Jeremiah 51-52 Cast the book into the midst of the Euphrates

From Jeremiah 51-52

JeremiahJeremiah describes the LORD as creator. He has power over all the world. He made it. He is powerful, wise and over all. The Babylonians will not escape. Jeremiah brings to our attention Babylon’s sin of idolatry. They do not worship the LORD. They worship worthless idols. They are deluded in thinking these false gods will save them.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comment

Today’s readings continue Jeremiah’s judgment on Babylon (Je 51.1-10). What we don’t know, but will find out later is that Jeremiah is writing all these words of judgment into a book, specifically written for Babylon. Included in Jeremiah’s judgment is an instruction for the Israelite inhabitants to flee the land (cf. Jer 51.6,45). Our passage picks up near the start of the reading.

11b The Lord has stirred up the spirit of the kings of the Medes, because his purpose concerning Babylon is to destroy it, for that is the vengeance of the Lord, the vengeance for his temple.

12 “Set up a standard against the walls of Babylon;

make the watch strong;

set up watchmen;

prepare the ambushes;

for the Lord has both planned and done

what he spoke concerning the inhabitants of Babylon.

13 O you who dwell by many waters,

rich in treasures,

your end has come;

the thread of your life is cut.

14 The Lord of hosts has sworn by himself:

Surely I will fill you with men, as many as locusts,

and they shall raise the shout of victory over you. (Je 51.11-14)

The Mede’s will come against Babylon as the LORD’s chosen instrument of judgment. Babylon may be rich, but her riches will not protect her. Locusts come in great numbers and wipe out whole crops. The Mede’s army is described like a wave of locusts. They will be without number. They will destroy Babylon.

Jeremiah attributes this to the LORD.

15 “It is he who made the earth by his power,

who established the world by his wisdom,

and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.

16 When he utters his voice there is a tumult of waters in the heavens,

and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.

He makes lightning for the rain,

and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses.

17 Every man is stupid and without knowledge;

every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols,

for his images are false,

and there is no breath in them.

18 They are worthless, a work of delusion;

at the time of their punishment they shall perish.

19 Not like these is he who is the portion of Jacob,

for he is the one who formed all things,

and Israel is the tribe of his inheritance;

the Lord of hosts is his name. (Je 51.15-19)

Jeremiah describes the LORD as creator. He has power over all the world. He made it. He is powerful, wise and over all. The Babylonians will not escape. Jeremiah brings to our attention Babylon’s sin of idolatry. They do not worship the LORD. They worship worthless idols. They are deluded in thinking these false gods will save them. Priests were given a portion of the sacrifices for their food. The tribes of Israel were allotted a portion of the promised land as their inheritance. The LORD of hosts is the true God. He is the ‘portion’ of Jacob.

Is the LORD your most prized possession? Your portion?

Jeremiah speaks of the Mede’s again as the LORD’s chosen instrument against Babylon.

20 “You are my hammer and weapon of war:

with you I break nations in pieces;

with you I destroy kingdoms;

21 with you I break in pieces the horse and his rider;

with you I break in pieces the chariot and the charioteer;

22 with you I break in pieces man and woman;

with you I break in pieces the old man and the youth;

with you I break in pieces the young man and the young woman;

23 with you I break in pieces the shepherd and his flock;

with you I break in pieces the farmer and his team;

with you I break in pieces governors and commanders. (Je 51.20-23)

It looks like the LORD will bash many nations to pieces with the Mede’s. Interesting repetition. The Mede’s are an expression of the LORD’s judgment and wrath.

24 “I will repay Babylon and all the inhabitants of Chaldea before your very eyes for all the evil that they have done in Zion, declares the Lord. (Je 51.24)

The LORD will repay Babylon. But as for Jacob (Israel), the LORD is their portion and they are his inheritance. Jeremiah contrasts the two. Better to be the LORD’s than be smashed to pieces under his wrath.

Jeremiah’s judgment on the Babylonians continues. He introduces the concept of retribution. They are being punished for the way they have treated the other nations, in particular Israel – the LORD’s chosen people (Jer 51.25-58).

At this point Jeremiah then writes all the words of this judgment in a book. He recruits a man named Seraiah to go with Zedekiah to Babylon and read it aloud. I’m not so sure the Babylonians would have appreciated this… After he does this he is to symbolically cast the book into the Euphrates enacting what will happen to Babylon (Jer 51.59-64).

Like we read in Jeremiah 39, Jeremiah will then retell the story of the fall of Jerusalem and the defeat of Zedekiah to the Babylonians (Je 52.1-11). The house of the LORD is looted and burned. The account is longer with a more detailed description (Jer 52.12-23).

Jeremiah will then continue the story following this point. Judah is taken into exile out of its land (Jer 52.24-30). Jehoiachin the new king is graciously freed and treated kindly by the Babylonians (Jer 52.31-34).

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.Click to enlarge.

Jeremiah’s prophecies come true. Babylon was conquered by the Mede’s. The book of Daniel describes depicts kings from both reigns. In both cases the people of Judah remain under the control of foreign powers. Thankfully some still believed in the LORD, and put him first above all others. They did not put their faith in idols. The LORD was their portion. They were his inheritance.

Story of Jesus

During the first century many still bowed down to and worshipped idols as the Babylonians Jeremiah condemned did. Yet, as a product of Jesus’ ministry, his death and resurrection, Gentiles came to believe he was the King. They turned from idols to the living God.

Paul says of the Thessalonians;

4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thes 1.4-10)

Like the Babylonians, all those who create and bow down to idols will be crushed. Crushed under the wrath of God. However through the gospel, the proclamation of Jesus as Lord, do people turn away from idols and thus be spared from the wrath to come. Jesus is their portion.

This finishes our series on Jeremiah. Our next book is short and is full of grief and remorse. But like all books of the bible, there is hope. Tomorrow we look at Lamentations.

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