For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2003 James Melough

48:1.  “Against Moab thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Woe unto Nebo! for it is spoiled: Kiriathaim is confounded and taken: Misgab is confounded and dismayed.”


Nebo, the first city mentioned, is not to be confused with Mount Nebo from which Moses saw Canaan.  Interestingly it means his prophecy, and upon it woe was pronounced: it was to be spoiled, i.e., sacked: ravaged: left in ruins; all of this foreshadowing what is to happen to the false church in the Great Tribulation. 


Next was Kiriathaim, meaning double city, and speaking perhaps of the double character of Christendom, which consists of a mass of mere unconverted professors, and a small minority of true believers.  It was to be confounded, i.e., put to shame: humbled: made a prey to alarms: confused: scattered: overwhelmed: disgraced: overthrown, Revelation making it clear that all of these things will befall the false church in the Great Tribulation.


Another city, Misgab, meaning a high place was also to be confounded and dismayed (broken down), and again seems to point to what will be the experience of the false church in the Great Tribulation.  She too has arrogated a high place: look for example at Roman Catholicism, with Protestantism only a short step behind her.


48:2.  “There shall be no more praise of Moab: in Heshbon they have devised evil against it; come, and let us cut it off from being a nation.  Also thou shalt be cut down, O Madmen: the sword shall pursue thee.”


There would be no more praise, fame, or glory for Moab.  Within Heshbon itself, a Moabite city meaning device: reason, evil against the whole land was being plotted by God.  It was about to be cut off as a nation.  Moab was unaware of what God was about to do to her; and apostate Christendom is similarly unaware of the fate awaiting her, for as in Heshbon evil against the whole land of Moab was being plotted by God, so also in the midst of Christendom are to be found God’s plans for her destruction, those plans being written in the Scriptures which she will neither read, nor heed even when read to her.


Nothing is known of the place called Madmen, but a preferable translation of the words “thou shalt be cut down” is “thou shalt be brought to silence.”


48:3.  “A voice of crying shall be from Horonaim, spoiling and great destruction.”


Horonaim means double cave, a meaning of ominous significance, for a cave, commonly used as a tomb in biblical times, is one of the scriptural symbols of death, so that here the meaning double cave points unmistakably to the nature of the death Moab was about to die.  It would be the same as is the death of every unbeliever, i.e., double: first of the body; and secondly of the soul and spirit. 


That double death awaits those who constitute the great false church, as it does the unbeliever in every age.  Death takes his body to the grave, and his soul to hell, to await the resurrection of death or damnation, when the resurrected body and soul will be ultimately cast into the eternal torment of the lake of fire, that terrible experience being called “the second death,” Re 20:14.


48:4.  “Moab is destroyed; her little ones have caused a cry to be heard.”


Many translations conclude this verse by adding “as far as Zoar” after “heard,” Zoar meaning bringing low, many scholars understanding the reference to be to the fact that the crying will be because of the death of the Moabites’ children.


Only the spiritually blind will fail to see in this the foreshadowing of the state of Christendom today.  As the evildoing of the Moabites was the cause of the judgment that resulted in the death of the children, so is the evildoing of Christendom resulting in the spiritual death of many children today.  Rejection of God’s laws by parents has produced a generation without any moral values, and without any awareness of the need of a new spiritual birth to save them from hell and fit them for heaven, with the result that most of them will die the second death, i.e., dwell eternally in the torment of the lake of fire.


Even many professing Christian parents seem to be indifferent to the spiritual state of their children, for they neither instruct them in the Scriptures, nor seek to lead them to trust in Christ as Savior, this very negligence calling in question the reality of the profession of those parents. 


48:5.  “For in the going up of Luhith continual weeping shall go up; for in the going down of Horonaim the enemies have heard a cry of destruction.”


Luhith means tabular: pertaining to the table; and Horonaim, double cave.


Horonaim has already been discussed in our study of verse 3; and  the clue to the spiritual significance of Luhith may lie in its being an upward journey typological of that flight taken by the believer along the narrow upward road to heaven.  The urgency of the flight to Luhith ought to remind us of the absolute imperative of fleeing the things of this world in order to escape its condemnation and destruction, our flight unimpeded by any of the things pertaining to this doomed world. 


The meaning of Luhith pertaining to the table, may be also to remind us that on that road to heaven we have a spiritual table at which to constantly nourish our new spiritual life with the bread of heaven: the Christ presented in the Scriptures.


The weeping associated with the flight to Luhith ought to remind us of the Lord’s admonition, “In the world ye shall have tribulation,” Jn 16:33, but our consolation and encouragement are found in what is written concerning our tears, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning,” Ps 30:5.


And finally we should note the contrast between the weeping of those fleeing to Luhith, and those going down to Horonaim.  The former was the weeping of escapees; that of the latter, the weeping of those who “heard a cry of destruction.”


48:6.  “Flee, save your lives, and be like the heath (tamarisk) in the wilderness.”


The only hope of salvation would be in flight, and they were being urged not to impede that flight by trying to take possessions with them.  They were to be like the heath (tamarisk shrub) which is characterized by its tiny leaves in contrast to the larger leaves of other shrubs, i.e., they were to go stripped of everything except the minimum of clothing.


The spiritual lesson relates to the salvation of one’s soul.  It is to be a matter of paramount importance, nothing being permitted to distract us from laying hold of what is priceless: God’s gift of eternal life.


48:7.  “For because thou hast trusted in thy works (fortifications) and in thy treasures, thou shalt also be taken: and Chemosh shall go forth into captivity with his priests and his princes together.”


Because Moab had put all her trust in her strong fortifications and treasures, and in her God Chemosh, while ignoring the God of Heaven, she, her God, and all his priesthood, would be led away captive.  The worship of Chemosh involved the sacrifice of children.


48:8.  “And the spoiler shall come upon every city, and no city shall escape: the valley also shall perish, and the plain shall be destroyed, as the Lord hath spoken.”


Moab was a land of hills and valleys, hence the reference here to valley and plain.  The valley was the Jordan Valley, and “the plain” was the plateau or tableland.  No place would escape destruction at the hand of the invader.


48:9.  “Give wings unto Moab, that it may flee and get away: for the cities thereof shall be desolate, without any to dwell therein.”


“... wings” is also translated pillar: tomb: warning flash.  It is derived from a root meaning shining plate, which indicates that the command is literally to give Moab a tomb with its usual shining (flashing) metal memorial plate.  It is a poetic declaration of Moab’s complete destruction.


48:10.  “Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully, and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood.”


“... deceitfully” is also rendered negligently: grudgingly: half-heartedly: slack.  No mercy was to be shown Moab.  No individual was to be spared.  She was to be extirpated.


The practical lesson for us is against the folly of doing half-heartedly the work God has given us to do, as it is written, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might,” Ec 9:10.


48:11.  “Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees, and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity: therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed.”


The Bible Knowledge Commentary gives the following instructive information relative to wine-making, and thus helps to explain this verse: “”First the grapes were stomped, then the juice was placed into bottles or skins and allowed to ferment.  During this time the sediment or dregs, would settle to the bottom.  After 40 days the fermented wine was carefully poured into another container to separate it from the dregs.  If the dregs were allowed to remain, the wine became too sweet and thick and was spoiled.”                                                      


Moab had never undergone the equivalent of this process.  She had been undisturbed through the years, and had become like wine left on its dregs; and as such useless wine had to be discarded, so was Moab to be cast away.


The propriety of the metaphor used here will be appreciated when we remember that wine, in a good sense, is the symbol of joy, and remember also that as wine is for man’s pleasure, so also has man been created for God’s pleasure.


48:12.  “Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will send unto him wanderers, that shall cause him to wander, and shall empty his vessels, and break their bottles.”


“... wander” is derived from a word meaning to tip over for spilling or pouring out: depopulate: imprison: conquer: exile: captivity.  God was about to send against Moab those who would do all of this to her.  She would be utterly destroyed.


48:13.  “And Moab shall be ashamed (disappointed) of Chemosh, as the house of Israel was ashamed of Bethel their confidence.”


As Israel had learned by bitter experience the worthlessness of the molten calf they had set up and worshiped in Bethel, so was Moab about to learn also the worthlessness of their god Chemosh.


48:14.  “How say ye, We are mighty and strong men for the war?”


They were confident in their own power as warriors, but were about to learn that all the boasted might of man is as nothing compared with the omnipotence of God.


48:15.  “Moab is spoiled, and gone up out of her cities, and his chosen young men are gone down to the slaughter with the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts (armies).”


“... spoiled” is also translated laid waste: made desolate: ravaged.”  Her most valiant young men may march out against the Babylonian invader, but they are unaware that it is against the omnipotent Jehovah they march, and that the outcome will be their own slaughter.


48:16.  “The calamity of Moab is near to come, and his affliction hasteth fast.”


“... calamity and affliction” are both connected with the idea of doom: fate: trouble: ruin: downfall.  They combine here to declare Moab’s utter destruction.


48:17.  “All ye that are about him, bemoan him; and all ye that knew his name, say, How is the strong staff broken, and the beautiful rod!”


The prophet here calls upon the surrounding nations to lament Moab’s destruction.


The “strong staff” refers to Moab’s governmental might and power; and the “beautiful rod” to the honor and glory associated with that government.


48:18.  “Thou daughter that dost inhabit Dibon, come down from thy glory, and sit in thirst; for the spoiler of Moab shall come upon thee, and he shall destroy thy strong holds.”


Dibon was an important city located near the river Arnon, about 18 miles south of Mount Nebo, and 14 miles east of the Dead Sea.  To “sit in thirst” or “among the thirsty” speaks symbolically of the fact that the people of devastated Moab would “sit,” i.e.,

they would be helpless to do anything to improve their state; and their being thirsty speaks of their longing for all that they had formerly taken for granted, and would never enjoy again.


48:19.  “O inhabitant of Aroer, stand by the way, and espy; ask him that fleeth, and her that escapeth, and say, What is done?”


Aroer was a city just north of Moab, and as the refugees fled through it on their way north, the inhabitants would ask them for news of events in the south.


48:20.  “Moab is confounded; for it is broken down: howl and cry; tell ye it in Arnon, that Moab is spoiled.”


“... confounded” is also translated without hope: shamed: shattered; and “tell ye it in Arnon” is better translated, “shout across the Arnon River.”


48:21.  “And judgment is come upon the plain country; upon Holon, and upon Jahazah, and upon Mephaath,” 


48:22.  “And upon Dibon, and upon Nebo, and upon Bethdiblathaim,”


48:23.  “And upon Kiriathaim, and upon Beth-gamul, Beth-meon,”


48:24.  “And upon Kerioth, and upon Bozrah, and upon all the cities of the land of Moab, far or near.”


These were cities of the plateau or tableland, and are listed to emphasize that no area would escape the sword of the invaders: the whole land would be devastated.


48:25.  “The horn of Moab is cut off, and his arm is broken, saith the Lord.”


A horn is a biblical symbol of power, and here it simply means that Moab’s power as a nation was ended; while the broken arm is used figuratively of the shattering of her authority.


48:26.  “Make ye him drunken: for he magnified himself against the Lord: Moab also shall wallow in his vomit, and he shall be in derision.”


As a drunken man staggers and falls, unable to keep his balance, or to coordinate his movements, so would Moab be reduced to a comparable state of helplessness, because he had lifted himself up in rebellious pride against God.


It is difficult to imagine anything more evocative of derision and disgust than a drunken man wallowing in his own vomit, so that in using this figure God is declaring in the most graphic language the depths of shame and degradation to which proud Moab was about to be reduced.


48:27.  “For was not Israel a derision unto thee? was he found among thieves? for since thou spakest of him, thou skippedst for joy.”


When God had chastised Israel, Moab had danced for joy, mocking her as if she were a thief caught red-handed, one of a gang of thieves.  Like many another nation before and since then, Moab forgot that Israel, even in the midst of chastisement, was still God’s son, as it is written, “Israel is my son, even my firstborn,” Ex 4:22.  It is one thing for a father to chastise his son: a very different thing for that father to see others reviling that son in the midst of chastisement.  Moab was about to pay the price for her mockery and hatred of Israel.


48:28.  “O ye that dwell in Moab, leave the cities, and dwell in the rock and be like the dove that maketh her nest in the sides of the hole’s mouth.”


The “hole” is the deep gorge of the Arnon river.  This was God’s warning to Moab to flee the cities and seek hiding places among the rocks and in the caves of the hills, just as doves selected nesting sites in the sides of the gorge.  The extent of Moab’s fall is indicated in that they who considered themselves invincible are here likened by God to mere harmless doves.


48:29.  “We have heard the pride of Moab, (he is exceeding proud) his loftiness, and his arrogancy, and his pride, and the haughtiness of his heart.”


Moab was notorious for its haughty overbearing pride and insolence, and it is instructive to note that pride heads the list of seven things which God hates, see Pr 6:16-17.


48:30.  “I know his wrath (insolence), saith the Lord; but it shall not be so; his lies shall not so effect it.”


Other translations of this verse are, “I know his insolence .... accomplishing nothing,” The Bible: An American translation; “... her boasts are false - her helplessness is great,” Taylor.  Moab’s insolent boasting was about to be revealed as mere empty, lying words that would never be accomplished; she would be rendered incapable of putting her boastful threats into effect.


48:31.  “Therefore will I howl for Moab, and I will cry out for all Moab; mine heart shall mourn for the men of Kir-heres.”


Some take the “I” here to refer to the inhabitants of Moab weeping, wailing, and mourning, because of the destruction that was about to overtake her; but most scholars understand the reference to be to God Himself.  He took no pleasure in having to destroy Moab any more than He does in having to destroy unrepentant sinners, as it is written, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” Ezek 33:11.


Kir-heres is generally assumed to have been a fortified city built on a rocky hill almost 3,400 hundred feet above sea level, and located about 15 miles south of the Arnon River, and about 11 miles east of the Dead Sea.


48:32.  “O vine of Sibmah, I will weep for thee with the weeping of Jazer: thy plants are gone over the sea, they reach even to the sea of Jazer: the spoiler is fallen upon thy summer fruits and upon thy vintage.”


Sibmah, about 10 miles east of the Dead Sea, and just slightly south of the Arnon River, was the center of an area famous for its vines and summer fruits.  Moab was about to become like a ruined vineyard.


“I will weep for thee....”  The speaker is Jeremiah, but since he was writing as God’s amanuensis it seems clear that it is God Himself Who wept for Moab.  Even though He must pronounce Moab’s doom, He had no pleasure in doing so, and would weep for the destruction with which He must punish her for her wickedness.


Jazer was a town located about 18 miles east of the Jordan, and about 12 miles northeast of the northeastern tip of the Dead Sea. There would be weeping in Jazer for the destruction of Sibmah, for apparently the fruits of Sibmah furnished considerable trade for Jazer.


The reference to “the sea” is generally considered to be the result of a scribal error, though some understand it to mean that the fertile area extended from these two towns to the shores of the Dead Sea.


48:33.  “And joy and gladness is taken from the plentiful field, and from the land of Moab; and I have caused wine to fail from the winepresses: none shall tread with shouting: their shouting shall be no shouting.”


Since wine is a biblical symbol of joy and gladness it isn’t surprising that the removal of both should be mentioned together; and relative to shouting, the truth being expressed here is that the normal joyful shouting of the vintage season would be replaced with the victorious battle shouts of the invaders, and the cries of terror of the fleeing Moabites.


48:34.  “From the cry of Heshbon even unto Elealeh, and even unto Jahaz, have they uttered their voice from Zoar even unto Horonaim, as a heifer of three years old: for the waters also of Nimrim shall be desolate.”


“... as an heifer of three years old” is generally understood to be better translated Eglath-shelishiyah, a town near the south-east end of the Dead Sea; and the waters of Nimrim was a small stream flowing into the Dead Sea in the same vicinity.  The picture is of the utter desolation of Moab from north to south.


Zoar is generally believed to be the same city into which Lot wished to flee when escaping from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.


48:35.  “Moreover I will cause to cease in Moab, saith the Lord, him that offereth in the high places, and him that burneth incense to his gods.”


God would end idolatry in the land by exterminating the people.


48:36.  “Therefore my heart shall sound for Moab like pipes, and mine heart shall sound like pipes for the men of Kir-heres: because the riches that he hath gotten are perished.”


It seems that it was God Who bewailed Moab’s destruction, His lamentation being like a shrill dirge played on a reed pipe, for the devastation and the loss of all the wealth in the land.  It grieved Him to see the terrible punishment the Moabites had brought upon themselves by their evil doings.


See verse 31 for comments on Kir-heres.


48:37.  “For every head shall be bald, and every beard clipped: upon all the hands shall be cuttings, and upon the loins sackcloth.”


The shaving of the head, clipping of the beard, and slashing or gashing the hands, and wearing sackcloth on the loins, were all outward signs of mourning amongst the heathen, all but the wearing of sackcloth being forbidden by God.


The fact that the signs would be upon every head, beard, and hand, indicates the nation-wide extent of the mourning, and therefore of the slaughter.


48:38.  “There shall be lamentation generally upon all housetops of Moab, and in the streets thereof: for I have broken Moab like a vessel wherein is no pleasure, saith the Lord.”


The picture continues to be of universal mourning in Moab, for because of her wickedness God was about to smash her like a broken vessel that no one wanted.


48:39.  “They shall howl (wail), saying, How is it broken down! how hath Moab turned the back with shame! so shall Moab be a derision and a dismaying to all them about him.”


The few still left alive after the Babylonian invasion would wail inconsolably, scarcely able to believe that mighty Moab had had to turn and flee for their lives before the superior might of the invaders; and to the surrounding countries she would become a butt of mockery, and at the same time a cause for awed dismay at the appalling extent of the destruction that would overtake her.


48:40.  “For thus saith the Lord; Behold, he shall fly as an eagle, and shall spread his wings over (against) Moab.”


The “he” is Babylon coming with the speed and strength of a mighty eagle, and being God’s instrument for the destruction of the once arrogant Moab.


48:41.  “Kerioth is taken, and the strong holds are surprised, and the mighty men’s hearts in Moab at that day shall be as the heart of a woman in her pangs.


There was a town of the same name in Judah, but this Moabite Kerioth, of uncertain location, was a fortified stronghold with palaces, see Amos 2:2, and identified by some as Ar the ancient capital of Moab, also of uncertain location.


48:42.  “And Moab shall be destroyed from being a people, because he hath magnified himself against the Lord.”


Moab would be utterly destroyed because she had insolently defied God, foolishly imagining herself greater than He.


48:43.  “Fear, and the pit (death), and the snare, shall be upon thee, O inhabitant of Moab, saith the Lord.”


She would be like an animal fallen into a pit, or caught in a snare, trembling with fear, and about to die, “pit” being used here as a synonym for death.


48:44.  “He that fleeth from the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that getteth up out of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for I will bring upon it, even upon Moab, the year of their visitation, saith the Lord.”“


Escape would be impossible.  He who fled for fear of his life would fall into the pit.  He who managed to get out of the pit, would be trapped in a snare, because the year of their visitation had come, i.e., the year when God would reckon with them; the year of their punishment or judgment.


This will be the experience also of apostate Christendom in the impending Great Tribulation, that being the time appointed by God for His execution of judgment upon the nations, who like Moab, now defy Him to His face.


48:45.  “They that fled stood under the shadow of Heshbon because of the force: but a fire shall come forth out of Heshbon, and a flame from the midst of Sihon, and shall devour the corner of Moab, and the crown of the head of the tumultuous ones.”


The first part of this verse means that exhausted fugitives would seek refuge in Heshbon, at the northern extremity of Moab, but to no avail.  “... because of the force” is literally “because their force was gone, i.e., they were utterly exhausted.”


“... from the midst of Sihon” is literally “from the midst of Heshbon, the capital of Sihon the Amorite king who had formerly conquered Moab, and who was slain by the Israelites under Moses because he had refused them passage to Canaan through his land.


“... the corner of Moab” is a figure of speech meaning the whole land of Moab.


“... the head of the tumultuous ones” is also rendered “the skull of the noisemakers,” i.e., the whole host of the once boastful Moabites.


See verse 2 for other comments on Heshbon.


48:46.  “Woe be unto thee, O Moab! the people of Chemosh perisheth: for thy sons are taken captives, and thy daughters captives.”


“... the people of Chemosh” were the Moabites, and they were called “the people of Chemosh” because Chemosh was their god.  They were about to learn how impotent he was, as they and their families were either slain or led away captive.


48:47.  “Yet will I bring again the captivity of Moab in the latter days, saith the Lord.  Thus far is the judgment of Moab.”


Many generations of Israel have perished without entering into the blessings covenanted to Abraham; and like them, that generation of Moab was also to perish; but as there will emerge from the Great Tribulation a generation of Israel that will inherit those promised blessings in the Millennium, so will there emerge also from the Great Tribulation a generation of Moabites that will also partake of millennial blessing.


“Thus far is the judgment of Moab” means simply that this concludes the prophecy concerning Moab.


See verse 2 for comments on Heshbon.

[Jeremiah 49]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough