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This prophecy is against the Moabites, who, though they derived their origin from Lot, and were of the same blood with the Israelites, had yet been inimical to them. This prophecy would be uninteresting, were we not to remember the history on which the application and use of what is said depends. We have said that the Moabites, as the father of their nation was Lot, were connected by blood with the Israelites; they ought then to have retained the recollection of their brotherhood, and to have dealt kindly with them; for God had spared them when the people of Israel entered into the land of Canaan. The Israelites, we know, passed through the borders of Moab without doing any harm to them, because it was God’s purpose, from a regard to Lot, to preserve them for a time. But this people never ceased to contrive all manner of plots against God’s people; and, as we shall hereafter see, when the state of that people became embarrassed, they cruelly exulted over them, and became more insolent than avowed enemies. Hence God prophesied against them, that the Israelites might know, as we reminded you yesterday, that their miserable condition was not overlooked by God, and that though he chastised them, yet some hope of mercy remained, as he undertook their cause and would be their defender. It was then no small comfort which this prophecy brought to the faithful; for they thus knew that God was still their father, though apparently he seemed to be severe to them. We now perceive the design of what is here said.
The case of the Moabites was different from that of the Egyptians, for the Egyptians were wholly aliens to the chosen people; but the Moabites, as we have said, were related to them. They were therefore willful, and as it were intestine enemies; and nature itself ought to have taught them to acknowledge the Israelites as their brethren, and to cultivate mutual kindness. This cruelty and ingratitude were so hateful to God, that at length he punished them most severely. But as the Moabites remained in quietness when Judea was laid waste, and the city Jerusalem destroyed, after the overthrow of the kingdom of Israel, and the banishment of the ten tribes to distant countries, it behooved the faithful to exercise patience, which could not have been done without hope. It was this then that Jeremiah had in view, even to sustain the minds of the godly with the expectation of God’s judgment, which he here denounces on the Moabites.
He says, Against Moab; (1) and then it follows, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel By the first term he designates the immense power of God, and reminds them that God is the judge of the whole world, and that his kingdom extends over all nations; but by the second expression he bears testimony to the love with which he had embraced the children of Abraham, because he had been pleased to choose them as his peculiar inheritance. Woe, he says, on Nebo; (2) which was a city in the land of Moab; because laid waste, ashamed, taken is Kiriathaim He names here, as we see, some cities, and he will name more as he proceeds. Ashamed then and taken is Kiriathaim; and Misgab (3) is ashamed and torn, or broken in mind. It follows, —
(1) All the versions, except the Syriac, which Calvin has followed, have “to Moab,” and connect the words with the following, that is, “Jehovah says thus to Moab.” The best version is, as given by Blayney and Henderson, “concerning Moab, thus saith,” etc. — Ed.
(2) Some give this rendering, “Alas! no Nebo;” it had ceased to exist, and the reason is given, “for it is laid waste. — Ed.
(3) Neither the Vulg. nor the Syr. gives this as a proper name, nor is there any such place found elsewhere. Blayney renders it “the high fortress,” agreeably with the Vulg., Syr., and the Targ. — Ed.
The Prophet, as before, does not speak in an ordinary way, but declares in lofty terms what God had committed to him, in order that he might terrify the Moabites; not indeed that they heard his threatenings, but it was necessary that he should denounce vengeance in this vehement manner, that the Jews might know that the cruelty and pride of the Moabites, hereafter mentioned, would not go unpunished.
Hence he says, No more shall be the praise or the boasting of Moab over Heshbon We may learn from this place and from others, that Heshbon had been taken from the Moabites; for it was occupied by God’s people, because the Moabites had lost it, as Moses relates in Numbers 21:30, and in Deuteronomy 2:26, etc. But (as things change) when the Moabites became strong, they took away this city from the Israelites. Hence the Prophet says, that there would be no more boasting that they possessed that city; for he adds, They have thought, or devised, etc. There is here a striking allusion, for חשבון, chesbon, is derived from חשב, chesheb, to devise or to consult, as though it were a place of consultation or devisings. The Prophet then says, that as to Heshbon they consulted against it, חשבו עליה cheshbu olie He uses the root from which the name of the city is derived. Heshbon, then, hitherto called the place of consultation, was to have and find other counselors, even those who would contrive ruin for it. Come ye; the Prophet refers here to the counsel taken by the Chaldeans, Come ye, and let us cut her off from being a nation He then joins another city, And thou, Madmen, (4) shalt be cut off, for a sword shall go after thee, or pursue thee, as though the city itself was fleeing from the sword; not that cities move from one place to another; but when the citizens deliberate how they may drive away their enemies and resist their attacks, — when they seek aid here and there, — when they set up their own remedies, they are said to flee. But the Prophet says, “Thou shalt gain nothing by fleeing, for the sword shall pursue thee.” It follows, —
(4) None of the versions renders this a proper name, but as a participle from the verb which follows, and no such place is mentioned elsewhere. They must have read מרמה, instead of מדמן. Then the version would be,
Even silenced thou shalt be silenced, After thee shall go the sword.
To be silenced, in the language of the prophets, is to be subdued. See Isaiah 15:1, when the same thing is said of Moab. The word silence forms a contrast with the boasting of Moab mentioned at the beginning of the verse. After being subdued and removed elsewhere, still the sword would follow Moab. — Ed.
By naming many cities, he shews that the whole land was doomed to ruin, so that no corner of it would be exempt from destruction. For the Moabites might have suffered some loss without much injury had they been moderately chastised; but the Prophet shews that they would be so reduced by the power of Nebuchadnezzar, that ruin would extend to every part of the land. We now then see why this catalogue of the cities is given.
By the voice of crying he means howling, a loud lamentation, heard far and wide. He says that the voice of crying would go forth from Horonaim, which some think was so called, because the city consisted of two parts, a higher and a lower part. He then adds, desolation and great destruction He thus explains himself, for the citizens of Horonaim would in vain cry out, because desolation and breaking or destruction would constrain them, that is, make them cry out so as to howl for the bitterness of their grief. It follows, —
The Prophet speaks again generally of the whole country. It is said that the land of Moab was afflicted; not that it was so then; but to make certain the prophecy, he speaks of the event as having already taken place; for the prophets, as it is well known, speaking in the person of God, relate things as yet hidden, as though they had been completed. He says that the little ones of Moab so cried as to be heard. (5) This is much more emphatic than if he had said that men and women cried out; for children do not soon perceive what is going on, for their understanding is not great. Men and women howl when threatenings only are announced; but little children are not moved but by present evils, and except they are actually beaten, they are not affected; and then they hardly distinguish between some slight evil and death. Hence, when the Prophet says that the little ones of Moab were heard in their crying, he means that the grievousness of its calamity would be extreme, as that little children, as though wise before their time, would perceive the atrocious cruelty of their enemies. It follows, —
(5) Here all the versions and the Targum differ. The Vulg. only has “little ones;” the Syr. has “her poor,” the Sept. take “Zoar” to be intended, according to Isaiah 15:5, the word צוערה, instead of צעוריה. The passage in Isaiah confirms this reading, though not found in any copies. Then the verse would read thus, —
Broken is Moab, They made the cry heard at Zoar.
This is substantially the version of Venema. — Ed.
Here Jeremiah uses another figure, that the weeping would be everywhere heard in the ascent to Luhith. It is probable, and it appears from the Prophet’s words, that this city was situated on a high place. He then says, that men would go up with weeping in the ascent to Luhith; literally, In (or with) weeping shall weeping ascend But some read as though it were written בכה, beke, weeping; nor is there a doubt but that the verb יעלה, iole, refers to a person. But Jeremiah seems to have mentioned weeping twice in order to show that men would not only weep in one place, but during the long course of their ascent, as though he had said, “They who shall be near the city shall weep, and they in the middle of their course, and those at the foot of the mountain;” that is, there shall be weeping in every place. We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet.
He afterwards says, In the descent to Horonaim It hence appears that this city was situated in a low place or on a plain; and therefore I know not why they say that one part of it was higher than the other. It might indeed be that it had a hill in it; but the place was in a level country, and had mountains around it, as we learn from the Prophet’s words, In the descent to Horonaim the enemies shall hear a cry of distress By saying that enemies would hear a cry, (6) he means that the citizens of Horonaim and their neighbors would become frantic through grief. For fear restrains weeping, and when any one sees an enemy near, the very sight of him checks him, so that he dares not openly to show his grief; and then shame also restrains tears as well as sighings, for an enemy would deride our weepings in our misery. There is no doubt then, but that the Prophet here amplifies the grievousness of their sorrow, when he says, that though the citizens of Horonaim had enemies before their eyes, they would yet break forth with weeping and loud crying, and that the reproach and derision of enemies would not restrain them.
(6) The word enemies is given only by the Vulg.; the other versions render it “distress.” The literal rendering of the verse is, —
For in the ascent to Luhith, With weeping ascends weeping; For in the descent to Heronaim, The distress of the cry of ruin have they heard.
