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Lowell Brueckner

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Judgment against Moab


From Nebu, Moses viewed the Promised Land    

Chapter 48


(Verses 1 -9)

   1.   Against Moab. Thus says the LORD of hosts the God of Israel: "Woe to Nebo! For it is plundered,  Kirjathaim is shamed and taken; The high stronghold is shamed and dismayed—

   2.     No more praise of Moab. In Heshbon they have devised evil against her: ‘Come, and let us cut her off as a nation.’ You also shall be cut down, O Madmen! The sword shall pursue you;

  3.      A voice of crying shall be from Horonaim: ‘Plundering and great destruction!’ 

  4.      “Moab is destroyed; Her little ones have caused a cry to be heard; 

  5.      For in the Ascent of Luhith they ascend with continual weeping; For in the descent of Horonaim the enemies have heard a cry of destruction. 

  6.      “Flee, save your lives! And be like the juniper in the wilderness. 

  7.      For because you have trusted in your works and your treasures, You also shall be taken. And Chemosh shall go forth into captivity, His priests and his princes together. 

  8.      And the plunderer shall come against every city; No one shall escape. The valley also shall perish, And the plain shall be destroyed, As the LORD has spoken. 

  9.      “Give wings to Moab, That she may flee and get away; For her cities shall be desolate, Without any to dwell in them.         

Lot’s wife left him no sons, but only two daughters. On the day that she looked back upon wicked Sodom, the liquid lava of its destruction reached her (Ge.19:26). The Lord Himself told of the future days of Jacob’s trouble and the danger of delay, in looking back upon lost possessions, adding, “Remember Lot’s wife” (Lk.17:32). His daughters, concerned about remaining unmarried for the rest of their lives, as well as the preservation of their family name, planned an incestuous relationship with their father (although the law of incest was not in play until Moses). The result was a son to the oldest daughter, named Moab. The son of Abraham’s nephew, Lot, was the patriarch of this nation, east of Israel (Ge.19:37).

Moab was bordered by Ammon, the nation descended from his brother, as well as the Canaanite nation of the Amorites, on the north and, Edom, descended from Jacob’s son, Esau, on the south. Towards the end of the Israelite journey in the wilderness, a Moabite king, Balak, hired a prophet, Balaam, to curse Israel (Nu.22:36-24:25). This attempt failed miserably, Balaam blessing Israel instead, four times, but a plot to entrap Israel into fornication and idolatry, did not fail. As a result, 24,000 Israelites died under God’s judgment, by a plague (Nu.25:1-9). 

 During the time of the Judges, Israel served Moab for 18 years, but was freed by a Benjamite, named Ehud (Jdg.3:14-30) At a time of famine in Israel, Elimelech a Bethlehemite, went to Moab to find food. His son, Mahlon, married a Moabite, named Ruth. Widowed, she returned with her mother-in-law, Naomi, to Bethlehem (Rut.1:1-19) and became the wife of Boaz, and by him, the great-grandmother of David, the king (Rut.4:21-22). Interestingly, grace was at work in Ruth, for she entered Israel, although God forbid the Moabites to enter the Promised Land forever (Dt.23:3). For a period of time, when Saul wanted to kill David, he took his father and mother, to find safekeeping under the king of Moab (1 S.22:3). Later, during his reign, David defeated Moab and they became his servants (2 S.8:2).

 You may remember that Israel camped in the land of Moab, while Moses reviewed the law and history of his people. After 40 days, he ended the account and went up the mountain of Nebo, to view Canaan land, before he died. Kirjathaim is one of the cities of Moab on a high elevation, the meaning of the word, Misgab. The physically high places represent the state of the Moabite’s proud heart.

 In Isaiah chapters 15-16, that prophet also told of some of the same judgments upon Moab, although Isaiah saw the oppression of Assyria, while Jeremiah looked at the Chaldeans, five years after the destruction of Jerusalem. Ezekiel, Amos and Zephaniah also uttered prophecy against Moab. The Lord’s intentions are the same, regardless of the instrument used against it. The name of the chief city of Heshbon, means “counsel” and, playing on that word, the prophecy tells of evil counsel against it, and not praise.  After the enemy conquered Heshbon, he devised plans against the rest of the country. Madmen means “silence” and has nothing to do with insanity.

 There is no human joy in judgment and the prophecy speaks of the lament brought upon Moab, because of the slaughter of infants. The Moabites ascended to the high place of Luhith and descended to the lowland of Horonaim, weeping. “Flee,” they counsel one another. Go rather to the countryside, than confide in the city walls.”

One of the main causes of judgment was faith in their own works of defense and the treasure, with which they hoped to buy help. But more than that, the hand of God was against the trust in idols, especially Chemosh, the principal guardian of the Moabites, against his priests and the rulers. The cities of the entire nation will be ruined, as well as the countryside, valleys, mountains and plains. The population will abandon their cities, and the only motive will be to escape.


(Verses 10 – 24)

 10.  Cursed is he who does the work of the LORD deceitfully, And cursed is he who keeps back his sword from blood. 

 11.  "Moab has been at ease from his youth; He has settled on his dregs, And has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, Nor has he gone into captivity. Therefore his taste remained in him, And his scent has not changed. 

 12.  "Therefore behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "That I shall send him wine-workers Who will tip him over And empty his vessels And break the bottles. 

 13.  Moab shall be ashamed of Chemosh, As the house of Israel was ashamed of Bethel, their confidence. 

 14.  "How can you say, 'We are mighty And strong men for the war'? 

 15.  Moab is plundered and gone up from her cities; Her chosen young men have gone down to the slaughter," says the King, Whose name is the LORD of hosts. 

 16.  "The calamity of Moab is near at hand, And his affliction comes quickly. 

 17.  Bemoan him, all you who are around him; And all you who know his name, Say, 'How the strong staff is broken, The beautiful rod!' 

 18.  "O daughter inhabiting Dibon, Come down from your glory, And sit in thirst; For the plunderer of Moab has come against you, He has destroyed your strongholds. 

 19.  O inhabitant of Aroer, Stand by the way and watch; Ask him who flees And her who escapes; Say, 'What has happened?' 

 20.  Moab is shamed, for he is broken down. Wail and cry! Tell it in Arnon, that Moab is plundered. 

 21.  "And judgment has come on the plain country: On Holon and Jahzah and Mephaath, 

 22.  On Dibon and Nebo and Beth Diblathaim, 

 23.  On Kirjathaim and Beth Gamul and Beth Meon, 

 24.  On Kerioth and Bozrah, On all the cities of the land of Moab, Far or near.

 The devastation of Moab is divinely appointed and his command to the devastators is not to be negligent, or to spare the sword. Moab’s lifestyle has been careless and negligent, because it has been allowed to live at ease, as the dregs of wine settle at the bottom of the cup, not having been disturbed or poured from cup to cup. Having escaped captivity in the past, now the word speaks of being expatriated. They are to be judged for the complacency of a life of leisure.

 In the future, it will not be so, for, continuing to illustrate with wine and bottles, the prophecy states that they will not only be unsettled, but they will be tipped over, broken and emptied. The god, who seemingly kept them well, Chemosh, will now cause them shame, the Lord comparing him to the calf at Bethel, set up by the first king of northern Israel, Jeroboam. False gods may deceive the people for a time, but in the end, will always bring disgrace. The Moabites are to be judged for their idolatry.

 As is the confidence in idols, so is the trust in strong military defense. Moab fails in this area as well, the best of the soldiers falling before the enemy. With truth, God overthrows the lies of deception. The Lord of armies knows the strengths and strategies of warfare and can give a true report over the relative power of the combating armies. “How can you say we are mighty”… when, “her chosen young men have gone down to the slaughter.” Go to the Lord of hosts for truth. Moab will be judged for the deception of self-confidence and false assurance.

 God’s warnings increase in frequency and intensity, as the calamity nears. The proper response to it is sorrow, pity for the defeated neighbor, bemoaning the brokenness from its former strength and beauty. The observer is to view the nation in a feminine sense, as disaster falls upon the weaker sex, causing more grief, then the suffering of men.

 Dibon, a city built by the tribe of Gad, is on the river Arnon, but will not be able to draw from its waters. It will know thirst, when the enemy comes against it, probably by a siege. On the north bank of the Arnon is Aroer; their citizens stand on the highway, watching the fleeing multitudes and inquire of the reason for their flight. Moab is shamed, broken and plundered. Again, the observer is brought to tears. The sin has been universal and it will be universally judged – cities on the plains, with those on the riversides and in the mountain, as well as the countryside. They are named in the text, from verse 21-24.


(Verses 25-28)

 25. The horn of Moab is cut off, And his arm is broken," says the LORD.

 26.  "Make him drunk, Because he exalted himself against the LORD. Moab shall wallow in his vomit, And he shall also be in derision. 

 27.  For was not Israel a derision to you? Was he found among thieves? For whenever you speak of him, You shake your head in scorn. 

 28.  You who dwell in Moab, Leave the cities and dwell in the rock, And be like the dove which makes her nest In the sides of the cave's mouth. 

 Throughout Scripture, “horn” refers to power, which now is cut off in Moab. It lost its mental and emotional stability, staggering and vomiting like drunkards. The insane exaltation of human beings against their Maker, now is openly on display for all to see and mock.

 Are they worthy of mockery, if they themselves mocked… especially because they derided their nearby neighbors, and they are even more worthy of shame, because they rose against God’s people. Antisemitism sees the Jews, like thieves despised by society. The Jew is hated by the world and thought worthy of the calamity that falls upon him. The ultimate solution, according to the Nazis, was to eliminate them. Moab is to be judged for their mockery of Israel.

 The Moabites are advised to leave their cities and the security of their houses and hide among the rocks. We heard earlier that they should resort to the countryside like a Juniper tree, but here, they should be like doves, that make their nests in the sides of caves. Have you seen photos of great colonies of birds, nesting on cliffs? Imagine the danger to the hatchling, unable to fly, of falling from this perch. So the exposure to the elements, will be safer than the inhabited places for the Moabite population.


(Verses 29 – 34)

 29.  "We have heard the pride of Moab (He is exceedingly proud), Of his loftiness and arrogance and pride, And of the haughtiness of his heart." 

 30.  I know his wrath," says the LORD, "But it is not right; His lies have made nothing right. 

 31.  Therefore I will wail for Moab, And I will cry out for all Moab; I will mourn for the men of Kir Heres. 

 32.  O vine of Sibmah! I will weep for you with the weeping of Jazer. Your plants have gone over the sea, They reach to the sea of Jazer. The plunderer has fallen on your summer fruit and your vintage. 

 33.  Joy and gladness are taken From the plentiful field And from the land of Moab; I have caused wine to fail from the winepresses; No one will tread with joyous shouting—Not joyous shouting! 

 34.  "From the cry of Heshbon to Elealeh and to Jahaz They have uttered their voice, From Zoar to Horonaim, Like a three-year-old heifer; For the waters of Nimrim also shall be desolate. 

Now, the prophecy points to the number one cause of the judgment that comes against it… their pride! God brings down pride, wherever He finds it. He takes steps, leading mankind away from the danger that will destroy him. Even in our salvation, God found a way for us to profit from it, without falling into the deep cavern of pride.  Think of the truth stated in Ephesians 2:8-9: “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” God hates pride and will do whatever is necessary to reduce its influence among His people. After showing that Moab is exceedingly proud, find the synonyms in verse 29 that help define it: loftiness, arrogance, haughtiness. Above all, Moab must be judged for its pride.

 We should learn the meaning, the insanity and obnoxiousness of another related word: Hubris. It means an excessive, disproportionate arrogance, extreme self-confidence, as that, which rises against much superior wisdom or power, such as that of God. A person with hubris must always be right and anyone who challenges must be wrong. It was hubris that brought the fall of Satan: I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God… I will make myself like the Most High’” (Is.14:13,14). It is a word that comes from ancient Greece, and was considered a dangerous character flaw and a fatal shortcoming, causing someone to overstep the boundaries of human limitations.

 The Moabite is deceived by his pride, which makes nothing right. His wrath is provoked by his deceived
opinions. What is Jeremiah’s reaction?: I will wail for Moab… I will cry out… I will mourn. The weeping prophet has learned to grieve over the fate of enemies. He locates and personalizes the enemy, so as to more readily sense compassion for him. They are men of Kir Heres in verse 31 and a vine of Sibmah in verse 32, over which the plunderer has fallen on his hard-earned and desired fruit. Our son, Mike, made an eye-opening observation for me in last Sunday’s message, of Paul before the Sanhedrin. When he fiercely countered the high priest and the people present asked, “Do you revile God’s high priest?” (Ac.23:2-5). Paul proceeded, not only to humbly confess that he was wrong, but provided scriptural evidence of his mistake: “You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.” Amazing! I might provide scriptural evidence, when I am right… But when I am wrong? May God help me to do the same. He will have to, because I don’t think I’m capable of that.

 He continues to provoke sympathy and compassion, imagining them in their fields and vineyards in verse 33. They’ve lost the joy of harvest. The same effort continues in verse 34… he names places, where the Moabites grieve, using an example of an unyoked heifer, who goes lowing, not able to find food or water.


(Verses 35 – 47)

 35.  "Moreover," says the LORD, "I will cause to cease in Moab The one who offers sacrifices in the high places And burns incense to his gods. 

 36.  Therefore My heart shall wail like flutes for Moab, And like flutes My heart shall wail For the men of Kir Heres. Therefore the riches they have acquired have perished. 

  37.  "For every head shall be bald, and every beard clipped; On all the hands shall be cuts, and on the loins sackcloth— 

   38.  A general lamentation On all the housetops of Moab, And in its streets; For I have broken Moab like a vessel in which is no pleasure," says the LORD. 

 39.  "They shall wail: 'How she is broken down! How Moab has turned her back with shame!' So Moab shall be a derision And a dismay to all those about her." 

 40.  For thus says the LORD: "Behold, one shall fly like an eagle, And spread his wings over Moab. 

 41.  Kerioth is taken, And the strongholds are surprised; The mighty men's hearts in Moab on that day shall be Like the heart of a woman in birth pangs. 

 42.  And Moab shall be destroyed as a people, Because he exalted himself against the LORD. 

 43.  Fear and the pit and the snare shall be upon you, O inhabitant of Moab," says the LORD. 

 44.  "He who flees from the fear shall fall into the pit, And he who gets out of the pit shall be caught in the snare. For upon Moab, upon it I will bring The year of their punishment," says the LORD. 

 45.  "Those who fled stood under the shadow of Heshbon Because of exhaustion. But a fire shall come out of Heshbon, A flame from the midst of Sihon, And shall devour the brow of Moab, The crown of the head of the sons of tumult. 

 46.    Woe to you, O Moab! The people of Chemosh perish; For your sons have been taken captive, And your daughters captive. 

 47.  "Yet I will bring back the captives of Moab In the latter days," says the LORD. Thus far is the judgment of Moab.  

The sin of idolatry tears God’s heart, even as His punishment is applied. The only way to stop the hurt, is by bringing the sin to an end. This is the origin of Jeremiah’s weeping. God Himself wails for the suffering and poverty of His created beings. When they suffered in this way in the Middle East in those days, they shaved their heads and their beards, cut their skin and stripped down to their loincloths, as a sign of the barrenness that they felt in their hearts.

 God takes no pleasure in that, which His righteousness causes Him to perform, as He reduces Moab to a people in whom, He cannot find anything that gives satisfaction. They are like a broken vessel, which has no beauty and no use. Moab is broken, ashamed, is derided and is a dismay. She is overtaken like the prey, which cannot escape and is about to feel the claws of an eagle.

 The strongest men will be overcome and will have to submit to the pain of their weakness, like that of a woman, who is about to give birth. Moab will be destroyed, because of his extreme hubris against the infinite power of the Lord. They will experience the snares that they had used to trap animals and birds, they will fall into pits, from which they cannot escape, and become the victims of a fear that they never knew existed. Escape from one will only lead them to another, because the Lord is titling this time “The Year of their Punishment”. Fleeing to a major city for safety, they will find it ablaze.

 Heshbon suffered a defeat by fire, at the hand of the Israelites, before they entered the Promised Land.  They quoted a Moabite proverb at the time, which had failed them: “Therefore those who speak in proverbs say: "Come to Heshbon, let it be built; Let the city of Sihon be repaired” (Nu.21:27). The city was burnt and now would be burned again.

 The word of the Lord declares that their god, Chemosh, has failed them and their defeat proves that it is so. He was not able to protect, those that worshiped him. Yet, wonderfully, the God of all hope, gives hope to these descendants of Lot. It is one of a few countries, to which the Lord has promised a future in the last days. The judgment will reach as far as the prophecy proclaims, and no farther.












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