Lesson 22
Part II: The Prophecies Against the Nations Continued
Chapters 49:23-51

Lord God,

We humbly submit ourselves to Your divine authority over our everyday lives: in our rising to begin the day, in our interaction with our brothers and sisters in the human family and within the community of Your Church, and in closing our eyes in nightly sleep. We know that the commandments You give us are for our benefit in living a transformed fruitful life in the Spirit and in staying on the Narrow Path to salvation. Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our lesson concerning Your judgments against the nations that were Judah's neighbors in the time of Your servant Jeremiah. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

+ + +

For Yahweh, the God of Israel, said this to me, "Take the cup of the wine of wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it... Pharaoh king of Egypt, his officials, his chief men and all his people, with the whole conglomeration of peoples there (all the kings of the country of Uz; all the kings of the country of the Philistines, Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron and what is still left of Ashdod; Edom, Moab and the Ammonites; the kings of Tyre, all the people with shaven temples; all the kings of Arabia and all the kings of Zimri, all the kings of Elam, and all the kings of Media; all the kings of the north, near and far, one after another: in short, all the kingdoms on the face of the earth."
Jeremiah 25:15-26a

Oracles Against the Nations Continued

Jeremiah 49:23-27 ~ Oracle Against Damascus (Syria)
23 To Damascus. Hamath and Arpad are shamed, for they have heard bad news. They are convulsed with anxiety like the sea that cannot be calmed. 24 Damascus is aghast, she prepares for flight, she is seized with trembling (anguish and sorrow have laid hold on her as on a woman in labor). 25 What now! That famous town deserted, that city of gaiety? 26 And so in her squares her young men will fall, and all her fighting men will perish, that day, Yahweh Sabaoth declares. 27 I shall light a fire inside the walls of Damascus, to devour the palaces of Ben-Hadad.

Verses 23-25 and 27 are in the poetic form, but verse 26 is in prose. Damascus, the capital of Syria (Is 7:8), represents the entire nation. The city is one of the oldest continuous inhabited cities in the world. From the time of King Solomon (970-930 BC) until the rise of the Neo-Assyrian Empire in the mid-eighth century BC, the Aramaeans of Damascus were Israel's greatest enemy. Damascus, like the other nations and city-states in the Levant became a vassal of the Babylonians. In 599-598 BC, the Syrians joined a Babylonian campaign to harass the towns of Judah (2 Kng 24:2).

Jeremiah laments over an already fallen Damascus. The Damascus sister cities of Hamath and Arpad heard the tragic news and are struck with terror.

Question: What two metaphors does the prophet use to describe the condition of the people of Damascus and her sister cities?
Answer: They are like people cast upon an angry sea and like a woman in the grips of labor.

The imagery is that they are convulsed with anxiety and fear as if cast adrift on an angry sea (verse 23); there is nothing they can do to save themselves. In its time of crisis, the people of Damascus tried to escape but are stricken by anguish and terror like a woman who cannot escape her labor pains. The city of Damascus, its royal palace and its walls, will be consumed by fire. Hadad was an Aramaean deity. Ben-Hadad is a name/title of several Aramaean kings, one of which was the king of Aram-Damascus in 885-865 BC. He was defeated by the Assyrians in 863 BC, and invoking his name may be a suggestion that the Babylonians will bring another devastating defeat (2 Kng 6:24).

Jeremiah 49:28-33 ~ Oracle Against Kedar-Hazor (Arab Tribes)
28 To Kedar and the kingdoms of Hazor, which were conquered by Nebuchadnezzar [Nebuchadrezzar] king of Babylon. Yahweh says this: 29 Up! March on Kedar, destroy the sons of the east! Let their tents and their flocks be captured, their tent-cloths and all their gear; let their camels be seized and the shout go up, "Terror on every side!" 30 Away! Get into hiding as fast as you can, inhabitants of Hazor, Yahweh declares, for Nebuchadnezzar [Nebuchadrezzar] king of Babylon has made a plan against you, he has a scheme in mind against you. 31 Up! March on a nation at its ease, living secure, Yahweh declares, that has no gates, no bars, that lives in a remote place! 32 Their camels will be the plunder, their countless sheep the spoil. I shall scatter them to the winds, those Crop-Heads, and bring ruin on them from every side, Yahweh declares. 33 Hazor will become the lair of jackals, desolate forever. No one will live there anymore, no human being settle there again.

