John T. Willis

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Yahweh will Overthrow Babylon and Restore the Faithful People--Part II--Jeremiah 51

The oracle or oracles in Jeremiah 51 continue the very same thoughts as those announced and declared in Jeremiah 50. The primary message is that Yahweh will soon overthrow Babylon and restore his faithful people. Remember that Yahweh frequently announced throughout the prophetic career of Jeremiah that Yahweh will intentionally and deliberately raise up and bring the Babylonians into Judah and overthrow his sinful people. Then, after Yahweh has punished his people, he declares he will overthrow Babylon through the Medo-Persians beginning with Cyrus the Great in 539 BCE and restore his faithful followers from Babylon back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the wall. Jeremiah 50 and 51 announce the fall of Babylon and the restoration of Yahweh's faithful people. Jeremiah 51 may be divided into two parts: 51:1-58, and 51:59-63. One may also divide 51:1-58 into smaller units to attempt to follow changing metaphors and emphases.

I. Yahweh declares he will overthrow Babylon. Jeremiah 51:1-58.
a. Yahweh announces he is going to stir up "a destructive wind," obviously a metaphor for Medo-Persia. Yahweh will send "winnowers" to destroy Babylon. Yahweh will "utterly destroy" Babylon. By contrast, Yahweh had punished his people "Israel and Judah" because of their guilt, but he has not "forsaken" his people. 51:1-5.
b. Yahweh uses two additional metaphors for the fall of Babylon. (1) Like Jeremiah 25:15-29, Yahweh commands Babylon to "drink the cup of the wine of Yahweh's wrath." (2) Like Jeremiah 8:18-9:1; 30:12-17, Yahweh offers "a balm" and "healing" for Babylon, but Babylon refuses to accept such an offer. Yahweh brings "vengeance" and "vindication" on Babylon, and tells his people "in Zion" to pay careful attention to this announcement. 51:6-10.
c. Yahweh specifically declares that "the kings of the Medes" will march against and overthrow Babylon, because Yahweh has both "planned and done" this. Yahweh is "the Lord of hosts," his hosts are the angelic armies. He will prevail against Babylon through his angelic armies. The same God, Yahweh, who created the heavens and the earth, will easily overthrow Babylon or any other nation on earth and its gods. By contrast, Jacob is Yahweh's portion and Israel is Yahweh's inheritance. 51:11-19.
d. The Medo-Persians are Yahweh's "war club," his "weapon of battle," and will "smash" Babylon. 51:20-24.
e. Once again, Yahweh summons "the kings of the Medes" and their allies to march against and overthrow Babylon, and "tell the king of Babylon that his city is taken from end to end." Babylon is like a threshing floor that is trodden. 51:25-33.
f. Nebuchadrezzar II and Babylon had destroyed Jerusalem and carried the Judeans into Babylonian exile. At that time, the Judeans prayed that Yahweh will overthrow Babylon. Now, Yahweh declares, this will indeed occur. 51:34-37.
g. Now, Yahweh uses FIVE metaphors to announce the overthrow of Babylon. (1) Lions will "roar" against and destroy Babylon. (2) Babylon must drink the cup of Yahweh's wrath. (3) Babylon will sleep a perpetual sleep and never awake. (4) Yahweh will bring Babylon down "like lambs to the slaughter," a familiar metaphor in Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 11:19). (5) The Medo-Persians will overthrow Babylon like the sea rises over the land. Babylon's problem is "pride," self-centeredness, ingratitude. In 51:41, the Hebrew term "Sheshach" is an athnach or a cryptogram for Babylon. Yahweh will destroy the god of Babylon, Bel. 51:38-44.
h. Now, Yahweh summons his faithful people to come out of Babylon and have no fear, because Yahweh will overthrow Babylon and punish the images and idols of Babylon and restore Jerusalem. 51:45-53.
i. Once again, using the metaphors of the powerful flooding sea, the cup of God's wrath, and the perpetual sleep, Yahweh announces that he will bring "a destroyer," clearly Medo-Persia, to overthrow Babylon. 51:54-58.

II. A Symbolic Act in 594 BCE. Jeremiah 51:59-63.
a. The composer of Jeremiah DATES 51:59-63 in the "fourth year of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah," which would be 594 BCE. 51:59.
b. At Yahweh's command, Jeremiah writes on a scroll all the disasters that will come upon Babylon, and instructs the quartermaster Seraiah to carry this to Babylon and throw this scroll into the Euphrates River, symbolizing that Yahweh will make Babylon SINK into the sea to rise no more. 51:60-63.

Our God is a mysterious, powerful, awesome God. His works are mystifying for us human beings, but as we look back into time, we marvel at Yahweh's plans and purposes. How who have thought that Yahweh would raise up and send the Babylonians against Judah and Jerusalem to overthrow Jerusalem and carry the Israelites into captivity? And then, who would have thought that Yahweh would raise up the Medo-Persians and restore the faithful Judeans back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the walls? But over time, Yahweh did all this. We need to learn to trust in God in all circumstances, and give God time to work out his plans and purposes.

Share YOUR insights and thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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