Jeremiah 51:36-64 (NLT)
The Lord’s Vengeance on Babylon
36 This is what the Lord says to Jerusalem:
“I will be your lawyer to plead your case,
and I will avenge you.
I will dry up her river,
as well as her springs,
37 and Babylon will become a heap of ruins,
haunted by jackals.
She will be an object of horror and contempt,
a place where no one lives.
38 Her people will roar together like strong lions.
They will growl like lion cubs.
39 And while they lie inflamed with all their wine,
I will prepare a different kind of feast for them.
The conquest of Babylon came as her rulers enjoyed a drunken feast, as recorded in Daniel 5. According to Herodotus, ‘owing to the great size of the city the outskirts were captured without the people in the centre knowing anything about it: there was a festival going on, and they continued to dance and enjoy themselves, until they learned the news the hard way.’
I will make them drink until they fall asleep,
and they will never wake up again,”
says the Lord.
“As it was in the night the city was taken, many had retired to rest, and never awoke; slain in their beds.”
40 “I will bring them down
like lambs to the slaughter,
like rams and goats to be sacrificed.
41 “How Babylon is fallen—
great Babylon, praised throughout the earth!
Now she has become an object of horror
among the nations.
42 The sea has risen over Babylon;
she is covered by its crashing waves.
43 Her cities now lie in ruins;
she is a dry wasteland
where no one lives or even passes by.
Jeremiah used the sea as a figure of speech regarding land locked Babylon. She would be overwhelmed by the coming judgment of God, left a desolation and a land where no one dwells.
44 And I will punish Bel, the god of Babylon,
and make him vomit up all he has eaten.
The nations will no longer come and worship him.
The wall of Babylon has fallen!
Babylon was renown for its secure walls. The ruins of ancient Babylon, 53 miles south of Baghdad in modern Iraq, encompass approximately 2,100 acres. Excavations have revealed the glory of the city constructed by Nebuchadnezzar II, particularly that of its fortification system. An inner city of around 1,140 acres was built up along both sides of the Euphrates River. This was surrounded by a wall 5.5 miles long, incorporating an inner wall 21 feet wide and an outer wall 12 feet wide, with a 24-foot space between them filled with earth—resulting in a total defense depth of 57 feet. Outside the outer wall was a moat, fed by the Euphrates, ranging in width from 60 to 250 feet. To the east of the city were two more double walls totaling 4.5 miles in length. To provide additional protection against invasion from the north, Nebuchadnezzar constructed an enormous wall 20 miles north of Babylon. It was 16 feet thick and extended from the Euphrates to the Tigris River, a distance of approximately 25 miles. Within the city Nebuchadnezzar’s magnificent palace occupied an area of about 50 acres. Along with this were over 50 temples, as well as numerous shrines and other buildings. (The Archaeological Study Bible)
A Message for the Exiles
45 “Come out, my people, flee from Babylon.
Save yourselves! Run from the Lord’s fierce anger.
46 But do not panic; don’t be afraid
when you hear the first rumor of approaching forces.
For rumors will keep coming year by year.
Violence will erupt in the land
as the leaders fight against each other.
47 For the time is surely coming
when I will punish this great city and all her idols.
Her whole land will be disgraced,
and her dead will lie in the streets.
48 Then the heavens and earth will rejoice,
for out of the north will come destroying armies
against Babylon,” says the Lord.
49 “Just as Babylon killed the people of Israel
and others throughout the world,
so must her people be killed.
Jeremiah continues this prominent theme: because of what Babylon did to Judah and Jerusalem, judgment would come upon them.
50 Get out, all you who have escaped the sword!
Do not stand and watch—flee while you can!
Remember the Lord, though you are in a far-off land,
and think about your home in Jerusalem.”
51 “We are ashamed,” the people say.
“We are insulted and disgraced
because the Lord’s Temple
has been defiled by foreigners.”
52 “Yes,” says the Lord, “but the time is coming
when I will destroy Babylon’s idols.
The groans of her wounded people
will be heard throughout the land.
53 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!
The Jewish captives were forewarned to leave the city before the attack and to return to Jerusalem as soon as possible.
Babylon’s Complete Destruction
54 “Listen! Hear the cry of Babylon,
the sound of great destruction from the land of the Babylonians.
55 For the Lord is destroying Babylon.
He will silence her loud voice.
Waves of enemies pound against her;
the noise of battle rings through the city.
56 Destroying armies come against Babylon.
Her mighty men are captured,
and their weapons break in their hands.
For the Lord is a God who gives just punishment;
he always repays in full.
57 I will make her officials and wise men drunk,
along with her captains, officers, and warriors.
They will fall asleep
and never wake up again!”
says the King, whose name is
the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
58 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’s Message Sent to Babylon
59 The prophet Jeremiah gave this message to Seraiah son of Neriah and grandson of Mahseiah, a staff officer, when Seraiah went to Babylon with King Zedekiah of Judah. This was during the fourth year of Zedekiah’s reign.
Jeremiah gave a copy of the prophecy to Seriah because he did not go to Babylon himself. Jeremiah ended his days in Egypt. Jeremiah instructed Seriah to read this prophecy and then say a certain prayer after the words had been read, announcing the coming judgment upon Babylon.
60 Jeremiah had recorded on a scroll all the terrible disasters that would soon come upon Babylon—all the words written here. 61 He said to Seraiah, “When you get to Babylon, read aloud everything on this scroll. 62 Then say, ‘Lord, you have said that you will destroy Babylon so that neither people nor animals will remain here. She will lie empty and abandoned forever.’ 63 When you have finished reading the scroll, tie it to a stone and throw it into the Euphrates River. 64 Then say, ‘In this same way Babylon and her people will sink, never again to rise, because of the disasters I will bring upon her.’”
This final symbolic act reinforced the last word of Jeremiah, that Babylon would fall. (The Reformation Bible)
This is the end of Jeremiah’s messages.
A wonderful piece of Sacred Harp folk music: “Babylon Is Fallen.” I have a couple arrangements for you to enjoy.
HERE: the disharmony evokes the ruin of the former order.
HERE: a more traditional setting.
Hail the day so long expected,
Hail the year of full release.
Zion’s walls are now erected,
And her watchmen publish peace.
Through our Shiloh’s wide dominion,
Hear the trumpet loudly roar,
Babylon is fallen to rise no more.
All her merchants stand with wonder,
What is this that comes to pass:
Murm’ring like the distant thunder,
Crying, “Oh alas, alas.”
Swell the sound, ye kings and nobles,
Priest and people, rich and poor;
Babylon is fallen to rise no more.
Blow the trumpet in Mount Zion,
Christ shall come a second time;
Ruling with a rod of iron
All who now as foes combine.
Babel’s garments we’ve rejected,
And our fellowship is o’er,
Babylon is fallen to rise no more.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.