New European Version: Old Testament

Deeper commentary on this chapter

Audio talks on this chapter:


Video presentations on this chapter:


Other material relevant to this chapter:

The judgment of Babylon

Hear this chapter read:



About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

CHAPTER 51 Aug. 29 
More Judgement against Babylon
Thus says Yahweh: Behold, I will raise up a destroying wind against Babylon and against those who dwell in Lebkamai. 2I will send to Babylon strangers who shall winnow her; and they shall empty her land: for in the day of trouble they shall be against her around. 3Against him who bends let the archer bend his bow, and against him who lifts himself up in his coat of mail: don’t spare her young men; utterly destroy all her army. 4They shall fall down slain in the land of the Chaldeans, and thrust through in her streets. 5For neither Israel nor Judah is forsaken, of his God, of Yahweh of Armies; though their land is full of guilt against the Holy One of Israel. 6Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and save every man his life; don’t be cut off in her iniquity: for it is the time of Yahweh’s vengeance; He will render to her a recompense. 7Babylon has been a golden cup in Yahweh’s hand, who made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunk of her wine; therefore the nations are mad. 8Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed: wail for her; take her balm for her pain, if so be she may be healed. 9We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed: forsake her, and let us go each one into his own country; for her judgement reaches to the sky, and is lifted up even to heaven. 10Yahweh has brought forth our righteousness: come, and let us declare in Zion the work of Yahweh our God. 11Make sharp the arrows; hold firm the shields: Yahweh has stirred up the spirit of the kings of the Medes; because His purpose is against Babylon to destroy it: for it is the revenge of Yahweh, the revenge for His temple. 12Set up a standard against the walls of Babylon, make the watch strong, set the watchmen, prepare the ambushes; for Yahweh has both purposed and done that which He spoke concerning the inhabitants of Babylon. 13You who dwell on many waters, abundant in treasures, your end has come, the measure of your covetousness. 14Yahweh of Armies has sworn by Himself saying, Surely I will fill you with men, as a swarm of locusts; and they shall lift up a shout against you.
A Hymn of Praise to God
15He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, and by His understanding has He stretched out the heavens: 16when He utters His voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and He causes the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain, and brings forth the wind out of His treasuries. 17Every man has become a brute, without knowledge. Every goldsmith is disappointed by his image; for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them. 18They are vanity, a work of delusion: in the time of their visitation they shall perish. 19The portion of Jacob is not like these; for He is the former of all things; and Jacob is the tribe of His inheritance: Yahweh of Armies is His name. 20You are my battle axe and weapons of war: and with you will I break in pieces the nations; and with you will I destroy kingdoms; 21and with you will I break in pieces the horse and his rider; 22and with you will I break in pieces the chariot and him who rides therein; and with you will I break in pieces man and woman; and with you will I break in pieces the old man and the youth; and with you will I break in pieces the young man and the virgin; 23and with you will I break in pieces the shepherd and his flock; and with you will I break in pieces the farmer and his yoke; and with you will I break in pieces governors and deputies.
Babylon to Be Desolate Forever
24I will render to Babylon and to all the inhabitants of Chaldea all their evil that they have done in Zion in your sight, says Yahweh. 25Behold, I am against you, destroying mountain, says Yahweh, which destroys all the land; and I will stretch out My hand on you and roll you down from the rocks, and will make you a burnt mountain. 26They shall not take of you a stone for a corner, nor a stone for foundations; but you shall be desolate for ever, says Yahweh. 27Set up a standard in the land, blow the trumpet among the nations, prepare the nations against her, call together against her the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz: appoint a marshal against her; cause the horses to come up as the rough canker worm. 28Prepare against her the nations, the kings of the Medes, its governors, and all its deputies, and all the land of their dominion. 29The land trembles and is in pain; for the plans of Yahweh against Babylon do stand, to make the land of Babylon a desolation without inhabitant. 30The mighty men of Babylon have declined to fight, they remain in their strongholds; their might has failed; they are become as women: her dwelling places are set on fire; her bars are broken. 