59 This is the message Jeremiah the prophet gave to the staff officer Seraiah son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, when he went to Babylon with Zedekiah king of Judah in the fourth year of his reign. 60 Jeremiah had written on a scroll about all the disasters that would come upon Babylon—all that had been recorded concerning Babylon. 61 He said to Seraiah, “When you get to Babylon, see that you read all these words aloud. 62 Then say, ‘Lord, you have said you will destroy this place, so that neither people nor animals will live in it; it will be desolate forever.’ 63 When you finish reading this scroll, tie a stone to it and throw it into the Euphrates. 64 Then say, ‘So will Babylon sink to rise no more because of the disaster I will bring on her. And her people will fall.’”
The words of Jeremiah end here.
(Jeremiah 51:59-64 NIV)
As we conclude chapter 51, Jeremiah shares his last prophecy regarding Babylon. Today’s text also ends the dual themes of Babylon’s defeat and God’s redemption of His people.
Verse 59 marks a particular time and date of the event – when Zedekiah was king (approximately 594 BC). Jeremiah enlists his trusted friend Seraiah who was one of the officials traveling with King Zedekiah to Babylon. Seraiah was Baruch’s brother, another trusted friend and also the scribe Jeremiah employed to write down God’s words (36:4).
So why was King Zedekiah going to Babylon? Nebuchadnezzar had appointed Zedekiah as a vassal king, but there had been a meeting of the neighboring country leaders to discuss a possible revolt against their Babylonian ruler (chapter 27). The Lord sent Jeremiah to speak to Zedekiah and the other rulers not to rebel against Nebuchadnezzar or Babylon.
Word had likely gotten to King Nebuchadnezzar about a revolt in the making (or at least the suspicious meeting of local heads of state). King Zedekiah was either preemptively going to Babylon to personally pledge his allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar, or Nebuchadnezzar had summoned Zedekiah to report for questioning.
Regardless of the impetus for the trip, the Lord prompts Jeremiah to make use of the opportunity to prophesy against Babylon. Jeremiah wrote down all the things the Lord had said about Babylon on a scroll, then sent that scroll with Seraiah. Jeremiah then instructed Seraiah what to do once he got to Babylon.
Seraiah was to read the scroll aloud (likely in the presence of the exiled Jews), then speak (pray) a summary of God’s judgment against Babylon. After the prayer, Seraiah was to tie a stone to the scroll and throw it into the Euphrates River. As the scroll was sinking, Jeremiah gave Seraiah final words to say about the demise and desolation of Babylon.
This symbolic act of the rock and the scroll was to visibly portray the sinking (destruction) of Babylon. The symbolic act was not lost on the moment – in fact, a similar future symbolic act is recorded in Revelation 18:21 regarding the final demise of Babylon:
21 Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said:
“With such violence
the great city of Babylon will be thrown down,
never to be found again.
(Revelation 18:21 NIV)
The last words of verse 64 are a suitable bookend to Jeremiah’s beginnings in Chapter 1. The Lord called Jeremiah out to serve Him, and now Jeremiah’s duties are complete. Granted, there is one more chapter in Jeremiah’s book, but it is a summary and recap of the events also recorded in 2 Kings chapters 24 and 25.
It is interesting that Jeremiah’s words stopped at the end of chapter 51, but yet, God has preserved His Word, and it lives on today, outlasting many kings, conquerors, rulers, and kingdoms. Isaiah captured this thought well:
7 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.”
(Isaiah 40:7-8 NIV)