Vere 28 in in prose but the rest of the passage in in the poetic form. The oracle is against a group of North Arabian tribes recorded in Genesis as descending from "the sons of Ishmael" (Gen 25:13; 1 Chr 1:29). The Kedarites lived in the Syrian-Arabian Desert east of Edom in northern Arabia. They were a nation with no gates because they were pastoral nomads who lived in tents and towns without walls. They were known for their flocks, tents, and tent curtains woven from black goat hair (Ez 27:21).

In the first part of the oracle, Yahweh is issuing battle orders to attack Kedar. Then Yahweh says the attackers who are "dwellers of Hazor" will ride away on camels belonging to these people, shouting "Terror on every side." The reference to "Hazor" is a mystery since there is no known location by that name in northern Arabia. It is not the city of the same name that is located in the northern Galilee. The "kingdoms of Hazor may include Dedan, Tema, Buz, and other Arab tribes. These are tribes attacked by the Babylonians in c. 599 BC before continuing to Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 49:34-39 ~ Oracle Against Elam
34 The word of Yahweh that came to the prophet Jeremiah about Elam, at the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah. 35 "Yahweh Sabaoth says this: Look, I shall break Elam's bow, the source of his might. 36 I shall bring four winds on Elam from the four corners of the sky, and I shall scatter them to all these winds: there will not be a single nation to which people expelled from Elam do not go. 37 I shall make the Elamites tremble before their enemies, before those determined to kill them. I shall bring disaster on them, my burning anger, Yahweh declares. I shall pursue them with the sword until I have destroyed them all. 38 I shall set up my throne in Elam, uprooting its king and princes, Yahweh declares. 39In the final days, I shall bring Elam's captives back, Yahweh declares.

The oracle is in the poetic form except for verses 34-35 and 39. During the 7th century BC, the Elamites and Medes occupied land that later became the Persian Empire and is present-day southern Iran. In the Table of Nations in Genesis Chapter 10, Elam is listed as one of the sons of Noah's righteous firstborn son, Shem (Gen 10:22). Shem is also an ancestor of Abram/Abraham (Gen 11:10-26). The kings of Elam and Media are listed among those destined to receive Yahweh's "cup of wrath" (Jer 25:25).

Yahweh says he is shattering the bow of Elam (a people known for their skill in archery), and He will bring the four winds from Heaven to blow Elam away. Yahweh will send forth His all-consuming sword after which Yahweh will become King in Elam. Finally, God offers a word of hope for the future, telling the Judaean audience that He will restore Elam's captives taken by the Babylonians. The Elamites became part of the Persian coalition of Persians and Medes that captured Babylon in 539 BC, fulfilling the prophecy in Jeremiah 50:2.

Chapter 50: Oracles Against Babylon

There are two major themes in the oracles against Babylon:

  1. The destruction of Babylon.
  2. The restoration of Israel and Judah in their return from exile.

Jeremiah 50:1-3 ~ The Fall of Babylon
1 The word that Yahweh spoke against Babylon, against the country of the Chaldaeans, through the prophet Jeremiah. 2 Announce it to the nations, proclaim it, hoist a signal and proclaim it, making no secret of it, say "Babylon is captured, Bel disgraced, Marduk shattered. Her idols are disgraced [shamed] her obscenities shattered [broken]." 3 For a nation is marching on her from the north, to turn her country into a desert: no one will live there anymore; human and animal have fled and gone.

Question: What is ironic about the prophecy of the enemy from the north marching on Babylon?
Answer: In Jeremiah's previous prophecies, the enemy from the north was Babylon marching against Judah, but now the tables are turned and another enemy from the north is marching on Babylon.

Bel and Marduk (Merodach) are Babylon's chief national gods who will be broken and shamed in the same way the Babylonians broke and shamed the idols of other peoples.

Jeremiah 50:4-5 ~ Promise of the Everlasting Covenant
4 In those days and at that time the people of Israel will return (they and the people of Judah); they will come weeping in search of Yahweh their God. 5 They will ask the way to Zion and turn their faces toward her, "Come, let us bind ourselves to Yahweh by an everlasting covenant never to be forgotten!"

