PRIDE AND IDOLATRY WILL NOT GO UNJUDGED –
DESPITE SEEMINGLY INVINCIBLE STRENGTH
When someone has lived for a long time in a nation that has enjoyed peace and prosperity because of their superior military capabilities, it is inevitable that self-confidence and self-sufficiency take hold. Moab with her lofty strongholds offers a graphic picture of God shattering the pride of those who think they are invincible. God is described as the “Lord of hosts” because His sovereign reign extends over all nations. He is not just concerned with the affairs of Judah. The “Woes” heard here, a frequent expression in the culture during times of mourning at funerals, shows that God describes the nation as if it were already dead.
Parunak: Major break between 28-29:
a) 29-47 is mostly reworked quotations from Isaiah and Numbers; 1-28 is almost entirely original (though the two halves do trade images back and forth)
b) The structure of 1-28 is symmetric, while that of 29-47 is syntactic (dialog between Jer and the Lord).
PRIDE AND IDOLATRY WILL NOT GO UNJUDGED –
DESPITE SEEMINGLY INVINCIBLE STRENGTH
“Concerning Moab. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel,”
Chiastic Structure from Peter Wallace:
1. “Moab Is Destroyed” – The Exile of Chemosh and His People (v1-8)
(:1B-5) Overview of Judgment Against Moab –
Shattering (Destruction and Devastation) / Shame and Weeping – Different Speakers:
(:1) Voice of the Lord – Woe Against Moab
“Woe to Nebo, for it has been destroyed; Kiriathaim has been put to shame, it has been captured; The lofty stronghold has been put to shame and shattered.”
Constable: The Lord announced the destruction of two key cities in Moab, which was Judah’s neighbor to the southeast: Nebo (Numbers 32:3; Numbers 32:38) and Kiriathaim (Joshua 13:19). Moab’s boundaries were the Arnon River on the north, the Arabian Desert on the east, the Zered River on the south, and the Dead Sea on the west. At various times Moab also occupied territory to its north, in the old Amorite kingdom of Sihon (Numbers 21:21-31). The Moabite (or Mesha) Stone, erected about 840 B.C, but now in the British Museum, refers to many of the numerous Moabite towns mentioned in this chapter.
(:2) Voice of the Enemy – Planning to Conquer Moab
“There is praise for Moab no longer; In Heshbon they have devised calamity against her: ‘Come and let us cut her off from being a nation!’ You too, Madmen, will be silenced; The sword will follow after you.”
(:3) Voice of the Witnesses – Acknowledging the Destruction and Devastation
“The sound of an outcry from Horonaim, ‘Devastation and great destruction!’”
Mackay: Each time one of the great cities of Moab is mentioned it is accompanied by a prediction of impending catastrophe to drive home the theme that there is inescapable judgment about to engulf the country from which its centres of economic and military might will not be exempted.
(:4-5) Voice of the People – Weeping on the Road to Captivity
“Moab is broken, Her little ones have sounded out a cry of distress. For by the ascent of Luhith They will ascend with continual weeping; For at the descent of Horonaim They have heard the anguished cry of destruction.”
(:6-8) Exile of Chemosh and His People
(:6) Command to Flee
“Flee, save your lives, That you may be like a juniper in the wilderness.”
(:7-8) Certain Capture and Destruction
“For because of your trust in your own achievements and treasures, even you yourself will be captured; And Chemosh will go off into exile together with his priests and his princes. And a destroyer will come to every city, So that no city will escape; The valley also will be ruined, and the plateau will be destroyed, As the LORD has said.”
Folly of trusting in your own achievements and wealth
2. “Give Wings to Moab” – Her Cities Shall Become a Desolation (v9-10)
“Give wings to Moab, For she will flee away;
And her cities will become a desolation, Without inhabitants in them.
Cursed be the one who does the LORD’s work negligently,
And cursed be the one who restrains his sword from blood.”
Constable: The Lord uttered a curse on any of the soldiers that would not carry out His will against Moab as He had ordered
3. “Moab Shall Be Ashamed of Chemosh” – the Broken Vessels of Moab (v11-13)
“Moab has been at ease since his youth; He has also been undisturbed on his lees, Neither has he been emptied from vessel to vessel, Nor has he gone into exile. Therefore he retains his flavor, And his aroma has not changed. ‘Therefore behold, the days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I shall send to him those who tip vessels, and they will tip him over, and they will empty his vessels and shatter his jars. And Moab will be ashamed of Chemosh, as the house of Israel was ashamed of Bethel, their confidence.’”
