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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 48

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Verses 1-10

Jer 48:1-10

Jeremiah 48:1-4


Of Moab. Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel: Woe unto Nebo! for it is laid waste; Kiriathaim is put to shame, it is taken; Misgab is put to shame and broken down. The praise of Moab is no more; in Heshbon they have devised evil against her: Come, and let us cut her off from being a nation. Thou also, O Madmen, shalt be brought to silence: the sword shall pursue thee. The sound of a cry from Horonaim, desolation and great destruction! Moab is destroyed; her little ones have caused a cry to be heard.


(Jeremiah 48:1). This is not the mountain from which Moses viewed the Promised Land, but the city of Numbers 32:3; Numbers 32:38, built by the Reubenites.


(Jeremiah 48:1). A city six miles south of Dibon. Dibon was where the Moabite Stone was found.


(Jeremiah 48:1). This was an important city, belonging originally to Moab; but then captured by Sihon and made his capital (Numbers 21:26); after its conquest by Israel under Moses, it was given to the Reubenites (Numbers 21:21-24; Numbers 32:37). By the times of Jeremiah, the city was at the zenith of its prosperity and had been retaken by Moab.

But in the times of a certain Alexander, Heshbon again became a Jewish city. Moab eventually was lost as a nation, except for the hope expressed in Jeremiah 48:47 (below).

In Heshbon they have devised evil against her...

(Jeremiah 48:2). It is believed that this is a prophecy that the Babylonians would plan their subjugation of Moab at Heshbon. There is a play on the word. Heshbon means to plan; and the words plan evil are similar in the Hebrew.


(Jeremiah 48:1) and Madmen ... (Jeremiah 48:2). Nothing is known of either of these towns; and the dictionaries available to us have no notes on them whatever.


(Jeremiah 48:3). This is the same as the city of Avara, mentioned by Ptolemy; the name means ’the double caves’ (Nehemiah 2:10; Isaiah 15:5).

Her little ones have caused a cry to be raised...

(Jeremiah 48:4). The little ones referred to here were in all probability the infant sacrifices offered to the savage old god Molech, or Chemosh. That horrible rebellion against God in offering such sacrifices was certainly one of the reasons that brought the wrath of God upon Moab. See more about that pagan god under Jeremiah 48:7.

Jeremiah 48:5-10

For by the ascent of Luhith with continual weeping shall they go up; for at the descent of Horonaim they have heard the distress of the cry of destruction. Flee, save your lives, and be like the heath in the wilderness. For, because thou hast trusted in thy works and in thy treasures, thou also shalt be taken: and Chemosh shall go forth into captivity, his priests and his princes together. And the destroyer shall come upon every city, and no city shall escape; the valley also shall perish, and the plain shall be destroyed; as Jehovah hath spoken. Give wings unto Moab, that she may fly and get her away: and her cities shall become a desolation, without any to dwell therein. Cursed be he that doeth the work of Jehovah negligently; and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood.

Ascent of Luhith... descent of Horonaim...

(Jeremiah 48:5). Whether fleeing to a high mountain or descending into the caves at Horonaim, the people would hear the cry of destruction. ’Luhith’ is unknown; but the mention of ascent suggests that it was some kind of summit, or high place.

Flee, save your lives, be like the heath in the wilderness...

(Jeremiah 48:6). Textual uncertainties in Jeremiah 48:6 have led to several different translations here. The word here rendered ’heath’ is also rendered as ’tamarisk,’ ’sand-grouse,’ or ’wild ass’ (See KJV, ASV, the English Revised Version (1884), the New English Bible, the Jerusalem Bible, and LXX).

Chemosh shall go forth into captivity...

(Jeremiah 48:7). Chemosh is referred to on the Moabite Stone as Ashtar-Kemosh. Ashtar in Canaan was the god of the morning star. Thus we have another example of the Israelites and their kinsmen worshipping the host of heaven (Acts 7:42 ff). In fact, many of the ancient gods and goddesses of paganism were identified with the sun, the moon, various stars and planets

Chemosh, the national god of the Moabites, is here prophetically doomed to captivity, and that meant also that the whole nation of Moab would suffer in a similar way. Like all other manmade gods, Chemosh was of no help whatever to Moab in the day of their calamity.

Jeremiah 48:10 here is a mystery, especially the last clause, of which Robinson said, ,’Here the prophet incites to the slaughter with a curse." However, we reject that interpretation. The only true application of such a command would be to those instruments whom God commissioned to punish rebellious nations for their wickedness. Certainly, Pope Gregory VII’s making this his favorite verse has no possible justification.

Advancing Devastation Jeremiah 48:1-6

The poem opens with a resounding “woe.” This word is derived from the Hebrew vocabulary of lamentation and expresses the idea “how sad it is.” Sometimes the word is used sarcastically; sometimes the prophets are sincere when they utter their woes. Here Jeremiah must feel genuine sympathy for the Moabites in the calamity they are about to experience at the hands of an unnamed northern army. The prophet sees in his mind’s eye the enemy devastating the northern cities of Moab, those cities north of the Arnon river. Nebo is not the mountain but a near-by village named in honor of the Semitic deity Nabu. Misgab (“the high fortress”) and Kiriathaim (“the double city”) are in the vicinity of Nebo. The inhabitants of these cities are dismayed and stupefied in the face of the enemy onslaught (Jeremiah 48:1). In Heshbon, the main city north of the river Arnon, the destroyers from the north assemble for the final push into Moab proper. Heshbon was a border town between Reuben and Gad and served as one of the forty-eight Levitical cities (Joshua 21:39). In Jeremiah’s day the city seems to have been occupied by Ammonites (Jeremiah 49:3). “Come, let us cut her off from being a nation!” The villages of Madmen (Jeremiah 48:2) and Horonaim (Jeremiah 48:3) just south of the Arnon are sacked and destroyed by the enemy. Jeremiah can hear the wails of panic-stricken men and terrified women and children as they flee southward up the road that leads to Luhith and down the valley that leads to Horonaim. The locations of these two villages are unknown.


The Moabites occupied the region east of the Dead Sea and for the most part south of the river Arnon. The Arnon flows through a steep, twisting gorge in the mountains of Moab and was of great strategic importance in antiquity. In times of political decline the kingdom of Moab shrank to the area on the southern side of the river which thus became a natural border on the north. In more vigorous periods the kingdom expanded northward beyond the river. The Israelites first came into contact with the Moabites at the end of the period of wilderness wandering. At that time Balak, king of Moab, hired Balaam to curse Israel (Numbers 22-24). This was the beginning of a long history of enmity between the two nations. See Judges 3:12-30; 1 Samuel 14:47; 2 Samuel 8:2; 2 Kings 3:4-6; 2 Kings 3:6-27; 2 Chronicles 20:1 ff.; 2 Kings 13:20. Only briefly was this hostility interrupted as for example when Elemelech and later David took refuge in Moab (Ruth 1:1 f.; 1 Samuel 22:3-4). The Moabite Stone as well as the Bible reflects the hostility between the Israelites and the Moabites. This inscription tells how Mesha, king of Moab, was able to recapture from Israel territory north of the river Arnon.

Prior to the time of Jeremiah a number of prophets had uttered oracles against Moab. Balaam himself had been compelled by the Spirit of God to utter a prophecy against Moab (Numbers 24:17). Amos (Jeremiah 2:1-3) and Isaiah (Isaiah 15:1-7; Isaiah 16:6-12; Isaiah 25:10-12) had foretold the doom of Moab about a century before Jeremiah. Zephaniah, an earlier contemporary of Jeremiah, also alludes to the forthcoming total destruction of Moab (Zephaniah 2:8-10).

Jeremiah’s oracle against Moab is the most unique and in some respects the most difficult of all the foreign nations oracles found in his book. In at least three respects this oracle is unique. It is by far the longest oracle addressed to any of the smaller neighbors of Israel. Secondly, this oracle contains an enormous number of place names. Certainly Jeremiah must have had an intimate acquaintance with the geography of Moab. It is this aspect of the oracle that makes it difficult to interpret. Thirdly, this oracle is unique because of its similarities to other portions of Scripture. It would appear that the Holy Spirit directed Jeremiah to gather, rearrange, and reaffirm the utterances made concerning Moab by his predecessors. Jeremiah utilizes the earlier prophecies and incorporates their phrases and ideas into his own picture of the future of Moab.

Urgent Exhortation Jeremiah 48:7-10

Knowing the destruction that awaits Moab Jeremiah urges the inhabitants of that nation to flee for their lives. “Be like the heath (desert shrub) in the wilderness” (Jeremiah 48:6). The RSV follows the Septuagint version and renders “wild ass.” Others suggest the translation “destitute man.” In any case the thought is the same: Get out of the cities and take your chances in the uninhabited areas. Flight is necessary because the judgment of Moab is inevitable. Moab will fall because she has put her trust in her works (some translate “strongholds”) and in her treasures instead of the living God. Judged by this criteria many nations today would fall under the prophetic indictment. The Moabites should also flee because their national god Chemosh will not be able to save them. Indeed Chemosh will not even be able to prevent his own captivity: “Chemosh shall go forth into captivity with his priests and his princes together” (Jeremiah 48:7). The inhabitants of Moab shall flee because the destruction will touch every part of the land. No city shall escape. The Jordan valley which formed part of the boundary of Moab on the west shall perish. The plain or plateau, the Transjordanian highland which stretches from the Arnon north to Heshbon, shall also experience the devastation (Jeremiah 48:8). In order to escape the destroyer Moab will need wings and the prophet prays that she shall be provided with them (Jeremiah 48:9). While the prophet feels sympathy for Moab he realizes that the destruction of the Moabites is the work of the Lord which he has committed to human destroyers. A curse is pronounced upon the destroyer if he is negligent in performing the task which the Lord has given him (Jeremiah 48:10).

Verses 11-17

Jer 48:11-17

Jeremiah 48:11-17


Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees, and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity: therefore his taste remaineth in him, and his scent is not changed. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will send unto him them that pour off, and they shall pour him off; and they shall empty his vessels, and break their bottles in pieces. And Moab shall be ashamed of Chemosh, as the house of Israel was ashamed of Beth-el their confidence. How say ye, We are mighty men, and valiant men for the war? Moab is laid waste, and they are gone up into his cities, and his chosen young men are gone down to the slaughter, saith the King, whose name is Jehovah of hosts. The calamity of Moab is near to come, and his affliction hasteth fast. All ye that are round about him, bemoan him, and all ye that know his name; say, How is the strong staff broken, the beautiful rod!

