The rest of the Book of Jeremiah is called the messages for the nations. These are directed at foreign nations and are similar to passages found in isaiah 13-23, Ezekiel 25-32, and Amos 1:3-2:3. Using Nebuchadnezzar, the Lord would judge all the nations from the Euphrates River to Egypt for their rebellion and sins against Him. Ultimately Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar would also come under the Lord’s judgement. This we will see in chapters 50-51. As you have read, there are also glimmers of hope with the Lord promising to restore Moab, Ammon, and Elam. Jeremiah used the results of a battle known to jehoiakim to warn him and the people of Jerusalem that Egypt could not protect them from Babylon. Pharaoh Neco believed he could be a dominant power in the ancient Near East so he moved north in 609 B.C. He spent several years trying to defeat the Babylonians but was ultimately soundly defeated at Carchemish on the Euphrates River in 605 B.C. It wasn’t long after that the Babylonian army had surrounded Jerusalem and forced Jehoiakim to become a vassal of Babylon. All of pharaoh Neco’s boasting did him no good against a much greater power. Let this be a lesson to the kings of Judah and Jerusalem. Besides, the Lord had already decreed that Egypt would lose the battle. The defeat of Egypt at Carchemish created chaos in Egypt and among its armies. This was the Lord executing judgement on Egypt. He filled the soldiers with fear and there was no keeping any type of military order after that. Judah had tried to rely on Egypt’s help ward off the Babylonians but the Egyptians hired mercenaries to fight for them and none of them were interested in dying for Egypt, Under threat they would turn tail and run for their lives. The city of Memphis was destroyed in 568-567 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar invaded Egypt. A couple of things about the serpent in verses 22-23. First of all we know the serpent as the picture of the evil one and Egypt had always been a place of danger for the Israelites. Also, pharaoh typically wore a cobra cast out of metal on the front of his headdress as a symbol of his sovereignty. Now we see even the fierce serpent slithering away to get out of the way of the Lord’s wrath. Amon was a fertility god worshiped in Thebes, the capital of southern Egypt. This god took the form of a ram and represented the sun. Egyptians believed this god was very powerful but like every other false god, it would be destroyed by the all powerful God of Israel. Pharaoh who claimed to BE the son of the sun god would also be destroyed. In 601 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar attacked Egypt, did great damage, and withdrew only to return later to invade again.
The Babylonians moved against the Philistines like a flood covering the land. The time had come for the Lord to bring disaster on these people. They had originally come from the island of Crete between 1200-1100 B.C. The northern cities of Tyre and Sidon were also settled about the same time by distant cousins of the Philistines from Crete who had intermarried with the Canaanites. Gaza was one of the major Philistine cities and Ashkelon not far away would be destroyed as well, emptied of inhabitants. God was using the Babylonians to mete out His justice and the Philistines were anxious for the attacks against them to stop. But it would not end soon because the Lord the judge had declared His judgement and the cities must be destroyed.
Jeremiah had much more to say about the destruction of Moab and Ammon, the two nations descended from Abraham’s nephew Lot and his two daughters. At this time the Moabites felt very secure that they were out of the reach of the Babylonians, but the Lord found these people to be very greedy and cruel. And their worship was vicious and sensuous. God, the powerful judge of Israel introduced the indictments against Moab. The city of Nebo, on the side of Mount Nebo was several miles east of the north end of the Dead Sea and Kiriathaim was built by the tribe of Reuben in the highlands east of the Dead Sea. Many of the towns and villages listed here are no more and scholars can only speculate where they might have been. Big or small, the Lord’s judgement would touch everyone. The people of Moab bragged about their wealth and their skills but their most serious sin was worshiping an idol named Chemosh. He represented the magical power of reproduction, but it would soon become clear that he was powerless. All the towns of Moab were sentenced to destruction. Moab had a long history of peace and a culture the people highly valued. Vineyards were plentiful there and after the juice was squeezed from the grapes the wine was stored in clay flasks until it became fragrant and smooth. The Lord’s judgement would make the Moabites ashamed that Chemosh was not able to protect them from harm, just like the idols the people in the northern kingdom discovered when they were subject to the Lord’s punishment. Both Dibon and Aroer were key Moabite cities as well, but when news spread that Moab lay in ruins, disgraced, it would cause terror and fear in the Arnon valley. Eleven Moabite villages would hear that the strength of Moab’s arm was broken, meaning there was no one to defend them. In reality, Moab’s hatred against Israel was ultimately against the Lord. While the Lord had to punish these nations that sinned against Him, it caused Him to mourn. The Moabites expressed their sorrow and grief in their usual ways. They shaved their heads and beards, cut their hands, and used burlap for clothing. Seeing what happened to Moab might make other nations take notice and change their ways. And a couple of things here about the eagle. First, it was a symbol for Nebuchadnezzar. It also represented speed and surprise. It’s victim was caught and carried off before it was able to react. Between the terror, the traps, and a snare, there would be no escape for the people of Moab.
Ammon was the next nation brought to trial in front of the Lord. After the fall of the northern kingdom the Ammonites moved into the territory formerly occupied by the tribe of Gad. They worshiped a fertility god named Molech who was a lot like Baal. Their capital was Rabbah and it was destroyed in 582 B.C. The Ammonites may have thought their god Molech was powerful but the coming invader would take this idol into exile along with his priests and officials. Their ritual magic would be exposed as fraud. These people also trusted in their wealth but it would provide no security for them. They would still be judged.
The people of Edom were descendants of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother. Edom lay to the south of Moab, but like all the other nations, divine judgement would fall on them as well. Edom was famous for its wise men but now they would appear foolish because they were unaware of their coming doom. Teman and Dedan were two of their cities. If you remember back in Leviticus (19:9-10) it was commanded that anyone who harvested a crop would leave some of the crop for the poor. Thieves would only take what they could get quickly and easily. The invaders would take their time and mercilessly strip Edom bare, leaving only ruin behind. The cup of judgement symbolized the fulfillment of the Lord’s decrees. Verses 49:12-22 depict the aftermath of a nation drinking from this cup. Fortified cities like Bozrah or open village, it didn’t matter. All would face the Lord’s judgement. It is interesting to note that the leaders of Edom were afraid. These were men who thought themselves powerful because they stirred fear in all who passed through their land on the King’s highway. Even the remote places like Petra, which was difficult to reach and find didn’t stand a chance against the Lord. Edom would become just like Sodom and Gomorrah…desolate and uninhabited. Babylon would come like a lion on unsuspecting sheep.
Damascus was the capital of Aram, or the Arameans. This is the same capital as Damascus, Syria today. They were the next object of the Lord’s judgement. Damascus had a long history of power and glory at the hub of several major trade routes. Her people enjoyed prosperity and joy, but they would lose these pleasures when they were forsaken by the Lord. The cities walls and palaces were most likely built using timber from Mount Hermon, and the Babylonians would set fire to it all. Ben-Hadad was the royal title given to a long line of Aramean kings.
The nomads of Kedar roamed freely in the upper Arabian Desert east of Palestine. They were belligerent people who raised flocks and herds for lucrative trade with Tyre. The Babylonians wanted to defeat these people to gain their rich household goods and camels. The Lord exhorted the people of Hazor to run and hide, even though it would do them no good. Babylon would attack them as well.
The final message here is addressed to Elam. This nation was known for its ferocity. They were located in the Zagros Mountains, far to the east beyond Babylon. They were expert archers but would be no match for the Babylonians. The common aftermath for a successful invasion was for the victors to scatter the refugees far and wide. Again, the Lord would express His fierce anger, this time against Elam. No specific charge was given other than the nation worshiped idols, and they were cruel in war against other nations. Yet, the Lord promised that He would restore the fortunes of Elam. This happened when Cyrus the Persian came to power in Babylon.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W.