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The ten first verses of this chapter contain a prediction of the taking of Babylon by the Medes and Persians. It is a passage singular in its kind, for its brevity and force; for the variety and rapidity of the movements; and for the strength and energy of colouring with which the action and event is painted. It opens with the Prophet's seeing at a distance the dreadful storm that is gathering, and ready toburst upon Babylon: The event is intimated in general terms; and God's orders are issued to the Persians and Medes to set forth upon the expedition which he has given them in charge. Upon this the Prophet enters into the midst of the action; and, in the person of Babylon, expresses in the strongest terms the astonishment and horror that seizes her on the sudden surprise of the city, at the very season dedicated to pleasure and festivity, ver. 3, 4.: then in his own person describes the situation of things there; the security of the Babylonians, and in the midst of their feasting the sudden alarm of war, ver. 5. The event is then declared in a very singular manner. God orders the Prophet to set a watchman to look out, and to report what he sees : he sees two companies marching onward, representing by their appearance the two nations that were to execute God's orders, who declare, that Babylon is fallen, ver. 6–9.
But what is this to the Prophet, and to the Jews, the object of his ministry? The application, the end, and design of the prophecy, is admirably given in a short expressive address to the Jews, partly in the person of God, .partly in that of the Prophet : “ O my threshing !"_" O my people, whom for your punishment I shall make subject to the Ba. bylonians, to try and to prove you, and to separate the chaff from the corn, the bad from the good among you ; hear this for your consolation: Your punishment, your slavery and oppression, will have an end in the destruction of your op
1. —the Desert of the sea] This plainly means Babylon, which is the subject of the prophecy. The country about Babylon, and especially below it towards the sea, was a great flat morass, often overflowed by the Euphrates and Tigris. It became habitable by being drained by the many canals that were made in it.
Herodotus, i. 184. says, that “ Semiramis confined the Euphrates within its channel, by raising great dams against it; for before it overflowed the whole country like a sea.” And Abydenus, (quoting Megasthenes, apud Euseb. Præp. Evang. ix. 41.), speaking of the building of Babylon by Nebuchadonosor, “ It is reported, that all this part was covered with water, and was called the sea ; and that Belusdrew off the waters, conveying them into proper receptacles, and surrounded Babylon with a wall.” When the Euphrates was turned out of its channel by Cyrus, it was suffered still to drown the neighbouring country. The Persian government, which did not favour the place, taking no care to remedy this inconvenience, it became in time a great barren morassy desert; which event the title of the prophecy may perhaps intimate. Such it was originally ; such it became after the taking of the city by Cyrus; and such it continues to this day.
Ibid. Like the southern tempests-] The most vehement storms to which Judea was subject, came from the great desert country to the south of it. “Out of the south cometh the whirlwind;" Job xxxvii. 9. 6 And there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house;" Ibid. i. 19. For the situation of Idumea, the country, as I suppose, of Job, (see Lam. iv. 21. compared with Job i. 1.), was the same in this respect with that of Judea. “ And Jehovah shall appear over them,
And his arrow shall go forth as the lightning:
The MSS vary in .הבוגד בוגד והשודד שודד
expressing or omitting the 1 in these four words. Ten MSS are without the ) in the second word, and eight MSS are without the 1 in the fourth word; which justifies Symmachus, who has rendered them passively: o aderWV QDETEITAI, xan • Tanuitwgifwv Talairwges. He read 7170, 71. Cocceius (Lexicon in voce) observes, that the Chaldee very often renders the verb 722 by 12, spoliavit ; and in this place, and in xxxiii. 1. by the equivalent word DX; and in chap. xxiv. 16. both by DJX and 112 ; and Syr. in this place renders it by Osu, oppressit.
Ibid. —her vexations-] Heb. her sighing ; that is, the
sighing caused by her. So Kimchi on the place : " Innuit illos, qui gemebant ob timorem ejus; quia suffixa nominum referuntur ad agentem et ad patientem.” “Omnes qui gemebant a facie regis Babylonis, requiescere feci eos;" Chald. And so likewise Ephræm Syr. in loc. edit. Assemani: “Gemitum ejus: dolorem scilicet et lachrymas, quas Chaldæi reliquis per orbem gentibus ciere pergunt.”
5. The table is prepared—] In Heb. the verbs are in the infinite. mode absolute; as in Ezek. i. 14. “And the animals ran and returned, WV 8187, like the appearance of lightning:" just as the Latins say currere et reverti, for currebant et revertebantur. See chap. xxxii. 2. and the note there.
7. And he saw a chariot with two riders; a rider on an ass, a rider on a camel.] This passage is extremely obscure, from the ambiguity of the term 237, which is used three times; and which signifies a chariot, or any other vehicle, or the rider in it; or a rider on a horse, or any other animal; or a company of chariots or riders. The Prophet may possibly mean a cavalry in two parts, with two sorts of riders-riders on asses or mules, and riders on camels; or led on by two riders, one on an ass, and one on a camel. However, so far it is pretty clear, that Darius and Cyrus, the Medes and the Persians, are intended to be distinguished by the two riders, or the two sorts of cattle. It appears from Herodotus, i. 80. that the baggage of Cyrus's army was carried on camels. In his engagement with Cræsus, he took off the baggage from the camels, and mounted his horsemen upon them : the enemy's horses, offended with the smell of the camels, turned back and fled.
