The Word Made Fresh
1This is word the LORD spoke against Babylon, the land of the Chaldeans, by the prophet Jeremiah:
2“Send a declaration to the nations
and tell them with a banner publicly displayed saying,
Babylon is overrun, their god Bel put to shame.
Merodach is crestfallen and her images marred;
her idols dismayed.
3“Out of the north another nation has attacked her, and her land will become desolate. No one will live there. People and animals will run away.
4“When those days arrive,” says the LORD, “the people of Israel and the people of Judah will come, tearfully seeking the LORD their God. 5They will ask for directions to Zion and turn their faces towards it. They will ask the way to Zion, and they shall come and join the LORD with a covenant that will never be forgotten.
6“My people have been like lost sheep. Their shepherds led them astray, away from the mountains. They went to the hills and forgot where they belong. 7Everyone who came upon them devoured them. Their enemies said, ‘This is not our fault. They sinned against the LORD who is their true resting place and the hope of their ancestors.’
8“Flee from Babylon! Leave the land of the Chaldeans and become like rams leading the flock. 9I am going to stir up and bring a coalition of armies from the north against her, and she will be taken away. Their arrows are the arrows of skilled warriors who never miss. 10Babylon of the Chaldeans will be plundered, and her enemies enriched,” says the LORD.
11“Oh, you have rejoiced and exulted as you plundered my heritage,
and though you frisk about like a heifer on the grass
and neigh like stallions,
12your mother will be utterly ashamed;
she who gave you birth will be disgraced.
She shall be the least of the nations.
She shall be made a wilderness of dry ground, a desert.”
13No one will live in her because of the LORD’s anger.
She shall be utterly desolated,
and everyone who passes by Babylon will be shocked,
and shake their heads at all her wounds.
14All of you who bend the bow, get into position around Babylon.
Shoot all your arrows against her until you have none left,
because she has sinned against the LORD.
15Make a roar of victory against her from every side,
for she has surrendered, and her walls have fallen;
they have been thrown to the ground.
This is the LORD’s vengeance against her for what she has done.
16Remove from Babylon all who sow the seed,
all who wield the sickle at harvest time.
The sword that destroys will send all of them back,
back to their own people, fleeing to their own land.
17Israel is a hunted sheep the lions have driven away. First, the king of Assyria devoured it and now at the end King Nebuchadnezzar has gnawed its bones. 18“So,” says the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, “I am going to punish the king of Babylon and his country as I punished the king of Assyria. 19I will return Israel to its pastureland and it shall dine on Carmel and in Bashan. On the hills of Ephraim and Gilead their hunger will be satisfied. 20When those days arrive,” says the LORD, “there will be a search for the sins of Judah, but none shall be found because I will forgive the ones I have spared.
21“Go to Merathaim,” says the LORD.
“Attack the people of Pekod and utterly destroy them.
Do all I have commanded you to do.
22The noise of battle and utter destruction is in the land.
23How broken and shattered is Babylon,
the hammer of the whole earth.
How they have become a horror among the nations.
24You were caught in a trap you set for yourself, Babylon,
and without realizing it you were found and seized
because you challenged the LORD.
25The LORD’s armory is opened and its weapons brought out,
for the LORD God Almighty has work to do
in Babylon, the land of the Chaldeans.26Surround her and
Seize her granaries. Pile her up like grain
and utterly destroy her until nothing is left!
27Kill all her bulls and send them down to the slaughterhouse.
Alas for all of them! Their day has come!
The time of her punishment is upon her!
28Listen! Fugitives and refugees from Babylon are coming to Zion to tell about the vengeance of the LORD our God, vengeance for God’s temple.
29“Gather archers, all those who bend the bow, against Babylon. Surround her and let no one escape. Repay her for what she has done. Do to her what she has done to you. She arrogantly defied the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. 30That is why her young men will fall on her streets and all her army will be destroyed on that day,” says the LORD.
31“I am your enemy. I hate your arrogance,” says the LORD God Almighty. “Your day of punishment has arrived. 32The one who was arrogant has stumbled and fallen with no one to raise him up. I will set a fire in his cities, a fire to devour everything there.”
33This is what the LORD Almighty says: “The people of Israel and the people of Judah are oppressed. Their enemies have held fast to them and refused to let them go. 34But their Redeemer is powerful, whose name is the LORD Almighty. The LORD will enter their plea and take up their cause so that rest may come to the earth; but unrest will come to the Babylonians.
35“A sword will come against the Chaldeans
and against all those who live in Babylon,
including her officials and sages,” says the LORD.
36“A sword will come against their counselors
to make their counsel foolish.
A sword will come against her soldiers
that they might be destroyed.
37A sword will come against her horses and chariots,
and against all the foreign armies in her midst,
and they will become helpless.
A sword will come and plunder all her treasures.
38A sword will come against her waters and dry them up.
Babylon is a land of images; they madly worship their idols.
39“That is why wild animals will come with hyenas to live in Babylon, and ostriches will be there. She shall never again be inhabited by people for generations. 40It will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when the LORD overthrew them. No one will live there; no one will settle there.
41“Look, the people of a mighty nation with many kings is coming from the north and the farthest parts of the earth. 42They are wielding the sword and the spear. They are cruel and have no mercy. Their noise is like the roaring of the sea. They ride on horses arrayed for battle against you, daughter Babylon!
43“The king of Babylon heard about them and his hands fell helpless at his side. He was seized with anguish, with pain like that of a woman in labor.
44“Like a lion coming up from the thickets of the Jordan to a rich pastureland, I will suddenly chase them away, and I will appoint whomever I choose over them.
Who is like me? Who can summon me? Is there any shepherd who can stand before me? 45So, hear the plan the LORD has made against Babylon. Hear the LORD’s purpose against the land of the Chaldeans: surely the little ones of the flock shall be dragged off; surely all in their fold will be terrified at their fate. 46When the earth hears the sound of Babylon’s capture, it shall tremble, and Babylon’s cry will be heard among all the nations.”
1-3: The lengthiest judgment is reserved for Babylon. Again, the primary gods are named, in this case Marduk: Merodach is the Hebrew spelling and Bel is an alternate name, perhaps specifying a particular idol or statue representing the god. “Out of the north” is a reference to the Medes and Persians who overran the Babylonian empire after the death of Nebuchadnezzar.
4-5: Jeremiah sees the exiles returning to Jerusalem; not just the exiles from Judah but the dispersed tribes of Israel as well.
6-7: He never wants them to forget, however, that their exile was a result of their own unfaithfulness.
8-10: As God’s people had been forced to flee Jerusalem, so the people of Babylon will be forced to flee their country.
11-16: Now the Babylonians are exulting in their status as the world’s predominant nation, but the day of their shame is approaching when they will become the victims.
17-20: Babylon will suffer the same end as Assyria, but the people of Israel and Judah will be restored.
21-27: Merathaim means “double rebellion.” It is unknown as a city and so the likelihood is that Jeremiah uses the word as a synonym for Babylon which is destined to suffer twice as much rebellion as the nations it has conquered. Pekod has not been located either: the word means “visitation” and is probably used as a pseudonym for the Babylon that will be visited by God’s retribution. Babylon was caught in the snare they set for themselves. The snare was their lust for conquest. God opened the door for them to become his instrument of punishment for Judah and they could not resist the temptation. Thus, they were caught in the snare. Because they took God’s people away into exile, they themselves will in turn suffer God’s wrath.
28: Jeremiah sees fugitives and refugees from Babylon arriving in Jerusalem, bringing the news of God’s judgment on the Babylonians.
29-30: The Babylonians are to suffer the things they have caused other peoples to suffer: retributive justice.
31-32: The Bible gives consistent witness that God abhors arrogance and haughtiness.
33-34: God will plead Israel’s and Judah’s case, and in their favor, God will pass judgment on Babylon. These verses revive for me the picture of God as the supreme judge who rules the heavenly court where Satan accused Job.
35-38: A curse is pronounced against the Babylonians, the people, the leaders, and even the animals and the rivers.
39-40: Babylon will become an uninhabited waste. That had to be hard for anyone hearing it to believe it. Yet, where is Babylon today?
41-43: The description of Babylon’s conquerors is not unlike the description given of the approach of the Babylonian army towards Jerusalem at the beginning of the book (see 1:13, 4:6, 13:20). What goes around comes around.
44-46: Babylon has roared around like a lion in a pasture unguarded by shepherds, but God can stand up to this lion. Another will be appointed over her (another who is named Cyrus, by the way). The fate of Babylon will be a surprise to the whole world.
God will allow nations and peoples to pursue a sinful course only so long. Nebuchadnezzar worshiped many gods, but God chose to use him to chastise the people of Judah and Israel, and after Nebuchadnezzar died God brought an end to Babylon. God can use the worst of us to reshape the rest of us. God does not reject us; we reject God and then have to suffer the consequences.