27 “Lift up a banner in the land!
Blow the trumpet among the nations!
Prepare the nations for battle against her;
summon against her these kingdoms:
Ararat, Minni and Ashkenaz.
Appoint a commander against her;
send up horses like a swarm of locusts.
28 Prepare the nations for battle against her—
the kings of the Medes,
their governors and all their officials,
and all the countries they rule.
29 The land trembles and writhes,
for the Lord’s purposes against Babylon stand—
to lay waste the land of Babylon
so that no one will live there.
30 Babylon’s warriors have stopped fighting;
they remain in their strongholds.
Their strength is exhausted;
they have become weaklings.
Her dwellings are set on fire;
the bars of her gates are broken.
31 One courier follows another
and messenger follows messenger
to announce to the king of Babylon
that his entire city is captured,
32 the river crossings seized,
the marshes set on fire,
and the soldiers terrified.”
33 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says:
“Daughter Babylon is like a threshing floor
at the time it is trampled;
the time to harvest her will soon come.”
(Jeremiah 51:27-33 NIV)
As we continue in chapter 51, the Lord proceeds with the dual themes of Babylon’s defeat and God’s people redeemed. Today’s text focuses on the conquest of Babylon.
Today’s passage begins with the Lord issuing a call to arms against Babylon. The word goes out in general, and to three specific people groups: Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz. These three nations comprise modern-day Armenia. In Jeremiah’s day, these were known as the Medes. In subsequent years, these nations would join forces with the larger Persian Empire led by King Cyrus.
The Lord’s purposes were to decimate Babylon (v. 29) for her wrongs against Judah and the surrounding nations. In the end, Babylon was both defeated and ruined (v. 30). From our prior study, remember that this was Babylon’s pattern against other nations. The Lord would give Babylon the same treatment that Babylon gave to other nations when it conquered them.
Notice that there is no mention of slaughter and loss of life – only capture and defeat. Also, the events portrayed in today’s passage are time-compressed. The events seem like they were prophesied to happen all on the same day, when, in fact, they would occur at various times throughout the next decade or so.
Verses 31 – 32 give us some insight into the communication and early warning systems in place during Jeremiah’s day. There were no such things as radio communication, telephones, or radar to let the king and his officials know that an enemy was approaching. Instead, the king appointed messengers to bring any news directly to him. These couriers were stationed throughout the city and would run from their posts to the king’s palace with news for the king.
And what was the news? A single incident? No -the couriers and messengers came from all over, and at the same time to indicate that the city was surrounded and taken captive.
Verse 33 ends this section by the Lord using a word picture to describe Babylon as a threshing floor. A threshing floor was a flat dirt patch that was used to separate the kernels of grain from the stalks. The farmers would bring their stalks of harvested grain to the threshing floor, lay out the stalks on the ground, then walk animals (typically oxen) over the stalks to separate the kernels of grain from the stalks. On a windy day, the farmer would use a wooden pitchfork of sorts (called a winnowing fork) to toss both the stalks and the grain into the air. The wind would carry the lighter stalks and chaff away, while the heavier grain fell back to the threshing floor. The farmer would then bag up the grain and put it in a safe place. This grain was a major part of each family’s food supply until the next harvest a year later.
Imagine being in Jeremiah’s shoes and seeing God’s people scattered and to hear of Babylon’s eventual demise. From a natural point of view, it often looks like the world is self-destructing. Yet, from God’s perspective, everything is under control and according to plan. Isaiah 44:28 – 45:7 give us insight into God’s vantage point and His purposes during this time of world upheaval.
May we remember God’s sovereignty and reign in all things throughout history, and in our day as well. May we stop and praise Him for His righteousness and justice, for His goodness and mercy toward His redeemed.