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Jeremiah 51:20-46

Context

51:20 “Babylon, 1  you are my war club, 2 

my weapon for battle.

I used you to smash nations. 3 

I used you to destroy kingdoms.

51:21 I used you to smash horses and their riders. 4 

I used you to smash chariots and their drivers.

51:22 I used you to smash men and women.

I used you to smash old men and young men.

I used you to smash young men and young women.

51:23 I used you to smash shepherds and their flocks.

I used you to smash farmers and their teams of oxen.

I used you to smash governors and leaders.” 5 

51:24 “But I will repay Babylon

and all who live in Babylonia

for all the wicked things they did in Zion

right before the eyes of you Judeans,” 6 

says the Lord. 7 

51:25 The Lord says, 8  “Beware! I am opposed to you, Babylon! 9 

You are like a destructive mountain that destroys all the earth.

I will unleash my power against you; 10 

I will roll you off the cliffs and make you like a burned-out mountain. 11 

51:26 No one will use any of your stones as a cornerstone.

No one will use any of them in the foundation of his house.

For you will lie desolate forever,” 12 

says the Lord. 13 

51:27 “Raise up battle flags throughout the lands.

Sound the trumpets calling the nations to do battle.

Prepare the nations to do battle against Babylonia. 14 

Call for these kingdoms to attack her:

Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz. 15 

Appoint a commander to lead the attack. 16 

Send horses 17  against her like a swarm of locusts. 18 

51:28 Prepare the nations to do battle against her. 19 

Prepare the kings of the Medes.

Prepare their governors and all their leaders. 20 

Prepare all the countries they rule to do battle against her. 21 

51:29 The earth will tremble and writhe in agony. 22 

For the Lord will carry out his plan.

He plans to make the land of Babylonia 23 

a wasteland where no one lives. 24 

51:30 The soldiers of Babylonia will stop fighting.

They will remain in their fortified cities.

They will lose their strength to do battle. 25 

They will be as frightened as women. 26 

The houses in her cities will be set on fire.

The gates of her cities will be broken down. 27 

51:31 One runner after another will come to the king of Babylon.

One messenger after another will come bringing news. 28 

They will bring news to the king of Babylon

that his whole city has been captured. 29 

51:32 They will report that the fords have been captured,

the reed marshes have been burned,

the soldiers are terrified. 30 

51:33 For the Lord God of Israel who rules over all says,

‘Fair Babylon 31  will be like a threshing floor

which has been trampled flat for harvest.

The time for her to be cut down and harvested

will come very soon.’ 32 

51:34 “King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon

devoured me and drove my people out.

Like a monster from the deep he swallowed me.

He filled his belly with my riches.

He made me an empty dish.

He completely cleaned me out.” 33 

51:35 The person who lives in Zion says,

“May Babylon pay for the violence done to me and to my relatives.”

Jerusalem says,

“May those living in Babylonia pay for the bloodshed of my people.” 34 

51:36 Therefore the Lord says,

“I will stand up for your cause.

I will pay the Babylonians back for what they have done to you. 35 

I will dry up their sea.

I will make their springs run dry. 36 

51:37 Babylon will become a heap of ruins.

Jackals will make their home there. 37 

It will become an object of horror and of hissing scorn,

a place where no one lives. 38 

51:38 The Babylonians are all like lions roaring for prey.

They are like lion cubs growling for something to eat. 39 

51:39 When their appetites are all stirred up, 40 

I will set out a banquet for them.

I will make them drunk

so that they will pass out, 41 

they will fall asleep forever,

they will never wake up,” 42 

says the Lord. 43 

51:40 “I will lead them off to be slaughtered

like lambs, rams, and male goats.” 44 

51:41 “See how Babylon 45  has been captured!

See how the pride of the whole earth has been taken!

See what an object of horror

Babylon has become among the nations! 46 

51:42 The sea has swept over Babylon.

She has been covered by a multitude 47  of its waves. 48 

51:43 The towns of Babylonia have become heaps of ruins.

She has become a dry and barren desert.

No one lives in those towns any more.

