For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2003 James Melough

51:1.  “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 wind;”


“... a 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.


51:2.  “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.”


Babylon’s 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 her destroyers.


51:3.  “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.


51:4.  “Thus the slain shall fall in the land of the Chaldeans, and they that are thrust through in her streets.”


Throughout the whole land of Babylon, in the streets of her cities and towns, the slain would lie, pierced by the weapons of the Medes.


51:5.  “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.


51:6.  “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 Babylon 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....”


51:7.  “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.


51:8.  “Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed: howl for her; take balm for her pain, if so be she may be healed.”


The suddenness 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.


Those who bewailed 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.


51:9.  “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.”


Those who 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.


51:10.  “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.


51:11.  “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 temple.”


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.


51:12.  “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.


51:13.  “O thou that dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures, thine end is come and the measure of thy covetousness.”


The “many 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 Jehovah.


It is 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 purpose.


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.


51:14.  “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.


51:15.  “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.


51:16.  “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.


51:17.  “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 them.”


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!


51:18.  “They are vanity, the work of errors; in the time of their visitation they shall perish.”


Idols are 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 really are.


51:19.  “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 blessing.


The name “Lord of hosts” speaks of God’s power to do all that He promises.  He is the omnipotent One.


51:20.  “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;”


The one addressed here is generally understood to be Darius the Mede, God’s chosen instrument to destroy Babylon and her allies.


51:21.  “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 of Babylon.


51:22.  “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 nor old.


51:23.  “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.


51:24.  “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.”


Jehovah would 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.


51:25.  “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.”


Babylon is 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 plain).


51:26.  “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.


51:27.  “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.


51:28.  “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.


51:29.  “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 inhabitant.”


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.


51:30.  “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.”


Babylon’s 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.


51:31.  “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 after messenger would hurry to inform the king of Babylon that the city had been taken from every quarter.


51:32.  “And that the passages are stopped, and the reeds they have burned with fire, and the men of war are affrighted.”


All escape 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.


The Babylonian soldiers would be panic-stricken.


51:33.  “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.”


The term “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.


51:34.  “Nebuchadrezzar the 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.


51:35.  “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.”


Israel’s lament continues with the complaint against Babylon for all the suffering that has been caused her by that nation, the Chaldeans having wantonly spilled Jewish blood.


51:36.  “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 dry.”


The Lord, 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.


51:37.  “And Babylon shall become heaps, a dwelling place for dragons (jackals), an astonishment, and an hissing, without an inhabitant.”


Following the 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.


51:38.  “They shall roar together like lions: they shall yell as lion’s whelps.”


This describes 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.


51:39.  “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.”


While the 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.


51:40.  “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.


51:41.  “How is Sheshach taken! and how is the praise of the whole earth surprised! how is Babylon become an astonishment among the nations!.


Sheshach is 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.


51:42.  “The sea is come up upon Babylon: she is covered with the multitude of the waves thereof.”


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.


51:43.  “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.


51:44.  “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.


Some understand 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.


51:45.  “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.


51:46.  “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.


51:47.  “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.


51:48.  “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.


51:49.  “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.


51:50.  “Ye that have escaped the sword, go away, stand not still: remember the Lord afar off, and let Jerusalem come into your mind.”


The Amplified Bible 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.


Others, however, 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.


51:51.  “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.


51:52.  “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.”


The Babylonian desecration of His Temple was avenged by the Lord when He brought the Medo-Persian armies against Babylon in 539 BC.


51:53.  “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 Lord.”


Even if Babylon had built towers as high as heaven and fortified them, God would still bring against her those who would destroy her.


51:54.  “A sound of a cry cometh from Babylon, and great destruction from the land of the Chaldeans:”


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.


51:55.  “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 uttered:”


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.


51:56.  “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.”


The Medo-Persian armies were the spoiler who slew her mighty men, her destruction being God’s recompence of all her wickedness.


51:57.  “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.


51:58.  “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 nothing.


The word “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 haven.


51:59.  “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.


Some understand that Seraiah went, not with Zedekiah, but on his behalf as his representative.


Seraiah’s being “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.


51:60.  “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.


51:61.  “And Jeremiah said to Seraiah, When thou comest to Babylon and shalt see, and shalt read all these words;”


51:62.  “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 desolate forever.”


When Seraiah 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.


51:63.  “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:”


51:64.  “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 of Jeremiah.”


After reading 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 rise again.


For the meaning of the word “weary” see comments at end of verse 58.


This concludes 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.

[Jeremiah 52]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough