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Jeremiah 51:30-32

Context

51:30 The soldiers of Babylonia will stop fighting.

They will remain in their fortified cities.

They will lose their strength to do battle. 1 

They will be as frightened as women. 2 

The houses in her cities will be set on fire.

The gates of her cities will be broken down. 3 

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

One messenger after another will come bringing news. 4 

They will bring news to the king of Babylon

that his whole city has been captured. 5 

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

the reed marshes have been burned,

the soldiers are terrified. 6 

1 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.

2 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.

3 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.

4 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.

5 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.

6 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.



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