This and the following chapter contain a prophecy relating to the fall of Babylon, interspersed with several predictions relative to the restoration of Israel and Judah, who were to survive their oppressors, and, on their repentance, to be pardoned and brought to their own land. This chapter opens with a prediction of the complete destruction of all the Babylonish idols, and the utter desolation of Chaldea, through the instrumentality of a great northern nation, 1-3. Israel and Judah shall be reinstated in the land of their forefathers after the total overthrow of the great Babylonish empire, 4, 5. Very oppressive and cruel bondage of the Jewish people during the captivity, 6, 7. The people of God are commanded to remove speedily from Babylon, because an assembly of great nations are coming out of the north to desolate the wholeland, 8-10. Babylon, the hammer of the whole earth, the great desolator of nations, shall itself become a desolation on account of its intolerable pride, and because of the iron yoke it has rejoiced to put upon a people whom a mysterious Providence had placed under its domination, 11-34. The judgments which shall fall upon Chaldea, a country addicted to the grossest idolatry, and to every species of superstition, shall be most awful and general, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, 35-40. Character of the people appointed to execute the Divine judgments upon the oppressors of Israel, 41-45. Great sensation among the nations at the very terrible and sudden fall of Babylon, 46.
NOTES ON CHAP. L
Verse 1. "THE WORD THAT THE LORD SPAKE AGAINST BABYLON" - This is also a new head of discourse.
The prophecy contained in this and the following chapter was sent to the captives in Babylon in the fourth year of the reign of Zedekiah. They are very important; they predict the total destruction of the Babylonish empire, and the return of the Jews from their captivity. These chapters were probably composed, with several additions, out of the book that was then sent by Jeremiah to the captives by the hand of Seraiah. See chap. li. 59-64.
Verse 2. "Declare ye among the nations" - God's determination relative to this empire.
"Set up a standard" - Show the people where they are to assemble.
"Say, Babylon is taken" - It is a thing so firmly determined, that it is as good as already done.
"Bel" - The tutelar deity of Babylon is confounded, because it cannot save its own city.
"Merodach" - Another of their idols, is broken to pieces; it was not able to save itself, much less the whole empire.
"Her idols are confounded" - It is a reproach to have acknowledged them.
"Her images" - Great and small, golden and wooden, are broken to pieces; even the form of them no longer appears.
Verse 3. "Out of the north there cometh up a nation" - The Medes, who formed the chief part of the army of Cyrus, lay to the north or north-east of Babylon.
"Shall make her land desolate" - This war, and the consequent taking of the city, began those disasters that brought Babylon in process of time to complete desolation; so that now it is not known where it stood, the wholecountry being a total solitude.
Verse 4. "In those days, and in that time" - In the times in which Babylon shall be opposed by the Medes and Persians, both Israel and Judah, seeing the commencement of the fulfilling of the prophecies, shall begin to seek the Lord with much prayer, and broken and contrite hearts. When the decree of Cyrus comes, they shall be ready to set off for their own country, deploring their offenses, yet rejoicing in the mercy of God which has given them this reviving in their bondage.
Verse 5. "Let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant" - All our former covenants have been broken; let us now make one that shall last for ever. He shall be the LORD OUR GOD, and WE will no more worship idols. This covenant they have kept to the present day; whatever their present moral and spiritual state may be, they are no idolaters, in the gross sense of the term.
The description that is here given of the state of this people, their feelings and their conduct, finely exhibit the state of real penitents, who are fervently seeking the salvation of their souls.
1. In those days when Jesus Christ is manifested in the flesh; and in that time, when through him is preached the remission of sins, and the people who hear are pricked in their conscience.
2. The children of Israel and the children of Judah together. - No distinctions being then felt or attended to; for all feel themselves sinners, who have come short of the glory of God. Even national distinctions and religious differences, which bind men fastest, and hold them longest, are absorbed in the deep and overpowering concern they feel for their eternal interests.
3. Going and weeping shall they go. - Religious sorrow does not preclude activity and diligence. While they are weeping for their sins, they are going on in the path of duty, seeking the Lord while he may be found, and calling upon him while he is near.
4. They shall ask the way to Zion. - Real penitents are the most inquisitive of all mortals; but their inquiries are limited to one object, they ask the way to Zion. What shall we do to be saved? How shall we shun the perdition of ungodly men, &c.
