Study of Jeremiah, Chapter 51, The Destruction of Babylon

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Babylon destroyed

The Bible is filled with prophetic scripture.  When it came to the destruction of Babylon, God is very specific and intense in His punishment.  It is very apparent that any nation that goes against God’s chosen people, Israel, will pay severely!

Jeremiah 51:1-5Jeremiah 51:1-5
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

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, a destroying wind; midst: Heb. heart 2 And will send unto Babylon fanners, that shall fan her, and shall empty her land: for in the day of trouble they shall be against her round about. 3 Against him that bendeth let the archer bend his bow, and against him that lifteth himself up in his brigandine: 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. 5 For Israel hath not been forsaken, nor Judah of his God, of the LORD of hosts; though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel.  

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 1 This is what the LORD says:

“I will stir up a destroyer against Babylon

And the people of Babylonia.

2 Foreigners will come and winnow her,

blowing her away as chaff.

They will come from every side

to rise against her in her day of trouble.

3 Don’t let the archers put on their armor of draw their bow.

Don’t spare even her best soldiers!

Let her army be completely destroyed.

4 They will fall dead in the land of the Babylonians,

slashed to death in her streets.

5 For the LORD of Heaven’s Armies

has not abandoned Israel and Judah.

He is still their God.

Even though their land was filled with sin

against the Holy One of Israel.”

 God is talking to the Babylonians, and then instructs the Persians on their invasion.  To winnow is to separate the wheat from the chaff.  When a winnower would through the mixture into the air, the wind would blow away the chaff while the wheat would fall and settle to the floor.  Babylon was now as worthless as the chaff, and would be ‘blown away’; destroyed.  God had refined His people of Israel, and the injustices that were done to them during this time by other nations were finally being avenged.

 Jeremiah 51:6-10Jeremiah 51:6-10
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

6 Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in her iniquity; for this is the time of the LORD'S vengeance; he will render unto her a recompence. 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; therefore the nations are mad. 8 Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed: howl for her; take balm for her pain, if so be she may be healed. 9 We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed: forsake her, and let us go every one into his own country: for her judgment reacheth unto heaven, and is lifted up even to the skies. 10 The LORD hath brought forth our righteousness: come, and let us declare in Zion the work of the LORD our God.  

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 6 Flee from Babylon!  Save yourselves!

Don’t get trapped in her punishment!

It is the LORD’S time for vengeance;

he will repay her in full.

7 Babylon has been a gold cup in the LORD’S hands,

a cup that made the whole earth drunk.

The nations drank Babylon’s wine,

and it drove them all mad.

8 But suddenly Babylon, too, has fallen.

Weep for her.

Give her medicine.

Perhaps she can yet be healed.

9 We would have helped her if we could,

but nothing can save her now.

Let her go; abandon her.

Return now to you own land.

For her punishment reaches to the heavens;

it is so great it cannot be measured.

10 The LORD has vindicated us.

Come, let us announce in Jerusalem

everything the LORD our God has done.

 There were several people from Judah and Israel who had been captured by the Babylonians and kept as slaves in Babylon.  God tells them to flee; to get away from that land because His wrath is coming.  These slaves had already suffered God’s wrath in Judah and Jerusalem.  He didn’t want them to suffer again.  God rejects any notion that Babylon will recover, and any attempts to do so will be in vein.  The slaves that flee Babylon will see the destruction God brings upon Babylon and acknowledge that this destruction is vindication for the additional punishment they received at the hands of the Babylonians during their own punishment from God.

 Jeremiah 51:11-14Jeremiah 51:11-14
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

11 Make bright the arrows; gather the shields: the LORD hath raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes: for his device is against Babylon, to destroy it; because it is the vengeance of the LORD, the vengeance of his temple. bright: Heb. pure 12 Set up the standard upon the walls of Babylon, make the watch 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. ambushes: Heb. liers in wait 13 O thou that dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures, 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, as with caterpillers; and they shall lift up a shout against thee. by himself: Heb. by his soul lift up: Heb. utter  

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 11 Sharpen the arrows!

Lift up the shields!

For the LORD has inspired the kings of the Medes

to march against Babylon and destroy her.

This is his vengeance against those

who desecrated his Temple.