31One runner will run to meet another, and one messenger to meet another, to show the king of Babylon that his city is taken on every quarter: 32and the passages are seized, and the reeds they have burned with fire, and the men of war are frightened. 33For thus says Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel: The daughter of Babylon is like a threshing floor at the time when it is trodden; yet a little while, and the time of harvest shall come for her. 34Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon has devoured me, he has crushed me, he has made me an empty vessel, he has, like a monster, swallowed me up, he has filled his maw with my delicacies; he has cast me out. 35The violence done to me and to my flesh be on Babylon, shall the inhabitant of Zion say; and, my blood be on the inhabitants of Chaldea, shall Jerusalem say. 36Therefore thus says Yahweh: Behold, I will plead your cause, and take vengeance for you; and I will dry up her sea, and make her fountain dry. 37Babylon shall become heaps, a dwelling place for jackals, an astonishment and a hissing, without inhabitant. 38They shall roar together like young lions; they shall growl as lions’ cubs. 39When they are heated, I will make their feast, and I will make them drunken, that they may rejoice, and sleep a perpetual sleep and not wake, says Yahweh. 40I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter, like rams with male goats. 41How is Sheshach taken and the praise of the whole earth seized! How is Babylon become a desolation among the nations! 42The sea has come up on Babylon; she is covered with the multitude of its waves. 43Her cities are become a desolation, a dry land and a desert, a land in which no man dwells, neither does any son of man pass thereby. 44I will execute judgement on Bel in Babylon, and I will bring forth out of his mouth that which he has swallowed up; and the nations shall not flow any more to him: yes, the wall of Babylon shall fall.
Hope for God's People
45My people, go away from the midst of her, and save yourselves every man from the fierce anger of Yahweh. 46Don’t let your heart faint, neither fear for the news that shall be heard in the land; for news shall come one year, and after that in another year shall come news, and violence in the land, ruler against ruler. 47Therefore behold the days come, that I will execute judgement on the engraved images of Babylon; and her whole land shall be confounded; and all her slain shall fall in the midst of her. 48Then the heavens and the earth, and all that is therein, shall sing for joy over Babylon; for the destroyers shall come to her from the north, says Yahweh. 49As Babylon has caused the slain of Israel to fall, so at Babylon shall fall the slain of all the land. 50You who have escaped the sword, go, don’t stand still; remember Yahweh from afar, and let Jerusalem come into your mind. 51We are confounded, because we have heard reproach; confusion has covered our faces: for strangers have come into the sanctuaries of Yahweh’s house. 52Therefore behold, the days come, says Yahweh, that I will execute judgement on her engraved images; and through all her land the wounded shall groan. 53Though Babylon should mount up to the sky, and though she should fortify the height of her strength, yet from Me shall destroyers come to her, says Yahweh. 54The sound of a cry from Babylon, and of great destruction from the land of the Chaldeans! 55For Yahweh lays Babylon waste, and destroys out of her the great voice; and their waves roar like many waters; the noise of their voice is uttered: 56for the destroyer has come on her, even on Babylon, and her mighty men are taken, their bows are broken in pieces; for Yahweh is a God of recompenses, He will surely requite. 57I will make drunk her princes and her wise men, her governors and her deputies, and her mighty men; and they shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake up, says the King whose name is Yahweh of Armies. 58Thus says Yahweh of Armies: The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly overthrown, and her high gates shall be burned with fire; and the peoples shall labour for vanity, and the nations for the fire; and they shall be weary.
Jeremiah Gives a Scroll to Seraiah
59The 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. 60Jeremiah wrote in a book all the evil that should come on Babylon, even all these words that are written concerning Babylon. 61Jeremiah said to Seraiah, When you come to Babylon, then see that you read all these words, 62and say, Yahweh, You have spoken concerning this place to cut it off, that none shall dwell therein, neither man nor animal, but that it shall be desolate forever. 63It shall be, when you have made an end of reading this book, that you shall bind a stone to it, and cast it into the midst of the Euphrates: 64and you shall say, Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise again because of the evil that I will bring on her; and they shall be weary. Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.


