6 Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing and riddles for him, and say,
“Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own—
for how long?—
and loads himself with pledges!”
7 Will not your debtors suddenly arise,
and those awake who will make you tremble?
Then you will be spoil for them.
8 Because you have plundered many nations,
all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you,
for the blood of man and violence to the earth,
to cities and all who dwell in them.
9 “Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house,
to set his nest on high,
to be safe from the reach of harm!
10 You have devised shame for your house
by cutting off many peoples;
you have forfeited your life.
11 For the stone will cry out from the wall,
and the beam from the woodwork respond.
Exegetical Observations: The identity of the speaker of the five woes spoken against the Chaldeans in verses 6-20 seems to be those who the Chaldeans gathered from the nations. These words are spoken as riddles, or proverbs against the Chaldeans.
In 6b-8, the first woe is declared against those who steal what is not theirs and lend unfairly. The object of woe, then, seems to be those who lend money unjustly. In verse 7 the lenders are warned that their debtors will rise against them, and become a spoil to their own debtors. In verse 8 the image of lender and debtor morphs into military imagery. The Woe is the same, however, because the Chaldeans have plundered many nations, they will be plundered. 8b expresses clearly what they are being punished for, for the violence against humanity, land, and cities. In other words, the Chaldeans have violently destroyed, and they will be held accountable for this destruction.
The Second Woe, in verses 9-11, paints a picture of Babylonians trying to build a secure house to avoid the impending judgment. In building their house, read their empire, they have destroyed many, and because of their injustice, they will lose their life (Vs 10). The very stuff, maybe people, who they built their empire with/on will cry out against him.
Theological Comments: In these woes, we see God’s judgment declared against the Chaldeans. This judgment has not yet come, but it will; it is for this justice that the faithful wait for. The Chaldeans, like any bringer of injustice, are greedy, violent, and prideful. Their very violence will be their end. These woes, however, should both encourage the reader and shake the reader. Encourage, because God will bring justice against those who sow injustice. Shake, because the reader realizes that the injustice of the Chaldeans is our injustice. Like the woes to the disciples in Luke 6, these woes warn us against the path of destruction, that is the path of the foolish and prideful, who find their consolation in the things of the world. The woe against the Chaldeans becomes a woe against all of humanity that stands rightly condemned for their idolatry, their pride, and their violence.
Humanity, like the Chaldeans, tries to build up a secure house against the impending judgment of God. We try to secure ourselves, our identity, our happiness, in temporal things, but these very things cry out in judgment against us. In the vein of Augustine, the temporal things cry out and say, we are not to be worshiped, we are but created things like you, worship your creator.
The stone of the wall and the beam of the woodwork, that the Chaldeans build cries out in judgment and points us to the true Rock and true Tree, who saves us from our rightful condemnation and recreates our hearts to love the creator and Lord of the world. Christ is the true Rock and Tree who takes the judgment that the whole human race has earned through their love of self and destruction of others, and cries out and declares all who turn to him as righteous, and transforms their hearts of stone into flesh, their rotten branches are infused into the tree of life. In Christ Judgment and mercy meet and the judgment of our sin is transformed into our salvation.