The Fine Line From Cursing to Blessing

10 These are the generations of Shem. When Shem was 100 years old, he fathered Arpachshad two years after the flood. 11 And Shem lived after he fathered Arpachshad 500 years and had other sons and daughters.

12 When Arpachshad had lived 35 years, he fathered Shelah. 13 And Arpachshad lived after he fathered Shelah 403 years and had other sons and daughters.

14 When Shelah had lived 30 years, he fathered Eber. 15 And Shelah lived after he fathered Eber 403 years and had other sons and daughters.

16 When Eber had lived 34 years, he fathered Peleg. 17 And Eber lived after he fathered Peleg 430 years and had other sons and daughters.

18 When Peleg had lived 30 years, he fathered Reu. 19 And Peleg lived after he fathered Reu 209 years and had other sons and daughters.

20 When Reu had lived 32 years, he fathered Serug. 21 And Reu lived after he fathered Serug 207 years and had other sons and daughters.

22 When Serug had lived 30 years, he fathered Nahor. 23 And Serug lived after he fathered Nahor 200 years and had other sons and daughters.

24 When Nahor had lived 29 years, he fathered Terah. 25 And Nahor lived after he fathered Terah 119 years and had other sons and daughters.

26 When Terah had lived 70 years, he fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

27 Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran fathered Lot. 28 Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his kindred, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29 And Abram and Nahor took wives. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. 30 Now Sarai was barren; she had no child.

31 Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there. 32 The days of Terah were 205 years, and Terah died in Haran. Genesis 11:10-32 ESV

With the opening verses of chapter 11, Moses provides an explanation of an earlier comment he made regarding Peleg, a descendant of Shem.

To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided – Genesis 10:25 ESV

Bookending the story of the tower of Babel are two genealogical lists. In chapter 10, beginning in verse 11, Moses provides an abbreviated version of Shem’s lineage, because it provides no branch for Peleg, the son of Eber. In reference to Peleg simply states: “in his days the earth was divided” (Genesis 10:25 ESV). The story of Babel is what follows. When humanity decided to settle down in the land of Shinar, build a city, and erect a tower as a monument to their own glory, God took action. They shared a common ancestry and enjoyed the benefits of a common language. This unified connection gave them a sense of invincibility and fueled their desire for autonomy. That is why God said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them” (Genesis 11:6 ESV). 

Rather than obeying God’s mandate to fill the earth, they had determined to remain in one place and construct a city that would reflect their own greatness. Rather than honor God, they chose to glorify themselves. So, God stepped in and “confused” their language. He miraculously divided their number by creating a barrier to further communication. Suddenly, they found themselves unable to understand one another. This God-enforced diversity resulted in their dispersal across the face of all the earth.

And it is at this point, that Moses picks back up the genealogical record of Shem’s descendants. With the story of Babel explained, Moses is able to reveal what happened to Peleg after “the earth was divided” (Genesis 10:25 ESV).

Back in chapter five, Moses recorded another genealogical record that began with Adam and ended with Noah and his three sons. This list contains the names of all those who descended from Adam and Eve and vividly portrays the life-altering consequences of the first couple’s sin and the divine curse it incurred.

First of all, it states that Adam “fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image” (Genesis 5:3 ESV). This statement stands in stark contrast to the creation account where God had said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis1:26 ESV). Because of the entrance of sin into the perfect environment of Eden, mankind was permanently damaged. Adam and Eve would pass on to their descendants their proclivity for sin and the divine decree of death as its punishment. The original man and woman were to be God’s image-bearers. But like a marred mirror, this first couple and all their progeny would be incapable of perfectly reflecting the glory of God – all because of sin. Their children would be born in their image and bear their likeness. 

And the list found in chapter five contains another sober reminder of the consequences of the fall. With each successive generation, Moses repeatedly and intentionally states “he fathered” and “he died.” While the creation story in chapter one emphasizes the glory and wonder of new life, the genealogical list in chapter five provides the new post-fall reality of death.

But Moses leaves out that dark and depressing aspect of mankind’s fate in the genealogy of Shem recorded in chapter 11. While the age of each father is listed, there is no mention of death. This distinction is subtle, yet significant. Moses is attempting to paint a more hopeful future for humanity. Even after the debacle of Babel, when “the earth was divided” by God (Genesis 10:25) because of the pride and arrogance of man, this second genealogy of Shem is intended to reveal a new line of humanity that will result in another new beginning.

The first part of this list is much like the one found in chapter 10. But this time, Moses traces the branch of Eber’s family tree through his son, Peleg. According to the list, Eber had other sons and daughters. In other words, there were other branches to his family tree that could have been traced, but Moses concentrated all his attention on Peleg and the line of descent that flowed through his son, Reu. Moses is very specific and has an end in mind. His methodical record of Peleg’s lineage has actually been reverse-engineered and intended to trace the ancestral pedigree of a particular offspring of Adam. Notice where the genealogy ends.

When Terah had lived 70 years, he fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran. – Genesis 11:26 ESV

After listing generations of descendants from Shem, the list suddenly stops. Moses has reached his desired destination. And the name of Abram would have caught the attention of Moses’ Hebrew audience. After all, he was their revered patriarch, the father of the Hebrew nation. This entire exercise in genealogical authentication was meant to validate Abram as a descendant of Noah and an offspring of Adam. And one of the reasons this is so important is because of the curse God had leveled against the serpent for his role in the fall of man.

And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
    and you will strike his heel.” – Genesis 3:15 NLT

Of all the genealogical lists contained in Genesis, this one is intended to provide a sense of hope and anticipation. The world is broken and marred. And with the birth of each new generation, mankind is slowly moving further away from God. And yet, here in chapter 11, an offspring of Eve is born who will play a significant role in fulfilling the divine curse that God had leveled on the enemy. Satan would pay dearly for his attempt to dethrone God by deceiving and damaging His image-bearers. Despite the subsequent generations that flowed from the first couple and the track record of wickedness that plagued them, God had a plan for restoring them. He had a preconceived strategy for redeeming fallen humanity even before He had breathed life into the first man.

This chapter is intended to be a turning point in what has been a somewhat bleak story. Moses is preparing to reveal the next chapter in his history of mankind by introducing a new character who will play a vital role in God’s redemptive plan. Up to this point in the Genesis account, there have been two primary protagonists: Adam and Noah. One represents humanity in its pre-fall and post-fall states. The other spans the pre-flood and post-flood periods of mankind’s existence. But now, Moses introduces a third character whose life will greatly influence the unfolding story of God’s redemptive plan.

What should stand out in all of this is God’s sovereignty. He is operating behind the scenes, orchestrating and overseeing every aspect of His creation. Nothing escapes His notice or happens outside of His sovereign and providential will. The birth of Abram was not a case of blind luck, fate, or cosmic karma. It was the preordained will of God Almighty. God had predetermined the birth of Abram because He had always planned to use this one man as a conduit through whom He would one day pour out His blessings on humanity. As will become evident as the story unfolds, God had grand plans for this seemingly insignificant descendant of Adam. The One who ordained Abram’s birth would one day divulge Abram’s calling.

“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” – Genesis 12:1-3 ESV

That last line speaks volumes. God was going to use a solitary offspring of Eve to reverse the curse and pour out His blessings on all the families of the earth. This one man, Abram, would prove to be the divinely ordained conduit thought whom God would bring hope to a sin-damaged world and the gift of life to all those living under the curse of death.

And Moses ends chapter 11 with Abram moving from his home in Ur to the distant land of Haran. Moses describes Abram’s slow but steady migration east, bringing him ever closer to the land of Canaan. And Moses intended this far-from-subtle insight into Abram’s former home and ultimate destination to remind his Jewish readers of their roots. They hailed from the land of Shinar, the infamous site of Babel and the future home of Babylon. Their patriarch was a Chaldean and not a Jew. And their distinct Hebraic language had been the result of God’s judgment against the rebellious people of Babel. Their heritage was marred. Their patriarch was far from pristine. But their God had a plan that would put all these pieces together to form a perfect plan so that He might bless the nations of the earth.

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.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

The Unfathomable Ways of God

1 These are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Sons were born to them after the flood.

The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. The sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. The sons of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. From these the coastland peoples spread in their lands, each with his own language, by their clans, in their nations.

The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan. Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.” 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11 From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and 12 Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city. 13 Egypt fathered Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, 14 Pathrusim, Casluhim (from whom the Philistines came), and Caphtorim.

15 Canaan fathered Sidon his firstborn and Heth, 16 and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, 17 the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, 18 the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. Afterward the clans of the Canaanites dispersed. 19 And the territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon in the direction of Gerar as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. 20 These are the sons of Ham, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations. Genesis 10:1-20 ESV

Noah lived a long and fruitful life. For 950 years, this righteous and blameless man had walked with God. No, he had not been perfect or sinless. But he had stood out from the rest of his generation as a man who had a heart for God. And, as a result, Noah found favor with God. He and the members of his immediate family were chosen by God and graciously given a chance to survive the judgment that God poured out on the world. They alone had lived before and after the devastation of the flood. After assessing the pervasive presence of wickedness amongst mankind, God had decided to destroy His creation and start over. With this small remnant of humanity and a relative sampling of the rest of the living creatures, God rebooted the entire creation project.

In Genesis 10, Moses provides another genealogical listing designed to emphasize this new phase of God’s plan. The first genealogy is found in chapter five and covers the family tree of Adam all the way to Noah. Now, Moses picks up the story of mankind’s expansion by chronicling the family trees of Noah’s three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Noah eventually died, but his three sons would continue to fulfill God’s mandate to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. Humanity would continue to use its God-given capacity to procreate. Just as Adam and Eve had born children, so would these three men. And, as Moses makes clear, “Sons were born to them after the flood” (Genesis 10:1 ESV). Life continued. But as will soon become readily evident, so did sin.

From this one man, Noah, would come all the nations of the world. And though he was a man who walked with God, his descendants would show a stubborn capacity to walk away from God. The further the narrative gets away from the story of Eden, the greater the distance grows between God and mankind. As humanity multiplies and spreads across the earth, its desire for autonomy and independence from God will increase exponentially.

Yet, God had a strategy in place. He was working behind the scenes to preserve a faithful remnant through whom He could bring about His ultimate redemptive plan for the world. The genealogical lists found in Genesis 10 are intended to display God’s sovereign power and glory. The births recorded in this chapter are meant to emphasize God’s providential orchestration of all things. He was divinely determining the trajectory of mankind, creating from the three sons of Noah all the future nations of the world. In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses encouraged the people of Israel to consider God’s sovereign authority over the nations.

