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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 8–11
Verses 8–11

The Moabites and Ammonites were both of the posterity of Lot; their countries joined, and, both adjoining to Israel, they are here put together in the prophecy against them.

I. They are both charged with the same crime, and that was reproaching and reviling the people of God and triumphing in their calamities (Zeph. 2:8): They have reproached my people; while God’s people kept close to their duty it is probable that they reproached them for the singularities of their religion; and now that they had revolted from God, and fallen under his displeasure, they reproached them for that too. It has been the common lot of God’s people in all ages to be reproached and reviled upon one account or other. Thus the old serpent spits his venom; and pride is at the bottom of it; it is in their pride that they have magnified themselves against the people of the Lord of hosts, thinking themselves as good as they, as great, and every way as happy. It is the comtempt of the proud that God’s people are filled with, Ps. 123:4. They have spoken big (so some read it, magna locuti sunt—they have spoken great things) against their border (Zeph. 2:8), against those of them that bordered upon their country, whom upon all occasions they insulted, or against the property they claimed, which they disputed, or the protection they boasted of, which they ridiculed; they spoke big against the people of the Lord of hosts as a deserted abandoned people. Great swelling words of vanity are the genuine language of the church’s enemies. “But I have heard them” (says God), “and will let you know that I have heard them. I have heard, and I will reckon for them,” Jude 1:15. And, if God hears the reproaches and revilings we are under, it is a good reason why we should be as a deaf man that hears not, Ps. 38:14, 15. Nay, God not only takes notice of, but interests himself in the reproaches cast on his people, because they are his; and it is certain that those who look with disdain upon the people of the Lord of hosts thereby dishonour the Lord of hosts himself. See this very thing charged on Moab and Ammon, Ezek. 25:3, 8.

II. They are both laid under the same doom. Associates in iniquity may expect to be such in desolation. See with what solemnity sentence is pronounced upon them, Zeph. 2:9. It is the Lord of hosts, the sovereign Lord of all, who has authority to pass this sentence and ability to execute it; it is the God of Israel, who is jealous for their honour; it is he that has said it, nay, he has sworn it, As I live, saith the Lord. The sentence is, 1. That the Moabites and Ammonites shall be quite destroyed; they shall be as Sodom and Gomorrah, the marks of whose ruins in the Dead Sea lay near adjoining to the countries of Moab and Ammon; they shall, though not by the same means (even fire from heaven), Yet almost in the same manner, be laid waste; not again to be inhabited, or not of a long time. The country shall produce nothing but nettles, instead of corn; and there shall be brine-pits, instead of the pleasant fountains of water with which the country had abounded. 2. That Israel shall be too hard for them, shall spoil them of their goods and possess their country by lawful war. Note, Proud men sometimes, by the just judgment of God, fall under the mortification of being trampled upon themselves by those whom once they haughtily trampled upon. And this shall they have for their pride.

III. Other nations shall in like manner be humbled, that the Lord alone may be exalted (Zeph. 2:11): The Lord will be terrible unto the Moabites and Ammonites in particular, who have made themselves a terror to his Israel. For, 1. Heathen gods must be abolished. They have long had possession, and their worshippers have both glorified them and gloried in them. But the Lord will famish all the gods of the earth, will starve them out of their strong-holds. The Pagans had a fond conceit that their idols were regaled by their offerings, and did eat the fat of their sacrifices, Deut. 32:38. Omnia comesta à Belo—Bel has eaten all. But it is here promised that when the Christian religion is set up in the world men shall be turned from the service of these dumb idols, shall forsake their altars, and bring no more sacrifices to them, and thus they shall be famished, or made lean (as the word is), their priests shall. This intimates the vanity of those idols; it lies in the power of their worshippers to famish them; whereas the true God says, If I were hungry, I would not tell thee. It intimates also the victory of the God of Israel over them. Now know we that he is greater than all gods. 2. Heathen nations must be converted; when the gospel gets ground, by it men shall be brought to worship him who lives for ever (for that is the command of the everlasting gospel, Rev. 14:7), every one from his place; they shall not need to go up to Jerusalem to worship the God of Israel, but wherever they are, they may have access to him. I will that men pray every where. God shall be worshipped, not only by all the tribes of Israel and the strangers who join themselves to them, but by all the isles of the heathen. This is a promise which looks favourably upon our native country, for it is one of the most considerable of the isles of the Gentiles, by which God will be glorified.

The cup is going round, when Nebuchadnezzar is going on conquering and to conquer; and not only Israel’s near neighbours, but those that lay more remote, must be reckoned with for the wrongs they have done to God’s people; the Ethiopians and the Assyrians are here taken to task. 1. The Ethiopians, or Arabians, that had sometimes been a terror to Israel (as in Asa’s time, 2 Chron. 14:9), must now be reckoned with: They shall be slain by my sword, Zeph. 2:12. Nebuchadnezzar was God’s sword, the instrument in his hand with which these and other enemies were subdued and punished, Ps. 17:14. 2. The Assyrians, and Nineveh the head city of their monarchy, are next set to the bar, to receive their doom: He that is God’s ee3 sword will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria, and make himself master of it. Assyria had been the rod of God’s anger against Israel, and now Babylon is the rod of God’s anger against Assyria, Isa. 10:5. He will make Nineveh a desolation, as was lately and largely foretold by the prophet Nahum. Observe, (1.) How flourishing Nineveh’s state had formerly been (Zeph. 2:15): This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly. Nineveh was so strong that she feared no evil, and therefore dwelt carelessly and set danger at defiance; she was so rich that she thought herself sure of all good, and therefore was a rejoicing city, full of mirth and gaiety; and she had such a dominion that she admitted no rival, but said in her heart, “I am, and there is none besides me that can compare with me, no city in the world that can pretend to be equal with me.” God can with his judgments frighten the most secure, humble the most haughty, and mar the mirth of those that most laugh now. (2.) How complete Nineveh’s ruin shall now be; it shall be made a desolation, Zeph. 2:13. Such a heap of ruins shall this once pompous city be that it shall be, [1.] A receptacle for beasts, such a wilderness that flocks shall lie down in it; nay, such a waste, desolate, frightful place, that wild beasts, shall take up their abode there; the melancholy birds, as the cormorant and bittern, shall make their nests in what remains of the houses, as they sometimes do in old ruinous buildings that are uninhabited and unfrequented. The lintels, or chapiters of the pillars, the windows and thresholds, and all the fine cedar-work curiously engraven, shall lie exposed; and on them these rueful ominous birds shall perch, and their voice shall sing. How are the songs of mirth turned into hideous horrid noises! What little reason have men to be proud of stately buildings, and rich furniture, when they know not what all the pomp of them may come to at last! [2.] A derision to travellers. Those that had come from far, to gratify their curiosity with the sight of Nineveh’s splendour, shall now look on her with as much contempt as ever they looked upon her with admiration (Zeph. 2:15): Every one that passes by shall hiss at her, and wag his hand, making light of her desolations, nay, and making sport with them—“There is an end of proud Nineveh.” They shall not weep, and wring their hands (the adversities of those are unpitied and unlamented who were insolent and haughty in their prosperity), but they shall hiss and wag their hands, forgetting that perhaps their own ruin is not far off.