Under the similitude of a cup going round, which all the company must drink of, is here represented the universal desolation that was now coming upon that part of the world which Nebuchadrezzar, who just now began to reign and act, was to be the instrument of, and which should at length recoil upon his own country. The cup in the vision is to be a sword in the accomplishment of it: so it is explained, Jer. 25:16. It is the sword that I will send among them, the sword of war, that should be irresistibly strong and implacably cruel.
I. As to the circumstances of this judgment, observe,
1. Whence this destroying sword should come—from the hand of God. It is the sword of the Lord (Jer. 47:6), bathed in heaven, Isa. 34:5. Wicked men are made use of as his sword, Ps. 17:13. It is the wine-cup of his fury. It is the just anger of God that sends this judgment. The nations have provoked him by their sins, and they must fall under the tokens of his wrath. These are compared to some intoxicating liquor, which they shall be forced to drink of, as, formerly, condemned malefactors were sometimes executed by being compelled to drink poison. The wicked are said to drink the wrath of the Almighty, Job 21:20; Rev. 14:10. Their share of troubles in his world is represented by the dregs of a cup of red wine full of mixture, Ps. 75:8. See Ps. 11:6. The wrath of God in this world is but as a cup, in comparison of the full streams of it in the other world.
2. By whose hand it should be sent to them—by the hand of Jeremiah as the judge set over the nations (Jer. 1:10), to pass his sentence upon them, and by the hand of Nebuchadrezzar as the executioner. What a much greater figure then does the poor prophet make than what the potent prince makes, if we look upon their relation to God, though in the eye of the world it was the reverse of it! Jeremiah must take the cup at God’s hand, and compel the nations to drink it. He foretels no hurt to them but what God appoints him to foretel; and what is foretold by a divine authority will certainly be fulfilled by a divine power.
3. On whom it should be sent—on all the nations within the verge of Israel’s acquaintance and the lines of their communication. Jeremiah took the cup, and made all the nations to drink of it, that is, he prophesied concerning each of the nations here mentioned that they should share in this great desolation that was coming. Jerusalem and the cities of Judah are put first (Jer. 25:18); for judgment begins at the house of God (1 Pet. 4:17), at the sanctuary, Ezek. 9:6. Whether Nebuchadrezzar had his eye principally upon Jerusalem and Judah in this expedition or no does not appear; probably he had; for it was as considerable as any of the nations here mentioned. However God had his eye principally to them. And this part of the prophecy was already begun to be accomplished; this is denoted by that melancholy parenthesis (as it is this day), for in the fourth year of Jehoiakim things had come into a very bad posture, and all the foundations were out of course. Pharaoh king of Egypt comes next, because the Jews trusted to that broken reed (Jer. 25:19); the remains of them fled to Egypt, and there Jeremiah particularly foretold the destruction of that country, Jer. 43:10, 11. All the other nations that bordered upon Canaan must pledge Jerusalem in this bitter cup, th 553d is cup of trembling. The mingled people, the Arabians (so some), some rovers of divers nations that lived by rapine (so others); the kings of the land of Uz, joined to the country of the Edomites. The Philistines had been vexatious to Israel, but now their cities and their lords become a prey to this mighty conqueror. Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Zidon, are places well known to border upon Israel; the Isles beyond, or beside, the sea, are supposed to be those parts of Phoenicia and Syria that lay upon the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Dedan and the other countries mentioned (Jer. 25:23, 24) seem to have lain upon the confines of Idumea and Arabia the desert. Those of Elam are the Persians, with whom the Medes are joined, now looked upon as inconsiderable and yet afterwards able to make reprisals upon Babylon for themselves and all their neighbours. The kings of the north, that lay nearer to Babylon, and others that lay at some distance, will be sure to be seized on and made a prey of by the victorious sword of Nebuchadrezzar. Nay, he shall push on his victories with such incredible fury and success that all the kingdoms of the world that were then and there known should become sacrifices to his ambition. Thus Alexander is said to have conquered the world, and the Roman empire is called the world, Luke 2:1. Or it may be taken as reading the doom of all the kingdoms of the earth; one time or other, they shall feel the dreadful effects of war. The world has been, and will be, a great cockpit, while men’s lusts war as they do in their members, Jas. 4:1. But, that the conquerors may see their fate with the conquered, it concludes, The king of Sheshach shall drink after them, that is, the king of Babylon himself, who has given his neighbours all this trouble and vexation, shall at length have it return upon his own head. That by Sheshach is meant Babylon is plain from Jer. 51:41; but whether it was another name of the same city or the name of another city of the same kingdom is uncertain. Babylon’s ruin was foretold, Jer. 25:12, 13. Upon this prophecy of its being the author of the ruin of so many nations it is very fitly repeated here again.
