Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 25:19-26

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, March 18, 2015

For our consideration: Jeremiah trots out all of the nations to be destroyed by the Babylonian scourge—and then he ends the list with Babylon herself in a cryptic reference.

19 Also: Pharaoh king of Egypt, his servants, his officials and all his people, 20 and all the foreigners there,

This would either be a reference to Pharaoh Neco II (610-595) or to his successor, Psamtik II (595-589 BC). In my opinion, it is a judgment on Neco. There is no direct reference to Psamtik II in the Bible.

   all the kings of the land of Uz,

Jeremiah is the last author of the Bible to mention the land of Uz (see also Lamentations 4:21) unless the genealogical references to two men named Uz (son of Aram, 1 Chronicles 1:17, and son of Dishan, 1 Chronicles 1:42) are connected to this land. It was an ancient region somewhere to the east of the Jordan River, and it most famous as the homeland of the patriarch Job.

   all the kings of the Philistines (Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron,
     and the remnant of Ashdod),

As we move chronologically through the Old Testament, Philistia gets smaller and smaller over time. The last reference to Gath is in Amos 6:2; after that, lists of Philistine towns no longer mention Goliath’s home. Now, Ashdod is mentioned only as to its “remnant.” The Greek historian Herodotus (II, 151-157) says that Ashdod was destroyed by Pharaoh Psamtik I (the father of Necho II—I hope to talk more about about Psamtik I in conjunction with Jeremiah’s exile in Tahpanhes).

By the time of the prophet Zechariah after the exile, Ashkelon, Gaza and Ekron would “writhe in agony” and foreigners would occupy Ashdod (Zechariah 9:5-7). In the New Testament, only Gaza will remain of the once mighty Philistine state (Acts 8:26).

21 Edom, Moab and the Ammonites,

These nations, all east of the Jordan, were distant relatives of the Jews through Esau (Jacob’s brother), and the daughters of Lot, Abraham’s nephew.

22 all the kings of Tyre,
  all the kings of Sidon,
  and the kings of the islands across the sea,

Opposite Edom in the far southeast are Tyre and Sidon in the far northwest. These were maritime nations that had dealings with many distant lands. The “islands across the sea” probably refers mainly to the people of Crete and Cyprus, the larger islands within reach of the Levant.

23 Dedan, Tema, Buz, and all who live on the edge of the

These were all small desert nations east of Judah. Tema was the home of Eliphaz the Temanite in Job (Job 4:1, 15:1, 22:1). Perhaps Buz was named for another nephew of Abraham, through his brother Nahor (Genesis 22:21). Dedan was associated with Edom (Jeremiah 49:8-10).

The last phrase of this verse is unusual, but it occurs more than once in this book (see Jeremiah 9:26). The words qatsuts pe’ah mean either “those who trim the edge (of their beards)” or “those who live on the edge (of the desert).” The context doesn’t make it possible to say exactly which one of these is meant. The beard-cutters could mean all the peoples who are outside of Israel’s sphere of influence—Israelite priests were commanded not to trim their beards or shave (Leviticus 21:5). We know from artwork in Egypt and Babylon that many of the people who lived around Israel also followed this practice, but that the Hittites were generally clean-shaven. However, “those who live on the edge” could as easily refer to people who lived beyond the reaches of the desert, just as in verse 22 we have a reference to the people who live “across the sea.”

24 all the kings of Arabia,
   all the kings of the foreign people who live in the desert,

Arabia is mentioned only a few times in the Old Testament (2 Chronicles 9:14; Isaiah 21:13; Ezekiel 27:21, 30:5). Arabian men are mentioned in 1 Kings 10:15; Nehemiah 2:19 and a few other places. In this context, we shouldn’t make Arabia out to be the whole nation as we know it today, but a small kingdom to the east and northeast of the Sea of Galilee. The city of Damascus is associated with Arabia in the New Testament (Galatians 1:17).

25 all the kings of Zimri,
   all the kings of Elam,
   all the kings of the Medes,

After talking about nations east, south, north and west, Jeremiah takes us even further east, right into Babylon. The Medes and Elamites were on the far side of Babylon, in what we think of today as Iran.

The land of Zimri is unknown. A few commentators have speculated that Zimri might be a misspelling of Zikri (a matter of a penstroke in most Semitic alphabets including Hebrew). Zikri would be a cryptogram for Elam. This is achieved through a primitive code called Atbash, in which the alphabet’s values are inverted, so that the first letter aleph equals the last letter tav, the second letter beth equals the second-to-last letter shin, and so on (this is where the name ‘atbash’ comes from: a=t, b-sh). Although this would be very unusual, it occurs in verse 26, although that does not explain why Elam / Zikri would be mentioned twice in verse 25.

26 all the kings of the north, far and near, one after another,
   and all the kingdoms of the world which are on the face of
      the earth.
And the king of Shehach will drink after them.

The final judgment comes back to the nation of “Sheshach.” There is no Shehsach known in the ancient world, but Sheshach is the Atbash cryptogram for bbl, “Babylon.”

In the New Testament, the name of Babylon becomes a code word itself, used by both Peter and John for Rome (1 Peter 5:13; Revelation 17:5 and other places in Revelation). God will not allow his enemies to stand, and this means that in eternity there will be no enemy to assail us, no opponent to tempt us, and no opportunity for us to fall away into sin. God’s victory will be complete—the victory that has its beginning and end with our Savior Jesus. “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life” (Revelation 21:6).

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.