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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 51

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Jeremiah 51:0


(The parentheses represent poetic literary units)

Babylon Judged For Sins Against IsraelThe Utter Destruction of BabylonGod's Judgment Against BabylonFurther Judgment on BabylonYahweh Makes War on Babylon
Jeremiah 51:1-4(vv. Jeremiah 51:1-4)Jeremiah 51:1-5(vv. Jeremiah 51:1-5)Jeremiah 51:1-10(vv. Jeremiah 51:1-10)Jeremiah 51:1-9Jeremiah 51:1-5(vv. Jeremiah 51:1-5)
Jeremiah 51:5-10(vv. Jeremiah 51:5-10)
Jeremiah 51:6-8(vv. Jeremiah 51:6-8)Jeremiah 51:6-10(vv. Jeremiah 51:6-10)
Jeremiah 51:9-10(vv. Jeremiah 51:9-10)
Jeremiah 51:10
Jeremiah 51:11-14(vv. Jeremiah 51:11-14)Jeremiah 51:11-14(vv. Jeremiah 51:11-14)Jeremiah 51:11-14(vv. Jeremiah 51:11a)(vv. Jeremiah 51:12-14)Jeremiah 51:11aJeremiah 51:11(vv. Jeremiah 51:11a)
Jeremiah 51:11-12a
Jeremiah 51:12-14Jeremiah 51:12(vv. Jeremiah 51:12)
A Hymn of Praise To GodJeremiah 51:13-14(vv. Jeremiah 51:13-14)
Jeremiah 51:15-23(vv. Jeremiah 51:15-23)Jeremiah 51:15-16(vv. Jeremiah 51:15-16)Jeremiah 51:15-19(vv. Jeremiah 51:15-19)Jeremiah 51:15-19(vv. Jeremiah 51:15-19)Jeremiah 51:15-19(vv. Jeremiah 51:15-19)
Jeremiah 51:17-19(vv. Jeremiah 51:17-19)The LORD's HammerYahweh's Hammer and the Giant Mountain
Jeremiah 51:20-23(vv. Jeremiah 51:20-23)Jeremiah 51:20-23(vv. Jeremiah 51:20-23)Jeremiah 51:20-23(vv. Jeremiah 51:20-23)Jeremiah 51:20-23(vv. Jeremiah 51:20-23)
Babylonia's Punishment
Jeremiah 51:24-26(vv. Jeremiah 51:25-26)Jeremiah 51:24Jeremiah 51:24Jeremiah 51:24-26Jeremiah 51:24
Jeremiah 51:25-26(vv. Jeremiah 51:25-26)Jeremiah 51:25-33(vv. Jeremiah 51:25-33)Jeremiah 51:25-26(vv. Jeremiah 51:25-26)
The End of Babylon Is Imminent
Jeremiah 51:27-32(vv. Jeremiah 51:27-32)Jeremiah 51:27-32(vv. Jeremiah 51:27-32)Jeremiah 51:27-35Jeremiah 51:27(vv. Jeremiah 51:27)
Jeremiah 51:28
Jeremiah 51:29(vv. Jeremiah 51:29)
Jeremiah 51:30-33(vv. Jeremiah 51:30-33)
Jeremiah 51:33(vv. Jeremiah 51:33)Jeremiah 51:33(vv. Jeremiah 51:33)Yahweh's Vengeance
Jeremiah 51:34-40(vv. Jeremiah 51:34-40)Jeremiah 51:34-35(vv. Jeremiah 51:34-35)Jeremiah 51:34-37(vv. Jeremiah 51:34-37)(vv. Jeremiah 51:34-35)Jeremiah 51:34-35(vv. Jeremiah 51:34-35)
The Lord Will Help Israel
Jeremiah 51:36-40(vv. Jeremiah 51:36-40)Jeremiah 51:36-40Jeremiah 51:36-40(vv. Jeremiah 51:36-40)
Jeremiah 51:38-40(vv. Jeremiah 51:38-40)Babylon's FateA Dirge For Babylon
Jeremiah 51:41-44(vv. Jeremiah 51:41-44)Jeremiah 51:41-44(vv. Jeremiah 51:41-44)Jeremiah 51:41-49(vv. Jeremiah 51:41-49)Jeremiah 51:41-44aJeremiah 51:41-43(vv. Jeremiah 51:41-43)
Yahweh Punishes the Idols
Jeremiah 51:44-49Jeremiah 51:44-45(vv. Jeremiah 51:44-45)
Jeremiah 51:45-48(vv. Jeremiah 51:45-48)Jeremiah 51:45-48(vv. Jeremiah 51:45-48)
Jeremiah 51:46
Jeremiah 51:47-52(vv. Jeremiah 51:47-52)
Jeremiah 51:49-51(vv. Jeremiah 51:49-51)Jeremiah 51:49-50(vv. Jeremiah 51:49-50)God's Message to the Israelites in Babylonia
Jeremiah 51:50-53(vv. Jeremiah 51:50-53)Jeremiah 51:50-53
Jeremiah 51:51(vv. Jeremiah 51:51)
Jeremiah 51:52-53(vv. Jeremiah 51:52-53)Jeremiah 51:52-53(vv. Jeremiah 51:52-53)
Jeremiah 51:53-57(vv. Jeremiah 51:53-57)
Further Destruction Of Babylon
Jeremiah 51:54-58(vv. Jeremiah 51:54-58)Jeremiah 51:54-56(vv. Jeremiah 51:54-56)Jeremiah 51:54-57(vv. Jeremiah 51:54-57)Jeremiah 51:54-58(vv. Jeremiah 51:54-58)
Jeremiah 51:57(vv. Jeremiah 51:57)Babylon Razed to the Ground
Jeremiah 51:58(vv. Jeremiah 51:58)Jeremiah 51:58(vv. Jeremiah 51:58)Jeremiah 51:58(vv. Jeremiah 51:58)
Jeremiah's Command To SeraiahJeremiah Message Is Sent To BabyloniaThe Written Prophecy Thrown Into the Euphrates
Jeremiah 51:59-64Jeremiah 51:59-64Jeremiah 51:59-64Jeremiah 51:59-64Jeremiah 51:59-64