4. What should be the effect of it. The desolations which the sword should make in all these kingdoms are represented by the consequences of excessive drinking (Jer. 25:16): They shall drink, and be moved, and be mad. They shall be drunken, and spue, and fall and rise no more, Jer. 25:27. Now this may serve, (1.) To make us loathe the sin of drunkenness, that the consequences of it are made use of to set forth a most woeful and miserable condition. Drunkenness deprives men, for the present, of the use of their reason, makes them mad. It takes from them likewise that which, next to reason, is the most valuable blessing, and that is health; it makes them sick, and endangers the bones and the life. Men in drink often fall and rise no more; it is a sin that is its own punishment. How wretchedly are those intoxicated and besotted that suffer themselves at any time to be intoxicated, especially to be by the frequent commission of the sin besotted with wine or strong drink! (2.) To make us dread the judgments of war. When God sends the sword upon a nation, with warrant to make it desolate, it soon becomes like a drunken man, filled with confusion at the alarms of war, put into a hurry; its counsellors mad, and at their wits’ end, staggering in all the measures they take, all the motions they make, sick at heart with continual vexation, vomiting up the riches they have greedily swallowed down (Job 20:15), falling down before the enemy, and as unable to get up again, or do any thing to help themselves, as a man dead drunk is, Hab. 2:16.
5. The undoubted certainty of it, with the reason given for it, Jer. 25:28, 29. They will refuse to take the cup at thy hand; not only they will be loth that the judgment should come, but they will be loth to believe that ever it will come; they will not give credit to the prediction of so despicable a man as Jeremiah. But he must tell them that it is the word of the Lord of hosts, he hath said it; and it is in vain for them to struggle with Omnipotence: You shall certainly drink. And he must give them this reason, It is a time of visitation, it is a reckoning day, and Jerusalem has been called to an account already: I begin to bring evil on the city that is called by my name; its relation to me will not exempt it from punishment, and should you be utterly unpunished? No; If this be done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry? If those who have some good in them smart so severely for the evil that is found in them, can those expect to escape who have worse evils, and no good, found among them? If Jerusalem be punished for learning idolatry of the nations, shall not the nations be punished, of whom they learned it? No doubt they shall: I will call for a sword upon all the inhabitants of the earth, for they have helped to debauch the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
II. Upon this whole matter we may observe, 1. That there is a God that judges in the earth, to whom all the nations of the earth are accountable, and by whose judgment they must abide. 2. That God can easily bring to ruin the greatest nations, the most numerous and powerful, and such as have been most secure. 3. That those who have been vexatious and mischievous to the people of God will be reckoned with for it at last. Many of these nations had in their turns given disturbance to Israel, but now comes destruction on them. The year of the redeemer will come, even the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion. 4. That the burden of the word of the Lord will at last become the burden of his judgments. Isaiah had prophesied long since against most of these nations (Jer. 13:1-27) and now at length all his prophecies will have their complete fulfilling. 5. That those who are ambitious of power and dominion commonly become the troublers of the earth and the plagues of their generation. Nebuchadrezzar was so proud of his might that he had no sense of right. These are the men that turn the world upside down, and yet expect to be admired and adored. Alexander thought himself a great prince when others thought him no better than a great pirate. 6. That the greatest pomp and power in this world are of very uncertain continuance. Before Nebuchadrezzar’s greater force kings themselves must yield and become captives.