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(1) Against Moab thus saith the Lord of hosts . . .—Better, with a different punctuation, Concerning Moab (this being the title of the section), Thus saith the Lord of hosts. In the long prophecy that follows Jeremiah in part follows in the wake of “the burden of Moab” in Isaiah 15, 16, entering even more fully into geographical details. (See Notes there.) The relations between Moab and Israel had for a long period been more or less uneasy. The former had been tributary to the latter under Ahab, but on his death Mesha revolted, and a war ensued, which ended in the defeat of the Moabites by the allied forces of Israel, Judah, and Edom (2 Kings 3:0). They repeated their attack, however (2 Kings 13:20), and appear to have occupied the territory of the Trans-jordanic tribes on their deportation by Tiglath-pileser. Of the three places named, Nebo, memorable as the summit of Pisgah, from which Moses looked upon the land of promise, and forming part of the range of the mountains of Abarim (Deuteronomy 32:49; Deuteronomy 34:1), has been identified conjecturally with Djebel-el-Attarus, or Djebel-el-Jel’ad. Hitzig derives the name from the Sanscrit Nabho (= the cloud-heaven). Kiriathaim (= the double city) is named in Genesis 14:5 and Numbers 32:37, in the latter passage in conjunction with Elealeh, Heshbon, and Nebo. Jerome places it at a distance of ten miles west of Medaba, as one of the cities rebuilt by the Reubenites, but it has not been identified. Misgab, the “high fort” or “citadel” of Isaiah 25:12, has shared the same fate, but has been referred by some writers to Kir-Moab, or Kir-heres, as the chief fortified city of the country (see Jeremiah 48:31; Jeremiah 48:36; Isaiah 15:1; Isaiah 16:7). The article which is prefixed to it in the Hebrew has led Fürst (Lexicon) to take it in a wider sense, as meaning the plateau or highland country of Moab generally.
(2) There shall be no more praise of Moab.—The self-glorifying boasts of Moab (of which the Moabite Inscription discovered at Dibân in 1868 is a conspicuous instance, see Ginsburg’s Moabite Stone and Records of the Past, xi. p. 163) seem to have been almost proverbial (Jeremiah 48:29; Isaiah 16:6). Heshbon (the city is perhaps chosen on account of the similarity of sound with the word for “devise “) was on the Ammonite or northern frontier of Moab (Jeremiah 49:3), and is represented therefore as the scene of the plans and hopes of the invading Chaldæans. The site of Madmen is unknown, but the cognate form Madmenah is translated “dunghill” in Isaiah 25:10, and may have been chosen by each prophet on account of its ignominious meaning. The name appears as belonging to a town in Benjamin (Isaiah 10:31) and in Judah (Joshua 15:31). Here again there is an obvious assonance or paronomasia, the verb “thou shalt be cut down,” or better, thou shalt be brought to silence, reproducing the chief consonants of the noun. The LXX., Vulgate, and Syriac, indeed, take the words with this meaning, “In silence thou shalt be made silent,” but are probably wrong in doing so. If we take the word in somewhat of the same sense as in Isaiah, the words may point to the place being filled with the mouldering carcases of the silent dead.
(3) Horonaim—literally, the two caverns, or the two Horons—may imply, like other dual names of towns, that there was an upper and a lower city. It is mentioned in Isaiah 15:5, but has not been identified.
(4) Her little ones.—The Hebrew adjective is the same as the Zoar, the little one, of Genesis 19:20, and that city may probably have been, as in Isaiah 15:5, in the prophet’s mind. In any case the “little ones” are cities, and not children.
(5) In the going up of Luhith.—Here again we have an echo from Isaiah 15:5. Jerome (Onomast. s.v. Luith) describes it as between Zoar and Areopolis (= Rabbath-Moab). The ascent was probably to a local sanctuary. A various reading, Laboth, followed by the LXX., gives the meaning “the ascent of planks,” as though it were a wooden staircase. Alike in that and in the descent from Horonaim (possibly the fugitives who came down from the heights of the one city are represented as going up with wailing to the other) the enemies of Moab would hear the cry that proclaimed its downfall.
(6) Be like the heath in the wilderness.—Here, as in Jeremiah 17:6, the stunted solitary shrub in the desert is taken as the type of desolation. The LXX., which adopts the meaning in Jeremiah 17:6, here strangely enough gives “as a wild ass in the wilderness.” Psalms 11:1 gives us an example of a like comparison. Here probably there is, as before, a paronomasia on the name of the Moabite city Aroer, which closely resembles the Hebrew word for “heath.” In thus finding an ominous significance in the names of cities, Jeremiah follows in the wake of Micah 1:0.
(7) Chemosh shall go forth into captivity.—The name appears as that of the national deity of Moab in Numbers 21:29, as worshipped also by the Ammonites in Judges 11:24. Solomon introduced and Josiah abolished his worship at Jerusalem (1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 23:13). He is identified by Jerome (Comm. on Isaiah 15:2) with the Baal-peor of Numbers 25:3. The name is prominent in the Moabite Inscription as that of the national deity, who subdues the people of his rival, Jehovah. The captivity of the idol implies, of course, that of the people The “works” in which Moab is said to have trusted are represented in the LXX. and Vulgate as “fortresses,” but the word is not used in this sense elsewhere, and it is more probable that the prophet represents Moab as relying on its past achievements and deeds of prowess. The last words of the verse are an echo of Amos 1:15.
(8) The valley also shall perish . . .—The cities of “the plain” are enumerated in Jeremiah 48:21-24.48.24. They belonged to the Arabah, the sunken valley of the Jordan, the “plains of Moab” of Numbers 22:1; Deuteronomy 3:10; Deuteronomy 4:43. The “valley” here is not connected with anything that helps us to identify it, but it may have been that of the Arnon, or the words may be used generically for “every valley” and “every plain.”
(9) Give wings unto Moab . . .—“No other prayer,” the prophet seems to say, in grave, stern irony, “is left but this. Resistance is hopeless. There is nothing left but to wish for the wings of a bird that safety may be found in flight.” (Comp. Ps. Iv. 6.)
(10) Cursed be he . . .—To the prophet the destruction of the tyrannous haughtiness was a righteous retribution in which he saw the work of Jehovah, and he could not wish that it should be done otherwise than effectually. The thought rests on the belief in the Divine government that works through war as well as through pestilence and famine (Jeremiah 25:31; Jeremiah 46:10). (Comp. like utterances in Judges 5:23; 1 Samuel 15:3; 1 Samuel 15:18; 1 Kings 20:42.) Even Christian nations fighting against slave-traders or pirates might legitimately echo the same prayer. It has been used, with less justification, in the religious wars of our own and other countries.
(11) He hath settled on his lees.—The image, found also in Zephaniah 1:12, is drawn from the practice of pouring wine from one vessel into another to clarify it and improve its flavour. Wine not so treated retained its first crude bitterness. So, the prophet says, it is with nations. It is not good for them to remain too long in a prosperity which does but strengthen their natural arrogance. There is a wholesome discipline in defeat, even in exile. In Jeremiah 48:47 we have the hope of the prophet that the discipline will do its work. The “vessels” and “bottles” of Jeremiah 48:12 are, of course, the cities and villages of Moab. (Comp. the imagery of Jeremiah 19:10.)
(13) Beth-el their confidence.—The name of the sanctuary stands for the golden calf that was worshipped there as the symbol of Jehovah (1 Kings 12:29; Amos 7:10). That worship had been put to shame in the captivity of the Ten Tribes. So also should it be with the Chemosh-worship of Moab.
(14-17) How say ye . . .—In the boast that follows we trace the characteristic pride of Moab. The prophet points to the fact that the pride is brought low. She, too, is subject, like other nations, to invasion and defeat. He summons her people to wail for her overthrow. The “staff” is the sceptre of the ruler, as in Psalms 110:2. The “rod” is the stick with which a man walks (Genesis 32:10; Exodus 12:11), but which may also be used as a weapon. The epithet “beautiful” perhaps points to the splendour of a royal staff or wand of ivory and gold.
