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Jeremiah 51:7

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.

7. Calix aureus Babylon in manu Jehovae, inebrians totam terram; e vino ejus biberunt gentes, propterea insanierunt gentes.


Here again he anticipates an objection which might have been made; for we know that the kingdoms of the world neither rise nor stand, except through the will of God; as, then, the Prophet threatens destruction to Babylon, this objection was ready at hand. “How comes it, then, that this city, which thou sayest is accursed, has hitherto so greatly flourished? for who hath honored Babylon with so great dignity, with so much wealth, and with so many victories? for it has not by chance happened that this monarchy has been elevated so high; for not only all Assyria has been brought, under its yoke, but also the kingdom of Israel, and the kingdom of Judah is not far from its final ruin.” To this the Prophet answers, and says, that Babylon was a cup in God’s hand to inebriate the earth; as though he had said, that God was by no means inconsistent with himself when he employed the Babylonians as his scourges, and when he now chastises them in their turn. And he shows also, that when things thus revolve in the world, they do not happen through the blind force of chance, but through the secret judgments of God, who so governs the world, that he often exalts even the ungodly to the highest power, when his purpose is to execute through them his judgments.

We now, then, understand the design of this passage; for otherwise what the Prophet says might seem abrupt. Having said that the time of God’s vengeance had already come, he now adds, A golden cup is in God’s hand; — to what purpose was this added? By what has been stated, it appears evident how aptly the words run, how sentences which seem to be wide asunder fitly unite together; for a doubt might have crept in as to this, how could it be that God should thus bestow his benefits on this city, and then in a short time destroy it. As, then, it seems unreasonable that God should vary in his doings, as though he was not consistent with himself, the Prophet on the other hand reminds us, that when such changes happen, God does in no degree change his purposes; for he so regulates the government of the world, that those whom he favors with remarkable benefits, he afterwards destroys, they being worthy of punishment on account of their ingratitude, and that he does not without reason or cause use them for a time as scourges to chastise the wickedness of others. And it is for this reason, as I think, that he calls it a golden cup; for God seemed to pour forth his benefits on the Babylonians as with a full hand. When, therefore, the splendor of that city and of the monarchy was so great, all things were there as it were golden.

Then he says, that it was a golden cup, but in the hand of God By saying that it was in God’s hand, he intimates that the Babylonians were not under the government of chance, but were ruled by God as he pleased, and also that their power, though very great, was yet under the restraint of God, so that they did nothing but by his permission, and even by his command.

He afterwards adds how God purposed to carry this cup in his hand, a cup so splendid as it were of gold; his will was that it should inebriate the whole earth These are metaphorical words; for the Prophet speaks here, no doubt, of punishments which produce a kind of fury or madness. When God then designed to take vengeance on all these nations, he inebriated them with evils, and this he did by the Babylonians. For this reason, therefore, Babylon is said to have been the golden cup which God extended with his own hand, and gave it to be drunk by all nations. This similitude has also been used elsewhere, when Jeremiah spoke of the Idumeans,

“All drank of the cup, yea, drank of it to the dregs, so that they were inebriated,”
(Jeremiah 49:12)

He there also called the terrible punishment that was coming on the Idumeans the cup of fury. Thus, then, were many nations inebriated by the Babylonians, because they were so oppressed, that their minds were infatuated, as it were, with troubles; for we know that men are stupefied with adversities, as though they were not in a right mind. In this way Babylon inebriated many nations, because it so oppressed them that they were reduced to a state of rage or madness; for they were not in a composed state of mind when they were miserably distressed. 8383     Some render the last word “reel,” or stagger, and perhaps more consistently with the comparison of drunkenness. The verb in Hithpael, as here, means to be moved violently, either through rage or joy. Moved or agitated is the rendering of the versions and the Targum. To be moved with joy is to exult or glory; and so Blayney renders it, and connects the end of this verse with the following, i.e., that the nations gloried because of the fall of Babylon, —
   Therefore shall nations glory, [saying,] Babylon is suddenly fallen, etc.

    — Ed

To the same purpose is what is added: The nations who drank of her cup became mad. Here he shows that the punishments were not ordinary, by which divers nations were chastised by the Babylonians, but such as deprived them of mind and judgment, as it is usually the case, as I have just said, in extreme evils.

Moreover, this passage teaches us, that when the wicked exercise their power with great display, yet God overrules all their violence, though not apparently; nay, that all the wicked, while they seem to assume to themselves the greatest license, are yet guided, as it were, by the hand of God, and that when they oppress their neighbors, it is done through the secret providence of God, who thus inebriates all who deserve to be punished. At the same time, the Prophet implies, that the Babylonians oppressed so many nations neither by their own contrivance, nor by their own strength; but because it was the Lord’s will that they should be inebriated: otherwise it would have greatly perplexed the faithful to think that no one could be found stronger than the Babylonians. Hence the Prophet in effect gives this answer, that all the nations could not have been overcome, had not the Lord given them to drink the wine of fury and madness. It follows, —

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