Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2003 James Melough
“Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will raise up against Babylon, and against
them that dwell in the midst of them that rise up against me, a destroying
destroying wind” is also translated “a man of cruel heart and like a
destroying wind” and “I will stir up a destroyer against Babylon.” That man
was Darius the Mede.
Since the wind
is a biblical symbol of the Holy Spirit, the use of that symbol may be to
remind us that it was He Who impelled Darius to attack Babylon.
“And I will send unto Babylon fanners (winnowers), that shall fan (winnow)
her, and shall empty her land: for in the day of trouble they shall be against
her round about.”
destroyers are likened here to the winnowers, who having threshed the grain,
throw it up into the air where the worthless chaff is blown away by the wind,
while the grain falls back on to the threshing floor. Babylon would be like
the chaff: she would be “blown away,” i.e., destroyed. The nations that had
once feared her would be gathered together against her, and she would be
powerless against them, because they were the instruments God had chosen to be
“Against him that bendeth let the archer bend his bow, and against him that
lifteth himself up in his brigandine (coat of mail): and spare ye not her
young men; destroy ye utterly all her host.”
The arrows of
the Medes would destroy the Babylonian archers, piercing their coats of mail.
Young and old alike were to be destroyed.
“Thus the slain shall fall in the land of the Chaldeans, and they that are
thrust through in her streets.”
whole land of Babylon, in the streets of her cities and towns, the slain would
lie, pierced by the weapons of the Medes.
“For Israel hath not been forsaken, nor Judah of his God, of the Lord of
hosts; though their land was filled with sin against the holy One of Israel.”
In spite of His
having had to chasten Israel and Judah, God had not abandoned them. He was
going to restore them to their land again.
According to the
KJ version, Israel was the land filled with sin, but virtually every other
translation declares that it was the land of the Chaldeans.
“Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut
off in her iniquity; for this is the time of the Lord’s vengeance; he will
render unto her a recompense.”
The command to
flee out of
in that day when God dealt with her according to her wickedness, is but the
foreshadowing of His command to men today to flee out of the evil system which
is Babylonian in everything but the name, i.e., Roman Catholicism, see Re
18:4-5, “... Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins,
and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto
heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities....”
“Babylon hath been a golden cup in the Lord’s hand, that made all the earth
drunken: the nations have drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad.”
The nations had
refused to drink of the cup of life offered them by God, so He then left them
free to drink of Babylon’s poisonous cup, which they have gulped down
greedily, with the result that they are like drunken men; for as noted
already, Babylon is the home to which every false religion can be traced,
Roman Catholicism having been for almost two thousand years the home of all
that is spiritually Babylonian, see again Re 17-18.
“Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed: howl for her; take balm for her
pain, if so be she may be healed.”
of Babylon’s destruction foreshadows the swiftness with which Roman
Catholicism will also be brought to an end by the Beast in the now imminent
Tribulation. And as there was wailing on the part of those who had been
benefitted temporally by Babylon’s power and wealth, so will it be also when
her great Roman Catholic counterpart is destroyed in the Tribulation.
Babylon’s fall, may have wished for a balm that
would heal her, but none existed; and so will it be when her Roman Catholic
counterpart receives her death blow, but there will be no recovery.
“We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed: forsake her, and let us
go every one into his own country: for her judgment reacheth unto heaven, and
is lifted up even to the skies.”
There were many
who would, if possible, have saved Babylon, but her salvation was impossible:
it was God Who had ordained her destruction; and as her wishful would-be
saviors had to leave her to her doom, and go each one to his own country, so
will it be in connection with the impending destruction of Roman Catholicism.
Those who will mourn the loss of temporal gain occasioned by her fall will be
as described in Re 18:10, “Standing afar off for the fear of her torment,
saying, Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour
is thy judgment come.”
bewailed the fall of literal Babylon, went each to his own country; and those
who will mourn the fall of Roman Catholicism will do likewise: the eternal
“country” of all such mourners being first hell, and then eternally the
dreadful lake of fire.
As heaven had
taken note of Babylon’s wickedness, and recompensed it accordingly, so does
that same heaven take note of the deeds of Roman Catholicism, and will also
punish it in proportion to its great wickedness.
“The Lord hath brought forth our righteousness: come, and let us declare in
Zion the work of the Lord our God.”
While this may
have expressed the feelings of the remnant that returned from the seventy year
Babylonian captivity, the ultimate fulfillment won’t be until the Millennium.