Settled on his lees...

(Jeremiah 48:11). This expression came from the wine-making industry. The best wine cannot be produced without a process of draining off the liquid from the dregs repeatedly, and by pouring the wine from vessel to vessel during the fermentation process. If this is not done, the color of the wine, its taste and quality are inferior. The metaphor of Moab being settled on their lees meant that they had been very fortunate, due to their location, and had not been exercised, as a people, by the hardships and calamities which, had they suffered such, might have hardened and prepared the people for what would eventually come upon them. It was simply a case of a nation growing, fat, lazy and incompetent, a situation which this writer fears is gradually coming upon our own country at this very moment. For over a hundred years all of our wars have been fought on the other man’s homeland, not ours.

They shall pour him off...

(Jeremiah 48:12). This is a metaphor, meaning that the Babylonians will fall upon Moab, which will be helpless before them and will suffer total ruin.

Ashamed of Chemosh . .. as Israel was ashamed of Bethel...

(Jeremiah 48:13) Israel was indeed ashamed of Bethel. That city was where Jeroboam established the sinful altar for Israel, setting up the calf worship there. This is where all Israel kissed the calf (Hosea 13:2); but kissing the calf did them no good whatever when Shalmanezer fell upon Samaria and mined the nation forever. Israel must indeed have been ashamed of all that calf-kissing when the blow fell! So would it be with Moab and their pagan, man-made Chemosh!

They are gone up into his cities...

(Jeremiah 48:15). Textual uncertainties here have led to alternate renditions, i.e., Her cities have gone up in smoke (burnt). and, The waster of Moab and of her towns is coming up to the attack, and her chosen youths are gone down to the slaughter.

The calamity of Moab is come near, and his affliction hasteth fast...

(Jeremiah 48:16). The certainty of our dealing with a predictive prophecy here is seen in the construction of these sentences. It would have been impossible, after the destruction of Moab had occurred, for any man in his right mind to have made a statement of this kind. Can one imagine a serious writer appearing publicly in Atlanta, Georgia, today and shouting that General Sherman is advancing upon Atlanta!?

Barnes noted that this prophecy was given twenty-three years before the events foretold, the fulfillment coming, "Five years after the destruction of Jerusalem."

The strong staff broken...

(Jeremiah 48:17). The emblems of Moab’s rule and authority, ’the scepter’ and ’glorious staff’ will be broken, showing that their power and national glory will pass.

Prophetic Explanation Jeremiah 48:11-17

Why is Moab to suffer so terribly? In answering this question Jeremiah utilizes the figure of wine and wine jars. Owing to its mountainous terrain and some-what isolated geographical position (shielded by the Dead Sea on the west and the desert on the east) Moab had remained comparatively undisturbed throughout history. The country had been invaded from time to time and periodically had been subject to tribute. But unlike surrounding nations which had faced the fierce wrath of the Assyrian and Chaldean conquerors, Moab had never seen her cities totally destroyed and her people carried away into captivity. Jeremiah compares the nation to wine which has settled on the lees (sediment). It was the custom to leave new wine for a time on its sediment in order to heighten its strength and flavor. In other words, due to its relatively undisturbed existence Moab had become a strong and proud nation with a culture and character unchanged by foreign influences. Many commentators take the figure “settled on his lees” in a somewhat more negative sense: Moab is compared to an inferior wine which has been left too long on the lees and hence had become sour and bitter. All that is about to change. God is about to send to Moab what the KJV renders as “wanderers.” The ASV gives a better translation, “them that pour off,” and the RSV a still better translation “tilters.” The reference is to those whose job it was to pour the wine out of the aging vessels into vessels of skins or earthenware. The tilters who will come to Moab will not perform their task in the careful manner which men of that profession normally used. They will in fact pour Moab on the ground and then smash his vessels (Jeremiah 48:12). Moab is to experience a radical and abrupt change in fortunes. Her proud, ancient culture will be poured out like wine from the jar; her political existence smashed like an earthenware jar.

Two aspects of Moabite pride are doomed to horrible disappointment. First, their confidence in Chemosh will be shaken in that day when they discover that he is unable to save his people from calamity. Like the inhabitants of the fallen kingdom of Israel who had placed their trust in the fake religious system established by Jeroboam at Bethel, the Moabites would come to realize the folly of misplaced trust (Jeremiah 48:13). Jeroboam I established a counterfeit form of worship for the people of the northern kingdom of Israel. Golden calves were erected at Bethel and Dan and later at Samaria. Israel was carried away into captivity in 722 B.C. by the Assyrians. They would come to realize that Chemosh was a nonentity. secondly, their pride in military might will prove unjustified. How sad it is, says Jeremiah, that you are saying, We are strong men, powerful men of war! (Jeremiah 48:14). What sinful vainglory! Moab shall be spoiled, the walls of her cities scaled by the enemy, her chosen young men slaughtered in battle. The translation of the ASV “they are gone up into his cities,” is much to be preferred over the KJV which takes the phrase to be referring to the Moabites and translates “and gone up out of her cities.” This is the oracle which the King of all nations and the God of history, the Lord of Hosts, has spoken concerning Moab (Jeremiah 48:15). The ruin of Moab was prophesied by Balaam eight hundred years before (Numbers 24:17) and foretold by Amos (Jeremiah 2:1-3) and Isaiah (chaps. 15–16) is now rapidly approaching (Jeremiah 48:16). All who are friends of Moab are sincerely urged by the prophet to bemoan the fate of that nation for the scepter of Moabite sovereignty and the rod of Moabite splendor is broken (Jeremiah 48:17).

