Jeremiah 49

The Word Made Fresh

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

“Does Israel have no sons? Are there no heirs?
Why then has Molech taken over Gad
and settled his people in its towns?
2Surely, the time is coming, says the LORD,
when I will sound the alarm for battle
against Rabbah of the Ammonites.
It will become an empty mound.
But then Israel will remove those who had removed him,”
says the LORD.                                          

3Wail, Heshbon – Ai is devastated!
Weep, daughters of Rabbah –
Wear sackcloth, cry out and whip yourselves,
for your god, Milcom, will go into exile,
including his priests and servants.
4How can you boast of your strength?
For your strength is gone, you faithless daughter.
You depended on your wealth
and said, “Who would dare attack me?”
5“I am going to terrify you,” says the LORD Almighty.
“I will terrify you through all your neighbors,
and you will be scattered and tossed about
with no one to come to your aid.
6But afterward,” says the LORD,
“I will restore the Ammonites.”

7This is what the LORD says about Edom:
“Is there any wisdom still in Teman?
Has good advice slipped out of the hands of the prudent?
Has their wisdom completely disappeared?
8Then run and hide, you people of Dedan!
For I am going to bring punishment like that of Esau upon you.
9If thieves came to your vineyard,
wouldn’t a few grapes still be left for you?
Thieves who come by night
will only take what they want and leave the rest.
10But I, yes, I, have stripped Esau naked.
I have revealed all his hideouts
so that he cannot hide.
He is no more, for all his children are destroyed
along with his relatives and neighbors.
11Leave your orphaned children, for I will take care of them;
your widows also. They can trust in me.”

12The LORD says that since those who don’t deserve to drink the cup still must drink it, what makes you think you will go unpunished? Oh, no. You will not go unpunished; you must drink. 13“I myself have sworn,” says the LORD, “that whatever is left of Bozrah will be wasted, an object of horror and ridicule and curses. All her towns are ruins forever.”

14I have news from the LORD,
and a messenger has been sent to tell the nations
to gather together and attack you.
15“For I have made you the least important of all the nations,
destined to be despised by all of them.
16You have been deceived by the fear you inspire
and by the pride of your heart.
You may take refuge in the rocky outcroppings,
and even possess the highest hills,
but even if your nest is as high as the eagle’s
I will bring you down from there,” says the LORD.

17Edom will be an object of horror. All who pass by will be appalled and shake their heads at its disaster. 18And, just like Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring towns were overwhelmed, says the LORD, no one shall live there; no one will settle there.19Like a lion coming up from the dense undergrowth along the Jordan to enter a pasture, I will suddenly chase Edom out, and appoint over its territory whomever I choose. Is anyone like me? Who can challenge me? What leader can dare attempt to block my path? 20So, hear now the LORD’s plan and purpose for Edom and those who live in Teman: certainly, the young of the flock shall be dragged off and all the sheep will be appalled at their fate. 21The sound of their fall will make the earth tremble. Their terrible cry will be heard at the Red Sea. 22See, the LORD will attack, swooping down like an eagle, wings spread against Bozrah, and the fear of the soldiers of Edom on that day will be like the fear of a woman in labor.

23About Damascus:                
Hamath and Arpad are troubled
because they have heard the bad news
and have melted with fear that the roar
of the sea around them cannot be silenced.
24Damascus is weak; she tried to flee but was seized with panic.
Pain and sorrow have overtaken her like a woman in labor.
25How Damascus, the famous city, the town of joy, is forsaken!
26Her young men will collapse in her streets
and all her soldiers will be destroyed on that day,
says the LORD Almighty.
27I will kindle a fire at her walls,
a fire that will destroy Ben-hadad’s capital, Damascus.

28Now, about Kedar and the kingdom in Hazor that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon defeated:
Thus says the LORD:
“Rise up! Advance against Kedar and destroy the people of the east!
29Take their tents and their flocks, along with their cloth and other goods.
Carry away their camels for yourselves,
and hear their cry, ‘Terror is all around us!’
30Run! Go far away and hide in the deep crevices,
you who live in Hazor.” Thus says the LORD.
“For King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon
has devised a plan against you
and has determined your future.
31Arise and attack a nation that is secure and lives at ease,” says the LORD.
“A nation that has no gates to bar and lives alone.
32Their camels and herds of cattle are your spoils.
I will scatter to the winds all those whose heads are shaven,
and bring calamities against them from every direction,”
says the LORD.
33“Hazor will become a den for jackals, a total waste forever.
No one will live there; no one will settle in it.”

34This is the word of the LORD that came to the prophet Jeremiah about Elam, at the beginning of the reign of King Zedekiah of Judah:

35This is the word of the LORD Almighty:
“I am going to break Elam’s defense that protects their strength. 36From the four corners of the earth I will bring the four winds against them. I will scatter them on all these winds, and the exiles of Elam will go to every nation. 37And I will terrify Elam in the face of the enemies that seek to destroy them with my fierce anger, says the LORD. I will send the sword against them until they are consumed, 38and I will destroy Elam’s king and officials and place my own throne in Elam.

39“But when the time comes, I will restore the fortunes of Elam,” says the LORD.


1-2: Ammon is the kingdom just north of Moab, its capital at Rabbath about 75 miles due east of Jericho. They, along with the Moabites, allied with Nebuchadnezzar against Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:1-2). They worshiped a god called Milcom.

3-6: They, too, will be scattered and exiled as Moab will be, but also like Moab, God pledges to restore their fortunes.

7-16: The Edomites, descendants of Esau, occupied the territory to the south of Judah, the Dead Sea and Moab. Their involvement in the destruction of Jerusalem is not as well attested as that of the Moabites and Ammonites, but they are roundly criticized by Obadiah (see Obadiah 1:11-14) for having taken part in the sacking of the city. Centuries earlier, of course, the king of Edom had refused Moses safe passage through his territory (Numbers 20:14-21).

17-22: A complete destruction of Edom is prophesied, and this time there is no concluding word of restoration as was the case with Moab and Ammon.

23-27: Jeremiah turns now to Damascus, the Aramean kingdom, located north of Ammon and east of Israel. Hamath, Arpad, and Damascus are its primary cities. Ben-Hadad was the king of Damascus who had been an enemy of Israel in the days of King Ahab (See 1 Kings 20).

28-33: The pronouncements move decidedly farther afield in this section. Kedar is another name for Arabia, a vast expanse of arid territories east of Israel and Judah inhabited primarily by nomadic Arabic tribes with few settled towns. Hazor appears in verse 28 to be the name of a king or warlord or sheik associated with these tribes but is unknown aside from this reference. In verse 33 Hazor seems to be a town, perhaps the “capital” or principal town in the region. There are a number of towns in and around Israel with that name, but none of them could be intended here. Verses 30-32 describe a nomadic people being overrun by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar.

34-39: Elam is far removed from Israel, located east of Babylon in what is now southwestern Iran. It is unclear why Jeremiah should include them in his pronouncements against the nations unless it is simply to show that God’s power reaches far beyond Israel and its enemies. Furthermore, the agent of Elam’s destruction is not Nebuchadnezzar but only the LORD, who will dispose of Elam’s rulers and establish God’s throne in their place. Curiously, and perhaps significantly, the judgment ends on a positive note that Elam will nevertheless be restored — by God, of course.


The Bible’s witness is that God will put up with ungodly nations only so long. Eventually God will instigate a war or some other calamity that forces the nations to reexamine their identity. Perhaps WW1 and WW2 are recent examples of this divine activity.