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

49:1.  “Concerning the Ammonites, thus saith the Lord; Hath Israel no sons? hath he no heir? why then doth their king inherit Gad, and his people dwell in his cities?”


The Ammonites, meaning tribal (peoplish), were descended from Ben-ammi, the incestuously begotten son of Lot through his younger daughter.  They seem to represent false profession linked with intellectualism or rationalism. 


Their territory lay east of the Jordan and between the Arnon and Jabbock rivers.  They would claim to be of Israel on the grounds of their descent from Lot, but their dwelling on the east side of Jordan declares not only that they had no portion in Canaan, but that they had no faith relationship with God, for the east is the scriptural direction that speaks of sin and departure from God.  They represent those who profess to be believers, but who have never been born again through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, their knowledge of Him being limited to mere intellectual assent to His historicity.  The professing but unbelieving Jewish leaders of Christ’s day were typical spiritual Ammonites, their present day counterparts being those who comprise the great apostate system which calls itself the true church.


Their history is one of continual opposition to Israel and of attempted encroachment on to Israelite territory, e.g., after the captivity of Reuben and Gad, they seized the land that had belonged to Gad.  Ammon’s history, in fact, is the symbolic foreshadowing of the unceasing opposition of intellectualism or rationalism to true Christianity.


The question propounded by God relative to the Ammonites was whether they thought that He had left Gad without posterity to return from Babylonian captivity to occupy again the territory He had given them east of Jordan as their inheritance.  Why had those who worshiped Milcom presumed to seize for themselves what by Divine right belonged to the tribe of Gad?


The question is the same one which God addresses today to the intellectualism and rationalism that have invaded the sphere which belongs only to faith, the justification for His question being demonstrated by the degree to which these evils have encroached upon the realm of faith.


The havoc wrought by these spiritual Ammonites may be measured by the degree to which the spiritual content of Scripture is denied, not only by an unbelieving world, but also by those professing to be believers.  The study of biblical typology, for example, has virtually ceased, the sneers and ridicule of today’s Ammonites having impelled all but the most devoted students of Scripture to abandon such study, and to reject all but the literal language of the Bible, thus robbing the Book of its immeasurably greater part.  Consider for example what is lost when we fail to see types of Christ in the OT.


49:2.  “Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will cause an alarm of war to be heard in Rabbah of the Ammonites; and it shall be a desolate heap, and her daughters (villages) shall be burned with fire: then shall Israel be heir unto them that were his heirs; saith the Lord.”


There were two Rabbahs, both meaning populous: one in Judah; and the one now being considered, the capital of Ammon, and about 20 miles northeast of the northern end of the Dead Sea.


God was going to bring war into the streets of Rabbah, so that it would become a desolate heap of ruins, its “daughters” i.e., its villages or surrounding smaller towns suffering a similar fate.

As the Ammonites had inherited the territory given Israel east of Jordan when God had had to punish her for her sin, so now would restored Israel re-inherit that land again following God’s destruction of the Ammonites.


Beyond the destruction of literal Rabah, God would have us see the symbolic foreshadowing of what is to occur in a day still future, but now imminent, when the intellectualism and rationalism which the Ammonites represent will also be destroyed in the judgments of the Great Tribulation. 


No spiritual mind will fail to see the extent to which intellectualism and rationalism rule today, not only in the world, but also in the church; nor will such a mind fail to see the havoc that these twin evils have wrought in both realms.  The world is tottering on the very brink of disaster, the ruin becoming complete in the impending Great Tribulation; nor has the professing but apostate church fared any better under these evil masters: it too is poised on the verge of destruction.


Following the Tribulation judgments that will leave the world a desolate ruin, Israel will again inherit the land that God has always intended her to enjoy; but as always, He does “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,” Eph 3:20.  Her inheritance will be not just Canaan: it will be millennial Canaan!


49:3.  “Howl, O Heshbon, for Ai is spoiled: cry, ye daughters of Rabbah, gird you with sackcloth; lament, and run to and fro by the hedges; for their king shall go into captivity, and his priests and his princes together.”


Heshbon was about 20 miles northeast of the northern end of the Dead Sea; and this Ai, of unknown location, is not to be confused with the city of the same name in Canaan, and associated with the death of Achan in the days of Joshua, see Josh 5.  That this Ai was located in the vicinity of Heshbon is indicated by the context, which also indicates that it was probably a strongly fortified city.


The certainty of the judgment is declared by the fact that though future it is spoken of as having been already accomplished.  The “hedges” were enclosures for sheep, and the exhortation to the people to “run to and fro by” or in them, declares the utter impossibility of their finding any place of refuge.


The king here was Milcom the god of the Ammonites, and “his priests and ... princes” were the priests and rulers, all of whom worshiped him.  As was customary in those days the god of a defeated people was carried away by the victor to show his power over the god of the vanquished.


All of these details of mourning point symbolically to what will be world-wide in the Great Tribulation. 


49:4.  “Wherefore gloriest thou in the valleys, thy flowing valley, O backsliding daughter? that trusted in her treasures, saying, Who shall come unto me?”


God next questioned the Ammonites as to why they boasted of  their fertile valleys, and of their treasures, and why they were so confident that no one would dare to attack them.


“Backsliding” means careless: thoughtless: wicked.  They had forgotten that it was God Who had made their valleys fertile; that it was He Who had given them their wealth, and Who had preserved them from attack.  How accurately they portray the attitude of today’s equally careless, thoughtless, wicked world which in its foolish self-sufficiency ignores God as though He didn’t even exist!  That world, like Ammon, however, is about to learn that He does exist, and that He will punish its sin.


49:5.  “Behold, I will bring a fear upon thee, saith the Lord God of hosts (armies), from all those that be about thee; and ye shall be driven out every man right forth; and none shall gather up him that wandereth.”


Ammon’s complacency was about to be shattered.  The God she ignored was about to stir up her neighbors against her to drive her out of her pleasant land.


“... right forth” means routed headlong: scattered in all directions; and “none shall gather up him that wandereth” means that there would be no rallying of them: none to help the fleeing exiles.


This destruction is but a foreshadowing of that which will ravage today’s equally godless world in the impending Great Tribulation.


49:6.  “And afterward I will bring again the captivity of the children of Ammon, saith the Lord.”


Unlike some of the wicked nations of that day the destruction of Ammon was not to be permanent, their restoration to come apparently in the Millennium, for there is no historical evidence of its having occurred yet.


49:7.  “Concerning Edom, thus saith the Lord of hosts; Is wisdom no more in Teman? is counsel perished from the prudent? is their wisdom vanished?”


Having delivered his prophecy concerning Ammon, Jeremiah next declared the future of Edom, the people descended from Esau who was also called Edom meaning red because of the red hair with which he was covered at birth.  He was Isaac’s firstborn, and the twin of Jacob.  Typologically he represents the lusts of the flesh, the continual conflict between him and Israel representing that which goes on between the flesh and the Spirit in the believer.  The territory occupied by the Edomites was the mountainous area lying south of the Dead Sea and of Moab.


Teman was a city located about 35 miles south of the eastern end of the Dead Sea, and apparently once noted for its wisdom; but wisdom had departed from Edom, for its sin was about to be visited with judgment.  Eliphaz, one of Job’s friends, was from Teman, cf. Job 2:11.


49:8.  “Flee ye, turn back, dwell deep, O inhabitants of Dedan; for I will bring the calamity of Esau upon him, the time that I will visit him.”


Dedan was a city, in the territory of Edom.  The inhabitants were being warned to flee in view of the coming judgment, “turn back” meaning literally to retreat or get away; and while “dwell deep” is understood by some to mean “hide in deep holes,” the better meaning seems to be that of The Amplified Bible, “dwell deep (in the desert to escape the Chaldean).”


The “calamity of Esau” is literally his destruction: ruin; and “visit” is calling him to account: punish him.


49:9.  “If grape gatherers come to thee, would they not leave some gleaning grapes? if thieves by night, they will destroy till they have enough.”


49:10.  “But I have made Esau bare, I have uncovered his secret places, and he shall not be able to hide himself: his seed is spoiled, and his brethren, and his neighbors, and he is not.”


Here God points out that grape gatherers customarily leave some for the gleaners (the poor); and even thieves take only some of the grapes: they don’t strip the vines completely.  But His devastation of Esau (Edom) would not be like that: He would utterly destroy him.  There would be no place where Esau could hide from Him Who is omniscient.  All his children and family members and friends would be annihilated.


Relative to its being said that “I have made Esau bare,” God uses the past tense when speaking of the coming judgment as though it were already accomplished.  It was as certain as though it had already happened.  Nothing could prevent it.  He was doomed, as are also those he represents typologically, i.e., those of this present evil generation, and everything points to the imminence of that judgment, for it is apparent that we are living in the closing days of this present age.


49:11.  “Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows trust in me.”


Some translations, The New English Bible for example, render this verse interrogatively, “What!  am I to save alive your fatherless children?  Are your widows to trust in me?” but it seems preferable to take it affirmatively.


49:12.  “For thus saith the Lord; Behold, they whose judgment was not to drink of the cup have assuredly drunken; and art thou he that shall altogether go unpunished? thou shalt not go unpunished, but thou shalt surely drink of it.”


Scholars are divided in opinion as to the meaning of this verse: some take it to mean that it was not God’s judgment (decree) that Edom should have to suffer destruction; others, understand it to mean that in spite of the Edomites’ determination not to drink this cup of judgment, God would compel them to drink it.  Still others understand the first part to relate to Israel, the statement being that since Israel, God’s chosen people, must be punished for sin, Edom couldn’t hope to escape punishment.  This latter seems to be the preferable interpretation.


The same self-righteousness that led the Edomites to consider themselves undeserving of judgment, is that which governs our present evil world.  It too has lived so long in sin that it no longer sees itself as sinful and worthy of judgment; but just as surely as Divine judgment destroyed the Edomites, so will it also destroy today’s equally sinful world in the now imminent Great Tribulation.


49:13.  “For I have sworn by myself, saith the Lord, that Bozrah shall become a desolation, a reproach, a waste, and a curse; and all the cities thereof shall be perpetual wastes.”


Bozrah, a large Edomite city about 35 miles southeast of the Dead Sea, was also doomed to complete destruction together with its surrounding smaller towns and villages, the certainty of its doom being assured by the fact that God had sworn by Himself, i.e., the preservation of His Own honor required its destruction.  That same reason requires the destruction of this present evil world:  God’s sparing it would impugn His Own honor.


49:14.  “I have heard a rumor from the Lord, and an ambassador is sent unto the heathen (nations), saying, Gather ye together, and come against her, and rise up to the battle.”


“... heard a rumor” is better translated “received a message.”  God would cause His Spirit to impel the surrounding nations to attack and destroy Edom.  This, however, continues to foreshadow what will be in the Great Tribulation, for concerning that now imminent era we read in Re 16:12-14 of a similar assemblage of nations being called together to Armageddon, “to the battle of that great day of God Almighty” which will culminate in the destruction of the present world order.


49:15.  “For, lo, I will make thee small among the heathen, and despised among men.”


Edom, which had exalted itself, was to be brought low; and so will it be with the Beast and his kingdom at the end of the Great Tribulation.  Having exalted himself to be as God, and demanding that all men worship him, that evil character will also be brought low, as it is written, “And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him .... these both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone,” Re 19:20.


49:16.  “Thy terribleness hath deceived thee, and the pride of thine heart, O thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, that holdest the height of the hill: though thou shouldest make thy nest as high as the eagle, I will bring thee down from thence, saith the Lord.”


“... the rock” is generally understood to be the city of Petra, carved out of the rock by the Nabataens about 2300 years ago, and standing today, unoccupied, and lost to history until being rediscovered just a little over a century ago.  Those structures remain today just exactly as when they were first carved, and  many believe that it is in that city that a remnant of the Jews will find refuge during the Great Tribulation.


“... terribleness” is also rendered formidability: arrogant insolence.  Edom, puffed up with pride, confident in the impregnability of its mountain fastnesses, and contemptuous of all others, forgot that the One he had offended and with Whom he must reckon, was the omnipotent Jehovah, Who by a word, had called not only the mountains, but the whole universe, into existence.


Today’s world, particularly western society, is marked by similar arrogant pride in its own imagined power and self-sufficiency, but, like Edom, it is about to learn how very puny it is in the hand of the Almighty, when all its great buildings, engineering feats, and financial, educational, scientific, military institutions lie in ruins.


49:17.  “Also Edom shall be a desolation: every one that goeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss at all the plagues thereof.”


Where bustling life had been there will be only desolation so terrible that passers by will draw in their breath in horror at the utter destruction; and again God bids us see in the fate of Edom that which is about to befall this world in the fast- approaching Great Tribulation.


49:18.  “As in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbor cities thereof, saith the Lord, no man shall abide there, neither shall a son of man dwell in it.”


The destruction of Edom would be as complete as that of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Men would neither dwell in nor visit it.


49:19.  “Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the swelling of Jordan against the habitation 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 (Edom?) for who is like me? and who will appoint me the time? and who is that shepherd (leader) that will stand before me?”


It is generally accepted that Nebuchadnezzar is the one who will come up like a lion from the “swelling,” i.e., the lion-infested jungles of the Jordan valley, against Edom.  The one who will “suddenly ... run away” is understood by some to be Edom; and the “her” to be Nebuchadnezzar, but because this doesn’t seem to make sense, many others see Nebuchadnezzar as the one who will suddenly run away from “her,” i.e., from Edom.  No reason is given biblically or historically for such a running away of the Babylonians from Edom, nor do commentators appear to have fared any better in solving this puzzle, so I regret having to leave it still unsolved.


“... who is a chosen man, etc.,” is better translated “Whom I choose I will set over her (Edom).”  The latter part of this verse “... who will appoint me the time .... that shepherd (leader) that will stand before me?” might be paraphrased, “Who will appoint a time to argue against My right to appoint that ruler over Edom.  Who is the leader or ruler that will successfully challenge My right to do what I please?”


49:20.  “Therefore hear the counsel of the Lord, that he hath taken against Edom; and his purposes, that he hath purposed against the inhabitants of Teman: Surely the least of the flock shall draw them out: surely he shall make their habitations desolate with them.”


This continues the reiteration of God’s purposes for the destruction of Edom, Teman being mentioned because of its association with wisdom, see verse 7, and to demonstrate that all its wisdom couldn’t save it, for concerning the wisdom of the world it is written, “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men,” 1 Cor 1:25.


There are two schools of thought on the last sentence of this verse, one being that God would make even the weakest of their enemies capable of destroying the Edomites; the other, that even the youngest Edomite children would be carried away captive.  The former seems the more likely interpretation.  “... shall make their habitations desolate with them,” appears to confirm this interpretation, for the “with them” can scarcely be applied to any but those who would destroy Edom.


49:21.  “The earth is moved at the noise of their fall, at the cry the noise thereof was heard in the Red Sea.”


Clearly the language here is metaphoric, and designed to declare dramatically the dreadful character of Edom’s destruction.


49:22.  “Behold, he shall come up and fly as the eagle, and spread his wings over Bozrah: and at that day shall the heart of the mighty men of Edom be as the heart of a woman in her pangs.”


The “he” is Nebuchadnezzar, and his flying like an eagle, and spreading his wings over Bozrah is the symbolic declaration of the fact that just as it is impossible for men to harm an eagle flying far above them, so would it be impossible for the Edomites to do anything to stop the Babylonian invasion and devastation of their land.  The intensity of fear and pain occasioned the Edomites by the total destruction of their kingdom is graphically portrayed in its being likened to the pain of labor.


Edom’s ultimate end came when inroads by the Nabateans (Arabs), forced them into southern Judah, where they were compelled by John Hyrcanus to accept Judaism, with the result that they gradually lost their Edomite distinction.  No future restoration has been promised the Edomites.


As noted already, however, all of this is but a foreshadowing of what will befall this world in the impending Great Tribulation.


49:23.  “Concerning Damascus.  Hamath is confounded, and Arpad: for they have heard evil tidings: they are fainthearted; there is sorrow on the sea; it cannot be quiet.”


This verse begins the prophecy concerning Damascus, capital of Syria, another country that was also about to fall under the judgment of God.


Hamath and Arpad were cities in north Syria, and their being confounded means that they were dumbfounded and ashamed, the evil tidings being news of the approach of the Babylonians. 


“... sorrow on the sea, etc.,” means that they were afraid, and agitated as a troubled sea, filled with anxiety.


49:24.  “Damascus is waxed feeble, and turneth herself to flee, and fear hath seized on her: anguish and sorrows have taken her, as a woman in travail.”


Damascus apparently realized that it was no match for the invader, and had no choice but to flee, the uncertain prospect lying before the people filling them with trepidation so great that it was like labor pains.


49:25.  “How is the city of praise not left, the city of my joy!”


This is the expression of incredulity of an imagined observer

who would survey the once great, admired, and joyful city become a desolate ruin following the destructive Babylon invasion.


49:26.  “Therefore her young men shall fall in her streets, and all the men of war shall be cut off in that day, saith the Lord of hosts.”


All her young men, and all her soldiers, would lie slain in her streets on that terrible coming day.


49:27.  “And I will kindle a fire in the wall of Damascus, and it shall consume the palaces of Ben-hadad.”


The Babylonians would set fire to the palaces of Ben-hadad (a title of several Syrian kings), and with this dire threat the prophecy of Syria’s desolation concludes; but again, God would have us see in this the foreshadowing of the destruction that will leave the world in ruins in the coming Great Tribulation.


49:28.  “Concerning Kedar, and concerning the kingdoms of Hazor, which Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon shall smite, thus saith the Lord; Arise ye, go up to Kedar, and spoil the men of the east.”


Kedar, about 12 miles south of the small River of Egypt which was the boundary between Israel and Egypt, was the territory occupied by Arab tribes, as was also Hazor, southeast of the Dead Sea.  Nebuchadnezzar was directed by God to destroy them also.  (Some understand Kedar to refer to nomadic Arabs; and Hazor, to those who dwelt in settled communities).


49:29.  “Their tents and their flocks shall they take away: they shall take to themselves their curtains (tent-hangings) and all their vessels, and their camels; and they shall cry unto them, Fear is on every side.’


The Babylonians were to plunder the Arab tribes, leaving them with nothing, distraught with terror.


49:30.  “Flee, get you far off, dwell deep, O ye inhabitants of Hazor, saith the Lord; for Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon hath taken counsel against you, and hath conceived a purpose against you.”


“... dwell deep” is associated with the idea of being unsearchable, the thought here appearing to be that they were to

flee deep into the desert if they wanted to escape death, because Nebuchadnezzar had determined to destroy them, and was even then planning how to accomplish that objective.


49:31.  “Arise, get you up unto the wealthy nation, that dwelleth without care, saith the Lord, which have neither gates nor bars, which dwell alone.”


This is God’s command to Nebuchadnezzar to attack the wealthy Arab tribes living in complacent ignorance of the fact that destruction was about to overtake them.


49:32.  “And their camels shall be a booty, and the multitude of their cattle a spoil: and I will scatter into all winds them that are in the utmost corners; and I will bring their calamity from all sides thereof, saith the Lord.”


“... them that are in the utmost corners” is explained by better translations, e.g., “that have the corners of their hair cut off” - American Standard Version; “that clip their foreheads bare” - Knox; “that have the ends of their hair cut” - The Bible in Basic English; “those who (in evidence of their idolatry) have the corners of their hair cut off.


“... calamity from all sides thereof,” means that destruction would come upon them from every side.


49:33.  “And Hazor shall be a dwelling for dragons, and a desolation for ever: there shall no man abide there, nor any son of man dwell in it.”


“... dragons” is also translated jackals: serpents: wild dogs: wild animals


49:34.  “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,”


Elam was present day Iran, and the date was c.597 BC.


49:35.  “Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Behold, I will break the bow of Elam, the chief of their might.”


The bow is used here as a metaphor for Elam’s military might because the Elamite archers were renowned, but nothing could save them from the judgment of Jehovah.


49:36.  “And upon Elam will I bring the four winds from the four quarters of heaven, and will scatter them toward all those winds; and there shall be no nation whither the outcasts of Elam shall not come.”


The wind (singular) is a biblical symbol of the Holy Spirit, so the reference here to the activity of the wind may be an oblique reminder that Elam’s destroyers would be the nations used by God the Holy Spirit as His instrument.  The Elamite fugitives would be scattered amongst the nations.


49:37.  “For I will cause Elam to be dismayed before their enemies, and before them that seek their life: and I will bring evil upon them, even my fierce anger, saith the Lord: and I will send the sword after them, till I have consumed them:”


“... dismayed” is also translated broken: made to tremble


49:38.  “And I will set my throne in Elam, and will destroy from thence the king and the princes, saith the Lord.”


God’s setting up His throne in Elam means that He would put away the existing, and presumably evil, king and princes, replacing them with a king and princes of His choice.


49:39.  “But it shall come to pass in the latter days, that I will bring again the captivity of Elam, saith the Lord.”


As noted already, the term “latter days” refers to the Tribulation era, so that God is promising to bring out of that time of testing a cleansed and repentant Elam that will inherit millennial blessing.  And again it is clear that the experience of Elam is but the foreshadowing of what is yet to happen to all the nations as a result of the Tribulation judgments.


[Jeremiah 50]


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