Jeremiah 49 Devotional
by Pastor Lawrence Bowlin
Continuing on the same theme from the last three chapters of God’s judgment upon the nations, this chapter is addressed to five different kingdoms or coalitions of kingdoms, first to Ammon just east of Israel, then Edom to the south, Damascus to the northeast, the kingdoms of Kedar and Hazor to the southeast and Elam much farther east, near ancient Babylon. Those kingdoms were located in what are now the modern day countries of Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran. It’s hard to believe that there was a time when none of the peoples in these countries were Muslim but instead worshipped a number of different pagan gods. That is, until God brought judgment upon those peoples and their so-called gods.
The first judgment in this chapter is brought against the Ammonites who were closely related to the Moabites mentioned in the previous chapter. They both were descendants of Lot and held much animosity toward the nations of Israel and Judah throughout the years. The Israelites living in the region of Gad had an ongoing dispute with the Ammonites over the land the Lord had given to them, and when the Assyrians brought God’s judgment upon Israel, the Ammonites moved into the territory of Gad claiming it as their own. I guess some things never change over there in the Near East. This was part of the reason God brought judgment upon the Ammonites in addition to all the heinous sins they had committed, including sacrificing their own children to Molech, or to Milcom as he is referred to here in this passage. God promises to take their gods into captivity along with all their priests and officials and to destroy the capital city Rabbah along with some of the other major cities in the region, but like he did with Moab, he also assures the Ammonites that afterward, he would restore their fortunes.
The second judgment is brought against Edom, the descendants of Esau. As foolish as Esau was personally, it’s hard to believe that his descendants were also known as Temanits were well known for their wisdom. If you remember, one of Job’s three counselors who came to minister to him was Eliphaz the Temanite. Apparently men such as he had begun to trust too much in their wisdom, so the Lord promises to confound their wisdom. They had also trusted in their fortresses carved out of the rock. Here, Jeremiah refers to these as their hiding places that God will uncover and destroy. And unlike with Ammon and Moab, God does not promise to restore their fortunes, but to make their kingdom a wasteland. Even today you can easily go and visit their rock fortresses in the middle of nowhere in modern day Jordan, for no one lives there. And notice what God says about his right to do this in vv.19-20, saying, “for who is like me? Who will summon me? What shepherd (think king, here) can stand before me?” For the Lord’s will is against Edom and his purposes will prevail.
The third judgment is brought against Damascus where the Lord promises to confound these people, terrorize them, and to seize them with the pains of childbirth as they watch their men fall in the square in the city and watch their city burn. Here, we are not told their particular sins, but any familiarity with the Old Testament would reveal their constant fighting and maneuvering against the Lord’s people. Nevertheless, the Lord refers to Damascus as the “city of my joy.” To this day there is a sizable Christian community of many different denominations dwelling in the modern day city of Damascus.
The fourth judgment is brought against Kedar and the kingdoms of Hazor, also known as the people of the east. These are the same people that joined the Midianites in attacking Israel in the days of Gideon. Apparently they had very unusual haircuts, for they were known as the people who cut the corners of their hair. They lived a life of ease as tent dwellers, sheep herders, and camel riders, but the Lord promised to take away all their tents, their flocks and their herds bringing judgment upon them for their raiding and pillaging. The Lord has sent his servant, Nebuchadnezzar, against them, and he has made a plan against them to scatter them to the four winds, leaving the land of their habitation as a haunt of jackals in a desert wasteland.
Then, the fifth judgment is brought against Elam much farther away in the east, near Babylon, which will be the subject of the next prophecy in the next two chapters. The Elamites were a people very handy in the use of the bow and arrow, but God promises to break their bow and to pour out his fierce anger against them to consume them. Then the Lord would set up his own throne in their midst before restoring their fortunes in the latter days. Here he means that either through Nebuchadnezzar or Cyrus, God will rule over them to give them justice, but the Lord himself would not sit on a throne in the country of Elam, at least not at that time.
There will come a time, though, hopefully in the very near future, when the Lord will set up his throne fully in the region of Elam, which is now modern day Iran, and in Iraq, and in Saudi Arabia, and in Jordan and Syria. Currently there are at least 600 church in Iran and well over 500,000 professing Christ within the country, but they are not allowed to proselytize, nor is it legal to convert to the Christian faith from the Muslim religion. It is the same way in many of the other neighboring countries to Israel. But the Lord’s word still stands. No shepherd (king or leader) can stand against him. So let us pray for Hassan Rouhani, the president of Iran, for Barham Salih, the president of Iraq, and for Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, as well as for King Abdullah II of Jordan and for King Salman of Saudi Arabia that they would not stand against the Lord and would encourage their people to know and serve the one true God.