58. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken, and her high gates shall be burnt with fire; and the people shall labor in vain, and the folk in the fire, and they shall be weary.
58. Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Murus Babylonis latitudinis (hoc est, latus) dissipando dissipabitur, et portae ejus excelsae igne comburentur, et laborabunt populi ad nihilum, et gentes in igne, et fatigabuntur.
The Prophet again introduces God as the speaker, that what he said might obtain more attention from the Jews; and for this reason he subjoined a eulogy to the last verse, and said that the king spoke, whose name is Jehovah of hosts. We have stated elsewhere what is the design of such expressions, even that men may rise above everything seen in the world when God's power is mentioned, that they may not try to contain it in their own small measure. Then the Prophet now again repeats the name of God, that the Jews might receive with becoming reverence what he announced.
And what he says is, The wall of Babylon, however wide it may be, shall yet be surely demolished. We have said that the walls were fifty feet wide, and the feet were indeed long, though Herodotus, as I have said, mentions cubits and not feet. The width, indeed, was such that four horses abreast meeting, could pass, there being space enough for them. It hence, then, appears, that their thickness was so great, that the Babylonians confidently disregarded whatever had been predicted by the Prophet; for no engines of war could have ever beaten down walls so thick, especially as they were made of bricks and cemented by bitumen. As, then, the material, beside the thickness, was so firm and strong, this prophecy was incredible. It did not indeed reach the Babylonians, but the Jews themselves regarded as a fable all that they had heard from the mouth of the Prophet. Yet God did not in vain refer to width of the wall, in order that the faithful might feel assured that the walls of Babylon could not possibly resist him, however firm they might be in their materials and thickness. The wall, he says, shall surely be demolished.
He afterwards mentions the gates, which Herodotus says were of brass when Darius took them away. He, indeed, means the doors, but the Prophet includes the framework as well as the brazen doors. He then says, they shall be consumed with fire. The Babylonians might have laughed at this threatening of Jeremiah, for brass could not have been consumed with fire, even if enemies had been permitted to set fire to them -- for brass could not have been so soon melted. But as the Prophet had predicted this by God's command, so at length his prophecy was verified when he was dead, because it was proved by the event that this proceeded from God; for when the doors were removed, the gates themselves were demolished; and it may have been that Darius put fire to them, that he might the sooner destroy the gates and the towers, which were very high, as well as the walls.
He afterwards adds, Labor shall the people in vain, and the nations in the fire; they shall be wearied. So this passage is commonly explained, as though the Prophet had said, that when the walls of Babylon had begun to burn, and the gates to be consumed with fire, there would be no remedy, though the Babylonians might greatly weary themselves and fatigue themselves in attempting to quench the fire. But this exposition seems to be forced and unnatural. I therefore take the words, though future, in the past tense. And as the walls of Babylon had not been erected without great labor, and a vast number of men had been hired, some to bring bitumen, others to heap up the earth, and others to make the bricks, the Prophet in this place intimates that all this labor would be in vain, even because it was spent for the fire, -- that whatever they did who had been either hired for wages or forced by authority to erect the walls, was labor for the fire; that is, they labored that their work might eventually be consumed by fire. This seems to me to be the real meaning of the Prophet. He then says that the people had labored in vain, or for nothing, and why? because they labored for the fire. The second clause is in my view an explanation of the former.1 It now follows, --
Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, The wall of Babylon, the brroad one, It shall be utterly laid in ruins; And her gates, the lofty ones, They shall be consumed with fire: So that people had labored for vanity, And nations for the fire, and wearied themselves.
Several MSS. have tmx, wall, and so it is in the Sept., as required by "broad," which is in the singular number. "For vanity" is for the vain object; and "for the fire" means for what was to be consumed by fire. The last words may be rendered "though they wearied themselves." -- Ed.