Jeremiah 48:1-47 (31:1-44, LXX)

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The message “about Moab” is introduced with the words, “This is what YHWH of hosts [the God with hosts of angels in his service], the God of Israel has said.” (“Thus said the Lord …” [LXX]) In the text that follows in this chapter, the calamity to come upon Moab is expressed as if it had already occurred. This is because it was certain to happen according to YHWH’s purpose. The land of Moab was located east of the Dead Sea, with the river valley of Zered as the southern boundary and the river valley of Arnon as the northern boundary. (48:1 [31:1, LXX])

“Woe” or calamity is pronounced on Nebo [Nabau (LXX)] because this city would be devastated. The ancient site of Nebo is commonly linked to modern Khirbet el-Mekhayyet located about five miles (c. 8 kilometers) southwest of Heshbon (generally identified with the site known as Hisban). The capture of Kiriathaim would mean disgrace for this Moabite city. There is uncertainty about where Kiriathaim may have been situated. Shame and dismay or shattering are said to have come on the “height.” This could refer to what would happen to the lofty situation of Kiriathaim. Another possibility that the Hebrew word that is rendered “height” or “fortress” could be a place name, “Misgab” (Margolis, REB), but no town or city with this name has been identified with any known site. Different readings are found in ancient manuscripts of the Septuagint. (“Amath was disgraced and conquered.” [“Amath (Amasagab) was disgraced, and Agath (Hatath).”]) (48:1 [31:1, LXX])

Conquest meant disgrace for Moab. Therefore, it could be said that the “praise” [or glory] of Moab” ceased. A number of translations are more explicit in their renderings than is the Hebrew text. “No one will ever brag about Moab again.” (NLT) “The splendor of Moab is gone.” (TEV) “No one honors you, Moab.” (CEV) According to the Septuagint, there would be no more “healing” for Moab. In Heshbon, a city north of the Moabite territory that would be conquered, the enemy forces plotted calamity for Moab. They are quoted as saying, “Come, and let us cut her off from being a nation.” Also “Madmen” would be brought to silence, becoming a desolated place without any inhabitants. The “sword” of war would pursue this city and its residents. “Madmen” has not been identified with any known site, and the Septuagint does not refer to it. According to the Septuagint, Moab would “cease by cessation,” coming to a complete end. (48:2 [31:2, LXX])

The exact location of Horonaim is uncertain. It is from this city that a cry of distress would be heard on account of the “desolation and great crushing,” shattering, or ruin that was certain to occur. (48:3 [31:3, LXX])

Moab is portrayed as crushed, broken, or ruined. From young ones or small children, an outcry of distress resounds. The Septuagint rendering differs from the extant Hebrew text. “Moab has been shattered. Announce [it] in Zogora [probably Zoar].” (48:4 [31:4, LXX])

Survivors of the military campaign against Moab would make their way up the “ascent” of or to “Luhith, weeping bitterly (literally, “with weeping, weeping”). The Septuagint says that “Halaoth was filled with weeping.” “Halaoth” is a transliteration of the Hebrew expression “the Luhith.” On the descent of or down on the way from Horonaim (the location of which place is uncertain), the fleeing people apparently are the ones who would be hearing a distressing outcry over the destruction that had taken place. This outcry would appear to be coming from Horonaim. According to the Septuagint, one who is weeping would be coming up by the way of Horonaim. It then concludes with the words, “a cry of destruction you heard.” (48:5 [31:5, LXX])

The Moabites are told to flee, making an escape for their “soul” or their life. Apparently because only a remnant would succeed in their flight out of danger, the people here may be likened to a lone “juniper tree” (‘aroh‘ér). There is uncertainty, however, about whether the reference is to the juniper. One view is to regard the Hebrew term as a proper noun — Aroer. The Septuagint translator appears to have understood the Hebrew word to be ‘aróhd, meaning “wild donkey” (“and you shall be like a wild donkey in the wilderness”). Modern translations vary considerably in their renderings. “Hide in the wilderness.” (NLT) “Become like one destitute in the wilderness.” (REB) “Head into the desert like a wild donkey.” (CEV) “Become like a bush in the desert.” (NIV) “And be like Aroer in the desert.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) (48:6 [31:6, LXX])