Yahweh links Babylon's fall to Israel/Judah's return. God will bring the covenant people back and bind them to Him by an everlasting covenant that will never be forgotten. It is a promise that recalls and repeats the covenant promises by the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel:

  1. The promise of the new covenant in Jeremiah 31:31.
  2. The promise of the everlasting covenant in Jeremiah 32:40.
  3. The promise of an eternal covenant in fulfillment of the Davidic covenant in Isaiah 55:3.
  4. The promise to make a covenant that will last forever in Ezekiel 16:60.
  5. The promise that David will be their prince forever when God makes a covenant of peace with them, an eternal covenant when God will set His Sanctuary among them forever in Ezekiel 37:25b-28.

Question: When are the promises of a New and Eternal Covenant and an everlasting kingdom fulfilled?
Answer: They are fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the establishment of His eternal Kingdom that is the Church.

Jeremiah 50:6-10 ~ The Lost Sheep of Israel and Babylon Punished
6 Lost sheep, such were my people; their shepherds led them astray, the mountains misled them; from mountain to hill they went, forgetful of their fold. 7 Whoever came across them devoured them, their enemies said, "We are not to blame, since they have sinned against Yahweh, the Home of Justice, against Yahweh, the Hope of their ancestors." 8 Escape from Babylon, leave the country of the Caldaeans. Be like he-goats, leading the sheep! 9 For look, I shall raise a league of mighty nations to attack Babylon, from the land of the north. They will take up position against her; by them she will be taken. Their arrows, like an experienced soldier's, never return in vain. 10 Chaldaea will be plundered, all her plunderers will be satisfied, Yahweh declares.

Chaldaea and Babylonia are synonymous. The covenant people of Israel and Judah were led astray by their rulers like sheep led astray by negligent shepherds. They abandoned God, and so they had no protection against their enemies. The mountains and hills that "misled them" are the high places where they offered sacrifices to idols.

Question: In verse 7, Babylonians claim they are not to blame for the suffering of the Judaeans; why? Does God accept their excuse?
Answer: They claim the Judaeans brought their suffering on themselves because they sinned against Yahweh. No, He does not accept their excuse. If they know He is the "Home of Justice" they should know that He will judge them for their lack of mercy for the weak and vulnerable.

Jeremiah 50:11-16 ~ Babylon Has Sinned Against Yahweh
11 Rejoice! Have your triumph, you plunderers of my heritage! Be playful like a heifer let out to grass! Neigh like stallions! 12 But your mother is covered with shame, disgraced is the woman who bore you; she is the least of nations now; a desert, a parched land, a wasteland. 13 Because of Yahweh's anger, no one will live here anymore, she will become a total solitude. All who pass by Babylon will be appalled and whistle at the sight of all her wounds. 14 Take position against Babylon, surround her, all you who bend the bow. Shoot at her! Do not spare your arrows, for she has sinned against Yahweh! 15 Raise the war cry against her from all sides. She surrenders! Her bastions fall! Her walls collapse! This is Yahweh's vengeance! Take revenge on her. 16 Treat her as she has treated others. Deprive Babylon of the man who sows, of the man who wields the sickle at harvest. Away from the devastating sword, let everyone return to his own people, let everyone flee to his own country!

Israel is Yahweh's heritage (51:19; Dt 32:9), and Yahweh is addressing those who plundered His heritage. He ridicules them for enjoying their triumph like "playful heifers" enjoying the pasture and neighing stallions. However, their joy will be short-lived. He brings an indictment against these unnamed destroyers who will become "the least of nations." The oracle leaves the audience to surmise that the nation in question is Babylon until verse 13 when Yahweh identifies the nation who will be the recipient of his fury.

Jeremiah 50:17-20 ~ Yahweh's Pardon for the Remnant of Israel
17 Israel was a straying sheep pursued by lions. First, the king of Assyria devoured him, and lately Nebuchadnezzar [Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon crunched his bones. 18 So Yahweh Sabaoth, God of Israel, says this: Look, I shall punish the king of Babylon and his country as I punished the king of Assyria. 19 I will bring Israel back to his pastures to browse on Carmel and on Bashan, on the highlands of Ephraim and in Gilead, and he will be satisfied. 20 In those days and at that time, Yahweh declares, you may look for Israel's guilt, it will not be there, for Judah's sins, you will not find them, for I shall pardon the remnant that I leave.

Israel and Judah were the straying sheep and Assyrian and Babylon the lions. Lions were the symbolic images of both Assyria and Babylon. The Assyrians destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel "first" in 722 BC, and the Babylonians destroyed Judah "last" in 587 BC. God used Babylon as His instrument of judgment to destroy the Assyrians, and He will punish the Babylonians in the same way (verse 18). In verse 19, God promises to return His people to the areas of Carmel, Bashan, Ephraim, and Gilead, all known for their rich pasturelands. When the restoration takes place, God will pardon the returning remnant of the covenant people who will have atoned for their sins.

Jeremiah 50:21-28 ~ The Fall of Babylon Proclaimed to Jerusalem
21 March on the country of Merathaim, march on it and on the inhabitants of Pekod; slaughter and curse with destruction every last one of them, Yahweh declares. Carry out my orders to the letter! 22 The din of battle fills the country, immense destruction. 23 How utterly shattered that hammer of the whole world! What a thing of horror Babylon has become throughout the nations! 24 I set a snare for you, Babylon; you were caught before you knew it. You have been found and overpowered for having defied Yahweh. 25 Yahweh has opened his armory and taken out the weapons of his fury. For Lord Yahweh Sabaoth has work to do in the country of the Chaldaeans. 26 Fall on her from every side, open her granaries, pile her in heaps, curse her with destruction, until nothing is left of her. 27 Slaughter all her bulls, down to the slaughterhouse with them! Disaster on them, their day has come, their time for being punished. 28 Listen! Fugitives and runaways from the country of Babylon arrive in Zion and proclaim the revenge of Yahweh our God, revenge for his Temple!

Merathaim in verse 21 is likely a play on the Babylonian word "marratu," a reference to a region in southern Babylonia that was known for its salty waters. Pekod is a pun on Puqudu, the Babylonian name for an Aramaean tribe on the eastern bank of the lower Tigris River. The "hammer of the whole world" is Babylon, and the "snare" that will trap Babylon in verse 24 takes place in 539 BC when the Persians take the city of Babylon by surprise.

Jeremiah 50:29-32 ~ The Sin of Babylon's Arrogance
29 Call up the archers against Babylon! All you who bend the bow, invest her on all sides, leave her no way of escape. Repay her as her deeds deserve; treat her as she has treated others, for she was arrogant to Yahweh, to the Holy One of Israel. 30 And so in her squares her young men will fall, and all her fighting men will perish, that day, Yahweh declares. 31 My quarrel is with you, 32 "Arrogance!" Lord Yahweh declares, your day has come, the time for me to punish you. "Arrogance" will stumble, she will fall, no one will life her up: I shall set fire to her towns and it will devour all around it.

The oracle begins with Yahweh summoning a might army to make war against Babylon. He calls up in particular expert archers to surround the city. The passage envisions a siege in which escape is impossible. The speaker of the oracle (probably Jeremiah) calls for judgment according to the ancient law of Lex Talionis: the law of reciprocal punishment that limited punishment to fit the crime. The Babylonians must receive punishment in like measure to what she delivered against other nations. In the Law of the Sinai Covenant this law is referred to as "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" (Ex 21:24; Lev 24:20; Dt 19:21). It is a law that called for just punishment and was part of the Hammurabi Code of ancient Babylon.

Jeremiah 50:33-40 ~ Yahweh, the Redeemer of Israel
33 Yahweh Sabaoth say this: The people of Israel are oppressed and the people of Judah too, all their captors hold them fast, they will not let them go. 34 But their redeemer is strong: Yahweh Sabaoth is his name. He will take up their cause, to give our country rest but make the inhabitants of Babylon tremble. 35 A sword against the Chaldaeans, Yahweh declares, against the inhabitants of Babylon, against her princes and her sages! 36 A sword against her diviners: may they lose their wits! A sword against her warriors: may they panic! 37 A sword against her horses, her chariots and the conglomeration of people inside her: may they be like women! A sword against her treasures: may they be plundered! 38 Drought on her waters: may they dry up! For it is a country of idols, and they are mad about those bogeys of theirs! 39 Hence wild cats and jackals will live there, and ostriches make their home there. She will never again be inhabited, forever, but remain uninhabited age after age. 40 As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and their neighboring towns, Yahweh declares, no one will live there anymore, no human being settle there again.

In this oracle, Yahweh delivers a series of curses upon Babylon, first naming the proud and arrogant ruling class of the Chaldaeans in the south who were the nation's elite war machine. The oracle also calls a curse against Babylon's beautiful canals, it's "many waters", the national treasure that made the city famous in the ancient world (verse 38). In verse 40 is comparison is made to God's judgment on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis chapter 19, two cities whose names came to symbolize God's judgment of the wicked.

Jeremiah 50:41-46 ~ The Enemy from the North and the Lion of Jordan
41 Look, a people is coming from the north, a mighty nation; from the far ends of the earth many kings are stirring. 42 They are armed with bow and spear, they are cruel and pitiless; their noise is like the roaring of the sea; they ride horses, ready as one man to fight you, daughter of Babylon! 43 The king of Babylon has heard the news, his hands fall limp, anguish has seized him, pain like that of a woman in labor. 44 Look, like a lion he climbs the thickets of the Jordan to the perennial pasture! In a flash I shall make them run away and there appoint someone I shall chose. For who is there like me? Who can haul me into court? Name me the shepherd who can stand up to me. 45 So now hear the plan that Yahweh has laid against Babylon, the schemes he has in mind against the country of the Chaldaeans: they will certainly be dragged away like the smallest in the flock! Their pastures will certainly be sacked before their eyes! 46 The earth quakes at the sound of Babylon's capture, and the shouting echoes through the nations.

Yahweh will bring an enemy from the north against Babylon, a nation that was itself an enemy from the north against Judah. The King of Babylon will find himself helpless, like a woman in labor (a repeated theme in the oracles). The audience must have appreciated the irony that what Babylon did to others will now be done to her.

Chapter 51: Yahweh Makes War on Babylon


Jeremiah 51:1-10 ~ Babylon Drinks Yahweh's Cup of Wrath
1 Yahweh says this: Against Babylon and the inhabitants of Leb-Kamai I shall rouse a destructive wind. 2 I shall send winnowers to Babylon to winnow her and leave her country bare, for she will be leaguered on all sides, on the day of disaster. 3 Let no archer bend his bow! Let no man swagger in his breastplate! No quarter for her young men! Curse her whole army with destruction! 4 In the country of the Chaldaeans the slaughtered will fall, in the streets of Babylon, those run through by the sword. 5 For Israel and Judah have not been bereft of their God, Yahweh Sabaoth, although their country was full of sin against the Holy One of Israel. 6 Escape from Babylon, save your lives, each one of you); do not perish for her guilt, for now is the time for Yahweh's vengeance: he will pay her her reward! 7 Babylon was a golden cup in Yahweh's hand, she made the whole world drink, the nations drank her wine and then went mad. 8 Babylon has suddenly fallen, is broken: wail for her! Fetch balm for her wounds, perhaps she can be cured! 9 "We tried to cure Babylon; she has got no better. Leave her alone and let us each go to his own country." Yes, her sentence reaches to the sky, rises to the very clouds. 10 Yahweh has shown the uprightness of our cause. Come, let us tell in Zion what Yahweh our God has done.

The oracle begins with Yahweh's vow to raise a mighty wind of destruction against Babylon. Leb-Kamai in verse 1 is a cryptogram for Caldaea/Babylon. Babylon's "day of disaster" is in payment for Jerusalem's day of disaster inflicted by the Babylonians in the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC. The Babylonians were God's cup of wrath that the nations under judgment were forced to "drink" (verse 7). However, now Babylon will be forced, in payment for her evil acts, to drink the cup of Yahweh's wrath.

In verse 6, Jeremiah interrupts the oracle to list the judgments just announced. God will carry out the promised judgment, bending His bow and raising up a full coat of mail. Battle commands follow as a holy war is declared! The oracle ends with hope announced for Zion: for the remnant of the covenant people, but also with a reminder of their sin and judgment.

