Jeremiah 51 Commentary

Today we’ll finish God’s message of judgement against Babylon. That message started at the beginning of chapter 50 and now ends in verse 58 of chapter 51.

58 verses. One message. With God’s help!

I would start by noting that God thinks this is an important message. Chapter 50 featured 46 verses on this topic of Babylon getting their day of punishment. And now as I said we have 58 verses in chapter 51 dealing with the same topic. That’s 97 verses – almost 100 verses dealing with Babylon’s judgement.

So, let’s start reading in verse 1.

KJV Jeremiah 51:1 ¶ Thus saith the LORD;

Behold, I will raise up against Babylon,
and against them that dwell in the midst of [them that rise up against me/Leb-Kamai],
a destroying [wind/spirit];

Now stop there. “Leb-Kamai” is a code name for the Chaldeans. The word is constructed by substituting the last letter of the alphabet for the first, the second to last letter for the second, and so on.

A similar thing happens later on when Babylon is referred to as Sheshack. It’s a word formed by substituting letters according to the pattern I just described.

Why does God use these terms for Babylon? Maybe so that the readers do what we just did now – stop and think. Sort of like speed bumps on a road – they make you slow down and consider what you’re reading.

2 And will send unto Babylon [fanners/winnowers], that shall [fan/winnow] her, and shall [empty/devastate/strip bare] her land:

for in the day of [trouble/calamity] they [the winnowers…] shall be against her [Babylon…] round about.

3 Against him that bendeth let the [Medo-Persian…] archer bend his bow,
and against him that lifteth himself up in his [brigandine/scale-armor/coat of armor]:

and spare ye not her young men;
destroy ye utterly all her host.

4 Thus the slain shall fall in the land of the Chaldeans,
and they that are thrust through in her streets.

And as we saw in chapter 50, God here is coupling the destruction of Babylon with the salvation of his people Israel.

Why is God going to punish cruel Babylon?

5 For Israel hath not been forsaken,
nor Judah of his God, of the LORD of hosts;

though their [Israel’s] land was filled with [sin/guilt] against the Holy One of Israel.

God hadn’t forsaken Israel despite their sin. That’s why he would make sure that their abusers were punished.

6 Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul:
be not cut off in [the punishment for…] her iniquity;

for this is the time of the LORD’S vengeance;
he will [render/pay] unto her [a recompence/as she has done].

In other words, get out of there before you get caught up in the destruction, Israel!

7 Babylon hath been a golden cup in the LORD’S hand,
that made all the earth drunken:

the nations have drunken of her wine [i.e., wrath…];
therefore the nations are mad.

God pictures the effect of Babylon’s invasions as making nations drunk and – ultimately – crazy. But that would all change according to verse 8…

8 [But…] Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed:

Then God speaks to an unidentified audience and says…

howl for her; [take balm/get medicine] for her [pain/wounds], [if so be/perhaps] she [may/can] be healed.

And then it appears that the unidentified audience responds…

9 We [i.e., foreigners living there will say…] [would have healed/tried to heal] Babylon, but she is not healed: forsake her, and let us go every one into his own country:

So, the audience recognizes that healing Babylon will be futile. Why?…

for her judgment reacheth unto heaven [I.e., it will be vast in its proportion…],
and is lifted up even to the skies.

Then the exiles of Judah are given a voice…

10 [The Exiles of Judah say…] The LORD hath brought forth our [righteousness/deliverance/vindication]:
come, and let us declare in Zion the work of the LORD our God.

Next, the Lord gives orders to the Medo-Persian army…

11 [Make bright/Sharpen] the arrows;
gather the shields:

the LORD hath raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes:
for his [God’s…] device is against Babylon, to destroy it;

because it is the vengeance of the LORD,
the vengeance of his temple.

Again, God used Babylon to punish his idolatrous people. But Babylon was overly-zealous and brutal in executing their task. Add to that the fact that they were sinners just like Judah – and God needs to deal with them after he deals with all the other nations through Babylon.

And as we saw at the end of verse 11 God was particularly displeased with their treatment of his temple.

God speaks again to the Medo-Persian army…

12 Set up the standard [upon/against] the walls of Babylon, [I.e., a signal to attack the walls…]
make the [watch/guards] strong,
set up the watchmen,
prepare the ambushes:

for the LORD hath both devised and done that which he spake against the inhabitants of Babylon.

The Lord then addresses Babylon…

13 O thou that dwellest upon many waters,
abundant in treasures [I.e., of other nations…],

thine end is come,
and the measure of thy covetousness.

