. 34, then spit her out, so too, now Babylon. Her deities must regurgitate!

▣ "even the wall of Babylon has fallen down" This prophecy of complete destruction of the city of Babylon (cf. 50:15; 51:58) is a hyperbolic description of Persia's defeat, but literal for future events. See note on the genre of prophecy at 51:24-26.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 51:45-48
45"Come forth from her midst, My people,
And each of you save yourselves
From the fierce anger of the Lord.
46Now so that your heart does not grow faint,
And you are not afraid at the report that will be heard in the land-
For the report will come one year,
And after that another report in another year,
And violence will be in the land
With ruler against ruler-
47Therefore behold, days are coming
When I will punish the idols of Babylon;
And her whole land will be put to shame
And all her slain will fall in her midst.
48Then heaven and earth and all that is in them
Will shout for joy over Babylon,
For the destroyers will come to her from the north,"
Declares the Lord.

51:45-48 This is another poem with two emphases.

1. YHWH calls for His people to leave the city of Babylon before His judgment comes (cf. 50:8; 51:6)

2. YHWH will punish Babylon

 

51:46 This may relate to 50:28. There are two reports circulating.

1. Judah/Israel's restoration (cf. Isa. 48:20)

2. Babylon's fall

 

▣ "lest your heart grow faint" The faith challenge to God's people is "do not fear, do not lose heart," because I am with you; I am in control (cf. Deut. 3:22; 7:18; 20:3; 31:6,8; Josh. 1:6,7,9; Isa. 43:5; Jer. 46:27,28). This same admonition is for the people of faith today!

The Jerome Biblical Commentary (p. 336) and NASB Study Bible (p. 1142) assert that this verse is reflected in Jesus' eschatological discourse of Matt. 24:6ff.

51:48 "heaven and earth" These are the two ancient witnesses (cf. Isa. 44:23; 49:13). They summarize all creation (cf. Gen. 1:1). "Heaven" refers to the atmosphere above the earth.

▣ "from the north" See notes at 50:3,9,41, which build on 1:13-15.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 51:49-51
49Indeed Babylon is to fall for the slain of Israel,
As also for Babylon the slain of all the earth have fallen.
50You who have escaped the sword,  
Depart! Do not stay!
Remember the Lord from afar,
And let Jerusalem come to your mind.
51We are ashamed because we have heard reproach;
Disgrace has covered our faces,
For aliens have entered
The holy places of the Lord's house.

51:49-51 This poem is addressed to the remnant (see Special Topic at 5:10-13) of the exiles who returned to Judah under Cyrus' decree in 538 b.c. I believe vv. 52-53 should go with 49-51.

51:49 Notice Babylon is reaping the judgment of YHWH because of its treatment of the covenant people (i.e., their treatment of the temple, cf. v. 51; 50:28c; Lam. 1:10; 2:6-7). The irony is that it was YHWH who sent Babylon but still she is responsible for her actions. See Special Topic at 18:8.

There is another way to interpret this phrase. It is possible to make it parallel to v. 47. If so, it is not just "for the slain of Israel," but for all the slain of all the nations.

51:50 YHWH commands His exiled people in Babylon to think of Jerusalem/temple and leave their captivity.

1. depart - BDB 229, KB 246, Qal imperative

2. do not stay - BDB 763, KB 840, negated Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

3. remember the Lord from afar - BDB 269, KB 269, Qal imperative

4. let Jerusalem come to your mind - BDB 748, KB 828, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

The exiles of Nebuchadnezzar's previous deportations (i.e., 605, 597 b.c.) heard of the atrocities that occurred in 586 b.c. with the fall and destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (cf. v. 51), but they are encouraged now to remember YHWH!

The vast majority of exiled Jews did not return under the leadership of Sheshbazzar, Zerubbabel/Joshua, Ezra, and Nehemiah in the Persian period.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 51:52-53
52"Therefore behold, the days are coming," declares the Lord,
"When I will punish her idols,
And the mortally wounded will groan throughout her land.
53Though Babylon should ascend to the heavens,
And though she should fortify her lofty stronghold,
From Me destroyers will come to her," declares the Lord.

51:53 The imagery of geographical high places which was used of Edom does not fit Babylon, which was located mostly in the Tigris/Euphrates River valley and plain. It is imagery which may reflect her trust in the gods of the sky who they worshiped from their manmade towers, ziggurats (possibly related to Genesis 11, "the Tower of Babel").

