Bible Book List
Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–13
Verses 1–13

We may observe in these verses,

I. The author of Moab’s destruction; it is the Lord of hosts, that has armies, all armies, at his command, and the God of Israel (Jer. 48:1), who will herein plead the cause of his Israel against a people that have always been vexatious to them, and will punish them now for the injuries done to Israel of old, though Israel was forbidden to meddle with them (Deut. 2:9), therefore the destruction of Moab is called the work of the Lord (Jer. 48:10), for it is he that pleads for Israel; and his work will exactly agree with his word, Jer. 48:8.

II. The instruments of it: Spoilers shall come (Jer. 48:8), shall come with a sword, a sword that shall pursue them, Jer. 48:2. “I will send unto him wanderers, such as come from afar, as if they were vagrants, or had missed their way, but they shall cause him to wander; they seem as wanderers themselves, but they shall make the Moabites to be really wanderers, some to flee and others to be carried into captivity.” These destroyers stir up themselves to do execution; they have devised evil against Heshbon, one of the principal cities of Moab, and they aim at no less than the ruin of the kingdom: Come, and let us cut it off from being a nation (Jer. 48:2); nothing less will serve the turn of the invaders; they come, not to plunder it, but to ruin it. The prophet, in God’s name, engages them to make thorough work of it (Jer. 48:10): Cursed be he that does the work of the Lord deceitfully, this bloody work, this destroying work; though it goes against the grain with men of compassion, yet it is the work of the Lord, and must not be done by the halves. The Chaldeans have it in charge, by a secret instinct (says Mr. Gataker), to destroy the Moabites, and therefore they must not spare, must not, out of foolish pity, keep back their sword from blood; they would thereby bring a sword, and a curse with it, upon themselves, as Saul did by sparing the Amalekites and Ahab by letting Benhadad go. Thy life shall go for his life. To this work is applied that general rule given to all that are employed in any service for God, Cursed by he that does the work of the Lord deceitfully or negligently, that pretends to do it, but does it not to purpose, makes a show of serving God’s glory, but is really serving his own ends and carries on the work of the Lord no further than will suit his own purposes, or that is slothful in business for God and takes neither care nor pains to do it as it should be done, Mal. 1:14. Let not such deceive themselves, for God will not thus be mocked.

III. The woeful instances and effects of this destruction. The cities shall be laid in ruins; they shall be spoiled (Jer. 48:1) and cut down (Jer. 48:2); they shall be desolate (Jer. 48:9), without any to dwell therein; there shall be no houses to dwell in, or no people to dwell in them, or no safety and ease to those that would dwell in them. Every city shall be spoiled and no city shall escape. The strongest city shall not be able to secure itself against the enemies’ power, nor shall the finest city be able to recommend itself to the enemies’ pity and favour. The country also shall be wasted, the valley shall perish, and the plain be destroyed, Jer. 48:8. The corn and the flocks, which used to cover the plains and make the valleys rejoice, shall all be destroyed, eaten up, trodden down, or carried off. The most sacred persons shall not escape: The priests and princes shall go together into captivity. Nay, Chemosh, the god they worship, who, they hope, will protect them, shall share with them in the ruin; his temples shall be laid in ashes and his image carried away with the rest of the spoil. Now the consequence of all this will be, 1. Great shame and confusion: Kirjathaim is confounded, and Misgah is so. They shall be ashamed of the mighty boasts they have sometimes made of their cities: There shall be no more vaunting in Moab concerning Heshbon (so it might be read, Jer. 48:2); they shall no more boast of the strength of that city when the evil which is designed against it is brought upon it. Nor shall they any more boast of their gods (Jer. 48:13); they shall be ashamed of Chemosh (ashamed of all the prayers they have made to and all the confidence they put in that dunghill deity), as Israel was ashamed of Beth-el, of the golden calf they had at Beth-el, which they confided in as their protector, but were deceived in, for it was not able to save them from the Assyrians; nor shall Chemosh be able to save the Moabites from the Chaldeans. Note, Those that will not be convinced and made ashamed of the folly of their idolatry by the word of God shall be convinced and made ashamed of it by the judgments of God, when they shall find by woeful experience the utter inability of the gods they have served to do them any service. 2. There will be great sorrow; there is a voice of crying heard (Jer. 48:3) and the cry is nothing but spoiling and great destruction. Alas! alas! Moab is destroyed, Jer. 48:4. The great ones having quitted the cities to shift for their own safety, even the little ones have caused a cry to be heard, the meaner sort of people, or the little children, the innocent harmless ones, whose cries at such a time are the most piteous. Go up to the hills, go down to the valleys, and you meet with continual weeping (weeping with weeping); all are in tears; you meet none with dry eyes. Even the enemies have heard the cry, from whom it would have been policy to conceal it, for they will be animated and encouraged by it; but it is so great that it cannot be hid, 3. There will be great hurry; they will cry to one another, “Away, away! flee; save your lives (Jer. 48:6); shift for your own safety with all imaginable speed, though you escape as bare and naked as the heath, or grig, or dry shrub, in the wilderness; think not of carrying away any thing you have, for it may cost you your life to attempt it, Matt. 24:16-18. Take shelter, though it be in a barren wilderness, that you may have your lives for a prey. The danger will come suddenly and swiftly; and therefore give wings unto Moab (Jer. 48:9); that would be the greatest kindness you could do them; that is what they will call for, O that we had wings like a dove! for unless they have wings, and can fly, there will be no escaping.”

IV. The sins for which God will now reckon with Moab, and which justify God in these severe proceedings against them. 1. It is because they have been secure, and have trusted in their wealth and strength, in their works and in their treasures, Jer. 48:7. They had taken a great deal of pains to fortify their cities and make large works about them, and to fill their exchequer and private coffers, so that they thought themselves in as good a posture for war as any people could be and that none durst invade them, and therefore set danger at defiance. They trusted in the abundance of their riches and strengthened themselves in their wickedness, Ps. 52:7. Now, for this reason, that they may have a sensible conviction of the vanity and folly of their carnal confidences, God will send an enemy that will master their works and rifle their treasures. Note, We forfeit the comfort of that creature which we repose that confidence in which should be reposed in God only. The reed will break that is leaned upon. 2. It is because they have not made a right improvement of the days of the peace and prosperity, Jer. 48:11. (1.) They had been long undisturbed: Moab has been at ease from his youth. It was an ancient kingdom before Israel was, and had enjoyed great tranquillity, though a small country and surrounded with potent neighbours. God’s Israel were afflicted from their youth (Ps. 129:1, 2), but Moab at ease from his youth. He has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, has not known any troublesome weakening changes, but is as wine kept on the lees, and not racked or drawn off, by which it retains its strength and body. He has not been unsettled, nor any way made uneasy; he has not gone into captivity, as Israel have often done, and yet Moab is a wicked idolatrous nation, and one of the confederates against God’s hidden ones, Ps. 83:3, 6. Note, There are many that persist in unrepented iniquity and yet enjoy uninterrupted prosperity. (2.) They had been as long corrupt and unreformed: He has settled on his lees; he has been secure and sensual in his prosperity, has rested in it, and fetched all the strength and life of the soul from it, as the wine from the lees. His taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed; he is still the same, as bad as ever he was. Note, While bad people are as happy as they used to be in the world it is no marvel if they are bad as they used to be. They have no changes of their peace and prosperity, therefore fear not God, their hearts and lives are unchanged, Ps. 55:19.