(18) Thou daughter that dost inhabit Dibon.—Dibon is mentioned among the cities of Moab in Numbers 21:30; Isaiah 15:2, and as rebuilt by the Gadites in Numbers 33:45. It is prominent in the Moabite Stone inscription as a royal city. In the distribution of the conquered territory it fell to the lot of Reuben (Joshua 13:7; Joshua 13:9), but must afterwards have been retaken by Moab. The “strongholds” indicate a fortress. In Isaiah 15:9 it appears under the form of Dimon, and is there described as abounding in water, the site being probably on the north bank of the Arnon. This last feature gives point to the words of the prophet here. Its waters will not save its inhabitants from the thirst which falls on those who are dragged as captives into exile.
(19) O inhabitant of Aroer.—There seems to have been two cities of this name: one which had belonged first to the territory of Sihon, then to Reuben, then to Moab, on the north side of the Arnon (Deuteronomy 2:36; Deuteronomy 3:12; Deuteronomy 4:48; Joshua 12:2); another in the Ammonite territory belonging to Gad, near Rabbath-Ammon, in the valley of the Jabbok (Numbers 32:34; Joshua 13:25; Judges 11:33). Both are probably comprised under the “cities of Aroer” in Isaiah 17:2. The name exists in the modern Arair. As lying on the frontier, the inhabitants of the Northern Aroer are represented as seeing the fugitives, male and female, from Dibon, and asking what had happened to drive them from their city. Milton’s lines (Par. Lost, L 407) may be quoted as illustrating the topography :
“From Aroer to Nebo, and the wild
Of Southmost Abarim; in Hesebon
And Horonaim, Seon’s realm . . .”
(20) Make ye him drunken . . .—The image is suggested by the wine-cup of Jehovah’s fury in Jeremiah 25:15, and was familiar in the symbolic language of the prophets (Isaiah 51:17; Job 21:20; Ezekiel 23:32; Revelation 14:10). The words that follow paint the image in its strongest colours. As men looked with scorn on the drunkard wallowing in his shame, so should they look on Moab, that had been so boastful in its pride, when it was brought low.
(21) And judgment is come upon the plain country . . .—We enter here upon a list of less known names, of which Jahaz, Beth-diblathaim, Beth-Baal-meon are found on the Moabite Stone inscription (Records of the Past, xi. 165-168). Holon does not appear elsewhere. Jahazah (under the form Jahaz) appears in Numbers 21:23; Deuteronomy 2:32; Judges 11:20, as the scene of a famous battle between Sihon and the Israelites, and in Isaiah 15:4 in connexion with Heshbon and Elealeh. Mephaath was assigned to the Reubenites (Joshua 13:18), and afterwards to the Levites (Joshua 21:37; 1 Chronicles 6:79), but it had clearly fallen afterwards into the hands of the Moabites. Like the other cities named, it was in the Mishor, or “plain,” on the north of the Arnon.
(22) Beth-diblathaim.—The name signifies “the house of the double cake of figs,” and was, probably, applied to one of the more fertile districts of the Moabite country. In Numbers 33:46-4.33.47, the name Almon-diblathaim appears as one of the stations of the Israelites between Dibon and “the mountains of Abarim before Nebo,” and the conjunction of the names implies its identity with the place here mentioned. For Dibon and Nebo, see Notes on Jeremiah 48:1; Jeremiah 48:18.
(23) Kiriathaim.—See Jeremiah 48:1.
Beth-gamul.—The place is not named in the earlier lists of Numbers 32:34-4.32.38 and Joshua 13:16-6.13.20. The name (=house of the camel) has a parallel in Gamala, and appears in the modern Um-el-Jemal, south of Buzrah, in the Haûran. This, however, lies out of the range of the Mishor, or “plain country,” to which the cities here enumerated belonged.
Beth-meon.—The name appears in its full form as Beth-baal-meon in Joshua 13:17, as Baal-meon in Numbers 32:38; 1 Chronicles 5:8; Ezekiel 25:8. The name Meon (= citadel of heaven) survives in the modern Mi’un. Its combination with Baal makes it probable that it was famous as a sanctuary where the Moabite Baal was worshipped.
(24) Kerioth.—The name, plural in form (= cities), has been identified by Mr. Porter (Five Years, &c, ii. 191-198) with Kureiyeh, a ruined town lying not far from Buzrah, identified with the Bozrah that is coupled with it here, in the Haûran. These are, however, some sixty miles north of Heshbon, and this has been thought adverse to the identification. On the other hand, the expression “far and near” indicates that Jeremiah takes in the more distant cities to which the power of Moab may have extended. From the mention of “the palaces of Kirioth” in Amos 2:2, it appears to have been a place of importance. Mr. Grove (art. Kerioth in Smith’s Dict. Bible) suggests its possible identity with Kureiyat, not far from Dibon and Beth-meon.
Bozrah.—The name (= fortification) is familiar as belonging to the more famous city of Edom (Jeremiah 49:13). The Moabite town, identified as above with the Buzrah of the Haûran, appears in 1Ma. 5:26 as Bosora, one of the towns of Galaad or Gilead, and in Roman history as Bostra, the birthplace of the Emperor Philip, known as the Arabian.
(25) The horn of Moab.—The horn of animals was naturally the symbol of their strength, and it was as natural that the symbolism should be extended to men and nations. (Comp. 1 Samuel 2:1; Psalms 92:10; Lamentations 2:3; Daniel 7:7-27.7.8; Luke 1:69.) The figure of the broken arm, powerless to grasp sword or sceptre, meets us again in Ezekiel 30:21.
(27) Was not Israel a derision unto thee?—The “derision” had been shown at an earlier stage in the history of Judah (Zephaniah 2:8; comp. Ezekiel 25:6), but was, we may well believe, reproduced when the Moabites heard of the disasters that fell on Israel in the days of Josiah and his successors. The question that follows “Was he found among thieves?” implies an answer in the negative. Israel had not been among the lawless, aggressive nations, the robbers of the earth. Compare 2 Samuel 3:33, where the question, “Died Abner as a fool dieth?” implies that he had not deserved his death as guilty of any crime. By some critics, however, the Hebrew interrogative is taken as meaning “when,” and so involving the admission that Israel had been guilty of unjust invasion, and been led to that guilt by her alliance with the robber nations of the heathen.
Thou skippedst for joy.—The gesture described. like the wagging of the head of Jeremiah 18:16, or the shrugging of the shoulders, is one of triumphant malice. The symbolism of Oriental gesture is, it may be noted, specially rich in expressions of this form of evil. (Comp. Isaiah 57:4; Psalms 22:7.)
(28) O ye that dwell in Moab . . .—The general thought is the same as in Jeremiah 48:6; Jeremiah 48:9, but is more vivid as being more specific. The Moabites are to leave their cities and take refuge in the caves, always in Palestine the asylum of fugitives (1 Samuel 13:6; 2 Samuel 17:9), as the wild dove flies to “the clefts of the rock” (Song Song of Solomon 2:14).
(29) We have heard the pride of Moab . . .—It will be seen that here and in the next verse the very words of Isaiah (Isaiah 16:6) are reproduced. The prophet seems to find a pleasure in going back to the old words as showing that the fault of which he spoke was inveterate, and had shown itself incurable. It is, however, a free reproduction, and Jeremiah, instead of making the whole utterance that of the Jews, inserts the words, “I know his wrath, saith the Lord,” which come as an oracle from God, affirming the judgment of the people.
(30) His lies shall not so effect it.—The Hebrew for “lies” has also, as in the margin, the meaning of “bars” or “staves” or “branches” as the symbol of defence (Hosea 11:6), but the version in the text is preferable. The emphasis of the original lies in the iteration. “Not so,” the sentence of frustration, is written alike on the wrath which leads to passionate outrage, and on the lies in which it seeks to find safety.
(31) Therefore will I howl for Moab.—The changes of person are remarkable. The “I” that speaks is neither Jehovah nor the prophet, but the unnamed mourner, who in the next clause appears in the third person (“she shall mourn,” the English “mine heart” having no equivalent in the Hebrew) as the representative of those who mourn for Moab. In Jeremiah 48:33, “I have caused wine to fail” appears as the utterance of Jehovah. In Isaiah 16:7, of which the whole passage is a free reproduction, Moab is named as the mourner. Possibly, however, Jeremiah in his sympathy may speak here in his own person.