Verses 18-28

Jer 48:18-28

Jeremiah 48:18-20


O thou daughter that dwellest in Dibon, come down from thy glory, and sit in thirst; for the destroyer of Moab is come up against thee, he hath destroyed thy strongholds. O inhabitant of Aroer, stand by the way, and watch: ask him that fleeth, and her that escapeth; say, What hath been done? Moab is put to shame; for it is broken down: wail and cry; tell ye it by the Arnon, that Moab is laid waste.

Come down. sit in thirst .....

(Jeremiah 48:18). The thought here is the same as that of Isaiah 47:1-5, in which Babylon was spoken of as a deposed queen, coming down from a throne to sit on the ground.


(Jeremiah 48:18) ... Aroer ... (Jeremiah 48:19) ... the Arnon ... (Jeremiah 48:20). Dibon, the same as modern Diban, was located four miles north of the Arnon river and twelve or thirteen miles east of the Dead Sea. The Moabite Stone was found there in 1868. Aroer was situated southwest of Dibon and was the southernmost city of Sihon. There were two other cities of the same name, mentioned in Numbers 32:34, and in 1 Samuel 30:28. The Arnon emptied into the east side of the Dead Sea opposite Engedi, and marked the boundary between Ammon on the north and Moab on the south.

Jeremiah 48:21-25

And judgment is come upon the plain country, upon Holon, and upon Jahzah, and upon Mephaath, and upon Dibon, and upon Nebo, and upon Beth-diblathaim, and upon Kiriathaim, and upon Beth-gamul, and upon Beth-meon, and upon Kerioth, and upon Bozrah, and upon all the cities of the land of Moab, far or near. The horn of Moab is cut off, and his arm is broken, saith Jehovah.

The horn of Moab is cut off...

(Jeremiah 48:25). Like a bull with his horns cut off and no longer able to fight, or like a boxer with a broken arm, the helplessness of Moab before her enemies is thus metaphorically represented.

All the cities of Moab, far or near...

(Jeremiah 48:24). Eleven of these cities are mentioned in this paragraph.

Holon. Mephaath .....

Neither of these cities has ever been identified.

Dibon. Nebo .....

See above comments on these.


This name occurs in several forms. It was the scene of Israel’s triumph over Sihon (Numbers 21:23; Deuteronomy 2:32). The Moabite Stone reports that Israel possessed the town for awhile; but the city was in the hands of Moab in the times of Jeremiah F18

Beth-diblathaim. Beth-gamul ... Beth-meon .....

Peloubet’s Bible Dictionary lists all of these (pp. 87,91). The first of these means, The house of two fig cakes, very probably a reference to some pagan shrine where the price of admission to their sacred licentiousness was two fig cakes. The place is identified as Almon-diblathaim.

The second was a Moabite town east of the Jordan river; and the meaning of the name, according to Jamieson was, "The city of camels."

The third name is the contraction of a longer term, Beth-Baal-Meon. It was a Moabite town evidently connected with the worship of Baal.


(Jeremiah 48:24). This was, apparently, at one time the capital city of Moab, for the king evidently lived there when Amos gave his prophecy (Amos 2:2). It should not be confused with the city having the same name in southern Judah. Some identify it with Ar, the ancient capital of Moab. It was the location of a principal sanctuary of Chemosh.


(Jeremiah 48:24). This Moabite city has not been certainly identified. Some equate it with Bezer, one of the cities of refuge, located fifteen miles east of the place where the Jordan enters the Dead Sea. It is not the same as the Edomite city of Bozrah.

Jeremiah 48:26-28

Make ye him drunken; for he magnified himself against Jehovah: and Moab shall wallow in his vomit, and he also shall be in derision. For was not Israel a derision unto thee? was he found among thieves? for as often as thou speakest of him, thou waggest the head. O ye inhabitants of Moab, leave the cities, and dwell in the rock; and be like the dove that maketh her nest over the mouth of the abyss.

The long hatred between various divisions of the Semitic people is in some ways a mystery. Lot, the ancestor of the Moabites, was a true friend and kinsman of Abraham; but the Moabites, Lot’s descendants, are here represented as continual enemies of Israel who spoke contemptuously of them at all times. This was one of the reasons for God’s wrath. The prophecy here admonishes the people to hide, if they can, from their forthcoming devastation.

Complete Degradation Jeremiah 48:18-28

Even Dibon, the highly honored royal city (cf. 2 Kings 3:4-5), will be disgraced in the coming calamity. Dibon, personified as a delicate damsel, is bidden by the prophet to descend from her glory and sit in thirst i.e., in the dust. Why this ignominy and shame for the proud city built on two hills? The mighty strongholds of Moab are destroyed by the invader (Jeremiah 48:18). The inhabitants of Aroer spot the fugitives from the north coming down the King’s Highway which passed through Dibon and Aroer and ask them what has happened (Jeremiah 48:19). In anguished cries the refugees reply: “Moab is confounded; Moab is shattered!” Jeremiah urges the inhabitants of Moab to “howl and cry” i.e., take up a lamentation for their land. He urges the fugitives and inhabitants of Aroer to spread the word that Moab has been destroyed (Jeremiah 48:20) and that the judgment of God has come upon the land. City after city has fallen (Jeremiah 48:21-24). The location of most of the cities in these verses is uncertain. Several of them are named in the famous Moabite Stone which was found at Dibon in 1868. The horn of Moab (symbol of power) is cut off and the arm (symbol of authority) has been broken (Jeremiah 48:25).

The divine command has been issued: Moab must drink the wine of God’s wrath. Like a drunken man, Moab reels and totters, vomits and then falls into his own filth. Neighboring nations who observe Moab in this helpless and debased condition will make that nation the object of derision. But is this not exactly the attitude which Moab had toward Israel? From the very beginning of their dealings with one another the Moabites had treated the Israelites with the same contempt which one has for a thief caught in the act of stealing (Jeremiah 48:27). As often as the name Israel was mentioned the Moabites would “wag their heads” (ASV) in a gesture of contempt (cf. Matthew 27:39). The rendering of the KJV is: “thou skippedst for joy.” The ASV rendering is preferred by most commentators. By so despising the people of God the Moabites had in effect magnified themselves against the Lord” (Jeremiah 48:26). Because of the impending judgment Moab is advised to seek refuge where the dove or wild pigeon makes its nest in the inaccessible rocky crevices of the mountains (Jeremiah 48:28).

Verses 29-32

Jer 48:29-32

Jeremiah 48:29-32


We have heard of the pride of Moab, [that] he is very proud; his loftiness, and his pride, and his arrogancy, and the haughtiness of his heart. I know his wrath, saith Jehovah, that it is nought; his boastings have wrought nothing. Therefore will I wail for Moab; yea, I will cry out for all Moab: for the men of Kir-heres shall they mourn. With more than the weeping of Jazer will I weep for thee, O vine of Sibmah: thy branches passed over the sea, they reached even to the sea of Jazer: upon thy summer fruits and upon thy vintage the destroyer is fallen.

Sometimes a new translation provides a deeper insight into the meaning of a passage; and here it is the New English Bible that does so.

"We have heard of Moab’s pride, and proud indeed he is. Proud, presumptuous, overbearing, insolent. I know his insolence, says the Lord; His boasting is false, false are his deeds."


(Jeremiah 48:31). The literal meaning of this word is ’city of potsherds.’ It is the same as Kirhareseth (2 Kings 3:25; Isaiah 16:7). Today, it is probably El-Kerak, 17 miles south of the river Arnon, and eleven miles east of the Dead Sea.

Sibmah. Jazer ... Elealeh .....

(Jeremiah 48:32; Jeremiah 48:34). All three of these places were clustered around Heshbon; Sibmah was three miles northwest, Elealeh was 2 miles North and Jazer was 10 miles North of Heshbon. Isaiah also mentioned the vines of Sibmah (Jeremiah 16:8-9) but a careful look at both passages will leave no doubt of the absolute originality of both. The critical nonsense that one sacred writer’s mention of something that another sacred writer also mentioned is always and invariably a sign that one of them copied the other is ridiculous; and that stupid rule has been carried to its preposterous extreme in the alleged so-called doublets of the New Testament.

That reached even to the sea of Jazer...

(Jeremiah 48:32). Translators in some works, trying to guard what they feel is the integrity of the text, have changed the reading here, as in the New English Bible to the fountains of Jazer, which is totally unnecessary. Sure, there is no sea (or ’inland lake’) at this place today; but this is no indication whatever that there was not a large lake there 2,600 years ago! Visitors to Yellowstone Park are shown the remains of a rather large lake that has disappeared there within the last century, as a natural change wrought by geographical developments. Keil noted this fact. Since the valley of Jazer, lying among the mountains, is somewhat depressed, it was in ancient times probably filled with water. In the light of what is written here in the Word of God, we can be sure that this is true.

Abhorrent Exaltation Jeremiah 48:29-30

Without question the major theme running through the oracles against the nations is that of national arrogance. Indeed nearly every conceivable facet of this theme is treated in one or more of these oracles. National arrogance is an affront to the Lord and He must deal with it. The proud will be humbled. With poignant pictures Jeremiah depicts again and again the shame, degradation and disgrace into which the nations shall fall.

The arrogance of the Moabites must have been well known in antiquity. Isaiah many years earlier had emphasized this characteristic of the Moabites and now Jeremiah borrows his terminology to make the same point here, The point is forcibly made by piling up synonyms for pride and haughtiness (Jeremiah 48:29). In verse thirty the Lord corroborates the assertion of the prophet in the previous verse: “I know his wrath (oracle of the LORD).” The term “wrath” here probably refers to the arrogant, angry outbursts to which proud men are so prone. The last part of verse thirty is extremely difficult to translate and there is no agreement among the standard English translations as to how it should be rendered, The King James Version is extremely vague. The American Standard Version renders: “his boastings have wrought nothing.” The Revised Standard Version offers this interpretative translation: “his boasts are false, his deeds are false.” The basic idea is that in his words and in his works Moab is essentially untrue.

Verses 33-39

Jer 48:33-39

Jeremiah 48:33-39

And gladness and joy is taken away from the fruitful field and from the land of Moab; and I have caused wine to cease from the winepresses: none shall tread with shouting; the shouting shall be no shouting. From the cry of Heshbon even unto Elealeh, even unto Jahaz have they uttered their voice, from Zoar even unto Horonaim, to Eglath-shelishiyah: for the waters of Nimrim also shall become desolate. Moreover I will cause to cease in Moab, saith Jehovah, him that offereth in the high place, and him that burneth incense to his gods. Therefore my heart soundeth for Moab like pipes, and my heart soundeth like pipes for the men of Kir-heres: therefore the abundance that he hath gotten is perished. For every head is bald, and every beard clipped: upon all the hands are cuttings, and upon the loins sackcloth. On all the housetops of Moab and in the streets thereof there is lamentation every where; for I have broken Moab like a vessel wherein none delighteth, saith Jehovah. How is it broken down! [how] do they wail! how hath Moab turned the back with shame! so shall Moab become a derision and a terror to all that are round about him.

The shouting shall be no shouting...

(Jeremiah 48:33 b). The vast wine industry, upon which much of Moab’s prosperity depended will be totally destroyed. The workers who treaded out the grapes in the wine-presses continually celebrated their activity by shoutings and songs.

The cry of the distressed population will reach all the way from Zoar, at the southwest corner of the Dead Sea to Horonaim and Eglath-shelishiyah.

The last two place names here are not too positively identified, but Keil placed both of them in southern Moab. The general meaning is surely clear enough. Grief and distress are everywhere.

My heart soundeth for Moab like pipes...

(Jeremiah 48:36). This is a reference to the prophet’s own grief for the terrible, distress prophesied against Moab. We have a little later in the chapter a dramatic description of how that grief affected all the people. This grief of Jeremiah is significant. He did not prophesy doom because he received any pleasure from it, but because it was his duty to warn the people.

Every head bald. every beard clipped ... sackcloth worn by all ... mourning on all the housetops ... mourning in all the streets .....

(Jeremiah 48:36-38). What a pitiful picture of what Nebuchadnezzar’s brutal, licentious, devastating armies did to the peoples of the world. Here is the pride and ruthless ambition of men raging out of control.

Bitter Lamentation Jeremiah 48:31-38

Because Moab is doomed to destruction, Jeremiah takes up a lamentation over that land. The lament expresses once more the prophet’s sincere sympathy with Moab. The weeping prophet was not only concerned with the destruction of his own people, he was deeply moved by the thought that others would suffer too. Kir-heres (Jeremiah 48:31) is the chief fortress of southern Moab and in mourning the loss of that city the prophet suggests that the conquest of Moab is complete. The prophet’s sorrow is deeper than that of the city of Jazer located fifteen miles north of Heshbon. Jeremiah is distressed to think that the luxuriant vineyards of Sibmah (located near Heshbon) which stretch as far as the Dead Sea and the sea of Jazer (location unknown) must now be destroyed. These famous and beautiful vineyards will be hopelessly ruined, ruthlessly trampled down and destroyed by the enemy, together with the summer fruits (Jeremiah 48:32). Joy and gladness, normally characteristic of that plentiful land, shall disappear. Since the vineyards will be destroyed, the winepresses or winevats will contain no wine. The shouting which shall be heard in the land will not be the joyous shoutings of the grape treaders, but the battle shout of the invading soldiers (Jeremiah 48:33). Throughout the land a cry of woe is heard (Jeremiah 48:34). The King James “a heifer of three years old” is probably a proper name, Eglatshelishliah, as in the ASV. The Hebrew language has no capital letters and it is not always possible to distinguish between common and proper nouns. Since the whole land of Moab is depopulated no longer will sacrifice be offered at the shrines, nor incense burned before the idols (Jeremiah 48:35).

In Jeremiah 48:36 Jeremiah again expresses his personal sorrow over the destruction of Moab. He compares the agony of his heart to the pipes or flutes whose monotonous and mournful sounds filled the air during funeral services. The prophet weeps because the riches, the abundance of Moab, have perished (Jeremiah 48:36). Everywhere he looks the prophet sees signs of mourning: bald heads, clipped beards, cuttings upon the body, sackcloth about the loins (Jeremiah 48:37). On every roof and in every street the lamentation can be heard. The Lord, the God of Israel has broken Moab like a vessel which no longer pleases Him (Jeremiah 48:38). What intense agony in the land of Moab and in the heart of a Judean prophet!

Verses 40-47

Jer 48:40-47

Jeremiah 48:40-44


For thus saith Jehovah: Behold, he shall fly as an eagle, and shall spread out his wings against Moab. Kerioth is taken, and the strongholds are seized, and the heart of the mighty men of Moab at that day shall be as the heart of a woman in her pangs. And Moab shall be destroyed from being a people, because he hath magnified himself against Jehovah. Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of Moab, saith Jehovah. He that fleeth from the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that getteth up out of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for I will bring upon him, even upon Moab, the year of their visitation, saith Jehovah.

He shall fly as an eagle...

(Jeremiah 48:40). The eagle here was Nebuchadnezzar’s terrible army. This writer, as a child, witnessed a bald eagle’s attack upon a coyote. The helplessness of the doomed animal was pitiful; and the swift, ferocious attack can never be forgotten. Moab was helpless before such a destroyer.

The fear, and the pit, and the snare...

(Jeremiah 48:43-44). These verses are almost identical with Isaiah 24:17-18; but if this expression was a popular proverb of that day, which it most probably was, there could be nothing surprising about its being found in Jeremiah as well as in Isaiah. In fact we have the same proverb with different elements in Amos 5:19, As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him!

Jeremiah 48:45-47

They that fled stand without strength under the shadow of Heshbon; for a fire is gone forth out of Heshbon, and a flame from the midst of Sihon, and hath devoured the corner of Moab, and the crown of the head of the tumultuous ones. Woe unto thee, O Moab! the people of Chemosh is undone; for thy sons are taken away captive, and thy daughters into captivity. Yet will I bring back the captivity of Moab in the latter days, saith Jehovah. Thus far is the judgment of Moab.

The first two of these verses record the fulfillment of Balaam’s prophecy against Moab in Numbers 21:28-30; Numbers 24:17, some of the very language of the Book of Numbers being here repeated, indicating once again that all of the Pentateuch (not merely Deuteronomy) was, even at this date, in the hands of Israel. As we have repeatedly noted, every line of the Old Testament lies under the shadow of the first five books of the Old Testament.

Yet will I bring back the captivity of Moab in the latter days, saith Jehovah...

(Jeremiah 48:47). How could this be, when God had announced that Moab should be destroyed from being a people? Halley noted that, This was probably fulfilled when the Moabites, absorbed into the race of the Arabs, many of whom were present at Pentecost when the Gospel was proclaimed unto all men (Acts 2:11), F24 were evidently among those converted to Christ. Certainly the restoration promised here was definitely stated to be scheduled for the latter days, the times of the Messiah.

"A similar promise is given to Egypt, Ammon, and Elam (Jeremiah 46:26; Jeremiah 49:6; Jeremiah 49:39)."

Thus far is the judgment of Moab...

(Jeremiah 48:47 b). This is not a critical comment, but is most likely a note by some scribe, similar to the one in Jeremiah 51:54.

Inescapable Destruction Jeremiah 48:39-46

Surrounding nations will observe the fate of once proud Moab and will themselves take up a mocking lamentation: “Moab has turned the back with shame” i.e., fled before the enemy. But Moab will not only be an object of derision to neighboring nations, she will also be an object of terror or dismay. If Moab falls to the enemy, what chances do the less powerful nations have for survival? (Jeremiah 48:39). The reason for their terror is completely justified. The conqueror of Moab will swoop down like an eagle and spread his wings over the whole land (Jeremiah 48:40). No doubt Jeremiah is here referring to Nebuchadnezzar who is reported to have conquered Moab, Ammon and the neighboring peoples in 582-581 B.C. Josephus, Antiquities X. 9. 7. The figure of an eagle is a favorite description of a victorious conqueror. See Jeremiah 49:22; Isaiah 46:11; Ezekiel 17:3. Victoriously the conqueror sweeps through the land. Kerioth (already mentioned in Jeremiah 48:24) and the strongholds of the land fall before him. The defenders of the land will be as terrified as a woman experiencing the pangs of childbirth (Jeremiah 48:41). When the conquest is complete Moab will be destroyed and eventually will cease to be a nation. All of this must happen because Moab has “magnified himself against the Lord,” the God of Israel (Jeremiah 48:42). The meaning of this expression, which was used previously in this oracle (Jeremiah 48:26), is perhaps clarified by a verse in Zephaniah. “I have heard the reproach of Moab and the revilings of the children of Ammon, wherewith they have reproached My people, and magnified themselves against their border” (Zephaniah 2:8). The phrase “magnify themselves against” seems to mean that Moab and Ammon sought to dominate Israel, sought to regain possession of land which the Lord had taken from them and given to Israel. By so harassing Israel they were challenging the Lord himself.

The judgment coming upon Moab will be inescapable. To make this point Jeremiah again borrows from Isaiah (Isaiah 24:17-18). In that day of divine visitation the Moabites will be confronted by fear, the pit and the snare (Jeremiah 48:43). The one who flees from the terror will fall into the pit; the one who climbs up out of the pit will be captured by the snare (Jeremiah 48:44). These verses seem to reflect a popular proverb meaning that men would go from one danger into another until they are finally, inescapably trapped, Some fugitives of Moab will attempt to seek safety in Heshbon, the neighboring city of the Ammonites. But Heshbon can offer no refuge. In the words of an ancient—proverb. The proverb quoted in Numbers 21:28 is here given a new application. “A fire shall come forth out of Heshbon” which will consume the corner or side of Moab and the crown of his head (Jeremiah 48:45). Far from being a place of safety, Heshbon will be the spot from which the Chaldean flame will spread southward through Moab (cf. Jeremiah 48:2) just as centuries earlier the Amorite king Sihon launched his attack against Moab from the city of Heshbon (Numbers 21:28-30). The Moabites are called “tumultuous ones” because of their noisy and boastful opposition to the people of Israel and their God. The prophecy ends as it began with a “woe” against Moab. Those who worship the god Chemosh will go into exile. Their deity would not be able to save them from this fate (Jeremiah 48:46).

Prophecies about Foreign Nations - Jeremiah 46:1 to Jeremiah 51:64

Open It

1. What, in your mind, is a good example of a situation in which justice was served?

2. In what strategic defense or weapon would you have the most confidence during a personal attack?

Explore It

3. Why did Jeremiah say that the mighty warriors of Egypt would cower before Nebuchadnezzar? (Jeremiah 46:13-17)

4. Despite the judgment coming on Egypt, what did God promise them eventually? (Jeremiah 46:25-26)

5. What promises did God make to Israel with honesty, justice, and hope? (Jeremiah 46:27-28)

6. To what terrifying natural disaster did God compare the Egyptian conquest of Philistia? (Jeremiah 47:2-5)

7. Where did the people of Moab misplace their trust, sending themselves and their idols into captivity? (Jeremiah 48:6-9)

8. In the context of judging the nations, what curse did Jeremiah pronounce on the lax or merciful? (Jeremiah 48:10)

9. Why would it be particularly appropriate when Moab became an object of scorn and ridicule? (Jeremiah 48:26-27)

10. What brought about Moab’s destruction as a nation? (Jeremiah 48:42)

11. What was the source of Ammon’s false sense of security? (Jeremiah 49:4)

12. What did God promise to the Ammonites when their punishment was complete? (Jeremiah 49:6)

13. How did God say He would treat the helpless, even within the borders of His enemy, Edom? (Jeremiah 49:11)

14. Why did Edom think its location made it invincible? (Jeremiah 49:15-16)

15. How would Damascus along with Kedar and the kingdoms of Hazor also fall under God’s judgment? (Jeremiah 49:23-33)

16. What would eventually happen to the nation of Elam after it was defeated and taken into exile? (Jeremiah 49:37-39)

17. With their enemies facing God’s wrath, what did Jeremiah predict Israel and Judah would do? (Jeremiah 50:4-5)

18. What attitude of the Babylonians in relation to God’s people convinced God to leave them desolate? (Jeremiah 50:11-13)

19. Since the Babylonians had exiled many of the peoples they conquered from their own land, what would happen when God punished them? (Jeremiah 50:16)

20. When Babylon was made accountable to God, what would become of Israel’s guilt? (Jeremiah 50:20)

21. What did Jeremiah tell us about Israel’s Redeemer? (Jeremiah 50:34)

22. To what historic event did God compare the coming destruction of Babylon? (Jeremiah 50:39-40)

23. What were the Babylonians failing to take into account about God’s relationship to Israel? (Jeremiah 51:5)

24. What nation was to become God’s instrument of justice against Babylon? (Jeremiah 51:11-14)

25. How did Jeremiah contrast the God of Israel with the idols of the other nations? (Jeremiah 51:17-19)

26. What religious disgrace of the people of Israel would be remedied by God Himself? (Jeremiah 51:51-53)

27. What message about Babylon was Seraiah to deliver to the exiles in Babylon? (Jeremiah 51:59-64)

Get It

28. Why was it important for the Jews exiled in Babylon to know that Babylon’s great power would soon fall?

29. Why was it important that each instrument of God’s wrath not be lax?

30. In what ways does modern society practice some of the same evil and rebellious attitudes that brought on God’s punishments for these nations?

31. What will become of those who rejoice when one of God’s servants stumbles morally?

32. How does our worship become acceptable to God?

Apply It

33. In what situation can you demonstrate a new attitude toward a Christian who has stumbled?

34. Through what difficult circumstance will you ask God to give you perspective, patience, and (eventually) freedom?

Questions On Jeremiah Chapters Forty-Seven thru Forty-Nine

By Brent Kercheville

1 What is God’s message to the Philistines (Jeremiah 47:1-7)?

2 What do we learn about God (cf. Jeremiah 47:7)?

3 What is God’s message to Moab (Jeremiah 48:1-47)?

4 What sin does God condemn the people of Moab for (Jeremiah 48:7)?

5 What lessons do we learn about ourselves and about God?

6 What sin does God condemn the people of Moab for (Jeremiah 48:26)?

7 What lessons do we learn about ourselves and about God?

8 What sin does God condemn the people of Moab for (Jeremiah 48:29-30)?

9 What lessons do we learn about ourselves and about God?

10 What hope is given to Moab (Jeremiah 48:47)? Explain how this would be fulfilled.

11 What is God’s message to Ammon (Jeremiah 49:1-6)? Explain how verse 2 and verse 6 would be fulfilled.

12 What is God’s message to Edom (Jeremiah 49:7-22)?

13. Explain the imagery of Jeremiah 49:9-10.

14 Explain the imagery of Jeremiah 49:15-18.

15 What is God’s message to Damascus (Jeremiah 49:23-27)?

16 What is God’s message to Kedar and Hazor (Jeremiah 49:28-33)?

17 What is God’s message to Elam (Jeremiah 49:34-39)?

What hope is given to Elam (Jeremiah 49:39)? Explain how this would be fulfilled.


How does this relationship change your relationship with God?

What did you learn about him?

What will you do differently in your life?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Jeremiah 48". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/jeremiah-48.html.
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