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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Jeremiah 49

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. XLIX.

The judgment of the Ammonites: their restoration. The judgment of Edom, of Damascus, of Kedar, of Hazor, and of Elam. The restoration of Elam.

Before Christ 599.


Verse 1

Jeremiah 49:1. Concerning the Ammonites The evils here foretold happened about the same time with those spoken of in the preceding chapter; that is to say, about five years after the taking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. Ammon and Moab are generally joined together, as they were united by blood, by interest, and by vicinity. Instead of their king, here, and in Jeremiah 49:3. Houbigant reads Malkam, the idol of the Ammonites. God greatly afflicted those parts of the kingdom of Israel which lay on the east side of Jordan, first, by Hazael, then by Tiglath-pileser; and afterwards delivered up the whole kingdom to be carried away captive by Salmanezer. Soon after which time, it is probable, the Ammonites possessed themselves of Gad, or of Gilead, which belonged to that tribe, and lay near their territories. See Amos 1:13. But God's dispossessing the Israelites gave them no right to invade their inheritance, especially when they had been so tender of the Ammonites, as not to invade their possessions in their march towards the land of Canaan. See Deuteronomy 2:19. Judges 11:12. The reason which engaged Nebuchadnezzar to declare war against the Ammonites, was evidently to revenge the death of Gedaliah, who was killed by the order of Baalis king of the Ammonites. See chap. Jeremiah 40:14 and Calmet.


Verse 2

Jeremiah 49:2. Rabbah of the Ammonites A capital city of that country. Her daughters mean the smaller cities or villages.

Then shall Israel be heir, &c.— This is understood to have been fulfilled, when Judas Maccabeus defeated the Ammonites, and took their towns, 1 Maccabees 5:6, &c. Zephaniah speaks in like manner, ch. Jeremiah 2:9. The residue of my people shall spoil them, and the remnant of my people shall possess them. But both prophets may perhaps refer to still future times, when Israel shall be finally restored to their own land, as is frequently foretold of them, and not only recover their own ancient possessions, but succeed likewise to the vacant possessions of their once hostile neighbours, long before extinct and irrecoverably lost.


Verse 3

Jeremiah 49:3. Howl, O Heshbon That is, "When Ai, a city of Ammon, is destroyed, it is time for Heshbon, the chief city of Moab, to lament her danger." The author of the Observations remarks, that the phrase, Run to and fro by the hedges, should rather be understood and rendered, Run—by the garden-walls. Their places of burial in the east are without their cities, as well as their gardens; and consequently their going to them must often be by the garden-walls. The ancient warriors of distinction who were slain in battle, were wont to be carried to the sepulchres of their fathers, as appears from the cases of Josiah, Ahab, and Asahel; and they often go, to weep over the graves of those whom they would honour, especially at first; Observations which, put together, sufficiently account for this passage. See p. 221.


Verse 4

Jeremiah 49:4. Thy flowing valley Valley of Anakim. Houbigant renders the verse, Wherefore dost thou glory in thy valleys? Thy valley is spoiled, O backsliding daughter, who didst trust, &c.


Verse 7

Jeremiah 49:7. Concerning Edom This prophesy respecting Edom refers to the same time with those preceding. See Obad. Jeremiah 49:8, &c. Teman was a city in Edom, the inhabitants whereof were famous for their wisdom. See Job 2:11.


Verse 8

Jeremiah 49:8. Dwell deep, O inhabitants of Dedan See the note on Jeremiah 49:30. The Dedanites were descended from Dedan, a grandson of Abraham, and settled in Arabia. Houbigant renders the last clause of this verse, For I am about to bring ruin upon Esau, or Edom: I will bring upon him the time of vengeance.


Verse 9-10

Jeremiah 49:9-10. If grape-gatherers come, &c.— When the grape-gatherers shall come to thee, they will have no grapes; when nightly thieves, they will plunder as much as seems good to them; Jeremiah 49:10. So will I exhaust Esau; I will open his treasures; nothing shall be hid: His seed shall be spoiled, and his brethren, together with his neighbours; and he shall not be. Houbigant.


