The word that the Lord spoke concerning Babylon, concerning the land of the Chaldeans, by Jeremiah the prophet:
“Declare among the nations and proclaim,
set up a banner and proclaim,
conceal it not, and say:
‘Babylon is taken,
Bel is put to shame,
Merodach is dismayed.
Her images are put to shame,
her idols are dismayed.’
“For out of the north a nation has come up against her, which shall make her land a desolation, and none shall dwell in it; both man and beast shall flee away.
“In those days and in that time, declares the Lord, the people of Israel and the people of Judah shall come together, weeping as they come, and they shall seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion, with faces turned toward it, saying, ‘Come, let us join ourselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant that will never be forgotten.’
“My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains. From mountain to hill they have gone. They have forgotten their fold. All who found them have devoured them, and their enemies have said, ‘We are not guilty, for they have sinned against the Lord, their habitation of righteousness, the Lord, the hope of their fathers.’
“Flee from the midst of Babylon, and go out of the land of the Chaldeans, and be as male goats before the flock. For behold, I am stirring up and bringing against Babylon a gathering of great nations, from the north country. And they shall array themselves against her. From there she shall be taken. Their arrows are like a skilled warrior who does not return empty-handed. Chaldea shall be plundered; all who plunder her shall be sated, declares the Lord.” – Jeremiah 50:1-10 ESV
For the next two chapters of the book of Jeremiah, God is going to speak an oracle of judgment against Babylon that far exceeds, in terms of length, what He has said about all the other nations combined. This displays the significance that the Babylonians played in the world affairs of that day and the degree to which God would hold them accountable for their part in Judah’s destruction. While they had been a tool in His hands, accomplishing His divine will regarding the people of Judah, the Babylonians did what they did willingly and gladly. He had not forced them to attack Judah. He simply used their natural propensity to conquer and enslave to accomplish His will to bring judgment upon the people of God. And, as a result, God would hold them responsible and repay them for their devastatingly successful defeat of the nation of Judah.
In these first ten verses of the chapter, God provides a graphic portrayal of Babylon’s fall and Judah’s restoration. The once great Babylonians would suffer defeat at the hands of the Persians, while the once lowly people of Judah would be miraculously restored to their land. The captors would be come become captives. And the captives would be set free. The fall of Babylon would come about due to the rise to prominence of the Persian nation. While the Babylonians had long held the position as the playground bully, they were about to be displaced by a relatively new nation whose rapid rise to power would catch everyone by surprise. It is interesting to note that, for the majority of the book of Jeremiah, the Babylonians had been referred to as the nation from the north. Now, there would be yet another northern invader who would do to them what they had done to others. Babylon the great would get a taste of their own medicine. God would turn the tables on them.
“Tell the whole world,
and keep nothing back.
Raise a signal flag
to tell everyone that Babylon will fall!
Her images and idols will be shattered.
Her gods Bel and Marduk will be utterly disgraced.” – Jeremiah 50:2 NLT
Bel and Marduk were two of the many Babylonians deities. God uses a very derogatory word to refer to these false gods. It is the Hebrew word גִּלּוּלִים, gillulim and it literally means, “dung pellets” and was also used to refer to human excrement. These gods would be defeated and taken as plunder. The Babylonian gods would suffer the same fate as that of the gods of the nations whom Babylon had conquered. Their power, or lack of it, would be exposed. The nation of Babylon would fall.
But the people of Judah would be returned to the land. In God’s grand plan, the Babylonians would be displaced by the Persians, and it would be a Persian king who would issue a decree officially sanctioning the return of the people of Judah to their homeland. This amazing event is recorded in the book of Ezra.
