For the Love of God, Volume 2/July 29
From Gospel Translations
Judges 12; Acts 16; Jeremiah 25; Mark 11
THE PROPHECY OF JEREMIAH 25 is dated to the fourth year of Nebuchadnezzar, i.e., 605 B.C., the year when the Babylonians defeated the Egyptians at Carchemish, forcing Judah to switch its allegiance to the new and rising power. By this time Jeremiah has been prophesying for twenty-three years—from the reign of the last good king, Josiah, to this day (25:3).
The onset of Babylonian supremacy is an appropriate occasion for Jeremiah to reiterate some of his principal themes: a review of the chronic disobedience of the people, a review of the warnings not to follow other gods, the refusal of the people to listen to the words of the Lord (25:4-8). But there are several elements in this chapter that either have not been mentioned before or have been given relatively light treatment up to this point.
First, in language reminiscent of that found in Isaiah, Nebuchadnezzar is designated God’s “servant” (25:8). This is a way of saying that it is God himself who will be behind the destruction of Jerusalem, even though the temporal power that is doing the work is Babylon and its king.
Second, service to the king of Babylon will endure “seventy years” (25:11). There are different ways of calculating the duration of the exile. This one is a rounded-off figure that begins with the ascendancy of Babylon in 609 and runs either to the defeat of Babylon by the Persians (539) or, perhaps, from the first transportation of leaders in 605 to the first return of the Jews to the land under the regime of King Cyrus of Persia (536; cf. 2 Chron. 36:20-23; Zech. 1:12).
Third, reminiscent of what God says he will do with the Assyrians after he has used them to chasten the northern kingdom (Isa. 10:5ff.), God here says that he will punish Babylon “for their guilt . . . and will make it desolate forever” (25:12). “I will bring upon that land all the things I have spoken against it, all that are written in this book and prophesied by Jeremiah against all the nations” (25:13).
Fourth, in the following verses, Jeremiah is required, in a visionary experience, to compel the nations to drink the cup “filled with the wine of [God’s] wrath” (25:15; compare Rev. 14:10). The God of the Bible is not some mere tribal deity; he holds all the nations to account. Judgment may begin with the covenant community, but it finally embraces all communities without exception. “You will not go unpunished, for I am calling down a sword upon all who live on the earth, declares the LORD Almighty” (25:29). And where shall we flee to escape judgment, except to the refuge that he alone provides?