This version materially corresponds with Isaiah 15:5. Weeping ascending with weeping, shews that all wept as they ascended. “The distress of the cry” is a Hebraism for distressing cry — Ed.
Then he adds, Flee, save: this is the crying of distress; for miserable men, as the case is in extreme evils, mutually exhort one another, Flee, save your lives He then compares them to a tamarisk. The word ערוער, oruor, designates a country, as it is probable, and there were also two cities of this name. However, ערער, oror, is a tamarisk, as we have already seen in Jeremiah 17:6. Some render it, “ a tower;” and the words of Isaiah in Isaiah 17:2, are perverted by some to maintain another meaning; for they think that ערוער, oruor, means the cot of shepherds in the desert; but I prefer the opinion of those who render it “tamarisk,” or juniper, though the Prophet seems to me to allude to the city Aroer, or to a region of that name, but I rather think to the city. He then says, And ye shall be as a tamarisk in the desert: and it is known from other places that Aroer was in the land of Moab.
We now then perceive what the Prophet means: that Moab would be like a juniper in the desert, that is, a barren tree, which never grows to any size; and then it is dry, because it is not cherished by any rain, nor fed by any moisture from the ground. It is in this sense, as we have stated, that our Prophet took the similitude in Jeremiah 17:5 :“
Blessed,” he says, “is the man who trusts in Jehovah, for he shall be like a tree planted near waters: cursed is the man who trusts in man, and who makes flesh his arm, and withdraws his heart from Jehovah; for he shall be as the tamarisk of the desert;”
that is, he shall be barren and dry, without any moisture or support. It now follows: —
Jeremiah assigns here the reason why God would take vengeance on the Moabites; but we shall hereafter see other reasons why God had been so much displeased with them. Let us then know that we are not here taught avowedly why God determined to lay waste and destroy the land of Moab; for there is here but one reason given, while there were others and greater ones, even because they had wantonly exulted over the miseries of the Jews, because they had conspired against them, because they had betrayed them, and lastly, because they had as it were carried on war with their God. But here Jeremiah briefly shews, that were there no other reasons, the Moabites deserved that God should pour forth his wrath on them even for this, because they trusted in their own works and treasures. By works some understand herds and flocks; and in this sense they are sometimes taken, and it is an exposition that may be admitted. We may however understand by “works” fortifications, especially as “treasures” are added. He then says, that the Moabites were such that it was just that God should be roused against them, because they were inebriated with false confidence in their own power, and because they had many treasures: they hence thought that they were impregnable.
The Prophet in the meantime intimates, that the Moabites greatly deceived themselves in thinking that they were safe against God’s hand, because they were strongly fortified, and because they had immense treasures laid up. Hence he says that all these things would avail nothing, for God would destroy the whole land.
Even thou, he says, shalt be taken There is no small emphasis in the particle גם, gam, even or also; for the Prophet expresses what would now take place; for the Moabites in vain trusted in their treasures and power, because God would notwithstanding destroy them, and his hand would penetrate into their fortresses. “God then shall find thee out equally the same, as though thou wert exposed to all dangers.” They who abound in warlike preparations, furnished with all kinds of defences, think themselves exempted from the common lot of men: hence he says, Even thou, equally the same with any village exposed to the will of enemies, even thou shalt be taken; and go forth shall Chemosh This was the tutelar God of the land, as it appears from the book of Judges and other places, and even from what Moses says, (Jude 11:25; Genesis 11:7; Numbers 21:29.) As, then, the Moabites worshipped this idol, they thought themselves safe whatever evil might be at hand. The Prophet then derides this confidence. We have said before, that the ungodly in part set up their own earthly power in opposition to God, and in part imagined that they were aided by their idols. Hence the prophets exposed these two evils, as it appears also from the present passage: the Prophet had said, “Because thou trustest in thy fortresses and treasures, even thou shalt be taken;” and now he says, “Because thou thinkest Chemosh to be a sure and invincible defense, it shall be driven into exile and be kept captive.” This he said in reproach to the idol. He adds, its priests and its princes, even those princes, who seem to lie down safely under its shadow, they also shall be driven into exile.
He confirms the previous verse; nor ought he to be deemed too wordy, for this prophecy was not announced, that it might cherish the hope and patience of the faithful only for a few days; but it was necessary for them to rest dependent for a long time on this promise, which God had given them many years before. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet confirms at large a truth in itself sufficiently clear. Come, he says, shall a waster to all the cities It now appears more clearly why he mentioned some of the cities, though, as we shall see, they were many, even that the Israelites might know that all the land of Moab was to be given up to desolation: Nor shall a city escape, for destroyed shall be the valley and the plain, as Jehovah has spoken It follows, —
Here is a bitter derision; for it was necessary not only to goad the Moabites, but also to pierce them through, because they were inflated with so much pride, and also because they cruelly raged against God’s people, as we shall more fully see hereafter. When the Israelites were conquered, these ungodly men cast forth their taunts, and also betrayed them to their enemies. Hence the Prophet now says, Give wings to Moab Though the word ציף, tsits, properly means a flower, yet it means here a wing, put for wings; as though he had said, that the Moabites could not escape destruction except by flying. In short, as they had not only so proudly despised, but had also persecuted their miserable brethren, the Prophet says, “Come shall the time when feet for running or for flight shall not be sufficient for you, your enemies being so eager in pursuit; but you will desire to have wings.” But, as we shall see, he will presently tell us, that Moab had been quiet and settling on its dregs.
He then adds, that its cities would be a waste, so as to have no inhabitant He mentions the reason why Moab would need wings, even because there would be no refuge for them, for wherever it would betake itself, it would be thence driven away; for the enemy would take all the cities, so that the whole people would be under the necessity of removing elsewhere; he intimates, in short, that there would be no hope for life to the Moabites, except by flight, and that the swiftest. At length he adds, —
The Prophet here encourages the Chaldeans to severity, so as to make no end until they destroyed that nation. We have said that the prophets assumed different characters, so that what they said might be more impressive. The Chaldeans were not indeed the disciples of Jeremiah; nor was this exhortation intended for them, but that the Israelites might know that what they heard from the mouth of Jeremiah was certain. He then turns to address the Chaldeans; as he before spoke to any who might be present, “Give wings to Moab;” so now another apostrophe follows, Cursed, etc., — to whom does he speak? to the Chaldeans; and yet the Prophet did not address them as though he could effect anything; but, as I have said, he had a regard to the Jews.
This passage has been very absurdly explained, and it is commonly quoted as though the Prophet had said, that special care ought to be taken by us, not to omit anything of what God commands. But they thus misrepresent the meaning. We ought therefore to bear in mind what I have already said, that these words are addressed to the Chaldeans, as though he had said, “Spare not, but shed blood, and let no humanity move you, for it is the work of God; God has armed you, that ye might fully execute his judgment and spare no blood: ye shall then be accursed, except ye execute his vengeance.” It is not indeed a common mode of speaking; but as to the subject and the meaning there is no ambiguity. It is the same thing as though he had said, “Go on courageously, and boldly execute God’s vengeance, inasmuch as punishment has been denounced on them.” As when soldiers idly delay, the leader when present not only exhorts them but also urges them on with reproofs and threatenings, in order to rouse their alacrity; so the Prophet here shews that God, as though present with the Chaldeans, would chide their sloth, “Why do ye give over? cursed is every one who will not shed blood, and who will not destroy them from the least to the greatest.”
But the whole import of the passage is found in the expression, that the destruction of that ungodly nation was the work of Jehovah; as if he had said, “Though the Chaldeans shall lay waste the land of Moab, and shall do this, not in order to obey God, but from avarice and ambition, yet it will be the work of God; for God has hired the Chaldeans for this end, that they might destroy the Moabites, though they may think of no such thing.” It follows, —
Here he expresses more clearly what we have before seen, that Moab in vain promised to himself perpetual impunity, because he had for a long time been prosperous. Then the Prophet says that he would be suddenly destroyed, when God ascended his tribunal to execute his judgment.
He first says, that he had been quiet from his childhood, because when the Israelites had been often harassed, that nation remained untouched, and never felt any disadvantage, as though fortified on all sides by their own defences; for they dwelt in part amidst mountains, but had a level country, as it is well known, beyond Jordan. It was a land in a moderate degree fertile, so that as they enjoyed continual peace, they collected great wealth. But it was very hard for the Israelites, when God afflicted them with various calamities, to see the Moabites secure and safe from all trouble and all losses. As, then, this thought might have grievously wounded the minds of the faithful, the Prophet here exhorts them not to envy the happiness of the Moabites, because God would at length stretch forth his hand against them, according to what was done by David, who also exhorted the faithful patiently to wait for the day of the Lord, when they saw the ungodly enjoying all kinds of pleasure, and meeting with success according to their wishes. (Psalms 37:1.) We now then understand the object of the Prophet.
He compares Moab to an old man, who had passed his whole life in security, without any losses, without any grief or sorrow. Quiet, then, has Moab been, or quiet from his childhood, even from the time he became a nation. For what was the childhood of Moab? even from the time they expelled the giants and other inhabitants and dwelt in their land. Then success ever attended them; and hence he says, that they settled on their dregs, so that they underwent no change. Here is another metaphor: as wine which remains in its own vessel, and is never changed into another, retains its taste, its strength, and its savor; so also the Prophet says that Moab had always been in the enjoyment of perpetual felicity, like wine which remains on its own dregs. For the dregs preserve the wine, as it is well known; for the wine, being taken off from its dregs, loses in part its own strength, and at length becomes vapid; but wine, being not changed, continues in its own strength.
We hence see how apt is the comparison, when the Prophet says, that Moab had not been changed from vessel to vessel, but had settled on his dregs And he explains himself without a figure when he adds, that he had not gone, or removed, into captivity He yet intimates that this perpetual peace would avail the Moabites nothing, because as the Lord had resolved to destroy them, he would cause the strength of Moab to fail and all his wealth to be reduced to nothing.
The Prophet said in the last lecture that the Moabites, as long as they lived prosperously, were very hardened, as impunity becomes an incentive to sin; for the ungodly, while God spares them, think that they shall never be called to an account. He now adds, that the days would come, in which God would suddenly execute vengeance on them. But he pursues the comparison which he had used; for he had said, that the Moabites were like wine which had not been poured from one vessel into another; and hence they retained their own odor, that is, they were inebriated with their own pleasures, because God had granted them peace and quietness for a long time.
Now, the Prophet, on the other hand, says that God would send to them drivers, (7) to drive them away, and who would empty their vessels and scatter their bottles, — the containing for the contained; though I do not disapprove of another rendering, “and destroy their bottles;” for the verb is sometimes taken in this sense. Properly it means to scatter, to dissipate; but the verb נפף, nuphets, sometimes expresses a stronger idea, even to scatter or to cast forth with violence, so as to break what is thus cast forth. As to the real meaning there is not much difference: for we perceive what was God’s purpose, that he would send to the Moabites enemies to drive them into exile, and thus to deprive them of those pleasures in which they had so long indulged. But this was not said for the sake of the Moabites, but that the Jews might know, that though that land had been in a quiet state, yet it would not escape the hand of God; for its long continued felicity could not render void that decree of God of which the Prophet had spoken. It now follows —
(7) “Incliners” is the Sept.; “strewers,” the Vulg. ; “plunderers,” the Syr. and Targ. The verb means to spread, to strew. They were those who turned the wine vessels in order to empty them. Henderson has “overturners;” but Blayney has the best word, “tilters,” who should tilt him. — Ed.
We may see more clearly from this verse, that the Prophet does not so much address the Moabites as his own people; for he was not a teacher to the Moabites to promote their safety; on the contrary, he intended his doctrine for the benefit of the Jews, as in the present instance.
Ashamed, he says, shall Moab be of his idol: for we have said that Chemosh was the god of the Moabites, as every nation had its own peculiar god, even its own invention. Now, the comparison made here shews that the Prophet wished to exhort the people, to whom he was appointed a teacher, to repentance; for he set before them the example of the ten tribes. And we know that at the time Jeremiah announced this prophecy, the kingdom of Israel was destroyed. All the Israelites, then, had been driven into exile except the tribe of Judah and the half tribe of Benjamin. Now, the ten tribes, as it is well known, had, under Jeroboam, departed from the pure worship of God, and had built for themselves an altar in Bethel. Hence, then, the Prophet now says, As ashamed were the Israelites of their superstitions, which they had devised for themselves, so a similar vengeance of God awaited the people of Moab; and thus he shews to the Jews what it is to trust in the only true God. The Jews were not, indeed, involved in so gross a superstition as to worship idols, at least publicly; but Ezekiel shews that they also were contaminated with this kind of pollution, and that the very sanctuary was defiled with idols; and at the same time the worship of God, according to the Law, continued to be celebrated. But the Jews had nothing but the external form: they had, indeed, the temple and the altar, they professed to worship the true God, but in the meantime impiety and contempt of true religion prevailed among them, and they had begun to involve themselves in many ungodly superstitions, as we have before seen.
What, then, does Jeremiah now do? He sets before their eyes the ten tribes whom God had destroyed, though the Israelites, as well as the Jews, had descended from the same father, even Abraham. As, then, God had inflicted so heavy a punishment on the kingdom of Israel, he now shews to the Jews, that the punishment of the Moabites was not less probable; and why? because they have, he says, their idol. God shews that this was a most atrocious wickedness, by which the Moabites had provoked his anger; for there is nothing less intolerable than for men to transfer the glory of God to their own inventions, to statues, to logs of wood, to stones, or to idols of gold and silver. We now, then, understand the object of the Prophet. It follows —
The Prophet here reproves the pride of the Moabites, because they trusted in their own strength, and derided God and what the Prophets announced. We indeed know that ungodly men, when all things prosper with them, are moved by no fear, divest themselves of every feeling, and become so sunk in indifference, that they not only disdainfully disregard the true God, but also what is connected with moral obligation. Such, then, was the confidence which prevailed among the Moabites. Hence the Prophet here checks this foolish boasting.
How say ye, We are strong, we are warlike men ? as though he had said, “These boastings, while God is seriously contending with you, are all empty, and will avail you nothing: ye think yourselves beyond the reach of danger, because ye possess great power, and are surrounded with strong defences; but God will reduce to nothing whatever you regard as your protection.” Wasted, then, is Moab He sets up this threatening in opposition to their arrogance. He indeed foretells what was to come, but speaks of it as a thing already fulfilled. Wasted, he says, is Moab, and the enemy has cut off his cities The verb עלה, ole, is to be taken in a transitive sense; it is indeed a neuter verb, but the other meaning is more suitable to this place, that the enemy would cut off the cities of the Moabites. I yet allow that it may be explained otherwise, that the inhabitants would ascend or depart from his cities; for, עלה, ole, metaphorically, indeed, signifies to ascend, and to flow off, or to go away, as they say, in smoke; and if an anomaly as to number, common in Hebrew, be approved, the sense will be, “and from his cities they have vanished.” (8) And this explanation agrees well with what follows, and his young men have descended to the slaughter; that is, they who seem the strongest among them shall be drawn to destruction, or shall descend to the slaughter. But as the event seemed difficult to be believed, God is again introduced. Then the Prophet says, that he did not speak from his own mind, but announced what God had committed to him. And he adds his title, that the Jews might be more attentive to the consideration of God’s power. God, he says, is he who speaks, the King, whose name is Jehovah of hosts He sets up God’s name in opposition to the warlike preparations, of which the Moabites, as we have seen, boasted; as though he had said, that if the Moabites had to do with mortals, they might indeed have justly gloried; but as they had a contest with the living God, all their power would vanish away, since God was prepared to execute vengeance. It follows —
(8) There is no agreement in the Versions and Targ., as to these words, nor among critics. The easiest construction is presented by Blayney, —
A spoiler of Moab and of her cities is gone up.
The next clause is not so well rendered by Blayney. He applies it to the Chaldeans. “Moab” is spoken of in this chapter, both in the feminine and in the masculine gender. In our language the neuter would be the most suitable, it and its. I render the verse thus, —
15. The waster of Moab and of its cities is going up, And the choice of its youth shall descend to the slaughter, Saith the King, Jehovah of hosts is his name.“
Going up” as ascribed to the conqueror, and “descending” to the conquered. — Ed.
Here the Prophet expresses something more, that the vengeance of which he spoke was near and hastening. It served to alleviate the sorrow of the faithful, when they understood that the Moabites would shortly be punished; for it was a grievous and bitter trial, when God severely chastened his own children, to see that the wicked were in the meantime spared. As, then, he deferred his judgments as to the wicked, that delay tended to drive the faithful to despair, at least they could not bear with sufficient patience the scourges of God.
This is the reason why the Prophet now says, Near is the destruction of the Moabites, and their calamity hastens And though God did for some time yet bear with the Moabites, so that they remained in a quiet state, and reveled in their pleasures, yet this prophecy was true; for we are to bear in mind that truth, which ought ever to be remembered as to promises and threatenings, that a thousand years are as one day with the Lord: and hence is that exhortation given by the Prophet Habakkuk,“
If the prophecy delays, wait for it; for coming it will come, and will not delay.” (Habakkuk 2:3)
And this mode of speaking occurs often in the prophets. When, therefore, God denounces punishment on the wicked and the despisers of his Law, he says, “Behold, your day hastens,” and he says this, that they might be awakened and begin to fear in due time.
But here, as I have reminded you, Jeremiah had a regard to his own people. For the faithful might have objected, and said, “What can this be? how long will God defer the punishment which he threatens to our enemies?” Hence he says, “Strengthen your minds for a little while, for God will presently stretch forth his hand and show that he is a defender who cares for you and your safety; for he will set himself against the Moabites, because they have been unfaithful and vexatious to you.” It is, then, for this reason that he says, Near is their destruction, and their vengeance hastens
We may hence learn this useful doctrine, that whenever God promises anything, we ought to receive it as a present thing, though yet hidden and even remote. There is no distance which ought to impede our faith; but we ought to regard as certain whatever God promises, and as though it were before our eyes and in our hand. And the same ought to be the case as to threatenings; whenever God denounces anything hard and grievous, it ought to touch and move us the same as though we saw his hand armed with a sword, and as though the very execution of his vengeance was exhibited before our eyes. For we know what the Scripture teaches us elsewhere,“
When the wicked shall say, Peace and security, destruction comes suddenly on them, as the pain of childbearing, which seizes a woman when she thinks nothing of it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:3)
Let us then learn to set God’s favor ever as present, and also all punishments, so that we may really fear them. It follows —
The Prophet seems indeed to exhort all neighbors to sympathy; but we have stated for what purpose he did this; for it was not his object to show that the Moabites deserved pity, so that their neighbors ought to have condoled with them in their calamities: but by this figurative mode of speaking he exaggerated the grievousness of the evils which were soon to happen to the Moabites; as though he had said, “This judgment of God will be so dreadful as to make all their neighbors to tremble; all who had previously known the state of the people of Moab, will be smitten with such terror as will make them to groan and mourn with them.” In short, the Prophet had nothing else in view than to show that God’s vengeance on the Moabites would not be less severe and dreadful than it had been on the ten tribes, and what it would be on the tribe of Judah.
Say ye, he says, how is the staff broken ? He introduces here all their neighbors as astonished with wonder; for the same purpose are other things mentioned, even to show that the calamity of Moab would be deemed a prodigy, for the people thought them unassailable, and no one had ever dared to attempt anything against their land. This, then, was the reason why the Prophet here asks as one astonished, even in the person of all nations, How has it happened that the staff is broken ? and the beautiful rod ? (9) These are metaphorical words, which refer to the royal dignity and the condition of the whole people. It follows —
(9) The literal rendering is, —
How has the rod of strength been broken, The staff of honor?“
How” is by what means, or how much: the first seems to be the meaning here. The rod and the staff are the same — the sceptre an ensign of power and of honor or glory. — Ed.
Here the Prophet turns to address the city Dibon, which was renowned among that people. The mode of speaking is well known; he calls the people of the city the daughter of Dibon; and he calls the daughter an inhabitant, because the Moabites, as it has been said, ever rested in safety and quietness in their own habitations, for no one disturbed them. It is, then, the same as though he had said, “Ye who have hitherto been in a quiet state, descend now from your glory, and dwell in thirst. ” (10) By thirst he means the want of all things. Thirst is set in opposition to glory; but it is more than if the Prophet had mentioned disgrace or poverty; for there are many who are otherwise oppressed by want, and yet find fountains or streams; but when there is no drop of water to quench thirst, it is an extreme misery.
We hence see that the Prophet exaggerates the punishment of the Moabites, when he says that the citizens of Dibon would sit in thirst, because, he says, ascended against thee has the waster, (11) and the destroyer of thy fortresses. We may hence conclude that the city was on all sides fortified, so that it thought its defences sufficient to keep off enemies. But the Prophet derides this presumption, because the Chaldeans would come to pull down and destroy all these strongholds. It follows —
(10) The verb “dwell” favors the idea adopted by some, that צמא means here a dry or thirsty land. - Ed
(11) עלה here, as in Jeremiah 48:15, is a participle, and so the verb which follows. The “waster” is represented as then on his way, —
For the waster of Moab is ascending against thee, The destroyer of thy fortresses.—
We have stated elsewhere why the prophets in describing calamities spoke in so elevated a style; for their object was not to seek fame or the praise of eloquence. They are not these rhetorical ornaments which the prophets used; but they necessarily spoke in a lofty style of the punishments which awaited the ungodly, because such was the hardness of their hearts that they hesitated not to despise God’s threatenings, or to regard them as fables. That God’s threatenings then might penetrate into the hearts of men, it was necessary to exaggerate them by means of various comparisons, as it is done here and in many places. We ought at the same time to bear in mind what I have said, that the Prophet had a regard to his own people. As the Moabites were like a hid treasure, the Jews could never have thought it possible, that the Chaldeans would at length make an inroad there; but the Prophet declares that the thing was so certain, as though it was seen by their own eyes. In order then to lead the Jews to the very scene itself, the judgments of God are here not only described, but as it were painted.
Stand, he says, on the way, and look, thou inhabitant of Aroer This was another city of the Moabites, of which mention is made in many places; and then he mentions others, as we shall see. Ask him, he says, who fleeth and her who escapes He, indeed, changes the gender of the nouns; but when he mentions many, and then one person, he did this for the sake of amplifying; because, on the one hand, he wished to show that so great would be the number of exiles, that the whole land would become empty; and then, on the other hand, when he says that this and that person would flee, he means that they would be so scattered that they would not go in troops; but as it is usual in a disordered state of things, one would flee on this side, and another on the other side. Ask him who fleeth, or as we may render the words, Ask all who flee; and then, ask her who escapes; because not only men, but also women would flee, so that no sex would be spared. In short, he intimates, that those who dwelt in cities well fortified, would be all anxiety on seeing enemies irresistibly advancing through every part of the country.
We have stated why the Prophet describes so fully the ruin of the Moabites, and dwells so long on a subject in no way obscure; it was not indeed enough merely to teach and to show what was useful to be known, but it was also necessary to add goads, that the Jews might attend to these prophecies; nay, it was necessary to drive as it were with a hammer into their minds what would have been otherwise incredible; for they deemed it a fable that the Moabites could thus be broken, laid waste, and reduced to nothing. The Prophet then would have labored in vain, or spoken ineffectually, had he described in simple and plain words what we here read. But he added vehemence to his words, as though he would drive in his words with a hammer and fasten them in the minds of the people.
He then says, that Moab was ashamed, because he was smitten And then he turns again to address their neighbors, Howl, cry, and declare in Aroer: but the Prophet ironically exhorted others to howl and cry; for, as we have said, it was not his purpose to show that they deserved pity who had been the most cruel enemies to God’s Church, but to show that God’s vengeance would be so dreadful as to call forth cryings and howlings through the whole neighborhood. And then he adds, Declare it in Aroer; and afterwards he names many cities; as though he had said, that no corner of the land would be free from fear and anxiety, because the enemies, after having made an inroad into one part, would turn to another, so as to make no end of ravaging, until they had destroyed the whole country and all the people. Of these cities and of their situation there is no need of saying much, for it would be a useless labor. For in the last place, the Prophet sufficiently shews that what he had in view was what I have stated; for he says, on all the cities of Moab, remote as well as near: he intimates that no part of the land would be exempted from destruction; for the enemies having begun to attack it, would not cease until they had gone through every part, and desolation had spread everywhere, as though the whole country had been burnt with fire. It follows, —
By another metaphor he expresses the same thing. By horn he means power, as all who are in any measure acquainted with Scripture well know that by this word is set forth power, strength, or any defense for the protection of a nation. He then says that the horn of Moab was cut off; and he adds afterwards as all explanation, that his strength was broken Hence by this second clause we understand what the Prophet meant when he said, that the horn of Moab was cut off. But he again introduces God as the speaker, because the Moabites thought that their horn could not be broken. As then Jeremiah would not have obtained credit, had he spoken in his own name, he again brought forward God as declaring his own words. It now follows, —
The Prophet now addresses the Chaldeans, who were to be the executioners of God’s vengeance: hence he says, Make him drunk, because he has magnified himself against Jehovah, that is, raised himself in his pride against God. Then the Prophet, as God’s herald, encouraged the Chaldeans, fully to execute God’s judgment, who had been chosen to be his servants. And the address had more force in it when the Prophet showed that such a command was committed to him, as we have seen elsewhere; for the Prophets showed how efficacious was their doctrine, when they besieged and stormed cities, when they gave orders to armies. This then is the course which Jeremiah now follows, when as God’s herald he summons the Chaldeans, and commands them vigorously to perform what God approved and what he had decreed, even to inebriate the Moabites with evils. The rest to-morrow.
But the higher cause for the drunkenness mentioned here ought to be observed, even because Moab exalted himself against God. For after having spoken of the pride through which he exulted over God, he adds an explanation, Has not Israel been a derision to thee? See then how the Moabites acted proudly towards God, even because they treated his Church reproachfully. And this ought especially to be noticed; for God intimates by these words, that he is so connected with the faithful as to regard their cause as his own, as it is said elsewhere,“
He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of my eye.” (Zechariah 2:8)
God then so takes the faithful under his own protection, that whatever injury is done to them, he counts it as done to him. This connection is well expressed by the Prophet, when he says, “The Moabites have raised themselves against God;” and at the same time he shews the way and manner, even because they exulted over the Israelites. Were any one to object and say, that the Moabites injured mortal men only and not God; the answer has already been given, even that God has so adopted his Church as to identify himself with it. Let us then know, that God, when he sees us suffering anything unjustly, regards the wrong as done to himself. As then the people of Israel had been a derision to the Moabites, the Prophet threatens them with a similar punishment for their pride.
