Thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will stir up the spirit of a destroyer
against the inhabitants of Leb-kamai,
and I will send to Babylon winnowers,
and they shall winnow her,
and they shall empty her land,
when they come against her from every side
on the day of trouble.
Let not the archer bend his bow,
and let him not stand up in his armor.
Spare not her young men;
devote to destruction all her army.
They shall fall down slain in the land of the Chaldeans,
and wounded in her streets.
For Israel and Judah have not been forsaken
by their God, the Lord of hosts,
but the land of the Chaldeans is full of guilt
against the Holy One of Israel.
“Flee from the midst of Babylon;
let every one save his life!
Be not cut off in her punishment,
for this is the time of the Lord’s vengeance,
the repayment he is rendering her.
Babylon was a golden cup in the Lord’s hand,
making all the earth drunken;
the nations drank of her wine;
therefore the nations went mad.
Suddenly Babylon has fallen and been broken;
wail for her!
Take balm for her pain;
perhaps she may be healed.
We would have healed Babylon,
but she was not healed.
Forsake her, and let us go
each to his own country,
for her judgment has reached up to heaven
and has been lifted up even to the skies.
The Lord has brought about our vindication;
come, let us declare in Zion
the work of the Lord our God.
“Sharpen the arrows!
Take up the shields!
The Lord has stirred up the spirit of the kings of the Medes, because his purpose concerning Babylon is to destroy it, for that is the vengeance of the Lord, the vengeance for his temple.
“Set up a standard against the walls of Babylon;
make the watch strong;
set up watchmen;
prepare the ambushes;
for the Lord has both planned and done
what he spoke concerning the inhabitants of Babylon.
O you who dwell by many waters,
rich in treasures,
your end has come;
the thread of your life is cut.
The Lord of hosts has sworn by himself:
Surely I will fill you with men, as many as locusts,
and they shall raise the shout of victory over you.” – Jeremiah 51:1-14 ESV
God’s indictment of Babylon continues. He has already far exceeded the length of His other oracles concerning Egypt, Ammon, Moab and Edom. He obviously has much to say concerning the fate of the nation of Babylon. And His words concerning Babylon extend well beyond King Nebuchadnezzar and the nation as it was known in Jeremiah’s day. Babylon would become a byword and a standing symbol for all things anti-God. In fact, in the book of Revelation, John is given a vision by an angelic being concerning Babylon.
“Come with me,” he said, “and I will show you the judgment that is going to come on the great prostitute, who rules over many waters. The kings of the world have committed adultery with her, and the people who belong to this world have been made drunk by the wine of her immorality.”
So the angel took me in the Spirit into the wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that had seven heads and ten horns, and blasphemies against God were written all over it. The woman wore purple and scarlet clothing and beautiful jewelry made of gold and precious gems and pearls. In her hand she held a gold goblet full of obscenities and the impurities of her immorality. A mysterious name was written on her forehead: “Babylon the Great, Mother of All Prostitutes and Obscenities in the World.” I could see that she was drunk—drunk with the blood of God’s holy people who were witnesses for Jesus. I stared at her in complete amazement. – Revelation 17:1-6 NLT
Throughout the Scriptures, Babylon becomes the personification of spiritual adultery and immorality. She represents the world without God, full of pride, characterized by power and wealth, addicted to sexual immorality and drunk with the blood of God’s holy people. In a sense, Babylon is a picture of mankind apart from God, left to its own devices. Rather than seek God, man will always attempt to make himself god, creating false deities that are nothing more than a slightly more powerful version of himself. The apostle Paul provides us with a very dark description of mankind in rebellion against God.
Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too. – Romans 1:28-32 NLT
Babylon would become an enduring symbol of mankind’s stubborn resistance to God’s will and their ongoing rebellion against God’s rightful place as not only their creator, but their God. In this passage, God refers to Babylon as Leb-kamai, a code name for Chaldea, which literally means “heart of my adversaries.” They were His enemies. They stood in pride-filled opposition to Him. But their day of destruction was coming. Literal Babylon, the nation that had destroyed Judah, would fall at the hands of the Persians. But symbolic Babylon would also fall. But in the midst of all of this, God reminds His people that He is still watching over them and that the coming judgment on Babylon will be a sign of His love for them and His vengeance against all those who have opposed them and sought to eliminate them.
“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.” – Jeremiah 51:5 NLT
God will save His people, not because they deserve it, but because He had made a covenant with them. He will honor His commitment to preserve and protect them. He will keep His Word to restore them to a right relationship with Him. All because He is faithful, gracious, merciful and loving. And the day is coming when the people of Israel and Judah will be able to say:
“The Lord has vindicated us.
Come, let us announce in Jerusalem
everything the Lord our God has done.” – Jeremiah 51:10 NLT
It would have been so easy for the people of Judah to have seen their situation as helpless and hopeless. They had been conquered by the Babylonians and taken captive. Their nation was in a shambles, their capital city had been destroyed, and the temple of their God lay in ruins. They had no king. They no longer had an army. The glory days of David and Solomon were long gone. But God was far from finished with them. And God was not yet done with Babylon. He would raise up yet another conquering nation, Persia, which would defeat the once-great Babylonians. And then they too, would eventually fall. The Romans would rise to power and would rule the land during the days when God’s Son came to earth. But their days of power and prominence would also come to an end. Nations rise and fall. Kings come to power and then find themselves replaced by yet another individual with grandiose aspirations to rule and reign. But none of these kings, dictators, presidents, despots, or aspiring gods, will ever stand before God Almighty. Even the great Babylon, symbol of man’s immorality and desire for deity, will one day be destroyed.
After this, I heard what sounded like a vast crowd in heaven shouting,
“Praise the Lord!
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.
His judgments are true and just.
He has punished the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth with her immorality.
He has avenged the murder of his servants.” – Revelation 19:1-2 NLT
There is much about prophecy that we cannot understand. These matters are far beyond our reasoning capabilities and outside our human capacity to discern. But, in faith, we need to trust that “the Lord will fulfill all his plans against Babylon” (Jeremiah 51:12 NLT). We can rest in the confidence provided by God’s faithful pronouncement, “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies has taken this vow and has sworn to it by his own name” (Jeremiah 51:14 NLT). The work of the Lord our God will be done. His plan will be fulfilled. His promises regarding this world and His people who live in it, will come about just as He has said it will. No matter what we see happening around us, we can know that God is greater than Babylon the great. He is more powerful than the mightiest nation. He is sovereign over all. And all those who stand opposed to Him and attempt to replace the one true God with themselves or an idol of their own choosing, will one day discover that they were living the delusion of Babylon. And all of those who have placed their faith in the one true God will be able to say, along with the redeemed of Israel and Judah, “The Lord has vindicated us.”
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.