51:1 A destroying wind- The Hebrew ruach translated “wind” is also translated “spirit”; God makes His Angels spirits (Ps. 104:4; Heb. 1:7). The reference seems to be to a specific Angel who was given the task of destroying Babylon; rather like the Angel who slew the firstborn of Egypt and the faithless Israelites in the wilderness is called “the destroyer” (1 Cor. 10:10). God gives His Angels specific tasks to perform, in the same way as He works with us and will work with us when we take over the Angels’ role in the future Kingdom on earth (Lk. 20:35,36; Heb. 2:5). We have even now been given specific work to do, and we should pray to perceive what that is (Eph. 2:10). Also note that the apparently ‘negative’ phenomena in human life, “evil” in the sense of destruction, come from God through His Angels designated to perform that work- there is no personal Satan figure who is out of God’s control and working against Him.
51:6 Quoted about us in Rev. 18:4; see on 50:8.
51:8 Wail for her; take her balm for her pain, if so be she may be healed- If God wanted to save even Babylon, how much more is He eager to save us who do believe in and love Him. After all the prophecies of destruction against Babylon, they could all have been averted if she had been taken the message of repentance by the Jews and had accepted it. But part of the problem was that the Jews were comfortable in Babylon [see on 50:8] and therefore they didn’t see she needed to repent too much, and they didn’t preach this to her. One of the reasons we don’t preach to this world is because we are too comfortable within it, as Judah was in Babylon.
51:9 Her judgement... is lifted up even to Heaven – But sins are described as rising up to Heaven (2 Chron. 28:9)- here the judgement for them is spoken of as also rising up to Heaven (same Hebrew words). Sin and judgment are therefore paralleled. Sin is its own judgment. Whenever we commit sin, we do so knowing (at least in one part of our brain) the judgment / condemnation which it is. In this sense, we know God’s judgments, and the coming day of judgment shouldn’t therefore be some totally unknown situation for us. For we have His judgments revealed ahead of time in His word.
51:12 Yahweh has both purposed and done that which He spoke- The idea of God 'preparing' implies that there is therefore a gap between the plan being made, and it being executed- hence the statement here that He has planned and done as planned (see too 4:28; Lam. 2:17; Is. 22:11; 37:26; Zech. 1:6; 8:14). This ‘gap’ is significant when we come to consider the idea of God’s ‘repentance’ or change of mind- stating something is going to happen, but then changing His mind because of human behaviour during the ‘time gap’ between the statement and its’ execution. How then are we to understand God’s capacity to know the future? All we can say is that God Almighty throws Himself into our experience, by limiting Himself to our kind of time- with all the suspense, hope, excitement, joy, disappointment which this involves. Often we read of how God says He is planning evil and devising a plan against His enemies (18:11; 26:3; 49:20,30; 50:45; Mic. 2:3; 4:12). But having shared with us His plans through the prophets, He is open to being persuaded not to perform them- as we see in the case of Nineveh, and the intercessions of Moses. See on :29.
51:15,16 The implication is that the same Divine word which brought about creation (God spoke His word and it was done), and which still sustains it, is the same word of God which we meet in the prophets proclaiming destruction. The awesome power of God’s word as it is in our times in the Bible is the same creative power we see in the natural creation, and carries the same destructive power as has been witnessed throughout history in His destruction of wicked entities.
51:24 The destruction of Babylon was because of their destruction of the temple; but it took at least 70 years for this judgment to come, in the same way as it took nearly 40 years for Jerusalem to be destroyed for crucifying Christ. The generation who killed Him and that which destroyed the temple all died in their beds. The gap between the sin and the judgment coming was surely in order to give a chance for repentance, and for the subsequent generation to perceive the evil their fathers had done and repent of it. But this lack of repentance and disassociation was what caused such fearful judgment to finally come upon them. In the length of the ‘gap’ we see the passion of God for human repentance and for people to perceive the sin not only of themselves but of the societies in which they live.
51:29 The plans of Yahweh against Babylon do stand- God states His plans but is open to change; in Babylon’s case, they remained or ‘stood’ because there was no repentance nor intercession for her; see on  :12.
51:36 I will plead your cause- Judah is as it were the one who takes Babylon to the Divine court, with the complaint of :34,35. God is the one who will both plead our cause as an advocate, and take vengeance, i.e. order the sentence, as our judge. Micah 7:9 speaks of how Micah has sinned against Yahweh, and yet He will plead his cause and also execute judgment. Likewise with Israel, the Lord stood up to plead as an advocate, and also He stood as the Judge to pronounce the verdict in favour of His people (Is. 3:13); even though He is also the witness against them (Mal. 3:5). In this mixture of metaphor we see how the judicial process is biased in our favour by the simple fact that God loves His people; hence Paul, having made the same observations with his use of legal terms, concludes that there is nobody who can condemn God’s people (Rom. 8:33,34). The events of our lives, all the abuses we suffer, are being considered by God right now in His court. He is both our advocate, the ultimate accurate witness to our sufferings, both of the facts and also our internal feelings, and is also the judge. His apparent silence isn’t that at all. The ongoing process of the court of Heaven should be our continual comfort.
51:39 A perpetual sleep and not wake- The ultimate punishment for sin is death (Rom. 6:23), which is unconsciousness, without any hope of a future resurrection. Eternal conscious torment of the wicked isn’t taught in the Bible.
51:48 The heavens and the earth- Another example of where ‘heavens and earth’ refer to the people of Israel and aren’t to always be taken literally, especially when we read of their ‘destruction’.
51:61 The Babylonians had been kindly disposed to Jeremiah because he had prophesied their victory against Jerusalem and had urged Judah to surrender rather than fight Babylon; and they had offered him a comfortable retirement in Babylon after Jerusalem fell (40:4). Such a prophecy would’ve seemed the height of ingratitude towards them. The captive Jews had just arrived in Babylon; to pronounce the destruction of Babylon was the last thing they wanted to do, because they sought the favour of their captors. To speak out God’s word is so often counter-instinctive, awkward, embarrassing and difficult.
51:63,64 Babylon’s destruction is as a stone being cast into the sea (Jesus repeats this in Rev. 18:21). But Jesus also uses this very image to describe the judgment of those who offend one of His little ones (Mt. 18:6). To upset fragile believers by our rejection of them is to be as bad as proud, idolatrous Babylon who destroyed Yahweh’s temple and slew His people. And it will meet the same judgment. We should therefore be extra careful not to reject our fellow believers, especially the “little ones” whose faith is new or fragile. Three of the Gospel records feature this saying of Jesus (also Mk. 9:42; Lk. 17:2); it is so very important.