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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 9–20
Verses 9–20

God is here by his prophet, as afterwards in his providence, proceeding in his controversy with Babylon. Observe,

I. The commission and charge given to the instruments that were to be employed in destroying Babylon. The army that is to do it is called an assembly of great nations (Jer. 50:9), the Medes and Persians, and all their allies and auxiliaries; it is called an assembly, because regularly formed by the divine will and counsel to do this execution. God will raise them up to do it, will incline them to and fir them for this service, and then he will cause them to come up, for all their motions are under his conduct and direction: he shall give the word of command, shall order them to put themselves in array against Babylon (Jer. 50:14), and then they shall put themselves in array (Jer. 50:9), for what God appoints to be done shall be done; and thence she shall be quickly taken; from their first sitting down before it they shall be still gaining ground against it till it be taken. God shall bid them shoot at her and spare no arrows (Jer. 50:14), and then their arrows shall be as of a mighty expert man, that has both skill and strength, a good eye and a good hand (Jer. 50:9); none shall return in vain. When God gives commission he will give success. Nay, they are bidden not only to shoot at her (Jer. 50:14), but to shout against her (Jer. 50:15) with a triumphant shout, as those that are already sure of victory. Those whom God directs to shoot may do so with shouting, for they are sure not to miss the mark.

II. The desolation and destruction itself that shall be brought upon Babylon. This is here set forth in a great variety of expressions. 1. The wealth of Babylon shall be a rich and easy prey to the conquerors (Jer. 50:10): Chaldea shall be a spoil to all her destroyers, who shall enrich themselves by plundering her, and, which is strange, all that spoil her shall be satisfied; they shall have so much that even they themselves shall say that they have enough. 2. The country of Babylon shall be depopulated and lie uninhabited: It shall be wholly desolate (Jer. 50:13) to such a degree that every one who goes by shall triumph in her fall, and, instead of condoling with them, shall hiss at all her plagues, Jer. 50:13. 3. Their ancestors shall be ashamed of their cowardice, in fleeing from the first onset (Jer. 50:12), or, Your mother, Babylon itself, the mother-city, shall be confounded, when she sees herself deserted by those that should have been her guards. Thus the former ages of Christians may justly be confounded and ashamed to see how unlike them the latter ages are, and how wretchedly they have degenerated; and no sin brings a surer and sorer ruin upon persons, or people, than apostasy. 4. The great admirers of Babylon shall see it rendered very despicable: the last of kingdoms, the very tail of the nations, shall it be, a wilderness, a dry land, a desert, Jer. 50:11. The country that was populous shall be dispeopled, that was enriched with a fertile soil shall become barren. 5. The great city, the head of it, shall be quite ruined. Her foundations have fallen, and therefore her walls are thrown down; for how can the walls stand when divine vengeance is at the door and shakes the very foundations? It is the vengeance of the Lord, which nothing can contend with either in law or battle. 6. There shall not be left in Babylon so much as the poor of the land, for vine-dressers and husbandmen, as there was in Israel (Jer. 50:16): The sower shall be cut off from Babylon, and he that handles the sickle; the country shall be so emptied of people that there shall be none to till the ground and gather in the fruits of it. Harvest shall come, and there shall be no reapers; seed-time shall come, but there shall be no sower; God will do his part, but there shall be no men to do theirs. 7. All their auxiliary forces, which they have hired into their service, shall desert them, as mercenary men often do upon the approach of danger (Jer. 50:16): For fear of the oppressing sword they shall turn every one to his people. This was threatened before concerning Egypt, Jer. 46:16.

III. The procuring provoking cause of this destruction. It comes from God’s displeasure; it is because of the wrath of the Lord that Babylon shall be wholly desolate (Jer. 50:13), and his wrath is righteous, for (Jer. 50:14) she hath sinned against the Lord, therefore spare no arrows. Note, It is sin that makes men a mark for the arrows of God’s judgments. An abundance of idolatry and immorality was to be found in Babylon, yet those are not mentioned as the reason of God’s displeasure against them, but the injuries they had done to the people of God, from a principle of enmity to them as his people. They have been the destroyers of God’s heritage (Jer. 50:11); herein indeed God made use of them for the necessary correction of his people, and yet it is laid to their charge as a heinous crime, because they designed nothing but their utter destruction. 1. What they did against Jerusalem they did with pleasure (Jer. 50:11): You were glad, you rejoice. God does not afflict his people willingly, and therefore takes it very ill if the instruments he employs afflict them willingly. When Titus Vespasian destroyed Jerusalem he wept over it, but these Chaldeans triumphed over it. 2. The spoils of Jerusalem they made use of to feed their own luxury: “You have grown fat as the heifer at grass, and bellow as bulls; your having conquered Jerusalem has made you very wanton and proud, easy to yourselves and formidable to all about you, and therefore you must be a spoil.” Those that have thus swallowed down riches must vomit them up again. Therefore they have given their hand (Jer. 50:15); they have surrendered themselves to the conqueror, have tamely yielded so that now you may take vengeance on her, now you may make reprisals and do unto her as she hath done. 3. They aimed at nothing less than the utter ruin of God’s Israel: Israel is a scattered sheep, as before (Jer. 50:6), that is not only barked at and worried by dogs, but even lions, the most potent adversaries, have roared upon him and driven him away, Jer. 50:17. One king of Assyria carried the ten tribes quite away and devoured them; another invaded Judah, and plundered and impoverished it, tore the fleece and flesh of this poor sheep; and now at last this Nebuchadnezzar, that is the terror and plague of all his neighbours, has taken advantage of the low condition to which he is reduced, and he has fallen upon him and broken his bones, has quite ruined him, and therefore the king of Babylon must be punished as the king of Assyria was, Jer. 50:18. Note, Those who pursue and prosecute the sins of their predecessors must expect to be pursued and prosecuted by their plagues; if they do as they did, let them fare as they fared.

IV. The mercy promised to the Israel of God, which shall not only accompany, but accrue from, the destruction of Babylon. 1. God will return their captivity; they shall be released out of their bondage, and brought again to their own habitation as sheep that were scattered to their own fold Jer. 50:19. They still retained a title to the land of Canaan; it is their habitation still. The discontinuance of their possession was not the destruction of their right. But now they shall recover the enjoyment of it again. 2. He will restore their prosperity; they shall not only live, but live comfortably, in their own land again; they shall feed upon Carmel and Bashan, the richest and most fruitful parts of the country. These sheep shall be gathered from the deserts to which they were dispersed, and put again into good pasture, which their soul shall be satisfied with though they shall come hungry to it, having been so long stinted, and straitened, and kept short, yet they shall find enough to satiate them and shall have hearts to be satiated with it. They enquired the way to Zion (Jer. 50:5), where God was to be served and worshipped. This was what they chiefly aimed at in their return; but God will not only bring them thither, but bring them also to Carmel and Bashan, where they shall abundantly feed themselves. Note, Those that return to God and their duty shall find true satisfaction of soul in so doing; and those that seek first the kingdom of God and the righteousness thereof, that aim to make their habitation in Zion, the holy hill, shall have other things added to them, even all the comforts of Ephraim and Gilead, the fruitful hills. 3. God will pardon their iniquity; this is the root of all the rest (Jer. 50:20): In those days the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none. Not only the punishments of their iniquity shall be taken off, but the offence which it gave to God shall be forgotten, and he will be reconciled to them. Their sin shall be before him as if it had never been; it shall be blotted out as a cloud, crossed out as a debt, shall be cast behind his back; nay, it shall be cast into the depth of the sea, shall be no longer sealed up among God’s treasures, nor in any danger of appearing again or rising up against them. This denotes how fully God forgives sin; he remembers it no more. Note, Deliverances out of trouble are then comforts indeed when they are the fruits of the forgiveness of sin, Isa. 38:17. Judah and Israel were so fully forgiven when they were brought back out of Babylon that they are said to have received of the Lord’s hand double for all their sins, Isa. 40:1. This may include also a thorough reformation of their hearts and lives, as well as a full remission of their sins. If any seek for idols or any idolatrous customs among them, after their return, there shall be none, they shall not find them; their dross shall be purely purged away, and by that it shall appear that their guilt is so; for I will pardon those whom I reserve; I will be propitious to them (so the word is) and that must be through him who is the great propitiation. Note, Those whose sins God pardons he reserves for something very great; for whom he justifies them he glorifies.