Judgment Against Babylon1The Lord spoke concerning Babylon and the land of Babylonia ▼ through the prophet Jeremiah. ▼
▼ Heb “The word which the Lord spoke concerning Babylon, concerning the land of the Chaldeans by the hand of Jeremiah the prophet.”
2 “Announce ▼
▼ The verbs are masculine plural. Jeremiah is calling on other unnamed messengers to spread the news.the news among the nations! Proclaim it!
Signal for people to pay attention! ▼
▼ Heb “Raise a signal flag.”
Declare the news! Do not hide it! Say:
‘Babylon will be captured.
▼ Bel was originally the name or title applied to the Sumerian storm god. During the height of Babylon’s power it became a title that was applied to Marduk who was Babylon’s chief deity. As a title it means “Lord.” Here it is a poetical parallel reference to Marduk mentioned in the next line.will be put to shame.
Marduk will be dismayed.
Babylon’s idols will be put to shame.
Her disgusting images ▼
▼ The Hebrew word used here (גִּלּוּלִים, gillulim) is always used as a disdainful reference to idols. It is generally thought to have originally referred to “dung pellets” (cf. KBL 183 s.v. גִלּוּלִים). It is only one of several terms used in this way, such as “worthless things” (אַלִילִים, ’alilim), “vanities,” or “empty winds” (הֲבָלִים, havalim).will be dismayed. ▼
▼ The verbs here are all in the tense that views the actions as though they were already done (the Hebrew prophetic perfect). The verbs in the next verse are a mixture of prophetic perfects and imperfects which announce future actions.▼
3 For a nation from the north ▼
▼ A nation from the north refers to Medo-Persia which at the time of the conquest of Babylon in 539 b.c. had conquered all the nations to the north, the northwest, and the northeast of Babylon forming a vast empire to the north and east of Babylon. Contingents of these many nations were included in her army and reference is made to them in 50:9 and 51:27–28. There is also some irony involved here because the “enemy from the north” referred to so often in Jeremiah (cf. 1:14; 4:6; 6:1) has been identified with Babylon (cf. 25:9). Here in a kind of talionic justice Judah’s nemesis from the north will be attacked and devastated by an enemy from the north.will attack Babylon.
It will lay her land waste.
People and animals will flee out of it.
No one will inhabit it.’
4 “When that time comes,” says the Lord, ▼
▼ Heb “oracle of the Lord.”
“the people of Israel and Judah will return to the land together.
They will come back with tears of repentance
as they seek the Lord their God. ▼
▼ Heb “and the children of Israel will come, they and the children of Judah together. They shall go, weeping as they go, and they will seek the Lord their God.” The concept of “seeking” the Lord often has to do with seeking the Lord in worship (by sacrifice [Hos 5:6; 2 Chr 11:16]; prayer [Zech 8:21, 22; 2 Sam 12:16; Isa 65:1; 2 Chr 15:4]). In Hos 7:10 it is in parallel with returning to the Lord. In Ps 69:6 it is in parallel with hoping in or trusting in the Lord. Perhaps the most helpful parallels here, however, are Hos 3:5 (in comparison with Jer 30:9) and 2 Chr 15:15 where it is in the context of a covenant commitment to be loyal to the Lord which is similar to the context here (see the next verse). The translation is admittedly paraphrastic but “seeking the Lord” does not mean here looking for God as though he were merely a person to be found.
5 They will ask the way to Zion;
they will turn their faces toward it.
They will come ▼
▼ The translation here assumes that the Hebrew בֹּאוּ (bo’u; a Qal imperative masculine plural) should be read בָּאוּ (ba’u; a Qal perfect third plural). This reading is presupposed by the Greek version of Aquila, the Latin version, and the Targum (see BHS note a, which mistakenly assumes that the form must be imperfect).and bind themselves to the Lord
in a lasting covenant that will never be forgotten. ▼
6 “My people have been lost sheep.
Their shepherds ▼ have allow them to go astray.
They have wandered around in the mountains.
They have roamed from one mountain and hill to another. ▼
They have forgotten their resting place.
7 All who encountered them devoured them.
Their enemies who did this said, ‘We are not liable for punishment!
For those people have sinned against the Lord, their true pasture. ▼
▼ This same Hebrew phrase “the habitation of righteousness” is found in Jer 31:23 in relation to Jerusalem in the future as “the place where righteousness dwells.” Here, however, it refers to the same entity as “their resting place” in v. 6 and means “true pasture.” For the meaning of “pasture” for the word נָוֶה (naveh) see 2 Sam 7:8 and especially Isa 65:10 where it is parallel with “resting place” for the flocks. For the meaning of “true” for צֶדֶק (tsedeq) see BDB 841 s.v. צֶדֶק 1. For the interpretation adopted here see G. L. Keown, P. J. Scalise, T. G. Smothers, Jeremiah 26-52 (WBC), 365. The same basic interpretation is reflected in NRSV, NJPS, and God’s Word.
