Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible
JEREMIAH CHAPTER 50
The judgment of Babel, and the land of Chaldea, for their idolatry, tyranny, and pride; with gracious promises of the redemption of Israel intermixed, Jeremiah 50:4,5,19,20,34.
The prophet having from the 46th chapter been denouncing the judgments of God against the other Gentiles, the Egyptians, Moabites, Philistines, Ammonites, Edomites, Syrians, Kedarens, Hazorites, Elamites or Persians, (the most of which had been enemies to the Jews,) in these two chapters he denounceth God’s judgments against the Chaldeans and Babylonians. These were to execute God’s vengeance on all the rest, and therefore are themselves threatened in the last place to be destroyed by the Medes the prophecy against them is mixed with many gracious promises to the Jews.
The prophet calls to men to publish it amongst other nations, and to
set up a standard, to make some signal to gather all people together to hear what he had to say from God against Babylon, which had been an instrument of great mischief unto most people that lived about them, to whom it would therefore be glad and joyful news to hear that Babylon their common enemy was ruined. That by
Merodach are meant two principal idols of the Babylonians, most think; but what, is not so well agreed. Some think that Bel is Baal by contradiction; but they judge most probably who think it was the image of one Belus, who was formerly a king of Babylon; and they judge the like of Merodach: we find in Scripture that Merodach was some of their kings’ names, Isaiah 39:1 Jeremiah 52:31. Those who desire to be further satisfied about these idols may read the English Annotations upon Isaiah 46:1, and our Annotations upon that verse. It was an ordinary practice amongst the heathens, when they had any princes died that had been famous in their government, to pay a divine homage to their images and statues. These idols are said to be
confounded, either because they should not be able at this pinch to help their suppliants, or because they should be destroyed together with the silly people that adored them.
From Media, which lay northward to Babylon and Assyria, through which Cyrus’s way to Babylon lay. This prophecy seemeth not to relate only to Cyrus’s first taking of Babylon, who dealt very gently with it, but to a second taking of it by Darius the king of the Medes, who upon their defection from the Persian monarchy came and made a horrible devastation amongst them, hanging up (as some tell us) four thousand of their nobles, and slaying multitudes of the common people; or of the mischief done them afterward by Seleucus Nicanor, who is said to have built a city, which he called Seleucia, within fourscore and ten miles of Babylon, by which means he brought Babylon to an utter desolation.
In the days wherein God shall begin to execute judgment upon Babylon, (which was in the time of Cyrus emperor of the Medes,) the children of Judah shall come out of captivity; and some of the children of Israel, (viz. those of the ten tribes,) hearing that their brethren were gone out of the captivity of Babylon, shall go up also from the several places into which they were disposed by the Assyrians:
weeping, either for sorrow in the sense of their sins which had brought the miseries of captivity upon them, or for joy that God ever should show them such a mercy as to bring them home again into their own country. And those that feared God, whether of the ten tribes, or of the kingdom of Judah, worshipped God at Jerusalem, after their old accustomed manner.
That is, those of Judah and Israel that fear the Lord shall seriously and steadily seek the true God, and the true way of his worship; and, being sensible that they had broken the covenant which their fathers had formerly made with God, with a desire to renew their covenant, and that not for a time, but for ever. See Jeremiah 31:31. The only question is, whether this promise be yet accomplished or no, or when it was or shall be fulfilled?,
Answ. It was without doubt in a great measure fulfilled upon the Jews coming out of the captivity of Babylon, when those of the kingdom of Judah returned to Jerusalem, and were very zealous for restoring the true worship of God, and renewed their covenant with God (as we read in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah); but Mr. Calvin thinks it was more eminently fulfilled under the kingdom of the Messiah, when, though many believed not, yet many others did believe, and were added to the church, and whether a further fulfilling of it be not yet to come time must show.
My people hath been lost sheep: all men are compared to sheep that go astray, Isaiah 53:6; here it is applied to the Jews, who are called the Lord’s people, by reason of the ancient covenant God made with their fathers; they are said to be lost, either with respect to their captivity, being cast out of the land which God gave them for pastures, or in respect of their idolatry.
