Babylon Judged for Sins against Israel
51 Thus says the Lord:
“Behold, I am going to stir up and put into action [a fury] against Babylon
And against the [rebellious] people of Leb-kamai (Chaldea)
A destroying wind and hostile spirit;
“And I will send foreigners to Babylon that they may winnow her
And may devastate and empty her land;
For in the day of destruction
They will be against her on every side.
“Do not let him (the Chaldean defender) who bends his bow bend it,
Nor let him rise up in his coat of armor.
So do not spare her young men;
Devote her entire army to destruction.
“They shall fall down dead in the land of the Chaldeans,
And wounded in her streets.”
For neither Israel nor Judah has been [a]abandoned
By his God, the Lord of hosts,
Though their land is full of sin and guilt
Before the Holy One of Israel.
Flee out of Babylon,
Let every one of you save his life!
Do not be destroyed in her punishment,
For this is the time of the Lord’s vengeance;
He is going to pay her what she has earned.(A)
Babylon has been a golden cup in the Lord’s hand,
Intoxicating all the earth.
The nations drank her wine;
Therefore the nations have gone mad.(B)
Babylon has suddenly fallen and is shattered!
Wail for her [if you care to]!
Get balm for her [incurable] pain;
Perhaps she may be healed.(C)
We would have healed Babylon, but she was not to be healed.
Abandon her and let each [captive] return to his own country,
For her guilt and judgment have reached to heaven
And are lifted up to the very skies.(D)
The Lord has brought about our vindication and has revealed the righteousness of our cause;
Come and let us proclaim in Zion
The work of the Lord our God!
Sharpen the arrows, take up the shields [and cover yourselves]!
The Lord has stirred up the spirit of the kings of the [b]Medes,
Because His purpose concerning Babylon is to destroy it;
For that is the vengeance of the Lord, vengeance [on Babylon] for [plundering and destroying] His temple.
Set up a signal on the walls of Babylon [to spread the news];
Post a strong blockade,
Station the guards,
Prepare the men for ambush!
For the Lord has both purposed and done
That which He spoke against the people of Babylon.
[O Babylon] you who live by many waters,
Rich in treasures,
Your end has come,
And the line measuring your life is cut.(E)
The Lord of hosts has sworn [an oath] by Himself, saying,
“Surely I will fill you with men, as with [a swarm of] locusts [who strip the land clean],
And they will lift up a song and shout of victory over you.”
He made the earth by His power;
He established the world by His wisdom
And stretched out the heavens by His understanding.
When He utters His voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens,
And He causes the clouds to ascend from the ends of the earth.
He makes lightnings for the rain
And brings out the wind from His storehouses.
Every man has become stupid and brutelike, without knowledge [of God];
Every goldsmith is shamed by the cast images he has made;
For his molten idols are a lie,
And there is no breath [of life] or spirit in them.
They are worthless (empty, false, futile), a work of delusion and worthy of derision;
In the time of their inspection and punishment they will perish.
The Portion of Jacob [the true God of Israel] is not like these [handmade gods];
For He is the Maker of all and the One who formed and fashioned all things,
And Israel is the tribe of His inheritance—
The Lord of hosts is His name.(F)
“You [Cyrus of Persia, soon to conquer Babylon] are My battle-axe and weapon of war—
For with you I shatter nations,
With you I destroy kingdoms.
“With you I shatter the horse and his rider,
With you I shatter the chariot and its driver,
With you I shatter man and woman,
With you I shatter old man and youth,
With you I shatter young man and virgin,
With you I shatter the shepherd and his flock,
With you I shatter the farmer and his yoke of oxen,
And with you I shatter governors and commanders.
24 “And I will [completely] repay Babylon and all the people of Chaldea for all the evil that they have done in Zion—before your very eyes [I will do it],” says the Lord.
“Behold, I am against you,
O destroying mountain [conqueror of nations],
Who destroys the whole earth,” declares the Lord,
“I will stretch out My hand against you,
And roll you down from the [rugged] cliffs,
And will make you a burnt mountain (extinct volcano).
“They will not take from you [even] a stone for a cornerstone
Nor any rock for a foundation,
But you will be [c]desolate forever,” says the Lord.
Lift up a signal in the land [to spread the news]!
Blow the trumpet among the nations!
Dedicate the nations [for war] against her;
Call against her the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz.
Appoint a marshal against her;
Cause the horses to come up like bristly locusts [with their wings not yet released from their cases].
Prepare and dedicate the nations for war against her—
The kings of Media,
With their governors and commanders,
And every land of their dominion.
The land trembles and writhes [in pain and sorrow],
For the purposes of the Lord against Babylon stand,
To make the land of Babylon
A desolation without inhabitants.
The mighty warriors of Babylon have ceased to fight;
They remain in their strongholds.
Their strength and power have failed;
They are becoming [weak and helpless] like women.
Their dwelling places are set on fire;
The [d]bars on her gates are broken.
One courier runs to meet another,
And one messenger to meet another,
To tell the [e]king of Babylon
That his city has been captured from end to end;
And that the fords [across the Euphrates] have been blocked and [the ferries] seized,
And they have set the [great] marshes on fire,
And the men of war are terrified.
33 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel:
“The Daughter of Babylon is like a [f]threshing floor
At the time it is being trampled and prepared;
Yet in a little while the time of harvest will come for her.”
“Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has devoured [g]me, he has crushed me,
He has set me down like an empty vessel.
Like a monster he has swallowed me up,
He has filled his belly with my delicacies;
He has spit me out and washed me away.
“May the violence done to me and to my flesh and blood be upon Babylon,”
The inhabitant of Zion will say;
And, “May my blood be upon the inhabitants of Chaldea,”
Jerusalem will say.
36 Therefore thus says the Lord,
“Behold, I will plead your case
And take full vengeance for you;
I will dry up her sea and great reservoir
And make her fountain dry.
“Babylon will become a heap [of ruins], a haunt and dwelling place of jackals,
An object of horror (an astonishing desolation) and a hissing [of scorn and amazement], without inhabitants.
“They (the Chaldean lords) will be roaring together [before their sudden capture] like young lions [roaring over their prey],
They (the princes) will be growling like lions’ cubs.
“When they are [h]inflamed [with wine and lust during their drinking bouts], I will prepare them a feast [of My wrath]
And make them drunk, that they may rejoice
And may sleep a perpetual sleep
And not wake up,” declares the Lord.
“I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter,
Like rams together with male goats.
“How Sheshak (Babylon) has been captured,
And the praise of the whole earth been seized!
How Babylon has become an astonishing desolation and an object of horror among the nations!
“The sea has come up over Babylon;
She has been engulfed with its tumultuous waves.
“Her cities have become an astonishing desolation and an object of horror,
A parched land and a desert,
A land in which no one lives,
And through which no son of man passes.
“I will punish and judge Bel [the handmade god] in Babylon
And take out of his mouth what he has swallowed up [the stolen sacred articles and the captives of Judah and elsewhere].
The nations will no longer flow to him.
Yes, the wall of Babylon has fallen down!
“Come out of her midst, My people,
And each of you [escape and] save yourself
From the fierce anger of the Lord.(G)
“Now beware so that you do not lose heart,
And so that you are not afraid at the rumor that will be heard in the land—
For the rumor shall come one year,
And after that another rumor in another year,
And violence shall be in the land,
Ruler against ruler—
“Therefore behold (listen carefully), the days are coming
When I will judge and punish the idols of Babylon;
Her whole land will be perplexed and shamed,
And all her slain will fall in her midst.
“Then heaven and earth and all that is in them
Will shout and sing for joy over Babylon,
For the [i]destroyers will come against her from the north,”
Says the Lord.(H)
Indeed Babylon is to fall for the slain of Israel,
As also for Babylon the slain of all the earth have fallen.
You who have escaped the sword,
Go away! Do not stay!
Remember the Lord from far away,
And let [desolate] Jerusalem come into your mind.
We are perplexed and ashamed, for we have heard reproach;
Disgrace has covered our faces,
For foreigners [from Babylon] have come
Into the [most] sacred parts of the sanctuary of the Lord [even those places forbidden to all but the appointed priest].
“Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord,
“When I will judge and punish the idols [of Babylon],
And throughout her land the mortally wounded will groan.”
“Though Babylon should ascend to the heavens,
And though she should fortify her lofty stronghold,
Yet destroyers will come on her from Me,” says the Lord.
The sound of an outcry [comes] from Babylon,
And [the sound] of great destruction from the land of the Chaldeans!
For the Lord is going to destroy Babylon and make her a ruin,
And He will still her great voice [that hums with city life].
And the waves [of her conquerors] roar like great waters,
The noise of their voices is raised up [like the marching of an army].
For the destroyer is coming against her, against Babylon;
And her mighty warriors will be captured,
Their bows are shattered;
For the Lord is a God of [just] restitution;
He will fully repay.
“I will make her princes and her wise men drunk,
Her governors and her commanders and her mighty warriors;
They will sleep a perpetual sleep and not wake up,”
Says the King—the Lord of hosts is His name.
58 Thus says the Lord of hosts,
“The [j]broad wall of Babylon will be completely overthrown and the foundations razed
And her high gates will be set on fire;
The peoples will labor in vain,
And the nations become exhausted [only] for fire [that will destroy their work].”(I)
59 The message which Jeremiah the prophet commanded Seraiah the son of Neriah, the grandson of Mahseiah, when he went with Zedekiah the king of Judah to Babylon in the fourth year of his reign. Now this Seraiah was chief chamberlain or quartermaster [and brother of Baruch]. 60 So Jeremiah wrote in a single scroll all the disaster which would come on Babylon, [that is] all these words which have been written concerning Babylon. 61 Then Jeremiah said to Seraiah, “When you come to Babylon, see to it that you read all these words aloud, 62 and say, ‘You, O Lord, have promised concerning this place to cut it off and destroy it, so that there shall be nothing living in it, neither man nor animal, but it will be perpetually desolate.’ 63 And as soon as you finish reading this scroll, you shall tie a stone to it and throw it into the middle of the Euphrates. 64 Then say, ‘In the same way Babylon will sink down and not rise because of the disaster that I will bring on her; and the Babylonians will become [hopelessly] exhausted.’” Thus the words of Jeremiah are completed.(J)
- Jeremiah 51:5 Lit widowed.
- Jeremiah 51:11 Perhaps a reference to the conquest of Babylon by the Medes and the Persians in 539 b.c.
- Jeremiah 51:26 See note Is 13:22 for this prophecy’s fulfillment.
- Jeremiah 51:30 Babylon fell in 539 b.c. on the night King Belshazzar was assassinated (Dan 5:30).
- Jeremiah 51:31 In 553 b.c. Belshazzar was named co-ruler of Babylon by his father, King Nabonidus, and reigned in that capacity until Babylon was conquered. In spite of this co-regency, Nabonidus is regarded historically as the last of the Babylonian kings. Belshazzar’s mother, Nitrocris, was the daughter of King Nebuchadnezzar.
- Jeremiah 51:33 At harvest time the threshing floor had to be firmly trampled before the grain or seeds could be extracted with the flail. A flail consisted of a handle to which was attached a freely swinging stick or bar. In the Bible, the harvest is often used as metaphor for judgment.
- Jeremiah 51:34 The Jewish captives.
- Jeremiah 51:39 Through the voice of Jeremiah God revealed the ultimate destiny of great Babylon, whom Herodotus praised as “embellished with ornaments more than any city.” The fact that all of the details of the prophecy were fulfilled is recorded by Daniel (5:1-30), and becomes even more amazing after twenty-six centuries. Only a “fool” could say in his heart, “There is no God” (Ps 14:1).
- Jeremiah 51:48 I.e. the Medo-Persian Empire.
- Jeremiah 51:58 Babylon was surrounded by a moat and two separate walls approximately fifty feet high. Both walls consisted of two layers. The outer layer of the outer wall was twenty-five feet thick, and the inner layer twenty-three feet thick. The outer layer of the inner defensive wall was twenty-one feet thick, and the inner layer twelve feet thick. These walls were so massive that archeologists estimate that 180 million bricks were required for their construction. Babylon’s immense ruins may still be seen—an amazing, enduring testimony to the power of God.