Zephaniah 2:9
Therefore as I live, saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, even the breeding of nettles, and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation: the residue of my people shall spoil them, and the remnant of my people shall possess them.
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2:4-15 Those are really in a woful condition who have the word of the Lord against them, for no word of his shall fall to the ground. God will restore his people to their rights, though long kept from them. It has been the common lot of God's people, in all ages, to be reproached and reviled. God shall be worshipped, not only by all Israel, and the strangers who join them, but by the heathen. Remote nations must be reckoned with for the wrongs done to God's people. The sufferings of the insolent and haughty in prosperity, are unpitied and unlamented. But all the desolations of flourishing nations will make way for the overturning Satan's kingdom. Let us improve our advantages, and expect the performance of every promise, praying that our Father's name may be hallowed every where, over all the earth.Therefore as I live, saith the Lord of hosts - Life especially belongs to God, since He Alone is Underived Life. "He hath life in Himself" John 5:26. He is entitled "the living God," as here, in tacit contrast with the dead idols of the Philistines 1 Samuel 17:26, 1 Samuel 17:36, with idols generally Jeremiah 10:10; or against the blasphemies of Sennacherib 2 Kings 19:4, 2 Kings 19:16, the mockeries of scoffers Jeremiah 23:36, of the awe of His presence (Deuteronomy 5:25 (Deuteronomy 5:26 in Hebrew)), His might for His people Joshua 3:10; as the object of the soul's longings , the nearness in the Gospel, "children of the living God" (Hosea 1:10 (Hosea 2:1 in Hebrew)). "Since He can swear by no greater, He sware by Himself" Hebrews 6:13. Since mankind are ready mostly to believe that God means well with them, but are slow to think that He is in earnest in His threats, God employs this sanction of what He says, twice only in regard to His promises or His mercy Isaiah 49:18; Ezekiel 33:10; everywhere else to give solemnity to His threats Numbers 14:28; Deuteronomy 32:40, (adding לעולס) Jeremiah 22:24; Ezekiel 5:11; Ezekiel 14:16, Ezekiel 14:18, Ezekiel 14:20; Ezekiel 16:48; (as Judge) Ezekiel 17:16, Ezekiel 17:19; Ezekiel 18:3; (in rebuke) Ezekiel 20:3, Ezekiel 20:31, Ezekiel 20:33; Ezekiel 33:27; Ezekiel 34:8; Ezekiel 35:11. In the same sense, I swear by Myself, Jeremiah 22:5; Jeremiah 49:13; hath sworn by Himself, Amos 6:8; by the excellency of Jacob, Amos 8:7). The appeal to the truth of His own being in support of the truth of His words is part of the grandeur el the prophet Ezekiel in whom it chiefly occurs. God says in the same meaning, by Myself have I sworn, of promises which required strong faith .

Saith the Lord of Hosts - Their blasphemies had denied the very being of God, as God, to whom they preferred or likened their idols; they had denied His power or that He could avenge, so He names His Name of power, "the Lord of the hosts" of heaven against their array against His border, I, "the Lord of hosts" who can fulfill what I threaten, and "the God of Israel" who Myself am wronged in My people, will make "Moab as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah." Sodom and Gomorrah had once been flourishing cities, on the borders of that land, which Israel had won from the Amorite, and of which Moab and Ammon at different times possessed themselves, and to secure which Ammon carried on that exterminating war. For they were to the east of the plain "between Bethel and Ai," where Lot made his choice, "in the plain or circle of Jordan" Genesis 13:1, Genesis 13:3, Genesis 13:11, the well known title of the tract, through which the Jordan flowed into the Dead Sea. Near this, lay Zoar, (Ziara) beneath the caves whither Lot, at whose prayer it had been spared, escaped from its wickedness.

