While we’re on a prophetic tour of the nations around Israel, it might be helpful to do a little geography review so we’re familiar with what Jeremiah is talking about.
Yesterday we read God’s prophecies regarding Egypt, the Philistines, and Moab. Egypt sits at the Northeast corner of Africa, and was a place of refuge for Abraham, Jacob, and their descendants. Up on the southern shore of the Dead Sea sits Edom, the home of Esau’s descendants. Working northward around the sea is Moab, followed by Ammon, both children of Abraham’s nephew, Lot. To the Northeast of Israel was the kingdom of Aram (or Syria), with its capital of Damascus. And looping westward to the Great Sea you’ll find Tyre and Sidon, seafaring traders of the Mediterranean. Much further to the east sits Elam, with its ancient culture around Susa.
Each of these nations had mixed relations with Judah and Israel. When David and Solomon reigned, all but Egypt, Tyre and Elam had paid tribute to Israel. Most had exploited the strife of the divided kingdom and were at times allied with or at odds with Judah and Israel. And they all would soon have Babylonian conquest in common.
The LORD accuses Ammon of stealing land from Israel, and tells Moab “because you trusted in your works and your treasures, you also shall be taken.” Edom is dispossessed, possibly – as the LORD had promised in Numbers 24 – for their refusal to help Israel during the Exodus. It’s unclear why Elam and Hazor incurred the LORD’s wrath, and as with narratives, it’s wise not to speculate.
By far the greatest focus is on the coming judgment of Babylon. After a thousand years under Assyria’s yoke the Chaldeans had only recently united the Middle East under their banner, and already their days were numbered. “For behold,” the LORD says, “I am stirring up and bringing against Babylon a gathering of great nations, from the north country.” For though they had served the LORD’s purpose in judging His people, Israel’s “Redeemer is strong; He will surely plead their cause.”
Our verse for this week is Psalm 51:10: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Jeremiah 49 and 50. Now let’s read it!
Jeremiah 49 - 50
49:1 Concerning the Ammonites.
Thus says the LORD:
“Has Israel no sons?
Has he no heir?
Why then has Milcom dispossessed Gad,
and his people settled in its cities?
Therefore, behold, the days are coming,
declares the LORD,
when I will cause the battle cry to be heard
against Rabbah of the Ammonites;
it shall become a desolate mound,
and its villages shall be burned with fire;
then Israel shall dispossess those who dispossessed him,
says the LORD.
“Wail, O Heshbon, for Ai is laid waste!
Cry out, O daughters of Rabbah!
Put on sackcloth,
lament, and run to and fro among the hedges!
For Milcom shall go into exile,
with his priests and his officials.
Why do you boast of your valleys,
O faithless daughter,
who trusted in her treasures, saying,
‘Who will come against me?’
Behold, I will bring terror upon you,
declares the Lord GOD of hosts,
from all who are around you,
and you shall be driven out, every man straight before him,
with none to gather the fugitives.
“But afterward I will restore the fortunes of the Ammonites, declares the LORD.”
Thus says the LORD of hosts:
“Is wisdom no more in Teman?
Has counsel perished from the prudent?
Has their wisdom vanished?
Flee, turn back, dwell in the depths,
O inhabitants of Dedan!
For I will bring the calamity of Esau upon him,
the time when I punish him.
If grape gatherers came to you,
would they not leave gleanings?
If thieves came by night,
would they not destroy only enough for themselves?
But I have stripped Esau bare;
I have uncovered his hiding places,
and he is not able to conceal himself.
His children are destroyed, and his brothers,
and his neighbors; and he is no more.
Leave your fatherless children; I will keep them alive;
and let your widows trust in me.”
For thus says the LORD: “If those who did not deserve to drink the cup must drink it, will you go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished, but you must drink. For I have sworn by myself, declares the LORD, that Bozrah shall become a horror, a taunt, a waste, and a curse, and all her cities shall be perpetual wastes.”
I have heard a message from the LORD,
and an envoy has been sent among the nations:
“Gather yourselves together and come against her,
and rise up for battle!
For behold, I will make you small among the nations,
despised among mankind.
The horror you inspire has deceived you,
and the pride of your heart,
you who live in the clefts of the rock,
who hold the height of the hill.
Though you make your nest as high as the eagle's,
I will bring you down from there,
declares the LORD.
