Chapters fifty and fifty-one, appropriately, deal with Babylon, the great empire of that time. Although they were considered invincible in Jeremiah’s day, God promised that they, too, would face invasion, captivity, and humiliation at the hands of another nation. The “nation from the north” (Jeremiah 50:3) was Medo-Persia, which executed a surprise attack in 539 B.C. during Belshazzar’s great feast and captured the city in one night (Daniel 5:29-31). God promised that this would be the catalyst so “the people of Israel and Judah will return to the land together. They will come back with tears of repentance as they seek the LORD their God” (Jeremiah 50:4). Exactly as prophesied, the Persians allowed the Jews to return to Israel. This took place in three waves under the leadership of Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah (read the story in Ezra and Nehemiah). 1
The overarching reason for God’s judgment on Babylon was their treatment of the Jewish people, specifically their invasion of Israel and looting of God’s temple (Jeremiah 50:11, 17, 29). Although he used Babylon to punish Israel (Habakkuk 1:5-11), that was already in their hearts, and God was required to punish them as well (Jeremiah 50:7), because of his promise to Abraham, whom he told that he would curse whoever looked on Abraham (extended to Israel) with even the slightest contempt (Genesis 12:3). Like Edom and Arabia, Babylon will ultimately be left dry and desolate with no hope of restoration (Jeremiah 50:38-40).
- The urgency shown in Jeremiah 50:8 for the Jews to leave Babylon as quickly as possible when given the chance speaks to the spiritual situation of the Jewish people by the time of Esther. Many had ignored God’s command and chose to remain in that pagan land. ↩