THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH
Part II: The Prophecies Against the Nations
Holy Lord God of Nations,
You control the destinies of both human beings and nations. All nations of the earth are under Your divine sovereignty whether they acknowledge Your authority over them or not. Today, as in ages past, You judge the actions of human beings and their governments by their acts of mercy in the treatment of the defenseless. Help us to be aware of our responsibilities toward the defense of the not-yet-born and others who have no one to speak on their behalf. We know that You will reward those who take those responsibilities seriously just as You will judge those who ignore or oppress the weak and vulnerable. Send Your Holy Spirit, Lord, to guide us in our study of today's lesson and Your oracles to Jeremiah concerning Your judgment of the nations who were Judah's neighbors. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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completing his prophecies concerning the people of Israel, he foretells what
will happen to the other nations, teaching that he is Creator, God and Lord of
all. First, he recounts those things that pertain to Egypt and teaches the
time of this prophecy. The prediction was fulfilled after the death of the
Pharaoh Neco... He calls Nebuchadnezzar "the sword of the Lord," for he does
those things by God's permission, and the impious pay the penalty for their
ungodliness at one another's hands.
Bishop Theodoret of Cyr, On Jeremiah, 9.46-7
The Book of Jeremiah Part II: The Oracles Against the Nations
prophesied against all the nations: "For these in their turn are to be enslaved
to powerful nations and great kings, and I shall pay them back as their deeds
and handiwork deserve." For Yahweh, the God of Israel, said this to me, "Take
this cup of the wine of wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink
it; they will drink and reel and lose their wits, because of the sword I am
sending among them. I took the cup from Yahweh's hand and made all the nations
to whom Yahweh sent me drink it.
Jeremiah 46:1 ~ The words of Yahweh that were addressed to the prophet Jeremiah against the nations.
This verse is the introduction of Chapters 46-51. Jeremiah received these prophecies in a series of visions and oracles, and verse 1 reminds the audience that these oracles fulfill Jeremiah's call as a prophet to the nations. That Jeremiah's mission includes "nations" was made clear in Jeremiah 1:5 and 10 where "nations" (goyim) refers to all nations in the region including Judah.(1)
In the Greek Septuagint translation, Chapters 46-51 are placed in the middle of the Book of Jeremiah, immediately after Jeremiah's vision of Yahweh's "cup of the wine of wrath" and the introduction of His message to the nations in Chapter 25. The same placement of oracles for foreign nations in the middle of the book is found in the books of Isaiah (Chapters 13-23) and Ezekiel (Chapters 25-32). The nations named in 25:19-26 are same nations who received the oracles of destruction in Chapters 46-49. Only Babylon is missing from the list in Chapter 25 because Babylon's judgment by the Persians won't come until after Yahweh has used Babylon as His instrument of judgment against the nations in the region of the Levant who conspired with Judah against the Babylonians.
The original placement of the oracles against the nations in the middle of the Book of Jeremiah is supported by the text in Chapter 25 that begins with Jeremiah's vision of the cup of Yahweh's wrath and the command that Jeremiah must make all the nations to whom I send you drink it (Jer 25:15). The chapter ends with the prophecy: The lion has left his lair and their country is a wasteland now, owing to the devastating fury, owing to his furious anger (Jer 25:18). The "lion" is Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon who God will send in judgment against Judah's neighbors.
The oracles are against nine nations: Egypt, Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Damascus (Syria), Kedar-Hazor (Arab tribes), Elam, and Babylon. In the Septuagint text, the foreign nation oracles are in a different order: Elam, Egypt, Babylon, Philistia, Edom, Ammon, Kedar-Hazor (Arab tribes), Damascus (Syria), and Moab. Another difference is that in the Massoretic translation the superpowers of Egypt and Babylon appear first and last. It is significant that some of the oracles of judgment for the nine nations end in a promise of mercy and restoration, including a reminder of Yahweh's promise of restoration for Israel:
The first oracle comes as a vision of the Egyptian defeat by the Babylonians at the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BC. 46:1 is the introduction (or superscription) to the oracles against the nations. When Yahweh first called Jeremiah to his prophetic ministry, He told him that his ministry was not limited to the nation of Judah: Look, today I have set you over the nations and kingdoms, to uproot and to knock down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant (Jer 1:10). All the oracles against the nations are delivered by Jeremiah to a Jerusalem audience before the fall of Jerusalem. Jeremiah's message was probably announced to the ministers of the nations named in the oracles who were attending Zedekiah's conference in Jerusalem in 594 BC, during which a plan for rebelling against the Babylonian Empire and forming an alliance with the Egyptians was formulated: Now when Zedekiah had preserved the league of mutual assistance he had made with the Babylonians for eight years, he broke it, and revolted to the Egyptians, in hopes, by their assistance of overcoming the Babylonians (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 10.7.108). The only suggestion of a date for an oracle is in 49:34 that says the oracle against Elam was at the "beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah" and may refer to the 594 BC date, four years after Zedekiah became king (he ruled from 598-587 BC).
Chapter 46:2-28 ~ The Oracles Against Egypt
to the prophet that the king of Babylon was about making an expedition against
the Egyptians, and commanded him to foretell to the people that Egypt should be
taken, and the king of Babylon should slay some of them, and should take others
captive, and bring them to Babylon; which things came to pass accordingly; for
on the fifth year after the destruction of Jerusalem, which was the
twenty-third of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, he made an expedition against
Celesyria; and when he had possessed himself on it, he made war against the
Ammonites and Moabites; and when he had brought all those nations under
subjection, he fell upon Egypt...
Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 10.9.180-181
Verses 1-2 are in prose and announce both this part of the book and the first prophecy against Egypt. Verses 3-11 are in the poetic form, while verses 12-13 return to prose. The poetry picks up again in verses 14-24 and breaks into prose again in 25-26 before returning to poetry in 27-28.
Jeremiah 46:2 ~ The Egyptian Defeat at Carchemish
2 On Egypt. Against the army of Pharaoh Necho king of Egypt, which was at Carchemish on the River Euphrates when Nebuchadnezzar [Nebuchadrezzar] king of Babylon defeated it in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah, king of Judah. [...] = literal Hebrew translation, Jeremiah 37-52, Lundbom, page 184.
Verse 2 sets the stage for the oracle that follows. Notice the spelling of Nebuchadrezzar as opposed to Nebuchadnezzar. Most English translations do not correctly record the alternate spelling. The spelling of Nebuchadrezzar with an "r" instead of an "n" is confirmed in the Babylonians Chronicles where Nabu-kudurri-usur is understood to mean "Nabu, protect the (eldest) son!" Nebuchadnezzar II was the eldest son and heir of Babylonian king Nabopolassar. His father was still alive at the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BC but died in the same year.(2) If the year Jeremiah announced the oracles to the nations was 594 BC, Nebuchadrezzar is still the crown prince. He was still the crown prince at the Battle of Carchemish because his father hadn't yet died, and he didn't assume the throne until later in the year after the battle when he became: Nebuchadnezzar, "Nabu-protect-the-country," which is probably his throne-name.
... defeated it in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of
Josiah, king of Judah.
The defeat of the Egyptians at Carchemish is usually dated by scholars to the year 605 BC (2 Chr 35:20). There are sometimes one year discrepancies in the dates determined by scholars according to the years of the king's reigns and even in the chronicles of the various nations. These differences are caused by how the year is determined. The Judaeans counted the number of years of a king's reign with the year he ascended the throne counting as year #1, while the Babylonians, Assyrians, and the Northern Kingdom of Israel determined the years a king reigned from the first of the year with the part of the year of the king's reign before the change of the new year called the "reignal year." Biblical scholars also confuse calculating the number of years when they count with the concept of a zero-place value unlike the ancients who counted without that concept. Converting their years to our years can also be confused by whether the beginning of the new year is determine as the new year on our January the 1st or the ancient's new year which was either in the spring or the early fall. See the document "Dating the Reigns of the Kings of Judah and Kings of Israel.htm."
Jeremiah 46:3-12 ~ Jeremiah's Vision of the
Battle of Carchemish
3 Buckler and shield at the ready! Onward to battle! 4 Harness the horses: into the saddle, horsemen! To your ranks! On with your helmets! Sharpen your spears, put on your breastplates! 5 Why do I see them retreating, panic-stricken? Their heroes, beaten back, are fleeing headlong, with not a look behind. Terror on every side, Yahweh declares! 6 No flight for the swift, no escape for the strong! Up in the north on the River Euphrates, they have collapsed, have fallen. 7 Who was it rose like the Nile, his waters foaming like a torrent? 8 Why, Egypt rose like the Nile, his waters foaming like a torrent. "I shall rise," he said, "and drown the earth; sweep away town and its inhabitants! 9 Charge, horses! Forward, chariots! Let the warriors advance, men from Cush and Put with shield in hand, men from Lud who bend the bow!" 10 For this is the Day of Lord Yahweh Sabaoth, a day of vengeance when he takes revenge on his foes: the sword will devour until gorged, until drunk with their blood, for Lord Yahweh Sabaoth is holding a sacrificial feast in the land of the north; on the River Euphrates. 11 Go up to Gilead and fetch balm, virgin daughter of Egypt! You multiply remedies in vain, nothing can cure you! 12 The nations have heard of your shame, your wailing fills the world, for warrior has stumbled against warrior, and both have fallen together.
This passage dates to before the summer of 605 BC when the Babylonians defeated the Egyptians, led by Pharaoh Necho II, at the Battle of Carchemish. Jeremiah not only receives Yahweh's word but he also has a vision of the battle and describes it in detail.
Consult a map and find the site of the battle. Carchemish is identified by archaeologists near the modern Syrian town of Jerablus, northeast of Aleppo on a ford of the Euphrates River leading from Syria into Mesopotamia. Pharaoh Necho II of Egypt attempted to aid the collapsing Assyrian Empire by leading an army to stop the Babylonian advance. In 609 BC, Necho and the Egyptians engaged the Judaean army of King Josiah at Megiddo in Northern Israel, killing Josiah (2 Kng 24:29-30; Chr 35:19-25; Jer 22:10-11). King Josiah was succeeded by his son Jehoiakim (ruled 609-598 BC). In 605 BC, Pharaoh Neco II and his army met the army of crown prince Nebuchadrezzar (Nebuchadnezzar) of Babylon at Carchemish.
Verses 3-4 describe the preparations of the Egyptians for the battle
while verses 5-6 describe their panic and retreat when the face the enemy. In
verse 7, Yahweh asks a rhetorical question that is answered in verse 8.
Question: Egypt's rise to meet the Babylonians and their boast of victory is compared to the annual rise of the Nile River every spring. What is the ironic use of the metaphor of the Nile River "rising" for the Egyptian army? See verse 12.
Answer: The irony is that the Nile not only rises every year, but it also falls, as the Egyptian army will fall by the banks of the Euphrates River!
Verses 7 is a question answered in verses 8-9 on the hubris of the Egyptians. The boasting in verses 8-9 is probably by Pharaoh Neco or Egypt personified. The soldiers from Cush, Put, and Lud in verse 9 are military units assigned to the Egyptian army from territories controlled by Egypt:
Question: For what reason is Yahweh taking vengeance against
Egypt and Pharaoh Neco? See 2 Kng 23:29, 31-35.
