Lamentations 5 – From Desolation, Hope for Restoration
“Though this chapter consists of exactly twenty-two verses, the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet, yet the acrostic form is no longer observed. Perhaps any thing so technical was not thought proper when in agony and distress (under a sense of God’s displeasure on account of sin) they prostrated themselves before him to ask for mercy.” (Adam Clarke)
A. What has come upon Jerusalem.
1. (1-8) Zion’s great misery.
Remember, O LORD, what has come upon us;
Look, and behold our reproach!
Our inheritance has been turned over to aliens,
And our houses to foreigners.
We have become orphans and waifs,
Our mothers are like widows.
We pay for the water we drink,
And our wood comes at a price.
They pursue at our heels;
We labor and have no rest.
We have given our hand to the Egyptians
And the Assyrians, to be satisfied with bread.
Our fathers sinned and are no more,
But we bear their iniquities.
Servants rule over us;
There is none to deliver us from their hand.
a. Remember, O LORD, what has come upon us: In his theology, Jeremiah understood that God knew what had come upon Jerusalem. Yet he understandably felt that God had forgotten them. He prayed that God would look upon them and behold the scorn and spite directed at them (reproach).
b. Our inheritance has been turned over to aliens: The land and houses God gave to the tribes of Israel as an inheritance was now in control of foreigners.
c. We have become orphans and waifs: The people were devastated by the loss of their families, by economic catastrophe (we pay for the water we drink), by labor with norest.
i. Orphans and waifs: “2 Kings 24:14; 25:12, and Jeremiah 39:10 make it clear that most of those left in Judah were the very poor, who were expected to keep the fields and vineyards in order.” (Ellison)
ii. We pay for the water we drink: “I suppose the meaning of this is, that every thing was taxed by the Chaldeans, and that they kept the management in their own hands, so that wood and water were both sold, the people not being permitted to help themselves. They were now so lowly reduced by servitude, that they were obliged to pay dearly for those things which formerly were common and of no price.” (Clarke)
d. We have given our hand to the Egyptians: The leaders of Judah hoped that an alliance with Egypt or the Assyrians would rescue them. There was no help from them.
i. “The reference to Assyria in v. 6 is difficult, since she had long ceased to be an empire, although Egypt was a place to which refugees had gone (Jer. 43}. Perhaps the verse is a condensed allusion to former alliances with Assyria and Egypt that the prophets had denounced (2 Kings16.7-9; Isa.7.1-9; 30.1-7), i.e. once our fathers looked to them for grand military help; now we should be thankful if they would give us enough employment to supply the bare necessities of life.” (Wright)
e. Our fathers sinned and are no more, but we bear our iniquities: Jeremiah quoted a common proverb and complaint from that time (found also in Ezekiel 18:2 and Jeremiah 31:29-30). This popular proverb both expressed and promoted a popular idea. The idea was that God was unfair; unfair in not punishing the fathers as they deserved, and unfair in punishing the present generation.
i. Ezekiel 18 is an eloquent refutation of this proverb. It answers the serious error of believing in communal or family salvation or damnation and teaches the great truth of the individual’s responsibility before God.
ii. “Nations, as such, cannot be punished in the other world; therefore national judgments are to be looked for only in this life. The punishment which the Jewish nation had been meriting for a series of years came now upon them, because they copied and increased the sins of their fathers, and the cup of their iniquity was full.” (Clarke)
f. Servants rule over us: The catastrophe of Jerusalem’s fall meant that all of society’s order was upset. Now lowly men ruled and there was none to deliver us from their hand.
2. (9-16) More of Zion’s misery.
We get our bread at the risk of our lives,
Because of the sword in the wilderness.
Our skin is hot as an oven,
Because of the fever of famine.
They ravished the women in Zion,
The maidens in the cities of Judah.
Princes were hung up by their hands,
And elders were not respected.
Young men ground at the millstones;
Boys staggered under loads of wood.
The elders have ceased gathering at the gate,
And the young men from their music.
The joy of our heart has ceased;
Our dance has turned into mourning.
The crown has fallen from our head.
a. We get our bread at the risk of our lives: Under Babylonian occupation, everything was rationed and controlled. Getting enough bread was risky, under the sword in the wilderness.
i. “They could not go into the wilderness to feed their cattle, or to get the necessaries of life, without being harassed and plundered by marauding parties, and by these were often exposed to the peril of their lives. This was predicted by Moses, Deuteronomy 28:31.” (Clarke)
b. Our skin is hot as an oven: The people were sick and suffered under sunstroke.
i. Our skin is hot as an oven: “‘Hot’ skin is literally ‘scorched’ or ‘blackened’ skin, showing general starvation.” (Ellison)
c. They ravished the women in Zion: The women of Jerusalem and in the cities of Judah were raped and brutalized by the Babylonian soldiers.
i. “The evil mentioned here was predicted by Moses, Deuteronomy 28:30, 32, and by Jeremiah, Jeremiah 6:12.” (Clarke)
d. Princes were hung up by their hands: All the people suffered. The women were ravished, the princes held in chains, the young men and boys made slaves. The joys of life – elders gathering at the gate, young men enjoying their music, the dance – all had turned into mourning.
i. Princes were hung up by their hands: “It is very probable that this was a species of punishment. They were suspended from hooks in the wall by their hands till they died through torture and exhaustion.” (Clarke)
ii. Young men ground at millstones: “In happier days they would have been soldiers; now they had to do women’s work.” (Ellison)
3. (16b-18) The cause of Zion’s desolation.
Woe to us, for we have sinned!
Because of this our heart is faint;
Because of these things our eyes grow dim;
Because of Mount Zion which is desolate,
With foxes walking about on it.
a. Woe to us, for we have sinned: The familiar theme is repeated. Jeremiah understood that all the calamity came upon them because of their sin.
b. Because of this our heart is faint: Their sin brought judgment and faintness of heart, which brought dimming eyes, which brought desolation to Mount Zion.
B. A prayer for restoration.
1. (19-20) Praying for the everlasting God to remember His people.
You, O LORD, remain forever;
Your throne from generation to generation.
Why do You forget us forever,
And forsake us for so long a time?
a. You, O LORD, remain forever: At the conclusion of the Book of Lamentations, Jeremiah put the focus upon God’s eternal and unchanging nature. His reign is eternal, with His throne enduring from generation to generation.
i. As Hebrews 13:8 would later say, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
ii. “THOU sufferest no change. Thou didst once love us, O let that love be renewed towards us!” (Clarke)
b. Why do You forget us forever: God remains forever; but now it seemed to Jeremiah and the survivors of Jerusalem that He had forgotten them forever. The theological truth of God’s eternal, unchanging nature had yet to be experienced in their present situation.
2. (21-22) Praying for restoration.
Turn us back to You, O LORD, and we will be restored;
Renew our days as of old,
Unless You have utterly rejected us,
And are very angry with us!
a. Turn us back to You, O LORD: Despite feeling forgotten by God, Jeremiah represented the people before God in a proper way. He understood that their only hope was to cry out to God for the gift of repentance. Jeremiah knew they didn’t even have the power to properly repent on their own; they needed Yahweh to turn them back to Himself. If He would, then they will be restored.
i. If God is not the author of our repentance, we will never properly repent. Sometimes the best prayer possible is not “I repent” (though that is a good prayer). A better prayer is, turn me back to You, O LORD. I need you to give me the gift of true repentance.
ii. “In a last brief and yet forceful word, he prayed Jehovah to turn the people unto Himself. This he introduced by a declaration of his confidence in the perpetual enthronement of Jehovah. It was a cry which recognized the last helplessness of man, namely, his inability even to repent.” (Morgan)
iii. “There is nothing better than to adopt the cry of the prophet, and ask God to turn the soul, and renew its blessed and holy experiences. There will be no doubt of our being turned, if He turns us.” (Morgan)
b. Renew our days as of old: With God turning us back to Himself, we can trust renewal, a return to our better days as in time past. If we have backslidden or declined, we can pray that God would grant us repentance so that we may renew our days as of old.
c. Unless You have utterly rejected us, and are very angry with us: Lamentations seems unable to end on a positive hope for the future, even if the general trend is positive towards the end. Yet, Jeremiah ended with the fear that perhaps God had utterly rejected Israel and that His anger would remain forever. The specific words of Scripture and the history of Israel since this prayer confirm beyond question that God had not and did not later utterly reject His people, nor did His anger last forever. The days of lamentation would not be the final chapter of Israel’s history.
i. “Several Old Testament prophecies conclude on a negative or inauspicious note (cf. Ecclesiastes 12:14; Isaiah 66:24; Malachi 4:6), as does Lamentations. Consequently in synagogue readings it became customary to conclude such compositions with a repetition of the preceding verse, so that under these circumstances verse 21 would be read again after verse 22.” (Harrison)
ii. “The book ends the way God intended it to end, with the kind of unresolved anguish we have come to expect from the Weeping Prophet. Yet Lamentations was never intended to have the last word.” (Ryken)
Lamentations 4 – The Woe of the Daughter of Zion
A. The punishment of the Daughter of Zion.
1. (1-2) The dimmed gold of Zion.
How the gold has become dim!
How changed the fine gold!
The stones of the sanctuary are scattered
At the head of every street.
The precious sons of Zion,
Valuable as fine gold,
How they are regarded as clay pots,
The work of the hands of the potter!
a. How the gold has become dim! Jeremiah lamented the loss of the precious sons of Zion, who were valuable as fine gold. The best and the brightest were all taken from Judah and Jerusalem and only the poorest and least able left behind.
i. “Although gold does not tarnish, it does lose its shine when it is covered with dust, which is precisely what happened to the golden articles from Jerusalem’s temple. They were trampled in the city’s dusty streets, for her glory had departed.” (Ryken)
b. How they are regarded as clay pots: The generation lost to Babylon would never be as valued there as they would be in Jerusalem. They were as cheap and lowly regarded as clay pots.
2. (3-5) The cruelty of Zion’s depravation.
Even the jackals present their breasts
To nurse their young;
But the daughter of my people is cruel,
Like ostriches in the wilderness.
The tongue of the infant clings
To the roof of its mouth for thirst;
The young children ask for bread,
But no one breaks it for them.
Those who ate delicacies
Are desolate in the streets;
Those who were brought up in scarlet
Embrace ash heaps.
a. The daughter of my people is cruel: Jeremiah lamented the cruelty of those exiled and those remaining. They seemed worse than jackals, and more like ostriches in the wilderness, who were thought to be cruel to their young. Even so, the young children of Judah ask for bread, but no one breaks it for them.
i. “The pathetic scenes of young children begging in vain for food seems to have etched themselves deeply on the mind of the author, who must have witnessed the events described here and in the first two dirges.” (Harrison)
ii. “For her carelessness about her eggs, and her inattention to her young, the ostrich is proverbial.” (Clarke)
b. Those who ate delicacies are desolate in the streets: No one was safe from the judgment that came upon Jerusalem, and those once high were brought very low.
i. Those who were brought up in scarlet embrace ash heaps: “It is a pity that any child of God, washed in Christ’s blood, should bedabble his scarlet robe in the stinking guzzle of the world’s dunghill; that anyone who hath heretofore soared as an eagle should now creep on the ground as a beetle, or wallow as a swine in the mire of sensuality.” (Trapp)
3. (6) The greatness of Zion’s punishment.
The punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people
Is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom,
Which was overthrown in a moment,
With no hand to help her!
a. The punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people: Jeremiah again stated his understanding that the destruction of Jerusalem was due to the iniquity of God’s people.
b. Is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom: In Ezekiel 16:48-49, the prophet said that the sin of Jerusalem was worse than that of Sodom. Here we learn that her punishment would also be greater. One way was that it would be more prolonged and agonizing, as opposed to Sodom, which was overthrown in a moment.
i. “He thinks the punishment of Jerusalem far greater than that of Sodom. That was destroyed in a moment, while all her inhabitants were in health and strength; Jerusalem fell by the most lingering calamities; her men partly destroyed by the sword, and partly by the famine.” (Clarke)
4. (7-10) The stricken people of Zion.
Her Nazirites were brighter than snow
And whiter than milk;
They were more ruddy in body than rubies,
Like sapphire in their appearance.
Now their appearance is blacker than soot;
They go unrecognized in the streets;
Their skin clings to their bones,
It has become as dry as wood.
Those slain by the sword are better off
Than those who die of hunger;
For these pine away,
Stricken for lack of the fruits of the field.
The hands of the compassionate women
Have cooked their own children;
They became food for them
In the destruction of the daughter of my people.
a. Her Nazirites were brighter than snow: At one time, the spiritual devotion of those in Jerusalem was an adornment to the city, like sapphire in their appearance. Yet after the calamity that fell upon Jerusalem, their appearance is blacker than soot.
i. Most all commentators agree that Nazirites is not a reference to those who took the vow of a Nazirite according to Numbers 6:1-21, and instead refers to leaders or notable people.
ii. “Persons that were nobly and ingenuously bred; the word Nezer signifying a crown, or ensign of honour, 2 Samuel 1:10 2 Kings 11:12. The name Nazirite was given to persons splendid for their breeding and education, or honour and dignity; it is given to Joseph, Genesis 49:26, we translate it separate from his brethren, Deuteronomy 33:16; so Nahum 3:17. Her Nazarites in this place signifieth her separated ones, who either in respect of birth, education, estate, places of magistracy, or the like, were distinguished from the rest of the people.” (Poole)
iii. They go unrecognized in the streets: “The nobility cannot be recognized on the streets because famine has reduced all the citizens of Jerusalem to a common level of physical exhaustion.” (Harrison)
b. Those slain by the sword are better off than those who die of hunger: Jeremiah explained why Jerusalem’s agony was worse than what fell upon Sodom. Zion’s destruction came slowly with hunger so badly that the hands of the compassionate women have cooked their own children.
i. These pine away: “By a lingering death, as Drusus the Roman, to whom food being denied, he had eaten the stuffings of his bed, saith Suetonius; and our Richard II, who was tantalised and starved to death at Pomfret Castle, where his diet being served in and set before him in the wonted princely manner, he was not suffered either to taste or touch thereof.” (Trapp)
ii. Cooked their own children: “Sodden [boiled] them rather than roasted them, lest they should be discovered by the smell, and so in danger to be despoiled of them, as it happened at the last siege by the Romans.” (Trapp)
5. (11-13) The LORD’s fury against the sins of His people.
The LORD has fulfilled His fury,
He has poured out His fierce anger.
He kindled a fire in Zion,
And it has devoured its foundations.
The kings of the earth,
And all inhabitants of the world,
Would not have believed
That the adversary and the enemy
Could enter the gates of Jerusalem—
Because of the sins of her prophets
And the iniquities of her priests,
Who shed in her midst
The blood of the just.
a. The LORD has fulfilled His fury: Jeremiah thought of Jerusalem and Judah completely devastated and could see the fierce anger of God fulfilled upon Zion. It was so great that the kings of the earth would not have believed that the enemy could enter the gates of Jerusalem.
b. Because of the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests: The doom of Zion was especially appropriate given the sins of their spiritual leaders. Among other sins, they murdered faithful prophets and people of God (who shed in her midst the blood of the just).
i. “The prophets and priests, who ought to have been proclaiming the covenant ideals in the nation, were actually the responsible agents for perpetrating much of the iniquity so characteristic of pre-exilic life.” (Harrison)
ii. “These most wretched beings, under the pretense of zeal for the true religion, persecuted the genuine prophets, priests, and people of God, and caused their blood to be shed in the midst of the city, in the most open and public manner; exactly as the murderous priests, and blood-thirsty preachers, under the reign of bloody Queen Mary, did in England.” (Clarke)
iii. “Ezekiel 22:1–12 shows that the concept of bloodshed was far wider than murder or homicide, all that cut at the roots of society or that deprived men of their land and livelihood shortened their lives and so was bloodshed. Priest and prophet contributed positively and negatively—positively by advocating or condoning such behavior, negatively by failing to condemn those who wronged their fellow men.” (Ellison)
B. The Daughter of Zion and the nations.
1. (14-17) Scattered by the face of the LORD.
They wandered blind in the streets;
They have defiled themselves with blood,
So that no one would touch their garments.
They cried out to them,
“Go away, unclean!
Go away, go away,
Do not touch us!”
When they fled and wandered,
Those among the nations said,
“They shall no longer dwell here.”
The face of the LORD scattered them;
He no longer regards them.
The people do not respect the priests
Nor show favor to the elders.
Still our eyes failed us,
Watching vainly for our help;
In our watching we watched
For a nation that could not save us.
a. They wandered blind in the streets; they have defiled themselves with blood: Jeremiah pictured the people of Jerusalem wandering blind through the streets, stepping on dead bodies and therefore defiling themselves.
b. The face of the LORD scattered them: As God scattered His people from Jerusalem, they were not welcome in other places. The nations said to these wandering refugees, “They shall no longer dwell here.”
c. The people do not respect the priests nor show favor to the elders: God did not regard His people with favor because of sins such as these. Yet, as Jeremiah told us in Lamentations 4:13, it was the sins of the priests and the prophets that invited this lack of respect.
d. We watched for a nation that could not save us: Judah’s false prophets and political leaders put their trust in Egypt to rescue them from the Babylonians. They watched vainly for help.
i. “Now we are taken back to memories of the fall of the city. There was a vain and persistent hope that the Egyptians would come to the rescue (17; Jer. 37.5-10; Ezek. 29.6,7).” (Wright)
2. (18-20) Pursued by the enemies of God’s people.
They tracked our steps
So that we could not walk in our streets.
Our end was near;
Our days were over,
For our end had come.
Our pursuers were swifter
Than the eagles of the heavens.
They pursued us on the mountains
And lay in wait for us in the wilderness.
The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the LORD,
Was caught in their pits,
Of whom we said, “Under his shadow
We shall live among the nations.”
a. They tracked our steps so that we could not walk in our streets: When Jerusalem was finally conquered and occupied by the Babylonians, the Jewish citizens had very little freedom. They were soon prepared for exile to Babylon.
i. We could not walk in our streets: “Supposed to refer to the darts and other missiles cast from the mounds which they had raised on the outside of the walls, by which those who walked in the streets were grievously annoyed, and could not shield themselves.” (Clarke)
ii. “The tall Babylonian siege towers made it dangerous for anyone to walk in the streets within range of arrows or stones.” (Wright)
b. Our end was near; our days were over, for our end had come: Jeremiah had long prophesied that the Babylonians would conquer Jerusalem and Judah. Finally, the time had come and their days were over.
c. Our pursuers were swifter than the eagles of the heavens: The Babylonians pursued any who tried to escape. This included their king Zedekiah, who tried to escape but was captured (Jeremiah 52:5-11). The people of Jerusalem regarded Zedekiah as the anointed of the LORD, and hoped that under his shadow we shall live among the nations. The hope was bitterly disappointed.
i. “Zedekiah was a weak and treacherous individual who condoned the religious corruption and moral degeneracy of the time, and generally ignored the advice proffered by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 37:2), except on occasions of grave crisis.” (Harrison)
3. (21-22) The judgment coming to Edom.
Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom,
You who dwell in the land of Uz!
The cup shall also pass over to you
And you shall become drunk and make yourself naked.
The punishment of your iniquity is accomplished,
O daughter of Zion;
He will no longer send you into captivity.