Verse 11

Jeremiah 49:11. Leave thy fatherless children This is understood by many to be an irony. See Isaiah 16:4. But there is nothing in the context, says Houbigant, which can lead to this interpretation. I rather understand it as a prophesy; nor was it any thing wonderful that the conquerors should spare the little children and widows, from whom they had nothing to fear; nor that the Edomites should forsake both the one and the other, when compelled to a precipitate flight.


Verse 12

Jeremiah 49:12. Behold, they whose judgment, &c.— That is, the Jews; who, in all human appearance, might have expected favour at God's hand, in regard to the gracious promises made to them and to their fathers. See chap. Jeremiah 25:29.


Verse 14

Jeremiah 49:14. I have heard a rumour, &c.— The prophets frequently represent God as a mighty monarch, summoning nations, and sending them where he will, to execute his orders. See Isaiah 13:2; Isaiah 18:3. The Chaldeans are here referred to.


Verse 15

Jeremiah 49:15. Small, &c.— Behold, I have made thee of small account among the nations, contemptible among the men of whom thou art horribly afraid.


Verse 16

Jeremiah 49:16. Thy terribleness, &c.— "Thou hast been formerly terrible to all about thee; the confidence thou hast in thy strength, hath rendered thee careless and secure, and given thine enemies an advantage over thee." We learn from St. Jerome, who lived in the neighbourhood, that Idumaea was a rocky mountainous country, and that many of the inhabitants dwelt in caves dug out of the rocks and hills. See chap. Jer 1:53. Amos 9:2.


Verse 19

Jeremiah 49:19. Behold, &c.— Maundrell, speaking of the Jordan, says, that the bank of the river is so beset with bushes and trees, such as tamarisks, willows, oleanders, that you can see no water till you have made your way through them. In this thicket anciently (and the same is reported of it at this very day) several sorts of wild beasts were wont to harbour themselves, who being washed out of their covert by the overflowings of the river, gave occasion to the allusion here and ch. Jeremiah 50:44. See his Journey from Aleppo, p. 82 and Bishop Lowth's 6th Prelection. Nebuchadrezzar and his army are pointed out by this similitude. Houbigant and Schultens render this verse, And I will make him dart out thence, and run. Instead of, The habitation of the strong, Houbigant reads, Upon the ancient pastures; and the latter part of the verse, What chosen soldier will defend thee? For who is like me, or who will dare to stir me up, or where is that shepherd who can stand before me? The word shepherd is used in opposition to the lion before mentioned; as if he had said, "A shepherd may as well encounter a lion, as the best-accoutred warrior contend against the Almighty, or those whom he makes the instruments of his vengeance." See Calmet, and Lowth.


Verse 20

Jeremiah 49:20. Surely the least of the flock shall draw them Surely the tender lambs of the flock shall be carried away; their pastures shall be laid waste even in their presence. Houbigant. Others, by the least of the flock, understand the common soldiers in the Chaldean army; "any one of whom (says the prophet) shall have sufficient strength and courage to defeat the Idumaean forces."


Verse 23

Jeremiah 49:23. Concerning Damascus Damascus was the capital of the kingdom of Syria, and had seemingly at this time swallowed up all the other petty sovereignties of that country. Isaiah had before uttered a prophesy concerning it of a calamitous import, ch. 17 which had been fulfilled by Tiglath-pileser's taking it, and carrying the people captives to Kir, 2 Kings 16:9. Amos also had foretold the same event, ch. Jeremiah 1:3-5. But it had recovered itself after the fall of the Assyrian empire, and is here doomed to suffer again the like calamities from the resentment of Nebuchadrezzar, probably about the same time with the other neighbouring nations.

