Thursday, December 30, 2021

Final Chapter

Week 52 – Book of Jeremiah

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 52


Think about the book of Jeremiah as a “notebook or scrapbook of things” written by the prophet and about his ministry. Including “news clippings” that “piece together the story of his life” along with addressing the “spiritual needs of his generation” and expressing “the emotions of his suffering soul,”[1] these historical recordings tell the story of Jerusalem during one of its most chaotic times. The book of Jeremiah is more than a historical account of those current times, more importantly God’s messages give testimony to the future, both of Israel and all peoples. This is the message of hope, holy and divine in purpose.

Written in the form of narratives, poetry, laments, and prayers, these ancient words declare the power and plans of God. Expectations that come with a covenant can fail, fall apart, fold under the pressures of the carnal world. Like shiny and bright trinkets, the idols lure the people away from God, false prophets reinforce the myths. Faithful to God, Jeremiah delivers God’s truth, despite the rejection of the people. Still, hope remains. The Messianic message of the new covenant emerges in the turmoil. God’s purpose will never be defeated.

The writings of Jeremiah comprise 52 chapters, 1,364 verses, and nearly 50 years of history. Many call Jeremiah the prophet of doom, but he writes about the spiritual and cultural decline of a people who centuries before pledged to follow God and promised to keep His commandments. These holy laws, the Mosaic law, is written to protect the people and provide spiritual reconciliation with God. Agreeing to this promise (covenant), their lives are preserved and through faith and obedience comes blessings. The thread of God’s never-ending faithfulness weaves a tapestry of provision and protection, as well as righteous judgment.

Our exploring of Jeremiah includes a year of study, over 67,000 written words, and nearly 400 references. While not an exhaustive study by any means, in these chapters God’s character repeatedly reveals His continued faithfulness, love, compassion, and healing. Today, we stand far on the other side looking backward, with the New Testament written some 600 years after Jeremiah and in the 21st century, some 2,500 years later. Trying to understand these ancient times and seeking to find lessons for current times, the realization that humanity rarely changes can be disappointing. Still falling short in our faith, still seeking more in places of less, still exposing our frailties, the world remains very much the same.

Like those false prophets, we live our untruths and then believe our own rhetoric. Dressed in our finest greed and arrogance, we ignore the weak and the weary. Wrapped with our best bows, we offer token gestures of benevolence, offerings that do not require sacrifice. Tucked into our comfort and warmth, we pray that someone will help change the world for better. Perhaps there is just too much brokenness, too much injustice, too much pain in the world.

Some of my favorite words in Jeremiah come in his prayer, words that give us hope, that lead us to the answers we cannot find on our own. “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You.” (32:17) With God, nothing is impossible! This message occurs throughout Scripture, from God to Abraham, the angel to Mary, Jesus to the disciples, the epistles to all. Too much brokenness, too much injustice, too much pain – this is true for you and me, but not for God. God’s grace covers all the sin and comes as “an indescribable gift” to all. And what about us who Believe? Our lives demonstrate obedience when we share the Good News, love with His compassion, walk among the weary with hope.

Jeremiah tells us there is a future for all people seeking God with their whole heart. Being a faithful servant matters most to God. Like Jeremiah, our faithfulness cannot be limited to religious activities or righteous deeds but must secure its foundation in the faithful promises of God. In Christ, we can love without perfection, have certainty without understanding, experience peace within grief. When God dwells in the hearts of His people, we have new awareness, new insight, and new hope. The Holy Spirit empowers us to see those living on the margins, to offer Bread of Life to a starving world, and to retell the stories of God’s faithfulness. 


Chapter 52 gives an account of the fall of Judah, also described in 2 Kings 24:18-20 and 2 Chronicles 36:11-14. Zedekiah, the official final king of Judah, reigns as a complicated leader. His father, Josiah, brings spiritual revival, but Zedekiah wickedness rebels against Babylon despite having vowed to be be faithful to Babylon. Various historians suggest the final siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar lasted around two and a half years. Although Zedekiah flees Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar’s men find him and Nebuchadnezzar pokes our Zedekiah’s eyes, but only after he is forced to watch his sons executed. (v11) Taken to Babylon in bronze chains, Zedekiah remains in prison until his death.