“Make bright the arrows; gather the shields: the Lord hath raised up the
spirit of the kings of the Medes: for his device is against Babylon, to
destroy it, because it is the vengeance of the Lord, the vengeance of his
God’s command to
the Medes and Persians was to make their arrows clean and sharp, and to
protect their bodies with shields and coats of mail, as they went at His
bidding to destroy Babylon because it had slaughtered His people, and
destroyed His Temple.
“Set up the standard upon the walls of Babylon, make the watch strong, set up
the watchmen, prepare the ambushes; for the Lord hath both devised and done
that which he spake against the inhabitants of Babylon.”
They were to
display their standard (flag) against Babylon, blockading it, and keeping a
strict watch lest any should try to escape, while they the Medes and Persians
prepared for their surprise attack on the doomed city, because God without
fail would execute His purpose of destruction against it.
“O thou that dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures, thine end is
come and the measure of thy covetousness.”
waters” were the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, and numerous canals, among which
Babylon lay. Powerful, and rich by dishonest gain though Babylon was, her end
had come. Nothing could deliver her out of the hand of the omnipotent
instructive to note that Roman Catholicism, which Babylon represents, is also
described as “the great whore that sitteth upon many waters,” Re 17:1, the
waters being interpreted as “peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and
tongues,” Re 17:15.
covetousness” is derived from a root word meaning to plunder: to be greedy
of gain. The Roman Catholic church is reckoned to be one of the
wealthiest organizations on earth, her deluded dupes being compelled to
contribute to the increase of that wealth without their ever being told what
is done with that money, except for the tiny fraction devoted to charity, a
ploy designed to give the impression that all of it is used for that same
But her end too
is near. God, using the Tribulation age Beast as His instrument, will destroy
her, and disclose the full measure of her ill-gotten wealth.
“The Lord of hosts hath sworn by himself, saying, Surely, I will fill thee
with men, as with caterpillars; and they shall lift up a shout against thee.”
The Lord here
promises to fill her cities with enemies as numerous as a plague of locusts,
filling the air with their shouts of victory against her.
“He hath made the earth
by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched
out the heaven by his understanding.”
The God Whom
Babylon had disregarded, was He Who had made the earth and set it in place,
and Who had likewise stretched out the heavens. It was by His power that He
made the earth, His wisdom prompting that mighty act, He having a perfect
design or purpose in all His great work of creation.
“When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens;
and he causeth the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth: he maketh
lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures.”
The thunder is
the equivalent of His voice, and the sound of it denotes the gathering of
waters in the heavens to fall upon the earth as rain; and He causes the clouds
and mists to arise all over the world. It is He Who causes the lightning to
flash in the midst of the rain-storm, and the winds to come forth and blow
across the earth.
“Every man is brutish by his knowledge; every founder is confounded by the
graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in
Compared to God
men are as dull and stupid as beasts, and every man who makes an idol simply
manifests how utterly stupid he is, for the thing he calls a god is what his
own hands have shaped, and doesn’t even have breath in it!
“They are vanity, the work of errors; in the time of their visitation they
nothing, being gods only in the estimate of those whom Satan has deluded into
believing a lie. In the day when God vents His wrath on the idolaters, their
so-called gods will be destroyed, and exposed for the worthless things they
“The portion of Jacob is not like them; for he is the former of all things;
and Israel is the rod (branch or tribe) of his inheritance: the Lord of hosts
is his name.”
“... portion” is
literally a part: inheritance. He Who will allot Jacob his eternal
inheritance is not like the lifeless idols created by men’s hands. He is the
Creator of all things, and Israel is the nation that will yet inherit His
The name “Lord
of hosts” speaks of God’s power to do all that He promises. He is the
“Thou art my battle axe and the weapons of war: for with thee will I break in
pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy kingdoms;”
addressed here is generally understood to be Darius the Mede, God’s chosen
instrument to destroy Babylon and her allies.
“And with thee will I break in pieces the horse and his rider; and with thee
will I break in pieces the chariot and his rider;”
The Medes and
Persians would be the instrument used by God to destroy all the military might
“With thee also will I break in pieces man and woman; and with thee will I
break in pieces old and young; and with thee will I break in pieces the young
man and the maid;”
God would use
the Persians also to destroy the civilian population, sparing neither young
“I will also break in pieces with thee the shepherd and his flock; and with
thee will I break in pieces the husbandman and his yoke of oxen; and with thee
will I break in pieces captains and rulers.”
No member of
Babylonian society would be spared: lowly shepherds and plowmen, together with
their animals, as well as rulers of every rank, would be destroyed.
“And I will render unto Babylon and to all the inhabitants of Chaldea all
their evil that they have done in Zion in your sight, saith the Lord.”
repay Babylon and all the people of Chaldea, with a punishment appropriate to
all the evil they had done to God’s people, and He would permit His people to
witness the execution of that punishment.