The Moabites trusted in their “works” and their “treasures.” Their “works” could include everything that they made with their hands or may refer more restrictively to idols that were the product of their hands. Treasures could designate everything of value that they had stored up and that gave them a sense of security. Because of trusting in their works and their treasures (in their “strongholds” [LXX]), they would be “taken” or captured. Their principal deity, Chemosh, would go into exile. This may indicate that the victorious warriors would take images of Chemosh with them to indicate that they had triumphed over the Moabite god. Priests of Chemosh would also go into exile, as also would princes or high officials who were devotees of this god. (48:7 [31:7, LXX])

One who would cause ruin or an invading military force would come against every Moabite city. This destroyer proved to be King Nebuchadnezzar and his warriors. No besieged city would escape conquest. Just as YHWH had said through Jeremiah, the Moabite valley would “perish” and the Moabite plain would be “destroyed.” This meant that the entire region of northern Moab would be devastated. (48:8 [37:8, LXX])

The Hebrew words that designate what is to be given to Moab and the purpose this object would serve are the noun tsits (which, in other contexts, means “flower” or “rosette”) and the verb natsá’. There is considerable uncertainty about the meaning of these Hebrew words, and this has resulted in various renderings, including those based on emendations. “Set up a tombstone for Moab.” (NAB, revised edition) “Oh, that Moab had wings so she could fly away.” (NLT) “Set aside salt for Moab, for she will surely fall.” (NRSV) “Spread salt on the ground to kill the crops.” (CEV) “Give a warning signal to Moab, for she will be laid in ruins.” (REB) The wording in the Septuagint may be rendered, “Give signs to Moab, for it will be ignited in flames.” In the Vulgate, the basic meaning “flower” is preserved (date florem Moab [“give a flower to Moab”]). Regardless of the meaning of the Hebrew words, whatever is said to be given to Moab must relate to the calamity the people would experience. If the meaning “flower” or “rosette” is adopted, the reference could be to an item that is fashioned into a kind of ornament. (Compare Exodus 28:36 and 39:30.) When the Moabites would go forth from their land into exile that “flower” would serve as an identifying sign of the calamity that had befallen them. The cities would be reduced to ruins (“become untrodden,” places through which no one would pass [LXX]), with no one residing in them. (48:9 [31:9, LXX])

YHWH had purposed the judgment to be expressed against Moab by means of the military force under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar. Therefore, a curse is pronounced on one who would be lax in doing the “work of YHWH” and one who restrained “his sword from blood,” holding back from using his sword in fighting against the Moabites. (48:10 [31:10, LXX])

From “youth” or its early history as a nation that dispossessed the Emim (Deuteronomy 2:10), Moab had been at ease or enjoyed relative security. According to the Septuagint, Moab “trusted in his glory” or his honorable and strong position. The situation of the Moabites was much like that of wine which is left undisturbed on the lees or the sediment at the bottom of the vessel, with the wine becoming stronger and its taste and bouquet being enhanced. As if left in their own vessels, the Moabites continued to live securely in their own land and had not been taken as captives into exile. Their condition was comparable to wine that retained its taste and bouquet, for the nation had not changed significantly during the course of its history. (48:11 [31:11, LXX])

The secure circumstances that the Moabites had long enjoyed was soon to end. To focus attention on the change, the words YHWH is quoted as saying are introduced with “look.” “Days” or the time would be coming when he would send “tilters” or decanters who would not leave the people undisturbed in their own land like wine in vessels or jars. Moab would be tilted, and the vessels would be emptied, indicating that the people would be forcibly removed from their land and taken into exile. The jars would be shattered, representing the complete desolation of the land. In the Septuagint, the reference is to smashing the vessels of Moab and cutting his “horns” (possibly horns used as drinking vessels) in pieces, completely shattering the power of the nation. (48:12 [32:12, LXX])