Jerusalem is plundered, all the best is taken to Babylon, the best people, the best wares, the temple treasures, and all the bronze, gold, and silver works. Nebuchadnezzar burns the Temple of Yahweh, along with the royal palace, and any houses of important people. In verses 24-26, many important leaders of Jerusalem and the temple are rounded up. The number of Jews Nebuchadnezzar sends into exile (v 28-30) say, “4,600 persons in all” from Judah. This number likely only counts the men, not women and children. Recording of this event in 2 Kings 25 gives different numbers, and the true consensus is not officially known.

The final verses describe the kindness to Jehoiachin. His prison release and invitation to eat with the son and successor to king Nebuchadnezzar suggest, “God continued to show kindness to the descendants of King David, even in exile.”[2]


“Back and forth they talked. “Didn’t we feel on fire as He conversed with us on the road, as He opened up the Scriptures for us?” Luke 24:32 MSG

Scripture tells us about two friends, followers of Jesus, who are leaving Jerusalem on the morning of the Resurrection. Jesus begins to walk along side them, talking and teaching them. They do not recognize Jesus until after He blesses the bread, breaks it, and gives it to them. His presence kindles a fire within their hearts.

Life happens in the hurried and the slow, the random and the sure, the desperate and the joyful moments that fill our days. A pattern begins to form as we gather our experiences and passions, our talents and knowledge in trying to see the big picture. Sometimes we want a solution or need direction; sometimes we just need to rest.

Timothy Keller writes, “Build an identity that gets its significance from God.” Too often we try to connect our life-dots through accomplishments or talent or relationships. We attempt to build our own identities through culture or philosophy. We even claim the behaviors of religion, like confession, forgiveness, baptism, communion, worship, giving, prayer, but do we recognize Jesus as God-within-us? Does the presence of Jesus ignite a spiritual flame within my heart? 

Blessed Assurance, even before time began, Your beauty danced across the heavens. From the highest peaks to the deepest canyons, from the widest deserts to the strongest rivers. Your glory shines. From forever to forever, Your are Jehovah-Elohim, the Eternal Creator. 

Even before I took my first breath, Your plans for me were known. From the sweetest celebrations to the gravest sorrows, from the abundant blessings to the fiercest challenges, Your love abides. From before to after, forever be my dwelling place. Amen.


Food for Thought ~

It isn’t enough for a nation to put “In God We Trust” on its currency, to mention God in its pledge to the flag, or to “tip the hat to God” by quoting the Bible in political campaign speeches. It’s righteousness, not religion, that exalts a nation. What pleases the Lord is that we “do justly… love mercy… and walk humbly with [our] God.” (Micah 6:8) – Warren Wiersbe[3]

Donna Oswalt



[1] ESV Study Bible Intro to Jeremiah

[2] Life Application Study Bible notes Jeremiah 52

[3] Be Decisive, Wiersbe, Warren, p 186-187

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Doom of Babylon

Week 51 – Book of Jeremiah

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 51


Sometimes called the prophet of the new covenant, Jeremiah’s text bears great significance in the New Testament, strategically linking the Old and New Testaments. As Jesus uses the Last Supper to commission the New Covenant with, “This cup which is poured our for you is the new covenant in My blood.” (Luke 22:20) In reading Hebrews 8, Scripture concerning the new covenant quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34. “Clearly, the New Testament writers conclude that Jeremiah 31:31-34 looks forward to Christ’s work on the cross and to the creation of a faithful people of God.”[1]

Regarding the covenant between God and Israel, Jeremiah recognizes “the covenant bound Israel to God in a special relationship of love, faithfulness, and hope. But the covenant had two sides.”[2] Disobedience brings punishment and exile, while obedience brings blessing is found in various places in the OT. The new covenant would be different, would be everlasting forgiveness. In Jeremiah, the Messiah is referred to as “the coming Shepherd, righteous Branch, and a King that “shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. The God who fulfills His promises (covenants) with Abraham and Moses, and His people will make a new covenant.”[3] This new covenant would remain a constant hope for the centuries after Jeremiah. Christ fulfills this promise, and that hope continues to be the hope of humanity until the end of time. The old covenant never promised final forgiveness, as a series of sacrifices continued to be required, each year on the Day of Atonement the High Priest would make a blood sacrifice on the altar of the Holy of Holies. Christ, the Lamb of God, becomes the last and permanent blood sacrifice, rending the veil of the Holy of Holies ushering in the New Covenant.

This new covenant, a new way to be in relationship with God, comes with an internal power when the law is written on the heart, not stone tablets. The individual is transformed by God Himself. In Christianity, Christ becomes this New Covenant, this new way to have a relationship with God. What is the difference? Placing our faith in Christ is all about Grace, recognizing none will ever be able to be sin-free but anyone can be eternally forgiven. The Grace side of the covenant can never change. As for humanity, we can choose this or reject it, choose to ask Christ to come into our hearts or ignore God. This restoration truly becomes a matter of the heart, as the Holy Spirit dwells in each Believer. Grace is penned on the heart of every Believer. Foretold by Isaiah and Jeremiah, the New Covenant, initiated with Christ’s death and resurrection, becomes the Good News!!


Babylon, land of idols, is refers to in chapter 51:1 as “Leb-kamai” which cryptically translates to “the heart of those rising up against Me.”[4] The agricultural process of winnowing (v2) suggests Babylon will be blown away as the worthless chaff from wheat is discarded. “Despite all the judgements that God has sent on Judah and Israel, He has not… forsaken them and will invite them to the new covenant. (31:31-34)[5] In another image, a golden cup,  Babylon is compared to a “vessel in the hand of God.”[6]

The Lord’s vengeance will stand. There will be no healing in Babylon. Wiersbe says “They had been weaving the luxurious tapestry of their power and wealth on the loom,”[7] and now God says the end is coming. Babylon will now be God’s weapon of destruction. (v 20) Again, in these verses the imagery predicts retribution for the crimes of arrogance and cruelty. Bel, Babylon’s chief idol, will be punished. Remember the dimensions of the wall surrounding Babylon? So wide several chariots side by side could race around it, prophecy says, “Even the wall of Babylon has fallen down.” (v 44) The wall is breached by Cyrus from underneath and literally falls when Alexander the Great captures the city.

These two chapters (50-51) are “copied in a separate [scroll] and sent to Babylon in a deputation headed by King Zedekiah, seven years before Nebuchadnezzar burned Jerusalem. (51:59-64) The [scroll] was to be read publicly and then, in solemn ceremony, sunk in the Euphrates, with the words, ‘so will Babylon sink to rise not more’.”[8] In the last verses we meet Seraiah the son of Neriah the scribe who is to take the scroll and read it. A royal quartermaster means that likely Seraiah accompanied the king on official duties. “A seal acquired on the antiquities market reads Belonging to Seraiah (son of) Neriah. His lineage is given as son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah (Jer 51:59). This is the same lineage as that of Baruch, Jeremiah’s secretary (32:12), indicating that Seraiah was Baruch’s brother.”[9] The ending of Babylon is specifically defined and will be fulfilled.


Reflection ~ Christmas is here!

When I discovered Your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear Your name. Jeremiah 15:16

The expectant waiting in Advent leads us to celebrate Christ as the Messiah, to seek Christ more every day, to know Jesus as our source of joy. In Philippians 4:4, Paul reminds, Rejoice in The Lord always, again, I will say rejoice! The world continually bombards us with crisis and chaos, disappointment and doubt, fear and fatigue. The contrast between Paul's words and our realities appear to clash. How can we rejoice when difficult circumstances prevail, when constant hardship lingers? God's word provides His wisdom, reveals His promises, offers His hope. Reading and studying the Bible teach us how to love, when to pray, and where to serve. We can only find real joy in Jesus.

In the Nativity, hope comes quietly, love comes small, joy comes easily, but with the Crucifixion, hope faints, love chooses, and joy weeps. These two events cannot be separated, the sweet and the bittersweet. The emotions born with Jesus crash into the harsh realities of the cross; the Messiah comes because the world needs Grace. With His Resurrection, Hope shouts, Love lives, and Joy reigns! Through Grace, Christ brings us abundant life. God's word instructs us, "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you." [Colossians 3:16] Discover and devour God's word. Then, and only then, can we celebrate God all day, every day. 

Celebrate the Season of Giving... 

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15

As Christ is reborn in you and in me, let us ask ourselves who else needs this Grace? Will you share the Gospel message of Jesus with others here or throughout the world? What can you give to honor the Prince of Peace? 


At the time this prophecy comes, no one could even begin to imagine that this could happen to the Babylonian Empire, that its reign as a Supreme Power could end.

Thinking about our own country, the United States of America, we hold a similar view. Certainly, we think, nothing could end the reign of our country as a Superpower, for our political, military, economic, humanitarian, and environmental strategies exceed most any standard in the world. What do you think? Could we fall? And if so, what would likely be our downfall? How can we stay focused and not fall prey to arrogance and idolatry? Or are we closer than we know?

Donna Oswalt

[1] Shepherd’s Notes: Jeremiah and Lamentations Introduction

[2] NKJV Study Bible Jeremiah notes

[3] Ibid

[4] Walking. The Ancient Paths, Kaiser, Walter C, p 565

[5] ESV Global Study Bible Jeremiah chapter 51

[6] Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary Jeremiah chapter 51

[7] Be Decisive, Wiersbe Warren, p179

[8] Halleys Bible Handbook

[9] Archeological Study Bible, Seraiah son of Neriah,

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Fall of Babylon

Week 50 – Book of Jeremiah

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 50; Revelation Chapters 17-18


In 539 BC when Cyrus of Persia arrives, the Babylonian Empire falls, and 70 years of captivity comes to an end for the people of Judah. Remembering Jeremiah’s prophecy for the coming captives in chapter 29, the people had settled in and tried to establish themselves as God said, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.”(29:7) Prophets in Babylon, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, attempt to bring God’s messages and discredit the false prophets. Now, Cyrus comes as a liberator, allowing them to return to Jerusalem, but Babylon will suffer its own destruction in time.

After Nebuchadnezzar dies in 562 BC, there are several leaders that are assassinated, but eventually Nabonidus “assumes power appointing his son Belshazzar as co-ruler”[1] who is responsible for the “ungodly feast” that included gold and silver vessels taken from the Temple in Jerusalem. (Daniel 5) Belshazzar perishes during the Mede-Persian takeover!

Babylon, recognized as a formidable city mostly because of Nebuchadnezzar, is secured by “2 sets of walls, inner and outer, 350 feet high, 87 feet thick” with “150 gates of solid brass” at entrances with “250 watch towers, 100 feet higher than the wall itself.”[2] Essentially, there is little vulnerability. In Ezekiel 17:12-24, “Ezekiel echoes the prophecies of Jeremiah relating to Babylonian captivity. It’s obvious from these many passages in the prophets that Babylon occupies a large place in the prophetical program of the Old Testament for the nations surrounding Israel.”[3]

The Medes, one of the many nations, will be punished by God (Jeremiah 25:25), and in chapter 51:11, 28, the Medes will be used to destroy Babylon. Remember, Babylon steals all the Temple treasures, and God’s righteous anger rests on Babylon. “Long before Babylon fell, it was predicted that the Medes would be God’s avenging instrument.”[4] Old Testament prophets Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi give their prophecies during the reign of the Mede-Persian Empire. In this era, the Jewish exiles are allowed to return to Jerusalem and restore the city and the Temple. Cyrus promotes religious freedom. With the fall of the Babylonian Empire, a symbol of moral and religious depravity, these Gentiles and their culture with its pagan ideas continue to pass through the centuries to come.

The expansive new power of the Medes and Persians has been underestimated. The rise of the Medes comes after the Assyrian Empire falls. Persia is also a rising power, and together, Media and Persia form a common government which lasts until Alexander the Great conquers them in 331 BC, some two hundred years later.

Babylon, referenced in Revelation 17-18, may or may not be referring to the Babylonian Empire of the Old Testament. Certainly, it represents “an influence for evil politically and religiously” and will “not be terminated until Jesus Christ comes in power and glory to reign.”[5]


With many parallels between Jeremiah 50-51 and Revelation 17-18, we read about God’s judgment on Babylon and its destruction. Together chapters 50-51 reveal this prophecy by Jeremiah. “Babylon is taken” (v 2). “God declares war on both Babylon and the gods of Babylon.”[6] Again, the conquer comes from the north. Referring to the people of Judah as lost sheep, Wiersbe says, “While the immediate application is to the return of the exiles from Babylon, the ultimate reference includes the gathering of the Jews in the latter days.”[7]

Babylon will be captured, and the Chaldeans will become their conqueror’s “plunder”. (v10) Why would God destroy Babylon after he gave them the ability to conquer Judah? They “rejoiced” far too much, taking advantage of the circumstances. (v11-13) God’s vengeance on Babylon comes with Cyrus (Medes-Persians), and later Alexander the Great with his Greek army. God’s plan is specific and final. Clearly, God intends to put an end to Babylon.

The Divine Plan comes in three parts: God declaring war with Babylon (50:1-28), God gathering armies against Babylon (50:29-51:26, and God arranging the victory over Babylon (51:27-28). In verse 29 the order is given, “Call together the archers against Babylon” and let no one escape. God reminds the children of Israel, their “Redeemer is strong.” (v34) We read of disruptions of war, distress and disaster follow. “For it is the land of carved images, and they are insane with their idols.” (v38b) These armies will be “cruel and shall not show mercy.” (v42)

Historically, records show Cyrus and later Alexander the Great will invade and conquer Babylon. God will “make their dwelling place desolate.” (v45) In His sovereignty, God’s will prevails. “At the noise of the taking of Babylon the earth trembles, and the cry is heard among the nations.” (v46) There is no earthly power, no matter how great, can last forever.

Today, the nations of the world all stand in defiance, ignoring God, committing sins agains His laws and against each other. Along with terrorism, genocide, injustice, abuse, sex trafficking, and a myriad of crimes and wars, the list must also include our new, improved, 21st century idols – wealth, power, social status, technology, beauty, and on it goes. Israel (Northern Kingdom), Judah (Southern Kingdom), other nations, Babylon discover God’s righteous judgment. At some point, after all is recorded on history’s ledger, God’s most sovereign act will end this earthly confusion. For now, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near… I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 22:10-13)

Reflection – Fourth Sunday of Advent ~ Anticipation

Bless the LORD, O my soul!

O LORD my God, You are very great;

You are clothed with splendor and majesty.

Psalm 104:1 NASB

In ancient Roman times, emblems of evergreens mean peace and joy and victory, while early Christians use these symbols to reflect that "Christ had entered the home." Now days, decorations of evergreen branches trim porches, mantles, and banisters; evergreen wreaths hang on windows, over fireplaces, outside doors. While these symbols reflect the celebration of the Advent season, this time of longing for the Messiah, the evergreens give continuous, unspoken reminders of God's endless mercy, everlasting life, eternal Hope. Since the first sin of mankind, throughout thousands of years, century after century, darkness waits for redemption, waits for the light that only Christ can reveal. Jesus' birth, rich with prophecy and promise, only unfolds part of God's Grace story. There is more, much more! This forgiven heart eagerly anticipates the conclusion of His story, the Second Advent of Christ, when Faithful and True returns for me. 


At Jesus' birth, Mary wraps Him in cloths and lays Him in an animal’s trough. After Jesus' death, with permission from Pilate, a man called Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, takes the body of Jesus from the cross and wraps it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain. Coming from a virgin womb and wrapped in cloths, Immanuel becomes grace to harsh world, and when calloused people crucify Him, the Lamb of God, wrapped in linen cloths, lay in a virgin tomb. Politics and power, greed and guilt, denial and death will never define the immutable life of Jesus; instead, the Messiah's victory over death and promise to return for His people enlarge God's never-ending story of Grace. The promise of Christ's Second Advent fills the mind seeking wonder and hope, stills the heart living grief and fear, and thrills the soul knowing grace and peace. Earthly wrappings can never tell the whole story of Advent! 

 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, 

and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, ... 

He is clothed with robe dipped in blood, 

and His names is called The Word of God... 

And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, 


Revelation 19:11-16 NASB


Clothed with splendor and majesty, Christ will come again. Surrounded by angels, His glory will illumine space; there will be no more darkness. LORD OF LORDS, the title declaring Him Lord over all, reigns forever. Jesus Christ - the Light of the World, the Messiah, KING OF KINGS - now waits in Heaven until the holy appointed time. Jesus waits for us to call on His name, waits for us to cry out in need, waits for us to share His Love, waits for us to speak His name. Listen! Every day the Word of God quills the story of everlasting love and unfailing grace. Believe! Every day, find Immanuel, God with us. Wait! Anticipate Advent every moment of your everyday. THIS is the Christmas Story! 


There is so much to contemplate regarding Babylon’s destruction, and in the last days when Christ returns, there will be stark contrast between evil and good, between darkness and light. Prophecies fulfilled and still to come.

What influences your faith – for bad and good? Where does your faith rest?

Do you anticipate the Christmas story’s final chapter?

Donna Oswalt


[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] Wiersbe Study Bible notes Jeremiah chapter 50

[7] Ibid

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Despair, Disaster, and Destruction

Week 49 – Book of Jeremiah

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 49


Because for decades the people of Judah deliberately choose to disobey god and worship false gods and make sacrifices to foreign deities, God’s righteous judgment comes in the form of exile to Babylon. When Nebuchadnezzar captures Judah and destroys Jerusalem, for seventy years the Hebrew people will be exiled to Babylon. Times of disaster and grief can draw a person or a nation to seek a new way of living, can be a time of religious growth. “The influence of this exile upon the religion of Israel was enormous.”[1] Often circumstances become vessels to help enrich, deepen, and clarify perspective. Remembering there has been at least two deportations, although some references say three, various estimates of between 25,000 to 50,000 people are exiled. Numbers are inconclusive as women and children are usually not counted. Among these people are high officials, priests, and the more wealthy people of Judah, along with their families. Recall the poorer people remain in Jerusalem and live among the ruins.

Jeremiah’s message always refers to worship as a matter of the heart. These messages from Yahweh sound very familiar, like Isaiah’s messages a hundred years prior. The covenant God makes is not an outward covenant, not about stones and rituals, but a covenant of the heart. In the years of exile, far away in a distant land, without a temple or a tangible sacred altar, “it was this faith that religion was a matter of inward attitude rather than outward institution that kept Hebrew faith alive.”[2] Jewish theology of monotheism, believing in on God, comes full circle in this Gentile land, full of its pagan deities and rituals. Perhaps they remember Jeremiah’s prophecy that God willingly welcomes penitent Gentiles. The idea of individual morality and individual responsibility to God evolves, along with echoes of Jeremiah denouncing the idols as false gods.

In his prophecies, “Jeremiah pictures a time when all nations shall… come with confession to Yahweh and shall be welcomed by him.” (16:19-21) Israel long believes that because God has chosen them, they are set above all others. The Jews discover God’s plan includes their knowledge of Him and through suffering others will know Him. This great insight is birthed from the devastating pain of exile.

Ezekiel, the young boy exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem, becomes a priest then prophet while encouraging the same principles, the same attitudes that Jeremiah had given in Jerusalem. Known as both counselor and comforter to the exile, Ezekiel draws up “a new plan for the reconstruction of the political and religious life of Israel” for whenever their return would come. (Ez 40-48) Details about the temple and the sacred rituals emphasize the religious ceremonies that Ezekiel, as a priest, would understand. Some of Ezekiel’s guidelines pave the way for priestly example. Other older priests from Judah now exiled, become “guardians of ancient traditions and rituals.”[3] As the old traditions find new life and a new spirit emerges, the sensual and pagan practices are eliminated.

As Ezra and Nehemiah return to Jerusalem, rebuilding efforts involve the wall around Jerusalem and the temple. Encouraged to “bind themselves to keep the law”, their “ideal of religion as a thing of the heart had been abandoned.”[4] While some continue to embrace the individuality of souls, religious practices become more about external rule, about Mosaic law. Observing the law, reading the law, and meditating on the law continues. Over time, the new Judah is reorganized and its social life renovated. “The exile profoundly affected theology, ritual, morals – the theory of religion, the practice of worship, and the application of religion to life.”[5] Life centers less on the bitterness of exile and mostly on the goodness and provision that Yahweh has given.

Influences in exile for Israel comes in other ways over many centuries. Successful businesses, arts and literature, and great teachers of the law leave their marks. Some influential, prosperous Jews stay in Babylonian, remaining faithful to their ancestral roots and religion, even developing schools of law that influence the entire Jewish people. The exodus from Egypt becomes foundational for the Hebrew people, and the covenant God makes with His people is fundamental. But as for spiritual growth, “Perhaps no single event in Hebrew history influenced her religion more deeply than the Babylonian Exile.”[6]


In chapter 49, six more countries are given severe warnings: Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Kedar, Hazor, Elam. Beginning with the Ammonites (vs 1-6), long associated with the Moabites, their ancestry in Scripture also connects them to Abraham’s nephew, Lot (Gen 19:37-38). “When the Assyrian Empire fell to the Babylonians in 612 BC, the Ammonites move into territory once held by Judah.”[7] At one point, Ammon joins Judah in a conspiracy against Babylon. “When it failed, as Jeremiah warned that it would, many survivors fled to Ammon as Nebuchadnezzar crushed Jerusalem.”[8]

Rabbah (v 2) is known in the New Testament as Philadelphia and is the capital of Ammon. The “remains form part of the impressive citadel at the heart of modern Amman, Jordan.”[9] In the verses about Ammon, Malcam, their chief god, is also known as Molech and is the “god to who child sacrifices were tragically offered in Judah (Jer 32:35, 2Kg 23:10).”[10] The reference in verse 4 to “unfaithful daughter” or “backsliding daughter” is a “personification of the Ammonites.”[11] These Ammonites, dispersed and defeated by Nebuchadnezzar in 582 BC, never regain autonomy again, but in verse 6 God promises “to restore the fortunes of the sons of Ammon”.

Located south of the Dead Sea, Edom is a mountainous region with some pastureland. “Many Edomite dwellings were cut into the faces of the high, craggy mountains.”[12] Descendants of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother, the Edomites can be found throughout the Old Testament, and come under Assyrian control after the Northern Kingdom (Israel) falls. The prophet Obadiah “indicates that the Edomites participated in the 586 BC destruction of Jerusalem.”[13] In verses 7-22, the prophecy against Edom reveals disaster and punishment. Known for its wisdom, even this “wisdom in Teman” cannot save Edom. The two towns listed, Teman and Dedan, are at “opposite ends of the country, so this shows the completeness of God’s destruction of Edom.[14] Edom’s greatest sin is “arrogance” or pride (v 16). Today, this rocky land is called Petra, in southern Jordan. 

Assyria defeats Damascus (v 23-27), then Babylon conquers it in 605 BC. Once the capital city of Syria, Damascus finds itself in conflict with Israel. Located along the “fertile Barada River at the crossroads of major trade route,”[15] this gives the city great prosperity. Damascus is also “a major cosmopolitan center during the New Testament era, when it was home to a large Jewish community.”[16] Distress and pain “like a woman in childbirth” (v 24) will come to the city. Destruction of the city wall by fire is coming. 

In verses 28-33, Kedar and Hazor are nomadic tribes. “The region of Kedar was the most important Arab tribal group in the biblical period”[17] and known for trade caravan and sheepherding. Hazor represents a group living in the desert that frequently causes problems with other groups. These people face “a scheme” (v 30) by Nebuchadnezzar and “a disaster from every side” (v 32). They are destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 599 BC.

The closing verses of chapter 49 (34-39) possibly mean that “Jeremiah simply meant that the Lord would judge the ends of the earth.”[18] Scholars are not sure exactly where Elam is located, no cities are mentioned. While sin invades the hearts of people, there is no “geographical location nor national heritage [that] insulates one from responsibility to the Creator.”[19] In verse 38, the phrase “I will set My throne in Elam” is an “expression [that] depicts the establishment of the kingdom of the God of Israel.”[20] Elam’s restoration promised “in the last days” (v 38) is “fulfilled at Pentecost; see Acts 2:9).”[21] This prophecy predicts “God will scatter the people of Elam (v 36) to the four winds… [with] a large number of persons of Persian descent taking up residency all over the world.”[22] Today, the ancient lands of Elam, modern Persia, is known as Iran. 

The message to the nations is that no country is outside of God’s judgment, to include the superpower Babylon, or as we know it now, modern-day Iraq. God is Sovereign.

Reflection – Third Sunday of Advent ~ Celebration

When I discovered Your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear Your name. Jeremiah 15:16

This 3rd Sunday in the Advent season sometimes is called "Gaudete Sunday" from the Latin meaning rejoice. Others call this candle Joy, which is sometimes pink. Joy-full celebrations in the Christmas story show angels singing of great joy, shepherds telling with holy awe, wise men worshiping in humble adoration. The expectant waiting in Advent leads us to celebrate Christ as the Messiah, to seek Christ more every day, to know Jesus as our source of joy.

In Philippians 4:4, Paul reminds, "Rejoice in The Lord always, again, I will say rejoice!" The world continually bombards us with crisis and chaos, disappointment and doubt, fear and fatigue. The contrast between Paul's words and our realities appear to clash. How can we rejoice when difficult circumstances prevail, when constant hardship lingers? God's word provides His wisdom, reveals His promises, offers His hope. Reading and studying the Bible teach us how to pray, who to love, and where to serve. We can only find real joy in Jesus.

In the Nativity, Hope comes quietly, Love comes small, Joy comes gently, but with the Crucifixion, Hope faints, Love chooses, and Joy weeps. These two events cannot be separated, the sweet and the bittersweet. The emotions born with Jesus' coming crash into the harsh realities of the cross; the Messiah comes because the world needs Grace. With His Resurrection, Hope shouts, Love lives, and Joy reigns! Through Grace, Christ brings us abundant joy. God's word instructs us, "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you." [Colossians 3:16] Discover and devour God's word. Then, and only then, can we Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in Him. (Philippians 4:4 MSG)


Eugene Peterson writes, “Jeremiah and people like him keep showing up in our lives, going beyond the boundaries of what is safe, learning new languages, discovering alien cultures, braving hostility, and telling the stories that prove that the life of faith can be lived in every place and among all people.”[23]

Do you have someone in your life who challenges you step outside your comfort zone?

Have you told your God-story to someone?

Donna Oswalt

[1]  Barton, G. A. (1911). Influence of the Babylonian Exile on the Religion of Israel. The Biblical World, 37(6), 369–378.

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

[7] Archaeological Study Bible Notes on Ammon

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid, notes on Jeremiah chapter 49

[10] Ibid

[11] Ibid

[12] Ibid

[13] Ibid, Introduction to Obadiah

[14] Chronological Study Bible notes Jeremiah chapter 49

[15] Ibid

[16] Ibid

[17] NKJV Study Bible Jeremiah chapter 49

[18] Shepherd’s Jeremiah and Lamentations notes on Chapter 49

[19] Ibid

[20] NKJV Study Bible Jeremiah chapter 49

[21] ESV Literary Study Bible notes on Jeremiah chapter 49

[22] Walking the Ancient Paths Kaiser, Walter C p 541

[23] The Message Study Bible notes on Jeremiah Chapter 49