1 - 6 Desolation of the Cities of Moab
1 Concerning Moab. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel,
“Woe to Nebo, for it has been destroyed;
Kiriathaim has been put to shame, it has been captured;
The lofty stronghold has been put to shame and shattered.
2 “There is praise for Moab no longer;
In Heshbon they have devised calamity against her:
‘Come and let us cut her off from [being] a nation!’
You too, Madmen, will be silenced;
The sword will follow after you.
3 “The sound of an outcry from Horonaim,
‘Devastation and great destruction!’
4 “Moab is broken,
Her little ones have sounded out a cry [of distress].
5 “For by the ascent of Luhith
They will ascend with continual weeping;
For at the descent of Horonaim
They have heard the anguished cry of destruction.
6 “Flee, save your lives,
That you may be like a juniper in the wilderness.
The LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, also pronounces His judgment on Moab (verse 1; Isa 15:1-9; 16:1-14). The God of Israel is also the God of all nations (Rom 3:29). Moab is the son of Lot, whom, after made drunk by his daughter, he fathered in incest with his daughter (Gen 19:37). His descendants have always been enemies of God’s people. The name of Moab occurs thirty times in this chapter.
This prophecy about Moab is longer than any other prophecy in Jeremiah 46-49. The length is partly due to the large number of geographical designations mentioned. It is the most thorough of all Old Testament prophecies about Moab (Deu 23:3; Psa 60:8; 83:6-7; 108:9; Isa 15:1-9; 16:1-14; 25:10-12; Jer 9:26; 25:21; 27:3; Eze 25:8-11; Amos 2:1-3; Zep 2:8-11).
Moab is a picture of the world in its laziness and pride. It is the world that seeks pleasure and flees trouble. Those who seek ease are quick to boast of what they have. But love of ease always leads to poverty. There is destruction, shame and dismay. The cities that are their pride are taken. Moab is east of Judah, on the other side of the Dead Sea. They have many cities. Nebo and Kiriathaim first belonged to the tribe of Reuben (Num 32:37-38; Jos 13:19), but were conquered by Moab. Those cities will be taken and destroyed by the enemy.
It is over with the glory of Moab (verse 2). Everything on which man boasts in his ease will be nullified. All glory of man is excluded. The only glory that remains is to glory in the Lord.
Heshbon also belonged to the tribe of Reuben (Num 32:37). In that city, plans are being devised to wipe out Moab. Things are brewing in that city. Another city, Madmen, receives the message that it will be destroyed and that those who flee from it will be pursued by the sword.
Out of Horonaim, another city, there is the sound of an outcry (verse 3). There the enemy has already done his destructive work and one speaks of a great destruction. Moab has been plunged into disaster (verse 4). His small, defenseless children are also victims. They cry out. The passionate crying of children suffering from violence is an agony to the hearing of any who still have any natural feeling. It also means that the land has no hope of recovery.
One walks the streets dazed and constantly crying (verse 5). There are those who go the way up, to Luhith. Others go the way down, to Horonaim. On the way down, the cries of distress from Horonaim meet the refugees. Horonaim is already destroyed (verse 3). No safe refuge will be found there.
They cry out to each other to flee and save their lives (verse 6). Let them leave all their belongings behind and live like a juniper in the wilderness. It’s just a matter of surviving. Their condition here is compared to a juniper in the wilderness, a picture of devastation and desolation.
7 - 10 Self-confidence and trust in the idol
7 “For because of your trust in your own achievements and treasures,
Even you yourself will be captured;
And Chemosh will go off into exile
Together with his priests and his princes.
8 “A destroyer will come to every city,
So that no city will escape;
The valley also will be ruined
And the plateau will be destroyed,
As the LORD has said.
9 “Give wings to Moab,
For she will flee away;
And her cities will become a desolation,
Without inhabitants in them.
10 “Cursed be the one who does the LORD’s work negligently,
And cursed be the one who restrains his sword from blood.
The reason for this judgment is the trust in themselves and their idol (verse 7). God is not thought of. Those who are concerned only with themselves and live for themselves and boast of their own strength and riches will perish. Therefore, Moab will be taken. Their god Chemosh, like the gods of Egypt in the previous chapter, will prove to be a worthless god. He will go away as a dead piece of material in exile, along with the people who have worshiped him and ruled in his name.
The root of Moab’s misery is its pride. Chemosh (verses 7,13,46) is the national deity of Moab (cf. Num 21:29; 1Kgs 11:7,33). The reference to confidence in their works and treasures means that the reason for Moab’s fall is its materialism. When Chemosh goes into exile, his followers accompany him. Idols are usually captured with their worshipers (Jer 43:12; Isa 46:1-2).
Resistance to the destroyer who is coming is futile (verse 8). Even their god fails to protect them. No city will be spared. Also, all life in the valley and plain will perish. The enemy does a thorough job, for it is done “as the LORD has said”. Moab, therefore, must make haste to get away, as fast as birds can fly (verse 9). It is an exhortation to flee in haste. The cities will not be able to provide protection, for they will become a desolation where no one can live.
The enemy is urged to prompt and complete obedience by the LORD’s curse that will come upon him if he does not do what the LORD expects of him or if he is slow to do His work (verse 10). The LORD has commanded that the sword should strike Moab. Those who do not and disobey Him are cursed. Meroz is cursed “because they did not come to the help of the LORD” by helping Barak and Deborah who fought His battle (Jdg 5:23).
This word is also important to us. If we love ease and are slow to do the Lord’s work, the Lord pronounces His curse on that. This seems to be contrary to the age of grace in which we live, but it is not. Paul tells the Corinthians: “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed” (1Cor 16:22).
11 - 19 The Proud Contentment of Moab
11 “Moab has been at ease since his youth;
He has also been undisturbed, [like wine] on its dregs,
And he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel,
Nor has he gone into exile.
Therefore he retains his flavor,
And his aroma has not changed.
12 Therefore behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will send to him those who tip [vessels], and they will tip him over, and they will empty his vessels and shatter his jars. 13 And Moab will be ashamed of Chemosh, as the house of Israel was ashamed of Bethel, their confidence.
14 “How can you say, ‘We are mighty warriors,
And men valiant for battle’?
15 “Moab has been destroyed and men have gone up to his cities;
His choicest young men have also gone down to the slaughter,”
Declares the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts.
16 “The disaster of Moab will soon come,
And his calamity has swiftly hastened.
17 “Mourn for him, all you who [live] around him,
Even all of you who know his name;
Say, ‘How has the mighty scepter been broken,
A staff of splendor!’
18 “Come down from your glory
And sit on the parched ground,
O daughter dwelling in Dibon,
For the destroyer of Moab has come up against you,
He has ruined your strongholds.
19 “Stand by the road and keep watch,
O inhabitant of Aroer;
Ask him who flees and her who escapes
[And] say, ‘What has happened?’
Israel has always been engaged in struggle, except for a small time under the reign of Solomon. Moab never knew anything about worry or struggle (verse 11). A person who has grown up carefree and in prosperity, like a spoiled child, is not used to adversity. Such a person is ungenerous if he is not at his beck and call.
Moab is like wine that has not been poured over from one vessel to another. By pouring over, the wine becomes purer and purer, because after pouring over, the sunken drab remains in the old vessel. The more often this process is repeated, the purer the wine becomes. This did not happen with Moab. It has retained its corrupted taste and its smell is as of old. There is nothing fresh about it.
This is the characteristic of people who have everything their heart desires and have known no sorrows. The Christian who has no trials or struggles will not live a devotional life, but will be concerned only with his pleasant life on earth and live for it. Those who come to faith in the Lord Jesus must “through many tribulations … enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). He must also come to know himself in the struggle described in Romans 7. This will bring to a life of full surrender to the Lord Jesus.
The LORD says to Moab that it will soon be over with his life of ease (verse 12). There will be those who tip vessels who will take away all his prosperity and all his comforts. They will be emptied. Then they themselves will be shattered like jars in which the wine was. They have attributed their prosperity to their god Chemosh and will find that it only results in shame. Let them look to Israel who also trusted in the idol, the golden calf at Bethel (verse 13; cf. Amos 3:14a). Israel was carried away into the scattering.
When they see that, how dare they be so overconfident as to say that they are mighty warriors, men valiant for battle (verse 14)? The answer is direct and unmistakable (verse 15). Nothing comes of all their bravado. It is told them that Moab has been destroyed. It sounds ironic that ‘the valiant men’ have gone up to his cities, but that ‘his choicest young men’ are taken away to be slaughtered. There is no mention of any battle. The course of the battle is not determined by grandiloquent snoopers boasting of their strength, but by “the King” Whose Name is LORD of hosts. When He speaks, what does puny man have to say? What He says happens, and that alone.
Therefore, the downfall of Moab is near; it is soon coming (verse 16). The enemies are the tribes from the east (Eze 25:9-10). The disaster that comes upon Moab will cause the surrounding peoples, all who have admired it, to raise a mourning (verse 17). His power and glory are broken. Bruised, he lies prostrate. The broken symbol of government and authority shows that their power and national glory are over.
Dibon and Aroer also belonged to the tribe of Reuben (Jos 13:15-17) and were taken by Moab. Dibon is a prosperous city, but the enemy is coming, the destroyer of Moab (verse 18). He will force “the daughter dwelling in Dibon” to descend from that glory. She will be so humbled that she will lack even water. The fortress, the strength where she thought herself safe, will be destroyed.
Aroer is called upon to stand by the road and look out for the refugees from Dibon (verse 19). When “the inhabitant of Aroer” then sees the long procession of refugees, the retreat and humiliation of Dibon, it will raise questions. She will ask “him … and her”, men and women who have fled, what happened anyway. If she is wise, she will be alerted by what she is told and flee as well. The disasters that befall others are a call from God for those who see it to turn to Him.
20 - 28 The Fall of Moab
20 “Moab has been put to shame, for it has been shattered.
Wail and cry out;
Declare by the Arnon
That Moab has been destroyed.
21 “Judgment has also come upon the plain, upon Holon, Jahzah and against Mephaath, 22 against Dibon, Nebo and Beth-diblathaim, 23 against Kiriathaim, Beth-gamul and Beth-meon, 24 against Kerioth, Bozrah and all the cities of the land of Moab, far and near. 25 The horn of Moab has been cut off and his arm broken,” declares the LORD. 26 “Make him drunk, for he has become arrogant toward the LORD; so Moab will wallow in his vomit, and he also will become a laughingstock. 27 Now was not Israel a laughingstock to you? Or was he caught among thieves? For each time you speak about him you shake [your head in scorn].
28 “Leave the cities and dwell among the crags,
O inhabitants of Moab,
And be like a dove that nests
Beyond the mouth of the chasm.
The enemy has come and destroyed Moab (verse 20). All their bragging is gone. There they stand, ashamed and dismayed. Nothing remains but to wail and cry out. Yes, judgment has come, no city has been spared (verses 21-24). Everywhere they look, as far as they can see and also nearby, judgment has struck all the cities of Moab. Their strength, of which the horn and the arm are a picture, has disappeared (verse 25). The horn has been cut off and the arm broken.
Moab is in a miserable state. Not only is the power gone, but the prestige is gone (verse 26). That is what happens when someone makes himself great against the LORD. Such a person has lost his way. He no longer knows where he is going or what he is doing. Moab wanders down the road like a drunk and falls down and throws up. He has puked up his prosperity and now plays with his vomit. He makes a fool of himself.
Moab is reminded that he also laughed at Israel (verse 27). Now he is measured by the measure by which he measured. Surely Israel was not found among thieves who took their land. The LORD used to forbid His people to take possession of the land of Moab, which was conquered by the Amorites. But because the Amorites refused the Israelites free passage, they took possession of his land (Num 21:21-35). Their laughter is completely unfounded.
The Moabites are advised to leave the cities and go hide in the rocks (verse 28). If they nestled like a dove in the opening of a rock crevice, they might escape the sword of the enemy.
29 - 39 The Pride of Moab
29 “We have heard of the pride of Moab—he [is] very proud—
Of his haughtiness, his pride, his arrogance and his self-exaltation.
30 “I know his fury,” declares the LORD,
“But it is futile;
His idle boasts have accomplished nothing.
31 “Therefore I will wail for Moab,
Even for all Moab will I cry out;
I will moan for the men of Kir-heres.
32 “More than the weeping for Jazer
I will weep for you, O vine of Sibmah!
Your tendrils stretched across the sea,
They reached to the sea of Jazer;
Upon your summer fruits and your grape harvest
The destroyer has fallen.
33 “So gladness and joy are taken away
From the fruitful field, even from the land of Moab.
And I have made the wine to cease from the wine presses;
No one will tread [them] with shouting,
The shouting will not be shouts [of joy].
34 From the outcry at Heshbon even to Elealeh, even to Jahaz they have raised their voice, from Zoar even to Horonaim [and to] Eglath-shelishiyah; for even the waters of Nimrim will become desolate. 35 I will make an end of Moab,” declares the LORD, “the one who offers [sacrifice] on the high place and the one who burns incense to his gods. 36 “Therefore My heart wails for Moab like flutes; My heart also wails like flutes for the men of Kir-heres. Therefore they have lost the abundance it produced. 37 For every head is bald and every beard cut short; there are gashes on all the hands and sackcloth on the loins. 38 On all the housetops of Moab and in its streets there is lamentation everywhere; for I have broken Moab like an undesirable vessel,” declares the LORD. 39 “How shattered it is! [How] they have wailed! How Moab has turned his back—he is ashamed! So Moab will become a laughingstock and an object of terror to all around him.”
The great sin of Moab is its pride (verse 29), along with its carelessness (verse 11). “We”, that is Jeremiah and his companions, “have heard of the pride of Moab”. Jeremiah has mentioned it before (verses 7,11), but not yet in the strong terms of this verse. Six times in this one verse it is spoken of in different ways. Haughtiness is the primal sin. It is in the heart of Moab and in the heart of every man. Haughtiness is in the heart, but the LORD knows the heart of Moab and the pride of which it is filled (verse 30). For people, this pride expresses itself in ‘hollow talk’ and doing what is not proper. Haughtiness leads to all other sins.
Because of all these sins, judgment comes upon Moab. But Jeremiah does not rejoice over that (verse 31). Thereby he also shows that the LORD does not rejoice in judgment that He must execute. He is expressing the feelings of the LORD. He will weep over them and mentions Sibmah (verse 32). Sibmah is known for its vineyards far and wide, as far as the sea of Jazer. The entire harvest was destroyed by the enemies. Wine is a picture of joy. To take away the wine means to take away the joy (verse 33). There is no harvest of wine. All the expressions of joy, heard at the treading of the grapes, are gone. The LORD has caused those to cease.
Instead of expressions of joy, outcry is now heard as an expression of deep sorrow (verse 34). This outcry, which sounds from Heshbon, which is near Sibmah, is heard everywhere. It covers, as it were, the whole land; the whole land is full of it. Not only is there no more wine, but there is also no more refreshment by water, for the waters of Nimrim will become desolate.
The LORD will not only cause joy and refreshment to cease, but He will also put a stop to idolatry (verse 35). He will do this by killing all those who offer sacrifices to idols. By that will be meant especially the priests, but also the whole people who have devoted themselves to the idols, with Chemosh as the chief god. To him they sacrificed children (2Kgs 3:27), a practice the Israelites imitated (Jer 7:31; 32:35).
Because of great and many sins, Jeremiah’s heart wails for Moab and the men of Kir-heres (verse 36). “Like flutes” refers to the use of the flute as an instrument to express feelings, both in joy and in sorrow. Jeremiah sees all that Moab has lost through its sins. In doing so, he does not think of the unjust way in which Moab obtained its abundance. He sees that the people get what they deserve, but that worked at him suffering and not gloating.
The Moabites also express their sorrow because of their losses (verse 37). They shave their heads, cut off their beards, make incisions in their hands, and wear a robe of mourning on their loins. In many ways they show their dejection. They also make their lamentation loud everywhere (verse 38). They let it be heard on all the roofs, where they sacrifice to their idols, and in all the streets, where they meet.
But there is no question of turning back to the LORD. He has done it. He has dealt with Moab as with a worthless pot, in which no one is interested. Such a pot only takes up space and is therefore smashed.
All who hear of it and see it note how shattered Moab is (verse 39). Because of the loss of profit that lies in trading with Moab, they will lament over it. At the same time, they cannot restrain their laughter out of gloating when they see that haughty Moab has become an object of terror. This is how opposite feelings can go together in a person: he grieves over his own loss and is glad over the loss of another.
40 - 47 The Fear of the Intruder
40 For thus says the LORD:
“Behold, one will fly swiftly like an eagle
And spread out his wings against Moab.
41 “Kerioth has been captured
And the strongholds have been seized,
So the hearts of the mighty men of Moab in that day
Will be like the heart of a woman in labor.
42 “Moab will be destroyed from [being] a people
Because he has become arrogant toward the LORD.
43 “Terror, pit and snare are [coming] upon you,
O inhabitant of Moab,” declares the LORD.
44 “The one who flees from the terror
Will fall into the pit,
And the one who climbs up out of the pit
Will be caught in the snare;
For I shall bring upon her, [even] upon Moab,
The year of their punishment,” declares the LORD.
45 “In the shadow of Heshbon
The fugitives stand without strength;
For a fire has gone forth from Heshbon
And a flame from the midst of Sihon,
And it has devoured the forehead of Moab
And the scalps of the riotous revelers.
46 “Woe to you, Moab!
The people of Chemosh have perished;
For your sons have been taken away captive
And your daughters into captivity.
47 “Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab
In the latter days,” declares the LORD.
Thus far the judgment on Moab.
The enemy will come with the speed of an eagle (verse 40; Jer 49:22; cf. Eze 17:3). That eagle will cover all of Moab with its wings. Moab will be suddenly and completely conquered by the enemy. A strong city like Kerioth will be taken, and so will all the cities and also the strongholds they have deemed impregnable (verse 41). The hearts of the mighty men of Moab, the mighty men who would protect them, becomes like that of a woman in labor. They are defenseless and terrified. Moab will be so radically wiped out that it will no longer be a people (verse 42). The reason is that in their pride they have become arrogant toward the LORD. It is the sin of Satan who has also wanted to be equal to God (Isa 14:13-14).
For the inhabitants of Moab, everywhere is terror, nowhere is a place of safety (verses 43-44). They will flee from the enemy out of fear, but then fall into a pit. If they manage to clamber up from there and continue fleeing, they will be caught in a snare (cf. Isa 24:17-18a). Their situation is hopeless, there is no escaping judgment, for the LORD is bringing upon Moab the year of their punishment. The LORD speaks it and so it happens.
Some think they will be safe in Heshbon and find protection (shadow) (verse 45). But the enemy will be there and devour them. The enemy rules in all of Moab. They can do nothing but lament (verse 46). Moab, the people of the god Chemosh, has gone down like a sinking ship disappearing into the waves, swallowed up by the ocean. Chemosh, the idol, has been exposed as a liar. He has not been able to prevent the sons and daughters of “his” people from being taken into captivity.
The chapter shows the justice of God in His judgment of sin. He will punish Moab for its sins of pride and idolatry. However, the last verse shows that God is also a God of mercy (verse 47). God promises here that Moab will be restored as a people in later times, that is in the last of days, the end times. When Christ appears on earth for the second time to then reign as Messiah, that will happen.