After experiencing judgment in the form of military conquest, the Moabites would be ashamed of their god Chemosh, for this nonexistent deity would not have came to their aid. Their shame would be like that of the “house of Israel” in connection with “Bethel their trust.” The city of Bethel became a principal center for idolatrous worship in the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. Jeroboam, the first monarch of the realm, established calf worship at Bethel in the south and Dan in the north. (1 Kings 12:26-33) Although the Israelites came to believe that their devotion to idolatrous practices at Bethel and to foreign deities assured their security, no help came to them when the Assyrians conquered the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel and took the survivors into exile. Their failure to put their trust exclusively in YHWH led to their downfall. (48:13 [32:13, LXX]; 2 Kings 17:5-23)

It appears that the Moabites regarded themselves as militarily strong and prepared to counter any military threat. This is implied by the rhetorical question, “How can you say, ‘We are warriors and mighty men of war’?” Upon being conquered, that boast would prove to be hollow. (48:14 [32:14, LXX])

As if the Babylonians under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar had already conquered Moab, the “King, whose name is YHWH of hosts” (the God with hosts of angels in his service), declared that Moab had been destroyed and that a devastator had come up against all the cities. The “choicest young men” (the very future of the nation) had “gone down to slaughter.” (48:15 [32:15, LXX]; see the Notes section.)

For Moab, disaster was “near to come” or imminent, and “evil,” distress, or suffering was hastening very much. There would be no delay in the coming of calamity upon Moab. (48:16 [32:16, LXX]; see the Notes section.)

The Hebrew text could be understood to mean that the peoples round about Moab or neighboring nations were to show sympathy to or lament [nud] over the Moabites. Renderings of nud in modern translations include “bewail” (REB), “mourn” (NAB, revised edition, NRSV, TEV), “condole” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]), and “grieve” (NJB). Other lexical meanings for nud are “move,” “wander,” “shake,” “flutter,” and “be agitated.” The corresponding verb in the Septuagint (kinéo) shares basic meanings (“move,” “shake,” “stir,” “arouse,” and “agitate”). Therefore, the Septuagint could be understood to refer to shaking the head at Moab in expression of scorn or derision. Another possible meaning might be for neighboring peoples to “move” against Moab. Depending on how kinéo is translated, neighboring peoples may be portrayed as stirred in their feelings for Moab or as coming to be in a state of turmoil over what had happened to Moab. To “know” the “name” of the Moabites could mean to know them or their reputation well or to be on friendly terms with them. In view of the humiliation that would befall the Moabites, the following lament would be appropriate, “How the strong rod has been broken, the staff of beauty [glory, glorying, or boasting (magnificence [LXX])]!” What had once been the basis for pride would have been completely shattered. According to the Septuagint rendering, all those knowing the “name” of Moab were to make this expression. (48:17 [32:17, LXX])

The sitting or enthroned “daughter of Dibon,” the city once enjoying majestic splendor like that of a queen, was to “come down from glory” or from the honorable status she had enjoyed. Instead, she was to “sit in thirst [sit in wetness (or a damp place in discomfort), LXX],” like a helpless captive in a state of hunger and thirst. The sad plight of Dibon would result from the “destroyer of Moab” that would come against the city and destroy her “strongholds.” Dibon has been identified with Dhiban, Jordan, situated a short distance north of the Arnon and about 13 miles (over 20 kilometers) east of the Dead Sea. (48:18 [32:18, LXX])

One sitting or residing (represented as a woman) in Aroer, a city identified with a site east of the Dead Sea and on the north side of the gorge of the Arnon, was to “stand by the way” or road “and watch.” Upon seeing a man fleeing or a woman making her escape, this person was to ask, “What has happened?” (48:19 [32:19, LXX]) The answer was, “Moab has been disgraced” (suffered humiliating conquest), “for it has been shattered. Wail and cry out [over the disaster that has befallen Moab].” Escapees were heading northward for the purpose of fording the Arnon. So it was by the Arnon, that the imperative applied, “Announce … that Moab has been devastated.” (48:20 [32:20, LXX])

“Judgment” is represented as already having come upon the “land of the level region” (the elevated plateau [Misor (LXX)], a transliteration of the Hebrew noun and treated as a proper name) that was then part of Moabite territory and extended northward from the Arnon River) According to Josephus (Antiquities, X, ix, 7), it was not until the fifth year after the destruction of Jerusalem that King Nebuchadnezzar with his troops launched a military campaign against Moab. With few exceptions, most of the cities that were devastated cannot be positively identified with any known sites. These cities were Holon (Chailon, Chelon [LXX]), Jahzah (Jahaz [48:34], Iassa [Jassa], Rephas [LXX]), a city that, at an earlier time, was in the tribal territory of Reuben (Joshua 13:15-18), Mephaath (Mophath, Mophaath [LXX]), once a Levite city in the tribal territory of Reuben (Joshua 13:15-18; 21:34, 36, 37) (48:21), Dibon (Daibon [LXX]; see verse 18), Nebo (Nabau [LXX]; see verse 1), Beth-diblathaim (house of Deblathaim [LXX]) (48:22), Kiriathaim (Kariathaim [LXX], once a city in the tribal territory of Reuben [Joshua 13:15-19]), Beth-gamul (house of Gamol [LXX], tentatively linked to Jumaiyil, situated about 8 miles [c. 13 kilometers] east of Dhiban, Jordan [Dibon]), Beth-meon (house of Maon [LXX], a city identified with ruins at Ma’in and located about 7 miles [c. 12 kilometers] east of the Dead Sea) (48:23), Kerioth (Karioth [LXX]), Bozrah (Bosor [LXX], not the Bozrah in the territory of Edom), and “all the cities of the land of Moab, [both] far and near.” The expression “far and near” is not linked to a specific reference point. It could be in relation to the Arnon River, the territory of the kingdom of Judah, or Jerusalem. Another possibility is that the reference is to cities on the border of Moab (nearby) and the interior of Moab (far from the border). (48:24)

Both the designations “horn” and “arm” relate to power. The cutting down of the “horn of Moab” and the breaking of his “arm” point to the crushing of Moab in the course of King Nebuchadnezzar’s military campaign. (48:25)

YHWH purposed to use King Nebuchadnezzar and his troops to express his judgment against Moab. The humiliating defeat the Moabites would experience would be comparable to being degraded to the vulnerable and helpless state of someone who was made drunk. This would happen because Moab had magnified himself against YHWH, for the Moabites had acted hatefully toward his people. Seemingly portrayed as being so drunk as to vomit, Moab would become the object of ridicule. In relation to what Moab would do “in his vomit,” the Hebrew word sapháq is used. This word basically means “clap” or “slap.” Possibly the meaning is that Moab is being depicted as slapping or splashing around “in his vomit” or falling into it with a splash. Modern translations vary in their renderings. “Now I [YHWH] will tell other nations to make you drunk and to laugh while you collapse in your own vomit.” (CEV) “Moab shall vomit until he is drained.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Let Moab swim in his vomit.” (NAB, revised edition) “Let Moab overflow with his vomit.” (REB) “Let Moab wallow in her vomit.” (NIV) (48:26 [31:27, LXX])

