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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 7–22
Verses 7–22

The Edomites come next to receive their doom from God, by the mouth of Jeremiah: they also were old enemies to the Israel of God; but their day will come to be reckoned with, and it is now at hand, and is foretold, not only for warning to them, but for comfort to the Israel of God, whose afflictions were very much aggravated by their triumphs over them and joy in their calamity, Ps. 137:7. Many of the expressions used in this prophecy concerning Edom are borrowed from the prophecy of Obadiah, which is concerning Edom; for, all the prophets being inspired by one and the same Spirit, there must needs be a wonderful harmony and agreement in their predictions. Now here it is foretold,

I. That the country of Edom should be all wasted and made desolate, that the calamity of Esau should be brought upon him, the calamity he has deserved, and God has long designed him, for his old sins, Jer. 49:8. The time is at hand when God will visit him, and call him to an account, and then they shall flee from the sword, turn back from the battle, and dwell deep in some close caverns, where they shall hide themselves. All they have shall be carried off by the conqueror; whereas grape-gatherers will leave some gleanings, and even thieves know when they have enough and will destroy no further, those that destroy them shall never be satiated, (Jer. 49:9, 10); they shall make Esau quite bare, shall strip the Edomites of all they have, shall find out ways and means to come at their most hidden treasure, shall discover even the secret places where they thought to secure their wealth, and rifle them, so that they shall none of them save their wealth, no, nor save themselves nor their children, that might be concealed in a little room: He shall not be able to hide himself, and his seed too is spoiled. His brethren the Moabites, and his neighbours the Philistines, whom he might have expected succours from, or at least shelter with, are spoiled as well as he and disabled to do him any service. And he is not, or there is not he, there is none to him, none left him, that may say what follows (Jer. 49:11), Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive. When they are flying, or dying, there shall be none left, no relation, no friend, no, not so much as any parish officers to take care of their wives and children that they leave behind. Edom is not, he is cut off and gone; nor is there any to say, Leave me thy orphans. If the master of a family be cut off, or forced away, it is some comfort if he have a friend to leave his family with, whom he can confide in; but they shall have none such, for they shall all be involved in the same calamity. The Chaldee makes these to be the words of God to his people, distinguishing them from the Edomites in this calamity; and they read it, “But you, O house of Israel! you shall not leave your orphans; I will secure them, and let your widows rest on my word. Whatever becomes of the widows and fatherless of the Edomites, I will take care of yours.” Note, it is an unspeakable comfort to the people of God, when they are dying, that they may leave their surviving relations with God, may, in faith, commit them to him and encourage them to trust in him; and, though they cannot promise themselves great things in the world for them, yet they may hope that he will preserve them alive, always, provided that they trust in him. Let the Edomites, for their part, count upon no other than to be made a desolation and a reproach; for the decree has gone forth; God hath sworn it by himself (Jer. 49:13), that their cities shall be wasted, nay, they shall be perpetual wastes, they shall be made mean and despicable; they had made a mighty figure, but God will make them small among the heathen; and those that despised God’s people shall themselves be despised among men (Jer. 49:15; Obad. 1:2), nay, they shall be made monstrous, and even a prodigy (Jer. 49:17): Edom shall be such a desolation that every one who goes by shall be astonished; nay, worse yet, they shall be made a terror; Edom shall be made like Sodom and Gomorrah, none shall care for coming near the ruins of it, no man shall abide there (Jer. 49:18), such a frightful place shall it be made.

II. That the instruments of this destruction should be very resolute and formidable. They have their commission from God; he summons them into this service (Jer. 49:14): I have heard a rumour, or report, from the Lord, heard it by the prophecy of Obadiah, heard it by a whisper to myself, that an ambassador, or herald, or messenger, is sent to the Gentiles, who are to lay Edom waste, saying, Gather you together, muster all the forces you can, and come against her; for (Jer. 49:20) this is the counsel that he hath taken against Edom. The matter is settled, the decree has gone forth, and there is no resisting it. God has determined that Edom shall be laid waste, and then he that is to be employed in wasting it shall come swiftly and strongly. Nebuchadnezzar is he or whom it is here foretold, 1. That he shall come up like a lion, with fierceness and fury, like a lion enraged by the swelling of Jordan overflowing his banks, which forces him out of his covert by the water-side into the higher grounds, Jer. 49:19. He shall come roaring, come to devour all that come in his way. He shall come against the habitation of the strong, the forts and castles; and I will cause him to come suddenly into the land (so the next words might well be read), so as to find them unprovided with necessaries for a defence; for I will look out a chosen man to appoint over her, to do this execution, a man fit for the purpose, one chosen out of the people; for when God has work to do he will find out the fittest instruments to be employed in doing it: “Who is like me for choosing the instruments, and spiriting them for the work? And who will appoint me the time? Who will challenge me, and fix a time and place to meet me? Who will join issue with me in battle? And, when I send a lion into the flock, who is that shepherd that can, or dare, stand before me, or against me, to oppose that lion, and think to rescue any of the flock?” Note, When God has work to do of any kind he will soon find those that are able to engage in it, and all the world cannot find those that are able to engage against it. Nay, if God will have Edom destroyed, and their peopled dislodged, there needs not a lion, a fierce lion to do it: Even the least of the flock shall draw them out (Jer. 49:20); the meanest servant in Nebuchadnezzar’s retinue, the weakest of all that follow his camp, shall draw them out for the slaughter, shall force them to flee, or to surrender, and make their habitations desolate with them. God can bring to pass the greatest works by instruments least likely. When the Chaldean army comes against the Edomites all hands shall be employed and the poorest soldier in it shall have a pluck at them. 2. Nebuchadnezzar shall come, not only like a lion, the king of beasts, but like an eagle, the king of birds (Jer. 49:22): He shall fly as the eagle upon his prey, so swiftly, so strongly, shall clap his wings upon Bozrah, to secure it for himself (as before, Jer. 48:40), and immediately the hearts of the mighty men shall fail them, for they shall see he is an enemy that it is in vain to struggle with.

III. That the Edomites’ confidences should all fail them in the day of their distress. 1. They trusted to their wisdom, but that shall stand them in no stead. This is the first thing fastened upon in this prophecy against Edom, Jer. 49:7. That nation used to be famous for wisdom, and their statesmen were thought to excel in politics; and yet now they shall take such wrong measures in all their counsels, and be so baffled in all their designs, that people shall ask, with wonder, What is the matter with the Edomites? Isa. wisdom no more in Teman? Have the wise men of the east country (1 Kgs. 4:30) become fools? Are those at their wits’ end that were thought to have the monopoly of prudence? Has counsel perished from the understanding men? It is so, when God is designing the ruin of a people; for whom he will destroy he infatuates. See Job 12:20. Has their wisdom vanished? Isa. it tired? (so some); is it worn out? (so others); has it become useless? so others. Yes, it will do them no service when God comes forth to contend with them. 2. They trusted to their strength, but neither shall that avail them, Jer. 49:16. They had been a terror to all their neighbours; every body feared them and truckled to them, and this made them proud and conceited of themselves and their own strength, and very secure; because no neighbouring nation durst meddle with them, they thought no nation in the world durst. Their country was much of it mountainous, having many passes which they thought themselves able to make good against any invader; but this terribleness of theirs deceived them, and so did their imaginary inaccessibleness; they did not prove so strong as they were formidable, nor so safe as they were secure. High as they are, God will bring them down; for, as there is no wisdom, so there is no might against the Lord, See these expressions, Obad. 1:3, 4, 8.

IV. That their destruction should be inevitable and very remarkable. 1. God hath determined it (Jer. 49:12); he hath said it; nay (Jer. 49:13), he hath sworn it, that the Edomites shall not go unpunished, but that they shall drink the cup of trembling, which is put into the hands of all their neighbours; even those whose judgment, or doom, was not to drink of the cup, who had not so well deserved it as they had done, nations that had not been such enemies to Israel as they had been, or Israel itself, that was God’s peculiar people, and among whom there were many, very many, who kept his ordinances, upon which account they might have expected an exemption; and yet they had been made to drink of the bitter cup; and shall the Edomites think to pass it? No; they shall surely drink of it. Note, When God punishes the less guilty it is folly for the more guilty to promise themselves impunity; and when judgment begins at God’s house it will reach the strangers. 2. All the world shall take notice of it (Jer. 49:21): The earth is moved, and all the nations are put into a concern, at the noise of their fall; the news of it shall make them tremble. The noise of the outcry is heard to the Red Sea, which flowed upon the coasts of Edom. So loud shall be the shouts of the conquerors and the shrieks of the conquered, and such a mighty noise shall the news of this destruction of Idumea make in the nations, that is shall be heard among the ships that lie in the Red Sea to take in lading (1 Kgs. 9:26), and then they shall carry the news of it to the remotest shore. Note, The fall of those who have affected to make a noise with their pomp and power will make so much the greater noise.