Jeremiah 51:11-14 ~ Yahweh's Plan for Babylon
11 Sharpen the arrows, fill the quivers! Yahweh has roused the spirit of the kings of the Medes, because he has a plan against Babylon to destroy it; this is Yahweh's revenge, revenge for his Temple. 12 Against the walls of Babylon raise the standard! Strengthen the guard! Post the sentries! Take up concealed positions! For Yahweh has both planned and done what he promised he would to the inhabitants of Babylon. 13 Enthroned beside abundant waters, rich in treasures, you now meet your end, the finish of your pillaging. 14 By his own self Yahweh Sabaoth has sworn: I shall fill you with men as though with grasshoppers, and over you they will raise the triumph-shout.

The oracle begins with Yahweh acting as the commander of the army poised to attack Babylon.
Question: What commands are given?
Answer: Soldiers are given rapid-fire commands to sharpen arrows, fill their quivers, raise their battle flag, set the sentries, and march toward the walls of the city.

Yahweh then addresses "daughter Babylon." The "abundant waters" in verse 13 include the Euphrates River that passed through the middle of the city of Babylon and a system of irrigation canals. In verse 14, Yahweh swears by His own name to destroy the city with an army as thick as locusts gorging on a field of grain.

Jeremiah 51:15-19 ~ Yahweh's Power over the Earth and Cosmos
15 By his power he made the earth by his wisdom set the world firm, by his discernment spread out the heavens. 16 When he thunders there is a roaring of waters in heaven; he raises clouds from the furthest limits of the earth, makes the lightning flash for the downpour, and brings the wind from his storehouse. 17 At this everyone stands stupefied, uncomprehending, every goldsmith blushed for his idols; his castings are but delusion, with no breath in them. 18 They are futile, a laughable production, when the time comes for them to be punished, they will vanish. 19 The Heritage of Jacob is not like these, for he is the maker of everything, and Israel is the tribe that is his heritage; His name is Yahweh Sabaoth.

Babylon's destruction will be brought about by the God of all Creation. That Yahweh is the heritage of the covenant people in verse 19 is a repeat of Jeremiah 50:11 and Deuteronomy 32:9, but Yahweh's portion was his people, Jacob was to be the measure of his inheritance.

Jeremiah 51:20-26 ~ Yahweh's War-mace and Mountain
20 You were my mace, a weapon of war. With you I crushed nations, struck kingdoms down, 21 with you crushed horse and rider, 22 with you crushed chariot and charioteer, with you crushed man and woman, with you crushed old man and young, with you crushed young man and girl, 23 with you crushed shepherd and flock, with you crushed ploughman and team, with you crushed governors and magistrates, 24 and I shall repay Babylon and the inhabitants of Chaldaea, before your eyes, for all the wrongs they have done to Zion, Yahweh declares. 25 I am setting myself against you, mountain of destruction, Yahweh declares, destroyer of the whole world! I shall reach out my hand for you and send you tumbling from the crags and make you a burnt-out mountain. 26 No corner-stone will be taken from you again and no foundation-stone, for you will be a desert forever, Yahweh declares.

Babylon was God's instrument against the nations (verses 20-23) but no longer!
Question: What reason is given in verse 24 for the judgment against Babylon?
Answer: They will be punished for all the suffering they have caused the covenant people.

The "mountain of destruction" that destroyed the "whole world" conquered by their armies is, of course, Babylon. Yahweh has stretched out His hand of judgment, against this powerful nation (symbolized as a "mountain") that he will leave like a "burned out" mountain. Never again will Babylon threaten or demolish other nations.

Jeremiah 51:27-32 ~ Calling Nations to Rise Up Against Babylon
27 Raise the standard throughout the world, sound the trumpet among the nations! Consecrate nations to make war on her; summon kingdoms against her: Ararat, Minni, Ashkenaz; appoint a recruiting-officer for her enemies, bring up the cavalry, bristling like locusts. 28 Consecrate nations to make war on her: the kings of Media, her governors, all her magistrates and the whole territory under their rule. 29 Then the earth trembled and writhed, for Yahweh's plan against Babylon was being executed: the change the country of Babylon into an unpopulated desert. 30 The warriors of Babylon have done with fighting, they have stayed inside their fortresses; their courage exhausted, they are now like women. Her houses are on fire, her gates are shattered. 31 Courier follows close on courier, messenger on messenger, to tell the king of Babylon that his city has been taken from all sides, 32 the fords occupied, the bastions [marshes] burnt down and the fighting men seized with panic.

In verse 27, Ararat is a mountain range in northern Mesopotamia in the territory of the Assyrian kingdom of Urartu that is east of modern Turkey. Minni is a region named in Assyrian inscriptions and located somewhere in Armenia. Ashkenaz refers to what will become the territory of the Scythians in the region of the Upper Euphrates.

This oracle is not a description of the battle like the last oracles, but is instead what will accompany the battle. The Medes and Persians are God's instruments of judgment. The land will quake in its own rising against Babylon, and the warriors of Babylon will withdraw from fighting to seek shelter within the city. "The fords" in verse 32 refer to the common river crossings and perhaps bridges across the Euphrates River. Even the marshes were set on fire so not cover could be provided for those trying to escape capture.

Jeremiah 51:33-35 ~ Babylon's Judgment For Jerusalem's Suffering
33 For Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of Israel, says this: the daughter of Babylon is like a threshing-floor when it is being trodden: a little while, and then the time for harvesting her will come. 34 He devoured me, consumed me, Nebuchadnezzar [Nebuchadrezzar] king of Babylon, left me like an empty dish, like the Dragon he has swallowed me whole, filled his belly with my titbits [he has driven me out of my Eden] and threw me out. 35 "On Babylon be the wounds I suffered!" the daughter of Zion will say. "On the inhabitants of Chaldaea be my blood!" Jerusalem will say.
In verses 34-35, Jerusalem is the speaker. The threshing-floor is an image of divine judgment where the righteous are separated from the wicked like the good grain is separated from the unusable chaff. The Temple in Jerusalem was built upon a threshing-floor (2 Sam 24:18-25; 1 Chr 21:18-28). Verses 34-35 are a lament by Lady Jerusalem. Verse 34 can also be translated "he has driven me out of my Eden," referring to the Promised Land of Israel. Jerusalem personified cries out that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon consumed her and then set her down like an empty dish. In 35b, Jerusalem ("the daughter of Zion") then pronounces a curse against Babylon for spilling the blood of Judah and Jerusalem: "On the inhabitants of Chaldaea be my blood!" It is similar to the curse the people of Jerusalem pronounce on themselves at Jesus' trial in Matthew 27:25.

Jeremiah 51:36-40 ~ Justice for Jerusalem and Zion
36 So, Yahweh says this: Look, I am taking up your cause [riv] to make sure you are avenged. I shall dry her river up, make her springs run dry. 37 Babylon will become a heap of stones, the lair of jackals, a thing of horror and of scorn, with no one living in it. 38 Like lions they roar together, the growl like lions' whelps. 39 Are they feverish? I will prepare them a drink and make them drink until they are tipsy and fall into everlasting sleep, never to wake again, Yahweh declares.40 I will drag them away to the slaughterhouse like lambs, like rams and goats.

Yahweh speaks in verse 36. He has heard the charges and says He will plead Jerusalem's case (riv) as the prosecuting attorney. Then, as the divine Judge, He will avenge Jerusalem. Yahweh will do this because He is Israel's go'el: Israel's "Redeemer" and the punishment will suit the crime. Proud Babylon was like a "lion," but drunken/defeated Babylon will be like a lamb.

Jeremiah 51:41-43 ~ Dirge for Babylon
41 What! Has Sheshak been taken, been conquered, the pride of the whole world? What a thing of horror Babylon has become throughout the nations! 42 The sea has risen over Babylon, she sinks beneath its boisterous waves. 43 Her towns have been turned into wasteland, a parched land, a desert, a country where no one lives and where nobody goes.

In Jeremiah 51:41, Sheshach is a cypher for Chaldaea/Chaldaeans (also see the same term in 25:26). Once again there is the imagery of a desolate land of drought and desert.

Jeremiah 51:44-46 ~ Be Prepared to Escape
44 I shall punish Bel in Babylon and make him disgorge what he has swallowed. In future the nations will stream to him no more. The very walls of Babylon will fall. 45 Get out of her, my people; save your lives, each one of you, from Yahweh's furious anger. 46 But do not be faint-hearted! Do not take fright at rumors hawked round the country: one rumor spreads one year, next year another follows; violence rules on earth and one tyrant succeeds another.