For the men of Kir-heres.—The name appears in Isaiah 16:7 as Kirhareseth, and is probably identical with the “Kir of Moab” of Isaiah 15:1. The place was obviously an important stronghold. The Targum on Isaiah and Jeremiah renders it by Crac, and this has led to its being identified with the modern Kerak, occupying a strong position on one of the Moabite mountains to the south-east of the Dead Sea. The name, which signifies “City of the Sun,” may indicate its connection with that form of nature-worship.
(32) O vine of Sibmah.—Here again we have an echo of Isaiah 16:9. Sibmah appears in Joshua 13:19 as assigned to the Reubenites, in the region east of Jordan. After that date it does not appear again till we find it in these prophetic notices. Jerome (Comm. in Isa. Jeremiah 5:0) names it as a strong city about half a mile from Heshbon, but its site has not been identified by modern travellers. It would appear from these notices to have been famous for vineyards that extended to Jazer. The city so named, identified with the modern Es Szir, had belonged to the Amorites (Numbers 21:32, there spelt Jaazer), and lay between Heshbon and Bashan, about fifteen miles north of the former city. It passed afterwards into the possession of the Gadites (Joshua 13:25; 2 Samuel 24:5), and was evidently, when the two prophets wrote, in that of the Moabites. The phrase “weeping of Jazer” implies that it was to share in the desolation of Sibmah. The “sea of Jazer” (if the text is right, the LXX. giving “city”) must have been some inland lake or pond, which has not since been identified. The “sea” of the parallel passage of Isaiah 16:8 is commonly interpreted of the Dead Sea. The “summer fruits” were the figs and pomegranates which were commonly cultivated together with the vine.
(33) None shall tread with shouting.—The words bring before us the vintage-song of those who trod out the grapes (Jeremiah 25:30; Isaiah 16:10). Of this the prophet says, in a form which reminds us of the δωρα αδωρα (“gifts that are no gifts”) of Soph. Aias. 674, that it shall be “no shouting,” i.e., that it shall be turned to wailing and lamentation, or the shout and tumult of battle shall have taken its place.
(34) From the cry of Heshbon . . .—Elealeh (now El-Al) and Heshbon (now Hesbân) were about two miles apart. The panic-cry of the one city was echoed in the other; it reached even to Jahaz (see Note on Jeremiah 48:21), to the south-west of Heshbon.
From Zoar even unto Horonaim . . .—Both names represent the south district of Moab. In the “heifer of three years old” (see Isaiah 15:5) many critics find simply a proper name, “the third Eglath,” and conjecture that it was either one of three towns having the same name, or part of a tripolis or tripartite city, the other two members of which were Zoar and Horonaim. Nothing is known, however, of any town so constituted, and the epithet of the “third-year heifer,” i.e., a heifer not brought under the yoke, would be a suitable name enough for either Zoar or Horonaim, as a virgin fortress, as yet untaken by the foe. (Comp. Hosea 4:16; Hosea 10:11.)
The waters also of Nimrim shall be desolate.—Recent travellers, Seetzen and De Saulcy, have found a brook Nimrah, with a mass of ruins near it, near the southern extremity of the Dead Sea. The Nimrah of Numbers 32:3; Numbers 32:36; Josh. 14:27, is probably too far to the north. Tristram (Land of Israel, p. 54) identifies it with the Wady-Shaib near the fords of the Jordan, and possibly with the Bethabara of John 1:28.
(35) I will cause to cease in Moab . . .—The words indicate that the pilgrimages to the sanctuary of Chemosh, on the mountains of Moab, were a prominent feature in the nation’s life. One result of the Chaldæan conquest would be that they should be brought to an end.
(36) Mine heart shall sound for Moab like pipes . . .—The words reproduce Isaiah 16:11. His heart becomes, as it were, musical in its groans and sighs. He cannot look on the panic-stricken and mourning city without sharing in its misery. In the baldness (Jeremiah 7:29; Jeremiah 16:6), the clipped beard, the cuttings (Jeremiah 16:6; Jeremiah 41:5), the sackcloth (Jeremiah 4:8; Jeremiah 6:26; Joel 1:8) we have the wonted signs of mourning for the dead. The “pipe” is chosen rather than the harp, as in Isaiah 16:11, because it had come to be the recognised music for funerals (so in Matthew 9:23).
(38) Upon all the housetops of Moab.—The flat roof of Eastern houses was the natural gathering place of men in a time of panic and distress, as it was, in a time of peace, for prayer or meditation, or even for festive meetings. So in Isaiah 22:1, the city described as “the valley of vision” (Samaria or Jerusalem) is represented as “gone up to the house tops.”
I have broken Moab like a vessel wherein is no pleasure.—The image is one with which the prophet had made men familiar by his symbolic act in Jeremiah 19:10. So Coniah was “a vessel wherein is no pleasure” (Jeremiah 22:28).
(39) They shall howl, saying, How is it broken down!—Better, taking the words in the Hebrew order, How is she broken down! How do they howl! In the word “derision” we have the emphatic iteration of the term that had been pointedly used in Jeremiah 48:26; Jeremiah 48:2. At this stage the parallelism with Isaiah 15, 16 ceases, and the prediction has a more independent character.
(40) He shall fly as an eagle . . .—The image, as in Deuteronomy 28:49; Isaiah 46:11; Ezekiel 17:3, was the natural symbol of a fierce invader, probably, in this case, of Nebuchadnezzar. Here it receives a fresh vividness from the previous comparison of Moab to the dove that had its nest in the clefts of the rock. The verse is reproduced in Jeremiah 49:22, in reference to Edom.
(41) Kerioth.—(See Note on Jeremiah 48:24.) Here the word is used with the article, and should probably be translated, as in the margin, the cities, as painting the wide-spread devastation that was to come on all the fortresses.
As the heart of a woman in her pangs.—See Notes on Jeremiah 30:6; Isaiah 13:8; Isaiah 21:3. The precise phrase, however, occurs only here and in Jeremiah 49:22.
(42) Moab shall be destroyed . . .—What is predicted is not annihilation (see Jeremiah 48:47), but the loss of national independence. And the cause of this punishment is once more asserted. With Moab, as with other nations, it was her self-exalting pride that called for chastisement.
(43)Fear, and the pit, and the snare.—The words are a reproduction of Isaiah 24:17, which had probably passed into something like proverbial use. The sequence in each case shows that each word plays a distinct part in the imagery. First there is the terror of the animal pursued by huntsmen, then the pit dug in the earth that it may fall into it (Psalms 7:15; Proverbs 26:27; Ecclesiastes 10:8); then, if it scrambles out of the pit, the snare or trap which finally secures it.
(45) Because of the force.—Better, without strength. What is meant is that the fugitives of Moab seek shelter in Heshbon, the capital of the Ammonites (Jeremiah 49:3), and find no protection there.
A fire shall come forth out of Heshbon . . .—The words are interesting as being a quotation from a fragment of an old poem, probably from the “Book of the Wars of the Lord,” which is also to be found in Numbers 21:28. Heshbon, at the time of the Exodus the capital of the Amorites, is here identified with Sihon as their king. In the prophet’s application of the words, the Moabites are represented as taking refuge under the walls of Heshbon, but, instead of finding shelter, fire bursts out from walls and gates. They have come to look on its conflagration. The flames spread far and near. They devour the “corner” as of the beard, the hair on the crown of the head. The symbolism of destruction is the same as in Isaiah 7:20. In the “tumultuous ones” (literally, children of tumult) we have the panic-stricken clamorous crowds of the Moabite fugitives. The phrase in the Hebrew is nearly the same as “the children of Seth” in Numbers 24:17.
(47) Yet will I bring again . . .—This intermingling of the hope of a far-off return is specially characteristic of these later chapters, as in the case of the Ammonites (Jeremiah 49:6) and Elam (Jeremiah 49:39).
Thus far is the judgment of Moab.—This is very probably originally a note made by editor or transcriber to indicate the close of one section and the beginning of another. A like conclusion meets us in Jeremiah 51:64.
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 48". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany