Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. Jeremiah 49:1-6 (= LXX. Ch. Jeremiah 30:1-5). Prophecy against Ammon
Objections have been urged by Gi. to recognising this prophecy as Jeremianic, while it is of course rejected by many others together with the rest of the prophecies against foreign nations (see introd. note on chs. 46–51). Gi.’s objections, however, may be met to a considerable extent by the hypothesis of later additions to the original utterance. Moreover, as Co. remarks, it is only natural to find a nation so closely connected with Israelitish history included in the list. He himself takes a favourable view of its genuineness in the main.
The Ammonite territory was E. of Jordan, having the portion (Joshua 13:14-28) assigned to Gad (itself E. of Jordan) on its W. When the inhabitants of Gad were carried off by Tiglath-pileser III in b.c. 734 (2 Kings 15:29) the Ammonites doubtless took advantage of the occasion to possess themselves of that region.
The section may be summarized thus.
Jeremiah 49:1-6. Has Israel no heirs of its own, that the people of Milcom possess the cities of Gad? But Rabbah shall yet be laid desolate, and then Israel shall recover its rights. The cities of Ammon may cry out for their god and his priests and people shall be taken captive. Glory not, O rebellious daughter, in thy fertile valley or thy riches. Thou shalt be panic-stricken and driven forth. Yet at the last thou shalt be restored.
Concerning the Ammonites, thus saith the LORD; Hath Israel no sons? hath he no heir? why then doth their king inherit Gad, and his people dwell in his cities?1. Hath Israel no sons?] The style is quite that of Jeremiah (e.g. Jeremiah 2:14).
Malcam] mg. (less well), their king; and so in Jeremiah 49:3. He was the god of Ammon. See 1 Kings 11:5. The word should be written as LXX, Syr., Vulg. Milcom (and so in Jeremiah 49:3).
possess] better, as mg. inherit; so in Jeremiah 49:3.
Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will cause an alarm of war to be heard in Rabbah of the Ammonites; and it shall be a desolate heap, and her daughters shall be burned with fire: then shall Israel be heir unto them that were his heirs, saith the LORD.2. Rabbah] now ‘Ammân, their capital city, on the river Jabbok, fourteen miles N.E. of Heshbon.
a desolate heap] See on Jeremiah 30:18.
her daughters] the minor cities depending on her; so Jeremiah 49:3.
Howl, O Heshbon, for Ai is spoiled: cry, ye daughters of Rabbah, gird you with sackcloth; lament, and run to and fro by the hedges; for their king shall go into captivity, and his priests and his princes together.3. Howl, O Heshbon] Heshbon was a Moabite city (Jeremiah 48:2; Jeremiah 48:34; Jeremiah 48:45), and an Ammonite Ai is otherwise unknown. Hence conjectural emendations are (a) to read (with Co.) for “Heshbon” Ammon (i.e. its inhabitants), and for “Ai” the city, or (b) emending “Ai” as in (a), to read for “Heshbon” (with a considerable change of the word in MT.) the palace (Du.). Neither (a) nor (b) however is quite satisfactory.
among the fences] The Heb. means walls, such as enclose sheepfolds. Probably it needs emendation, and Gi., Du. and Co. all recognise that what we expect is something indicative of mourning. Co.’s conjecture makes the least change in MT., viz. in mourning attire.
Malcam shall go, etc.] See Jeremiah 48:7 and cp. Amos 1:15.
Wherefore gloriest thou in the valleys, thy flowing valley, O backsliding daughter? that trusted in her treasures, saying, Who shall come unto me?4. Wherefore … flowing valley] mg. (scarcely possible), Wherefore gloriest thou in the valleys? thy valley floweth away. Rabbah was on a broad tableland about 2700 feet above the sea, but it was surrounded by hills, so that it could be described as in a vale. “Thy flowing valley” is, however, a strange expression, and in the Hebrew looks like a somewhat corrupted dittography of the previous letters, a conjecture to which the LXX lend a certain amount of support.
backsliding] Cp. in Jeremiah 31:22, referring, however, there to Ephraim. In the case of a heathen people it is less appropriate. Du. suggests an emendation, which gives the sense of arrogant.
Behold, I will bring a fear upon thee, saith the Lord GOD of hosts, from all those that be about thee; and ye shall be driven out every man right forth; and none shall gather up him that wandereth.
And afterward I will bring again the captivity of the children of Ammon, saith the LORD.6. But afterward] Cp. Jeremiah 48:47.
Concerning Edom, thus saith the LORD of hosts; Is wisdom no more in Teman? is counsel perished from the prudent? is their wisdom vanished?7. If Obadiah 1:8 is a later insertion there (so Wellhausen), it may have been introduced from this passage. Eliphaz the Temanite (Job 2:11, etc.) has been thought to illustrate a reputation for wisdom on the part of Teman.
Is wisdom no more in Teman?] This and the succeeding questions are a pointed way of calling attention to the stupefying suddenness and completeness of the calamity.
Teman] a district in the N. of Edom. Cp. Ezekiel 25:13; Amos 1:12.
7–22 (= LXX. Ch. Jeremiah 29:8-23). Prophecy against Edom
The fact that there is a great similarity with Obadiah (Jeremiah 49:7; Jeremiah 49:9-10 a, and 14–16 corresponding respectively with Obadiah 1:8; Obadiah 1:5 f., 1–4) raises a difficult question as to the origin of the passages common to the two prophecies. The two main views are as follows: (a) that both are based on an older prophecy, Ob. preserving a more original form (so Dr., G. A. Smith, and others), and (b) that Ob.’s original work consisted of his Jeremiah 49:1-5; Jeremiah 49:7; Jeremiah 49:10-11; Jeremiah 49:13-15 b, and was not a prophecy of coming ruin, but a description of it as already existent (so Wellhausen, followed by Gi., Du., Co. and others). Ob., as it stands, is evidently (see Jeremiah 49:10 ff.) subsequent to the fall of Jerusalem (b.c. 586). From what we have said above, it follows that the corresponding parts of this section are later, either as an addition to a genuine Jeremianic utterance of the fourth year of Jehoiakim (see introd. note on chs. 46–51), or as forming a part of the section which is wholly post-exilic; the former of these two hypotheses being on the whole preferable. Co. points out the skill with which (on the former hypothesis) the incorporator of the Ob. passages avoided all references (so Obadiah 1:10 ff.) to the overthrow of Jerusalem. The expansion in later times of a Jeremianic prophecy against Edom is a priori likely for reasons similar to those mentioned in introd. note to Jeremiah 48:1-10.
The bitterness of the tone in which Edom is addressed finds parallels in Lamentations 4:21, as also in Psalm 137:7; Ezekiel 25:12-14; Ezekiel 35:15; Obadiah 1:10-16, and is no doubt based upon a sense of the closeness of the tie of kinship between Edom and Israel.
The contents of the section may be summarized as follows.
(i) Jeremiah 49:7-12. Have the prudent of Teman lost their wisdom? Flee into hiding from coming troubles, ye people of Dedan. Ye shall be utterly despoiled. Leave to Jehovah the charge of your widows and orphans. Ye shall yourselves assuredly drink the wine of destruction. (ii) Jeremiah 49:13-22. Bozrah and the other cities shall be laid waste. The nations are summoned to fight against her. She shall be held in contempt, though erst so proud. She shall be brought down from her loftiness and jeered at, overthrown and without inhabitant as were Sodom and Gomorrah. The foe as a lion shall drive her away. Such is Jehovah’s purpose. The far-reaching sound of her fall shall make the earth to tremble. At the swoop of the enemy the anguish of Edom shall be great.
The affinity which existed between the two nations made the unnatural exultation of Edom over the fallen fortunes of the Jews most offensive. See, in addition to the above passages, Amos 1:11, and for an apparent reference to the fulfilment of this prophecy against Edom, Malachi 1:3.
Flee ye, turn back, dwell deep, O inhabitants of Dedan; for I will bring the calamity of Esau upon him, the time that I will visit him.8. dwell deep, O inhabitants of Dedan] See on ch. Jeremiah 25:23. They are bidden to seek an inaccessible hiding-place.
If grapegatherers come to thee, would they not leave some gleaning grapes? if thieves by night, they will destroy till they have enough.9. would they not leave some gleaning grapes?] The v. is based on Obadiah 1:5, but while the general sense is the same, Obadiah contrasts the extremities to which the foe proceeds with the comparative moderation shewn by grape-gatherers or thieves. Here, on the contrary, the enemy’s conduct is directly illustrated by the figures employed, and accordingly we should render as mg.
But I have made Esau bare, I have uncovered his secret places, and he shall not be able to hide himself: his seed is spoiled, and his brethren, and his neighbours, and he is not.10. Parallel with Obadiah 1:6, which (as 8; see on Jeremiah 49:7 above) is probably an insertion from this passage, where it fits the context much better; especially if, with mg. we introduce, as we should, the v. by For.
his secret places] the retreats and fastnesses of Edom.
his seed … he is not] For metrical reasons we should shorten this part of the v., reading, e.g. with Co. (who points out that “his seed is spoiled” is inconsistent with Jeremiah 49:11), “he is spoiled and is not.”
Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows trust in me.11. A remarkable v. and decidedly Jeremianic in character, as compared with the attitude which later days would have assumed towards an enemy so bitterly hated. On the other hand, it is extremely abrupt in the midst of denunciation. We may take it as meaning, Fathers and husbands are dead, but Jehovah will protect children and widows.
For thus saith the LORD; Behold, they whose judgment was not to drink of the cup have assuredly drunken; and art thou he that shall altogether go unpunished? thou shalt not go unpunished, but thou shalt surely drink of it.12. they to whom it pertained not] for the metaphor See on Jeremiah 13:12, Jeremiah 25:15.
For I have sworn by myself, saith the LORD, that Bozrah shall become a desolation, a reproach, a waste, and a curse; and all the cities thereof shall be perpetual wastes.13. Bozrah] perhaps Busaireh, twenty miles S.E. of the Dead Sea. See on ch. Jeremiah 48:20-24.
I have heard a rumour from the LORD, and an ambassador is sent unto the heathen, saying, Gather ye together, and come against her, and rise up to the battle.14–18. These vv. are parallel to Obadiah 1:1-4, whence they are borrowed; see introd. note.
For, lo, I will make thee small among the heathen, and despised among men.
Thy terribleness hath deceived thee, and the pride of thine heart, O thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, that holdest the height of the hill: though thou shouldest make thy nest as high as the eagle, I will bring thee down from thence, saith the LORD.16. As for thy terribleness] The text is probably corrupt, but no certain emendation has been suggested. If it stands, we must take the sense to be O thy trembling, i.e. either (a) how wilt thou tremble at the greatness of thy fall! or (b) how will the lookers on tremble at the horror of this sight! The Hebrew noun is absent from Ob. and is not found elsewhere.
the rock] mg. Sela. See 2 Kings 14:7. Sela was perhaps identical with Petra, which “lay in an amphitheatre of mountains, accessible only through the narrow gorge, called the Sik, winding in with precipitous sides from the W.; and the mountain sides round Petra, and the ravines about it, contain innumerable rock-hewn cavities, some being tombs, but others dwellings, in which the ancient inhabitants lived.” Dr. See also G. A. Smith, The Book of the Twelve Prophets, II. 179. Petra was fifty miles S. of the Dead Sea.
the eagle] See on Jeremiah 4:13.
Also Edom shall be a desolation: every one that goeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss at all the plagues thereof.17. Cp. Jeremiah 19:8.
As in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbour cities thereof, saith the LORD, no man shall abide there, neither shall a son of man dwell in it.18. Sodom and Gomorrah] The comparison appears to be taken from Deuteronomy 29:23, where the neighbour cities are mentioned by name (Admah and Zeboiim). See Genesis 10:19; Genesis 14:2; Genesis 14:8; Deuteronomy 29:23. The v. recurs in Jeremiah 50:40.
Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the swelling of Jordan against the habitation of the strong: but I will suddenly make him run away from her: and who is a chosen man, that I may appoint over her? for who is like me? and who will appoint me the time? and who is that shepherd that will stand before me?19. he shall come up] viz. the enemy who is to prevail over Edom.
like a lion] Cp. Jeremiah 4:7.
pride] better than mg. swelling. See on ch. Jeremiah 12:5.
against the strong habitation] mg. unto the permanent pastures. See on Jeremiah 23:3. We may either explain here, homestead whose surroundings have made it appear lasting, or (emending MT. with Du. and Co.) pasture of rams, or of sheep.
but I will suddenly … appoint over her] obscure. Co. (cp. mg.) emends to “so will I suddenly drive them away, and their choice rams will I visit,” i.e. their flocks shall be seized, as the end of the v. suggests. The flock is the people and the shepherd their ruler. Cp. Jeremiah 25:34 ff.
appoint me a time] i.e. claim the power of protesting against God’s decision. Cp. Job 9:19.
19–21. These vv. recur with variations in Jeremiah 50:44-46.
Therefore hear the counsel of the LORD, that he hath taken against Edom; and his purposes, that he hath purposed against the inhabitants of Teman: Surely the least of the flock shall draw them out: surely he shall make their habitations desolate with them.20. they shall drag … of the flock] mg. is scarcely intelligible. The figure is that of dogs or other fierce beasts seizing the most helpless of the sheep. Cp. Jeremiah 15:3. But Du. followed by Co. understands the meaning to be that shepherd lads (instead of “little ones of the flock”) shall be dragged away.
habitation] homestead. See on Jeremiah 49:19.
The earth is moved at the noise of their fall, at the cry the noise thereof was heard in the Red sea.
Behold, he shall come up and fly as the eagle, and spread his wings over Bozrah: and at that day shall the heart of the mighty men of Edom be as the heart of a woman in her pangs.22. Cp. Jeremiah 48:40.
Concerning Damascus. Hamath is confounded, and Arpad: for they have heard evil tidings: they are fainthearted; there is sorrow on the sea; it cannot be quiet.23. Damascus] Damascus was for a long time held by a powerful dynasty of kings, who reduced the other cities under their own sway.
Hamath] Hama, on the Orontes, 110 miles N. of Damascus.
Arpad] Tell-Erfad, 95 miles N. of Hamath, and often mentioned (e.g. 2 Kings 18:34; 2 Kings 19:13; Isaiah 10:9) along with it. Both names occur frequently on Assyrian monuments.
sorrow (mg. care) on the sea] The mention of “sea” (perhaps arising from the influence of Isaiah 57:20) is quite unsuitable topographically to this context. Co. emends to “they are melted away there from care.” But Dr.’s emendation is better, viz. because of care, like the sea, they cannot rest.
23–27 (= LXX. Ch. Jeremiah 30:12-16). Prophecy against Damascus
This section is rejected even by some commentators (e.g. Co.) who admit portions of chs. 46–51 as genuine. The main objection adduced is the emphasis laid on Hamath and Arpad (Jeremiah 49:23), combined with the absence of these two cities from the vision in ch. Jeremiah 25:18 ff. Still this hardly justifies us in dismissing the whole section as later than Jeremiah’s time, as Jeremiah 49:26-27 may easily be an addition to the original form, the former as borrowed from Jeremiah 50:30, where it fits better, the latter as closely connected with the refrain, Amos 1:4; Amos 1:10; Amos 1:12; Amos 1:14; Amos 2:5.
The section may be summarized thus. Hamath and Arpad are terror-stricken. Damascus turns in alarm to flee. She is empty of succour. Her warriors within her are fallen, and Benhadad’s palaces shall be burnt.
Damascus is waxed feeble, and turneth herself to flee, and fear hath seized on her: anguish and sorrows have taken her, as a woman in travail.
How is the city of praise not left, the city of my joy!25. not forsaken] The negative quite reverses the sense we should expect. Accordingly Du. and Co., emending the MT., render respectively, “Woe to her!” and “Woe to me!” continuing, “For the city of praise is forsaken.”
the city of my joy] We should probably, with several Versions, omit the pronoun, and so put the words in the mouth of the prophet, and not of an inhabitant of the doomed city.
Therefore her young men shall fall in her streets, and all the men of war shall be cut off in that day, saith the LORD of hosts.26, 27. See introd. note. “Therefore” (Jeremiah 49:26) is quite unsuitable here, while fitting the connexion in Jeremiah 50:30.
And I will kindle a fire in the wall of Damascus, and it shall consume the palaces of Benhadad.27. I will kindle a fire] Cp. Numbers 21:28; Deuteronomy 32:22. Benhadad (son of Hadad) was the name of several kings of Syria.
palaces] See on Jeremiah 6:5.
Concerning Kedar, and concerning the kingdoms of Hazor, which Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon shall smite, thus saith the LORD; Arise ye, go up to Kedar, and spoil the men of the east.28. Kedar] See on ch. Jeremiah 2:10.
kingdoms of Hazor] Hazor elsewhere is the name of towns in Palestine, but here “is probably a collective term, derived from ḥâẓêr, a ‘village,’ denoting Arab tribes living in fixed settlements or ‘villages,’ ” Dr., as opposed to nomadic life alluded to in Jeremiah 49:29 (“curtains”). Cp. Isaiah 42:11.
children of the east] Arabian tribes E. of Palestine.
28–33 (= LXX. Ch. Jeremiah 30:6-11). Prophecy against Kedar and Hazor
28–33. This utterance, like the last, is rejected by Gi. and Co., though accepted, at any rate as containing a genuine element, by Kuenen, Erbt, and others. As elsewhere in these oracles, there have doubtless been later additions (see on 31 f.); but the reference to Dedan and Tema, tribes in the N. of Arabia, in Jeremiah 25:23, would of itself lead us to expect a prophecy of this kind on Jeremiah’s part, a conclusion which receives support from the mention of Nebuchadrezzar in Jeremiah 49:28; Jeremiah 49:36, although this may be due to a writer’s intentional projection of himself into Jeremiah’s time.
This section may be divided into two subsections, which closely correspond in length, sense, and structure. Each consists of three verses, and the three consecutive thoughts in each are (i) a summons of the enemy to the attack, (ii) a promise of booty, (iii) an intimation that safety would be procured only by flight.
Their tents and their flocks shall they take away: they shall take to themselves their curtains, and all their vessels, and their camels; and they shall cry unto them, Fear is on every side.29. curtains] i.e. tent-hangings. See on ch. Jeremiah 4:20.
Terror on every side] See on ch. Jeremiah 6:25.
Flee, get you far off, dwell deep, O ye inhabitants of Hazor, saith the LORD; for Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon hath taken counsel against you, and hath conceived a purpose against you.30. dwell deep] See on Jeremiah 49:8, whence the expression may be borrowed. It is less suitable to the wandering tribes of Bedawin here addressed.
Arise, get you up unto the wealthy nation, that dwelleth without care, saith the LORD, which have neither gates nor bars, which dwell alone.31. Arise] addressed to the enemies of these tribes.
Three grounds of encouragement are given to the invading army, (a) the people have felt hitherto secure against attack, (b) they have no walled towns, (c) they have no powerful neighbours, from whom to seek aid.
which dwell alone] considering themselves immune from invasion. For the expression in this sense cp. Deuteronomy 33:28; Psalm 4:8 (R.V. mg.).
31, 32. These vv. are in all probability a later addition, influenced by Ezekiel 38:11.
And their camels shall be a booty, and the multitude of their cattle a spoil: and I will scatter into all winds them that are in the utmost corners; and I will bring their calamity from all sides thereof, saith the LORD.32. that have the corners of their hair polled] See on ch. Jeremiah 9:26.
And Hazor shall be a dwelling for dragons, and a desolation for ever: there shall no man abide there, nor any son of man dwell in it.33. jackals] See on ch. Jeremiah 9:11.
The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet against Elam in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, saying,34. Elam] now (approximately) Chuzistan, a country E. of the southern portion of Babylonia.
34–39 (= LXX. Chs. Jeremiah 25:14 to Jeremiah 26:1.). Prophecy against Elam
Here, as elsewhere in the group, the genuineness of this section is largely questioned. Even Rothstein, who is a decidedly conservative critic on the whole, rejects it. Co. on the other hand maintains that there is in it a Jeremianic kernel, expanded later. Gi. assigns its date to the time when Babylon had been overthrown by Persia. Sayce (HDB. I. 676) thinks that it has reference to the conquest of Anzan (one of the two ruling cities in Elam) by Teispes the Persian, the ancestor of Cyrus. Peake points out that the date assigned to it in Jeremiah 49:34, as differing from that prefixed to the group (Jeremiah 46:1-2), is itself in support of its genuineness, while the change in the situation in the course of the eight years (between the fourth year of Jehoiakim and the accession of Zedekiah [b.c. 604–597]) would naturally bring about a much greater interest in Elam, which, though distant from Palestine, was not by any means so far from Babylon and those who had meantime been deported there with Jehoiachin.
The section may be summarized thus. Elam’s bow shall be broken. She shall be scattered in flight among all nations, and pursued by Divine wrath till she is consumed, while Jehovah shall rule supreme in Elam. Yet in the end she shall return.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will break the bow of Elam, the chief of their might.35. the bow of Elam] For Elam’s prowess with the bow cp. Isaiah 22:6.
And upon Elam will I bring the four winds from the four quarters of heaven, and will scatter them toward all those winds; and there shall be no nation whither the outcasts of Elam shall not come.36. Co. with considerable probability holds this v. to be the work of a supplementer, as being an interruption to the order of thought (when compared with the succeeding v.) and as suggested by Ezekiel 5:10; Ezekiel 5:12; Ezekiel 12:14, and also by Ezekiel 37:9.
For I will cause Elam to be dismayed before their enemies, and before them that seek their life: and I will bring evil upon them, even my fierce anger, saith the LORD; and I will send the sword after them, till I have consumed them:
And I will set my throne in Elam, and will destroy from thence the king and the princes, saith the LORD.38. set my throne in] sit in judgement upon. Cp. Jeremiah 1:15, Jeremiah 43:10.
But it shall come to pass in the latter days, that I will bring again the captivity of Elam, saith the LORD.