Jeremiah 51

The Word Made Fresh

1The LORD says,
“I am going to stir up an enemy against Babylon and the Chaldeans.
2I will send those who can sort them out and separate them.
And they shall empty her when they come from every direction
on that day of trouble.
3Her soldiers will not bend their bows,
nor will they don their armor.
Her young men must not be spared,
And her entire army must be destroyed.
4They will fall dead in the land of the Chaldeans.
They will be wounded in her streets.
5Israel and Judah have not been forsaken
by their God, the LORD Almighty,
though they are certainly guilty
before the Holy One of Israel.”

6Run! Run from the Babylonians! Save your lives!
You won’t die because of their guilt,
but this is the time the LORD will avenge you,
repaying them what they deserve.
7Babylon was like a golden cup in the LORD’s hands,
and the whole world was drunk on her wine,
driving the nations crazy.
8But now Babylon has fallen and is destroyed; mourn for her!
Apply balm to her wounds;
perhaps she can be healed.
9We tried to heal Babylon, but to no avail.
Leave her, then, and each of you return to your own country.
Her judgment has been decided in heaven,
and lifted up to the skies.
10The LORD has secured our vindication.
Come, let us announce in Zion the work of the LORD our God.

11So, sharpen your arrows! Fill your quivers!
The LORD has aroused the attention of the kings of the Medes so that Babylon will be destroyed. That is the vengeance of the LORD for the damage done to the holy temple.

12Raise a flag against Babylon’s walls!
Strengthen the watch! Post guards!
Prepare the attacks, for the LORD has planned
and has done what was said concerning the people of Babylon.
13You who live beside deep waters filled with treasures
have come to your end; the thread of your life has been severed.
14The LORD Almighty has sworn,
“I will certainly fill you with troops like locust swarms.
They shall raise a shout of victory over you.”

15The LORD made the earth with power
and established the nations with wisdom,
and stretched out the heavens with knowledge.
16When the LORD’s voice is heard
waters flood down from the heavens,
and mist rises from one end of the earth to the other.
The LORD sends lightning to make it rain,
and brings out the wind from the heavenly storerooms.
17No one knows anything. No one has knowledge.
Goldsmiths are ashamed of their idols
for they are but false images with no breath in them.
18They are worthless. They are a delusion.
They will perish when their punishment comes.
19The LORD, Jacob’s God, is not like them,
for the LORD is the one who shaped everything,
and Israel is God’s choice to receive the heritage
of the LORD, who is the LORD Almighty.

20“You are my personal weapon of battle.
With you I will smash the nations.
With you I will destroy kingdoms.
21With you I will do away with the horse and its rider.
With you I will shatter the chariot and the charioteer.
22With you I punish men and women,
old men and boys, young men and girls,
23shepherds and their flocks, farmers and their oxen.
24With you I will smash governors and their deputies.

25“I am against you,” says the LORD, who seeks to destroy the whole earth from your mountain. “I will reach my hand over you and roll you down from your hideouts and turn you into a burned-out hill. 26Not a single stone will be taken from you to use as a cornerstone or set a foundation. You shall be an eternal waste,” says the LORD.

27Raise a flag over the land and blow the trumpet for the nations and prepare them for war against Babylon. Summon Ararat, Minni and Ashkenaz against her. Appoint a general against her and bring forward horses like swarms of locusts.  

28Prepare the nations for war against her – summon the kings of the Medes along with their governors and other leaders in every territory under their dominion.

29The land shakes and twists.
The LORD’s plans against Babylon will not change,
but Babylon will be desolate and uninhabitable.
30The armies of Babylon have ceased to take the offensive,
and have sealed themselves into their fortresses.
Their strength fails them.
They have become like frightened women.
Her buildings are aflame, and her bars are shattered.
31Runners and messengers pass the news along
to tell the king of Babylon
that his city is taken from end to end.
32The river crossings are blocked and the marshes burned with fire.
The soldiers are in panic.
33The LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says,
“Daughter Babylon is being trodden like a threshing floor;
In but a little while her harvest time will come.”

34“King Nebuchadnezzar has crushed and devoured me;
he has turned me into an empty container.
He has swallowed me like a monster
and has filled his belly with my delicacies
and then vomited me out.
35May Babylon be punished for my shattered body,”
The people of Zion are saying this.
“May my blood be avenged on the people of Chaldea,”
say the people of Jerusalem.
36And therefore the LORD says,
“I am going to defend your cause and avenge your pain.
I will dry up her sea and make her fountains dry.
37Babylon shall become a heap of ruins, a den of jackals,
an object of horror and a place where no one resides.

38“They shall roar together like lions
and growl like lions’ cubs.
39When they are incensed I will prepare their drink
until they are drunk. They will become merry
and then sleep a deep sleep
from which they will not awaken,” says the LORD.
40“I will bring them down
like lambs and rams and goats to the slaughter.
41Sheshach is taken! The pride of the whole world has been seized!
Now Babylon is an object of horror among the nations.
42The sea has risen above Babylon
and Babylon is covered by its stormy waves.
43Her outlying cities are an object of horror,
and she is like an empty land with no inhabitants,
and through which no one passes.
44I will punish Bel in Babylon.
I will make him vomit out all he has swallowed.
The nations shall no longer cater to him,
for the walls of Babylon have fallen.

