Jeremiah 51 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Jeremiah 51)

Verse 5

[5] For Israel hath not been forsaken, nor Judah of his God, of the LORD of hosts; though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel.

Forsaken — Not utterly forsaken.

Verse 6

[6] Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in her iniquity; for this is the time of the LORD's vengeance; he will render unto her a recompence.

Soul — By soul is meant life, and by iniquity the punishment of the Babylonian's iniquity.

Verse 7

[7] Babylon hath been a golden cup in the LORD's hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad.

Drunken — She had made all the nations about her drunken with the Lord's fury.

Mad — Through the misery they felt from her.

Verse 9

[9] We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed: forsake her, and let us go every one into his own country: for her judgment reacheth unto heaven, and is lifted up even to the skies.

We — The prophet seems to personate the mercenary soldiers, saying, they would have helped Babylon, but there was no healing for her.

Verse 10

[10] The LORD hath brought forth our righteousness: come, and let us declare in Zion the work of the LORD our God.

Some — These words are spoken in the person of the Jews, owning the destruction of Babylon to be the mighty work of God, and an act of justice, revenging the wrongs of his people.

Verse 12

[12] Set up the standard upon the walls of Babylon, make the watch strong, set up the watchmen, prepare the ambushes: for the LORD hath both devised and done that which he spake against the inhabitants of Babylon.

Set up — These seem to be the prophet's words to the Babylonians, rousing them out of their security. Historians tell us that the city was fortified by walls of fifty cubits high, and two hundred cubits broad, and by a very deep and large ditch.

Verse 13

[13] O thou that dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures, thine end is come, and the measure of thy covetousness.

Waters — Babylon is said to dwell upon many waters, because the great river Euphrates, did not only run by it, but almost encompass it branching itself into many smaller rivers, which made several parts of the city, islands.

Verse 23

[23] I will also break in pieces with thee the shepherd and his flock; and with thee will I break in pieces the husbandman and his yoke of oxen; and with thee will I break in pieces captains and rulers.

Break in pieces — The sense of all these three verses is the same; that God had made use, and was still making use of the Babylonians to destroy many nations, to spoil much people, wasting their goods, routing their armies, killing all sorts of their inhabitants.

Verse 25

[25] Behold, I am against thee, O destroying mountain, saith the LORD, which destroyest all the earth: and I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and roll thee down from the rocks, and will make thee a burnt mountain.

Mountain — Babylon was very high for its power, and greatness, and had very high walls and towers, that it looked at a distance like an high rocky mountain. They had destroyed many people.

Burnt — Thy cities and towers which appear like a mountain shall be burnt.

Verse 27

[27] Set ye up a standard in the land, blow the trumpet among the nations, prepare the nations against her, call together against her the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Ashchenaz; appoint a captain against her; cause the horses to come up as the rough caterpillers.

As caterpillars — The Median horses are compared to their insects, either with respect to their numbers, or in regard of the terror caused by them when they came, being a great plague to the places which they infected.

Verse 29

[29] And the land shall tremble and sorrow: for every purpose of the LORD shall be performed against Babylon, to make the land of Babylon a desolation without an inhabitant.

The land — Babylon, or the land of Chaldea.

Verse 31

[31] One post shall run to meet another, and one messenger to meet another, to shew the king of Babylon that his city is taken at one end,

At one end — Cyrus entered the city at one end, by the channel of the river, which he had drained, and surprized Belshazzar in the midst of his feast.

Verse 32

[32] And that the passages are stopped, and the reeds they have burned with fire, and the men of war are affrighted.

The passages — The passages over the river Euphrates, and all the other passages by which the Babylonians might make their escape, were guarded with soldiers.

Reeds — On the border of the river Euphrates were vast quantities of great and tall reeds, which with the mud in which they stood, were as another wall to the city; but the Medes had burnt them so as the way was open.

Verse 33

[33] For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; The daughter of Babylon is like a threshingfloor, it is time to thresh her: yet a little while, and the time of her harvest shall come.

Threshing floor — Babylon had been a threshing instrument, by which, and a threshing-floor in which God had threshed many other nations; God now intended to make it as a threshing-floor wherein he would thresh the Chaldeans.

Tread her — So they used to prepare their threshing-floors against the time of harvest.

The time — The harvest which the justice of God would have from the ruin of the Chaldeans.

Verse 34

[34] Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon hath devoured me, he hath crushed me, he hath made me an empty vessel, he hath swallowed me up like a dragon, he hath filled his belly with my delicates, he hath cast me out.

Me — The prophet speaks this in the name of the Jews.

Cast me out — As beasts of prey eat what they please of other beasts they have preyed upon, and leave the rest in the field.

Verse 36

[36] Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will plead thy cause, and take vengeance for thee; and I will dry up her sea, and make her springs dry.

Dry up — Alluding to what Cyrus did.

Verse 38

[38] They shall roar together like lions: they shall yell as lions' whelps.

They — The Babylonians, upon the taking of their city.

Verse 39

[39] In their heat I will make their feasts, and I will make them drunken, that they may rejoice, and sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the LORD.

Heat — When they shall grow hot with wine, I will make them a feast of another nature. Interpreters judge that Belshazzar, Daniel 5:1, made a feast to a thousand of his Lords, when he and his wives, and concubines, drank wine in the vessels belonging to the temple, during which feast the city was taken.

And not awake — While they were merry with their wine, they fell into a sleep which they never awoke out of.

Verse 41

[41] How is Sheshach taken! and how is the praise of the whole earth surprised! how is Babylon become an astonishment among the nations!

Sheshach — A name given to the city of Babylon.

Verse 42

[42] The sea is come up upon Babylon: she is covered with the multitude of the waves thereof.

The sea — A multitude of enemies.

Verse 44

[44] And I will punish Bel in Babylon, and I will bring forth out of his mouth that which he hath swallowed up: and the nations shall not flow together any more unto him: yea, the wall of Babylon shall fall.

Bel — Bel was the principal Babylonian idol.

Bring forth — All the vessels of the temple, 2 Chronicles 36:7, and whatever gifts the Babylonians had presented to him.

The wall — And the city of Babylon shall be also ruined.

Verse 45

[45] My people, go ye out of the midst of her, and deliver ye every man his soul from the fierce anger of the LORD.

Go out of her — At all hazards escape for your lives.

Verse 48

[48] Then the heaven and the earth, and all that is therein, shall sing for Babylon: for the spoilers shall come unto her from the north, saith the LORD.

Then — All the creatures in heaven and earth shall rejoice at the vengeance which God shall take upon Babylon.

Verse 49

[49] As Babylon hath caused the slain of Israel to fall, so at Babylon shall fall the slain of all the earth.

Of all the earth — This term must be understood in a restrained sense; the Chaldeans coming up from all parts of Chaldea to help Babylon, were slain there, as by the means of Babylon the Israelites were slain that came from all parts of Judea to help Jerusalem.

Verse 50

[50] Ye that have escaped the sword, go away, stand not still: remember the LORD afar off, and let Jerusalem come into your mind.

Ye — Ye Jews, leave Babylon as soon as liberty is proclaimed.

Remember — And remember in Judea the great things both of justice and mercy which God hath done.

Verse 51

[51] We are confounded, because we have heard reproach: shame hath covered our faces: for strangers are come into the sanctuaries of the LORD's house.

We — We Jews are ashamed to hear the enemies reproaching us, for our God, or for our religion.

Strangers — Pagans that were strangers to the commonwealth of Israel, are come, not to worship, but to plunder, the sanctuaries of the Lord; even into the courts of the priests and of the Israelites; yea, into the most holy place.

Verse 52

[52] Wherefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will do judgment upon her graven images: and through all her land the wounded shall groan.

Wherefore — For this profanation of my holy place, I will be revenged not only upon their idols, but upon the worshippers of them, and cause a groaning of wounded men over all the country of the Chaldeans.

Verse 55

[55] Because the LORD hath spoiled Babylon, and destroyed out of her the great voice; when her waves do roar like great waters, a noise of their voice is uttered:

The great voice — The noises caused from multitudes of people walking up and trafficking together.

A noise — The noise of her enemies that shall break in upon her shall be like the roaring of the sea.

Verse 56

[56] Because the spoiler is come upon her, even upon Babylon, and her mighty men are taken, every one of their bows is broken: for the LORD God of recompences shall surely requite.

Because — Little more is said here than was before, only the words hint the taking of Babylon by a surprize when the king, and the inhabitants were not aware of it, which we had before also told us, verse 39,40.

Requite — The wrongs done to his people.

Verse 57

[57] And I will make drunk her princes, and her wise men, her captains, and her rulers, and her mighty men: and they shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts.

Drunk — A plain allusion to the posture the king of Babylon, and the thousand of his lords were in, when their city was taken while they were drinking wine in the bowls that were brought from the temple at Jerusalem.

Verse 58

[58] Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken, and her high gates shall be burned with fire; and the people shall labour in vain, and the folk in the fire, and they shall be weary.

Weary — Though the people should labour to quench this fire, or to rebuild this city, yet it would be all lost labour.

Verse 59

[59] The word which Jeremiah the prophet commanded Seraiah the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah, when he went with Zedekiah the king of Judah into Babylon in the fourth year of his reign. And this Seraiah was a quiet prince.

In the fourth year — This circumstance lets us know that this prophecy was many years before Babylon was destroyed; for it was seven years before Jerusalem was taken; so as it must be above sixty years before it was fulfilled in the first degree.

Verse 61

[61] And Jeremiah said to Seraiah, When thou comest to Babylon, and shalt see, and shalt read all these words;

Shalt read — Probably to the Jews, that were in Babylon.

Verse 62

[62] Then shalt thou say, O LORD, thou hast spoken against this place, to cut it off, that none shall remain in it, neither man nor beast, but that it shall be desolate for ever.

Shalt say — Thou shalt testify that thou believest what thou hast read.

Verse 64

[64] And thou shalt say, Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her: and they shall be weary. Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.

Weary — With that weight of judgment which shall be upon them.

The words — The prophetical words of Jeremiah; for the matter of the next chapter is historical, and the book of Lamentations is not prophetical.