Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2003 James Melough
“The word that the Lord spake against Babylon and against the land of the
Chaldeans by Jeremiah the prophet.”
This begins the
prophecy against Babylon and the Chaldeans, the latter being the people of an
area south of Babylon, the name Chaldean being frequently used as a synonym
for Babylon which is itself a type of Roman Catholicism in particular, and
apostate Christianity in general. The judgments therefore pronounced against
that city and land are the typological foreshadowings of those that will
ultimately destroy that evil Roman travesty which for over two thousand years
has masqueraded as the true Church, and that will have absorbed all the rest
of apostate Christendom in the coming Tribulation era.
“Declare ye among the nations, and publish, and set up a standard; publish,
and conceal not: say, Babylon is taken, Bel is confounded (put to shame),
Merodach is broken in pieces; her idols are confounded, her images are broken
possible means the word was to be spread. “Publish” is related to the idea of
making known so that the hearers will understand; “set up a standard” means
that a flag or signal was to be set up to draw attention to the announcement.
So certain is
Babylon’s destruction that it is spoken of as
Bel was a
Sumerian God whose attributes were appropriated by Merodach, also called
Marduk, the principal deity of the Babylonians. His being “broken in pieces”
was tantamount to saying that Babylon was destroyed, for obviously if a
nation’s god was destroyed so was the nation.
“For out of the north there cometh up a nation against her, which shall make
her land desolate, and none shall dwell therein: they shall remove, they shall
depart, both man and beast.”
nation mentioned here cannot be Medo-Persia, for that territory lay east, not
north, of Babylon, the reference here in this verse being, in fact, to a yet
future destruction of what Babylon represents, i.e., Roman Catholicism, which
will be destroyed by the Beast in the Great Tribulation.
In 539 BC
Babylon was subjugated by Darius the Mede, see Dan 5:31, but he did not
devastate the land, nor did Cyrus the Persian who followed Darius, see Dan
6:28. In 514 BC, however, as the result of a revolt, Darius Hystaspis
demolished its walls, following which it gradually fell into decay.
Relative to the
north, The Liberty Bible Commentary states that, “The Jews used the
term north colloquially to refer to the location of anything sinister.”
“In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the children of Israel shall
come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall
go, and seek the Lord their God.”
erroneously understood by some to refer to the return of the remnant from
Babylon, authorized by Cyrus; but the
to the still future regathering of the twelve tribes at the beginning of the
Millennium, for “in those days, and in that time” is used frequently in
Scripture to designate the Millennium.
“They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying Come, and
let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be
to point to the regathering mentioned in the preceding verse.
“My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds (leaders) have caused them to
go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from
mountain to hill, they have forgotten their resting place.”
The leaders had
led the people astray by teaching them to forget Jehovah and to worship idols
instead, hilltops and mountains being the favorite sites for the erection of
their idolatrous altars.
“All that found them have devoured them: and their adversaries said, We offend
not, because they have sinned against the Lord, the habitation of justice,
even the Lord, the hope of their fathers.”
encountered them preyed upon them, and considered themselves to be guilty of
no wrongdoing, but rather to be the executors of justice on God’s behalf,
because of Israel’s having forsaken Jehovah, the One Who is the Source of
justice, and Who had been the God in Whom their fathers had trusted.
“Remove out of the midst of Babylon, and go forth out of the land of the
Chaldeans, and be as the he goats before the flocks.”
This command was
to Israel’s leaders, spoken of here as he goats, to lead the people out of
Babylon, the land of the Chaldeans.
“For, lo, I will raise and cause to come up against Babylon an assembly of
great nations from the north country: and they shall set themselves in array
against her; from thence she shall be taken: their arrows shall be as of a
mighty expert man; none shall return in vain.”
coalition will be that which will be headed up by the Beast who, in the
Tribulation, will destroy what Babylon represents: Roman Catholicism in
particular, and apostate Christianity in general.
“And Chaldea shall be a spoil: all that spoil her shall be satisfied, saith
The once great
Babylon, including the realm of Chaldea, would become the prey of the
Persians, the spoil being so great that the plunderers would be completely
satisfied. The ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy will be in the
Tribulation when the Beast will destroy Babylon (Roman Catholicism), and “the
realm of Chaldea” (spostate Christianity in general), he setting himself up as
God, and demanding that all worship him on pain of death.