Remember the days of old;
    consider the years of many generations;
ask your father, and he will show you,
    your elders, and they will tell you.
When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
    when he divided mankind,
he fixed the borders of the peoples
    according to the number of the sons of God. – Deuteronomy 32:7-8 ESV

And many centuries later, the apostle Paul would reemphasize the undeniable sovereignty of God over the affairs of mankind.

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’” – Acts 17:26-28 ESV

In the lengthy list of names found in Genesis 10, Moses provides a series of not-so-subtle hints, designed to explain to his readers the origins of some of the nations of their day. In the family tree of Ham, Moses reveals the genesis of Babel, the city that would later become known as Babylon. Of course, that same family tree contains the name of Canaan, the son of Ham whom Noah had cursed. From this son would come the Canaanites, the people group who would occupy the land that God would later promise to Abraham as his inheritance. In verse 12 is mentioned the city of Nineveh, which would later become the capital of the Assyrian empire, the nation that God would eventually use to destroy the northern kingdom of Israel. Verse 14 contains the name of the Philistines, another people group that would prove to be a constant thorn in the side of God’s chosen people.

Moses also points out that Canaan became the father of “the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites” (Genesis 10:16-18 ESV). This list of names would have been very familiar to Moses’ audience. Among this list are the names of the nations that God had promised to defeat so that Moses and the people of Israel could occupy the land of Canaan.

The Lord said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” – Exodus 33:1-3 ESV

Moses is assuring his people that God had been behind the creation of these various nations. Their formation had not been a byproduct of chance or serendipity. They had been divinely ordained. And while many of these nations would eventually become the enemies of Israel, they would be completely under the authority and dominion of God Almighty. There was a purpose for their existence and it had been determined by God.

And Moses provides one last “hint” in his genealogical record of Ham’s family tree. In verse 19, he describes the eventual territorial boundaries of the Canaanites. And in his description, he includes the names of two infamous cities that would play an important role in the history of Israel: Sodom and Gomorrah.

The family tree of Ham includes such names as Egypt, Canaan, Babel, Assyria, Nineveh, Canaan, Sodom, and Gomorrah. The Jewish readers to whom Moses wrote would have flinched at the mention of these names. They were laden with significance and represented important milestones in the history of the Jewish people. And yet, Moses is painstakingly proving that these various nations and cities were the byproduct of God’s sovereign will. A point he emphasizes when he writes, “These are the sons of Ham, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations” (Genesis 10:20 ESV).

“The table of nations is a ‘horizontal’ genealogy rather than a ‘vertical’ one (those in chapters 5 and 11 are vertical). Its purpose is not primarily to trace ancestry; instead, it shows political, geographical, and ethnic affiliations among tribes for various reasons, most notable being holy war. Tribes shown to be ‘kin’ would be in league together. Thus this table aligns the predominant tribes in and around the land promised to Israel. These names include founders of tribes, clans, cities, and territories.” – Allen P. Ross, Genesis

The Jews, who were designated as God’s chosen people, had to constantly question why God had allowed such nations as Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon to exist. Why did God permit the presence of wicked cities like Sodom and Gomorrah? Wouldn’t the world have been a better place without the Canaanites, Amorites, and Jebusites?

But this chapter was intended to display and explain the sovereignty of God. As Paul so clearly asserted, “From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries” (Genesis 17:26 NLT).

The sin committed by Ham (Genesis 9) produced some significant consequences. His genealogical line is filled with a rogue’s gallery of names and locations that would have struck fear into the hearts of the Jewish people. But these individuals and nations each existed for a reason. They would have divinely ordained roles to play in God’s unfolding redemptive plan. Yes, from Ham would come the Canaanites. But as chapter 11 will reveal, from Shem would come Abram, the father of the Hebrew people.

When dealing with the question of God’s sovereignty, it’s essential that we accept the bad with the good. The existence of the Canaanites, Ninevites, Babylonians, Egyptians, and Sodomites may cause us to question the wisdom of God, we must always remember that God’s ways are not always understandable or even logical to our finite minds. And the sovereign God of the universe has warned us that trying to comprehend His ways is well beyond our limited capacity.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so my ways are higher than your ways
    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT

Mankind was procreating and filling the earth, but all the while, God was fulfilling His sovereign, infallible will.

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.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

The Day of the Lord.

The oracle concerning Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw.

On a bare hill raise a signal;
    cry aloud to them;
wave the hand for them to enter
    the gates of the nobles.
I myself have commanded my consecrated ones,
    and have summoned my mighty men to execute my anger,
    my proudly exulting ones.

The sound of a tumult is on the mountains
    as of a great multitude!
The sound of an uproar of kingdoms,
    of nations gathering together!
The Lord of hosts is mustering
    a host for battle.
They come from a distant land,
    from the end of the heavens,
the Lord and the weapons of his indignation,
    to destroy the whole land.

Wail, for the day of the Lord is near;
    as destruction from the Almighty it will come!
Therefore all hands will be feeble,
    and every human heart will melt.
They will be dismayed:
    pangs and agony will seize them;
    they will be in anguish like a woman in labor.
They will look aghast at one another;
    their faces will be aflame.