They have sinned against the Lord in whom their ancestors ▼
▼ Heb “fathers.”trusted.’ ▼
▼ These two verses appear to be a poetical summary of the argument of Jer 2 where the nation is accused of abandoning its loyalty to God and worshiping idols. Whereas those who tried to devour Israel were liable for punishment when Israel was loyal to God (2:3), the enemies of Israel who destroyed them (i.e., the Babylonians [but also the Assyrians], 50:17) argue that they are not liable for punishment because the Israelites have sinned against the Lord and thus deserve their fate.
8 “People of Judah, ▼
▼ The words “People of Judah” are not in the Hebrew text but are implicit from the context. They have been supplied in the translation to clarify the subject of the address.get out of Babylon quickly!
Leave the land of Babylonia! ▼
Be the first to depart! ▼
▼ The words “Be the first to leave” are not in the text but spell out the significance of the simile that follows. They have been supplied in the translation for clarity.
Be like the male goats that lead the herd.
9 For I will rouse into action and bring against Babylon
a host of mighty nations ▼ from the land of the north.
They will set up their battle lines against her.
They will come from the north and capture her. ▼
▼ Heb “She will be captured from there (i.e., from the north).”
Their arrows will be like a skilled soldier ▼
▼ Read Heb ַָמשְׂכִּיל (moskil) with a number of Hebrew mss and some of the versions in place of מַשְׁכִּיל (mashkil, “one who kills children”) with the majority of Hebrew mss and some of the versions. See BHS note d for the details.
who does not return from the battle empty-handed. ▼
▼ Or more freely, “Their arrows will be as successful at hitting their mark // as a skilled soldier always returns from battle with plunder.”▼
▼ I.e., none of the arrows misses its mark.
10 Babylonia ▼ will be plundered.
Those who plunder it will take all they want,”
says the Lord. ▼
11 “People of Babylonia, ▼
▼ The words “People of Babylonia” are not in the text but they are implicit in the reference in the next verse to “your mother” which refers to the city and the land as the mother of its people. These words have been supplied in the translation to identify the referent of “you” and have been added for clarity.you plundered my people. ▼
That made you happy and glad.
You frolic about like calves in a pasture. ▼
▼ Reading כְּעֶגְלֵי דֶשֶׁא (ke’egle deshe’) or כְּעֵגֶל בַּדֶּשֶׁא (ke’egel baddeshe’) as presupposed by the Greek and Latin versions (cf. BHS note d-d) in place of the reading in the Hebrew text כְּעֶגְלָה דָשָׁה (ke’eglah dashah, “like a heifer treading out the grain”) which does not fit the verb (פּוּשׁ [push] = “spring about” [BDB 807 s.v. I פּוּשׁ] or “paw the ground” [KBL 756 s.v. פּוּשׁ] and compare Mal 3:20 for usage). This variant reading is also accepted by J. Bright, J. A. Thompson, F. B. Huey, and G. L. Keown, P. J. Scalise, T. G. Smothers.
Your joyous sounds are like the neighs of a stallion. ▼
▼ Heb “Though you rejoice, though you exult, you who have plundered my heritage, though you frolic like calves in a pasture and neigh like stallions, your mother…” The particle כִּי (ki) introduces a concessive protasis according to BDB 473 s.v. כִּי 2.c(a). Many interpret the particle as introducing the grounds for the next verse, i.e., “because…” The translation here will reflect the concessive by beginning the next verse with “But.” The long protasis has been broken up and restructured to better conform with contemporary English style.
12 But Babylonia will be put to great shame.
The land where you were born ▼
▼ Heb “Your mother will be utterly shamed, the one who gave you birth…” The word “mother” and the parallel term “the one who gave you birth” are used metaphorically for the land of Babylonia. For the figure compare the usage in Isa 50:1 (Judah) and Hos 2:2, 5 (2:4, 7 HT) and see BDB 52 s.v. אֵם 2 and 408 s.v. יָלַד Qal.2.c.will be disgraced.
Indeed, ▼ Babylonia will become the least important of all nations.
It will become a dry and barren desert.
13 After I vent my wrath on it Babylon will be uninhabited. ▼
▼ Heb “From [or Because of] the wrath of the Lord it will be uninhabited.” The causal connection is spelled out more clearly and actively and the first person has been used because the speaker is the Lord. The referent “it” has been spelled out clearly from the later occurrence in the verse, “all who pass by Babylon.”
It will be totally desolate.
All who pass by will be filled with horror and will hiss out their scorn
because of all the disasters that have happened to it. ▼
14 “Take up your battle positions all around Babylon,
all you soldiers who are armed with bows. ▼
▼ Heb “all you who draw the bow.”