5. With their faces thitherward. - They have turned FROM sin, and turned TO God. They have left the paths of the destroyer, and their hearts are towards God, and the remembrance of his name. Thus they are profiting by that light which has convinced them of sin, righteousness, and judgment.
6. Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord. - Religion is a social principle, and begets a social feeling in the soul. No man who feels his own sore, and the plague of his heart, wishes to venture alone in the way to heaven. He feels he wants counsel, support, comfort and the company of those who will watchover him in love. Like David, the true penitent is a companion of all those who fear the Lord. These heavenly feelings come from one and the same Spirit, and lead to the same end; hence they say,] 7. Let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant. It is said, that to be undecided, is to be decided. They who are not determined to go to heaven, will never reach it. If the heart be not laid under obligation, it will do nothing. "I hope I am in earnest; I trust I shall be in earnest about the salvation of my soul, it is very proper I should be so;" and such like, show an irresolute soul. Such persons are ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Let us therefore bind ourselves. We have trifled too long; been indecisive too long; have halted too long between two opinions. We know now that Jehovah is God; let us, therefore, enter into a covenant with him. Let this covenant be a perpetual one: let us not make it for a day, for any particular time, but for ever; and let it never be broken. Let our part be kept inviolable: we ARE and WILL BE thy people; and God's part will never fail, I AM and WILL BE your God.
The covenant requires a sacrifice. - Hence tyrb berith signifies both.
Verse 6. "My people hath been lost sheep" - He pities them; for their pastors, kings, and prophets have caused them to err.
"They have gone from mountain to hill" - In all high places they have practiced idolatry.
Verse 7. "Their adversaries said, We offend not" - God has abandoned them; we are only fulfilling his designs in plaguing them.
Verse 8. "Remove out of the midst of Babylon" - The sentence of destruction is gone out against it; prepare for your flight, that ye be not overwhelmed in its ruin.
"Be as the he-goats before the flocks." - Who always run to the head of the flock, giving the example for others to follow. This may be addressed to the elders and persons of authority among the people.
Verse 9. "An assembly of great nations" - The army of Cyrus was composed of Medes, Persians, Armenians, Caducians, Sacae, &c. Though all these did not come from the north; yet they were arranged under the Medes, who did come from the north, in reference to Babylon.
"Their arrows" - They are such expert archers, that they shall never miss their mark.
Verse 10. "Chaldea shall be a spoil" - She has been a spoiler, and she shall be spoiled. They had destroyed Judea, God's heritage; and now God shall cause her to be destroyed.
Verse 11. "As the heifer at grass" - Ye were wanton in the desolations ye brought upon Judea.
Verse 12. "Your mother" - Speaking to the Chaldeans: BABYLON, the metropolis, or mother city, shall be a wilderness, a dryland, a desert, neither fit for man nor beast.
Verse 15. "Shout against her round about" - Encompass her with lines and with troops; let none go in with relief, none come out to escape from her ruin.
Verse 16. "Cut off the sower" - Destroy the gardens and the fields, that there may be neither fruits nor tillage.
Verse 17. "Israel" - All the descendants of Jacob have been harassed and spoiled, first by the Assyrians, and afterwards by the Chaldeans. They acted towards them as a lion to a sheep which he has caught; first he devours all the flesh, next he breaks all the bones to extract the marrow.
Verse 18. "As I have punished the king of Assyria." - The Assyrians were overthrown by the Medes and the Chaldeans. The king is here taken for all their kings, generals, &c., Tiglath-pileser, Shalmaneser, Sennacherib, Esar-haddon, &c. To them succeeded the Chaldean or Babylonish kings.
Nebuchadnezzar came against Judea several times; and at last took the city and burnt it, profaned and demolished the temple, wasted the land, and carried the princes and people into captivity.
Verse 19. "I will bring Israel again" - This seems to refer wholly to the ten tribes; for Carmel, Bashan, Mount Ephraim, and Gilead, were in their territories.
Verse 20. "In those days and in that time" - This phrase appears to take in the whole of an epoch, from its commencement to its end. See ver. 4.