Their shepherds have caused them to go astray; their civil and ecclesiastical governors have been a cause of it. The former by their wicked commands forcing them to idolatry and superstition, or at least by their wicked example setting them an example, and by their ill government conniving at them in their idolatrous practices, for which they are gone into captivity. Their priests, and ecclesiastical governors, teaching them such practices, and encouraging them by their own examples, and promising them impunity and security in them.
They have turned them away on the mountains; either they have been a cause of their offering sacrifices to idols upon the mountains, or of their being carried into captivity over the mountains. They have gone from mountain to hill; either wandering up and down in a strange land, or in their way thither, or running from one species of idolatry to another. They have forgotten their resting place; they have forgotten the land of Canaan, which I gave them for a resting-place after their toilsome travel in the wilderness; or (as some would have it) they have forgotten me who am their rest.
All that found them have devoured them: as they are in the condition of lost sheep, so they have been under the fate of lost sheep, which every dog, fox, wolf devours. And those that are their enemies have pretended that in destroying them they have done no ill, because they had sinned; so as the sins of the Jews did both expose them to the wrath of God, and also imboldened their enemies, and encouraged them to think that they did God service in destroying them.
The habitation of justice: some think this is a name here given to God, who indeed is the habitation of justice, but whether the Chaldeans would call him so may be a question. Others therefore think the preposition in is understood, making this the aggravation of the Jews’ sins, that they were committed in a land which ought to have been a habitation of justice; as, Isaiah 26:10, it is said that the wicked man in a land of uprightness will deal unjustly. Mr. Calvin hath another notion, viz. that the prophet here encourageth himself against what the adversaries had promised themselves because the people had offended God; viz. that notwithstanding this, God was a righteous God, in whom justice dwelt, and who would be faithful to his promises.
The hope of their fathers; and he was their hope, and had been he in whom their fathers before them had hoped, and that not in vain.
These words immediately following the other, confirm Mr. Calvin’s notion. God by his prophet commanding his people to remove out of Babylon, and to go forth cheerfully, and skipping like the he-goats of the flock leading the way, and setting an example unto others. We find much such a call Isaiah 48:20 Jeremiah 51:6, which is applied to spiritual Babylon, Revelation 18:4, where the coming out is to be understood of a separation from them as to any religious communion, which also was their duty as to old Babylon; but that is not the coming out here spoken of.
He means the Medes and Persians, as it is expounded afterward.
Their arrows shall be as of a mighty expert man; none shall return in vain; I will so direct their arrows, that every arrow they shoot shall pierce one or other. Or, (as some raffler choose to interpret it,) no soldier of that assembly of great nations that shall come up against Babylon shall return without some booty or other. The reason of the different reading noted in the margin is the difference of a point in the Hebrew, which if set on the right side of the letter, the word signifieth a destroyer; if on the left side, an expert man, as we translate it.
Satisfied with spoil and plunder, for Babylon and Chaldea was at that time one of the richest places in those parts of the world. She was abundant in treasure, Jeremiah 51:13.
rejoiced at the ruin of the Jews; the same thing is laid to the charge of the Edomites, Ob 12. The Chaldeans were God’s rod to scourge the Jews; but when men are made use of by God, as his rod and scourge, they ought not to put off humanity, but to behave themselves decently, and as persons that are sensible of the miseries which their brethren suffer. God calls them his heritage, because they formerly were a people whom he owned above all other people. There is some difference amongst critical interpreters, whether the heifer here mentioned be to be understood of
a heifer at grass, ( as we translate it,) or a heifer used to tread out the corn; or whether the last words be to be understood of a horse neighing, (as the words may be interpreted,) or a
bull bellowing. But these are things of very small moment. The cause for which Babylon is threatened was doubtless their luxury of all sorts commonly attending great wealth, and prosperity meeting with hearts unsanctified.
Your chief City Babylon, or your country, which is the common mother of all the Chaldeans, shall be destroyed, or
shall be ashamed of you, who are not able to defend her. The sense here seems a little difficult, because it appears no such strange thing that the hindermost of the nations should be a wilderness. It is therefore probable that the words shall be are to be understood before
the hindermost of the nations; our translation supplieth them after; so the reading will be, it shall be the hindermost of the nations, a wilderness, &c.; that is, Babylon, that hath been so famous, and accounted the head of the nations, shall become the meanest of all nations, a mere wilderness, and a dry land, and a desert.