Moab and Ammon had settled and in time spread from the spot, wherein their forefathers had received their birth. Sodom, at least, must have been in that part of the plain, which is to the east of the Jordan, since Lot was bidden to flee to the mountains, with his wife and daughters, and there is no mention of the river, which would have been a hindrance Genesis 19:17-23. Then it lay probably in that "broad belt of desolation" in the plain of Shittim, as Gomorrah and others of the Pentapolis may have lain in "the sulphur-sprinkled expanse" between El Riha (on the site of Jericho) and the dead sea, "covered with layers of salt and gypsum which overlie the loamy subsoil, literally, fulfilling the descriptions of Holy Writ (says an eye-witness), "Brimstone and salt and burning, that it is not sown nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein" Deuteronomy 29:23 : "a fruitful land turned into salthess" Psalm 107:34. "No man shall abide there, neither shall a son of man dwell in it" Jeremiah 49:18. An elaborate system of artificial irrigation was carried through that cis-Jordanic tract, which decayed when it was desolated of man, and that desolation prevents its restoration.

The doom of Moab and Ammon is rather of entire destruction beyond all recovery, than of universal barrenness. For the imagery, that it should be the "breeding" (literally, 'possession') "of nettles" would not be literally compatible, except in different localities, with that of "saltpits," which exclude all vegetation. Yet both are united in Moab. The soil continues, as of old, of exuberant fertility; yet in part, from the utter neglect and insecurity of agriculture it is abandoned to a rank and encumbering vegetation; elsewhere, from the neglect of the former artiticial system of irrigation, it is wholly barren. The plant named is one of rank growth, since outcasts could lie concealed under it Job 30:7. The preponderating authority seems to be for "mollach," the Bedouin name of the "mallow," Prof. E. H. Palmer says , "which," he adds, "I have seen growing in rank luxuriance in Moab, especially in the sides of deserted Arab camps."

The residue of My people shall spoil them, and the remnant of My people shall possess them - Again, a remnant only, but even these shall prevail against them, as was first fulfilled in Judas Maccabaeus (1 Macc. 5:6-8).

9. the breeding of nettles—or, the overspreading of nettles, that is, a place overrun with them.

salt pits—found at the south of the Dead Sea. The water overflows in the spring, and salt is left by the evaporation. Salt land is barren (Jud 9:45; Ps 107:34, Margin).

possess them—that is, their land; in retribution for their having occupied Judah's land.

As I live; the most solemn oath, fit for none but God himself to use: see Ezekiel 14:16.

Saith the Lord of hosts, who have all things at my disposal, and can arm all creatures against these proud revilers.

The God of Israel, who by covenant am Israel’s God, and Israel is my people, in whose reproaches I am reproached.

Shall be as Sodom: this is a proverbial speech in Scripture phrase to speak great destruction, as Isaiah 1:9. Moab and Ammon were not destroyed by fire, as Sodom and Gomorrah; but the next words are an explication of these.

The breeding of nettles; not cultivated, but run over with nettles, as if it were only to breed them.

And salt-pits; a salt, dry, barren earth, fit only to dig salt out of.

A perpetual desolation; never more to be manured and inhabited, or not for a long, a very long time.

The residue; either the few left with Gedaliah, or the remnant that returned out of Babylon.

Shall spoil them; provoked by the injuries of Moab and Ammon, shall take arms, overcome, and spoil them.

Shall possess them; settle upon their lands, and dwell in those parts that are fit for habitation.

Therefore as I live, saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel,.... The Lord here swears by himself, by his life; partly to show how provoked he was at, and how grievously he resented, the injuries done to his people; and partly to observe the certain fulfilment of what is after declared; and it might be depended upon it would surely be done, not only because of his word and oath, which are immutable; but because of his ability to do it, as "the Lord of hosts", of armies above and below; and because of the covenant relation that subsisted between him and Israel, being their God; and therefore would avenge the insults and injuries done them:

surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah; that is, should be utterly destroyed, as these cities were; whose destruction is often made use of to express the utter ruin and destruction of any other people; otherwise it is not to be supposed that these countries were to be destroyed, or were destroyed, in like manner, by fire from heaven; the similitude lies in other things after expressed:

