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This prophecy is so full of repetitions that the question has naturally arisen whether the most prominent of these may not be due to interpolation. For instance:
1.Jeremiah 48:29-24.48.38; Jeremiah 48:29-24.48.38 recur in Isaiah 16:6-23.16.10; Isaiah 15:4, Isaiah 15:5, Isaiah 15:6; Isaiah 16:12, Isaiah 16:11; Isaiah 15:2, Isaiah 15:3; not, indeed, without many peculiarities, and those peculiarities are so striking, and so little in harmony with Jeremiah's usual mode of using his predecessor's writings, that some have held that verses 29-38 were inserted by one of Jeremiah's readers.
2. Verses 43, 44 so closely resemble Isaiah 24:17, Isaiah 24:18, and cohere so loosely with the context, that interpolation is a not unreasonable hypothesis.
3. Verses 45, 46, which are omitted in the Septuagint, are evidently based on Numbers 21:28, Numbers 21:29.
4. Verses 40, 41 closely resemble Jeremiah 49:22; the portion corresponding to that passage is omitted in the Septuagint.
The prophet foresees the calamity of Moab, and the attendant confusion and dismay. Yes; flee, save your lives, if ye can; for your confidences have proved untrustworthy; there is no hope left.
Against Moab; rather, concerning Moab. Nebo! Not, of course, the mountain range referred to in Deuteronomy 32:49 and Deuteronomy 32:34. I as that from which Hoses viewed the land destined for Israel, but a town in the neighbourhood, deriving its name, not from the mountain,but from the same old Semitic (and not merely Babylonian) deity. Kiriathaim. "The double city." A place of uncertain situation, but probably in the same district as Nebo; mentioned in Genesis 14:5, as the abode of the "terrible" aboriginal tribe called the Emim. Is confounded; rather, is brought to shame (as Jeremiah 46:24). Misgab; rather, the fortress. The connection shows that some definite fortress is intended, but it is difficult to say which. Graf thinks of Kir-heres (verses 31, 36) or Kir-hareseth (another form of the same name; comp. Isaiah 16:7; 2 Kings 3:25), generally identified with Kir-Moab, the chief fortified town of the Moabites.
There shall be no more praise of Moab; rather, Moab's glory (or, glorying) is no more (comp. Jeremiah 48:29). In Heshbon they have devised evil, etc. There is a word play in the Hebrew, which may be reproduced thus: "In Plot-house they plot evil against it" (so J. F. Smith's Ewald). Against it (literally, her) means "against Moab." Heshbon was at the time an Ammonitish town (it had in days gone by been Amoritish, Numbers 21:26); see Jeremiah 49:3; but was on the border of Moab. O Madmen. There seems to be again a word play, which has been to some extent reproduced thus: "Thou shalt become still, O Still house." The name Madmen does not occur again, though an allusion to it has been fancied in Isaiah 25:10, where the Hebrew for "dunghill" is madmenah.
Horonaim. This Moabite town was probably on the borders of Edom; hence, perhaps, "Sanballat the Horonite."
Moab is destroyed. The mention of Moab in the midst of towns is certainly surprising. We should expect Ar-Moab. Her little ones. The received text, as it stands, is untranslatable, and our choice lies between the correction suggested by the vowel points, and the reading of the Septuagint and a few of the extant Hebrew manuscripts, "unto Zoar." In favour of the latter, which is adopted by Ewald and Graf, it may he urged that Zoar and Horenaim are mentioned together, not only in Jeremiah 48:34, but also in Isaiah 15:5, which has evidently been imitated in the following verse. It is not quite clear what "her little ones" in the first mentioned correction mean. Some think, the children; others, the poor; Hitzig prefers the small towns of Moab. On the site of "Zoar," see Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible,' but compare Canon Tristram in 'The Land of Moab.'
For in the going up of Luhith, etc. The verse is substantially taken from Isaiah (Isaiah 15:5), but with variations peculiar to this chapter. The most peculiar of these is that in the first verse half, which is literally, weeping goeth up (not, shall go up) with weeping, which is explained by Dr. Payne Smith to mean "one set of weeping fugitives pressing close upon another." To the present commentator (as also to Delitzsch—see his note on Isaiah 15:5) there seems no reasonable doubt that b'ki, the word rendered "weeping," should rather be bo, "upon it," so that the passage will run, as in Isaiah, "for the going up of Luhith with weeping doth one go up if," Hitzig (whom for once we find agreeing with Delitzsch) remarks that the miswriting b'ki for bo may be easily accounted for by the fact that ki, "for," is the word which follows next. We have no right to ascribe to Jeremiah such an artificial and un-Hebraic an expression as that of the received text. Small as the matter may be in itself, it is not unimportant as suggesting to the Old Testament student a caution against the too unreserved adoption of the canon Lectioni faciliori praestat ardua. In the going down of Horonaim. An interesting variation from Isaiah. The older poet, less attentive to minutiae, had said vaguely, "in the road to Horonaim;" by a slight change of expression, the younger and more reflective writer produces a striking antithesis between the ascent to the hill-town, and the descent to the hollow in which Horonaim ("double cavern") appears to have been situated. It is possible, however, that Jeremiah has preserved the original reading, and that "the road" in Isaiah, l.c; is due to the carelessness of a scribe. The enemies have heard a cry of destruction. But why this reference to the enemies? The rendering, however, is ungrammatical. The text is, literally, the enemies of the cry of destruction have they heard. The prophecy in Isaiah omits "the enemies of," and has a different verb for "have they heard." Can the inserted words be an intrusion from the margin? The later scribes were accustomed to insert glosses in the margin on occasions where we should have thought them entirely unnecessary for the purpose of explanation. But then why "the enemies of"? It is an insoluble enigma.
Flee, save your lives; literally, your souls. The prophet's human feeling prompts him to this counsel; but he knows full well that a life of abject misery is the utmost that can be hoped for. And be like the heath in the wilderness; literally, and (your souls) shall be like destitute ones in the wilderness. Imagine the ease of one who has been robbed of everything, and left alone in the desert; not less miserable is that of the Moabite fugitives. The word rendered "the heath" (‛arō‛ēr) is either miswritten for ‛ar‛ar, which occurs in the sense of "destitute" in Jeremiah 17:6 (see note), or also a rare plural form of the same word. The sense remains the same. It is tempting to see an allusion to one of the towns called Aroer (as in Isaiah 17:2). But the only Aroer the prophet could be thinking of is that on the Amen (Deuteronomy 2:36), which could not be described as "in the wilderness."
In thy works; i.e. either "in thy evil deeds" (comp. Isaiah 28:15) or "in thy idols" (frequently called "the work of men's hands," e.g. Deuteronomy 4:28, and sometimes simply "works," e.g. Isaiah 41:29; Isaiah 57:12; comp. Isaiah 1:31). Chemoah. In Numbers 21:29 Moab is called "people of Chemosh," the patron-god being the king and lord of his people. In accordance with the strictly localizing theory of the nature of deity, current among primitive nations, Chemosh is said to go into captivity together with his worshippers (comp. Jeremiah 49:3; Amos 1:15). This helps us to understand the idolatry into which the Jews fell during the Exile (Isaiah 42:17); they imagined that Jehovah himself was "in captivity," and restrained from putting forth his power on behalf of his worshippers. The text reading is not Chemosh, but Chemish; the latter form does not occur elsewhere, but has been thought to illustrate the name of the Hittite city Carchemish, i.e. "castle of Chemosh."
The valley … the plain. The latter (Hebrew, mishor) is the upland region which extends from the Jordan eastward of Jericho into the Arabian desert; in Numbers 21:20 it is called the "field" (i.e. "open country") of Moab. The former means that part of the Jordan valley which borders on this upland "plain" towards the west.
So sudden is the blow that Moab stands in need of wings to make good his escape. Were the human instrument to delay, the curse meant for Moab would come upon himself. Is a reason demanded? It is that Moab has long been in a state of morally perilous security, and requires to be thoroughly shaken and aroused, in order that he may discover the inability of Chemosh to help his worshippers.
Give wings, etc. Comp. Jeremiah 48:28; also Isaiah 16:2, where the fugitive Moabites are likened to "wandering birds."
Deceitfully; rather, slackly, negligently.
Moab hath been at ease from his youth. The "youth" of Moab dates from its subjugation of the aboriginal Emim (Deuteronomy 2:10)' Since that event, though often at war, sometimes tributary and sometimes expelled from a part of the territory claimed by them (see the inscription on the Moabite Stone), yet they had never been disturbed in their ancestral homes to the south of the river Amen. He hath settled on his less. It was the custom to leave wine for a time on its lees or sediment, in order to heighten its strength and flavour (comp. Isaiah 25:6). Emptied from vessel to vessel. Thevenot, an old traveller in Persia, remarks of the Shiraz wine that, after it is separated from the lees, it is apt to grow sour. "The wine is put into large earthen jars, each holding from ten or twelve to fourteen carabas; but when a jar has been opened, it must be emptied as soon as possible, and the wine put into bottles or carabas, otherwise it spoils and becomes sour" ('Voyages,' 2.245, quoted by Lowth on Isaiah 25:6). In the application of the figure, the "taste" of Moab means obviously the national character.
Wanderers, that shall cause him to wander; rather, taters, and they shall tilt him. The earthen jars of which Thevenot speaks were doubtless similar to those of the Israelites. They would be tilted on one side, that the wine might run off clear from the dregs. Their bottles; rather, flagons or pitchers (of earthenware). The confusion of numbers and pronouns is remarkable. First, Moab collectively is spoken of as a wine jar; then the Moabites individually as Moab's jars; last of all, the Moabites are spoken of as possessing "jars" (i.e. all the institutions, public and private, of the state and of society).
Ashamed of Bethel; i.e. of the golden calf or bull at Bethel, set up by Jeroboam I. as a symbol of the strong God, Jehovah. This idolatry was odious to the prophetic teachers of a nobler and more spiritual form of religion. They saw that the deity and the symbol were too much confounded, and that such a religion would not save its adherents from captivity and ruin (comp. Hosea 10:15; Amos 3:14; Amos 5:5, Amos 5:6).
We are mighty; rather, we are heroes. The Hebrew is gibborim, the name of David's select warriors (2 Samuel 23:8). The exclamation is designed to represent vividly to the mind the sinful vain glory specially characteristic of Moab.
Moab is spoiled, and gone up out of her cities. The latter part of this clause in the Hebrew is extremely difficult; the Authorized Version is indefensible. It is even doubtful whether it can be translated at all consistently with grammar, though Hitzig, a good grammarian, has adopted the suggestion of Grotius, rendering, "and her cities have gone up," viz. in smoke, i.e. they have been burnt; comp. Judges 20:40, the end of which verso ought to run thus: "The whole city went up to heaven." But even if the verb in third masc. sing. be allowable after the plural noun, it is very harsh to give it such an interpretation, when the context says nothing about fire or smoke. J.D. Michaelis and Ewald, therefore, propose to change the vowel points of the first word, rendering, "The spoiler of Moab and of her cities is gone up;" and Dr. Payne Smith inclines to follow them. We thus obtain a striking antithesis; the enemy has "gone up," and Moab's young men are gone down, i.e. are felled by murderous hands (comp. Isa 34:1-17 :71
The calamity of Moab, etc. The form of the verse reminds us of Deuteronomy 32:35; Isaiah 13:22.
How lamentable that such a glorious sceptre should be broken! But there is no remedy. Even Dibon, that highly honoured town, is disgraced. There is no hiding the sad fate of the Moabites; the crowds of fugitives sufficiently proclaim it. Judgment has been passed upon all the cities of Moab, a long roll of whose names is recited.
All ye that are about him; i.e. the neighbouring nations (setup. on Jeremiah 46:14). The invitation to condolence is not ironical, but in the deepest spirit of human sympathy, as in the parallel prophecy in Isaiah (see on Isaiah 15:5). The strong staff; i.e. the sceptre as an image of royal authority (comp. Ezekiel 19:11-26.19.14). Rod; as in Psalms 110:2.
Dibon; now Diban, one of the chief towns of Moab, on two adjacent hills, now covered with ruins (Tristram), in the plain of Medeba (Joshua 13:9), north of Aroer and the Amen. Here the famous Moabite Stone (on which see Dr. Ginsburg's exhaustive monograph), with the inscription of King Mesha (2 Kings 3:4), was found, which, after having been broke up and pieced together, has now found a resting place in the Louvre. It is difficult to say to which Israelitish tribe Dibon was, strictly speaking, attached; for while in Joshua 13:17 it is given to Reuben, in Numbers 32:34 and in the Moabite Stone (line 10) it is assigned to Gad, Apparently the Israelitish population fluctuated. Sometimes Gad was the most adventurous in Occupying Moabitish territory, sometimes Reuben. On the phrase, the daughter, etc; see note on Jeremiah 46:19. The form of the first verse haft is modelled on Isaiah 47:1. Sit in thirst. The expression is unexampled, and it is possible that we should alter one of the vowel points (which constitute no part of the Massoretic text), rendering, "sit in thirsty (ground)," i.e. the dust (comp. the parallel passage; Isaiah 47:1). Or there may be a less used collateral form of the Hebrew for "thirsty" (came). Canon Tristram speaks of the "waterless plain" of Diban. Thy strongholds. It appears from the Moabite Stone that Diben was the centre of a district which was reckoned as belonging to it; so at least we may account for the phrase, "all Dibon was submissive" (line 28). Compare the phrase in Numbers 21:25, "Heshbon, and all the villages thereof" (comp. on Jeremiah 49:2).
The inhabitants of Aroer will come out in eager expectation to meet the fugitives, and ask, What hath happened? (so the question should be rendered). There were several Aroers (one belonged to the Ammonites, Joshua 13:25), but as the enemy is driving the Moabites southward, the Aroer here intended can only be the town by the Arnon, which separated Moab proper first of all from the kingdom of the Amorites (Deuteronomy 4:48; Joshua 12:2), and afterwards from the territory of the Israelites (Deuteronomy 2:36; Deuteronomy 3:12). The picture drawn in this verse is singularly appropriate to the site of Arnon, "just by the edge of the arterial highway of Moab," and commanding a complete view of the pass of the Arnon. There is the same variety of statement as to the Israetitish tribe to which Aroer belonged as in the case of Dibon (see Jeremiah 48:18). Joshua 13:16 speaks in favour of Reuben; Numbers 32:34 in favour of Gad.
The answer of the fugitives begins in the latter part of this verse, and, continues to Jeremiah 48:24. Confounded ought, as usual, to be brought to shame. The address, howl and cry, which is in the feminine, refers to Moab, which has just before been spoken of in the feminine ("It is broken down," or rather, "she is dismayed," refers to Moab, not to Dibon). In Arnon; i.e. in the region of the Amen; better, beside Arnon (comp. Jeremiah 13:5, "by Euphrates").
The plain country. The mishor (see on Jeremiah 48:8). Holon is not known from other sources. Jahazah (called Jahaz in Jeremiah 48:34), according to Eusebius, still existed in his days, and lay between Medeba and Dibon. Like Heshbon and Dibon, it was claimed by the Reubenites (Joshua 13:18), and Mesha, in the famous inscription, states that the then King of Israel (Jehoram) "fortified Jahaz and dwelt in it, when he fought against me" (lines 18, 19). This was a great but only a temporary success, for Mesha adds that "Chemosh drove him out before me" (line 19). Mephaath was apparently near Jahaz, since it is always mentioned with that town (Joshua 13:18; Joshua 21:37; 1 Chronicles 6:79).
Dibon (see on Jeremiah 48:18). Nebo (see on Jeremiah 48:1). Beth-diblathaim. Mentioned here only. There is an Almondiblathaim in Numbers 33:46, mentioned in connection with Dibon.
Kiriathaim (see on Jeremiah 48:1). Beth-gamul. Nowhere else mentioned. Beth-meon. Called Baal-meon, Numbers 32:38; Beth-baal-meon, Joshua 13:17. The extensive ruins of Ma'in are a short distance south of Heshbon.
Kerioth. Perhaps a synonym of Ar, the old capital of Moab (Isaiah 15:1). Hence in Amos 2:2, "I will send a fire upon Moab, and it shall devour the palaces of Kerioth." Bozrah. The capital at one time of the Edomites (see Jeremiah 49:13). The ownership of particular cities varied from. time to time in this contested region. Far or near; i.e. towards the frontier or inland.
And what is Moab's crime? At an earlier point the prophet said that it was the callousness produced by long prosperity (Jeremiah 48:11); but here another sin is mentioned—Moab's haughty contempt of Jehovah. "For this it deserves that its contempt should be thrown back upon itself, by its being made, like a drunken man, the scorn of all" (Ewald). The figure is, no doubt, a coarse one, but not unnatural in the oratory (we must put aside inspiration, which leaves the forms of speech untouched) of a rude people like the Jews. It occurs not unfrequently elsewhere; see especially Isaiah 19:14; Habakkuk 2:15, Habakkuk 2:16; and, for milder examples of the figure, Jeremiah 13:13 and Jeremiah 13:25.
Make ye him drunken. The command is issued to the agents of the Divine wrath (comp. Jeremiah 48:10, Jeremiah 48:21). He magnified himself against the Lord. Offences against Israel being also offences against Israel's God (see Jephthah's striking words in Judges 11:23, Judges 11:24). Shall wallow; rather, shall fall heavily (literally, shall clap—a pregnant expression).
Was he found among thieves? for, etc.; rather,… that, as often as thou speakest of him, thou waggest thy head. What giveth thee the right to show such scorn and insolent triumph towards Israel, as if he were one who had been arrested in the very act of robbery (comp. Jeremiah 2:26)?
Dwell in the rook. Jeremiah probably thinks of the rocky defiles of the Amen, so splendidly adapted for fugitives (see Consul Wetzstein's excursus to the third edition of Delitzsch's 'Jesaja;' he speaks of perpendicular walls of rock). Like the dove (i.e. the wild dove); comp. 'Iliad,' 21:493; 'AEneid,' 5:213.
Jeremiah 48:29, Jeremiah 48:30
These verses are an expansion of Isaiah 16:6. The boastfulness of Moab seems to have much impressed its Israelitish neighbours (comp. Isaiah 16:14, 27). It has been thought to be illustrated by the inscription on the Moabite Stone; but we must remember that all national monuments of this sort have a tendency to exaggeration.
We have heard; viz. the prophet and his countrymen.
But it shall not be so, etc. This is a case in which the accentuation must most decidedly be deviated from; it implies a faulty view of the word rendered in the Authorized Version, "his lies." But the rendering of our version is neither in itself tenable nor is it that intended by the accentuation. The rendering suggested by the latter is "his praters" (i.e. soothsayers), as the word, no doubt, must be taken in Jer 1:1-19 :36; Isaiah 44:25. But it is much more natural to render thus: "And the untruth of his pratings [i.e. of his boastings]; the untruth that they have wrought." In his words and in his works (and a word is equal to a work before the Divine Judge) Mesh was essentially "untrue." Truth, in the Biblical sense, is to know and serve the true God.
Based upon Isaiah 16:7. Therefore. Moab cannot escape the catastrophe, for his moral basis is utterly insecure. "Therefore," etc. Will I howl. It is at first sight strange that the prophet should speak thus sympathetically after the strong language in verse 26. But the fact is that an inspired prophet has, as it were, a double personality. Sometimes his human feelings seem quite lost in the consciousness of his message; sometimes (and especially in Jeremiah) the natural, emotional life refuses to be thus restrained, and will have itself expressed. All Moab; i.e. Moab in all its districts, both north and south of the Amen, or, at any rate, the fugitive populations. Mine heart shall mourn. The Authorized Version effaces one of the points of difference between Jeremiah and his original. The former leaves the subject indefinite—one shall mourn. For the men of Kir-heres. Isaiah 16:7 has "for the raisin cakes of Kir-heres" (i.e. for the cakes of pressed grapes, for which Kir-heres was specially famous)—a much more expressive phrase. Jeremiah, or his scribe, has changed ashishe into anshe, and the Targum and Septuagint have adopted this weak reading in Isaiah, l.c.
