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Jeremiah 51:60-64

60. So Jeremiah wrote in a book all the evil that should come upon Babylon, even all these words that are written against Babylon.

60. Et scripsit Jeremias omne malum, quod venturum erat contra Babylonem in libro uno, omnes sermones istos scriptos contra Babylonem.

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

61. Et dixit Jeremias ipsi Seraiae, Quum ingressus fueris Babylonem, et conspexeris eam, tunc leges omnes sermones istos,

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 for ever.

62. Et dices, Jehova, tu loquutus es contra locum hunc, ad excidendum ipsum, ut non sit in eo habitator, ab homine ad bestiam, quia vastationes perpetuae erit (hoc est, erit in vastationes perpetuas, vel redigetur.)

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:

63. Et erit quum finem feceris legendo librum hunc, alligabis ad ipsum lapidem, et projicies in medium Euphratem:

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.

64. Et dices, Sic mergetur Babylon, et non exurget a facie mali quod ego immitto contra eam, et volabunt (aut, fatigabunt.) Hue usque sermones Jeremiae.


Here we see, on one hand, what courage the Prophet had, who dared to command the king’s messenger; for though Seraiah was a meek man, so as to render himself submissive, yet Jeremiah exposed himself to danger; for he might have been timid, though he was neither proud nor arrogant; and thus, as men are wont to do when terrified, he might have referred to the king what he had heard from the Prophet. Then Jeremiah did what we here read, not without danger; and hence appears his firmness. We then see that he was endued with the spirit of invincible courage, so as to discharge his office freely and intrepidly.

On the other hand, we have to observe not only the meekness of Seraiah, but also his piety, together with his modesty; for except he had in him a strong principle of religion, he might have adduced plausible reasons for refusing. As, then, he was so submissive, and dreaded no danger, it is evident that the real fear of God was vigorous in his soul.

And these things ought to be carefully noticed; for who of our cornfly princes can be found at this day who will close his eyes to all dangers, and resolutely disregard all adverse events, when God and his servants are to be obeyed? And then we see how pusillanimous are those who profess to be God’s ambassadors, and claim to themselves the name of Pastors. As, then, teachers dare not faithfully to perform their office, so on the other hand courtly princes are so devoted to themselves and to their own prudence, that they are unwilling to undertake duties which are unpopular. On this account, then, this passage, with all its circumstances, ought to be carefully noticed.

Jeremiah, then, wrote in a book all the evil which was to come on Babylon, even all those words, (he refers to the prophecies which we have seen;) and Jeremiah said to Seraiah, 112112     That the connection may appear more evident, Jeremiah 51:60 and the first sentence in Jeremiah 51:61 ought to be put within a parenthesis; for “the word which Jeremiah commanded Seraiah,” mentioned in Jeremiah 51:59, is what follows, “When thou comest to Babylon,” etc. — Ed. etc. Here the boldness of Jeremiah comes to view, that he hesitated not to command Seraiah to read this book when he came to Babylon and had seen it. To see it, is not mentioned here without reason, for the splendor of that city might have astonished Seraiah. Then the Prophet here seasonably meets the difficulty, and bids him to disregard the height of the walls and towers; and that however Babylon might dazzle the eyes of others, yet he was to look down, as from on high, on all that pomp and pride: When thou enterest the city, and hast seen it, then read this book The verb קרא, kora, means to call, to proclaim, and also to read. Then Seraiah must have read this book by himself; nor do I doubt but that the words ought to be so understood, as we shall see. It was not then necessary for Seraiah to have a pulpit, or in a public way to read the book to an assembled people; but it was sufficient to read it privately by himself, without any witnesses; and this may be gathered from the context.

And thou shalt say, Jehovah, thou hast spoken against this place It hence appears that Seraiah was commanded to read the book, not for the benefit of hearers, for they would have been doubly deaf to the words of Seraiah. And it is not probable that the Hebrew language was then familiar to the Chaldeans. There is a great affinity, as it is well known, in the languages, but there is also some difference. But we conclude, from this passage, that the reading was in a chamber, or in some secret place; for Seraiah is bidden to fix all his thoughts on God, and to address his words to him. He did not then undertake the work or office of a preacher, so as openly to proclaim all these things to the Babylonians. But having inspected the city, he was to read the book by himself, that is, what had been written.

And this also deserves to be noticed; for however courageous we may be, yet our constancy and boldness are more apparent when we have to do with men than when we are alone, and God is the only witness; for when no one sees us, we tremble; and though we may have previously appeared to have manly courage, yet when alone, fear lays hold on us. There is hardly one in a hundred who is so bold as he ought to be when God alone is witness. But shame renders us courageous and constrains us to be firm, and the vigor which is almost extinct in private is roused in public. As, then, ambition almost always rules in men, this passage ought to be carefully noticed, where the Prophet commands Seraiah to deal alone with God, and, though no mortal was present, to strengthen himself, by relying on the certain and infallible fidelity of God; Thou shalt then say, Jehovah, etc. And it is doubtless a real experiment of faith, when we consider within ourselves the promises of God, and go not forth before the public to avow our firmness; for when any one in silence acknowledges God to be true, and strengthens himself in his promises, and so disregards the false judgments of all, that were he alone in the world, he would not yet despond, — this is a true and real trial of faith.

Thou shalt then say, Jehovah, thou hast spoken against this place The design of the words was, that Seraiah might feel assured that God was true, and embrace in his presence what he read, and not doubt but that the word, which came from God, would, in due time, be accomplished: how so? because God is true. The word Jehovah, then, ought to be regarded as emphatical; and thou shalt say, Thou, Jehovah, hast spoken against this place; that is, neither Jeremiah, nor any other mortal, is the author of this prophecy; but thou, O Lord, has dictated to thy servant whatever is contained in this volume.

To destroy it, so that there should not be an inhabitant in it, neither man nor beast: how so? because it shall be reduced to desolations, or the particle כי, ki, may be taken adversatively, but it shall be reduced to perpetual desolations 113113     Literally the words are, —
   For desolations of perpetuity shall it (or she) be.

   Babylon is sometimes referred to as masculine, and sometimes as feminine. — Ed.

He afterwards adds, And when thou hast made an end of reading, thou shalt tie a stone to it and cast it into the Euphrates, and shalt say, Thus sink shall Babylon Here is added an external symbol to confirm the faith of Seraiah. We must yet bear in mind, that this was not said to Seraiah for his own sake alone, but that the people might also know, that the king’s messenger, who had been sent for the sake of conciliating, was also the messenger of God and of the Prophet, who might have otherwise been despised by the people. When, therefore, the faithful knew this, they were in no ordinary way confirmed in the truth of the prophecy. Jeremiah, then, not only consulted the benefit of Seraiah alone, but that of all the godly; for though this was unknown for a long time, yet the messenger afterwards acknowledged that this command had been given him by Jeremiah, and that he took the book and cast it into the Euphrates. This, then, was given as a confirmation to all the godly.

As to the symbols by which God sealed the prophecies in former times, we have spoken elsewhere; I therefore pass them by slightly now: only we ought to bear in mind this one thing, that these signs were only temporary sacraments; for ordinary sacraments are permanent, as the holy supper and baptism. But the sign mentioned here was temporary, and referred, as they say, to a special action: it yet had the force and character of a sacrament, as to its use, the confirmation of this prophecy. Seraiah was then bidden to tie a stone to the book, and then to cast it into the Euphrates: why so? that the volume might not swim on the surface of the water, but be sunk down to the bottom; and the application follows, Thou shalt say, etc. We see that words ought ever to be connected with signs. We hence conclude how fatuous the Papists are, who practice many ceremonies, but without knowledge. They are, indeed, dead and empty things, whatever signs men may devise for themselves, except God’s word be added. Thou shalt then say, Thus sink shall Babylon, and shall not rise from the evil which I shall bring upon her In short, Seraiah was commanded, as the Prophet’s messenger, to predict by himself concerning the fall of Babylon; but it was for the sake of all the godly, who were afterwards taught what had been done. 114114     Calvin takes no notice here of the verb which closes this sentence, ויעפו; but in his version he renders it, “and they shall fly,” or they shall be wearied. Critics know not what to make of it: it is omitted in the Sept., and rendered by the Vulg., “and it shall be dissolved;” by the Syr., “but they shall be thrown down;” and by the Targ., “and they shall fail.” It is left out in no MS. Blayney, following the Sept., omits it. The best explanation is given by Junius and Tremelius, “though they may weary themselves,” that is, the citizens of Babylon: their attempt to rise and resist their enemies would be ineffectual, however much they might toil in the effort.
   The emendator, Houbigant, proposes to read the word, ויספו, “and they shall come to an end.” This agrees nearly with the Targ., “and they shall fail.” — Ed

The Conclusion follows, Thus far the words of Jeremiah We have said that the prophets, after having spoken in the Temple, or to the people, afterwards collected brief summaries, and that these contained the principal things: from these the prophetic books were made up. For Jeremiah did not write the volume as we have it at this day, except the chapters; and it appears evident that it was not written in the order in which he spoke. The order of time is not, then, everywhere observed; but the scribes were careful in this respect, that they collected the summaries affixed to the doors of the Temple; and so they added this conclusion, Thus far the words of Jeremiah But this, in my view, is not to be confined to the prophecies respecting the fall of Babylon; for I doubt not but that the scribe who had collected all his prophecies, added these words, that he had thus far transcribed the words of Jeremiah.

We hence conclude that the last chapter is not included in the prophetic book of Jeremiah, but that it contains history only as far as was necessary to understand what is here taught: for it appears evident that many parts of the prophecy could not be understood without the knowledge of this history. As to the book of Lamentations, we know that it was a work distinct from the prophecies of Jeremiah: there is, then, no wonder that it has been added, Thus far the words of Jeremiah

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