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Jeremiah 48:29-39 – The Tears of God


God weeps over the suffering of the Moabites.


The word of God spoken against Moab is one of several oracles against the nations in Jeremiah 46-51. Most, if not all, of them are set in relation to the advances of Babylonian armies under Nebuchadnezzar. The Moabites suffered as much as did the Israelites, not least because they had joined Israel in rebellion (see 27:1-11). Their pride and arrogance are especially mentioned as the reason for their participation in the judgment. The references to weeping and wailing on the part of the Moabites are similar to the many references in Jeremiah to the suffering of the Israelites.

Five different words are used for the weeping of the Moabites. As great as their pride is, the intensity of their fall has been comparably great. Equally as intense is God's lament over what has happened to this people: God wails, cries out, and mourns for Moab and for individual cities (as also in Isaiah 15:5; 16:9, 11).

God's lament has been interpreted as ironic or mocking of Moab. Yet, given the similarities of God's lamenting to the divine laments over Israel (8:18-9:1; 9:10, 17-19; 13:17; 14:17), it is more likely that God's mourning is to be taken at face value. It is especially striking that God laments over the suffering of nonchosen people. Israel has no monopoly on divine empathy.

Jeremiah 48:29-39

29 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.
30 I myself know his insolence, says the Lord;
   his boasts are false,
   his deeds are false.
31 Therefore I wail for Moab;
   I cry out for all Moab;
   for the people of Kir-heres I mourn.
32 More than for Jazer I weep for you,
   O vine of Sibmah!
Your branches crossed over the sea,
   reached as far as Jazer;*
upon your summer fruits and your vintage
   the destroyer has fallen.
33 Gladness and joy have been taken away
   from the fruitful land of Moab;
I have stopped the wine from the wine presses;
   no one treads them with shouts of joy;
   the shouting is not the shout of joy.

34 Heshbon and Elealeh cry out;* as far as Jahaz they utter their voice, from Zoar to Horonaim and Eglath-shelishiyah. For even the waters of Nimrim have become desolate. 35And I will bring to an end in Moab, says the Lord, those who offer sacrifice at a high place and make offerings to their gods. 36Therefore my heart moans for Moab like a flute, and my heart moans like a flute for the people of Kir-heres; for the riches they gained have perished.

37 For every head is shaved and every beard cut off; on all the hands there are gashes, and on the loins sackcloth. 38On all the housetops of Moab and in the squares there is nothing but lamentation; for I have broken Moab like a vessel that no one wants, says the Lord. 39How 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 his neighbours.

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