▼ The verb here should probably be read as a Qal imperative יְרוּ (yeru) from יָרָה (yarah) with a few Hebrew mss rather than a Qal imperative יְדוּ (yidu) from יָדָה (yadah) with the majority of Hebrew mss. The verb יָדָה (yadah) does not otherwise occur in the Qal and only elsewhere in the Piel with a meaning “cast” (cf. KBL 363 s.v. I יָדָה). The verb יָרָה (yarah) is common in both the Qal and the Hiphil with the meaning of shooting arrows (cf. BDB 435 s.v. יָרָה Qal.3 and Hiph.2). The confusion between ד (dalet) and ר (resh) is very common.all your arrows at her! Do not hold any back! ▼
▼ Heb “Shoot at her! Don’t save any arrows!”
For she has sinned against the Lord.
15 Shout the battle cry from all around the city.
She will throw up her hands in surrender. ▼
▼ Heb “She has given her hand.” For the idiom here involving submission/surrender see BDB 680 s.v. נָתַן Qal.1.z and compare the usage in 1 Chr 29:24; 2 Chr 30:8. For a different interpretation, however, see the rather complete discussion in G. L. Keown, P. J. Scalise, and T. G. Smothers (Jeremiah 26-52 [WBC], 366) who see this as a reference to making a covenant. The verb in this line and the next two lines are all Hebrew perfects and most translators and commentaries see them as past. God’s Word, however, treats them as prophetic perfects and translates them as future. This is more likely in the light of the imperatives both before and after.
Her towers ▼
▼ The meaning of this word is uncertain. The definition here follows that of HALOT 91 s.v. אָשְׁיָה, which defines it on the basis of an Akkadian word and treats it as a loanword.will fall.
Her walls will be torn down.
Because I, the Lord, am wreaking revenge, ▼
▼ Heb “Because it is the Lord’s vengeance.” The first person has again been used because the Lord is the speaker and the nominal expression has been turned into a verbal one more in keeping with contemporary English style.
take out your vengeance on her!
Do to her as she has done!
16 Kill all the farmers who sow the seed in the land of Babylon.
Kill all those who wield the sickle at harvest time. ▼
Let all the foreigners return to their own people.
Let them hurry back to their own lands
to escape destruction by that enemy army. ▼
▼ Heb “Because of [or out of fear of] the sword of the oppressor, let each of them turn toward his [own] people and each of them flee to his [own] country.” Compare a similar expression in 46:16 where the reference was to the flight of the mercenaries. Here it refers most likely to foreigners who are counseled to leave Babylon before they are caught up in the destruction. Many of the commentaries and English versions render the verbs as futures but they are more likely third person commands (jussives). Compare the clear commands in v. 8 followed by essentially the same motivation. The “sword of the oppressor,” of course, refers to death at the hands of soldiers wielding all kinds of weapons, chief of which has been a reference to the bow (v. 14).
17 “The people of Israel are like scattered sheep
which lions have chased away.
First the king of Assyria devoured them. ▼
▼ The king of Assyria devoured them. This refers to the devastation wrought on northern Israel by the kings of Assyria beginning in 738 b.c. when Tiglath Pileser took Galilee and the Transjordanian territories and ending with the destruction and exile of the people of Samaria by Sargon in 722 b.c.
Now last of all King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon has gnawed their bones. ▼
▼ The verb used here only occurs this one time in the Hebrew Bible. It is a denominative from the Hebrew word for “bones” (עֶצֶם, ’etsem). BDB 1126 s.v. עֶָצַם, denom Pi, define it as “break his bones.” HALOT 822 s.v. II עָצַם Pi defines it as “gnaw on his bones.”▼
▼ If the prophecies which are referred to in Jer 51:59–64 refer to all that is contained in Jer 50–51 (as some believe), this would have referred to the disasters of 605 b.c. and 598 b.c. and all the harassment that Israel experienced from Babylon up until the fourth year of Zedekiah (594 b.c.). If on the other hand, the prophecy related there refers to something less than this final form, the destruction of 587/6 b.c. could be referred to as well.
18 So I, the Lord God of Israel who rules over all, say: ▼
‘I will punish the king of Babylon and his land
just as I punished the king of Assyria.
19 But I will restore the flock of Israel to their own pasture.
They will graze on Mount Carmel and the land of Bashan.
They will eat until they are full ▼
▼ Heb “their soul [or hunger/appetite] will be satisfied.”
on the hills of Ephraim and the land of Gilead. ▼
▼ The metaphor of Israel as a flock of sheep (v. 17) is continued here. The places named were all in Northern Israel and in the Transjordan, lands that were lost to the Assyrians in the period 738–722 b.c. All of these places were known for their fertility, for their woods and their pastures. The hills (hill country) of Ephraim formed the center of Northern Israel. Mount Carmel lies on the seacoast of the Mediterranean north and west of the hill country of Ephraim. Gilead formed the central part of Transjordan and was used to refer at times to the territory between the Yarmuk and Jabbok Rivers, at times to the territory between the Yarmuk and the Arnon Rivers, and at times for all of Israel in the Transjordan. Bashan refers to the territory north of Gilead.
