New English Translation
31 One runner after another will come to the king of Babylon;
one messenger after another will come bringing news.[a]
They will bring news to the king of Babylon
that his whole city has been captured.[b]
32 They will report that the fords have been captured,
the reed marshes have been burned,
the soldiers are terrified.[c]
33 For the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says,
‘Fair Babylon[d] will be like a threshing floor
that has been trampled flat for harvest.
The time for her to be cut down and harvested
will come very soon.’[e]
- Jeremiah 51:31 tn Heb “Runner will run to meet runner and…” The intent is to portray a relay of runners carrying the news that follows on in vv. 31d-33 to the king of Babylon. The present translation attempts to spell out the significance.
- Jeremiah 51:31 tn Heb “Runner will run to meet runner, and messenger to meet messenger, to report to the king of Babylon that his city has been taken in [its] entirety.” There is general agreement among the commentaries that the first two lines refer to messengers converging on the king of Babylon from every direction, bringing news the sum total of which is reported in the lines that follow. For the meaning of the last phrase see BDB 892 s.v. קָצֶה 3 and compare the usage in Gen 19:4 and Isa 56:11. The sentence has been broken down and restructured to better conform with contemporary English style.
- Jeremiah 51:32 tn The words “They will report that” have been supplied in the translation to show the linkage between this verse and the previous one. This is still a part of the report of the messengers. The meaning of the word translated “reed marshes” has seemed inappropriate to some commentators because it elsewhere refers to “pools.” However, all the commentaries consulted agree that the word here refers to the reedy marshes that surrounded Babylon. (For a fuller discussion regarding the meaning of this word and attempts to connect it with a word meaning “fortress,” see W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah [Hermeneia], 2:427.)sn Babylon was a city covering over a thousand acres that was surrounded by two walls, the inner one 21 feet (6.3 m) thick and the outer one 11 feet (3.3 m) thick. To provide the city further security, other walls were built to its south and east, and irrigation ditches and canals to it north and east were flooded to prevent direct access. The “fords” were crossings for the Euphrates River, which ran right through the city, and for the ditches and canals. The “reed marshes” were low-lying areas around the city where reeds grew. Burning them would deprive any fugitives of places to hide and flush out any who had already escaped.
- Jeremiah 51:33 sn Heb “Daughter Babylon.” See the study note at 50:42 for explanation.
- Jeremiah 51:33 tn Heb “Daughter Babylon will be [or “is”; there is no verb, and the tense has to be supplied from the context] like a threshing floor at the time one tramples it. Yet a little while and the time of the harvest will come for her.” It is generally agreed that there are two figures here: one of leveling the threshing floor and stamping it into a smooth, hard surface, and the other of the harvest, where the grain is cut, taken to the threshing floor, threshed by trampling the sheaves of grain to loosen the grain from the straw, and finally winnowed by throwing the mixture into the air (cf., e.g., J. A. Thompson, Jeremiah [NICOT], 760). The translation has sought to convey those ideas as clearly as possible without digressing too far from the literal.sn There are two figures involved here: one of the threshing floor being leveled and stamped down hard and smooth, and the other of the harvest. At harvest time the stalks of grain were cut down, gathered in sheaves, and taken to the harvest floor, where the grain was loosened from the husk by driving oxen and threshing sleds over them. The grain was then separated from the mixture of grain, straw, and husks by repeatedly throwing it in the air and letting the wind blow away the lighter husks and ground-up straw. The figure of harvest is often used of judgment in the OT. See, e.g., Joel 3:13 (4:13 HT) and Hos 6:11, and compare also Mic 4:12-13 and Jer 51:2, where different steps in this process are also used figuratively in connection with judgment. Babylon will be leveled to the ground and its people cut down in judgment.