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Jeremiah 50:45--51:2

Context

50:45 So listen to what I, the Lord, have planned against Babylon,

what I intend to do to the people who inhabit the land of Babylonia. 1 

Their little ones will be dragged off.

I will completely destroy their land because of what they have done.

50:46 The people of the earth will quake when they hear Babylon has been captured.

Her cries of anguish will be heard by the other nations.” 2 

51:1 The Lord says,

“I will cause a destructive wind 3  to blow

against 4  Babylon and the people who inhabit Babylonia. 5 

51:2 I will send people to winnow Babylonia like a wind blowing away chaff. 6 

They will winnow her and strip her land bare. 7 

This will happen when 8  they come against her from every direction,

when it is time to destroy her. 9 

1 tn The words “of Babylonia” are not in the text but are implicit from the context. They have been supplied in the translation to clarify the referent.

sn The verbs in vv. 22-25 are all descriptive of the present, but all of this is really to take place in the future. Hebrew poetry has a way of rendering future actions as though they were already accomplished. The poetry of this section makes it difficult, however, to render the verbs as future as the present translation has regularly done.

2 tn Heb “among the nations.” With the exception of this phrase, the different verb in v. 46a, the absence of a suffix on the word for “land” in v. 45d, the third plural suffix instead of the third singular suffix on the verb for “chase…off of,” this passage is identical with 49:19-21 with the replacement of Babylon or the land of the Chaldeans for Edom. For the translation notes explaining the details of the translation here see the translator’s notes on 49:19-21.

sn This passage is virtually identical with Jer 49:19-21 with the replacement of Babylon, land of Babylonia for Edom. As God used Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians to destroy Edom, so he would use Cyrus and the Medes and Persians and their allies to destroy Babylon (cf. 25:13, 14). As Nebuchadnezzar was God’s servant to whom all would be subject (25:9; 27:6), so Cyrus is called in Isaiah “his anointed one,” i.e., his chosen king whom he will use to shatter other nations and set Israel free (Isa 45:1-4).

3 sn The destructive wind is a figurative reference to the “foreign people” who will “winnow” Babylon and drive out all the people (v. 2). This figure has already been used in 4:11-12 and in 49:36. See the study note on 4:11-12 and the translator’s notes on 22:22 and 49:36.

4 tn Or “I will arouse the spirit of hostility of a destroying nation”; Heb “I will stir up against Babylon…a destroying wind [or the spirit of a destroyer].” The word רוּחַ (ruakh) can refer to either a wind (BDB 924 s.v. רוּחַ 2.a) or a spirit (BDB 925 s.v. רוּחַ 2.g). It can be construed as either a noun followed by an adjectival participle (so, “a destroying wind”) or a noun followed by another noun in the “of” relationship (a construct or genitival relationship; so, “spirit of a destroyer”). The same noun with this same verb is translated “stir up the spirit of” in 1 Chr 5:26; 2 Chr 21:16; 36:22; Hag 1:14; and most importantly in Jer 51:11 where it refers to the king of the Medes. However, the majority of the exegetical tradition (all the commentaries consulted and all the English versions except NASB and NIV) opt for the “destructive wind” primarily because of the figure of winnowing that is found in the next verse. The translation follows the main line exegetical tradition here for that same reason.

5 sn Heb “the people who live in Leb-qamai.” “Leb-qamai” is a code name for “Chaldeans” formed on the principle of substituting the last letter of the alphabet for the first, the next to the last for the second, and so on. This same principle is used in referring to Babylon in 25:26 and 51:41 as “Sheshach.” See the study note on 25:26 where further details are given. There is no consensus on why the code name is used because the terms Babylon and Chaldeans (= Babylonians) have appeared regularly in this prophecy or collection of prophecies.

6 tn Or “I will send foreign people against Babylonia.” The translation follows the reading of the Greek recensions of Aquila and Symmachus and the Latin version (the Vulgate). That reading is accepted by the majority of modern commentaries and several of the modern versions (e.g., NRSV, REB, NAB, and God’s Word). It fits better with the verb that follows it than the reading of the Hebrew text and the rest of the versions. The difference in the two readings is again only the difference in vocalization, the Hebrew text reading זָרִים (zarim) and the versions cited reading זֹרִים (zorim). If the Hebrew text is followed, there is a wordplay between the two words, “foreigners” and “winnow.” The words “like a wind blowing away chaff” have been supplied in the translation to clarify for the reader what “winnow” means.

sn Winnowing involved throwing a mixture of grain and chaff (or straw) into the air and letting the wind blow away the lighter chaff, leaving the grain to fall on the ground. Since God considered all the Babylonians chaff, they would all be “blown away.”

7 tn Or “They will strip her land bare like a wind blowing away chaff.” The alternate translation would be necessary if one were to adopt the alternate reading of the first line (the reading of the Hebrew text). The explanation of “winnow” would then be necessary in the second line. The verb translated “strip…bare” means literally “to empty out” (see BDB 132 s.v. בָּקַק Polel). It has been used in 19:7 in the Qal of “making void” Judah’s plans in a wordplay on the word for “bottle.” See the study note on 19:7 for further details.

8 tn This assumes that the particle כִּי (ki) is temporal (cf. BDB 473 s.v. כִּי 2.a). This is the interpretation adopted also by NRSV and G. L. Keown, P. J. Scalise, T. G. Smothers, Jeremiah 26-52 (WBC), 349. J. Bright (Jeremiah [AB], 345) and J. A. Thompson (Jeremiah [NICOT], 747, n. 3) interpret it as asseverative or emphatic, “Truly, indeed.” Many of the modern English versions merely ignore it. Reading it as temporal makes it unnecessary to emend the following verb as Bright and Thompson do (from הָיוּ [hayu] to יִהְיוּ [yihyu]).

9 tn Heb “in the day of disaster.”



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