20 When that time comes,
no guilt will be found in Israel.
No sin will be found in Judah. ▼
▼ Heb “In those days and at that time, oracle of the Lord, the iniquity [or guilt] of Israel will be sought but there will be none and the sins of Judah but they will not be found.” The passive construction “will be sought” raises the question of who is doing the seeking which is not really the main point. The translation has avoided this question by simply referring to the result which is the main point.
For I will forgive those of them I have allowed to survive. ▼
I, the Lord, affirm it!’” ▼
21 The Lord says, ▼
“Attack ▼ the land of Merathaim
and the people who live in Pekod! ▼
▼ Merathaim…Pekod. It is generally agreed that the names of these two regions were chosen for their potential for wordplay. Merathaim probably refers to a region in southern Babylon near where the Tigris and Euphrates come together before they empty into the Persian Gulf. It was known for its briny waters. In Hebrew the word would mean “double rebellion” and would stand as an epithet for the land of Babylon as a whole. Pekod refers to an Aramean people who lived on the eastern bank of the lower Tigris River. They are mentioned often in Assyrian texts and are mentioned in Ezek 23:23 as allies of Babylon. In Hebrew the word would mean “punishment.” As an epithet for the land of Babylon it would refer to the fact that Babylon was to be punished for her double rebellion against the Lord.
Pursue, kill, and completely destroy them! ▼
▼ Heb “Smite down and completely destroy after them.” The word translated “kill” or “smite down” is a word of uncertain meaning and derivation. BDB 352 s.v. III חָרַב relates it to an Aramaic word meaning “attack, smite down.” KBL 329-30 s.v. II חָרַב sees it as a denominative from the word חֶרֶב (kherev, “sword”), a derivation which many modern commentaries accept and reflect in a translation “put to the sword.” KBL, however, gives “to smite down; to slaughter” which is roughly the equivalent of the meaning assigned to it in BDB. The word only occurs here and in v. 27 in the Qal and in 2 Kgs 3:23 in the Niphal where it means something like “attacked one another, fought with one another.” Many commentators question the validity of the word “after them” (אַחֲרֵיהֶם, ’akharehem) which occurs at the end of the line after “completely destroy.” The Targum reads “the last of them” (אַחֲרִיתָם, ’akharitam) which is graphically very close and accepted by some commentators. The present translation has chosen to represent “after them” by a paraphrase at the beginning “pursue them.”▼
Do just as I have commanded you! ▼
▼ Heb “Do according to all I have commanded you.”
22 The noise of battle can be heard in the land of Babylonia. ▼ ▼
▼ The verbs in vv. 22–25 are all descriptive of the present, but all of this is really to take place in the future. Hebrew poetry has a way of rendering future actions as though they were already accomplished. The poetry of this section makes it difficult, however, to render the verbs as future, as has been done regularly in the present translation.
There is the sound of great destruction.
23 Babylon hammered the whole world to pieces.
But see how that ‘hammer’ has been broken and shattered! ▼
▼ Heb “How broken and shattered is the hammer of all the earth!” The “hammer” is a metaphor for Babylon who was God’s war club to shatter the nations and destroy kingdoms just like Assyria is represented in Isa 10:5 as a rod and a war club. Some readers, however, might not pick up on the metaphor or identify the referent, so the translation has incorporated an identification of the metaphor and the referent within it. “See how” and “See what” are an attempt to capture the nuance of the Hebrew particle אֵיךְ (’ekh) which here expresses an exclamation of satisfaction in a taunt song (cf. BDB 32 s.v. אֵיךְ 2 and compare usage in Isa 14:4, 12; Jer 50:23).
See what an object of horror
Babylon has become among the nations!
24 I set a trap for you, Babylon;
you were caught before you knew it.
You fought against me.
So you were found and captured. ▼
▼ Heb “You were found [or found out] and captured because you fought against the Lord.” The same causal connection is maintained by the order of the translation but it puts more emphasis on the cause and connects it also more closely with the first half of the verse. The first person is used because the Lord is speaking of himself first in the first person “I set” and then in the third. The first person has been maintained throughout. Though it would be awkward, perhaps one could retain the reference to the Lord by translating, “I, the Lord.”
25 I have opened up the place where my weapons are stored. ▼
▼ Or “I have opened up my armory.”