“Behold, I am against thee, O destroying mountain, saith the Lord, which
destroyest all the earth: and I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and roll
thee down from the rocks, and will make thee a burnt mountain.”
described here as having been like a volcanic mountain spewing destruction
over the whole earth; but God was about to send her crashing down from her
lofty heights, she herself becoming a desolate burnt-out mountain. (The
language here is metaphoric of its importance, for Babylon lay on a flat
“And they shall not take of thee a stone for a corner, nor a stone for
foundations; but thou shalt be desolate for ever, saith the Lord.”
The fact that
neither a corner stone nor a foundation stone would be taken from Babylon
means simply that the city would never be rebuilt: it would lie a desolate
ruin for ever. Alexander the Great, in fact, had his army spend six months
clearing away the rubble in preparation for rebuilding the city, but his
premature death in the midst of that work, caused the rebuilding attempt to be
abandoned, so that to this day the site remains mere grass covered mounds
unrecognizable as the site of the once great city.
“Set ye up a standard in the land, blow the trumpet among the nations, prepare
the nations against her, call together against her the kingdoms of Ararat,
Minni, and Ashchenaz; appoint a captain against her; cause the horses to come
up as the rough caterpillars.”
A standard or
flag was to be set up, around which the invading nations would gather at the
sound of the trumpet calling them together for Babylon’s destruction. Ararat,
Minni, and Aschenaz were three nations located in the area of Lake Van and
Lake Urmia east of the southern end of the Caspian Sea. The number of the
attacking horsemen would be comparable to swarms of locusts.
“Prepare against her the nations with the kings of the Medes, the captains
thereof, and all the rulers thereof, and all the land of his dominion.”
In addition to
the armies of Medo-Persia, there would be gathered also the armies of the
countries over which they had dominion.
“And the land shall tremble and sorrow: for every purpose of the Lord shall be
performed against Babylon, to make the land of Babylon a desolation without an
All the people
of the land of Babylon would tremble in sorrow and fear because nothing could
hinder God’s purpose to leave it a desolate uninhabited waste.
“The mighty men of Babylon have forborne to fight, they have remained in their
holds: their might hath failed; they became as women: they have burned her
dwelling-places; her bars are broken.”
soldiers had ceased to fight, and had retreated into their forts. All their
courage had gone. They had become weak as women. The invaders had burned her
houses, and broken down the gates of the city.
“One post shall run to meet another, and one messenger to meet another, to
shew the king of Babylon that his city is taken at one end.”
messenger would hurry to inform the king of Babylon that the city had been
taken from every quarter.
“And that the passages are stopped, and the reeds they have burned with fire,
and the men of war are affrighted.”
routes would be blocked, all the crossing places seized by the invaders. The
“reeds” are understood by some to be the reed beds at the side of the river;
by others, to be defense posts or guard-towers.
soldiers would be panic-stricken.
“For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; The Daughter of Babylon
is like a threshing floor, it is time to thresh her: yet a little while, and
the time of her harvest shall come.”
“daughter” may be used here to indicate that at the time of her destruction
all the citizens of Babylon would have become as weak and frightened as women.
The reference to
the threshing floor may mean that she would be trodden down as is a thereshing
floor to make it smooth and hard, or that she would be like the wheat upon the
floor ready to be threshed. Harvest time in Scripture always speaks
metaphorically of judgment, and in using this figure, God was warning that
Babylon’s time of judgment was fast approaching.
king of Babylon hath devoured me, he hath crushed me, he hath made me an empty
vessel, he hath swallowed me up like a dragon, he hath filled his belly with
my delicates (dainties), he hath cast me out.”
Here God speaks
for Israel, describing what she has suffered at the hand of Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzar had as it were made a meal of her, crushing her, and setting
her aside as a jar from which he had removed the contents, leaving her with
nothing. He had been as a monster devouring her as his victim, enriching
himself by plundering her, and then casting her away as a worthless thing.
“The violence done to
me and to my flesh be upon Babylon, shall the inhabitant of Zion say; and my
blood upon the inhabitants of Chaldea shall Jerusalem say.”
continues with the complaint against Babylon for all the suffering that has
been caused her by that nation, the Chaldeans having wantonly spilled Jewish
“Therefore thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will plead thy cause, and take
vengeance for thee; and I will dry up her sea (river), and make her springs
however, hadn’t forgotten His people. He would avenge them. Babylon
straddled the Euphrates, several bridges connecting the two parts of the city,
and it is interesting to note that the Medes diverted the river and marched
into the city on the dried-up river bed, while the overconfident and
unsuspecting Babylonians caroused, as described in Dan 5:30-31.