No one even passes through them. 49 

51:44 I will punish the god Bel in Babylon.

I will make him spit out what he has swallowed.

The nations will not come streaming to him any longer.

Indeed, the walls of Babylon will fall.” 50 

51:45 “Get out of Babylon, my people!

Flee to save your lives

from the fierce anger of the Lord! 51 

51:46 Do not lose your courage or become afraid

because of the reports that are heard in the land.

For a report will come in one year.

Another report will follow it in the next.

There will be violence in the land

with ruler fighting against ruler.”

1 tn Or “Media.” The referent is not identified in the text; the text merely says “you are my war club.” Commentators in general identify the referent as Babylon because Babylon has been referred to as a hammer in 50:23 and Babylon is referred to in v. 25 as a “destroying mountain” (compare v. 20d). However, S. R. Driver, Jeremiah, 317, n. c maintains that v. 24 speaks against this. It does seem a little inconsistent to render the vav consecutive perfect at the beginning of v. 24 as future while rendering those in vv. 20b-23 as customary past. However, change in person from second masculine singular (vv. 20b-23) to the second masculine plural in “before your very eyes” and its position at the end of the verse after “which they did in Zion” argue that a change in address occurs there. Driver has to ignore the change in person and take “before your eyes” with the verb “repay” at the beginning to maintain the kind of consistency he seeks. The vav (ו) consecutive imperfect can be used for either the customary past (GKC 335-36 §112.dd with cross reference back to GKC 331-32 §112.e) or the future (GKC 334 §112.x). Hence the present translation has followed the majority of commentaries (and English versions like TEV, NCV, CEV, NIrV) in understanding the referent as Babylon and v. 24 being a transition to vv. 25-26 (cf., e.g., J. Bright, Jeremiah [AB], 356-57, and J. A. Thompson, Jeremiah [NICOT], 756-57). If the referent is understood as Media then the verbs in vv. 20-23 should all be translated as futures. See also the translator’s note on v. 24.

2 tn This Hebrew word (מַפֵּץ, mappets) only occurs here in the Hebrew Bible, but its meaning is assured from the use of the verbs that follow which are from the same root (נָפַץ, nafats) and there is a cognate noun מַפָּץ (mappats) that occurs in Ezek 9:2 in the sense of weapon of “smashing.”

3 tn Heb “I smash nations with you.” This same structure is repeated throughout the series in vv. 20c-23.

4 tn Heb “horse and its rider.” However, the terms are meant as generic or collective singulars (cf. GKC 395 §123.b) and are thus translated by the plural. The same thing is true of all the terms in vv. 21-23b. The terms in vv. 20c-d, 23c are plural.

5 tn These two words are Akkadian loan words into Hebrew which often occur in this pairing (cf. Ezek 23:6, 12, 23; Jer 51:23, 28, 57). BDB 688 s.v. סָגָן (sagan) gives “prefect, ruler” as the basic definition for the second term but neither works very well in a modern translation because “prefect” would be unknown to most readers and “ruler” would suggest someone along the lines of a king, which these officials were not. The present translation has chosen “leaders” by default, assuming there is no other term that would be any more appropriate in light of the defects noted in “prefect” and “ruler.”

6 tn Or “Media, you are my war club…I will use you to smash…leaders. So before your very eyes I will repay…for all the wicked things they did in Zion.” For explanation see the translator’s note on v. 20. The position of the phrase “before your eyes” at the end of the verse after “which they did in Zion” and the change in person from second masculine singular in vv. 20b-23 (“I used you to smite”) to second masculine plural in “before your eyes” argue that a change in referent/addressee occurs in this verse. To maintain that the referent in vv. 20-23 is Media/Cyrus requires that this position and change in person be ignored; “before your eyes” then is attached to “I will repay.” The present translation follows J. A. Thompson (Jeremiah [NICOT], 757) and F. B. Huey (Jeremiah, Lamentations [NAC], 423) in seeing the referent as the Judeans who had witnessed the destruction of Zion/Jerusalem. The word “Judean” has been supplied for the sake of identifying the referent for the modern reader.