Answer: The Egyptians killed King Josiah, deposed his son who they took to Egypt as a captive, and subjugated Judah, appointing Davidic king Zedekiah as their vassal.
10 For this is the Day of Lord
Yahweh Sabaoth, a day of vengeance when he takes revenge on his foes...
The "Day of Yahweh" is a reference to a day of retribution and divine judgment in the language of the Bible (for example, see Is 2:12; Joel 1:15-20; 4:14; Amos 5:18-20; Lam 2:22; Ez 22:24; Zeph 1:15). Verses 11-12 declare that nothing will cure the disgrace of the Egyptian defeat at Carchemish.
Jeremiah 46:13-18 ~ Oracle of the Invasion of Egypt
13 The word that came from Yahweh to the prophet Jeremiah when Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon advanced to attack Egypt. 14 Publish it in Egypt, proclaim it in Migdol, proclaim it in Noph and Tahpanhes! Say, "Stand your ground, be prepared, for the sword is devouring all round you!" 15 Why has Apis fled? Why has your Mighty One not stood firm? Why, Yahweh has overturned him, 16 he has caused many to fall! Falling over one another, they say, "Up, and back to our own people, to the country where we were born, away from the devastating sword!" 17 They have given Pharaoh king of Egypt the nickname, "Much-noise-but-he-lets-the chance-slip by"! 18 As I live, the King declares, whose name is Yahweh Sabaoth, he is coming, a very Tabor among mountains, a Carmel high above the sea!
The introduction (superscription) in verse 13 is in prose and is followed by the poetic oracle. Notice that the three cities named in verses 14 (also see verse19) are the same cities where the Judaean refugees settled in 44:1. This oracle probably dates to the Babylonian invasion of Egypt in 582 BC, soon after the Judaeans refugees arrived, or perhaps to the invasion of 568-67 BC when the Judean refugees were living in Egypt during the reign of Pharaoh Amasis who deposed Hophra (see 43:12; Pharaoh Hophra was deposed in 570 BC and was the "sign" of the coming invasion in 44:29-30).
15 Why has Apis fled?
Why has your Mighty One not stood firm?
Apis was the Egyptian god who took the form of a bull and was worshipped as long as it lived as the incarnation of the god Ptah. When it died, it became Osiris-Apis and was embalmed and buried in a tomb with all the bulls before it. It is believed when the children of Israel made the Golden Calf at Sinai that they were invoking the Egyptian god Apis. The deity's cult center was in Memphis, but another center of worship was the Delta where the Israelites lived in Goshen (Ex 32). The "Mighty One" probably refers to the Egyptian Pharaoh who was viewed as a living god. He has not "stood firm" but Yahweh, the "Mighty One of Jacob" (Gen 49:24; Ps 132:2; Is 1:24; 49:6; 60:16) who directs the Babylonian army, stands firm.
Question: The rhetorical question in verse 15a asks why their
false god is not protecting the Egyptian army. What is the answer in verses
Answer: The answer is that Yahweh has defeated the Egyptian army and their false god.
have given Pharaoh king of Egypt the nickname, "Much-noise-but-he-lets-the
Nickname may refer to Amaris who, like Pharaoh Hophra, does not stand firm and runs away. It was Hophra who promised Zedekiah his help in 588 BC only to run away from the Babylonians and disappoint the Judaeans just as Amaris will disappoint the Judaean refugees.
18 As I live, the King
declares, whose name is Yahweh Sabaoth, he is coming, a very Tabor among
mountains, a Carmel high above the sea!
This is Yahweh the Divine King speaking and comparing his "coming" against the Egyptians to the mountains of Tabor (in the Lower Galilee) and Carmel (on the coast) located in the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
Jeremiah 46:19-24 ~ Oracle Continued: Defeat and Exile
19 Get your bundle ready for exile, fair inhabitant of Egypt! Noph will be reduced to a desert, desolate, uninhabited. 20 Egypt was a splendid heifer, but a gadfly from the north has settled on her. 21 The mercenaries she had with her, these too were like fattened calves: but they too have taken to their heels, have all run away, not held their g round, for their day of disaster has overtaken them, their time for being punished. 22 Hear her hissing like a snake as they advance in force to fall on her with their axes, like woodcutters, 23 they will fell her forest, Yahweh declares, however impenetrable it was for they are more numerous than locusts, there is no counting them. 24 The daughter of Egypt is put to shame, handed over to a people from the north.
The heifer goddess Hathor was one of the major deities of the Egyptians. The "gadfly from the north" is the Babylonian army. A series of metaphors are used for Egypt and the advancing Babylonian soldiers: Egypt hisses like a snake and is like a felled forest while the Babylonians from "the north" are like woodcutters, and locusts.
Jeremiah 47:25-28 ~ Oracle: Yahweh's Divine Judgment
for Egypt and Hope for Israel
25 Yahweh Sabaoth, God of Israel, has said, "Look, I shall punish Amon of No, Pharaoh, Egypt, its gods, its kings, Pharaoh and those who put their trust in him. 26 I shall hand him over to those who are determined to kill him, to Nebuchadnezzar [Nebuchadrezzar] king of Babylon, to his generals. But afterwards, Egypt will be inhabited again as in the past, Yahweh declares. 27 But do not be afraid, my servant Jacob, Israel, do not be alarmed: for look, I shall rescue you from afar and your descendants from the country where they are captive. Jacob will return and be at peace, secure, with no one to trouble him. 28 Do not be afraid, my servant Jacob, Yahweh declares, for I am with you: I shall make an end of all the nations where I have driven you, but I shall discipline you only as you deserve, not leaving you quite unpunished.
