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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–6
Verses 1–6

The Ammonites were next, both in kindred and neighbourhood, to the Moabites, and therefore are next set to the bar. Their country joined to that of the two tribes and a half, on the other side Jordan, and was but a bad neighbour; however, being a neighbour, they shall have a share in these circular predictions. 1. An action is here brought, in God’s name, against the Ammonites, for an illegal encroachment upon the rightful possessions of the tribe of Gad, that lay next them, Jer. 49:1. A writ of enquiry is brought to discover what title they had to those territories, which, upon the carrying away of the Gileadites, by the king of Assyria (2 Kgs. 15:29; 1 Chron. 5:26), were left almost dispeopled, at least unguarded, and an easy prey to the next invader. “What! Does it escheat ob defectum sanguinis—for what of an heir? Hath Israel no sons? Hath he no heir? Are there no Gadites left, to whom the right of inheritance belongs? Or, if there were not, are there no Israelites, none left of Judah, that are nearer akin to them than you are?” Why then does their king, as if he were entitled to the forfeited estates, or Milcom, their idol, as if he had the right to dispose of it to his worshippers, inherit Gad, and his people dwell in the cities which fell by lot to that tribe of God’s people. Nay, there were sons and heirs of their own body, en ventre de sa merein their mother’s womb, and the Ammonites, to prevent their claim, most barbarously murdered them (Amos 1:13): They ripped up the women with child of Gilead, that they might enlarge their border, that, having seized it, none might rise up hereafter to recover it from them. Thus they magnified themselves against their border and boasted it was their own, Zeph. 2:8. Note, Though among men might often prevails against right, yet that might shall be controlled by the Almighty, who sits in the throne, judging right; and those will find themselves mistaken who think every thing their own which they can lay their hands on, or which none yet appears to lay claim to. As there is justice owing to owners, so also to their heirs, when they are dead, whom it is a great sin to defraud, though they either know not their right or know not how to come at it. This shall be reckoned for particularly, when injuries of this kind are done to God’s people. 2. Judgment is here given against them for this violence. (1.) Terrors shall come upon them: God will cause an alarm of war to be heard, even in Rabbah, their capital city and a very strong one, Jer. 49:1. The Lord God of hosts, who has all armies at his command, will bring a fear upon them from all that be about them, Jer. 49:5. Note, God has many ways to terrify those who have been a terror to his people. (2.) Their cities shall be laid in ruins: Rabbah, the mother-city, shall be a desolate heap, and her daughters, the other cities that have a dependence upon her, and receive law from her as daughters, shall be burnt with fire; so that the inhabitants shall be forced to quit them, and they shall cry, and gird themselves with sackcloth, as having lost all they had, and not knowing whither to betake themselves. (3.) Their country, which they were so proud of, shall be wasted (Jer. 49:4): Wherefore gloriest thou in the valleys, and trustest in thy treasures, O backsliding daughter? They are charged with backsliding or turning away from God and from his worship, for they were the posterity of righteous Lot. It is true, they had never been so in covenant with God as Israel was; yet all idolaters may be called backsliders, for the worship of the true God was prior to that of false gods. They were untoward and refractory (so some read it); and, when they had forsaken their God, they gloried in their valleys, particularly one that was called the flowing valley, because it flowed with all good things. These they had violently taken away from Israel, and gloried in it when they had done so. They gloried in the strength of their valleys, so surrounded with mountains that they were inaccessible, gloried in the products of them, gloried in the treasures they got together out of them, saying, Who shall come unto me? While they bathed themselves in the pleasures of their country, they flattered themselves with a conceit that they should never be disturbed in the enjoyment of them: To-morrow shall be as this day; therefore they set God and his judgments at defiance; they are proud, voluptuous, and secure; but wherefore dost thou do so: Note, Those who backslide and turn away from God have little reason either to take complacency or to put confidence in any worldly enjoyments whatsoever, Hos. 9:1. (4.) Their people, from the least to the greatest, shall be forced out of the country. Some shall flee to seek for shelter, others shall be carried into captivity, so that their land shall be quite evacuated: Their king and his princes, nay, and Milcom, their god, and his priests, shall go into captivity (Jer. 49:3), and every man shall be driven out right forth, shall take the next way, and make the best of it in his flight (Jer. 49:5), forgetting the valleys, the flowing valleys, which now fail them. And, to complete their misery, none shall gather up him that wanders, none shall open their doors to them, as Jael to Sisera, to entertain them; and those that flee shall be so much in care to secure themselves that they shall not take notice of others, no, not of those that are nearest to them, that wander, and are at a loss which way to go, as Jer. 47:3. (5.) Then the country of the Ammonites shall fall into the hands of the remaining Israelites (Jer. 49:2): Then shall Israel be heir to those that were his heirs, shall possess himself of their land who had possessed themselves of his, by way of reprisal. Note, The equity of divine Providence is to be acknowledged when the losses of the injured are recompensed out of the unjust gains of the injurious. Though the enemies of God’s Israel may make a prey of them for a while, the tables will shortly be turned. 3. Yet there is a prospect given them of mercy hereafter (Jer. 49:6), as before to Moab. The day will come when the captivity of the children of Ammon will be brought again; for so it is in human affairs: the wheel goes round.