“And Babylon shall become heaps, a dwelling place for dragons (jackals), an
astonishment, and an hissing, without an inhabitant.”
sack of Babylon by the Medes, the plundered city fell into decay, and became
an uninhabited desolate ruin that has never been rebuilt, and that lies today
as mere grass-covered mounds.
“They shall roar together like lions: they shall yell as lion’s whelps.”
the Babylonian lords at the height of their glory. They were like lions
roaring over their prey, the lesser officials and military captains being
likened to young lions.
“In their heat I will make their feasts, and I will make them drunken, that
they may rejoice, and sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the Lord.”
Babylonians caroused and feasted, inflamed by wine until they lay unconscious,
God was about to prepare a very different feast for them. On the night when
the city fell to the Medes, they were in the midst of another drunken
carousal, see Dan 5, but it proved to be their last, for that night they fell
into the sleep of death at the hand of the invaders.
“I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter, like rams with he goats.”
As lambs, rams,
and he goats are led unsuspectingly to slaughter, so would the Babylonians be
led by God. Doom would overtake them when they lest expected it.
“How is Sheshach taken! and how is the praise of the whole earth surprised!
how is Babylon become an astonishment among the nations!.
another form of the word Babylon. The fall of the city would be so sudden and
unexpected as to cause astonishment among the nations which had regarded her
as the glory of the whole world.
“The sea is come up upon Babylon: she is covered with the multitude of the
The sea is a
biblical synonym for the peoples of the earth, see Isa 57:20, so that what is
being declared here is that the armies of the nations would roll over Babylon
like the waves of the sea.
“Her cities are a desolation, a dry land, and a wilderness, a land wherein no
man dwelleth, neither doth any son of man pass thereby.”
Her cities and
towns would lie in ruins; her land would become like a desert in which no man
would live, and through which no traveler would journey.
“And I will punish Bel in Babylon, and I will bring forth out of his mouth
that which he hath swallowed up: and the nations shall not flow together any
more unto him: yea, the wall of Babylon shall fall.”
Bel was the god
of the Babylonians, but God was about to cast him down, and take out of his
treasuries what he had looted from Judah and other nations. Nor would the
nations assemble to worship him any more, for Babylon, his citadel, would
become an uninhabited ruin.
the bringing forth out of his mouth “that which he hath swallowed up” to refer
to the liberation and repatriation of the people who had been carried to
Babylon as captives.
“My people, go ye out of the midst of her, and deliver ye every man his soul
from the fierce anger of the Lord.”
As has been
noted already, this is virtually the same language as is used in Re 18:4,
where the command is to believers to separate themselves from the evil
religious system which Babylon represents, i.e., Roman Catholicism.
“And lest your heart faint, and ye fear for the rumour that shall be heard in
the land; a rumour shall both come one year, and after that in another year
shall come a rumour, and violence in the land, ruler against ruler.”
God’s people are
here told not to be discouraged by the rumours that would be rife in the land
prior to the fall of Babylon, when her rulers would be warring amongst
themselves for supremacy.
“Therefore, behold, the days come, that I will do judgment upon the graven
images of Babylon: and her whole land shall be confounded, and all her slain
shall fall in the midst of her.”
The day was fast
approaching when God, using the Medeo-Persian forces as His agents, would
destroy Babylon’s graven images, and cause her people to lie slain throughout
the whole land.
“Then the heaven and the earth, and all that is therein, shall sing for
Babylon: for the spoilers shall come unto her from the north, saith the Lord.”
Heaven and earth
would rejoice together at Babylon’s fall.
Relative to the
spoilers coming from the north, see comments on 50:41.
“As Babylon hath caused the slain of Israel to fall, so at Babylon shall fall
the slain of all the earth.”
Some take “the
earth” here to mean the land of Babylon; but it is just as likely that the
reference is to what will be in the Great Tribulation, when the Beast will
destroy the great harlot religious system which Babylon represents.
“Ye that have escaped the sword, go away, stand not still: remember the Lord
afar off, and let Jerusalem come into your mind.”
renders this verse, “You who have escaped the sword, go away, stand not
still! (Seriously and earnestly) remember the Lord from afar off (Babylon),
and let (desolate) Jerusalem come into your mind.” Many understand this to be
God’s command to Israel to flee from Babylon back to Jerusalem.
take it to mean that the escapees were to flee to distant lands, and while in
those lands were to worship Jehovah, and remember Jerusalem. If this latter
interpretation is accepted, then the application may be to those who escaped
in AD 70, and who have remained scattered amongst the nations ever since.
“We are confounded, because we have heard reproach: shame hath covered our
faces: for strangers are come into the sanctuaries of the Lord’s house.”
