So Babylon faces judgment for sins against Judah. On the surface, this doesn’t seem entirely right, does it? God uses Babylon to punish Judah, and then he turns around and punishes Babylon for how they treated Judah.
Except, God doesn’t make Babylon do anything. I think a far better way to say it would be: as judgment against Judah for breaking the covenant, God withheld his protection when Babylon attacked. God allowed Babylon to succeed in order to punish Judah.
God proved over and over he was more than capable of defending his people against overwhelming invading forces. His people simply no longer deserved that protection.
How we frame a situation, how we discuss it, can color our perception, our bias. Yes, saying that God used Babylon to punish Judah and then punished Babylon for what they did is technically correct. But it allows for assumptions to be made about how God used Babylon. There’s nothing wrong with saying either one of those statements. God used Babylon to punish Judah. God punished Babylon for what they did to Judah. We just need to be careful when we put them together.
I’m not saying I’ve heard this particular sequence misrepresented. I really haven’t. Or if I have I’ve forgotten. What I have heard is people outside the church calling into question the manipulative and judgmental nature of the Old Testament God.
I think we need to be careful how we present these stories to those who have not grown up with the same base assumptions and understanding that we have. We need to be able to take a step back and listen to how our statements might be heard by outsiders.
There is nothing wrong with presenting the two parts to the story, we simply need to include an explanation of how they relate. We need to explore how it is that God moves within the lives of people and nations. He does not always cause. I would suggest that he does not often cause. What he does is allow, and he allows for so very many reasons.
The first and the foremost: to give us every opportunity to repent.
This passage also says: We would have healed Babylon, but she was not healed. Even Babylon could have repented, but they did not.