Behold, the day of the Lord comes,
    cruel, with wrath and fierce anger,
to make the land a desolation
    and to destroy its sinners from it. – Isaiah 13:1-9 ESV

At this point, the emphasis shifts from that of good news to bad news, and the focus shifts from Judah to Babylon. This is the first of ten oracles that God will pronounce and Isaiah will deliver. And what makes this particular oracle unique is that it deals with a nation that will not even come to power and prominence for another century. In fact, the details concerning Babylon are so specific and accurate that some have concluded that the book of Isaiah could not have been written by him. Rather than accept the fact that God, through the Holy Spirit, provided Isaiah with prophetic insights into the future, these individuals find it more plausible to believe that some unknown author, living long after the events described by Isaiah, wrote down the details of what had happened.

But the claim of the author, namely Isaiah, is that he received these five oracles from God Himself. These are not post-event, historic recollections disguised as prophecy. They are the oracles of God concerning nations that had not yet risen to power and events that had not yet taken place.

The Hebrew word that is translated as “oracle” is massa’ and it carries a range of meanings. It literally means, “a burden.” In this context it is used as a message from God, but it contains burdensome news from God that will be difficult for the hearer to bear.

Babylon was an ancient city that had a well-known reputation for its arrogance and pride. While it was not yet a global super-power, it had been around long enough to influence many of the nations around it. It’s story goes all the way back to Genesis 11 and the story of Babel. In the preceding chapters of Genesis, we have recorded the story of the flood that God had sent to destroy the earth. The only survivors of this global, God-ordained disaster, were Noah and his family, as well as all the birds, animals and reptiles he had loaded on the ark. When the flood had subsided, God had commanded Noah:

“Leave the boat, all of you—you and your wife, and your sons and their wives. Release all the animals—the birds, the livestock, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—so they can be fruitful and multiply throughout the earth.” – Genesis 8:15 NLT

They were to be fruitful and multiply on the earth, the same command God had given to Adam and Eve in the garden.

“Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.” – Genesis 1:28 NLT

By the time we get to Genesis 11 and a time period long after the flood, we find the descendants of Noah spreading out across the earth. The text tells us that they shared a common language because they shared a common ancestry. But something happened.

…they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there.  – Genesis 11:2 NLT

This sounds innocent enough, but the heart behind their actions is revealed in the following verses.

Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.” – Genesis 11:4 NLT

In direct violation of God’s command, they determined to locate in one place, construct a monument to their own significance, and build a reputation to their own glory. But we’re told, “the Lord came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building” (Genesis 11:5 NLT). And, being God, He saw into their hearts. He knew their intentions and the motivation behind their actions.

“The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! – Genesis 11:6 NLT

Their sense of community and their commonly shared language promoted a spirit of pride and arrogance within them. They viewed themselves as self-sufficient and capable of accomplishing anything they determined to do. But there is no mention of God. There is no display of humble obedience to the commands of God. So, God removed their capacity to communicate with one another by creating other languages. The immediate result was their inability to complete construction on the city they had begun to build, and then they scattered across the globe. But the city remained and its name became Babel. And people continued to occupy that city over the centuries, all the way to Isaiah’s day.

While Babylon was a real nation, it appears to be used here as a symbol of man’s pride and arrogance. It represents all those who would refuse to honor and obey God, choosing instead to view themselves as their own gods, the masters of their own fates.

As has been the case so far, God continues to speak of a coming day – that day – when He will send His Son as the King of kings and Lord of lords. But in that day, while things will go especially well for the people of Israel, the Babylons of the world will suffer His wrath. Isaiah warns, “the day of the Lord is near” (Isaiah 13:6 ESV). And that news should cause the people of Babylon to wail, because that day will bring with it the judgment of God in the form of “a great multitude,” “a host for battle” (Isaiah 13:4 ESV). And that army will bring destruction upon the nations of the earth.

For see, the day of the Lord is coming—
    the terrible day of his fury and fierce anger.
The land will be made desolate,
    and all the sinners destroyed with it.
– Isaiah 13:9 NLT

The picture here is one of global judgment. While the oracle is directed at Babylon, the content of the oracle is much more widespread and universal in terms of its impact. Babylon represents an attitude that will one day be widespread on the earth. The hubris modeled by Babylon will have spread to all the nations of the earth. So, God will use “the weapons of his indignation to destroy the whole land” (Isaiah 13:5 ESV). 

This is speaking of a future judgment to come. Just as Israel and Judah would enjoy a restored relationship with God “in that day,” the pagan nations will be forced to endure the unrelenting judgment of God for their refusal to acknowledge Him as God.

And Isaiah describes this coming day of the Lord as near. The Hebrew word is qarowb and it conveys the idea of readiness. In other words, God has prepared the day and has it set on His divine calendar. So that, when the time arrives, it will happen quickly and without delay. The use of the term, “near” does not indicate imminence, but inevitability. Isaiah is not saying “that day” is right around the corner, but that when the day comes, it will come quickly and prove to be unavoidable and unstoppable.

