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Bible: What Does Jeremiah 50-52 Teach Us About the Babylonians, the Medes, and God's Judgment?
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Judgment Upon Babylon
God allows two long chapters to discuss His judgments upon Babylon; the first is the shorter of the two.
Verse one merely introduces the prophecy with an incomplete sentence.
Then Yahweh commands Jeremiah to announce openly and boldly the desolating defeat of the city and the destruction of its idols by a northern nation (the Medes) [vv. 2, 3; cf. Is. 13:17-18)].
Babylon's end would signal the start of a new union between Israel and Judah, accompanied by tears of repentance and a return to the land and their covenant God (vv. 4-5).
Hearkening back to the nation's present state of exile, Yahweh seemingly characterizes the ordinary Israelite among His people as relatively inoffensive in the matter, blaming their waywardness on their “shepherds” (v. 6).
Enemies of Israel took greedy advantage of the nation's debilitated condition, yet tried to claim innocence because they perceived that Judah was under judgment (v. 7).
[They, however, exceeded their assigned role as God's instrument of wrath].
The LORD orders His people to leave Babylon because He had determined to judge their captors through several northern adversaries (v. 8).
Babylon will be captured, its people killed, and its land plundered (vv. 9-10).
Addressing the Babylonians as "destroyers of My heritage," He consigns them to complete desolation and shame.
Because of pride and ill-gotten prosperity (shamelessly manifested after their conquest of Judah), they would suffer horribly (vv. 11-13).
To avenge Babylon's treatment of others, God calls upon her adversaries to launch an all-out assault on her (vv. 14-15).
The city's captives flee and return home to avoid wholesale annihilation (v. 16).
After noting briefly Israel's bitter times of crushing exile under Assyria and Babylon (v. 17), Jeremiah then records God's promise to punish the latter nation (Babylon) as He has the former (Assyria) [v. 18], and return His people to their land in peace, pardoned (vv. 19-20).
[Notice the phrases "in those days and in that time" (v. 20; cf. v. 4).
What eschatological sense, if any, may they have?]
Yahweh commands an "assembly of great nations from the north country" (see verse nine) to destroy certain towns in Babylonia (v. 21).
Likening His methodology in warfare to laying a snare to catch prey, He announces the demise of His contender (vv. 22-24).
[Yahweh also employs a powerful metaphor to describe Babylon: “the hammer of the whole earth” (v. 23)].
Babylon's fall is God's work, though He utilizes others to execute judgment upon her, storehouses and all (vv. 25-27).
When Israelite survivors learn of Yahweh's vengeance, they raise a single shout of victory (v. 28).
Jeremiah emphasizes that pride caused Babylon's loss (vv. 29-32).
[God mentions this “fatal flaw” on three occasions (vv. 29, 31, 32)].
Yahweh commands archers to shoot anyone who tries to escape, though He singles out young men and men of war (vv. 29-30).
On the other hand, Judah's Redeemer gives rest to those who endured brutal servitude (vv. 33-34).
When wielded against Babylon—namely, its officials, its warriors, its military equipment, its allies, its riches, and its waters—God’s “sword” has devastating effects (vv. 35-38).
Rampant idolatry is the culprit and cause of this divine action (v. 38).
Only wild beasts will dwell in that city "forever" (vv. 39-40).
Jeremiah identifies Babylon's conquerors as a northern confederation of many merciless kings (vv. 41-42).
Verse 43 may refer to Belshazzar (cf. description in Dan. 5:6).
Except for changing the name of the nation under God’s judgment (that is, from Edom to Babylon), Jeremiah reiterates Yahweh’s words from the previous chapter (vv. 44-45; cf. 49: 19-20).
Babylon’s destruction causes worldwide fear (v. 46).
The Empire of the Medes
I Will Curse Those Who Curse You
Yahweh calls these conquerors of Babylon "a destroying wind" (v. 1) and winnowers (v. 2).
They will invade with archers and armored battalions to destroy (v. 3); death will fill the land (v. 4).
[What is the lesson learned from this event?
God does not allow Israel's enemies to escape punishment for their treatment of the chosen nation (v. 5)].
While vengeance falls, Jeremiah exhorts the captives to escape (v. 6; cf. Rev. 18:4).
God has completed His purpose for Babylon: to make the nations drunk and deranged with her "wine" (false worship?) (v. 7)
The time of her punishment comes, yet even now the prophet desires that she may be restored (v. 8).
However, when that hope fades, Jeremiah advises the people to forsake the land and return home to Jerusalem to recount the LORD's work on their behalf (vv. 9-10).
Verse 11 specifically identifies for the first time Babylon's northern conqueror: the Medes.
Jeremiah designates the LORD's “payback” here as "vengeance for His temple."
Undoubtedly, Babylon's destruction of the temple moves God to set things right.
As the Medes invade, securing the city is of paramount importance in their thinking (v. 12).
Addressing Babylon as a wealthy, luxuriant, but covetous nation doomed to destruction—a ruin that God's oath guaranteed—Jeremiah announces her end (vv. 13-14).
