Jeremiah 48


Why do we read here of God’s judgment against Moab?

Well, from as far back as the false prophet Balaam Moab rebelled against the true God. She adopted the horrible worship of Chemosh. She revelled in the sexual worship of Baalam. The Moabite women used the seduction of Israel through Baal-Peor, Numbers 25:1ff. This is when thousands of officials of Israel fell, and this led to Israel itself adopting paganism, from which she never totally recovered.

The origin of the Moabites goes back to the time when Lot slept with his daughters. You will recall that the Ammonites also sprang up from this association between father and daughters, Genesis 19:35. The Moabites hated the Israelites, 2 Kings 24:2.

‘Concerning Moab: This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Woe to Nebo, for it will be ruined. Kiriathaim will be disgraced and captured; the stronghold will be disgraced and shattered. Moab will be praised no more; in Heshbon people will plot her downfall: ‘Come, let us put an end to that nation.’ You, the people of Madmen, will also be silenced; the sword will pursue you. Cries of anguish arise from Horonaim, cries of great havoc and destruction. Moab will be broken; her little ones will cry out. They go up the hill to Luhith, weeping bitterly as they go; on the road down to Horonaim anguished cries over the destruction are heard.’ Jeremiah 48:1-5

In this prophecy against Moab, Jeremiah joins Isaiah as one of the prophets of God who made a special pronouncement against the Moabites. The prophecy is that their cities will be destroyed, and their inhabitants will flee. On the roads leading to and from Luhith and Horonaim, there would be refugees fleeing as they mourned over the cities.

‘Flee! Run for your lives; become like a bush in the desert. Since you trust in your deeds and riches, you too will be taken captive, and Chemosh will go into exile, together with his priests and officials. The destroyer will come against every town, and not a town will escape. The valley will be ruined, and the plateau destroyed, because the LORD has spoken. Put salt on Moab, for she will be laid waste; her towns will become desolate, with no one to live in them. ‘A curse on anyone who is lax in doing the LORD’s work! A curse on anyone who keeps their sword from bloodshed!’ Jeremiah 48:6-10

The national Moabite god would not save the people. The people would be ashamed of their god who allowed them to be destroyed. The priest, with the imagination of their national god, Chemosh, in their minds, would be taken into captivity. There would be no safe place in all the nation. The attack against the people would be so great that there would be no place to which the inhabitants could escape. They would need eagles’ wings in order to fly away to a safe place.

The reason for their destruction would be their arrogance as a people and their materialism. The nation trusted in these things instead of putting their faith in God. The Lord was determined to bring judgment upon this nation. Any nation that would not lift her sword against Moab as God’s judge to bring judgment down upon Moab, would be cursed herself by God.

‘Moab has been at rest from youth, like wine left on its dregs, not poured from one jar to another—she has not gone into exile. So, she tastes as she did, and her aroma is unchanged. But days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will send men who pour from pitchers, and they will pour her out; they will empty her pitchers and smash her jars. Then Moab will be ashamed of Chemosh, as Israel was ashamed when they trusted in Bethel. ‘How can you say, ‘We are warriors, men valiant in battle’? Moab will be destroyed, and her towns invaded; her finest young men will go down in the slaughter,’ declares the King, whose name is the LORD Almighty. ‘The fall of Moab is at hand; her calamity will come quickly. Mourn for her, all who live around her, all who know her fame; say, ‘How broken is the mighty sceptre, how broken the glorious staff!’ Jeremiah 48:11-17

You may find verse 11 interesting. There is the expression, ‘like wine left on its dregs.’ This comes from the winemaking industry. The best wine is only produced by carrying out a sequence of events. First, the liquid has to be drained over and over again from the dregs, and poured from vessel to vessel during the whole of the Moab is similar to these dregs, ‘she has gone into exile.’

So, ‘she tastes as she did, and her aroma is unchanged.’ This was a nation that had grown fat and lazy and complacent.

Does that, perhaps, remind you of some of our prosperous nations today?

The metaphors of this message were taken from the many vineyards that existed in Moab. Because of her great vineyards, she was wealthy. Her wine vessels were never empty. The Moabites had become accustomed to a life of ease. The people had digressed into an indifferent society of indolence. Their easy life was going to come to an end. They had escaped destruction for centuries, but now, their cities would be destroyed, and the people were taken into captivity.

At the time of the prophecy, Israel and Judah had already been taken into captivity. The Moabites had mocked them as they were taken into captivity. They mocked them because their God was not able to protect them. But this would all change. The god of the Moabites, Chemosh, would not protect them. Their pride and arrogance would also lead them into captivity. The Israelites would be restored to their land, but the Moabites would cease to exist as a nation.

Notice the phrase, ‘ashamed when they trusted in Bethel’. This is a reference to the golden calf that Jeroboam had set up in Bethel. Both idols were the invention of the imagination of men’s minds, and thus they would do nothing in protecting the people from the attack of foreign armies.

‘Come down from your glory and sit on the parched ground, you inhabitants of Daughter Dibon, for the one who destroys Moab will come up against you and ruin your fortified cities. Stand by the road and watch, you who live in Aroer. Ask the man fleeing and the woman escaping, ask them, ‘What has happened?’ Moab is disgraced, for she is shattered. Wail and cry out! Announce by the Arnon that Moab is destroyed. Judgment has come to the plateau—to Holon, Jahzah and Mephaath, to Dibon, Nebo and Beth Diblathaim, to Kiriathaim, Beth Gamul and Beth Meon, to Kerioth and Bozrah—to all the towns of Moab, far and near. Moab’s horn is cut off; her arm is broken,’ declares the LORD.’ Jeremiah 48:18-25

The fortified cities of Moab are to be destroyed, leaving the people defenceless and fleeing. When it is asked what has happened, all are called on to lament over the fall of the nation. The reference to the ‘horn’ means the power of Moab is destroyed. The reference to the ‘arm’ means the authority of the nation has been broken. All the major cities of the nation were defeated and destroyed.