12 Raise the battle flag against Babylon!

Reinforce the guard and station the watchmen.

Prepare an ambush,

for the LORD will fulfill all his plans against Babylon.

13 You are a city by a great river,

a great center of commerce,

but your end has come.

The thread of your life is cut.

14 The LORD of Heaven’s Armies has taken this vow

and has sworn to it by his own name:

“Your cities will be filled with enemies,

like fields swarming with locusts,

and they will shout in triumph over you.”

 The Medes will align with Persia to defeat Babylon.  Babylon being right next to the river allowed for them to greatly prosper, but no the time has come for God’s judgment upon them.  Defeat is inevitable.

 Jeremiah 51:15-19Jeremiah 51:15-19
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

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. multitude: or, noise 17 Every man is brutish by his knowledge; every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them. is brutish...: or, is more brutish than to know 18 They are vanity, the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish. 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.  

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 The LORD made the earth by his power,

and he preserves it by his wisdom.

With his own understanding

he stretched out the heavens.

16 When he speaks in the thunder,

the heavens are filled with water.

He causes the clouds to rise over the earth.

He sends the lightning with the rain

and releases the wind from his storehouses.

17 The whole human race is foolish and has no knowledge!

The craftsmen are disgraced by the idols they make,

for their carefully shaped works are a fraud.

These idols have no breath or power.

18 Idols are worthless; they are ridiculous lies!

On the day of reckoning they will all be destroyed.

19 But the God of Israel is no idol!

He is the Creator of everything that exists,

including his people, his own special possession.

The LORD of Heaven’s Armies is his name!

 Any time we look around us and see God’s creation, we can’t help but stand in awe.  But, many still put their faith in man-made things, that will eventually rust or decay or simply fall apart over the years.  God, on the other hand, is eternal.  God is there for all time!  He is the Creator of everything that surrounds us, and will always be by our side.

Jeremiah 51:20-35Jeremiah 51:20-35
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

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; with thee: or, in thee, or, by thee 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. 24 And 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. 25 Behold, 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. desolate...: Heb. everlasting desolations 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; appoint a captain against her; cause the horses to come up as the rough caterpillers. 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. 30 The mighty men of Babylon have forborn to fight, they have remained in their holds: their might hath failed; they became as women: they have burned her dwellingplaces; her bars are broken. 31 One post shall run to meet another, and one messenger to meet another, to shew the king of Babylon that his city is taken at one end, 32 And that the passages are stopped, and the 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: yet a little while, and the time of her harvest shall come. it is...: or, in the time that he thresheth her 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, he hath filled his belly with my delicates, he hath cast me out. 35 The violence done to me and to my flesh be upon Babylon, shall the inhabitant of Zion say; and my blood upon the inhabitants of Chaldea, shall Jerusalem say. The violence...: Heb. My violence flesh: or, remainder inhabitant: Heb. inhabitress  

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20 “You are my battle-ax and sword,”

says the LORD.

“With you I will shatter nations

and destroy many kingdoms.

21 With you I will shatter armies –

destroying the horse and rider,

the chariot and charioteer.

22 With you I will shatter men and women,

old people and children,

young men and maidens.

23 With you I will shatter shepherds and flocks,

farmers and oxen,

captains and officers.

24 “I will repay Babylon

and the people of Babylonia

for all the wrong they have done

to my people in Jerusalem,” says the LORD.

25 “Look, O mighty mountain, destroyer of the earth!

I am your enemy,” says the LORD.

“I will raise my fist against you,

to knock you down from the heights.

When I am finished,

you will be nothing but a heap of burnt rubble.

26 You will be desolate forever.

Even your stones will never again be used for building.

You will be completely wiped out,”

says the LORD.

27 Raise a signal flag to the nations.

Sound the battle cry!

Mobilize them all against Babylon.

Prepare them to fight against her!

28 Bring out the armies of Aarat, Minni, and Ashkenaz.

Appoint a commander,

and bring a multitude of horses like swarming locusts!

led by the kings of the Medes

and all their captains and officers.

29 The earth trembles and writhes in pain,

for everything the LORD has planned against Babylon stands unchanged.

Babylon will be left desolate without a single inhabitant.

