Jeremiah 51:2

New English Translation

2 I will send people to winnow Babylonia like a wind blowing away chaff.#tn Or “I will send foreign people against Babylonia.” The translation follows the reading of the Greek recensions of Aquila and Symmachus and the Latin version (the Vulgate). That reading is accepted by the majority of modern commentaries and several of the modern versions (e.g., NRSV, REB, NAB, and God’s Word). It fits better with the verb that follows it than the reading of the Hebrew text and the rest of the versions. The difference in the two readings is again only the difference in vocalization, the Hebrew text reading זָרִים (zarim) and the versions cited reading זֹרִים (zorim). If the Hebrew text is followed, there is a wordplay between the two words, “foreigners” and “winnow.” The words “like a wind blowing away chaff” have been supplied in the translation to clarify for the reader what “winnow” Winnowing involved throwing a mixture of grain and chaff (or straw) into the air and letting the wind blow away the lighter chaff, leaving the grain to fall on the ground. Since God considered all the Babylonians chaff, they would all be “blown away.”
They will winnow her and strip her land bare.#tn Or “They will strip her land bare like a wind blowing away chaff.” The alternate translation would be necessary if one were to adopt the alternate reading of the first line (the reading of the Hebrew text). The explanation of “winnow” would then be necessary in the second line. The verb translated “strip…bare” means literally “to empty out” (see BDB 132 s.v. בָּקַק Polel). It has been used in 19:7 in the Qal of “making void” Judah’s plans in a wordplay on the word for “bottle.” See the study note on 19:7 for further details.
This will happen when#tn This assumes that the particle כִּי (ki) is temporal (cf. BDB 473 s.v. כִּי 2.a). This is the interpretation adopted also by NRSV and G. L. Keown, P. J. Scalise, T. G. Smothers, Jeremiah 26-52 (WBC), 349. J. Bright (Jeremiah [AB], 345) and J. A. Thompson (Jeremiah [NICOT], 747, n. 3) interpret it as asseverative or emphatic, “Truly, indeed.” Many of the modern English versions merely ignore it. Reading it as temporal makes it unnecessary to emend the following verb as Bright and Thompson do (from הָיוּ [hayu] to יִהְיוּ [yihyu]). they come against her from every direction,
when it is time to destroy her.#tn Heb “in the day of disaster.”