Shortened from Isaiah 16:8, Isaiah 16:9. With the weeping of Jaser; rather, more than the weeping of Jazer. This may mean either "more than I weep for Jazer" (which is favoured by the insertion of "for thee") or more than Jazer weeps" (for the devastated vineyards of Sibmah); comp. Isaiah, l.c. The site of Jazer is placed by Seetzen between Ramoth (Salt) and Heshbon, where some ruins called Sir are now found. "Sibmah," according to St. Jerome, was not more than half a mile from Heshbon. King Mesha is thought to refer to it under the form Seran, miswritten for Seban (Sebam—so the form should be read—is an Old Testament version of the name; see Numbers 32:3); see inscription on Moabite Stone, line 13. It appears to have been famous for its vineyards; and Seetzen tolls us that grapes and raisins of specially good quality are still carried from the neighbouring Salt to Jerusalem. Thy plants are gone over the sea; rather, thy shoots passed over the sea. The prophet here describes the extensive range of these vines. The northern limit of their culture was Jazer, its southern or western file further shore of "the sea," i.e. the Dead Sea. By a touch of poetic hyperbole the prophet traces the excellence of vines such as those of En-gedi (on the western bank of the Dead Sea) to a Moabitish origin. The reference to the sea of Jazer throws the whole passage into confusion. There is no lake or large pool at present to be found at Jazer, and the simplest explanation is that a scribe repeated the word "sea" by mistake. The true text will then be simply," they reached unto Jazer." The spoiler. Isaiah 16:9 has the more picturesque expression, "the shouting," i.e. the wild battlecry.
Nearly identical with Isaiah 16:10. The plentiful field; rather, the garden land; i.e. land planted with "noble" plants, especially vines and olives. Wine. Here clearly sweet and unfermented wine (comp. Amos 9:13, Amos 9:14). None shall tread with shouting. This involves a very harsh construction of the Hebrew, and it is better (considering the numerous other errors of the same kind in the received text) to correct in accordance with Isaiah 16:10," the treader shall not tread." Their shouting shall be no shouting. "Shouting" (Hebrew, hedad) may be taken in two senses:
(1) the cheerful, musical cry with which "the treaders" pressed out the juice of the grapes (comp. Jeremiah 25:30);
(2) the wild cry (Jeremiah 51:14) with which the enemy "fell upon the summer fruits and upon the vintage" (verse 32), reducing the inhabitants to abject misery. In Isaiah 16:9, Isaiah 16:10 an allusion is made to this double meaning, and so, perhaps, it may be here ("There shall be shouting, but not that of the peaceful vintagers at their work"). Or, as others, we may explain "no shouting" as equivalent to "the opposite of shouting," i.e. either silence or lamentation (comp. Isaiah 10:15, "not wood" equivalent to "that which is specifically different from wood;" and Isaiah 31:3, "not God," equivalent to "the very opposite of Divine").
Based on Isaiah 15:4-23.15.6. The cry of one town echoes to another, and is taken up afresh by its terrified inhabitants. Heshbon and Elealeh lay on eminences but a short distance apart, so that the shrill cry of lamentation would be heard far away in the southeast at Jahaz. Zoar and Horonaim both lay in the southern half of Moah (see on Isaiah 15:3, Isaiah 15:4). An heifer of three years old. If this is the right rendering, the phrase is descriptive of Horonaim, which may, in the time of Jeremiah, have been a "virgin fortress." But the phrase, thus understood, comes in very oddly, and in the parallel passage in Isaiah it stands, not after Horonaim, hut after Zoar; it hardly seems likely that there were two Gibraltars in Moab. Another rendering (Ewald, Keil) is, "(to) the third Eglath." This involves an allusion to the fact that there were other places in Moab called Egiath or Eglah, which has been rendered highly probable by Gesenius. The waters also of Nimrhn. Canon Tristram speaks of the "plenteous brooks gushing from the lofty hills into the Ghor-en-Numeira." Consul Wetzstein, however, says that nature appears there under so unspeakably gloomy an aspect, that the identification is impossible. He proposes a site in the Wady So'eb, about fourteen miles east of the Jordan, which with its luxuriant meadows, covered with the flocks of the Bedouin, is probably suitable to the passages in Isaiah and Jeremiah. So also Seetzen, who remarks that the lower part of this wady is still called Nahr Nimrin. In Joshua 13:27 a place called Beth—nimrah is mentioned as situated in the valley (i.e. the Jordan valley); no doubt this was in the wady referred to by the prophets. "The valley" seems to have been sometimes used in a wider signification, so as to include lateral valleys like that of Nimrim. The antiquity of the name is shown by its occurrence in the Annals of Thothmos III; who penetrated into the heart of Palestine, and, in the temple of Karnak, enumerates the cities which he conquered. From before B.C. 1600 to nearly A.D. 1900 this secluded valley has borne precisely the same name!
Him that offereth in the high places; rather, him that goeth up to a high place. Apparently a reminiscence of Isaiah 15:2 and Isaiah 16:12. As Dr. Payne Smith well remarks, "The last stage of natural ruin is reached, when thus the rites of religion entirely cease."
The description of Moab's lamentations continued.
Based on Isaiah 16:11; Isaiah 15:7. Like pipes. Isaiah has, "like the harp [or, 'lute']." The pipe, or flute, was specially used at funeral ceremonies (Matthew 9:23; Luke 7:32), and therefore, perhaps, seemed to Jeremiah more appropriate. Because the riches, etc. This is, no doubt, what we should have expected, but this is not what Jeremiah wrote; "because" should rather be therefore. Jeremiah simply transferred a clause (substantially at least) from his original, Isaiah 15:7, but into a context where it stands rather less naturally. The meaning of the words in Isaiah is that, the desolation being so great, the Moabites shall carry away as much of their goods as they can. In this new context, however, we can only explain this unexpected "therefore" by referring to a habit of the Israelitish mind by which that which contributed to a result was regarded as worked purposely for that result. Good instances of this habit are Genesis 18:5; Psalms 45:3; Psalms 51:6; comp. Winer's 'New Testament Grammar' (Clark), pp. 573, 574, especially note 1 on p. 574, though the idiom also occurs in Old Testament passages in which the religious view of life is hardly traceable.
Jeremiah 48:37, Jeremiah 48:38
(first part).—Based on Isaiah 15:2 (latter part), 3 (first part). On the primitive Arabic, Egyptian, and Hebrew custom of cutting off the hair, see on Jeremiah 16:6, and comp. Herod; 2.36. Clipped. The difference from the word in Isaiah is so slight that it may easily have arisen from a copyist. The meaning is virtually the same. Cuttings. So of Philistia (Jeremiah 47:5); see on Jeremiah 16:6.
Lamentation generally; literally, all of it is lamentation; i.e. nothing else is to be heard. Like a vessel, etc. For this figure, see on Jeremiah 22:28 (Jeremiah repeats himself).
They shall howl, saying etc.; rather, How is it dismayed! (how) they wail! How hath Moab turned the back ashamed! Yea, Moab becometh, etc.
Jeremiah 48:40, Jeremiah 48:41
The Septuagint has a shorter form (see introduction to chapter).
He shall fly as an eagle; rather, he shall swoop (same word and figure in Deuteronomy 28:49). The subject is not named, but (as in Jeremiah 46:18) is Nebuchadnezzar.
Kerioth is taken. Kerioth has been already mentioned in Jeremiah 48:24 (see note). Another possible rendering is, The cities are taken, and this certainly agrees better with the parallel line. But a plural of kiryah, a city, does not occur elsewhere. If the identification of Kerioth with Ar-moab, the capital of Moab, be accepted (see on Jeremiah 48:24), the equalization of Kerioth and "the strongholds" seems to be a stumbling block. Strongholds; or, mountain fastnesses (Jeremiah 51:30).
Hence, as the final result, escape is absolutely impossible, for one can get succeeds another in an endless series The last and greatest danger besots those who seek refuge behind the strong fortifications of Heshbon, It is from this very city that the hottest fire of the enemy breaks forth. Chemosh has not saved his people; and yet there is hope for Moab in the future.
Fear, and the pit, and the snare. An alliteration in the Hebrew, which occurs again in Isaiah 24:17. In German it can be represented better than in English—e.g. by Hitzig's "grauen, graben, garn." All primitive poetry delights in such alliterations.
Apparently quoted from memory from Numbers 21:28; Numbers 24:17, except the first clause; the application, however, is peculiar to this passage. They that fled, etc.; rather, The fugitives stand without strength in the shadow of Heshbon. There is a difficulty here, for, according to Numbers 24:2, the hostile raid into Moab started from Heshbon. Surely the fugitives would not think of escaping northwards, much less would they be able to elude the vigilance of the foe and reach Heshbon. But it is not surprising that the author of so long a poem should now and then make a slip; the author of the Book of Job is sometimes inconsistent with the Prologue, and verse 2 is as far away from the passage before us as the Prologue of Job is from Job 19:18. Nor can we be absolutely certain that our prophecy is exactly as Jeremiah wrote it. Shall come forth; rather, hath come forth (or, cometh forth). From the midst of Sihon. Sihon being, perhaps, regarded as the leader and representative of his warriors. The corner of Moab; rather, the sides (literally, side, used collectively) of Moab. The tumultuous ones; literally, sons of tumult, a poetical phrase for warriors. The prophet has substituted the more common word shaon for its synonym sheth.
Based on Numbers 21:29. The chief difference is in the second half of the verse, in which the bold expression of Chemosh "giving his sons and his daughters into captivity" is changed for a mere ordinary and prosaic phrase.
On the phraseology of this verse, see on Jeremiah 29:14; Jeremiah 23:20, and on the brighter prospect held out for Moab, see the analogies given in note on Jeremiah 46:26. Thus far is the judgment of Moab is clearly an editor's note (comp. Jeremiah 51:64). "Judgment" as in Jeremiah 46:21.
The judgment of Moab.
As the prophet's "eye in a fine frenzy rolling" sees the flood of the Chaldean invasion sweeping over one after another of the nations, his words flash out in pictures full of energy and fire. If this world's calamities are thus terrible, how shall the awful realities of eternity be contemplated? Why should some of us be so shocked at the strong language of preachers? Strange and fanatical as it may appear, the fury of a Knox is more consonant with much of life and revelation than the complacent mildness of an Addison. Visions of judgment are no topics for graceful moral essays. Nevertheless, however hot the language may be, it must not descend to mere wild, whirling words; it must be characteristic and truthful. The succession of pictures of approaching judgment which Jeremiah draws are not monotonous repetitions of the same description. They are definite and distinctively applicable to the respective subjects of them. Let us observe the special features of the judgment of Moab.
I. THE CHARACTER OF THE PEOPLE. The grounds of the judgment are given in the revelation of the sins of Moab. The head and front of her offence is pride (e.g. verse 29). Other characteristics are closely related, viz.:
(1) trust in wealth and material resources (verse 7);
(2) self-indulgent ease (verse 11);
(3) boastfulness (verse 14);
(4) scorn (verse 27);
(5) defiance of Heaven (verse 26).
Such a catalogue of offences is peculiarly hateful to God. Sins of appetite and passion are partly the result of weakness. The culpability of them is less than that of the intellectual and spiritual sins by all the weight of temptations which arise out of the natural constitution of man. For such sins as those of Moab there is no excuse. They are nearest to the most diabolical wickedness. Adam fell by a sin of appetite; Satan by a sin of spiritual pride.
II. THE NATURE OF THEIR DOOM.
1. Destruction. (Verse 4.) The general doom of all the nations. This is the leading form of the evil fruits of sin.
2. Shame and humiliation. (Verse 13.) "Moab also shall wallow in his vomit" (verse 26). What a terrible anticlimax from the pride and haughtiness which are the chief characteristics of this people!
3. Derision. Moab had mocked at Israel, now "he also shall be in derision" (verse 26). Thus scorn is rebuked with scorn, and the mocker is mocked.
4. Gloom and grief. (Verse 33.) The ease and self-complacency which had characterized Moab are exchanged for their opposites.
5. Poverty. "The riches that he hath gotten are perished" (verse 36). Moab had trusted in wealth. His punishment will consist in part in the loss of this. Finally, to Moab, as to other nations, there is promised an ultimate restoration. "Yet will I restore the prosperity of Moab in the latter days, saith the Lord" (verse 47). Most beautifully does this one verse close the terrible vision of judgment, like one ray of light breaking through the dense black thunderclouds and promising the dawn of a new day of life and gladness. Even to a heathen people the promise is made, and by the mouth of a Hebrew prophet. Who, then, shall dare to set limits to the future restoring power of the grace of God?
The dangers of riches.
Riches are not evil things in themselves. The gifts of God in nature, or the fruits of man's industry, they are valuable just because they have in them some serviceableness for human wants. Money is not the root of all evil, but the love of it (1 Timothy 6:10). It is they who trust in riches who find it impossible to enter into the kingdom of God (Mark 10:24). But riches are snares, and the possessor of them had need beware of the dangers they necessarily bring. When the servant becomes a god the degraded worshipper is on the road to ruin. Let us consider some of the dangers of riches.
I. A DANGER OF DELUSIVE TRUST. The wealthy man is likely to think his riches will do more for him than it is in their power to do. He finds that money brings a number and variety of comforts and helps him out of many a difficulty. He is in danger of looking upon it as omnipotent. But money will not buy the choicest blessings. It will not purchase friends, nor peace of mind, nor spiritual blessedness here, nor the heavenly inheritance hereafter. To trust to riches for these things is to miss them. Yet they are the truest treasures. The poor man who seeks them aright, not being allured by the rich man's peculiar temptations, may step in first; and so Dives may come to envy Lazarus.
II. A DANGER OF WORLDLINESS. Rich Moab lives at her ease (Jeremiah 48:11). A wealthy man is tempted to be satisfied with his possessions. The earth is very fair to him. Possibly he is in the land of the lotus eaters, "where it is always afternoon." He is thus in danger of caring only for this world, and making no provision for the better world. For he may value his earthly jewels so much as not to care to search after the pearl of great price, or to be unwilling to make any sacrifice in order to purchase it. He tends to become so engrossed with material things as to lose all appetite for and all perception of spiritual things. His treasure is on earth, and his heart is there also. Thus he loses the solid, lasting possessions of eternity while grasping at the shadowy treasures of time.
III. A DANGER OF PRIDE. Rich Moab is proud. The wealthy man is tempted to transfer his high estimation of his possessions to himself. Because he has much he is induced to think that he is much, and the world too often urges him to this mistake by its despicable sycophancy to mere money. When will people learn to value men by their characters and not by their purses? If pride has any valid excuse for existence, this must be found in the true nature of a man and his own personal excellences. Before God we are judged solely by what we are. Our possessions will only aggravate our guilt if they have been abused, for they will be regarded as talents to be accounted for, never as merits to secure us any reward. Therefore the pride of the rich man may be his ruin.
"Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord slackly." These words refer immediately to the terrible work of destruction. We shudder at hearing so fearful a curse; but we should remember that, if the slaughter were believed to be in accordance with God's will, and therefore also believed to be right and necessary, there could be no excuse for neglecting it. We may derive from this extreme instance most forcible argument against slack service. If such slackness could appear cursed to the Jew under the most trying circumstances, when pity and all humane instincts cried out against the work, how much more guilty is it in the Christian work of love!
I. INDICATIONS OF SLACK SERVICE.
1. Negative goodness. Great care to avoid all forms of impurity may be found together with a reluctance to make any sacrifice or put forth any exertion.
2. Conventionatism. A man follows in the rut of his predecessors, evinces no originality, has no device with which to meet an emergency, never inquires into the suitability of his work to its end, never thinks of improving it, sticks to old ways when the old objects of them are obsolete, cannot break up new ground though new requirements call him to it.
3. Working at half power. What service is rendered does not come up to the level of requirement nor to the measure of ability. It is done in a slow, dreamy style.
4. Failure before difficulty. The molehill is magnified into a mountain. The opposition, which is the spur to enthusiasm, puts a complete stop to slack service.
II. CAUSES OF SLACK SERVICE.
1. Worldliness. The clay of selfishness is mingled with the strong metal of devotion. A man would serve God and mammon. He tries to do the work of God with one hand, while he advances his own interest with the other. But no work for God is acceptable which is not done with both hands.
2. Unbelief. This paralyzes much of our work—more, I am persuaded, than we are ready to admit. The God served is a shadowy Being, and no wonder the service is faint and feeble.
3. Want of devotion. The service of the hands is given without the love of the heart. This mechanical work is a poor, spiritless thing. It is love and love only that can inspire a service of unwearying energy.
4. Cowardice. There is a fear to do difficult and dangerous work. We pity this for its weakness. We should condemn it as wicked. Should not the servant of Christ be willing to suffer all torments and die for his Lord who suffered and died for him? "Be thou faithful unto death."
5. Mere indolence. Indolence may be partly constitutional, as in persons of lethargic temperament. Some men are habitually tardy and dilatory. They should learn to resist these tendencies as temptations to fatal unfaithfulness.
III. EVILS OF SLACK SERVICE. It is no slight failure to be gently rebuked. The curse of God lies upon it. "Cursed be he," etc.
1. It is very wicked. We are God's servants, and bound by ties of nature and of gratitude.
2. It is likely to be fruitless. Negligence in work may imperil the whole results of it. If the ship is carelessly steered it may be wrecked.
3. It injures the man who works negligently. Our manner of work reacts upon ourselves. Indifferent service produces a low tone of life, coldness, lethargy, unspirituality.
IV. CALLS TO BETTER SERVICE.
1. From the curse of slack service. This curse is a solemn warning. The evils that necessitate it should terrify us from incurring it.
2. From the obligations of duty. "We are not our own; we are bought with a price." When we do our best we are unprofitable servants. Solemn voices of time and eternity bid us "work while it is day." "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might."
3. From the need of the world. Our Christian service is no profitless treadmill drudgery. It is for the good of mankind. The call in the text was to execute wrath; ours is to do deeds of mercy. The world in its darkness, its misery, its sin, cries loud for the Christian mission of consolation and redemption. Can we sleep while such calls pierce our ears?
4. From the constraining love of Christ. He died for us; he only asks that we shall live for him. But the least we can do is to live faithfully, earnestly, and devotedly, serving the Saviour with all earnest zeal.
5. From the heavenly reward (Hebrews 12:1, Hebrews 12:2).
Wine on the lees.
This is a figure of a people left for ages in a condition of ease. They are like wine settled on its lees, unchanged and unpurified.
I. IT IS BAD FOE A PEOPLE TO REMAIN LONG IN A CONDITION OF EASE.
1. Evil is not purged out. The wine is still on its lees. In times of quiet we settle down contented with ourselves as well as with our surrounding. We say—Why disturb the air with cries for change while all is still and calm and dreamy as a summer noon? The old ruin stands unshaken in the fair weather. But presently the tempest rises, the wind howls, and the broken walls tremble to their foundations. Then we see that repairs must be executed or a new building erected.
2. Progress in good is stayed. Wine should improve with keeping. But of this wine it is said, "His taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed." Progress needs the stimulus of conflict. Trouble promotes reflection and urges to improved action in the future. "Woe unto you when all men shall speak welt of you!" (Luke 6:26).
3. Corruption and decay are induced. Ease means stagnation, and stagnation decomposition. If the vital functions are arrested, the body will not remain like a marble statue. Very soon other actions are set up, and the quiet of death gives place to a horrible scene of rapid corruption. The stagnant soul becomes the dead soul, and this a mass of moral rottenness.
II. THE EVILS OF A CONDITION OF EASE BELONG TO ALL CLASSES OF LIFE.
1. The nation. Moab had lived for ages amongst her hills and fertile fields beyond the surging tide of the world's restless changes which swept along the western side of the Jordan between Egypt and the northern nations. She was not the better for this isolation. Wars, invasions, revolutions, turn out to be ultimately serviceable to the cause of human progress.
2. The Church. The Middle Ages, when the Church was all-powerful and at ease, were the dark ages of Christendom. The disturbance of the Reformation was a new birth to the Church, in the good of which even the Roman Catholics shared by the stimulus it brought to zeal and the check it put on the paganizing spirit prevalent in Italy in the fifteenth century.
3. The individual Christian. In times of ease we tend to become worldly, and our devotion cools. Trouble drives us to prayer and wakens the deeper instincts of the soul (Hebrews 12:11).
With accumulated phrases emphasis is laid upon this leading sin of Moab, a sin which is condemned throughout Scripture as one of great wickedness.
I. THE NATURE OF PRIDE. Pride is a passion rising out of an inordinate opinion of our own worthiness. It is to be distinguished from vanity. Vanity is eager for the admiration of others, though, perhaps, in its own heart conscious of possessing hut little to deserve it. But pride is inwardly elated with the feeling of self-importance, and may be quite indifferent to the opinion of the world. Indeed, the height of pride is to scorn the admiration as much as the hatred of other men, to look down upon the "dim multitude" as in all respects beneath contempt. Vanity craves social position; pride is essentially lonely. Vanity smiles with the desire of pleasing; pride frowns in haughty independence. It is possible, however, for a man to have a very high opinion of his own powers, importance, etc; without much pride. For pride is not a mere conviction of the great worth of one's self, it is an emotion, a passion, a disposition to dwell on one's own merits and make idols of them.
II. THE SINFULNESS OF PRIDE. Why is this so strongly condemned in Scripture? so hateful to God? Consider how it must appear in his sight. We are all his helpless children; "we have erred and strayed from his ways like lost sheep;" before him we are foul with sin, humiliated with failure; our best works are poor and imperfect; in free grace he spares, endures, pardons. Where, then, is there ground for pride? Pride is the denial of guilt, the assumption that the good we receive from God is deserved; it is, therefore, a gross presumption, an evidence of base ingratitude, a proof of self-will that refuses to humble itself before the good and holy Father.
III. THE INJURIOUS EFFECTS OF PRIDE.
1. It blinds us to our own danger. It assumes that all must be well But the assumption does. not alter facts. It only aggravates the danger by preventing us from taking precautions against it. Moab was not saved in the general overthrow of the nations for all her pride. Humility sees the stumbling block in the path, but pride holds its head so high as never to observe it, and so fells over it (Proverbs 16:18).
2. It prevents us from securing our own highest good. This can only be given by the mercy of God, and he can only bestow it on the humble, the contrite, the submissive. The proud man bars his own heart against the incoming of the grace of God.
3. It hinders the good work of life. It is directly opposed to charity; it is incongruous with that spirit of mutual concession and cooperation which is required in the service of life. Thus pride often wastes those very powers on the existence of which it stands. To conquer pride let us look at our lives in the light of the life of the meek and humble Jesus of Nazareth.
HOMILIES BY A.F. MUIR
The ease of Moab.
A figure: wine casks long undisturbed, whose contents improve and mellow in their taste, at length tilted by the coopers so that the wine is spilled.
I. WORLDLY PROSPERITY IS OFTEN VERY GREAT AND UNINTERRUPTED.
1. Frequently remarked. Heathen nations, whose very backwardness and barbarism have isolated them from the disturbing stream of the world's life; and empires that seem to be based upon irreligion and wrong, and that are nevertheless in the van of civilization. The men who make the colossal fortunes of modern times are not, as a rule, distinguished for their religious virtues. Sins that immediately destroy some are committed with impunity by others. Many of the most ancient and lucrative vested interests of the world are owned by persons without moral character, and are prostituted to the basest purposes.
2. The moral perplexity of this. When wealth and influence almost phenomenally great are thus acquired and used, they cannot fail to trouble the minds of good men. The difficulties of a moral and religious life are so great that such a spectacle tempts and saddens. Israel had been afflicted from her youth (Psalms 129:1-19.129.3), whilst Moab was at ease. David was envious when he saw the prosperity of the wicked (Psalms 73:3).
II. SINNERS ARE THEREBY CONFIRMED IN THEIR EVIL HABITS AND BELIEFS. The material wealth and secular position of Moab were doubtless greatly advanced by this long security, and a kind of prestige attached to him amongst neighbouring nations. His customs gradually acquired a fixed and immovable authority. The national character, with all its inherent vices, developed a strong individuality: "His taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed." One trait of this character, for which Moab was notorious and intolerable, was his pride (Jeremiah 48:29). His attachment to idolatry was also intense; his inhabitants were the "people of Chemosh" (Jeremiah 48:46). To add to the cup of his transgression, he "magnified himself against the Lord" (Jeremiah 48:42.). All this is in strict analogy with what may be observed anywhere under similar circumstances. National pride grows with impunity and conquest; and prejudice strengthens itself in the apparent success of its policy of life and the blessing that seems to attach to its religious observances. Israel was a derision to Moab (Jeremiah 48:27).
III. BUT THEIR POSITION IS INSECURE, AND DESTRUCTION, THOUGH DELAYED, WILL BE THE MORE CERTAIN AND COMPLETE. The uncertainty of worldly prosperity is represented frequently and under many figures in Holy Writ. It is "that which moth and rust corrupt, and thieves steal;" it "takes to itself wings and flies away;" the whole life of which it is the material embodiment, is "even as a vapour, which appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away" (James 4:14). Here the metaphor is that of a tilted vessel. There will come a day when the cup of a nation's or individual s iniquity will be full; then will they be as Sodom and Gomorrah, whose cry was great and their sin very grievous (Genesis 19:20). It is just this confidence, born of long impunity, that becomes intolerable to God and provokes his wrath. The rich fool (Luke 12:16-42.12.21).—M.
Betrayed by their gods.
This statement, as it is more especially from the religious standpoint, is a generalization of the cause of Moab's ruin, full of spiritual insight and sagacity. It is in such directions as these we are to seek for the reasons of human success or failure; everything else is but superficial.
I. THE TRUE CAUSES OF HUMAN SUCCESS OR FAILURE, HAPPINESS OR MISERY, ARE OF A MORAL OR SPIRITUAL KIND. We do not know the exact nature of the Chemosh worship of Moab, but it is evident that, like other idolatries, it favoured materialism and the gratification of passion (Jeremiah 48:7). The idol was the centre and representative of the whole life of the people.
1. Material circumstances are in themselves indifferent towards the achievement of national or individual greatness, but trust in material circumstances is an invariable precursor of ruin. It is the virtues that are the true bulwarks of a people. "If all the historians who record the ultimate extinction of nations were inspired of God to give the true reasons of their fall, we should often meet this testimony: 'Perished of national pride, producing contempt of God and of fundamental morality'" (Cowles); Proverbs 14:34.
2. The chief object of desire to any one is his ruler and destiny. The god is the embodiment of all the sentiments and passions associated with its worship; the leading desire attracts towards itself and assimilates all others. It gradually but inevitably becomes his god. His whole life will henceforth take its complexion and direction from it. He conceives it to be the best and to be able to secure for him all that is desirable. From this we see:
(1) The peril of idolatry. Pandering to the worst and most selfish passions, it blinds and infatuates its votaries and leads them eventually to their ruin.
(2) Their importance of a true worship. It cultures the nature according to its essential principles, and secures the supremacy of the moral and spiritual. And all true guidance, help, and comfort are afforded in answer to believing prayer.—M.
HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY
The heath in the wilderness.
Such will the sinner be; for, like it, he will be:
1. Barren. No rich, strength-sustaining fruit does the heath bear. A mere hard berry. The camel and the ass may browse thereupon, but it is no food for man. "Can men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" And thus barren of good is the sinner.
2. Unlovely. There is no form nor beauty about the heath; a stunted, misshapen shrub. Its wood can be used for no manufacture. It is fit only to be burned. And when our eyes are opened to see things as they are, sin and the sinner will appear in all moral unloveliness; all present outward charm gone, and only their evil deformity seen.
3. Alone. Surrounded by drear expanse of sand; no companion trees to form it into a grove or a verdant mass of plant life. And so will the sinner be one day. Christ goes with the believer down the dark valley, but the sinner goes forth alone. He stands at the bar of God with no advocate. None of all his old companions can redeem his soul or give to God a ransom for him. Alone; helpless.
4. The gracious influences of Heaven do him no good. The dew and the rain, the sun's warmth, come upon it; but it remains the unlovely, solitary, barren thing it ever was. So the impenitent man is visited by the influences of Heaven, the pleading of the Spirit, the varied means of grace; but they avail him not.
5. Soon to perish. The driving sand, the scorching heat, the browsing camel, the encampment fire, all threaten its life, and by one or other of them it soon perishes. And they who are like to it are never safe. "How are they destroyed as in a moment!" Conclusion. But the godly are not so. "He shall be like a tree planted by," etc. (Psalms 1:1-19.1.6.).—C.
Doing the work of the Lord deceitfully.
I. THE WORK OF THE LORD IS OF VARIED KINDS. Here it has reference to the vengeance to be taken on Moab, and denounces a curse on that soldier who failed to do his duty in the most thorough and terrible manner. No pity, no motive of any kind, was to lead them to spare the doomed nation. But whilst such dread work may be at times the work of the Lord, the expression more commonly points to that which is spiritual, and tends to man's highest good. In the apostolic Epistles we have constant reference to the work of the Lord in this happier sense.
II. BUT THERE IS PERIL, WHATEVER THE WORK BE, OF DOING IT DECEITFULLY. Now, the work of the Lord is done deceitfully:
1. When it is not done thoroughly. When we shirk our work; do no more than we can help; get away from it as fast as we can. And how much of the "work" is thus done! Alas that it should be so! Evidently counted a drudgery rather than a delight. Do we not all know that there is danger of our thus working?
2. When it is not done sincerely. How varied and how questionable often the motive which leads men to engage in the work of the Lord!—custom, ostentation, fear of reproach, sting of conscience, hope of gain, fashion, etc. These and such as these may crowd out the only right and sincere motive—the love of Christ. All others make us more or less hypocrites, and can find no acceptance of the Lord in the great day. But is there no peril from such motives? We know there is.
3. When it is not done earnestly. When our heart is not in our work. When it is laid hold of not, as it should be, "with both hands earnestly," but, as it were, with one of the fingers. Some thus work; others as with one hand; others, indeed, with both hands, but slowly, loosely, not earnestly. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." Only such as obey that Word are sincere workers.
4. When it is done hypocritically. In the days of sore persecution there was but little peril of this; but when and where religion goes, as it is. said, in silver slippers, there is real peril of men taking up with the Lord's work in order to further, not the work of the Lord, but their own poor worldly well being. What they do is all a pretence, a kind of deception. God keep us all therefrom! For note—
III. THE SEVERITY WITH WHICH THE LORD LOOKS UPON HIS WORK DONE DECEITFULLY. "Cursed be he," etc. (Jeremiah 48:10). Now, wherefore this severity?
