Jeremiah 48
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. Jeremiah 48:1-47 (= LXX. Ch. Jeremiah 31:1-40). Prophecy against Moab

The comparative length of this utterance of itself makes it probable that it has been considerably expanded, and there is a general agreement among modern commentators on this head, though with a good deal of difference as to the parts to be considered secondary. Gi. makes the whole to be spurious. It is, however, unlikely that in the utterance of prophecies of this kind so important a people as Moab would be omitted. See on Jeremiah 48:3. On the other hand the fact that the ch. includes sometimes the substance, sometimes the actual words of Is. 15., 16; Amos 2:1-3; Zephaniah 2:8-10; cp. Numbers 24:17, and the probability that Israel’s feelings of hatred towards Moab (Isaiah 25:10-12) would prompt later writers to expand a prophecy uttered against that nation, are a strong support to the view that we have here a great extension of the original utterance.

The ch. may be summarized as follows.

(i) Jeremiah 48:1-10. The cities of Moab are overthrown. It remains only to flee. Gods and their followers shall be led captive, city and country laid waste. The work is Jehovah’s. Cursed be he who does it negligently. (ii) Jeremiah 48:11-19. Political disaster is new to Moab. He has not had the discipline which is now to be his lot. His god disappoints him, as Israel was disillusioned when they trusted in Beth-el. His chosen warriors are slain. Bewail ye his fate. Dibon is cast down. Aroer questions the fugitives for news. (iii) Jeremiah 48:20-28. Destruction is coming on Moab’s many cities. As he mocked Israel, so shall he be himself a derision. O inhabitants, take refuge like doves in the rocks. (iv) Jeremiah 48:29-39. Moab’s well-known haughtiness has ended in disaster. I will weep for her fruits and vineyards. Throughout the land there is woe. Worship has perforce ceased. Signs of mourning are on every side. Moab is a derision to all. (v) Jeremiah 48:40-47. The enemy shall descend like an eagle. The mightiest shall be terrorized. None shall escape the visitation or captivity. Yet in the end her fate shall be reversed.

Against Moab thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Woe unto Nebo! for it is spoiled: Kiriathaim is confounded and taken: Misgab is confounded and dismayed.
1. Moab] Its territory was the high tableland E. of the Dead Sea. See further on Jeremiah 48:2.

Nebo] not the mountain (Deuteronomy 32:49; Deuteronomy 34:1), but the city (Numbers 32:38). It was taken by Mesha king of Moab (c. 895 b.c.) according to the records of the “Moabite stone.” See transl. of lines 14–18 in HDB. III. 406. Kiriathaim, Kerioth, Jahzah, Dibon, Aroer, Bozrah (Bezer), Beth-diblathaim, Baal-meon (see on Jeremiah 48:23), and Horonaim are also mentioned on that stone.

Kiriathaim] probably Kureyat, ten miles N. of the Dead Sea.

Misgab] better, as mg. the high fort. Cp. Isaiah 25:12.

broken down] better than (mg.) dismayed. So in Jeremiah 48:20; Jeremiah 48:39.

There shall be no more praise of Moab: in Heshbon they have devised evil against it; come, and let us cut it off from being a nation. Also thou shalt be cut down, O Madmen; the sword shall pursue thee.
2. in Heshbon they have devised] There is a play on the two Hebrew words thus rendered (b’Ḥeshbon ḥash’bu) which might be represented in English by in Devizes they have devised. Heshbon, one of the chief cities of Moab, lay to the N. E. of the Dead Sea, and was considered the N. boundary of Moab till Reuben, on entering Palestine, claimed the territory between it and the Arnon which enters the Dead Sea about the middle of its E. side. Of the cities assigned (Joshua 13:15 ff.) to Reuben many are here mentioned as occupied by Moab. Hence the constant hostility between Moab and Israel (Jdg 3:12 ff.; 1 Samuel 14:47, etc.).

O Madmen, shalt be brought to silence] Here again there is a play on the sound in the Hebrew which is, Madmên, tiddômmi. But perhaps we should read with the LXX and Syr. thou (i.e. Moab) shalt be utterly brought to silence.

A voice of crying shall be from Horonaim, spoiling and great destruction.
Moab is destroyed; her little ones have caused a cry to be heard.
4. her little ones have caused a cry to be heard] Read rather, with LXX, they make a cry to be heard unto Zoar (S.E. of the Dead Sea). The point then is that the cry extends throughout Moab from N. to S. Cp. Isaiah 15:5, from which also Jeremiah 48:5 is mainly taken.

4, 5. Both these vv. are probably later than Jeremiah.

For in the going up of Luhith continual weeping shall go up; for in the going down of Horonaim the enemies have heard a cry of destruction.
5. See preceding note.

Flee, save your lives, and be like the heath in the wilderness.
6. the heath] See on Jeremiah 17:6. The LXX read somewhat differently from MT., rendering wild ass (as shy and difficult to capture). This is probably right. Cp. Job 39:5.

For because thou hast trusted in thy works and in thy treasures, thou shalt also be taken: and Chemosh shall go forth into captivity with his priests and his princes together.
7. in thy works and in thy treasures] “works” perhaps meaning results of work, gains. This is suggested by the word “treasures” which follows. Cp. ch. Jeremiah 20:5, where, however, the Hebrew (translated “gains”) is not the same. The LXX (and so the Vulg.) rightly read but one substantive (omitting “works”), and render, from what was doubtless the original form of the Heb., strongholds. “Works” is a later insertion referring to Chemosh. So Co. For “work” in the sense of an idol cp. Deuteronomy 4:28 and elsewhere. The exile of a people was considered to involve that of their deity. For Chemosh’s captivity cp. Isaiah 46:1 f., and for the latter part of the v., Amos 1:15.

Chemosh] the object of Moab’s national worship (Numbers 21:29; 1 Kings 11:7). If the god is powerless to prevent his own captivity, what chance is there for the people?.

And the spoiler shall come upon every city, and no city shall escape: the valley also shall perish, and the plain shall be destroyed, as the LORD hath spoken.
8. the valley] the valley of the Jordan towards the Dead Sea.

the plain] the tableland of Moab.

Give wings unto Moab, that it may flee and get away: for the cities thereof shall be desolate, without any to dwell therein.
9. wings] The sense is that nothing short of wings would enable the Moabites to escape before their enemies.

that she may fly and get her away] or as mg. for she must fly; but better (so Dr.) for she would fain fly away.

Cursed be he that doeth the work of the LORD deceitfully, and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood.
10. negligently] lit. with slackness, better than mg. deceitfully.

Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees, and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity: therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed.
11. Moab hath been at ease from his youth] He hath not been driven from his land hitherto. The feeling of horror at suffering expatriation, as compared with the consequences of a more ordinary defeat in battle such as the nation had often suffered in past time, is well exhibited by these verses.

settled on his lees] Wine improved by being allowed to rest upon its sediment (Isaiah 25:6; but contrast the use of the figure in Zephaniah 1:12). Its “taste” and “scent” were unimpaired. If emptied from vessel to vessel it would become vapid, without fragrance and tasteless. Something like this was now to happen to the nation by being taken captives.

11–19. See introd. summary to the ch.

Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will send unto him wanderers, that shall cause him to wander, and shall empty his vessels, and break their bottles.
12. pour off] rather as mg. tilt (a vessel). The figure of earthenware jars of wine is continued. They are emptied by being tilted on one side, an operation which was performed slowly and carefully, that the jars might be safe and the wine run off clear while the sediment was left. This work, however, in the case of Moab shall be done roughly.

bottles] rather as mg. jars.

And Moab shall be ashamed of Chemosh, as the house of Israel was ashamed of Bethel their confidence.
13. shall be ashamed] See on Jeremiah 2:26.

was ashamed of Beth-el their confidence] Bethel was the southern seat of Jeroboam’s idolatrous worship. But Israel found their confidence in the worship there misplaced, when Shalmaneser carried them away. Cp. Amos 5:5. Pe. remarks that the mention of Bethel and not Jerusalem in this connexion is a noteworthy proof that this ch. contains a pre-exilic element.

How say ye, We are mighty and strong men for the war?
Moab is spoiled, and gone up out of her cities, and his chosen young men are gone down to the slaughter, saith the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts.
15. Moab … her cities] The Hebrew is difficult. Dr., followed by Pe., alters the MT. on the model of Jeremiah 48:18, so as to read, “The spoiler of Moab is come up against him, and his, etc.”

The calamity of Moab is near to come, and his affliction hasteth fast.
All ye that are about him, bemoan him; and all ye that know his name, say, How is the strong staff broken, and the beautiful rod!
17. For the use of “How” introducing a lament, cp. Lamentations 1:1; Lamentations 2:1; Lamentations 4:1.

the strong staff (mg. sceptre) … the beautiful rod] For these expressions, as implying national glory and power over others, cp. Psalm 110:2; Isaiah 14:29; Ezekiel 19:11-12; Ezekiel 19:14.

