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Two long chapters are devoted to “the word … concerning Babylon” (Jer 50:1). In Jeremiah 46-49 we see that Babylon is the disciplinary rod in the hand of God to discipline other nations. Now comes God’s judgment on this rod (cf. Isa 10:5-19). This judgment comes on it because the disciplinary rod is even worse than Israel itself. God disciplines His children because He loves them. When the rod goes beyond God’s purpose, God must judge the rod. God blames Babylon for executing judgment on Jerusalem in a way that He did not ordain (cf. Hab 1:13).
Again we have the double layer. Babylon is judged by the Medes and Persians (Dan 5:28-30). The Medes and Persians are the rod of God for Babylon. Babylon is also the great God-hating power in the end time, represented there in the restored Roman Empire. We know this because judgment on Babylon is connected to the restoration of Israel in the end time, when the two and ten tribes are back in the land.
The Word Concerning Babylon
Jeremiah now, commissioned by the LORD, fearlessly speaks the word against mighty Babylon (Jer 50:1; Jer 25:26; Jer 27:7). This word spans two long chapters. Jeremiah makes the announcement of judgment on Babylon heard among the nations who have also suffered under the yoke of Babylon (Jer 50:2). Deliverance from that yoke comes, they may lift up a standard and say that Babylon has been captured. With that, his chief god Bel and other idols have also lost their power, they have been shattered.
The enemy who will defeat Babylon comes from the north, just as Babylon itself is an enemy for Israel who comes from the north (Jer 50:3). The enemy for Babylon are the Medes and Persians. They defeat Babylon and turn the land into an object of horror, from which all life flees. The final fulfillment of this lies in the future.
Return of Israel
After the conquest “in those days and at that time”, Israelites from the twelve tribes, “the sons of Israel … they and the sons of Judah as well”, will set out to seek the LORD their God (Jer 50:4). This happens as soon as the Medes and Persians are in power. Then in the first year of his reign, Cyrus gives the command that anyone who wants to go back to Jerusalem may go (Ezra 1:2-3).
All who take advantage of that opportunity will go to Zion (Jer 50:5). That is where their heart is, that is their destination, that is where they set their faces, for there is the temple. They will come there and join themselves to the LORD in an everlasting covenant that will never be broken again or forgotten. There will be no new covenant breaking because this covenant depends only on the faithfulness of the LORD. And He is the everlasting faithful One.
The LORD sees His people as “lost sheep” (cf. Mt 9:36) who have fallen victim to false shepherds (Jer 50:6). These shepherds have fed themselves and left the sheep to their fate. They have not given them a place to rest, but have hounded them to keep their self-made commandments. These erring sheep have become easy prey for their adversaries (Jer 50:7).
Added to that, those opponents also boast that they are innocent of this exploitation because God’s people have sinned and they are executing God’s judgment. They even manage to use beautiful and telling names for the LORD. He is “the habitation of righteousness”. Because the Israelites have sinned against it, they devour them. He is also “the hope of their fathers”. In that hope they did not follow their fathers, but sinned.
That devouring by adversaries has come to an end. God’s people are now called to flee from Babylon, back to Israel, to Jerusalem, to the LORD (Jer 50:8). Those who go are a first ‘batch’; the rest of “the flock” will follow at another time.
Sin of and Judgment on Babylon
For the execution of judgment on Babylon, the LORD raises up a horde of great nations (Jer 50:9). These are the nations of the Medes and Persians. They come from the north to Babylon and take it captive. They do so with ruthless precision. The use of their weapons is not a battle in the air. Chaldea becomes their booty and it is not inconsiderable (Jer 50:10).
Judgment comes upon Babylon because the Babylonians have plundered the sanctuary of the LORD with great joy and without restraint (Jer 50:11). They have acted in God’s land like an elated calf in freshly mown grass and have raged against God’s people like stallions. Therefore, there is now shame for Babylon toward her mother (Jer 50:12). A mother usually likes to see her child’s success. That is not the case here. On the contrary. Babylon has gone from being the foremost of all nations to being the least. Of all its former glory, nothing remains. It is “a wilderness, a parched land and a desert”.
