56. Because the spoiler is come upon her, even upon Babylon, and her mighty men are taken; every one of their bows is broken: for the Lord God of recompenses shall surely requite.
56. Quia venit super eam, super Babylonem, vastator; et deprehensus est fortis ejus (deprehensi sunt, vel, capri, fortes ejus;) confractus est arcus eorum, quia Deus retributionum Jehova reddendo reddet.
He confirms the former verse; for as the thing of which he speaks was difficult to be believed, he sets God before them, and shows that he would be the author of that war. He now continues his discourse and says, that desolators shall come against Babylon. He had ascribed to God what he now transfers to the Medes and the Persians. He had said, Jehovah hath desolated or wasted, hwhy dds , shedad Jeve; he says now, coming is a desolator, ddws, shudad. Who is he? not God, but Cyrus, together with the united army of the Persians and the Medes; yea, with vast forces assembled from many nations, Now that the same name is given to God and to the Persians, this is done with regard to the ministration. Properly speaking, God was the desolator of Babylon; but as in this expedition he employed the services of men, and made the Persians and the Medes, as it were, his ministers, and the executioners of his judgment, the name which properly belongs to God is transferred to the ministers whom he employed. The same mode of speaking is also used when blessings are spoken of. He is said to have raised up saviors for his people, while yet he himself is the only Savior, nor can any mortal assume that name without sacrilege. (Judges 3:15; 2 Kings 13:5.) For God's peculiar glory is taken away, when salvation is sought through the arm of men, as we have seen in Jeremiah 17. But though God is the only author of salvation, yet it is no objection to this truth, that he employs men in effecting his purposes. So also he converts men, illuminates their minds by the ministers of the gospel, and also delivers them from eternal death. (Luke 1:17.) Doubtless were any one to arrogate to himself what Christ is pleased to concede to the ministers of his gospel, he could by no means be endured; but as I have already said, we must bear this in mind, that though God acts by his own power and never borrows anything from any one, nor stands in need of any help, yet what properly belongs to him is, in a manner, applied to men, at least by way of concession. So now, then, the Prophet calls God the desolator, and afterwards he honors with the same title the Persians and the Medes.
He adds, that the valiant men of Babylon were taken, according to what we have before seen, that the city was so taken that no one resisted. Then he adds, that their bow was broken, there is a part stated for the whole; for under the word bow he includes all kinds of armor. But as bows were used at a distance, and as enemies were driven from the walls by casting arrows, the Prophet says that there would be no use made of bows, because the enemies would skew themselves in the middle of the city before the watchmen saw them, as we know that such was really the case. We now perceive why the Prophet mentions the bow rather than swords or other weapons.
The reason follows, Because Jehovah is the God of retributions, and recompensing her recompenses, that is, he will recompense. The Prophet here confirms all that he had said, and reasons from the nature or character of God himself. As then the fall of Babylon would hardly be believed by the faithful, the Prophet does not ask what God is in himself, but declares that he is the God of retributions, as though he had said, that it belonged to God, and that it could not be separated from his nature, to be the God of retributions, otherwise his judgment would be nothing, his justice would be nothing. For if the reprobate succeeded with impunity, and if the righteous were oppressed without any aid, would not God be like a stock of wood or an imaginary thing? For why has he power, except that he may exercise justice? But God cannot be without power.
We now, then, see how forcible is this confirmation, with which the Prophet doses his discourse: for it is the same as if he had said, that no doubt could possibly be entertained as to the fall of Babylon, because God is the God of retributions. Either there is no God, he says, or Babylon must be destroyed; how so? for if there be a God, he is the God of retributions; if he is the God of retributions, then recompensing he will recompense. Now, it is well known how wicked Babylon was, and in what various ways it had provoked the wrath of God. Then it was impossible for it to escape his hand unpunished, since it had in so many ways sought its own ruin.
Grant, Almighty God, that when thou hidest at this day thy face from us, the miserable despair we apprehend may not overwhelm our faith, nor obscure our view of thy goodness and grace, but that in the thickest darkness thy power may ever appear to us, which can raise us above the world, so that we may courageously fight to the end, and never doubt but that thou wilt at length be the defender of thy Church, which now seems to be oppressed, until we shall enjoy our perfect happiness in heaven, through Christ our Lord. -- Amen.