He will punish your iniquity,
O daughter of Edom;
He will uncover your sins!
a. Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom: Jeremiah sarcastically spoke to Edom, who was happy that their neighbors Jerusalem and Judah were conquered.
i. The land of Uz: “Whether or not this territory is identical with that regarded as the homeland of Job is unknown. Since, however, Uz seems to have been consistently accessible both to Sabaean Bedouin from Arabia and Chaldean invaders from Mesopotamia (Job 1:15, 17), it would appear to have been located in the general area of Edom.” (Harrison)
b. This cup shall also pass over to you: As Edom found happiness in Zion’s misery, so they would drink the cup of judgment from the hand of the Babylonians.
i. “There is little doubt that the Edomites, who knew the routes and crossings, helped the Babylonians here, and this is why vs. 21,22 turn against Edom. Obad. 14 clearly shows what they did. So, when Zion is restored, Edom will still be kept low, and Mal. 1.2-5 records that this was fulfilled. Ultimately Edom was subdued and absorbed into Israel.” (Wright)
c. The punishment of your iniquity is accomplished: In this sense, God was finished with His great judgment against Jerusalem. The punishment of Edom was yet to come; God would soon uncover their sins.
i. “When sin is pardoned, it is said to be covered: here, God says he will not cover the sins of Edom – he will not pardon them; they shall drink the cup of wrath.” (Clarke)
Lamentations 3 – “Great Is Your Faithfulness”
Video for Lamentations 3:
“The third poem is significantly different in structure from the others, being made up of single lines grouped in threes, and commencing with the same consonant of the Hebrew alphabet.” (R.K. Harrison)
“In the Hebrew Bible, the first three verses all start with aleph, the second three verses with beth, and so forth.” (Philipp Ryken)
A. Opposed by the LORD.
1. (1-9) The man afflicted by the LORD.
I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of His wrath.
He has led me and made me walk
In darkness and not in light.
Surely He has turned His hand against me
Time and time again throughout the day.
He has aged my flesh and my skin,
And broken my bones.
He has besieged me
And surrounded me with bitterness and woe.
He has set me in dark places
Like the dead of long ago.
He has hedged me in so that I cannot get out;
He has made my chain heavy.
Even when I cry and shout,
He shuts out my prayer.
He has blocked my ways with hewn stone;
He has made my paths crooked.
a. I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of His wrath: In chapters 1 and 2, Jeremiah wrote mainly as Jerusalem personified. Here he began to write as the voice of an individual sufferer. Yes, this was Jeremiah, but it certainly was not only him. He and many others had seen affliction, and they knew that it came as God’s discipline (the rod of His wrath).
i. “The sufferings of the people of Judah are described as though one man had experienced them. It is possible to interpret this chapter as a record of the feelings of Jeremiah himself, or as a personification in an otherwise unknown individual or the nation’s tragic sufferings.” (Harrison)
ii. “Jeremiah’s personal lament is a reminder that suffering is always personal. When nations go through times of tragedy and tribulation, the greatest suffering always takes place at the individual level.” (Ryken)
iii. “That which is most impressive in this song is the identification of the prophet with the people and with God. He recognized the necessity of the suffering, but suffered with the sufferers.” (Morgan)
iv. He has led me and made me walk in darkness: “This seems to be the hardest part of our lot, that God should lead us into darkness: ‘He hath led me, and brought me into darkness.’ Yet dear brethren, that is, on the other hand, the sweetest thing about our trial; because, if the darkness be in the place where God has led us, it is best for us to be in the dark.” (Spurgeon)
b. Surely He has turned His hand against me: Jeremiah did not stay in this dark and desperate place, but he would not deny being there. Many times through the affliction he felt God to be his adversary, not his friend.
i. He has turned His hand against me: “A metaphor from buffeters, who double their blows, beating their adversaries on both sides, as the smith doth his red hot iron upon the anvil till he hath shaped it.” (Trapp)
c. He has besieged me: Even as Jerusalem was literally besieged, so Jeremiah (and countless others) felt themselves surrounded by bitterness and woe and slowly strangled by God.
i. He has hedged me in: “This also may refer to the lines drawn round the city during the siege. But these and similar expressions in the following verses may be merely metaphorical, to point out their straitened, oppressed, and distressed state.” (Clarke)
ii. He has hedged me in: Harrison saw this as a picture of cruel imprisonment. “The walling-up of prisoners within confined spaces so that they died very quickly was a form of torture made popular by the Assyrians.”
iii. He has made my chain heavy: “As the convict sometimes drags about his chain, and has a ball at his foot, so the prophet felt as if God had clogged him with a heavy chain, so that he could not move because of its terrible weight.” (Spurgeon)
d. He shuts out my prayer: When things are right with our relationship with God, He is our refuge and defense in affliction. In their depths of affliction, this was not the experience of Jeremiah and the people of Judah. They were surrounded, hedged, and blocked.
2. (10-18) God an adversary in many ways.
He has been to me a bear lying in wait,
Like a lion in ambush.
He has turned aside my ways and torn me in pieces;
He has made me desolate.
He has bent His bow
And set me up as a target for the arrow.
He has caused the arrows of His quiver
To pierce my loins.
I have become the ridicule of all my people—
Their taunting song all the day.
He has filled me with bitterness,
He has made me drink wormwood.
He has also broken my teeth with gravel,
And covered me with ashes.
You have moved my soul far from peace;
I have forgotten prosperity.
And I said, “My strength and my hope
Have perished from the LORD.”
a. He has been to me like a bear lying in wait: Using the eloquence that misery sometimes brings, Jeremiah described all the ways that they felt God opposed and even attacked them.
·God was the like the bear and the lion waiting for a surprise attack.
·God was like the archer who bent His bow and was directed at the target.
·God was like the mocker who led the taunting song against His people.
·God was like the judge, giving a cup of judgment and wormwood for the condemned to drink.
·God was the brute, breaking my teeth with gravel.
i. He has bent His bow: “This figure shows the power of the archer’s arm, which transfixed the poet with arrows.” (Ellison)
ii. He has also broken my teeth with gravel: “What a figure to express disgust, pain, and the consequent incapacity of taking food for the support of life; a man, instead of bread, being obliged to eat small pebbles till all his teeth are broken to pieces by endeavouring to grind them. One can scarcely read this description without feeling the toothache.” (Clarke)
iii. With gravel: “It could be argued that it refers to the type of bread made from the sweepings of the granary floor that Jeremiah must have received toward the end of the siege.” (Ellison)
iv. To pierce my loins: Literally, kidneys. “In the sacrificial tariffs of the Pentateuch, animal kidneys were held to be one of the locations of life, this being thought true of human kidneys also. In addition, emotional attributes of joy (Proverbs 23:16) and sorrow (Job 19:27; Psalm 73:21) were credited to them.” (Harrison)
b. My strength and my hope have perished from the LORD: No wonder Jeremiah and Jerusalem could say this. With God as adversary, what strength is there? What hope is there of either peace or prosperity?
i. “The poet’s mention of ‘the LORD’ broke the spell of misery that had bound him.” (Ellison)
B. Rising hope in God’s help.
1. (19-20) The sinking soul.
Remember my affliction and roaming,
The wormwood and the gall.
My soul still remembers
And sinks within me.
a. Remember my affliction and roaming: Jeremiah did not prescribe positive thinking for this deep affliction. He actually felt it useful to remember it, to understand it for what it was, and to not pretend it wasn’t there.
b. My soul still remembers and sinks within me: It was good for Jeremiah’s soul to sink, to find its bottom point so that he could build on the right foundation.
i. “It is evident that in the preceding verses there is a bitterness of complaint against the bitterness of adversity, that is not becoming to man when under the chastising hand of God; and, while indulging this feeling, all hope fled. Here we find a different feeling; he humbles himself under the mighty hand of God, and then his hope revives.” (Clarke)
2. (21-23) New mercies from a faithful God.
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
a. This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope: For perhaps the first time in the book, hope is allowed. Having sunk low in his soul (Lamentations 3:20), Jeremiah now remembered something that started hope within.
i. “In a magnificent expression of faith in the unfailing mercies of God, the writer looks to the distant future with renewed hope.” (Harrison)
ii. “At the south of Africa the sea was generally so stormy, when the frail barks of the Portuguese went sailing south, that they named it the Cape of Storms; but after that cape had been well rounded by bolder navigators, they named it the Cape of Good Hope. In your experience you had many a Cape of Storms, but you have weathered them all, and now, let them be a Cape of Good Hope to you.” (Spurgeon)
b. Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed: This was one of the things Jeremiah remembered. He remembered that as beat down and defeated the people of Jerusalem and Judah were, they were not yet completely consumed. There was still a remnant, and remnant with a promise of restoration. Wherever God leaves life, He leaves hope.
i. “The vital word in this verse is ḥeseḏ (‘great love’ [mercies]), the covenant love and loyalty of the Lord that leads to rahamim (‘compassion,’ ‘mercy’), derived from reḥem (‘womb’).” (Ellison)
ii. “See where Jeremiah gets his comfort; he seems to say, ‘Bad as my case is, it might have been worse, for I might have been consumed, and I should have been consumed if the Lord’s compassions had failed.’” (Spurgeon)
c. Because His compassions fail not: Even in the severity of correction God’s people endured, there was evidence of His compassions. There was rich comfort in realizing that the tender affection of God was not completely spent; these compassions were new every morning.
i. “The passage is full of beauty, as it deals with that tender compassion of God which had never been absent even in the work of punishment.” (Morgan)
d. They are new every morning: Each dawning day gives mankind hope in fresh mercies and compassions from God. We need a constant supply and God has promised to send them without fail. No matter how bad the past day was, God’s people can look to the new morning with faith and hope.
i. These mercies are always new because they come from God. “Our treasures, which we lay up on earth, are the stagnant pools; but the treasure which God gives us from heaven, in providence and in grace, is the crystal fount which wells up from the eternal deeps, and is always fresh and always new.” (Spurgeon)
·Every morning ends the night.
·Every morning brings a new day.
·Every morning brings new provision for the day.
·Every morning brings new forgiveness for new sins.
·Every morning brings new strength for new temptations, duties, and trials.
e. Great is Your faithfulness: All this made Jeremiah consider the great faithfulness of God; that He never fails in sending His mercies and compassions. Even in their catastrophe, God was faithful. He faithfully announced His judgments and performed them, and God would prove to be just as faithful in His promised restoration.
i. “The prophet addressed him personally and directly: ‘Great is your faithfulness’. In the process of remembering God’s attributes, Jeremiah was drawn back into living fellowship and intimate communion with his faithful God.” (Ryken)
3. (24-26) God’s goodness to the seeking soul.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the LORD.
a. The LORD is my portion: As in Psalm 119:57, Jeremiah found the key to satisfaction—finding one’s portion in the LORD. Whatever measure he was to receive, whatever inheritance, whatever future, it would all be found in Yahweh.
i. These are the words of a satisfied soul. Jeremiah had no other place of satisfaction, so he was settled with the portion received, and that portion was the LORD Himself.
ii. “The poet said in effect, that he has had so little of this world’s goods and pleasures because his share has been the Lord.” (Ellison)
b. Therefore I hope in Him: God couldn’t really be his hope until he was first his portion. This was a pathway to hope for him.
c. The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him: All the misery of God’s people had come because they would not truly seek God and wait for Him. They rejected and rebelled for generations, then looked to others for rescue. Seeking Him again would bring renewed expressions of His goodness.
i. “Do not be in a hurry; do not expect to be delivered out of your trouble the first time you begin to cry unto God. Oh, no: ‘the Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.’ (Spurgeon)
ii. “There are times when the only thing a sufferer can do is wait for God. But waiting is good because God is worth waiting for.” (Ryken)
d. It is good that he should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD: Everything previous in Lamentations was deep in despair, and the misery was by no means over. Yet these flashes of light are welcome and necessary. Against all the despair, Jeremiah proclaimed to himself and all others the goodness of hope and patient seeking of God.
i. “Hoping and waiting differ but as the mother and daughter, hope being the mother of patience and waiting; or as the habit and act, hoping and waiting being ranch the same, flowing from a gracious power and habit given the soul to wait. Quietness is necessary to waiting, for all turbulency and impatience of spirit under sad providences is opposed to waiting.” (Poole)
4. (27-29) Hope for the silent soul.
It is good for a man to bear
The yoke in his youth.
Let him sit alone and keep silent,
Because God has laid it on him;
Let him put his mouth in the dust—
There may yet be hope.
a. It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth: There are seasons of adversity, and sometimes it is better to have those seasons when one is young. If God disciplines us when we are young, it is to train us for a fruitful future.
i. The yoke in his youth: “Early habits, when good, are invaluable. Early discipline is equally so. He who has not got under wholesome restraint in youth will never make a useful man, a good man, nor a happy man.” (Clarke)
ii. “Such burdens can best be borne in youth when a man has the requisite vigour, and when his personality needs to be disciplined more than would be the case in his more mature years.” (Harrison)
iii. Spurgeon suggested many reasons why it is good to bear the yoke when young:
·It is good because obedience to God is best learned when young.
·It is good because it saves from a thousand snares.
·It is good because it keeps from bearing the devil’s yoke.
·It is good because it gives you more years to serve God.
·It is good because it gives one many years of experience.
b. Let him sit alone and keep silent: Under adversity, it is best to not try and figure everything out right away. These are good times for reflection (sit alone) and listening rather than speaking. In this patient seeking of God, there is reason for hope.
i. Keep silent: “There came a young man to Demosthenes to learn oratory; he talked away at a great rate, and Demosthenes said, ‘I must charge you double fees.’ ‘Why?’ he asked. ‘Why,’ said the master, ‘I have first to teach you to hold your tongue, and afterwards to instruct you how to speak.’ The Lord teaches true penitents how to hold their tongues.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “Silence implies both an acceptance of God’s will and a refusal to complain to men. With this should go the complete submission to God pictured in v.29 by the Oriental obeisance. It leads too to the willingness to be treated like a slave (v.30), for the yoke was a symbol of servitude (but cf. Jeremiah 20:1–2).” (Ellison)
5. (30-36) The goodness of God even in His justice.
Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes him,
And be full of reproach.
For the Lord will not cast off forever.
Though He causes grief,
Yet He will show compassion
According to the multitude of His mercies.
For He does not afflict willingly,
Nor grieve the children of men.
To crush under one’s feet
All the prisoners of the earth,
To turn aside the justice due a man
Before the face of the Most High,
Or subvert a man in his cause—
The Lord does not approve.
a. Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes him: Jeremiah said this in the context of patiently enduring suffering (Lamentations 3:27-29). His sense is that they should patiently receive the suffering and reproach God had appointed for them.
i. “In offering the cheek to the smiter the captive was conveying the idea of absolute surrender.” (Harrison)
ii. Jesus gave his cheek to the one who strikes him as He patiently received the suffering His Father had appointed (Matthew 26:67-68, Luke 22:64).
b. For the Lord will not cast off forever: The suffering endured was not everlasting. In His wise judgments God caused grief, but promised to also show compassion, and would do so according to the multitude of His mercies.
c. For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men: When God does allow or send His judgments, He does not do it with a happy heart. His discipline is not happy nor is it unfair (to turn aside the justice due a man). As Abraham said of God, shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? (Genesis 18:25).
i. “It is no pleasure to God to afflict men. He takes no delight in our pain and misery: yet, like a tender and intelligent parent, he uses the rod; not to gratify himself, but to profit and save us.” (Clarke)
ii. To turn aside the justice due a man before the face of the Most High: “The MT of verse 35 lends force to the concept of natural or inherent human rights when rendered, to pervert the right which a man has in the very presence of the Most High. God therefore disapproves heartily of any attempt to deprive an individual of his rights in the law (36), or to condemn him unjustly.” (Harrison)
C. Prayers of humble trust in God.
1. (37-39) The God who cannot be opposed.
Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass,
When the Lord has not commanded it?
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
That woe and well-being proceed?
Why should a living man complain,
A man for the punishment of his sins?
a. Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass, when the Lord has not commanded it? In a season of great suffering or calamity, it may be difficult to remember that God rules over all things – if not directly, then in what He allows. Yet the consideration of God’s sovereignty would also become the source of their hope. It was and is worse to be at the mercy of blind fate.
b. Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that woe and well-being proceed? To give emphasis, Jeremiah asked the same question in different words.
c. Why should a living man complain: We may complain against God and His sovereignty, but that is profitless and ungrateful. The living man should be grateful he still has life, and recognize there is some justice in the punishment of his sins.
i. “He who has his life still lent to him has small cause of complaint. How great soever his affliction may be, he is still alive; therefore, he may seek and find mercy unto eternal life. Of this, death would deprive him; therefore let not a living man complain.” (Clarke)
ii. “If he be tempted to murmur, let him remember that he is yet alive, and that is more than his part cometh to, since it is the Lord’s mercy that he is not consumed, and sent packing hence to hell. Life in any sense is a sweet mercy, even that which to the afflicted may seem a lifeless life.” (Trapp)
2. (40-47) Humbly turning back to God.
Let us search out and examine our ways,
And turn back to the LORD;
Let us lift our hearts and hands
To God in heaven.
We have transgressed and rebelled;
You have not pardoned.
You have covered Yourself with anger
And pursued us;
You have slain and not pitied.
You have covered Yourself with a cloud,
That prayer should not pass through.
You have made us an offscouring and refuse
In the midst of the peoples.
All our enemies
Have opened their mouths against us.
Fear and a snare have come upon us,
Desolation and destruction.
a. Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the LORD: Even under the great sense that God was their opponent and adversary (Lamentations 3:1-18), Jeremiah recommended the proper and humble approach.
b. Search out and examine our ways: Sins must not be casually and superficially confessed and dealt with. We don’t live constantly focused on our sins and failings, but there are appropriate times to carefully, deliberately search out and examine our ways.
c. And turn back to the LORD: All the self-examination in the world does little good if it does not lead us back to this place. We should, we must, turn away from sin and self and turn back to the LORD.
d. You have made us an offscouring and refuse: In the desire to turn back to the LORD, Jeremiah knew that it was important to honestly see their condition. They were under God’s severe discipline, and that because of their deep and persistent sin.
i. “The nation’s recognition of itself as offscouring (so most evv) employs a descriptive term sehi, occurring here only in the Hebrew Bible, and in the context denotes anything rejected as unfit for use. Its New Testament counterpart (1 Corinthians 4:13) is equally rare, depicting the suffering of the apostles.” (Harrison)
ii. “That is, thou hast made us to all nations extremely contemptible, so as they value us no more than the sweepings of their houses, or the most vile, refuse, and contemptible things imaginable.” (Poole)
3. (48-51) Weeping over destruction.
My eyes overflow with rivers of water
For the destruction of the daughter of my people.
My eyes flow and do not cease,
Till the LORD from heaven
Looks down and sees.
My eyes bring suffering to my soul
Because of all the daughters of my city.
a. My eyes overflow with rivers of water: Earlier in Lamentations 2:18 Jeremiah expressed a prayer in the mouth of Jerusalem’s enemies, a prayer that the city and her walls would weep without end. Here Jeremiah fulfills that role with tears that flow and do not cease, without interruption.
b. Till the LORD from heaven looks down and sees: The intense weeping of Jeremiah and those like him must continue until God looks and sees, taking notice of and mercy to their misery.
4. (52-56) Praying for help under enemy attack.
My enemies without cause
Hunted me down like a bird.
They silenced my life in the pit
And threw stones at me.
The waters flowed over my head;
I said, “I am cut off!”
I called on Your name, O LORD,
From the lowest pit.
You have heard my voice:
“Do not hide Your ear
From my sighing, from my cry for help.”
a. My enemies without cause hunted me down like a bird: Jeremiah and those like him felt under constant pressure from capture or killing. They were against him like a fowler is against a bird. He was overwhelmed like a man drowning in a pit (the waters flowed over my head).
i. Silenced my life in the pit: “Seemeth not to be here taken literally, for the lowest and nastiest place in prisons, which probably was the portion but of a few of the Jews; but metaphorically, for the lowest and saddest condition of misery. Their enemies had brought them into the deepest miseries.” (Poole)
b. I called on your name, O LORD: Even from the pit Jeremiah knew he could call upon the LORD, and that God would hear His voice. Even if he could only manage a sigh, it would be his cry for help that he longed for God to hear.
i. From my sighing, my cry for help: “He dared not even to complain, nor to cry, nor to pray aloud: he was obliged to whisper his prayer to God. It was only a breathing.” (Clarke)
ii. “As breathing is a proof of animal life, so is prayer, though never so weak, of spiritual. If therefore you cannot speak, weep – tears also have a voice; [Psalms 39:12] if you cannot weep, sigh – a storm of sighs may do as much as a shower of tears; if you cannot sigh, yet breathe, as here. God feels breath; and happy is he that can say, In thee I hope, Lord, and after thee I breathe or pant.” (Trapp)
iii. “A mother listens for the breathing of her babe in the dark. It will tell her so much. The soft, measured breath, or the laboring, gasping breath. God never hides His ear from our breathing; or from those in- articulate cries, which express, as words could not do, the deep anguish and yearning of the heart. If you cannot speak, cry, sob, or groan, then be still. God can interpret all.” (Meyer)
5. (57-63) Thankful and confident of future help.
