51:33 For the Lord God of Israel who rules over all says,
‘Fair Babylon 1 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.’ 2
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.” 3
2 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.
3 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.