Jeremiah 51:14–16 “The LORD of hosts hath sworn by himself, saying, Surely I will fill thee with men, as with caterpillers; and they shall lift up a shout against thee. He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heaven by his understanding. When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens; and he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth: he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures.”
The comparison of men to caterpillers is a reference to destroying locusts. The LORD is saying that He is going to see that Babylon is overrun by the enemy. These verses are emphasizing the fact that though the enemy will come in the form of men, they are executing God’s judgment according to His will.
The LORD identifies Himself as the Creator of earth and heaven through His wisdom and understanding. He declares Himself to be the power and authority behind the “waters in the heavens” (rain, ice and snow), the clouds, the lightning and the winds—in other words, the forces of nature. The creation is an awe-inspiring testimony to God’s knowledge, judgment, and purposes—and they are far beyond our understanding. Scientists are still mystified at what holds the atom together and the intricate processes at work in every cell; there is still much they do not know regarding the far reaches of space and the depths of the oceans.
Jeremiah 51:17–18 “Every man is brutish by his knowledge; every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them. They are vanity, the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish.”
I liked the NLT translation of the first part of verse 17: “Compared to him, all people are foolish and have no knowledge at all!” This is evidenced by man’s continuing efforts to make gods of his own to worship. These false gods are powerless on behalf of those who make them and worship them. Babylon’s idols will be destroyed by the enemy along with the people.
Jeremiah 51:19–24 “The portion of Jacob is not like them; for he is the former of all things: and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: the LORD of hosts is his name. Thou art my battle axe and weapons of war: for with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy kingdoms; And with thee will I break in pieces the horse and his rider; and with thee will I break in pieces the chariot and his rider; With thee also will I break in pieces man and woman; and with thee will I break in pieces old and young; and with thee will I break in pieces the young man and the maid; I will also break in pieces with thee the shepherd and his flock; and with thee will I break in pieces the husbandman and his yoke of oxen; and with thee will I break in pieces captains and rulers. And I will render unto Babylon and to all the inhabitants of Chaldea all their evil that they have done in Zion in your sight, saith the LORD.”
Israel’s God, “the portion of Jacob,” is all powerful in contrast. He is the Creator of all things, including His chosen tribe or portion (from the Hebrew for “inheritance”) among the nations on planet earth.
The commentators seem to agree that this section of verses is referencing either Nebuchadnezzar or Cyrus. That surprised me, because my first thoughts were that the context was identifying Israel as the weapon He would use to bring judgment upon Babylon. I am sure that the captives in Babylon would have made application to Cyrus, but from my perspective today I believe the primary context is yet future. It is through Israel that Messiah was birthed, and it is as the King of kings who will rule from Jerusalem that He will return in judgment upon Babylon, the kingdom of Antichrist. The prophet Isaiah talked about Jesus as Israel; following is an excerpt from my journal in which I believe the context identifies Jesus as Israel.
Isaiah 49:3 “And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”
Jesus knew from the beginning that He would be a special instrument in the hand of His Father and that He would bring great glory to His Father. In fact, He would be the testimony to the nations of the power of God in the life of a person or a nation that was obedient to the commands of the Father. He represented the true Israel (one that prevails with God*) that would follow God in faith and obedience. Jesus was the Father’s beautiful secret weapon brought forth at just the right moment in time to defeat the enemy. [end excerpt]
* Genesis 32:28 “And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.”
(to be continued...)