“Edom shall become a horror. Everyone who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss because of all its disasters. As when Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring cities were overthrown, says the LORD, no man shall dwell there, no man shall sojourn in her. Behold, like a lion coming up from the jungle of the Jordan against a perennial pasture, I will suddenly make him run away from her. And I will appoint over her whomever I choose. For who is like me? Who will summon me? What shepherd can stand before me? Therefore hear the plan that the LORD has made against Edom and the purposes that he has formed against the inhabitants of Teman: Even the little ones of the flock shall be dragged away. Surely their fold shall be appalled at their fate. At the sound of their fall the earth shall tremble; the sound of their cry shall be heard at the Red Sea. Behold, one shall mount up and fly swiftly like an eagle and spread his wings against Bozrah, and the heart of the warriors of Edom shall be in that day like the heart of a woman in her birth pains.”
“Hamath and Arpad are confounded,
for they have heard bad news;
they melt in fear,
they are troubled like the sea that cannot be quiet.
Damascus has become feeble, she turned to flee,
and panic seized her;
anguish and sorrows have taken hold of her,
as of a woman in labor.
How is the famous city not forsaken,
the city of my joy?
Therefore her young men shall fall in her squares,
and all her soldiers shall be destroyed in that day,
declares the LORD of hosts.
And I will kindle a fire in the wall of Damascus,
and it shall devour the strongholds of Ben-hadad.”
Concerning Kedar and the kingdoms of Hazor that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon struck down.
Thus says the LORD:
“Rise up, advance against Kedar!
Destroy the people of the east!
Their tents and their flocks shall be taken,
their curtains and all their goods;
their camels shall be led away from them,
and men shall cry to them: ‘Terror on every side!’
Flee, wander far away, dwell in the depths,
O inhabitants of Hazor!
declares the LORD.
For Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon
has made a plan against you
and formed a purpose against you.
“Rise up, advance against a nation at ease,
that dwells securely,
declares the LORD,
that has no gates or bars,
that dwells alone.
Their camels shall become plunder,
their herds of livestock a spoil.
I will scatter to every wind
those who cut the corners of their hair,
and I will bring their calamity
from every side of them,
declares the LORD.
Hazor shall become a haunt of jackals,
an everlasting waste;
no man shall dwell there;
no man shall sojourn in her.”
The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning Elam, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah.
Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Behold, I will break the bow of Elam, the mainstay of their might. And I will bring upon Elam the four winds from the four quarters of heaven. And I will scatter them to all those winds, and there shall be no nation to which those driven out of Elam shall not come. I will terrify Elam before their enemies and before those who seek their life. I will bring disaster upon them, my fierce anger, declares the LORD. I will send the sword after them, until I have consumed them, and I will set my throne in Elam and destroy their king and officials, declares the LORD.
“But in the latter days I will restore the fortunes of Elam, declares the LORD.”
50:1 The word that the LORD spoke concerning Babylon, concerning the land of the Chaldeans, by Jeremiah the prophet:
“Declare among the nations and proclaim,
set up a banner and proclaim,
conceal it not, and say:
‘Babylon is taken,
Bel is put to shame,
Merodach is dismayed.
Her images are put to shame,
her idols are dismayed.’
“For out of the north a nation has come up against her, which shall make her land a desolation, and none shall dwell in it; both man and beast shall flee away.
“In those days and in that time, declares the LORD, the people of Israel and the people of Judah shall come together, weeping as they come, and they shall seek the LORD their God. They shall ask the way to Zion, with faces turned toward it, saying, ‘Come, let us join ourselves to the LORD in an everlasting covenant that will never be forgotten.’
“My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains. From mountain to hill they have gone. They have forgotten their fold. All who found them have devoured them, and their enemies have said, ‘We are not guilty, for they have sinned against the LORD, their habitation of righteousness, the LORD, the hope of their fathers.’
“Flee from the midst of Babylon, and go out of the land of the Chaldeans, and be as male goats before the flock. For behold, I am stirring up and bringing against Babylon a gathering of great nations, from the north country. And they shall array themselves against her. From there she shall be taken. Their arrows are like a skilled warrior who does not return empty-handed. Chaldea shall be plundered; all who plunder her shall be sated, declares the LORD.
“Though you rejoice, though you exult,
O plunderers of my heritage,
though you frolic like a heifer in the pasture,
and neigh like stallions,
your mother shall be utterly shamed,
and she who bore you shall be disgraced.
Behold, she shall be the last of the nations,
a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert.
Because of the wrath of the LORD she shall not be inhabited
but shall be an utter desolation;
everyone who passes by Babylon shall be appalled,
and hiss because of all her wounds.