It shall not be inhabited, but it shall be wholly desolate; the same thing was threatened against Babylon, Isaiah 13:20, It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation. Shall be astonished, and hiss at all her plagues: it seemeth to be a proverbial speech made use of to express the miserable state of a place; we had it before, Jeremiah 49:17, applied to Edom. It is according to the threatening, Deuteronomy 28:37. See Jeremiah 25:9,11 29:18 42:18 Ezekiel 5:15.
The prophet calls to the Medes and Persians, with those who should come with them to their assistance, to put themselves in military order ready to come up against Babylon. The Persians (as was noted before) were very famous for the bow, therefore he speaketh unto them as an army of archers, to shoot at the Babylonians, and to
spare no arrows; because Babylon had
sinned against the Lord exceedingly, as Genesis 13:13, by their idolatry, luxury, and cruel usage of the Jews, &c.
Shout against her round about; either as soldiers use to shout when they fall upon their enemy, or as they use to shout and triumph when they are entered city, or whet their enemies flee.
She hath given her hand; either acknowledging themselves overcome, and yielding themselves to the power of their enemies, or, as some think, confederating with the Lydians; but the former is more probable
Her foundations are fallen, her walls are thrown down: that is, she is wholly subdued and conquered, as if her walls were thrown down, for literally her walls were not beaten down by Cyrus, for he took the city by surprise
For it is the vengeance of the Lord: God is he who brings this vengeance upon Babylon, though it be by your hands.
As she hath done, do unto her: it is very observable, that there is hardly any sins which the Lord so ordinarily punisheth in the like kind, as those which are oftener against the laws of justice and charity. The common fate of cruel and uncharitable men is to meet with others to do to them as they have done to others; unmerciful men find no mercy. See Psalms 137:8,9 Jud 1:6,7. Adonibezek acknowledged God’s justice in it.
We are told that Babylon was so large a city, that with the walls of it there was much ploughed ground: or else the threatening imports that God would deal more severely with Babylon, than conquerors use to do with places which they conquer, who use to spare and leave behind then ploughmen, and such as use to till the ground, but in the destruction of Babylon it should not be so.
They shall flee every one to his own land: he speaks either of such stranger as for commerce had their abodes in Babylon, or such assistants as the Babylonians had gotten against their ene rates, who upon the coming in of the enemies should make as much haste home as they could.
By Israel is here meant the whole twelve tribes (though sometimes it signifieth the ten tribes in opposition to Judah); they were all wandering sheep, they became penally scattered sheep. Enemies as fierce and cruel as lions had seized them, and carried them into captivity.
First the king of Assyria devoured the ten tribes, which were strictly called Israel, 2 Kings 17:6. Then Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon took Jerusalem, as we heard, Jer 39, and carried away the people, and burnt the temple, which the prophet here calls a breaking of
God may justly punish those who do the things which he hath commanded them to do, if they do it not in that manner which. he directeth, or if what they do be not done in obedience to his command, but in satisfaction to their own lusts, which was the case of the Assyrians, Isaiah 10:7.
As I have punished the king of Assyria: some refer this to the punishment of the Assyrians in the destruction of Sennacherib and his army in the time of Hezekiah, but the prophet seemeth here to speak of a destruction of Assyria which followed after his devouring of the ten tribes, from whence we may conclude that Assyria was destroyed before the time of this revelation.
This must be understood of Judah, which was part of that people who were called Israel, for to this day we have neither read nor heard of the ten tribes being brought back again to their habitation. The only difficulty is, how it is said that the Jews upon their return should feed upon Carmel and Bashan, and Mount Ephraim and Gilead, which were places that belonged not to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin: to which it is answered, that these places were granted to the Jews by Demetrius the father and the son, as we are told by Josephus, 1. 13. c. 5.8. These places were rich grounds for feeding cattle, therefore it is said
they shall feed on Carmel and Bashan, & c.
Some here restrain the term
iniquity to the idolatry of the Jews, which indeed was their great sin, which God did more especially punish them for; and after the captivity of Babylon we do not read of their offending in that kind, which was according to the prophecy of Isaiah 27:9, that when God should make the stones of the altar as chalk-stones that are beaten asunder, the groves and the images should not stand up. But the last words seem to guide us to a larger sense of the term
iniquity, and to point us to another sense of the whole former phrase, viz. that God would no longer punish the sins of the Jews; they should be sought for as to punishment, and not found. And those words and none must be understood as if none, they shall be punished no, more than if they had none.
For I will pardon them whom I reserve; for as to those whom I save from the captivity of Babylon,
I will pardon them: not that they were all excused from the obligation their sins laid them under as, to eternal death, but that their temporal punishment was remitted to the whole body of the Jews, and those that were truly penitent also should be discharged from their obligation to eternal death. The obligation that sin layeth the sinner under to eternal death may be remitted, and yet the temporal punishment due to them may remain, 2 Samuel 12:13,14, &c. And, on the other side, the punishment in this life may be suspended or remitted, and the obligation sin layeth the sinner under to eternal death may remain.
There is some disputes amongst interpreters, whether the words here,
Pekod, be to be taken as common nouns, the one signifying rebels or rulers, the other visitation, because the Chaldeans were rebels against the Lord, and were great rulers over all the contiguous nations; or whether they be proper names of some places which Cyrus passed by, or, it may be, took in, and conquered in his way to Babylon. The latter are God’s words by his prophet, like the former, commanding him with his armies to go up and destroy them fleeing away, or them that should succeed after them, their whole posterity; intimating God’s design utterly to destroy them, which destruction was gently begun by Cyrus, and perfected by Darius.
The latter part of the verse expounds the former; God had made the Babylonians his hammer, to break other nations in pieces, now it was itself broken: the particle
how may be understood either as expressing triumph and rejoicing, or admiration, or as inquiring how such a thing could be in the last sense. The next verse is an answer to this.
We are told that Cyrus with his great army diverted the river Euphrates, so as his army passed over and surprised the city so suddenly, that those in the midst of it did not know it when part of the city was already taken. God directed Cyrus to this stratagem for the taking of the city, which the prophet calls a
snare, wherein the Babylonians were taken. The reason of this unexpected ruin to this great people was their sinning against the Lord, Jeremiah 50:14, which is here called a striving against him, as indeed all sin is.
Babylon was so rich and potent a nation, and had been so great a conqueror, that people looking only with the eye of sense, and judging according to probabilities in the eyes of men, might well ask how these things could possibly be. To which the prophet here answereth, that the hand of God was to be eyed in the case, this was the Lord’s work upon the Chaldeans; God had
opened his armoury, and the Medes were to make use of the weapons of his indignation. He who threatened this destruction was able to carry it through, and it was no great matter what weapons either the Babylonians had to defend themselves, or the Medes to offend them, God’s power and strength as only to be regarded.
The prophet in the name of God calleth to the enemies of Babylon, the Medes, to come up from the furthest parts of their dominions, or from all parts, to fight against Babylon; to open the granaries, or store-houses, or treasuries of the Babylonians, and to cast up the cities as
heaps of rubbish, and utterly to destroy the city with such a total destruction that nothing of it should be left.
bullocks in this place interpreters generally understand the great and rich men of Babylon.
The prophet here brings in the poor Jews that had been captives in Babylon going back upon Cyrus’s proclamation of liberty towards Zion, there joyfully to declare the revenge which their God had taken for them, and for his holy
temple, which the Chaldeans had burnt and destroyed.
The word translated archers signifieth also many, and is by divers so translated, but the following words more justify our translation. The cause of God’s calling for Babylon’s enemies against her is assigned to be her
pride against the Lord.
See Jeremiah 49:26 where we met with the same words.
Babylon is particularly branded for pride, which is the swelling of a man’s heart in a self-opinion, caused from something wherein he excelleth, or thinks that he excelleth, another, We have a large account of the pride of Babylon Isaiah 14:12-14, and particularly of one of their kings, Daniel 5:20,21. The sinner exalteth himself against God, and either judgeth himself wiser or moro mighty than he.
Babylon, before called the most proud, here
pride in the abstract, (which speaketh this people excessively faulty in this thing,) shall fall, and so full as never more to be recovered and raised up.
Were oppressed together; not together in respect of times, for’ there was one hundred and fifty years difference betwixt the time of Israel’s and Judah’s captivity; nor by the same enemy, Israel was carried away captive by the Assyrians, Judah by the Chaldeans.