8. he that looketh out on the watch-] The present reading 77978 a lion, is so unintelligible, and the mistake so obvious, that I make no doubt that the true reading is 7877, as the Syriac translator manifestly found it in his copy, who renders it by Xp17, speculator.
9.-a man, one of the two riders] So the Syriac understands it; and Ephræm Syr.
20. O my threshing-] “O thou, the object upon which I shall exercise the severity of my discipline; that shalt lie under my afflicting hand, like corn spread upon the floor to be threshed out and winnowed, to separate the chaff from the wheat !” The image of threshing is frequently used by the Hebrew poets, with great elegance and force, to expresso the punishment of the wicked and the trial of the good, or the utter dispersion and destruction of God's enemies. Of the different ways of threshing in use among the Hebrews, and the manner of performing them, see note on chap. xxviii. 27.
Our translators have taken the liberty of using the word threshing in a passive sense, to express the object or matter that is threshed: in which I have followed them, not being able to express it more properly, without departing too much from the form and letter of the original. Son of my floor, Heb. It is an idiom of the Hebrew language to call the effect, the object, the adjunct, any thing that belongs in almost any way to another, the son of it. “O my threshing—” The Prophet abruptly breaks off the speech of God, and, instead of continuing it in the form in which he had begun, and in the person of God, “ This I declare unto you by my Prophet;" he changes the form of address, and adds, in his own person, “ This I declare unto you from God.”
ll, 12. The oracle concerning Dumah.] « Pro 7997 Codex R. Meiri habet 1978; et sic LXX. Vid. Kimchi ad h. l. ;'' Biblia Michaelis, Halæ 1720, not. ad l. . .
This prophecy, from the uncertainty of the occasion on which it was uttered, and from the brevity of the expression, is extremely obscure The Edomites as well as Jews were subdued by the Babylonians. They inquire of the Prophet, how long their subjection is to last? He intimates, that the Jews should be delivered from their captivity; not so the Edomites. Thus far the interpretation seems to carry with it some degree of probability. What the meaning of the last line may be, I cannot pretend to divine. In this difficulty the Hebrew MSS give no assistance. The MSS of LXX, and the fragments of the other Greek versions, give some variations, but no light. This being the case, I thought it best to give an exact literal translation of the whole two verses; which may serve to enable the English reader to judge in some measure of the foundation of the various interpretations that have been given of them.
13. The oracle concerning Arabia.] This title is of doubtful authority. In the first place, because it is not in many of the MSS of the LXX; it is in MSS Pachom. and 1. D. II. only, as far as I can find with certainty: secondly, from the singularity of the phraseology; for dwo is generally pre* fixed to its object without a preposition, as 33 xup; and never but in this place with the preposition 3. Besides, as the word nya occurs at the very beginning of the prophecy itself, the first word but one, it is much to be suspected that some one, taking it for a proper name and the object of the prophecy, might note it as such by the words anya sua written in the margin, from whence they might easily get into the text. The LXX did not take it for a proper name, but render it sonegaç; and so Chald. whom I follow: for, otherwise, the forest in Arabia is so indeterminate and vague a description, that in effect it means nothing at all. This observation might have been of good use in clearing up the foregoing very obscure prophecy, if any light had arisen from joining the two together by removing the separating title; but I see no connexion between them.
This prophecy was to have been fulfilled within a year of the time of its delivery, see ver. 16.; and it was probably delivered about the same time with the rest in this part of the book, that is, soon before or after the 14th of Hezekiah, the year of Senacherib's invasion. In the first march into Judea, or in his return from the Egyptian expedition, he might perhaps overrun these several clans of Arabians: their distress on some such occasion is the subject of this prophecy.
14.—the southern country] unav, LXX; Austri, Vulg. They read ya'n, which seems to be right; for probably the inhabitants of Tema might be involved in the same calamity with their brethren and neighbours of Kedar, and not in a condition to give them assistance, and to relieve them, in their flight before the enemy, with bread and water. To bring forth bread and water is an instance of common humanity in such cases of distress; especially in these desert countries, in which the common necessaries of life, more particularly water, are not easily to be met with or procured. Moses forbids the Ammonite and Moabite to be admitted into the congregation of the Lord to the tenth generation: one reason which he gives for this reprobation is, their omission of the common offices of humanity towards the Israelites; “ because they met them not with bread and water in the way, when they came forth out of Egypt;" Deut. xxiii. 4.
17.—the mighty bowmen] Sagittariorum fortium, Vulg. transposing the two words, and reading nup'7720; which seems to be right.
Ibid. For JEHOVAH hath spoken it.] The prophetic Carmina of Marcius, foretelling the battle of Canne, Liv. xxv. 12..