The verses 25-26 are in prose, but the rest of the oracle is in the poetic form. In this passage, we have the repeating formula of divine judgment followed by a word of mercy and hope. Yahweh will punish the major deity in the Egyptian pantheon, the false god Amon (also called Amon-Ra), the ram-headed god of Thebes (No is the Egyptian name for Thebes; see Ez 30:14-16; Nah 3:8).
Question: What are Yahweh's words of mercy and
salvation in verses 26b-28?
Answer: Yahweh words of mercy and salvation are that Egypt will be inhabited again and that after Jacob/Israel is disciplined, God will rescue all His people and they will also return their land.
Yahweh also promises to bring judgment to the nations where they were captives who mistreated His covenant people (verse 28). These last verses repeat the prophecy in Jeremiah 30:10-11 that also began "Do not be afraid, my servant Jacob ..."
Chapter 47: Prophecy Against the Philistines
Jeremiah 47:1-7 ~ Jeremiah's Oracle for the Philistines
1 The word of Yahweh that came to Jeremiah about the Philistines before Pharaoh attacked Gaza. 2 Yahweh says this: "Look, the waters are rising from the north to become an overwhelming flood, overwhelming the country and all in it, the town and its inhabitants! People cry for help, and there is wailing from all the country's inhabitants 3 at the thunder of his chargers' hoofs, the crash of his chariots, the grinding of his wheels. Fathers forget about their children, their hands fall limp 4 because the day has come for all the Philistines to be destroyed, for Tyre and Sidon to be stripped to the last of their allies. Yes, Yahweh is destroying the Philistines, the remnant from the Isle of Caphtor. 5 Baldness has befallen Gaza, Ashkelon has been reduced to silence. You who remain in the valley, how long will you gash yourselves? 6 Oh, sword of Yahweh, how long before you rest? Back into your scabbard, stop, keep still! 7 Yet how can it rest when Yahweh has given it an order, Ashkelon and the sea coast, the targets assigned to it!"
The oracles in 47:2, 48:40; 49:1, 7, 12, 28, 35; 50:18, 33; 51:1, 33, 36, and 58 all begin with the familiar oracle announcement: "Yahweh says this" (with some variations). The first oracle is dated to before the Egyptians attacked Gaza, possibly referring to Pharaoh Necho II's campaign when he came up the coast and fought King Josiah at Megiddo in 609 BC (2 Kng 23:29-30; see Herodotus, History II, 159 where Magdolos could refer to Megiddo and Cadytis to Gaza). The reference might also be to Necho's successor, Pharaoh Hophra (589-570 BC), who made war on Tyre and Sidon and perhaps also attacked their Philistine allies (Herodotus, History II, 161). The oracle warns of another invader who comes not like Egypt from the south but an invasion from the north. "From the north" is a description of an army that has always referred to the Babylonians in the Book of Jeremiah (i.e., Jer 1:13, 14, 15; 20:4, 5, 6).
The Philistines were in Canaan before the Israelite conquest of the Promised Land (Gen 21:32; 26:1, 8, 14, 15, 18). However, they didn't arrive in great numbers until about the time of the conquest when catastrophic events (natural and political) forced a great migration out of the islands of the Aegean and Greece. The Philistines established the four independent city-states of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ekron, and Ashdod along the coast of the Levant. These city-states were a continual threat and a "thorn in the side" of Israel. All four cities are named in Chapter 25:20 in the introduction to the prophecies against the nations (Chapter 25:1-38).
2 Yahweh says
this: "Look, the waters are rising from the north to become an overwhelming
flood, overwhelming the country and all in it, the town and its inhabitants!
Question: What is the metaphor in the oracle for what must be Nebuchadnezzar's army advancing from the north?
Answer: Yahweh uses the metaphor of a great flood for the army of the Babylonians. Like the waters of a flood, the army of the Babylonians is a force of nature that cannot be stopped.
The oracle vividly describes the sounds of the cries of the people and the rumbling "thunder" of hoof-beats of the advancing chariot horses and the grinding of the chariot wheels. The people are so weak with fear that they fail to protect their children. In the pagan practice, they shave their heads and gash themselves as signs of mourning and lamentation (verse 5).
In verse 4, the "Isle of Caphtor" is the traditional place of origin for the Philistines (Amos 9:7). It is usually identified as the island of Crete and the other islands of the Aegean Sea. Tyre and Sidon were Phoenician city-states and allies of the Philistines that were trading centers on the coast to the north of Philistia.
Chapter 48: Prophecy Against Moab
Jeremiah 48:1-2 ~ Oracle of Destruction for Moab
1 On Moab. Yahweh, God of Israel, says this: "Wretched Nebo, for it has been ravaged [broken], Kiriathaim has been shamed and taken, shame and distraction on the citadel, 2 the pride of Moab is no more! At Heshbon they plotted her downfall, Come, let us put an end to her as a nation!' And you too, inhabitants of Madmen, will be silenced, the sword will be after you.
The territory of Moab was on a high plateau on the east side of the Jordan River across from Judah and south of Ammon in what was called the Transjordan. The cities swept up in the invasion covered the entire length and breathe of the country. Nebo likely refers to Mount Nebo, the highest mountain in Moab (Dt 34:1), and its nearby city. Mount Nebo is where Moses viewed the Promised Land just before his death (Dt 32:49; 34:1). Heshbon was the nation's capital. "Madmen" is a city that deceives itself into thinking it will escape, but no one will escape. The verbs "shamed" and broken," describing the condition of the Moabites, are paired in verses 1, 20, and 39.
Question: According to Genesis, what was the
origin of the Moabites? See Gen 19:31-37.