14 The LORD of hosts hath sworn by himself, saying,

Surely I will fill thee with [men/enemy soldiers], as with [caterpillers/locusts];
and they shall lift up a shout [I.e., of victory…] against thee.

Then the Lord speaks of his own power. How is it that God would be able to deal so forcefully with Babylon?…

15 He hath made the earth by his power,
he hath established the world by his wisdom,
and hath stretched out the heaven by his understanding.

16 When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens;
and he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth:

he maketh lightnings with rain,
and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures.

But here’s what God is really getting at by reminding Jeremiah about these facts. In light of God’s awesome power, idolatry – the kind that both the Lord’s people as well as every other nation was engaged in – is so foolish.

17 Every [idolatrous…] man is brutish by his knowledge;
every founder is confounded by [the/his] graven image:

for his molten image is falsehood,
and there is no breath in them.

18 They are [vanity/worthless], the work [of errors/of mockery/to be ridiculed]:

in the time of their [visitation/punishment] they shall perish.

What’s to interesting is that God uttered words very similar to these in Jeremiah chapter 10. Only in chapter 10 he was denouncing Judah’s idolatry. Here in chapter 51 he is denouncing idolatry in the context of Babylon’s deserved punishment.

And what both Judah and Babylon and every other nation in this world needs to know is that the Lord is not a fake idol. He’s not a lifeless clump of metal!

19 The portion of Jacob is not like them;
for he is the former of all things:

and Israel is the rod of his inheritance:
the LORD of hosts is his name.

Next, it appears that God speaks to Babylon, rehearsing how he has used them and – from Jeremiah’s vantage point – would yet use them in the future…

20 Thou art my battle axe and weapons of war:

for with thee will I break in pieces the nations,
and with thee will I destroy kingdoms;

21 And with thee will I break in pieces the horse and his rider;
and with thee will I break in pieces the chariot and his rider;

22 With thee also will I break in pieces man and woman;
and with thee will I break in pieces old and young;
and with thee will I break in pieces the young man and the maid;

23 I will also break in pieces with thee the shepherd and his flock;
and with thee will I break in pieces the husbandman and his yoke of oxen;
and with thee will I break in pieces captains and rulers.

And though God had and would use Babylon to punish the whole earth, Babylon would eventually receive the punishment they deserved – especially in light of their abuse of Judah…

24 ¶ [And/But] I will render unto Babylon and to all the inhabitants of Chaldea all their evil that they have done in Zion in your sight, saith the LORD.

Again, catch the note of vengeance for Babylon’s treatment of Jerusalem.

God continues to address Babylon…

25 [Behold/Beware!], I am against thee, O destroying mountain, saith the LORD,
which destroyest all the earth:

and I will stretch out mine hand upon thee,
and roll thee down from the rocks,
and will make thee a burnt mountain.

26 And they shall not take of thee a stone for a corner,
nor a stone for foundations;

but thou shalt be desolate for ever, saith the LORD.

Then God summons the Medo-Persian army once again…

27 Set ye up a standard in the land,
blow the trumpet among the nations,

prepare the nations against her,
call together against her the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Ashchenaz;

Those were three kingdoms whom the Medes conquered. They are located in modern-day eastern Turkey and Western Iran. They would have fought for the Medes when Medo-Persia attacked Babylon.

appoint a captain against her;
cause the horses to come up as the [rough caterpillers/bristly locusts].

28 Prepare against her
the nations
with the kings of the Medes,
the captains thereof,
and all the rulers thereof,
and all the land of his dominion.

29 And the land shall tremble and sorrow:

for every purpose of the LORD shall be performed against Babylon,
to make the land of Babylon a desolation without an inhabitant.

Then the Lord foretells Babylon’s defeat…

30 The mighty men of Babylon have [forborn/ceased] to fight,
they have remained in their [holds/forts]:

their might hath failed;
they became as [frightened…] women:

they [Medo-Persia…] have burned her [Babylon’s…] dwellingplaces;
her bars are broken.

31 One [post/courier] shall run to meet another,
and one messenger to meet another,

to [shew/tell] the king of Babylon that his city is taken [at one end/from end to end/wholly],

32 [continuing the report…] And that the [passages/fords] are [stopped/seized/captured],
and the [marshes of…] reeds they have burned with fire,
and the men of war are affrighted.

33 For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel;

The daughter of Babylon is like a threshingfloor,
it is time to [thresh her/stamp her down firmly/trample her flat]:

yet a little while,
and the time of her harvest shall come.

Then God once again gives voice to the people of Israel. And they are thankful for the vengeance that God is carrying out against Babylon…

34 Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon hath devoured me,
he hath crushed me,
he hath made me an empty vessel,
he hath swallowed me up like a [dragon/monster],
he hath filled his belly with my delicates,
he hath cast me out.