Thou daughter that dost inhabit Dibon, come down from thy glory, and sit in thirst; for the spoiler of Moab shall come upon thee, and he shall destroy thy strong holds.
18. thou daughter that dwellest (mg. art seated) in Dibon] meaning, inhabitants of Dibon See on Jeremiah 4:11.

Dibon] now Diban (the “Moabite stone” was found there in 1868) stands on two hills. Hence the expression “come down” in the text. It is four miles N. of the Arnon, and thirteen E. of the Dead Sea, and is described as now a dreary and featureless ruin.

sit in thirst] The words are apparently corrupt, but it is difficult to obtain a satisfactory emendation; perhaps sit in mire or filth.

O inhabitant of Aroer, stand by the way, and espy; ask him that fleeth, and her that escapeth, and say, What is done?
19. Aroer] now ‘Ara‘ir, not to be confounded with the Aroer of Numbers 32:34, a Gadite city, or with an Aroer belonging to Judah (1 Samuel 30:28). The Aroer of the text was a few miles S.W. of Dibon. Mesha records on the “Moabite stone” that he “built (i.e. restored) the city and made the road over the Arnon.”

Moab is confounded; for it is broken down: howl and cry; tell ye it in Arnon, that Moab is spoiled,
20. broken down] See on Jeremiah 48:1.

in Arnon] rather, by the Arnon, i.e. on its banks.

20–24. The metrical arrangement begun in Jeremiah 48:17 ends in the middle of Jeremiah 48:20. From “tell ye it” onwards to the end of Jeremiah 48:24 is in all probability a later addition. Of the places not already mentioned in the ch. the position of some is quite unknown.

20–28. See introd. summary to the ch.

And judgment is come upon the plain country; upon Holon, and upon Jahazah, and upon Mephaath,
21. the plain country] See Jeremiah 48:8.

Holon] not known. It is not the H. near Hebron of Joshua 15:51; Joshua 21:15.

Jahzah] one of the Levitical cities (the Jahaz of Joshua 21:36). There Moses defeated Sihon (Numbers 21:23).

Mephaath] also a Levitical city (Joshua 21:37). Both M. and Jahzah were in Reuben’s territory.

And upon Dibon, and upon Nebo, and upon Bethdiblathaim,
22. Dibon] See on Jeremiah 48:18.

Nebo] See on Jeremiah 48:1.

Beth-diblathaim] lit. house of two figs. Some identify it with Almondiblathaim of Numbers 33:46, but this is doubtful.

And upon Kiriathaim, and upon Bethgamul, and upon Bethmeon,
23. Kiriathaim] See on Jeremiah 48:1.

Beth-gamul] now Umm el Jemâl, S. of Medeba.

Beth-meon] the B. of Numbers 32:36; Ezekiel 25:9; called Beth-baal-meon in Joshua 13:17 and on the Moabite stone.

And upon Kerioth, and upon Bozrah, and upon all the cities of the land of Moab, far or near.
24. Kerioth] This may be another name for Ar of Moab (Numbers 21:28). See on Amos 2:2, C.B. Both nouns have city for their primary sense.

Bozrah] probably the Bezer of Deuteronomy 4:43; Joshua 20:8; Joshua 21:36. The B. of Jeremiah 49:13 was in Edom.

The horn of Moab is cut off, and his arm is broken, saith the LORD.
25. The horn is an emblem of strength, the arm of authority. For the former see Psalm 75:4-5; Psalm 75:10, for the latter ch. Jeremiah 17:5.

Make ye him drunken: for he magnified himself against the LORD: Moab also shall wallow in his vomit, and he also shall be in derision.
26. Make ye him drunken] For the metaphor of drunkenness see on ch. Jeremiah 25:15.

he magnified himself against the Lord] He resisted Reuben in his occupation of the territory which the Lord had assigned him, but also in much more recent times. See e.g. 2 Kings 24:2.

wallow] or, splash into.

he also shall be in derision] just as he derided Israel.

26, 27. Probably post-Jeremianic.

For was not Israel a derision unto thee? was he found among thieves? for since thou spakest of him, thou skippedst for joy.
27. was he found among thieves?] i.e. Thou couldst not, O Moab, have treated him with more contempt, hadst thou caught him in the act of stealing. Cp. Jeremiah 2:26.

waggest the head] in scorn. Cp. Psalm 64:8; Matthew 27:39.