“Because ye were glad, because ye rejoiced, O ye destroyers of mine heritage,
because ye are grown fat as the heifer at grass, and bellow as bulls;”
rejoiced in destroying Israel, God’s people, and had enriched themselves by
plundering her so that they were like sleek well fed young cows. “... bellow
as bulls” is better translated “neighed like stallions,” i.e., they boasted of
their destruction of Israel.
“Your mother shall be sore confounded; she that bare you shall be ashamed:
behold, the hindermost of the nations shall be a wilderness, a dry land, and a
“Your mother” is
Babylon. It was to be conquered, its pride being exchanged for shame, as she
who had been chief of all the nations was reduced to being the lowest,
becoming a deserted wilderness.
“Because of the wrath
of the Lord it shall not be inhabited, but it shall be wholly desolate: every
one that goeth by Babylon shall be astonished, and hiss at all her plagues.”
All of this
occurred in connection with the fall of literal Babylon, but in view of what
is written in Revelation 17, 18, 19:1-3 it is clear that in that destruction
God is pointing us forward to the now imminent destruction of the iniquitous
religious system, Roman Catholicism, which is simply the old Babylonian system
disguised in Christian dress, and which has ruled Christendom with an iron
fist for the past two thousand years.
“Put yourselves against Babylon round about: all ye that bend the bow, shoot
at her, spare no arrows: for she hath sinned against the Lord.”
This was God’s
command to the Persian coalition appointed by Him to be the destroyer of
literal Babylon, but clearly the ultimate application is to the nations that
will assemble together under the leadership of the Beast in the Tribulation
era, to destroy the great harlot church that will be left behind when the true
Church is raptured home to heaven before the Tribulation begins, see Re
17:16-18, “And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall
hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her
flesh, and burn her with fire. For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his
will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of
God shall be fulfilled. And the woman which thou sawest is that great city,
which reigneth over the kings of the earth.”
“Shout against her round about: she hath given her hand: her foundations are
fallen: her walls are thrown down: for it is the vengeance of the Lord; take
vengeance upon her; as she hath done, do unto her.”
“... she hath
given her hand” means that Babylon had surrendered, her defeat so certain that
it is spoken of as already accomplished. The ultimate destruction of Roman
Catholicism, which Babylon clearly represents, is equally certain.
“Cut off the sower from Babylon, and him that handleth the sickle in the time
of harvest: for fear of the oppressing sword they shall turn every one to his
people, and they shall flee every one to his own land.”
It is generally
agreed that the reference here is to the migrant farm workers, who at the
approach of the invading armies, would flee back to their homelands, these
hired workers being representative of the hireling priests who are presently
employed by the Roman Catholic church to spread her evil doctrine. As the
Great Tribulation begins, they will similarly desert the system when the Beast
begins his campaign against her, see Re 17-18.
“Israel is a scattered sheep; the lions have driven him away: first the king
of Assyria hath devoured him; and last this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon
hath broken his bones.”
Here God pauses
in His description of Babylon’s destruction, to show us a symbolic picture of
Israel, of which Assyria and Babylon had made prey. Assyria’s spoilation of
Israel, the ten northern tribes, is likened to the ravaging of sheep by lions,
while Babylon’s destruction of the two remaining tribes, Judah and Benjamin,
is presented under the figure of a lion crunching the bones of the victim.
This depicts the ruthless cruelty with which both attackers had destroyed
It should never
be forgotten that in spite of terrible sin, Israel never ceased to be God’s
son; and while He might use other nations as His instruments to chastise that
rebellious son, He would eventually repay the cruel eager delight with which
they gave themselves to that work.
“Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will
punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of
In 609 BC
Assyria ceased to exist, having been conquered by the Babylonians; but here
God promises to mete out to Babylon the same punishment as had destroyed
Assyria; and in 539 BC His threat was fulfilled when Babylon fell to Persia.
“And I will bring Israel again to his habitation, and he shall feed on Carmel
and Bashan, and his soul shall be satisfied upon mount Ephraim and Gilead.”
fulfilled on March 14, 445 BC, when Cyrus the Persian issued the decree that
ended the 70 years of Israel’s captivity, and permitted them to return to
Canaan, see Ezra 1; Neh 2, and Dan 9:25.