Verses 45-58 call for the Jews to escape from Babylon before Yahweh condemns the city to divine judgment (also see Is 48:20-21). This may seem to be a contradiction to Jeremiah's letter urging the Judaean exiles to make a life in Babylon, but they are to watch for the signs of judgment and then prepare for their departure after the prescribed seventy years of exile (see 2 Chr 38:21; Jer 25:10-13; 29:10). Verses 44-5 are in the poetic form and verse 46 is prose.

Jeremiah 51:47-57 ~Yahweh Will Punish the False Gods of Babylon
47 So look, the days are coming when I shall punish the idols of Babylon. Her entire country will be humbled, with all her slaughtered lying on home-soil. 48 The heaven and earth and all within them will shout for joy over Babylon, for the destroyers from the north are coming to her, Yahweh declares. 49 Babylon in her turn must fall, you slaughtered ones of Israel, just as though Babylon there fell men slaughtered all over the world. 50 You who have escaped her sword, leave her, do not wait! Remember Yahweh from afar, let Jerusalem come not your mind. 51 "We were ashamed when we heard of the outrage, we were covered in confusion because foreigners had entered the Temple of Yahweh's holy places." 52 So look, the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when I shall punish her idols, and the wounded will groan throughout her country. 53 Were Babylon to scale the heavens or reinforce her towering citadel, destroyers would still come to her on my orders, Yahweh declares. 54 The din of shouting from Babylon, of immense destruction, from the country of the Chaldaeans! 55 Yes, Yahweh is laying Babylon waste and silencing her monstrous din, whose waves used to roar like the ocean and their tumultuous voices rang out. 56 For the destroyer has fallen on Babylon, her warriors are captured, their bows are broken. Yes, Yahweh is a God of retribution, he never fails to repay. 57 I shall make her princes and her sages drink, her governors, her magistrates, her warriors; they will fall into an everlasting sleep, never to wake again, declares the King whose name is Yahweh Sabaoth.

Yahweh says that in the future He will bring judgment on Babylon's false gods. "Her entire country will be humbled" by the numbers of the dead, and all creation will rejoice over the fall of Babylon.
Question: What is the irony in verse 48 concerning Babylon? See Jer 25:9.
Answer: Babylon, the nation from the north who punished Judah (25:9), will be punished from the north.

Then Jeremiah picks up the narrative in verse 49, assuring the dead of Israel/Judah that their destroyer who dared to profane the holy Temple will be destroyed. Babylon's punishment from the north will be from the Medes and the Persians.
Question: What will Babylon's princes and sages drink in retribution for their sins in verse 57?

Answer: They will drink the cup of Yahweh's wrath in divine judgment.

Jeremiah 51:58 ~ The Final Oracle of Babylon's Destruction
58 Yahweh Sabaoth says this: The walls of Babylon the Great will be razed to the ground and her lofty gates will be burnt down. Thus peoples toil for nothing and nations wear themselves out, for the flames.

In the final oracle, Yahweh says the great walls of the mighty city of Babylon will be razed to the ground, and her high gates will be burned down. The result is that all their accumulated wealth from other nations will come to nothing except to be fuel for the flames.

Question: What warning did Jesus give about the accumulation of wealth in Matthew 16:26-28?
Answer: He said, "What, then, will anyone gain by winning the whole world and forfeiting his life? Or what can anyone offer in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will reward each one according to his behavior."

Jesus' teaching is that earthly profit is only temporal and is not worth one's eternal soul. The cost of only storing up earthly treasures for personal pleasures instead of seeing to the condition of one's soul will result in God's retribution on the Day of Judgment. As St. Paul taught, our bad works will be burned up like hay and straw; it is only our good works that are imperishable and are credited toward our eternal salvation (1 Cor 3:13-15).

Questions for reflection or group discussion:
Why does God have the authority to punish nations that do not acknowledge Him? What are the activities of peoples and their governments that deserve God's judgments? What national crime takes the lives of almost a million innocents every year in the United States alone?

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2017 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.