1. It is an insult to God. It is as good as saying to him that his work does not deserve true labour; that it is of so little importance that anything will do for it—the parings of your time, your energy, your thought, your means, your strength. What could be a greater affront to God?
2. The work is so great and urgent that it is traitorous thus to engage in it. What do we say of the watchman sleeping at his post (cf. Ezekiel 33:1-26.33.33.)? of all who betray their trust or neglect it?
3. Such deceitfulness is contagious. How many a young servant of Christ is checked and chilled by the evil influence of professed servants of Christ like himself, but older, less fervent, and who are guilty of that which is here denounced! Such demoralize many in the army of the Lord.
4. It renders the work itself far more difficult. For the world sees clearly and judges keenly those who say they do the work of the Lord. They know what that work is, what it professes to aim at, what the interests involved in it. But they who do that work deceitfully cause men to laugh at all such work, to disbelieve all its claims, and to decline more stoutly than ever to surrender their hearts to it.
5. Such deceivers harden their own hearts, and steep themselves in a fatal slumber, from which there is no waking. Never has Satan a firmer hold on a man than when he can get him to do the work of the Lord deceitfully. The man is fully persuaded that he is all right, and dies with a lie in his right hand, and is not undeceived till, to his awful amazement, he hears the Lord say to him and to all such, "I never knew you; depart from me." That thus it may not be with us, note—
IV. OUR SAFEGUARDS AGAINST SUCH SIN.
1. Solemn recollection and pondering of God's severe anger against it.
2. And chiefly by continually seeking and Cherishing in your hearts that love of Christ which the Holy Spirit creates and maintains there, and which alone, but ever, makes all our work sincere, acceptable, effectual, and true.—C.
Much ease, much peril.
"There is a reference here to wine, or to the process by which it is prepared and finished. It is first expressed from the grape, when it is a thick discoloured fluid or juice. It is then fermented, passing through a process that separates the impurities and settles them as lees at the bottom. Standing thus upon its lees or dregs in some large tub or vat, it is not further improved. A gross and coarse flavour remains, and the scent of the feculent matter stays by and becomes fastened, as it were, in the body of the wine itself. To separate this and so to soften or refine the quality, it is now decantered or drawn off into separate jars or skins. After a while this is done again and then again; and so, being emptied from vessel to vessel, the last remains of the lees or sediment are finally cleared, the crude flavours are reduced, the scent itself is refined by ventilation, and the perfect character is attained." Now, the prophet affirms here that Moab had been at ease from his youth. It is difficult in the face of the somewhat checkered history of Moab to see the exact meaning of this. Probably he refers to the long lapse of time since their great and awful defeat told of in 2 Kings 3:21. Some two centuries and a half had rolled away since that dread day, and in that interval Moab regained all, and more than all, of its former prosperity. For the land was beautiful and rich in the extreme. Its pastures were covered over with sheep and its valleys with corn. The very name "Moab" is thought to mean the land of desire, that is, the desirable land. Now, during these long periods, the description here given is applicable. They had enjoyed much ease, and the natural evils engendered by their cruel idolatrous system had become more fixed and settled; "their scent had not changed." The truth, therefore, which is here taught is that prolonged and abundant ease, however coveted by men, is full of peril to their higher nature, and tends continually to the deterioration of character and the hardening of the habit of evil. Now, we note that—
I. GOD IS EVER TEACHING US THIS TRUTH.
1. In his Word. Cf. Psalms 55:19, "Because they have no changes," etc. Cf. also Hebrews 12:1-58.12.29; where the writer urges the acceptance of the Divine chastisements on the ground that no child of God is without them. "For what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" And as we go over the roll of names of patriarchs, prophets, apostles, saints, and above all the Son of God—not one was without chastisement. Of Christ it is said, "The chastisement of our peace was upon him" (Isaiah 53:1-23.53.12.). And so in the history of the chosen people. How they were moved from vessel to vessel! What changes and adversities, what agitation and tossing about by wars, rebellions, invasions, captivities, etc; they had to endure! And so of the history of the Church! What a checkered and often tumultuous and much tried career was allotted to her! All these illustrations from God's Word, showing the determination of God that his people should not suffer the peril of overmuch ease and become as Moab, and as they who because they have no changes, therefore, etc.
2. By analogy. God suffers nothing to be without change. Even the rocks and hills, the solid globe, all have experienced, and do and will experience, change. The seasons alternate in their orderly change. Storm and tempest cleanse the air which, as in the Swiss valleys, would otherwise become stagnant. The great sea one prophet describes as "the troubled sea," because it can never be quiet. And yet more is this refusal of ease and quiet, this law of change, seen in all forms of life.
(1) In vegetable life. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die," etc. And it springs up, "First the blade, then the ear, then," etc. All the varied and ever acting processes of change in the whole plant world are in proof.
(2) In animal life. Change is ever proceeding there. Even when we are asleep the work still goes on. For it to be otherwise is dissolution and death.
(3) In mental life. Not to have that aroused, stirred by the study of fresh truth and the readjustment of old, would be to condemn to feebleness and semi-idiocy.
(4) In social life.
"The old order changeth, giving place to new ….
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world."
(5) In ecclesiastical life. What was the Reformation but the tempest storm that rushed through the valleys of the Church life of that day, where the air had become stagnant and so corrupt and poisonous that men could not breathe it and live? But the wild storm came and the air was made pure, not in the reformed lands alone, though there chiefly, but in those also that cling to the old faith. Such corruption and abominableness as characterized the ante-Reformation Church were not again possible.
(6) In political life. Where that is healthy, overmuch ease is not possible. It has not been so with us. It has in the empires of the East, China, etc; and see the result.
(7) In moral life. Virtue must be tried, there must be conflict and struggle if it is to continue and grow more truly itself. Hence, as in all other forms of life, we should conclude that the moral law would hold good in the spiritual life. And that this is so we learn also:
3. By experience. We do not glide into heaven. We are not translated, whilst in a trance, out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God. But the often severe spiritual conflicts of repentance and confession and striving against sin. "Yea, we must fight if we would win." And God's providence without us as well as his Spirit within is ever forbidding our being at ease continually. Sorrows and losses, temptations and trials, changes and adversities,—they are ever "moving us from vessel to vessel." God forces on us "changes," lest we fear not his Name.
II. BUT WHY IS ALL THIS? Because in our nature there are rooted evils which can only be got rid of by the action of this law of change. Such evils are:
1. Self-will. You have seen a mountain stream come brawling along over its stony bed. But on it goes, heeding not until, right in mid-stream, there is a huge rock. Down comes the stream full tilt against it, as if it were saying, "Just you get out of my way." But that is precisely the thing the rock does not do, and so the stream comes right against it. And then what a fuss, and a froth, and a foam there arises! but the rook does not move, and after a moment you will see the stream gliding softly, smoothly, quietly round the rock, and going more gently on its way. That is one of the ten thousand natural parables with which the world is full. That stream of our self-will, determined to go its own way, rushes on its course. The rock of God's law of change and adversity and trial stands in its way and will not move, and the stream of self-will is broken against it, as God intended it should be. Only by this law can this evil be cured.
2. Pride. Trial forces men to call on God.
3. Unbelief. This law of trouble and change shatters the materialism and atheism of the present day. They break down, and the soul in the day of its trouble calls upon God.
4. Selfishness. Ease fosters this, as it fosters all those other evils named. But trial, adversity, teach men to be "touched with the feeling" of their brethren's infirmities.
5. Love of the world; and
6. Indolence. These which ease fosters, God's law of change does much to cure.
III. HOW, THEN, SHOULD WE BEAR OURSELVES TOWARDS THIS LAW OF CHASTENING CHANGE? Cf. Hebrews 12:1-58.12.29; which teaches:
1. That we do not despise it. By denying it, or by defying it. Some do this and persevere in the sins which it was designed to amend.
2. That we do not "faint" under it. We are not to give up in despair, letting the hands hang down and the knees totter and become feeble. But we are to take this law as a spur and lash and ask, "Wherefore dost thou contend with me?" and see to it that we amend. But:
3. Submit ourselves unto God. "Shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father," etc.? Let his will be ours; let his way our way.
"He always wins who sides with thee;
No chance by him is lost;
Thy will is sweetest to him when
It triumphs at his cost."
Then let us welcome whatever God sends, trying though it be, remembering the peril of ease and the sure profit of trial.—C.
Touching the apple of God's eye.
A father may chasten his son, but will be very wroth if he sees another man so dealing with him. No one may punish the child but the child's father. Now, thus is it with the Lord and his people. He will, he dogs, punish them himself, but he allows none other to do so; or, if they presume to touch them, as Moab had done to Israel, then sure, if not swift, vengeance follows. Then is fulfilled the saying, "He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of mine eye" (Deuteronomy 32:10; Zechariah 2:8). Now, why is this? The case supposed of the father who, though he chastens his own son, is yet angry if another touch him, may help us to answer this question.
1. The child is under no obligation to the stranger. The father has right to claim all obedience from his child; not so another.
2. The child is not beloved by a stranger. Anger and revenge can alone impel the stranger to do the child harm. But these are the last motives, are never the motives, of the chastisements the father inflicts.
3. The child is unknown to the stranger or but little known. Such a one, therefore, even if he be not actuated by evil motives, cannot possibly deal wisely with one of whom and whose character, circumstances, and needs he is ignorant.
4. The child will get no good from chastisement by a stranger. A father's chastisement, because of the father's love, cannot but have a mighty moral influence upon the child for his good. "What son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" But what good could come, or ever did come, to Israel and Judah from the cruelties inflicted upon them by such. people as the Moabites, and of which the prophet here tells?
5. The child will very likely be dealt cruelly and injuriously with by a stranger. A father will chasten for his child's profit; wisdom and love will guide him. True, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews says, "We have had fathers of our flesh who verily chastened us after their own pleasure." But we trust that his experience was a limited one, and that there were, and yet more that there are, but few lathers who "for their own pleasure" would chastise their children.
6. And the child, with all its guilt—in the case of the Lord's children—deserves to suffer less than they who have presumed to punish him. Israel and Judah were guilty without doubt; but were Moab and Ammon, Babylon and the rest, less guilty? Had they nothing to answer for? Had they not far more? And so, whilst the sin of a child of God is sin indeed, yet it does not make him so heinous, so black, so repulsive, as the persistent, high-handed, never-repented-of sin of the godless, the profane, and the unbeliever. To see one who is chargeable with great sin punishing one whose sin is comparatively trivial; the man who had incurred the debt of ten thousand talents taking by the throat him whose debt was but a hundred pence;—that is evidently a monstrous thing.
7. But chief of all, because God's people are God's children in Christ. We are identified with the well beloved Son. "Members of his body, his flesh and his bones, one with him." It is so, but it is not so with those who have never yielded themselves to God. Such surrender, which is faith, vitalizes the connection between us and God, and he becomes our Father, in a sense that he never was before. Conclusion. All history demonstrates the truth now insisted on, that "he that toucheth you," etc. Let us thank God that he will suffer none to chasten us but himself. Seek that such chastisement may be no longer necessary. Strive to do good to all, "especially to them that are of the household of faith," and tremble to do them harm. "Whosoever offendeth one of these little ones," said our Lord, "it were better for him that a millstone," etc.—C.
The graces of God's Spirit are like choice flowers and fruits. They will not grow just anywhere, nor without cultivation and careful tending, and they are easily destroyed. Not so with moral evils like pride. They are as the ill weeds which grow apace. They will grow anywhere, and require no cultivation; the more you let them alone the more they will increase, and, do what you will, you can hardly destroy them. Now, concerning this ill weed, pride, note—
I. THAT IT IS VERY HATEFUL IN THE SIGHT OF GOD. See here, in this verse, with what varied names it is branded. Evil names, all of them. And turn to the many utterances in Scripture concerning this same sin, and the condemnation of God upon it will be yet more clearly seen. "There never was a saint yet that grew proud of his fine feathers, but what the Lord plucked them out by and by; there never yet was an angel that had pride in his heart, but he lost his wings, and fell into Gehenna, as Satan and those fallen angels did; and there shall never be a saint who indulges self-conceit and pride and self-confidence, but the Lord will spoil his glories, and trample his honours in the mire, and make him cry out yet again, 'Lord, have mercy upon me!' less than the least of all saints, and the 'very chief of sinners.' The first Adam was for self-exaltation, and to be as gods; the second bids us be as he was, 'meek and lowly in heart.'"
II. ITS SIGNS AND TOKENS. Sometimes it is so concealed and masked that only a very intimate acquaintance with the man enables you to detect it; and sometimes the man himself may be unaware how proud he is, and may deem himself a very Moses for meekness, when he is just the reverse. But at other times it may be discerned in the countenance. There is "a proud look." The face is the dial plate of the character, "the expression" of what lies silent in the mind. Conduct yet more betrays it. Note how a man acts towards those whom he deems superior or inferior to himself; he will fawn upon the former, and be disdainful towards the latter. He will "mind high things," but will not "condescend to them that are of low estate." Who does not know pride's hateful ways, and has not had to suffer from them; and also, alas! has made others suffer from them at one time or another? But note—
III. SOME OF ITS OCCASIONS AND EXCITEMENTS.
1. Birth is one of them; as if a man chose his own father and mother. Men pride themselves that they come of a certain family, that they are "well born." "We are Abraham's children;" what a multitude of sorrows did that notion originate! They who pride themselves on those who were their ancestors in generations gone by are, as one has quaintly said,." like those useful vegetables of which we are wont to eat—the best part of them is underground."
2. Physical strength. "It always seems to me to be a very insane thing for a man to glory in his animal force, for there can be no merit in it. In the strength of those brawny limbs of theirs and those powerful muscles, some vaunt themselves abundantly. Though 'the Lord taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man,' yet some count it a very wonderful thing that they can outrun or outleap their fellows. O athlete, though thou be strong as Samson or swift as Asahel, what hast thou that thou hast not received? Hadst thou been born with a tendency to consumption, or with some other hereditary weakness, couldst thou have prevented it? And now that thou art strong, art thou to be praised for that, any more than a horse or a steam engine?" (Spurgeon).
3. Beauty. What a fount of pride this is!
4. And talent—of intellect, power of application, artistic taste, and the like.
5. Acquirements. "I have noticed of self-made men," says one, "that they generally have great respect for their Maker." And he who has acquired wealth is in sore peril of the pride which it is apt to beget. Position, influence, high office, and the like,—these, too, are acquirements won, it may be, by diligent toil, yet, when won, may do a man much harm by generating an unhallowed pride. And even God's grace to a man in giving him a name and a place amongst sincerely religious men, even this may be an occasion of pride. Our best works may be made fuel to the fire of pride. "The demon of pride was born with us, and it will not die one hour before us. It is so woven into the very warp and woof of our nature that, till we are wrapt in our winding sheet, we shall never be completely rid of it."
IV. SOME OF ITS MANY EVILS. They are such as these:
1. It leads to the forgetting of God. "What hast thou that thou hast not received?" (1 Corinthians 9:7). "Is not this great Babylon that I have built?" so spake the God-forgetting and therefore the God-forsaken Nebuchadnezzar" (Daniel 4:30).
2. It sets but little value upon God. God dwindles in the proud man's esteem, whilst to himself he himself ever grows greater. The reverse of John the Baptist's thought is his. John said, "He must increase, but I must decrease." The proud man changes the place of the "he" and the "I."
3. It makes a man despise his fellows. He looks down upon them, and therefore is unjust to them.
4. It leads him to make bad use of what gifts he has. He is so taken up with admiration of the machinery that he fails to apply it to those ends which it was designed to serve.
5. It is the prelude not seldom to some great fall. "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
6. It makes a man content with the inferior, when, instead of so admiring what he has, he should be aspiring after what is higher and better still. It is said of an artist that, when he had painted a picture which satisfied himself, he threw away his brushes; for now, he said, "I never shall go beyond this." And so he who is self-satisfied will never rise to a higher degree.
7. It dishonours Christ and his cause. A proud Christian helps the devil, for he makes men hate Christianity and all belonging to it.
V. SALUTARY SUGGESTIONS FOR ITS CURE.
1. How entirely all our gifts are gifts! Much as we may think of ourselves on account of them, we are excelled by very many. If we have many gifts, that does but mean much and solemn responsibility. How ill it would fare with us were we to be called now to account for the use we have made of our gifts in the past! How but for the mercy of God in Christ, the most gifted is but a poor lost sinner, cast out from the presence of God forever!—C.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
The departed praise of Moab.
I. NOT FOR WANT OF DISPOSITION TO PRAISE. If the things had still remained which people had been in the habit of praising, they would have gone on praising. But the God of righteousness takes them away, and then there is necessary silence. Instead of praise there is humiliation, astonishment at a change so complete, but no insight into the hollowness and instability of that which had been praised. If it had all come back again, it would have been praised as much as ever. Thus we see—
II. A THING MAY BE PRAISED WITHOUT BEING PRAISEWORTHY. This can easily be understood from the experience of many who once praised things to which they are now indifferent, which they may even utterly condemn. Why this change? It may be to some extent from change in the things, but it more frequently comes from growth and increase of light and the reception of higher principles. We have ever to be on ore: guard against what is merely popular. Not in a cynical way, as if we grudged any one success, but recollecting what power belongs to fashion and to the love of pleasure. Let our effort be to discern, measure, and profit by intrinsic excellence.
III. THINGS NOT PRAISEWORTHY MAY GET THE HIGHEST PRAISE. Mere cleverness and astuteness, the exercise of power irrespective of ends, visible and material success on a large scale,—these attract the laudations of inconsiderate men. This is just what we may expect. If things the most praiseworthy, fullest of virtue and blessing, are yet neglected by the eyes of those who have opportunity to see them, then it is little wonder that the things most approved by the common multitude are those which God has branded as utterly bad. What changes need to be effected in human judgments, that we may be willing to burn what we adored and adore what we would have burned!
IV. GOD GIVES FRESH TOPICS OF PRAISE IF THERE BE A DISPOSITION TO CONSIDER THEM. Those whose tongues had been full of the praises of Moab needed not to be silent. The very overthrow of Moab would be a signal for praise and congratulation among the good. When the unhallowed praises of men are silenced by destruction of the things they praised, then angels begin to sing. And they who praise low, earthly things may have their thoughts introduced to heavenly ones, and then they will discover what man was made to praise. How the words that are exaggerated and altogether disproportioned when applied to the works of men, have in them an exquisite fitness when we speak of the works of God or of Christ, or of men properly engaged in Christian service!—Y.
The consequence of a wrong confidence.
I. THE CAPTURE WAS THEIR OWN FAULT. Not all capture is so. There may be a going into durance for conscience' sake; there may be the necessary surrender to superior strength; the captured one may be the victim for a time to the unscrupulous selfishness of others. We must be careful not to draw rash conclusions from suffering to sin; for therein we may be adding suffering to suffering. As a rule, when suffering comes from sin, the sufferer is not left without a witness in his own heart. But inasmuch as it is a whole people that is here suffering nationally, there needs to be a distinct mention of why they are suffering. We are also reminded how important it is to make the distinction between what comes through our own fault and what comes through other causes.
II. WRONG OBJECTS OF TRUST ALWAYS INVOLVE SOME DISASTER, It is but the form that differs; the real, essential mischief is always there. God mentions here the best things a man can have outside of God himself. There is his own worth, that into which he puts his energy, skill, and experience; where also he profits by the work of those who have gone before him. There are also the pleasures of life, all that a man, in his best judgment, reckons to be best. Moab would reckon among its pleasures its men of war, its chosen young men, its accumulation of wealth. But all these things, solid and extensive as they look, give no guarantee of abiding security and prosperity. They may, by the very falsehood of appearances, become the ministers of ruin. The case is as if a plant should seek root in its own substance, as if a man should try to maintain physical life from his own body. And to trust other people is an even more precarious ground of support than we find in ourselves. For in ourselves there is at all events the element of self-interest to help us. No doubt, by the work and the pleasures here mentioned, there is a reference to the idol worshipped in Moab, which indeed is mentioned in the same verse. We can hardly understand the feeling ourselves, but great must have been the confidence of Moab in its god; and this, of course, amounted to nothing else than its own imagination of deity. Be we may be trusting in an apparent connection with God, in forms of religion, in works that look as if they were meant for God's glory and for our good. But nothing is of any use as a ground of confidence unless it has a living connection with the Infinite and the Eternal.—Y.
Doing the work of Jehovah deceitfully.
I. THE ENTRUSTING OF JEHOVAH'S WORK TO THE HANDS OF MEN. Here is a great work of judgment, and Jehovah effects such works either through operations of his own or through agents to whom he makes the awful duty evident. What he has done himself is sufficiently illustrated in many terrible visitations recorded in the Old Testament; nor is there entire absence of such a record in the New. But men have also been called to visit upon others their iniquity in a solemn and thorough way. That men have made the command of God a pretext for the greatest cruelties, and for indiscriminate slaughter on an extensive scale, does not in the least alter the fact that such commands have been given—given out of the greatest wisdom and with the best results. Every nation reckons that the temporal life of its subjects is at its disposal; they must be ready to serve with life or in death, as may be required. And shall not the God of all the earth dispose of temporal life according as his all-comprehending wisdom sees may be best for the whole world and for all ages?
II. THE TEMPTATIONS TO DO THIS WORK DECEITFULLY. Not, perhaps, with an intention to deceive, but with sophistical evasions, with attempts to make something less than completeness seem complete. Such an act was that of Saul when he went out with a stern command ringing in his ears—the command of one proved to be a prophet, that he should utterly slay the Amalekites. He seemed to have reason in the pleas he urged for the imperfect execution of the command. And so it may often be. There looks to be needless severity, needless waste. Oftentimes there is an amount of suffering, suffering even of the innocent, which takes all will and vigour out of the arm that should strike God's blow. Besides, it needs to be always borne in mind that the Word of God requiring severity and suffering is only a part of God's work. We shrink from it through mere sensitiveness to pain, But there is another large sphere of work where there is plain benefit, where we have to make no one suffer, where we are contributors to something positive. The husbandman is not forever plucking up weeds; his main work is to sow good seed and reap it. "Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully" is a word that has its correspondence in Paul's ejaculation, "Woe is me if! preach not the gospel." Jesus put his servants through an exacting discipline, a self-revealing one, in order that they might do his work thoroughly, uprooting all evil, getting down to proper foundations, making no compromises, ready for all persecutions. They who, after preparation and warning and putting their hands to the work, yet do that work with slack hands, cannot wonder if God should in due time make manifest his anger with them for their heedlessness..—Y.
Jeremiah 48:11, Jeremiah 48:12
Moab settled, on the lees.
Here we find a not uncommon difficulty in the Old Testament, namely, that of an illustration which to us is by no means so clear as the thing to be illustrated. The words are spoken with regard to a wine country. This will be seen on looking at the references in Jeremiah 48:32, Jeremiah 48:33 to the wine of Sibmah, the spoiled vintage, the wine that has failed from the wine presses, the silence where once was shouting of those who trod the grapes. An illustration drawn from the process of making wine perfect was, therefore, most appropriate. It would be understood and convey its lesson at once to those of the right disposition. We, however, must go to the underlying truth at once, without pretending to see the propriety of the illustration in all its parts. Moreover, we must look on Moab itself as representative of individuals. We have to look at individuals, at the possibilities of their life, at the experiences they ought to pass through, and the results which come from missing those experiences.
I. THE POSSIBILITIES OF LIFE. "Moab hath settled on his lees." Moab is, therefore, compared to wine. There are sour grapes with which nothing can be done; but there are also grapes of splendid natural quality, that have had the best culture of the vineyard and have come to all due ripeness. That which is to become perfect wine starts from a fruit of which much is expected. The wine producer knows that his wine will be according to his grapes. Now, from Moab much was expected; this truth being involved in the very comparison to wine. There was something that had in it the making of an exquisite taste and an exquisite scent.
II. HOW THE POSSIBILITIES ARE MISSED. There is the chance of ease, enjoyment, and self-indulgence, and this chance is ignobly accepted. Of some men the character is tried by difficulties and repeated discouragements; the strength and worth that lie deep in them are manifested by their perseverance. Other men are tried by the absence of difficulties. They are born to a competency. As children they have whatever money can provide for in the way of instruction and pleasure. Everything external to them is made as easy as it can be made. Many voices, near to them every day and all day long, say, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years: take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." Everything depends on the way the young man, placed in such circumstances, looks.
III. THE RESULT OF NEGLECTED DISCIPLINE. Possessions give opportunities of service, opportunities denied to many, who see the needs of others, have the will to meet them, and lack the power. Is it not a righteous thing that God should deal severely with those whose circumstances give them the means and the time for doing great good, and yet who fill their lives with selfish pleasure? Such lives will come out at last in pitiable contrast with what they might have been. To change the figure: "If the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? henceforth it is good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men." Note how the vessels that should have been used toward the perfection of the wine, and the bottles that should have held them, become at last useless. If we will not use our opportunities for God's purpose, God will secure, in due time, that we should not use them for our own.—Y.
Jeremiah 48:26, Jeremiah 48:27
Moab exulting over fallen Israel.
Here is another allusion to a wine country. Moab knew well what it was to drink to excess. The drunkard with his silly talk and behavior is a common object of ridicule everywhere. And Moab shall become to other nations abject and degraded as the drunkard. This is the end of its wrong excitement over the fall of Israel Moab has seen Israel in its days of power and glory and pride, and, cooing, has feared. Could the days of Balak and the prophecies of Balaam be forgotten? Nor is it likely that Israel would be without unseemly exultations and reciprocal jealousies. And now at last Israel falls. And all that Moab can take knowledge of is the fact of the fall. That it has been caused by disobedience and rebellion, that Jehovah is the real Author of it and not the King of Babylon, who is but as Jehovah's sword, Moab cannot well have means for knowing. All it can see is a rival fallen, and. as it seems permanently fallen. Therefore Moab must be taught a lesson. In exulting over Israel it is exulting against Jehovah. Indeed, there is no reason why we should reject the notion of some open and bold comparison between the weakness of Jehovah, God of Israel, and the strength of Chemosh, god of Moab. As if the people said, "See how strong Chemosh is; for we are still here, though Babylonian armies have not been far from us! and see how weak Jehovah is; for the nation to whom he was God is gone into a distant captivity!" To exult over the fall of those who have been avowedly the servants of God is a dangerous thing to do. The man who is tempted and falls should be an object of pity, one to be helped up and reinstated, even though the work needed for this be one with some loss and risk to ourselves. And surely we should be especially careful not to rejoice over the calamities of those whose calamity seems to give us a better chance. Moab had now to drink to the dregs a cup of shame, because it had failed to comprehend the duty of rejoicing with those who rejoiced and weeping with those who wept.—Y.
The broken vessel
I. NOT BROKEN BY ACCIDENT. A vessel broken by accident would not have furnished the proper figure. Lives that are as real serviceable vessels in the hand of God never do get broken by accident. Earthen vessels though they often be, there is a providence and a watchfulness which preserves them till their work is done. They are kept through days of persecution; they are restored from sickness; they live on into a good old age, while men apparently stronger and of greater physical resource are stricken down. And when there seems sometimes a premature and unaccountable breaking, yet it is really to be regarded in another light, namely, as a change to higher and fuller service.
II. NOT BROKEN BY CAPRICE. That which is not broken accidentally must have been broken purposely. And if purposely, either with a reason or through mere recklessness. Men too often destroy things in a reckless, thoughtless way, from the first unconsidered impulse that comes into the mind. It is an action in which is expressed, by a sort of bravado, the sentiment that a man may do what he likes with his own. But God would ever have us feel that, though he has made the world and all that therein is, his disposition of these works is regulated by fixed laws, and our disposition of things under our control should be regulated in the same way. Never let it be said of us that we have destroyed or injured anything without sufficient reason. We should not even pull a flower to pieces through mere thoughtlessness, mere vacuity of mind.
III. BROKEN FOR A SUFFICIENT REASON. Moab is a vessel in which there is no pleasure. It is of no real use to God. Whether we shall be vessels of use to God or not depends upon whether we put ourselves as clay into his hands as Potter. Moab was a nation which had loved to shape its own life, to hew its own designs. And just in proportion as it persevered in this path did it become useless to God. Appearance is only a small thing. The first consideration is use. The commonest earthenware pitcher, if without a flaw, is worth more than a cracked golden pitcher that will hold no water—worth more, that is, as a pitcher. Gold is a rare, glittering, fascinating thing compared with common earth, but after all it is the common earth out of which vessels are made for daily use. The real value of a human life depends upon what God gets out of it.—Y.
Jeremiah 48:43, Jeremiah 48:44
No ultimate escape.
I. THERE ARE TEMPORARY EVASIONS OF DOOM. As there are great varieties of wickedness, so there is also great variety in the consequences of it. Sometimes the visitation is sudden, quick, and terrible, as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira. But oftener men go on sinning with no bad consequences to themselves, so far as appearance goes. They do not lose health; they do not seem to lose reputation; there are no checks in their success; and perhaps they even furnish an example whereby worldly wisdom hangs its maxim that it is not well to be too particular. The frequent prosperity of the wicked is indeed a fact not at all concealed or qualified in the Scriptures. A man of the world takes his own worldly way to keep peril at a distance, and he seems to fall into no pit, no snare. Let all this be allowed. Nothing is gained by trying to make out that the wicked have no advantages. It was an old-world legend that some men sold themselves to the devil, and that his protection secured to them their wonderful immunities and prosperity.
II. THERE IS NO WAY OF ESCAPE PROM DANGER SAVE GOD'S WAY. All that is gained is in the way of postponement. Wicked men travel in a narrowing path, and at last are shut up to face the judgments of God. The moment of what seems to them complete success is quickly followed by the moment of complete collapse. We have the crowning illustration of this in the death of Jesus. His enemies seemed to have succeeded. All their efforts to bring his death about had been wonderfully favoured. And what could they do but be jubilant when he was actually dead? The death of Jesus, however, was really a condition for the utter downfall of these enemies. The grave of Jesus, so to speak, was the snare in which spiritual evil was finally taken and overcome. It is one of the triumphs of faith to be well assured in our own hearts that there is no ultimate escape for wickedness. God has his own wise reasons in tolerating wicked men for a long time, and the evil they do to others is not so great in reality as it is in appearance. They cannot inflict more than outward suffering and inconvenience on God's people. Indeed, the mischief they mean to do can be wonderfully transmuted to good.—Y.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Jeremiah 48". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany