Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2003 James Melough
“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
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
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.
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
“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.”
“A voice of crying shall be from Horonaim, spoiling and great destruction.”
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
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.
“Moab is destroyed; her little ones have caused a cry to be heard.”
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’
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
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.
“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.”
tabular: pertaining to the table; and Horonaim, double cave.
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
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
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
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.”
“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.
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.
“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.
“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
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
“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.”
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
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.
“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
“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.
“How say ye, We are mighty and strong men for the war?”
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.
“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
“... 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.
“The calamity of Moab is near to come, and his affliction hasteth fast.”
and affliction” are both connected with the idea of doom: fate: trouble:
ruin: downfall. They combine here to declare Moab’s utter destruction.
“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.
staff” refers to Moab’s governmental might and power; and the “beautiful rod”
to the honor and glory associated with that government.
“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
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.
“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.
“Moab is confounded; for it is broken down: howl and cry; tell ye it in Arnon,
that Moab is spoiled.”
is also translated without hope: shamed: shattered; and “tell ye it in
Arnon” is better translated, “shout across the Arnon River.”
“And judgment is come upon the plain country; upon Holon, and upon Jahazah,
and upon Mephaath,”
“And upon Dibon, and upon Nebo, and upon Bethdiblathaim,”
“And upon Kiriathaim, and upon Beth-gamul, Beth-meon,”
“And upon Kerioth, and upon Bozrah, and upon all the cities of the land of
Moab, far or near.”
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.
“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.
“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.
“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
“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.
“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.”
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.
“I know his wrath (insolence), saith the Lord; but it shall not be so; his
lies shall not so effect it.”
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
“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?”
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.
“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
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.
“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.
“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.
generally believed to be the same city into which Lot wished to flee when
escaping from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
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.
“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
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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
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
“... 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
“... 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.
“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.
“Yet will I bring again the captivity of Moab in the latter days, saith the
Lord. Thus far is the judgment of Moab.”
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
See verse 2 for
comments on Heshbon.