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Jeremiah 51:4-6

Context

51:4 Let them fall 1  slain in the land of Babylonia, 2 

mortally wounded in the streets of her cities. 3 

51:5 “For Israel and Judah will not be forsaken 4 

by their God, the Lord who rules over all. 5 

For the land of Babylonia is 6  full of guilt

against the Holy One of Israel. 7 

51:6 Get out of Babylonia quickly, you foreign people. 8 

Flee to save your lives.

Do not let yourselves be killed because of her sins.

For it is time for the Lord to wreak his revenge.

He will pay Babylonia 9  back for what she has done. 10 

Jeremiah 51:34-37

Context

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.” 11 

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.” 12 

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. 13 

I will dry up their sea.

I will make their springs run dry. 14 

51:37 Babylon will become a heap of ruins.

Jackals will make their home there. 15 

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

a place where no one lives. 16 

1 tn The majority of English versions and the commentaries understand the vav (ו) consecutive + perfect as a future here “They will fall.” However, it makes better sense in the light of the commands in the previous verse to understand this as an indirect third person command (= a jussive; see GKC 333 §112.q, r) as REB and NJPS do.

2 tn Heb “the land of the Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for explanation.

3 tn The words “cities” is not in the text. The text merely says “in her streets” but the antecedent is “land” and must then refer to the streets of the cities in the land.

4 tn Heb “widowed” (cf. BDB 48 s.v. אַלְמָן, an adjective occurring only here but related to the common word for “widow”). It is commonly translated as has been done here.

sn The verses from v. 5 to v. 19 all speak of the Lord in the third person. The prophet who is the spokesman for the Lord (50:1) thus is speaking. However, the message is still from God because this was all what he spoke “through the prophet Jeremiah.”

5 tn Heb “Yahweh of armies.” For an explanation of this rendering see the study note on 2:19.

6 tn Or “all, though their land was…” The majority of the modern English versions understand the land here to refer to the land of Israel and Judah (the text reads “their land” and Israel and Judah are the nearest antecedents). In this case the particle כִּי (ki) is concessive (cf. BDB 473 s.v. כִּי 2.c[b]). Many of the modern commentaries understand the referent to be the land of the Chaldeans/Babylonians. However, most of them feel that the line is connected as a causal statement to 51:2-4 and see the line as either textually or logically out of place. However, it need not be viewed as logically out of place. It is parallel to the preceding and gives a second reason why they are to be destroyed. It also forms an excellent transition to the next lines where the exiles and other foreigners are urged to flee and not get caught up in the destruction which is coming “because of her sin.” It might be helpful to note that both the adjective “widowed” and the suffix on “their God” are masculine singular, looking at Israel and Judah as one entity. The “their” then goes back not to Israel and Judah of the preceding lines but to the “them” in v. 4. This makes for a better connection with the following and understands the particle כִּי in its dominant usage not an extremely rare one (see the comment in BDB 473 s.v. כִּי 2.c[b]). This interpretation is also reflected in RSV.

7 sn See the note on the phrase “the Holy One of Israel” in 50:29.

8 tn The words “you foreign people” are not in the text and many think the referent is the exiles of Judah. While this is clearly the case in v. 45 the referent seems broader here where the context speaks of every man going to his own country (v. 9).

9 tn Heb “her.”

10 tn Heb “paying to her a recompense [i.e., a payment in kind].”

11 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.

12 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.

13 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.

14 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.

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

16 tn Heb “without an inhabitant.”



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