Jeremiah 49 – Words of Judgment Against the Nations
A. Judgment against Ammon.
1. (1) Ammonites in Israel’s inheritance.
Against the Ammonites.
Thus says the LORD:
“Has Israel no sons?
Has he no heir?
Why then does Milcom inherit Gad,
And his people dwell in its cities?
a. Against the Ammonites: The Ammonites lived in the area on the east side of the Jordan River, north of the Moabites. Their lands are included in what is today Jordan, and the capital of Jordan is named Ammon because of this connection.
i. “The Ammonites were often in conflict with Israel: they opposed Judah during Johoiakim’s reign (cf. 2 Kings 24:2) and helped the downfall of the remnant after the Fall of Jerusalem (cf. Jeremiah 40:11-14). They joined in the invasion of Judah in 602 BC (cf. 2 Kings 24:2).” (Feinberg)
b. Has Israel no sons? Has he no heir? Why then does Milcom inherit Gad: Through Jeremiah, God spoke of the fact that the Ammonites occupied land that was apportioned for the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh. In the name of their god Milcom they lived in that land, acting as if Israel’s inheritance was invalid.
i. In God’s estimation, that land belonged to Israel, not Ammon. “Although the northern tribes had been carried away by Tiglath-Pileser III, their land still belonged to them and was to be inherited by their sons.” (Feinberg)
ii. “The Ammonites, it appears, took advantage of the depressed state of Israel, and invaded their territories in the tribe of Gad, hoping to make them their own for ever. But the prophet intimates that God will preserve the descendants of Israel, and will bring them back to their forfeited inheritances.” (Clarke)
iii. We could say there is similar wonder today when God’s people forsake their inheritance and do not possess it. Under the new covenant, the believer has an inheritance of peace and power and love in Jesus; it is an inheritance to actually possess.
iv. Milcom: “Better known to us as Molech, he had been worshipped here with rites of child-sacrifice since before the days of Moses. The mention of this god as the invader at the head of his people (Jeremiah 49:1) puts the matter on a plane above the political.” (Kidner)
2. (2-3) The coming days of judgment.
Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD,
“That I will cause to be heard an alarm of war
In Rabbah of the Ammonites;
It shall be a desolate mound,
And her villages shall be burned with fire.
Then Israel shall take possession of his inheritance,” says the LORD.
“Wail, O Heshbon, for Ai is plundered!
Cry, you daughters of Rabbah,
Gird yourselves with sackcloth!
Lament and run to and fro by the walls;
For Milcom shall go into captivity
With his priests and his princes together.”
a. I will cause to be heard an alarm of war: God promised that the same devastation of war that came upon Judah would also come upon the Ammonites. Their great cities like Rabbah would be made a desolate mound.
i. “Ai is not the Ai captured by Joshua (cf. Joshua 8:1-29) but the Ammonite Ai mentioned only here.” (Feinberg)
b. Then Israel shall take possession of his inheritance: God promised a day when Israel would possess these lands on the eastern side of the Jordan River. It can be argued that this prophecy is yet to be fulfilled.
i. “How Israel would repossess these areas is not clear. Historically this did not take place.” (Thompson)
c. Milcom shall go into captivity: The Babylonians would not only conquer the land and the peoples of the Ammonites, but also their national deity Milcom, together with his priests and his princes.
i. In the ancient world when one nation conquered another, it was seen as the victory of that nation’s gods over the conquered nation’s gods. There is much in the prophets and the Hebrew Scriptures in general that shows Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel, carefully showed that He was not just the national deity of Israel; He was and is King of all the Earth. When Babylon conquered Ammon, one might say the Babylonian idols were superior. When Babylon conquered Judah, it was at the very direction of Yahweh, whose purpose the Babylonians served.
3. (4-6) Coming captivity and a promise of mercy.
“Why do you boast in the valleys,
Your flowing valley, O backsliding daughter?
Who trusted in her treasures, saying,
‘Who will come against me?’
Behold, I will bring fear upon you,”
Says the Lord GOD of hosts,
“From all those who are around you;
You shall be driven out, everyone headlong,
And no one will gather those who wander off.
