Jeremiah 51


Sequel of the prophecies of Jeremiah against Babylon. The

dreadful, sudden, and final ruin that shall fall upon the

Chaldeans, who have compelled the nations to receive their

idolatrous rites, (see an instance in the third chapter of

Daniel,) set forth by a variety of beautiful figures; with a

command to the people of God, (who have made continual

intercession for the conversion of their heathen rulers,) to

flee from the impending vengeance, 1-14.

Jehovah, Israel's God, whose infinite power, wisdom and

understanding are every where visible in the works of creation,

elegantly contrasted with the utterly contemptible objects of

the Chaldean worship, 15-19.

Because of their great oppression of God's people, the

Babylonians shall be visited with cruel enemies from the north,

whose innumerable hosts shall fill the land, and utterly

extirpate the original inhabitants, 20-44.

One of the figures by which this formidable invasion is

represented is awfully sublime. "The SEA is come up upon

Babylon; she is covered with the multitude of the waves

thereof." And the account of the sudden desolation produced by

this great armament of a multitude of nations, (which the

prophet, dropping the figure, immediately subjoins,) is deeply

afflictive. "Her cities are a desolation, a dry land, and a

wilderness; a land wherein no man dwelleth, neither doth any

son of man pass thereby." The people of God a third time

admonished to escape from Babylon, lest they be overtaken with

her plagues, 45, 46.

Other figures setting forth in a variety of lights the awful

judgments with which the Chaldeans shall be visited on account

of their very gross idolatries, 47-58.

The significant emblem with which the chapter concludes, of

Seraiah, after having read the book of the Prophet Jeremiah

against Babylon, binding a stone to it, and casting it into the

river Euphrates, thereby prefiguring the very sudden downfall

of the Chaldean city and empire, 59-64,

is beautifully improved by the writer of the Apocalypse,

Re 18:21,

in speaking of Babylon the GREAT, of which the other was a most

expressive type; and to which many of the passages interspersed

throughout the Old Testament Scriptures relative to Babylon

must be ultimately referred, if we would give an interpretation

in every respect equal to the terrible import of the language

in which these prophecies are conceived.


Verse 1. Thus saith the Lord] This chapter is a continuation of

the preceding prophecy.

A destroying wind.] Such as the pestilential winds in the east;

and here the emblem of a destroying army, carrying all before

them, and wasting with fire and sword.

Verse 2. And will send-fanners] When the corn is trodden out

with the feet of cattle, or crushed out with a heavy wheel armed

with iron, with a shovel they throw it up against the wind, that

the chaff and broken straw may be separated from it. This is the

image used by the prophet; these people shall be trodden, crushed,

and fanned by their enemies.

Verse 5. For Israel hath not been forsaken] God still

continued his prophets among them; he had never cast them wholly

off. Even in the midst of wrath-highly deserved and inflicted

punishment, he has remembered mercy; and is now about to crown

what he has done by restoring them to their own land. I conceive

asham, which we translate sin, as rather signifying

punishment, which meaning it often has.

Verse 7. Made all the earth drunken] The cup of God's wrath is

the plenitude of punishment, that he inflicts on transgressors. It

is represented as intoxicating and making them mad.

Verse 8. Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed] These appear

to be the words of some of the spectators of Babylon's misery.

Verse 9. We would have healed Babylon] Had it been in our power,

we would have saved her; but we could not turn away the judgment

of God.

Verse 10. The Lord hath brought forth our righteousness.] This

is the answer of the Jews. God has vindicated our cause.

Verse 11. Make bright the arrows] This is the prophet's address

to Babylon.

The Lord hath raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes] Of

Cyaxares king of Media, called Darius the Mede in Scripture; and

of Cyrus king of Persia, presumptive heir of the throne of

Cyaxares, his uncle. Cambyses, his father, sent him, Cyrus, with

30,000 men to assist his uncle Cyaxares, against Neriglissar king

of Babylon, and by these was Babylon overthrown.

