And that the passages are stopped, and the reeds they have burned with fire, and the men of war are affrighted.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)That the passages are stopped.—These were probably the ferries across the Euphrates, by which one part of the city was in communication with the other. These were at the ends of the streets that ran at right angles to the river, and gates—left open in the panic of surprise—led down to them. Besides these there was one bridge over the Euphrates in the middle and a tunnel under it (Herod. i. 186). The word is elsewhere used for fords, as in Genesis 32:22; Judges 3:28, but cannot have that meaning here, as the Euphrates was not fordable at Babylon.
The reeds they have burned with fire.—The word for “reeds” is elsewhere (Isaiah 14:23; Isaiah 41:18; Exodus 7:19; Exodus 8:5) translated “pool.” Here it probably refers to the great pool constructed by Nitocris as a reservoir or dock. This was probably left dry by the diversion of the river into another channel, and the reeds which grew in it, perhaps also the flood-gates of the canals, and the ships that were in dock, were burnt by the Persians. The very pools were the scene of a conflagration.Daniel 5:1 note.
reeds … burned—literally, "the marsh." After draining off the river, Cyrus "burned" the stockade of dense tree-like "reeds" on its banks, forming the outworks of the city's fortifications. The burning of these would give the appearance of the marsh or river itself being on "fire."
reeds signifies also standing pools of water, and that some judge the sense, the water is drained out of the pits or pools, so as it could not hinder the entrance of the enemies: those that adhere to the translation of it reeds, say that upon the borders 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 up them, so as the way was open to the walls; and the men of war, seeing these reeds burnt up, and the water drained from them, were affrighted, so as their hearts through fear failed them.
and the reeds they have burnt with fire; which grew upon the banks of the river, and in the marshes adjoining to it. Some render it, "the marshes" (q); that is, the reeds and bulrushes in them, which usually grow in such places. And Herodotus (r) makes mention of a marsh Cyrus came to; the reeds in it he burnt, having many torches, with which he might set fire to them; as he proposed with them to burn the houses, doors, and porches (s); either to make way for his army, which might hinder the march of it; or to give light, that they might see their way into the city the better: though some think it was to terrify the inhabitants; which seems not so likely, since he marched up to the royal palace with great secrecy. This circumstance is mentioned, to show the certainty of the enemy's entrance, and the taking of part of the city. R. Jonah, from the Arabic language, in which the word (t) here used signifies "fortresses", so renders it here;
and the men of war are affrighted; and so fled, and left the passes, towers, and fortresses, which fell into the hands of Cyrus, as soon as they perceived his army was come up the channel and was landed, and the reeds were burnt.
(o) "praeoccupata", V. L. "comprehensa", Montanus; "occupati", Tigurine version, Schmidt. (p) L. 1. sive Clio, c. 191. (q) "paludes", V. L. Syr. Grotius; "stagna", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Schmidt. (r) L. 1. sive Clio, c. 191. (s) Xenophon, Cyropaedia, l. 7. c. 22. (t) "arundinetum feris et hinc munimentum, castellum", Camus apud Golium, Colossians 33. "castellum, munimentum viarum, arces", Castel. Lex. Colossians 29.And that the passages are stopped, and the reeds they have burned with fire, and the men of war are affrighted.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)32. passages] mg. fords, but perhaps we should take it as meaning here ferries over the Euphrates.