This applied to
the Jews in 586 BC when the Babylonians destroyed both city and Temple; and
again in AD 70 when both were destroyed by the Romans.
“Wherefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will do judgment
upon her graven images: and through all her land the wounded shall groan.”
desecration of His Temple was avenged by the Lord when He brought the Medo-Persian
armies against Babylon in 539 BC.
“Though Babylon should mount up to heaven, and though she should fortify the
height of her strength, yet from me shall spoilers come unto her, saith the
Even if Babylon
had built towers as high as heaven and fortified them, God would still bring
against her those who would destroy her.
“A sound of a cry cometh from Babylon, and great destruction from the land of
The day was fast
approaching when Babylon would be filled with wailing as the judgment of God
fell upon her, and her attackers left her in ruins.
“Because the Lord hath spoiled Babylon, and destroyed out of her the great
voice; when her waves do roar like great waters, a noise of their voice is
So certain was
Babylon’s destruction that it is spoken of here as already accomplished, the
destroyed “great voice” being the noise of the life of the great busy city.
“... her waves
... like great waters” are usually taken to be the noise of the invaders
surging in like the thundering waves of an angry sea.
“Because the spoiler is come upon her, even upon Babylon, and her mighty men
are taken, every one of their bows is broken: for the Lord God of recompences
shall surely requite.”
armies were the spoiler who slew her mighty men, her destruction being God’s
recompence of all her wickedness.
“And I will make drunk her princes, and here wise men, her captains, and her
rulers, and her mighty men: and they shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and not
wake, saith the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts.”
The reference to
Babylon’s leaders being made drunk may well be more than metaphoric, for it is
to be remembered that on the night when Babylon fell, Belshazzar and a
thousand of his lords were in the midst of a drunken carousal, see Dan 5.
Their sleeping a
perpetual sleep, and not waking, means that they would die.
“Thus saith the Lord of hosts; The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly
broken, and her high gates shall be burned with fire; and the people shall
labor in vain, and the folk in the fire, and they shall be weary.”
This refers to
the destruction of the outer walls by Cyrus.
“... the people
shall labor in vain, etc.,” means that the people of many nations who had
toiled in the building of Babylon would have wasted their time and labor, for
everything would be destroyed by fire. They would have wearied themselves for
“weary,” however, is associated with the idea of being wearied by flight, and
indicates either that the Babylonians would weary themselves trying to escape,
or that the few who might escape would be wearied in their search for a safe
“The word which Jeremiah the prophet commanded Seraiah the son of Neriah, the
son of Maaseiah, when he went with Zedekiah the king of Judah into Babylon in
the fourth year of his reign. And this Seraiah was a quiet prince.”
It isn’t stated
why king Zedekiah went to Babylon, but it has been conjectured that it was in
response to a command from Nebuchadnezzar for all vassal kings to appear
before him to confirm their obedience.
that Seraiah went, not with Zedekiah, but on his behalf as his representative.
“a quiet prince” means that he was a peaceful man, or that he was a
quartermaster, responsible for arranging the accommodation of diplomats and
their staffs. He was the brother of Baruch, Jeremiah’s secretary.
“So Jeremiah wrote in a book all the evil that should come upon Babylon, even
all these words that are written against Babylon.”
The book or
scroll contained the predictions concerning Babylon that are recorded in
chapters 50-51 of our English Bibles.
“And Jeremiah said to Seraiah, When thou comest to Babylon and shalt see, and
shalt read all these words;”
“Then shalt thou say, O Lord, thou hast spoken against this place, to cut it
off, that none shall remain in it, neither man nor beast, but that it shall be
arrived in Babylon and looked upon it, he was then to read all that Jeremiah
had written, i.e., what is recorded in chapters 50-51 of our Bibles. Babylon
was to be utterly destroyed, never to be rebuilt, but to remain a desolate
waste for ever.
“And it shall be, when thou hast made an end of reading this book, that thou
shalt bind a stone to it, and cast it into the midst of Euphrates:”
“And thou shalt say, Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil
that I will bring upon her: and they shall be weary. Thus far are the words
the prophecy to the Babylonians, Seraiah was then to tie it to a stone and
cast it into the Euphrates, its sinking irretrievably under the waters being
symbolic of the truth that Babylon was also about to be destroyed, never to
For the meaning
of the word “weary” see comments at end of verse 58.
Jeremiah’s prophecy, the final chapter of the book being historical, and
having been written by some other unnamed inspired servant of God, summarizing
the principal events of Zedekiah’s disastrous reign, and recording the
fulfillment of what the prophet had written, thus vindicating him.