And then he adds, Has he been found among thieves? It is, indeed, certain, that the people of Israel deserved very severe scourges, and that when they were subjected to so many adversities, a just reward was rendered to them for their iniquities. With regard to God this is certain; but with regard to the Moabites, the people of Israel were innocent; for these ungodly men could not object anything to the Israelites, for they were altogether like them, or even worse. God then compares here his chosen people with aliens, and says that the Israelites were not thieves. Under one thing he comprehends everything, as though he had said, “Of what wickedness have the Israelites been guilty, that you have thus become so enraged against them?” We hence see what the words of the Prophet mean, even that the Moabites were impelled by nothing but cruelty and pride, when they so basely raged against the Israelites, and so disdainfully oppressed them; for as I have already said, there was no cause why the Moabites should have been so hostile to the miserable people. Thus their crime was doubled, for they acted proudly towards God’s people, and they acted thus without a cause; for with regard to them, God’s people were innocent.
By saying that they were moved, or excited whenever they spoke of the Israelites, he intimates that they were carried away by malevolence, so as to wish all kinds of evil to the miserable, and then, as far as they could, to lay snares for them. As then they thus raged furiously against the Israelites, the Prophet includes everything of this kind in the word “moved,” or raised an uproar. (13) It follows —
(13) The Vulg. and the Targ. give the best version of these words, —
Surely for the abundance of thy words against him, thou shalt be quickly removed, or, led captive.
Then, in the following verse, Moab is bidden to quit his cities — Ed.
Here Jeremiah denounces exile on the Moabites; as though he had said, that such would be the desolation of their land, that they would be forced as wanderers to flee here and there. That he bids them to leave their cities, this is not done in the same way as when God commands his people what is right; but he only shews that he was armed with the sword of God, not only to speak with the mouth, but also to perform what he foretells; for the execution ought not to be separated from the prophecies, for the hand of God is joined with his mouth. When, therefore, he announces anything by his servants, the fulfillment also, as it has been stated, is included.
This is the import of the words, Leave the cities, and dwell among the rocks; that is, Hide yourselves in lurking-places, for no habitable land will afford you rest, or be a convenient place to flee to. And they shall be, he says, like a dove which makes a nest in remote places beyond the clefts of the rocks, or stones. He means the most deserted places. It is the same as though he had said, that it would not be simply an exile that God would allot to the Moabites, but that they would be taken away to regions unknown, and deserted by men. It follows —
Here the Prophet intimates by anticipation, that how much soever the Moabites might boast, they could not, by their boastings and their pride, so succeed that God should not appear against them as a Judge. We have said already, that as the Moabites had been long in a quiet state, what the Prophet denounced on them, appeared at the first hearing as incredible. It is then by way of anticipation that he says, that the Moabites were proud, did swell with haughtiness, and breathed much arrogance, that, in short, they manifested high and lofty spirits. When the Prophet says all this, and adds, that nothing would avail them, we see that he meets those doubts which might have possessed weak minds, so as to prevent them to believe his prophecy.
And when he uses the words, We have heard, he not only means by report, but that the Moabites loudly boasted, as it is usual with proud men; for they made, so to speak, a bellowing, and sought, even by their tongues alone, to strike others with terror. As then they proclaimed their wealth and their power, they sought in a manner to shake the very air, so that all might tremble at their voice alone. This seems to have been expressed by the Prophet, when he said, We have heard In short, Jeremiah does not mean that the report of the pride of Moab had spread abroad, as rumors often fly respecting the haughtiness and boastings of men; but he intimates that the Moabites were heralds of their own power, so that they spoke in lofty terms of their own greatness, and thus their own tongues testified of their haughtiness and arrogance. (14) And hence it was that the Prophet enlarged on their pride; Moab is very proud, he says; we have heard his haughtiness, his pride and his arrogance, (though it be the same word,) and the loftiness of his heart, or, as we may say in Latin, et altos spiritus, and his high sprits. It now follows —
(14) Our version in Isaiah 16:6, where the same form of words occurs, is, “We have heard of,” though here the “of” is dropped, and thus the meaning of Calvin is conveyed, which is favored by the early versions.
The verse may be thus literally rendered, —
We have heard the arrogance of Moab; Very arrogant has been his insolence and arrogance; Yea, his arrogantness and the loftiness of his heart.
The word for “arrogance” means swelling; it is to grow big, and to claim more than what belongs to us. Then “insolence” signifies to rise high, so as to look down on others with contempt. Arrogance is first, then insolence: and in the last line the two are inverted, and with this difference, the disposition is denoted in the last line, and the acting in the former. — Ed.
This verse is variously explained, at least the second clause. Some render it, “His indignation, and not what is right;” then they add by itself, “his lies;” and lastly, “they have not done rightly,” or as others, “they will not do anything fixed,” which is more suitable, and comes near to the rendering which I have given. But I will not here discuss other interpretations, or try at large to disprove-them, but it is sufficient for us to understand the real meaning of the Prophet.
In the first place, God is here introduced as saying, I know his insolence The pronoun אני, ani, is emphatical, for in the last verse the Prophet had said, that the boastings of Moab were a terror, as they spoke loudly of their own strength and defences. As then they thus with open mouths sounded forth their own praises, they filled all their neighbors with terror; hence the Prophet said, We have heard the pride of Moab Now God also on his part gives this answer, I know, he says, his insolence; as though he had said, “The Moabites do not thus boast, but that I am a witness; all these things ascend to my tribunal.”
He afterwards adds, still in the person of God, Not rectitude are his lies By the word עברתו, obertu, which some render, “his indignation,” the Prophet means, I think, insolence. It signifies properly excess, as it comes from עבר, ober, to pass over. The noun is indeed often taken to express indignation, because anger keeps within no limits, but is, as Horace says, a momentary madness. (15) But on account of what the passage seems to require, I render it insolence, and it is the most suitable word. And God having declared that the insolence of Moab was seen by him, mentions also his lies The word בדים, means branches of trees, and sometimes sons or children, they being members of the community; and hence some render it “sons” here, as though the Prophet had said, that after the Moabites had been cut off, there would be none remaining to continue their name in the world. As then there was to be no posterity to the Moabites, they think that בדים, badim here means sons or children. But this view cannot be admitted, because we shall hereafter see that there was to be some residue to the Moabites. We cannot then take בדים, badim, but as referring to their vain boastings, for they were nothing but lies.
But we must consider what Jeremiah says; the word כן, ken, means right; and I take the two words as being in apposition, “His lies are not right;” that is, there is no stability in his lies. For when an apposition is explained, one of the words is turned to an adjective, or a preposition is inserted: Not right then are his lies; that is, in his lies there is no rectitude, or in his lies there is no stability. But the rectitude of which the Prophet now speaks, refers not to justice or equity, but to stability; and that it has this meaning may be gathered from other places. Then he says, that the boastings which the Moabites indulged in were vain, because God would not establish what they thought, or as they commonly say, what they presumed.
And then he adds the reason; the particle כן, ken, is to be taken here adverbially; it is an adverb of likeness, “so,” or thus, they shall not so do; that is, as they had conceived in their minds. It is a confirmation of the last clause; for why was there to be no stability in their lies? because God would break down the Moabites, so that their counsels would be vain, without any effect. We now then perceive the meaning of the words. Isaiah 16:6 uses nearly the same expressions, but he does not add this confirmation, that they would not be able to do what they intended. He only says, “there shall no rectitude be in their boastings,” לא כן בדיו, la ken bediu, having previously spoken of the loftiness of their heart and of their ferocity and insolence; for he mentions the third word with the other two. (16)
Now this verse may be accommodated to our use; whenever the ungodly indulge in boasting, and insolently arrogate all things to themselves, let us not fear and tremble, but bear in mind what the Prophet teaches us here, whose admonition is very necessary; for he shews that this pride is in derision with God, and that when the ungodly fulminate in a terrible manner, there will be no effect to their lies. It follows, —
(15) Ira furor brevis est — Epist. 2 ad Loll.
(16) The versions and the Targ. all differ as to this verse. The Vulg. is the best; it takes בדים, branches, and also limbs, in a metaphorical sense, signifying strength. I give the following rendering, —
30. I know, saith Jehovah, his excess, ( i.e. of pride;) But not so his strength, not so have they done.
The mixture of numbers, singular and plural, is common in the prophets — “his” and “they.” The meaning seems to be, that however excessive was the pride and insolence of Moab, they had no power fully to effect their purposes. - Ed.
Some think the last word to be a proper name, though, according to etymology, it is “the city of potsherd.” They therefore give this rendering, “the strong city.” But Isaiah calls it “Kir-hareseth,” קיר הרשת; he extends the word by adding a syllable to it; but the word, however, is the same. Then he says, I will think of the men of Kir-cheres The word הגה, ege, is properly to complain, to whisper, to murmur; and hence some render the words not improperly, “I will mutter to the men of the city of potsherd.” (17)
The Prophet does not relate here what he would do, as I have before reminded you; but that he might represent to the life the ruin of Moab, he mentions their howling, crying, and complaints. He then says, I will howl, cry aloud, and with a trembling voice complain, as those who are grievously oppressed with evils; at one time they complain, cry aloud, and howl, and at another they mutter inwardly, grumble and murmur. Thus the Prophet assumes the character of such persons, in order that he might more fully set forth the extreme calamity of that nation. He afterwards comes to particulars: —
(17) This paragraph has been transplanted from the text.
The verbs here are imperatives in the Sept and Syr., “Howl ye,” etc.; and in the future tense in the Targ., “they shall howl, etc. The Vulg., is according to the Hebrew. The last verb is in the third person, “He (Moab) will mourn for the men of Kir-heres.” This city was on the extremity of Moab northward, as Jazer was on its extremity southward. — Ed.
Here the Prophet shews more clearly what he had said generally before, that Sibmah would weep for her vines, after having wept for Jazer. These were cities in the land of Moab, as it appears from other places. Some give this rendering, “In comparison with the weeping” or mourning, etc.; and מן, men, as it is well known, has this meaning; but as ב, beth, “in weeping,” is adopted by Isaiah, instead of מן, men, there is no doubt but that the Prophet means a continued mourning, when he says, From (or with) the weeping of Jazer I will weep for thee, vine of Sibmah; that is, there will be no end to weeping; for after the Moabites had mourned for the destruction of the city Jazer, a new cause of weeping would arise, for other cities would be destroyed, and especially Sibmah.
Now the region of Sibmah was very fertile, especially on account of the abundance of vines. Then the Prophet includes the whole wealth of that city under the word vine; nay, he designates the citizens as its shoots or young branches. I will weep, he says, “ over thee, the vine of the vine-bearing region of Sibmah; for thy shoots, that is, thy wealth, have passed over the sea, and the citizens of Jazer, who were thy neighbors.” He afterwards repeats respecting the city of Jazer what he had said, because its calamity was connected with the other, and was the same. For God had involved these two cities in the same destruction. Jazer then came even to the sea. Now a waster rushed in: Isaiah has shouting, הידד, eidad, which is added presently here; but the word there has quite a different meaning, that all rejoicing would cease. The word here is שדד, shidad, and means a waster or spoiler. A waster then has fallen, that is, has come with great irresistible force, on thy vintages and harvests; that is, that he may scatter and consume all things. It follows, —
He pursues the same metaphor or comparison; for he says that all places would be laid waste and desolate, which before had been valuable and highly regarded on account of their fruitfulness. Cease then shall all rejoicing from the land of Moab, however fruitful it might have been. And then he adds, I will make the wine to cease from the presses; that is, no one shall press the grapes, that from them the wine may flow. And he adds, הידד הידד, eidad, eidad, shouting, shouting, for there will be no shouting Some render הידד, eidad, “ signal, ” celeuma, ( vel celeusma,) a Greek word, but used also in Latin: κέλευμα is said by the Greeks to be the shouting of sailors, especially when they drive to the shore; they then rouse one another in rowing, and also congratulate one another, because they are nigh to land; for to see the harbor is a cause of special joy to sailors, as though it were a restoration to life and safety. But this word κέλευμα is applied to other things, as it may be said that reapers sing a celeusma when they finish their work. The vine-dressers had also their songs; and they were sung by heathen nations, as Virgil says. “Now the worn-out vine-dresser sings at the extreme rows of vines.” (18) By extreme rows or ranks he seems to mean the extreme parts of the vines; for extreme rows ( antes) are properly prominences or overhanging stones. Now when they had come to the end, they sang and congratulated themselves as to the vintage. It was then a common custom among all nations.
The Prophet, now alluding to this, says, “They who shall tread in the winepress shall not be as usual joyful, so as to have their shouting, shouting, הידד הידד, eidad, eidad. ” He repeats the word, because men greatly exult at the vintage, and are excessive in their rejoicings. This is the reason why the Prophet mentions the word twice. He then adds, there shall be no shouting, לא הידד, la eidad, because there would be no vineyards. Isaiah uses other expressions, but the meaning is the same. It now follows, —
(18) Jam canit extremos effœtus vinitor antes. — Geor. 2:417.
He continues the same subject; and by many and various expressions confirms the same thing, in order that the faithful might know that the destruction of the Moabites was really foretold, and that they might feel more assured that God announced nothing but what he would presently execute.
At the cry of Heshbon even to Elealeh they shall send forth their voice. He means, as before, that there would be continued cryings and howlings sounding forth from every part, and spreading through every region. He then adds, From Zoar to Horonaim We must bear in mind the situations of these cities; but we may suppose that the Prophet chose those cities which were opposite to each other. Then from one corner to the other continual crying would be heard, because there would be everywhere desolation and ruin. And then he comes to another part, from one city even to another there would be a similar cry. In short, he shews that no part in the whole land of Moab would be in a quiet state and free from miseries. This is the meaning.
But he compares the whole land of Moab, or the city Horonaim, to an heifer three years old, on account of its lasciviousness. Some restrict the comparison to the city Horonaim, for they read the words in apposition, “to Heronaim, an heifer three years old,” putting the last words in the accusative case: but others read them apart, “an heifer three years old” is Moab. And I prefer this construction, because he afterwards adds another city, even Nimrim. As, however, it is a matter of no great moment, I will not contend with any one who may take the other view. Whether then it be one city or the whole country, it is compared to an heifer three years old, because that nation had long luxuriated in its own pleasures. Now, an heifer three years old, as it is well known, frisks and leaps, because it knows not what it is to fear the yoke; and then it is not worn out, as the case is with cows, who are weakened by having often brought forth young; and further, the milk that is taken from them exhausts their strength. But all heifer three years old is in her rigor and prime. In short, the Prophet intimates that the Moabites lived well, and as it were unrestrained, for they had long exulted in their abundance; and as they had plenty of wine and bread, they gave themselves up to luxury. (19)
He then adds, Surely even the waters of Nimrim shall be a desolation Some think Nimrim to have been a city, and it is elsewhere called Nimra. Its waters are also mentioned by Isaiah, as the brooks of the willows. We may hence conclude that these waters were perpetual and flowed continually. But the Prophet speaks metaphorically as before, for the meaning is, that nothing would be so safe in the land of Moab as not to be destroyed, that nothing would be so fruitful as not to be dried up. Then by the waters of Nimrim he means the abundance which was in the whole country. For the Chaldeans did not dry up that river or those lakes, for it is certainly unknown whether there was a river there or a lake. But it is probable that there was there abundance of waters, which were not dried up by the coming of an hostile army; but, as I have said, he shews by these figurative expressions that the whole land of Moab would be laid waste. It follows —
(19) A reason more suitable to the passage has been given for this comparison, — that Moab in its distress is compared to an heifer lowing for want of pasture and especially of water, for it follows that the waters of Nimrim would be dried up. See Isaiah 15:5 — Ed.
In this verse the Prophet expresses what he had before referred to, that God would become in such a way the avenger of the pride and cruelty of the Moabites as to punish them for their superstitions. They had descended from a pious father, for they were the posterity of Lot; but they had renounced the worship of the only true God, and had defiled themselves with the pollutions of heathens. Justly then does God declare that he would be the avenger of idolatry, while executing punishment on the pride and cruelty of the Moabites.
Now this passage, as innumerable others, clearly shews that idolatry and all profanation of divine worship, cannot finally escape punishment. God may indeed for a time connive at it, but he must necessarily at last appear as the vindicator of his own glory in punishing superstitions. But, if he spared not the Moabites, to whom the law had not, been given, and who had been corrupted through many long years, how shall they now escape unpunished, to whom God’s Word is daily propounded, and in whose ears it sounds? Let, us then remember that superstitions cannot be endured, for God will at length vindicate his own glory with regard to these abominations; for every superstition is nothing less than a profanation of God’s glory, which is thus transferred to idols and vain inventions.
Here the Prophet, as it has been before stated, does not mourn the calamity of the people of Moab, but assumes the character of others, so that the event might appear more evident, it being set as it were before our eyes; for as we have said, the wealth of the Moabites was so great at that time, that it dazzled the eyes of all. It was then difficult for the faithful to form an idea of this vengeance of God, therefore the Prophet transfers to himself the feelings of others, and relates what the Moabites would do, when God had so grievously afflicted them.
My heart, he says, shall sound like pipes Some think that mournful pipes are meant, but I know not whether or not they were instruments of this kind; and there are those who think that חללים, chellim, were bag-pipes, but what is too refined I leave. The Prophet simply means that such would be the trepidation, that the hearts of the Moabites would make a noise like pipes. He repeats the same thing in different words, that his heart would make a noise, or sound, for the men of Kir-heres, of which city we spoke yesterday.
He now adds, for the residue which they have made, or which Moab has made, for the verb is in the singular number; and then, they have perished, where also there is a change of number; but the reference is to the word “residue,” יתרת, iteret, which included hidden treasures, as we have stated. (20) Whatever then the Moabites had gained for themselves, and whatever they thought would be always safe, the Prophet declares that it would perish. Isaiah adds, “their substance,” פקותם, pekotem, and says, that they would carry it to the willows, that is, to deserted places; as though he had said, that all the wealth of the Moabites would be scattered, as though it were, as they say, a thing forsaken. It now follows —
(20) As to this clause, widely different are all the versions; the Targ. gives the general sense. The word יתרת is evidently plural, the ו being wanting. “Reserves,” as given by Blayney, is an exact rendering, —
Because the reserves he had made have perished.
Connected with this word is another in Isaiah 15:7, which means “deposits;” both signify the wealth or treasures they had laid up. — Ed.
The Prophet describes at large a very great mourning. They were wont in great sorrow to pull off their hair, to shave their beard, and to put on sackcloth, or to gird it round their loins, and also to cut their hands with a knife or with their nails. As these things were signs of grief; Jeremiah puts them all together, in order to show that the calamity of Moab would not be common, but what would cause to the whole people extreme lamentation. They shall make bald, he says, their heads, their beard they shall pull off, or shave; for the word, to diminish, may signify either. Then he adds, the incisions in the hands; they shall tear their faces and their hands with their nails, or as some say, with a knife or a razor. As to sackcloth, it was also a sign of mourning. It is indeed certain that it was formerly the practice for men, as though it was innate in human nature, in great calamities to spread ashes on the head and to put on sackloth. But he has added other excesses which are not very congenial to nature, for it is not agreeable to humanity to pull off the beard, to make bald the head, or to tear the hands and the face with the nails. These things show excesses, suitable neither to men nor to women, — not to women on the ground of modesty, nor to men on the ground of manliness and strength of mind.
But mankind never control themselves, and whether they mourn or rejoice, they are ever led away to excesses, observing no moderation. There was also another evil connected with sackcloth and ashes; for when it was God’s design to lead men by these symbols to humble themselves, to consider their sins and to flee to his mercy, they were diverted to another end, even that he who mourned might appear miserable to others, and make a display of his weeping and tears. In short, besides excess, there was also this common evil, even hypocrisy. For men ever turn aside to what is vain, and dissemble in all things. But in this place there is no reason to dispute about mourning, for the Prophet means only that the Moabites would become most miserable, exhibiting all the symptoms of sorrow. It follows —
The Prophet at the beginning of the verse continues the same subject, that the Moabites would weep and lament throughout all their houses and in all their streets The reason is added in the second clause, because God would bring a severe judgment on that nation.
By saying that there would be lamentation on all the roofs, he refers to what was customary at that time, for they had their walks on the roofs or tops of their houses. Then he says, that the Moabites, in order to be more seen and to excite pity, would ascend on the roofs, and cry, howl, and lament there. But we must observe what is added, that the calamity would come from God; for it would not have been sufficient to foretell adversity, except this was added, that God ascended his tribunal to execute his judgments when he thus chastised the people. He also compares the people of Moab to a despised vessel, in order to make a distinction between God’s children and aliens; for God does also chastise his own people when they sin, but he ceases not to love them and to regard them as precious. Now he says that Moab would be a vessel despised and rejected. (21) It now follows, —
(21) All the versions and Targ. read, “as a useless vessel;” but the Hebrew is, “as a vessel without delight in it,” i.e., as a vessel which has nothing pleasing or agreeable in it. — Ed.
The Prophet still speaks in the person of others, and according to their feelings and not his own. He then says, that howling, they would say, through wonder, How is it that Moab has been so broken, that all had turned their backs, that Moab had become ashamed? He indirectly intimates, that though no one could then know God’s judgment, which he now foretells, yet God would by the event prove that he had said nothing but in earnest. This wonder then was expressed for this purpose, that the Jews might know, that though the calamity of Moab would fill all with astonishment, and make them cry out as respecting an extraordinary thing, “What can this mean?” yet the fulfillment of his prophecy would be certain.
This is the meaning of the words when he says, Howling, they will cry out, How has Moab been broken? and how has he turned his neck, or as they say, his back? Moab is ashamed; and then, he is made a derision, which we have observed before. He adds, a terror, though some read, “a bruising;” but more suitable is fear or terror. For the Prophet means, that Moab would be to others a derision, and that he would be to others a dread, being an example of God’s awful judgment. (22) And he says that he would be a terror to all around, that is, to the whole surrounding country, as well as a laughter and a derision. It follows, —
(22) The literal rendering is as follows, —
How broken! they howled; How has Moab turned the back ashamed! Thus Moab has become a derision And a terror to all around him.
The past tense is used for the future. — Ed.
Here again he introduces God’s name, for it was necessary to confirm an incredible prophecy by his authority. “God is he,” he says, “who declares that enemies will come, who will fly through all the land of Moab.” He now compares the Chaldeans to eagles; and there is here a name understood which is not expressed. Fly will he like an eagle, that is, the king of Babylon with his army.
The sum of what is said then is, that however widely extended might be the country of Moab, yet there would be no corner into which the Chaldeans would not penetrate, because they would nearly equal the eagles in swiftness. Hence he adds, They will extend their wings, not to cherish, as eagles spread their wings over their young ones; but by extension he means, that they would seize on all the land of Moab; so that hiding places would be sought in vain, because the Chaldeans would from one part to another take possession of every place, however remote the Moabites might think it to be, and however they might hope its distance would render it safe. He afterwards adds, —
I have already reminded you, that the Prophet is not using too many words in this extended discourse, for it was necessary to confirm at large what all would have otherwise rejected. He then says, that the cities of Moab were taken, that strongholds were seized He mentions these things expressly, because the country of Moab thought that it was defended by cities and strongholds; and they thus thought, “Should the Chaldeans come and make an irruption, there are many cities who will oppose them; they will then have to spend much time in overcoming these obstacles. It may then so happen, that being broken down with fatigue they will return to their own country, and we shall recover what we may have lost.” With this confidence then the Moabites deceived themselves, when they looked on their well fortified cities and strongholds. For this reason the Prophet now says, Taken are the cities, and seized on are the strongholds (23)
There was another thing of which the Moabites boasted, that they possessed military valor; and yet they had not of late made a trial of their strength, as they had been indulging themselves in sloth and pleasures. But as they had formerly performed deeds worthy of being remembered, they despised, as I have said, their enemies, arrogating to themselves the credit of great valor. The Prophet, on the other hand, declares that their courage would vanish away: The heart, he says, of the men of Moab shall become effeminate in that day, softer than the heart of a woman, when oppressed with evils. It might have appeared a complete comparison, when he said that the men of Moab would be soft and effeminate; but he wished to express something more, and hence he added, that they would become softer than women when in great trouble. And by these words he intimates, that it is in God’s power to melt the hearts of men, and to break down their fierceness, so that they who were like lions are made like does. And this ought to be carefully noticed; because courage is not only a special gift, but it is also necessary that God should daily and constantly strengthen those whom he has once made brave; otherwise they who are courageous above others will soon lose their valor. It follows, —
(23) The literal rendering of the verse is as follows, the nominative case to the two verbs being Moab, taken here as the country, —
41. Taken it is, — the cities; And the strongholds, — it is seized: And become shall the heart of the valiants of Moab, In that day, like the heart of a woman in distress.
In our language it would be, “as to its cities,” and, “as to its strongholds.” — Ed.
He repeats what we have before observed, that the calamity of Moab would be a just reward for his pride and indeed his sacrilege. The Prophet then says that though God’s vengeance might seem extremely grievous, yet it was most just, because the Moabites had not only been cruel against their neighbors, but also reproachful against God. Here, then, he condemns them first for cruelty, and then for their impious pride, because they exalted themselves against God
But we must bear in mind the reason noticed before; for the Moabites did not openly boast that they were equal or superior to God, but when they raised their crests against God’s people, they became contumelious against God himself, who had promised to be the protector and the Father of his people. As then the Moabites thus despised the protection and promise of God, they are here justly condemned by the Prophet, that they exalted themselves against God And this ought to be carefully noticed, so that we may not do any wrong to the godly, for God will at length show that he is injured in their persons. And then also no common consolation may be hence derived, that all who molest us are carrying on war against God, and that all who injure us act sacrilegiously towards him. For the Prophet has before explained how the Moabites gloried against God, even because they regarded the children of Israel with derision. It follows, —
By these words the Prophet skews, that though the Moabites should adopt many means of escape, yet they should be taken, for God’s hand would everywhere entrap them. He mentions terror first, then the pit, and thirdly, the snare, (24) that is, “Thou wilt be so frightened that terror will compel thee to flee; but when thou fleest, pits will be in the way into which thou wilt fall: but if thou wilt rise from the pit, snares will surround thee, and thou wilt be taken.” We then see that by these similitudes nothing else is meant but God’s judgment, which impended over the Moabites, so that it could by no means be averted by them; for no ways could be found out by which they could escape, because fear would force them to flee, and would, as it is usually the case, deprive them of mind and thought, and thus they would be driven here and there, and could not move from any place without meeting with a pit, and, as it has been said, after the pit there would be the snare.