You drew near on the day I called on You,
And said, “Do not fear!”
O Lord, You have pleaded the case for my soul;
You have redeemed my life.
O LORD, You have seen how I am wronged;
Judge my case.
You have seen all their vengeance,
All their schemes against me.
You have heard their reproach, O LORD,
All their schemes against me,
The lips of my enemies
And their whispering against me all the day.
Look at their sitting down and their rising up;
I am their taunting song.
a. You drew near on the day I called on You: Jeremiah knew that God responded when he called upon Him. God’s response to this seeking soul was, “Do not fear!”
i. You drew near: “Jeremiah seems to record this fact with a considerable amount of surprise. He marvels that God should have drawn near to him, for his condition was a very pitiful one. He was so low that life seemed ebbing out, and he groaned.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Do not fear: “How powerful is this word when spoken by the Spirit of the Lord to a disconsolate heart. To every mourner we may say, on the authority of God, Fear not! God will plead thy cause, and redeem thy soul.” (Clarke)
b. Lord, You have pleaded the case for my soul: From formerly feeling forsaken, Jeremiah rested in the confidence that God was his advocate. Like a lawyer pleading for his client, God pleaded the case for his life.
i. Earlier in this chapter, Jeremiah felt God was his adversary (Lamentations 3:1-18). Now he prayed to God as his advocate.
ii. “You perceive there is not a word concerning himself or his own pleadings. He doth not ascribe his deliverance in any measure to any man, much less to his own merit; but it is ‘thou’.” (Spurgeon)
c. LORD, You have seen how I am wronged: Jeremiah rested in the confidence that God was a righteous judge, who would see how he was wronged and who would rightly judge his case.
i. “If you will turn to the lives of any of the saints of God, you will discover that they were the victims of slanders of the grossest kind. To this very day it is asserted by Romanists that Martin Luther was a drunkard. In his own day he was called the German beast, that for lust must needs marry Catharine. If you turn to the life of Whitfield – our great and mighty Whitfield – in more modern times, what was his character? Why, he was accused of every crime that even Sodom knew; and perjury stood up and swore that all was true. As for Wesley – I have heard that on one occasion he said that he had been charged with every crime in the calendar, except drunkenness; and when a woman stood up in the crowd and accused him of that, he then said, ‘Blessed God, I have now had all manner of evil spoken against me falsely, for Christ’s name sake.’” (Spurgeon)
d. You have seen all their vengeance: Jeremiah brought his case to God, telling him of all the ways that his enemies had attacked him. They did it by despising him (their reproach), with schemes, with whispering lies, and their taunting song against him.
i. Their taunting song: “Mocking or taunt-songs were also frequently used to express derision or contempt for an enemy.” (Harrison)
6. (64-66) Giving vengeance to God.
Repay them, O LORD,
According to the work of their hands.
Give them a veiled heart;
Your curse be upon them!
In Your anger,
Pursue and destroy them
From under the heavens of the LORD.
a. Repay them, O LORD, according to the work of their hands: God had repaid Jerusalem and Judah for all their sin and disobedience. Now Jeremiah prayed that Yahweh would repay their enemies, and give them a veiled heart even as Judah was blind.
b. Your curse be upon them: According to the terms of the covenant Israel made with God (as in Deuteronomy 27-28), Israel would be terribly cursed if they disobeyed and rejected God. Those curses came upon Jerusalem in Jeremiah’s day; now he prayed that those curses come upon their enemies.
c. In Your anger, pursue and destroy them from under the heavens of the LORD: Jerusalem and Judah had faced the anger of God and the destruction that came from it. Now he prayed that their enemies would face God’s anger.
i. “These past deliverances created his assurance that Jehovah would yet act on behalf of His people and destroy their enemies from under the heavens.” (Morgan)
Lamentations 2 – Purpose Proposed, Purpose Fulfilled
A. God as the enemy of Jerusalem.
1. (1-5) The Lord as Jerusalem’s enemy.
How the Lord has covered the daughter of Zion
With a cloud in His anger!
He cast down from heaven to the earth
The beauty of Israel,
And did not remember His footstool
In the day of His anger.
The Lord has swallowed up and has not pitied
All the dwelling places of Jacob.
He has thrown down in His wrath
The strongholds of the daughter of Judah;
He has brought them down to the ground;
He has profaned the kingdom and its princes.
He has cut off in fierce anger
Every horn of Israel;
He has drawn back His right hand
From before the enemy.
He has blazed against Jacob like a flaming fire
Devouring all around.
Standing like an enemy, He has bent His bow;
With His right hand, like an adversary,
He has slain all who were pleasing to His eye;
On the tent of the daughter of Zion,
He has poured out His fury like fire.
The Lord was like an enemy.
He has swallowed up Israel,
He has swallowed up all her palaces;
He has destroyed her strongholds,
And has increased mourning and lamentation
In the daughter of Judah.
a. How the Lord has covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in His anger: In previous generations, Jerusalem knew the cloud of God’s glory (1 Kings 8:10-12). Ezekiel saw the cloud of glory depart the city under judgment (Ezekiel 10). Now Jeremiah laments the presence of a cloud – not a cloud of glory, but a cloud of anger.
i. “The women in the eastern countries wear veils, and often very costly ones. Here, Zion is represented as being veiled by the hand of God’s judgment. And what is the veil? A dark cloud, by which she is entirely obscured.” (Clarke)
ii. “Neither Jehovah nor the daughter of Zion is conceived of as departed, or destroyed. She is covered in a cloud, and so cut off from the vision of Jehovah, that is, she cannot see Him. Clouds hide God from men; they never hide men from God.” (Morgan)
iii. Did not remember His footstool: “The earth is called the Lord’s footstool, Isaiah 66:1 Matthew 5:35 Acts 7:49, but here plainly the temple is understood, called God’s footstool, 1 Chronicles 28:2; and the whole temple seems rather to be understood than the ark.” (Poole)
b. He has thrown down in His wrath the strongholds of the daughter of Judah: This begins a long series of He has statements. The emphasis is again on the idea that all this destruction comes from God, even if it was through the instrument of the Babylonian army.
i. Daughter of Zion and daughter of Judah are privileged titles, yet that privledge carries with it great responsibility. For many generations God’s people thought only in terms of the priviledge and not of the responsibility. “The nation had imagined that it occupied a privileged position because it stood in covenant relationship with God, and was seemingly unaware that such a status involved important obligations in the moral and spiritual realm.” (Harrison)
ii. “In New Testament times, Capernaum was promised a share in the fate of Chorazin and Bethsaida (Matthew 11:21ff.) because she, too, had resisted the challenge of God’s redemptive works.” (Harrison)
c. Standing like an enemy, He has bent His bow: Jeremiah saw that God treated Jerusalem as an enemy and like an adversary. His skill and strength (with His right hand) was against them, not for him.
i. “In a strange twist on the Old Testament motif of the divine warrior, God was not fighting for his people, but against them.” (Ryken)
ii. “That is, God (whom by their sins they had provoked and made their enemy) behaved himself as an enemy, bending his bow, and stretching out his right hand, and slew their young men and maidens, who were pleasant to look upon; and had brought judgments upon them like fire, which devours without any discrimination.” (Poole)
2. (6-7) The Lord destroys His own tabernacle.
He has done violence to His tabernacle,
As if it were a garden;
He has destroyed His place of assembly;
The LORD has caused
The appointed feasts and Sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion.
In His burning indignation He has spurned the king and the priest.
The Lord has spurned His altar,
He has abandoned His sanctuary;
He has given up the walls of her palaces
Into the hand of the enemy.
They have made a noise in the house of the LORD
As on the day of a set feast.
a. He has done violence to His tabernacle: Here the temple was referred to as a tabernacle, just as sometimes the tabernacle was referred to as a temple. They were simply various ways of describing the house of God, His place of assembly.
b. The LORD has caused the appointed feasts and Sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion: When the temple and the city were destroyed, so were all the observances and institutions connected with them.
·Feasts and Sabbaths were no longer observed.
·His altar was rejected.
·His sanctuary was abandoned.
·Her palaces were given into the hand of the enemy.
c. They have made a noise in the house of the LORD: The sound of shouting and noise and commotion was common on the day of a set feast. Now they heard the sound from enemies who set the city in subjection.
B. A city reacts to the judgment of God.
1. (8-9a) The defenses of the city react.
The LORD has purposed to destroy
The wall of the daughter of Zion.
He has stretched out a line;
He has not withdrawn His hand from destroying;
Therefore He has caused the rampart and wall to lament;
They languished together.
Her gates have sunk into the ground;
He has destroyed and broken her bars.
a. The LORD has purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion: Jerusalem’s wall was its security. Once the wall was destroyed, the city was prey for anyone and everyone. God purposed to destroy, and the purpose was declared fulfilled in Lamentations 2:17.
b. He has stretched out a line: The idea is that God did His work with careful measuring and precision. There was nothing accidental or haphazard about it.
i. A line: “Of destruction, or a levelling line. See 2 Kings 21:13, Isaiah 34:11. Jerusalem was built by line, and so it was destroyed by him who doeth all things in number, weight, and measure.” (Trapp)
ii. “Just as a builder measured levels carefully in the process of construction, so God had been equally precise in the work of demolition to ensure that one stone did not stand upon another.” (Harrison)
c. Her gates have sunk into the ground: The walls were destroyed, the gates were sunk, and the bars protecting the city were broken.
2. (9b-10) The people of the city react.
Her king and her princes are among the nations;
The Law is no more,
And her prophets find no vision from the LORD.
The elders of the daughter of Zion
Sit on the ground and keep silence;
They throw dust on their heads
And gird themselves with sackcloth.
The virgins of Jerusalem
Bow their heads to the ground.
a. Her king and her princes are among the nations: The royalty and nobles have been taken to Babylon. Government institutions had disappeared and were of no help.
b. The Law is no more, and her prophets find no vision from the LORD: The spiritual institutions had also failed, and could give no help. There were no faithful priests to teach the Law, and the prophets were silent.
i. “Jeremiah was alone, and haply thought, when he saw all ruined, that he should prophesy no more. Ezekiel and Daniel were far remote. This was no small affliction that is here complained of.” (Trapp)
c. The elders of the daughter of Zion sit on the ground and keep silence: The leaders of the community were stunned into silence and of no help. All they could do was mourn (throw dust on their heads).
d. The virgins of Jerusalem bow their heads to the ground: The younger generation was of no help. All they could do was bow their heads to the ground in despair.
i. “The mention of the ‘elders’ and ‘young women’ is probably intended to include the whole surviving population.” (Ellison)
3. (11-12) The prophet reacts.
My eyes fail with tears,
My heart is troubled;
My bile is poured on the ground
Because of the destruction of the daughter of my people,
Because the children and the infants
Faint in the streets of the city.
They say to their mothers,
“Where is grain and wine?”
As they swoon like the wounded
In the streets of the city,
As their life is poured out
In their mothers’ bosom.
a. My eyes fail with tears: All this made Jeremiah undone. His eyes wept, his heart broke, his bile poured out in nausea. He saw the city’s destruction – especially the effect on the children and the infants and reacted this way.
i. “This whole verse is but expressive of the prophet’s great affliction for the miseries come upon the Jews: he wept himself almost blind, his passion had disturbed his bodily humours, that his bowels were troubled; his gall lying under his liver, upon this disturbance was vomited up: they are all no more than expressions of very great affliction and sorrow.” (Poole)
ii. My bile is poured on the ground: More literally, bile is liver. In particular the liver (MT kabed, ‘heavy’), which is actually the weightiest organ of the human body, was held in antiquity to be one of the locales of psychic life, being associated with profound emotional reactions, generally of a depressive nature.” (Harrison)
b. They swoon like the wounded: Jeremiah saw children fall to the ground as if they had been shot through with an arrow. They collapsed as their life is poured out in their mothers’ bosom.
i. The children and the infants faint in the streets: “This pathetic and tragic scene stands in stark contrast to the ideal of happy, carefree children playing in the streets of Jerusalem, a situation which is promised when the nation is restored (Zechariah 8:5).” (Harrison)
C. Longing to comfort a forsaken city.
1. (13-14) False prophets cannot comfort Jerusalem.
How shall I console you?
To what shall I liken you,
O daughter of Jerusalem?
What shall I compare with you, that I may comfort you,
O virgin daughter of Zion?
For your ruin is spread wide as the sea;
Who can heal you?
Your prophets have seen for you
False and deceptive visions;
They have not uncovered your iniquity,
To bring back your captives,
But have envisioned for you false prophecies and delusions.
a. How shall I console you? Jeremiah has often spoke of Jerusalem being without comfort. Now he finds himself unable to comfort the devastated city. Jerusalem’s ruin is spread wide as the sea and could not be helped.
i. “Divine retribution has burst in on Zion in the same manner as the sea forces its way through a gap in the protective wall.” (Harrison)
b. Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions: There were many false prophets in the last days of Judah, according to both Jeremiah and Ezekiel. They promised that God would rescue Jerusalem and Judah from the Babylonians and that He would quickly bring back your captives. They were all false prophecies and delusions.
2. (15-16) Friends and foes cannot comfort Jerusalem.
“The normal order of the Hebrew consonants ayin and pe in the acrostic structure of the poem is reversed in verse 16, as in the two subsequent dirges, for unknown reasons.” (Harrison)
All who pass by clap their hands at you;
They hiss and shake their heads
At the daughter of Jerusalem:
“Is this the city that is called
‘The perfection of beauty,
The joy of the whole earth’?”
All your enemies have opened their mouth against you;
They hiss and gnash their teeth.
They say, “We have swallowed her up!
Surely this is the day we have waited for;
We have found it, we have seen it!”
a. All who pass by clap their hands at you: This was not applause; it was a mournful reaction, fitting to those who hiss and shake their heads. All who saw it were astonished at the city that was once marked by beauty and joy.
b. We have swallowed her up: This was the triumphant cry of Jerusalem’s enemies. They waited long for the day of her conquest and were now happy to have seen it.
i. “Jerusalem was the envy of the surrounding nations: they longed for its destruction, and rejoiced when it took place.” (Clarke)
D. God’s purpose in the day of the Lord’s anger.
1. (17) The judgment of Jerusalem as what God purposed.
The LORD has done what He purposed;
He has fulfilled His word
Which He commanded in days of old.
He has thrown down and has not pitied,
And He has caused an enemy to rejoice over you;
He has exalted the horn of your adversaries.
a. The LORD has done what He purposed: Jeremiah announced God’s purpose in Lamentations 2:8 (The LORD has purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion). In the judgment upon Jerusalem and Judah, Yahweh fulfilled what He purposed and has fulfilled His word.
b. He has caused an enemy to rejoice over you: If Jerusalem had remained faithful to Yahweh, no enemy could have conquered them. Yet because of their persistent sin and rebellion, God had exalted the horn of their adversaries.
2. (18-19) The prayer of Jerusalem’s enemies.
Their heart cried out to the Lord,
“O wall of the daughter of Zion,
Let tears run down like a river day and night;
Give yourself no relief;
Give your eyes no rest.
“Arise, cry out in the night,
At the beginning of the watches;
Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord.
Lift your hands toward Him
For the life of your young children,
Who faint from hunger at the head of every street.”
a. O wall of the daughter of Zion, let tears run down like a river day and night: This was the taunting prayer of the enemies rejoicing over Jerusalem (as in the previous lines). They wanted Jerusalem to weep forever.
b. Lift your hands toward Him for the life of your young children: The enemies of Jerusalem were happy by the sight of the people of the city crying out in prayer, pleading for their young children perishing from hunger.
i. Your young children, who faint from hunger: “The dying children seem to have crawled from their homes towards the main city streets in a desperate, though vain, service for food. A personified Zion turns away in shock from this horrible scene with a desperate plea to God.” (Harrison)
3. (20-22) The agony of the perishing city.
“See, O LORD, and consider!
To whom have You done this?
Should the women eat their offspring,
The children they have cuddled?
Should the priest and prophet be slain
In the sanctuary of the Lord?
“Young and old lie
On the ground in the streets;
My virgins and my young men
Have fallen by the sword;
You have slain them in the day of Your anger,
You have slaughtered and not pitied.
“You have invited as to a feast day
The terrors that surround me.
In the day of the LORD’s anger
There was no refugee or survivor.
Those whom I have borne and brought up
My enemies have destroyed.”
a. To whom have You done this? Jerusalem’s agonized cry to God asked Him to consider the city and people He had loved. He asked God to consider the depths of their agony, including cannibalism (the women eat their offspring) and the death of the priest and prophet.
i. The women eat their offspring: “That they did so in the siege of Jerusalem by the Chaldees, it appeareth by this question. In the famine of Samaria, under Joram, they did likewise; [2 Kings 6:28-29] as also at the last destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans; and at the siege of Sancerra, in France, A.D. 1572.” (Trapp)
b. You have slain them in the day of Your anger: Jerusalem personified knew it was all the deserved judgment of God. It was Yahweh who invited a collection of terrors to surround Jerusalem. All those sustained by Jerusalem (those whom I have borne and brought up) have been destroyed by her enemies.
i. My virgins and my young men have fallen by the sword: “The slaughter of the young men and women was particularly serious because it precluded the appearing of another generation.” (Harrison)
ii. You have invited as to a feast day: “Perhaps the figure is the collecting of the people in Jerusalem on one of the solemn annual festivals. God has called terrors together to feast on Jerusalem, similar to the convocation of the people from all parts of the land to one of those annual festivals.” (Clarke)
Lamentations 1 – Mourning Over the Fallen City
The Book of Lamentations is the collection of five poems or songs mourning the conquest of Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah.
“Dirge poetry of the kind exemplified by Lamentations was by no means uncommon in Near Eastern antiquity. The author of Lamentations stood therefore in a long and respectable literary tradition when he bewailed the destruction of Jerusalem and the desolation of Judah in 587 BC.” (R.K. Harrison)
Lamentations is a remarkable written work, because the first four of the five poems are written as acrostics. The twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet are used in succession to begin the lines and sections of those songs.
“The use of the alphabet symbolizes that the completeness—‘the A to Z’—of grief is being expressed.” (H.L. Ellison)
Lamentations both reflected and gave words to the deliberate choice of the Jewish people to remember and mourn their fallen city and kingdom. “For as far back as tradition reaches, Lamentations has been read on Tisha b’Av; and it is not unreasonable to assume that it was intended for this purpose from the first.” (H.L. Ellison)
“As oft as I read the Lamentations of Jeremiah, saith Gregory Nazianzen, my voice faileth me, and I am overwhelmed with tears. The misery of that poor people cometh under my view, as it were, and my heart is therewith very much affected and afflicted.” (John Trapp)
A. Jerusalem afflicted with no comfort.
1. (1-2) Grieving over an empty city.
How lonely sits the city
That was full of people!
How like a widow is she,
Who was great among the nations!
The princess among the provinces
Has become a slave!
She weeps bitterly in the night,
Her tears are on her cheeks;
Among all her lovers
She has none to comfort her.
All her friends have dealt treacherously with her;
They have become her enemies.
a. How lonely sits the city: Writing after the catastrophe of Jerusalem’s defeat, Jeremiah thought of the contrast between happy, prosperous Jerusalem and the lonely, empty, conquered city after the Babylonian conquest. Once she was full of people, now she is empty. Once she was great among the nations, now she is like a slave.
i. Jeremiah is never specifically mentioned as the author of Lamentations, but it is a reasonable conclusion from both long-standing tradition and great similarity to the book of Jeremiah. It is likely that he wrote this collection of five poems after the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem but before he was taken to Egypt against his will (Jeremiah 43). Jeremiah is specifically mentioned as the author of other laments (2 Chronicles 35:25).
ii. “In all copies of the Septuagint, whether of the Roman or Alexandrian editions, the following words are found as a part of the text: ‘And it came to pass after Israel had been carried away captive, and Jerusalem was become desolate, that Jeremiah sat weeping: and he lamented with this lamentation over Jerusalem; and he said.’” (Clarke)
iii. How lonely sits the city: “The coin struck by Vespasian on the capture of Jerusalem, on the obverse of which there is a palm-tree, the emblem of Judea, and under it a woman, the emblem of Jerusalem, sitting, leaning as before described, with the legend Judea capta, illustrates this expression.” (Clarke)
iv. Who was great among the nations: “So was Athens, once the glory of Greece, for both arts and arms, now a dog hole in comparison. Sparta also, that other eye of Greece, is now a small burrow called Misithra, having nothing to boast of but the fame and thoughts of its former greatness.” (Trapp)
b. She weeps bitterly in the night: With poetic skill Jeremiah thought of Jerusalem as the widow princess brought low, weeping uncontrollably with none to comfort her. Jeremiah’s sorrow is deep and plain; even though Jerusalem’s conquest vindicated Jeremiah’s many prophecies, he has no sense of triumph or “I told you so.” Jeremiah deeply sorrows with the sorrow of Jerusalem and Judah.
i. “To heighten the tragedy of destruction the author uses the image of a woman bereaved of her husband and children, bitterly lamenting her present sorry state in anguish and apprehension.” (Harrison)
ii. “In this brief Book of Lamentation the spirit of the man is strikingly revealed. There is no exultation over the fulfilment of his predictions, and there is a twofold loyalty manifest throughout, first to God in the confession of sin, and then to his people in the expression of their sorrow.” (Morgan)
c. All her friends have dealt treacherously with her: In better days, Jerusalem enjoyed loyal alliances. Those one-time friends became her enemies.
i. “Israel was always faced with an inescapable choice. She could rely on God for her safety against external aggression, or she could turn to allies great and small.” (Ellison)
2. (3-6) Under affliction from the LORD.
Judah has gone into captivity,
Under affliction and hard servitude;
She dwells among the nations,
She finds no rest;
All her persecutors overtake her in dire straits.
The roads to Zion mourn
Because no one comes to the set feasts.
All her gates are desolate;
Her priests sigh,
Her virgins are afflicted,
And she is in bitterness.
Her adversaries have become the master,
Her enemies prosper;
For the LORD has afflicted her
Because of the multitude of her transgressions.
Her children have gone into captivity before the enemy.
And from the daughter of Zion
All her splendor has departed.
Her princes have become like deer
That find no pasture,
That flee without strength
Before the pursuer.
a. Judah has gone into captivity: After the poetic images of the first few verses, Jeremiah simply reported the fact. Judah was conquered and captive. Once busy entrances to the city seemed empty (all her gates are desolate), and all who were connected with Jerusalem are dispirited; they sigh and are afflicted. Judah’s enemies are blessed as they prosper and master over them.
i. No one comes to the set feasts: “The routes to Jerusalem, once thronged with pilgrims going up to the Temple to participate in festal rites, are now completely deserted.” (Harrison)
b. For the LORD has afflicted her: Jeremiah understood that this catastrophe was not due to fate, human cruelty, or blind cycles of history. It was because Judah had sinned so long and so deep that it was God’s will to afflict her with severe correction. It was because of the multitude of her transgressions.
i. The multitude of her transgressions: “Though pesa is traditionally rendered ‘transgression,’ it is essentially a secular word meaning ‘rebellion’—a word that brings out more fully its meaning in this type of context.” (Ellison)
ii. Her children have gone into captivity before the enemy: “For the multitude of our sins, directly contrary to his promise in case of obedience… Not only our young and old men, but the little children, have been driven like sheep before the enemy into a miserable captivity.” (Poole)
c. All her splendor has departed: Jeremiah’s pain was amplified as he thought of how it used to be in Jerusalem. Now, the people and place of Jerusalem were desolate and defeated.
d. Her princes have become like deer: Both hope and leadership for the city abandoned Jerusalem. The princes ran away like deer, but also without success (that flee without strength before the pursuer).
i. “The image of pastureless deer contrasts sharply with the situation depicted in Psalm 23.” (Harrison)
3. (7) Remembering pleasant days.
In the days of her affliction and roaming,
Jerusalem remembers all her pleasant things
That she had in the days of old.
When her people fell into the hand of the enemy,
With no one to help her,
The adversaries saw her
And mocked at her downfall.
a. Jerusalem remembers all her pleasant things: The tragedy of Jerusalem’s fall was worse after considering how things were once so much better. The memory of days of pleasant things stung in the days of her affliction and roaming.
b. When her people fell into the hand of the enemy, with no one to help her: When the enemy came against her, Jerusalem was completely alone; the help many hoped for from Egypt never arrived. Because of this, the adversaries saw her and mocked at her downfall.
4. (8-11) The reason Jerusalem is left without comfort.
Jerusalem has sinned gravely,
Therefore she has become vile.
All who honored her despise her
Because they have seen her nakedness;
Yes, she sighs and turns away.
Her uncleanness is in her skirts;
She did not consider her destiny;
Therefore her collapse was awesome;
She had no comforter.
“O LORD, behold my affliction,
For the enemy is exalted!”
The adversary has spread his hand
Over all her pleasant things;
For she has seen the nations enter her sanctuary,
Those whom You commanded
Not to enter Your assembly.
All her people sigh,
They seek bread;
They have given their valuables for food to restore life.
“See, O LORD, and consider,
For I am scorned.”
a. Jerusalem has sinned gravely, therefore she has become vile: As Jeremiah described the tragedy of Jerusalem’s fall, one would rightly ask why. The answer was simple; it was because of the great sin of the people of the city over many generations.
i. “The story of her desolation is mingled with confessions of her sin. She asks boldly if any sorrow could be compared to her sorrow, and then confesses that not one pang or stroke had been in excess of her sin.” (Meyer)
b. They have seen her nakedness: The once dignified city was humiliated and exposed. Like a queen stripped of her royal robes, she sighs and turns away.
i. “Here she is compared to a debased, slatternly harlot, shamelessly exposing her nakedness and indifferent to the marks of menstrual blood.” (Ellison)
ii. Her uncleanness is in her skirts: “She rather glorieth in her wickedness, than is any whit abashed of it – a metaphor from a menstruous woman that is immodest.” (Trapp)
c. She did not consider her destiny: Like a foolish woman (or man), Jerusalem never thought about where her path of sin and rebellion would lead her. Her lack of forethought meant her collapse was awesome.
d. O LORD, behold my affliction: A prayer, as if from the lips of the afflicted city, breaks into the description of misery. With no comforter to help when the enemy exalted himself, all Jerusalem could do was cry out to the God she had rejected.
i. She has seen the nations enter her sanctuary: “Now those very foreigners who had been prohibited from entering the congregation of the Israelites were polluting the sacred house in the most wanton manner.” (Harrison)
e. See, O LORD, and consider, for I am scorned: Another prayer rises from Jerusalem, crying out for help from the starving city (they seek bread).
5. (12) Incomparable sorrow.
“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Behold and see
If there is any sorrow like my sorrow,
Which has been brought on me,
Which the LORD has inflicted
In the day of His fierce anger.
a. It is nothing to you, all you who pass by? An unsympathetic world looked upon Jerusalem’s misery and regarded it as nothing. She had no comforter at all (Lamentations 1:9). Jerusalem personified wondered at the lack of sympathy.
b. Is there any sorrow like my sorrow: Jerusalem felt what many sufferers feel; that her sorrow was incomparable to others and incomprehensible to others. There is a sense in which this is true, but it is true for everyone who endures a deep season of suffering. Few if any can truly relate to the depths of their sorrow.
i. “The desolations and distress brought upon this city and its inhabitants had scarcely any parallel. Excessive abuse of God’s accumulated mercies calls for singular and exemplary punishment.” (Clarke)
c. When the LORD has inflicted: Jeremiah (and Jerusalem personified) knew the true source of their sorrow. It was not the Babylonians; it was the LORD who had inflicted this devastation.
B. God’s hand in Jerusalem’s tragedy.
1. (13-15) What the LORD did to Jerusalem.
“From above He has sent fire into my bones,
And it overpowered them;
He has spread a net for my feet
And turned me back;
He has made me desolate
And faint all the day.
“The yoke of my transgressions was bound;
They were woven together by His hands,
And thrust upon my neck.
He made my strength fail;
The Lord delivered me into the hands of those whom I am not able to withstand.
“The Lord has trampled underfoot all my mighty men in my midst;
He has called an assembly against me
To crush my young men;
The Lord trampled as in a winepress
The virgin daughter of Judah.
a. From above He has sent fire into my bones: In the context, this fire was the judgment God sent upon Jerusalem. The judgment came from heaven (from above). The context makes it clear that this is Jerusalem personified speaking, yet Jeremiah used the same image of fire into my bones that he used of his own prophetic call in Jeremiah 20:9.
i. “Not Jerusalem’s enemies, but God himself had entrapped the city, bringing it to an inescapable and ignominious end.” (Ellison)
b. He has made me desolate and faint all the day: Jerusalem was like a trapped, blocked, empty, and exhausted foe.
c. The yoke of my transgressions was bound; they were woven together by His hands: Jeremiah pictured Jerusalem as bound with a yoke like a brute ox; yet the yoke was fashioned out of their own transgressions. It was bound to them by cords woven by God’s own hands.
i. The yoke of my transgressions was bound: “I am now tied and bound by the chain of my sins; and it is so wreathed, so doubled and twisted round me, that I cannot free myself. A fine representation of the miseries of a penitent soul, which feels that nothing but the pitifulness of God’s mercy can loose it.” (Clarke)
d. The Lord trampled as in a winepress the virgin daughter of Judah: Jeremiah set forth image after image to describe the ruin of Jerusalem and Judah, but each image understood it to come from the hand of God.
i. “God had trodden upon the Jews as men use to stamp grapes in a wine-press, where they use to crush them to pieces to get out the juice, and then they throw the husks, that are good for nothing, upon the dunghills. These are but various expressions to set out the misery into which God had brought this people for their sins.” (Poole)
2. (16-17) Weeping without comfort.
“For these things I weep;
My eye, my eye overflows with water;
Because the comforter, who should restore my life,
Is far from me.
My children are desolate
Because the enemy prevailed.”
Zion spreads out her hands,
But no one comforts her;
The LORD has commanded concerning Jacob
That those around him become his adversaries;
Jerusalem has become an unclean thing among them.
a. For these things I weep: Sometimes Jeremiah is described as the weeping prophet, and he would agree with the description. Lamentations was not written with a dry eye, but with overflowing eyes.
b. Because the comforter, who should restore my life, is far from me: The worst aspect of Jerusalem’s misery was not the catastrophe of itself. It was that in the catastrophe, they had little or no sense of God’s comfort or help. It felt as if He were far from them.
c. Zion spreads out her hands, but no one comforts her: Jerusalem felt no comfort from God, and received none from man. By God’s design (the LORD has commanded) all her neighbors had become her adversaries, and regarded her as an unclean thing.
i. The LORD has commanded: “God is here presented as the righteous judge who has finally punished His recalcitrant people for their long-standing rebellion.” (Harrison)
ii. Jerusalem has become an unclean thing: “Jerusalem is as a menstruous woman, to whom none dared to approach, either to help or comfort, because of the law, Leviticus 15:19-27.” (Clarke)
3. (18-19) Confessing God’s righteousness and Jerusalem’s sin.
“The LORD is righteous,
For I rebelled against His commandment.
Hear now, all peoples,
And behold my sorrow;
My virgins and my young men
Have gone into captivity.
“I called for my lovers,
But they deceived me;
My priests and my elders
Breathed their last in the city,
While they sought food
To restore their life.”
a. The LORD is righteous, for I rebelled against His commandment: Jerusalem personified confessed her sin and proclaimed the righteousness of God. Her sorrow and captivity were because she was a rebel against God.
i. “Again there is the confession which admits that God is in the right. This is often a hard admission to make. One can feel the agony of heart that is wrung out even while the people make confession.” (Wright)
b. I have called for my lovers, but they deceived me: Jerusalem cried out for her lovers – a metaphor for those in whom she placed her love and trust in rather than Yahweh – for help. They deceived Jerusalem and were of no help as the city starved to death.
4. (20-22) Out of distress, a call for justice.
“See, O LORD, that I am in distress;
My soul is troubled;
My heart is overturned within me,
For I have been very rebellious.
Outside the sword bereaves,
At home it is like death.
“They have heard that I sigh,
But no one comforts me.
All my enemies have heard of my trouble;
They are glad that You have done it.
Bring on the day You have announced,
That they may become like me.
“Let all their wickedness come before You,
And do to them as You have done to me
For all my transgressions;
For my sighs are many,
And my heart is faint.”
a. See, O LORD, that I am in distress: All Jerusalem could do was cry out to the God whom she had rejected. There was no one else who could or would help. War and destruction brought death both outside and at home.
b. They are glad that You have done it: This was the response of the neighboring nations, Judah’s enemies. Knowing that, the prophet prayed that their appointed judgment would come soon (do to them as You have done to me).
i. They are glad: “It must have been a matter of some gratification to the enemies of the Israelites to know that God, who in earlier days had wrought such havoc on the foes of the Chosen People, had now recoiled in punitive wrath upon His own.” (Harrison)
ii. Do to them as You have done to me: “We may lawfully pray for such evils to the implacable enemies of the church and people of God, as may restrain and weaken their hands, and put them out of a capacity of wasting the Lord’s heritage: we are only obliged by it to wish well to their souls, and to desire no evil against them out of private revenge or malice, but only out of love to God, and zeal for his glory.” (Poole)
iii. “The last two verses are a tentative prayer that God will vindicate His righteousness among the other nations. If Judah has needed to experience judgement to lead her to repentance, then others need the experience of judgement also.” (Wright)
c. For my sighs are many, and my heart is faint: We see Jerusalem almost gone; all she can manage are a series of sighs, and a faint heart.
Jeremiah 52 – The Fall of Jerusalem and the Captivity of Judah
Video for Jeremiah 52:
Several commentators believe this final chapter was not authored by Jeremiah, but perhaps by Baruch. It testifies to the truthfulness and integrity of Jeremiah’s long, faithful work as a prophet of God.
“It appears that the following chapter is not the work of this prophet: it is not his style. The author of it writes Jehoiachin; Jeremiah writes him always Jeconiah, or Coniah. It is merely historical, and is very similar to 2 Kings 24:18-25:30.” (Clarke)
“Nearly every verse of Jeremiah 52 is a fulfilled prophecy. In fact, reading the chapter is a good way to review the entire book of Jeremiah. The facts speak for themselves: Jeremiah spoke the true words of God.” (Ryken)
“In its present context the chapter seems to say: the divine word both has been fulfilled – and will be fulfilled!” (Bright, cited in Kidner)
“The Septuagint have set this title upon it: And it came to pass after that Israel was carried captive, and Jerusalem laid waste, the Prophet Jeremiah sat weeping, and wailing, and bitterly lamenting the case of his people. Thus they knit together this chapter and the ensuing Lamentations, which the Jews also are still said to read together in their synagogues on the ninth day of the month Ab, which answereth to our July, because that on that day the city was taken and destroyed by the Chaldeans [Jeremiah 52:7].” (Trapp)
A. The siege and conquest of Jerusalem.
1. (1-3) The evil reign and rebellion of Zedekiah.
Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. He also did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. For because of the anger of the LORD this happened in Jerusalem and Judah, till He finally cast them out from His presence. Then Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.
a. Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king: 2 Kings 24:17 explains that Nebuchadnezzar set young Zedekiah on the throne of Judah as his puppet king after the rebellion of Jehoiachin.
i. 2 Kings 24:17 also says that Zedekiah’s name was originally Mattaniah, and that Nebuchadnezzar changed it to Zedekiah. The name Zedekiah means, The Lord is Righteous. The righteous judgment of God would soon be seen against Judah.
b. He also did evil in the sight of the LORD: 2 Chronicles 36:11-20 tells us more of the evil of Zedekiah, specifically that he did not listen to Jeremiah or other messengers of God. Instead, he mocked and disregarded the message.
i. “Zedekiah’s evil (v. 19) is fully explained in 2 Chronicles 36:12-14. (i) He was not willing to listen to God’s word through Jeremiah; (ii) he broke an oath made in Yahweh’s name as a vassal of Babylon; (iii) he was unrepentant and failed to restrain leaders and priests from defiling the temple with the reintroduction of idolatrous practices.” (Wiseman)
c. He finally cast them out from His presence: God’s patience and longsuffering had finally run its course and He allowed – even prompted – the Babylonian conquest of the Kingdom of Judah.
i. “The absence of every expression of emotion is most striking. In one sentence the wrath of God is pointed to as the cause of all: and, for the rest, the tragic facts which wrung the writer’s heart are told in brief, passionless sentences.” (Maclaren)
ii. “The Book of Lamentations weeps and sobs with the grief of the devout Jew; but the historian smothers feeling while he tells of God’s righteous judgment.” (Maclaren)
d. Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon: Jeremiah tells us that there were many false prophets in those days who preached a message of victory and triumph to Zedekiah, and he believed them instead of Jeremiah and other godly prophets like him. Therefore, he rebelled against the king of Babylon.
i. For example, Jeremiah 32:1-5 tells us that Jeremiah clearly told Zedekiah that he would not succeed in his rebellion against Babylon. Zedekiah arrested Jeremiah and imprisoned him for this, but the prophet steadfastly stayed faithful to the message God gave him.
2. (4-6) The final siege of Jerusalem.
Now it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army came against Jerusalem and encamped against it; and they built a siege wall against it all around. So the city was besieged until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. By the fourth month, on the ninth day of the month, the famine had become so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land.
a. They built a siege wall against it all around: Nebuchadnezzar used the common method of attack in those days of securely walled cities – a siege wall. A siege was intended to surround a city, prevent all business and trade from entering or leaving the city, and to eventually starve the population into surrender.
i. “So crucial was this event that the OT records it four times – in 2 Kings 25; 2 Chronicles 36:11-21; Jeremiah 39:1-14; and in this passage.” (Feinberg)
b. The famine had become so severe in the city: This was the intended goal of a siege. This indicates that Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians were at the point of victory over Jerusalem.
i. “An eighteen months’ agony is condensed into three verses (Jeremiah 52:4-6).” (Maclaren)
3. (7-11) Zedekiah is captured and executed.
Then the city wall was broken through, and all the men of war fled and went out of the city at night by way of the gate between the two walls, which was by the king’s garden, even though the Chaldeans were near the city all around. And they went by way of the plain. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king, and they overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho. All his army was scattered from him. So they took the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, and he pronounced judgment on him. Then the king of Babylon killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes. And he killed all the princes of Judah in Riblah. He also put out the eyes of Zedekiah; and the king of Babylon bound him in bronze fetters, took him to Babylon, and put him in prison till the day of his death.
a. Then the city wall was broken through: At this desperate point for Judah at the siege of Jerusalem, Zedekiah made a last-chance effort to escape the grip of the nearly-completely successful siege. They planned a secret break through the city walls and the siege lines of the Babylonians, using a diversionary tactic.
b. The army of the Chaldeans pursued the king, and they overtook him in the plains of Jericho: This was a considerable distance from Jerusalem. Zedekiah probably thought that his strategy was successful, and that he had escaped the judgment that prophets such as Jeremiah had promised. Yet God’s word was demonstrated to be true and he was captured in the plains of Jericho.
i. “It seems ironic that here, at the very spot where Israel first set foot on the Promised Land, the last of the Davidic kings was captured and his monarchy shattered. Here, where Israel experienced her first victory as the walls of Jericho fell before unarmed men who trusted God, was the scene of her last defeat.” (Dilday)
c. Then they killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, put out the eyes of Zedekiah: The Babylonians were not known to be as cruel as the Assyrians who conquered the northern kingdom of Israel some 150 years earlier, but they were still experts in cruelty in their own right. They made certain that the last sight King Zedekiah saw was the murder of his own sons, and then he spent the rest of his life in darkness.
i. This fulfilled the mysterious promise God made through Ezekiel regarding Zedekiah shortly before the fall of Jerusalem: I will also spread My net over him, and he shall be caught in My snare. I will bring him to Babylon, to the land of the Chaldeans; yet he shall not see it, though he shall die there. (Ezekiel 12:13)
ii. “With his eyes put out, and bound in fetters, he was carried to the court of the conqueror, the symbol of the people who had rebelled against God, and had been broken in pieces.” (Morgan)
iii. “The eyes of whose mind had been put out long before; else he might have foreseen and prevented this evil – as prevision is the best means of prevention, – had he taken warning by what was foretold.” (Trapp)
iv. “Josephus (Antiquities x.8.8) says Nebuchadnezzar ‘kept Zedekiah in prison until he died; and then buried him magnificently.’ This agrees with Jeremiah 34:5.” (Knapp)
4. (12-14) The destruction of Jerusalem.
Now in the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month (which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, who served the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He burned the house of the LORD and the king’s house; all the houses of Jerusalem, that is, all the houses of the great, he burned with fire. And all the army of the Chaldeans who were with the captain of the guard broke down all the walls of Jerusalem all around.
a. He burned the house of the LORD: Solomon’s great temple was now a ruin. It would stay a ruin for many years, until it was humbly rebuilt by the returning exiles in the days of Ezra.
i. On the tenth day: “For the tenth day (Jeremiah 52:12), 2 Kings 25:8 has seventh day, the difference perhaps embracing the interval between the arrival of Nebuzaradan and the beginning of the destruction.” (Harrison)
ii. “The Talmud declares that when the Babylonians entered the temple, they held a two-day feast there to desecrate it; then, on the third day, they set fire to the building. The Talmud adds that the fire burned throughout that day and the next.” (Dilday)
iii. The nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar: “The apparent contradiction between Jeremiah 52:12 and Jeremiah 52:29 is readily explained; in the former the accession year of Nebuchadnezzar has been included, in the later it has not.” (Cundall)
b. Broke down the walls of Jerusalem all around: The walls of Jerusalem – the physical security of the city – were now destroyed. Jerusalem was no longer a place of safety and security. The walls would remain a ruin until they were rebuilt by the returning exiles in the days of Nehemiah.
i. On Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard: “That title in Hebrew is literally, ‘the chief executioner’ or ‘the slaughterer.’ Methodically, he set about to demolish the beautiful city, burning the palace and the chief buildings, breaking down the walls, and wrecking the temple.” (Dilday)
B. Judah and Jerusalem under the Babylonians.
1. (15-23) The captives, those left in the land, and the plunder.
Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive some of the poor people, the rest of the people who remained in the city, the defectors who had deserted to the king of Babylon, and the rest of the craftsmen. But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left some of the poor of the land as vinedressers and farmers. The bronze pillars that were in the house of the LORD, and the carts and the bronze Sea that were in the house of the LORD, the Chaldeans broke in pieces, and carried all their bronze to Babylon. They also took away the pots, the shovels, the trimmers, the bowls, the spoons, and all the bronze utensils with which the priests ministered. The basins, the firepans, the bowls, the pots, the lampstands, the spoons, and the cups, whatever was solid gold and whatever was solid silver, the captain of the guard took away. The two pillars, one Sea, the twelve bronze bulls which were under it, and the carts, which King Solomon had made for the house of the LORD—the bronze of all these articles was beyond measure. Now concerning the pillars: the height of one pillar was eighteen cubits, a measuring line of twelve cubits could measure its circumference, and its thickness was four fingers; it was hollow. A capital of bronze was on it; and the height of one capital was five cubits, with a network and pomegranates all around the capital, all of bronze. The second pillar, with pomegranates was the same. There were ninety-six pomegranates on the sides; all the pomegranates, all around on the network, were one hundred.
a. Carried away captive the rest of the people who remained in the city: This was the third major wave of captivity taking the remaining people, all except for the poor of the land.
b. And carried their bronze to Babylon…. the things of solid gold and solid silver, the captain of the guard took away: As the remaining people were taken captive to Babylon, so also the remaining valuables from the temple were taken. Jerusalem was left desolate, completely plundered under the judgment of God.
i. Jeremiah 52:17-23 is a detailed inventory of all that the Babylonians looted from the temple. “The material in Jeremiah 52 is thus merely a summary, and it is not surprising that it is not always possible to match this account with that in 1 Kings 7. The aim was not to give a detailed technical account but rather to stress two facts, first, that there was a very considerable amount of bronze, and second, that the pillars were very beautiful, which made their destruction all the more tragic.” (Thompson)
2. (24-27) The authority of Nebuchadnezzar over Jerusalem and Judah.
The captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the second priest, and the three doorkeepers. He also took out of the city an officer who had charge of the men of war, seven men of the king’s close associates who were found in the city, the principal scribe of the army who mustered the people of the land, and sixty men of the people of the land who were found in the midst of the city. And Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard took these and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. Then the king of Babylon struck them and put them to death at Riblah in the land of Hamath. Thus Judah was carried away captive from its own land.
a. The king of Babylon struck them and put them to death: These last leaders of Jerusalem and Judah were also captured and put to death. The king of Babylon had what seemed to be complete rule over the former Kingdom of Judah.
i. Struck them: “The root nkh is difficult to translate. The Hiphil is often translated ‘smite,’ but it can mean ‘wound, hurt, torture, flog,’ etc.” (Thompson)
b. Thus Judah was carried away captive from its own land: This was the land God gave to His people, the tribes of Israel. They had possessed this land for some 860 years; they took it by faith and obedience, but they lost it through idolatry and sin.
i. “The reader cannot help but be struck by the passionless tone of the narrative in this chapter. Not once does the author show his feelings, even though he is describing the tragic downfall of his country. We have to turn to the Book of Lamentations for weeping and groaning.” (Dilday)
3. (28-30) The register of the final phase of exile.
These are the people whom Nebuchadnezzar carried away captive: in the seventh year, three thousand and twenty-three Jews; in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar he carried away captive from Jerusalem eight hundred and thirty-two persons; in the twenty-third year of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive of the Jews seven hundred and forty-five persons. All the persons were four thousand six hundred.
a. These are the people whom Nebuchadnezzar carried away captive: This described part of the final exile and forced depopulation of the land. The conquest and exile of Judah came in waves, of which this was the last.
b. All the persons were four thousand six hundred: This relatively small number is normally understood as referring to a portion of the exiles, and only the adult males of that portion.
i. “If only Jews are numbered or only males reckoned in Jeremiah 52:28-30, the ultimate total of exiles was doubtless much higher.” (Feinberg)
ii. “The figures given here vary from those in 2 Kings 24:14, 16. 3,023 may be the actual head count of the deported adult males, while the Kings’ figures may comprise the total number of deportees.” (Harrison)
4. (31-34) A small ray of hope seen in Jehoiachin improved situation in Babylon.
Now it came to pass in the thirty-seventh year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-fifth day of the month, that Evil-Merodach king of Babylon, in the first year of his reign, lifted up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah and brought him out of prison. And he spoke kindly to him and gave him a more prominent seat than those of the kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin changed from his prison garments, and he ate bread regularly before the king all the days of his life. And as for his provisions, there was a regular ration given him by the king of Babylon, a portion for each day until the day of his death, all the days of his life.
a. In the thirty-seventh year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah: This King Jehoiachin was not the last king of Judah; Zedekiah came after him. But he was taken away to Babylon in bronze fetters (2 Kings 24:10-12). This happened when Jehoiachin had been a captive for many years.
i. “Thirty-seven years in prison! And so long a sentence for a reign of three months.” (Kidner)
b. Spoke kindly to him, and gave him a more prominent seat: This describes small kindness and blessings given in the worst circumstances. Judah was still depopulated; the people of God were still exiled; and the King of Judah was still a prisoner in Babylon. Yet, looking for even small notes of grace and mercy as evidences of the returning favor of God, the divine historian noted that King Jehoiachin began to receive better treatment in Babylon.
i. Lifted up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah: “This phrase is taken from Genesis 40:13. It is founded on the observation that those who are in sorrow hold down their heads, and when they are comforted, or the cause of their sorrow removed, they lift up their heads. The Hebrew phrase, lift up the head, signifies to comfort, cheer, make happy.” (Clarke)
ii. “Tablets recovered from the ruined Ishtar Gate in Babylon confirm that Jehoiachin was a recipient of the king’s bounty.” (Harrison)
iii. “The fact that Jehoiachin lived on long after the exile and that he was finally released from prison may have seemed like the first signs of the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s promise of a day of restoration.” (Thompson)
iv. This was small, but evidence nonetheless that God was not done blessing and restoring His people, foreshadowing even greater blessing and restoration to come. “God has finally brought the promised punishment upon His apostate and idolatrous people, and the chastening discipline of exile has begun. Despite this dreadful calamity there lingers the hope that God will restore His people, bringing a faithful remnant back to repopulate the homeland.” (Harrison)
v. “No hosts encamped against the people of God can gain any advantage over them, so long as they remain loyal in heart and mind and will to their One King. But when they are disloyal, and persist in disloyalty, then no force can save them from the opposing hosts.” (Morgan)
vi. “If the King of Babylon did this for a captive king, his prisoner, will your heavenly Father do less for you?” (Meyer)
Cundall gives a good postscript to Jeremiah: “Jeremiah may have failed in his strenuous efforts to turn his people back to the Lord, but in his conception of true religion as a vital, inward relationship with the living God (e.g. Jeremiah 9:24) he was to set the necessary standard, not only for the immediate future, but for all time.”
Jeremiah 51 – A Word of Judgment Against Babylon (Continued)
Video for Jeremiah 51:
A. Babylon winnowed in the wind of God’s judgment.
1. (1-5) A destroying wind against Babylon.
Thus says the LORD:
“Behold, I will raise up against Babylon,
Against those who dwell in Leb Kamai,
A destroying wind.
And I will send winnowers to Babylon,
Who shall winnow her and empty her land.
For in the day of doom
They shall be against her all around.
Against her let the archer bend his bow,
And lift himself up against her in his armor.
Do not spare her young men;
Utterly destroy all her army.
Thus the slain shall fall in the land of the Chaldeans,
And those thrust through in her streets.
For Israel is not forsaken, nor Judah,
By his God, the LORD of hosts,
Though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel.”
a. I will raise up against Babylon: The prophecy of Jeremiah continues from the previous chapter. In what was probably a collection of prophecies against Babylon collected together, God announced His coming judgment against the empire that Yahweh Himself used to bring judgment against Judah.
b. Against those who dwell in Leb Kamai: The phrase Leb Kamai is literally translated The Midst of Those Who Rise Up Against Me. Most regard this as a poetic reference to Babylon.
i. “Leb-kami is an Atbash for Chaldea (so LXX).” (Thompson)
ii. “The use of the Atbash to disguise the identity of the adversary would, in the context of the Exile, and particularly in the early period of the Exile, seem to make historical sense. But one would wonder why a writer would introduce the device at this point when Babylon has been referred to already.” (Thompson)
c. I will send winnowers to Babylon: God used the picture of a destroying wind that would winnow Babylon as grain is processed, with a wind blowing away the useless chaff. They would utterly destroy all her army.
i. I will send winnowers: “When the corn is trodden out with the feet of cattle, or crushed out with a heavy wheel armed with iron, with a shovel they throw it up against the wind, that the chaff and broken straw may be separated from it. This is the image used by the prophet; these people shall be trodden, crushed, and fanned by their enemies.” (Clarke)
ii. Destroying wind: “It is possible, however, that the reference is to ‘the spirit of the destroyer’ (cf. Jeremiah 51:11). In either case the result is the same.” (Thompson)
iii. As in many of the predictions of Jeremiah 51, we have prophecies that were fulfilled in one sense in the conquest of Babylon not far from Jeremiah’s own time. Still, because the Babylon of Jeremiah’s day was defeated yet not utterly destroyed, the devastation predicted in these chapters will have a second and ultimate fulfillment in the last days. This is vividly described in Revelation 17 and 18.
d. For Israel is not forsaken, nor Judah: God’s judgment upon Babylon would be one display of the truth that He had not forsaken His people, but would bring judgment against those who conquered them. His people had sinned, but they were not forsaken of God.
i. It was true in a direct sense that the conquest of Babylon was a blessing for God’s people. They had no release from exile under the Babylonians, but under the Persians, the Jews were allowed to return to the Promised Land.
ii. Israel is not forsaken: “Sin is mighty; but there is one thing that it cannot do, it cannot make God forsake those whom He has adopted into his family.” (Meyer)
2. (6-8) Fleeing from fallen Babylon.
Flee from the midst of Babylon,
And every one save his life!
Do not be cut off in her iniquity,
For this is the time of the LORD’s vengeance;
He shall recompense her.
Babylon was a golden cup in the LORD’s hand,
That made all the earth drunk.
The nations drank her wine;
Therefore the nations are deranged.
Babylon has suddenly fallen and been destroyed.
Wail for her!
Take balm for her pain;
Perhaps she may be healed.
a. Flee from the midst of Babylon: It is never good to remain in a place that is a target of God’s judgment. Because Babylon’s fall was sure, it was best to flee to save one’s life.
i. Here, in verses 6-10, is the seminal picture of Babylon as the metropolis of evil and the seducer of mankind which will be elaborated in Revelation 17-18.” (Kidner)
b. Babylon was a golden cup in the LORD’s hand: Drinking a cup of judgment is a familiar picture in the Hebrew prophets. Here, Babylon is represented as God’s instrument of judgment against the nations, many of which are described in Jeremiah 46-49.
i. “The cup is depicted as a golden cup because of Babylon’s great wealth.” (Thompson)
c. Wail for her: With sarcasm, the prophet mocked Babylon. The nations would not wail over the empire that made them suffer so. They would have no interest in a balm for her pain or her healing.
3. (9-14) The vengeance of God against Babylon.
We would have healed Babylon,
But she is not healed.
Forsake her, and let us go everyone to his own country;
For her judgment reaches to heaven and is lifted up to the skies.
The LORD has revealed our righteousness.
Come and let us declare in Zion the work of the LORD our God.
Make the arrows bright!
Gather the shields!
The LORD has raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes.
For His plan is against Babylon to destroy it,
Because it is the vengeance of the LORD,
The vengeance for His temple.
Set up the standard on the walls of Babylon;
Make the guard strong,
Set up the watchmen,
Prepare the ambushes.
For the LORD has both devised and done
What He spoke against the inhabitants of Babylon.
O you who dwell by many waters,
Abundant in treasures,
Your end has come,
The measure of your covetousness.
The LORD of hosts has sworn by Himself:
“Surely I will fill you with men, as with locusts,
And they shall lift up a shout against you.”
a. Forsake her, and let us go: This is the response of the nations to God’s sarcastic invitation to seek Babylon’s healing (Jeremiah 51:8). They were happy to forsake her and go their own way, leaving her judgment to heaven.
i. Her judgment reaches to heaven and is lifted up to the skies: “Like many such expressions in the OT indicates that the judgment was of vast proportions (cf. Numbers 13:28; Deuteronomy 1:28).” (Thompson)
b. The LORD has revealed our righteousness: The right standing of God’s people was revealed in the eventual judgment of Babylon. This showed that it was not merely a matter of Babylon’s gods being mightier than Yahweh. The eventual judgment of Babylon showed that Yahweh was in control; that He used Babylon as it pleased Him and judged them when it pleased Him. This was a kind of a justification of God’s people and a revelation of their righteousness and of the work of the LORD our God.
i. “By punishing Babylon God has justified the remnant, so that they can emerge from captivity to new life in the homeland.” (Harrison)
ii. “She had now received from Yahweh’s hand adequate compensation for all her iniquity (Isaiah 4:2). Now she would be reinstated and shown to be what she really was, Yahweh’s elect nation.” (Thompson)
c. Make the arrows bright: Using his characteristic powerful and vivid word pictures, Jeremiah envisions the battle coming against Babylon through the kings of the Medes.
i. “The Medes lived in northwest Iran in the general region of the modern Iranian Kurdistan.” (Thompson)
ii. “The Medes were allied with Babylon in the destruction of Nineveh in 612 BC Later they joined the Persians to defeat Babylon in 539 BC (Feinberg)
iii. “It is known that the mother of Cyrus the Persian was a Mede, and the Medes and Persians are linked together several times in the book of Daniel (e.g. Daniel 5:28; 6:8, 12, 15).” (Thompson)
iv. “Of Cyaxares king of Media, called Darius the Mede in Scripture; and of Cyrus king of Persia, presumptive heir of the throne of Cyaxares, his uncle. Cambyses, his father, sent him, Cyrus, with 30,000 men to assist his uncle Cyaxares, against Neriglissar king of Babylon, and by these was Babylon overthrown.” (Clarke)
d. The vengeance for His temple: God’s judgment against Babylon was in part because they destroyed the temple Solomon had built unto the LORD. It was a strange process, repeated often through history.
· God appointed a judgment to come.
· God used a human instrument in that judgment.
· The human instrument was not motivated by God, but by their own sinful desires.
· God brought judgment on the instrument He used.
e. Your end has come, the measure of your covetousness: Jeremiah revealed another reason for God’s judgment against Babylon – their great covetousness. God would give them judgment according to the measure of their covetousness, and that was a big measure.
i. O you who dwell by many waters: “While many waters (Jeremiah 51:13) refers primarily to the Euphrates, it also alludes sarcastically to the great subterranean ocean, a theme prominent in ancient Babylonian mythology. The Babylonians had lived by the erroneous beliefs for many centuries, and they would now die by them.” (Harrison)
f. I will fill you with men, as with locusts: Jeremiah envisioned swarms of invaders and conquerors in the land of Babylon.
i. Lift up a shout: “The noun hedad occurs in Jeremiah 25:30 and 48:33 for the grape-treader’s song. The entry of warriors into Babylon has about it something of the quality of grape-treaders trampling the grapes when the harvest has been taken in.” (Thompson)
4. (15-19) The power of Yawheh contrasts with empty idols.
He has made the earth by His power;
He has established the world by His wisdom,
And stretched out the heaven by His understanding.
When He utters His voice—
There is a multitude of waters in the heavens:
“He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth;
He makes lightnings for the rain;
He brings the wind out of His treasuries.”
Everyone is dull-hearted, without knowledge;
Every metalsmith is put to shame by the carved image;
For his molded image is falsehood,
And there is no breath in them.
They are futile, a work of errors;
In the time of their punishment they shall perish.
The Portion of Jacob is not like them,
For He is the Maker of all things;
And Israel is the tribe of His inheritance.
The LORD of hosts is His name.
a. He has made the earth by His power: Yahweh is not only a God of judgment; His power, His wisdom and His understanding are also evident in creation.
b. He makes lightnings for the rain: Yahweh’s power in creation is not only a thing of the past. He presently works in and through creation.
c. Every metalsmith is put to shame by the carved image: Understanding the greatness of Yahweh makes the idols made by men’s hands seem even more ridiculous. Even the one who makes the idol is ashamed of what he has done.
d. The Portion of Jacob is not like them, for He is the Maker of all things: The work of the metalsmith is powerless; Yahweh is Maker of all things.
i. “The Creator and little Israel are everything to one another: the Creator as Israel’s portion, and Israel as his inheritance.” (Kidner)
ii. The Portion of Jacob: “In human affairs a man’s portion was the inheritance he received from his father. It was his by legal and moral right. So Yahweh was peculiarly the proper inheritance of Israel…Israel had Yahweh as her very own possession, her Portion.” (Thompson)
5. (20-24) Breaking in pieces the might of Babylon.
“You are My battle-ax and weapons of war:
For with you I will break the nation in pieces;
With you I will destroy kingdoms;
With you I will break in pieces the horse and its rider;
With you I will break in pieces the chariot and its rider;
With you also I will break in pieces man and woman;
With you I will break in pieces old and young;
With you I will break in pieces the young man and the maiden;
With you also I will break in pieces the shepherd and his flock;
With you I will break in pieces the farmer and his yoke of oxen;
And with you I will break in pieces governors and rulers.
“And I will repay Babylon
And all the inhabitants of Chaldea
For all the evil they have done
In Zion in your sight,” says the LORD.
a. You are My battle-ax and weapons of war: The God whose power was evident in creation (Jeremiah 51:15-19) also shows His power, wisdom, and understanding in His work of judgment. Using poetic repletion, God called upon the peoples that would come against Babylon to do His work of judgment.
i. “Everything here stresses the indiscriminate ruin that an aggressor spreads around him, whatever his military objectives; yet God is using this cruel instrument before he breaks it.” (Kidner)
ii. “Since Jeremiah 50:23 describes Babylon as ‘the hammer of the whole earth’ it seems best to refer this section to her also. But because of her sin, especially against the Lord’s people (Jeremiah 51:24), she would incur His implacable judgment.” (Cundall)
iii. “Ten times the phrase ‘with you’ falls like hammer blows.” (Feinberg)
iv. Break: “The Hebrew verb nippes indicates a violent and intensive shattering.” (Feinberg)
b. I will repay Babylon: The judgment was to come upon Chaldea not only for their general sins, but specifically for all the evil they have done in Zion.
6. (25-32) Bringing many kingdoms against Babylon.
“Behold, I am against you, O destroying mountain,
Who destroys all the earth,” says the LORD.
“And I will stretch out My hand against you,
Roll you down from the rocks,
And make you a burnt mountain.
They shall not take from you a stone for a corner
Nor a stone for a foundation,
But you shall be desolate forever,” says the LORD.
Set up a banner in the land,
Blow the trumpet among the nations!
Prepare the nations against her,
Call the kingdoms together against her:
Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz.
Appoint a general against her;
Cause the horses to come up like the bristling locusts.
Prepare against her the nations,
With the kings of the Medes,
Its governors and all its rulers,
All the land of his dominion.
And the land will tremble and sorrow;
For every purpose of the LORD shall be performed against Babylon,
To make the land of Babylon a desolation without inhabitant.
The mighty men of Babylon have ceased fighting,
They have remained in their strongholds;
Their might has failed,
They became like women;
They have burned her dwelling places,
The bars of her gate are broken.
One runner will run to meet another,
And one messenger to meet another,
To show the king of Babylon that his city is taken on all sides;
The passages are blocked,
The reeds they have burned with fire,
And the men of war are terrified.
a. Behold, I am against you, O destroying mountain: Here the mighty empire of Babylon is represented as a mountain. The Hebrew prophets sometimes used the figure of a mountain to represent a government or kingdom (as in Daniel 2:35). God would make Babylon as a burnt mountain.
b. Call the kingdoms together against her: When Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians, it was by a confederation of nations. This will also be true in the ultimate destruction of Babylon as described in Revelation 17 and 18.
i. Prepare the nations against her: “Hebrew, Sanctify, call them together to wage this sacred war against Babylon.” (Trapp)
ii. Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz: “Three groups are specified, all of which were to be found in the area of present-day Armenia. Each is known in Assyrian cuneiform texts.” (Thompson)
iii. “The three kingdoms of Jeremiah 51:27, all within Armenia, were part of the empire of the Medes (Jeremiah 51:28), which spread in a great arc to the north of Babylon’s dominions.” (Kidner)
iv. “These three are called to aid the Medes against Babylon.” (Feinberg)
c. Their might has failed, they became like women: The soldiers of Babylon would not be able to stand against their invaders. They would fall in the same terror and confusion of battle they had inflicted upon many others.
i. “The death-throes of the land; the collapse of the soldiers’ morale; and the frantic scurrying of messengers bearing the evil news, are graphically depicted.” (Cundall)
ii. One runner will run to meet another: “In the conduct of warfare in the ancient world specially trained runners brought news from the scene of battle to the king (cf. 2 Samuel 18:19-33). Babylon’s runners were renowned, and it was these men who came running from every direction to announce to the king that the city had fallen.” (Thompson)
iii. The reeds they have burned with fire: “The reedy swamps [surrounding Babylon] were set on fire. The burning of the swamp reeds would deprive refugees of a place to hide and would flush out any who might have escaped there already.” (Thompson)
iv. The reeds: “Or, Marshes, made by Euphrates overflowing. It is well observed that the Babylonians might by this prophecy have been forewarned and forearmed against Cyrus’s stratagem; but they slighted it, and never inquired after it likely.” (Trapp)
B. Babylon on the threshing floor.
1. (33-35) Threshing Babylon as they had threshed Zion.
For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel:
“The daughter of Babylon is like a threshing floor
When it is time to thresh her;
Yet a little while
And the time of her harvest will come.”
“Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon
Has devoured me, he has crushed me;
He has made me an empty vessel,
He has swallowed me up like a monster;
He has filled his stomach with my delicacies,
He has spit me out.
Let the violence done to me and my flesh be upon Babylon,”
The inhabitant of Zion will say;
“And my blood be upon the inhabitants of Chaldea!”
Jerusalem will say.
a. Babylon is like a threshing floor: Earlier, God likened the work of judgment to winnowing (Jeremiah 51:1-2). The threshing floor is another agricultural image – the place where grain is crushed under a stone or the hoofs of an ox. Babylon would be crushed by the coming judgment, and the result would be good like a harvest unto God and His people.
i. “Babylon was a threshing floor to be leveled to the ground. It would be trodden down in preparation for the harvest which was to come.” (Thompson)
b. Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon has devoured me, he has crushed me: Nebuchadnezzar treated the inhabitant of Zion as his own threshing floor, bringing a crushing judgment to them. Therefore, Zion and Jerusalem take satisfaction in the same violence done unto Babylon.
i. “Nebuchadnezzar had devoured Jerusalem with the greedy gulp of a monster (NEB dragon), and for his excess his land would be punished.” (Harrison)
ii. “Nebuchadnezzar is compared with a gluttonous man devouring Jerusalem and setting her aside as one does an empty vessel whose contents have been quaffed.” (Thompson)
2. (36-40) Babylon like lambs to the slaughter.
Therefore thus says the LORD:
“Behold, I will plead your case and take vengeance for you.
I will dry up her sea and make her springs dry.
Babylon shall become a heap,
A dwelling place for jackals,
An astonishment and a hissing,
Without an inhabitant.
They shall roar together like lions,
They shall growl like lions’ whelps.
In their excitement I will prepare their feasts;
I will make them drunk,
That they may rejoice,
And sleep a perpetual sleep
And not awake,” says the LORD.
“I will bring them down
Like lambs to the slaughter,
Like rams with male goats.
a. I will plead your case and take vengeance for you: Yahweh pledged to take up the cause of Judah and Jerusalem, bringing Babylon to judgment and desolation.
i. I will plead your case: “The term rib points to a legal process and is used in several contexts in Jeremiah. …Here, Yahweh pleads Israel’s cause as he conducts his case against Babylon.” (Thompson)
b. I will make them drunk: The conquest of Babylon came as her rulers enjoyed a drunken feast (Daniel 5).
i. “According to Herodotus, ‘owing to the great size of the city the outskirts were captured without the people in the centre knowing anything about it: there was a festival going on, and they continued to dance and enjoy themselves, until they learned the news the hard way’.” (Kidner)
ii. Sleep a perpetual sleep: “As it was in the night the city was taken, many had retired to rest, and never awoke; slain in their beds, they slept a perpetual sleep.” (Clarke)
3. (41-48) Punishing Babylon and her idols.
“Oh, how Sheshach is taken!
Oh, how the praise of the whole earth is seized!
How Babylon has become desolate among the nations!
The sea has come up over Babylon;
She is covered with the multitude of its waves.
Her cities are a desolation,
A dry land and a wilderness,
A land where no one dwells,
Through which no son of man passes.
I will punish Bel in Babylon,
And I will bring out of his mouth what he has swallowed;
And the nations shall not stream to him anymore.
Yes, the wall of Babylon shall fall.
“My people, go out of the midst of her!
And let everyone deliver himself from the fierce anger of the LORD.
And lest your heart faint,
And you fear for the rumor that will be heard in the land
(A rumor will come one year,
And after that, in another year
A rumor will come,
And violence in the land,
Ruler against ruler),
Therefore behold, the days are coming
That I will bring judgment on the carved images of Babylon;
Her whole land shall be ashamed,
And all her slain shall fall in her midst.
Then the heavens and the earth and all that is in them
Shall sing joyously over Babylon;
For the plunderers shall come to her from the north,” says the LORD.
a. How Sheshach is taken: As before in Jeremiah 25:26, Babylon is referred to as Sheshach – a code name for the Babylonians.
i. “Following Jerome, many hold that the name is a cipher (code) that stands for Babylon. The cipher is known as Atbash, a system of secret writing that substituted the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet for the first, and next to the last for the second, and so through all the Hebrew consonants.” (Feinberg)
ii. “Another possibility is that the Babylonians themselves made use of the Atbash and that Sheshak was an alternate name. There is some evidence that this was so.” (Thompson)
b. The sea has come up over Babylon: Jeremiah used the sea as a figure of speech regarding landlocked Babylon. She would be overwhelmed by the coming judgment of God, left a desolation and a land where no one dwells.
c. Yes, the wall of Babylon has fallen: The defenses of Babylon were compromised when she was conquered by the Medes and Persians, so in a symbolic sense the wall of Babylon fell. Yet an even more literal fulfillment will come when Babylon the Great is felled (Revelation 17 and 18).
d. My people, go out of the midst of her: This was a helpful call to God’s people in exile, that they should not put their trust, confidence, and resources into a kingdom that would be judged and conquered. Regarding the ultimate judgment of Babylon, it is a call for believers to heed today and in the future (Revelation 18:4).
e. Then the heavens and the earth and all that is in them shall sing joyously over Babylon: The righteous rejoice – even singing with joy – over the justice and judgments of God.
i. “This is an exaggerated personification. There shall be, as it were, a new face set upon the world, and all the creatures shall appear to be well paid at the downfall of Babylon, under the oppressions whereof they even groaned and laboured.” (Trapp)
4. (49-56) Babylon that plundered the LORD’s house will be plundered.
As Babylon has caused the slain of Israel to fall,
So at Babylon the slain of all the earth shall fall.
You who have escaped the sword,
Get away! Do not stand still!
Remember the LORD afar off,
And let Jerusalem come to your mind.
We are ashamed because we have heard reproach.
Shame has covered our faces,
For strangers have come into the sanctuaries of the LORD’s house.
“Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD,
“That I will bring judgment on her carved images,
And throughout all her land the wounded shall groan.
Though Babylon were to mount up to heaven,
And though she were to fortify the height of her strength,
Yet from Me plunderers would come to her,” says the LORD.
The sound of a cry comes from Babylon,
And great destruction from the land of the Chaldeans,
Because the LORD is plundering Babylon
And silencing her loud voice,
Though her waves roar like great waters,
And the noise of their voice is uttered,
Because the plunderer comes against her, against Babylon,
And her mighty men are taken.
Every one of their bows is broken;
For the LORD is the God of recompense,
He will surely repay.
a. As Babylon has caused the slain of Israel to fall: Jeremiah continues this prominent theme in Jeremiah 50-51. Because of what Babylon did to Judah and Jerusalem, judgment would come upon them.
b. Remember the LORD afar off: Knowing the coming judgment upon Babylon, it was right for God’s people to take the warning, to get away from her, and to remember the LORD in humble repentance.
i. “The term remember (zakar) generally involves something more than mere mental recall. The act of remembering involves an active identification of one’s whole being with the object of remembering.” (Thompson)
c. Shame has covered our faces: Jeremiah described the sense of shame felt by God’s people when strangers invaded and destroyed the sanctuaries of the LORD’s house. This was part of the pain of judgment that came upon Judah and Jerusalem.
i. “The lament of Jeremiah 51:51 arises from the fact that the desecration of the Temple appeared to involve Yahweh’s inferiority, but the desolation of Babylon would reveal the utter impotence of her idols.” (Cundall)
d. Though Babylon were to mount up to heaven: This is an allusion to the Tower of Babel, constructed as a defense and in defiance against God (Genesis 11:1-9). God came against that tower and would come against the height of her strength in Jeremiah’s era and beyond.
i. “The towering ziggurats (cf. NEB their high towers) and palaces of Babylon are neither inaccessible nor impregnable, and soon will collapse in ruins.” (Harrison)
e. For the LORD is the God of recompense, He will surely repay: Babylon would receive judgment in a pure form. The evil they had done to others would be done to them.
5. (57-58) Babylon’s broken walls.
“And I will make drunk
Her princes and wise men,
Her governors, her deputies, and her mighty men.
And they shall sleep a perpetual sleep
And not awake,” says the King,
Whose name is the LORD of hosts.
Thus says the LORD of hosts:
“The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken,
And her high gates shall be burned with fire;
The people will labor in vain,
And the nations, because of the fire;
And they shall be weary.”
a. I will make drunk her princes and wise men: This aspect of Babylon’s judgment was exactly fulfilled in Jeremiah’s era (Daniel 5).
b. The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken: This aspect of Babylon’s judgment was not literally fulfilled in Jeremiah’s era; it waits for a final fulfillment that will certainly come (Revelation 17-18).
i. “Babylon as a spirit was not then destroyed. Like an evil spirit it found other places in which to dwell, and work its designs, and through which to exercise its dark and baleful influence among men. And this because, at the very core of Babylon, is Satan himself.” (Morgan)
ii. Babylon did have broad walls. “In addition to the two massive walls surrounding the heart of Babylon, an inner one some 21 feet thick and an outer one over 12 feet thick, there were great walls thrown up at intervals beyond the city.” (Thompson)
C. The postscript to Jeremiah’s prophecy against Babylon.
1. (59-60) Zedekiah’s visit to Babylon.
The word which Jeremiah the prophet commanded Seraiah the son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, when he went with Zedekiah the king of Judah to Babylon in the fourth year of his reign. And Seraiah was the quartermaster. So Jeremiah wrote in a book all the evil that would come upon Babylon, all these words that are written against Babylon.
a. The word which Jeremiah the prophet commanded: The prophecy of Jeremiah 50 and Jeremiah 51 was from the LORD, yet came through His servant Jeremiah.
b. In the fourth year of his reign: This was not a year when Babylon came against Judah. It was a year when Zedekiah and neighboring kings plotted a rebellion against Babylon when she seemed weakened (Jeremiah 27). This journey of King Zedekiah to Babylon is not recorded elsewhere and was likely to make things right with Nebuchadnezzar after the plot.
i. “This was the year of the plot to rebel against Babylon recorded in Jeremiah 27. Zedekiah seems to have been implicated in the plot. Although the plot was abortive, Nebuchadnezzar’s ‘intelligence’ got wind of it and some explanation was needed.” (Thompson)
ii. “Zedekiah’s summons to Babylon was doubtless to make sure of his loyalty, perhaps in view of reports that envoys of five neighboring states had been conferring with him at Jerusalem.” (Kidner)
c. Seriah the son of Neriah: Jeremiah sent a copy of these prophesies against Babylon with Seriah, who was a Judean quartermaster taken to Babylon in exile with Zedekiah king of Judah.
i. “Seriah was the grandson of the high priest Hilkiah who had discovered the lost book of the law in Josiah’s reign. He was himself the grandfather of Joshua-ben-Jozdak, the high priest at the return from exile. So the family line survived his violent death, and another branch of it would produce the great Ezra, a century hence.” (Kidner)
ii. Quartermaster: Seriah was “the staff officer who was responsible for looking after the comfort of the king of Judah whenever he stopped for the night.” (Feinberg)
iii. “Like his brother Baruch (Jeremiah 32:12; 36:1-10), Seraiah served as Jeremiah’s spokesperson. (Also like Baruch, his name has been found on an ancient seal).” (Ryken)
2. (61-64) A graphic illustration of Babylon’s coming judgment.
And Jeremiah said to Seraiah, “When you arrive in Babylon and see it, and read all these words, then you shall say, ‘O LORD, You have spoken against this place to cut it off, so that none shall remain in it, neither man nor beast, but it shall be desolate forever.’ Now it shall be, when you have finished reading this book, that you shall tie a stone to it and throw it out into the Euphrates. Then you shall say, ‘Thus Babylon shall sink and not rise from the catastrophe that I will bring upon her. And they shall be weary.’” Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.
a. When you arrive in Babylon: Jeremiah gave a copy of the prophecy to Seriah because he did not go to Babylon himself. Jeremiah ended his days in Egypt.
b. Read all these words: Jeremiah instructed Seriah to read this prophecy and then say a certain prayer after the words had been read, announcing the coming judgment upon Babylon.
i. “This visit of Zedekiah was the aftermath of an abortive attempt at rebellion by an alliance of states, including Judah, to which Jeremiah was diametrically opposed. It is significant that at the very time when he was counseling submission to Babylon he could also foretell, in such uncompromising terms, her ultimate overthrow.” (Cundall)
c. Tie a stone to it and throw it out into the Euphrates: Jeremiah told Seriah to literally take the scroll, weight it with a stone, and then throw it into the Euphrates as a graphic illustration of the catastrophe of judgment that would soon sink Babylon.
i. “Seriah’s symbolic act was a visual enactment of the fall of Babylon. …It is remarkable that at the very time Jeremiah was advising submission to that city, he was also foretelling her final overthrow.” (Feinberg)
ii. “The scroll never surfaced. Like the Babylonian empire, it stayed submerged.” (Ryken)
iii. “The symbolic action would be repeated still more impressively in John’s vision of the Babylon of the Apocalypse: Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, ‘So shall Babylon, that great city be thrown down with violence, and shall be found no more.’” (Kidner)
iv. “Ceremonies are to little purpose unless they have divine expositions annexed unto them.” (Trapp)
Jeremiah 50 – A Word of Judgment Against Babylon
Video for Jeremiah 50:
“It is to be observed that there is no gleam of hope for Babylon; that power, for some time material, and persistently spiritual, which was conceived in an attempt to make man great by frustrating Divine purpose. Her doom is irremediable in Old and New Testaments.” (Morgan)
A. Babylon conquered, Israel and Judah restored.
1. (1-3) The conquest of Babylon and the humiliation of her idols.
The word that the LORD spoke against Babylon and against the land of the Chaldeans by Jeremiah the prophet.
“Declare among the nations,
Proclaim, and set up a standard;
Proclaim—do not conceal it—
Say, ‘Babylon is taken, Bel is shamed.
Merodach is broken in pieces;
Her idols are humiliated,
Her images are broken in pieces.’
For out of the north a nation comes up against her,
Which shall make her land desolate,
And no one shall dwell therein.
They shall move, they shall depart,
Both man and beast.”
a. Against Babylon and against the land of the Chaldeans: The larger region was known as Chaldea and the great city of the region was Babylon. This was a word of judgment against the empire that God used to bring judgment upon Judah in Jeremiah’s day.
b. Declare among the nations: The Babylonian empire had an impact on all surrounding nations, so they needed to hear this word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet.
c. Babylon is taken, Bel is shamed: The city would be conquered and the idols in whom they trusted would be humiliated – most notably Bel and Merodach. They and their city would be broken in pieces by the coming judgment of God.
i. “Bel (‘lord’) was the title of the storm-god Enlil, and when Marduk became head of the Babylonian pantheon in the second millennium BC he received the designation of Bel also.” (Harrison)
ii. Her idols are humiliated: The word translated her idols is an unusual one, “not the usual Hebrew term for idols, one of which appears earlier in the verse. Young’s Concordance lists ten different Hebrew words for idols, but even so fails to list the noun under discussion. Gillal, used many times in the OT but always in the plural, denotes ‘logs,’ ‘blocks,’ that is, shapeless things…Ewald, after the rabbis, renders it ‘dungy things.’” (Feinberg)
iii. “The word gillulim is indelicate, meaning ‘balls of excrement.’ It is applied to pagan idols in Leviticus 26:30; Deuteronomy 29:17; 1 Kings 15:12, 21:25; etc. Ezekiel used the word some thirty-eight times.” (Thompson)
d. For out of the north a nation comes up against her: God used Babylon to bring judgment against Judah and other nations. When the time was right God would use a nation out of the north to judge Chaldea and make her land desolate.
i. Out of the north: “The Medes, who formed the chief part of the army of Cyrus, lay to the north or north-east of Babylon.” (Clarke)
2. (4-5) The restoration of Israel and Judah.
“In those days and in that time,” says the LORD,
“The children of Israel shall come,
They and the children of Judah together;
With continual weeping they shall come,
And seek the LORD their God.
They shall ask the way to Zion,
With their faces toward it, saying,
‘Come and let us join ourselves to the LORD
In a perpetual covenant
That will not be forgotten.’”
a. In those days and in that time: Jeremiah connected the coming judgment upon Babylon to the restoration of Israel and Judah. They would return to God with repentance (continual weeping) and they would seek the LORD their God.
i. The restoration of the people of Israel is clearly an aspect of God’s plan for the last days (Matthew 23:39, Romans 11:26). Judgment upon Babylon is also an aspect of the last days (Revelation 17-18). Both the judgment of Babylon and the restoration of Israel here prophesied had a near fulfillment and will have an ultimate fulfillment in the very last days.
ii. The phrase with continual weeping they shall come speaks to the depth of Israel’s repentance in the last days, spoken of also in Zechariah 12:10. “We notice again that the exiles on their return were mourning while marching. Observe the words- ‘going and weeping.’ We might have thought, perhaps, that when they began to go to their God, so much light would break in upon them that they would cease to weep: but no, it is ‘going and weeping.’” (Spurgeon)
b. They shall ask the way to Zion, with their faces toward it: Part of the restoration would be the gathering of Israel and Judah back to the land promised to them as the covenant descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
c. Come and let us join ourselves to the LORD in a perpetual covenant: They would come back to God on His terms, the terms of His covenant. These are promises associated with the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34 and 23:3-8, Ezekiel 11:16-20 and 36:24-28).
i. This reminds the believer that our relationship with God is based on something with great foundation – on perpetual covenant. Hebrews 8:7-13 is a powerful description of this great covenant. God’s goodness and care is given to us on the basis of covenant.
ii. “I rejoice in those old Scotch books about the covenant: covenant truth was so inwrought into the Scotch heart that Scottish peasants as well as divines talked about it perpetually. You remember the good old cottager’s grace over her porridge. I cannot repeat it in pure Doric, but it ran like this: ‘Lord, I thank thee for the porridge, I thank thee for an appetite for the porridge, but I thank thee most of all that I have a covenant right to the porridge.’ Only think of that, a covenant right to the porridge.” (Spurgeon)
3. (6-7) The need for restoration.
“My people have been lost sheep.
Their shepherds have led them astray;
They have turned them away on the mountains.
They have gone from mountain to hill;
They have forgotten their resting place.
All who found them have devoured them;
And their adversaries said, ‘We have not offended,
Because they have sinned against the LORD, the habitation of justice,
The LORD, the hope of their fathers.’”
a. My people have been lost sheep: Speaking through Jeremiah, Yahweh spoke tenderly of His people as lost sheep betrayed by their shepherds. The poor leadership of these shepherds led to God’s people being turned away and scattered from mountain to hill, with no resting place.
b. We have not offended, because they have sinned against the LORD: The adversaries of God’s people devoured them, claiming justification as instruments of God’s judgment. Though it was true that Israel and Judah had sinned and deserved judgment, it did not justify those God used to bring the judgment.
B. Babylon fallen, Israel pardoned.
1. (8-10) Fleeing from Babylon under attack.
“Move from the midst of Babylon,
Go out of the land of the Chaldeans;
And be like the rams before the flocks.
For behold, I will raise and cause to come up against Babylon
An assembly of great nations from the north country,
And they shall array themselves against her;
From there she shall be captured.
Their arrows shall be like those of an expert warrior;
None shall return in vain.
And Chaldea shall become plunder;
All who plunder her shall be satisfied,” says the LORD.
a. Move from the midst of Babylon: God called upon the doomed Chaldeans to flee from their land. God would assemble a great army from the north country to come against Babylon and capture it.
i. Like the rams before the flocks: “Once the sheepfold was opened the male goats would rush to leave the enclosure first. So Judah would be in the forefront of captive peoples breaking loose from Babylon to return home.” (Thompson)
ii. An assembly of great nations from the north country: “The army of Cyrus was composed of Medes, Persians, Armenians, Caducians, Sacae, etc. Though all these did not come from the north; yet they were arranged under the Medes, who did come from the north, in reference to Babylon.” (Clarke)
b. Chaldea shall become plunder: The great army that would come against Babylon would take its wealth and greatness. This was fulfilled when the Medes and Persians conquered Babylon, and will be even more completely fulfilled in the fall of Babylon in the end times (Revelation 17-18).
2. (11-16) The fall of Babylon is the vengeance of the LORD.
“Because you were glad, because you rejoiced,
You destroyers of My heritage,
Because you have grown fat like a heifer threshing grain,
And you bellow like bulls,
Your mother shall be deeply ashamed;
She who bore you shall be ashamed.
Behold, the least of the nations shall be a wilderness,
A dry land and a desert.
Because of the wrath of the LORD
She shall not be inhabited,
But she shall be wholly desolate.
Everyone who goes by Babylon shall be horrified
And hiss at all her plagues.
Put yourselves in array against Babylon all around,
All you who bend the bow;
Shoot at her, spare no arrows,
For she has sinned against the LORD.
Shout against her all around;
She has given her hand,
Her foundations have fallen,
Her walls are thrown down;
For it is the vengeance of the LORD.
Take vengeance on her.
As she has done, so do to her.
Cut off the sower from Babylon,
And him who handles the sickle at harvest time.
For fear of the oppressing sword
Everyone shall turn to his own people,
And everyone shall flee to his own land.”
a. Because you rejoiced, you destroyers of My heritage: God promised this judgment against Babylon because they took undue pleasure in being the instrument of Yahweh’s judgment against His people. They were also ripe for judgment because they were proud and self-satisfied (fat like a heifer threshing grain).
i. Shall be a wilderness: “Its eventual decline into a heap of ruins (Jeremiah 51:37), a wilderness dry and desert (Jeremiah 50:12b), was gradual, due largely to the building of a new capital, Seleucia on the Tigris, in 275 BC; but it still had inhabitants in the first century AD.” (Kidner)
b. Everyone who goes by Babylon shall be horrified: The coming judgment on Babylon would astonish the nations, who would become agents of God’s judgment (for it is the vengeance of the LORD). The same devastation the Chaldeans brought to others would come upon them (as she has done, so do to her).
i. “Powerful Babylon will be reduced to minor status in the Near East when God punishes her, and once more the passer-by will gasp in astonishment.” (Harrison)
c. Her foundations have fallen, her walls are thrown down: These phrases (and similar phrases in Jeremiah 50-51) are an interesting challenge in understanding prophetic fulfillment. Not very long after Jeremiah’s prophecy, Babylon was conquered, but not destroyed. The foundations did not fall and the walls were not thrown down.
i. “Cyrus, who unified the Medo-Persian Empire and then overwhelmed Babylon, was careful to spare the country; so the references (Jeremiah 50:16) must be to a later attack.” (Feinberg)
ii. “According to Herodotus (1.191), Cyrus captured Babylon by diverting the Euphrates River into a trench. The Persians attacked Babylon so unexpectedly that when the outer areas of the city had already been taken those in the center did not realize that they were captured.” (Feinberg)
iii. One important factor to take into account is that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, radically repented before God. It is possible that the worst of what was prophesied did not happen because God mercifully responded to Nebuchadnezzar’s repentance. “It is at least possible that the humbling of Nebuchadnezzar, culminating in his testimony in Daniel 4:34-37, opened the door to the mercy of 539 – for it is obvious from God’s generous response to even an Ahab, a Manasseh, or the city of Nineveh, that he meets a change of attitude more than halfway.” (Kidner)
iv. Another important factor to take into account is that God is not done with His judgment upon Babylon – the city second most mentioned in the Scriptures. Babylon was judged not far from Jeremiah’s time, but even that judgment pointed towards a greater fulfillment in the last days. The fall of Babylon prophesied by Jeremiah was partially fulfilled when the Medes and Persians conquered ancient Babylon. Yet the connection between this fall of Babylon and Revelation 18:2 (Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen) shows that there is an ultimate fall of Babylon to come.
v. “It has troubled some scholars that Jeremiah 50-51 predict the violent destruction of Babylon, whereas its defeat by Cyrus in 539 BC took place without a battle and with no damage to the city. But with other predictive prophecies, if a fulfillment does not occur in one period, it is to be sought for in another and future one.” (Feinberg)
vi. In truth, this interpretive challenge is a strong testimony to the authenticity of Jeremiah’s prophecy. “Those critical scholars who reject the possibility of such a foretelling of the future, and who would put these chapters after Babylonia’s fall in 539 BC, face an insurmountable problem. If these words were written after the event, they would surely correspond more accurately with the events themselves.” (Cundall)
3. (17-20) God will pardon and preserve Israel.
“Israel is like scattered sheep;
The lions have driven him away.
First the king of Assyria devoured him;
Now at last this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has broken his bones.”
Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel:
“Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land,
As I have punished the king of Assyria.
But I will bring back Israel to his home,
And he shall feed on Carmel and Bashan;
His soul shall be satisfied on Mount Ephraim and Gilead.
In those days and in that time,” says the LORD,
“The iniquity of Israel shall be sought, but there shall be none;
And the sins of Judah, but they shall not be found;
For I will pardon those whom I preserve.”
a. Israel is like scattered sheep; the lions have driven him away: Earlier in this prophecy, Jeremiah spoke of Israel as lost sheep (Jeremiah 50:6). Now he sees them as sheep scattered by the mighty lions of Assyria and Babylon.
i. Now at last this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has broken his bones: “All the descendants of Jacob have been harassed and spoiled, first by the Assyrians, and afterwards by the Chaldeans. They acted towards them as a lion to a sheep which he has caught; first he devours all the flesh, next he breaks all the bones to extract the marrow.” (Clarke)
b. I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria: God promised that just as the Assyrian empire was gone, so too would the mighty Babylonian empire one day be punished.
c. But I will bring back Israel to his home: In contrast to the passing empires of Assyria and Babylon, God would restore Israel to her land. They would once again feed on Carmel and Bashan and be satisfied on Mount Ephraim and Gilead.
d. The iniquity of Israel shall be sought, but there shall be none: This wonderful promise is another in the great promises of the new covenant, an aspect of which is the restoration and salvation of Israel. God promised to both pardon and preserve Israel.
i. I will pardon those whom I preserve: “One of the important features of the days of restoration is spiritual renewal with its concomitant of forgiveness. …The forgiveness of the remnant will be such that their guilt and their sins will be completely obliterated.” (Thompson)
C. Babylon broken, Israel redeemed.
1. (21-27) Babylon’s slaughter.
“Go up against the land of Merathaim, against it,
And against the inhabitants of Pekod.
Waste and utterly destroy them,” says the LORD,
“And do according to all that I have commanded you.
A sound of battle is in the land,
And of great destruction.
How the hammer of the whole earth has been cut apart and broken!
How Babylon has become a desolation among the nations!
I have laid a snare for you;
You have indeed been trapped, O Babylon,
And you were not aware;
You have been found and also caught,
Because you have contended against the LORD.
The LORD has opened His armory,
And has brought out the weapons of His indignation;
For this is the work of the Lord GOD of hosts
In the land of the Chaldeans.
Come against her from the farthest border;
Open her storehouses;
Cast her up as heaps of ruins,
And destroy her utterly;
Let nothing of her be left.
Slay all her bulls,
Let them go down to the slaughter.
Woe to them!
For their day has come, the time of their punishment.”
a. Go up against the land of Merathaim: God spoke judgment against specific regions of Babylon, Merathaim and Pekod. The command was clear: waste and utterly destroy them. Babylon was like a hammer against the whole earth, and she would be cut apart and broken because they contended against the LORD.
i. “Merathaim and Pekod were real locations in Babylon. Ironically, those place names sounded like the Hebrew words for ‘double rebellion’ and ‘punishment.’” (Ryken)
· The land of Merathaim: This was a literal place, but also “There is a play on words here, for the root mrh means ‘to rebel’ and the form of the word is dual, meaning ‘(land of) double rebellion,’ or ‘twofold rebel,’ that is, ‘rebel of rebels.’” (Thompson)
· The inhabitants of Pekod: “The root pqd means ‘to punish.’ Hence the land of Pekod is the ‘land of doom.’” (Thompson)
· “The prophets were fond of giving a word this kind of twist, adding to the liveliness of the attack and fastening it in the memory.” (Kidner)
ii. “He recognized that Babylon had been the instrument in the hand of Jehovah as he referred to her as ‘the hammer of the whole earth.’ But the hammer is broken, and Babylon become a desolation.” (Morgan)
iii. “Babylon was the maul or hammer of many nations, Nimrod began it, and his successors took after him. Charles Martel, King of France, was so called for like cause. Augustine also was worthily styled Haereticorum malleus, the hammer of heretics.” (Trapp)
iv. You have indeed been trapped, O Babylon: “It was not by storm that Cyrus took the city. The Euphrates ran through it; he dug a channel for the river in another direction, to divert its stream; he waited for that time in which the inhabitants had delivered themselves up to debauchery: in the dead of the night he turned off the stream, and he and his army entered by the old channel, now void of its waters. This was the snare of which the prophet here speaks. See Herodotus, lib. i., c. 191.” (Clarke)
b. The LORD has opened His armory: In His judgment God brought out the weapons of His indignation, coming against Babylon as the Lord GOD of hosts, Yahweh of heavenly armies.
c. Slay all her bulls, let them go down to the slaughter: The bulls once sacrificed to the idols of Babylon would be destroyed in the coming slaughter to come upon Babylon.
2. (28-32) Proud Babylon repaid.
The voice of those who flee and escape from the land of Babylon
Declares in Zion the vengeance of the LORD our God,
The vengeance of His temple.
“Call together the archers against Babylon.
All you who bend the bow, encamp against it all around;
Let none of them escape.
Repay her according to her work;
According to all she has done, do to her;
For she has been proud against the LORD,
Against the Holy One of Israel.
Therefore her young men shall fall in the streets,
And all her men of war shall be cut off in that day,” says the LORD.
“Behold, I am against you,
O most haughty one!” says the Lord GOD of hosts;
“For your day has come,
The time that I will punish you.
The most proud shall stumble and fall,
And no one will raise him up;
I will kindle a fire in his cities,
And it will devour all around him.”
a. The voice of those who flee and escape from the land of Babylon: In his prophecy, Jeremiah could hear those who managed to escape speak of the vengeance of the LORD. It was even the vengeance of His temple – the destroyed temple of Jerusalem visiting destruction upon Babylon. As they destroyed, so they would be destroyed.
b. For she has been proud against the LORD: This was the root of Babylon’s sin. Her pride led her to arrogantly think that she could measure out destruction to others without having it measured out against her, the most haughty one.
i. “He was under no delusion concerning Babylon itself. He knew its wickedness; and he knew that though God so overruled the affairs of men that Babylon was His instrument of chastisement, she herself must be judged.” (Morgan)
3. (33-34) Israel’s strong Redeemer.
Thus says the LORD of hosts:
“The children of Israel were oppressed,
Along with the children of Judah;
All who took them captive have held them fast;
They have refused to let them go.
Their Redeemer is strong;
The LORD of hosts is His name.
He will thoroughly plead their case,
That He may give rest to the land,
And disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon.”
a. All who took them captive have held them fast: When the empires of Assyria and Babylon took Israel and Judah captive, they did not let them go. It was only under those who conquered Babylon – the Medes and Persians – that the Jewish people were given permission to return to the Promised Land.
b. Their Redeemer is strong: Assyria and Babylon held Israel and Judah, but their strong Redeemer would thoroughly plead their case. Though God would disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon, He would give rest to the land.
i. “Few nations have ever realized that God is the Kinsman-Redeemer of Israel (Jeremiah 50:34). …The Kinsman-Redeemer is voluntarily committed to champion Israel’s cause. He brings peace to his own but unrest to his oppressors.” (Feinberg)
ii. All who dare to trouble Israel should remember, their Redeemer is strong. “The Jew has been held in contempt as the afflicted of God, and that has been the excuse urged sometimes even by so-called Christian nations for wrong and injustice done to him. Let it never be forgotten that God has not cast off His people, though He chastise them; and whatever nations persecutes them, sooner or later knows the fire of Divine wrath.” (Morgan)
iii. That He may give rest to the land: “The place where we lie down to rest is under the shadow of the Cross. Whilst we remain there, we are perfectly safe and blessed.” (Meyer)
D. The greatness of the judgment to come against Babylon.
1. (35-38) The sword against Chaldea.
“A sword is against the Chaldeans,” says the LORD,
“Against the inhabitants of Babylon,
And against her princes and her wise men.
A sword is against the soothsayers, and they will be fools.
A sword is against her mighty men, and they will be dismayed.
A sword is against their horses,
Against their chariots,
And against all the mixed peoples who are in her midst;
And they will become like women.
A sword is against her treasures, and they will be robbed.
A drought is against her waters, and they will be dried up.
For it is the land of carved images,
And they are insane with their idols.”
a. A sword is against the Chaldeans: God promised that His sword of judgment would come against the people of Babylon, as well has her princes and her wise men, as well as the soothsayers, mighty men – even her horses and her chariots.
b. It is the land of carved images, and they are insane with their idols: Everything that Babylon trusted in would feel the sword of God’s judgment. This included the mixed peoples who made up her armies, her treasures, and her idols. Idol-mad Chaldea would feel the complete edge of God’s sword.
2. (39-40) The complete nature of Babylon’s destruction.
“Therefore the wild desert beasts shall dwell there with the jackals,
And the ostriches shall dwell in it.
It shall be inhabited no more forever,
Nor shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation.
As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah
And their neighbors,” says the LORD,
“So no one shall reside there,
Nor son of man dwell in it.”
a. The wild desert beasts shall dwell there with the jackals: Babylon’s devastation would be so complete that the city would become a wasteland inhabited by wild animals – or unclean spirits.
i. Wild desert beasts, jackals: “The terms siyyim and iyyim are sometimes regarded as animals, but there was something uncanny about creatures who inhabited ruined cities and the terms demons and evil spirits would seem more appropriate.” (Thompson)
b. As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah: The destruction of Babylon would be so complete that the prophet could liken them to Sodom and Gomorrah.
3. (41-44) Destruction from the north.
“Behold, a people shall come from the north,
And a great nation and many kings
Shall be raised up from the ends of the earth.
They shall hold the bow and the lance;
They are cruel and shall not show mercy.
Their voice shall roar like the sea;
They shall ride on horses,
Set in array, like a man for the battle,
Against you, O daughter of Babylon.
The king of Babylon has heard the report about them,
And his hands grow feeble;
Anguish has taken hold of him,
Pangs as of a woman in childbirth.
Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the floodplain of the Jordan
Against the dwelling place of the strong;
But I will make them suddenly 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?”
a. A people shall come from the north: Babylon’s end would come from the Medes and Persians, roughly from their north. Since much of this prophecy speaks not only of that soon conquest but an ultimate destruction of Babylon (Revelation 17-18), their destruction will also in some way come from the north.
b. They are cruel and shall not show mercy: The conquerors of Babylon will be ruthless warriors. Babylon rarely showed mercy; they should expect none from their eventual conquerors.
c. Anguish has taken hold of him: In many places, Jeremiah described this effect of Babylon and her armies upon those they conquered (Jeremiah 13:8, 22:23, 48:41, 49:22). Now, a similar terror would come upon the king of Babylon.
i. “Small wonder that the Babylonian king, used to being the victor, is now petrified with fear as the potential victim.” (Thompson)
ii. He shall come up like a lion: “The lion (Jeremiah 50:44) now is Cyrus; in Jeremiah 49:19 it was Nebuchadnezzar.” (Feinberg)
d. Who is that shepherd who will withstand Me: God spoke the obvious. There was no shepherd, no king, no leader who could stand against Him and His coming judgment.
4. (45-46) The counsel of the LORD against Babylon.
Therefore hear the counsel of the LORD that He has taken against Babylon,
And His purposes that He has proposed against the land of the Chaldeans:
Surely the least of the flock shall draw them out;
Surely He will make their dwelling place desolate with them.
At the noise of the taking of Babylon
The earth trembles,
And the cry is heard among the nations.
a. Therefore hear the counsel of the LORD that He has taken against Babylon: God invited not only Israel and Judah, but also Babylon herself and all the nations to hear the counsel of the LORD. Judgment was coming against them and God wanted the entire world to know.
b. At the noise of the taking of Babylon the earth trembles: God would show His might, His wisdom, His justice, and His unfolding plan of the ages in and through the judgment of Babylon.
Jeremiah 49 – Words of Judgment Against the Nations
Video for Jeremiah 49:
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 pain 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, even 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. One 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.”
Jeremiah 48 – A Word of Judgment Against Moab
Video for Jeremiah 48:
A. Coming judgment against Moab.
1. (1-5) Judgment to come against the cities of Moab.
Against Moab. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel:
“Woe to Nebo!
For it is plundered,
Kirjathaim is shamed and taken;
The high stronghold is shamed and dismayed—
No more praise of Moab.
In Heshbon they have devised evil against her:
‘Come, and let us cut her off as a nation.’
You also shall be cut down, O Madmen!
The sword shall pursue you;
A voice of crying shall be from Horonaim:
‘Plundering and great destruction!’
“Moab is destroyed;
Her little ones have caused a cry to be heard;
For in the Ascent of Luhith they ascend with continual weeping;
For in the descent of Horonaim the enemies have heard a cry of destruction.
a. Against Moab: In the series of judgments of nations surrounding Judah, Jeremiah now turned his attention to Israel’s neighbor to the east, on the other side of the Jordan. The ancestor of Moab came from the incestuous pairing of Lot and his daughter (Genesis 19:37).
i. Moab was something of a cousin to Israel. They feared Israel as they came from Egypt towards Canaan (Numbers 22:3-4) and Balak king of Moab hired Balaam to curse Israel (Numbers 22:5-8). When Israel came into Canaan, sometimes Moab attacked and ruled over them (Judges 3:12-14).
ii. Later, Ruth the Moabite was the great-grandmother of King David, and David sent his parents to Moab for their protection when Saul hunted him (1 Samuel 22:3-4). When he was king, David fought against and defeated Moab (2 Samuel 8:2), and they became a vassal kingdom to Israel, sometimes rebelling (2 Kings 1:1, 2 Kings 3:4-5).
iii. “There was little love lost between the two nations, a fact which is attested by foreign prophecies directed against Moab by Isaiah (Isaiah15-16), Amos (Amos 2:1-3), Zephaniah (Zephaniah 2:9), Jeremiah, and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 25:8-11).” (Thompson)
b. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: The God of Israel was also God of all the earth and spoke with authority in judgment over Moab. He was also the LORD of hosts, the God commanding fearsome heavenly armies.
c. Woe to Nebo! For it is plundered, Kirjathaim is shamed and taken: Jeremiah began by listing many of the major cities and places of Moab that would be overwhelmed in judgment including Nebo, Kirjathaim, Heshbon, Horonaim and Luhith. They would be plundered, shamed, cut down, and destroyed.
i. “Nebo is not the mountain so named, but the Moabite city of Numbers 32:3, 38, built by the Reubenites.” (Harrison)
ii. “Most cities mentioned here had been assigned by Moses to the Reubenites (Numbers 32:33-38; Joshua 13:15-23).” (Harrison)
iii. No more praise of Moab: “To us at this distance the very mention of her renown is ironic, for we can see how local and how temporary was the fame that meant so much to her.” (Kidner)
iv. A voice of crying shall be from Horonaim: “They would not cry for their sins: they shall therefore cry for their miseries with desperate and bootless tears, and yet worse one day.” (Trapp)
v. With continual weeping: “Hebrew, Weeping with weeping shall go up – i.e., they shall weep abundantly.” (Trapp)
2. (6-9) The terror of judgment coming upon Moab.
“Flee, save your lives!
And be like the juniper in the wilderness.
For because you have trusted in your works and your treasures,
You also shall be taken.
And Chemosh shall go forth into captivity,
His priests and his princes together.
And the plunderer shall come against every city;
No one shall escape.
The valley also shall perish,
And the plain shall be destroyed,”
As the LORD has spoken.
“Give wings to Moab,
That she may flee and get away;
For her cities shall be desolate,
Without any to dwell in them.”
a. Flee, save your lives: This was the call that would be heard in Moab when the Babylonian armies advanced upon it.
i. “The picture which this chapter conveys is the shattering of such complacent self-sufficiency in a massive invasion, with its brutal accompaniments: looting, slaughter, captivity, untold misery and bitter lamentation.” (Cundall)
b. Because you have trusted in your works and your treasures: Moab was wealthy because important trade routes came through their land. Their treasures made them proud and self-reliant, ripe for God’s judgment.
i. “Geographically, Moab was more isolated than Israel and Judah, which were on the main trade-routes and were also surrounded by other kingdoms. Moab’s isolation enabled her to escape many of the international upheavals which weakened her neighbours, and she was often able to strengthen herself at their expense.” (Cundall)
c. Chemosh shall go forth into captivity: Chemosh was the ancient god of the Moabites and sometimes used as a representation of the people. In their conquest, the Babylonians would take the literal idols of Chemosh and the people of Chemosh into captivity.
i. “Chemosh was the principal Moabite deity (Numbers 21:29) and the sacrificing of children was an important part of his cult (2 Kings 3:27).” (Harrison)
ii. “Solomon erected a high place for Chemosh in Jerusalem (1 Kings 11:7), but it was demolished under Josiah (2 Kings 23:13).” (Harrison)
iii. “Despite his thirst for blood, Chemosh had often been a temptation to Israel. In the days of Balaam, Moabite women seduced the Israelites to worship their gods (Numbers 25). King Solomon later married Moabite women and set up an altar to Chemosh (1 Kings 11:1-13).” (Ryken)
iv. “The carrying off of statues of the gods into exile was common in the ancient Near East (cf. Amos 5:25; Isaiah 46:1,2).” (Thompson)
d. Give wings to Moab, that she may flee and get away: The destruction to come would be so complete (her cities shall be desolate) that those who could flee and get away would be fortunate.
i. The valley also shall perish: “The ‘valley’ is the Jordan Valley, which touched Moab on the west. All the Moabite cities will be involved in the doom. The ‘plateau’ is the extensive region where most of the Moabite cities were located.” (Feinberg)
3. (10-13) Complacent Moab must be emptied.
Cursed is he who does the work of the LORD deceitfully,
And cursed is he who keeps back his sword from blood.
“Moab has been at ease from his youth;
He has settled on his dregs,
And has not been emptied from vessel to vessel,
Nor has he gone into captivity.
Therefore his taste remained in him,
And his scent has not changed.
“Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD,
“That I shall send him wine-workers
Who will tip him over
And empty his vessels
And break the bottles.
Moab shall be ashamed of Chemosh,
As the house of Israel was ashamed of Bethel, their confidence.”
a. Cursed is he who keeps back his sword from blood: The armies of Babylon were the unknowing servants of God, executing His judgment upon Judah, Moab, and other nations. They were to do their work without deceit and completely.
i. “Note the fearful twist to what may well have been a proverb or preacher’s text in verse 10a (Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord with slackness), turning it into a charge to Moab’s executioners.” (Kidner)
ii. Jeremiah 48:10 was “Described by A. S. Peake as ‘This bloodthirsty verse’ and regarded by him as an interpolation, is not to be interpreted literally, but as a hyperbolic statement of the completeness of the judgment about to fall. Such an event inevitably involves bloodshed, but the Lord takes no delight in the death of the most rebellious sinner (cf. 2 Peter 3:9).” (Cundall)
b. Moab has been at ease from his youth: God spoke through Jeremiah a remarkable picture of Moab’s sin and condition. They had been at ease for a long time and had settled on his dregs.
i. The picture is from the ancient process of refining wine. After fermentation, the wine would sit in a jar or bottle and the impurities – the dregs – would settle on the bottom, something like coffee grounds at the bottom of a cup. It would then be carefully poured into another vessel, leaving the dregs in the first vessel. Doing this a few times made for a wine with fewer impurities to spoil the taste.
ii. “One secret of the corruption of Moab had been that of its comparative ease.” (Morgan)
iii. “She lay outside the normal route of the invaders of the Middle East and was rarely disturbed.” (Thompson)
iv. “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.” (Kidner)
c. Has not been emptied from vessel to vessel: Moab had not been shaken up in a while and had settled into a comfortable complacency. According to the picture, the remaining dregs began to flavor and spoil the wine. Moab – and many people today – would benefit from being emptied from vessel to vessel. For them it meant coming captivity.
i. “The simile is particularly apposite because of the esteem in which Moabite vineyards were held (cf. Isaiah 16:8-11).” (Harrison)
ii. “Readers of the missionary classic, Hudson Taylor in Early Years, may remember the apt heading, ‘Emptied from Vessel to Vessel’, to a chapter describing an unsettling but ultimately fruitful few months in the missionary’s second year in China. ” (Kidner)
d. Therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent has not changed: The picture remains true. If we are not emptied out from time to time we never grow, and our scent does not change. God promised to send wine-workers to Moab who would tip him over and empty his vessels and will faithfully do a similar work in lives of His people today.
i. For Moab, this was a demonstration of God’s judgment and anger. For the believer under the new covenant, it is a demonstration of God’s goodness and compassion.
ii. “Unlike an earthenware jar that is carefully tilted so as not to lose the sediment of the wine, Moab will be roughly dealt with (‘pour her out’) and emptied like jars and smashed like jugs.” (Feinberg)
e. Moab shall be ashamed of Chemosh: Through the coming Babylonian conquest and captivity, God promised to break down their confidence in their local deity Chemosh, even as He broke the confidence of the northern kingdom of Israel in Bethel, their center of idolatry.
4. (14-17) The calamity to come upon Moab.
“How can you say, ‘We are mighty
And strong men for the war’?
Moab is plundered and gone up from her cities;
Her chosen young men have gone down to the slaughter,” says the King,
Whose name is the LORD of hosts.
“The calamity of Moab is near at hand,
And his affliction comes quickly.
Bemoan him, all you who are around him;
And all you who know his name,
Say, ‘How the strong staff is broken,
The beautiful rod!’”
a. We are mighty and strong men for the war: This was the attitude of Moab in the face of the Babylonian threat. God showed how this was foolish and vain confidence. They would be plundered and exiled (gone up from her cities).
i. “Partly because of isolation, Moab had never undergone the experience of exile, even though invaded and occupied periodically.” (Harrison)
b. Says the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts: It wasn’t a local deity who brought this word to Moab. It was the King over all, Yahweh, who commanded the armies of heaven (the LORD of hosts).
c. How the strong staff is broken: This would be the response of surrounding nations. Moab seemed like a beautiful and strong staff, but would be broken by the Babylonians.
i. The strong staff: “The expressions mighty scepter and glorious staff refer back to the days when Moab was able to exert some influence in the neighboring areas (Jeremiah 27:3; 2 Kings 1:1; 3:4-5; 24:2).” (Thompson)
5. (18-24) The complete nature of the conquest of Moab.
“O daughter inhabiting Dibon,
Come down from your glory,
And sit in thirst;
For the plunderer of Moab has come against you,
He has destroyed your strongholds.
O inhabitant of Aroer,
Stand by the way and watch;
Ask him who flees
And her who escapes;
Say, ‘What has happened?’
Moab is shamed, for he is broken down.
Wail and cry!
Tell it in Arnon, that Moab is plundered.
“And judgment has come on the plain country:
On Holon and Jahzah and Mephaath,
On Dibon and Nebo and Beth Diblathaim,
On Kirjathaim and Beth Gamul and Beth Meon,
On Kerioth and Bozrah,
On all the cities of the land of Moab,
Far or near.”
a. O daughter inhabiting Dibon, come down from your glory: God spoke to Moab in its cities and landmarks, telling them to humble themselves and prepare for the judgment to come as the plunderer of Moab has come.
i. “Dibon, the modern Diban, was four miles north of the Arnon and thirteen miles east of the Dead Sea. The Moabite Stone was discovered here in 1868.” (Harrison)
b. All the cities of the land of Moab, far or near: To give a sense of completeness of the judgment, Jeremiah listed at least 14 specific cities or places in Moab.
B. The reason for judgment: the pride of Moab.
1. (25-28) Proud Moab thought itself better than Israel.
“The horn of Moab is cut off,
And his arm is broken,” says the LORD.
“Make him drunk,
Because he exalted himself against the LORD.
Moab shall wallow in his vomit,
And he shall also be in derision.
For was not Israel a derision to you?
Was he found among thieves?
For whenever you speak of him,
You shake your head in scorn.
You who dwell in Moab,
Leave the cities and dwell in the rock,
And be like the dove which makes her nest
In the sides of the cave’s mouth.”
a. The horn of Moab is cut off, and his arm is broken: The horn and the arm were representations of strength, one from the world of animals and the other from men. God would show Moab to be empty of all strength.
i. The horn of Moab is cut off: “i.e., His strength, power, glory, kingdoms; his sultans and princes, saith the Chaldee.” (Trapp)
b. Make him drunk, because he exalted himself against the LORD: Proud Moab believed they were greater than Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel. They also believed they were greater than Israel, holding them in derision. They held this sense of superiority when the Assyrians conquered the northern king of Israel and they escaped.
i. Moab shall wallow in his vomit: “Wallow in his vomit (EVV) uses the Hebrew verb sapaq, which, however, means to clap the hands (Numbers 24:10; Lamentations 2:15) and to clap the thigh (Jeremiah 31:19). Presumably the reference here is to a person holding his abdomen as he vomits.” (Harrison)
ii. “The drunken stupor of Moab is a warning to everyone who mocks God. God suffers himself to be ridiculed by his creatures. …But God will not be mocked forever. There was nothing humorous about Moab wallowing in her own vomit.” (Ryken)
iii. “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.” (Thompson)
c. Leave the cities and dwell in the rock: The coming judgment would make the people of Moab refugees from their cities, forced to find refuge in the mountains and their rocks.
2. (29-35) Proud Moab brought low.
“We have heard the pride of Moab
(He is exceedingly proud),
Of his loftiness and arrogance and pride,
And of the haughtiness of his heart.”
“I know his wrath,” says the LORD,
“But it is not right;
His lies have made nothing right.
Therefore I will wail for Moab,
And I will cry out for all Moab;
I will mourn for the men of Kir Heres.
O vine of Sibmah! I will weep for you with the weeping of Jazer.
Your plants have gone over the sea,
They reach to the sea of Jazer.
The plunderer has fallen on your summer fruit and your vintage.
Joy and gladness are taken
From the plentiful field
And from the land of Moab;
I have caused wine to fail from the winepresses;
No one will tread with joyous shouting—
Not joyous shouting!”
“From the cry of Heshbon to Elealeh and to Jahaz
They have uttered their voice,
From Zoar to Horonaim,
Like a three-year-old heifer;
For the waters of Nimrim also shall be desolate.
“Moreover,” says the LORD,
“I will cause to cease in Moab
The one who offers sacrifices in the high places
And burns incense to his gods.”
a. We have heard of the pride of Moab: There was a lot to say about the pride of Moab. God described it as exceedingly proud, as loftiness and arrogance and pride, and as haughtiness of his heart.
i. “Jeremiah here piles up a number of synonymous terms designed to emphasize Moab’s pride.” (Thompson)
b. I know his wrath: Moab’s pride was also connected to their wrath or anger. Believing themselves to be better than others, they found it easy to feel and act in an angry manner. God knew that it is not right. Their pride explained their anger but did not justify it.
c. Therefore I will wail for Moab: Even though the judgment was richly deserved, it was not rejoiced in. God and His prophet would cry out and mourn because of the destruction to come upon Moab and her people.
d. Joy and gladness are taken from the plentiful field: Moab’s previous prosperity in the field and the winepress would turn to sorrow and desolation. This would happen all over the land of Moab. Their idol sacrifices on the high places would stop.
i. No one will tread with joyous shouting: “Isaiah 48:33 is a variant of Isaiah 16:10. The implication is that the shout will not be the glad cry of the vintagers, but the noise of warriors bent on destruction.” (Harrison)
ii. Like a three-year-old heifer: “Which runs lowing from place to place in search of her calf, which is lost or taken from her.” (Clarke)
3. (36-42) Mourning for Moab.
“Therefore My heart shall wail like flutes for Moab,
And like flutes My heart shall wail
For the men of Kir Heres.
Therefore the riches they have acquired have perished.
“For every head shall be bald, and every beard clipped;
On all the hands shall be cuts, and on the loins sackcloth—
A general lamentation
On all the housetops of Moab,
And in its streets;
For I have broken Moab like a vessel in which is no pleasure,” says the LORD.
“They shall wail:
‘How she is broken down!
How Moab has turned her back with shame!’
So Moab shall be a derision
And a dismay to all those about her.”
For thus says the LORD:
“Behold, one shall fly like an eagle,
And spread his wings over Moab.
Kerioth is taken,
And the strongholds are surprised;
The mighty men’s hearts in Moab on that day shall be
Like the heart of a woman in birth pangs.
And Moab shall be destroyed as a people,
Because he exalted himself against the LORD.”
a. Therefore My heart shall wail like flutes for Moab: God and His prophet did not celebrate the coming doom upon Moab. Though they deserved the judgment, it was still painful to see it come upon Israel’s cousin and neighbor.
b. Every head shall be bald, and every beard clipped: Jeremiah recounted their many demonstrations of mourning, including ritual cutting (on all the hands shall be cuts) and the wearing of sackcloth.
c. I have broken Moab like a vessel in which is no pleasure: Clay pots or vessels were cheaply made in the ancient world. When the use or pleasure of a pot had ended, it was quickly and easily broken. This was a picture of how God’s judgment would come upon Moab. It would be so bad that men would show the pain and fear of a woman in the labor of birth.
i. One shall fly like an eagle: “The eagle, ready to swoop on its prey, was an apt figure of Nebuchadnezzar (cf. Deuteronomy 28:49; Jeremiah 49:22).” (Harrison)
d. Moab shall be destroyed as a people: The people of Moab would no longer continue as a separate, defined people. In a sense they would be lost to history, unlike Israel. All this came because he exalted himself against the LORD.
i. “Moab’s predicted extinction began with a heavy Nabatean settlement in the first century BC, and culminated under the Arabs in the Byzantine period.” (Harrison)
ii. “The end of Moab as an independent nation seems to have come in 582 BC when Nebuchadnezzar, no doubt because of a rebellion, marched against Moab and Ammon. …Not long after this the small states in Transjordan were overwhelmed by an Arab invasion and ceased to exist as a nation.” (Thompson)
4. (43-47) Unrelenting judgment, a glimmer of hope.
Fear and the pit and the snare shall be upon you,
O inhabitant of Moab,” says the LORD.
“He who flees from the fear shall fall into the pit,
And he who gets out of the pit shall be caught in the snare.
For upon Moab, upon it I will bring
The year of their punishment,” says the LORD.
“Those who fled stood under the shadow of Heshbon
Because of exhaustion.
But a fire shall come out of Heshbon,
A flame from the midst of Sihon,
And shall devour the brow of Moab,
The crown of the head of the sons of tumult.
Woe to you, O Moab!
The people of Chemosh perish;
For your sons have been taken captive,
And your daughters captive.
“Yet I will bring back the captives of Moab
In the latter days,” says the LORD.
Thus far is the judgment of Moab.
a. Fear and the pit and the snare shall be upon you: God promised that the judgment to come upon Moab would be thorough. If someone escaped an aspect of it, another aspect of judgment would catch up with them.
i. Thompson observed on Jeremiah 48:45-46: “It would appear that these verses consist of free quotation from the old song of Heshbon which occurs in Numbers 21:28-29 and also from Numbers 24:17. We may see in these words a claim that Balaam’s oracle against Moab was about to be enacted.” (Thompson)
b. Yet I will bring back the captives of Moab: Despite the complete nature of the judgment to come against them, God promised a measure of mercy to Moab in the latter days.
i. “Perhaps the restoration spoken of here, which was to take place in the latter days, may mean the conversion of these people, in their existing remnants, to the faith of the Gospel. Several judicious interpreters are of this opinion. The Moabites were partially restored; but never, as far as I have been able to learn, to their national consequence. Their conversion to the Christian faith must be the main end designed by this prophecy.” (Clarke)
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