A. Babylon winnowed in the wind of God’s judgment.
1. (1-5) A destroying wind against Babylon.
Thus says the LORD:
“Behold, I will raise up against Babylon,
Against those who dwell in Leb Kamai,
A destroying wind.
And I will send winnowers to Babylon,
Who shall winnow her and empty her land.
For in the day of doom
They shall be against her all around.
Against her let the archer bend his bow,
And lift himself up against her in his armor.
Do not spare her young men;
Utterly destroy all her army.
Thus the slain shall fall in the land of the Chaldeans,
And those thrust through in her streets.
For Israel is not forsaken, nor Judah,
By his God, the LORD of hosts,
Though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel.”
a. I will raise up against Babylon: The prophecy of Jeremiah continues from the previous chapter. In what was probably a collection of prophecies against Babylon collected together, God announced His coming judgment against the empire that Yahweh Himself used to bring judgment against Judah.
b. Against those who dwell in Leb Kamai: The phrase Leb Kamai is literally translated The Midst of Those Who Rise Up Against Me. Most regard this as a poetic reference to Babylon.
i. “Leb-kami is an Atbash for Chaldea (so LXX).” (Thompson)
ii. “The use of the Atbash to disguise the identity of the adversary would, in the context of the Exile, and particularly in the early period of the Exile, seem to make historical sense. But one would wonder why a writer would introduce the device at this point when Babylon has been referred to already.” (Thompson)
c. I will send winnowers to Babylon: God used the picture of a destroying wind that would winnow Babylon as grain is processed, with a wind blowing away the useless chaff. They would utterly destroy all her army.
i. I will send winnowers: “When the corn is trodden out with the feet of cattle, or crushed out with a heavy wheel armed with iron, with a shovel they throw it up against the wind, that the chaff and broken straw may be separated from it. This is the image used by the prophet; these people shall be trodden, crushed, and fanned by their enemies.” (Clarke)
ii. Destroying wind: “It is possible, however, that the reference is to ‘the spirit of the destroyer’ (cf. Jeremiah 51:11). In either case the result is the same.” (Thompson)
iii. As in many of the predictions of Jeremiah 51, we have prophecies that were fulfilled in one sense in the conquest of Babylon not far from Jeremiah’s own time. Still, because the Babylon of Jeremiah’s day was defeated yet not utterly destroyed, the devastation predicted in these chapters will have a second and ultimate fulfillment in the last days. This is vividly described in Revelation 17 and 18.
d. For Israel is not forsaken, nor Judah: God’s judgment upon Babylon would be one display of the truth that He had not forsaken His people, but would bring judgment against those who conquered them. His people had sinned, but they were not forsaken of God.
i. It was true in a direct sense that the conquest of Babylon was a blessing for God’s people. They had no release from exile under the Babylonians, but under the Persians, the Jews were allowed to return to the Promised Land.
ii. Israel is not forsaken: “Sin is mighty; but there is one thing that it cannot do, it cannot make God forsake those whom He has adopted into his family.” (Meyer)
2. (6-8) Fleeing from fallen Babylon.
Flee from the midst of Babylon,
And every one save his life!
Do not be cut off in her iniquity,
For this is the time of the LORD’s vengeance;
He shall recompense her.
Babylon was a golden cup in the LORD’s hand,
That made all the earth drunk.
The nations drank her wine;
Therefore the nations are deranged.
Babylon has suddenly fallen and been destroyed.
Wail for her!
Take balm for her pain;
Perhaps she may be healed.
a. Flee from the midst of Babylon: It is never good to remain in a place that is a target of God’s judgment. Because Babylon’s fall was sure, it was best to flee to save one’s life.
i. Here, in verses 6-10, is the seminal picture of Babylon as the metropolis of evil and the seducer of mankind which will be elaborated in Revelation 17-18.” (Kidner)
b. Babylon was a golden cup in the LORD’s hand: Drinking a cup of judgment is a familiar picture in the Hebrew prophets. Here, Babylon is represented as God’s instrument of judgment against the nations, many of which are described in Jeremiah 46-49.
i. “The cup is depicted as a golden cup because of Babylon’s great wealth.” (Thompson)
c. Wail for her: With sarcasm, the prophet mocked Babylon. The nations would not wail over the empire that made them suffer so. They would have no interest in a balm for her pain or her healing.
3. (9-14) The vengeance of God against Babylon.
We would have healed Babylon,
But she is not healed.
Forsake her, and let us go everyone to his own country;
For her judgment reaches to heaven and is lifted up to the skies.
The LORD has revealed our righteousness.
Come and let us declare in Zion the work of the LORD our God.
Make the arrows bright!
Gather the shields!
The LORD has raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes.
For His plan is against Babylon to destroy it,
Because it is the vengeance of the LORD,
The vengeance for His temple.
Set up the standard on the walls of Babylon;
Make the guard strong,
Set up the watchmen,
Prepare the ambushes.
For the LORD has both devised and done
What He spoke against the inhabitants of Babylon.
O you who dwell by many waters,
Abundant in treasures,
Your end has come,
The measure of your covetousness.
The LORD of hosts has sworn by Himself:
“Surely I will fill you with men, as with locusts,
And they shall lift up a shout against you.”
a. Forsake her, and let us go: This is the response of the nations to God’s sarcastic invitation to seek Babylon’s healing (Jeremiah 51:8). They were happy to forsake her and go their own way, leaving her judgment to heaven.
i. Her judgment reaches to heaven and is lifted up to the skies: “Like many such expressions in the OT indicates that the judgment was of vast proportions (cf. Numbers 13:28; Deuteronomy 1:28).” (Thompson)
b. The LORD has revealed our righteousness: The right standing of God’s people was revealed in the eventual judgment of Babylon. This showed that it was not merely a matter of Babylon’s gods being mightier than Yahweh. The eventual judgment of Babylon showed that Yahweh was in control; that He used Babylon as it pleased Him and judged them when it pleased Him. This was a kind of a justification of God’s people and a revelation of their righteousness and of the work of the LORD our God.
i. “By punishing Babylon God has justified the remnant, so that they can emerge from captivity to new life in the homeland.” (Harrison)
ii. “She had now received from Yahweh’s hand adequate compensation for all her iniquity (Isaiah 4:2). Now she would be reinstated and shown to be what she really was, Yahweh’s elect nation.” (Thompson)
c. Make the arrows bright: Using his characteristic powerful and vivid word pictures, Jeremiah envisions the battle coming against Babylon through the kings of the Medes.
i. “The Medes lived in northwest Iran in the general region of the modern Iranian Kurdistan.” (Thompson)
ii. “The Medes were allied with Babylon in the destruction of Nineveh in 612 BC Later they joined the Persians to defeat Babylon in 539 BC (Feinberg)
iii. “It is known that the mother of Cyrus the Persian was a Mede, and the Medes and Persians are linked together several times in the book of Daniel (e.g. Daniel 5:28; 6:8, 12, 15).” (Thompson)
iv. “Of Cyaxares king of Media, called Darius the Mede in Scripture; and of Cyrus king of Persia, presumptive heir of the throne of Cyaxares, his uncle. Cambyses, his father, sent him, Cyrus, with 30,000 men to assist his uncle Cyaxares, against Neriglissar king of Babylon, and by these was Babylon overthrown.” (Clarke)
d. The vengeance for His temple: God’s judgment against Babylon was in part because they destroyed the temple Solomon had built unto the LORD. It was a strange process, repeated often through history.
· God appointed a judgment to come.
· God used a human instrument in that judgment.
· The human instrument was not motivated by God, but by their own sinful desires.
· God brought judgment on the instrument He used.
e. Your end has come, the measure of your covetousness: Jeremiah revealed another reason for God’s judgment against Babylon – their great covetousness. God would give them judgment according to the measure of their covetousness, and that was a big measure.
i. O you who dwell by many waters: “While many waters (Jeremiah 51:13) refers primarily to the Euphrates, it also alludes sarcastically to the great subterranean ocean, a theme prominent in ancient Babylonian mythology. The Babylonians had lived by the erroneous beliefs for many centuries, and they would now die by them.” (Harrison)
f. I will fill you with men, as with locusts: Jeremiah envisioned swarms of invaders and conquerors in the land of Babylon.
i. Lift up a shout: “The noun hedad occurs in Jeremiah 25:30 and 48:33 for the grape-treader’s song. The entry of warriors into Babylon has about it something of the quality of grape-treaders trampling the grapes when the harvest has been taken in.” (Thompson)
4. (15-19) The power of Yawheh contrasts with empty idols.
He has made the earth by His power;
He has established the world by His wisdom,
And stretched out the heaven by His understanding.
When He utters His voice—
There is a multitude of waters in the heavens:
“He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth;
He makes lightnings for the rain;
He brings the wind out of His treasuries.”
Everyone is dull-hearted, without knowledge;
Every metalsmith is put to shame by the carved image;
For his molded image is falsehood,
And there is no breath in them.
They are futile, a work of errors;
In the time of their punishment they shall perish.
The Portion of Jacob is not like them,
For He is the Maker of all things;
And Israel is the tribe of His inheritance.
The LORD of hosts is His name.
a. He has made the earth by His power: Yahweh is not only a God of judgment; His power, His wisdom and His understanding are also evident in creation.
b. He makes lightnings for the rain: Yahweh’s power in creation is not only a thing of the past. He presently works in and through creation.
c. Every metalsmith is put to shame by the carved image: Understanding the greatness of Yahweh makes the idols made by men’s hands seem even more ridiculous. Even the one who makes the idol is ashamed of what he has done.
d. The Portion of Jacob is not like them, for He is the Maker of all things: The work of the metalsmith is powerless; Yahweh is Maker of all things.
i. “The Creator and little Israel are everything to one another: the Creator as Israel’s portion, and Israel as his inheritance.” (Kidner)
ii. The Portion of Jacob: “In human affairs a man’s portion was the inheritance he received from his father. It was his by legal and moral right. So Yahweh was peculiarly the proper inheritance of Israel…Israel had Yahweh as her very own possession, her Portion.” (Thompson)
5. (20-24) Breaking in pieces the might of Babylon.
“You are My battle-ax and weapons of war:
For with you I will break the nation in pieces;
With you I will destroy kingdoms;
With you I will break in pieces the horse and its rider;
With you I will break in pieces the chariot and its rider;
With you also I will break in pieces man and woman;
With you I will break in pieces old and young;
With you I will break in pieces the young man and the maiden;
With you also I will break in pieces the shepherd and his flock;
With you I will break in pieces the farmer and his yoke of oxen;
And with you I will break in pieces governors and rulers.
“And I will repay Babylon
And all the inhabitants of Chaldea
For all the evil they have done
In Zion in your sight,” says the LORD.
a. You are My battle-ax and weapons of war: The God whose power was evident in creation (Jeremiah 51:15-19) also shows His power, wisdom, and understanding in His work of judgment. Using poetic repletion, God called upon the peoples that would come against Babylon to do His work of judgment.
i. “Everything here stresses the indiscriminate ruin that an aggressor spreads around him, whatever his military objectives; yet God is using this cruel instrument before he breaks it.” (Kidner)
ii. “Since Jeremiah 50:23 describes Babylon as ‘the hammer of the whole earth’ it seems best to refer this section to her also. But because of her sin, especially against the Lord’s people (Jeremiah 51:24), she would incur His implacable judgment.” (Cundall)
iii. “Ten times the phrase ‘with you’ falls like hammer blows.” (Feinberg)
iv. Break: “The Hebrew verb nippes indicates a violent and intensive shattering.” (Feinberg)
b. I will repay Babylon: The judgment was to come upon Chaldea not only for their general sins, but specifically for all the evil they have done in Zion.
6. (25-32) Bringing many kingdoms against Babylon.
“Behold, I am against you, O destroying mountain,
Who destroys all the earth,” says the LORD.
“And I will stretch out My hand against you,
Roll you down from the rocks,
And make you a burnt mountain.
They shall not take from you a stone for a corner
Nor a stone for a foundation,
But you shall be desolate forever,” says the LORD.
Set up a banner in the land,
Blow the trumpet among the nations!
Prepare the nations against her,
Call the kingdoms together against her:
Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz.
Appoint a general against her;
Cause the horses to come up like the bristling locusts.
Prepare against her the nations,
With the kings of the Medes,
Its governors and all its rulers,
All the land of his dominion.
And the land will tremble and sorrow;
For every purpose of the LORD shall be performed against Babylon,
To make the land of Babylon a desolation without inhabitant.
The mighty men of Babylon have ceased fighting,
They have remained in their strongholds;
Their might has failed,
They became like women;
They have burned her dwelling places,
The bars of her gate are broken.
One runner will run to meet another,
And one messenger to meet another,
To show the king of Babylon that his city is taken on all sides;
The passages are blocked,
The reeds they have burned with fire,
And the men of war are terrified.
a. Behold, I am against you, O destroying mountain: Here the mighty empire of Babylon is represented as a mountain. The Hebrew prophets sometimes used the figure of a mountain to represent a government or kingdom (as in Daniel 2:35). God would make Babylon as a burnt mountain.
b. Call the kingdoms together against her: When Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians, it was by a confederation of nations. This will also be true in the ultimate destruction of Babylon as described in Revelation 17 and 18.
i. Prepare the nations against her: “Hebrew, Sanctify, call them together to wage this sacred war against Babylon.” (Trapp)
ii. Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz: “Three groups are specified, all of which were to be found in the area of present-day Armenia. Each is known in Assyrian cuneiform texts.” (Thompson)
iii. “The three kingdoms of Jeremiah 51:27, all within Armenia, were part of the empire of the Medes (Jeremiah 51:28), which spread in a great arc to the north of Babylon’s dominions.” (Kidner)
iv. “These three are called to aid the Medes against Babylon.” (Feinberg)
c. Their might has failed, they became like women: The soldiers of Babylon would not be able to stand against their invaders. They would fall in the same terror and confusion of battle they had inflicted upon many others.
i. “The death-throes of the land; the collapse of the soldiers’ morale; and the frantic scurrying of messengers bearing the evil news, are graphically depicted.” (Cundall)
ii. One runner will run to meet another: “In the conduct of warfare in the ancient world specially trained runners brought news from the scene of battle to the king (cf. 2 Samuel 18:19-33). Babylon’s runners were renowned, and it was these men who came running from every direction to announce to the king that the city had fallen.” (Thompson)
iii. The reeds they have burned with fire: “The reedy swamps [surrounding Babylon] were set on fire. The burning of the swamp reeds would deprive refugees of a place to hide and would flush out any who might have escaped there already.” (Thompson)
iv. The reeds: “Or, Marshes, made by Euphrates overflowing. It is well observed that the Babylonians might by this prophecy have been forewarned and forearmed against Cyrus’s stratagem; but they slighted it, and never inquired after it likely.” (Trapp)
B. Babylon on the threshing floor.
1. (33-35) Threshing Babylon as they had threshed Zion.
For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel:
“The daughter of Babylon is like a threshing floor
When it is time to thresh her;
Yet a little while
And the time of her harvest will come.”
“Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon
Has devoured me, he has crushed me;
He has made me an empty vessel,
He has swallowed me up like a monster;
He has filled his stomach with my delicacies,
He has spit me out.
Let the violence done to me and my flesh be upon Babylon,”
The inhabitant of Zion will say;
“And my blood be upon the inhabitants of Chaldea!”
Jerusalem will say.
a. Babylon is like a threshing floor: Earlier, God likened the work of judgment to winnowing (Jeremiah 51:1-2). The threshing floor is another agricultural image – the place where grain is crushed under a stone or the hoofs of an ox. Babylon would be crushed by the coming judgment, and the result would be good like a harvest unto God and His people.
i. “Babylon was a threshing floor to be leveled to the ground. It would be trodden down in preparation for the harvest which was to come.” (Thompson)
b. Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon has devoured me, he has crushed me: Nebuchadnezzar treated the inhabitant of Zion as his own threshing floor, bringing a crushing judgment to them. Therefore, Zion and Jerusalem take satisfaction in the same violence done unto Babylon.
i. “Nebuchadnezzar had devoured Jerusalem with the greedy gulp of a monster (NEB dragon), and for his excess his land would be punished.” (Harrison)
ii. “Nebuchadnezzar is compared with a gluttonous man devouring Jerusalem and setting her aside as one does an empty vessel whose contents have been quaffed.” (Thompson)
2. (36-40) Babylon like lambs to the slaughter.
Therefore thus says the LORD:
“Behold, I will plead your case and take vengeance for you.
I will dry up her sea and make her springs dry.
Babylon shall become a heap,
A dwelling place for jackals,
An astonishment and a hissing,
Without an inhabitant.
They shall roar together like lions,
They shall growl like lions’ whelps.
In their excitement I will prepare their feasts;
I will make them drunk,
That they may rejoice,
And sleep a perpetual sleep
And not awake,” says the LORD.
“I will bring them down
Like lambs to the slaughter,
Like rams with male goats.
a. I will plead your case and take vengeance for you: Yahweh pledged to take up the cause of Judah and Jerusalem, bringing Babylon to judgment and desolation.
i. I will plead your case: “The term rib points to a legal process and is used in several contexts in Jeremiah. …Here, Yahweh pleads Israel’s cause as he conducts his case against Babylon.” (Thompson)
b. I will make them drunk: The conquest of Babylon came as her rulers enjoyed a drunken feast (Daniel 5).
i. “According to Herodotus, ‘owing to the great size of the city the outskirts were captured without the people in the centre knowing anything about it: there was a festival going on, and they continued to dance and enjoy themselves, until they learned the news the hard way’.” (Kidner)
ii. Sleep a perpetual sleep: “As it was in the night the city was taken, many had retired to rest, and never awoke; slain in their beds, they slept a perpetual sleep.” (Clarke)
3. (41-48) Punishing Babylon and her idols.
“Oh, how Sheshach is taken!
Oh, how the praise of the whole earth is seized!
How Babylon has become desolate among the nations!
The sea has come up over Babylon;
She is covered with the multitude of its waves.
Her cities are a desolation,
A dry land and a wilderness,
A land where no one dwells,
Through which no son of man passes.
I will punish Bel in Babylon,
And I will bring out of his mouth what he has swallowed;
And the nations shall not stream to him anymore.
Yes, the wall of Babylon shall fall.
“My people, go out of the midst of her!
And let everyone deliver himself from the fierce anger of the LORD.
And lest your heart faint,
And you fear for the rumor that will be heard in the land
(A rumor will come one year,
And after that, in another year
A rumor will come,
And violence in the land,
Ruler against ruler),
Therefore behold, the days are coming
That I will bring judgment on the carved images of Babylon;
Her whole land shall be ashamed,
And all her slain shall fall in her midst.
Then the heavens and the earth and all that is in them
Shall sing joyously over Babylon;
For the plunderers shall come to her from the north,” says the LORD.
a. How Sheshach is taken: As before in Jeremiah 25:26, Babylon is referred to as Sheshach – a code name for the Babylonians.
i. “Following Jerome, many hold that the name is a cipher (code) that stands for Babylon. The cipher is known as Atbash, a system of secret writing that substituted the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet for the first, and next to the last for the second, and so through all the Hebrew consonants.” (Feinberg)
ii. “Another possibility is that the Babylonians themselves made use of the Atbash and that Sheshak was an alternate name. There is some evidence that this was so.” (Thompson)
b. The sea has come up over Babylon: Jeremiah used the sea as a figure of speech regarding landlocked Babylon. She would be overwhelmed by the coming judgment of God, left a desolation and a land where no one dwells.
c. Yes, the wall of Babylon has fallen: The defenses of Babylon were compromised when she was conquered by the Medes and Persians, so in a symbolic sense the wall of Babylon fell. Yet an even more literal fulfillment will come when Babylon the Great is felled (Revelation 17 and 18).
d. My people, go out of the midst of her: This was a helpful call to God’s people in exile, that they should not put their trust, confidence, and resources into a kingdom that would be judged and conquered. Regarding the ultimate judgment of Babylon, it is a call for believers to heed today and in the future (Revelation 18:4).
e. Then the heavens and the earth and all that is in them shall sing joyously over Babylon: The righteous rejoice – even singing with joy – over the justice and judgments of God.
i. “This is an exaggerated personification. There shall be, as it were, a new face set upon the world, and all the creatures shall appear to be well paid at the downfall of Babylon, under the oppressions whereof they even groaned and laboured.” (Trapp)
4. (49-56) Babylon that plundered the LORD’s house will be plundered.
As Babylon has caused the slain of Israel to fall,
So at Babylon the slain of all the earth shall fall.
You who have escaped the sword,
Get away! Do not stand still!
Remember the LORD afar off,
And let Jerusalem come to your mind.
We are ashamed because we have heard reproach.
Shame has covered our faces,
For strangers have come into the sanctuaries of the LORD’s house.
“Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD,
“That I will bring judgment on her carved images,
And throughout all her land the wounded shall groan.
Though Babylon were to mount up to heaven,
And though she were to fortify the height of her strength,
Yet from Me plunderers would come to her,” says the LORD.
The sound of a cry comes from Babylon,
And great destruction from the land of the Chaldeans,
Because the LORD is plundering Babylon
And silencing her loud voice,
Though her waves roar like great waters,
And the noise of their voice is uttered,
Because the plunderer comes against her, against Babylon,
And her mighty men are taken.
Every one of their bows is broken;
For the LORD is the God of recompense,
He will surely repay.
a. As Babylon has caused the slain of Israel to fall: Jeremiah continues this prominent theme in Jeremiah 50-51. Because of what Babylon did to Judah and Jerusalem, judgment would come upon them.
b. Remember the LORD afar off: Knowing the coming judgment upon Babylon, it was right for God’s people to take the warning, to get away from her, and to remember the LORD in humble repentance.
i. “The term remember (zakar) generally involves something more than mere mental recall. The act of remembering involves an active identification of one’s whole being with the object of remembering.” (Thompson)
c. Shame has covered our faces: Jeremiah described the sense of shame felt by God’s people when strangers invaded and destroyed the sanctuaries of the LORD’s house. This was part of the pain of judgment that came upon Judah and Jerusalem.
i. “The lament of Jeremiah 51:51 arises from the fact that the desecration of the Temple appeared to involve Yahweh’s inferiority, but the desolation of Babylon would reveal the utter impotence of her idols.” (Cundall)
d. Though Babylon were to mount up to heaven: This is an allusion to the Tower of Babel, constructed as a defense and in defiance against God (Genesis 11:1-9). God came against that tower and would come against the height of her strength in Jeremiah’s era and beyond.
i. “The towering ziggurats (cf. NEB their high towers) and palaces of Babylon are neither inaccessible nor impregnable, and soon will collapse in ruins.” (Harrison)
e. For the LORD is the God of recompense, He will surely repay: Babylon would receive judgment in a pure form. The evil they had done to others would be done to them.
5. (57-58) Babylon’s broken walls.
“And I will make drunk
Her princes and wise men,
Her governors, her deputies, and her mighty men.
And they shall sleep a perpetual sleep
And not awake,” says the King,
Whose name is the LORD of hosts.
Thus says the LORD of hosts:
“The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken,
And her high gates shall be burned with fire;
The people will labor in vain,
And the nations, because of the fire;
And they shall be weary.”
a. I will make drunk her princes and wise men: This aspect of Babylon’s judgment was exactly fulfilled in Jeremiah’s era (Daniel 5).
b. The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken: This aspect of Babylon’s judgment was not literally fulfilled in Jeremiah’s era; it waits for a final fulfillment that will certainly come (Revelation 17-18).
i. “Babylon as a spirit was not then destroyed. Like an evil spirit it found other places in which to dwell, and work its designs, and through which to exercise its dark and baleful influence among men. And this because, at the very core of Babylon, is Satan himself.” (Morgan)
ii. Babylon did have broad walls. “In addition to the two massive walls surrounding the heart of Babylon, an inner one some 21 feet thick and an outer one over 12 feet thick, there were great walls thrown up at intervals beyond the city.” (Thompson)
C. The postscript to Jeremiah’s prophecy against Babylon.
1. (59-60) Zedekiah’s visit to Babylon.
The word which Jeremiah the prophet commanded Seraiah the son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, when he went with Zedekiah the king of Judah to Babylon in the fourth year of his reign. And Seraiah was the quartermaster. So Jeremiah wrote in a book all the evil that would come upon Babylon, all these words that are written against Babylon.
a. The word which Jeremiah the prophet commanded: The prophecy of Jeremiah 50 and Jeremiah 51 was from the LORD, yet came through His servant Jeremiah.
b. In the fourth year of his reign: This was not a year when Babylon came against Judah. It was a year when Zedekiah and neighboring kings plotted a rebellion against Babylon when she seemed weakened (Jeremiah 27). This journey of King Zedekiah to Babylon is not recorded elsewhere and was likely to make things right with Nebuchadnezzar after the plot.
i. “This was the year of the plot to rebel against Babylon recorded in Jeremiah 27. Zedekiah seems to have been implicated in the plot. Although the plot was abortive, Nebuchadnezzar’s ‘intelligence’ got wind of it and some explanation was needed.” (Thompson)
ii. “Zedekiah’s summons to Babylon was doubtless to make sure of his loyalty, perhaps in view of reports that envoys of five neighboring states had been conferring with him at Jerusalem.” (Kidner)
c. Seriah the son of Neriah: Jeremiah sent a copy of these prophesies against Babylon with Seriah, who was a Judean quartermaster taken to Babylon in exile with Zedekiah king of Judah.
i. “Seriah was the grandson of the high priest Hilkiah who had discovered the lost book of the law in Josiah’s reign. He was himself the grandfather of Joshua-ben-Jozdak, the high priest at the return from exile. So the family line survived his violent death, and another branch of it would produce the great Ezra, a century hence.” (Kidner)
ii. Quartermaster: Seriah was “the staff officer who was responsible for looking after the comfort of the king of Judah whenever he stopped for the night.” (Feinberg)
iii. “Like his brother Baruch (Jeremiah 32:12; 36:1-10), Seraiah served as Jeremiah’s spokesperson. (Also like Baruch, his name has been found on an ancient seal).” (Ryken)
2. (61-64) A graphic illustration of Babylon’s coming judgment.
And Jeremiah said to Seraiah, “When you arrive in Babylon and see it, and read all these words, then you shall say, ‘O LORD, You have spoken against this place to cut it off, so that none shall remain in it, neither man nor beast, but it shall be desolate forever.’ Now it shall be, when you have finished reading this book, that you shall tie a stone to it and throw it out into the Euphrates. Then you shall say, ‘Thus Babylon shall sink and not rise from the catastrophe that I will bring upon her. And they shall be weary.’” Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.
a. When you arrive in Babylon: Jeremiah gave a copy of the prophecy to Seriah because he did not go to Babylon himself. Jeremiah ended his days in Egypt.
b. Read all these words: Jeremiah instructed Seriah to read this prophecy and then say a certain prayer after the words had been read, announcing the coming judgment upon Babylon.
i. “This visit of Zedekiah was the aftermath of an abortive attempt at rebellion by an alliance of states, including Judah, to which Jeremiah was diametrically opposed. It is significant that at the very time when he was counseling submission to Babylon he could also foretell, in such uncompromising terms, her ultimate overthrow.” (Cundall)
c. Tie a stone to it and throw it out into the Euphrates: Jeremiah told Seriah to literally take the scroll, weight it with a stone, and then throw it into the Euphrates as a graphic illustration of the catastrophe of judgment that would soon sink Babylon.
i. “Seriah’s symbolic act was a visual enactment of the fall of Babylon. …It is remarkable that at the very time Jeremiah was advising submission to that city, he was also foretelling her final overthrow.” (Feinberg)
ii. “The scroll never surfaced. Like the Babylonian empire, it stayed submerged.” (Ryken)
iii. “The symbolic action would be repeated still more impressively in John’s vision of the Babylon of the Apocalypse: Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, ‘So shall Babylon, that great city be thrown down with violence, and shall be found no more.’” (Kidner)
iv. “Ceremonies are to little purpose unless they have divine expositions annexed unto them.” (Trapp)