As with much of
prophecy, however, and as noted already, that return was itself a
foreshadowing of that which is still future: the regathering of a repentant
and converted Israel in the Millennium.
“In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall
be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall
not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve.”
this refers to the Millennium, for it will not be until the Tribulation
judgments will have produced the repentant, believing remnant, that there will
be the Israel of whom this description is true.
“... whom I
reserve” is also translated whose sins I will pardon, i.e., they will
be the repentant, believing remnant mentioned above, God pardoning their sins
in response to their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.
“Go up against the land of Merathaim, even against it, and against the
inhabitants of Pekod: waste and utterly destroy after them, saith the Lord,
and do according to all that I have commanded thee.”
region in southern Babylon, and meaning double rebellion: double bitterness,
is used here as a synonym for the whole land, while Pekod, an eastern
Babylonian tribe, and meaning to visit (punish), is similarly used to
describe the people, Babylon representing them as a corporate body: Pekod, as
individuals. They were to be utterly destroyed.
“A sound of battle is in the land, and of great destruction.”
The sound of
battle would be heard throughout the length and breadth of the land, and dire
destruction would be everywhere.
“How is the hammer of the whole earth cut asunder and broken! how is Babylon
become a desolation among the nations!”
Babylon that had
been like a mighty hammer smashing the whole earth was to become a desolate
ruin, an amazement to all the other nations.
So will it be
with the apostate travesty, religious Rome, when she will be destroyed by the
Beast in the impending Tribulation.
“I have laid a snare for thee, and thou art also taken, O Babylon, and thou
wast not aware; thou art found, and also caught, because thou hast striven
against the Lord.”
As an animal
caught in a snare, so would Babylon be taken by God, without her being at
first aware of it. As the hunter, visiting the snare or trap he has set,
finds an animal caught in it, so would God come upon Babylon, because she in
her arrogant folly had provoked, defied, challenged Him.
“The Lord hath opened his armoury, and hath brought forth the weapons of his
indignation: for this is the work of the Lord God of hosts in the land of the
The weapons of
Jehovah’s indignation (wrath, vengeance) would be the nations chosen by Him to
be His instruments of judgment against Babylon, namely the coalition headed up
“Come against her from the utmost border, upon her storehouses: cast her up as
heaps, and destroy her utterly: let nothing of her be left.”
“... the utmost
border” is also rendered every quarter: farthest parts: distant lands.
Their commission from Jehovah was to empty her granaries, and to reduce her to
nothing but heaps of stones. She was to be completely destroyed, her slain
inhabitants being piled up like heaps of grain.
“Slay all her bullocks; let them go down to slaughter: woe unto them! for
their day is come, the time of their visitation.”
Bullocks is used
here as a metaphor for her fighting men: they were to be slaughtered. It was
the whole Babylonian kingdom whose time of visitation (doom, punishment,
devastation) had come. They were to be called to account, and punished
(destroyed) for their wickedness.
“The voice of them that flee and escape out of the land of Babylon, to declare
in Zion the vengeance of the the Lord our God, the vengeance of his temple.”
were the Jews who had been carried captive to Babylon, and who would hurry
back to Canaan to spread in Jerusalem the news of how God had avenged
Babylon’s destruction of His temple.
“Call together the archers against Babylon: all ye that bend the bow, camp
against it round about; let none thereof escape: recompense her according to
her work: according to all that she hath done, do unto her: for she hath been
proud against the Lord, against the Holy One of Israel.”
Archers are used
here as a synonym for the armies that God was gathering together for Babylon’s
utter destruction; nor were they to allow anyone to escape. As she had
treated others in her arrogant pride against God, so were her attackers to
treat her, i.e., without mercy.
It must be
remembered that in literal Babylon God is setting before us in symbol the
iniquitous religious system that originated in Babylon, and that exists today,
as it has for two thousand years, in the form of Roman Catholicism; and in the
destruction of literal Babylon He is showing us in symbol that which will
overtake her evil spiritual counterpart in the coming Tribulation, further
details of that destruction being given in Revelation 17 and 18.