Hamath, &c.— Hamath and Arpad are often joined together. Hamath was a frontier town lying on the borders of Judaea towards Syria; thence called the entrance of Hamath. Arpad is otherwise called Arphad, the habitation of the Arvadites. Genesis 10:18. Instead of, There is sorrow on the sea, Houbigant reads, They fluctuate as the sea; they cannot be at rest. Comp. Isaiah 57:20.

There is sorrow on the sea, &c.— דאגה בים נמגו namogu baiiam deagah. They are melted in a sea of solitude. This is a literal translation of the text, and appears to me preferable in sense to any of the interpretations which I have hitherto met with.


Verse 25

Jeremiah 49:25. How is the city of praise not left A city of praise, is a city of fame and renown: compare chap. Jeremiah 33:9, Jeremiah 51:41 and Isaiah 62:7. This is spoken in the person of the king, or some inhabitant of Damascus, bewailing the lot of so famous and pleasant a city. Houbigant renders the verse, How shall I leave a city which is my glory, a city which is so delighted to me?


Verse 27

Jeremiah 49:27. The palaces of Ben-hadad The name of several kings of Syria. See 1 Kings 15:18; 1 Kings 15:34.


Verse 28

Jeremiah 49:28. Concerning Kedar, &c.— The kingdoms whose metropolis is Hazor or Petra; so called, according to Strabo, because it is guarded by a πετρα, or rock, on all sides. See Vitringa on Isaiah 21:13 and Genesis 25:13.


Verse 29

Jeremiah 49:29. Their curtains Their skins or tents.


Verse 30

Jeremiah 49:30. Dwell deep, O ye inhabitants of Hazor When the Arabs have drawn upon themselves so general a resentment of the more fixed inhabitants of those countries, that they think themselves unable to stand against them, they withdraw into the depths of the great wilderness, where none can follow them with hope of success. This appears by a passage in Maillet's Letters, (Let. 1: p. 24.) and is confirmed by other writers: D'Arvieux particularly informs us, that the Arabs will be ready to decamp in less than two hours' warning, and, retiring immediately into the deserts, render it impossible for other nations, even the most powerful, to conquer them, they not daring to venture far into deserts where the Arabs alone know how to steer their course, so as to hit upon places of water and forage. Is it not then most probable, that the dwelling deep which Jeremiah here recommends to the Arab tribes, means this plunging far into the deserts; rather than the going into deep caves and dens, as Grotius and other commentators suppose? That way of endeavouring to avoid the fury of an enemy was indeed practised, not only before the days of our prophet, as appears from Judges 6:2. 1 Samuel 13:6 but long after, as we learn from the croisade writers: but those learned men will find it extremely difficult, I believe, to produce any passages which shew, that the Arabs who live in tents, were wont to look upon this as a proper method for them to take: their way is to retire far into the deserts, not into the bowels of the earth; and so far are they from making caves their refuge, that it is observed of this nation, that when they possess cities and palaces, they never will dwell in them, looking upon such places rather as traps, than as places of defence, as in similar cases they were looked upon anciently. See Sandys' Travels, p. 158. La Roque Voy. dans la Pal. p. 111 and 1 Samuel 23:7. Wherever the croisade writers speak of retiring into caves to avoid danger, it is of a people who lived a settled kind of life, not a flitting one in tents, like that of the Arabs. That the Hazor, which is here directed to get far off, and to dwell deep, was a nation that lived in tents, appears from this very passage. "Arise," said Nebuchadrezzar to his people, when he conceived a purpose against Hazor, "Get ye up to the wealthy nation which dwelleth without care, which have neither gates nor bars; which dwell alone:" a plain description of the Bedouin way of living; and therefore this dwelling deep hardly admits of any other meaning, if we would interpret the Scriptures from eastern customs. I cannot but observe further, that the words which the prophet uses, perfectly agree with this explication; Flee, get you far off, dwell deep, &c. The caves to which the eastern people have been wont to retire are in their very towns, or in the neighbourhood of their dwelling at least, and not far off. Such was that which Asa made, chap. Jeremiah 41:7. 9. As the same term of dwelling deep is applied to the Dedanites, Jeremiah 49:8 it is reasonable to suppose that they also were a tribe of Arabs who lived in tents. The learned, from other considerations, have said the same thing. See Vitringa on Isaiah 21:13. This sense of the original word, according to which deep is used for far off, seems to be confirmed by other passages: Deeply revolting from God, Isaiah 31:6 signifies departing far from him. See the Observations, p. 59.


Verse 31

Jeremiah 49:31. Arise, &c.— The prophet gives the Chaldeans a commission from God to undertake this expedition, and seize upon the wealth of the inhabitants of Kedar; who are described from their peculiarity of living in tents in the wilderness.


Verse 34

Jeremiah 49:34. Against Elam Concerning Elam. Elam we find to have been an independent kingdom in the days of Abraham. Genesis 14:1. But I am not of opinion with those writers, who hold that by Elam in Scripture Persia is always meant. There is no doubt but that, when the monarchy of Persia was established under Cyrus, Elam was blended into, and formed a part of it. But before that time Elam and Persia were two distinct kingdoms; of which this may be admitted for proof, that the kingdom of Persia, if Xenophon may be credited as an historian, was never subdued under the dominion of Nebuchadnezzar, but preserved its liberty in alliance with the Medes. Elam, on the contrary, is not only here prophesied of, as destined to become a part of the Babylonian conquests, but is actually spoken of, Daniel 8:2 as a province of the Babylonish empire over which Daniel seems to have presided, having Shushan for the seat of his government. We may therefore conclude Elam to have been, as the name itself would lead us to suppose, the country called by heathen writers Elymais, which Pliny, in conformity with Daniel, describes as separated from Susiana by the river Eulaeus, or Ulay; Nat. Hist. lib. 6: cap. 31. Strabo also gives it the same situation, and in two places mentions the wars that it had carried on with the Susians and Babylonians. Lib. 11: p. 524 lib. 16: p. 744. Shushan, or Susa, was, properly speaking, the capital of Susiana; but it is likely, that when the Babylonians in conjunction with the Susians conquered Elam, they might have annexed it to the government of Susiana, and so the provinces united might have gone indifferently by the name of either Elam or Susiana. If so, Abradates, whom Xenophon styles king of the Susians, and who in the course of the war between the Babylonians and Medes revolted from the former, and joined the latter with his forces (Xenophon. Cyropaed. lib. 6:) had Elam likewise, as well as Susiana, for his kingdom or government, conferred upon him by Nebuchadrezzar, who is said to have had an affection for him; and his revolt from the son of his benefactor will help us to account for the forces of Elam being joined with Media in besieging Babylon, as foretold by Isaiah, ch. Jeremiah 21:2 while the province or country itself may have still remained in the hands of the king of Babylon, who may have entrusted Daniel with the administration of it; till on the final subversion of the Babylonish monarchy it was restored again to its former possessors, who had fought under the banners of the Medes and Persians; as is intimated Jeremiah 49:39.


Verse 36

Jeremiah 49:36. Upon Elam will I bring the four winds That is, enemies from every quarter. The Elamites before their deliverance by Cyrus were in very hard servitude, and dispersed into different countries, to avoid the evils under which they groaned in their own country.


Verse 38

Jeremiah 49:38. And I will set my throne in Elam "Nebuchadrezzar shall place his throne in Elam in token of his intire conquest of that country." See chap. Jeremiah 1:15, Jeremiah 43:10. This is called God's throne, as Nebuchadrezzar is called his servant. See chap. Jeremiah 27:6-7 and Lowth.


Verse 39

Jeremiah 49:39. I will bring again, &c.— When the Lord had resolved to destroy the monarchy of the Chaldeans, he inspired Cyrus with those great designs which he afterwards so successfully executed: who began with setting free his own country; then the Persians and Elamites; subdued all the people who inhabited the countries round, and founded the monarchy of the Persians. Then the Persians and Elamites were re-united under Cyrus, and became the masters of the east. See Calmet and Blayney.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The doom of the Ammonites is now read,

1. The charges against them are, [1.] Illegal seizure of God's heritage. When the king of Assyria subdued and led captive the Gileadites, they immediately took possession of their territories as their own, as if there were no Israelites remaining to inherit the possessions of their brethren. Note; They who are weak will often be oppressed; but there is a day coming when judgment shall sit, and justice be impartially administered. [2.] Apostacy of God. Lot, their father, had transmitted to them the worship of the true God, but they had quickly revolted to idols. [3.] Their vain confidence; they gloried in their vallies flowing with plenty, and in their treasures; as if, by these secured, they could defy their enemies. But they who depart from God have little reason to promise themselves security and ease in their sins.

2. Their judgment is pronounced. The alarm of war is sounded; their invaders are sent from God to spoil and destroy; their cities are burnt with fire; their cries go up; in vain they fly for shelter to the hedges; their kings, priests, and princes together are seized and led into captivity, and the remnant dispersed, and find no favour among the nations whither they wander. Then shall Israel obtain reprisals, seize their country, and be heir unto them that were his heirs, which was fulfilled, 1 Maccabees 5:6 and may perhaps have some respect to the days of the Messiah, Isaiah 11:14.

3. A promise of restoration is added. Afterward I will bring again the captivity of the children of Ammon; temporally, restoring them again to their own land; or spiritually, at the coming of Christ, converting them, and bringing them into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.

2nd, Edom, in the day of Israel's calamity, cried, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof. Psalms 137:7 the cup therefore is next put into her hand. We have,

1. The terrible destruction of the Edomites. The calamity of Esau approaches, the day of their visitation; the inhabitants of Dedan are called upon to flee, and dwell in the depths of the wilderness, to save their lives from the destroyers. The most careful grape-gatherers leave some berries; and the thieves, who break in at night, know when they have enough, and make off; but Edom is stripped bare; nor can all his care to conceal his wealth, keep it from the spoiler, or the secret lurking-places hide the fugitives: his children are destroyed, and his neighbours, so far from helping, share his fate; so that, in the day of his affliction, none of them are left to say, Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive, and let thy widows trust in me; though others consider these words in a contrary sense; and some as a gracious promise to a remnant of Edom who should be turned unto God; and his people, in every time of distress, may with comfort apply them to themselves. Less guilty nations than Edom have drank of the cup, therefore he may not expect to escape unpunished. By an oath, to confirm the immutability of his counsel concerning them, God hath sworn that Bozrah, the capital, and all the other cities, shall become a curse, a reproach, and perpetual desolation, lying in ruinous heaps, without inhabitant, as the cities of Sodom. At God's secret instigation, the Chaldeans, as if invited by an ambassador, come up as to a certain victory; and, depopulated and impoverished, the Edomites shall become a vile and despicable people. For, though dwelling in fortresses which appear impregnable as the craggy rock, God's almighty arm is able and determined to bring them to the dust. With astonishment passengers behold, and hiss, insulting their fearful fall. As a lion, driven from his covert on the banks of Jordan by the rising flood, tears and devours the defenceless sheep, so shall the king of Babylon go up against the habitation of the strong, and Edom shall suddenly flee: or rather it should be rendered, I will cause him (Nebuchadnezzar) to run upon it suddenly, and subdue the country, appointing a deputy over it from among his captains; for who is like me? saith the Lord, able to execute all my purposes, and who will appoint me the time to dispute the battle, or retard the fulfilment of my counsels, and who is that shepherd that will stand before me? what king can defend his subjects against the power of the Almighty Jehovah? Therefore, since such is his decree to destroy Edom, the meanest soldier of the Chaldean army shall be sufficient to conquer the mightiest Edomite, and drag them from their lurking-holes. Amazed at their fall, the earth trembles, or echoes, with the shout of the conquerors, and the cries of the vanquished; the sound of which reaches the distant shores.

2. All their efforts to help themselves will be vain. Their boasted wisdom now shall fail them, and all their schemes prove abortive. And their terribleness, their mighty armies, and strong fortresses, which in the pride of their hearts they thought invincible, shall deceive them; when, swift as an eagle, the destroyer shall come up against them, and invest their capital. These terrible warriors, frighted, as a woman in the pangs of travail, should abandon themselves to despair, and fall an easy prey; or thy terribleness, which some render thine idol, be a vain protection in the day of their calamity. Note; When God strikes, the strong men must bow themselves; for there is neither counsel nor might against the Lord.

3rdly, Syria, with Damascus the capital, and the other chief cities, are next brought to the bar, and doomed to a terrible overthrow. No sooner are the tidings heard of the victorious armies of Babylon approaching, than instant confusion and terrors seize the inhabitants of the land. The anguish spreads to the most distant border of the sea; or, like its troubled waves, so restless are the inhabitants, and uneasy. Instead of resistance, the citizens of Damascus, affrighted as a woman in the pangs of travail, place all their hopes in flight. How is the city of praise, so famous once, not left or spared, but ruined by the Chaldean enemy; the city of my joy? Either the prophet admired its beauty, or her king lamented her ruins, her young men fallen, her warriors slain, her walls razed, her palaces burnt to the ground. God's wrath hath kindled the flames, and none can quench them. Note; (1.) They who place their joy in earthly comforts will be punished with greater bitterness in the loss of them. (2.) When God has a controversy with a nation, he can easily dispirit the bravest, and make the strong men feeble.

4thly, Kedar was a son of Ishmael; his descendant settled in Arabia; Hazor or Petra was the capital, and had other tributary kingdoms under it; though others suppose that some of the Hazorites, who escaped in the days of Joshua fled hither, and built a city of the same name with that which they had deserted.

Nebuchadnezzar is invited to come and spoil this wealthy nation, or rather this nation living at ease, and dwelling without care, in peace and security, unprepared to repel an invader; which have neither gates nor bars, nor dwelling in cities, but alone, separate from other nations, and in tents roving from place to place. Their curtains, vessels, camels, and flocks, wherein their riches chiefly consisted, are given for a prey. Unable to resist the arms of the conqueror, or countermine his purposes, they are called upon to flee; and, scattered on every side, their deserted country is ravaged; and their capital, in ruins, becomes no longer the abode of men, but of wild beasts for ever. Note; (1.) They who are most secure, are not therefore most safe. (2.) The most inoffensive have no guard against the ravages of ambition and covetousness.

5thly, Elam, which is also concerned in this prophesy, which is dated in the beginning of Zedekiah's reign, is supposed not to be Persia at large, but a country nearer Judaea, called Elymais, some of whose inhabitants served under Sennacherib, king of Assyria, at the siege of Jerusalem, Isaiah 22:6. It was afterwards subdued by Nebuchadnezzar, and the kings of Babylon sometimes made it the seat of their residence, Daniel 8:2.

1. Universal destruction is threatened. God undertakes to break their bow, and to disable the chief of their might, and then they must fall an easy prey. By the Chaldean army they shall be dispersed into the four corners of the earth, as fugitives or captives. Terrors shall seize them, the sword devour them, the wrath of God pursue them, and therein all evil is comprehended; nor shall the king and princes thereof escape, but fall in the promiscuous ruin; and the conqueror shall erect his throne in Elam, which may well be called the throne of God, by whose power and gift he obtained the dominion.

2. A gracious promise is given them of restoration, which under Cyrus was accomplished in a measure; but was more eminently fulfilled when by the preaching of the Gospel, the Elamites, among other nations, were called into the church, and into the glorious liberty of the sons of God, Acts 2:9.

 


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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 49:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/jeremiah-49.html. 1801-1803.

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