‘Make her drunk, for she has defied the LORD. Let Moab wallow in her vomit; let her be an object of ridicule. Was not Israel the object of your ridicule? Was she caught among thieves, that you shake your head in scorn whenever you speak of her? Abandon your towns and dwell among the rocks, you who live in Moab. Be like a dove that makes its nest at the mouth of a cave. ‘We have heard of Moab’s pride—how great is her arrogance! —of her insolence, her pride, her conceit and the haughtiness of her heart. I know her insolence, but it is futile,’ declares the LORD, ‘and her boasts accomplish nothing. Therefore, I wail over Moab, for all Moab I cry out, I moan for the people of Kir Hareseth. I weep for you, as Jazer weeps, you vines of Sibmah. Your branches spread as far as the sea; they reached as far as Jazer. The destroyer has fallen on your ripened fruit and grapes. Joy and gladness are gone from the orchards and fields of Moab. I have stopped the flow of wine from the presses; no one treads them with shouts of joy. Although there are shouts, they are not shouts of joy.’ Jeremiah 48:26-33

This was the reason for the termination of the nation. As Israel, who also became arrogant, Moab had to be humbled and humiliated before a remnant of her people could be restored from captivity. Moab was arrogant against God’s people, and thus God brought judgment down upon her. Because she jumped for joy when Israel was taken into captivity, she too would suffer the same captivity because of her haughtiness.

Pride, arrogance, insolence, conceit and haughtiness are words used by Jeremiah to describe the disgraceful attitude and character of the Moabites. Isaiah 16:6-14.

Some have suggested that verses 31-32 turn from the prophecy to the feelings of Jeremiah concerning the fall of Moab. Such could be the case after Jeremiah heard God’s revelations concerning the fall of this relative nation of Israel. However, it is better to assume that the revelation remains unbroken, and thus the ‘I’ in the text refers to God’s lament over this nation that had long since forsaken the faith of Lot their father. Genesis 19:30-38.

‘The sound of their cry rises from Heshbon to Elealeh and Jahaz, from Zoar as far as Horonaim and Eglath Shelishiyah, for even the waters of Nimrim are dried up. In Moab I will put an end to those who make offerings on the high places and burn incense to their gods,’ declares the LORD. ‘So, my heart laments for Moab like the music of a pipe; it laments like a pipe for the people of Kir Hareseth. The wealth they acquired is gone. Every head is shaved and every beard cut off; every hand is slashed, and every waist is covered with sackcloth. On all the roofs in Moab and in the public squares there is nothing but mourning, for I have broken Moab like a jar that no one wants,’ declares the LORD. ‘How shattered she is! How they wail! How Moab turns her back in shame! Moab has become an object of ridicule, an object of horror to all those around her.’ Jeremiah 48:34-39

The purpose of the punishment of Moab was to reveal that their god Chemosh was false. He could offer them no protection from destruction. Since all the altars and places of sacrifice would be destroyed, many would find their way back to faith in God. These would be those who were granted the opportunity to return from their captivity.

The entire nation mourned the death of the nation. As an independent Israel, Moab was an idolatrous nation that was brought to an end. She would no longer exist in history as the nation of Moab.

‘This is what the LORD says: ‘Look! An eagle is swooping down, spreading its wings over Moab. Kerioth will be captured and the strongholds taken. In that day the hearts of Moab’s warriors will be like the heart of a woman in labour. Moab will be destroyed as a nation because she defied the LORD. Terror and pit and snare await you, you people of Moab,’ declares the LORD. ‘Whoever flees from the terror will fall into a pit, whoever climbs out of the pit will be caught in a snare; for I will bring on Moab the year of her punishment,’ declares the LORD. ‘In the shadow of Heshbon the fugitives stand helpless, for a fire has gone out from Heshbon, a blaze from the midst of Sihon; it burns the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of the noisy boasters. Woe to you, Moab! The people of Chemosh are destroyed; your sons are taken into exile and your daughters into captivity. ‘Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab in days to come,’ declares the LORD. Here ends the judgment on Moab.’ Jeremiah 48:40-47

The one who would destroy her with swiftness would fly down upon her as an eagle on unsuspecting prey. The reference would probably be to the Babylonian Empire through the kingship of Nebuchadnezzar who destroyed Moab and Moab in 582/581 B.C.

The lazy nature of the Moabite society could not produce a soldier who could stand before the professional soldiers of the Babylonian Empire. When the attack of the Babylonians came, therefore, the strongest Moabite soldier was surprised and terrified at the fierceness of the Babylonians.

When the Lord visited, it was a time for judgment and destruction. In the case of Moab, it was a time when the nation would come to an end. It would no longer exist as an independent nation of the world. They would not be restored as a nation. However, a repentant remnant would be restored to their homelands when the Medo-Persian Empire took over the Babylonians in 539 B.C.

When the Medes and Persians took over the former territory of the Babylonian Empire, it was the policy of Cyrus, the king of the Medo-Persian Empire, to allow former captives of the Assyrians and Babylonians to return to their homelands, as long as their homelands were within the domain of the Medo-Persian Empire.

Go To Jeremiah 49



"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."