“Therefore shall her young men fall in the streets, and all her men of war
shall be cut off in that day, saith the Lord.”
represent strength, see Pr 20:29, “The glory of young men is their strength”;
and men of war similarly speak of strength, so that this verse declares
symbolically the smashing of Babylon’s might, the destruction of the literal
city being symbolic of the destruction of the evil religious system which it
represents, i.e., Roman Catholicism and apostate Protestantism.
“Behold, I am against thee, O thou most proud, saith the Lord God of hosts:
for thy day (of reckoning, judgment) is come, the time that I will visit
(punish, judge) thee.”
Babylon that day was 539 BC when God delivered the proud arrogant city into
the hand of the Persians. For the great and equally proud, arrogant apostate
harlot church, which Babylon represents, that day of reckoning will come at
the mid point of the Tribulation when she will be delivered into the hand of
the Beast who will seize her power and wealth, and set himself up as God,
demanding on pain of death, that all worship him.
“And the most proud shall stumble and fall, and none shall raise him up: and I
will kindle a fire in his cities, and it shall devour all round about him.”
The “most proud”
who would totter to his end was Nebuchadnezzar, with no one to deliver him out
of the hand of the conqueror who would destroy the cities of Babylon with
fire, which would consume all that had been the great Babylonian Empire. In
all of this God is presenting us with a preview of the end of Roman
Catholicism, Nebuchadnezzar being representative of the Pope; and “his
cities,” types of the Roman Catholic churches world wide.
“Thus saith the Lord of hosts; The children of Israel and the children of
Judah were oppressed together: and all that took them captives held them fast;
they refused to let them go.”
Israel (the ten
northern tribes) had been taken captive by Assyria in 722 BC; as had been
Judah (Judah and Benjamin) by Babylon in 605 and 597, the final Babylonian
deportation coming in 586 BC, both conquerors refusing to release the captive
“Their Redeemer (Champion, Vindicator, Savior, Powerful Advocate) is strong;
the Lord of hosts is his name: he shall thoroughly plead their cause, that he
may give rest to the land, and disquiet (visit with distress, trembling) the
inhabitants of Babylon.”
The Lord must
chastise the sins of His people, but with the chastisement completed He will
with similar certainty deal with the nations which He has used as His
instruments of chastisement, punishing them for the cruel delight they took in
executing judgment beyond the measure He had appointed.
Babylon was such
a nation, and now that her own hour of reckoning had come, Jehovah was about
to destroy her.
“A sword is upon the Chaldeans, saith the Lord, and upon the inhabitants of
Babylon, and upon her princes, and upon her wise men.”
The princes were
the civil heads; and the wise men, the astrologers and religious leaders. The
sword would devour all of them.
“A sword is upon the liars (diviners, false prophets); and they shall dote
(become fools): a sword is upon her mighty men (warriors); and they shall be
dismayed (panic stricken, broken).”
to be able to foretell the future by means of divination would be shown to be
nothing but fools, while her warriors would be stricken with panic, and all of
them would become simply fodder for the sword.
“A sword is upon their horses, and upon their chariots, and upon all the
mingled people (foreign mercenaries) that are in the midst of her; and they
shall become as women: a sword is upon her treasures; and they shall be
All her military
might, including the foreign mercenaries, would be as weak as women before the
invading Persians, who would slay them all with the sword, and plunder the
storehouses and treasuries.
“A drought is upon her waters; and they shall be dried up: for it is the land
of graven images, and they are mad upon (glory, boast in, love) their idols.”
In addition to
destruction by the sword, there would be death and misery by drought, for it
was a land devoted to idolatry, it having been noted already that every false
religion can be traced back to Babylon. And again, it is to be noted that
Roman Catholicism, which is simply the old Babylonian system dressed up in
Christian garments, is also marked by its figures and paintings of Mary,
Jesus, angels, and so-called saints, to which the deluded votaries bow in
the drought to refer to the diversion of the river which enabled the enemy to
enter the city on the dried-up river bed, see Dan 5.