reeds] mg. marshes, Heb. pools. The sense is either that the great reed beds which served as defences are burned, or (by a violent hyperbole) that the pools which protected the city are dried up. Perhaps the text is corrupt. If so, “palaces,” “defences,” “barricades” are suggested as emendations.Verse 32. - And that the passages are stopped; rather, are seized (as Jeremiah 48:41). Babylon, it should be remembered, was divided nearly in half by the Euphrates. It was guarded, says Professor Rawlinson, "by two walls of brick, which skirted them along their whole length. In each of these walls were twenty-five gates, corresponding to the number of the streets which gave upon the river; and outside each gate was a sloped landing place, by which you could descend to the water's edge, if you had occasion to cross the river. Boats were kept ready at these landing places to convey passengers from side to side; while for those who disliked this method of conveyance, a bridge was provided of a somewhat peculiar construction" ('Ancient Monarchies,' 2:514). The reeds they have burned with fire. This rendering is no doubt tenable, though it gives an unusual meaning to the first noun. The "reeds" would be those of the marshes in the neighbourhood of Babylon; and Kimchi suggests that these would be cut down to facilitate the entrance of the army into the city, Surely a very forced explanation. The natural meaning of the first noun is "pools" or "lakes," and, considering that Herodotus (1:185) speaks of a lake in connection with the defences of Babylon, it has been thought (e.g. by Vitringa) that the prophet may refer to something which was to happen to this and similar lakes; "burned with fire" is then regarded as a hyperbolical expression equivalent to "dried up" (comp. ver. 36). This, however, is hardly less forced than the first interpretation; and we seem almost compelled to assume s corruption of the text, and to read (for 'agammin) 'armonim, palaces. If "palaces" (i.e. lofty houses, for such is the etymological meaning) were not uncommon at Jerusalem (Isaiah 32:14), much more frequent must they have been at Babylon, Or perhaps the prophet refers to the two magnificent royal palaces, which, together with the temple of Bel, constituted the wonders of Babylon. They were on opposite sides of the river, and were guarded with triple enclosures, the circumference in the one case amounting to sixty stadia (nearly seven miles), and in the other to thirty (Rawlinson, 'Ancient Monarchies,' 2:514, etc.). Jeremiah 51:15. "He who made the earth by His strength, establishing the world by His wisdom, and stretched out the heavens by His understanding; Jeremiah 51:16. When, thundering, He makes a roaring sound of water in the heavens, He causes clouds to ascend from the end of the earth, makes lightnings for the rain, and brings forth the wind out of His treasures. Jeremiah 51:17. Every man without knowledge is brutish; every goldsmith is ashamed because of the image: for his molten work is a lie, and there is no spirit in them. Jeremiah 51:18. They are vanity, a work of mockery; in their time of visitation they perish. Jeremiah 51:19. The Portion of Jacob is not like these; for He is the framer of all, and of the tribe of his inheritance: Jahveh of hosts is His name. Jeremiah 51:20. Thou art a hammer to me, weapons of war; and with thee I will break nations in pieces, and with thee destroy kingdoms. Jeremiah 51:21. And with thee I will break in pieces the horse and his rider, and with thee I will break in pieces the chariot and its rider. Jeremiah 51:22. And with thee I will break in pieces man and woman, and with thee I will break in pieces old and young, and with thee I will break in pieces young man and maiden. Jeremiah 51:23. And with thee I will break in pieces the shepherd and his flock, and with thee I will break in pieces the husbandman and his yoke [of oxen], and with thee I will break in pieces governors and deputy-governors. Jeremiah 51:24. And I will recompense to Babylon, and to all the inhabitants of Chaldea, all their evil which they have done in Zion before your eyes, saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 51:25. Behold, I am against thee, O mountain of destruction, saith Jahve, that destroyed all the earth; and I will stretch out my hand against thee, and roll thee down from the rocks, and make thee a burnt mountain, Jeremiah 51:26. So that they shall not take from thee a stone for a corner, or a stone for foundations; but thou shalt be desolations for ever, saith Jahveh."
In order to establish, against all doubt, the fall of Babylon that has been announced under solemn oath, Jeremiah, in Jeremiah 51:15-19. repeats a passage from the address in Jeremiah 10:12-16, in which he holds up before the people, by way of warning, the almighty power of the living God, and the destruction of the idols at the time of the judgment. In Jeremiah 51:10 he wished, by means of this announcement, to combat the fears of the idolatrous people for the power of the heathen gods; here he seeks by the same means to destroy the confidence of the Chaldeans in their gods, and to state that all idols will be destroyed before the almighty power of the Creator and Ruler of the whole world on the day of judgment, and Israel shall then learn that He who formed the universe will show Himself, by the fall of Babylon, as the Creator of Israel. The whole passage is repeated verbatim, on till a change made in Jeremiah 51:19, where ישׂראל is omitted before שׁבט נחלתו, and these words are connected with what precedes: "He is the former of all, and of the tribe which belongs to Him as His own property," i.e., Israel. This alteration is not to be put to the account of a copyist, who omitted the word "Israel" through an oversight, but is due to Jeremiah: there was no need here, as in Jeremiah 10, for bringing into special prominence the relation of Israel to his God.