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary,which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 51:1-4 1Thus says the Lord: “Behold, I am going to arouse against Babylon And against the inhabitants of Leb-kamai The spirit of a destroyer. 2I will dispatch foreigners to Babylon that they may winnow her And may devastate her land; For on every side they will be opposed to her In the day of her calamity. 3Let not him who bends his bow bend it, Nor let him rise up in his scale-armor; So do not spare her young men; Devote all her army to destruction. 4They will fall down slain in the land of the Chaldeans, And pierced through in their streets.”

Jeremiah 51:1 “Leb-Kamai” This is a construct of “heart” (BDB 524) and the verb “arise” or “stand up” (BDB 877, Qal active participle). It could be translated literally as

1. UBS Text Project - “heart of my adversaries”

2. NKJV (footnote) - “the midst of those who rise up against Me”

3. AB and UBS Handbook - “the heart of those who rise up against Me”

The LXX and most English commentators and translations take it as an Atbash cipher (letters of the alphabet are reversed to make them into a code) for “Kasdim” (i.e., Chaldean referring to Babylon). Another cipher for Babylon is “Sheshach” of Jeremiah 25:26 or “Sheshak” of Jeremiah 51:41. The Apostle John used a similar code mechanism in Revelation 18:0, where “Babylon” refers to Rome.

NASB“that spirit of a destroyer” NKJV, NRSV, TEV, NJB, LXX, REB, JPSOA“a destroying wind”

The Hebrew word ruah (BDB 924) can mean “wind,” “breath,” or “spirit” (see Special Topic: Spirit in the Bible). Only context can determine which is intended by the original author. In this context (i.e., Jeremiah) “wind” fits best (cf. Jeremiah 4:11-12; Jeremiah 13:24; Jeremiah 18:17; Jeremiah 22:22; Jeremiah 49:32, Jeremiah 49:36). Jeremiah 51:11b demands a translation of “spirit.” Context, context, context!

Jeremiah 51:17 demands a translation of “breath.”

Jeremiah 51:2

NASB, TEV “foreigners” NKJV, NRSV, NJB“winnowers” JPSOA“strangers”

The MT has “strangers” (BDB 266 I, cf. Jeremiah 5:19; Jeremiah 30:8; Jeremiah 51:2, Jeremiah 51:51; Lamentations 5:2), but other ancient versions read “winnowers” (BDB 279, cf. Jeremiah 4:11; Jeremiah 15:7; the same root is translated “scatter” in Jeremiah 49:32, Jeremiah 49:26). The UBS Text Project gives “strangers” a “C” rating (considerable doubt).

The LXX translates this term as “spoilers” or “insolent men.”

Jeremiah 51:3 This verse is uncertain. It could be addressing the invaders to charge ahead or it could address the defenders that all their efforts are useless. The invaders are called on

1. not to spare (BDB 328, KB 328, negated Qal imperfect, cf. Jeremiah 51:4)

2. to devote to God (BDB 355, KB 353, Hiphil imperative, i.e., put under the ban, cf. Jeremiah 25:9; Jeremiah 50:21, Jeremiah 50:36)

All of Babylon's defenders are helpless, just as they mercilessly defeated others, so now no mercy to them!

Jeremiah 51:4 “pierce” This verb (BDB 201, KB 230, Pual participle) denotes a badly wounded person (cf. Jeremiah 37:10).

Verses 5-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 51:5-10 5For neither Israel nor Judah has been forsaken By his God, the Lord of hosts, Although their land is full of guilt Before the Holy One of Israel. 6Flee from the midst of Babylon, And each of you save his life! Do not be destroyed in her punishment, For this is the Lord's time of vengeance; He is going to render recompense to her. 7Babylon has been a golden cup in the hand of the Lord, Intoxicating all the earth. The nations have drunk of her wine; Therefore the nations are going mad. 8Suddenly Babylon has fallen and been broken; Wail over her! Bring balm for her pain; Perhaps she may be healed. 9We applied healing to Babylon, but she was not healed; Forsake her and let us each go to his own country, For her judgment has reached to heaven And towers up to the very skies. 10The Lord has brought about our vindication; Come and let us recount in Zion The work of the Lord our God!

Jeremiah 51:5 In light of Jeremiah 33:24-26, this is an important affirmation that YHWH has not permanently rejected the descendants of Abraham, but only temporarily judged them for their sin (cf. Isaiah 54:7-8). They, both Israel and Judah, have now been “widowed” (BDB 48).

Jeremiah 51:6 There is a series of imperatives very similar in meaning to Jeremiah 50:8.

1. flee - BDB 630, KB 681, Qal imperative

2. save - BDB 572, KB 589, Piel imperative

3. do not be destroyed - BDB 198, KB 226, negated Niphal imperfect used in a jussive sense

YHWH commands the Jewish exiles to leave Babylon before His judgment comes! One wonders how exiles could leave before Persia's victory and Cyrus' decree. Possibly they could leave the capital city of Babylon, not the country.

Jeremiah 51:7 Babylon served as YHWH's instrument of judgment). The “cup” was an idiom for judgment (i.e., drunkenness, cf. Jeremiah 25:15; Habakkuk 2:16; Revelation 14:8, see note at Jeremiah 49:12).

“the nations are going mad” This verb (BDB 237, KB 248, Hithpoel imperfect) is also used in Jeremiah 25:16.

Jeremiah 51:8 This is sarcasm addressed to Babylon's subservient nations.

1. wail over her - BDB 410, KB 413, Hiphil imperative

2. bring balm for her pain - BDB 542, KB 534, Qal imperative

Jeremiah 51:9 All the efforts of the subservient nations are to no avail. Therefore,

1. forsake her - BDB 736, KB 806, Qal imperative

2. let us each go to his own country - BDB 229, KB 246, Qal imperfect used in a cohortative sense (cf. Jeremiah 50:16; Isaiah 13:14)

“has reached to heaven. . .up to the very skies” Poetry is difficult to interpret because of its brevity and imagery.

These verbs seem to imply that

1. the sins of Babylon have come to YHWH's notice

2. YHWH's judgment of Babylon is so extensive that it symbolically reaches to the heavens

Jeremiah 51:10 As Jeremiah 51:5 promised YHWH's forgiveness and restoration, Jeremiah 51:10 demands that the covenant people share His victory in Zion.

1. come - BDB 97, KB 112, Qal imperfect

2. let us recount - BDB 707, KB 765, Piel cohortative, cf. Jeremiah 50:28; Isaiah 40:2

a. in Zion

b. the work of YHWH

Verses 11-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 51:11-14 11Sharpen the arrows, fill the quivers! The Lord has aroused the spirit of the kings of the Medes, Because His purpose is against Babylon to destroy it; For it is the vengeance of the Lord, vengeance for His temple. 12Lift up a signal against the walls of Babylon; Post a strong guard, Station sentries, Place men in ambush! For the Lord has both purposed and performed What He spoke concerning the inhabitants of Babylon. 13O you who dwell by many waters, Abundant in treasures, Your end has come, The measure of your end. 14The Lord of hosts has sworn by Himself: “Surely I will fill you with a population like locusts, And they will cry out with shouts of victory over you.”

Jeremiah 51:11-14 This poem addresses the invading army. TEV attributes the commands to the Persian army officers.

1. sharpen the arrows, Jeremiah 51:11 - BDB 140, KB 162, Hiphil imperative

2. fill the quivers, Jeremiah 51:11 - BDB 569, KB 583, Qal imperative

3. lift up a signal, Jeremiah 51:12 - BDB 669, KB 724, Qal imperative

4. post a strong guard, Jeremiah 51:12 - BDB 304, KB 302,, Hiphil imperative

5. station sentries, Jeremiah 51:12 - BDB 877, KB 1086, Hiphil imperative

6. place men in ambush, Jeremiah 51:12 - BDB 465, KB 464, Hiphil imperative

However, #3-#6 could refer, in sarcasm, to the ineffective Babylonian defenders (cf. Jeremiah 51:13). The reason they are ineffective is because YHWH is against them (cf. Jeremiah 51:12e-f, 14).

Jeremiah 51:11

NASB, NRSV, NJB, JPSOA, REB“fill the quivers” NKJV“gather the shields” TEV“get your shields ready”

The MT has “fill the shields” (BDB 1020), but KB (1522-23) shows that this root was used in the Dead Sea Scrolls for “quiver.” There is an Akkadian root with the same meaning. “Quiver” fits this context best in linking with

1. the previous line of poetry

2. the verb “fill”

The word “shields” in the Dead Sea Scrolls could refer to a throwing (i.e., spear), slinging, or shooting (i.e., arrow) weapon.

“the kings of the Medes” The invader from the north is now identified (i.e., Medo-Persia under King Cyrus II, “Cyrus the Great”). The MT has “kings” (plural) but the LXX has the singular. Cyrus' empire was made up of several small nations, or it may be the Hebrew grammatical feature called the “plural of majesty,” denoting Cyrus' greatness.

Jeremiah 51:11d This last line of poetry repeats the message of Jeremiah 50:28. Babylon will be destroyed with its magnificent pagan temples, as they destroyed YHWH's temple (i.e., 586 B.C.).

Jeremiah 51:13 “you who dwell by many waters” This phrase refers to the southern part of Babylon which was made up of marshes formed at the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

“measure” This is literally “cubit” (BDB 52 II, see Special Topic at Jeremiah 13:12). The phrase, line 4, refers to the thread being cut from a loom. Here it is an idiom for death (cf. Job 6:9; Isaiah 38:12).

Jeremiah 51:14 “the Lord of hosts has sworn by Himself” This concept goes back to Genesis 22:16 and Jeremiah 26:3. There is no one or no power greater than YHWH, so to swear (BDB 989, KB 1396, Niphal PERFECT) by Him is the ultimate oath. This same imagery is used in Jeremiah 22:5; Jeremiah 44:26; Jeremiah 49:13 and Isaiah 14:24; Isaiah 45:23; Isaiah 62:8. The thing YHWH purposes (cf. Jeremiah 51:12e) He will perform (cf. Jeremiah 51:12e)!

Verses 15-23

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 51:15-23 15It is He who made the earth by His power, Who established the world by His wisdom, And by His understanding He stretched out the heavens. 16When He utters His voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, And He causes the clouds to ascend from the end of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain And brings forth the wind from His storehouses. 17All mankind is stupid, devoid of knowledge; Every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols, For his molten images are deceitful, And there is no breath in them. 18They are worthless, a work of mockery; In the time of their punishment they will perish. 19The portion of Jacob is not like these; For the Maker of all is He, And of the tribe of His inheritance; The Lord of hosts is His name. 20He says, “You are My war-club, My weapon of war; And with you I shatter nations, And with you I destroy kingdoms. 21With you I shatter the horse and his rider, And with you I shatter the chariot and its rider, 22And with you I shatter man and woman, And with you I shatter old man and youth, And with you I shatter young man and virgin, 23And with you I shatter the shepherd and his flock, And with you I shatter the farmer and his team, And with you I shatter governors and prefects.”

Jeremiah 51:15-23 The NASB sees this as one literary unit but most other English translations see Jeremiah 51:15-19 and Jeremiah 51:20-23 as separate. There is no textual marker to ensure the division of ancient texts into literary units. However, the task is primary in interpretation. This is where checking several modern versions can be helpful (see the paragraph divisions on the first page of each chapter).

Jeremiah 51:15-19 This is a comparison of YHWH, the God who knows and acts, with the idols who are blind, dumb, uninformed, and cannot act!

Notice the attributes of YHWH listed.

1. creator, Jeremiah 51:15

2. provider, Jeremiah 51:16

3. covenant God of Jacob, Jeremiah 51:19

Notice the characterization of the idols.

1. made by mankind, Jeremiah 51:17

2. worthless to help, even provide false hope, Jeremiah 51:18

This strophe is paralleled in Jeremiah 10:12-16. These truths were a recurrent theme of YHWH's reality versus the idols of the nations' non-existence.

Jeremiah 51:17 “there is no breath in them” This same phrase describing the lifeless idols is in Jeremiah 10:14. The word “breath” is ruah, translated “spirit” in Jeremiah 51:1, Jeremiah 51:11. See Special Topic: Spirit in the Bible. The prophets regularly “make fun of” and ridicule the non-existence of pagan idols (i.e., Isaiah 40:18-20; Isaiah 41:6-7; Isaiah 44:9-11, Isaiah 44:12-17; Isaiah 46:5-7). They “cannot”; YHWH can and does!

Jeremiah 51:20-23 The only true God (see Special Topic: Monotheism) will bring judgment on Babylon by His chosen instrument (i.e., war-club, lit. “hammer,” BDB 659), Persia and Cyrus II, who are named by a specific prophecy in Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1.

1. shatter nations

destroy kingdoms

2. shatter horse and its rider

shatter chariot and its rider

3. shatter man

shatter woman

4. shatter old men

shatter youth

5. shatter young men

shatter virgins

6. shatter the shepherd

shatter his flock

7. shatter the farmer

shatter his team

8. shatter governors

shatter prefects

All levels of society will be “shattered” (BDB 658, KB 711, nine Piel perfects).

Verses 24-26

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 51:24-26 24”But I will repay Babylon and all the inhabitants of Chaldea for all their evil that they have done in Zion before your eyes,” declares the Lord. 25”Behold, I am against you, O destroying mountain, Who destroys the whole earth,” declares the Lord, “And I will stretch out My hand against you, And roll you down from the crags, And I will make you a burnt out mountain. 26They will not take from you even a stone for a corner Nor a stone for foundations, But you will be desolate forever,” declares the Lord.

Jeremiah 51:24-26 This poem (Jeremiah 51:25-26) describes the destruction of Babylon (“O destroying mountain”) in highly figurative language. The book that has helped me understand this genre is by D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic.

It is possible that this imagery relates to the Babylonian sky gods who were worshiped on the tops of ziggurats (i.e., the tower of Babel, Genesis 11:0). These manmade mud brick structures dominated the flat river plains of Babylon's chief cities. Each one had their own god and tower. The great ziggurat of Marduk was in the city of Babylon.

The violent and complete destruction of the city of Babylon did not occur in 539 B.C., when the city was taken without a fight and with minimal destruction, by the Persian army. However, it did occur later in history (i.e., by Xerxes I in 482 B.C.).

Jeremiah 51:25 “O destroying mountain” This imagery is uncertain. It is obviously figurative language referring to Babylon as a military victor. But why “mountain”?

1. the home of the gods (i.e., divine empowerment, i.e., Isaiah 14:13)

2. the God of Mt. Moriah (i.e., the Jewish temple, i.e. Isaiah 2:2-3)

3. the military advantage of “higher ground”

4. the awesome physical sites of mountains and their strength

5. root of the mountains as the entrance to the underworld

6. imagery used of a mountain where pagan altars were located (cf. 2 Kings 23:13)

This destroying mountain will be destroyed (i.e., fire, see Special Topic: Fire) by YHWH. He sends and uses Babylon but also holds them responsible!

Jeremiah 51:26 This is imagery of a complete and lasting destruction (cf. Jeremiah 50:13). Usually in the ANE the sites of major cities were advantageous sites (i.e., water, protection, fertility), so destroyed cities were quickly rebuilt, often using the building material lying around. This verse prophesies no habitation. Note the ruins of Babylon today!

Verses 27-32

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 51:27-32 27Lift up a signal in the land, Blow a trumpet among the nations! Consecrate the nations against her, Summon against her the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni and Ashkenaz; Appoint a marshal against her, Bring up the horses like bristly locusts. 28Consecrate the nations against her, The kings of the Medes, Their governors and all their prefects, And every land of their dominion. 29So the land quakes and writhes, For the purposes of the Lord against Babylon stand, To make the land of Babylon A desolation without inhabitants. 30The mighty men of Babylon have ceased fighting, They stay in the strongholds; Their strength is exhausted, They are becoming like women; Their dwelling places are set on fire, The bars of her gates are broken. 31One courier runs to meet another, And one messenger to meet another, To tell the king of Babylon That his city has been captured from end to end; 32The fords also have been seized, And they have burned the marshes with fire, And the men of war are terrified.

Jeremiah 51:27-32 YHWH calls on the Persian Empire to take up arms against Babylon in a series of imperatives.

1. lift up a signal - BDB 669, KB 724, Qal imperative, cf. Jeremiah 51:12; Jeremiah 50:2; Isaiah 5:26; Isaiah 13:2

2. blow a trumpet - BDB 1075, KB 1785, Qal imperative

3. consecrate the nations - BDB 872, KB 1073, Piel imperative

4. summon. . .kingdoms - BDB 1033, KB 1570, Hiphil imperative

5. appoint a marshal - BDB 823, KB 955, Qal imperative, cf. Jeremiah 49:19; Jeremiah 50:44

6. bring up horses - BDB 748, KB 828, Hiphil imperative

7. in Jeremiah 51:28a #3 is repeated

Jeremiah 51:27 “Ararat” This nation is located around Lake Van. Today its territory is in Armenia, Russia, and Iran. It was known as Urartu by the Assyrians. This ethnic group participated in the Persian attack on Babylon.

“Minni” This refers to the people group south of Lake Van. They were later known as Scythians but at this time as “Mannaeans.”

“Ashkenaz” This group of people is mentioned in Genesis 10:3; 1 Chronicles 1:6, living east of Lake Urmia. They are also part of what later became the Scythians.

Jeremiah 51:30 This is ANE imagery of dis-spirited soldiers.

1. they have ceased fighting

2. they stay in the stronghold

3. their strength is exhausted

4. they are like women

Their fortifications are breached.

1. set on fire

2. gate bars broken

Jeremiah 51:31-32 This is a message to be delivered to the king of Babylon by the city's defenders.

1. the city is captured

2. fords seized

3. marshes burned

4. soldiers terrified

There was no way to escape!

Verse 33

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 51:33 33For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “The daughter of Babylon is like a threshing floor At the time it is stamped firm; Yet in a little while the time of harvest will come for her.”