But afterward I will bring back
The captives of the people of Ammon,” says the LORD.
a. Why do you boast in the valleys: The Ammonites believed their geography would help defend them against the Babylonians, but it was a poorly placed trust. The same could be said as they trusted in her treasures. All would fail them in the days of judgment.
b. I will bring fear upon you: Their day of judgment would be marked by fear and captivity (you shall be driven out).
i. “Within a century, the Arabian tribes that overran Moab and Ammon would have driven the Edomites out of their land in to the south of Judah, and these invaders would be replaced in turn by the powerful kingdom of the Nabateans.” (Kidner)
c. But afterwards I will bring back: In the midst of judgment, God had mercy and some promise of restoration even for the Ammonites.
i. “The Ammonites are supposed to have returned with the Moabites and Israelites, on permission given by the edict of Cyrus.” (Clarke)
ii. The promise of some kind of restoration for other nations shows God’s mercy and plan extends past Israel. “He saw also that the ultimate purpose of the activity of wrath is that of restoration, not in the case of Israel only, but also in that of all the nations. The fact that for some of these nations no such restoration is foretold, reveals the awful possibility of resisting not only the mercy of God, but His judgments also, so completely that there is no possibility of restoration.” (Morgan)
B. Judgment against Edom.
1. (7-8) The time of Edom’s punishment.
Thus says the LORD of hosts:
“Is wisdom no more in Teman?
Has counsel perished from the prudent?
Has their wisdom vanished?
Flee, turn back, dwell in the depths, O inhabitants of Dedan!
For I will bring the calamity of Esau upon him,
The time that I will punish him.”
a. Against Edom: The Edomites were also a cousin-nation to Israel. Their founder was Esau, the son of Isaac, twin brother of Jacob. They also lived in the lands east of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, toward the south mountains and deserts.
i. “Edom’s cardinal sin was its pride manifested in its unrelenting and violent hatred of Israel and its rejoicing in her misfortune (Obadiah 3, 10-14). There is no prophecy of future restoration for Edom.” (Feinberg)
ii. “When Judah felt the weight of Nebuchadnezzar in 589-587 BC Edom not only gave assistance but seems to have collaborated with the Babylonians (Ezekiel 25:12-14; Psalm 137:7; Obadiah; Lamentations 4:21).” (Thompson)
b. Is wisdom no more in Teman: Part of God’s judgment against the Edomites was to bring them foolish and incompetent leadership. To this day, this is one way God may show His displeasure against a nation.
i. “Teman (lit. ‘south’) was either a district or a city of Edom, but here it is a poetic name for Edom.” (Thompson)
ii. “The reference to wisdom in Teman may be a satirical literary allusion to the fact that it was the birthplace of Eliphaz, the counselor of Job.” (Morgan)
c. Dwell in the depths: This has occasionally been a preacher’s verse, especially as given in the King James: Dwell deep. Preachers have found in this an encouragement for believers to dwell deep in God. This is always a good and valid encouragement, but not what Jeremiah had in mind. He told the Edomites to dig in deep, as a soldier does in a foxhole or trench, trying to find some shelter against the judgment to come.
i. “Hide yourselves in holes of the earth, grots in the ground, clefts of the rocks, where you may best secure yourselves from the pursuing enemy.” (Trapp)
· This may be taken sarcastically, daring Dedan to go deep enough to avoid the judgment of God.
· This may be taken as instruction, warning Dedan to escape judgment coming upon Edom.
ii. “As originally spoken, these words summoned the people of Edom to seek the shadows of impenetrable forests, and retire into the secrecy of the caves and the dens of the rocks. The deeper their hiding place, the better it would be when the storm of invasion swept across the land.” (Meyer)
iii. F.B. Meyer went on to make spiritual application to the believer:
· Dwell deep in the peace of God.
· Dwell deep in communion with God.
· Dwell deep in stillness of soul.
iv. O inhabitants of Dedan: “Dedan (Jeremiah 49:8), a tribe living south of Edom, was known for its commerce (Jeremiah 25:23; Ezekiel 25:13). The people of Dedan are warned to flee from their usual contacts with Edom, lest they be overtaken in its destruction.”
d. I will bring the calamity of Esau upon him: The calamity of Esau refers to Esau’s sense that he lost everything when the birthright was given to Jacob. God promised that the Edomites would also feel that they lost everything when judgment came against them.
2. (9-11) A call to trust despite losing everything.
“If grape-gatherers came to you,
Would they not leave some gleaning grapes?
If thieves by night,
Would they not destroy until they have enough?
But I have made Esau bare;
I have uncovered his secret places,
And he shall not be able to hide himself.
His descendants are plundered,
His brethren and his neighbors,
And he is no more.
