51 This is what the Lord says:
“See, I will stir up the spirit of a destroyer
against Babylon and the people of Leb Kamai.
2 I will send foreigners to Babylon
to winnow her and to devastate her land;
they will oppose her on every side
in the day of her disaster.
3 Let not the archer string his bow,
nor let him put on his armor.
Do not spare her young men;
completely destroy her army.
4 They will fall down slain in Babylon,
fatally wounded in her streets.
5 For Israel and Judah have not been forsaken
by their God, the Lord Almighty,
though their land is full of guilt
before the Holy One of Israel.
6 “Flee from Babylon!
Run for your lives!
Do not be destroyed because of her sins.
It is time for the Lord’s vengeance;
he will repay her what she deserves.
7 Babylon was a gold cup in the Lord’s hand;
she made the whole earth drunk.
The nations drank her wine;
therefore they have now gone mad.
8 Babylon will suddenly fall and be broken.
Wail over her!
Get balm for her pain;
perhaps she can be healed.
9 “‘We would have healed Babylon,
but she cannot be healed;
let us leave her and each go to our own land,
for her judgment reaches to the skies,
it rises as high as the heavens.’
10 “‘The Lord has vindicated us;
come, let us tell in Zion
what the Lord our God has done.’
11 “Sharpen the arrows,
take up the shields!
The Lord has stirred up the kings of the Medes,
because his purpose is to destroy Babylon.
The Lord will take vengeance,
vengeance for his temple.
12 Lift up a banner against the walls of Babylon!
Reinforce the guard,
station the watchmen,
prepare an ambush!
The Lord will carry out his purpose,
his decree against the people of Babylon.
13 You who live by many waters
and are rich in treasures,
your end has come,
the time for you to be destroyed.
14 The Lord Almighty has sworn by himself:
I will surely fill you with troops, as with a swarm of locusts,
and they will shout in triumph over you.
(Jeremiah 51:1-14 NIV)
As we transition from chapter 50 to chapter 51, the Lord continues with the dual themes of Babylon’s defeat and God’s people redeemed.
Verse 1 begins with an explicit reference to Babylon, and also to “the people of Leb Kamai”. The phrase “Leb Kamai” is an Atbash code name for Chaldea. Jeremiah used an Atbash back in 25:26 to refer to Babylon by a different Atbash code name. If you want to understand how the Atbash code works, here’s the link to the explanation. Remember that Chaldea was another name for Babylon. Since Babylon was known and was Judah’s conqueror at this point, we might ask why the Lord would use an Atbash code name for the people of Babylon. The answer is likely to show that the Lord knows all about them. This would be a continuation of the Lord unnerving the king of Babylon and his people.
In verses 2 – 4 the Lord details the devastation of Babylon. In verse 5, the Lord states that He has not forsaken Israel and Judah, even though they are completely guilty of sin. In verse 6, the Lord tells the exiles to flee Babylon when He frees them. This is a command, not a suggestion, just like God told Lot to flee Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19, especially vv. 15-17), as the destruction would be complete.
Verse 7 is similar to 25:15-ff, where God instructs Jeremiah to take the gold cup oF His wrath and make the nations drink from it. In this case, Babylon was the cup of wrath that God used against the nations. Verse 8a tells us that while Babylon was the instrument that the Lord used to pour out His wrath on the surrounding nations, she is not immune from God’s wrath.
Verses 8b – 9a are a telling state of Babylon. Verse 8a offers healing for Babylon, while verse 9a says that healing is not possible. If we jump to the end of times, we see that this is true. Revelation Chapters 17 – 18 tell us of Babylon’s evil throughout history, her final judgment, and her ultimate doom.
Verse 9b continues with the symbolism of Babylon, using a veiled reference to her early attempts to build the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). Verse 10 is the exiles praising the Lord on their way back to the promised land. Verses 11-12 is the Lord as the commander of the army against the Babylonians, giving commands to the troops.
Verse 11c is the reason the Lord is taking action against Babylon – to take vengeance against Babylon for destroying His temple. The Babylonians thought that by destroying the Temple in Jerusalem, they would cripple and neutralize (or even destroy) the Jewish God. Psalm 74:4-7 gives us a detailed glimpse of the Babylonian’s destruction of the Temple.
Verses 13 – 14 are God’s response to the Babylonians. God’s pronouncement of woe and catastrophic destruction was His demonstration of power and might. The reference in “many waters” in verse 13 is to the Euphrates river as well as the elaborate system of irrigation canals used to grow crops and provide water for the Babylonians. The reference to “rich in treasures” refers to all the plunder the Babylonians accumulated from the various nations they conquered.
Verse 13b uses the phrase “the time for you to be destroyed.” Another possible translation is “your life’s thread is cut”, as the Hebrew text uses a metaphor from weaving to signify her final demise.
How many times have people throughout history come against God or His people and thought they would be victorious?
And yet, God has the last word every time.