I have brought out the weapons for carrying out my wrath. ▼
▼ Heb “The Lord has opened up his armory and has brought out the weapons of his wrath.” The problem of the Lord referring to himself in the third person (or of the prophet speaking on his behalf) is again raised here and is again resolved by using the first person throughout. The construction “weapons of my wrath” would not convey any meaning to many readers so the significance has been spelled out in the translation.▼
▼ The weapons are the nations which God is bringing from the north against them. Reference has already been made in the study notes that Assyria is the “rod” or “war club” by which God vents his anger against Israel (Isa 10:5–6) and Babylon a hammer or war club with which he shatters the nations (Jer 50:23; 51:20). Now God will use other nations as weapons to execute his wrath against Babylon. For a similar idea see Isa 13:2–5 where reference is made to marshaling the nations against Babylon. Some of the nations that the Lord will marshal against Babylon are named in Jer 51:27–28.
For I, the Lord God who rules over all, ▼
have work to carry out in the land of Babylonia. ▼ ▼
▼ The verbs in vv. 22–25 are all descriptive of the present but, all of this is really to take place in the future. Hebrew poetry has a way of rendering future actions as though they were already accomplished. The poetry of this section makes it difficult, however, to render the verbs as future as the present translation has regularly done.
26 Come from far away and attack Babylonia! ▼
▼ Heb “Come against her from the end.” There is a great deal of debate about the meaning of “from the end” (מִקֵּץ, miqqets). Some follow the suggestion of F. Giesebrecht in BDB 892 s.v. קָצֶה 3 and emend the text to מִקָּצֶה (miqqatseh) on the basis of the presumed parallel in Jer 51:31 which is interpreted as “on all sides,” i.e., “from every quarter/side.” However, the phrase does not mean that in Jer 51:31 but is used as it is elsewhere of “from one end to another,” i.e., in its entirety (so Gen 19:4). The only real parallel here is the use of the noun קֵץ (qets) with a suffix in Isa 37:24 referring to the remotest part, hence something like from the end (of the earth), i.e., from a far away place. The referent “her” has been clarified here to refer to Babylonia in case someone might not see the connection between v. 25d and v. 26.
Open up the places where she stores her grain!
Pile her up in ruins! ▼
▼ Heb “Pile her up like heaps.” Many commentators understand the comparison to be to heaps of grain (compare usage of עֲרֵמָה (’aremah) in Hag 2:16; Neh 13:15; Ruth 3:7). However, BDB 790 s.v. עֲרֵמָה is more likely correct that this refers to heaps of ruins (compare the usage in Neh 4:2 [3:34 HT]).Destroy her completely! ▼
Do not leave anyone alive! ▼
27 Kill all her soldiers! ▼
▼ Heb “Kill all her young bulls.” Commentators are almost universally agreed that the reference to “young bulls” is figurative here for the princes and warriors (cf. BDB 831 s.v. פַּר 2.f, which compares Isa 34:7 and Ezek 39:18). This is virtually certain because of the reference to the time coming for them to be punished; this would scarcely fit literal bulls. For the verb rendered “kill” here see the translator’s note on v. 21.
Let them be slaughtered! ▼
▼ Heb “Let them go down to the slaughter.”
They are doomed, ▼ for their day of reckoning ▼
▼ The words “of reckoning” are not in the text but are implicit from the context. They are supplied in the translation for clarity.has come,
the time for them to be punished.”
28 Listen! Fugitives and refugees are coming from the land of Babylon.
They are coming to Zion to declare there
how the Lord our God is getting revenge,
getting revenge for what they have done to his temple. ▼
▼ Heb “Hark! Fugitives and refugees from the land of Babylon to declare in Zion the vengeance of the Lord our God, vengeance for his temple.” For the meaning “Hark!” for the noun קוֹל (qol) see BDB 877 s.v. קוֹל 1.f and compare the usage in Jer 10:22. The syntax is elliptical because there is no main verb. The present translation has supplied the verb “come” as many other English versions have done. The translation also expands the genitival expression “vengeance for his temple” to explain what all the commentaries agree is involved.▼
▼ This verse appears to be a parenthetical exclamation of the prophet in the midst of his report of what the Lord said through him. He throws himself into the future and sees the fall of Babylon and hears the people reporting in Zion how God has destroyed Babylon to get revenge for the Babylonians destroying his temple. Jeremiah prophesied from 627 b.c. (see the study note on 1:2) until sometime after 586 b.c. after Jerusalem fell and he was taken to Egypt. The fall of Babylon occurred in 538 b.c. some fifty years later. However, Jeremiah had prophesied as early as the first year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign (605 b.c.; Jer 25:1) that many nations and great kings would come and subject Babylon, the instrument of God’s wrath – his sword against the nations – to bondage (Jer 25:12–14).
29 “Call for archers ▼ to come against Babylon!
Summon against her all who draw the bow!
Set up camp all around the city!
Do not allow anyone to escape!
Pay her back for what she has done.
Do to her what she has done to others.