even the breeding of nettles; or "left to nettles" (q); or rather to "thorns", as the Targum: and so the Vulgate Latin version renders it "the dryness of thorns", though to a very poor sense. In general the meaning of the phrase is, that those countries should be very barren and desolate, like such places as are overrun with nettles, thorns, briers, and brambles; and these so thick, that there is no passing through them without a man's tearing his garments and his flesh: for Schultens (r), from the use of the word (s) in the Arabic language, shows that the words are to be rendered a "thicket of thorns which tear"; and cut the feet of those that pass through them; and even their whole body, as well as their clothes; and, wherever these grow in such plenty, it is a plain sign of a barren land, as well as what follow:

and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation; signifying that the countries of Moab and Ammon should be waste, barren, and uncultivated, as the above places were, where nothing but nettles grew, as do in great abundance in desolate places; and where saltpits should be, or heaps of salt, as Kimchi interprets it; and wherever salt is found, as Pliny (t) says, it is a barren place, and produces nothing; though Herodotus (u) speaks of places where were hillocks of salt, and very fruitful; and where the people used salt in manuring and improving their ground; which must be accounted for by the difference of climate and soil: this passage is produced by Reland (w) to prove that the lake Asphaltites is not the place, as is commonly believed, where Sodom and Gomorrah stood; since those cities were not overflown, or immersed in and covered with water, but were destroyed by fire and brimstone, and so became desolate; and had no herbs and plants, but nettles, and such like things; and such these countries of Moab and Ammon should be, and ever remain so, at least for a long time; and especially should be desolate and uninhabited by the former possessors of it; see Deuteronomy 29:23 this was fulfilled about five years after the destruction of Jerusalem, when Nebuchadnezzar, as Josephus (x) relates, led his army into Coelesyria, and made war upon the Ammonites and Moabites, and subjected them to him, who were the inhabitant of it, as the same writer says (y):

the residue of my people shall spoil them, and the remnant of my people shall possess them; that is, the Jews, the remnant of them that returned from Babylon: now these, in the times of the Maccabees, and those that descended from them, seized on several places in these countries, and possessed them; for, after these countries had been subdued and made desolate by Nebuchadnezzar, they became considerable nations again. Josephus (z) says the Moabites in his time were a great nation; though in the third century, as Origen (a) relates, they went under the common name of Arabians; and, even long before the times of Josephus, they were called Arabian Moabites, as he himself observes; when he tells us that Alexander Jannaeus subdued them, and imposed a tribute on them; and who also gives us an account of the cities of the Moabites, which were taken and demolished by them, as Essebon, Medaba, Lemba, Oronas, Telithon, Zara, the valley of the Cilicians, and Pella; these he destroyed, because the inhabitants would not promise to conform to the rites and customs of the Jews (b); though Josephus ben Gorion, who also makes mention of these cities as taken by the same prince, says (c) he did not demolish them, because they entered into a covenant and were circumcised; and he speaks of ten fortified cities of the king of Syria, added at the same time to the kingdom of Israel, not destroyed: likewise the children of Ammon, after their captivity by Nebuchadnezzar, became a powerful people: we read of the country of the Ammonites in

"Then Jason, who had undermined his own brother, being undermined by another, was compelled to flee into the country of the Ammonites.'' (2 Maccabees 4:26)

and, in the times of Judas Maccabeus, Timotheus, their general, got together a strong and numerous army, which being worsted by Judas, he took their city Jasoron, or Jaser,

"Afterward he passed over to the children of Ammon, where he found a mighty power, and much people, with Timotheus their captain.'' (1 Maccabees 5:6)

carried their wives and children captive, and burnt their city (d); and this people, as well as the Moabites in the third century, as before observed, were swallowed up under the general name of Arabians; and neither of them are any more; all which has fulfilled this prophecy, and those of Jeremiah and Amos concerning them: this, likewise, in a spiritual sense, might have a further accomplishment in the first times of the Gospel, when it was preached in these countries by the apostles, and churches were formed in them; and may be still further accomplished in the latter day, when those parts of the world shall be possessed by converted Jews and by Gentile Christians. Kimchi owns it may be interpreted as future, of what shall be in the times of the Messiah.