"I will pardon them" - So as to deliver them from their captivity, and exact no more punishwent from them whom I reserve, namely, the remnant left in the Babylonish captivity.
Verse 21. "Go up against the land of Merathaim-and against the inhabitants of Pekod" - No such places as these are to be found any where else; and it is not likely that places are at all meant. The ancient Versions agree in rendering the first as an appellative, and the last as a verb, except the Chaldee, which has Pekod as a proper name. Dr. Blayney translates:- "Against the land of bitternesses, go up: Upon it, and upon its inhabitants, visit, O sword!" Dr. Dahler renders thus:- "March against the country doubly rebellious, And against its inhabitants worthy of punishment." The latter of these two versions I take to be the most literal. The words are addressed to the Medes and Persians; and the country is Chaldea, doubly rebellious by its idolatry and its insufferable pride. In these two, it was exceeded by no other land.
Verse 23. "The hammer of the whole earth" - Nebuchadnezzar dashed to pieces the nations against whom he warred. He was the scourge of the Lord.
Verse 24. "I have laid a snare for thee" - It was not by storm that Cyrus took the city. The Euphrates ran through it; he dug a channel for the river in another direction, to divert its stream; he waited for that time in which the inhabitants had delivered themselves up to debauchery: in the dead of the night he turned off the stream, and he and his army entered by the old channel, now void of its waters. This was the snare of which the prophet here speaks. See Nerodotus, lib. i., c. 191.
Verse 26. "Open her store-houses" - At the time that Cyrus took the city, it was full of provisions and treasures of all kinds; the walls had suffered no injury; and when the inhabitants heard that the enemy was within, they thought they must have arisen out of the earth in the center of the city!
Verse 27. "Slay all her bullocks" - Princes, magistrates, &c., &c.
Verse 28. "Declare in Zion the vengeance of the Lord" - Zion was desolated by Babylon; tell Zion that God hath desolated the desolator.
"The vengeance of his temple." - Which Nebuchadnezzar had pillaged, profaned, and demolished, transporting its sacred vessels to Babylon, and putting them in the temple of his god Bel.
Verse 29. "Call together the archers" - The preceding verses are the prediction: here, God calls the Medes and Persians to fulfill it.
Verse 31. "O thou most proud" - wdz zadon. PRIDE in the abstract; proudest of all people.
Verse 32. "And the most proud" - wdz zadon, as before. Here pride is personified and addressed, as if possessing a being and rational powers.
Verse 34. "Their Redeemer is strong" - And it was not that he wanted power, and that Nebuchadnezzar had much, that Jerusalem was taken; but because the people had sinned, and would not return; and therefore national sins called for national punishments. These have taken place; and now the Lord of hosts shows them that the power of the Chaldeans is mere weakness against his might.
Verse 35. "A sword" - War and its calamities, or any grievous plague; and so in the following verses.
Verse 38. "A drought is upon her waters" - May not this refer to the draining of the channel of the Euphrates, by which the army of Cyrus entered the city. See on ver. 24. The original is, however, brj chereb, a sword, as in the preceding verses, which signifies war, or any calamity by which the thing on which it falls is ruined.
Verse 39. "The wild beasts of the desert" - Dahler translates these various terms, "The wild cats, the jackals, and the ostriches." And Blayney the same. Wicklif, "Dragons, woodewoses, and ostriches." Coverdale, "Wild beestes, apes, and estriches."
Verse 40. "As God overthrew Sodom" - As the very ground on which these cities stood, with all the plain, now lies under the Dead Sea; so Babylon and the adjacent country shall be rendered totally barren and unfruitful, and utterly incapable of being inhabited. And this is the fact concerning both countries. See chap. xlix. 18.
Verse 41. "Behold, a people shall come from the north" - This and the two following verses are nearly the same with chap. vi. 22-24. But here, destroyers against Babylon are intended; there, destroyers against Jerusalem.
Verse 44. "Behold, he shall came up like a lion" - The same words as in chap. xlix. 19, &c., where see the note.
Verse 46. "At the noise of the taking of Babylon" - See the note on the parallel place, chap. xlix. 21. In the forty-ninth chapter, these words are spoken of Nebuchadnezzar; here, of Cyrus. The taking of Babylon was a wonder to all the surrounding nations. It was thought to be impregnable.