The destruction is here further prophesied of very largely and with a great copiousness and variety of expression, and very pathetically and in moving language, designed not only to awaken them by a national repentance and reformation to prevent the trouble, or by a personal repentance and reformation to prepare for it, but to affect us with the calamitous state of human life, which is liable to such lamentable occurrences, and with the power of God’s anger and the terror of his judgments, when he comes forth to contend with a provoking people. In reading this long roll of threatenings, and meditating on the terror of them, it will be of more use to us to keep this in our eye, and to get our hearts thereby possessed with a holy awe of God and of his wrath, than to enquire critically into all the lively figures and metaphors here used.
I. It is a surprising destruction, and very sudden, that is here threatened. They were very secure, thought themselves strong for war and able to deal with the most powerful enemy (Jer. 48:14), and yet the calamity is near, and he is not able to keep it off, nor so much as to keep the enemy long in parley, for the affliction hastens fast (Jer. 48:16) and will soon come to a crisis. The enemy shall fly as an eagle, so swiftly, so strongly shall he come (Jer. 48:40), as an eagle flies upon his prey, and he shall spread his wings, the wings of his army, over Moab; he shall surround it, that none may escape. The strong-holds of Moab are taken by surprise (Jer. 48:41), so that all their strength stood them in no stead; and this made the hearts even of their mighty men to fail, for they had not time to recollect the considerations that might have animated them. It requires a more than ordinary degree of courage not to be afraid of sudden fear.
II. It is an utter destruction, and such as lays Moab all in ruins: Moab is spoiled (Jer. 48:15), quite spoiled, is confounded and broken down (Jer. 48:20); their cities are laid in ashes, or seized by the enemy so that they are forced to quit them, Jer. 48:15. Divers cities are here named, upon which judgment has come, and the list concludes with an et cetera—and such like. What occasion was there for him to mention more particulars when it comes upon all the cities of Moab in general, far and near? Jer. 48:21-24. Note, When iniquity is universal we have reason to expect that calamity should be so too. The kingdom is deprived of its dignity and authority: The horn of Moab is cut off, the horn of its strength and power, both offensive and defensive; his arm is broken, that he can neither give a blow nor prevent a blow, Jer. 48:25. Isa. the youth of the kingdom the strength and beauty of it? His chosen young men have gone down to the slaughter, Jer. 48:15. They went down to the battle promising themselves that they should return victorious; but God told them that they went down to the slaughter; so sure are those to fall against whom God fights. In a word, Moab shall be destroyed from being a people, Jer. 48:42. Those that are enemies to God’s people will soon be made no people.
III. It is a lamentable destruction; it will be just matter of mourning and will turn joy into heaviness. 1. The prophet that foretels it does himself lament it, and mourns at the very foresight of it, from a principle of compassion to his fellow-creatures and concern for human nature. The prophet will himself howl for Moab; his very heart shall mourn for them (Jer. 48:31); he will weep for the vine of Sibmah (Jer. 48:32); his heart shall sound like pipes for Moab, Jer. 48:36. Though the destruction of Moab would prove him a true prophet, yet he could not think of it without trouble. The ruin of sinners is no pleasure to God, and therefore should be a pain to us; even those that give warning of it should lay it to heart. These passages, and many others in this chapter, are much the same with what Isaiah had used in his prophecies against Moab (Isa. 15:1-6); for, though there was a long distance of time between that prophecy and this, yet they were both dictated by one and the same Spirit, and it becomes God’s prophets to speak the language of those that went before them. It is no plagiarism sometimes to make use of old expressions, provided it be with new affections and applications. 2. The Moabites themselves shall lament it; it will be the greatest mortification and grief imaginable to them. Those that sat in glory, in the midst of wealth, and mirth, and all manner of pleasure, shall sit in thirst, in a dry and thirsty land, where no water, no comfort is, Jer. 48:18. It is time for them to sit in thirst, and inure themselves to hardship, when the spoiler has come, who will strip them of all, and empty them. The Moabites in the remote corners of the country, that are furthest from the danger, will be inquisitive to know how the matter goes, what news from the army, will ask every one that escapes, What is done? Jer. 48:19. And when they are told that all is gone, that the invader is the conqueror, they will howl and cry, in bitterness and anguish of spirit (Jer. 48:20); they will abandon themselves to solitude, to lament the desolations of their country; they will leave the cities that used to be full 41d9 of mirth, and dwell in the rock where they may have their full of melancholy; they shall no more be singing birds, but mourning birds, like the dove (Jer. 48:28); the doves of the valley, Ezek. 7:16. Let those that give themselves up to mirth know that God can soon change their note. Their sorrow shall be so very extreme that they shall make themselves bald and cut themselves (Jer. 48:37), which were expressions of a desperate grief, such as tempted men to be even their own destroyers. Job indeed rent his mantle and shaved his head, but he did not cut himself. When the flood of passion rises ever so high wisdom and grace must set bounds to it, set banks to it, to restrain it from such barbarities. The sorrow shall be universal (Jer. 48:38): There shall be a general lamentation upon all the house-tops of Moab, where they worshipped their idols, to whom they shall in vain bemoan themselves, and in all the streets, where they conversed with one another, for they shall be free in communicating their grief and fears and in propagating them; for they see all lost: “I have broken Moab like a vessel wherein is no pleasure, which shall not be regarded and cannot be pieced again.” That which Moab used to rejoice in was their pleasant fruits and the abundance of their rich wines. The delights of sense were all the matter of their joy. Take away these, destroy their gardens and vineyards, and you make all their mirth to cease, Hos. 2:11, 12. There is great weeping when their plants are transplanted, have gone over the sea (Jer. 48:32), are carried into other countries, to be planted there. The spoiler has fallen upon thy summer-fruits and upon thy vintage, and it is this that makes the cry of Heshbon to reach even to Elealeh, Jer. 48:34. Take joy and gladness from the plentiful field, and you take it from the land of Moab, Jer. 48:33. If the wine fail from the wine-presses, that used to be trodden with acclamations of joy, all their gladness is cut off. Take away that shouting, and there shall be no shouting. Note, Those who make the delights of sense their chief joy, their exceeding joy, since these are things they may easily be deprived of in a little time subject themselves to the tyranny of the greatest grief; whereas those who rejoice in God may do that even when the fig-tree does not blossom and there is no fruit in the vine. These Moabites lost not only their wine, but their water too: Even the waters of Nimrim shall be desolate (Jer. 48:34), and therefore their grief grew extravagantly loud and noisy, and their lamentations were heard in all placed like the lowing of a heifer of three years old. The expressions here are borrowed from Isa. 15:5, 6. 3. All their neighbours are called to mourn with them, and to condole with them on their ruin (Jer. 48:17): All you that are about him bemoan him, Let him have that allay to his grief, let him see himself pities by the adjoining countries. Nay, let those at a distance, who do but know his name and have heard of his reputation, take notice of his fall, and say, How is the strong staff broken, whose strength was the terror of its enemies, and the beautiful rod, whose beauty was the pride of its friends! Let the nations take notice of this and receive instruction. Let none be puffed up with or put confidence in their strength or beauty, for neither will be a security against the judgments of God.
IV. It is a shameful destruction and such as shall expose them to contempt: Moab is made drunk (Jer. 48:26), and he that is made drunk is made vile; he shall wallow in his vomit, and become an odious spectacle, and shalljustly be in derision. Let the Moabites be intoxicated with the cup of God’s wrath till they stagger and fall, and be brought to their wits’ end, and make themselves ridiculous by the wildness not only of their passions but of their counsels. And again (Jer. 48:39): Moab shall be a derision and a dismaying to all about him; they shall laugh at the fall of the pomp and power he was so proud of. Note, Those that are haughty are preparing reproach and ignominy for themselves.
V. It is the destruction of that which is dear to them, not only of their summer fruits and their vintage, but of their wealth (Jer. 48:36): The riches that he has gotten have perished, though he thought he had laid them up very safely, and promised himself a long enjoyment of them, yet they are gone. Note, The money that is hoarded in the chest is as liable to perishing as the summer-fruits that lie exposed in the open field. Riches are shedding things, and, like dust as they are, slip through our fingers even when we are in most care to hold them fast and gripe them hard. Yet this is not the worst; even those whose religion was false and foolish were fond of it above any thing, and, such as it was, would not part with it; and therefore, though it was really a promise, yet to them it was a threatening (Jer. 48:35), that God will cause to cease him that offers in the high places, for the high places shall be destroyed, and the fields of offerings shall be laid waste, and the priests themselves, who burnt incense to their gods, shall be slain or carried into captivity, Jer. 48:7. Note, It is only the true religion, and the worship and service of the true God, that will stand us in stead in a day of trouble.
VI. It is a just and righteous destruction, and that which they have deserved and brought upon themselves by sin.
1. The sin which they had been most notoriously guilty of, and for which God now reckoned with them, was pride. It is mentioned six times, Jer. 48:29. We have all heard of the pride of Moab; his neighbours took notice of it; it has testified to his face, as Israel’s did; he is exceedingly proud, and grows worse and worse. Observe his loftiness, his arrogancy, his pride, his haughtiness; the multiplying of words to the same purport intimates in how many instances he discovered his pride, and how offensive it was both to God and man. It was charged upon them Isa. 16:6; but here it is expressed more largely that there. Since then they had been under humbling providences, and yet were unhumbled; nay, they grew more arrogant and haughty, which plainly marked them for that utter destruction of which pride is the forerunner. Two instances are here given of the pride of Moab:—(1.) He had conducted himself insolently towards God. He must be brought down with shame (Jer. 48:26), for he has magnified himself against the Lord; and again (Jer. 48:42), he shall be destroyed from being a people, for this very reason. The Moabites preferred Chemosh before Jehovah, and thought themselves a match for the God of Israel, whom they set at defiance. (2.) He had conducted himself scornfully towards Israel, particularly in their late troubles; therefore Moab shall fall into the same troubles; into the same hands, and be a derision, for Israel was a derision to him, Jer. 48:26, 27. The generality of the Moabites, when they heard of the calamities and desolations of their neighbours the Jews, instead of lamenting them, rejoiced in them, they skipped for joy. Many, in such a case, entertain in their minds a secret pleasure at the fall of those they had a dislike to, who yet have so much discretion as to conceal it; it is so invidious a thing. But the Moabites industriously proclaimed their joy, and avowed the enmity they had to Israel, triumphing over every Israelite they met with in distress and laughing at him, which was as inhuman as it was impious and an impudent affront both to man, whose nature they were of, and to God, whose name they were called by. Note, Those that deride others in distress will justly and certainly, sooner or later, come into distress themselves, and be had in derision. Those that are glad at calamities, especially the calamities of God’s church, shall not long go unpunished.
2. Besides this they had been guilty of malice against God’s people, and treachery in their dealings with them, Jer. 48:30. They made a jest of the desolations of Judah and Jerusalem, and pretended, when they laughed at them, that it was but in sport and to make themselves merry; but, says God, “I know his wrath; I know it comes from the old enmity he has to the seed of Abraham and the worshippers of the true God. I know he thinks these calamities of the Jewish nation will end in their utter extirpation. He now tells the Chaldeans what bad people the Jews are, and irritates them against them; but it shall not be so as he expects; his lies shall not so effect it. The nation, whose fall they triumph in, shall recover itself.” Some read it, I know his rage. Isa. it not so? Isa. he not very furious against the people of God? And his lies I know also. Do they not do so? Do they not belie them? Note, All the fury and all the falsehood of the church’s enemies are perfectly known to God, whatever the pretenses are with which they think to cover them, Isa. 37:28.
VII. It is a complicated destruction, and by one instance after another will at length be completed; for those that make their escape from one judgment shall perish by another: Fear, and the pit, and the snare, shall be upon them, Jer. 48:43. There shall be fear to drive them into the pit, and a snare to hold them fast in it when they are in it; so that they shall neither escape from the destruction nor escape out of it. What was said of sinners in general (Isa. 24:17, 18), that those who flee from the fear shall fall into the pit and those who come up out of the pit shall be taken in the snare, is here particularly foretold concerning the sinners of Moab (Jer. 48:44); for it is the year of their visitation, when God comes to reckon with them, and will be known by the judgments which he executes, for he is the King whose name is the Lord of hosts (Jer. 48:15); he is not only the King who has authority to give judgment, but he is the Lord of hosts, who is able to do what he has determined. The figurative expressions used Jer. 48:44 are explained in one instance (Jer. 48:45): Those that fled out of the villages for fear of the enemy’s forces put themselves under the shadow of Heshbon, stood there, and supposed they stood safely, as now armies sometimes retire under the cannon of a fortified city, and it is their protection; but here they should be disappointed, for, when they flee out of the pit, they fall into the snare; Heshbon, which they thought would shelter them, devours them as Moses had foretold long since (Num. 21:28): A fire has gone out of Heshbon, and a flame from the city of Sihon, and devours those that come from all the corners of Moab, and fastens upon the crown of the head of the tumultuous noisy ones, or of the revellers, or children of noise, not meant of the rude clamorous multitude, but of the great men, who bluster, and hector, and make a noise; the judgments of God shall light on them. Shall we hear the conclusion of this whole matter? We have it (Jer. 48:46): “Woe be to thee, O Moab! thou art undone; the people that worship Chemosh perish, and are gone; farewell, Moab. Thy sons and daughters, the hopes of the next generation, have gone into captivity after the Jews, whose calamities they rejoiced in.”
VIII. Yet it is not a perpetual destruction. The chapter concludes with a short promise of their return out of captivity in the latter days. God, who brings them into captivity, will bring again their captivity, Jer. 48:47. Thus tenderly does God deal with Moabites, much more with his own people! Even with Moabites he will not contend for ever, nor be always wrath. When Israel returned, Moab did; and perhaps the prophecy was intended chiefly for the encouragement of God’s people to hope for that salvation which even Moabites shall share in. Yet it looks further, to gospel times; the Jews themselves refer it to the days of the Messiah; then the captivity of the Gentiles, under the yoke of sin and Satan, shall be brought back by divine grace, which shall make them free, free indeed. This prophecy concerning Moab is long, but here it ends; it ends comfortably: Thus far is the judgment of Moab.