30 Her mightiest warriors no longer fight.

They stay in their barracks, their courage gone.

They have become like women.

The invaders have burned the houses

and broken down the city gates.

31 The news is passed from one runner to the next

as the messengers hurry to tell the king

that his city has been captured.

32 All the escape routes are blocked.

The marshes have been set aflame,

and the army is in a panic.

33 This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies,

the God of Israel, says:

“Babylon is like wheat on a threshing floor,

about to be trampled.

In just a little while

her harvest will begin.”

34 “King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon has eaten and crushed us

and drained us of strength.

He has swallowed us like a great monster

and filled his belly with our riches.

He has thrown us out of our own country.

35 Make Babylon suffer as she made us suffer,”

say the people of Zion.

“Make the people of Babylonia pay for spilling our blood,”

says Jerusalem.

 God uses whoever He wishes to do the will of His work.  In this passage of scripture, three new groups have been recruited to destroy Babylon in the name of the Lord:  Ararat, Minni, and Ashchenaz.  Babylon will not survive her punishment.

 Jeremiah 51:36-44Jeremiah 51:36-44
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

36 Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will plead thy cause, and take vengeance for thee; and I will dry up her sea, and make her springs dry. 37 And Babylon shall become heaps, a dwellingplace for dragons, an astonishment, and an hissing, without an inhabitant. 38 They shall roar together like lions: they shall yell as lions' whelps. yell: or, shake themselves 39 In their heat I will make their feasts, and I will make them drunken, that they may rejoice, and sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the LORD. 40 I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter, like rams with he goats. 41 How is Sheshach taken! 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: 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 in Babylon, and I will bring forth out of his mouth that which he hath swallowed up: and the nations shall not flow together any more unto him: yea, the wall of Babylon shall fall.  

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 36 This is what the LORD says to Jerusalem:

“I will be your lawyer to plead your case,

and I will avenge you.

I will dry up her river

as well as her springs,

37 and Babylon will become a heap of ruins,

haunted by jackals.

She will be an object of horror and contempt,

a place where no one lives.

38 Her people will roar together like strong lions.

They will growl like lion cubs.

39 And while they lie inflamed with all their wine,

I will prepare a different kind of feast for them.

I will make them drink until they fall asleep,

and they will never wake up again,”

says the LORD.

40 “I will bring them down

like lambs to the slaughter,

like rams and goats to be sacrificed.

41 “How Babylon is fallen –

great Babylon, praised throughout the earth!

Now she has become an object of horror

among the nations.

42 The sea has risen over Babylon;

she is covered by its crashing waves.

43 Her cities now lie in ruins;

she is a dry wasteland

where no one lives or even passes by.

44 And I will punish Bel, the god of Babylon,

and make him vomit up all he has eaten.

The nations will no longer come and worship him.

The wall of Babylon has fallen!

 At one time, Cyrus took Babylon by surprise by rerouting the river that ran through the city.  Once the waters were diverted, they were able to walk into the city on the dry riverbed.  But here, God is foretelling Babylon that they will be without water and will never be restored.  Babylon, once a strong, powerful empire will cease to exist.  God will do away with all idols associated with the nations.

 Jeremiah 51:45-53Jeremiah 51:45-53
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

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. lest: or, let not 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. do...: Heb. visit upon 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. 49 As Babylon hath caused the slain of Israel to fall, so at Babylon shall fall the slain of all the earth. As...: or, Both Babylon is to fall, O ye slain of Israel, and with Babylon, etc the earth: or, the country 50 Ye that have escaped the sword, go away, stand not still: remember the LORD afar off, and let Jerusalem come into your mind. 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. 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.  

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 45 “Come out, my people, flee from Babylon.

Save yourselves!  Run from the LORD’S fierce anger.

46 But do not panic; don’t be afraid

when you hear the first rumor of approaching forces.

For rumors will keep coming year by year.

Violence will erupt in the land

as the leaders fight against each other.

47 For the time is surely coming

when I will punish this great city and all her idols.

Her whole land will be disgraced,

and her dead will lie in the streets.

48 Then the heavens and earth will rejoice,

for out of the north will come destroying armies

against Babylon,” says the LORD.

49 “Just as Babylon killed the people of Israel

 And others throughout the world,

So must her people be killed.