(Note: In Jeremiah 10:16 the lxx have taken no account either of ישׂראל or שׁבט. Hence Movers, Hitzig, and Ewald infer that these words have found their way into the text as a gloss suggested by Deuteronomy 32:9, and should be deleted. But in this they are wrong. The omission of the two words by the lxx is a result of the erroneous translation there given of the first clause of the verse. This the lxx have rendered ου ̓ τοιαύτη μερὶς τῷ ̓Ιακωβ, instead of ου ̓ τοιαύτη ἡ μερὶς τοῦ ̓Ιακώβ. Having done so, it was impossible for them to continue, ὅτι ὁ πλάσας τὰ πάντα αὐτός, because they could not predicate this of μερίς, which they evidently did not take to mean God. And if they were to connect הוּא with what followed, they were bound to omit the two words, for it would never have done to take together הוּא וישׂראל שׁבט נחלתו. They therefore simply omitted the troublesome words, and went on to translate: ὅτι ὁ πλάσας τὰ πάντα αὐτός κληρονομία αὐτοῦ. Cf. Ngelsbach. Jeremia u. Babylon, S. 94.)
As to the rest, see the exposition of Jeremiah 10:12-16. In Jeremiah 51:20-26 the destruction of Babylon and its power is further carried out in two figures. In Jeremiah 51:20-24 Babylon is compared to a hammer, which God uses for the purpose of beating to pieces nations and kingdoms, with their forces and their inhabitants, but on which He will afterwards requite the evil done to Zion. מפּץ is equivalent to מפיץ ot tnelaviuqe si, Proverbs 25:18, one who breaks in pieces; hence a battle-hammer. Hitzig takes כּלי to be a singular, "formed thus in order to avoid an accumulation of i sounds (cf. פּליטים with פּליטי)." This is possible, but neither necessary nor probable. The plural, "weapons of war," is added, because the battle-hammer is considered as including all weapons of war. By the hammer, Ewald understands "the true Israel;" Hitzig, Cyrus, the destroyer of Babylon; Ngelsbach, an ideal person. These three views are based on the fact that the operation performed by means of the hammer (breaking to pieces) is marked by perfects with ו relative (ונפּצתּי), which is also true of the retribution to be made on Babylon: from this it is inferred that the breaking with the hammer, as well as the retribution, is still future, and that the meaning is, "When I hammer in this way with thee, I will requite Babylon" (Hitzig); while Ewald concludes from nothing but the context that the words refer to Israel.
But none of these reasons is decisive, nor any of the three views tenable. The context gives decided support to the opinion that in Jeremiah 51:20. it is Babylon that is addressed, just as in Jeremiah 51:13. and Jeremiah 51:25; a further proof is, that as early as Jeremiah 50:23, Babylon is called "the hammer of the whole earth." Only very weighty reasons, then, could induce us to refer the same figure, as used here, to another nation. The word פּטּישׁ (Jeremiah 50:23), "hammer, smith's hammer" (Isaiah 41:7), is not essentially different from מפּץ, which is used here. The figure is quite inapplicable to Israel, because "Israel is certainly to be delivered through the destruction of Babylon, but is not to be himself the instrument of the destruction" (Graf). Finally, the employment of the perfect with w relative, both in connection with the shattering to pieces which God accomplishes with (by means of) Babylon, and also the retribution He will execute on Babylon, is explained by the fact, that just as, in prophetic vision, what Babylon does to the nations, and what happens to it, was not separated into two acts, distinct from one another, but appeared as one continuous whole, so also the work of Babylon as the instrument of destruction was not yet finished, but had only begun, and still continuing, was partly future, like the retribution which it was to receive for its offence against Zion; just as in Jeremiah 51:13 Babylon is viewed as then still in the active exercise of its power; and the purpose for which God employs it, as well as the fate that is to befall it, is presented together in something like this manner: "O Babylon, who art my hammer with which I break peoples and kingdoms in pieces, thee will I requite!" There is separate mention made of the instances of breaking, in a long enumeration, which becomes tedious through the constant repetition of the verb - something like the enumeration in Jeremiah 50:35-38, where, however, the constant repetition of חרב gives great emphasis to the address. First comes the general designation, nations and kingdoms; then military forces; then (Jeremiah 51:25) the inhabitants of the kingdoms, arranged, as in Ezekiel 23:6, Ezekiel 23:23, according to sex, age, and class, labouring classes (shepherds, and husbandmen with their cattle); and lastly dignitaries, satraps and lieutenant-governors, פּחות וּסגנים, as in Ezekiel 23:6, Ezekiel 23:23. פּחה probably comes from the Zendic pavan (root pa), of which a dialectic form is pagvan, "upholder of government;" see on Haggai 1:1. סגן corresponds to the ζωγάνης of the Athenians, "lieutenant-governor;" but it is not much that has hitherto been ascertained with regard to this office; see Delitzsch on Isaiah 41:25 Clark's translation. On 'ושׁלּמתּי וגו, cf. Jeremiah 51:6 and Jeremiah 50:15, Jeremiah 50:29; "before your eyes," towards the end of this verse, belongs to this verb in the main clause.
This retribution is set forth in Jeremiah 51:25. under a new figure. Babylon is called the "mountain of destruction;" this name is immediately explained by the predicate, "that destroys the whole earth," brings destruction on it. The name הר המשׁחית is applied in 2 Kings 23:13 to the Mount of Olives, or its southern summit, the so-called mons offensionis vel scandali of ecclesiastical tradition, on which Solomon had erected idolatrous altars for his foreign wives; the name refers to the pernicious influence thereby exercised on the religious life of Israel. In this verse, "destruction" is used in a comprehensive sense of the physical and moral ruin which Babylon brought on the nations. Babylon is a "mountain," as being a powerful kingdom, supereminent above others; whether there is also a reference in the title to its lofty buildings (C. B. Michaelis) seems doubtful. "I will roll thee down from the rocks," de petris, in quarum fastigiis hucusque eminuisti. Non efferes te amplius super alia regna (C. B. Mich.). To this Hitzig adds, by way of explanation: "The summit of the mountain is sometimes changed into the very position occupied by the crater." From what follows, "I will make thee a mountain of burning," i.e., either a burning, or burnt, burnt-out mountain, modern expositors infer, with J. D. Michaelis, that the prophet has before his mind a volcano in active eruption, "for no other kind of mountains could devastate countries; it is just volcanoes which have been hollowed out by fire that fall in, or, it may be, tumble down into the valley below, scattering their constituent elements here and there; the stones of such mountains, too, are commonly so much broken and burnt, that they are of no use for building" (Hitzig). Of the above remarks this much is correct, that the words, "I will make thee a burning mountain," are founded on the conception of a volcano; any more extended application, however, of the figure to the whole verse is unwarranted. The clause, "I will roll thee down from the rocks," cannot possibly be applied to the action of a volcano in eruption (though Ngelsbach does so apply it), unless we are ready to impute to the prophet a false notion regarding the eruptions of volcanoes. By the eruption, a mountain is not loosened from the rock on which it rests, and hurled down into the valleys round about; it is only the heart of the mountain, or the rocks on which its summit rests, that seem to be vomited out of it. Besides, the notion that there is a representation of an active volcano in the first clauses of the verse, is disproved by the very fact that the mountain, Babylon, does not bring ruin on the earth, as one that is burning; it is not to become such until after it has been rolled down from the rocks on which it rests. The laying waste of the countries is not ascribed to the fire that issues from the mountain, but the mountain begins to burn only after it has been rolled down from its rocks. Babylon, as a kingdom and city, is called a mountain, because it mightily surpassed and held sway over them; cf. Isaiah 2:14. It brings ruin on the whole earth by subjugation of the nations and devastation of the countries. The mountain rests on rocks, i.e., its power has a foundation as firm as a rock, until the Lord rolls it down from its height, and burns the strong mountain, making it like an extinct volcano, the stones of which, having been rendered vitreous by the fire, no longer furnish material that can be employed for the foundation of new buildings. "A corner-stone," etc., is explained by C. B. Michaelis, after the Chaldee, Kimchi, and others, to mean, "no one will appoint a king or a prince any more out of the stock of the Chaldeans." This is against the context, according to which the point treated of is, not the fall of the kingdom in or of Babylon, but the destruction of Babylon as a city and kingdom. Hitzig and Graf, accordingly, take the meaning to be this: Not a stone of the city will be used for a new building - no one will any more build for himself among their ruins, and out of the material there. The corner-stone and the foundation (it is further asserted) are mentioned by way of example, not because particularly large and good stones are needed for these parts, but because every house begins with them. But though the following clause, "thou shalt be an everlasting desolation," contains this idea, yet this interpretation neither exhausts nor gives a generally correct view of the meaning of the words, "no one will take from thee a corner-stone or a foundation-stone." The burning of the mountain signifies not merely that Babylon was to be burned to ashes, but that her sway over the world was to be quite at an end; this was only to come about when the city was burnt. When no stone of any value for a new building is to be left after this conflagration, this is equivalent to saying that nothing will be left of the empire that has been destroyed, which would be of any use in the foundation of another state. The last clause also ("for thou shalt be," etc.) refers to more than the destruction of the city of Babylon. This is seen even in the fundamental passage, Jeremiah 25:12, where the same threat is uttered against the land of the Chaldeans.
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