Answer: The people of Moab were descendants of Abraham's nephew Lot through his incestuous union with his elder daughter.
Jeremiah 48:3-10 ~ Moab's Cry
3 A cry of agony goes up from Horonaim, Devastation! Dire calamity. 4 Moab has been shattered,' the agonized cries of her little ones ring out. 5 Up the slope of Luhith, weeping as they go. On the road down to Honoraim is heard the shriek of disaster, 6 Away! Flee for your lives like the wild donkey into the desert!' 7 Yes, since you relied on your deeds and your wealth, you will be captured too. Chemosh will go into exile, with all his priests and princes. 8 The despoiler will descend on every town, not one will escape; the Valley will be ravaged, the Plain be plundered as Yahweh has said. 9 Give Moab wings so that she can fly away, for her towns will be laid in ruins where no one will ever live again. 10 Accursed be he who does Yahweh's work negligently! Accursed be he who deprives his sword of blood!
The slope of Luhith is thought to be the road that led from the Moabite highlands down to the Jordan River Valley near the Dead Sea (also see Is 15:5). Horonaim is a Moabite city mentioned again in verses 5 and 34, in Isaiah 15:5, and on the Moabite Stone, a stele set up by King Mesha of Moab in circa 840 BC.
The words in verse 6 are a curse on those running away when capture is inevitable. Chemosh in verse 7 was the national god of the Moabites, and the image of this false god will go into exile in Babylon with the people. The Valley and the Plain are the location of Moabite cities by the Dead Sea and the site of ancient devastation of Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of the Plain in Genesis 19.
10 Accursed be he
who does Yahweh's work negligently! Accursed be he who deprives his sword of
The curse in verse 10 identifies the destruction of Moab as Yahweh's work and recalls the covenant curses for disobedience (Dt 27:15-26 and Jer 11:3). Notice that the oracle of destruction follows a progression: first there is destruction in Moab's northern cities, then farther south, and then there is a return to the northern plateau region, and a judgment on the valley at the north end of the Dead Sea. All of Moab will come to widespread destruction.
Jeremiah 48:11-13 ~ Moab in the Past
11 From his youth Moab lived at ease, he settled on his lees, never having been decanted, never having gone into exile: and so he kept his own flavor, his aroma was unchanged. 12 And so the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when I shall send him decanters to decant him; they will empty his pitchers and break his wine jars to bits. 13 Moab will be shamed by Chemosh then, as the House of Israel was shamed by Bethel in which they put their trust.
Jeremiah builds his assessment of Moab's fortunate past history and Yahweh's promise of divine judgment by using the metaphor of wine-making. Moab was famous for its vineyards and wine (Jer 48:32-33). The basic operations of vinification included harvesting the grapes, crushing the grapes in a vat by treading the grapes, fermentation, filtration, filling and storage in bottles or jugs. Left undisturbed for a time on its lees (sediment that accumulates at the bottom of the container), the wine gains in strength and grows in flavor and fragrance. When fermentation is nearly complete, the wine is separated from its lees (sediment). Then it is filtered through linen, after which it is sealed in wineskins or jars with stoppers and stored. The wine cannot be left exposed to air or it will turn to vinegar, and it cannot be left too long in its lees or it will go bad.
Question: The process of wine-making explains
verse 11: From his youth Moab lived at ease, he settled on his lees, never
having been decanted, never having gone into exile: and so he kept his own
flavor, his aroma was unchanged. What is the point?
Answer: Moab has spent its entire history growing in strength and vigor without substantial losses. However, it has grown compliant and now, like wine left too long in its sediment/lees, it is going bad.
Question: In verse 12, who are the decanters, and
who is the wine in broken jars?
Answer: The Babylonians are the decanters and Moab the spilled wine in broken jars.
13 Moab will be
shamed by Chemosh then, as the House of Israel was shamed by Bethel in which
they poured out their trust.
Chemosh was the Moabite national god who did nothing to protect the people. Beth-el, "house/place of God" in Hebrew, refers the apostate Northern Kingdom's main shrine to rival the Jerusalem Temple.
Question: The site offered worship to the calf
idol erected at Beth-el by King Jeroboam I of Israel. What happened to
Bethel? See 1 Kng 12:26-13:5 and Amos 3:14; 4:4; 5:5-6; Hos 4:15 and 5:8
(where Beth-el is called Beth-Aven = "house of sin" instead of "house of god")
Answer: The altar at Bethel was condemned by Yahweh and destroyed by a prophet as a sign of its evil purpose. It was rebuilt and the people and their king continued to misplace their trust in idols. Yahweh's prophets, including Amos and Hosea, condemn it as a place of idol worship.
Jeremiah 48:14-20 ~ The Disaster for Moab is Near
14 How can you say, "We are heroes, sturdy fighting men"? 15 Moab has been ravaged, his cities scaled, the flower of his youth goes down to the slaughter, declares the King whose name is Yahweh Sabaoth. 16 Moab's ruin is coming soon, his downfall comes at top speed. 17 Grieve for him, all you living near him, all you who knew his name. Say, "How shattered it is, that mighty rod, that splendid scepter!" 18 Come down from your glory, sit on the parched ground, daughter of Dibon, for the despoiler of Moab has advanced on you, he has destroyed your strongholds. 19 Stand by the roadside, keep watch, daughter of Aroer. Question fugitive and runaway, ask, "What has happened?" 20 "Moab has been shattered /broken and shamed. Wail and shriek! Shout along the Arnon, Moab has been laid waste!"
The Moabite soldiers make an empty boast, and Yahweh challenges them in verse 14 (also see 29). It is Yahweh of the heavenly host who comes against them and brings their ruin. The city of Dibon, sitting like a royal daughter above the Arnon River, is told to come down from her regal height and stand with daughters of the city of Aroer by the road like a thirsty captive. Verse 20 is the second repeat of the verbs broken and shamed (see verse 1).
