Battle of the Gods: The God of Israel Versus Marduk of Babylon

A Literary / Theological Interpretation of Jeremiah 50-51


This monograph is a literary study of the oracles against Babylon in Jeremiah chapters 50-51. They form the climax of the foreign oracle collection in the book of Jeremiah. Included are a survey of early scholarship on these chapters, a discussion of genres and motifs, verbal components, and a succinct survey of the historical context. However, the major emphasis is directed to the dynamic of these oracles as a literary creation with a message. That message is directed to Judah and Israel, who are urged to flee a doomed city with its idolatrous civilization, and to return to their homeland, to Jerusalem, to enter a permanent covenant with YHWH the God of their fathers.
Throughout, the literature is discussed in its natural contexts: within the oracle collection in Jeremiah, in comparison with the Isaian oracles against Babylon, and within the canonical book of Jeremiah, demonstrating the climactic position of these oracles.

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Martin Kessler (1927) holds a Ph.D. in Old Testament Studies from Brandeis University, and a M.Sc. from Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg. His publications include Kornelis Miskotte. A Biblical Theology (1997) and, together with K.A. Deurloo, Book of Beginnings.
A Commentary on Genesis (2003).
From the Contents

Chapter One: History of Scholarship

A Introduction
1. The Early Critical Period
2. The Later Critical Period
3. Bernhard Duhm and the Modern Era
4. Recent Scholarship on Jeremiah
5. Dissertations on Jeremiah 50-51
B Unresolved Issues
1. Historical Questions
2. Literary Questions
3. Diachronics/Synchronics

Chapter Two: From Genres to Motifs

1. Judgment Oracles
2. Oracles of Promise
3. Calls to Flee
4. Calls to Battle
5. Declarations of Defeat
6. Others
7. Narrative
8. Conclusion

Chapter Three: Literary Commentary – Introduction

A The Difficulty of Biblical Interpretation
B The Interpretative Agenda
C The Challenge of Segmenting the Text
D A Proposal for Segmenting
1. General Comparison with other Jeremian OAN
2. The “Great Reversal” Theme
3. The Recurrent Patterns: “War” and “Return to Zion”
4. The Spirit of the anti-Babylon Oracles
E Significant Verbal Markers

Chapter Four: Literary Commentary on Jeremiah 50

Verse by verse commentary
1. 50:1-3 Introduction and Focus
2. 50:4-10 A Triptych
3. 50:11-16 Flee Babylon, the Doomed City!
4. 50:17-20 Israel Hunted, Avenged, Restored, Forgiven
5. 50:21-28 YHWH at War against Babylon
6. 50:29-30 Turning of the Tide
7. 50:31-32 The Fall of Babylon’s Pride
8. 50:33-46 Israel Redeemed

Chapter Five: Literary Commentary on Jeremiah 51

Verse by verse commentary
9. 51:1-6 Babylon Indicted
10. 51:7-10 The Butler who got Sick
11. 51:11-14 YHWH swears to Execute his Plans
12. 51:15-19 Doxology: YHWH and Israel
13. 51:20-24 Flashback on Babylon
14. 41:25-26 A Magnificent City Reduced to Rubbish
15. 51:27-33 The Battlefield a Threshing Floor
16. 51:34-40 Israel Redeemed
17. 51:41-46 Lament Babylon and Leave her Behind!
18. 51:47-53 Punishment on Babylon and her Gods
19. 51:54-57 Babylon Collapsed
20. 51:58 Echoes of Babylon: Utter Futility
21. 51:59-64 Weighty Postscript

Chapter Six: Literary Summary

A Rhetorical Inventory
B Structure
1. General Overview
2. Conclusion
C Keyword Structure
1. Verbal Roots
2. Concluding Comments
D Diachronic Postscript

Chapter Seven: The Jeremiah Oracles against Babylon in Context

A Context in the Jeremian Oracles
1. The Sequence of the List of Nations
2. Comparative Inventory of Motifs
3. Overview of the Jeremian OAN
4. The Oracles against Moab
5. The Oracles against Edom
6. The Oracles against Babylon
B Context within the Canonical Book of Jeremiah
1. The Rise and Fall of Babylon: The Great Reversal
C In the Context of the Isaian OAN
1. Isaiah 13
2. Isaiah 14
3. Isaiah 21:1-10
4. Conclusion on the Isaian Oracles
5. Isaiah 47
D Summary

Chapter Eight: Jeremiah 50-51 against the Background of Babylonian History

1. The Question of Historicity
2. Geographical Aspects
3. The growing Influence of Babylon
4. Nebuchadnezzar
5. Babylon’s Decline after Nebuchadnezzar
6. The Capture of Babylon
7. Biblical and extra-biblical History
Chapter Nine: Summarizing Conclusion

A Jeremiah the Prophet
B Authorship and the “Historical Jeremiah”
C The Fate of the Exiles
D The “Exodus” Motif
E The Dating of the Oracles
F The City of Babylon
1. Biblical Aspects
2. The Tower of Babel
3. Characterization of Babylon
4. Sin and Guilt
5. Babylon versus Judah
6. Feminine and Masculine Imagery
7. Babylon in the New Testament
G Marduk H YHWH, Covenant Partner with Israel