Leave your fatherless children,
I will preserve them alive;
And let your widows trust in Me.”
a. Would they not leave some gleaning grapes: In normal times, it is common for people to leave some things behind and not take everything. It was generally true for a grape harvest and even when a house is robbed. Yet when God came against Edom in judgment, He would make Esau bare. All would be taken.
i. “Contrary to the practice of grape gatherers, who left something for the poor, the enemies of Edom will leave nothing but will plunder everything.” (Feinberg)
b. Leave your fatherless children, I will preserve them alive: Here was a glimmer of hope for Edom, even with the devastation to come. God invited the remnant remaining – made up of fatherless children and widows – to trust in Him.
3. (12-16) The cup of judgment for proud Edom.
For thus says the LORD: “Behold, those whose judgment was not to drink of the cup have assuredly drunk. And are you the one who will altogether go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished, but you shall surely drink of it. For I have sworn by Myself,” says the LORD, “that Bozrah shall become a desolation, a reproach, a waste, and a curse. And all its cities shall be perpetual wastes.”
I have heard a message from the LORD,
And an ambassador has been sent to the nations:
“Gather together, come against her,
And rise up to battle!
“For indeed, I will make you small among nations,
Despised among men.
Your fierceness has deceived you,
The pride of your heart,
O you who dwell in the clefts of the rock,
Who hold the height of the hill!
Though you make your nest as high as the eagle,
I will bring you down from there,” says the LORD.
a. You shall drink of it: The mountainous and wilderness terrain of Edom gave them many natural advantages, and they proudly thought they would escape the judgment that came upon Judah and the surrounding nations. God assured them that they would in fact drink of His cup of judgment and Edom’s cities shall be a perpetual waste.
i. “The Edomites had long enjoyed a reputation for rugged military strength but their trust in the physical prowess would fail them at the critical moment.” (Harrison)
ii. Bozrah shall become a desolation: “Bozrah is referred to because it was the capital of Edom in Jeremiah’s time. It was midway between Petra and the Dead Sea, and here it represents all the Edomite cities (cf. Isaiah 63:1).” (Feinberg)
b. An ambassador has been sent to the nations: Jeremiah and other prophets were consciously prophets to the nations, not only to God’s covenant people in Judah and Israel.
c. Your fierceness has deceived you…O you who dwell in the clefts of the rock: Edom’s trust in the courage of their soldiers and their defensible territory would be broken. They thought of themselves as high and safe as the eagle, yet God promised to bring you down from there.
i. Your fierceness has deceived you: “The unusual noun in Jeremiah 49:16, tipleset, may be a derogatory substitute for one of Edom’s deities.” (Thompson)
ii. The clefts of the rock: “The ‘rock’ (sela, NIV, ‘rocks’) referred to was later called Sela (Petra, Greek) – the capital city and chief fortress of the Edomites.” (Feinberg)
4. (17-22) The astonishing judgment to come upon Edom.
“Edom also shall be an astonishment;
Everyone who goes by it will be astonished
And will hiss at all its plagues.
As in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah
And their neighbors,” says the LORD,
“No one shall remain there,
Nor shall a son of man dwell in it.
“Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the floodplain of the Jordan
Against the dwelling place of the strong;
But I will suddenly make him run away from her.
And who is a chosen man that I may appoint over her?
For who is like Me?
Who will arraign Me?
And who is that shepherd
Who will withstand Me?”
Therefore hear the counsel of the LORD that He has taken against Edom,
And His purposes that He has proposed against the inhabitants of Teman:
Surely the least of the flock shall draw them out;
Surely He shall make their dwelling places desolate with them.
The earth shakes at the noise of their fall;
At the cry its noise is heard at the Red Sea.
Behold, He shall come up and fly like the eagle,
And spread His wings over Bozrah;
The heart of the mighty men of Edom in that day shall be
Like the heart of a woman in birth pangs.
a. Edom also shall be an astonishment: Other nations noticed the many advantages Edom had in self-defense. They would also be astonished by the judgment that came upon those they believed were secure.
b. As in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah: These were chosen as warnings, not only for the complete nature of the devastation that came upon them, but also because they were in the region of later Edom.
i. “The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbouring cities was so terrible, that, when God denounces judgments against incorrigible sinners, he tells them they shall be like Sodom and Gomorrah.” (Clarke)
c. He shall come up like a lion from the floodplain of the Jordan: This described Nebuchadnezzar, who would come against Edom, the dwelling place of the strong. In God’s great providence, Nebuchadnezzar was His instrument – so in that sense God could even equate resisting Nebuchadnezzar to be as foolish as resisting God (who will withstand Me?).
d. He shall come up and fly like the eagle: The people of Edom thought of themselves as secure as an eagle (Jeremiah 49:16). God promised that He would conquer over them like a mighty eagle and they would respond in pain and fear, like the heart of a woman in birth pangs.
