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Jeremiah 50:1-8

Context
Judgment Against Babylon

50:1 The Lord spoke concerning Babylon and the land of Babylonia 1  through the prophet Jeremiah. 2 

50:2 “Announce 3  the news among the nations! Proclaim it!

Signal for people to pay attention! 4 

Declare the news! Do not hide it! Say:

‘Babylon will be captured.

Bel 5  will be put to shame.

Marduk will be dismayed.

Babylon’s idols will be put to shame.

Her disgusting images 6  will be dismayed. 7 

50:3 For a nation from the north 8  will attack Babylon.

It will lay her land waste.

People and animals will flee out of it.

No one will inhabit it.’

50:4 “When that time comes,” says the Lord, 9 

“the people of Israel and Judah will return to the land together.

They will come back with tears of repentance

as they seek the Lord their God. 10 

50:5 They will ask the way to Zion;

they will turn their faces toward it.

They will come 11  and bind themselves to the Lord

in a lasting covenant that will never be forgotten. 12 

50:6 “My people have been lost sheep.

Their shepherds 13  have allow them to go astray.

They have wandered around in the mountains.

They have roamed from one mountain and hill to another. 14 

They have forgotten their resting place.

50:7 All who encountered them devoured them.

Their enemies who did this said, ‘We are not liable for punishment!

For those people have sinned against the Lord, their true pasture. 15 

They have sinned against the Lord in whom their ancestors 16  trusted.’ 17 

50:8 “People of Judah, 18  get out of Babylon quickly!

Leave the land of Babylonia! 19 

Be the first to depart! 20 

Be like the male goats that lead the herd.

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

2 tn Heb “The word which the Lord spoke concerning Babylon, concerning the land of the Chaldeans by the hand of Jeremiah the prophet.”

3 tn The verbs are masculine plural. Jeremiah is calling on other unnamed messengers to spread the news.

4 tn Heb “Raise a signal flag.”

5 sn Bel was originally the name or title applied to the Sumerian storm god. During the height of Babylon’s power it became a title that was applied to Marduk who was Babylon’s chief deity. As a title it means “Lord.” Here it is a poetical parallel reference to Marduk mentioned in the next line.

6 tn The Hebrew word used here (גִּלּוּלִים, gillulim) is always used as a disdainful reference to idols. It is generally thought to have originally referred to “dung pellets” (cf. KBL 183 s.v. גִלּוּלִים). It is only one of several terms used in this way, such as “worthless things” (אַלִילִים, ’alilim), “vanities,” or “empty winds” (הֲבָלִים, havalim).

7 tn The verbs here are all in the tense that views the actions as though they were already done (the Hebrew prophetic perfect). The verbs in the next verse are a mixture of prophetic perfects and imperfects which announce future actions.

sn This refers to the fact that the idols that the Babylonians worshiped will not be able to protect them, but will instead be carried off into exile with the Babylonians themselves (cf. Isa 46:1-2).

8 sn A nation from the north refers to Medo-Persia which at the time of the conquest of Babylon in 539 b.c. had conquered all the nations to the north, the northwest, and the northeast of Babylon forming a vast empire to the north and east of Babylon. Contingents of these many nations were included in her army and reference is made to them in 50:9 and 51:27-28. There is also some irony involved here because the “enemy from the north” referred to so often in Jeremiah (cf. 1:14; 4:6; 6:1) has been identified with Babylon (cf. 25:9). Here in a kind of talionic justice Judah’s nemesis from the north will be attacked and devastated by an enemy from the north.

9 tn Heb “oracle of the Lord.”

10 tn Heb “and the children of Israel will come, they and the children of Judah together. They shall go, weeping as they go, and they will seek the Lord their God.” The concept of “seeking” the Lord often has to do with seeking the Lord in worship (by sacrifice [Hos 5:6; 2 Chr 11:16]; prayer [Zech 8:21, 22; 2 Sam 12:16; Isa 65:1; 2 Chr 15:4]). In Hos 7:10 it is in parallel with returning to the Lord. In Ps 69:6 it is in parallel with hoping in or trusting in the Lord. Perhaps the most helpful parallels here, however, are Hos 3:5 (in comparison with Jer 30:9) and 2 Chr 15:15 where it is in the context of a covenant commitment to be loyal to the Lord which is similar to the context here (see the next verse). The translation is admittedly paraphrastic but “seeking the Lord” does not mean here looking for God as though he were merely a person to be found.

11 tc The translation here assumes that the Hebrew בֹּאוּ (bou; a Qal imperative masculine plural) should be read בָּאוּ (bau; a Qal perfect third plural). This reading is presupposed by the Greek version of Aquila, the Latin version, and the Targum (see BHS note a, which mistakenly assumes that the form must be imperfect).

12 sn See Jer 32:40 and the study note there for the nature of this lasting agreement.

13 sn The shepherds are the priests, prophets, and leaders who have led Israel into idolatry (2:8).

14 sn The allusion here, if it is not merely a part of the metaphor of the wandering sheep, is to the worship of the false gods on the high hills (2:20, 3:2).

15 tn This same Hebrew phrase “the habitation of righteousness” is found in Jer 31:23 in relation to Jerusalem in the future as “the place where righteousness dwells.” Here, however, it refers to the same entity as “their resting place” in v. 6 and means “true pasture.” For the meaning of “pasture” for the word נָוֶה (naveh) see 2 Sam 7:8 and especially Isa 65:10 where it is parallel with “resting place” for the flocks. For the meaning of “true” for צֶדֶק (tsedeq) see BDB 841 s.v. צֶדֶק 1. For the interpretation adopted here see G. L. Keown, P. J. Scalise, T. G. Smothers, Jeremiah 26-52 (WBC), 365. The same basic interpretation is reflected in NRSV, NJPS, and God’s Word.

16 tn Heb “fathers.”

17 sn These two verses appear to be a poetical summary of the argument of Jer 2 where the nation is accused of abandoning its loyalty to God and worshiping idols. Whereas those who tried to devour Israel were liable for punishment when Israel was loyal to God (2:3), the enemies of Israel who destroyed them (i.e., the Babylonians [but also the Assyrians], 50:17) argue that they are not liable for punishment because the Israelites have sinned against the Lord and thus deserve their fate.

18 tn The words “People of Judah” are not in the Hebrew text but are implicit from the context. They have been supplied in the translation to clarify the subject of the address.

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

20 tn The words “Be the first to leave” are not in the text but spell out the significance of the simile that follows. They have been supplied in the translation for clarity.



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