In Revelation 11, John is given a vision of that day. With the blowing of the seventh and final trumpet, the seven bowl judgments will be poured out on the earth. But with the blowing of the trumpet, John heard voices in heaven shouting, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15 ESV). Even before the pouring out of the final judgments on the earth and the return of Christ, the heavenly host are celebrating His victory as if it has already taken place. It is so inevitable, they speak as if it has already happened. And they go on to sing:

“We give thanks to you, Lord God, the Almighty,
    the one who is and who always was,
for now you have assumed your great power
    and have begun to reign.
The nations were filled with wrath,
    but now the time of your wrath has come.
It is time to judge the dead
    and reward your servants the prophets,
    as well as your holy people,
and all who fear your name,
    from the least to the greatest.
It is time to destroy
    all who have caused destruction on the earth.” – Revelation 11:17-18 NLT

This is the day of which Isaiah speaks. The nations rage, but God rules. The people of earth, in their pride and arrogance, shake their fists in the face of God, but He brings them to nothing. He humbles their hubris. He punishes their pride. He destroys their petty kingdoms and sets up His Son as the sole sovereign of the universe. And Isaiah reminds us, “the day of the Lord is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come!” (Isaiah 13:6 ESV).

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.

The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Mighty Is the Lord God.

1 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory. And he called out with a mighty voice,

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!
    She has become a dwelling place for demons,
a haunt for every unclean spirit,
    a haunt for every unclean bird,
    a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.
For all nations have drunk
    the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality,
and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her,
    and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.”

Then I heard another voice from heaven saying,

“Come out of her, my people,
    lest you take part in her sins,
lest you share in her plagues;
for her sins are heaped high as heaven,
    and God has remembered her iniquities.
Pay her back as she herself has paid back others,
    and repay her double for her deeds;
    mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed.
As she glorified herself and lived in luxury,
    so give her a like measure of torment and mourning,
since in her heart she says,
    ‘I sit as a queen,
I am no widow,
    and mourning I shall never see.’
For this reason her plagues will come in a single day,
    death and mourning and famine,
and she will be burned up with fire;
    for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her. Revelation 18:1-8 ESV

 

detail-of-a-lion-found-along-the-processional-way-from-ishtar-gate-into-the-city-of-babylon-the-ishtar-gate-was-constructed-around-575-bc-by-king-nebuchadnezzar-iiIn this chapter, John records yet more specific information regarding the fall of Babylon. In the previous chapter, he provided us with a description of the false religious system associated with the city and its government. While some commentators choose to see all references to Babylon in these two chapters as symbolic only, it seems clear that the geographic location of the former city of Babylon is in view as well. The Scriptures appear to indicate that the city will yet again become a center of power from which the Antichrist operates during the days of the tribulation. It will become the political, religious and economic focal point of the world during that time, with the Antichrist operating his government from within its borders.

In chapter 17, John was shown the destruction of the false religious system, also referred to as Babylon or the great prostitute. Now, in chapter 18, he is given a vision of the destruction of Babylon’s financial system. If you recall, one of the things the false prophet did, along with establishing the apostate church built around the worship of Antichrist, was to institute the requirement of the mark of the beast. This visible symbol or mark was required to be affixed to the right hand or forehead of every individual on earth.

16 Also it [the false prophet] causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. – Revelation 13:16-17 ESV

The mark was a non-negotiable requirement that became the means by which anyone could participate in the economy set up by the Antichrist and his world-wide government. The monopoly created by this kind of manipulative control would greatly influence the Antichrist’s power and fill the treasuries of his government. And John is given just a glimpse into the outcome of this kind of economic control.

…the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living. – Revelation 18:3 ESV

There appear to be two falls of Babylon described in these two chapters. The first involves the fall of the false religious system that was set up by the false prophet. Chapter 17 describes its fall, which takes place at the midway point of the 7 years of tribulation. But chapter 18 describes the fall of Babylon in its political and commercial form, which will take place at the end of the great tribulation, 3-1/2 years later. John was given a partial view of Babylon’s ultimate destruction back in chapter 16.

17 The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18 And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings,[c] peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. 19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. – Revelation 16:17-19 ESV

It seems clear that this is referring to an actual city, the city of Babylon. And the result of this event will be that the city falls, literally and physically, resulting in its location becoming desolate and abandoned by mankind. The angel describes it as becoming, “a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast” (Revelation 18:2 ESV). This formerly great city will become the abode of the demonic, an apt description of what it had really been all along. This geographic location on the planet has had a long history of immoral and unrighteous behavior associated with it, stretching all the way back to the tower of Babel, when mankind attempted to disobey the will of God.

“Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” – Genesis 11:4 ESV

In this account, we see that, from day one, the territory known as Babylon, was associated with the sins of self-sufficiency, self-determinism, and self-glorification. Rather than obey God, men attempted to control their own fate and set themselves up as gods. And Babylon would become an ever-lasting symbol of man’s endless pursuit of autonomy and self-idolatry. But John is shown the final outcome God has in store for this great city. It will fall. And its fall will be great. All those nations that “have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality” will fall along with her. And notice what the second angel says about the city:

As she glorified herself and lived in luxury,
    so give her a like measure of torment and mourning. – Revelation 18:7 ESV

During the tribulation, Babylon will yet again become a prosperous and highly influential city. It will be restored to its former glory, replicating its glory days under King Nebuchadnezzar. But as great as Babylon will become, it will prove no match for Almighty God. As powerful, wealthy and influential as it will be during the waning days of the tribulation, it will experience a devastating fall – at the hands of God. The city’s pride, self-sufficiency, and love affair with immorality will come to an end. And so, a voice from heaven calls all believers living at that time to remove themselves from the city. They are to flee from her borders, distancing themselves from her immorality and rebellion against God. Like Lot running from Sodom and Gomorrah, the tribulation saints are to vacate the premises of Babylon, in anticipation of God’s judgment against her.

