Day 212: A Messenger is Sent to Babylon

Jeremiah 51:59-64

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. Now Seraiah was chief quartermaster. Jeremiah wrote in a book all the evil that should come on Babylon, even all these words that are written concerning Babylon. Jeremiah said to Seraiah, “When you come to Babylon, then see that you read all these words, and say, ‘Yahweh, you have spoken concerning this place, to cut it off, that no one will dwell in it, neither man nor animal, but that it will be desolate forever.’ It will be, when you have finished reading this book, that you shall bind a stone to it, and cast it into the middle of the Euphrates. Then you shall say, ‘Thus will Babylon sink, and will not rise again because of the evil that I will bring on her; and they will be weary.’ ”

Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.

One thing that I noticed as I read through Jeremiah’s prophesies concerning Babylon is that he frequently mentions water and flooding. This can be a reference to many people coming to attack, but it could also be a reference to an actual flood. Here we read that God is comparing water to the evil that God brings on Babylon that causes her to never rise again. I do wonder if a flood will be involved too though. It could be that in the very end, when the topology of the earth is rearranged, causing Jerusalem to rise high above everything else, that water may flood the land of Babylon. It would make quite an end to the “tale of two cities” theme that I mentioned before.

Here we read about a man named Seraiah who was to take a book of Jeremiah’s prophesy about Babylon, to Babylon with him when he was taken into exile with the Israeli king. This man was instructed to take the book and read it, presumably out loud to the people, and then tie a rock to it and throw it into the Euphrates river. This was to be an example of how God was going to bring evil on Babylon and cause her to never become a city again.

The end of this chapter seems like it would be the end of the book. We know that it was written by Jeremiah because the book is “signed” by Jeremiah in a way, by telling us that these were the words of Jeremiah. There are books in the Bible that don’t tell us who wrote them, but books like this one make it pretty easy. There is one more chapter of this book, however, and another whole book after it that was also written by Jeremiah. I am told that the Jews left both of these books in a single one. It must have been divided by Gentiles in our Bible. It’s good to know that because it makes it clear that the two books do belong together.

Day 210: Epic Themes

Jeremiah 51:49-53

“As Babylon has caused the slain of Israel to fall,
so the slain of all the land will fall at Babylon.
You who have escaped the sword, go!
Don’t stand still!
Remember Yahweh from afar,
and let Jerusalem come into your mind.”

“We are confounded
because we have heard reproach.
Confusion has covered our faces,
for strangers have come into the sanctuaries of Yahweh’s house.”

“Therefore behold, the days come,” says Yahweh,
“that I will execute judgment on her engraved images;
and through all her land the wounded will groan.
Though Babylon should mount up to the sky,
and though she should fortify the height of her strength,
yet destroyers will come to her from me,” says Yahweh.

As I have studied the Bible, I have noticed that there is an epic theme that emerges. It could be called: “The Tale of Two Cities.” I’ve been told that Babylon is the most mentioned city in the Bible after Israel and that makes sense. These two are in conflict with one another. Babylon represents the world and Israel represents God. The world is involved in idolatry and God’s city isn’t supposed to do that. There was a time when God had Babylon destroy Israel, but these verses of Jeremiah help us to see that there is more going on here. God wasn’t done with Israel or Babylon yet.

The world “holy” means: separate. The Bible tells us that God is holy. In a sense, He is separate from both Israel and Babylon and verses like these remind me of that. God intended for Israel to be the city that demonstrated His holiness by showing the world who He is, but instead, they decided to practice idolatry. So, God had them destroyed, but that didn’t let Babylon off the hook for their idolatry. God was still planning to destroy Babylon too, as we read here. God’s holiness will not be disturbed by any city. If anyone chooses to worship another god, they will be destroyed no matter how they started out. In this sense, the two cities became the same for a while, but why would God allow that?

I believe that this shows us yet another epic theme and that is the theme of grace. God allowed Israel to fall into sin so that He could save them by grace. Their works were not allowed to save them. Instead, God’s city was to rise up out of the ashes as a city blessed by the grace of God, not by works, so that no one could boast. Those who trust in their own works cannot build a city strong enough to withstand Babylon, but those who have been saved by God’s grace, rest on the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus must first save Israel and when Israel rises up by grace, the Holy Spirit will make it unstoppable.