7 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

8 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

9 tn The word “Babylon” is not in the text but is universally understood as the referent. It is supplied in the translation here to clarify the referent for the sake of the average reader.

10 tn Heb “I will reach out my hand against you.” See the translator’s note on 6:12 for explanation.

11 tn Heb “I am against you, oh destroying mountain that destroys all the earth. I will reach out my hand against you and roll you down from the cliffs and make you a mountain of burning.” The interpretation adopted here follows the lines suggested by S. R. Driver, Jeremiah, 318, n. c and reflected also in BDB 977 s.v. שְׂרֵפָה. Babylon is addressed as a destructive mountain because it is being compared to a volcano. The Lord, however, will make it a “burned-out mountain,” i.e., an extinct volcano which is barren and desolate. This interpretation seems to this translator to fit the details of the text more consistently than alternative ones which separate the concept of “destroying/destructive” from “mountain” and explain the figure of the mountain to refer to the dominating political position of Babylon and the reference to a “mountain of burning” to be a “burned [or burned over] mountain.” The use of similes in place of metaphors makes it easier for the modern reader to understand the figures and also more easily incorporates the dissonant figure of “rolling you down from the cliffs” which involves the figure of personification.

sn The figure here involves comparing Babylon to a destructive volcano which the Lord makes burned-out, i.e., he will destroy her power to destroy. The figure of personification is also involved because the Lord is said to roll her off the cliffs; that would not be applicable to a mountain.

12 tn This is a fairly literal translation of the original which reads “No one will take from you a stone for a cornerstone nor a stone for foundations.” There is no unanimity of opinion in the commentaries, many feeling that the figure of the burned mountain continues and others feeling that the figure here shifts to a burned city whose stones are so burned that they are useless to be used in building. The latter is the interpretation adopted here (see, e.g., F. B. Huey, Jeremiah, Lamentations [NAC], 423; W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah [Hermeneia], 2:426; NCV).

sn The figure here shifts to that of a burned-up city whose stones cannot be used for building. Babylon will become a permanent heap of ruins.

13 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

14 tn Heb “Raise up a standard on the earth. Blow a ram’s horn among the nations. Consecrate nations against her.” According to BDB 651 s.v. נֵס 1, the raising of a standard was a signal of a war – a summons to assemble and attack (see usage in Isa 5:26; 13:2; Jer 51:12). The “blowing of the ram’s horn” was also a signal to rally behind a leader and join in an attack (see Judg 3:27; 6:34). For the meaning of “consecrate nations against her” see the study note on 6:4. The usage of this phrase goes back to the concept of holy war where soldiers had to be consecrated for battle by the offering of a sacrifice. The phrase has probably lost its ritual usage in later times and become idiomatic for making necessary preparations for war.

15 sn Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz are three kingdoms who were located in the Lake Van, Lake Urmia region which are now parts of eastern Turkey and northwestern Iran. They were kingdoms which had been conquered and made vassal states by the Medes in the early sixth century. The Medes were the dominant country in this region from around 590 b.c. until they were conquered and incorporated into the Persian empire by Cyrus in 550 b.c.

16 tn The translation of this line is uncertain because it includes a word which only occurs here and in Nah 3:17 where it is found in parallelism with a word that is only used once and whose meaning in turn is uncertain. It is probably related to the Akkadian word tupsharru which refers to a scribe (Heb “a tablet writer”). The exact function of this official is disputed. KBL 356 s.v. טִפְסָר relates it to a “recruiting officer,” a sense which is reflected in NAB. The majority of modern English versions render “commander” or “marshal” following the suggestion of BDB 381 s.v. טִפְסָר. G. L. Keown, P. J. Scalise, T. G. Smothers (Jeremiah 26-52 [WBC], 351) translate “recruiter (scribe)” but explain the function on p. 371 as that of recording the plunder captured in war. The rendering here follows that of TEV and God’s Word and is the nuance suggested by the majority of modern English versions who rendered “appoint a marshal/commander against it.”

17 sn This is probably a poetic or shorthand way of referring to the cavalry and chariotry where horse is put for “rider” and “driver.”

18 tn Heb “Bring up horses like bristly locusts.” The meaning of the Hebrew word “bristly” (סָמָר, samar) is uncertain because the word only occurs here. It is generally related to a verb meaning “to bristle” which occurs in Job 4:15 and Ps 119:120. Exactly what is meant by “bristly” in connection with “locust” is uncertain, though most relate it to a stage of the locust in which its wings are still encased in a rough, horny casing. J. A. Thompson (Jeremiah [NICOT], 759) adds that this is when the locust is very destructive. However, no other commentary mentions this. Therefore the present translation omits the word because it is of uncertain meaning and significance. For a fuller discussion of the way the word has been rendered see W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah (Hermeneia), 2:427.

19 tn See the first translator’s note on 51:27 and compare also 6:4 and the study note there.

20 tn See the translator’s note at 51:23 for the rendering of the terms here.

21 tc The Hebrew text has a confusing switch of possessive pronouns in this verse: “Consecrate the nations against her, the kings of the Medes, her governors and prefects, and all the land of his dominion.” This has led to a number of different resolutions. The LXX (the Greek version) renders the word “kings” as singular and levels all the pronouns to “his,” paraphrasing the final clause and combining it with “king of the Medes” to read “and of all the earth.” The Latin Vulgate levels them all to the third masculine plural, and this is followed by the present translation as well as a number of other modern English versions (NASB, NIV, NRSV, TEV, NCV). The ASV and NJPS understand the feminine to refer to Media, i.e., “her governors and all her prefects” and understand the masculine in the last line to be a distributive singular referring back to the lands each of the governors and prefects ruled over. This is probably correct but since governors and prefects refer to officials appointed over provinces and vassal states it amounts to much the same interpretation that the Latin Vulgate, the present translation, and other modern English versions have given.

22 sn The figure here is common in the poetic tradition of the Lord going forth to do battle against his foes and the earth’s reaction to it is compared to a person trembling with fear and writhing in agony, agony like that of a woman in labor (cf. Judg 5:4; Nah 1:2-5; Hab 3:1-15 [especially v. 6]).

23 tn Heb “For the plans of the Lord have been carried out to make the land of Babylon…” The passive has been turned into an active and the sentence broken up to better conform with contemporary English style. For the meaning of the verb קוּם (qum) in the sense used here see BDB 878 s.v. קוּם 7.g and compare the usage in Prov 19:21 and Isa 46:10.

24 tn The verbs in this verse and v. 30 are all in the past tense in Hebrew, in the tense that views the action as already as good as done (the Hebrew prophetic perfect). The verb in v. 31a, however, is imperfect, viewing the action as future; the perfects that follow are all dependent on that future. Verse 33 looks forward to a time when Babylon will be harvested and trampled like grain on the threshing floor and the imperatives imply a time in the future. Hence the present translation has rendered all the verbs in vv. 29-30 as future.

25 tn Heb “Their strength is dry.” This is a figurative nuance of the word “dry” which BDB 677 s.v. נָשַׁת Qal.1 explain as meaning “fails.” The idea of “strength to do battle” is implicit from the context and is supplied in the translation here for clarity.

26 tn Heb “They have become women.” The metaphor has been turned into a simile and the significance of the comparison drawn out for the sake of clarity. See 50:37 for the same figure.

27 tn Heb “Her dwelling places have been set on fire. Her bars [i.e., the bars on the gates of her cities] have been broken.” The present translation has substituted the word “gates” for “bars” because the intent of the figure is to show that the bars of the gates have been broken giving access to the city. “Gates” makes it easier for the modern reader to understand the figure.

28 tn Heb “Runner will run to meet runner and…” The intent is to portray a relay of runners carrying the news that follows on in vv. 31d-33 to the king of Babylon. The present translation attempts to spell out the significance.

29 tn Heb “Runner will run to meet runner and messenger to meet messenger to report to the king of Babylon that his city has been taken in [its] entirety.” There is general agreement among the commentaries that the first two lines refer to messengers converging on the king of Babylon from every direction bringing news the sum total of which is reported in the lines that follow. For the meaning of the last phrase see BDB 892 s.v. קָצֶה 3 and compare the usage in Gen 19:4 and Isa 56:11. The sentence has been broken down and restructured to better conform with contemporary English style.

30 tn The words “They will report that” have been supplied in the translation to show the linkage between this verse and the previous one. This is still a part of the report of the messengers. The meaning of the word translated “reed marshes” has seemed inappropriate to some commentators because it elsewhere refers to “pools.” However, all the commentaries consulted agree that the word here refers to the reedy marshes that surrounded Babylon. (For a fuller discussion regarding the meaning of this word and attempts to connect it with a word meaning “fortress” see W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah [Hermeneia], 2:427.)

sn Babylon was a city covering over a thousand acres. The city itself was surrounded by two walls, the inner one 21 feet (6.3 m) thick and the outer 11 feet (3.3 m) thick. To provide further security, walls were built to the south and east of the city and irrigation ditches and canals north and east of the city were flooded to prevent direct access to the city. The reference to “fords” here is to the river crossings of the Euphrates River which ran right through the city and the crossings at the ditches and canals. The reference to the “reed marshes” refers to the low lying areas around the city where reeds grew. The burning of the reed marshes would deprive any fugitives of places to hide and flush out any who had already escaped.

31 sn Heb “Daughter Babylon.” See the study note at 50:42 for explanation.

32 tn Heb “Daughter Babylon will be [or is; there is no verb and the tense has to be supplied from the context] like a threshing floor at the time one tramples it. Yet a little while and the time of the harvest will come for her.” It is generally agreed that there are two figures here: one of leveling the threshing floor and stamping it into a smooth, hard surface and the other of the harvest where the grain is cut, taken to the threshing floor, and threshed by trampling the sheaves of grain to loosen the grain from the straw, and finally winnowed by throwing the mixture into the air (cf., e.g., J. A. Thompson, Jeremiah [NICOT], 760). The translation has sought to convey those ideas as clearly as possible without digressing too far from the literal.

sn There are two figures involved here: one of the threshing floor being leveled and stamped down hard and smooth and the other of the harvest. At harvest time the stalks of grain were cut down, gathered in sheaves, taken to the harvest floor where the grain was loosened from the husk by driving oxen and threshing sleds over them. The grain was then separated from the mixture of grain, straw and husks by repeatedly throwing it in the air and letting the wind blow away the lighter husks and ground-up straw. The figure of harvest is often used of judgment in the OT. See, e.g., Joel 3:13 (4:13 Hebrew text) and Hos 6:11 and compare also Mic 4:12-13 and Jer 51:2 where different steps in this process are also used figuratively in connection with judgment. Babylon will be leveled to the ground and its people cut down in judgment.

33 tn This verse is extremely difficult to translate because of the shifting imagery, the confusion over the meaning of one of the verbs, and the apparent inconsistency of the pronominal suffixes here with those in the following verse which everyone agrees is connected with it. The pronominal suffixes are first common plural but the versions all read them as first common singular which the Masoretes also do in the Qere. That reading has been followed here for consistency with the next verse which identifies the speaker as the person living in Zion and the personified city of Jerusalem. The Hebrew text reads: “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon devoured me [cf. 50:7, 17] and threw me into confusion. He set me down an empty dish. He swallowed me like a monster from the deep [cf. BDB 1072 s.v. תַּנִּין 3 and compare usage in Isa 27:1; Ezek 29:3; 32:2]. He filled his belly with my dainties. He rinsed me out [cf. BDB s.v. דּוּח Hiph.2 and compare the usage in Isa 4:4].” The verb “throw into confusion” has proved troublesome because its normal meaning does not seem appropriate. Hence various proposals have been made to understand it in a different sense. The present translation has followed W. L. Holladay (Jeremiah [Hermeneia], 2:428) in understanding the verb to mean “disperse” or “route” (see NAB). The last line has seemed out of place and has often been emended to read “he has spewed me out” (so NIV, NRSV, a reading that presupposes הִדִּיחָנִי [hiddikhani] for הֱדִיחָנִי [hedikhani]). The reading of the MT is not inappropriate if it is combined with the imagery of an empty jar and hence is retained here (see F. B. Huey, Jeremiah, Lamentations [NAC], 425, n. 59; H. Freedman, Jeremiah [SoBB], 344; NJPS). The lines have been combined to keep the imagery together.