It is payback time. The voice from heaven that John hears describes the sins of Babylon being heaped up as high as heaven, an obvious comparison to the bricks heaped up by the people living in Babel. The sins of Babylon are obvious to God, and He will pay her back double for all that she has done. Like all those who stand opposed to God and who set themselves up as their own gods, Babylon and its inhabitants saw themselves as invulnerable and untouchable.

I sit as a queen,
I am no widow,
    and mourning I shall never see.” – Revelation 18:7 ESV

But as the proverb says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 ESV). And in a single day, judgment would come against Babylon. God will bring about the fall of this once-great city, “for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her” (Revelation 18:8 ESV)

The ultimate fall of Babylon will be real, but also symbolic. It represents the defeat of any and all who stand against God. Mankind has long opposed the will of God, refusing to accept Him as God and choosing to turn to man-made religions, making gods out of wealth, materialism, politics, government, and prosperity. Babylon will become a real-life representation of all these things, an actual city where godlessness reigns and rebellion against the God of the universe emanates. But Babylon will prove no match for God. The Antichrist will be exposed as a lousy stand-in for the real Savior of the world: Jesus Christ. And it is the one-and-only Christ who will return to the earth and set up the one true kingdom where righteousness will reign. The false kingdom of the Antichrist will be destroyed, to be replaced with the true kingdom of God on earth.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

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.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

The War of the Wills.

“Go out of the midst of her, my people!
    Let every one save his life
    from the fierce anger of the Lord!
Let not your heart faint, and be not fearful
    at the report heard in the land,
when a report comes in one year
    and afterward a report in another year,
and violence is in the land,
    and ruler is against ruler.

“Therefore, behold, the days are coming
    when I will punish the images of Babylon;
her whole land shall be put to shame,
    and all her slain shall fall in the midst of her.
Then the heavens and the earth,
    and all that is in them,
shall sing for joy over Babylon,
    for the destroyers shall come against them out of the north,
declares the Lord.
Babylon must fall for the slain of Israel,
    just as for Babylon have fallen the slain of all the earth.

“You who have escaped from the sword,
    go, do not stand still!
Remember the Lord from far away,
    and let Jerusalem come into your mind:
‘We are put to shame, for we have heard reproach;
    dishonor has covered our face,
for foreigners have come
    into the holy places of the Lord‘s house.’

“Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
    when I will execute judgment upon her images,
and through all her land
    the wounded shall groan.
Though Babylon should mount up to heaven,
    and though she should fortify her strong height,
yet destroyers would come from me against her,
    declares the Lord.

“I will make drunk her officials and her wise men,
    her governors, her commanders, and her warriors;
they shall sleep a perpetual sleep and not wake,
    declares the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts:
The broad wall of Babylon
    shall be leveled to the ground,
and her high gates
    shall be burned with fire.
The peoples labor for nothing,
    and the nations weary themselves only for fire.” – Jeremiah 51:45-58 ESV

We’ve all met strong-willed individuals. Perhaps you have raised or are in the process of raising a child with a stronger-than-normal will. They tend to want to get their way. They can be very demanding and are usually not afraid to let others know what they are thinking and what it is they think they deserve, want or need. Can you imagine how many strong-willed people God deals with on a daily basis? Consider the number of people He has run into over the centuries who thought their will was more important than His own. If you think about it, every person who has ever lived fits into that category. Because of the fall, all of mankind was born strong-willed and self-obsessed. We all came out of the womb like little gods, demanding our way as soon as we could make a sound. The human will is the battleground on which the war between mankind and their Creator wages day after day, and it has been going on since God made Adam. When God told Adam, “Thou shall not…”, there arose in the first man’s heart the spark of self-awareness that responded, “Yes, I shall…” And the battle over control began. Adam and his newly formed bride didn’t take long to decide that their wills were more important than God’s. Their passions and desires quickly took precedence over God’s commands. Their attraction to the forbidden fruit and all that the enemy said it offered them overwhelmed any desire they had to obey God. Their wills won the day.

As God continues His quite lengthy oracle concerning Babylon, it is important to note that much of what He is dealing with is man’s innate need to be in control, to be the master of his own fate. The nations God has addressed over the last few chapters of the book of Jeremiah are corporate representations of man’s fallen state, and Babylon holds the distinction of being the epitome of willful arrogance and pride. Nebuchadnezzar was the poster-boy of pride. The book of Daniel tells the story of his pride reaching its zenith and God’s divine response to his unchecked arrogance and self-adulation.

God had given the king a dream, which Daniel had interpreted for him. Daniel had given the king the meaning of the dream, warning him:

You will be driven from human society, and you will live in the fields with the wild animals. You will eat grass like a cow, and you will be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.” – Daniel 4:25 NLT

But the king didn’t take Daniel’s words seriously. And in a relatively short period of time, Nebuchadnezzar would learn the painful truth behind what Daniel had told him.