For she has proudly defied me, ▼
▼ Heb “for she has acted insolently against the Lord.” Once again there is the problem of the Lord speaking about himself in the third person (or the prophet dropping his identification with the Lord). As in several other places the present translation, along with several other modern English versions (TEV, CEV, NIrV), has substituted the first person to maintain consistency with the context.
the Holy One of Israel. ▼
▼ The Holy One of Israel is a common title for the Lord in the book of Isaiah. It is applied to the Lord only here and in 51:5 in the book of Jeremiah. It is a figure where an attribute of a person is put as a title of a person (compare “your majesty” for a king). It pictures the Lord as the sovereign king who rules over his covenant people and exercises moral authority over them.
30 So her young men will fall in her city squares.
All her soldiers will be destroyed at that time,”
says the Lord. ▼
31 “Listen! I am opposed to you, you proud city,” ▼
says the Lord God who rules over all. ▼
▼ The particle כִּי (ki) is probably asseverative here (so J. A. Thompson, Jeremiah [NICOT], 739, n. 13, and cf. BDB 472 s.v. כִּי 1.e for other examples). This has been a common use of this particle in the book of Jeremiah.your day of reckoning ▼
▼ The words “of reckoning” are not in the text but are implicit from the context. They are supplied in the translation for clarity.has come,
the time when I will punish you. ▼
32 You will stumble and fall, you proud city;
no one will help you get up.
I will set fire to your towns;
it will burn up everything that surrounds you.” ▼
▼ Heb “And the proud one will fall and there will be no one to help him up. I will start a fire in his towns and it will consume all that surround him.” The personification continues but now the stance is indirect (third person) rather than direct (second person). It is easier for the modern reader who is not accustomed to such sudden shifts if the second person is maintained. The personification of the city (or nation) as masculine is a little unusual; normally cities and nations are personified as feminine, as daughters or mothers.
33 The Lord who rules over all ▼ says,
“The people of Israel are oppressed.
So too are the people of Judah. ▼
▼ Heb “Oppressed are the people of Israel and the people of Judah together,” i.e., both the people of Israel and Judah are oppressed. However, neither of these renderings is very poetic. The translation seeks to achieve the same meaning with better poetic expression.
All those who took them captive are holding them prisoners.
They refuse to set them free.
34 But the one who will rescue them ▼
▼ Heb “their redeemer.” The Hebrew term “redeemer” referred in Israelite family law to the nearest male relative who was responsible for securing the freedom of a relative who had been sold into slavery. For further discussion of this term as well as its metaphorical use to refer to God as the one who frees Israel from bondage in Egypt and from exile in Assyria and Babylonia see the study note on 31:11.is strong.
He is known as the Lord who rules over all. ▼
He will strongly ▼ champion their cause.
As a result ▼ he will bring peace and rest to the earth,
but trouble and turmoil ▼
▼ Heb “he will bring rest to the earth and will cause unrest to.” The terms “rest” and “unrest” have been doubly translated to give more of the idea underlying these two concepts.to the people who inhabit Babylonia. ▼
▼ This translation again reflects the problem often encountered in these prophecies where the Lord appears to be speaking but refers to himself in the third person. It would be possible to translate here using the first person as CEV and NIrV do. However, to sustain that over the whole verse results in a considerably greater degree of paraphrase. The verse could be rendered “But I am strong and I will rescue them. I am the Lord who rules over all. I will champion their cause. And I will bring peace and rest to….”
35 “Destructive forces will come against the Babylonians,” ▼
▼ Heb “the Chaldeans.” For explanation of the rendering see the study note on 21:4. There is no verb in this clause. Therefore it is difficult to determine whether this should be understood as a command or as a prediction. The presence of vav (ו) consecutive perfects after a similar construction in vv. 36b, d, 37c, 38a and the imperfects after “therefore” (לָכֵן, lakhen) all suggest the predictive or future nuance. However, the vav consecutive perfect could be used to carry on the nuance of command (cf. GKC 333 #112.q) but not in the sense of purpose as NRSV, NJPS render them.▼
▼ Heb “A sword against the Chaldeans.” The “sword” here is metaphorical for destructive forces in the persons of the armies of the north (vv. 3, 9) which the Lord is marshaling against Babylon and which he has addressed by way of command several times (e.g., vv. 14, 21, 26–27, 29). Compare 46:14 and the study note there.says the Lord. ▼
“They will come against the people who inhabit Babylonia,
against her leaders and her men of wisdom.
36 Destructive forces will come against her false prophets; ▼
▼ The meaning and the derivation of the word translated “false prophets” is uncertain. The same word appears in conjunction with the word for “diviners” in Isa 44:25 and probably also in Hos 11:6 in conjunction with the sword consuming them “because of their counsel.” BDB 95 s.v. III בַּד b sees this as a substitution of “empty talk” for “empty talkers” (the figure of metonymy) and refer to them as false prophets. KBL 108 s.v. II בַּד emends the form in both places to read בָּרִים (barim) in place of בַּדִּים (baddim) and defines the word on the basis of Akkadian to mean “soothsayer” (KBL 146 s.v. V בָּר). HALOT 105 s.v. V בַּד retains the pointing, derives it from an Amorite word found in the Mari letters, and defines it as “oracle priest.” However, G. L. Keown, P. J. Scalise, and T. G. Smothers (Jeremiah 26-52 [WBC], 368) call this identification into question because the word only occurs in one letter from Mari and its meaning is uncertain there. It is hazardous to emend the text in two places, perhaps even three, in light of no textual evidence in any of the passages and to define the word on the basis of an uncertain parallel. Hence the present translation opts here for the derivation and extended definition given in BDB.
they will be shown to be fools! ▼
Destructive forces will come against her soldiers;
they will be filled with terror! ▼
▼ The verb here (חָתַת, khatat) could also be rendered “be destroyed” (cf. BDB 369 s.v. חָתַת Qal.1 and compare the usage in Jer 48:20, 39). However, the parallelism with “shown to be fools” argues for the more dominant usage of “be dismayed” or “be filled with terror.” The verb is found in parallelism with both בּוֹשׁ (bosh, “be ashamed, dismayed”) and יָרֵא (yare’, “be afraid”) and can refer to either emotion. Here it is more likely that they are filled with terror because of the approaching armies.
37 Destructive forces will come against her horses and her ▼
▼ Hebrew has “his” in both cases here whereas the rest of the possessive pronouns throughout vv. 35–37 are “her.” There is no explanation for this switch unless the third masculine singular refers as a distributive singular to the soldiers mentioned in the preceding verse (cf. GKC 464 #145.l). This is probably the case here, but to refer to “their horses and their chariots” in the midst of all the “her…” might create more confusion than what it is worth to be that pedantic.chariots.
Destructive forces will come against all the foreign troops within her; ▼
▼ Or “in the country,” or “in her armies”; Heb “in her midst.”
they will be as frightened as women! ▼
▼ Heb “A sword against his horses and his chariots and against all the mixed company [or mixed multitude] in her midst and they will become like women.” The sentence had to be split up because it is too long and the continuation of the second half with its consequential statement would not fit together with the first half very well. Hence the subject and verb have been repeated. The Hebrew word translated “foreign troops” (עֶרֶב, ’erev) is the same word that is used in 25:20 to refer to the foreign peoples living in Egypt and in Exod 12:38 for the foreign people that accompanied Israel out of Egypt. Here the word is translated contextually to refer to foreign mercenaries, an identification that most of the commentaries and many of the modern English versions accept (see, e.g., J. Bright, Jeremiah [AB], 355; NRSV; NIV). The significance of the simile “they will become like women” has been spelled out for the sake of clarity.
Destructive forces will come against her treasures;
they will be taken away as plunder!
38 A drought will come upon her land;
her rivers and canals will be dried up. ▼
▼ Heb “a drought against her waters and they will dry up.” Several of the commentaries and modern English versions accept the emendation proposed by BHS and read here “sword” (חֶרֶב [kherev] in place of חֹרֶב [khorev], the change of only one vowel) in keeping with the rest of the context. According to BHS this reading is supported by the Lucianic and Hexaplaric recensions of the LXX (the Greek version) and the Syriac version. In this case the drying up of the waters (of the canals) is attributed to neglect brought about by war conditions. However, it is just as likely that these versions are influenced by the repetition of the word “sword” as the Hebrew and the other versions are influenced by the concept of “drying up” of the waters to read “drought.” Hence the present translation, along with the majority of modern English versions, retains the Hebrew “drought.”
All of this will happen because her land is filled with idols. ▼
Her people act like madmen because of ▼
▼ Or “Her people boast in.” This translation is based on the reading of the majority of Hebrew mss which read יִתְהֹלָלוּ (yitholalu; cf. usage in Jer 46:9 and see also 25:16; 51:7). Two Hebrew mss and the versions read יִתְהַלָּלוּ (yithallalu; cf. usage in Jer 4:2; 9:23, 24 and Ps 97:7 where a parallel expression is found with “idols”). The reading is again basically the difference in one Hebrew vowel. All of the modern commentaries consulted and all the modern English versions except NEB, REB follow the Hebrew text here rather than the versions.those idols they fear. ▼
▼ Heb “by the terrors.” However, as HALOT 40 s.v. אֵימָה indicates these are “images that cause terror” (a substitution of the effect for the cause). The translation of this line follows the interpretation of the majority of modern English versions and all the commentaries consulted. NIV, NCV, and God’s Word reflect a different syntax, understanding the subject to be the idols just mentioned rather than “her people” which is supplied here for the sake of clarity (the Hebrew text merely says “they.”) Following that lead, one could render “but those idols will go mad with terror.” This makes excellent sense in the context which often refers to effects (vv. 36b, d, 37c, 38b) of the war that is coming. However, that interpretation does not fit as well with the following “therefore/so,” which basically introduces a judgment or consequence after an accusation of sin.
