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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 48

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes


C. The oracle against Moab ch. 48

This oracle is similar to the one in Isaiah 15, 16. [Note: See Feinberg, "Jeremiah," p. 662, for a chart of the similar verses.] Other oracles against Moab appear in Ezekiel 25:8-11, Amos 2:1-3, and Zephaniah 2:9, but this is the longest one. It is very difficult to say when Jeremiah gave this oracle, but it may have been one complete message.

"Moab joined in the marauding bands Nebuchadnezzar sent against Judah in 602 B.C., after Jehoiakim’s revolt (cf. 2 Kings 24:2; Jeremiah 12:7-13). They joined in a plot to revolt against Babylon early in Zedekiah’s reign (cf. Jeremiah 27:1-11)." [Note: Ibid., p. 656. See Harrison, Jeremiah and . . ., p. 174, or any good Bible dictionary or encyclopedia, for a brief history of Moab.]

Verse 1

The Lord announced the destruction of two key cities in Moab, which was Judah’s neighbor to the southeast: Nebo (Numbers 32:3; Numbers 32:38) and Kiriathaim (Joshua 13:19). Moab’s boundaries were the Arnon River on the north, the Arabian Desert on the east, the Zered River on the south, and the Dead Sea on the west. At various times Moab also occupied territory to its north, in the old Amorite kingdom of Sihon (Numbers 21:21-31). The Moabite (or Mesha) Stone, erected about 840 B.C., but now in the British Museum, refers to many of the numerous Moabite towns mentioned in this chapter. [Note: For a translation of it, see Pritchard, ed., pp. 320-21.]

Verses 1-10

1. The destruction of Moab 48:1-10

The oracle begins with a general prediction of Moab’s destruction.

Verse 2

Heshbon, the ancient capital of the Amorites (Numbers 21:25-30), would be the place where an enemy would plan Moab’s destruction. It stood at the northernmost boundary of Moab during periods of Moab’s expansion. [Note: Smothers, p. 311.] "Madmen," another important Moabite town two miles northwest of Rabbah, would be the victim of warfare.

Verses 3-5

The town of Horonaim would also experience great devastation. Moab’s children would wail because of the calamity of battle. The hills near Luhith and Horonaim would witness the cries of their inhabitants. These sites were in southwestern Moab.

Verse 6

The Moabites would need to flee for their lives. They would be as rare, isolated, and forsaken as juniper trees in the desert, and their safety would lie in their isolation.

Verse 7

The reason for Moab’s destruction was her self-confidence in her deeds and riches. Yet even she would undergo capture. Moab’s chief god, Chemosh, would go into captivity along with his priests and the princes of the nation. It was customary for conquerors to carry off images of the gods of the people they defeated (cf. Jeremiah 49:3; Isaiah 46:1-2; Amos 5:26).

Verse 8

All the cities, the valley, and the plateau-in short, the whole nation-would fall before the coming enemy, as Yahweh predicted. "The valley" was the Jordan Valley in which Moab had holdings, and "the plateau" refers to the tableland from Aroer northward to Heshbon (cf. Joshua 13:15-17). Most of Moab stood on this fertile plateau.

"For defense, Moab had towering cliffs, and for wealth, her enormous flocks of sheep [cf. 2 Kings 3:4]; riches that were self-renewing. But the shelter of these things had bred more complacency than character." [Note: Kidner, p. 142.]

Verse 9

Moab needed wings, since her people were bound to fly away into captivity, and her cities would remain desolate. Another translation sees Moab sown with salt, a symbol of destruction in the ancient Near East (cf. Judges 9:45), either to destroy Moab or to prepare it for the conqueror’s occupation. Salt was an abundant material in Moab, which lay just east of the Salt (Dead) Sea.

Verse 10

The Lord uttered a curse on any of the soldiers that would not carry out His will against Moab as He had ordered. Christians often use this verse, appropriately, as a challenge to serve the Lord diligently. The last word in the AV rendering of the first line is "slackness" rather than "deceit."

Verse 11

The Lord compared Moab to a spoiled child, and to wine that had not been poured from one container to another to remove its sediment. [Note: Dyer, "Jeremiah," p. 1195, wrote a concise description of the whole wine-making process. See also Keil, 2:217.] Moab was famous for its wine production (cf. Jeremiah 48:32-33; Isaiah 16:8-11). Its peaceful history had made Moab complacent. It was so isolated geographically that it had not experienced the discipline of frequent invasions and captivity. God sometimes sends trouble to strengthen people.

"Readers of the missionary classic, Hudson Taylor in Early Years, may remember the apt heading, ’Emptied from Vessel to Vessel’, to a chapter describing an unsettled but ultimately fruitful few months in the missionary’s second year in China." [Note: Kidner, p. 142.]

Verses 11-17

2. The complacency of Moab 48:11-17

The emphasis in the next section of the oracle is on the end of Moab’s complacency.

Verses 12-13

However, the days would come when the Lord would upset Moab’s complacency. He would send judgment, pictured in terms of foreign "tilters" who would decant her wine, prepare it for distribution, and destroy its casks. Then Moab would be disillusioned with Chemosh for not protecting her, even as Israel had been ashamed of the idols she had worshipped at Bethel.

Verses 14-15

Moab would not be able to boast about her mighty warriors, in that day, because others would overcome them, slay her young men, and destroy the nation. The sovereign King, Yahweh of Hosts, made this promise (cf. Jeremiah 46:18).

Verses 16-17

Moab’s destruction would come soon, so all her neighbor nations should mourn her destruction (cf. Deuteronomy 32:35). They should bewail the fall of such a strong and splendid rule.

Verse 18

The prophet called the residents of Dibon to humble themselves because the destroyer would ruin their strongholds. Archaeologists discovered the Moabite Stone at Dibon in 1868.

Verses 18-28

3. The catastrophe of Moab 48:18-28

Jeremiah next focused attention on the catastrophe coming on Moab’s cities.

Verses 19-20

Jeremiah appealed to the inhabitants of Aroer to inquire from fleeing residents what had happened. The answer was that Moab had fallen and was, therefore, humiliated. The news would go out in the Arnon Valley, Moab’s northern border. Aroer stood southeast of Dibon on the southern boundary of the old Amorite kingdom, which was the Arnon River (Judges 11:18-19).

Verses 21-24

Jeremiah listed 11 other cities of Moab that would experience destruction-representing all the towns in the nation.

Verse 25

Moab would lose its strength, as when an animal lost its horn or when a person broke his arm.

Verse 26

The nation would also become an object of ridicule, like a drunkard who wallows in his own vomit, because it became arrogant toward Yahweh. Implicit here is the idea of Moab drinking from the cup of Yahweh’s wrath that produces drunkenness, staggering, insanity, and vomiting (cf. Jeremiah 25:15-29; Jeremiah 49:12-13; Jeremiah 51:6-10; Jeremiah 51:39; Jeremiah 51:57; Isaiah 51:17-23; et al.). The nation had not humbled itself under Yahweh’s sovereign authority, and now judgment would come.

Verse 27

Moab would become just as much a laughingstock to other nations as Israel had been to Moab when the Assyrians destroyed the Northern Kingdom. The Moabites had held the Israelites in contempt ever since that defeat.

Verse 28

The Moabites would head for the hills and hide in the caves, in view of the coming destruction of their cities. They would try to hide anywhere.

"The reputed silliness of the dove with its rickety nests is proverbial." [Note: Smothers, p. 317.]

Verse 29

The sins of Moab were well-known: haughtiness, pride, arrogance, and self-exaltation.

"The sin of pride is one of the principal reasons for Moab’s downfall. Had she boasted in the righteous deeds of the Lord (cf. Psalms 20:7; Psalms 34:2; Jeremiah 9:24) she would have prospered. The Christian must avoid all false pride (cf. Mark 7:22; Romans 1:30; James 3:5, etc.), and must boast instead in God’s redemptive work in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:29 f.; Galatians 6:14, etc.), since every human boast has been destroyed in Him (1 Corinthians 1:25-30)." [Note: Harrison, Jeremiah and . . ., p. 176.]

Verses 29-39

4. The pride of Moab 48:29-39

Moab’s pride would finally come to an end.

Verse 30

Moab’s arrogant anger and baseless boasts would not save her from just judgment.

Verses 31-33

The prophet would mourn over Moab’s fate, and for the fate of her people, even more than people had wept over the fate of the fall of the town of Jazar. The Israelites had taken Jazar, a town 10 miles north of Heshbon, during their conquest of Transjordan (cf. Numbers 21:32). Apparently the mourning over that destruction, or a subsequent one, had become proverbial.

Moab was proud of its vineyards and fruit trees. Jeremiah compared the destruction to come to the cutting back of Moab’s renowned products and its resulting sadness. The shouting would not be the glad rejoicing of treaders of grapes, but the cries of warriors bent on destruction. Moab’s "tendrils stretching across the (Mediterranean) sea" pictures her international trade in wine. [Note: Smothers, pp. 318-19.]

Verse 34

The Moabites in Heshbon, Elealeh, and Jahaz would mourn her destruction, as would those in Zoar, Horonaim, and Eglath-shelishiyah. Even the waters near Nimrim, evidently one of Moab’s more popular sites, would become desolate.

Verse 35

Yahweh promised to destroy Moab because of her idolatry.

Verse 36

Jeremiah continued to mourn over Moab’s destruction. His mourning was like the sound of flute players in that it, too, sounded like wailing. The abundance of Moab’s lost produce was good reason to sorrow.

Verses 37-38

When the nation fell, there would be people expressing their grief in traditional ways everywhere. They would shave their heads, cut their beards short, cut their hands, and wear sackcloth around their hips (cf. Jeremiah 4:8; Jeremiah 16:6; Jeremiah 41:5; 1 Kings 18:28; Amos 8:10; Micah 1:16). People would be lamenting on their housetops and in the streets, namely, everywhere. Yahweh would destroy Moab like a person smashed an earthenware vessel that he or she no longer desired.

Verse 39

The nation would suffer defeat, the people would lament, the inhabitants would repent out of shame, and the kingdom would become an object of ridicule and a fearful prospect for onlookers.

Verse 40

Yahweh affirmed that, like a swift eagle (or vulture), Moab’s destroyer would descend on her. This was a fit figure for Nebuchadnezzar (cf. Jeremiah 49:22; Deuteronomy 28:49).

Verses 40-47

5. The end of Moab 48:40-47

The final section of the oracle stresses the full end of Moab.

Verse 41

The hearts of even mighty men in the nation would fail, like the heart of a woman in labor, at the news that Kerieth, one of the strongest of Moab’s cities, and other strongholds, had fallen.

Verse 42

Moab would cease to exist as a nation, because it had been arrogant toward Yahweh; it had not humbled itself under the sovereign Lord of all nations.

Verses 43-44

Escape would be unavoidable. If a person escaped one form of judgment, another one would get him. The Lord’s devices would trap the people just as certainly as hunters used terror, pits, and snares to capture animals. This would happen at the Lord’s appointed time. The three snares all begin with the same letters in Hebrew, forming a triple assonance.

Verse 45

Fugitives of the invasion would huddle in weakness, in the shadow of Heshbon-the ancient capital of Sihon king of the Amorites-because of the devastation planned and executed from there (cf. Jeremiah 48:2). The invasion would rob Moab and its complacent revelers of their glory, as when fire burns someone’s hair off.

"These words [i.e., "it has devoured the forehead of Moab"] have been taken by Jeremiah from Balaam’s utterance regarding Moab, Num. xxiv. 17, and embodied in his address after some transformation." [Note: Keil, 2:234.]

Verse 46

Moab would experience "woe." The people of Moab, their god Chemosh’s people, would perish, and their children would go into captivity (cf. Numbers 21:28-29; Numbers 24:17).

Verse 47

Yet Yahweh promised to restore the fortunes of Moab in the distant future (cf. Jeremiah 46:26; Jeremiah 49:6; Jeremiah 49:39). This happened after the Exile, and it will happen in the eschaton when modern residents of Moab’s territory will stream to Jerusalem to worship Messiah in the Millennium. [Note: Feinberg, "Jeremiah," p. 663; Dyer, "Jeremiah," p. 1197.]

The reasons for Moab’s judgment were not its treatment of Israel or Judah, but hubris (overweening pride) against Yahweh (Jeremiah 48:26; Jeremiah 48:42), complacency (Jeremiah 48:11-12), and self-sufficiency (Jeremiah 48:14; Jeremiah 48:29-30). She had not bowed in submission to the Lord of all the earth.

The fulfillment of Moab’s judgment evidently came when Nebuchadnezzar returned to Canaan, in 581 B.C., to quell a rebellion by Moab and Ammon. [Note: Josephus, 10:9:7.] He also took more Judahites back to Babylon with him when he returned home (Jeremiah 52:30).

"The Moabites were conquered by Nebuchadnezzar and disappeared as a nation." [Note: Feinberg, "Jeremiah," p. 656.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jeremiah 48". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/jeremiah-48.html. 2012.
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