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 51:54-58
54The sound of an outcry from Babylon,
And of great destruction from the land of the Chaldeans!
55For the Lord is going to destroy Babylon,
And He will make her loud noise vanish from her.
And their waves will roar like many waters;
The tumult of their voices sounds forth.
56For the destroyer is coming against her, against Babylon,
And her mighty men will be captured,
Their bows are shattered;
For the Lord is a God of recompense,
He will fully repay.
57"I will make her princes and her wise men drunk,
Her governors, her prefects and her mighty men,
That they may sleep a perpetual sleep and not wake up,"
Declares the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts.
58Thus says the Lord of hosts,
"The broad wall of Babylon will be completely razed
And her high gates will be set on fire;
So the peoples will toil for nothing,
And the nations become exhausted only for fire."

51:54-58 This is another in a series of poetic prophecies about the fall of Babylon.

51:54 There are no verbals in v. 54, just stark nouns.

1. hark - BDB 876

2. cry - BDB 277

3. great destruction - adjective, BDB 152 and noun, BDB 991

 

51:56 "a God of recompense" This characterization of YHWH as One who holds humans accountable for their actions is a recurrent theme (cf. 51:6; Isa. 35:4; 59:18 [twice]; 66:6; Lam. 3:64). For a full list of all the places in Scripture where this truth is revealed, see the note at 17:10.

▣ "He will fully repay" This is an intensified grammatical form. The infinitive absolute and imperfect verb of the same root (BDB 1022, KB 1532) are used.

51:58 "will be completely razed" As v. 56 had an intensified grammatical form, so too, here (i.e., infinitive absolute and imperfect verb of the same root).

This purposeful hyperbole is a common feature of prophetic and apocalyptic literature (see D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks). It was not meant to be taken in a modern, western literalism. In fact, Cyrus did not destroy the walls of the city of Babylon. The amazingly huge, thick double walls of Babylon (cf. Herodotus 1.178ff) were destroyed by Xerxes I in 482 b.c.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 51:59-64
59The message which Jeremiah the prophet commanded Seraiah the son of Neriah, the grandson of Mahseiah, when he went with Zedekiah the king of Judah to Babylon in the fourth year of his reign. (Now Seraiah was quartermaster.) 60So Jeremiah wrote in a single scroll all the calamity which would come upon Babylon, that is, all these words which have been written concerning Babylon. 61Then Jeremiah said to Seraiah, "As soon as you come to Babylon, then see that you read all these words aloud, 62and say, 'You, O Lord, have promised concerning this place to cut it off, so that there will be nothing dwelling in it, whether man or beast, but it will be a perpetual desolation.' 63And as soon as you finish reading this scroll, you will tie a stone to it and throw it into the middle of the Euphrates, 64and say, 'Just so shall Babylon sink down and not rise again because of the calamity that I am going to bring upon her; and they will become exhausted.'" Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.

51:59-64 This is a concluding prose section relating a message sent by Jeremiah by the hand of Seraiah (possibly Baruch's brother, cf. 32:12) to the exiles already in Babylon (i.e., 605, 597 b.c.).

When the visit occurred in 594/3 b.c. (Zedekiah began to reign in 597 b.c., see chart of the Kings of the Divided Monarchy online at www.freebiblecommentary.org). This is the only mention of this visit in the Bible. Possibly it was when Zedekiah tried to convince Nebuchadnezzar of his loyalty and denial of any duplicity in the alliances/revolts of the far western nations.

51:63 This was done for one of two reasons (or maybe both).

1. as a symbol of Babylon's destruction

2. as a way to protect the message from causing a reaction from the Babylonian captors (i.e., note the ciphers of 25:26; 51:1,41).

One wonders how much of chapters 50-51 was included on that scroll. It seems that many poems from different periods of Jeremiah's life were brought together by topic in these two chapters.

Also note the cultural emphasis on oral presentation versus written. The ANE was made up of oral societies (for the most part).

51:64

MT, NASB,
NKJV, NRSV"Thus far are the words of Jeremiah"
TEV"The words of Jeremiah end here"
REB"Thus far are the collected sayings of Jeremiah"
LXX, JPSOA - omit -

There is no verb. Many scholars believe this is an editorial comment to separate chapter 52 (destruction of Jerusalem, cf. II Kgs. 24:28-25:30) from Jeremiah's writings. The faith presupposition of "inspiration" must cover the editing and compiling of OT books (see the two Special Topics at 23:21-22).