Jeremiah Chapter 48: Judgment against Moab

Dec 26th, 2009 | By | Category: Jeremiah, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Jeremiah Chapter 48: Judgment against Moab

Jer. 48:1 Against Moab thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Woe unto Nebo! For it is spoiled: Kiriathaim is confounded and taken: Misgab is confounded and dismayed.

This long chapter, containing 47 verses, pertains to the prophesied judgment against Moab.

Some of the place names can still be identified, whereas others do not exist today according to our known vocabulary in the Western world. Much of Moab is without inhabitants at the present time. Many ruins are seen, but the land is desolate for the most part.

Kiriathaim, which is located up on a high hill on the King’s Highway, is like a natural place to dominate the entire region. Because of its unique position, it was one of the larger cities in ancient times. Misgab is rendered “stronghold” or “fortress” in other translations and thus was probably not a town.

Jer. 48:2 There shall be no more praise of Moab: in Heshbon they have devised evil against it; come, and let us cut it off from being a nation. Also thou shalt be cut down, O Madmen; the sword shall pursue thee.

Jer. 48:3 A voice of crying shall be from Horonaim, spoiling and great destruction.

Jer. 48:4 Moab is destroyed; her little ones have caused a cry to be heard.

Jer. 48:5 For in the going up of Luhith continual weeping shall go up; for in the going down of Horonaim the enemies have heard a cry of destruction.

Chapter 48 is a prophecy against Moab, its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar being foretold.

Many place names are given including (Mount) Nebo, Madmen (Madeba), and Horonaim (a mountainous area). The enemy would show no pity. Parents and children would be slaughtered in a lightning-fast raid of pillage and destruction. The Moabites would wail greatly.

Moab is in present-day Jordan. Heshbon was on the boundary line of Ammon and Moab, being partly in southern Ammon and partly in northern Moab. The Scriptures show that farther north toward Ammon, there was a time when the soil was very fertile so that it sustained hundreds of thousands of sheep. That is not the situation today.

“There shall be no more praise of Moab.” What kind of praise was in Moab? The people felt secure because of their physical location, for they could, with a minimum amount of force, jeopardize the caravans that traveled on the King’s Highway between Egypt and Damascus. Nature had carved out this highway on a plateau. From their position up above on the hills in a cave like a bunch on bandits, the Moabites could see the caravans coming and assess how well fortified they were. Being familiar with the area, they knew just where to do the ambushing and raiding. Even if the enemy was stronger, the Moabites could make a sudden raid, take what they wanted, exit quickly, and hide in the terrain. Hence the Moabites gloated in their position of security and plunder. They did not need employment, for their “occupation” was looting caravans.

It would be interesting to know how the Babylonians got the Moabites out of their entrenched positions and destroyed them, taking the remaining survivors captive to Babylon. Moab ended up being a desolate land without inhabitants like Israel and Egypt. Again there is no recorded history of this event.

Q: With the background picture of Christendom, do these nations represent the nominal systems that will be destroyed?

A: From that standpoint, Moab and Ammon were sons of the two daughters of Lot, one picturing Catholicism and the other being Protestantism. Similarly, the northern kingdom of Israel is a picture of Catholicism, and the southern kingdom represents Protestantism. All of mankind are being educated in one way or another. The permission of evil is designed to teach certain lessons, so eventually, when everything is sorted out in the Kingdom and in subsequent ages, it will be seen how wonderfully and awesomely the Lord has been educating future generations. The temporary permission of evil will benefit everlasting creations of the future, showing that man needs God’s help and direction and that he must give his will over to the Heavenly Father to survive. God is the Emperor of the universe, and it behooves all His subjects to obey and honor Him implicitly because of His position. The Pastor reasoned that if we have love, mercy, etc., doesn’t the Creator have the very pinnacle of these qualities? Faith says yes. Therefore, we should obey Him not out of fear but because He is the awesome Creator with all these wonderful qualities.

Jer. 48:6 Flee, save your lives, and be like the heath in the wilderness.

The “heath,” the tumbleweed, grows in the desert. When it dries, it snaps off and rolls around and around in the wind. Of the great number of seeds, a minuscule amount survives to produce a new weed. Thus the plant lives, dies, and blows about in the wind, passing on a few seeds to another generation.

The fleeing of the heath in the wilderness is like the previous illustration of fathers fleeing from their children. The noise of defeat and the awesomeness of the enemy army coming into a place the Moabites never expected was terrifying.

From another standpoint, verse 6 can be considered practical advice: “When these things begin to come to pass, flee for your life as fast as you can, leaving your possessions behind. Be like the tumbleweed in the wilderness, which has no coverings or possessions.”

Jer. 48:7 For because thou hast trusted in thy works and in thy treasures, thou shalt also be taken: and Chemosh shall go forth into captivity with his priests and his princes together.

“For because thou hast trusted in thy works and in thy treasures, thou shalt also be taken.” The Moabites stored their booty in the mountainous terrain. Chemosh was not only the sun god, the chief god of Moab, but also a city, which no doubt had an idol and temple to this god.

Jer. 48:8 And the spoiler shall come upon every city, and no city shall escape: the valley also shall perish, and the plain shall be destroyed, as the LORD hath spoken.

No city would escape Nebuchadnezzar, “the spoiler,” or destroyer. Even the valleys and the plains of Moab would be destroyed.

Nebuchadnezzar was unusual. On one hand, he was cruel, having a history of burning people in a furnace, and on the other hand, he was a genius, building the hanging gardens, for example.

Jer. 48:9 Give wings unto Moab, that it may flee and get away: for the cities thereof shall be desolate, without any to dwell therein.

“Give wings unto Moab, that it may flee and get away.” This was sarcasm. Ordinarily the land was easy to defend because the terrain was mountainous and the cities were like fortresses. Now even the Moabites, who were holed up in the “safe” mountains, were advised to flee.

Jer. 48:10 Cursed be he that doeth the work of the LORD deceitfully, and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood.

Comment: The NIV reads, “A curse on him who is lax in doing the LORD’S work! A curse on him who keeps his sword from bloodshed!” The RSV has, “Cursed is he who does the work of the LORD with slackness.”

Reply: Heathen Babylon was the means of God’s retribution upon Moab for earlier cruelty to Israel. Therefore, the sword was not to be held back. In interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Daniel said, “The God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory”

(Dan. 2:37). In other words, Nebuchadnezzar was prospered as the head of an empire because God’s providence determined that he was the right man for the work to be done at that time. The vast majority of the Moabites were to be slain, with only a small number being taken captive to Babylon.

Comment: Saul was disobedient in not killing every man, woman, child, and beast according to the Lord’s instruction. His excuse was that he kept the animals alive for a sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:15). Saul had nice qualities initially, but weaknesses overtook him later.

Comment: In the antitype, the Arab nations will be defeated by Israel in the near future.

Reply: Yes, and there is also the hint of a correspondency to the Lord’s great army in the near future, the command being, “Do this work with fury; destroy!” The Gentile nations correspond to the nations of Christendom.

Jer. 48:11 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 remained in him, and his scent is not changed.

Moab settled on its lees, being confident and self-satisfied. The people sat confidently for years, but lessons and changes were coming.

“Therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed.” Moab needed a bath, for the nation had body odor. Again this was sarcasm.

Moab “hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel.” With Moab not having experienced captivities, persecutions, sorrows, or troubles, its conceit was not broken or humbled. That kind of spirit has a bad effect on one’s character, for in the present life, the Christian is developed by such experiences. As the Apostle Paul said, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).

When all these characteristics are considered, we can see why Moab is likened to the Great Company, who are complacent and not fully developed. The Great Company are described as “a cake not turned [over],” i.e., a half-baked cake, a cake fried on only one side (Hos. 7:8). Even though one is of that class, he can have a tendency toward boastfulness and pride and think he is of the Little Flock. In the Book of Job, Elihu, who represents the Great Company, tried to lecture Job, who pictures the Little Flock. After the supposed three comforters gave their talks against Job, belittling him and questioning his stance, then along came the young man Elihu, who felt his reasoning was superior and original, but actually, he used the same arguments as the other three. Meanwhile, Job had to endure the demeaning of his character and works.

The Moab class severely needs correction. But from the good standpoint, prophecies indicated that Moab would eventually be restored from captivity. Just as Israel is promised the land of Gilead, so Moab will be allocated territory in the northern half of the land east of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. Moab is guaranteed that territory in the future. Thus in the antitype, Moab will end up as one of the tribes that gets a spiritual resurrection, while the 9 1/2 tribes west of the Jordan have a natural application. But the false confidence of Moab as a nation has a spiritual counterpart in the Great Company. Those of this class are true Christians, but their sincerity does not mean they will be members of the Little Flock, for God makes the decision as to the destiny of each of the consecrated. As long as one is faithful unto death, he is guaranteed a spiritual resurrection, but the degree of faithfulness will determine whether he is more than an overcomer or just an overcomer (Rom. 8:37). In a nutshell, Moab pictures a class of overcomers but not more-than-overcomers.

Q: If Moab pictures the Great Company, what or whom does Ammon represent?

A: Ammon pictures a Second Death class, but we have to keep the natural and the spiritual separate and distinct. From the natural standpoint, Ammon will be restored, but some of the Ammonites will be in Gilead, which is a long territory. In the Kingdom, the primary portion of Jews will be in Israel proper on the west side of the Jordan River, but there will also be natural Jews (the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh), as well as Ammonites, Moabites, and Jordanian Arabs on the east side of the Jordan.

Many of us accepted the truth when we found out that there was no hell as a place of torment and that all will have an opportunity for life. We appreciated the message of truth because it is good, wholesome, and real—but more will be required of the Little Flock.

Jer. 48:12 Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will send unto him wanderers, that shall cause him to wander, and shall empty his vessels, and break their bottles.

In the midst of the Moabites was another class called “wanderers.” This not-so-favorable element within Moab would lack focus or a goal, and the result would be turmoil. After the king of Babylon came down and took care of Judah, destroying the Temple and Jerusalem, he went on to Moab, whose hills were like an unconquerable natural fortress with many places to flee to and hide. The Lord prospered Nebuchadnezzar’s going to Moab to the extent that he got the people out of every nook and cranny. The land was laid desolate, and the few who survived were taken back to Babylon. Stated another way, those who survived were emptied into Babylon and then taken to other provinces such as India—somewhat like what happened to the ten-tribe kingdom except that their scattering was toward Russia and into Europe, whereas the Jews from Judah were providentially kept in Babylon and not dispersed. These startling events are not recorded in secular history.

The situation was something like a chess game with Divine Providence operating. The lesson will be marvelous for all of God’s creatures in the future. When people look back, they will see wondrous things.

Q: Spiritually speaking, how do “wanderers” empty Moab’s “vessels, and break their bottles”?

A: In the type, the “bottles” were the homeland of Moab. In the antitype, the breaking of the “bottles” indicates that the Great Company will get their change to spirit nature. An individual, a person’s humanity, is a bottle. The vessel is to be broken. For example, the death of three classes of feet members is shown by the smashing of the pitchers (the vessels) in the type of Gideon and the 300.

The “wandering” pictures the Great Company’s being turned over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. This experience is also shown by the scapegoat’s being taken out into the wilderness. The “breaking” of the bottles pictures the Great Company’s resurrection change.

Spiritually speaking, therefore, Moab is a picture of the Great Company.

Jer. 48:13 And Moab shall be ashamed of Chemosh, as the house of Israel was ashamed of Beth-el their confidence.

Moab was being compared not with Judah but with the ten-tribe kingdom, which had centered their hopes in golden calves, one at Dan and the other at Bethel. The worshippers kissed the hindquarters of the calf, the principle being the same as when Catholics kissed the toe of the pope. Thus Bethel and Dan were places of rival worship set up by the ten tribes. Just as the ten tribes were taken into captivity as punishment, so Moab would be desolated.

The name Bethel means “house of God.” Accordingly, Christendom as a whole has considered the Catholic Church or various Protestant churches as the house of God. The thought has been that the worshippers must have a building, a choir, large attendance, etc., but such trappings are for the flesh.

Comment: Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20).

Comment: 1 Kings 11:7 speaks of Chemosh, the sun god: “Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon.”

Reply: Solomon built these heathen altars for his heathen wives.

Jer. 48:14 How say ye, We are mighty and strong men for the war?

Jer. 48:15 Moab is spoiled, and gone up out of her cities, and his chosen young men are gone down to the slaughter, saith the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts.

“Moab is … gone up [that is, north] out of her cities.” The men were unknowingly going into the mouth of the lion (King Nebuchadnezzar), as it were. They were going into a trap. In pride, self-confidence, and self-conceit, “chosen young” Moabite men would go up to a battle in which they were no match for the enemy. Hence they would be sitting ducks for the slaughter.

In this manner, the broad-stroke destruction took place. To a certain extent, the current generation determined Moab’s future, but God Himself, “the King,” was directing the battle.

Jer. 48:16 The calamity of Moab is near to come, and his affliction hasteth fast.

Wisdom would study the matter carefully and not just haste into battle. However, the Moabites acted rashly, and the calamity, the slaughter, would soon come.

The king of Babylon came down primarily along the Mediterranean coast and defeated in succession Philistia, Egypt, and then Moab, which was in another direction and on the other side of the Dead Sea.

From a natural standpoint, the males in the United States are very soft at present because of the nation’s affluence and lack of adversity. When the Time of Trouble comes, want and starvation will be felt much more severely here than in many less-advantaged nations. The inexperienced men of Moab had a false sense of confidence that would end up in slaughter.

Jer. 48:17 All ye that are about him, bemoan him; and all ye that know his name, say, How is the strong staff broken, and the beautiful rod!

Moab was a “strong staff” because of the natural mountain fortifications, and it was a “beautiful rod” because of the high-altitude cities that were nestled among the mountains.

Moab had a lot of wealth: silver, gold, and booty from the caravans that its inhabitants ambushed. Thus we get some idea of the past glory of Moab up on the hills.

Jer. 48:18 Thou daughter that dost inhabit Dibon, come down from thy glory, and sit in thirst; for the spoiler of Moab shall come upon thee, and he shall destroy thy strong holds.

The Moabites would have to come down from the mountain heights to the level of the desert.

In coming down from the north, the king of Babylon took the upper road, the King’s Highway. The Moabites were surprised at the zeal and determination of the Babylonian army, and when they deserted their cities and went down to the valley either to fight the enemy or to flee, Nebuchadnezzar first utterly destroyed their cities and then took care of the people below. Other places in Scripture indicate that he even had some of his men go up into the caves.

Jer. 48:19 O inhabitant of Aroer, stand by the way, and espy; ask him that fleeth, and her that escapeth, and say, What is done?

What high drama! As the inhabitants of Moab came down out of the mountains to flee, an imaginary spectator described the setting and called out, “What is happening? Where are you going?” We can be thankful that God has not revealed this drama to the world, for then it would have been polluted by Hollywood. Through the enlightenment of the Lord’s Spirit, we enter into the setting and can sense the high drama.

Jer. 48:20 Moab is confounded; for it is broken down: howl and cry; tell ye it in Arnon, that Moab is spoiled,

“Moab is confounded [in great confusion]; for it is broken down.” Arnon is a river and also a city on the river where people were living. A message would be told in Arnon that Moab was defeated.

Comment: Numbers 21:13 reads in part, “Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites.”

Reply: Yes, Arnon was a northern boundary line of Moab on the desert floor. A city was there with the water.

Most of Moab was elevated, but the city of Arnon was down in the valley. Therefore, verse 20 is saying that destruction would take place up on the King’s Highway, and after the Babylonian forces had finished dealing with the fortifications, they would go down and fight against the chief city of Arnon on the river Arnon.

Jer. 48:21 And judgment is come upon the plain country; upon Holon, and upon Jahazah, and upon Mephaath,

Moab was confounded and spoiled, and “judgment is come upon the plain country.” This prophecy was worded as if the destruction had already occurred.

Jer. 48:22 And upon Dibon, and upon Nebo, and upon Beth-diblathaim,

Jer. 48:23 And upon Kiriathaim, and upon Beth-gamul, and upon Beth-meon,

Jer. 48:24 And upon Kerioth, and upon Bozrah, and upon all the cities of the land of Moab, far or near.

Verses 18-24 list a number of places, all of which were part of Moab. Bozrah bordered Moab and Edom, the land of Esau (Isa. 34:6). Moab and Ammon were Lot’s offspring by his daughters.

Jer. 48:25 The horn of Moab is cut off, and his arm is broken, saith the LORD.

Moab’s “horn,” or “arm,” was cut off in the sense that its power was broken.

Jer. 48:26 Make ye him drunken: for he magnified himself against the LORD: Moab also shall wallow in his vomit, and he also shall be in derision.

Jer. 48:27 For was not Israel a derision unto thee? was he found among thieves? for since thou spakest of him, thou skippedst for joy.

Moab was slaughtered as retribution for the people’s derision of Israel when Israel was defeated by Nebuchadnezzar. Moabites and Ammonites were up on the hills, watching as Nebuchadnezzar burned and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, and they pointed out fleeing Israelites so that the Babylonians could hunt them down. In other words, they enjoyed seeing the destruction of Judah. The same mentality exists today, for in recent times, when missiles were launched into Israel, Palestinians were on the rooftops cheering. They delighted to see the destruction of Israel. That wrong spirit goes way back in history and seems to be almost in the bloodstream of the Arabs. Retributive judgment will come first on the Arabs and then later on the Muslims in Jacob’s Trouble.

Comment: We are reminded of the enmity between Jacob and Esau.

It is interesting that the Lord gave Jeremiah such detail on the names of towns in an area the prophet was not familiar with. In the Kingdom, when the world becomes apprised of the true history of Israel and surrounding nations, the people will be startled to see the detailed accuracy with which these prophecies were fulfilled. Prophecies about Moab, Ammon, and Egypt have a spiritual counterpart, but the city names were recorded for the benefit of mankind in the future so that they will appreciate the omniscience of God. He sees the future as a past event. Prophecy is history not yet fulfilled, and history is prophecy fulfilled.

Jer. 48:28 O ye that dwell in Moab, leave the cities, and dwell in the rock, and be like the dove that maketh her nest in the sides of the hole’s mouth.

Those who sought refuge in the mountains would mourn like doves and be contrite.

These chapters of judgment on Arab nations, the Psalm 83 setting, are basically a natural prophecy with some spiritual overtones. As has been shown, Moab is also a picture of the Great Company.

Jer. 48:29 We have heard the pride of Moab, (he is exceeding proud) his loftiness, and his arrogancy, and his pride, and the haughtiness of his heart.

Moab was “exceeding proud” with loftiness, arrogancy, pride, and haughtiness of heart; the nation was comfortable in its sense of false security. Similarly, the Great Company is comfortable in its knowledge and is not aggressive in overcoming to the extent of getting the prize of the high calling. Moab was like a vessel of stagnant water in need of being emptied into other vessels. The water of reservoirs is sometimes blown up in the air to aerate, circulate, oxygenate, and purify it. Spiritually speaking, Moab was sitting on its lees, on its behind, as it were, instead of getting exercise.

From one standpoint, Moab and the other Gentile areas surrounding Israel (Egypt, Ammon, and Philistia) are characteristic of the nations of Christendom. Their traits are comparable.

Q: In the spiritual picture, Moab as a nation pictures the Great Company, but what is the thought in verse 26, which speaks of Moab as being drunk and wallowing in its vomit?

A: Quite early in his ministry, Jeremiah gave a judgment message to all the nations. That lesson was civil, not spiritual—it was a natural prophecy—but when only Moab and Ammon are considered, particularly from the standpoint that only Lot and his wife and two daughters escaped the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot represents the Great Company and his wife pictures a Second Death class. There is much history that we cannot go into at this time, so we will just say that Moab and Ammon were the progeny of Lot and his two daughters. In the future, when true history and the Bible are explained in great detail with visual aids, it will be seen that history repeats itself in various forms. We do not believe that these pictures are meant to be understood spiritually in that kind of detail at the present time. Otherwise, we would be students of history more than Christians doing an inner work in our hearts. Basically, this prophecy of Moab is natural with some spiritual overtones but not in detail.

Of course the city of Bozrah stands out because the Prophet Isaiah spoke of it, and Arnon has a historical basis going back to the days of Joshua. But most of the cities are not that meaningful at present. A lot happened long before Jeremiah’s day, a lot happened when he was alive, and a lot has happened since.

Comment: If Moab represents the Great Company, the ridiculing of Judah does not seem to fit the antitype, but if, strictly speaking, Moab is not a type, then just parts of the account could be likened to the Great Company class.

Reply: When Moab is treated in generalities, that is the more spiritual application. When it comes to detail, very few people know history, so it would be useless to pursue that avenue.

Comment: The original question was on the admonition to make Moab drunk because “he magnified himself against the LORD” (verse 26). Perhaps this characteristic ties in with the Great Company’s being in the nominal systems and drinking improper doctrine. Then the admonition would be to flee out of the cities (verse 28).

Reply: The Great Company will be deceived in the near future, and one who is deceived is not clear-minded, implying a measure of intoxication (Matt. 24:24). The Great Company class have one foot in the world and one foot in the Christian Church, and that double-minded condition is dangerous. If one is faithful to his covenant of loving the Lord unto death, he will get life, but it is easy to slip into unfaithfulness and go more and more downhill (Luke 17:28-33). Thus the characteristics of being proud, comfortable, overconfident, and in need of nothing are the Laodicean spirit (Rev. 3:17). We usually apply Laodicea to the nominal Church, but we must also take the lessons to heart and not inordinately criticize the nominal Church. We must watch to make sure that the spirit of the nominal Church does not come into our hearts and midst and thinking and practice. The judgment message on Moab alerts us to dangerous generalities and characteristics. A prominent danger is feeling superior in knowledge, thought, character, and influence. For instance, one who has a good education is in danger of being high-minded, a person who has a lot of money may feel superior, and a popular speaker must guard against pride. We must guard our hearts and our attitudes. Influence is good if it is used in the right way. Money can be helpful if it is properly used. However, subtle dangers confront those who have more of this world’s “goods” in one way or another.

In summary, this prophecy against Moab is basically natural, and for this reason, we feel that in studying prophecy, we should zero in on the natural application first and then the spiritual if such an application is feasible and reasonable.

Jer. 48:30 I know his wrath, saith the LORD; but it shall not be so; his lies shall not so effect it.

Jer. 48:31 Therefore will I howl for Moab, and I will cry out for all Moab; mine heart shall mourn for the men of Kir-heres.

Jer. 48:32 O vine of Sibmah, I will weep for thee with the weeping of Jazer: thy plants are gone over the sea, they reach even to the sea of Jazer: the spoiler is fallen upon thy summer fruits and upon thy vintage.

Jer. 48:33 And joy and gladness is taken from the plentiful field, and from the land of Moab; and I have caused wine to fail from the winepresses: none shall tread with shouting; their shouting shall be no shouting.

Jer. 48:34 From the cry of Heshbon even unto Elealeh, and even unto Jahaz, have they uttered their voice, from Zoar even unto Horonaim, as an heifer of three years old: for the waters also of Nimrim shall be desolate.

The details of these verses are very meaningful but not to us, for we would have to be thoroughly familiar with the land and where these places are and their significance. The Bible is written with such depth that it is easy to go astray and become a scholar more than one who wants to know more about God, Jesus, and making our calling and election sure. However, we think these verses will be mighty powerful in the future when they are explained infallibly in the Kingdom and true history is shown.

The “vine of Sibmah,” the “men of Kir-heres,” the “weeping of Jazer,” etc., will all have meaning, whereas at the present time, they could be a distraction. What is helpful to us now is seeing attitudes and conditions of heart and mind that are dangerous. God’s displeasure brings such to naught.

Q: Was Jeremiah doing the weeping after he got the message of what would happen? Was he crying and doing the mourning?

A: Yes, Jeremiah was weeping. God chose the perfect instrument for this prophecy because Jeremiah was an emotional person. He entered into the prophecy and uttered it with feeling and power; it was not just a monotone warning.

“Joy and gladness is taken from the plentiful field, and from the land of Moab.” Moab was a very rich country agriculturally, but the great fertility was removed from the land.

Kir-heres means “the rising sun.” Heshbon was a city just over the border in Ammon, so it served as a boundary. The cities give us a general geographic understanding around 600 BC, when the prophecy was fulfilled in a natural sense.

A place name that stands out is Zoar, which is first mentioned in Genesis 19:18-23 in connection with Lot. Also of interest is the term “an heifer of three years old,” so there are some points we notice as Christians. Today the Israelis think Zoar is in Israel, but that Zoar is an odd little hill in the Arabah, the depression or dry valley south of the Dead Sea. The hill comes to a peak with a tiny platform on the top. However, the Zoar of verse 34 is in the land of Moab, on the lower eastern side of the Dead Sea.

Q: In the RSV (and also the NIV), the “heifer of three years old” is given as a place name: “from Zoar to Horonaim and Eglath-shelishiyah.” Could that be correct?

A: Both are correct, the place name being an alternate meaning if the vowels are changed. The thought of a heifer reminds us of Genesis 15:9, where God said to Abraham, “Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” When the animals’ ages are added (3 + 3 + 3 + 1 + 1 = 11) and multiplied by 360 (the number of days in a lunar year), the result, 3,960 years, is a time prophecy ending in 1914. As a result of World War I, the machinery (the Balfour Declaration) began for the Jews to get back into their land. But that time prophecy is different from the prophecy about Moab. In other words, from south to north to the mountain range near the Dead Sea, there would be destruction. The cry would be like that of a heifer three years old.

However, with a three-year-old heifer being common to both Abraham’s sacrifice and Moab, we can follow the same principle of using a lunar year of 360 days. Multiplying 3 x 360 = 1,080 gives us a time prophecy of Moab’s destruction, but the question is when to start the 1,080 years. The Exodus was the practical beginning of Israel (although we usually reckon the start from the death of Jacob). Moab existed earlier, but they, too, had their practical start at the Exodus. Egypt returned to its land after 40 years, but it was restored as a poor, base country (Ezek. 29:9-11), and Israel returned after 70 years. Moab would also return (see verse 47). The Bible prophesies history in advance.

Jer. 48:35 Moreover I will cause to cease in Moab, saith the LORD, him that offereth in the high places, and him that burneth incense to his gods.

Jer. 48:36 Therefore mine heart shall sound for Moab like pipes, and mine heart shall sound like pipes for the men of Kir-heres: because the riches that he hath gotten are perished.

Jeremiah said, “Mine heart shall sound for Moab like pipes.” The lower notes of a flute are mournful. Sorrow would be the experience of the beholder when this prophecy was fulfilled.

God was speaking in verse 35, but the pronouns in verse 36 refer to Jeremiah. (There is a scriptural precedent elsewhere for this type of change with pronouns.) Hearing bad news can affect the heart.

Jer. 48:37 For every head shall be bald, and every beard clipped: upon all the hands shall be cuttings, and upon the loins sackcloth.

In great sorrow, the Moabites would cut their hands and wear sackcloth. “Cutting” was prevalently done in Molech worship as a sign of religious feelings, worship, and adoration.

Before understanding that “the just shall live by faith,” Martin Luther beat himself in trying to please the Lord (Rom. 1:17).

The beard is a sign of nobility, and if a person was rich, he had someone else cut his beard. Therefore, for a person to completely cut off his own beard was a sign of anguish. In addition, the enemy grabbed a beard and hacked it off to humiliate the person.

Jer. 48:38 There shall be lamentation generally upon all the housetops of Moab, and in the streets thereof: for I have broken Moab like a vessel wherein is no pleasure, saith the LORD.

Jer. 48:39 They shall howl, saying, How is it broken down! how hath Moab turned the back with shame! so shall Moab be a derision and a dismaying to all them about him.

Moab would be shamed, broken as a vessel, and made a derision, resulting in great sorrow and affliction. With all the destruction taking place, the women would lament on the housetops. Generally speaking, when barbaric things were done in warfare, many of the women were spared (and sometimes the babes too), and we believe that was the case in Moab.

Jer. 48:40 For thus saith the LORD; Behold, he shall fly as an eagle, and shall spread his wings over Moab.

“Behold, he shall fly as an eagle, and shall spread his wings over Moab.” God was speaking. The Babylonian Empire was described as a lion with eagle’s wings, and Nebuchadnezzar himself was called a “lion” (Dan. 7:4; Jer. 4:7). Here the king of Babylon was likened to an eagle that would suddenly open its wings and capture Moab, the prey. When an eagle, with its extraordinary sight, spots prey miles away, it flies with the glaring sun at its back. As it gets near the prey, the opening of the wings causes a great shadow and confusion so that the bewildered prey is easily captured.

From another standpoint, the Moabites were up in the mountains, and an eagle is known for making its abode in high places, for example, in the side of a cliff or in a tall tree. In capturing Moab, Nebuchadnezzar’s forces were likened to an eagle. While the Moabites felt secure in their position and even had some warriors, they were basically farmers. Hence they were no match for Nebuchadnezzar, and he overwhelmed them.

Jer. 48:41 Kerioth is taken, and the strong holds are surprised, and the mighty men’s hearts in Moab at that day shall be as the heart of a woman in her pangs.

The surprise attack took all the starch out of Moab’s resistance, so that the hearts of the mighty men were like “the heart of a woman in her pangs.”

Jer. 48:42 And Moab shall be destroyed from being a people, because he hath magnified himself against the LORD.

Jer. 48:43 Fear, and the pit, and the snare, shall be upon thee, O inhabitant of Moab, saith the LORD.

Jer. 48:44 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 it, even upon Moab, the year of their visitation, saith the LORD.

Jer. 48:45 They that fled stood under the shadow of Heshbon because of the force: but a fire shall come forth out of Heshbon, and a flame from the midst of Sihon, and shall devour the corner of Moab, and the crown of the head of the tumultuous ones.

Jer. 48:46 Woe be unto thee, O Moab! the people of Chemosh perisheth: for thy sons are taken captives, and thy daughters captives.

When the king of Babylon came down to wreak destruction, he went first to Judah because the Lord caused the false occult symbols to direct him there. After destroying Jerusalem and the Temple, he went to Ammon, next to Moab, and then to Edom.

“A fire shall come forth out of Heshbon [in Ammon].” When the Moabites saw the destruction of Ammon, they got scared, fearing they were next, and that is what happened. No matter where the Moabites fled, punishment would be visited on the men, and some of the women and children would be taken captive.

Jer. 48:47 Yet will I bring again the captivity of Moab in the latter days, saith the LORD. Thus far is the judgment of Moab.

The “latter days” can be considered now, at the end of the current age, and also in the resurrection in the Kingdom, for people will come forth from the tomb in their homelands.

Thus there are two phases of the latter days: (1) before Jacob’s Trouble and (2) after Jacob’s Trouble.

Comment: It is nice that after 46 verses of the prophecy against Moab because of their sins, the chapter ends with one verse of hope. The NIV says, “Here ends the judgment on Moab.”

Reply: God will bring again the captivity of Judah, Egypt, and other nations as well.

(1981-1983 and 1998-2004 Studies)

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