Jeremiah 48:21-27 ~ The Strength of Moab is Cut Off
21 Judgment has also come on the Plain, on Holon, Jahzah, Mephaath, 22 Dibon, Nebo, Beth-Diblathaim, 23 Kiriathaim, Beth-Gamul, Beth-Meon, 24 Kerioth, Bozrah, and all the towns of Moab, far and near. 25 Moab's horn has been cut off, his arm is broken, Yahweh declares. 26 Make him drunk! He has set himself against Yahweh; let Moab wallow in his vomit and become a laughing-stock in his turn. Was Israel not a laughing-stock to you? 27Was he caught red-handed with the thieves, for you to shake your head whenever you mention him?
Verses 21-24 are in prose, 25 is poetry, and 26-27 return to prose. Archaeologists have not identified many of the towns named in verses 21-24. "Horn" and "arm" in verse 25 are common Biblical metaphors for strength and power.
"The Plain" refers to the northern plateau region of Moab from the Arnon River nearly to the capital of Heshbon. However, the point is the total devastation of Moab and her people. The Moabites laughed at the Judaeans in their misery, and now they will experience the same humiliations of defeat, captivity, and exile.
Jeremiah 48:28-33 ~ Moab's Arrogance Her Downfall
28 Leave the towns, make the rocks your home, inhabitants of Moab. Learn from the dove that makes its nest in the walls of the gaping gorge. 29 We have heard of Moab's pride, so very proud! What a haughty heart! 30 I know all about his presumption, Yahweh declares, his empty boasting, those empty deeds of his! 31 And so I lament for Moab, for all Moab I raise my cry and mourn for the people of Kir-Heres. 32 More than for Jazer I weep for you, vineyard of Sibmah: your shoots stretched beyond the sea, they reached all the way to Jazer. On your harvest and vintage the despoiler has descended. 33 Gladness and joy have vanished from the orchards of Moab. I have dried up the wine in the presses, the treader of grapes treads no more, the joyful shouting has ceased.
The Moabites attempt to escape their enemy by hiding in the caves, probably near the Dead Sea. The people's arrogance and pride has not saved them. Yahweh mourns for what they will suffer, but He takes full responsibility for their destruction at the hands of the enemy He sent against them, again using the wine making imagery as in 48:11-13. In verse 32, Kir-Heres, which means "wall of potsherds, is a name the oracle uses for the Moabite capital Kir-Moab that will be smashed like broken pots. Sibah is between Heshbon and Nebo. The sea to which the vineyard extended is probably the Dead Sea on the west.
Jeremiah 48:34-39 ~ The End of Moab's False Worship
34 The cries of Heshbon and Elealeh can be heard as far as Jahaz. The shrieks resound from Zoar to Horonaim and Eglath-Shelishiyah, for even the Waters of Nimrim have become a wasteland. 35 And in Moab I shall make an end, Yahweh declares, of anyone offering incense to his gods. 36 That is why my heart sobs like a flute for Moab, sobs like a flute for the people of Kir-Heres, since the wealth he had acquired is lost. 37 Yes, every head is shaved, every beard cut off, gashes are on every hand, sackcloth round every waist. 38 On all the housetops of Moab and in all its squares there is nothing but lamenting, for I have broken Moab like an unwanted pot, Yahweh declares. 39 How shattered [broken] he is! Wail! Moab so shamefully in retreat! Moab has become a laughing-stock, a thing of horror to all his neighbors.
This passage is in prose. The cries of the people of Moab are heard in the south at Zoar near the Dead Sea and through all the cities of Moab up to the north at Heshbon and Elealeh (only these cities have been identified). The Waters of Nimrim are probably Wadi Numeria to the south east of the Dead Sea.
36 That is why my
heart sobs like a flute for Moab, sobs like a flute for the people of
Kir-Heres, since the wealth he had acquired is lost.
Despite the fact that Yahweh takes responsibility for the defeat and exile of the Moabites in judgment for their worship of false gods (verses 35, 38), He still responds in sorrow (like the lament of a flute playing a mournful song for the dead) to their suffering and loss.
Jeremiah 48:40-47 ~ The Final Oracle for Moab
40 For Yahweh says this: Look, like an eagle, he will hover, spreading his wings over Moab. 41 The towns have been captured, the strongholds seized. And the heart of Moab's warriors, that day, will be like that of a woman in labor pains. 42 Moab will be destroyed, no longer a people, for setting itself up against Yahweh. 43 Terror, the pit and the snare for you, inhabitant of Moab, Yahweh declares. 44 And anyone who escapes from terror will fall into the pit, and anyone who climbs out of the pit will be caught in the snare. Yes, I shall bring all this on Moab when the year comes for punishing them, Yahweh declares. 45 In the shelter of Heshbon the fugitives have paused, exhausted. But fire will burst from Heshbon, a flame from the palace of Sihon, consuming the brows of Moab, the head of a turbulent brood. 46 Disaster for you, Moab! The people of Chemosh are lost! For your sons have been taken into exile and your daughters into captivity. 47 But I shall bring back Moab's captives in the final days, Yahweh declares. Thus far the judgment on Moab."
This final oracle is in the poetic form. The people who escape will be hunted down like animals. They will be snared in traps and captured. All that the two oracles have foretold will happen at the time of God's choosing (44b). Sihon, in verse 45, was an Amorite king who had seized territory in a war with the Moabites just before the Israelites entered the Transjordan before the conquest of Canaan. He established a kingdom from the Arnon River to the Jabbok River and from the Arabian Desert to the Jordan River. Heshbon was his capital.
