Jeremiah 48

The Word Made Fresh

1This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says concerning Moab:

“Too bad for Nebo; it has become a wasteland.
Kiriathaim is ashamed because it has been taken.
The fortress is broken and shamefully demolished.
2Moab’s fame is no more.
Heshbon planned to do away with her:
‘Come,’ they said, ‘let us destroy her!
You as well, Madmen, will be silenced
and the sword will pursue you.’

3“Listen! A cry goes up from Horonaim, and there is
desolation and destruction.
4Moab is destroyed, and her children cry out;
5they go up to Luhith weeping bitterly.
and on the road that descends to Horonaim
they hear the distress and cries of anguish.
6Run! Save yourselves!
Flee like wild animals in the desert!
7You will be taken because you trusted in your fortresses and treasures.
Your god Chemosh will be sent into exile
with his priests and his attendants.
8The destroyer will visit every town – none shall escape.
The valley will be wiped out and the plain destroyed,
for the LORD has spoken.
9Gather salt for Moab because she will surely fall;
all her towns will be desolate. No one will live there.
10Cursed is the one who half-heartedly does the LORD’s work.
Cursed is the one who holds the sword back from shedding blood.

11“Moab has lived in ease since his youth,
resting like old wine in its jars.
He has not been poured from jar to jar
nor has he gone into exile.
That is why his flavor has lasted,
and his aroma has remained.

12“So, the time is sure to come,” says the LORD, “when I will send him vessels to store his wine, and his jars will be emptied and shattered. 13Then Moab will be ashamed of their god Chemosh, just as Israel was ashamed of their confidence when they were in Bethel.

14“How can you claim to be heroes and warriors?
15The one who destroys Moab and its towns has arisen,
and his finest young men have been slaughtered.”
Thus says the King, whose name is the LORD Almighty.
16Moab’s ruin is near and his doom is quickly approaching.
17Grieve for Moab, all of you who are his neighbors and know his name.
Say, “How the mighty symbol has been broken,
that glorious flag!”

18Come down from your fame and sit on the barren ground,
you, who have been crowned the daughter of Dibon.
Those who will destroy Moab have come!
They have torn down your fortresses.
19Stand beside the road and watch, you who dwell in Aroer.
Ask the men and women who are trying to escape,
“What has happened?”
20Moab is all broken apart and is in shame, so wail and cry!
Tell it beside the Arnon river that Moab is laid waste.

21Judgment has descended upon the flat lands – Holon, Jahzah, Mephaath, 22Dibon, Nebo, Beth-diblathaim, 23Kiriathaim, Beth-gamul, Beth-meon, 24Kerioth and Bozrah – on all the towns of Moab, near and far. 25Moab’s crown is taken and his arm is broken, says the LORD.

26Render him confused, because he elevated himself above the LORD. So, let Moab choke on his own vomit, and become a laughingstock 27just as Israel was a laughingstock to you. Even though he was never caught among thieves, you always shook your head when his name was mentioned.

28Abandon your towns and live on the rocky outcroppings,
you Moabites!
Become like doves who nest on the cliffs
at the entrance to a gorge.
29We have heard of the great pride of Moab.
He is very proud; he puts himself above others
and is arrogant and haughty.
30I know well his insolence, says the LORD.
He is boasting falsely about deeds never done.
31That is why I moan for Moab and cry out;
I mourn for the people of Kir-heres.
32I weep for you, the “vine of Sibmah,” more than for Jazer.
Indeed, your branches reached across the sea of Jazer;
but destruction has now come to your summer fruits
and your vintage wine.
You who were the destroyer is now destroyed.
33Gladness and joy have been removed from your fruitful land.
I have done away with the wine in your wine presses.
No one treads them joyfully anymore;
their shouts are not shouts of joy.

34Heshbon and Elealeh moan. Their voice is heard as far as Jahaz, even from Zoar to Horonaim and Eglath-shelishiyah. Even the waters of Nimrim are vacated. 35So, I will bring an end to Moab, says the LORD, to those who offer sacrifices at the high places and make offerings for their gods. 36That is why my heart moans for Moab like a flute, and for the people of Kir-heres. I mourn for the wealth they gathered that is now gone.

37Every head is now sheared and every beard shaved. There are deep cuts on all their hands, and sackcloth covers their bodies. 38The only sound coming from the housetops of Moab and from its town squares is lamentation. I have broken Moab like a cooking pot no one wants any longer, says the LORD. 39See how broken it is! And how they mourn and how Moab has turned away in shame! Yes, Moab is derided and has become a horror to his neighbors.

40The LORD says:
“I will swoop down like an eagle,
with wings spread against Moab.
41The cities will be taken and the fortresses captured.
Then the hearts of Moab’s soldiers
will be like the heart of a woman in labor.
42The people of Moab will be destroyed
because they elevated themselves above the LORD.
43Terror and cave and trap await,
you inhabitants of Moab!” says the LORD.
44“Everyone who runs from the terror will fall into the pit,
and those who climb out of the pit will be captured in the trap.
For I will bring all this on Moab
in the year of their punishment,” says the LORD.

45“Fugitives halt exhausted in the shadow of Heshbon.
Indeed, a fire has gone out from Heshbon,
and flames from the house of Sihon;
and Moab’s forehead,
the scalp of the people of Shaon is destroyed.
46Too bad for you, Moab!
The people of Chemosh are no more;
your sons have been taken as captives
and your daughters along with them.
47However, I will restore the fortunes of Moab
in the days to come,” says the LORD.

This is the judgment on Moab.


1-2: Now the prophet turns to Moab, the kingdom directly across the Dead Sea from Judah. Judah and Moab have had a love/hate relationship – sometimes friends, sometimes enemies — but Moab had allied itself with Nebuchadnezzar against Jerusalem during the reign of Jehoiakim (2 Kings 24:1-2) and for this God’s judgment is now pronounced against them. Kiriathaim, Nebo, and Heshbon are locales in the northern part of the country, and likely Madmen, too, although its location has never been determined satisfactorily. Nebo is the mountain from which Moses saw the Promised Land before he died (Deuteronomy 34:1).

3-6: Jeremiah seems to be cataloging the whole territory of Moab: Luhith and Horonaim were in the southern part of that kingdom.

7-10: Chemosh, the primary god worshiped by the Moabites, is to be exiled — meaning the priests of Chemosh will become refugees. Every town is to be destroyed. Salting was a way of killing the soil to make it unproductive. The main idea is that Moab is going to suffer the same fate as Judah.

11-13: Moab has had it too easy, says Jeremiah, but that’s about to change. They will be ashamed of Chemosh as Israel is of Bethel. Bethel was a religious center in early Israel during the time of the judges and even housed the ark of the covenant for a while, but when Jeroboam led the northern tribes to separate from Judah, he tried to establish Bethel as a rival to Jerusalem. The result was that Bethel became a center for pagan worship.

14-17: Moab will no longer be able to brag about its prowess in battle. “How can you claim to be heroes and warriors?” may have been the boast the unfortunate citizens of Jerusalem heard as the Moabites participated in sacking the city.

18-20: Dibon and Aroer are also cities in Moab. Jeremiah describes an imagined scene of people fleeing and being asked by roadside watchers what’s going on.

21-25: A catalogue of cities in Moab that will fall under the judgment.

26-27: The prophet wants Moab to suffer what his own people have suffered.

28-33: The desolation and abandonment of the land and the fields and vineyards is described.

34-36: Moab will be completely wiped out; and yet God grieves for their destruction.

37-44: Shaved heads, gashed hands, and sackcloth are all symbolic of deepest mourning. The central judgment is at verse 42: Moab “elevated themselves above the LORD.” They dared to join with the Babylonians against Jerusalem.

45-47: Yet, even against Moab, God cannot seem to resist a promised restoration.


A common storyline runs through the Bible’s description of war and terror among peoples of the Middle East: they worshiped other gods, God rejected them, they were consumed by violence as one dictator after another rose to power, and they suffered horribly. But in many cases God eventually restored them and a time of peace was ushered in. God’s anger may be devastating, but God is always willing to forgive and restore.