Jeremiah 49:3
Howl, O Heshbon, for Ai is spoiled: cry, you 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.
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(3) Howl, O Heshbon, for Ai is spoiled.—Heshbon has appeared in Jeremiah 48:2; Jeremiah 48:45, as connected with the fortunes of Moab, but it was strictly an Ammonite city. The “Ai” here is obviously not the city near Jericho of Joshua 8:28, and unless we assume an error in the text (“Ai” for “Ar”= city), we must infer the existence of a Trans-jordanic city of the same name.

Run to and fro by the hedges.—Hedges, in the English sense of the word, have never been common in the East, and the word here denotes either the palings round the sheep-folds, or the walls round the vineyards of the villages that are described as the “daughters of Rabbah.” The word is never used for the walls of a city, but appears in Numbers 22:24; Numbers 32:16; Numbers 32:24; Numbers 32:36 in the sense of “sheep-folds.”

Their king shall go into captivity.—Better, as before, Melcom. As in Jeremiah 48:7, the captivity of the national deity with his priests (the fact that they are named is decisive as to the meaning) involves the captivity of the people.

Jeremiah 49:3. Howl, O Heshbon, for Ai is spoiled — This “Ai must be a different city from that taken by Joshua, chap. 8., which lay on the west side of Jordan. Grotius mentions another city, called Gaia by Ptolemy; which, being near Heshbon, the destruction of it was matter of concern to the neighbouring city.” Lament, and run to and fro by the hedges — Try to hide yourselves in the thickets, and remove from one place to another, for fear of being discovered. But by גדרות, here rendered hedges, Blaney thinks, are meant, “those fences or enclosures round the lesser towns, which served to secure them against thieves and robbers, but were not dignified with the name of walls, capable of resisting the attack of a regular enemy.” The psalmist, he supposes, distinguishes these from the fortifications of cities, Psalm 89:40, terming the former גדרתיו, his fences, and the latter מבצריו, his strong holds, or walled fortresses. According to this interpretation, therefore, the prophet here foretels that “the inhabitants of the lesser towns should run to and fro, like persons distracted with fear, within their enclosures, not daring to step beyond them, lest they should fall in with the enemy, whose approach they dreaded.” For their king — Or, Milcom, their idol; shall go into captivity, and his priests and princes together — “Here the same is said of Milcom,” says Blaney, “as was of Chemosh, chap. Jeremiah 48:7, which shows that the word is properly used as the name of the Ammonitish idol.”49:1-6. Might often prevails against right among men, yet that might shall be controlled by the Almighty, who judges aright; and those will find themselves mistaken, who, like the Ammonites, think every thing their own on which they can lay their hands. The Lord will call men to account for every instance of dishonesty, especially to the destitute.Ai - Not the town on the west of the Jordan Joshua 7:2; a place not mentioned elsewhere. For Ai some read Ar.

Hedges - Fields were not divided by hedges until recent times; the term probably means the walls which enclose the vineyards Numbers 22:24.

3. Heshbon … Ai—Nebuchadnezzar, coming from the north, first attacked Ammon, then its brother and neighbor, Moab. As Ai of Ammon had already suffered destruction, Heshbon of Moab being near it might well fear the same fate.

hedges—Their cities being destroyed, the outcasts have no place of shelter save behind the "hedges" of vineyards and gardens; or else the enclosures of their villages.

their king—Melchom, the idol, as the mention of "his priests" shows (compare Jer 48:7).

Heshbon was formerly a city of the Amorites, of whom Sihon was king, who resided here (but it appears by Jeremiah 49:26 that it was taken from Moab); it is probable that it was at this time a city of Moab: the prophet calls to them to howl

for Ai a city of the Ammonites, not the same mentioned Joshua 7:2, for that was on the other side of Jordan. It is uncertain whether by the

daughters of Rabbah be to be understood other lesser cities, or the younger women that inhabited Rabbah: he calls to them all to mourn; and for all the indications or signs of mourning, such as girding with sackcloth, running up and down, like persons distracted, by the hedges, where they might be hidden, and not so easily seen. For they shall all go together into captivity; their Melcom, which may signify their idol to whom they gave that name, or their

king, or else their supreme magistrate, with their

priests and nobles, all orders of persons. Howl, O Heshbon,.... Which was a city of Moab, though it formerly belonged to the Amorites; see Jeremiah 48:2; it was upon the border of Ammon, and near to Ai, now destroyed; and therefore is called upon to howl and lament, because its destruction also was near at hand, and might be expected; hence Kimchi gathers, that the Ammonites were destroyed before the Moabites: but some have thought that Heshbon was a double city, divided by a river, which ran through it; and that that city which was on one side of the river belonged to Moab, and that on the other side to Ammon:

for Ai is spoiled; not that which was near Jericho in the land of Canaan, but a city in the land of Ammon, thought to be the Gaia of Ptolemy; this seems to be the first city in the country of Ammon that Nebuchadnezzar would lay waste:

cry, ye daughters of Rabbah; the royal city before mentioned; See Gill on Jeremiah 49:2; either the inhabitants of it, particularly the women, especially the younger women, who would be in the utmost distress on hearing the enemy was so near them, and what had befallen Ai; or the villages about Rabbah, as Kimchi interprets it; that is, as the Targum,

"the inhabitants of the villages of Rabbah:''

gird ye with sackcloth; as a token of calamity and mourning for it, as was usual:

lament, and run to and fro by the hedges; which Jarchi, Kimchi, and Ben Melech, understand of the enclosures or fences of villages, like those of gardens, fields, and folds, in distinction from walls of cities, and fortified places; but rather it signifies the hedges in the fields, whither, being drove from their habitations, they would seek unto for shelter, and run about among them for safety, lamenting their unhappy case:

for their king shall go into captivity; be taken and carried captive; either their principal governor; or rather Milcom their god, since it follows:

and his priests and his princes together; both such as offered sacrifices to him, and attended on and supported his worship: the same is said of Chemosh, the god of the Moabites, Jeremiah 48:7.

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.Verse 3. - Heshbon. Here mentioned as de jure a Gadite, but de facto an Ammonitish, town; in Numbers 21:26 it appears as "the city of Sihon" the Amorite. In Isaiah 15:4 and Isaiah 16:9 it is reckoned to the Moabites. There was a continual warfare between the neigh-bouring tribes of Reuben and Gad on the one hand, and the Moabites and Ammonites on the other. Let Heshbon lament, because Ai is spoiled. The introduction of At, which is only known to us as a Canaanitish town, near Bethel, on the wrong side of the Jordan for Moab, is startling. It is replied that we have no list of the Ammonitish cities, and that there may have been another town named At. The reply is valid; but loaves a second difficulty untouched, viz. that the mention of a third place destroys the continuity of thought. First, we are made acquainted with the fall of Rabbah; then Heshbon (probably the second place in the country) is called upon to wail because x has been taken by storm; then the populations of the "daughter" cities are summoned to join in the lamentation over Rabbah; - is it not reasonable to conclude that the subject of the mourning is one and the same? Now, it is well known that the received text abounds in small errors arising from the confusion of similar Hebrew letters, and that among the letters most easily confounded are yod and resh. Is it not an obvious conclusion that for Ai we should rather read Ar ("the city"), a name as suitable for the capital of Ammon as for that of Moab? It is true that we have no example elsewhere of Rabbah being called by the name of Ar; but in 2 Samuel 10:3, 14 it is described as "the city," and we have to be on our guard against the argument a silentio - that favourite weapon of destructive criticism! Since a conjecture must be made, it is more respectful to the prophet to choose the one which is most suitable to the context. Daughters of Rabbah; i.e. unwalled towns (as in ver. 2). Run to and fro by the hedges; rather, by the enclosures; i.e. wander about in the open country, seeking a lodging place in the enclosures of the sheepfolds (so Numbers 32:24, Hebrew) or the vineyards (so Numbers 22:24, Hebrew). Their king; or, Milcom (see on ver. 1). No escape from destruction. - Jeremiah 48:39. "How it is broken! they howl. How hath Moab turned the back, for shame! And Moab becomes a laughing-stock and a terror to all his neighbours. Jeremiah 48:40. For thus saith Jahveh: Behold, he shall fly like the eagle, and spread his wings over Moab. Jeremiah 48:41. Kerioth is taken, and the strongholds are seized, and the heart of the heroes of Moab on that day become like the heart of a travailing woman. Jeremiah 48:42. And Moab is destroyed from being a people, because he hath boasted against Jahveh. Jeremiah 48:43. Fear, and a pit, and a snare, are against thee, O inhabitants of Moab, saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 48:44. He who flees from the fear shall fall into the pit, and he who goes up out of the pit shall be taken in the snare; for I will bring against it, against Moab, the year of their recompense, saith Jahveh."

The subject of חתּה in Jeremiah 48:39 is Moab viewed as a nation. הילילוּ might be imperative, but in this case we would be obliged to take בּושׁ also as an imperative (as Hitzig and Graf do). It is simpler to take both forms as perfects: "they howl...Moab turns the back, is ashamed" ( equals for shame). On היה לשׂחק, cf. Jeremiah 48:26. מחתּה, object of terror, as in Jeremiah 17:17. "All who are round about him," as in Jeremiah 48:17. "For (Jeremiah 48:40) the enemy rushes down upon Moab like an eagle, and seizes Kerioth and all his strongholds." The subject is left unnamed, as in Jeremiah 46:18, but it is Nebuchadnezzar. The figure of the eagle, darting down in flight on its prey, is founded on Deuteronomy 28:49 (on אל- for על, cf. Jeremiah 49:22). Kerioth, the capital, is taken (see on Jeremiah 48:24); so are the other strongholds or fastnesses of the country. The mere fact that קריּות has the article does not justify any one in taking it as an appellative, "the cities;" this appears from a comparison of Amos 2:2 with this verse. No plural of קריה occurs anywhere. Then the fear of death falls on the heroes of Moab like a woman in labour. מצרה, partic. Hiphil from צרר, uterum comprimens, is found only here and in Jeremiah 49:22, where the figure is repeated. Moab is annihilated, so that it is no longer a nation (cf. Jeremiah 48:2), because it has risen up in pride against the God of Israel; cf. Jeremiah 48:26. He who flees from one danger falls into the other. The play on the words פּחד, fear, horror, פּחת, pit, and פּח, spring-trap, as well as the mode in which it is carried out, is taken from Isaiah 24:17., - a prophecy of the judgment on the world; see a similar idea presented in Amos 5:19, but somewhat differently expressed. The Kethib הניס, perfect Hiphil, "he flees," is less suitable than the Qeri הנּס (after Isaiah). The last clause, "for I will bring," etc., is quite in Jeremiah's peculiar style; cf. Jeremiah 4:23; Jeremiah 23:12. אליה belongs to אל־מואב: the noun is anticipated by the pronoun, as frequently occurs; cf. Jeremiah 9:14; Jeremiah 41:3; Jeremiah 43:11.

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