Verse 12. Set up the standard] A call to the enemies of Babylon

to invest the city and press the siege.

Verse 13. O thou that dwellest upon many waters] Thou who hast

an abundant supply of waters. It was built on the confluence of

the Tigris and Euphrates; the latter running through the city. But

the many waters may mean the many nations which belonged to the

Babylonish empire; nations and people are frequently so called in


Verse 14. I will fill thee with men] By means of these very

waters through the channel of thy boasted river, thou shalt be

filled with men, suddenly appearing as an army of locusts; and,

without being expected, shall lift up a terrific cry, as soon as

they have risen from the channel of the river.

Verse 15. He hath made the earth by his power] The omnipotence

of God is particularly manifested in the works of creation.

He hath established the world by his wisdom] The omniscience of

God is particularly seen in the government of tebel, the

inhabited surface of the globe. What a profusion of wisdom and

skill is apparent in that wondrous system of providence by which

he governs and provides for every living thing.

And hath stretched out the heaven by his understanding.] Deep

thought, comprehensive design, and consummate skill are especially

seen in the formation, magnitudes, distances, revolutions, and

various affections of the heavenly bodies.

Verse 16. When he uttereth his voice] Sends thunder.

There is a multitude of waters] For the electric spark, by

decomposing atmospheric air, converts the hydrogen and oxygen

gases, of which it is composed, into water; which falls down in

the form of rain.

Causeth the vapours to ascend] He is the Author of that power of

evaporation by which the water is rarified, and, being lighter

than the air, ascends in form of vapour, forms clouds, and is

ready to be sent down again to water the earth by the action of

his lightnings, as before. And by those same lightnings, and the

agency of heat in general, currents of air are formed, moving in

various directions, which we call winds.

Verse 17. Every man is brutish by his knowledge] He is brutish

for want of real knowledge; and he is brutish when he acknowledges

that an idol is any thing in the world. These verses, from fifteen

to nineteen, are transcribed from Jer 10:12-16.

Verse 20. Thou art my battle axe] I believe Nebuchadnezzar is

meant, who is called, Jer 50:23, the

hammer of the whole earth. Others think the words are spoken of

Cyrus. All the verbs are in the past tense: "With thee have I

broken in pieces," &c., &c.

Verse 24. And I will render] The vau should be translated

but, of which it has here the full power: "But I will render

unto Babylon."

Verse 25. O destroying mountain] An epithet which he applies to

the Babylonish government; it is like a burning mountain, which,

by vomiting continual streams of burning lava, inundates and

destroys all towns, villages fields, &c., in its vicinity.

And roll thee down from the rocks] I will tumble thee from the

rocky base on which thou restest. The combustible matter in thy

bowels being exhausted, thou shalt appear as an extinguished

crater; and the stony matter which thou castest out shall not be

of sufficient substance to make a foundation stone for solidity,

or a corner stone for beauty, Jer 51:26. Under this beautiful and

most expressive metaphor, the prophet shows the nature of the

Babylonish government; setting the nations on fire, deluging and

destroying them by its troops, till at last, exhausted, it tumbles

down, is extinguished, and leaves nothing as a basis to erect a

new form of government on; but is altogether useless, like the

cooled lava, which is, properly speaking, fit for no human


Verse 27. Set ye up a standard] Another summons to the Medes and

Persians to attack Babylon.

Ararat, Minni] The Greater and Lesser Armenia.

And Ashchenaz] A part of Phrygia, near the Hellespont. So

Bochart, Phaleg, lib. i. c. 3, lib. iii. c. 9. Concerning

Ashchenaz Homer seems to speak, Il. ii. 370, 371:-



"Ascanius, godlike youth, and Phorcys led

The Phrygians from Ascania's distant land."

Calmet thinks that the Ascantes, who dwelt in the vicinity of the

Tanais, are meant.

Verse 29. And the land shall tremble] It is represented here as

trembling under the numerous armies that are passing over it, and

the prancing of their horses.

