Jeremiah 48 Bible Commentary

Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown

(Read all of Jeremiah 48)


It had taken part with the Chaldeans against Judea (2Ki 24:2). Fulfilled by Nebuchadnezzar five years after the destruction of Jerusalem, when also he attacked Egypt (Jer 43:8-13) and Ammon (Jer 49:1-6). [JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 10:9,7]. Jeremiah in this prophecy uses that of Isa 15:1-16:14, amplifying and adapting it to his purpose under inspiration, at the same time confirming its divine authority. Isaiah, however, in his prophecy refers to the devastation of Moab by the Assyrian king, Shalmaneser; Jeremiah refers to that by Nebuchadnezzar.

1. Nebo--a mountain and town of Moab; its meaning is "that which fructifies."
Kiriathaim--a city of Moab, consisting of two cities, as the word signifies; originally held by the Emim (Ge 14:5).
Misgab--meaning "elevation." It lay on an elevation.

2. no more praise-- (Isa 16:14).
in Heshbon--The foe having taken Heshbon, the chief city of Moab (Jer 48:45), in it devise evil against Moab ("it") saying, Come, &c. Heshbon was midway between the rivers Arnon and Jabbok; it was the residence of Sihon, king of the Amorites, and afterwards a Levitical city in Gad (Nu 21:26). There is a play on words in the Hebrew, "Heshbon, Hashbu." Heshbon means a place of devising or counsel. The city, heretofore called the seat of counsel, shall find other counsellors, namely, those who devise its destruction.
thou shall be cut down . . . Madmen--rather, by a play on words on the meaning of madmen ("silence"), Thou shalt be brought to silence, so as well to deserve thy name (Isa 15:1). Thou shalt not dare to utter a sound.

3. Horonaim--the same as the city Avara, mentioned by PTOLEMY. The word means "double caves" (Ne 2:10; Isa 15:5).

4. little ones . . . cry--heightening the distress of the scene. The foe does not spare even infants.

5. going up of Luhith . . . going down of Horonaim--Horonaim lay in a plain, Luhith on a height. To the latter, therefore, the Moabites would flee with "continual weeping," as a place of safety from the Chaldeans. Literally, "Weeping shall go up upon weeping."

6. They exhort one another to flee.
heath--or the juniper (see on Jer 17:6). MAURER translates, "Be like one naked in the wilderness." But the sense is, Live in the wilderness like the heath, or juniper; do not "trust in" walls (Jer 48:7) [GROTIUS]. (Compare Mt 24:16-18).

7. thy works--namely, fortifications built by thy work. Moab was famous for its fortresses (Jer 48:18). The antithesis is to Jer 48:6, "Be . . . in the wilderness," where there are no fortified cities.
thou . . . also--like the rest of the surrounding peoples, Judah, &c.
Chemosh--the tutelary god of Moab (Nu 21:29; Jud 11:24; 1Ki 11:7; 2Ki 23:13). When a people were vanquished, their gods also were taken away by the victors (Jer 43:12).

8. the valley . . . shall perish--that is, those dwelling in the valley.

9. Give wings, &c.-- (Ps 55:6). Unless it get wings, it cannot escape the foe. "Wings," the Hebrew root meaning is a "flower" (Job 14:2); so the flower-like plumage of a bird.

10. work of . . . Lord--the divinely appointed utter devastation of Moab. To represent how entirely this is God's will, a curse is pronounced on the Chaldeans, the instrument, if they do it negligently (Margin) or by halves (Jud 5:23); compare Saul's sin as to Amalek (1Sa 15:3, 9), and Ahab's as to Syria (1Ki 20:42).

11. settled on . . . lees--(See on Isa 25:6; Zep 1:12). As wine left to settle on its own lees retains its flavor and strength (which it would lose by being poured from one vessel into another), so Moab, owing to its never having been dislodged from its settlements, retains its pride of strength unimpaired.
emptied from vessel, &c.--To make it fit for use, it used to be filtered from vessel to vessel.
scent--retaining the image: the bouquet or perfume of the wine.

12. wanderers--rather, "pourers out," retaining the image of Jer 48:11, that is, the Chaldeans who shall remove Moab from his settlements, as men pour wine from off the lees into other vessels. "His vessels" are the cities of Moab; the broken "bottles" the men slain [GROTIUS]. The Hebrew and the kindred Arabic word means, "to turn on one side," so as to empty a vessel [MAURER].

13. ashamed--have the shame of disappointment as to the hopes they entertained of aid from Chemosh, their idol.
Beth-el-- (1Ki 12:27, 29) --that is, the golden calf set up there by Jeroboam.

15. gone up . . . gone down--in antithesis.
out of her cities--Rather, "Moab . . . and her cities are gone up," namely, pass away in the ascending smoke of their conflagration (Jos 8:20, 21; Jud 20:40). When this took place, the young warriors would go down from the burning citadels only to meet their own slaughter [GROTIUS]. English Version is somewhat favored by the fact that "gone out" is singular, and "cities" plural. The antithesis favors GROTIUS.

16. near--to the prophet's eye, though probably twenty-three years elapsed between the utterance of the prophecy in the fourth year of Jehoiakim (2Ki 24:2) and its fulfilment in the fifth year of Nebuchadnezzar.

17. bemoan--Not that Moab deserves pity, but this mode of expression pictures more vividly the grievousness of Moab's calamities.
all ye that know his name--those at a greater distance whom the fame of Moab's "name" had reached, as distinguished from those "about him," that is, near.
strong staff . . . rod--Moab is so called as striking terror into and oppressing other peoples (Isa 9:4; 14:4, 5); also because of its dignity and power (Ps 110:2; Zec 11:7).

18. (Isa 47:1).
dost inhabit--now so securely settled as if in a lasting habitation.
thirst--Dibon, being situated on the Arnon, abounded in water (Isa 15:9). In sad contrast with this, and with her "glory" in general, she shall be reduced not only to shame, but to the want of the commonest necessaries ("thirst") in the arid wilderness (Jer 48:6).

19. Aroer--on the north bank of the Arnon, a city of Ammon (De 2:36; 3:12). As it was on "the way" of the Moabites who fled into the desert, its inhabitants "ask" what is the occasion of Moab's flight, and so learn the lot that awaits themselves (compare 1Sa 4:13, 16).

20. Answer of the fleeing Moabites to the Ammonite inquirers (Jer 48:19; Isa 16:2). He enumerates the Moabite cities at length, as it seemed so incredible that all should be so utterly ruined. Many of them were assigned to the Levites, while Israel stood.
in Arnon--the north boundary between Moab and Ammon (Jer 48:19; Nu 21:13).

21. plain-- (Jer 48:8). Not only the mountainous regions, but also the plain, shall be wasted.
Holon--(Compare Jos 15:51).
Jahazah-- (Nu 21:23; Isa 15:4).
Mephaath-- (Jos 13:18; 21:37).

22. Beth-diblathaim--"the house of Diblathaim": Almon-diblathaim (Nu 33:46); "Diblath" (Eze 6:13); not far from Mount Nebo (Nu 33:46, 47).

23. Beth-gamul--meaning "the city of camels."
Beth-meon--"the house of habitation": Beth-baalmeon (Jos 13:17). Now its ruins are called Miun.

24. Kerioth-- (Jos 15:25; Am 2:2).
Bozrah--(See on Isa 34:6); at one time under the dominion of Edom, though belonging originally to Moab (Ge 36:33; Isa 63:1). Others think the Bozrah in Edom distinct from that of Moab. "Bezer" (Jos 21:36).

25. horn--the emblem of strength and sovereignty: it is the horned animal's means of offense and defense (Ps 75:5, 10; La 2:3).

26. drunken--(see on Jer 13:12; Jer 25:17). Intoxicated with the cup of divine wrath, so as to be in helpless distraction.
magnified . . . against . . . Lord--boasted arrogantly against God's people, that whereas Israel was fallen, Moab remained flourishing.
wallow in . . . vomit--following up the image of a drunken man, that is, shall be so afflicted by God's wrath as to disgorge all his past pride, riches, and vainglory, and fall in his shameful abasement.
he also . . . derision--He in his disaster shall be an object of derision to us, as we in ours have been to him (Jer 48:27). Retribution in kind.

27. (Zep 2:8).
a derision--The Hebrew has the article: referring to Jer 48:26, "Was not Israel (the whole nation) the object of derision to thee?" Therefore, Moab is to suffer as formerly for its exultation over the calamity (2Ki 17:6) of the ten tribes under the Assyrian Shalmaneser (Isa 15:1-16:14), so now for its exultation over the fall of Judah, under the Chaldean Nebuchadnezzar. God takes up His people's cause as His own (Ob 10-13).
was he . . . among thieves-- (Jer 2:26). Proverbial. What did Israel do to deserve such derision? Was he detected in theft, that thou didst so exult over him in speaking of him? Though guilty before God, Israel was guiltless towards thee.
since--"since ever" thou didst begin speaking of him.
skippedst for joy--at Israel's calamity [CALVIN]; or, "thou didst shake thy head" in "derision" [MAURER].

28. Doves often have their nests in the "sides" of caverns. No longer shalt thou have cities to shelter thee: thou shalt have to flee for shelter to caves and deserts (Ps 55:6, 8; So 2:14).

29. pride-- (Isa 16:6, 7). Moab was the trumpeter of his own fame. Jeremiah adds "loftiness and arrogancy" to Isaiah's picture, so that Moab had not only not been bettered by the chastisement previously endured as foretold by Isaiah, but had even become worse; so that his guilt, and therefore his sentence of punishment, are increased now. Six times Moab's pride (or the synonyms) are mentioned, to show the exceeding hatefulness of his sin.

30. I know--Moab's "proud arrogancy" (Jer 48:29) or "wrath," against My people, is not unknown to Me.
it shall not be so--The result shall not be so as he thinks: his lies shall not so effect what he aims at by them. CALVIN translates, "his lies are not right (that is, his vauntings are vain because God will not give them effect); they shall not do so" as they project in their minds, for God will set at naught their plans.

31. I will cry . . . for . . . Moab--Not that it deserves pity, but the prophet's "crying" for it vividly represents the greatness of the calamity.
Kir-heres--Kir-hareseth, in Isa 16:7; see on Isa 16:7. It means "the city of potters," or else "the city of the sun" [GROTIUS]. Here "the men of Kir-heres" are substituted for "the foundations of Kir-hareseth," in Isa 16:7. The change answers probably to the different bearing of the disaster under Nebuchadnezzar, as compared with that former one under Shalmaneser.

32. with the weeping--with the same weeping as Jazer, now vanquished, wept with for the destruction of its vines. The same calamity shall befall thee, Sibmah, as befell Jazer. The Hebrew preposition here is different from that in Isa 16:9, for which reason MAURER translates, "with more than the weeping of Jazer." English Version understands it of the continuation of the weeping; after they have wept for Jazer, fresh subject of lamentation will present itself for the wasting of the vine-abounding Sibmah.
plants . . . gone over . . . sea of Jazer--As the Septuagint reads "cities of Jazer," and as no traces of a lake near Jazer are found, the reading of English Version is doubtful. Retaining the present reading, we avoid the difficulty by translating [GROTIUS], "Thy plants (that is, citizens: alluding to the 'vine') are gone over the sea (that is, shall be transported beyond the sea to Cyprus, and such distant lands subject to Babylon; and this, too, in summertime), whereas Jazer (that is, the men of Jazer) reached the sea" (shore only, but are not transported beyond the sea); so that worse shall befall thee than befalls Jazer.

33. the plentiful field--rather, "Carmel": as the parallel "land of Moab" requires, though in Isa 16:10, it is "the plentiful field." Joy is taken away as from the nearer regions (Canaan and Palestine), so from the farther "land of Moab"; what has happened to Judah shall befall Moab, too (Jer 48:26, 27) [MAURER]. However, Moab alone seems to be spoken of here; nor does the parallelism forbid "plentiful field" answering to "Moab." English Version is therefore better.
shouting--repeated; as at the conclusion of the vintage, men sing over and over again the same cry of joy. A shouting shall be heard, but not the joyous shouting of laborers treading the grapes, but the terrible battle cry of the foe.