“Therefore the wild beasts of the desert with the wild beasts of the islands,
shall dwell there, and the owls shall dwell therein: and it shall be no more
inhabited for ever; neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to
population would be taken away, the land becoming the haunt of wild animals
and birds, particularly those that are solitary, the word islands being
associated with the idea of a doleful sound or howling.
this is the description of the destruction of Babylon by Persia in 539 BC, the
language is also metaphorically descriptive of the impending destruction of
the evil religious system that originated in Babylon, and which exists today
as Roman Catholicism, see Re 17-18.
“As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbor cities thereof, saith
the Lord; so shall no man abide there, neither shall any son of man dwell
As in the days
of Lot, Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of the plain were destroyed, never
to be rebuilt, so also would Babylon be destroyed, and it is instructive to
note that Alexander the Great did attempt to rebuild it, having his troops
spend six months clearing away the rubble in preparation for the rebuilding,
but that futile attempt was brought to an end by his own untimely death; and
today the ruins lie as grass covered mounds unrecognizable as the remains of
the once great city.
“Behold, a people shall come from the north, and a great nation, and many
kings shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth.”
to the foe from the north is puzzling because Persia lay east of Babylon, nor
have I found any commentator who gives a satisfactory explanation for this
seeming error. It may be therefore that the reference here is not to the
literal Babylon of Jeremiah’s day, but to the evil Babylonian religious system
centered today in Rome, as it has been for the past two thousand years, and to
the coming destruction of that system by the Tribulation era Beast ruler who
will be head of the ten kingdom federation of nations that will be the old
Roman Empire revived.
“They shall hold the bow and the lance: they are cruel, and will not shew
mercy: their voice shall roar like the sea, and they shall ride upon horses,
every one put in array, like a man to the battle, against thee, O daughter of
here may certainly be to the Babylon of Jeremiah’s day, but there are very
strong indications that it is descriptive rather of the future but impending
destruction of religious Babylon, i.e., Roman Catholicism, by the Beast in the
Tribulation. Note for example that the words are addressed to the daughter
of Babylon, and no unprejudiced mind will fail to see that that is exactly
what Roman Catholicism is. The description of the military might may
therefore be metaphoric, the bow and lance being simply figures of modern hand
weapons, the voice roaring like the sea being descriptive of the sound of more
powerful weapons and bombs. Since horses are biblical symbols of strength,
the reference to horsemen may be also metaphoric of those riding in tanks and
“The king of Babylon hath heard the report of them, and his hands waxed
feeble: anguish took hold of him, and pangs as of a woman in travail.”
king at this time was Belshazzar, grandson of Nebuchadnezzar II. His death
and the fall of Babylon to Darius the Median in 539 BC are recorded in Dan 5.
“Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the swelling (jungles, thickets) of
Jordan unto the habitation of the strong (Babylon): but I will make them
suddenly run away from her: and who is a chosen man, that I may appoint over
her? for who is like me? and who will appoint me a time? and who is that
shepherd that will stand before me?”
The one who will
come up “like a lion from the swelling (jungles, thickets) of Jordan” is
Darius the Median; those who will be made to “suddenly run away from her”
appearing to be the citizens trying to escape from “her” the city of Babylon.
“... who is a
chosen man, that I may appoint over her?” is also translated, “the flock shall
have a master of my own choosing,” Knox; “and I shall place there whom
I please.” New American Bible.
“... who will
appoint me a time? and who is that shepherd that will stand before me?” is
also translated, “Who can hail me into court? Name me the shepherd (leader)
who can stand up to me,” New American Bible.
“Therefore hear ye the counsel of the Lord, that he hath taken against
Babylon; and his purposes, that he hath purposed against the land of the
Chaldeans: Surely the least of the flock shall draw them out: surely he shall
make their habitation desolate with them.”
Relative to the
last sentence of this verse, “Surely the least ... make their habitation
desolate with them,” there are two schools of interpretation, one translation,
for example, being “... it will need but an army of weaklings to dislodge
them, pull their dwelling place down....” - Knox; and another, “For
even little children will be dragged away as slaves,” - Taylor, the
former seeming to be the more preferable translation.
“At the noise of the taking of Babylon the earth is moved (trembles), and the
cry is heard among the nations.”
This is true
both of the fall of literal Babylon, and of the spiritual travesty which she
represents, i.e., Roman Catholicism and apostate Protestantism, see Re 17-18.