45“Come out of Babylon, my people!
Each of you, flee and save your life from the LORD’s anger!
46Don’t be weak and fearful at the rumors you’ve heard.
For this year a rumor will come of violence in the land,
then next year another, of one ruler fighting another ruler.

47“Surely the days are coming when I will punish Babylon’s idols.
Her entire land will be put to shame
with all her dead falling in it.
48Then the heavens and the earth and all they contain
Will shout for joy over Babylon’s destruction,
for destroyers from the north will come against her,”
says the LORD.
49Babylon must fall for the slain of Israel,
just as the slain of all the earth have fallen because of Babylon.

50You who have survived the sword, don’t hesitate;
remember your LORD from a distant land
and allow Jerusalem to enter your thoughts.
51We are shamed by the insults we have heard against us.
Our faces are shadowed in dishonor,
for foreigners have entered the holy places
of the LORD’s house.

52“Therefore,” says the LORD, “the time is surely coming
when I will punish her idols,
and throughout her land the wounded shall groan.
53Even if Babylon could shake the heavens
and make her strongholds fortified,
destruction would come upon her from me,”
says the LORD.

54Listen! A great cry arises in Babylon!
A great crash from the land of the Chaldeans!
55The LORD is laying waste to Babylon
and silencing her loud clamor.  
The waves of their voices roar like mighty waters,
56for a destroyer has come upon them.
Her champions are defeated; their bows are broken.
The LORD’s recompense has reached them,
and they will be repaid in full.
57“I will make her officials and advisors drunk,
along with her governors, deputies and soldiers.
They shall sleep forever and never awaken again,”
says the King, whose name is the LORD Almighty.

58The LORD Almighty says:
“The wide wall of Babylon will be leveled to the ground.
Her tall gates will be set afire.
The people only exhaust themselves for nothing
because their efforts are only fuel for the flames.”

59This is the order Jeremiah gave Seraiah son of Neriah son of Mahseiah when he went with King Zedekiah of Judah to Babylon in the fourth year of Zedekiah’s reign. 60Jeremiah wrote on one scroll all the disasters that would come to Babylon. 61He told Seraiah, “When you get to Babylon make sure you read all of this, 62and say, ‘LORD, you threatened to destroy this place so that neither people nor animals can live in it, making it desolate forever.’ 63When you finish reading the scroll, tie a stone to it and throw it into the middle of the Euphrates River. 64Call out, ‘Babylon will sink like this, never to rise, because of all the disasters I am bringing against her.’”

The words of Jeremiah are ended here.


1-5: Nebuchadnezzar was a Chaldean, a native of the plains region southeast of Babylon where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers empty into the Persian Gulf. He was second in the line of four Chaldean rulers of Babylon and thus the whole empire is sometimes referred to as Chaldea. Jeremiah says that God has not forsaken Israel and Judah and will make an end to the Babylonian empire.

6-10: Babylon has been like a golden chalice God was holding, but now God has dropped it and it is shattered. Jeremiah imagines the exiles returning to Zion and praising God for their vindication.

11-14: The Median Empire stretched from eastern Turkey through Iran. Although they applied considerable pressure to the northern rim of Babylon, they were conquered by Cyrus the Persian in 550 B.C., who subsequently conquered Babylon (and soon thereafter released the Judean exiles).

15-19: In the midst of the oracle of judgment is this song of praise extolling God and acknowledging Israel as God’s people.

20-26: These verses are in first person singular; God is speaking. Israel is God’s instrument of judgment on nations and peoples. Babylon will be punished for the damage they have done in Zion; they will be turned into a wasteland.

27-33: Jeremiah pictures the destruction of Babylon in much the same language and imagery with which he had pictured the destruction of Jerusalem years before.

34-37: Nebuchadnezzar enriched himself with the spoils of Jerusalem, but God will avenge them.

38-40: A thumbnail history of Babylon: they roared like lions, but they got drunk on the wine of conquest, have fallen asleep, and so are ripe for a sudden reversal of fortunes.

41-44: The world will see that the once great Babylon has fallen, no more to rise. Sheshach is a poetic name for Babylon (also at 25:26). The god Bel will be dishonored to the point that no one will worship him.

45-46: God calls to God’s people in exile, summoning them to come out of their captivity.

47-49: God assures them that Babylon’s days are coming to an end.

50-51: God speaks to them again, this time not calling to them from afar but speaking as if in their very midst, urging them to remember Jerusalem.

52-53: God will punish Babylon’s idols/gods. They will resist, but God will prevail.

54-58: From within the city walls are heard the cries of destruction and defeat.

59-64: All these prophetic utterances were revealed to Jeremiah in the fourth year of the reign of Zedekiah. He wrote them down and sent them to Babylon to be read to the exiles there to let them know that God had not abandoned them.


When God steps in to set the nations straight after having watched them wander further from God’s will and plans for humankind, terrible things are going to happen. It is wise to cast off the allegiance we give to other “gods” and come back to God who gave us birth.