We have in these verses,
I. Israel’s sufferings, and their deliverance out of those sufferings. God takes notice of the bondage of his people in Babylon, as he did of their bondage in Egypt; he has surely seen it, and has heard their cry. Israel and Judah were oppressed together, Jer. 50:33. Those that remained of the captives of the ten tribes, upon the uniting of the kingdoms of Assyria and Chaldea, seem to have come and mingled with t hose of the two tribes, and to have mingled tears with them, so that they were oppressed together. They were humble suppliants for their liberty, and that was all; they could not attempt any thing towards it, for all that took them captives held them fast, and were much too hard for them. But this is their comfort in distress, that, though they are weak, their Redeemer is strong (Jer. 50:34), their Avenger (so the word signifies), he that has a right to them, and will claim his right and make good his claim. He is stronger than their enemies that hold them fast; he can overpower all the force that is against them, and put strength into his own people though they are very weak. The Lord of hosts is his name, and he will answer to his name, and make it to appear that he is what his people call him, and will be that to them for which they depend upon him. Note, It is the unspeakable comfort of the people of God that, though they have hosts against them, they have the Lord of hosts for them and he shall thoroughly plead their cause, pleading he shall plead it, plead it with jealousy, plead it effectually, plead it and carry it, that he may give rest to the land, and to his people’s land, rest from all their enemies round about. This is applicable to all believers, who complain of the dominion of sin and corruption, and of their own weakness and manifold infirmities. Let them know that their Redeemer is strong; he is able to keep what they commit to him, and he will plead their cause. Sin shall not have dominion over them; he will make them free, and they shall be free indeed; he will give them rest, that rest which remains for the people of God.
II. Babylon’s sin, and their punishment for that sin.
1. The sins they are here charged with are idolatry and persecution. (1.) They oppressed the people of God; they held them fast, and would not let them go. They opened not the house of his prisoners, Isa. 14:17. This was God’s quarrel with them, as of old with Pharaoh; it cost him dear, and yet they would not take warning. The inhabitants of Babylon must be disquieted (Jer. 50:34) because they have disquieted God’s people, whose honour and comfort he is jealous for, and therefore will recompense tribulation to those that trouble them, as well as rest to those that are troubled, 2 Thess. 1:6, 7. (2.) They wronged God himself, and robbed him, giving that glory to others which is due to him alone; for (Jer. 50:38) it is the land of graven images. All parts of the country abounded with idols, and they were mad upon them, were in love with them and doted on them, cared not what cost and pains they were at in the worship of them, were unwearied in paying their respects to them; and in all this they were wretchedly infatuated and acted like men out of their wits; they were carried on in their idolatry without reason or discretion, like men in a perfect fury. The word here used for idols properly signifies terrors—Enim, the name given to giants that were formidable, because they made the images of their gods to look frightful, to strike a terror upon fools and children. Their idols were scarecrows, yet they doted on them. Babylon was the mother of harlots (Rev. 17:5), the source of idolatry. Note, It is the maddest thing in the world to make a god of any creature; and those who are proud against the Lord, the true God, are justly given up to strong delusions, to be mad upon idols that cannot profit. But this madness is wickedness, for which sinners will be certainly and severely reckoned with.
2. The judgments of God upon them for these sins are such as will quite lay them waste and ruin them.
(1.) All that should be their defence and support shall be cut off by the sword. The Chaldeans had long been God’s sword, wherewith he had done execution upon the sinful nations round about: but now, they being as bad as any of them, or worse, a sword is brought upon them, even upon the inhabitants of Babylon (Jer. 50:35), a sword of war; and, as it is in God’s hand, sent and directed by him, it is a sword of justice. It shall be, [1.] Upon their princes; they shall fall by it, and their dignity, wealth, and power, shall not secure them. [2.] Upon their wise men, their philosophers, their statesmen, and privy-counsellors; their learning and policy shall neither secure them nor stand the public in any stead. [3.] Upon their soothsayers and astrologers, here called the liars (Jer. 50:36), for they cheated with their prognostications of peace and prosperity; the sword upon them shall make them dote, so that they shall talk like fools, and be as men that have lost all their wits. Note, God has a sword that can reach the soul and affect the mind, and bring men under spiritual plagues. [4.] Upon their mighty men. A sword shall be upon their spirits; if they are not slain, yet they shall be dismayed, and shall be no longer mighty men; for what stead will their hands stand them in when their hearts fail them? [5.] Upon their militia (Jer. 50:37): The sword shall be upon their horses and chariots; the invaders shall make themselves masters of all their warlike stores, shall seize their horses and chariots for themselves, or destroy them. The troops of other nations that were in their service shall be quite disheartened: The mingled people shall become as weak and timorous as women. [6.] Upon their exchequer: The sword shall be upon her treasures, which are the sinews of war, and they shall be robbed, and made use of by the enemy against them. See what universal destruction the sword makes when it comes with commission.
(2.) The country shall be made desolate (Jer. 50:38): The waters shall be dried up, the water that secures the city. Cyrus drew the river Euphrates into so many channels as made it passable for his army, so that they got with ease to the walls of Babylon, which, if was thought, that river had rendered inaccessible. “The water likewise that made the country fruitful shall be dried up, so that it shall be turned into barrenness, and shall be no more inhabited by the children of men, but by the wild beasts of the desert,” Jer. 50:39. This was foretold concerning Babylon, Isa. 13:19-21. It shall become like Sodom and Gomorrah, Jer. 50:40. The same was foretold concerning Edom, Jer. 49:18. As the Chaldeans had laid Edom waste, so they shall themselves be laid waste.
(3.) The king and kingdom shall be put into the utmost confusion and consternation by the enemies’ invading them, Jer. 50:41-43. All the expressions here used to denote the formidable power of the invaders, the terrors wherewith they should array themselves, and the great fright which both court and country should be put into thereby, we met with before (Jer. 6:22-24) concerning the Chaldeans’ invading the land of Judah. The battle which is there said to be against thee, O daughter of Zion! is here said to be against thee, O daughter of Babylon! to intimate that they should be paid in their own coin. God can find out such as shall be for terror and destruction to those that are for terror and destruction to others; and those who have dealt cruelly, and have shown no mercy, may expect to be cruelly dealt with, and to find no mercy. Only there is one difference between these passages; there it is said, We have heard the fame thereof and our hands wax feeble; here it is said, The king of Babylon has heard the report and his hands waxed feeble, which intimates that that proud and daring prince shall, in the day of his distress, be as weak and dispirited as the meanest Israelites were in the day of their distress.
(4.) That they shall be as much hurt as frightened, for the invader shall come up like a lion to tear and destroy (Jer. 50:44) and shall make them and their habitation desolate (Jer. 50:45), and the desolation shall be so astonishing that all the nations about shall be terrified by it, Jer. 50:46. These three verses we had before (Jer. 49:19-21) in the prophecy of the destruction of Edom, which was accomplished by the Chaldeans, and they are here repeated, mutatis mutandis—with a few necessary alterations, in the prophecy of the destruction of Babylon, which was to be accomplished upon the Chaldeans, to show that though the distributions of Providence may appear unequal for a time its retributions will be equal at last; when thou shalt make an end to spoil thou shalt be spoiled, Isa. 33:1; Rev. 13:10.