50 Get out, all you who have escaped the sword!

Do not stand and watch – flee while you can!

Remember the LORD, though you are in a far-off land,

and think about your home in Jerusalem.”

51 “We are ashamed,” the people say.

“We are insulted and disgraced

Because the LORD’S Temple

has been defiled by foreigners.”

52 “Yes,” says the LORD, “but the time is coming

when I will destroy Babylon’s idols.

The groans of her wounded people

will be heard throughout the land.

53 Though Babylon reaches as high as the heavens

and makes her fortifications incredibly strong,

I will still send enemies to plunder her.

I, the LORD, have spoken!

 God tells His people, once again, to flee.  But they were fearful and felt guilt over their past.  The people were ashamed to return to Jerusalem, but God told them that they needed to leave because Babylon was going to be destroyed.

 Jeremiah 51:54-58Jeremiah 51:54-58
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

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 the great voice; 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 shall surely requite. 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, and the folk in the fire, and they shall be weary. The broad...: or, The walls of broad Babylon broken: or, made naked  

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 54 “Listen!  Hear the cry of Babylon,

the sound of great destruction from the land of the Babylonians.

55 For the LORD is destroying Babylon,

He will silence her loud voice.

Waves of enemies pound against her;

the noise of battle rings through the city.

56 Destroying armies come against Babylon.

Her mighty men are captured.

and their weapons break in their hands.

For the LORD is a God who gives just punishment;

he always repays in full.

57 I will make her officials and wise men drunk

along with her captains, officers, and warriors.

They will fall asleep

and never wake up again!”

says the King, whose name is

the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.

58 This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says:

“The thick walls of Babylon will be leveled to the ground,

and her massive gates will be burned.

The builders from man lands have worked in vain,

for their work will be destroyed by fire!”

 

The leaders of Babylon will become drunk with arrogance and power.  This will bring upon them their destruction.  The Babylonians will fall along with the city itself.  The walls will be destroyed and the remains will be burned down.

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Jeremiah 51:59-64Jeremiah 51:59-64
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

59 The word which Jeremiah the prophet commanded Seraiah the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah, when he went with Zedekiah the king of Judah into Babylon in the fourth year of his reign. And this Seraiah was a quiet prince. with: or, on the behalf of quiet...: or, prince of Menucha, or, chief chamberlain 60 So Jeremiah wrote in a book all the evil that should come upon Babylon, even all these words that are written against Babylon. 61 And Jeremiah said to Seraiah, When thou comest to Babylon, and shalt see, and shalt read all these words; 62 Then shalt thou say, O LORD, thou hast spoken against this place, to cut it off, that none shall remain in it, neither man nor beast, but that it shall be desolate for ever. desolate: Heb. desolations 63 And it shall be, when thou hast made an end of reading this book, that thou shalt bind a stone to it, and cast it into the midst of Euphrates: 64 And thou shalt say, Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her: and they shall be weary. Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.  

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 59 The prophet Jeremiah gave this message to Seraiah son of Neriah and grandson of Mahseiah, a staff officer, when Seraiah went to Babylon with King Zedekiah of Judah.  This was during the fourth year of Zedekiah’s reign.  60Jeremiah had recorded on a scroll all the terrible disasters that would soon come upon Babylon – all the words written here.  61 He said to Seraiah, “When you get to Babylon, read aloud everything on this scroll.  62 Then say, ‘LORD, you have said that you will destroy Babylon so that neither people nor animals will remain here.  She will lie empty and abandoned forever.’  63 When you have finished reading the scroll, tie it to a stone and throw it into the EuphratesRiver.  64 Then say, ‘In this same way Babylon and her people will sink, never again to rise, because of the disasters I will bring upon her.’”

This is the end of Jeremiah’s messages.

 Seraiah is Baruch’s brother.  Baruch, if you remember, was Jeremiah’s scribe.  Jeremiah is unable to go to Babylon as he is with the exiled Jews.  Jeremiah writes all of these messages in a scroll and instructs Seraiah to read it in its entirety as soon as he arrives in Babylon.  Then, Seraiah is given explicit instruction on what to do with the scroll.

Written by Mary Hudak-Collins

Mary Hudak-Collins

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