King Sihon went to war against the children of Israel when they came out of the wilderness to prepare for the invasion of Canaan, and he was defeated (Num 21:27-28; Dt 2:26-37). After defeating Sihon, Moses gave the city and the land of King Sihon to the tribe of Reuben. At the end of the conquest led by Joshua, Heshbon became a Levitical city and a city of refuge (Josh 13:17, 26; 21:37; 1 Chr 6:66). Later, the Moabites took over the Reubenite territory and made Heshbon their capital (Is 15:4; 16:8-9; Jer 48:2). This probably happened when the Reubenites and Gadites were deported by the Assyrians in 734 and 721 BC. The message in verse 45 is that Moabites who seek refuge in Heshbon will not escape just as the Amorites did not escape in the past.
Question: What is Yahweh's promise of mercy at the
conclusion of the oracle?
Answer: After they receive His judgment, God will allow Moabites to return from their captivity "in the final days."
The 1st century AD Jewish priest/historian, Flavius Josephus, wrote that the Babylonians took their vengeance on the Syrians, Ammonites and Moabites for their part in the rebellion in 582 BC (Antiquities of the Jews, 10.9.181).
Chapter 49: The Prophecies Against Ammon, Edom, Syria, and the Arab Tribes
Jeremiah 49:1-6 ~ Oracle Against the Ammonites
1 To the Ammonites. Yahweh says this: "Has Israel no sons? Has he no heir? Why should Milcom have inherited Gad and his people have settled in its towns? 2 And so the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when I shall make the war cry ring out for Rabbah-of-the-Ammonites. She will become a desolate mound and her daughter towns will be burnt down. Then Israel will inherit from his heirs, Yahweh says. 3 Wail, Heshbon, for Ar has been laid waste! Shriek, daughters of Rabbah! Wrap yourself in sackcloth, raise the dirge, run to and fro among the sheep-pens! For Milcom is going into exile, with all his priests and princes. 4 How you used to glory in your Valley, rebellious daughter, confident in your resources, Who will dare to attack me?' 5 Look, I shall bring terror on you, Lord Yahweh Sabaoth declares, from all directions; you shall be driven away, everyone for himself, with no one to rally the fugitives. 6 But later I shall bring back the captive Ammonites, Yahweh declares.
Question: According to Genesis, what was the origin of the Ammonites? See Gen 19:31-38
Answer: They are the descendants of Abraham's nephew Lot from his incestuous union with his younger daughter.
The question in verse 1b refers to the Ammonites who took over the lands of the Israelite tribe of Gad when the Assyrians deported the tribe into exile in 734 BC and then the remainder in 721 BC. By taking away land awarded to the tribe of Gad, Yahweh accuses the Ammonites and their nation god, Milcom, of acting as unjust usurpers. Yahweh declares that the time for them to pay a penalty for their wrong is coming when the "war cry" will be sounded in the Ammonite capital. Rabbah/Rabbath-of-the-Ammonites means "capital of the Ammonites. Today it is called Amman and is the capital of the nation of Jordan.
2c Then Israel
will inherit from his heirs, Yahweh says.
Israelites will return to settle in the tribal lands of Gad after their enemy takes the Ammonites into exile. In verse 4, God accuses the Ammonites of being overconfident. However, their overconfidence will only be the prelude to their destruction when they are left without any allies to help them. Years after the oracle is delivered and several years after the fall of Jerusalem, Baalis, King of the Ammonites, will mettle in Judaean affairs by arranging for Ishmael of Judah to assassinate governor Gedaliah (Jer 40:13-15; 41:1-3).
Question: What prophecy does Yahweh give in verse 6?
Answer: Despite the prophecy of defeat and exile, Yahweh promises the Ammonites will return to their land.
Jeremiah 49:7-11 ~ Oracle Against Edom
7 To Edom. Yahweh says this: Is there no wisdom left in Teman? Have the shrewd run out of commonsense, has their wisdom vanished? 8 Away! Take to your heels! Go into hiding, inhabitants of Dedan, for I shall bring ruin on Esau when the time comes for me to punish him. 9 If grape-pickers were to come to you, would they not leave a few gleanings? If robbers came during the night, would they not steal only as much as they wanted? 10 But I for my part have stripped Esau, have laid his hiding places bare: he can hide no longer. His race is destroyed, so are his brothers and neighbors; he is no more! 11 Leave your orphans, I shall support them, and let your widows rely on me!
This is the first of two oracles. The first is in the poetic form. Edom was apparently well-known for its sages. In verse 7, Teman is probably modern Tawilan near Petra, and Dedan in verse 8 is an oasis (El-Ela) in Arabia. In other words, the destruction will come from the north and progress to the south of Edom. Yahweh warns the people of Edom to have the good sense to run and hide because the time of judgment is coming (verse 8). Unfortunately, even if they do hide, their hiding places will be discovered, and they will be destroyed. Unlike grape-pickers and robbers who do not strip the vines or houses completely bare, Yahweh will find all who try to evade judgment. They are urged to leave their children behind; God will take care of their orphans who will be safely led away into exile.
Question: What was the origin of the Edomites
according to Genesis 25:20, 21, 24-25; 36:1, 8?
Answer: The Edomites were the descendants of, Esau, the grandson of Abraham, the son of Isaac, and the twin brother of Jacob/Israel.
Jeremiah 49:12-13 ~ Oracle 2 for Edom
12 For Yahweh says this, "Look, those who would not have had to drink the cup will have to drink it all the same; so why should you go unpunished? You will not go unpunished, but will certainly have to drink. 13 For by my own self I have sworn, Yahweh declares, that Bozrah will become an object of horror, a laughing-stock, a desert, a curse, and all its towns ruins forever."
