We’re almost to the end of the section in Jeremiah where God has been declaring judgement on the unrepentant nations of Jeremiah’s day. And this judgement would be meted out by the nation of Babylon.
But today in chapter 50 we’re going to see that after God used Babylon to punish the known-world of Jeremiah’s day, he would turn and punish Babylon for their own sins.
And the sins that God records in the 50th chapter of Jeremiah involve – to a great extent – wrongs done to Israel and Judah.
And so – interestingly enough – in chapter 50 we’ll see a back-and-forth of God speaking of Babylon for a few verses and then speaking to or about Judah and Israel in the next few verses and so on.
Babylon | 1-3
Now, the Lord starts speaking of Babylon in verses 1-3.
KJV Jeremiah 50:1 ¶ The word that the LORD spake against Babylon and against the land of the Chaldeans by Jeremiah the prophet.
Here it is…
2 Declare ye among the nations,
and set up a standard [i.e., raise a flag…];
and conceal not: say,
Babylon is taken [because it would be — some day when Medo-Persia conquered it…],
Bel [one of their gods, very close to “Baal” of Canaan…] is confounded,
Merodach [same false god, different name…] is broken in pieces;
[her/Babylon’s] idols are confounded,
her images are broken in pieces.
3 ¶ For [out of/from] the north there cometh up a nation against her [i.e., Medo-Persia],
which shall make her land desolate,
and none shall dwell therein:
they shall remove,
they shall [depart/flee],
both man and beast.
And so, here’s how this happened in history. You might want to turn to the maps in the back of your Bible.
So, Babylon was God’s “war club” for decades. God used that nation to destroy other nations who were not submitting to his authority. Judah was one of those nations. And Babylon conquered them in 586 BC.
But then as we’re seeing in Jeremiah chapters 50 and 51, Babylon itself would be destroyed by God from this other nation from the north.
This nation was Persia, which is where modern-day Iran is. Persia is just east of Babylon.
Persia – led by their king Cyrus – conquered the land to its north – known as Media in 550 BC. They then came around to the west – north of Babylon – and conquered land in what we know as Turkey. That happened in 547 BC. Then finally in 539 BC, Persia conquered Babylon. And that was about 37 years after Babylon conquered Jerusalem.
And there’s some poetic justice in the fact that Babylon was going to be conquered by an army “from the north.” Because we’ve seen throughout the book of Jeremiah, Judah was being threatened with an army “from the north.” That army was Babylon.
But when God was done with Babylon – the army “from the north” – now we hear that God was going to do away with that nation by using… another army “from the north!”
Israel and Judah Restored | 4-8
Well, when the Medo-Persians came and conquered Babylon, according to verses 4-8 Israel and Judah – who were captives in that nation – would amazingly be restored to their land.
4 ¶ In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD,
the children of Israel shall come [back to Israel!…],
they and the children of Judah together,
going and weeping [in repentance…]:
they shall go,
and seek the LORD their God.
And we can see much of this happening in Ezra and Nehemiah where the captives return to the land of Israel. But I don’t think we see the following there:
5 They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying,
Come, and let us join ourselves to the LORD in a [perpetual/lasting] covenant that shall not be forgotten.
Now, there are several “perpetual covenants” (berith olam) in the Old Testament. The rainbow (Gen 9), circumcision (Gen 17), the Sabbath (Exo 31 and Lev 24), God’s covenant with David that he would have a son to rule on the throne always (2Sa 23).
But the only other time in the book of Jeremiah that we’ve heard of an “everlasting covenant” was in the Book of Encouragement in chapter 32. And we saw there that this covenant was – and therefore will be – the New Covenant that God inaugurated through the blood of Jesus.
So, there are some aspects of this prophecy that have been fulfilled already. And there are some aspects that have yet to be fulfilled. It’s apparent that Israel did not join itself to the Lord in the New Covenant during Ezra and Nehemiah’s time.
Well, God continues in verse 6 by lamenting his people’s deplorable condition.
6 ¶ My people hath been lost sheep:
their shepherds [i.e., leaders…] have caused them to go astray,
they have turned them away on the mountains:
they have gone from mountain to hill,
they have forgotten their restingplace.
7 All that found them have devoured them:
and their adversaries said,
[We offend not/We’re not guilty!],
because they [Israel…] have sinned against the LORD,
the habitation of [justice/righteousness], even the LORD,
the [hope/one trusted in] of their fathers.
So, what God is saying here is that Babylon and Assyria before them and whichever other nation that was oppressing Israel was excusing their own brutality based on Israel’s sin against the Lord.
But a time would come when God had enough of that line of reasoning. He would urge his people to flee Babylon…
8 ¶ [Remove/Get] out of the midst of Babylon,
and go forth out of the land of the Chaldeans,
and be as the he goats [before/that lead] the flocks.
