The Pronouncement of Judgment on the Nations

Discovery for Teachers

The Pronouncement of Judgment on the Nations

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK

SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Jeremiah 46:1 through 52:34

KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria.” (Jeremiah 50:18)

BACKGROUND

God had called Jeremiah to be a “prophet unto the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). For more than forty years he had ministered to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. In chapters 46 through 51, Jeremiah pronounced God’s judgment on the pagan nations of Egypt, Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Kedar, Hazor, Elam, and Babylon.

In chapter 46, Jeremiah declared God’s judgment on Egypt. The text begins with a graphic description of Pharaoh-necho’s defeat by Nebuchadnezzar in the Battle of Carchemish. Pharaoh-necho was the second ruler of the twenty-sixth dynasty in Egypt. He was considered one of their greatest kings, and had killed Judah’s King Josiah at Megiddo in 608 B.C. Jeremiah described the army of Pharaoh-necho as very large and confident (verse 8). However, just as God had revealed, they were utterly defeated.

Philistia was the next nation to receive a pronouncement. Chapter 47 employs very descriptive imagery to declare the judgments that would come to this long-time contender with God’s people. Many scholars believe the Philistines originally came from Crete (called Caphtor in verse 4). They were primarily sea merchants, with most of their major cities located on the southeastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Jeremiah described Babylon’s army as an “overflowing flood” that would overtake their land (verse 2). The noise of the advancing army would be so terrifying that the “fathers shall not look back to their children,” indicating that in their attempt to flee, they would leave their children behind (verse 3). The word “baldness” used in verse 5 indicates a funeral-like mourning for the judgment and destruction of their cities.

God’s judgment of the nations continues in chapter 48, and is directed in this passage against Moab. The Moabites were descendants of Lot through his incestuous relationship with his eldest daughter. Moab had a confrontational relationship with the Children of Israel; however, Judah formed an alliance with Moab and Ammon in an ill-conceived attempt to defeat Nebuchadnezzar’s army. This nation was condemned for pride (verse 29). Moab had been famous for vineyards and wine production. Jeremiah’s prophecy gives imagery of the nation as a winemaker sitting on a stock of wine, allowing it to sit and age without being poured from vessel to vessel, which would cause it to lose value. Because of their pride and contentment in their own accomplishments, destruction would come to the Moabites by way of Babylon and their wine would be emptied from vessel to vessel. Then the vessels would be broken.

Chapter 49 records the judgments against Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Kedar, Hazor, and Elam. The Ammonites descended from Benammi, a son of Lot conceived through incest with his youngest daughter. The Ammonites inhabited an area east of the Jordan River, having moved into the Northern Kingdom of Israel after Assyria took Israel away captive in 722 B.C. The Ammonites had placed their trust in their god, Molech, and the natural protection of the surrounding mountains. Jeremiah prophesied that their trust would turn to fear and they would be driven out.

The Edomites were descendants of Esau. During the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem they supported Nebuchadnezzar and rejoiced when the city eventually fell. Teman and Dedan (verses 7 and 8) were at opposite ends of the country, so these verses show the completeness of the promised destruction.

The final four judgments in chapter 49 were against Damascus, Kedar, Hazor, and Elam. Syria’s capital was the city of Damascus. Kedar and Selam were two nomadic Arabian tribes. Elam was a neighbor east of Babylon that bordered Assyria and Media.

Chapters 50 and 51 contain the judgments against Babylon. God had used Babylon as an instrument to chasten His people, Judah, and to execute His judgment on other nations. However, the Babylonians had celebrated the destruction of God’s people and His Temple (Jeremiah 50:11), and Jeremiah prophesied that the destruction of Babylon would be complete and final. Not even one stone from Babylon’s buildings would be taken and used to build somewhere else, but the city would remain desolate forever. Jeremiah underscored the finality of this judgment by instructing Seraiah, the son of Neriah, to read the judgments against Babylon when he arrived there. When the reading was complete, Seraiah was told to “bind a stone” to the book and cast it into the Euphrates River as an object lesson to the people, symbolizing that Babylon, too, would sink.

The last chapter of this book corresponds with Jeremiah 39, 2 Kings 25, and 2 Chronicles 36. These chapters record the fall of Jerusalem, its destruction, the captivity of the people of Judah, and the deportation to Babylon.

SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS

  1. Why do you think God had Jeremiah prophesy judgment against Judah’s neighboring countries?

    Your class should conclude that the countries that God pronounced judgment on had all aligned themselves against Him. They had performed evil acts, and had influenced His people toward idolatry.

    As a follow-up question, ask your class for examples of how those surrounding countries had been influenced by Israel and were therefore responsible for the knowledge of God. All of these countries had been given the knowledge of the God of Israel: Egypt through the Exodus, the Philistines by the Judges and David, Moab by Naomi and Ruth, and Babylon by Jeremiah and the prophets.

  2. In Jeremiah 46:25, whom did God direct the prophet to say would be punished? Why do you think God identified each entity separately rather than simply grouping them as a nation?

    God specified that He would punish the multitude of No, Pharaoh (mentioned twice), Egypt, Egypt’s gods, Egypt’s kings, and all that trusted in Pharaoh.

    Several possibilities may be mentioned in answer to the second question. Lead your class to the conclusion that God’s judgment was complete: no one was exempt from the punishment that was determined against them. In reference to the phrase “and all them that trust in him,” you may wish to explain that many smaller nations had sought to ally themselves with Egypt, including rebellious Judah. Others, including families from Judah, had fled to Egypt for safety, trusting in that nation’s gods and military might. Rather than finding protection and safety, they suffered God’s judgment against Egypt.

    Ask your class to identify places that people run to rather than God in our day when they have problems. What is the danger in doing so?

  3. Philistia was located in a portion of the Promised Land west of Judah, along the southeastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. Chapter 47 prophesies of its final destruction at the time when Judah would go into captivity. What lesson can we learn from the fact that Israel never removed that nation from the Promised Land after their conquest of it?

    The class should identify several ways that the Philistines caused the Israelites serious problems during the entire time they possessed the Promised Land. The Philistines had ruled over the Jewish people at times, fought costly battles with them, and introduced them to idols and heathen and idolatrous practices. Their presence was an ongoing trial that could have been avoided if the Children of Israel had followed God’s instructions. Lead the class to understand that we must follow God’s instructions completely if we are to enjoy His unhindered blessings on our lives.
  4. Although judgment was proclaimed against both Moab and Ammon, they, like Israel, were told that someday there would be a return to their lands (see Jeremiah 48:47 and 49:6). These prophecies may relate in part to an end-time restoration. However, some of the Moabites and Ammonites were allowed to return to their lands under the edict of Cyrus. What does this indicate to us about God’s use of judgment?

    God is merciful and not only uses His judgment in punishment, but also as an instrument to encourage and draw those who have resisted Him to Himself.

    You may wish to expand the discussion of this question to consider some of the ways that God draws people to Himself in our day. The point could be made that sometimes troubling circumstances can actually be the merciful Hand of God drawing an unbeliever to Himself. Perhaps there would be some in your class who could share a personal example from their knowledge or experience of a hard situation that resulted in someone coming to the Lord.

  5. Read Jeremiah 49:7 and 13-17. What was to be the final state of the country of Edom? How did this differ from Moab and Ammon?

    It was to become desolate, a reproach, a waste, a curse, and all of its cities a perpetual waste. This nation had originally been a part of Judah’s rebellion against Babylon. When Nebuchadnezzar came to besiege Jerusalem, Edom joined forces with Babylon and took part in sacking the city and killing its inhabitants, the people of Judah. Their treacherous actions caused God to determine their overthrow to be like that of Sodom and Gomorrah (Jeremiah 49:18).

    Unlike Moab and Ammon, God’s judgment provided no hope of restoration for Edom. As your class considers this, the question may arise why God determined this on the Edomites, when a glimmer of hope seemingly was offered to some of the other heathen nations alluded to in this chapter. Lead your class to understand that the people of Edom exhibited a total lack of loyalty, along with deceit. Their treachery led to the total desolation of their land.

    Ask your class to make a list of ways that we can remain loyal as we serve God in the church. Their answers may include faithful attendance, supporting leadership, prayerfully seeking God’s will in our daily lives, and being active in Sunday school and other areas of the work as needed.

  6. God had used Babylon as an instrument of justice in pouring out divine retribution upon Judah and the nations identified in this lesson. However, chapters 50 and 51 describe in detail the pronouncement of doom upon this once-mighty nation. Bel and Merodach, mentioned in Jeremiah 50:2, are names referring to a single deity, the chief god of Babylon. What did the Prophet Jeremiah say would happen to this god, and to the other idols of Babylon? What spiritual truth is revealed by this pronouncement?

    Jeremiah foretold that the god of the Babylonians, which they regarded as creator and king, was to be “taken,” “confounded [humiliated],” and “broken in pieces.” In other words, Babylon’s great god was about to be shamefully defeated by the decree of the mighty God of Israel.

    Class discussion of the second question should bring out the thought that God alone is all-powerful. No matter what deities man may invent and worship, He alone is sovereign. God will have the last word!

  7. Jeremiah 52:2 says that Zedekiah, Judah’s last king, “did that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord.” His leadership resulted in the siege of Jerusalem, the spoiling of the city and Temple, and the killing and enslavement of the people of Judah. What was God’s punishment upon Zedekiah? Jeremiah 52:10-11

    King Zedekiah witnessed the slaying of his sons (Jeremiah 39:6), had his eyes put out, and was carried away to Babylon in chains, where he was kept in prison until his death.

    Regardless of whether or not we are leaders, there is always someone looking to us as an example. What are some ways that we can provide a good spiritual example to those around us? Class responses to this follow-up question will bring out such thoughts as: demonstrate faithfulness; be prayerful, loving, kind, and encouraging; honor God in all things, etc.

  8. What qualities in the life and ministry of Jeremiah might help us as we attempt to live for God in a spiritually challenging society?

    This question should provide you with a good framework for summarizing this lesson and our study of the Book of Jeremiah. Class responses will likely bring out some of the following thoughts:

    • We must be faithful in spite of adversity.

    • Sometimes obedience to God takes courage, but He will give grace and strength.

    • Success in the eyes of God is of far more value than success in the eyes of man.

    • The opinion of the majority is not necessarily the way to go.

    • Serving God does not guarantee personal ease or security.

CONCLUSION

God judged the nations along with His own people for rebelling against Him and not heeding His Word. As we purpose to live righteously and obediently before God, we can avoid facing the judgment of God that will certainly fall upon those who persist in refusing His mercy and rebelling against Him.