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NKJV Jer 51: 19 The Portion of Jacob is not like them, For He is the Maker of all things; And Israel is the tribe of His inheritance. The Lord of hosts is His name. 20 “You are My battle-ax and weapons of war: For with you I will break the nation in pieces; With you I will destroy kingdoms;

The context of verse 19, suggests Israel is the battle axe, and perhaps it is referring to a time yet to happen. Is there any problems with this interpretation? As Jeremiah 51 seems to be a chapter of layers of information relating to differing times, ie. (Babylon exile - past) and (fall of Babylon - future).

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There is no doubt that the commentators are in doubt!

Note the remarks of the Cambridge commentary:

20–24. Is it (a) Cyrus, as conqueror of Babylon, or (b) Babylon herself, that is addressed? Jeremiah 51:24 seems to support (a), but on the whole (b) is perhaps preferable. The future tenses can as well be rendered as presents, denoting what Babylon has hitherto been accustomed to do as the instrument of Jehovah. This view also harmonizes with Jeremiah 51:14 (while we omit 15–19; see note there), as well as with Jeremiah 51:25 ff., where Babylon is certainly the subject.

Similarly, the Pulpit commentary:

The battle axe was much less frequently used. But who is addressed by this terrible title? The commentators are divided, some inclining to Babylon,

(1) because Babylon was the last person addressed (see ver. 14), and

(2) because a similar title was given to Babylon in Jeremiah 50:23: others to Israel, on the ground that the tenses are the same throughout the passage (vers. 20-24).

Let us examine the text very carefully. The key is actually in V19 of Jer 51.

The Portion [= the LORD] of Jacob is not like these, for He [= the LORD] is the Maker of all things, and of the tribe of His [= the LORD] inheritance— the LORD of Hosts is His name.

Recall that "LORD of hosts" could be translated "LORD of armies" (compare Josh 5:14, 6:1), that is, this title has a significant military connotation. This idea is taken up in places like Rev 19 where Jesus leads the armies of heaven. Now examine the next three verses with the clear understanding that it is the LORD of hosts that is the subject of V19 (the NKJV also capitalizes Portion, Maker, His)

20You are My war club, My weapon for battle.

With you I shatter nations;

with you I bring kingdoms to ruin.

21 With you I shatter the horse and rider;

with you I shatter the chariot and driver.

22 With you I shatter man and woman;

with you I shatter the old man and the youth;

with you I shatter the young man and the maiden.

23 With you I shatter the shepherd and his flock;

with you I shatter the farmer and his oxen;

with you I shatter the governors and officials.

Thus, grammatically, the "LORD of hosts" is the antecedent for all these pronouns, "you".

We have a similar situation in Zech 2:6-12 and Isa 48:11-16 where several times it is the the LORD who sends the LORD.

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Let's see the context, Jeremiah 51:

18 They are futile, a work of errors;
In the time of their punishment they shall perish.
19 The Portion of Jacob is not like them,
For He is the Maker of all things;
And Israel is the tribe of His inheritance.
The Lord of hosts is His name.

There is a distinction between Jews and Gentiles. Israel is associated with the Lord.

20 “You are My battle-ax and weapons of war:
For with you I will break the nation in pieces;
With you I will destroy kingdoms;

The immediate context here is that "you" refers to Israel.

24 “And I will repay Babylon
And all the inhabitants of Chaldea
For all the evil they have done
In Zion in your sight,” says the Lord.

Again, the distinction is made between Jews and Gentiles; "your" refers to the Jews.

Who is the battle axe in Jeremiah 51:20?

From the context, it is likely that it refers to Israel, the inheritance of the Lord.

OP: The context of verse 19, suggests Israel is the battle axe, and perhaps it is referring to a time yet to happen.

I agree.

Is there any problems with this interpretation?

There is one point of disagreement. Ellicott explains:

Thou art my battle ax . . .--Better, my mace. The axe is not found on Assyrian monuments as a weapon of war till a comparatively late period. It is a question who is thus addressed--Babylon, or Cyrus as the destroyer of Babylon, or Israel. On the whole, the second seems the more probable answer.

Historically, Cyrus did use the mace as a weapon to conquer Babylon. A broader context also suggests this possibility:

11 Make the arrows bright!
Gather the shields!
The Lord has raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes.
For His plan is against Babylon to destroy it,
Because it is the vengeance of the Lord,
The vengeance for His temple.

Who is the battle axe in Jeremiah 51:20?

I'd go with a more spiritual interpretation: it refers to God's people.

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