51 This is what the Lord says: “I will stir up a destroyer against Babylon and the people of Babylonia.[a] 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 or draw their bows. Don’t spare even her best soldiers! Let her army be completely destroyed.[b] 4 They will fall dead in the land of the Babylonians,[c] 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.”
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 your 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[d] everything the Lord our God has done.
11 Sharpen the arrows! Lift up the shields![e] 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.”
A Hymn of Praise to the Lord
15 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 roar with rain. 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[f] 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!
Babylon’s Great Punishment
20 “You[g] 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 young women. 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[h] 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! Bring out the armies of Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz. Appoint a commander, and bring a multitude of horses like swarming locusts! 28 Bring against her the armies of the nations— 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[i] 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.
The Lord’s Vengeance on Babylon
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[j] 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!
A Message for the Exiles
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!
51:1Hebrew of Leb-kamai, a code name for Babylonia.
51:3The Hebrew term used here refers to the complete consecration of things or people to the Lord, either by destroying them or by giving them as an offering.
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