35 The violence done to me and to my [flesh/relatives] be [upon/paid by] Babylon,
shall the inhabitant of Zion say;

and my blood upon the inhabitants of Chaldea,
shall Jerusalem say.

Then God resolves to defend his people…

36 Therefore thus saith the LORD;

Behold, I will [plead/stand up for] thy [Israel’s…] cause,
and take vengeance for thee;

and I will dry up her [Babylon’s…] sea,
and make her springs dry.

37 And Babylon shall become heaps [of ruins…],
a dwellingplace for [dragons/jackals],
an astonishment,
and an hissing, without an inhabitant.

38 They shall roar [for prey…] together like lions:
they shall yell [for something to eat…] as lions’ whelps.

39 [In their heat/When their appetites are stirred up] I will make [their feasts/a banquet for them],
and I will make them drunken,

that they may rejoice,
and sleep a perpetual sleep,
and not wake,

saith the LORD. [Like Bel Shazar’s feast…]

40 I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter,
like rams with [he/male] goats.

41 How is [Sheshach/Babylon] [taken/captured]!

And again, Sheshach is a code name for Babylon where – if it were in English – “a” would be transposed for “z,” “b” for “y,” and so on…

and how is the praise of the whole earth surprised!
how is Babylon become an astonishment among the nations!

42 The sea is come up upon Babylon: [speaking poetically of the multitude of nations that would invade her…]
she is covered with the multitude of the waves thereof.

43 Her cities are a desolation, a dry land, and a wilderness,
a land wherein no man dwelleth, neither doth any son of man pass thereby.

44 And I will punish Bel [the false god…] in Babylon,
and I will bring forth out of his mouth that which he hath swallowed up:

and the nations shall not [flow together/stream] any more unto him:
yea, the wall of Babylon shall fall.

Then God addresses his people Israel directly. They must leave Babylon at the appointed time of her destruction…

45 My people, go ye out of the midst of her,
and deliver ye every man his soul from the fierce anger of the LORD.

46 And lest your heart faint,
and ye fear for the rumour that shall be heard in the land;

a rumour shall both come one year,
and after that in another year shall come a rumour,

and violence in the land,
ruler against ruler.

God vows to destroy Babylon’s idols…

47 Therefore, behold, the days come,
that I will do judgment upon the graven images of Babylon:

and her whole land shall be confounded,
and all her slain shall fall in the midst of her.

And there will be great joy over the defeat of Babylon – reminiscent of the New Testament’s “Hallelujahs” in the book of Revelation…

48 Then the heaven and the earth, and all that is therein, shall sing for Babylon:
for the spoilers shall come unto her from the north, saith the LORD.

Babylon will experience retribution…

49 As Babylon hath caused the slain of Israel to fall,
so at Babylon shall fall the slain of all the earth.

Then once more the Lord urges any Jew who is in Babylon to go back to Jerusalem…

50 Ye that have escaped the sword, go away, stand not still:
remember the LORD afar off, and let Jerusalem come into your mind.

Then Israel is pictured as speaking and lamenting the fact that the temple is occupied by infidels…

51 We are confounded, because we have heard reproach:
shame hath covered our faces:

for strangers are come into the sanctuaries of the LORD’S house.

God once more vows to destroy Babylon and its idols…

52 Wherefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD,

that I will do judgment upon her graven images:
and through all her land the wounded shall groan.

53 Though Babylon should mount up to heaven,
and though she should fortify the height of her strength,

yet from me shall spoilers come unto her, saith the LORD.

54 A sound of a cry cometh from Babylon,
and great destruction from the land of the Chaldeans:

55 Because the LORD hath spoiled Babylon,
and destroyed [out of her/her] [the great/loud] [voice/noise];

when her waves do roar like great waters,
a noise of their voice is uttered:

56 Because the spoiler is come upon her, even upon Babylon,
and her mighty men are taken,

every one of their bows is broken:
for the LORD God [of recompences/who pays back] shall surely [requite/pay back in full].

57 And I will make drunk
her princes,
and her wise men,
her captains,
and her rulers,
and her mighty men:

and they shall sleep a perpetual sleep,
and not wake,

saith the King,
whose name is the LORD of hosts.

58 Thus saith the LORD of hosts;

The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken,
and her high gates shall be burned with fire;

and the people [shall labour in vain/strive for what doesn’t satisfy],
and the folk [in the fire, and they shall be weary/weary themselves for what will be consumed by fire].

That’s the end of God’s promise to destroy Babylon. Next time, Lord-willing, we’ll see the end of this book.

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