Jeremiah 51:33 It is uncertain if this should be a separate literary unit or part of Jeremiah 51:27-32. The speaker of Jeremiah 51:20-32 is YHWH, so too, here. Babylon's fate is set. Her doom is sure! What she did to others will be done to her.

“threshing” This is often used in judgment imagery (cf. Isaiah 21:10; Isaiah 41:15-16).

Verses 34-40

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 51:34-40 34”Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has devoured me and crushed me, He has set me down like an empty vessel; He has swallowed me like a monster, He has filled his stomach with my delicacies; He has washed me away. 35May the violence done to me and to my flesh be upon Babylon,” The inhabitant of Zion will say; And, “May my blood be upon the inhabitants of Chaldea,” Jerusalem will say. 36Therefore thus says the Lord, “Behold, I am going to plead your case And exact full vengeance for you; And I will dry up her sea And make her fountain dry. 37Babylon will become a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals, An object of horror and hissing, without inhabitants. 38They will roar together like young lions, They will growl like lions' cubs. 39When they become heated up, I will serve them their banquet And make them drunk, that they may become jubilant And may sleep a perpetual sleep And not wake up,” declares the Lord. 40”I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter, Like rams together with male goats.”

Jeremiah 51:34-39 Jerusalem/Judah (Jeremiah 51:35d) is personified as a devastated people (Jeremiah 51:34).

1. Babylon has devoured me - BDB 37, KB 46, Qal perfect

2. Babylon has crushed me - BDB 243, KB 251, Qal perfect

3. Babylon has set me down as an empty vessel - BDB 426, KB 427, Hiphil perfect

4. Babylon has swallowed me like a monster - BDB 118, KB 134, Qal perfect

5. Babylon has filled his stomach with my delicacies - BDB 569, KB 583, Piel perfect

6. Babylon has washed me away - BDB 188, KB 216, Hiphil perfect

Every one of these (except #5) has a Kethiv and Qere form related to plural or singular.

Jeremiah 51:34

NASB“washed me away” NKJV“spit me out” NRSV, REB “spewed me out” TEV“threw the rest away” NJB“threw me out” JPSOA“rinsed me out” LXX omit

The MT has the verb “rinse” or “cleanse away” (BDB 188, KB 216, Hiphil perfect). The verb can refer to

1. ritual washing - 2 Chronicles 4:6; Ezekiel 40:38

2. cleansing - Isaiah 4:4

3. here the context seems to demand a mouth rinse and expulsion of the liquid

The point is Babylon used Jerusalem and then spit her out as useless!

Jeremiah 51:35a This is praying/wishing that what Babylon did to Jerusalem/Judah, others will do to her (cf. Jeremiah 50:15, Jeremiah 50:29). The speaker is personified Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 51:36-40 YHWH describes what He will do to Babylon and for Judah.

1. for Judah

a. plead your case, Jeremiah 50:34; Jeremiah 51:36 (i.e., act as your advocate)

b. exact full vengeance on her behalf

2. to Babylon

a. dry up her sea (i.e., commerce)

b. become a heap of ruins

c. become a haunt of jackals, cf. Jeremiah 49:33

d. become an object of horror

e. become an object of hissing

f. make them the food of a banquet

g. make then drunk (lit. “rejoice”), cf. Jeremiah 51:57

h. make them sleep forever

i. make them sacrificial animals

Jeremiah 51:38-39 The context demands that this refers to Babylon. They are enjoying their spoils in Jeremiah 51:38. However, their victories make them vulnerable to excess (drunkenness), which leads to destruction and death (Jeremiah 51:39, lines 3 & 4, Jeremiah 51:40).

In Jeremiah 51:40 the Babylonians are like animals being led to slaughter. They cannot defend themselves. As they treated others, now they will receive!

Verses 41-44

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 51:41-44 41”How Sheshak has been captured, And the praise of the whole earth been seized! How Babylon has become an object of horror among the nations! 42The sea has come up over Babylon; She has been engulfed with its tumultuous waves. 43Her cities have become an object of horror, A parched land and a desert, A land in which no man lives And through which no son of man passes. 44I will punish Bel in Babylon, And I will make what he has swallowed come out of his mouth; And the nations will no longer stream to him. Even the wall of Babylon has fallen down!”

Jeremiah 51:41-44 Another poem of YHWH's judgment on Babylon (there are several separate poems in this chapter brought together by topic). Most of the verbs are prophetic perfects, describing future events as completed actions.

Jeremiah 51:41 “Sheshak” See note at Jeremiah 25:26. This is another atbash cipher.

Jeremiah 51:42 Babylon was a country of rivers, canals, and marshes (cf. Jeremiah 51:13a); her waterways are disrupted as an idiom of divine judgment (cf. Jeremiah 51:36). YHWH, the creator God, controls the waters (cf. Jeremiah 5:22; Jeremiah 31:35). The nation of “waters” will be dry (Jeremiah 51:43b).

Jeremiah 51:44 “Bel” See note at Jeremiah 50:2.

“what he has swallowed” This is the imagery of eating used to describe conquest. As Babylon “ate” Jerusalem in Jeremiah 51:34, then spit her out, so too, now Babylon. Her deities must regurgitate!

“even the wall of Babylon has fallen down” This prophecy of complete destruction of the city of Babylon (cf. Jeremiah 50:15; Jeremiah 51:58) is a hyperbolic description of Persia's defeat, but literal for future events. See note on the genre of prophecy at Jeremiah 51:24-26.

Verses 45-48

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 51:45-48 45”Come forth from her midst, My people, And each of you save yourselves From the fierce anger of the Lord. 46Now so that your heart does not grow faint, And you are not afraid at the report that will be heard in the land- For the report will come one year, And after that another report in another year, And violence will be in the land With ruler against ruler- 47Therefore behold, days are coming When I will punish the idols of Babylon; And her whole land will be put to shame And all her slain will fall in her midst. 48Then heaven and earth and all that is in them Will shout for joy over Babylon, For the destroyers will come to her from the north,” Declares the Lord.

Jeremiah 51:45-48 This is another poem with two emphases.

1. YHWH calls for His people to leave the city of Babylon before His judgment comes (cf. Jeremiah 50:8; Jeremiah 51:6)

2. YHWH will punish Babylon

Jeremiah 51:46 This may relate to Jeremiah 50:28. There are two reports circulating.

1. Judah/Israel's restoration (cf. Isaiah 48:20)

2. Babylon's fall

“lest your heart grow faint” The faith challenge to God's people is “do not fear, do not lose heart,” because I am with you; I am in control (cf. Deuteronomy 3:22; Deuteronomy 7:18; Deuteronomy 20:3; Deuteronomy 31:6, Deuteronomy 31:8; Joshua 1:6, Joshua 1:7, Joshua 1:9; Isaiah 43:5; Jeremiah 46:27, Jeremiah 46:28). This same admonition is for the people of faith today!

The Jerome Biblical Commentary (p. 336) and NASB Study Bible (p. 1142) assert that this verse is reflected in Jesus' eschatological discourse of Matthew 24:6ff.

Jeremiah 51:48 “heaven and earth” These are the two ancient witnesses (cf. Isaiah 44:23; Isaiah 49:13). They summarize all creation (cf. Genesis 1:1). “Heaven” refers to the atmosphere above the earth. See Special Topic: Heaven.

“from the north” See notes at Jeremiah 50:3, Jeremiah 50:9, Jeremiah 50:41, which build on Jeremiah 1:13-15.

Verses 49-51

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 51:49-51 49Indeed Babylon is to fall for the slain of Israel, As also for Babylon the slain of all the earth have fallen. 50You who have escaped the sword, Depart! Do not stay! Remember the Lord from afar, And let Jerusalem come to your mind. 51We are ashamed because we have heard reproach; Disgrace has covered our faces, For aliens have entered The holy places of the Lord's house.

Jeremiah 51:49-51 This poem is addressed to the remnant (see Special Topic at Jeremiah 5:10-13) of the exiles who returned to Judah under Cyrus' decree in 538 B.C. I believe Jeremiah 51:52-53 should go with Jeremiah 51:49-51.

Jeremiah 51:49 Notice Babylon is reaping the judgment of YHWH because of its treatment of the covenant people (i.e., their treatment of the temple, cf. Jeremiah 51:51; Jeremiah 50:28c; Lamentations 1:10; Lamentations 2:6-7). The irony is that it was YHWH who sent Babylon but still she is responsible for her actions. See Special Topic at Jeremiah 18:8.

There is another way to interpret this phrase. It is possible to make it parallel to Jeremiah 51:47. If so, it is not just “for the slain of Israel,” but for all the slain of all the nations.

Jeremiah 51:50 YHWH commands His exiled people in Babylon to think of Jerusalem/temple and leave their captivity.

1. depart - BDB 229, KB 246, Qal imperative

2. do not stay - BDB 763, KB 840, negated Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

3. remember the Lord from afar - BDB 269, KB 269, Qal imperative

4. let Jerusalem come to your mind - BDB 748, KB 828, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

The exiles of Nebuchadnezzar's previous deportations (i.e., 605, 597 B.C.) heard of the atrocities that occurred in 586 B.C. with the fall and destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (cf. Jeremiah 51:51), but they are encouraged now to remember YHWH!

The vast majority of exiled Jews did not return under the leadership of Sheshbazzar, Zerubbabel/Joshua, Ezra, and Nehemiah in the Persian period.

Verses 52-53

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 51:52-53 52”Therefore behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “When I will punish her idols, And the mortally wounded will groan throughout her land. 53Though Babylon should ascend to the heavens, And though she should fortify her lofty stronghold, From Me destroyers will come to her,” declares the Lord.

Jeremiah 51:53 The imagery of geographical high places which was used of Edom does not fit Babylon, which was located mostly in the Tigris/Euphrates River valley and plain. It is imagery which may reflect her trust in the gods of the sky who they worshiped from their manmade towers, ziggurats (possibly related to Genesis 11:0, “the Tower of Babel”).

Verses 54-58

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 51:54-58 54The sound of an outcry from Babylon, And of great destruction from the land of the Chaldeans! 55For the Lord is going to destroy Babylon, And He will make her loud noise vanish from her. And their waves will roar like many waters; The tumult of their voices sounds forth. 56For the destroyer is coming against her, against Babylon, And her mighty men will be captured, Their bows are shattered; For the Lord is a God of recompense, He will fully repay. 57”I will make her princes and her wise men drunk, Her governors, her prefects and her mighty men, That they may sleep a perpetual sleep and not wake up,” Declares the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts. 58Thus says the Lord of hosts, “The broad wall of Babylon will be completely razed And her high gates will be set on fire; So the peoples will toil for nothing, And the nations become exhausted only for fire.”

Jeremiah 51:54-58 This is another in a series of poetic prophecies about the fall of Babylon.

Jeremiah 51:54 There are no verbals in Jeremiah 51:54, just stark nouns.

1. hark - BDB 876

2. cry - BDB 277

3. great destruction - adjective, BDB 152 and noun, BDB 991

Jeremiah 51:56 “a God of recompense” This characterization of YHWH as One who holds humans accountable for their actions is a recurrent theme (cf. Jeremiah 51:6; Isaiah 35:4; Isaiah 59:18 [twice]; Isaiah 66:6; Lamentations 3:64). For a full list of all the places in Scripture where this truth is revealed, see the note at Jeremiah 17:10.

“He will fully repay” This is an intensified grammatical form. The infinitive absolute and imperfect verb of the same root (BDB 1022, KB 1532) are used.

Jeremiah 51:58 “will be completely razed” As Jeremiah 51:56 had an intensified grammatical form, so too, here (i.e., infinitive absolute and imperfect verb of the same root).

This purposeful hyperbole is a common feature of prophetic and apocalyptic literature (see D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks). It was not meant to be taken in a modern, western literalism. In fact, Cyrus did not destroy the walls of the city of Babylon. The amazingly huge, thick double walls of Babylon (cf. Herodotus 1.178ff) were destroyed by Xerxes I in 482 B.C.

Verses 59-64

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Jeremiah 51:59-64 59The message which Jeremiah the prophet commanded Seraiah the son of Neriah, the grandson of Mahseiah, when he went with Zedekiah the king of Judah to Babylon in the fourth year of his reign. (Now Seraiah was quartermaster.) 60So Jeremiah wrote in a single scroll all the calamity which would come upon Babylon, that is, all these words which have been written concerning Babylon. 61Then Jeremiah said to Seraiah, “As soon as you come to Babylon, then see that you read all these words aloud, 62and say, 'You, O Lord, have promised concerning this place to cut it off, so that there will be nothing dwelling in it, whether man or beast, but it will be a perpetual desolation.' 63And as soon as you finish reading this scroll, you will tie a stone to it and throw it into the middle of the Euphrates, 64and say, 'Just so shall Babylon sink down and not rise again because of the calamity that I am going to bring upon her; and they will become exhausted.'“ Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 51:59-64 This is a concluding prose section relating a message sent by Jeremiah by the hand of Seraiah (possibly Baruch's brother, cf. Jeremiah 32:12) to the exiles already in Babylon (i.e., 605, 597 B.C.).

When the visit occurred in 594/3 B.C. (Zedekiah began to reign in 597 B.C., see Special Topic: Kings of the Divided Monarchy. This is the only mention of this visit in the Bible. Possibly it was when Zedekiah tried to convince Nebuchadnezzar of his loyalty and denial of any duplicity in the alliances/revolts of the far western nations.

Jeremiah 51:63 This was done for one of two reasons (or maybe both).

1. as a symbol of Babylon's destruction

2. as a way to protect the message from causing a reaction from the Babylonian captors (i.e., note the ciphers of Jeremiah 25:26; Jeremiah 51:1, Jeremiah 51:41).

One wonders how much of Jeremiah 50-51 was included on that scroll. It seems that many poems from different periods of Jeremiah's life were brought together by topic in these two chapters.

Also note the cultural emphasis on oral presentation versus written. The ANE was made up of oral societies (for the most part).

Jeremiah 51:64

MT, NASB, NKJV, NRSV“Thus far are the words of Jeremiah” TEV“The words of Jeremiah end here” REB“Thus far are the collected sayings of Jeremiah” LXX, JPSOA - omit -

There is no verb. Many scholars believe this is an editorial comment to separate chapter 52 (destruction of Jerusalem, cf. 2 Kings 24:10-30) from Jeremiah's writings. The faith presupposition of “inspiration” must cover the editing and compiling of OT books (see Special Topic: Inspiration and Special Topic: Illumination).

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Jeremiah 51". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/jeremiah-51.html. 2021.
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