If you’ve never before read through the prophets, take stock of what you’ve been feeling the past few weeks. There is something stirring about how prophecy and narrative are woven together in this unique book.
Whether the camera is focused on the prophet or is expanded over the whole story, Jeremiah’s story is intense on multiple levels. A nation falls, a victim of its own infidelity to its true King. The kings, the officials, the people and even the other prophets refuse to heed Jeremiah’s warnings. That he is constantly proven true reveals nothing but their glaring stubbornness. Again, take stock of what you’re feeling.
Baruch’s lament, which we read yesterday in chapter 45, serves as both the closing scene in Jeremiah’s story and as a bridge to the oracles at the end of this book. Just before it we saw the remnant of Judah disobeying God and fleeing to Egypt. Now after it are a series of oracles promising Egypt’s demise.
The first of these is set in that same fateful year of Jehoiakim’s reign, at the moment when power in the region shifted from Egypt to Babylon. Given the prophetic activity at the time this must have been a dramatic political and social upheaval for Judah. Egypt had been Israel’s fallback plan since the Exodus, the safest territory in the region. In the first oracle Egypt is wounded; in the second, it is laid waste, “The LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel…bringing punishment upon Amon of Thebes, and Pharaoh and Egypt and her gods and her kings, upon Pharaoh and those who trust in him.”
The people of the coast – generically called Philistines – are the next nation on which the LORD promises judgment. Like Egypt, Gaza, Tyre and Sidon were often attacked but rarely conquered. The prophet echoes the words of Nebuzaradan: this is not an act of Babylonian strength, but of the LORD’s will.
Likewise in chapter 48 Moab shall be destroyed and be no longer a people, because he magnified himself against the LORD. Pay attention to specific images, like swords, and water, that are revisited throughout these oracles.
Pay attention also to the historical upheaval that is occurring. Moab was already a settled kingdom in the time of Moses. Tyre and Sidon had traded with King David. And Egypt had not been conquered from the north in recorded history. Something significant is happening on the Biblical and world stage, and the prophet insists that all of it is being orchestrated by the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel.
Our verse for this week is Psalm 51:10: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Jeremiah 46 through 48. Now let’s read it!
Jeremiah 46 - 48
46:1 The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the nations.
About Egypt. Concerning the army of Pharaoh Neco, king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates at Carchemish and which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon defeated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah:
“Prepare buckler and shield,
and advance for battle!
Harness the horses;
mount, O horsemen!
Take your stations with your helmets,
polish your spears,
put on your armor!
Why have I seen it?
They are dismayed
and have turned backward.
Their warriors are beaten down
and have fled in haste;
they look not back—
terror on every side!
declares the LORD.
“The swift cannot flee away,
nor the warrior escape;
in the north by the river Euphrates
they have stumbled and fallen.
“Who is this, rising like the Nile,
like rivers whose waters surge?
Egypt rises like the Nile,
like rivers whose waters surge.
He said, ‘I will rise, I will cover the earth,
I will destroy cities and their inhabitants.’
Advance, O horses,
and rage, O chariots!
Let the warriors go out:
men of Cush and Put who handle the shield,
men of Lud, skilled in handling the bow.
That day is the day of the Lord GOD of hosts,
a day of vengeance,
to avenge himself on his foes.
The sword shall devour and be sated
and drink its fill of their blood.
For the Lord GOD of hosts holds a sacrifice
in the north country by the river Euphrates.
Go up to Gilead, and take balm,
O virgin daughter of Egypt!
In vain you have used many medicines;
there is no healing for you.
The nations have heard of your shame,
and the earth is full of your cry;
for warrior has stumbled against warrior;
they have both fallen together.”
The word that the LORD spoke to Jeremiah the prophet about the coming of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to strike the land of Egypt:
“Declare in Egypt, and proclaim in Migdol;
proclaim in Memphis and Tahpanhes;
say, ‘Stand ready and be prepared,
for the sword shall devour around you.’
Why are your mighty ones face down?
They do not stand
because the LORD thrust them down.
He made many stumble, and they fell,
and they said one to another,
‘Arise, and let us go back to our own people
and to the land of our birth,
because of the sword of the oppressor.’
Call the name of Pharaoh, king of Egypt,
‘Noisy one who lets the hour go by.’
“As I live, declares the King,
whose name is the LORD of hosts,
like Tabor among the mountains
and like Carmel by the sea, shall one come.
Prepare yourselves baggage for exile,
O inhabitants of Egypt!
For Memphis shall become a waste,
a ruin, without inhabitant.
“A beautiful heifer is Egypt,
but a biting fly from the north has come upon her.
Even her hired soldiers in her midst
are like fattened calves;
yes, they have turned and fled together;
they did not stand,
for the day of their calamity has come upon them,
the time of their punishment.
“She makes a sound like a serpent gliding away;
for her enemies march in force
and come against her with axes
like those who fell trees.
They shall cut down her forest,
declares the LORD,
though it is impenetrable,
because they are more numerous than locusts;
they are without number.
The daughter of Egypt shall be put to shame;
she shall be delivered into the hand of a people from the north.”
The LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, said: “Behold, I am bringing punishment upon Amon of Thebes, and Pharaoh and Egypt and her gods and her kings, upon Pharaoh and those who trust in him. I will deliver them into the hand of those who seek their life, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and his officers. Afterward Egypt shall be inhabited as in the days of old, declares the LORD.
“But fear not, O Jacob my servant,
nor be dismayed, O Israel,
for behold, I will save you from far away,
and your offspring from the land of their captivity.
Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease,
and none shall make him afraid.
Fear not, O Jacob my servant,
declares the LORD,
for I am with you.
I will make a full end of all the nations
to which I have driven you,
but of you I will not make a full end.
I will discipline you in just measure,
and I will by no means leave you unpunished.”
47:1 The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the Philistines, before Pharaoh struck down Gaza.
“Thus says the LORD:
Behold, waters are rising out of the north,
and shall become an overflowing torrent;
they shall overflow the land and all that fills it,
the city and those who dwell in it.
Men shall cry out,
and every inhabitant of the land shall wail.
At the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his stallions,
at the rushing of his chariots, at the rumbling of their wheels,
the fathers look not back to their children,
so feeble are their hands,
because of the day that is coming to destroy
all the Philistines,
to cut off from Tyre and Sidon
every helper that remains.
For the LORD is destroying the Philistines,
the remnant of the coastland of Caphtor.
Baldness has come upon Gaza;
Ashkelon has perished.
O remnant of their valley,
how long will you gash yourselves?
Ah, sword of the LORD!
How long till you are quiet?
Put yourself into your scabbard;
rest and be still!
How can it be quiet
when the LORD has given it a charge?
Against Ashkelon and against the seashore
he has appointed it.”
48:1 Concerning Moab.
Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel:
“Woe to Nebo, for it is laid waste!
Kiriathaim is put to shame, it is taken;
the fortress is put to shame and broken down;
the renown of Moab is no more.
In Heshbon they planned disaster against her:
‘Come, let us cut her off from being a nation!’
You also, O Madmen, shall be brought to silence;
the sword shall pursue you.
“A voice! A cry from Horonaim,
‘Desolation and great destruction!’
Moab is destroyed;
her little ones have made a cry.
For at the ascent of Luhith
they go up weeping;
for at the descent of Horonaim
they have heard the distressed cry of destruction.
Flee! Save yourselves!
You will be like a juniper in the desert!
For, because you trusted in your works and your treasures,
you also shall be taken;
and Chemosh shall go into exile
with his priests and his officials.
The destroyer shall come upon every city,
and no city shall escape;
the valley shall perish,
and the plain shall be destroyed,
as the LORD has spoken.
“Give wings to Moab,
for she would fly away;
her cities shall become a desolation,
with no inhabitant in them.
“Cursed is he who does the work of the LORD with slackness, and cursed is he who keeps back his sword from bloodshed.
“Moab has been at ease from his youth
and has settled on his dregs;
he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel,
nor has he gone into exile;
so his taste remains in him,
and his scent is not changed.
“Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I shall send to him pourers who will pour him, and empty his vessels and break his jars in pieces. Then Moab shall be ashamed of Chemosh, as the house of Israel was ashamed of Bethel, their confidence.
“How do you say, ‘We are heroes
and mighty men of war’?
The destroyer of Moab and his cities has come up,
and the choicest of his young men have gone down to slaughter,
declares the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts.
The calamity of Moab is near at hand,
and his affliction hastens swiftly.
Grieve for him, all you who are around him,
and all who know his name;
say, ‘How the mighty scepter is broken,
the glorious staff.’
“Come down from your glory,
and sit on the parched ground,
O inhabitant of Dibon!
For the destroyer of Moab has come up against you;
he has destroyed your strongholds.
Stand by the way and watch,
O inhabitant of Aroer!
Ask him who flees and her who escapes;
say, ‘What has happened?’
Moab is put to shame, for it is broken;
wail and cry!
Tell it beside the Arnon,
that Moab is laid waste.
“Judgment has come upon the tableland, upon Holon, and Jahzah, and Mephaath, and Dibon, and Nebo, and Beth-diblathaim, and Kiriathaim, and Beth-gamul, and Beth-meon, and Kerioth, and Bozrah, and all the cities of the land of Moab, far and near. The horn of Moab is cut off, and his arm is broken, declares the LORD.
“Make him drunk, because he magnified himself against the LORD, so that Moab shall wallow in his vomit, and he too shall be held in derision. Was not Israel a derision to you? Was he found among thieves, that whenever you spoke of him you wagged your head?
“Leave the cities, and dwell in the rock,
O inhabitants of Moab!
Be like the dove that nests
in the sides of the mouth of a gorge.
We have heard of the pride of Moab—
he is very proud—
of his loftiness, his pride, and his arrogance,
and the haughtiness of his heart.
I know his insolence, declares the LORD;
his boasts are false,
his deeds are false.
Therefore I wail for Moab;
I cry out for all Moab;
for the men of Kir-hareseth I mourn.
More than for Jazer I weep for you,
O vine of Sibmah!
Your branches passed over the sea,
reached to the Sea of Jazer;
on your summer fruits and your grapes
the destroyer has fallen.
Gladness and joy have been taken away
from the fruitful land of Moab;
I have made the wine cease from the winepresses;
no one treads them with shouts of joy;
the shouting is not the shout of joy.
“From the outcry at Heshbon even to Elealeh, as far as Jahaz they utter their voice, from Zoar to Horonaim and Eglath-shelishiyah. For the waters of Nimrim also have become desolate. And I will bring to an end in Moab, declares the LORD, him who offers sacrifice in the high place and makes offerings to his god. Therefore my heart moans for Moab like a flute, and my heart moans like a flute for the men of Kir-hareseth. Therefore the riches they gained have perished.
“For every head is shaved and every beard cut off. On all the hands are gashes, and around the waist is sackcloth. On all the housetops of Moab and in the squares there is nothing but lamentation, for I have broken Moab like a vessel for which no one cares, declares the LORD. How it is broken! How they wail! How Moab has turned his back in shame! So Moab has become a derision and a horror to all that are around him.”
For thus says the LORD:
“Behold, one shall fly swiftly like an eagle
and spread his wings against Moab;
the cities shall be taken
and the strongholds seized.
The heart of the warriors of Moab shall be in that day
like the heart of a woman in her birth pains;
Moab shall be destroyed and be no longer a people,
because he magnified himself against the LORD.
Terror, pit, and snare
are before you, O inhabitant of Moab!
declares the LORD.
He who flees from the terror
shall fall into the pit,
and he who climbs out of the pit
shall be caught in the snare.
For I will bring these things upon Moab,
the year of their punishment,
declares the LORD.
“In the shadow of Heshbon
fugitives stop without strength,
for fire came out from Heshbon,
flame from the house of Sihon;
it has destroyed the forehead of Moab,
the crown of the sons of tumult.
Woe to you, O Moab!
The people of Chemosh are undone,
for your sons have been taken captive,
and your daughters into captivity.
Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab
in the latter days, declares the LORD.”
Thus far is the judgment on Moab.