39 Therefore desert creatures and jackals will live there.
▼ The identification of this bird has been called into question by G. R. Driver, “Birds in the Old Testament,” PEQ 87 (1955): 137-38. He refers to this bird as an owl. That identification, however, is not reflected in any of the lexicons including the most recent, which still gives “ostrich” (HALOT 402 s.v. יַעֲנָה) as does W. S. McCullough, “Ostrich,” IDB 3:611. REB, NIV, NCV, and God’s Word all identify this bird as “owl/desert owl.”will dwell in it too. ▼
▼ Heb “Therefore desert creatures will live with jackals and ostriches will live in it.”
But no people will ever live there again.
No one will dwell there for all time to come. ▼
▼ Heb “It will never again be inhabited nor dwelt in unto generation and generation.” For the meaning of this last phrase compare the usage in Ps 100:5 and Isaiah 13:20. Since the first half of the verse has spoken of animals living there, it is necessary to add “people” and turn the passive verbs into active ones.
40 I will destroy Babylonia just like I did
Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighboring towns.
No one will live there. ▼
▼ Heb “‘Like [when] God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighboring towns,’ oracle of the Lord, ‘no man will live there.’” The Lord is speaking so the first person has been substituted for “God.” The sentence has again been broken up to better conform with contemporary English style.▼
No human being will settle in it,”
says the Lord. ▼
41 “Look! An army is about to come from the north.
A mighty nation and many kings ▼
▼ A mighty nation and many kings is an allusion to the Medo-Persian empire and the vassal kings who provided forces for the Medo-Persian armies.are stirring into action
in faraway parts of the earth.
42 Its soldiers are armed with bows and spears.
They are cruel and show no mercy.
They sound like the roaring sea
as they ride forth on their horses.
Lined up in formation like men going into battle,
they are coming against you, fair Babylon! ▼
▼ Heb “daughter Babylon.” The word “daughter” is a personification of the city of Babylon and its inhabitants.
43 The king of Babylon will become paralyzed with fear ▼
when he hears news of their coming. ▼
▼ Heb “The king of Babylon hears report of them and his hands hang limp.” The verbs are translated as future because the passage is prophetic and the verbs may be interpreted as prophetic perfects (the action viewed as if it were as good as done). In the parallel passage in 6:24 the verbs could be understood as present perfects because the passage could be viewed as in the present. Here it is future.
Anguish will grip him,
agony like that of a woman giving birth to a baby. ▼
▼ Compare Jer 6:22–24 where almost the same exact words as 50:41–43 are applied to the people of Judah. The repetition of prophecies here and in the following verses emphasizes the talionic nature of God’s punishment of Babylon; as they have done to others, so it will be done to them (cf. 25:14; 50:15).
44 “A lion coming up from the thick undergrowth along the Jordan
scatters the sheep in the pastureland around it.
So too I will chase the Babylonians off of their land.
Then I will appoint over it whomever I choose.
For there is no one like me.
There is no one who can call me to account.
There is no ruler that can stand up against me.
45 So listen to what I, the Lord, have planned against Babylon,
what I intend to do to the people who inhabit the land of Babylonia. ▼ ▼
▼ The verbs in vv. 22–25 are all descriptive of the present, but all of this is really to take place in the future. Hebrew poetry has a way of rendering future actions as though they were already accomplished. The poetry of this section makes it difficult, however, to render the verbs as future as the present translation has regularly done.
Their little ones will be dragged off.
I will completely destroy their land because of what they have done.
46 The people of the earth will quake when they hear Babylon has been captured.
Her cries of anguish will be heard by the other nations.” ▼
▼ Heb “among the nations.” With the exception of this phrase, the different verb in v. 46a, the absence of a suffix on the word for “land” in v. 45d, the third plural suffix instead of the third singular suffix on the verb for “chase…off of,” this passage is identical with 49:19–21 with the replacement of Babylon or the land of the Chaldeans for Edom. For the translation notes explaining the details of the translation here see the translator’s notes on 49:19–21.▼
▼ This passage is virtually identical with Jer 49:19–21 with the replacement of Babylon, land of Babylonia for Edom. As God used Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians to destroy Edom, so he would use Cyrus and the Medes and Persians and their allies to destroy Babylon (cf. 25:13, 14). As Nebuchadnezzar was God’s servant to whom all would be subject (25:9; 27:6), so Cyrus is called in Isaiah “his anointed one,” i.e., his chosen king whom he will use to shatter other nations and set Israel free (Isa 45:1–4).
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