Babylon Destroyed | 9-16
Why the urging to flee Babylon? Verses 9-16 have the Lord shifting his focus back to Babylon. And the Lord proclaims that he will destroy that nation – so the Jews needed to get out of there.
9 For, lo, I will raise and cause to come up against Babylon an assembly of great nations from the north country [Medo-Persia]:
and they shall set themselves in array against her;
from thence she [Babylon…] shall be taken:
their [Medo-Persia’s…] arrows shall be as of a mighty expert man;
none shall return [in vain/empty-handed].
10 And Chaldea shall be a spoil:
all that spoil her shall be satisfied, saith the LORD.
And then God justifies the destruction of Babylon. And he points to Babylon’s cruelty to the Jews.
11 Because ye were glad,
because ye rejoiced, O ye destroyers of mine [heritage/people],
because ye are grown fat as the heifer at grass,
and bellow as bulls;
12 Your mother shall be sore confounded;
she that bare you shall be ashamed:
behold, [Babylon will be…] the [hindermost/least] of the nations shall be a wilderness,
a dry land, and a desert.
13 Because of the wrath of the LORD it shall not be inhabited,
but it shall be wholly desolate:
every one that goeth by Babylon shall be astonished,
and hiss at all her plagues.
And then as if God is speaking to the Medo-Persian army, he says…
14 Put yourselves in array against Babylon round about:
all ye that bend the bow,
shoot at her,
spare no arrows:
for she hath sinned against the LORD.
Now. Jesus stated that whatever someone does to the least of his people, that person does it to Jesus. He asked Saul why he persecuted him – when in fact Saul was persecuting not him directly, but his people the church. And it seems here in the Old Testament God is saying something similar – Babylon had sinned against the Lord. How? By harming his people.
But it was the Lord who used Babylon to destroy his own people. Right?
Yes, but it’s apparent from other passages that Babylon was over-zealous in their destruction of Judah. They weren’t merely executing God’s punishment in a dispassionate sort of way. They were overly cruel. They gloated about it. And so, yes, God would use Babylon to punish his people. But then God would also need to deal with Babylon.
And God was going to use Persia – a nation from the north… to punish Babylon the nation from the north… whom he used to punish his people.
He speaks to Persia again…
15 Shout [the battle cry…] against her round about:
she hath [given/thrown] her hand [in surrender…]:
her foundations are fallen,
her walls are thrown down:
for it is the vengeance of the LORD:
take vengeance upon her;
as she hath done,
do unto her.
16 Cut off the sower from Babylon,
and him that handleth the sickle in the time of harvest:
for fear of the oppressing sword they shall turn every [one/once-captive nation] to his [own…] people,
and they shall flee every one to his own land.
In other words, any foreigners in Babylon would be scattered back to their native countries to avoid the army of Persia.
Israel | 17
Now, we saw in verse 15 that God tells Persia to do unto Babylon as Babylon has done unto others.
Verse 16 says that the people of Babylon should be scattered. That’s just like they did to Israel in verse 17.
17 ¶ Israel is a scattered sheep;
the lions have driven him away:
first the king of Assyria hath devoured him;
and last this Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon hath broken his bones.
Babylon | 18
Back to Babylon…
18 Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel;
Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land,
as I have punished the king of Assyria.
And the Lord doesn’t state it here, but he actually punished Assyria though Babylon.
Israel | 19-20
And then back to Israel in verses 19 and 20 where Israel returns and is pictured as a peaceful flock grazing…
19 And I will bring Israel again to his habitation,
and he shall feed on Carmel and Bashan,
and his soul shall be satisfied upon mount Ephraim and Gilead.
20 In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD,
the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for,
and there shall be none;
and the sins of Judah,
and they shall not be found:
for I will pardon them whom I reserve [to survive…].
This sounds like a result of the New Covenant in which God’s people’s sins and lawless deeds he will remember no longer.
Babylon | 21-27
And now God once more changes his focus back to Babylon. And he again speaks to Persia.
21 Go up against the land of Merathaim, even against it,
and against the inhabitants of Pekod: [apparently two names for Babylon…]
waste and utterly destroy after them, saith the LORD,
and do according to all that I have commanded thee.
22 A sound of battle is in the land,
and of great destruction.
23 How is the hammer of the whole earth cut asunder and broken! [Who’s that?…]
how is Babylon become a desolation among the nations!
24 I have laid a snare for thee,
and thou art also taken, O Babylon,
and thou wast not aware:
thou art found, and also caught,
because thou hast striven against the LORD.
25 The LORD hath opened his armoury,
and hath brought forth the weapons of his indignation:
for this is the work of the Lord GOD of hosts in the land of the Chaldeans.
26 Come against her from the utmost border,
open her storehouses:
cast her up as heaps,
and destroy her utterly:
let nothing of her be left.
27 Slay all her [bullocks/soldiers];
let them go down to the slaughter:
woe unto them!
for their day is come,
the time of their [visitation/punishment].
Israel | 28
But the focus shifts back to Israel in verse 28, and they’re rejoicing that God has avenged his people and his temple – both of which Babylon ruined.
28 ¶ The voice of them that flee and escape out of the land of Babylon,
to declare in Zion the vengeance of the LORD our God,
the vengeance of his temple.
Babylon | 29-32
Once again God turns his attention back to Babylon in verses 29-32.
29 ¶ Call together the archers against Babylon:
all ye that bend the bow,
camp against it round about;
let none thereof escape:
recompense her according to her work;
according to all that she hath done, do unto her:
for she hath been proud against the LORD,
against the Holy One of Israel.
30 Therefore shall her young men fall in the streets,
and all her men of war shall be cut off in that day, saith the LORD.
31 Behold, I am against thee, O thou most proud, saith the Lord GOD of hosts:
for thy day [of reckoning…] is come, the time that I will [visit/punish] thee.
32 And the most proud [Babylon…] shall stumble and fall,
and none shall raise him up:
and I will kindle a fire in his cities,
and it shall devour all round about him.
Israel | 33-34
Then the focus turns back to Israel in verses 33 and 34.
33 ¶ Thus saith the LORD of hosts;
The children of Israel and the children of Judah were oppressed together:
and all that took them captives held them fast; they refused to let them go.
34 [but…] Their Redeemer is strong;
the LORD of hosts is his name:
he shall throughly plead their cause,
that he may give rest to the land,
and disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon.
Babylon | 35-46
And then to the end of chapter 50 the focus is on Babylon once more.
Sword and drought are coming to Babylon…
35 A sword is upon the Chaldeans, saith the LORD,
and upon the inhabitants of Babylon,
and upon her [princes/officials/leaders],
and upon her wise men.
36 A sword is upon the [liars/false prophets];
and they shall [dote/be shown to be fools/be silly and feebleminded]:
a sword is upon her mighty men;
and they shall be dismayed.
37 A sword is upon their horses,
and upon their chariots,
and upon all the [mingled people/foreigners/foreign troops] that are in the midst of her;
and they shall become as [frightened as…] women:
a sword is upon her treasures;
and they shall be robbed.
38 A drought is upon her [waters/rivers and canals];
and they shall be dried up:
[for/because] it is the land of graven images,
and [they/the people] are mad [upon/because of] their idols.
39 ¶ Therefore the wild beasts of the desert
with the [wild beasts of the islands/jackals] shall dwell there,
and the [owls/ostriches] shall dwell therein:
and it shall be no more inhabited for ever;
neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation.
40 As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah
and the neighbour cities thereof, saith the LORD;
so shall no man abide there,
neither shall any son of man dwell therein.
41 Behold, a people shall come from the north, and a great nation,
and many kings shall be raised up from the [coasts/remote parts] of the earth.
42 They shall hold the bow and the lance:
they are cruel, and will not shew mercy:
their voice shall roar like the sea,
and they shall ride upon horses,
every one put in array, like a man to the battle,
against thee, O daughter of Babylon.
Now, Jeremiah 6:23 says something very similar to what we just read. It says “They shall lay hold on bow and spear; they are cruel, and have no mercy; their voice roareth like the sea; and they ride upon horses, set in array as men for war against thee, O daughter of [not Babylon – but …] Zion.”
And now the tables will be turned. Judah is spared and Babylon would be punished.
43 The king of Babylon hath heard the report of them [Persia…],
and his hands waxed feeble:
anguish took hold of him,
and pangs as of a woman in travail.
Jeremiah 6:24 speaking from the perspective of the Jews says, “We have heard the fame thereof [of Babylon…]: our hands wax feeble: anguish hath taken hold of us, and pain, as of a woman in travail.”
44 ¶ Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the swelling of Jordan unto the [habitation of the strong/perennially watered pasture]:
but I will make them suddenly run away from her:
and who is a chosen man, that I may appoint over her?
for who is like me?
and who will appoint me the time [to appear in court…]?
and who is that [shepherd/ruler] that will stand before me?
And we saw God say that very thing about Babylon attacking Edom. And now here we see him using this phrasing to speak of Persia attacking Babylon.
So, God is using the same wording he used of the terror that Judah and Edom would experience from Babylon’s attacking them – and he turns it around on Babylon. Babylon will not be exempt from the fear they inspired in others.
45 Therefore hear ye the counsel of the LORD, that he hath taken against Babylon;
and his purposes, that he hath purposed against the land of the Chaldeans:
Surely the least of the flock shall [draw them/be drawn] out:
surely he shall make their habitation desolate [with/because of] them.
46 At the noise of the taking of Babylon the earth is moved,
and the cry is heard among the nations.
And next time we’ll hear even more about the promised destruction of Babylon.