This will be a new experience for Moab; their confidence will be transformed into their shame
Wiersbe: Because the nation had been comfortable and self-sufficient, they were unprepared for what happened. The Babylonians emptied the wine from jar to jar and then broke the jars! Instead of sitting on their mountainous throne, the nation had to come down and grovel on the parched earth (vv. 18-20). The horn and the arm are both symbols of strength (v. 25), but Moab’s horn was cut off and her arm broken. She had no strength.
Kidner: For defence, Moab had towering cliffs, and for wealth, her enormous flocks of sheep; riches that were self-renewing. But the shelter of these things had bred more complacency than character. In some famous lines, verse 11 makes it clear that to be undisturbed may be better treatment for a wine than for a nation: that (as we might say) to be mellow and full-bodied is the wrong excellence to aspire to!
Mackay: Nations left too long to enjoy prosperity become arrogant; there is a discipline in hardship and defeat which Moab has not experienced. So what should have been of good quality has become harsh.
Thompson: vv. 11-12 – These verses refer to the fact that Moab had never suffered exile like Judah. She may have been subject to Israel for a time and been defeated in battle but she had never suffered the deep anguish of exile. She lay outside the normal route of the invaders of the Middle East and was rarely disturbed.
4. “Grieve for Him” – the LORD Calls for Lamentation Over Moab (v14-20)
(:14-15) Failure of Moab’s Military
“How can you say, ‘We are mighty warriors, And men valiant for battle? Moab has been destroyed, and men have gone up to his cities; His choicest young men have also gone down to the slaughter,’ Declares the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts.”
Mackay: The Moabites obviously considered themselves to have prowess in military affairs, but their boasting will be shown to be misplaced by the impending disaster.
(:16-17) Command to Onlookers to Witness
“The disaster of Moab will soon come, And his calamity has swiftly hastened. Mourn for him, all you who live around him, Even all of you who know his name; Say, ‘How has the mighty scepter been broken, A staff of splendor!’”
(:18) Command to Moabites to Witness
‘Come down from your glory And sit on the parched ground, O daughter dwelling in Dibon, For the destroyer of Moab has come up against you, He has ruined your strongholds.”
(:19) Command to Moabites to Witness
“Stand by the road and keep watch, O inhabitant of Aroer; Ask him who flees and her who escapes And say, ‘What has happened?’”
(:20) Command to Onlookers to Witness
“Moab has been put to shame, for it has been shattered. Wail and cry out; Declare by the Arnon That Moab has been destroyed.”
5. Judgment Upon the Cities (v21-25)
(:21-24) Fate of Moab’s Major Cities
“Judgment has also come upon the plain, upon Holon, Jahzah, and against Mephaath, against Dibon, Nebo, and Beth-diblathaim, against Kiriathaim, Beth-gamul, and Beth-meon, against Kerioth, Bozrah, and all the cities of the land of Moab, far and near.”
(:25) Failure of Moab’s Military
“‘The horn of Moab has been cut off, and his arm broken,’ declares the LORD.”
Mackay: The horn of an animal was an obvious symbol of its ferocity and strength, and it is used in Scripture to refer to the power of individuals and nations. But once an animal’s horns had been cut off it was powerless to resist its enemies. So here Moab has been deprived of the resources to withstand those invading here. The broken arm, powerless to grasp scepter or sword, is another vivid picture of military defeat (Ezek. 3:21). The strength of the nation is exhausted before its aggressors.
6. “Make Him Drunk” – He Magnified Himself against the LORD (v26-27)
“Make him drunk, for he has become arrogant toward the LORD; so Moab will wallow in his vomit, and he also will become a laughingstock. Now was not Israel a laughingstock to you? Or was he caught among thieves? For each time you speak about him you shake your head in scorn.”
Thompson: The picture of a drunken man doubled over by vomiting is both disgusting and likely to provoke derision. Once Moab had laughed at Israel as she drank the cup of Yahweh’s wrath, regarding her as a laughingstock and treating here as a thief who has been punished. The tables are turned. Moab is an object of derision as she must flee from her cities and go to live in places of refuge in the high mountains.
Constable: The nation would also become an object of ridicule, like a drunkard who wallows in his own vomit, because it became arrogant toward Yahweh. Implicit here is the idea of Moab drinking from the cup of Yahweh’s wrath that produces drunkenness, staggering, insanity, and vomiting (cf. Jeremiah 25:15-29; Jeremiah 49:12-13; Jeremiah 51:6-10; Jeremiah 51:39; Jeremiah 51:57; Isaiah 51:17-23; et al.). The nation had not humbled itself under Yahweh’s sovereign authority, and now judgment would come.
7. The Reason for God’s Judgment: The Pride of Moab (v28-30) = Heart of passage
(:28) Command to Flee
“Leave the cities and dwell among the crags, O inhabitants of Moab, And be like a dove that nests Beyond the mouth of the chasm.”
(:29-30) Judgment Justified — Pride of Moab Condemned
“We have heard of the pride of Moab– he is very proud– Of his haughtiness, his pride, his arrogance and his self-exaltation. ‘I know his fury,’ declares the LORD, ‘But it is futile; His idle boasts have accomplished nothing.’”
Mackay: six terms are heaped up to reinforce the depiction of Moab’s pride, and five of these provide an extended example of assonance which builds up a cumulative picture of the intense pride that characterizes Moab as she asserts her self-sufficiency.
6’. “I Have Made the Wine Cease” – Gladness and Joy Are Taken Away (v31-33)
“Therefore I shall wail for Moab, Even for all Moab shall I cry out; I will moan for the men of Kir-heres. More than the weeping for Jazer I shall weep for you, O vine of Sibmah! Your tendrils stretched across the sea, They reached to the sea of Jazer; Upon your summer fruits and your grape harvest The destroyer has fallen. So gladness and joy are taken away From the fruitful field, even from the land of Moab. And I have made the wine to cease from the wine presses; No one will tread them with shouting, The shouting will not be shouts of joy.”
Wiersbe: The remarkable thing is that Jeremiah wept over the fall of Moab (Jer. 48:31) and lamented like a flutist at a funeral (vv. 36-38). Certainly his grief is evidence of the compassion God has for people who are destroyed because of their sins against the Lord. God has “no pleasure in the death of [the wicked]” (Ezek. 18:32) and does all He can to call them to repentance before judgment falls.
5’. Judgment Upon the Cities (v34)
“From the outcry at Heshbon even to Elealeh, even to Jahaz they have raised their voice, from Zoar even to Horonaim and to Eglath-shelishiyah; for even the waters of Nimrim will become desolate.”
4’. “My Heart Mourns for Moab” – the LORD Laments Over Moab (v35-36)
(:35) Judgment Justified – Idolatry Condemned
“‘And I shall make an end of Moab,’ declares the LORD, ‘the one who offers sacrifice on the high place and the one who burns incense to his gods.’”
(:36) Wailing and Lamentation
“’Therefore My heart wails for Moab like flutes; My heart also wails like flutes for the men of Kir-heres. Therefore they have lost the abundance it produced.”
3’. “Moab Put to Shame” – God Breaks Moab Like a Useless Vessel (v37-39)
“For every head is bald and every beard cut short; there are gashes on all the hands and sackcloth on the loins. On all the housetops of Moab and in its streets there is lamentation everywhere; for I have broken Moab like an undesirable vessel,’ declares the LORD. ‘How shattered it is! How they have wailed! How Moab has turned his back– he is ashamed! So Moab will become a laughingstock and an object of terror to all around him.’”
2’. “Wings Against Moab” – Because He Magnified Himself against the LORD (v40-42)
“For thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, one will fly swiftly like an eagle, And spread out his wings against Moab. Kerioth has been captured And the strongholds have been seized, So the hearts of the mighty men of Moab in that day Will be like the heart of a woman in labor. And Moab will be destroyed from being a people Because he has become arrogant toward the LORD.”
Longman: The eagle may be a particularly apt image for the destruction of countries like Moab and Edom because they were nations of fortresses and cave refuges.
1’. “Moab Destroyed” – the Destruction of Chemosh and His People (v43-46)
(:43-44) Captivity of Moabites
“Terror, pit, and snare are coming upon you, O inhabitant of Moab,’ declares the LORD. “The one who flees from the terror Will fall into the pit, And the one who climbs up out of the pit Will be caught in the snare; For I shall bring upon her, even upon Moab, The year of their punishment,’ declares the LORD.”
(:45-46) Judgment and Destruction
“In the shadow of Heshbon The fugitives stand without strength; For a fire has gone forth from Heshbon, And a flame from the midst of Sihon, And it has devoured the forehead of Moab And the scalps of the riotous revelers. Woe to you, Moab! The people of Chemosh have perished; For your sons have been taken away captive, And your daughters into captivity.”
P.S., “I Will Restore the Fortunes of Moab” (v47) — Epilogue
“’Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab In the latter days,’ declares the LORD. Thus far the judgment on Moab.”
Constable: Yet Yahweh promised to restore the fortunes of Moab in the distant future (cf. Jeremiah 46:26; Jeremiah 49:6; Jeremiah 49:39). This happened after the Exile, and it will happen in the eschaton when modern residents of Moab’s territory will stream to Jerusalem to worship Messiah in the Millennium.