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Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, [1834], at

Jeremiah Chapter 51

Jeremiah 51:1

jer 51:1

In the midst of them that rise up against me - Or, in Leb-kamai, the cipher for Kasdim, i. e., Chaldaea. This cipher was not necessarily invented by Jeremiah, or used for concealment. It was probaby first devised either for political purposes or for trade, and was in time largely employed in the correspondence between the exiles at Babylon and their friends at home. Thus, words in common use like Sheshach Jer 25:26 and Leb-kamai, would be known to everybody.

Jeremiah 51:2

jer 51:2

Fanners - Or, winnowers.

Jeremiah 51:3

jer 51:3

The man who bends the bow, and the heavy-armed soldier who vaunts himself in his coat of mail (Jer 46:4 note), represent the Babylonians who defend the city.

Jeremiah 51:4

jer 51:4

Translate it: "And they," i. e., the young men who form her host Jer 51:3, "shall fall slain in the land of the Chaldaeans, and pierced through in her streets," i. e., the streets of Babylon.

Jeremiah 51:7

jer 51:7

Literally, "A golden cup is Babel in the hand of Yahweh, intoxicating the whole earth." Jeremiah beholds her in her splendor, but the wine whereof she makes the nations drink is the wrath of God. As God's hammer Jer 50:23, Babylon was strong: as His cup of gold, she was rich and beautiful, but neither saves her from ruin.

Jeremiah 51:8

jer 51:8

Destroyed - literally, broken, as was the hammer Jer 50:23. The cup, though of metal, is thrown down so violently as to be shattered by the fall.

Howl for her - The persons addressed are the many inhabitants of Babylon who were dragged from their homes to people its void places, and especially the Israelites. They have dwelt there long enough to feel pity for her, when they contrast her past magnificence with her terrible fall. Compare Jer 29:7.

Jeremiah 51:9

jer 51:9

Omit would. All was done that it was possible to do to heal her.

To the skies - Or, to the clouds.

Jeremiah 51:10

jer 51:10

Yahweh hath brought to the light those things which prove us to be righteous: i. e., by punishing Babylon He hath justified

Jeremiah 51:11

jer 51:11

Make bright - Rather, Sharpen.

The Medes Gen 10:2 were a branch of the great Aryan family, who as conquerors had seized upon the vast regions extending from the Caspian Sea to the eastern borders of Mesopotamia, but without being able to dispossess the Turanian tribes who had previously dwelt there. They were divided into numerous clans, each with its own local chief, the leaders of the larger sections being those who are here called kings.

Jeremiah 51:12

jer 51:12

Upon the walls of Babylon - Or, "against the walls." The King James Version takes the word ironically, as a summons to Babylon to prepare for her defense; others take it as a summons to the army to make the attack.

Jeremiah 51:13

jer 51:13

Upon many waters - The great wealth of Babylonia was caused not merely by the Euphrates, but by a vast system of canals, which served for defense as well as for irrigation.

The measure of thy covetousness - i. e., the appointed end of thy gain. Some render it: the ell of thy cutting off, i. e., the appointed measure at which thou art to be cut off, at which thy web of existence is to be severed from the loom.

Jeremiah 51:14

jer 51:14

Rather, "Surely I have filled thee with men as with locusts, and they shall sing over thee the vintage-song." The vintage-shout suggests the idea of trampling Babylon under foot, as the vintagers trample the grapes; a metaphor of the divine wrath.

Jeremiah 51:15

jer 51:15

A transcript of Jer 10:12-16.

Jeremiah 51:20

jer 51:20

Or, Thou art my maul, weapons of war etc. The maul or mace Pro 25:18 only differs from the hammer Jer 50:23 in being used for warlike purposes.

Omit the "will" in "will I break." The crushing of the nations was going on at the time when the prophet wrote. Most commentators consider that Babylon was the mace of God.

Jeremiah 51:23

jer 51:23

Captains ... rulers - Jer 51:28. Pashas and Sagans. The prophet dwells at length upon Babylon's destructiveness.

Jeremiah 51:25

jer 51:25

O destroying mountain - A volcano which by its flames and hot lava-streams "destroys the whole land."

A burnt mountain - A burned-out mountain, of which the crater alone remains. Such was Babylon. Its destructive energy under Nebuchadnezzar was like the first outbreak of volcanic fires; its rapid collapse under his successors was as the same volcano when its flames have burned out, and its crater is falling in upon itself.

Jeremiah 51:26

jer 51:26

The prophet means that:

(1) Babylon would never again be the seat of empire. Nor

(2) would any new development of events take its rise thence.

Jeremiah 51:27

jer 51:27

Ararat, see the Gen 8:4 note. Minni, probably the western portion of Armenia, as Ararat was that in the center and to the east. Armenia was at this time subject to Media. Ashchenaz was between the Euxine and the Caspian Seas.

A captain - Some prefer the Septuagint rendering in Nah 3:17 : "a mingled mass of people." (Others, a "scribe," an Assyrian term.)

The rough caterpillers - i. e., locusts in their third stage, when their wings are still enveloped in rough horny cases, which stick up upon their backs. It is in this stage that they are so destructive.

Jeremiah 51:28

jer 51:28

His dominion - This belonged not to the subordinate rulers, but to the chief, e. g., to Cyrus.

Jeremiah 51:29

jer 51:29

The literal translation is:

Then the earth quaked and writhed;

For the thoughts of Yahweh against

Babel have stood fast;

To make Babel a waste without inhabitant.

Jeremiah 51:30

jer 51:30

Have forborn to fight - Or, have ceased to fight: in despair when they saw that the conflict was hopeless.

Holds - The word properly means an acropolis, and so any inaccessible place of refuge.

They have burned - i. e., the enemy have burned.

Bars - i. e., fortifications (compare Amo 1:5).

Jeremiah 51:31

jer 51:31

The royal palace was a strong fortification in the heart of the city. The messengers thus met one another.

At one end - Rather, from all sides, entirely, completely.

Jeremiah 51:32

jer 51:32

The passages are stopped - The ferries are seized, occupied. The historians state that when Cyrus captured the city his troops moved down the bed of the river and occupied all these ferries, finding at each of them the gates negligently left open. See the Dan 5:1 note.

The reeds - literally, the marshes or pools, which formed an important part of the defenses of Babylon, were dried up as completely as a piece of wood would be consumed by fire.

Jeremiah 51:33

jer 51:33

Translate, "The daughter of Babylon is as a threshing-floor at the time when it is trampled," i. e., trodden hard in readiness for the threshing: "yet a little while and the harvest-time" shall come to her, i. e., overtake her. In the East, the grain when reaped is carried at once to the threshing-floor, a level spot carefully prepared beforehand, usually about 50 feet in diameter, and trampled hard. The grain after it has been beaten out by a sledge drawn over it by oxen is separated from the chaff and stored up in granaries.

Jeremiah 51:34

jer 51:34

Literally, "Nebuchadrezzar ... hath devoured us, hath crushed us, he hath set as aside as an empty vessel, he hath swallowed as like a crocodile, he hath filled his maw with my delicacies Gen 49:20, he hath cast us out. My wrong and my flesh be upon Babylon, shall the inhabitress of Zion say: and my blood be etc." Nebuchadnezzar had devoured Jerusalem, had treated her as ruthlessly as a crocodile does its prey, and for this cruelty he and Babylon are justly to be punished.

Jeremiah 51:36

jer 51:36

Her sea - Probably the great lake dug by Nitocris to receive the waters of the Euphrates.

Her springs - Her reservoir; the whole system of canals dug Jer 51:13. The wealth of Babylonia depended upon irrigation.

Jeremiah 51:37

jer 51:37

Heaps - Of rubbish, formed in this case by the decay of the unburned bricks of which Babylon was built. It is these heaps which have yielded such a large wealth of historical documents in our own days.

Dragons - Jackals Jer 10:22.

Jeremiah 51:38

jer 51:38

Yell - Or, growl.

Jeremiah 51:39

jer 51:39

In their heat ... - While, like so many young lions, they are in the full glow of excitement over their prey, God prepares for them a drinking-bout to end in the sleep of death. Compare Dan 5:1.

Jeremiah 51:40

jer 51:40

Lambs ... rams ... he goats - i. e., all classes of the population (see Isa 34:6 note).

