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Jeremiah 51:34

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.” 1 

Jeremiah 51:44

Context

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.” 2 

1 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.

2 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.



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