C. Judgment against Damascus.
1. (23-24) Weak Damascus, ready for judgment.
“Hamath and Arpad are shamed,
For they have heard bad news.
They are fainthearted;
There is trouble on the sea;
It cannot be quiet.
Damascus has grown feeble;
She turns to flee,
And fear has seized her.
Anguish and sorrows have taken her like a woman in labor.”
a. Against Damascus: This is the famous city of Syria, one of Israel’s neighbors to the north. Damascus is one of the oldest continually occupied cities of the world.
i. There is trouble on the sea: “The reference to the ‘sea’ (Jeremiah 49:23) must be figurative, because Syria had no seacoast in ancient times. Suggestions as to the meaning are ‘restlessness’ (so WBC) or ‘trouble’ (so Freedman).” (Feinberg)
b. Damascus has grown feeble: In comparison to the might of the rising Babylonian Empire, Damascus was weak and feeble. They could not stand against the coming judgment, and would respond in paid and sorrow.
2. (25-27) Damascus defeated but not depopulated.
“Why is the city of praise not deserted, the city of My joy?
Therefore her young men shall fall in her streets,
And all the men of war shall be cut off in that day,” says the LORD of hosts.
“I will kindle a fire in the wall of Damascus,
And it shall consume the palaces of Ben-Hadad.”
a. Why is the city of praise not deserted: God gave honor to this ancient city, evening calling it the city of His joy. He noted that it would not be deserted of population like other major cities of surrounding nations.
b. All the men of war shall be cut off: They would suffer great defeat and death, and even the palaces of Ben-Hadad would be burned – yet they would not be exiled in the same manner as Judah and some of the neighboring nations.
i. “The young men and the warriors are identical. They would fall in the city streets and lie silent on the day of judgment.” (Thompson)
ii. Perhaps the greatest fulfillment of this is still in the future. “Expositors have difficulty fitting this prophecy into any recorded event related to Damascus.” (Feinberg)
D. Judgment against Kedar and Hazor.
1. (28) A word against Kedar and Hazor.
Against Kedar and against the kingdoms of Hazor, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon shall strike.
Thus says the LORD:
“Arise, go up to Kedar,
And devastate the men of the East!”
a. Against Kedar: Kedar describes a tribe of Arabic peoples, descended from Ishmael (Genesis 25:13). Isaiah prophesied against Kedar as among Arabic peoples (Isaiah 21:13-17).
i. “Kedar was an Ishmaelite desert tribe (cf. Genesis 25:13; Isaiah 21:13, 16, Ezekiel 27:21).” (Feinberg)
ii. Kingdoms of Hazor: “The kingdoms of some English versions is better rendered ‘village chiefs’.” (Harrison)
b. And against the kingdoms of Hazor: This is likely not the Canaanite city conquered by Joshua. A more likely connection is with Judges 4, describing how Deborah defeated Sisera, the commander of the armies of Jabin, King of Hazor (Judges 4).
i. “Some expositors believe it was an Arab settlement in the south of Palestine (so Cowles); others take it as a collective name for villages in which half-nomadic Arabs lived (cf. Isaiah 42:11).” (Feinberg)
ii. “Kedar and Hazor represent the Arab peoples, the former such as were nomadic, the latter those who dwelt in settled centers, and yet not in walled cities.” (Morgan)
iii. Some regard the men of the East as an additional group. “A third group, the People of the East, is known in other parts of the OT. These people are associated with Midianites and Amalekites in Judges 6:3, nomadic groups who raided Israelite territory in the days of the Judges.” (Thompson)
2. (29-33) Conquest and plunder.
“Their tents and their flocks they shall take away.
They shall take for themselves their curtains,
All their vessels and their camels;
And they shall cry out to them,
‘Fear is on every side!’
“Flee, get far away! Dwell in the depths,
O inhabitants of Hazor!” says the LORD.
“For Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has taken counsel against you,
And has conceived a plan against you.
“Arise, go up to the wealthy nation that dwells securely,” says the LORD,
“Which has neither gates nor bars,
Their camels shall be for booty,
And the multitude of their cattle for plunder.
I will scatter to all winds those in the farthest corners,
And I will bring their calamity from all its sides,” says the LORD.