34. From the cry of Heshbon, &c.--Those who fly from Heshbon on its capture shall continue the cry even as far as Elealeh . . . . There will be continued cries in all quarters, from one end to the other, everywhere slaughter and wasting.
as an heifer of three years old--Moab heretofore not having known foreign yoke, and in its full strength, is compared to an heifer of three years old, never yet yoked, nor as yet worn out with many birth-givings (compare Note, see on Isa 15:5).
waters . . . of Nimrim--that is, the well-watered and therefore luxuriant pastures of Nimrim.
desolate--The Hebrew is stronger: not merely shall be "desolate," but desolation itself multiplied: plural, "desolations." The most fertile tracts shall be dried up.

35. him that offereth--namely, whole burnt offerings as the Hebrew requires [GROTIUS]. Compare the awful burnt offering of the king of Moab (2Ki 3:27).
high places-- (Isa 16:12).

36. (See on Isa 15:7; Isa 16:11).
like pipes--a plaintive instrument, therefore used at funerals and in general mourning.
riches . . . gotten--literally, the abundance . . . that which is over and above the necessaries of life. GROTIUS translates, "They who have been left remaining shall perish"; they who have not been slain by the enemy shall perish by disease and famine.

37. (See on Jer 47:5; Isa 15:2, 3).
upon all . . . hands--that is, arms, in which such cuttings used to be made in token of grief (compare Zec 13:6).

38. vessel . . . no pleasure--(See on Jer 22:28); a vessel cast aside by the potter as refuse, not answering his design.

39. it--Moab.
How . . . how--prodigious, yet sure to happen.
turned the back--not daring to show her face.
derision . . . dismaying to all--a derision to some; a dismaying to others in beholding such a judgment of God, fearing a like fate for themselves.

40. he--Nebuzara-dan, the captain of Nebuchadnezzar.
as . . . eagle--not to bear them "on eagles' wings" (Ex 19:4; De 32:11, 12), as God does His people, but to pounce on them as a prey (Jer 49:22; De 28:49; Hab 1:8).

41. as . . . woman in . . . pangs-- (Isa 13:8).

42. (See on Jer 48:26).

43, 44. (See on Isa 24:17, 18).

44. When thou thinkest thou hast escaped one kind of danger, a fresh one will start up.

45. under . . . shadow of Heshbon--They thought that they would be safe in Heshbon.
because of the force--that is, "they that fled because of the force" of the enemy: they that fled from it. GLASSIUS translates, "through want of strength." So the Hebrew particle is translated (Ps 109:24), "faileth of fatness," that is, "faileth through want of fatness"; also La 4:9.
but a fire, &c.--copied in part from Sihon's hymn of victory (Nu 21:27, 28). The old "proverb" shall hold good again. As in ancient times Sihon, king of the Amorites, issued forth from his city, Heshbon, as a devouring "flame" and consumed Moab, so now the Chaldeans, making Heshbon their starting-point, shall advance to the destruction of Moab.
midst of Sihon--that is, the city of Sihon.
corner of Moab--that is, Moab from one corner to the other.
crown of . . . head--the most elevated points of Moab. Making some alterations, he here copies Balaam's prophecy (Nu 24:17). Margin there translates "princes" for corners; if so, "crown of . . . head" here refers to the nobles.
tumultuous ones--sons of tumult; those who have tumultuously revolted from Babylon. Heshbon passed from the Amorite to the Israelite sway. Moab had wrested it from Israel and helped the Chaldeans against the Jews; but revolting from Babylon, they brought ruin on themselves in turn.

46. Copied from Nu 21:29.

47. Restoration promised to Moab, for the sake of righteous Lot, their progenitor (Ge 19:37; Ex 20:6; Ps 89:30-33). Compare as to Egypt, Jer 46:26; Ammon, Jer 49:6; Elam, Jer 49:39. Gospel blessings, temporal and spiritual, to the Gentiles in the last days, are intended.