Jeremiah 51:41

jer 51:41

Sheshach - Babylon: see the Jer 51:1 note.

Surprised - i. e., seized, captured.

Jeremiah 51:42

jer 51:42

By a grand metaphor the invading army is compared to the sea.

Jeremiah 51:43

jer 51:43

A wilderness - Or, a desert of sand.

A land wherein - Rather, "a land - no man shall dwell in them (i. e., its cities), and no human being shall pass through them."

Jeremiah 51:44

jer 51:44

The sacred vessels plundered from Jerusalem, and laid up in the very temple of Bel, should be restored; the men and women dragged from other lands to people the city, released; and its wall falling would show the insignificance to which it should be reduced.

Jeremiah 51:45

jer 51:45

The fierce anger of the Lord - i. e., against Babylon. The people of God are to flee away that they may not be involved in the miseries of Babylon. See the Jer 50:8 note.

Jeremiah 51:46

jer 51:46

Literally, "And beware lest your heart faint, and ye be afraid because of the rumour that is heard in the land: for in one year shall one rumour come, and afterward in another year another rumour; and violence shall be in the land etc." The fall of Babylon was to be preceded by a state of unquiet, men's minds being unsettled partly by rumors of the warlike preparations of the Medes, and of actual invasions: partly by intestine feuds. So before the conquest of Jerusalem by the Romans the Church had similar warnings Mat 24:6-7.

Jeremiah 51:47

jer 51:47

Therefore - The exiles were to note these things as signs of the approach of God's visitation.

Confounded - Or, ashamed.

Jeremiah 51:49

jer 51:49

Render, "As Babylon caused the slain of Israel to fall, so because of Babylon, hare fallen the slain of (or, in) the whole earth." Babylon has to answer for the general carnage caused by its wars.

Jeremiah 51:50

jer 51:50

Afar off - Or, from afar, from Chaldaea, far away from Yahweh's dwelling in Jerusalem. The verse is a renewed entreaty to the Jews to leave Babylon and journey homewards, as soon as Cyrus grants them permission.

Jeremiah 51:51

jer 51:51

Confounded - Or, ashamed. The verse is a statement of the wrong done to the exiles by Babylon, and so leads naturally to Babylon's punishment Jer 51:52.

Jeremiah 51:54

jer 51:54

A cry - i. e., the war-cry.

Jeremiah 51:55

jer 51:55

Render, "For Yahweh wasteth Babylon, and will make to cease from her the loud noise (of busy life); and their wares (the surging masses of the enemy) roar like many waters: the noise of their shouting is given forth, i. e., resounds."

Jeremiah 51:56

jer 51:56

Every one ... - Or, "Their bows are broken, for Yahweh is a God of recompenses; He will certainly requite."

Jeremiah 51:58

jer 51:58

The broad walls - Herodotus makes the breadth of the walls 85 English feet.

Broken - See the margin. i. e., the ground beneath them shall be laid bare by their demolition.

The people - Or, peoples. Jeremiah concludes his prophecy with a quotation from Habakkuk; applying the words to the stupendous works intended to make Babylon an eternal city, but which were to end in such early and utter disappointment.

Jeremiah 51:59

jer 51:59

Historical appendix. In his fourth year Zedekiah journeyed to Babylon either to obtain some favor from Nebuchadnezzar, or because he was summoned to be present on some state occasion. Jeremiah took the opportunity of sending to the exiles at Babylon this prophecy.

Jer 51:59

Seraiah - Brother to Baruch.

A quiet prince - literally, "prince of the resting place, i. e., quartermaster." It was his business to ride forward each day, and select the place where the king would halt and pass the night.

Jer 51:60

In a book - literally, in one book, on one scroll of parchment.

Jer 51:61

And shalt see, and shalt read - Or, then see that thou read etc.

Jer 51:62-64

The sinking of the scroll was not for the purpose of destroying it, but was a symbolic act (compare the marginal reference); and the binding of a stone to it signified the certainty of the hasty ruin of the city.

Jer 51:64

Thus far ... - Whoever added Jer. 52, evidently felt it his duty to point out that it was not written by Jeremiah.

Next: Jeremiah Chapter 52