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Saturday, July 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 48

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries



There are three remarkable differences in this prophecy, as compared with others, as cited by Green. “These are (1) its unusual length, (2) its use of material from other prophets, and (3) the large number of place names in it.”(F1)

A number of other prophets also received messages from God regarding the eventual judgment of Moab; and, “These include: Isaiah 15-16; Isaiah 25:10; Ezekiel 25:8-11; Amos 2:1-3; and Zephaniah 2:8-11.”(F2) Also, this is not the first prophecy regarding Moab that came through Jeremiah. See Jeremiah 9:26; Jeremiah 25:21; and Jeremiah 27:3.

We have already commented upon all of these passages except the one in Ezekiel; and there are not many new things to cover in this chapter. See my commentaries on Amos, Zephaniah and Isaiah.

The reason for God’s judgment against Moab is not far to seek. From the days of the false prophet Balaam and afterward, Moab rebelled against the true God, adopted the horrible worship of Chemosh, and reveled in the licentious worship of the Canaanite Baalim. The Moabite women, under the suggestion of Balaam, had pulled off a wholesale seduction of the Israelites at Baal-Peor (Numbers 25:1 ff), in which a thousand of the princes and judges of Israel fell, leading all Israel into paganism from which the Israelites never totally recovered.

The origin of the Moabites, of course, will be remembered as beginning in the incestuous union of Lot and his daughters, the same event from which the Ammonites also sprang (Genesis 19). The Moabites always hated Israel, and “They had actually taken part with the Chaldeans against Judaea (2 Kings 24:2).”(F3)

Actually, there are no critical problems worth bothering with here; but some writers still insist on repeating some of the old shibboleths of the radical critics, prattling about “which is the original,” with regard to similar passages to the writings of other prophets to which Jeremiah referred in this chapter. All the passages are “original.” This we shall continue to believe until some critic convinces us that Almighty God could not possibly have given the same words, or similar words, to more than one prophet! Besides, as regards this chapter, the Dean of Canterbury noted the following.

“The passages borrowed from other authors by Jeremiah are so interwoven with Jeremiah’s own words that we cannot omit them as interpolations without destroying the whole. Also passages most certainly belonging to Jeremiah, and in many of the alterations of the borrowed passages, one recognizes so strongly Jeremiah’s mode of expression, that one has no resource except to acknowledge the whole to be Jeremiah’s.”(F4)

Verses 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, shall 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.”

“Nebo” “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.”(F5)

“Kiriathaim” “A city six miles south of Dibon.”(F6) Dibon was where the Moabite Stone was found.

“Heshbon” 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.(F7)

But in the times of a certain Alexander, Heshbon again became a Jewish city.(F8) 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” 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.

“Misgab” and “Madmen” Nothing is known of either of these towns; and the dictionaries available to us have no notes on them whatever.

“Horonaim” “This is the same as the city of Avara, mentioned by Ptolemy; the name means `the double caves’ (Nehemiah 2:10; Isaiah 15:5).(F9)

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

Verses 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” Whether fleeing to a high mountain or descending into the caves at Horonaim, the people would hear the cry of destruction. “`Luhith’ is unknown”;(F10) 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” 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).(F11)

“Chemosh shall go forth into captivity” “Chemosh is referred to on the Moabite Stone as Ashtar-Kemosh. Ashtar in Canaan was the god of the morning star.”(F12) 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.”(F13) 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.(F14)

Verses 11-17


“Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he has 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 the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will send unto 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 Bethel their confidence. How say ye, we are mighty men, and valiant men for the war? 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, and all ye that know his name; say, How is the strong staff broken, the beautiful rod!”

“Settled on his lees” 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” 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” 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” 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.”(F15)

“The calamity of Moab is come near, and his affliction hasteth fast” 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.”(F16)

“The strong staff broken” “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.”(F17)

Verses 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” 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.

“Dibon... Aroer... the Arnon” 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.

Verses 21-25

“And judgment is 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-gamal, 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” 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” 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.

“Jahaz” 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.”(F19)

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.

“Kerioth” 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.(F20)

“Bozrah” 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.

Verses 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. Oh 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.

Verses 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 naught; his boastings have wrought nothing. Therefore will I wail for Moab; yea, I will cry out for all Moab: for the men of Kirheres 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. And gladness and joy is taken away from the fruitful field and from the land of Moab.”

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.”(F21)

“Kirheres” “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” 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.(F22) 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” 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.”(F23) In the light of what is written here in the Word of God, we can be sure that this is true.

Verses 33-39

“And I have caused wine to cease from the wine-presses: none shall tread with shouting; the shouting shall be no shouting; from the cry of Heshbon even to 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 Kirheres: therefore the abundance that he has 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 everywhere; 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 al] that are round about him.”

“The shouting shall be no shouting” 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” 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” 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.

Verses 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. 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” 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” 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!”

Verses 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” 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).”(F25)

“Thus far is the judgment of Moab” This is not a critical comment, but is most likely a note by some scribe, similar to the one in Jeremiah 51:54.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Jeremiah 48". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/jeremiah-48.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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