Verse 30. The mighty men-have forborne to fight] They were

panic-struck when they found the Medes and Persians within their

walls, and at once saw that resistance was useless.

Verse 31. One post shall run to meet another] As the city was

taken by surprise, in the manner already related, so now

messengers, one after another, were despatched to give the king

information of what was done; viz., that the city was taken at one

end. Herodotus tells us that the extreme parts of the city were

taken, before those of the centre knew any thing of the invasion.

Herodot. lib. i. c. 191.

Verse 32. That the passages are stopped] Either the bridges or

slips for boats, by which the inhabitants passed from one side

to the other, and may mean the principal gates or passes in the

city, which the victorious army would immediately seize, that they

might prevent all communication between the inhabitants.

The reeds they have burned with fire] What this means I cannot

tell, unless it refer to something done after the taking of the

city. Setting fire to the reeds in the marshy ground, in order the

better to clear the places, and give a freer passage to the water,

that it may neither stagnate nor turn the solid ground into a

marsh. Dr. Blayney thinks it refers to the firing of the houses,

in order to throw the inhabitants into the greater confusion; but

no historian makes any mention of burning the city, except what is

said Jer 51:30, "They have burned her dwelling places;" and this

may be a poetical expression. That they burnt nothing before they

took the city must be evident from the circumstance of their

taking the city by surprise, in the night time, with the greatest

secrecy. Still there might have been some gates, barricadoes, or

wooden works, serving for barracks or such like, which obstructed

some of the great passages, which, when they had entered, they

were obliged to burn, in order to get themselves a ready passage

through the city. This is the more likely because this burning of

reeds is connected with the stopping of the passages, burning the

dwelling places, and breaking the bars.

Verse 33. The daughter of Babylon is like a threshing floor] The

threshing wheel is gone over her; she is trodden under foot.

Verse 34. Nebuchadrezzar-hath devoured me] These are the words

of Judea; he has taken away all my riches.

He hath cast me out.] He shall vomit all up; i.e., they shall be


Verse 35. The violence done to me-be upon Babylon,-and my blood

upon the inhabitants of Chaldea] Zion begins to speak, Jer 51:34,

and ends with this verse. The answer of Jehovah begins with the

next verse. Though the Chaldeans have been the instrument of God

to punish the Jews, yet in return they, being themselves

exceedingly wicked, shall suffer for all the carnage they have

made, and for all the blood they have shed.

Verse 36. I will dry up her sea] Exhaust all her treasures.

Verse 37. Without an inhabitant.] See Jer 50:39.

Verse 39. In their heat I will make their feasts] It was on the

night of a feast day, while their hearts were heated with wine and

revelry, that Babylon was taken; see Da 5:1-3. This feast was

held in honour of the goddess Sheshach, (or perhaps of Bel,) who

is mentioned, Jer 51:41, as being taken with her worshippers. As

it was in the night the city was taken, many had retired to rest,

and never awoke; slain in their beds, they slept a perpetual


Verse 41. How is Sheshach taken!] Perhaps the city is here

called by the name of its idol.

The praise of the whole earth] One of the seven wonders of the

world; superexcellent for the height, breadth, and compass of its

walls, its hanging gardens, the temple of Belus, &c., &c.

Verse 42. The sea is come up] A multitude of foes have inundated

the city.

Verse 44. I will punish Bel in Babylon] Bel or Belus was their

supreme deity.

That which he hath swallowed up] The sacred vessels of the

temple of Jerusalem, which were taken thence by Nebuchadnezzar,

and dedicated to him in his temple at Babylon.

The wall of Babylon shall fall.] It shall cease to be a defense;

and shall moulder away until, in process of time, it shall not be


Verse 45. My people, go ye out] A warning to all the Jews in

Babylon to leave the city, and escape for their lives.