In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in order to fulfill the Lord’s message spoken through Jeremiah, the Lord stirred the mind of King Cyrus of Persia. He disseminated a proclamation throughout his entire kingdom, announcing in a written edict the following:
“Thus says King Cyrus of Persia:
“‘The Lord God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has instructed me to build a temple for him in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Anyone from his people among you (may his God be with him!) may go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and may build the temple of the Lord God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. Anyone who survives in any of those places where he is a resident foreigner must be helped by his neighbors with silver, gold, equipment, and animals, along with voluntary offerings for the temple of God which is in Jerusalem.’” – Ezra 1:1-4 NLT
This was all part of God’s plan. He had ordained it and now He was bringing it about. These world events and the major redistribution of global power were all part of His strategy. What may have appeared chaotic and confusing from an earthly perspective, was actually the result of God’s carefully laid out plan.
But there is an aspect of this oracle that is yet unfulfilled. There are predictions outlines in these verses that have yet to take place. While the Persians did eventually defeat Babylon, the destruction was not complete. The city of Babylon was not destroyed, but absorbed into the Persian Empire. And the picture of Israel returning to the land with weeping and worshiping God as they entered is another incomplete fulfillment. It actually speaks of as-yet-to-be-fulfilled event that is outlined in the book of Zechariah.
“I will pour out on the kingship of David and the population of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication so that they will look to me, the one they have pierced. They will lament for him as one laments for an only son, and there will be a bitter cry for him like the bitter cry for a firstborn. On that day the lamentation in Jerusalem will be as great as the lamentation at Hadad-Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land will mourn, clan by clan—the clan of the royal household of David by itself and their wives by themselves; the clan of the family of Nathan by itself and their wives by themselves; the clan of the descendants of Levi by itself and their wives by themselves; and the clan of the Shimeites by itself and their wives by themselves— all the clans that remain, each separately with their wives.” – Zechariah 123:10-14 NLT
This will be a time of Israel’s restoration not only to the land, but to their rightful Messiah, Jesus Christ. That has not happened yet. So, there is a second and even greater destruction coming to Babylon. And there is an even more significant and important return of Israel to the land than that which took place under the leadership of Ezra, after the 70 years of captivity was over.
“They will ask the way to Jerusalem
and will start back home again.
They will bind themselves to the Lord
with an eternal covenant that will never be forgotten.” – Jeremiah 50:5 NLT
Jews will return to Israel from all over the world. And they will be given a new covenant by God. The prophet Ezekiel wrote of this special day.
“‘I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries; then I will bring you to your land. I will sprinkle you with pure water and you will be clean from all your impurities. I will purify you from all your idols. I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you; I will take the initiative and you will obey my statutes and carefully observe my regulations.” – Ezekiel 36:24-27 NLT
God goes on to promise even more blessings upon Israel in those days.
“This is what the sovereign Lord says: In the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will populate the cities and the ruins will be rebuilt. The desolate land will be plowed, instead of being desolate in the sight of everyone who passes by. They will say, ‘This desolate land has become like the garden of Eden; the ruined, desolate, and destroyed cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations which remain around you will know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruins and replanted what was desolate. I, the Lord, have spoken—and I will do it!” – Ezekiel 36:33-36 NLT
Verses 8-10 make it clear that Babylon will fall. And while they would eventually fall to the Persians, there ultimate destruction lies in the future. The book of Revelation carries a vivid description of this future event. It can be found in chapter 18.
“Babylon is fallen—that great city is fallen!
She has become a home for demons.
She is a hideout for every foul spirit,
a hideout for every foul vulture
and every foul and dreadful animal.
For all the nations have fallen
because of the wine of her passionate immorality.
The kings of the world
have committed adultery with her.
Because of her desires for extravagant luxury,
the merchants of the world have grown rich.” – Revelation 18:2-3 NLT
God’s plans for this world are extensive and encompass all of time. They are not restricted to events that have happened, but include yet future events that are described in such vivid terms in the Word of God, it is as if they have already occurred. God is in control. He is unhindered by time and space. His will covers the past and includes the future. Nothing escapes His divine will. The Bible, while full of historical events, is also a book that reveals God’s future activities. And because He is all-powerful and completely sovereign, even His future will is as good as done. It will happen just as He has said.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.