“But all these things did happen to King Nebuchadnezzar. Twelve months later he was taking a walk on the flat roof of the royal palace in Babylon. As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’

“While these words were still in his mouth, a voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.’” – Daniel 4:28-32 NLT

And it happened just as God had said it would.

“That same hour the judgment was fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar was driven from human society. He ate grass like a cow, and he was drenched with the dew of heaven. He lived this way until his hair was as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws. – Daniel 4:33 NLT

He went from walking along the parapets of his palace, bragging about his many exploits and personal accomplishments, to crawling around on all fours, eating grace like an animal. What separates man from the rest of creation is the fact that he was made in the image of God. But when man attempts to replace God’s image with his own, he becomes little more than an just another animal. Mankind’s capacity for reasoning, while it may set him apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, can also be his downfall. That was the lesson to be learned in God’s ongoing oracle against Babylon. God warns the pride-filled residents of Babylon:

“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!” – Jeremiah 51:53 NLT

God’s wording brings recalls the days in which he destroyed the tower of Babel, a pride-motivated building project taken on by the ancient predecessors of the Babylonians. God had commanded Adam and Eve, along with their descendants, to fill the earth. But the book of Genesis tells us that the people decided to do things their way, according to their own wills.

At one time all the people of the world spoke the same language and used the same words. As the people migrated to the east, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia[a] and settled there.

They began saying to each other, “Let’s make bricks and harden them with fire.” (In this region bricks were used instead of stone, and tar was used for mortar.) Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.” – Genesis 11:1-4 NLT

Essentially they said, “We know better.” They decided their plan was better than God’s. They desired fame more than they did following God’s revealed will. So, God stepped in and, just as He did with King Nebuchadnezzar, God knocked the residents of ancient Babel down a few notches.

But the Lord came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building. “Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.”

In that way, the Lord scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city. That is why the city was called Babel, because that is where the Lord confused the people with different languages. In this way he scattered them all over the world. – Genesis 11:5-9 NLT

King Nebuchadnezzar had his thinking confused and literally lost his mind. The people of Babel had their language confused and literally lost the capacity to communicate. Adam and Even had their moral compass confused and literally lost their communion with God. And in each case, the human will was the culprit. They had decided to do battle with God over and engage in a war of the will – and they lost. Man will always lose that battle. Oh, there may appear to be times with man’s will wins out. It may look as though we are getting our way and reaping the benefits of our own self-centered, egotistical plan. But in the end, God’s will always wins. Adam and Eve got what they wanted: The forbidden fruit. But they lost what they really needed: Communion with God. Nebuchadnezzar got the joy of standing on his palace roof and marveling over the mighty kingdom he had built. But he lost his mind. The people of Babel began an aggressive building program to construct a monument to their own human ingenuity and corporate capabilities. But they lost the ability to understand one another.

Man’s ongoing attempt to win the battle of the wills is a lost cause. Any minor victories we enjoy will always end in defeat. Any attempt on our part to exert our wills and force our way on the sovereign plans of God will prove hopeless and futile in the end. And God’s dire warning to Babylon should be a sobering reminder to us all that God’s will always wins.

This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says:
“The thick walls of Babylon will be leveled to the ground,
    and her massive gates will be burned.
The builders from many lands have worked in vain,
    for their work will be destroyed by fire!” – Jeremiah 51:58 NLT

 

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.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

His Desire Shall Be Satisfied.

“Though you rejoice, though you exult,
    O plunderers of my heritage,
though you frolic like a heifer in the pasture,
    and neigh like stallions,
    your mother shall be utterly shamed,
    and she who bore you shall be disgraced.
Behold, she shall be the last of the nations,
    a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert.
Because of the wrath of the Lord she shall not be inhabited
    but shall be an utter desolation;
everyone who passes by Babylon shall be appalled,
    and hiss because of all her wounds.
Set yourselves in array against Babylon all around,
    all you who bend the bow;
shoot at her, spare no arrows,
    for she has sinned against the Lord.
Raise a shout against her all around;
    she has surrendered;
her bulwarks have fallen;
    her walls are thrown down.
For this is the vengeance of the Lord:
    take vengeance on her;
    do to her as she has done.
Cut off from Babylon the sower,
    and the one who handles the sickle in time of harvest;
because of the sword of the oppressor,
    every one shall turn to his own people,
    and every one shall flee to his own land.

“Israel is a hunted sheep driven away by lions. First the king of Assyria devoured him, and now at last Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has gnawed his bones. Therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing punishment on the king of Babylon and his land, as I punished the king of Assyria. I will restore Israel to his pasture, and he shall feed on Carmel and in Bashan, and his desire shall be satisfied on the hills of Ephraim and in Gilead. In those days and in that time, declares the Lord, iniquity shall be sought in Israel, and there shall be none, and sin in Judah, and none shall be found, for I will pardon those whom I leave as a remnant.” Jeremiah 50:11-20 ESV

What an incredible juxtaposition is found in these verses: The mighty nation of Babylon and its reputation for world domination and the lowly nation of Judah, defeated, demoralized and destined to live out its pitiful existence in captivity. But these verses also remind us of something very important: the unmistakable role of God in human affairs. He is the one who is ultimately in charge of all things. This planet was His creation, and human beings were the apex of that creation. He had and still has a plan for the world and all it contains, including mankind. He is not some distant deity who wound up the clock of creation and is now standing back in disinterest as the final hours of human existence wind down to some kind of cataclysmic end. No, with these oracles, God is making it quite clear that everything is in His hands, including the fate of mankind. There is not detail that escapes His notice. There is no outcome He has not already foreordained or foreknown. There are no surprises to God. Nothing catches Him off guard or unawares. He is not shocked. He never has to ask, “How did that happen?”