sn The speaker in this verse and the next is the personified city of Jerusalem. She laments her fate at the hands of the king of Babylon and calls down a curse on Babylon and the people who live in Babylonia. Here Nebuchadnezzar is depicted as a monster of the deep who has devoured Jerusalem, swallowed her down, and filled its belly with her riches, leaving her an empty dish, which has been rinsed clean.

34 tn Heb “‘The violence done to me and to my flesh be upon Babylon,’ says the one living in Zion. ‘My blood be upon those living in Chaldea,’ says Jerusalem.” For the usage of the genitive here in the phrase “violence done to me and my relatives” see GKC 414 §128.a (a construct governing two objects) and IBHS 303 §16.4d (an objective genitive). For the nuance of “pay” in the sense of retribution see BDB 756 s.v. עַל 7.a(b) and compare the usage in Judg 9:24. For the use of שְׁאֵר (shÿer) in the sense of “relatives” see BDB 985 s.v. שְׁאֵר 2 and compare NJPS. For the use of “blood” in this idiom see BDB 197 s.v. דָּם 2.k and compare the usage in 2 Sam 4:11; Ezek 3:18, 20. The lines have been reversed for better English style.

35 tn Heb “I will avenge your vengeance [= I will take vengeance for you; the phrase involves a verb and a cognate accusative].” The meaning of the phrase has been spelled out in more readily understandable terms.

36 tn Heb “I will dry up her [Babylon’s] sea and make her fountain dry.” “Their” has been substituted for “her” because “Babylonians” has been inserted in the previous clause and is easier to understand than the personification of Babylon = “her.”

sn The reference to their sea is not clear. Most interpreters understand it to be a figurative reference to the rivers and canals surrounding Babylon. But some feel it refers to the reservoir that the wife of Nebuchadnezzar, Queen Nictoris, had made.

37 tn Heb “a heap of ruins, a haunt for jackals.” Compare 9:11.

38 tn Heb “without an inhabitant.”

39 tn Heb “They [the Babylonians] all roar like lions. They growl like the cubs of lions.” For the usage of יַחְדָו (yakhdav) meaning “all” see Isa 10:8; 18:6; 41:20. The translation strives to convey in clear terms what is the generally accepted meaning of the simile (cf., e.g., J. Bright, Jeremiah [AB], 358, and J. A. Thompson, Jeremiah [NICOT], 762).

40 tn Heb “When they are hot.”

41 tc The translation follows the suggestion of KBL 707 s.v. עָלַז and a number of modern commentaries (e.g., Bright, J. A. Thompson, and W. L. Holladay) in reading יְעֻלְּפוּ (yeullÿfu) for יַעֲלֹזוּ (yaalozu) in the sense of “swoon away” or “grow faint” (see KBL 710 s.v. עָלַף Pual). That appears to be the verb that the LXX (the Greek version) was reading when they translated καρωθῶσιν (karwqwsin, “they will be stupefied”). For parallel usage KBL cites Isa 51:20. This fits the context much better than “they will exult” in the Hebrew text.

42 sn The central figure here is the figure of the cup of the Lord’s wrath (cf. 25:15-29, especially v. 26). Here the Babylonians have been made to drink so deeply of it that they fall into a drunken sleep from which they will never wake up (i.e., they die, death being compared to sleep [cf. Ps 13:3 (13:4 HT); 76:5 (76:6 HT); 90:5]). Compare the usage in Jer 51:57 for this same figure.

43 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

44 tn Heb “I will bring them down like lambs to be slaughtered, like rams and he goats.”

sn This statement is highly ironic in light of the fact that the Babylonians were compared to lions and lion cubs (v. 38). Here they are like lambs, rams, and male goats which are to be lead off to be slaughtered.

45 sn Heb “Sheshach.” For an explanation of the usage of this name for Babylon see the study note on Jer 25:26 and that on 51:1 for a similar phenomenon. Babylon is here called “the pride of the whole earth” because it was renowned for its size, its fortifications, and its beautiful buildings.

46 tn Heb “How Sheshach has been captured, the pride of the whole earth has been seized! How Babylon has become an object of horror among the nations!” For the usage of “How” here see the translator’s note on 50:23.

sn This is part of a taunt song (see Isa 14:4) and assumes prophetically that the city has already been captured. The verbs in vv. 41-43a are all in the Hebrew tense that the prophets often use to look at the future as “a done deal” (the so-called prophetic perfect). In v. 44 which is still a part of this picture the verbs are in the future. The Hebrew tense has been retained here and in vv. 42-43 but it should be remembered that the standpoint is prophetic and future.

47 tn For the meaning “multitude” here rather than “tumult” see BDB 242 s.v. הָמוֹן 3.c, where reference is made that this refers to a great throng of people under the figure of an overwhelming mass of waves. The word is used of a multitude of soldiers, or a vast army in 1 Sam 14:16; 1 Kgs 20:13, 18 (cf. BDB 242 s.v. הָמוֹן 3.a for further references).

48 tn Heb “The sea has risen up over Babylon. She has been covered by the multitude of its waves.”

sn This is a poetic and figurative reference to the enemies of Babylon, the foe from the north (see 50:3, 9, 51:27-28), which has attacked Babylon in wave after wave. This same figure is used in Isa 17:12. In Isa 8:7-8 the king of Assyria (and his troops) are compared to the Euphrates which rises up and floods over the whole land of Israel and Judah. This same figure, but with application to Babylon, is assumed in Jer 47:2-3. In Jer 46:7-8 the same figure is employed in a taunt of Egypt which had boasted that it would cover the earth like the flooding of the Nile.

49 tn Heb “Its towns have become a desolation, [it has become] a dry land and a desert, a land which no man passes through them [referring to “her towns”] and no son of man [= human being] passes through them.” Here the present translation has followed the suggestion of BHS and a number of the modern commentaries in deleting the second occurrence of the word “land,” in which case the words that follow are not a relative clause but independent statements. A number of modern English versions appear to ignore the third feminine plural suffixes which refer back to the cities and refer the statements that follow to the land.

50 tn Heb “And I will punish Bel in Babylon…And the nations will not come streaming to him anymore. Yea, the walls of Babylon have fallen.” The verbs in the first two lines are vav consecutive perfects and the verb in the third line is an imperfect all looking at the future. That indicates that the perfect that follows and the perfects that precede are all prophetic perfects. The translation adopted seemed to be the best way to make the transition from the pasts which were adopted in conjunction with the taunting use of אֵיךְ (’ekh) in v. 41 to the futures in v. 44. For the usage of גַּם (gam) to indicate a climax, “yea” or “indeed” see BDB 169 s.v. גַּם 3. It seemed to be impossible to render the meaning of v. 44 in any comprehensible way, even in a paraphrase.

sn In the ancient Near East the victory of a nation over another nation was attributed to its gods. The reference is a poetic way of referring to the fact that God will be victorious over Babylon and its chief god, Bel/Marduk (see the study note on 50:2 for explanation). The reference to the disgorging of what Bel had swallowed is to captured people and plundered loot that had been taken to Babylon under the auspices of the victory of Bel over the foreign god (cf. Dan 5:2-4). The plundered treasures and captive people will be set free and nations will no longer need to pay homage to him because Babylon will be destroyed.

51 tn Heb “Go out from her [Babylon’s] midst, my people. Save each man his life from the fierce anger of the Lord.” The verb has been paraphrased to prevent gender specific terms.

sn Compare Jer 50:8-10; 51:6 where the significance of saving oneself from the fierce anger of the Lord is clarified.



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