Scriptures

Jeremiah 51

Introduction

The introduction to the last chapter, also applies to this chapter. As I’ve already said, the two chapters are actually a single prophecy.

‘This is what the LORD says: ‘See, I will stir up the spirit of a destroyer against Babylon and the people of Leb Kamai. I will send foreigners to Babylon to winnow her and to devastate her land; they will oppose her on every side in the day of her disaster. Let not the archer string his bow, nor let him put on his armour. Do not spare her young men; completely destroy her army. They will fall down slain in Babylon, fatally wounded in her streets. For Israel and Judah have not been forsaken by their God, the LORD Almighty, though their land is full of guilt before the Holy One of Israel.’ Jeremiah 51:1-5

As a wind separates the chaff from the wheat, the enemy of Babylon would blow her away as chaff. The archers of the enemy would shoot their arrows through the strongest armour of the Babylonians. She is to be utterly destroyed because of her sin against God’s people.

Throughout this chapter we find a repetition of what God is saying, first He talks about the destruction of Babylon, and then talks about His protection of His people, and they are mentioned in the same order throughout.

‘Flee from Babylon! Run for your lives! Do not be destroyed because of her sins. It is time for the LORD’s vengeance; he will repay her what she deserves. Babylon was a gold cup in the LORD’s hand; she made the whole earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; therefore, they have now gone mad. Babylon will suddenly fall and be broken. Wail over her! Get balm for her pain; perhaps she can be healed. ‘We would have healed Babylon, but she cannot be healed; let us leave her and each go to our own land, for her judgment reaches to the skies, it rises as high as the heavens.’ ‘The LORD has vindicated us; come, let us tell in Zion what the LORD our God has done.’ ‘Sharpen the arrows, take up the shields! The LORD has stirred up the kings of the Medes, because his purpose is to destroy Babylon. The LORD will take vengeance, vengeance for his temple. Lift up a banner against the walls of Babylon! Reinforce the guard, station the watchmen, prepare an ambush! The LORD will carry out his purpose, his decree against the people of Babylon. You who live by many waters and are rich in treasures, your end has come, the time for you to be destroyed. The LORD Almighty has sworn by himself: I will surely fill you with troops, as with a swarm of locusts, and they will shout in triumph over you.’ Jeremiah 51:6-14

These prophecies of the doom of Babylon were made many years before Babylon fell. When the prophecies were fulfilled, Israel would know that God had not forsaken His people. If one would save his life, then he must flee from Babylon. Since she is beyond healing, as was Israel and Judah in their days of apostasy, then there would be no healing. The destruction of Babylon was the vindication of God’s people.

‘You who live by many waters and are rich in treasures.’

What is the connection here between rich treasures and water?

Babylon had the River Euphrates, and also a vast system of canals, which provided both security and irrigation. We know that the biggest and wealthiest cities throughout the world are those situated on the banks of great rivers, so this was the source of Babylon’s ‘rich treasures’.

‘I will surely fill you with men, as with as warm of locusts.’

I’m sure you have already come upon locusts in your Old Testament studies, and you will know that they are a truly destructive insect. Locusts were the source of the worst plagues that ever came upon the people in that area, and we still hear of swarms of locusts there today.

But the message here is, God will provide swarms of men who will ransack the Babylonians in the same way as the Babylonians destroyed Judah.

‘He made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses. ‘Everyone is senseless and without knowledge; every goldsmith is shamed by his idols. The images he makes are a fraud; they have no breath in them. They are worthless, the objects of mockery; when their judgment comes, they will perish. He who is the Portion of Jacob is not like these, for he is the Maker of all things, including the people of his inheritance—the LORD Almighty is his name.’ Jeremiah 51:15-19

Please read Jeremiah 10:12-16, it’s almost word for word the same, isn’t it?

And so, it should be, I would hate it if a preacher preached the same message, but told a different story to the biblical account.

Since it is reasonable to conclude that God is the creator of all things, then idolatry which is the manifestation of the spiritual inventions of man, is insane. God has revealed Himself to those He created, Romans 1:20.

It is foolish, therefore, to ignore the evidence of God in the created world in order to follow after something that has been created after the imagination of men. For this reason, the invention of idols is a disgrace to the thinking of men. Idols are the result of men who seek to deceive themselves by believing lies.

‘You are my war club, my weapon for battle—with you I shatter nations, with you I destroy kingdoms, with you I shatter horse and rider, with you I shatter chariot and driver, with you I shatter man and woman, with you I shatter old man and youth, with you I shatter young man and young woman, with you I shatter shepherd and flock, with you I shatter farmer and oxen, with you I shatter governors and officials. ‘Before your eyes I will repay Babylon and all who live in Babylonia for all the wrong they have done in Zion,’ declares the LORD. ‘I am against you, you destroying mountain, you who destroy the whole earth,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will stretch out my hand against you, roll you off the cliffs, and make you a burned-out mountain. No rock will be taken from you for a cornerstone, nor any stone for a foundation, for you will be desolate forever,’ declares the LORD.’ Jeremiah 51:20-26

God is emphasising the same thing, He will break into little pieces everything that appertains to Babylon. God used the Babylonians to punish Judah, as He used the Assyrians to punish Israel. But each nation, though used by God, did not give credit to God for their existence or accomplishments. They were pagan nations who simply sowed havoc among God’s people, submitting them to slavery throughout their empires.

For this reason, they would reap what they had sown. The consequence of their maltreatment of God’s people would be their annihilation from existence. These two empires would never exist again in history. Nebuchadnezzar had exalted the Babylonian Empire as a mountain over the nations. But in her punishment by God, she would be levelled as the flat plain on which the city was originally built.

‘Lift up a banner in the land! Blow the trumpet among the nations! Prepare the nations for battle against her; summon against her these kingdoms: Ararat, Minni and Ashkenaz. Appoint a commander against her; send up horses like a swarm of locusts. Prepare the nations for battle against her—the kings of the Medes, their governors and all their officials, and all the countries they rule. The land trembles and writhes, for the LORD’s purposes against Babylon stand—to lay waste the land of Babylon so that no one will live there. Babylon’s warriors have stopped fighting; they remain in their strongholds. Their strength is exhausted; they have become weaklings. Her dwellings are set on fire; the bars of her gates are broken. One courier follows another, and messenger follows messenger to announce to the king of Babylon that his entire city is captured, the river crossings seized, the marshes set on fire, and the soldiers terrified.’ This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Daughter Babylon is like a threshing floor at the time it is trampled; the time to harvest her will soon come.’ Jeremiah 51:27-33

Ararat is mentioned in verse 27. This is the mountainous area, where Noah’s ark came to rest. Verse 28 talks about the enemy that is coming to Babylon, the king of the Medes. There is something interesting here and in verse 11 where the Medes are again mentioned. This is proof, if any proof is needed, that this was not the past, this was not history, but this WAS prophecy.

No one who had written about this AFTER the event would have just mentioned the Medes, they would have brought the Persians into this…and referred to them as the Medo-Persians.

Verse 32 says that the soldiers are terrified. I bet they were, the enemy was all over their city. They had burned their houses. They had destroyed any hiding place the Babylonians might have run to.

As Coffman says,

‘mighty Babylon was as helpless as a woman untrained in war, with no protection, no armour, no weapons, and no hope. Let it be remembered, however, that this was a prophecy of ‘what would happen’, not a history of what did happen.’

This is true what Coffman says. But the sheer beauty of this is, the prophecy was so accurate.

‘Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has devoured us, he has thrown us into confusion, he has made us an empty jar. Like a serpent he has swallowed us and filled his stomach with our delicacies, and then has spewed us out. May the violence done to our flesh be on Babylon,’ say the inhabitants of Zion. ‘May our blood be on those who live in Babylonia,’ says Jerusalem. Therefore, this is what the LORD says: ‘See, I will defend your cause and avenge you; I will dry up her sea and make her springs dry. Babylon will be a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals, an object of horror and scorn, a place where no one lives. Her people all roar like young lions, they growl like lion cubs. But while they are aroused, I will set out a feast for them and make them drunk, so that they shout with laughter—then sleep forever and not awake,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter, like rams and goats.’ Jeremiah 51:34-40

Though Nebuchadnezzar had committed atrocities against Israel, those who ruled the Babylonian Empire after his death would pay the price. The reason for the destruction of the empire, therefore, was because of Nebuchadnezzar’s maltreatment of the people of God during his reign.

‘Make her springs dry’

is a figure of speech and is evidently taken from the hanging gardens of Babylon. Water was also channelled into the city where it was made into waterfalls, and thus cooled houses. When the waters were dried up, the people sweltered in the extreme heat of the region.

God’s work through the Medo-Persians to bring down the Babylonian Empire was an act of vengeance. Since God’s people were helpless in delivering themselves, God came to their rescue.

‘How Sheshak will be captured, the boast of the whole earth seized! How desolate Babylon will be among the nations! The sea will rise over Babylon; its roaring waves will cover her. Her towns will be desolate, a dry and desert land, a land where no one lives, through which no one travels. I will punish Bel in Babylon and make him spew out what he has swallowed. The nations will no longer stream to him. And the wall of Babylon will fall.’ Jeremiah 51:41-44

Some believe that Sheshack was a code word for Babylon. The feast is possibly a reference to Belshazzar’s feast in Daniel 5. No one thought that Babylon would fall. She was so powerful because of her warrior culture that there was no one who could defeat her.

Nevertheless, the one true God punished the false god Bel. Babylon would no longer be the power to which the nations of the Near East would submit.

‘Come out of her, my people! Run for your lives! Run from the fierce anger of the LORD. Do not lose heart or be afraid when rumours are heard in the land; one rumour comes this year, another the next, rumours of violence in the land and of ruler against ruler. For the time will surely come when I will punish the idols of Babylon; her whole land will be disgraced and her slain will all lie fallen within her. Then heaven and earth and all that is in them will shout for joy over Babylon, for out of the north destroyers will attack her,’ declares the LORD. ‘Babylon must fall because of Israel’s slain, just as the slain in all the earth have fallen because of Babylon. You who have escaped the sword, leave and do not linger! Remember the LORD in a distant land, and call to mind Jerusalem.’ ‘We are disgraced, for we have been insulted and shame covers our faces, because foreigners have entered the holy places of the LORD’s house.’ Jeremiah 51:45-51

If one would save his life, then he must flee the city of Babylon, for it would fall. Though written over seventy years before the fall of Babylon, God had already made the judgment that the city fall.

Before Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, God in His foreknowledge had already consigned the fall of Babylon. And when she did eventually fall, all who were affected by Babylon on earth were joined with angelic beings in singing for joy over her fall, Revelation 14.

They must never forget that Jerusalem and the temple were desecrated by those who were unbelievers. They must never forget the shame that was brought upon God by the destruction of those things in Judah that represented the presence of God.

‘But days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will punish her idols, and throughout her land the wounded will groan. Even if Babylon ascends to the heavens and fortifies her lofty stronghold, I will send destroyers against her,’ declares the LORD. ‘The sound of a cry comes from Babylon, the sound of great destruction from the land of the Babylonians. The LORD will destroy Babylon; he will silence her noisy din. Waves of enemies will rage like great waters; the roar of their voices will resound. A destroyer will come against Babylon; her warriors will be captured, and their bows will be broken. For the LORD is a God of retribution; he will repay in full. I will make her officials and wise men drunk, her governors, officers and warriors as well; they will sleep forever and not awake,’ declares the King, whose name is the LORD Almighty. This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Babylon’s thick wall will be levelled, and her high gates set on fire; the peoples exhaust themselves for nothing, the nations’ labour is only fuel for the flames.’ Jeremiah 51:52-58

Though Babylon had fortified herself against the strongest attacks, those who would plunder the city had arrived. No fortification would stand against God’s decree that the city fall.

The attackers would be like a surging wave that cannot be stopped. It was a time of God’s retribution upon those who had persecuted His people. Babylon’s fall, therefore, was repayment for what Babylon had done to others.

The leaders of Babylon were disoriented as a drunk, and thus could not organise the forces of the nation against the attackers.

‘Babylon’s thick wall will be levelled.’

Many of the walls surrounding huge cities like Babylon would have had walls so thick that four chariots could have raced round them, abreast of each other. You will recall if you’ve ever studied Joshua, and read of the Fall of Jericho in Joshua 6, that the wall was similar to this one in Babylon. Now God says, Babylon, your thick wall will be levelled.

‘This is the message Jeremiah the prophet gave to the staff officer Seraiah son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, when he went to Babylon with Zedekiah king of Judah in the fourth year of his reign. Jeremiah had written on a scroll about all the disasters that would come upon Babylon—all that had been recorded concerning Babylon. He said to Seraiah, “When you get to Babylon, see that you read all these words aloud. Then say, ‘LORD, you have said you will destroy this place, so that neither people nor animals will live in it; it will be desolate forever.’ When you finish reading this scroll, tie a stone to it and throw it into the Euphrates. Then say, ‘So will Babylon sink to rise no more because of the disaster I will bring on her. And her people will fall.’ The words of Jeremiah end here.’ Jeremiah 51:59-64

The fall of Babylon was predicted by Jeremiah during the years that Babylon was at her greatest. The message is written on a scroll and given to Seraiah, the brother of Baruch, Jeremiah 32:16. He is referred to as the staff officer. He would have been in charge of such things as accommodation, and travel arrangements, when Zedekiah made his trip to Babylon in the fourth year of his reign, which was about 593 B.C., Jeremiah 51:59.

This man, Seraiah, took the scroll that Jeremiah had written, which talked about all the disasters that would befall the Babylonians. He needed to have great courage and nerve to read such a scroll to the Babylonians.

After he read the scroll, it was thrown into the River Euphrates, to sink. This signified what would happen to Babylon, she would no longer rule, she would never again rise to power. Like the scroll, she would sink. But note, this was in the fourth year of the reign of Zedekiah. So, Zedekiah was going to reign for another 7 years before the Fall of Jerusalem. So, this was another great prophecy.

The last six words of this chapter say,

‘The words of Jeremiah end here.’

This was probably inserted by a scribe. Someone who wanted to connect the final chapter, Jeremiah 52, as the historical record of Jeremiah’s prophecies, but also wanted to show that Jeremiah himself hadn’t written the last chapter. So, he wrote in here,

‘The words of Jeremiah end here.’

That helps us to lead into Jeremiah 52 and recognise it as a historical record, not written by Jeremiah. Scholars generally agree that these six words were added by someone who wanted to maintain the integrity of their sacred books, which God had given into their keeping.

Go To Jeremiah 52

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart."

Psalm 37:4

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