And as God proclaims His future plans for the nations, He does so, looking far into the distance, far beyond the rule and reign of King Nebuchadnezzar and the current generation of God’s people living in captivity. His frame of reference encompasses all time, allowing Him to see and reveal what He has planned all the way up to the end, at the very brink of eternity. The statements found in these verses have the now/not yet aspect common to much of biblical prophecy. They will be partially fulfilled in the not-too-distant future. Babylon will fall to the Persians. The people of Judah will return to the land. But God is also speaking about events that have not yet happened. But they will. And they reveal that God, while actively involved in the here-and-now, has His attention focused on what is to come. He knows how the story ends. Everything is building to the divine crescendo He has planned for His creation. The days of our lives are acts within a much larger play. They are not the play itself. The fall of Judah was significant and necessary, but it was not the end of the story. It was simply yet another scene in the divine drama of God’s redemption of mankind and His creation. The Babylonians had played their part, and interestingly enough, they will return to the stage later in the drama. But in the days of Jeremiah, the nation of Babylon had rejoiced and celebrated over their defeat of Judah.

“You rejoice and are glad,
    you who plundered my chosen people.
You frisk about like a calf in a meadow
    and neigh like a stallion. – Jeremiah 50:11 NLT

They had thoroughly enjoyed their run of good luck and world dominance. But God had plans for them.

“But your homeland will be overwhelmed
    with shame and disgrace.
You will become the least of nations—
    a wilderness, a dry and desolate land.” – Jeremiah 50:12 NLT

Why was God going to bring this disaster on the land of Babylon? He tells us just a few verses later.

“For she has sinned against the Lord.” – Jeremiah 50:14 NLT

Like every other nation on earth, they were enemies of God, living in open rebellion to Him, resisting His will and failing to recognize Him as God. The apostle Paul describes their problem in very blunt terms.

But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles. – Romans 1:18-23 NLT

The Babylonians were worthy of God’s wrath long before they attacked the people of Judah. They, like every other people group on the planet, were in a long-standing feud with God over who was in charge and who would rule and reign over the earth. And the name, “Babylon” will remain a symbol of man’s rebellion against God throughout the ages. Mighty Babylon will show up again in the end times, as a representation of man’s ongoing and last-ditch attempt to overthrow God. The land of Babylon has a long-standing and less-than-ideal relationship with God. It was there that man first attempted to resist the will of God in a corporate or communal fashion.

At one time all the people of the world spoke the same language and used the same words. As the people migrated to the east, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there.

They began saying to each other, “Let’s make bricks and harden them with fire.” (In this region bricks were used instead of stone, and tar was used for mortar.) Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.” – Genesis 11:1-4 NLT

When Noah and his sons had stepped out of the ark, after God had brought the great flood upon the earth, God had told them, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1 NLT). But then we see the descendants of Noah deciding to disobey God’s command and settle down in the land of Babylon. Not only that, they determine to build a great city and a tower that will reach to the sky. Their desire is for fame. They want to be in control. They don’t want to do things God’s way. And so, God stepped in.

But the Lord came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building. “Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.”

In that way, the Lord scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city. That is why the city was called Babel, because that is where the Lord confused the people with different languages. In this way he scattered them all over the world. – Genesis 11:5-9 NLT

Obviously, later generations of mankind made their way back to Babylon. And it would become a lasting symbol of man’s rebellion and pride. And the day is coming when the once-mighty Babylon will be rebuilt. Once again, man will attempt to do what God has forbidden, and God will be forced to destroy that city yet again. That is what this oracle really deals with.

But as for Judah, their fate will be radically different. They will be restored by God. And it doesn’t take a theologian to understand that this prophecy concerning Judah has yet to be fulfilled. Just look closely at what God says:

“And I will bring Israel home again to its own land,
    to feed in the fields of Carmel and Bashan,
and to be satisfied once more
    in the hill country of Ephraim and Gilead.
In those days,” says the Lord,
    “no sin will be found in Israel or in Judah,
    for I will forgive the remnant I preserve.” – Jeremiah 50:19-20 NLT

No sin will be found in Israel or in Judah. This is obviously speaking of a future time. It has not yet happened. But it will happen. It is all part of God’s perfect plan for His creation and for mankind. God is not done yet. His will shall be accomplished and the desire of the people of Israel shall be satisfied. They will be restored to the land and to a right relationship with God Almighty, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God will remove their hearts of stone and give them hearts of flesh. They will sin no more. They will no longer have a desire to rebel against God. They will find His laws appealing and not oppressive. They will worship Him gladly. And it is all due to the sovereign will of God. He has a plan. He has a outcome in mind. And it will happen just as He has planned.

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.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson