Jeremiah 25:26 MEANING

Jeremiah 25:26
(26) The kings of the north.--The term is used generally (the Jews knowing comparatively little of the detailed geography of that region, the Grog, Magog, Meshech, and Tubal of Ezekiel 38, 39), as in Jeremiah 1:14, for the Scythians and other nations lying between the Caspian Sea and the Tigris. In the corresponding passage of Jeremiah 51:27, Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz are specially named.

The kingdoms of the world.--The words are, of course, limited by the horizon of the prophet's vision. As the "world" of the New Testament writers was the Roman Empire, so in the life of Jeremiah it was identical with that of Babylon. (Comp. Daniel 2:38; Daniel 4:22.)

The king of Sheshach.--The name, which obviously is, from its position, the culminating point of the whole prophecy, is found only here and in Jeremiah 51:41. No city or country bearing this name is mentioned in the Old Testament or in any ancient writer. The traditional Rabbinic explanation is beyond doubt the true one. We have here the earliest known example of the use of a cypher-writing to disguise the meaning of what was written from all but the initiated. The cypher in this instance, known by the significant name of ATBASH (i.e., A taking the place of T, and T of A, B of SH, and SH of B, and so on), consisted in the use of the Hebrew alphabet in an inverted order, thus giving SHeSHaCH as an equivalent for BaBeL. This, then, was the crowning mystery reserved to the last. The Chaldaean kingdom was to do its work as the scourge of God upon the nations; but it was simply an instrument in His hand, as the Assyrians had been in their day (Isaiah 10:15); and when the work was done, the law of a righteous retribution would be felt by it and by its rulers. It adds to the point of the enigma that the word Sheshach would suggest to an Hebrew, taking its probable etymology, the idea of "crouching" or "sinking." It may be noted (1) that the use of such a cypher seems to belong to the same mental characteristics as the prominence of the Hebrew alphabet in the acrostic structure of the Lamentations; (2) that the name is omitted by the LXX. both here and in Jeremiah 51:41; and (3) that another instance of the same cypher is found in Jeremiah 51:1. The second fact is presumptive evidence that it was not found in the copy which the Greek translators had before them; and the natural inference from this is that there were two editions of the prophecy even in the prophet's time--one with and the other without the enigmatic word, the latter being probably the earlier of the two, the former adding, for the comfort of Israel, at once the limits of their exile (Jeremiah 25:14), and this intimation (so veiled that the Chaldaeans, if they came across it, would not be likely to understand its meaning) of the way in which it would at last be brought to its close. The use of the cypher has, however, been questioned by some writers, who refer the name to shishaki, a possible form of the name of the moon-god of the Chaldaeans (Rawlinson: Herod, i., p. 616). If the existence of any obscure region bearing the name could be proved, it would still be perfectly compatible with the use of the cypher, as veiling its true significance. Other meanings for the word, such as "the warlike city," "the king's palace," have been suggested by recent scholars.

Verse 26. - The kings of the north. The distant, mysterious north. Far and near, one with another. The Hebrew has, "the near and the far, the one to the other;" i.e. whether near or far in relation to each other, for of course with regard to Judah they were all "the far north." All the kingdoms of the world, etc. This is far from being the only instance in which a special judgment upon a nation or nations is apparently identified with a great final judgment upon the world (see Isaiah 2:12; Isaiah 3:13; Isaiah 13:9; Isaiah 24:1-12). The truth is that every great serf-manifestation of the Divine Governor of the world is a fresh act in that great drama of which the universal judgment will be the close. Hence the prophets, whose perspective was necessarily limited, seeing the cud but not all that was to precede it, speak as if the end were nearer at hand than it really was. The king of Sheshach, etc. This clause, however, is omitted in the Septuagint, and is too manifestly the insertion of an unwise copyist or editor. For, though perfectly true that Babylon was to suffer punishment afterwards, it is most inappropriate to mention it here at the end of a list of the nations which Babylon itself was to punish. "Sheshach," it should be explained, is the form assumed by the word "Babylon" in the cypher called Athbash (A = T, B = SH, etc.). It happens to convey a very appropriate meaning, viz. "humiliation" (comp. Isaiah 47:1). A similar instance of cypher allegory occurs in Jeremiah 51:1. "Sheshach" occurs again in Jeremiah 51:41, where, however, it is omitted by the Septuagint. [Dr. Lauth, of Munich, thinks that Sheshach is equivalent to Sisku, the name of a district in Babylonia; but the reading Sisku is uncertain. (See Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, 1881, p. 48.)]

25:15-29 The evil and the good events of life are often represented in Scripture as cups. Under this figure is represented the desolation then coming upon that part of the world, of which Nebuchadnezzar, who had just began to reign and act, was to be the instrument; but this destroying sword would come from the hand of God. The desolations the sword should make in all these kingdoms, are represented by the consequences of excessive drinking. This may make us loathe the sin of drunkenness, that the consequences of it are used to set forth such a woful condition. Drunkenness deprives men of the use of their reason, makes men as mad. It takes from them the valuable blessing, health; and is a sin which is its own punishment. This may also make us dread the judgments of war. It soon fills a nation with confusion. They will refuse to take the cup at thy hand. They will not believe Jeremiah; but he must tell them it is the word of the Lord of hosts, and it is in vain for them to struggle against Almighty power. And if God's judgments begin with backsliding professors, let not the wicked expect to escape.And all the kings of the north, far and near, one with another,.... That were on the north of Judea, the kings of Syria, and those that were near to the kingdom of Babylon, whether more remote from Judea, or nearer it and which joined one another in that part of the world;

and all the kingdoms of the world, which are upon the face of the earth; the whole Babylonian monarchy, called the whole world; as the Roman empire afterwards was, Luke 2:1;

and the king of Sheshach shall drink after them; or the king of Babylon, as the Targum; and that Babylon is meant by "Sheshach" is certain from Jeremiah 51:41; but why it is so called is not so easy to say. The Jewish writers make it to be the same with Babylon, by a change of the letters in the alphabet, put in such a situation, which they call "Athbash", in which "shin" is put for "beth", and "caph" for "lamed"; and so, instead of Babel or Babylon, you have "Sheshach", which is thought to be used rather than Babylon, that Nebuchadnezzar, now besieging Jerusalem, might not be irritated: but others take it to be the name of an idol of the Babylonians, from whence the city was called, which is not improbable; for, as Hillerus (o) has observed, their god Bel and Sheshach signify the same thing. Bel is the same as Behal, "swift"; and "Sheshach" may be derived from the Arabic word which signifies "to move swiftly" (p); and may both be names of the sun, worshipped by the Chaldeans, so called from the swiftness of its motion. Now in Babylon stood the temple of Bel or Sheshach, and so might have its name from thence: and it may be further observed, what has been by others, that the Babylonians had a public festival, like the Saturnalia of the Romans, which held five days, and was called Sacchoea or Shace, as is supposed from their god Shach, to whom it was kept: to which may be added, that Mishael had the name of Meshach given him in Babylon; "Shach", in the one, answering to "El" in the other; which signifies God, Daniel 1:7. Shach is used for a king or prince in the Persic language to this day. And now the king of Sheshach or Babylon must drink of the cup, or be punished last of all; who was the instrument of destroying most of the rest, yet should not go unpunished.

(o) Onomastic. Sacr. p. 596, 597, 598, 611. (p), "celer fuit, celeriter processit", Golius, col. 2676.

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