41 “Look! An army is coming from the north;
a great nation and many kings
are being stirred up from the ends of the earth.
42 They are armed with bows and spears;
they are cruel and without mercy.
They sound like the roaring sea
as they ride on their horses;
they come like men in battle formation
to attack you, Daughter Babylon.
43 The king of Babylon has heard reports about them,
and his hands hang limp.
Anguish has gripped him,
pain like that of a woman in labor.
44 Like a lion coming up from Jordan’s thickets
to a rich pastureland,
I will chase Babylon from its land in an instant.
Who is the chosen one I will appoint for this?
Who is like me and who can challenge me?
And what shepherd can stand against me?”
45 Therefore, hear what the Lord has planned against Babylon,
what he has purposed against the land of the Babylonians:
The young of the flock will be dragged away;
their pasture will be appalled at their fate.
46 At the sound of Babylon’s capture the earth will tremble;
its cry will resound among the nations.
(Jeremiah 50:41-46 NIV)
Chapters 50 – 51 contain the dual themes of Babylon’s defeat and God’s people redeemed. Today’s passage is focused on Babylon’s defeat.
When you read through today’s text, did the language sound vaguely familiar? If so, you’re right. Verses 41 – 43 are very similar to 6:22-24, while verses 44 – 46 are very similar to 49:19-21.
Verses 41 – 43 are written about Babylon’s conquerors coming from the north. Similarly, the Lord had told Judah that her conquerors (unnamed at the time, but eventually revealed as Babylon) would come from the north in 6:22-24.
Verse 41 says that an army of many kings from the ends of the earth would assemble to take on Babylon. In the similar passage of 6:22-24, one nation (Babylon) would lead the charge. All the vassal nations under Babylon’s control would be expected to supply troops for Babylon’s army.
Verse 42 describes the vast array of military power that the conquering power would assemble: archers, horses, foot soldiers, all well-trained and ready for battle.
Verse 43 shows the Babylonians’ reaction to the news. The king is terrified, powerless to do anything. Anguish has gripped his heart; he is overwhelmed and unable to move, experiencing pain like a woman in labor.
Verses 44 – 46 are very similar to God’s declaration of judgment on Edom (see 49:19-21). The Lord identifies Himself as a lion, coming up to devour whoever is in His path (in today’s passage, Babylon). The Lord issues the challenge: Is there anyone who would stand up against Him? The implied answer is, of course, “no”.
Just like in Judah and Edom, the conquering country would take its best and brightest young people into exile and press them into service for their own country. The phrase “their pasture” refers to the people left behind. They would be appalled at the loss of the young people, the future of their country, their land, and the ones to carry on their traditions and customs.
What would the end result be? The earth would tremble at the sound of Babylon’s capture, and the cry of the Babylonians would resound among the nations. In other words, the whole earth would know the fate of the Babylonians.
May we remember that at any time, we are only one generation away from losing our Christian heritage. May we follow Jesus’ command to disciple others, to invest in them and point them to Christ, to demonstrate what it means to walk with the Lord all the days of our lives.
May we remember to pray for the leaders of our respective countries, that they would be the antithesis of Babylon. May they lead with wisdom, integrity, conviction, and justice, and also with kindness, grace, and mercy.