(24) There is a striking alliteration in these words, fear, pit, snare — peched, pechet, pech. — Ed.
Now all this has not been expressed without reason, because we know with how many flatteries men are wont to delude themselves when God summons them to judgment; for they immediately look around here and there, and promise themselves impunity, and then they hope for light punishment, as though they were at peace with God. But the unbelieving harden themselves, as Isaiah says, as though they had made a covenant with death and a compact with hell. (Isaiah 28:15.) As, then, the wicked set up security in opposition to God, the Prophet here shews that there are many ways in his hand, by which he can take the fugitives, and those who seem to think that they can escape through their own astuteness; and hence he said, He who flees from terror, that is, from present danger, shall fall into the pit, that is, when the Moabites shall now think themselves secure, they shall meet with new dangers, and new deaths will surround them.
But we must notice what is added at the end of the verse, Because I will bring on Moab the year of their visitation Here God sustains the minds of the godly, that they might not faint on account of long delay. As, then, the faithful might have been worn out with weariness while God prolonged the time as to the Moabites, the Prophet says, “Come at length shall the year of their visitation.” For as it has been stated elsewhere, by this mode of speaking God intimates that though he for a time passes by things and connives at them, he will at length show himself to be the judge of the world. We would have God ever to act in haste; and hence, when he exhorts us to patience, all our feelings rebel. This happens, because we do not consider that the fitness of times is determined by his will. Hence he speaks now of the year of visitation, as though he had said, “I may for a time appear to disregard human affairs and to neglect my own, while my people are cruelly oppressed by the wicked; but the time of visitation will come.” For by this word “visitation,” God means that there are changes, or, as they commonly say, revolutions, which are fixed and certain. We now then understand the design of God, when he says, that he would bring a visitation on the Moabites. It follows, —
He confirms what is said in the last verse, that the Moabites would in vain resort to their strongest cities, even Heshbon and Sihon; because a flame would thence break forth, which would consume the whole land. We hence see that God took away from the Moabites all their vain confidences, and showed that no defences could stand against his power, when once he rose up for judgment.
The fleers, he says, shall stand under the shadow of Heshbon, thinking that there would be a safe refuge in that city, and in others. (25) But the particle כי, ki, seems not to me to be here causal, but rather an affirmative, or even an adversative; but, or surely a fire has gone forth from Heshbon, and a flame from Sihon The Prophet, I doubt not, borrowed these words from Moses, for he says in Numbers 21:28, that a fire had gone forth from Heshbon; and there the expression is given as an old proverb. There is no doubt but that enemies had triumphed over that city when it was taken; for that whole song spoken by Moses is ironical, and in saying that fire had gone forth, he referred to their counsels, for they thought that city sufficiently strong against enemies. Now the Prophet says, that what had been formerly said of Heshbon would be again fulfilled, that it would be, as it were, the beginning of the fire. The meaning then, as I think, is, that the Moabites indeed thought, that they would have a quiet and agreeable shadow under the protection of the city Heshbon, and of the city Sihon; but what was to be? even that these two cities would become, as it were, the beginnings of the fire. How, or in what way? even because the probability is, that there those counsels were taken which provoked the Chaldeans. We indeed know that riches and power always produce haughtiness and false confidence in men; for in villages and small towns wars are not contrived; but the great cities gather the wood and kindle the fire; and the fire afterwards spreads and pervades the whole land. (26)
This, then, is what our Prophet means, when he says, that fire went forth from Heshbon, even contrary to the expectation of the people, for they thought that were all things to go to ruin, there yet would be safety for them in that city: go forth, he says, shall fire from the city Heshbon, and a flame from the midst of Sihon, and it shall consume the corner of Moab, and all his extremities; for by קרקר, kadkad, he means all parts. Extremity is elsewhere taken for a part; but he does not mean that fire would come to all parts or extreme corners, only as it were to touch them slightly: but he intimates that the whole land would be consumed by this fire; it would thus spread itself to its very extremities. (27)
But as I have already said, the Prophet alludes to that old saying mentioned by Moses, (Numbers 21:27.) Further, there is no doubt but that Heshbon and Sihon were then in the possession of that nation; for they had taken away many cities from the Israelites, and thus the children of Israel had been reduced to narrower limits. At length the tribe of Judah alone remained after the overthrow of the kingdom of Israel. When they were driven into Chaldea, it was an easy thing for the Moabites to make that their own which belonged to no one. Besides, as they had helped the Chaldeans and betrayed that miserable people, and had thus acted perfidiously towards their brethren, a reward was given to them. But when at length they themselves dreaded the power of the Babylonian monarchy, they began to change their minds, and endeavored to obstruct the farther progress of the Chaldeans. Hence then a war was contemplated, and the occasion was given. He then speaks of Heshbon and Sihon as chief cities; and there is no doubt but that Sihon derived its name from a king who ruled there. For we know that there was a king bearing this name; but as he speaks here of a place, it is probable, that the king’s name was given to the city in order to commemorate it.
He at length adds, that this fire and flame would devour the top of the head of the sons of Saon, or tumult. But he calls the Moabites tumultuous, because they before made a great noise, and were dreaded by their neighbors. As then all their neighbors had been frightened, in a manner, by their voice alone, he calls them sons of tumult, or tumultuous men, from the effect produced. It follows —
(25) The word “strength” is here omitted. Calvin’s version is, “Under the shadow of Heshbon stood they who had fled from strength,” or violence, i.e., of their enemies. Some connect it with “stood,” the fugitives “stood for strength,” or, “without strength,” which, perhaps, is preferable: they stood under the shadow or protection of Heshbon, and obtained no help; so far was this from being the case, that from Heshbon would go forth fire, that is, “the spoiler,” or, destroyer, before often mentioned. Then כי would have its usual meaning, for, as giving a reason why the fugitives remained without strength or help, under the protection of Heshbon. — Ed
(26) Most give a different explanation of this fire, that it designated “the spoiler” that was to come on Moab. That fire has often this meaning is evident. See Jude 9:20. — Ed.
(27) The last clause is evidently a quotation from Numbers 24:17 : it is not literally the same, but the meaning is so. It is “corner”’ here and not “corners,” as in Numbers; and the word there is קרקר, and not קדקד as here, only there are some copies which have the former word here. In that case, the passage would read thus, —
And it shall devour the corner of Moab, And destroy the sons (or children) of tumult.
שת in Numbers is probably for שאת, which means the same as the word here used, coming from the same root, and properly rendered “tumult.”
This passage is omitted in the Sept.; the Vulg. renders קדקד, “ verticem,” the crown or top of the head; but the Syr. and Targ. drop the metaphor, and render it “chiefs” or nobles. — Ed
Here the Prophet, as he comes to the end of his prophecy, suddenly exclaims, Woe to thee ! as though he had said, that words failed him to express the grievousness of God’s vengeance. There is then more force in this single expression, than if he had at large described the miseries of that nation. He then adds, The people of Chemosh have perished The Prophet again intimates, that the Moabites vainly confided in their idol, Chemosh; they thought that there would be a sure safety to them from their god, who was, as they commonly say, a tutelar god. But the Prophet says, that their superstition would avail them nothing, for they and their idol would perish together. He exults over this fictitious god, that on the other hand he might extol the power of the only true God. For there is here an implied contrast between the God of Israel and Chemosh whom the Moabites worshipped.
He then adds, Thy sons and thy daughters shall be carried away into captivity The Prophet does not seem here to continue the same subject; for he had said before that ruin or destruction was coming on the Moabites, but he now mitigates that punishment, and speaks only of exile. But as captivity is like death, as it abolishes the name of a nation, he speaks correctly and suitably. And then we must observe, that God, for a time, so executed his vengeance on the Moabites, that he left them some hope as to the future, according to what follows in the last verse —
Here, as we see, God gives place to his mercy, so that the Moabites should not wholly perish. At the same time, things which seem to be contrary agree together, even that destruction was nigh the people of Moab, and yet that some would remain alive, who would afterwards renew the name of the nation, as it was God’s purpose to restore the Moabites to their former state. These things, as I have said, seem inconsistent, and yet they may be easily reconciled; for it was God’s will so to destroy the Moabites, that those who died might not be without hope; and then, those who remained alive were not deemed to be among the living, but in exile they were like the dead. God, indeed, ever supported the godly with hope, even when they were driven into Babylon: but as to the Moabites, the living as well as the dead, had no hope. Why, then, was this promise given? not for the sake of the Moabites; but that the Jews might feel assured that God would at length be propitious to them; he promises pardon to the Moabites as it were accidentally, so to speak, and thus unavowedly stretches forth his hand to them, but with a design through this mercy to give to the Israelites a taste of his paternal favor. What remains we must reserve for the lecture tomorrow.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 48". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17