Set yourselves in array against Babylon all around,
all you who bend the bow;
shoot at her, spare no arrows,
for she has sinned against the LORD.
Raise a shout against her all around;
she has surrendered;
her bulwarks have fallen;
her walls are thrown down.
For this is the vengeance of the LORD:
take vengeance on her;
do to her as she has done.
Cut off from Babylon the sower,
and the one who handles the sickle in time of harvest;
because of the sword of the oppressor,
every one shall turn to his own people,
and every one shall flee to his own land.
“Israel is a hunted sheep driven away by lions. First the king of Assyria devoured him, and now at last Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has gnawed his bones. Therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing punishment on the king of Babylon and his land, as I punished the king of Assyria. I will restore Israel to his pasture, and he shall feed on Carmel and in Bashan, and his desire shall be satisfied on the hills of Ephraim and in Gilead. In those days and in that time, declares the LORD, iniquity shall be sought in Israel, and there shall be none, and sin in Judah, and none shall be found, for I will pardon those whom I leave as a remnant.
“Go up against the land of Merathaim,
and against the inhabitants of Pekod.
Kill, and devote them to destruction,
declares the LORD,
and do all that I have commanded you.
The noise of battle is in the land,
and great destruction!
How the hammer of the whole earth
is cut down and broken!
How Babylon has become
a horror among the nations!
I set a snare for you and you were taken, O Babylon,
and you did not know it;
you were found and caught,
because you opposed the LORD.
The LORD has opened his armory
and brought out the weapons of his wrath,
for the Lord GOD of hosts has a work to do
in the land of the Chaldeans.
Come against her from every quarter;
open her granaries;
pile her up like heaps of grain, and devote her to destruction;
let nothing be left of her.
Kill all her bulls;
let them go down to the slaughter.
Woe to them, for their day has come,
the time of their punishment.
“A voice! They flee and escape from the land of Babylon, to declare in Zion the vengeance of the LORD our God, vengeance for his temple.
“Summon archers against Babylon, all those who bend the bow. Encamp around her; let no one escape. Repay her according to her deeds; do to her according to all that she has done. For she has proudly defied the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. Therefore her young men shall fall in her squares, and all her soldiers shall be destroyed on that day, declares the LORD.
“Behold, I am against you, O proud one,
declares the Lord GOD of hosts,
for your day has come,
the time when I will punish you.
The proud one shall stumble and fall,
with none to raise him up,
and I will kindle a fire in his cities,
and it will devour all that is around him.
“Thus says the LORD of hosts: The people of Israel are oppressed, and the people of Judah with them. All who took them captive have held them fast; they refuse to let them go. Their Redeemer is strong; the LORD of hosts is his name. He will surely plead their cause, that he may give rest to the earth, but unrest to the inhabitants of Babylon.
“A sword against the Chaldeans, declares the LORD,
and against the inhabitants of Babylon,
and against her officials and her wise men!
A sword against the diviners,
that they may become fools!
A sword against her warriors,
that they may be destroyed!
A sword against her horses and against her chariots,
and against all the foreign troops in her midst,
that they may become women!
A sword against all her treasures,
that they may be plundered!
A drought against her waters,
that they may be dried up!
For it is a land of images,
and they are mad over idols.
“Therefore wild beasts shall dwell with hyenas in Babylon, and ostriches shall dwell in her. She shall never again have people, nor be inhabited for all generations. As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring cities, declares the LORD, so no man shall dwell there, and no son of man shall sojourn in her.
“Behold, a people comes from the north;
a mighty nation and many kings
are stirring from the farthest parts of the earth.
They lay hold of bow and spear;
they are cruel and have no mercy.
The sound of them is like the roaring of the sea;
they ride on horses,
arrayed as a man for battle
against you, O daughter of Babylon!
“The king of Babylon heard the report of them,
and his hands fell helpless;
anguish seized him,
pain as of a woman in labor.
“Behold, like a lion coming up from the thicket of the Jordan against a perennial pasture, I will suddenly make them run away from her, and I will appoint over her whomever I choose. For who is like me? Who will summon me? What shepherd can stand before me? Therefore hear the plan that the LORD has made against Babylon, and the purposes that he has formed against the land of the Chaldeans: Surely the little ones of their flock shall be dragged away; surely their fold shall be appalled at their fate. At the sound of the capture of Babylon the earth shall tremble, and her cry shall be heard among the nations.”