Idols Vs. Yahweh
The following passage (vv. 15-16) answers the question: "Can Yahweh fulfill His oath to cause Babylon's demise?"
Emphasizing His sovereign control over the world from its creation to its continual preservation, the text asserts, "Yes, He is supremely able."
[Note the perfect integration of the attributes of power, wisdom, and understanding in His governance].
Jeremiah then contrasts men and their idolatrous futility with the LORD, the Creator of the universe and everything in it.
He employs descriptive terms here regarding idolatrous mankind—dull-hearted, shameful, without knowledge—and his idols—false, inanimate, futile, erroneous, perishable (vv. 17-19; cf. Romans 1).
Subsequently, Yahweh speaks to His instruments about their role in executing His plan.
He certainly stresses that He will use another people (perhaps the Medes here); note the ten times the phrase "with you" occurs in verses twenty through twenty-three.
The destruction/breaking in pieces is complete!
[Nine times He repeats “I will break in pieces.”]
No one or thing is spared; all shall feel the recompense of God for their evil ways (v. 24).
Addressing Babylon as the "destroying mountain," Yahweh promises its endless desolation and uselessness (vv. 25-26).
Four more commands follow, this time to assemble nations against Babylon (v. 27); the Medes especially lead the pack to fulfill the LORD's purposes (vv. 28-29).
Within burning and broken Babylon general panic, disarray, and despair reign, as the nations invade and capture her (vv. 30-32).
Yahweh compares the land to a threshing floor awaiting harvest (v. 33).
A representative Israelite from Zion acquiesces to God's judgment upon Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon for her ill-treatment of the chosen people (vv. 34-35).
Afterwards, God proclaims what He will do to Babylon on Israel's behalf (v. 36), and what will result from His activities within this nation: in a word, desolation (v. 37).
Destruction knocks on their door, even while the Babylonians feast and drink (vv. 38-40; cf. Daniel 5 and Belshazzar's banquet).
While comparing Babylon’s capture to a flood inundating the city, the speaker exhibits astonishment (vv. 41-42).
Emptiness abounds (v. 43)!
Yahweh also intends to humble Babylon's chief idol, Bel--a judgment that would cause a rapid decline in its popularity (v. 44).
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Leave Babylon and Return to Zion
Again, the LORD exhorts His people to leave the country to escape His wrath, and to do so immediately, lest they fall prey to rumors (vv. 45-46; cf. Rev. 18).
[What these rumors involve appears uncertain.
If they involve a struggle for power—ruler against ruler—why should this cause them to stay in the city?
Perhaps they believed that peace would come as soon as the controversy between the rulers ended].
He gives them a good reason to leave: the destruction of idols and men throughout the land (v. 47). After judgment is completed, the whole creation will rejoice (v. 48).
Babylon has killed many Israelites, and many more from all nations will fall there (v. 49).
With such words the prophet hoped to encourage the survivors to leave Babylon and return to Zion and Yahweh (v. 50).
Shame for allowing pagans to desecrate the temple moves Jeremiah to confess Judah’s sin (v. 51).
But in the future God-sent plunderers will judge the Babylonians with their idols, Babylonian power increase notwithstanding (vv. 52-53).
The destruction and plundering in Babylon at the hand of these God-appointed invaders is certain in Jeremiah's eyes (vv. 54-56).
Yahweh Sabaoth vows to "neutralize" permanently certain prominent Babylonians (v. 57; cf. v. 39), as well as burn and break the walls and gates of the city, despite the wearisome efforts of the people (v. 58).
A final narrative section finds the prophet commanding Seraiah, the quartermaster and Zedekiah's servant (v. 59).
After writing about Babylon's fall, Jeremiah tells this servant that he will one day acknowledge the truth of God's word concerning the city and then throw the rock-laden scroll into the River to symbolize Babylon's utter demise and her "sinking" into oblivion (vv. 60-64; cf. Rev. 18:21).
This chapter provides another view of the fall of Jerusalem, mimicking the 2 Kings form (the name of the Judean king, the length of his reign, the name of his mother, and the immorality of his life) [vv. 1-2].
In fact, the entire section is almost identical with 2 Kings 25.
Exceptions include: more information about the pomegranates in the prophecy (vv. 22-23), and the number of captives removed during various years in Nebuchadnezzar's reign is different (vv. 28-30).
In addition, the accounts regarding the date Nebuzaradan came to Jerusalem differ (cf. 2 Kings 25:8 and Jer. 52:12).
Jeremiah also excludes from his prophecy an episode regarding Gedaliah's governance and subsequent assassination (see 2 Kings 25:22-26).
Comparing Jeremiah and 2 Kings
Comparing the two accounts, then, the writer surmises that Jeremiah had a different purpose in his prophecy than he had in 2 Kings.
The differences appear below:
2 Kings 24:18-25:7 <----------> Jeremiah 52:1-7;
See 25:3; 52:6 -construction; 25:4; 52:7-slight variations (encamped . . . against the city--> near the city; the king [ed] they [went. . .plain).
25:5<---> 52:8 Jeremiah names the king in 52:8;
25:6<--->52:9 Jeremiah includes "in the land of Hamath; 2 Kings has "they;" Jeremiah has "he."
25:7<-->52:10-11. Again, 2 Kings has "they" as killers; Jeremiah has "the king of Babylon" and includes the executions of all the princes of Judah in Riblah.
Jeremiah also mentions Zedekiah's lifelong imprisonment; 2 Kings does not.
25:8<---> 52:12 Kings has seventh day; Jeremiah has tenth.
Slight form differences (kings-noun; Jer.-verbal).
25:9, 10<---> 52:13, 14 Only var. Verse 14 has "all".
Verse 15 "some of the poor people"; "craftsmen"; verse 11 excluded, "multitude."
25:12<--->52:16 Jeremiah specifies Nebuzaradan again.
25:13-16<--->52:17-20 Jeremiah includes several more items taken to Babylon.
25:17<--->52:21-23 Jeremiah includes several more details regarding the eighteen cubit pillar: its twelve cubit circumference, its "four-finger" thickness and its hollowness; difference in height of capital (Jer.- five cubits; Kings- 3 cubits). Jeremiah also numbers the pomegranates.
25:18-21<--->52:24-27 Different number of king's close associates (Kings-5; Jer.-7).
25:22-26 records governorship of Gedaliah and his death at Ishmael's hands; Jeremiah does not mention it.
Instead, 52:28-30 records the number of captives removed from Jerusalem to Babylon in the seventh, eighteenth and twenty-third years of Nebuchadnezzar; 2 Kings does not mention it.
25:27-30<--->52:31-34 Substantially the same, the only exceptions being the date Evil-Merodach released Jehoiachin (Kings-27th; Jer.-24th); different phraseology and word (Kings- "in the year that he began to reign"; Jer.- "in the first year of his reign"; Kings- "released"; Jer.- "lifted up the head of... and brought him out of"), and more complete information (Jer.- "until the day of his death").
Most, if not all, of these variations are readily explainable.
Jeremiah was concerned for an accurate, if not a verbatim, rendering of 2 Kings, a work which he probably also wrote.
He included more data in his prophecy because it was a later work.
He was able to investigate more fully (and thus report more fully) about the following details:
(1) the imprisonment of Zedekiah and treatment of Jehoiachin until their deaths,
(2) the additional items taken to Babylon, as well as the number of captives taken during Nebuchadnezzar's reign.
(3) the problems with numbers (dates, height of capital, king's associates) may simply be transcriptional errors.
SUMMARY QUESTIONS OF JEREMIAH
1. What do you think about God's "persuading" Jeremiah to be His prophet?
2. What is "fallow ground"? What “fallow ground” do you have in your life?
3. What do you think about Jeremiah's mode of response to Yahweh's dealings with His people?
4. According to chapter five, what does Jeremiah learn about the extent of Judah's apostasy?
5. What kinds of analogies and imagery does the prophet use in his first several chapters?
6. What actions by Yahweh and Jeremiah in chapter seven indicate that Judah is beyond the point of repentance?
7. What does Jeremiah contrast in chapter ten?
8. Why does God use symbols and figurative language so much?
9. By what three means did God choose to chasten Judah?
10. Why does the LORD test His people when He already knows that they will fail?
11. What objects does Yahweh use in chapters 18-19 to teach lessons to Jeremiah and Israel?
12. What profanities did the prophets and priests commit which dishonored the LORD?
13. How long did Jeremiah predict the Babylonian captivity would last?
14. What does chapter twenty-six tell us about the extent of the rejection of Jeremiah's word?
15. What event convinced the elders to spare Jeremiah's life?
16. How did Jeremiah respond to Hananiah, his adversary?
17. How long did the false prophets say the captivity would last?
18. With whom did God make the "new covenant"? In what respect does the Church relate to this promise?
19. How did Jeremiah seek to understand why he redeemed land which Babylon was about to take over?
20. What kind of covenant is the Davidic and New Covenants?
21. What action proved that Jehoiakim had no respect for the word of God? Why did he do it?
22. What nation's army temporarily postponed Babylonia's invasion?
23. Who rescues Jeremiah from Malchiah's dungeon?
24. What was Zedekiah's outstanding fault?
25. Who did Nebuchadnezzar put in charge of Jeremiah, and who became the governor of the land?
26. Who is the man who murdered Gedaliah, and at whose direction did he carry it out?
27. Who has the victory over this assassin?
28. Where does Johanan take the remnant?
29. What role did Baruch play in this book?
30. What caused Egypt's judgment at the hands of Babylon?
31. What were Moab's chief sins?
32. What nation deserving judgment does Yahweh leave for last?
33. What did Jeremiah cite as the cause of Babylon's defeat (Jer. 50)?
34. God used other nations to chasten Judah. What did these armies do that caused the LORD to judge them?
35. What does the LORD repeatedly exhort the survivors in Babylon to do?
36. What was Jeremiah’s lineage and birthplace?
37. According to chapter fifty, what was Babylon’s fatal flaw?
38. After He judges nations, what does the LORD oftentimes also promise?
39. Who was Johanan, and what happened to him?
40. Who defeated whom at the battle of Carchemish?
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