Today we finish the book of Jeremiah. Our reading begins with the final pronouncement of judgment on the nations, and that judgment is against Babylon (50:1). Note that Babylon was God’s instrument of judgment against the other nations, including Judah, but she will eventually be judged, as well. Also note that Babylon is used in the Bible as a symbol of the world in general (over against the people of God).
We see that the judgment against Babylon is pronounced for the same reason as judgment against the other nations, again including Judah. It is the worship of false gods (v. 2). Judgment will come for Babylon “out of the north” like it did for Judah (v. 3 – see 1:14). What happened to Judah will also happen to Babylon. She will be defeated by a mighty nation (Persia – see 51:11, Isa 45:1).
In verse 4, God directs us to “those days and in that time.” This is when Babylon will be judged (v. 3), and the people of God (Judah and Israel coming together often points us to the spiritual people of God) will together repent and seek YHWH and the “way to Zion” (v. 4). The everlasting covenant of verse 5 is the promised New Covenant (see 31:31-34, 32:40). Verse 8 is the calling of the remnant. This all points us to the salvation we have in Christ.
Babylon plundered Judah but will now be plundered herself (v. 10 – see the promise in 30:16-17). Babylon will be a wasteland (v. 12). However, Babylon was taken with relative ease by Persia and there was no massive physical destruction. We see that the wasteland imagery points beyond purely physical destruction. God then describes the coming judgment (vv. 13-16). Just as Assyria was punished for opposing Israel, so Babylon will be punished for opposing Judah (vv. 17-18).
But God is talking about His spiritual people here. This is evident by the description in verses 19-20. Israel (actually, Judah) does indeed repossess Carmel, but never physically possesses Bashan again. Ephraim is in Samaritan territory. Gilead extends beyond the east of the Jordan. There are not lands physically possessed by Israel again. This is picturing the spiritual Israel that extends over the whole earth. We also see that this is God’s spiritual people because it is the remnant that is pardoned for their sin (v. 20).
In verses 21, we see that Babylon is devoted to destruction (also v. 26). But in verse 23, this is applied to them as the rulers of “the whole earth.” They will be destroyed for opposing YHWH (v. 24, 29 – see 48:42). This is the destruction of all the spiritual enemies of God. The whole earth! It is from there that the people of God escape to Zion (the church – v. 28). But the world will be judged “on that day” (v. 30). Verses 31-21 are the judgment of the whole world for their oppression of God’s people (v. 33). Verse 34 is the final judgment and the restoration of all things. In verse 39, spiritual Babylon (the world) is again likened to a wasteland at the final judgment. It will be like Sodom and Gomorrah (see 2 Pet 2:6, Jude 7). Verses 44-46 describe the final judgment, when the cry is heard among the nations.
Chapter 51 continues the pronouncement of judgment on Babylon that points to the final judgment of all the wicked. Israel and Judah (51:5) are the spiritual people of God (again, Israel is already gone forever, and is integrated with the nations as Samaritans). The spiritual remnant is not forsaken. Verses 6-10 again picture the final judgment and ultimate salvation of God’s spiritual people.
In verse 11, we see the Medes (Persia) named as the instrument of God’s judgment against physical Babylon. However, God says this is very much His work (v. 14). He is the One Who created heaven and earth (v. 15) and sovereignly directs the flow of history (v. 16). Idolaters and false gods are powerless (vv. 17-18). God is nothing like them (v. 19).
Verse 24 brings the final judgment back into view. Spiritual Babylon destroys the whole earth (v. 25). Verse 26 excludes those of the world from the spiritual people of God. God then comes back to physical Babylon. He calls Persia against Babylon in verses 27-28, and describes the judgment of Babylon in verses 29-33. In verses 34-37, we see that God will avenge His people for the wrongs done to her by Babylon. This also points to the vengeance He will take against spiritual Babylon for the persecution of His spiritual people.
God then calls His people out of Babylon in verse 45. This is a call to repent and believe, and live not of the world. Verses 47-49 describe the final judgment and the vengeance of God on the world for the blood of the saints (see Rev 18:20). God then through Jeremiah describes once again the coming judgment on Babylon; both physical and spiritual Babylon (vv. 52-58).
In verses 29-64, we see that Jeremiah wrote this prophecy against Babylon, and instructs Seraiah to read it when he gets to Babylon, and then perform an act prophecy. He is to tie the book to a stone and throw it into the Euphrates River and let it sink as a symbol of what is to happen to Babylon (see Rev 18:21). The chapter ends with, more literally, “here are the words of Jeremiah.” The prophecy has come to an end.
Chapter 52 is the historical record of the fall of Judah. This echoes what was written in 2 Kings 24:18-25:21 almost word for word. We see in 52:17 the fulfillment of 27:19. We have added here the count of captives from Judah: 4,600. We see that the remnant that went into captivity was indeed small compared to those put to the sword. The account ends the same way 2 Kings does, with Jehoiachin alive and well in Babylon. The line of David was preserved. God would yet keep His promises.