Verse 46. A rumour shall-come one year] A year before the

capture of the city there shall be a rumour of war,-and in that

year Belshazzar was defeated by Cyrus. In the following year the

city was taken.

Verse 48. The heaven and the earth-shall sing for Babylon] Its

fall shall be a subject of universal rejoicing.

Verse 50. Ye that have escaped the sword] The Jews.

Let Jerusalem come into your mind.] Pray for its restoration;

and embrace the first opportunity offered of returning thither.

Verse 51. Strangers are come into the sanctuaries] The

lamentation of the pious Jews for the profanation of the temple by

the Chaldeans.

Verse 53. Though Babylon should mount up to heaven] Though it

were fortified even to the skies, it shall fall by the enemies

that I will send against it.

Verse 55. The great voice] Its pride and insufferable boasting.

Verse 56. The Lord God of recompenses] The fall of Babylon is an

act of Divine justice; whatever it suffers, it is in consequence

of its crimes.

Verse 57. I will make drunk her princes] See Clarke on Jer 51:39.

Verse 58. The broad walls of Babylon] Herodotus, who saw these

walls, says, "The city was a regular square, each side of which

was one hundred and twenty stadia, the circumference four hundred

and eighty stadia. It was surrounded by a wall fifty cubits broad,

and two hundred cubits high; and each side had twenty-five brazen

gates."-Herod. lib. i. c. 178. Had not Cyrus resorted to

stratagem, humanly speaking, he could not have taken this

city. For the destruction of this wall and its very vestiges,

See Clarke on Isa 13:19.

Verse 59. The word which Jeremiah] On account of the message

sent by Jeremiah to the Jewish captives in Babylon.

Verse 60. Wrote in a book] Whether this book contained any more

than is recorded in this place we do not know; probably it

contained no more than what is found in Jer 51:62-64. A

book, sepher, signifies, in Hebrew, any writing, great

or small.

Verse 64. Thus shall Babylon sink, &c.] This is the emblem of

its overthrow and irretrievable ruin. See Re 18:21, where we find

that this is an emblem of the total ruin of mystical Babylon.

Herodotus relates a similar action of the Phocoeans, who, having

resolved to leave their country, and never return to it again,


ηξεινπρινητονμυδροντουτοναναφηναι "threw a mass of iron

into the sea, and swore that they would never return to Phocaea

till that iron mass should rise and swim on the top." The story is

this: The Phocaeans, being besieged by Harpagus, general of the

Persians, demanded one day's truce to deliberate on the

propositions he had made to them relative to their surrendering

their city; and begged that in the mean while he would take off

his army from the walls. Harpagus having consented, they carried

their wives, children, and their most valuable effects, aboard

their ships; then, throwing a mass of iron into the sea, bound

themselves by an oath never to return till that iron should rise

to the top and swim. See Herodotus, lib. i. c. 165.

Horace refers to this in his epode Ad Populum Romanum, Epode

xvi. ver. 25:-

Sed juremus in haec: simul imis saxa renarint

Vadis levata, ne redire sit nefas.

"As the Phocaeans oft for freedom bled,

At length with imprecated curses fled."


Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.] It appears that the

following chapter is not the work of this prophet: it is not his

style. The author of it writes Jehoiachin; Jeremiah writes him

always Jeconiah, or Coniah. It is merely historical, and is very

similar to 2Ki 24:18-25:30. The author, whoever he was, relates

the capture of Jerusalem, the fate of Zedekiah, the pillage and

burning of the city and the temple. He mentions also certain

persons of distinction who were slain by the Chaldeans. He

mentions the number of the captives that were carried to Babylon

at three different times; and concludes with the deliverance of

King Jehoiachin from prison in Babylon, in which he had been for

thirty-seven years. It is very likely that the whole chapter has

been compiled from some chronicle of that time, or it was designed

as a preface to the Book of the Lamentations; and would stand with

great propriety before it, as it contains the facts on which that

inimitable poem is built. Were it allowable, I would remove it to

that place.

Copyright information for Clarke