After prophesying against the other nations, Jeremiah now prophesies against mighty Babylon. This and the next Chapter, Jeremiah 51, will prophesy Babylon’s fall, and there are also, in these two chapters, references to the deliverance of God’s people from their captivity.
These two chapters cannot really be outlined. You will have noticed that the whole book of Jeremiah is somewhat haphazard, as I warned you before we even started our study of Jeremiah. These two chapters are also haphazard. I suppose you could call them a collection of prophecies.
There are two main themes in these two chapters, there is the fall of Babylon, and there is the return of God’s people from exile. Babylon may have been used as God’s rod to chasten the other nations, but they too had it coming to them. God would put ‘Bel’ to shame, make ‘him’ lose his face. He was supposed to be the strongest deity in the Middle East.
The king in power at the fall of Babylon would be Evil-Merodach. He would be dismayed and unable to believe it.
‘A nation from the north will attack her’. This phrase, out of the north, is used to indicate the nation that will be used to bring Babylon down. And the only nation capable of this task would be the Medo-Persians. The reason for her fall is because of her over-zealous cruelty They didn’t leave a thing in Judah, Jeremiah 50:17. Jeremiah must have felt great pleasure at telling them this, in a way, Judah is vindicated.
Verse 2 says that ‘her Idols are filled with terror.’ You might find it interesting to know that the Hebrew word here literally means ‘dung balls’. Perhaps you already knew that Ezekiel used the word 38 times when speaking of pagan idols.
I am sure you will remember that Judah was warned that ‘a nation from the north’, would come against them, and Babylon was north of Judah. But this is also true of Babylon, because ‘out of the north,’ came the Medes. They were actually northwest of Babylon. Cyrus was said to have captured the city of Babylon by diverting the Euphrates out of its normal channel, and this diversion took place north of Babylon. Babylon will be totally destroyed.
We see the reasons for God’s anger here. God says, you rejoiced and were glad when you pillaged my people. The Babylonians were having a great time destroying Judah, they are compared to a heifer threshing corn, to be neighing like stallions.
Despite the promises here that Babylon would be destroyed, the prophesy isn’t going to happen immediately. In fact, it is believed that there was a long period of decline.
Verse 12 tells us that she will be a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert. Many years would have to go by before this prophecy was fulfilled.
This section refers to two events, the destruction of the Northern Kingdom by Assyria in 722 B.C., and the first wave of captives taken into Babylon in 597 B.C. The message here seems to be, that just as God destroyed the king of Assyria at Nineveh, so God will destroy the Babylonians.
The context returns to judgment upon Babylon. Merathaim and Pekod were symbolic names for Babylon to portray her sin. She was the hammer that broke the nations. She is now broken and shattered. God opened the armoury of His weapons that He uses against the nations. He unleashed His weapons upon the nation that had tormented and destroyed so many other nations. Babylon was a warrior nation, and thus God was a strong warrior against her.
As Babylon had snared other nations, so she was snared. The city of Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians with very little struggle. The Babylonian Empire capitulated without any major battle, though she had been built as a result of victories in great battles.
‘How broken and shattered is the hammer of the whole earth.’ This is an interesting term of reference, that Babylon should be called ‘the hammer of the whole earth.’ This is a term used to describe the victory of Judas Maccabaeus over Syria, and even one of the kings of England, Edward 1, has inscribed on his tomb in Westminster Abbey the same words, ‘hammer of the Scots’, only they are written in Latin.
Babylon’s destruction of the temple was to the Babylonians a sign that they had overcome the God of the Jews. Thus, judgment on Babylon was God’s vengeance on them for thinking that they had defeated the God of the Jews. Those in Jerusalem, therefore, would rejoice when the announcement would be made that Babylon had fallen.
Verse 30 here is the same as Jeremiah 49:26. There are other occasions when Jeremiah repeated his words in this book. Babylon was to be rewarded for her work. As she had done to others, so it would be done to her. As she took other nations out of existence, so she would be taken out of existence. As she was proud and arrogant against others, other nations were called to humble her.
Israel is encouraged by her deliverance. Israel was in bondage from which she could not deliver herself. Only God could work among the nations in order to release her from her captivity. Through God’s grace, therefore, Israel was released from bondage and brought back to her homeland.
However, it took the destruction of her captors in order to accomplish the freedom of His people. And so, it has happened in reference to the Christian’s deliverance from the kingdom of Satan, Ephesians 4:7-10.
As the Babylonians had used the sword to amass their empire, so the sword will devour the nation. All the leaders, princes and priests alike, would suffer from the strike of the sword. Those mercenaries who were in allegiance with the Babylonians, would forsake their commitment and allow the empire to fall.
Though their soldiers were fierce against those they conquered, they would become feeble as women. She would be plundered of her riches and made ashamed of her idols, which idol gods would not deliver her in her day of calamity.
As the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah ceased to exist, so would the Babylonian Empire. People continue to exist who make up empires, but the government, kings and princes, cease, no longer to rise again.
Since many of the ancient empires were based on the leadership of a predominant king, and his son or sons who reigned after him, when the dynasty was terminated, the empire ceased to exist. So, it would be with the Babylonian Empire. The people of the empire would continue under the control of a new empire.
A coalition between the Medes and Persians took over the Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C. As Babylon had shown no mercy to the nations she conquered, no mercy would be shown to her. In reference to the King of Babylon, read Daniel 5 where Belshazzar was given a sign of his doom.
The fall of the Babylonian Empire caused great joy among all the nations who had succumbed to her might. All those exiles who had been taken from their homelands rejoiced over the empire that had decimated their homelands. There was no remorse over the fall of the Babylonian Empire.
This prophecy against the Babylonians continues into the next chapter, Jeremiah 51. The next chapter is the longest chapter in the book, with 64 verses. These two chapters combined consist of 110 verses.
They are, together, the longest single prophecy of Jeremiah’s. Perhaps that gives some indication of the extent of God’s anger against them.