The indignation of the LORD is so great that she will not be inhabited again (Jer 50:13). Instead of admiration, it will provoke consternation in everyone who passes by Babylon (cf. Jer 19:8). This will be fully fulfilled in the end time (Rev 18:1-19).
The LORD calls His instruments to make themselves ready to fight against Babylon (Jer 50:14). They need not hold back when it comes to using their arrows. The supply will not run out. The LORD will give enough to execute His judgment on Babylon, for she has sinned against Him. What they have done against His people has been done against Him. Whoever touches His people touches the apple of His eye.
The LORD also foretells victory here already (Jer 50:15). Babylon will surrender and the Medes and Persians can rejoice. All her defenses have fallen and been broken down. The people the LORD uses are carrying out His vengeance. He is doing it. They may avenge themselves and treat Babylon as she has acted herself. Babylon reaps what she has sown (Gal 6:7b). There will be no more literal harvest for Babylon (Jer 50:16). The sowers will be exterminated, and for what still grows, there will be no reapers, for they too will be exterminated. All who have been conquered by Babylon will flee, each to his land of origin.
Comfort for Israel
After describing the judgment on Babylon comes another word about Israel (Jer 50:17). God’s people are compared to a cornered sheep that has been chased by two lions. One lion is the king of Assyria, the other the king of Babylon. They have left nothing of Israel. Therefore, the LORD will punish both nations (Jer 50:18). Assyria has already been punished, having been given up to the power of Nebuchadnezzar. The king of Babylon will suffer the same fate as Assyria and in turn will be judged by the next world empire that God is raising up for it, namely the Medes and Persians.
As God punishes nations for their heartless behavior toward His people, so He will have mercy on His people (Jer 50:19). He will bring His people back to their dwelling place and let them live there in peace and quiet: that is Carmel in the northwest, Bashan in the northeast, Ephraim, the ten tribes realm in the land and Gilead in the region at the other side of the Jordan. This will happen “in those days and in that time”, which are the days and the time of the future realm of peace (Jer 50:20).
Then all the people, Israel and Judah, will be restored in the land because they will be free from their iniquity and their sins. This is because the LORD has pardoned the remnant which is “all Israel” (Rom 11:26). Therefore, any search for iniquity or sin is futile. This is how God does when He pardons sins: He erases them and they are gone, also gone out of His mind. This is possible because Christ has borne the sins of those to whom they are pardoned, and they are pardoned to anyone who repents of his sins and believes in the Lord Jesus.
God’s Vengeance for His Temple
Again, the LORD addresses the instruments of His anger on Babylon. They are to march against Babylon (Jer 50:21). Merathaim is a poetic name for Babylon and means “double rebellion”. It speaks of Babylon’s pride and haughtiness and unwillingness to bow down. Therefore, the land and its inhabitants are to be destroyed and put under a spell. In doing so, they must not follow their own will, but must do according to all that the LORD has commanded them.
When the hostile armies enter the land of Babylon, it will be under noise of battle (Jer 50:22). The land faces a great destruction. Babylon, which has pounded on the nations like a sledgehammer and subjected those nations to itself, is now itself cut off and broken down (Jer 50:23). The horror that went out from Babylon and caused fear has become a horror of dismay at what has happened to that people. Babylon has been captured by the LORD because it has engaged in battle against the LORD (Jer 50:24).
Babylon does not reckon with the LORD and with His power, but that people will have to deal with the instruments of His indignation coming out of His armory (Jer 50:25). The LORD of hosts will do His work in the land of the Chaldeans. No one will be able to prevent that. He calls His armies from the ends of the earth to take Babylon and rob her of all her supplies, leaving nothing that remains (Jer 50:26). The animals must also be killed (Jer 50:27). The “woe” comes upon them, for their day has come to repay them for all the injustice they have done to God’s people.
Those who fled from Babylon and escaped will go to Zion to report what happened in Babylon (Jer 50:28). They will know how to tell that Babylon was judged because God avenged His temple on them. The Babylonians destroyed God’s temple. God will punish them for that because they did it in proud arrogance.
Arrogance of Babylon
Again the LORD calls the archers against Babylon (Jer 50:29). They are to besiege Babylon from all sides and they are not to let anyone escape. Babylon is to be repaid according to all that she has done herself. With the measure by which she has measured, she himself must be measured (Mt 7:2b). The hubris with which she has acted against the LORD, “the Holy One of Israel”, is the cause of this judgment. Babylon will lose her young men and all her men of war (Jer 50:30). Thus the strength of this people will be broken.
“The Lord GOD of hosts” solemnly pronounces that He will punish this overconfident nation (Jer 50:31). The time for that has come. And when the overconfident one has fallen, there will be no one to raise him up (Jer 50:32). He will lie down forever. He will also have no place to live, for all his cities, yes, everything around him, will be devoured by a fire that the LORD Himself has kindled.
The Redeemer of Israel
Against the oppressors of all Israel, all twelve tribes – “the sons of Israel … and the sons of Judah as well” –, the wrath of the LORD has been kindled (Jer 50:33). They – Assyria, Babylon, and countless other nations – oppressed His people and held them captive and would not let them go.
But their Redeemer, their Goel, is strong (Jer 50:34). His Name is “LORD of hosts” to Whom all heavenly and earthly powers are subject. He will stand up for His people and plead their case. Then the land, His land, will come to rest (Jer 31:2). The inhabitants of Babylon will know no rest, but turmoil.
The Enduring Fate of Babylon
Previously the sword of the LORD has come upon Judah (Jer 12:12) and upon the Philistines (Jer 47:6) Now it comes upon all the layers of Babylon (Jer 50:35-37). It is the sword of the avenger of blood, of God as the Redeemer of His people. The sword of death comes against the Chaldeans, against the inhabitants of Babylon, against her officials and against her wise men (Jer 50:35). The common man, the officials and the counselors all perish.
The LORD calls them “oracle priests” who, because of this judgment, do not come to understanding, but to acting foolishly (Jer 50:36). Nothing is to be expected of their mighty men. The sword also comes against them and they will be shattered. There is no strength to defend themselves. Their horses and chariots also fall under the blows of the sword (Jer 50:37). The strangers who are in their midst will become like frightened women. The treasures they have looted will be plundered. No one and nothing will remain of Babylon.
The next judgment is drought (Jer 50:38). There will be no more water. Their thirst will be so great that they will act like fools in order to thereby induce their idol to give them water. In all this, they are not turning to the living God. When Babylon is depopulated and the land has become a desert, no human being will ever be able to live there again (Jer 50:39). The only inhabitants will be wild desert creatures along with the jackals and the ostriches. God has done to Babylon what He did to Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighboring places (Jer 50:40).
For His judgment on Babylon, the LORD uses a people from the north (Jer 50:41). They are a great people with numerous kings. They come from the corners of the earth. All their soldiers are skilled in the use of bow and spear (Jer 50:42). They wield their weapons ruthlessly. Mercy they know not. Their voice of mass war cries sounds like the sea. They are also swift, for they ride horses. Then they line up for battle. There is no mistaking who the battle will be against. It is “against you, o daughter of Babylon”.
When the upcoming army in all its strength is thus painted, the king of Babylon loses courage (Jer 50:43). He is seized with the distress that seizes a woman in childbirth. Then there is no strength or even thought of resistance. Babylon himself had been compared to a lion, but now his enemy is so represented (Jer 50:44).
This lion – Cyrus, but in reality the LORD – emerges from “the thicket of the Jordan” and is sent by the LORD to Babylon, against that strong dwelling place. But his strong habitation offers no protection against this enemy. After all, the LORD has appointed him, hasn’t He? Who can raise any objection to that? No false shepherd who has so exploited His flock can stand before Him.
The plan concerning Babylon comes from the LORD (Jer 50:45). He communicates His plans that He has devised against the land of the Chaldeans, and it is important to listen to them. The weakest of the flock, those who have been the prey of false shepherds and have not been able to defend themselves, will drag the mighty away from Babylon and destroy its habitation. The rumor that Babylon has been seized will cause great consternation in all the earth and among the nations (Jer 50:46).
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Jeremiah 50". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13