Together in this place signifies no more than that they were both oppressed, or alike oppressed.
And all that took them captives held them fast; they refused to let them go: and some may think that my prophecies are but flatteries and vain words, for those who have them in their hands are able to keep them, and will not be willing to let them go.
Their Redeemer is strong; the Lord of hosts is his name; the Lord, whose name is the Lord of hosts, is he that is their avenger (for so the word signifies); and he is as strong as any of those that hold them fast, and will not let them go.
He shall throughly plead their cause; be will plead their cause, not like a lawyer, but actually and really effect it, as pleading is often taken, as Jeremiah 25:31 Ezekiel 17:20 Joel 3:2.
That he may give rest to the land, and disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon: these are the two ends which God aimeth at, to give his people rest, and to punish Babylon.
That is, there shall come a sword, the sword of the Medes, upon Babylon, and all the land of the Chaldeans, and all orders of persons in it.
A sword is upon the liars; and they shall dote: the word here translated liars is by some translated bars, by some liars; and in the Hebrew it hath both significations; which makes some think it is to be understood of the chief men, who are the props, stays, and bars of a place, whose wisdom God threatens should fail them, so as they should dote, and show themselves fools. Others translating it liars as we do, understand it of their soothsayers and wizards, whom he calls liars, because they divined false, and saith they should dote, not foreseeing what should be.
A sword is upon her mighty men; and they shall be dismayed: and though they were full of valiant, mighty men, yet their hearts should fail them when this day came, and all be destroyed amongst the rest.
A sword is upon their horses, and upon their chariots; though they be full of chariots and horses, the enemy shall destroy them. By the mingled people some understand those whom the Babylonians had hired to their assistance from other nations; others, such strangers as lived amongst them; others, a people under the power of the Chaldeans, made up of people of several countries. See Jeremiah 25:20,24 Eze 30:5. They seem to signify a people that were not native Chaldeans, but under their dominion.
They shall become as women; that is, faint-hearted.
A sword is upon her treasures; and they shall be robbed; and though Babylon hath great treasures, yet those shall not secure her, she shall be robbed of them.
A drought is upon her waters, and they shall be dried up: some think that this phrase hath a special reference to Cyrus’s stratagem used in the surprise of Babylon; one part of it was fortified by the great river Euphrates, running on one side, which Cyrus diverted by cutting several channels, till he had drained it so low, that it became passable for his army to go over. Others think that a want of rain is here threatened.
For it is the land of graven images, and they are mad upon their idols: God gives the reason of this judgment, which was their idolatry, and exceeding zeal for it.
The substance of both these verses is, that Babylon should be totally ruined, as Sodom and Gomorrah, so as there should be no habitations for men, but wild beasts only of all sorts should inhabit and lodge in it. The fulfilling of this we have not in holy writ, only the beginning of its accomplishment, it being taken by Cyrus, who only made them tributaries, and took away their government. But they rebelling against the emperor of the Medes, Darius Hystaspes, a succeeding emperor, pulled down their walls. And about two hundred and fifty years after Seleucus Nicenor, a Grecian prince, the Medes being before conquered by Alexander the Great, utterly destroyed Babylon, so as in the time of Hadrian the Roman emperor there was nothing left standing of that great city but some pieces of walls.
The Medes and Persians with their armies, who shall also have many other kings who, from the several parts of the earth, shall join with them and help them.
The bow and the lance were the two usual weapons of soldiers in those countries, Jeremiah 6:23. The Persians were a cruel, bloody people. These phrases signify no more than that the enemies should come upon Babylon in a terrible manner, and prepared to destroy them.
The Medes shall not be more prepared to destroy the Babylonians, than they shall be unprepared to make any resistance; as God will animate their enemies, so he will dispirit them, so as they shall faint upon the report of their coming, and be like a woman upon whom strong pangs of travail are.
See Poole "Jeremiah 49:19", where we have applied unto Edom all that is here spoken against Babylon.
We have much the same spoken with reference to Edom, Jeremiah 49:20. The words are only expressive of the greatness of the destruction of Babylon, which should be such as should make all that part of the world shake, and the noise of it would ring throughout all the nations in that part of the earth.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Jeremiah 50". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24