Jeremiah 50-51
(Bigger and Better Oracles Against Other Nations)
August 20th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

Declare among the nations and proclaim,
    set up a banner and proclaim,
    do not conceal it, say:
Babylon is taken,
    Bel is put to shame,
    Merodach is dismayed.
Her images are put to shame,
    her idols are dismayed

- Jeremiah 50:2 (NRSV)

Summary of Chapters

These are the last two chapters in the set of oracles against foreign nations. The verses do not follow a clear chronological order, but there is a climatic ending and an epilogue. Both chapters point squarely at Babylon with an extended description of what will occur and the reason for its occurrence, which will take place in a time after Jeremiah’s death. The LORD spoke through Jeremiah regarding a warning of a day of defeat for mighty Babylon – at the hands of “a nation from the north (Jer 50:3 - NIV).”

When Babylon is defeated, the people who had come from both kingdoms of Israel will return to the LORD. The one to whom they will return lovingly describes his people as lost sheep that have been misled by a bad shepherd who allowed them to wander and left them vulnerable to attack from predators. The LORD rebukes Babylon for taking advantage of Israel and calls on other nations to attack her with arrows and shouts.

The LORD says he will punish Babylon just as he punished Assyria, and will wipe clean the slate of the sins of all of Israel:

    "In those days and at that time"—God's Decree—     "they'll look high and low for a sign of Israel's guilt—nothing; Search nook and cranny for a trace of Judah's sin—nothing.     These people that I've saved will start out with a clean slate."

    - Jeremiah 50:20 (MSG)

The next parts of the chapter describe how the LORD will bring many weapons against Babylon. The LORD refers to Babylon as “O arrogant one (Jer 50:31 - NIV)” and to himself as the “Redeemer (Jer 50:34 - NIV)” of the people of Israel.

The chapter closes with the LORD asking rhetorically who is the chosen one that he will appoint for the task against Babylon, and then tells the audience to pay attention to what is planned because “ 'At the noise of the taking of Babylon the earth is moved, and the cry is heard among the nations’ (Jer 50:46 - KJV).”

Chapter 51 continues with the prophecy of the total destruction of Babylon. Certain passages also remind the audience of the LORD’s sovereignty as the Creator of the universe and the controller of all events. “ ‘he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses (Jer 51:15 - NIV).”

The chapter offers details of the coming obliteration of Babylon. Regardless of the height or thickness of the walls, the Babylonians will be defeated. “ ‘Even if Babylon reaches the skies and fortifies her lofty stronghold, I will send destroyers against her,’ declares the LORD (Jer 51:53 NIV).”

The oracle and chapter end with an explanation that this message was given by Jeremiah to an officer of one of the priests for delivery to the first group of exiles in Babylon (before the fall of Jerusalem).

Reflection and Application

Why was God so vengeful against the Babylonians? They had been his instrument to punish Judah and had fulfilled his will by carrying out the assigned sentence. However, the Babylonians had gone too far in taking advantage of this situation and used the opportunity to unnecessarily torture and oppress the people. Perhaps they did exactly as the LORD had planned, but they had to be reminded of who is the ultimate power and ruler. When we succeed over obstacles and enemies, we ought to stop and give thanks to God for allowing the victory and to be sure to be gracious and not greedy in our victory.

Some of the place names in these chapters require additional translation. For example, the place named Sheshack, which is used in Jeremiah verse 51:41, is actually a cryptogram for Babylon. The phrase “a nation from the north” was often used in general terms to refer to Babylon, but in this case refers to Persia (technically to the East, but came by way of the north to destroy Babylon). Any nation on earth is vulnerable to others when God allows free will to take place. As we have seen, there are no walls or barriers that can provide total protection for any country. They all eventually give way. Only the LORD provides a strong tower that never falls.

The best news in these chapters is when the LORD makes clear in Jeremiah 50:20 that the sins of the people of Israel will be forgotten. Despite the seriousness of these sins that led to a severe punishment and exile, the LORD provides another chance, a fresh start, a clean slate.

The Men’s Devotional Bible from Zondervan elaborates on this theme by presenting an essay from Tom Landry, a highly respected former coach of the Dallas Cowboys American football team.

Landry observes “two common barriers that prevent people from performing to their fullest potential. The first is a pattern of past failures and mistakes. The second thing holding people back is a fear of failure.” He adds that Christianity offers the answer to both of these problems. “As a Christian I believe my past is forgiven. I can start over with a clean slate. The mistakes of my past need not hold me back. Neither does my fear of failure.”

God has redeemed us through his mercy and through his son, Jesus. We don’t have to dwell on our mistakes and also need to forgive others. This does not mean we should keep making the same mistakes. We can learn from the mistakes, seek to not repeat them, but not feel that these mistakes will weigh us down perpetually.

Babylon was punished as an example to the rest of the world that even the mightiest nation on earth is no match for the Creator. He who controls the rain and clouds also controls everything on heaven and earth. Just as he allows the precipitation to work through its cycles he allows human history to work through cycles as well, and then intervenes as needed to fulfill his plan. No wall can hold back the LORD.

A couple of weeks ago we looked at renaissance artists interpretation of Isaiah. Today we will look at a sculpture of Jeremiah by Donatello. How well does it align with what you imagined?

"The Prophet Jeremiah," by Donatello.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What is your favorite ‘comeback’ story, where you or someone else experienced some type of victory or success following a failure?
    2. What failures have we had that we would like to wipe clean?
    3. How can we move forward without a fear of failure?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know you offer us mercy and give us a second chance, again and again. Help us to not dwell on our failures and mistakes.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Athletic Coaches

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Jeremiah 52 (Hope Persists)

    Comments and Questions
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