At an earlier time, Israel (probably here meaning the kingdom of Judah) had been an object of mockery for the Moabites, apparently on account of the calamity that had befallen the people. The implication appears to be that “Israel” was not found in the company of thieves so as to have become the object of Moabite derision that was expressed with the shaking of the head when speaking of “him” or the people of the kingdom of Judah. A number of modern translations are more specific in the meaning they convey than is the Hebrew text. “Did you not ridicule the people of Israel? Were they caught in the company of thieves that you should despise them as you do?” (NLT) “Was not Israel the object of your ridicule? Was she caught among thieves, that you shake your head in scorn whenever you speak of her?” (NIV) “Was not Israel your butt? Yet was he ever in company with thieves, that each time you spoke of him you shook your head?” (REB) “You made fun of my people and treated them like criminals caught in the act.” (CEV) According to the Septuagint, the question is whether Israel was found among his stolen things because Moab fought against the nation. (48:27 [31:27, LXX])

Evidently on account of the military campaign to be launched against them, the Moabites were told to leave the cities and take up dwelling on a rock, crag, or a remote rocky height. The “inhabitants of Moab” were to become “like a dove that nests in the regions of the mouth of a pit,” gorge, or cavern (like doves nesting in rocks at the mouth of a pit [hole, cavern, or gorge]), possibly meaning the clefts in the gorge of the Arnon River. Renderings in modern translations include “live like doves in the shelter of cliffs and canyons” (CEV), “become like a dove which nests in the rock-face at the mouth of a cavern.” (REB), and “be like the dove that nests in the walls of a gorge.” (NAB, revised edition) (48:28 [31:28, LXX])

“We,” apparently the people of the kingdom of Judah (but “I” in the Septuagint) had heard about the “pride of Moab.” They knew full well about the great haughtiness of Moab. This is emphasized with repetition — “his loftiness and his pride and his arrogance and the haughtiness of his heart.” This haughtiness was an attribute of the heart or the inmost self of the Moabites. Their extreme pride may have arisen when they viewed themselves in a secure position. (48:29 [31:29, LXX]; compare Isaiah 16:6.)

YHWH is quoted as saying in an emphatic manner that he knew or was fully aware of the “fury” or “insolence” (“works” [LXX]) of Moab. If the focus of the Hebrew word is on “fury,” this may indicate that the Moabites responded in anger to developments that were contrary to their aims. They had made themselves guilty of empty or false talk or boasting and what they did was likewise empty, false, or not right. Although there is a measure of ambiguity in the Hebrew text, modern translations convey this basic meaning. “I myself know his arrogance — oracle of the LORD — liar in word, liar in deed.” (NAB, revised edition) “His boasts are empty — as empty as his deeds.” (NLT) “‘I know her insolence but it is futile,’ declares the LORD, ‘and her boasts accomplish nothing.’” (NIV) (48:30 [31:30, LXX]; see the Notes section.)

On account of the calamity that would befall the Moabites, Jeremiah may be the one who would “howl” or wail over Moab. His outcry would be for all of Moab. Probably because ruin would come to Kir-heres, one would mourn for the men or people from this city. Kir-heres is another name for Kir-hareseth (Kiradas [LXX]), a city that has been identified with Al Karak (Karak, Kerak). This city is located on a small plateau with an elevation over 3,000 feet (c. 900 meters) and about 12 miles (nearly 20 kilometers) east of a point below the Lisan Peninsula in the Dead Sea. According to the Septuagint, the imperative is for the wailing over Moab to be on all sides, and apparently the “droughts” were to occasion the outcry over the men of Kiradas (Kir-heres). (48:31 [31:31, LXX]; compare Isaiah 16:7 and see the Notes section.)

If Jeremiah is understood to be the one who wailed over and cried out for Moab (48:31), he would also be the one who wept. Modern translations convey two basic meanings about the object and nature of the weeping. “More than for Jazer I weep for you, vine of Sibmah.” (NAB, revised edition) “You people of Sibmah, rich in vineyards, I will weep for you even more than I did for Jazer.” (NLT) “I weep for you, as Jazer weeps, O vines of Sibmah.” (NIV) The Septuagint rendering is, “As with the weeping of [or for] Iazer [Jazer], I will weep for you, vine of Sebema [Sibmah].” The exact locations of Jazer and Sibmah are not known. Sibmah must have been known for extensive viticulture, and the reference to the “vine of Sibmah” may be to all the grapevines that appeared like one plant that covered an extensive area. The tendrils or branches of this vine are portrayed as passing over the sea. This could mean that the vine (as representing all the grapevines) covered such a large area that it reached the sea (the Dead Sea) with overhanging branches. Besides reaching the sea, the branches of the vine are also depicted as reaching Jazer. The flourishing state of the grapevines and fruit-bearing trees would cease to exist. As if the devastation of the Babylonian invaders under King Nebuchadnezzar had already occurred, the Hebrew text concludes, “A destroyer has fallen upon your summer fruit [olives, dates, pomegranates, and figs] and your vintage [grape gatherers (LXX)].” (48:32 [31:32, LXX]; compare Isaiah 16:8.)

Military invasion and conquest would mean the end of the former rejoicing and gladness over bountiful harvests in the “orchard” or garden land and the land or country of Moab. According to the Septuagint, “rejoicing and gladness were swept away from the Moabites.” Apparently YHWH is quoted as saying that he had made wine to cease from the winepresses. This would also mean that there would be no joyous shouting being heard from those who were treading the grapes. The reference to shouting not being shouting could mean that the shouting of those treading the grapes would have ceased and been replaced by the cry of those fleeing from the attacking military force. The Septuagint mentions the wine as being in the vats, with no one doing the treading in the morning and in the evening. Instead of saying that no one shouted, the Septuagint transliterates the Hebrew word for “shouting” as “aidad.” (48:33 [31:33, LXX]; compare Isaiah 16:10.)

Hisban, the site thought to have been ancient Heshbon (Hesebon [LXX]), is located over 15 miles (c. 25 kilometers) east of the point where the Jordan flows into the Dead Sea. About two miles (c. 3 kilometers) to the northeast of Hisban is el-‘Al, the place that has been linked to ancient Elealeh (Eleale [LXX]). Jahaz has not been positively identified with any known site. One suggested location is over six miles (c. 10 kilometers) north of Elealeh, and another suggested site is more than ten miles (over 16 kilometers) south of Heshbon. The cry of distress or alarm from the Moabites is represented as being heard from Heshbon to Elealeh and to Jahaz (Jahzah [48:21]). They raised their voice from Zoar (Zogor [LXX]) to Horonaim and to Eglath-shelishiyah (Aglath-salisia [LXX]). Ancient Zoar, the city to which Lot fled with his daughters (Genesis 19:22, 23, 30), was probably located at the southern end of the Dead Sea. Horonaim has not been identified with any known site and neither has Eglath-shelishiyah. The “waters of Nimrim” could refer to a stream that flows into the southern end of the Dead Sea. For these waters to be “desolate” or in a state of ruin could indicate that the invading force had stopped them up. There is a possibility, however, that the reference to the “waters of Nimrim” points representatively to the desolation of the entire territory of Moab. This could mean that the desolation would be comparable to the effect produced on the vegetation when a stream dries up. (48:34 [31:34, LXX]; compare Isaiah 15:5, 6, and see the Notes section.)

YHWH purposed to bring an end to Moab, using Nebuchadnezzar and his troops to accomplish this. As a result, no one would be offering a sacrifice at a “high place” or at the location of a cultic site, and no man would be burning incense to his god or gods. In the Septuagint, the one ascending to the bomos (a transliteration of the Hebrew word for “high place”) is identified as the one who offers incense to his gods. (48:35 [31:35, LXX]; compare Isaiah 16:12.)

Possibly Jeremiah, deeply affected when contemplating the suffering the Moabites would experience, referred to his “heart” or inmost self as being stirred up or as droning like flutes, as it also was for Kir-heres. (Regarding Kir-heres, see the comments on verse 31.) Perhaps Jeremiah sensed a state of emotional upheaval within himself that was comparable to the droning of flutes. The first-person suffix (“my”), however, may be understood to refer to YHWH, for he is identified as the speaker in the previous verse. If that is the case, the sympathetic inner stirring may be explained according to the comments in the Notes section on verses 31 and 32. Nevertheless, despite this sympathetic stirring, the judgment against Moab was deserved. Therefore, the wealth Moab (or the Moabites) had acquired would perish. (48:36 [31:36, LXX]; compare Isaiah 16:11.)

In times of distress and mourning, people would shave their heads and men would additionally cut off their beards. They would also make cuts or gashes on their hands and, over the bare skin of their loins, gird themselves with sackcloth, a coarse cloth probably made of goat’s hair. This is what the Moabites are represented as doing because of the calamity they would experience as a conquered people. (48:37 [31:37, LXX]; compare Isaiah 15:2, 3, and see the Notes section.)

Everywhere in Moab there would be wailing or lamentation — on all the flat roofs of the houses and in all the squares. YHWH is quoted as giving the reason for this extensive wailing. “For I have broken Moab like a vessel” in which no one finds pleasure or for which no one has any use. (48:38 [31:38, LXX]; compare Isaiah 15:3.)

Regarding Moab, the people would wail, “How he is broken! [How he has changed! (LXX)] How Moab has turned his back in shame [having been humiliated and defeated]!” To all the people of the nations round about, Moab would become an object of derision and a horror (a frightening sight to behold on account of the utter desolation [anger or irritation (LXX)]). (48:39 [31:39, LXX])

YHWH is quoted as saying, “Look, like an eagle one will fly and spread his wings against Moab.” The thought appears to be that the military force under the command of Nebuchadnezzar would swoop down upon Moab just like an eagle when making a rapid descent upon its prey. Focusing attention on what would happen, the phrase is introduced with the word “look.” (48:40 [31:40, LXX]; see the Notes section.)

The warriors under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar would capture the cities of Moab and seize the fortresses. Faced with the attacking troops “in that day” or at that time, the “mighty men” or warriors of Moab would lose courage. This is likened to the transformation of their “heart” to that of a “woman in labor.” (48:41 [31:41, LXX]; see the Notes section.)

Moab would be destroyed as a people for having “magnified himself against YHWH.” The Moabites did this when they exalted themselves over YHWH’s people, ridiculing and looking down upon them in their time of affliction. (48:42 [31:42, LXX])

YHWH declared that “terror and pit and snare” (“snare and fear and pit” [LXX]) would be upon the one “sitting in Moab.” The reference to one sitting applies to all the people residing in the land of Moab. Without exception, they would face disaster from which there would be no escape. (48:43 [31:43, LXX]) The one fleeing from the “face of terror” or from a frightening situation would not be able to get away from danger but would experience a calamity comparable to falling into a pit. As for the one climbing out of a pit or trying to extricate himself from a dire situation, he would be caught in a snare, thus failing to avert disaster. The declaration of YHWH continues, “For I will bring to her [the nation (will bring these things [LXX])], to Moab, the year [or time] of their visitation [reckoning or punishment].” (48:44 [31:44, LXX])

The Moabites who were fleeing from the invasion of King Nebuchadnezzar and his warriors “stood” or stopped “in the shadow of Heshbon (generally identified with the site known as Hisban). They would be seeking protection from the invaders as one would look for relief from the hot sun in an area of shadow or shade. The Moabites who would be fleeing are described as being “without strength” and, therefore, unable to continue their flight to a more distant location. Heshbon, however, would not be a secure place, “for a fire” would go out from Heshbon, indicating that the city would be conquered and burned. The reference to a “flame from the midst of Sihon” serves to recall that Heshbon was the “city of Sihon, the king of the Amorites,” who fought against the Moabites centuries earlier. (Numbers 21:26-28) The “flame” from Heshbon would consume the “temples of Moab and the crown of the head of the sons of tumult [possibly designating Moabite warriors in a state of uproar].” In view of the reference to the “crown of the head,” the “temples of Moab” may be understood to designate the hair growing at the sides of the head. The imagery apparently suggests that all of Moab would be desolated. A number of modern translations contain highly interpretive renderings. “For a fire comes from Heshbon, King Sihon’s ancient home, to devour the entire land with all its rebellious people.” (NLT) “Near the city of Heshbon, where Sihon once ruled, tired refugees stand in shadows cast by the flames of their burning city. Soon, the towns on other hilltops, where those warlike people live, will also go up in smoke.” (CEV) “Helpless refugees try to find protection in Heshbon, the city that King Sihon once ruled, but it is in flames. Fire has burned up the frontiers and the mountain heights of the war-loving people of Moab.” (TEV) (48:45; see the Notes section; and regarding Heshbon, see verse 34.)

“Woe” or calamity is pronounced on Moab. The Moabites are called the people of Chemosh, for Chemosh was their main god. As victims of defeat in war, the “sons” and “daughters” of Moab would be led away as captives. (48:46; see the Notes section.)

YHWH promised to turn back or restore the “captivity [body of captives or, according to numerous translations, the fortunes] of Moab at the end of the days” or at a future time. This promise provided hope for the people against whom YHWH’s judgment had been expressed and which had been included in a written record (“thus far [is] the judgment of Moab”). (48:47; see the Notes section.)


In verse 15 of chapter 32, the Septuagint does not include any reference to the “King, whose name is YHWH of hosts.”

The Septuagint, in verse 16 of chapter 32, says that the “day of Moab,” or the time of reckoning, was “near to come,” and “his evil [harm or ruin], very quickly.”

The rendering in the Septuagint of verse 30 in chapter 31 is obscure. “But I knew his works. [It was] not enough for him; thus he did not do.”

According to verse 30, YHWH is the speaker. Therefore, based on this verse, the first person verbs in verses 31 and 32 could be understood to represent YHWH as wailing and crying out for Moab and weeping for the vine of Sibmah. Although judgment against the Moabites was merited, it would have been YHWH’s desire for them to change their ways so that he could spare them the great distress that they would otherwise experience. (Compare Jeremiah 18:7-10.) The case of the Ninevites illustrates this. They repented and YHWH is quoted as asking Jonah whether he should not have concern or feel compassion for the people of Nineveh and the many animals, just as Jonah felt sorry about the withering of a plant that had provided him with welcome shade. (Jonah 4:10, 11) Similarly, Jesus Christ, like his Father, felt keenly for what would happen to the people of Jerusalem on account of the coming judgment that would befall them. In view of the terrible suffering the people would experience during the siege and conquest of the city, Jesus wept. He reflected the compassionate spirit of his Father. (Compare Matthew 23:33-39; Luke 19:41-44.) Accordingly, the ascribing of expressions of sadness to YHWH would not be contrary to what is set forth in the Scriptures.

In verse 34 of chapter 31, the Septuagint does not mention Jahaz. It says that “their cities gave out their voice, from Zogor to Horonaim and Aglath-salisia.” Regarding the “water of Nebrim [Nimrim], the Septuagint says that it “will be for burning” or for being dried up.

The Septuagint rendering of verse 37 of chapter 31 departs somewhat from the Hebrew text. There are two different readings in the extant Greek texts of the initial phrase. “Every head in every place will be shaved” “They will shave every head in every place.” Then the verse continues, “and every beard will be shaved, and all hands will beat [probably beat on their chests in expression of grief], and [there will be] sackcloth on every loin.”

The Septuagint (31:40) makes no mention of an eagle, but introduces the phrase in the next verse with the words, “For thus said the Lord.”

In verse 41 of chapter 31, the Septuagint renders the Hebrew expression that is translated “the cities” as the transliteration, making it a proper noun (Hakkarioth). There is no reference to the heart of Moabite warriors becoming like the heart of a woman in labor.

The text of verses 45 through 47 is missing in the Septuagint.