“Hazor shall be a dwelling for jackals, a desolation forever;
No one shall reside there,
Nor son of man dwell in it.”
a. Their tents and their flocks they shall take away: In God’s plan, Nebuchadnezzar would conquer Kedar. They would take the wealth of their nomadic herdsman lives: tents and their flocks, their curtains, all their vessels and their camels.
i. “This description of property shows that they were Scenite or Nomad Arabs; persons who dwell in tents, and whose principal property was cattle, especially camels, of the whole of which they were plundered by the Chaldeans.” (Clarke)
b. Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has taken counsel against you: God gave a similar warning to Hazor, which was a wealthy nation, yet would be conquered, plundered, and left a desolation forever.
E. Judgment against Elam.
1. (34-36) Elam conquered and scattered.
The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet against Elam, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, saying, “Thus says the LORD of hosts:
‘Behold, I will break the bow of Elam,
The foremost of their might.
Against Elam I will bring the four winds
From the four quarters of heaven,
And scatter them toward all those winds;
There shall be no nations where the outcasts of Elam will not go.’”
a. The prophet against Elam: Elam is the ancient names for some of the peoples of Persia, modern day Iran. The Persians were at first allies to the Babylonians, and later they conquered the Babylonian Empire. This prophecy is spoken of their eventual conquest and fall.
i. “Elam (Jeremiah 49:34-39), a powerful kingdom more than 200 miles east of Babylonia, was the most distant nation referred to by Jeremiah.” (Cundall)
ii. “The Elamites lived far from Israel, but they did not live outside the sovereignty of God.” (Ryken)
iii. “A broken text in the Babylonian Chronicle may indicate a clash between Nebuchadnezzar and Elam in 596/4 BC to prevent an Elamite advance into Babylonia. If the interpretation of the fragmentary text is correct, Jeremiah’s date of 597 BC (the accession year of Zedekiah) would predate this event.” (Thompson)
b. I will break the bow of Elam: Isaiah 22:6 makes reference to the role of Elam’s archers in the conquest of Jerusalem, where they served as allies to the Babylonians. God promised a day when He would break the bow of Elam.
i. “They were eminent archers; and had acquired their power and eminence by their dexterity in the use of the bow. See Isaiah 22:6. Strabo, Livy, and others speak of their eminence in archery.” (Clarke)
c. Scatter them towards all those winds: God promised to not only conquer Elam, but to scatter their peoples all over the world.
i. “The purpose of this prophecy may have been to show that Elam would not and could not curb the Babylonian power.” (Feinberg)
2. (37-39) Elam under disaster and under mercy in the latter days.
“For I will cause Elam to be dismayed before their enemies
And before those who seek their life.
I will bring disaster upon them,
My fierce anger,’ says the LORD;
‘And I will send the sword after them
Until I have consumed them.
I will set My throne in Elam,
And will destroy from there the king and the princes,’ says the LORD.
‘But it shall come to pass in the latter days:
I will bring back the captives of Elam,’ says the LORD.”
a. I will bring disaster upon them, My fierce anger: When judgment eventually did come upon the Persians by the armies of Greece, it was a disaster to their empire. God would assert His rule, His throne over them.
i. The Babylonians never conquered Elam, but Jeremiah never specifically said Nebuchadnezzar would do this. “When compared with other prophecies of Jeremiah against foreign nations, this one against Elam does not mention Nebuchadnezzar but refers only to enemies in general (Jeremiah 49:37).” (Feinberg)
b. In the latter days: I will bring back the captives of Elam: God promised mercy to the people of Elam in the latter days. On fulfillment of this was the message of the Gospel and the new covenant coming to and embraced by the people of Elam, who were among Peter’s audience on Pentecost (Acts 2:9).
i. “Then grace breaks through for Elam (Jeremiah 49:39), as for others. The movements of peoples over the millennia make their fortunes hard to trace, but the curtain lifts an inch or two on the day of Pentecost, when Elamites were found to be among the multitude who heard ‘the wonderful works of God’ in their own tongue.” (Kidner)
Philip Ryken has a good summary of this chapter and what it teaches us about the judgment of God: “Wealth did not save the Ammonites. They were not able to buy their way out of judgment. Wisdom did not save the Edomites, nor did their military might. Fame did not save the Arameans because God is no respecter of persons. Independence did not save the Bedouin; God found them in the wilderness and destroyed them just the same. Weapons did not save the Elamites.”