Edom was the nation bordered by the Dead Sea to the north, the Sinai to the west, Moab to the northeast, and the Arabian Desert to the south and west. In the second oracle, Yahweh asks the rhetorical question: "Why should Edom go unpunished?" Then He answers His own question with the statement that Edom will not go unpunished. The oracle refers to one of the symbolic images of the Old Testament prophets dealing with the covenant people's relationship or lack of a relationship with Yahweh. In this case, the Edomites are not a covenant people, but the symbolic imagery for drinking Yahweh's "cup of wrath" is also used for judgment on any wicked people. References to drinking the cup of God's wrath are found in Psalm 75:9; Isaiah 51:17-23; 63:2-3; Ezekiel 23:31-34; Joel 4:13; and Habakkuk 2:16. In the Book of Jeremiah the link between drinking and judgment is found in five different passages: see 13:12-14; 25:15-31; 48:26; 49:12; 51:6-7.
Question: What is the significance of those who are under divine judgment having "to drink the cup" of Yahweh's wrath? See handout 5 from Lesson 1.
Answer: Those who are righteous and in a covenant relationship with Yahweh are invited to drink the best wine of the covenant in communion with Yahweh. However, those people or nations who insist on promoting evil in the world are forced to "drink the cup of God's wrath," meaning they are subject to receiving the just penalty of God's divine judgment.
In verse 13, Yahweh swears an oath to punish Edom. Bozrah is the capital of Edom, about 25 miles south of the Dead Sea.
Jeremiah 49:14-16 ~ Edom Condemned
14 I have received a message from Yahweh, a herald has been sent throughout the nations, "Muster! March against this people! Prepare for battle!" 15 For look, I shall reduce you to the smallest of nations, to the most despised of people. 16 Your reputation for ferocity, your proud heart has misled you. You whose home is in the crannies of the Rock, who cling to the top of the peak! Though you make your nest as high as the eagle's, I shall bring you down from there, Yahweh declares.
These verses are in prose. The Rock in verse 16 is the city of Joktheel in 2 Kings 14:7, and it may be the city later called Petra by the Nabateans. The city and its monuments are literally carved out the limestone rocks.
Jeremiah 49:17-22 ~ Edom's Destruction Compared to Sodom and Gomorrah
17 Edom will become an object of horror; everyone going near will be appalled, and whistle at the sight of all her wounds. 18 As at the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring towns, no one will live there anymore. Yahweh says, no human being settle there again. 19 Look, like a lion he climbs from the thickets of the Jordan to perennial pasture! In a flash, I shall make them run away, and there appoint someone I shall choose. For who is there like me? Who can hale me into court? Name me the shepherd who can stand up to me. 20 So now hear the plan that Yahweh has laid against Edom, the schemes he has in mind against the inhabitants of Teman: they will certainly be dragged away like the smallest of the flock! Their pastures will certainly be sacked before their eyes! 21 The earth quakes at the sound of their downfall, the sound of it echoes to the Sea of Reeds [Yam Suf].* Look, like an eagle, he will soar and hover, spreading his wings over Bozrah. And the heart of Edom's warriors, that day, will be like that of a woman in labor pains. * Usually understood to be the Red Sea.
Verses 17-18 are in prose and then verses 19-22 return to the poetic form. In verses 14-22, a dialog passes back and forth between Jeremiah and Yahweh. Verse 14 must be Jeremiah speaking, having heard Yahweh's message, but the speaker in verses 15-16 is Yahweh. The speaker in verses 17-18 is Jeremiah again but returns to Yahweh in verses 19-22. The destruction of the cities of Edom will be like the total destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of the plain in Genesis 19:23-29a. The sound of the destruction will be heard as far away as the Red Sea.
At first the Edomites joined the rebellion against the Babylonians, but then the Edomites deserted their alliance with Judah. They supported the Babylonian campaign against Judah, taking part in the looting and destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC (Ps 137:7; Lam 4:21-22; Amos 1:11-12; Is 11:14; 21:11, 12; 34:5-17). The Israelites got their revenge against Edom when John Hyrcannus I of Judah conquered Edom/Idumaea in the second century BC, and in 60s BC Edom become part of the Roman Empire. Herod the Great, who tried to kill baby Jesus, was an Edomite, referred to as an Idumaean (Greek spelling) and appointed by the Romans as King of Judah.
Questions for reflection or group discussion:
If Yahweh judges nations with whom He has no covenant relationship, what does it reveal about the future of a nation or people or a person with whom He does have a covenant relationship but willfully disobeys His moral laws, like Israel and Judah or nations today that profess to be Christian? Should they be punishment more severely; why? What did St. Paul write about people outside the covenant without knowledge of Christ of the moral Laws of God concerning their judgment in Romans 2:6-16?
2. The two spellings for Nebuchadnezzar with an "n" or an "r" are also found in the Babylonian chronicles (Lundbom, vol. III, page 100). In the Book of Jeremiah, the spelling of the name with an "n" is only found eight times in Jer 27:6, 8, 20, 28:3, 11, 14; 29:1, 3 (Strong's Concordance H5020). The spelling with an "n" is found in Daniel, while in Ezekiel it is only spelled with an "r." In the Book of Jeremiah, the spelling with an "r" is used in 21:2, 7; 22:5; 24:1; 25:1, 9; 29:21; 32:1, 28; 35:11; 37:1; 39:1, 11; 43:10; 44:30; 46:2, 13, 26; 49:28, 30; 50:17; 51:34; 52:4, 12, 28, 29, 30 for a total of 27 times (Strong's Concordance, H5019). The KJV and the RSV have both spellings in the correct verses.
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