(q) "locus urticae derelictus", Bochart. Hierozoic. par. 1. col. 872. Stockius, p. 629.; "derelictio urticae", Burkius. So R. Sol. Urbin. Ohel Moed, fol. 68. 2.((r) De Defect. Hodiern. Ling. Heb. p. 32. (s) "laceravit, laceratus est", Golius, col. 2231. Castel. col. 2165. (t) Nat. Hist. l. 31. c. 7. "Salsa autem tellus----frugibus infelix." Virgil. Georgic. l. 2.((u) Melpomene, sive l. 4. c. 182, 183. (w) Palestina Illustrata, l. 1. c. 38. p. 254, 255. (x) Antiqu. l. 10. c. 9. sect. 7. (y) Ibid. l. 1. c. 11. sect. 5. (z) Antiqu. l. 1. c. 11. sect. 5. (a) Comment. in Job, fol. 2. 1. A. (b) Antiqu. l. 13. c. 13. sect. 5. c. 15. sect. 4. De Bello Jud. l. 1. c. 4. sect. 2.((c) Hist. Heb. l. 4. c. 12. p. 297. (d) Joseph. Antiqu. l. 12. c. 8. sect. 1. 1 Maccab. v. 6.

Therefore as I live, saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, even the breeding of nettles, and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation: the residue of my people shall spoil them, and the remnant of my people shall possess them.
9. Jehovah’s oath by Himself, as I live, is rare in early writings, but very common in Ezekiel.

Moab shall be as Sodom] The vicinity of the two peoples or at least of Moab to the Dead Sea may have suggested the threat that the fate of the cities of the plain shall overtake them.

the breeding of nettles] a possession of nettles, which overgrow uncultivated places, Proverbs 24:31; Job 30:7; Isaiah 34:13.

and saltpits] These were common around the Dead Sea: Deuteronomy 29:23; cf. Isaiah 13:19; Jeremiah 49:18. The idea suggested is that of utter barrenness. To sow with salt was a symbolical act, signifying to doom to perpetual unfruitfulness and desolation (Jdg 9:45). Ezekiel 47:11 predicts that, though the waters of the Dead Sea shall be sweetened when Israel is finally restored, the miry places and marshes about it shall be used for salt.

shall spoil them] i.e. make a spoil of them, viz. Moab and Ammon. There is a certain inconsistency in the verse, which is not to be removed by drawing a distinction between the country of Moab and Ammon and the peoples themselves, and fancying that the country shall share the fate of Sodom, while the peoples become the servants of Israel (Hitzig). It is better to consider the prophet’s predictions to be ideal, and to threaten two fates to Moab and Ammon, one, destruction like Sodom and Gomorrah, and the other, absorption by Israel.

remnant of my people] As R.V., my nation.

Verse 9. - As I live. This is a common formulary to express certainty, God, as it were, pledging his existence to the truth of his declaration (Deuteronomy 32:40; Isaiah 49:18, etc.).. God calls himself, The Lord of hosts, therefore able to fulfil his threats; and the God of Israel, and therefore ready to punish wrongs done to his chosen people. As Sodom. This threat came home with particular force to the Moabites and Am. monites who dwelt in the neighbourhood of the Dead Sea, and had before their eyes this awful proof of the chastisement with which sin meets, and which had happened in the time of their forefather Lot. "There are no settled inhabitants," says Dr. Porter, writing of Moab, "but the hillsides and glens are studded with the ruins of ancient towns and villages. We at length pitched our tents by the lonely fountain of Heshbon. The site of this royal city is commanding - a rounded hilt on the edge of avast plateau, which extends on the south and east to the horizon, and on the west breaks down in steep slopes, jagged cliffs, and wild ravines, to the Dead Sea and Jordan valley, nearly four thousand feet below. The hill was the nucleus of the city. Its sides are covered with ruins, and remains of houses, temples, and other buildings are strewn over a considerable section of the adjoining plain. All is desolate. Not a building, and scarcely a fragment of a wall, is standing; yet, though deserted for centuries, it bears its ancient name. I looked from Heshbon far and wide over the ancient territory of the Moabites, and saw desolation everywhere. The old towns and villages are all deserted and in ruins. In fact, there is not at this moment a single inhabited town or village in Moab, except Kerak, which stands on the extreme southern border. The sites of many were visible - grey mounds dotting the plain" ('Illust. of Bible Proph.,' pp. 24, 25). "The cities, towns, villages, are all in ruins. ... And no attempt is ever made to rebuild or repair; no man ventures to seek even a temporary abode among the ruined cities of Moab. The local Arab avoids the old sites, and seeks rest and security amid rocks and ravines; the powerful desert tribes sweep over the country periodically, and devour and destroy all in their track" (ibid., p. 28). Even the breeding of nettles; rather, a possession of nettles; a place where nettles only grow. Vulgate, siccitas spinarum. The identification of the plant kharul is uncertain. In Job (Job 30:7) it is represented as of sufficient growth to conceal fugitives; hence some think it is the wild mustard. Dr. Pusey, relying on a notice of Professor Palmer, considers it to be the mallow, which grows in rank luxuriance in Moab. The LXX., reading daleth instead of mem in the ἅπαξ λεγόμενον mimshaq, rendered "breeding," has Δαμασκὸς ἐκλελειμμένη, "Damascus shall be left." Salt pits. All travellers note the abundance of rock salt in the vicinity of the Dead Sea (see Deuteronomy 29:23; and comp. Psalm 107:34; Jeremiah 17:6). A perpetual desolation. The prophecy intimates that this country should never recover its prosperity (comp. Ezekiel 25.). The residue of my people shall spoil them. A partial fulfilment of this prophecy occurred when Judas Maccabaeus smote Ammon (1 Macc. 5:6, etc.), and Alexander Jannaeus subdued the Moabites (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 13:13. 5); but the prophet looks forward to a spiritual fulfilment under the Messiah, as we see from ver. 11 (comp. Isaiah 14:1, 2; Isaiah 49:23, etc.). The faithful remnant shall win possession of the heathen strongholds, and convert the nations to Christ, and incorporate them in the Church. Zephaniah 2:9The judgment upon Joab and Ammon. - Zephaniah 2:8. "I have heard the abuse of Moab, and the revilings of the sons of Ammon, who have abused my nation, and boasted against its boundary. Zephaniah 2:9. Therefore, as I live, is the saying of Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel: Yea, Moab shall become like Sodom, and the sons of Ammon like Gomorrha, an inheritance of nettles and salt-pits, and desert for ever. The remnant of my nation will plunder them, the residue of my nation will inherit them. Zephaniah 2:10. Such to them for their pride, that they have despised and boasted against the nation of Jehovah of hosts." The threat now turns from the Philistines in the west to the two tribes to the east, viz., the Moabites and Ammonites, who were descended from Lot, and therefore blood-relations, and who manifested hostility to Israel on every possible occasion. Even in the time of Moses, the Moabitish king Balak sought to destroy Israel by means of Balaam's curses (Numbers 22), for which the Moabites were threatened with extermination (Numbers 24:17). In the time of the judges they both attempted to oppress Israel (Judges 3:12. and Judges 10:7.; cf. 1 Samuel 11:1-5 and 2 Samuel 10-12), for which they were severely punished by Saul and David (1 Samuel 14:47, and 2 Samuel 8:2; 2 Samuel 12:30-31). The reproach of Moab and the revilings of the Ammonites, which Jehovah had heard, cannot be taken, as Jerome, Rashi, and others suppose, as referring to the hostilities of those tribes towards the Judaeans during the Chaldaean catastrophe; nor restricted, as v. Clln imagines, to the reproaches heaped upon the ten tribes when they were carried away by the Assyrians, since nothing is know of any such reproaches. The charge refers to the hostile attitude assumed by both tribes at all times towards the nation of God, which they manifested both in word and deed, as often as the latter was brought into trouble and distress. Compare Jeremiah 48:26-27; and for giddēph, to revile or blaspheme by actions, Numbers 15:30; Ezekiel 20:27; also for the fact itself, the remarks on Amos 1:13-2:3. יגדּילוּ על גב, they did great things against their (the Israelites') border (the suffix in gebhūlâm, their border, refers to ‛ammı̄, my people). This great doing consisted in their proudly violating the boundary of Israel, and endeavouring to seize upon Israelitish territory (cf. Amos 1:13). Pride and haughtiness, or high-minded self-exaltation above Israel as the nation of God, is charged against the Moabites and Ammonites by Isaiah and Jeremiah also, as a leading feature in their character (cf. Isaiah 16:6; Isaiah 25:11; Jeremiah 48:29-30). Moab and Ammon are to be utterly exterminated in consequence. The threat of punishment is announced in Zephaniah 2:8 as irrevocable by a solemn oath. It shall happen to them as to Sodom and Gomorrha. This simile was rendered a very natural one by the situation of the two lands in the neighbourhood of the Dead Sea. It affirms the utter destruction of the two tribes, as the appositional description shows. Their land is to become the possession of nettles, i.e., a place where nettles grow. Mimshâq, hap leg., from the root mâshaq, which was not used, but from which mesheq in Genesis 15:2 is derived. Chârūl: the stinging nettle (see at Job 30:7), which only flourishes in waste places. Mikhrēh melach: a place of salt-pits, like the southern coast of the Dead Sea, which abounds in rock-salt, and to which there is an allusion in the threat of Moses in Deuteronomy 29:22. "A desert for ever:" the emphasis lies upon ‛ad ‛ōlâm (for ever) here. The people, however, i.e., the Moabites and Ammonites themselves, will be taken by the people of Jehovah, and be made their possession. The suffixes attached to יבזּוּם and ינחלוּם can only refer to the people of Moab and Ammon, because a land turned into an eternal desert and salt-steppe would not be adapted for a nachălâh (possession) for the people of God. The meaning is not, they will be their heirs through the medium of plunder, but they will make them into their own property, or slaves (cf. Isaiah 14:2; Isaiah 61:5). גּויי is גּוי with the suffix of the first person, only one of the two י being written. In Zephaniah 2:10 the threat concludes with a repetition of the statement of the guilt which is followed by such a judgment.

The fulfilment or realization of the threat pronounced upon Philistia, Moab, and Ammon, we have not to look for in the particular historical occurrences through which these tribes were conquered and subjugated by the Chaldaeans, and to some extent by the Jews after the captivity, until they eventually vanished from the stage of history, and their lands became desolate, as they still are. These events can only come into consideration as preliminary stages of the fulfilment, which Zephaniah completely passes by, since he only views the judgment in its ultimate fulfilment. We are precluded, moreover, from taking the words as relating to that event by the circumstance, that neither Philistia on the one hand, nor Moabites and Ammonites on the other, were ever taken permanent possession of by the Jews; and still less were they ever taken by Judah, as the nation of God, for His own property. Judah is not to enter into such possession as this till the Lord turns the captivity of Judah (Zephaniah 2:7); that is to say, not immediately after the return from the Babylonish captivity, but when the dispersion of Israel among the Gentiles, which lasts till this day, shall come to an end, and Israel, through its conversion to Christ, be reinstated in the privileges of the people of God. It follows from this, that the fulfilment is still in the future, and that it will be accomplished not literally, but spiritually, in the utter destruction of the nations referred to as heathen nations, and opponents of the kingdom of God, and in the incorporation of those who are converted to the living God at the time of the judgment, into the citizenship of the spiritual Israel. Until the eventual restoration of Israel, Philistia will remain an uninhabited shepherds' pasture, and the land of the Moabites and Ammonites the possession of nettles, a place of salt-pits and a desert; just as the land of Israel will for the very same time be trodden down by the Gentiles. The curse resting upon these lands will not be entirely removed till the completion of the kingdom of God on earth. This view is proved to be correct by the contents of Zephaniah 2:11, with which the prophet passes to the announcement of the judgment upon the nations of the south and north.

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