O ye that dwell in Moab, leave the cities, and dwell in the rock, and be like the dove that maketh her nest in the sides of the hole's mouth.
28. dwell in the rock] See on Jeremiah 4:29.

in the sides of the hole’s mouth] The expression is peculiar and probably corrupt, but the figure is plain. See Tristram, Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 215, for mention of the many fissures in the rocky sides of the defiles in Palestine. Cp. Ca. Jeremiah 2:14.

We have heard the pride of Moab, (he is exceeding proud) his loftiness, and his arrogancy, and his pride, and the haughtiness of his heart.
29, 30. Expanded from Isaiah 16:6. For pride as a characteristic of Moab cp. Isaiah 25:11; Zephaniah 2:8-10.

29–39. See introd. summary to the ch. The passage may contain some Jeremianic matter, but on the whole is late (see also on Jeremiah 48:37-38) and borrowed to a large extent from Is. 15., 16. (chs. which are perhaps earlier than Isaiah’s time and republished by him. See Skinner, C.B. ad loc.).

I know his wrath, saith the LORD; but it shall not be so; his lies shall not so effect it.
30. I know his wrath] The Lord corroborates the assertion of the prophet in the former verse.

that it is nought … nothing] rather, as Dr. his boastings are untruth; they do untruth.

Therefore will I howl for Moab, and I will cry out for all Moab; mine heart shall mourn for the men of Kirheres.
31. Based on Isaiah 16:7, but the influence of the first person in Jeremiah 48:9 there (“I will, etc.”) has led here to the prophet’s grief for Moab being represented as caused by her pride.

will I howl] In the corresponding passage in Isaiah it is first the country that mourns for itself, Jeremiah 48:7, and only later, Jeremiah 48:9, the prophet also expresses grief.

For “the men of” we should probably read, as in Isaiah, raisin-cakes of Kir-heres. They were made of a mixture of raisins and meal. Cp. Hosea 3:1. The two words in the original resemble each other. Kir-heres was probably the modern Kerak, eighteen miles S. of the Arnon and eight miles E. of the Dead Sea; a strong fortress on a steep hill surrounded by ravines.

O vine of Sibmah, I will weep for thee with the weeping of Jazer: thy plants are gone over the sea, they reach even to the sea of Jazer: the spoiler is fallen upon thy summer fruits and upon thy vintage.
32. Based on Isaiah 16:8 f.

With more than the weeping of Jazer] over its ruins, and wasted vineyards. But, by the slightest alteration of MT., we can obtain the reading in Is., viz. with the weeping of Jazer (so too LXX).

O vine of Sibmah] Sibmah was two and a half miles W.N. W., and Jazer was ten miles N. of Heshbon. The grapes of the region of Heshbon are still said to be excellent.

thy branches] thy tendrils.

over the sea] to the W. shore of the Dead Sea. A hyperbolical metaphor to express the great luxuriance of Sibmah’s vines.

the sea of Jazer] “Sea” is an accidental repetition from the previous clause.

thy vintage] Isaiah, whose word differs only by a single letter, has “thy harvest.”

the spoiler] Isaiah has “a shouting.”

And joy and gladness is taken from the plentiful field, and from the land of Moab; and I have caused wine to fail from the winepresses: none shall tread with shouting; their shouting shall be no shouting.
33. This v. is taken with modifications from Isaiah 16:10.

And gladness … Moab] probably genuine. From “and I have caused” to the end of Jeremiah 48:34 seems again an expansion.

none shall tread with shouting] read rather, with Isaiah, no treader shall tread.

the shouting shall be no shouting] The Hebrew noun is used for both the joyous shout of the grape-treaders and for a battle-cry. Thus the clause means that the former shall be transformed into the latter. Cp. Jeremiah 25:30.

From the cry of Heshbon even unto Elealeh, and even unto Jahaz, have they uttered their voice, from Zoar even unto Horonaim, as an heifer of three years old: for the waters also of Nimrim shall be desolate.
34. Abbreviated from Isaiah 15:4-6. The first words need emendation; “How criest thou, O H. and El.” (Gi.), or “Crying are H. and El.” (Du.). Elealeh according to Conder (HBD.) was about a mile N. of Heshbon. For the other towns see notes above.

Eglath-shelishiyah] mg. much less suitably, as an heifer of three years old. The Hebrew apparently means the third Eglath, i.e. as distinct from two other neighbouring Eglaths. Pe. compares “the three Strettons which are close together, Little Stretton, Church Stretton, and All Stretton.”

Nimrim] probably the modern Wady Numeirah at the S.E. end of the Dead Sea.

desolate] lit. desolations. The sources of water-supply shall be cut off. Cp. 2 Kings 3:25.

Moreover I will cause to cease in Moab, saith the LORD, him that offereth in the high places, and him that burneth incense to his gods.
35. him that offereth in] This involves a slight modification of MT. which, as it stands, will mean, him that bringeth up (worshippers) to. LXX, omitting one consonant, render him that goeth up to.

Therefore mine heart shall sound for Moab like pipes, and mine heart shall sound like pipes for the men of Kirheres: because the riches that he hath gotten are perished.
36. soundeth for Moab like pipes] Their use was connected with funerals, so that the word is appropriate as expressing mourning. Isaiah’s word is “an harp” (Jeremiah 16:11).

For every head shall be bald, and every beard clipped: upon all the hands shall be cuttings, and upon the loins sackcloth.
37. All shall have the usual indications of mourning. See on ch. Jeremiah 16:6.

37, 38. Cp. Isaiah 15:2 f. From “for I have broken” (Jeremiah 48:38) to “upon Moab” (Jeremiah 48:44) is either wholly or in a large part the work of a supplementer.

There shall be lamentation generally upon all the housetops of Moab, and in the streets thereof: for I have broken Moab like a vessel wherein is no pleasure, saith the LORD.
38. vessel, etc.] See on Jeremiah 22:28.

They shall howl, saying, How is it broken down! how hath Moab turned the back with shame! so shall Moab be a derision and a dismaying to all them about him.
39. broken down] See on Jeremiah 48:1.

For thus saith the LORD; Behold, he shall fly as an eagle, and shall spread his wings over Moab.
40. he shall fly as an eagle] Cp. on Jeremiah 4:13. The simile seems taken from Deuteronomy 28:49, but is used elsewhere (see Isaiah 46:11; Ezekiel 17:3). It well represented the Babylonian empire, which “seemed to those who witnessed it like the rising of a mighty eagle, spreading out his vast wings, feathered with the innumerable colours of the variegated masses which composed the Chaldean host, sweeping over the different countries, and striking fear in his rapid flight:” Stanley, J. Ch. II. 451.

40, 41. The LXX omit “Behold … Moab” (Jeremiah 48:40) and “and the heart … pangs” (Jeremiah 48:41). Both are probably glosses in MT. supplied from Jeremiah 49:22, with change of names.

Kerioth is taken, and the strong holds are surprised, and the mighty men's hearts in Moab at that day shall be as the heart of a woman in her pangs.
41. Kerioth] See on Jeremiah 48:20-24. But, because of the parallel expression “strong holds” in the next clause, the word may simply mean cities.

And Moab shall be destroyed from being a people, because he hath magnified himself against the LORD.
Fear, and the pit, and the snare, shall be upon thee, O inhabitant of Moab, saith the LORD.
43, 44. Cp. Isaiah 24:17 f. and probably a proverb in frequent use. We cannot reproduce in English the assonance paḥad vâpaḥath vâpâḥ. See on Lamentations 3:47.

He that fleeth from the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that getteth up out of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for I will bring upon it, even upon Moab, the year of their visitation, saith the LORD.
44. Co. considers “for I will bring … saith the Lord” to be genuinely Jeremianic.

the year of their visitation] Cp. Jeremiah 11:23, Jeremiah 23:12.

45–47 are wanting in the LXX and are pretty clearly an insertion. The greater part of Jeremiah 48:45 f. is from Numbers 21:28 f., Numbers 24:17.

They that fled stood under the shadow of Heshbon because of the force: but a fire shall come forth out of Heshbon, and a flame from the midst of Sihon, and shall devour the corner of Moab, and the crown of the head of the tumultuous ones.
45. They that fled … Heshbon] i.e. the fugitives of Moab in vain seek help from Heshbon, as it is among the first to be overthrown (Jeremiah 48:2).

midst] Read house, changing one letter of MT. Heshbon is meant, as the old capital (Numbers 21:26; Deuteronomy 2:26). The Moabites now are to recover it, after it had been held successively by Sihon and the Israelites.

corner] rather, the temples of the head. See on Jeremiah 9:25.

the tumultuous ones] lit. sons of tumult or din of battle, Moabite warriors. See on Jeremiah 25:31.

Woe be unto thee, O Moab! the people of Chemosh perisheth: for thy sons are taken captives, and thy daughters captives.
Yet will I bring again the captivity of Moab in the latter days, saith the LORD. Thus far is the judgment of Moab.
47. bring again] See on Jeremiah 46:26 for possible genuineness.

Thus far … Moab] an editor’s insertion.

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