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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 48:45-47

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, March 7, 2015

45 “Those who fled stand helpless under the shadow of Heshbon;
         for a fire has gone out from Heshbon,
         and a flame from the midst of Sihon.
It has burned the foreheads of Moab,
  and the tops of the heads of those who boast.
46 Woe to you, O Moab!
      The people of Chemosh are destroyed;
for your sons are taken away captive,
  and your daughters into exile.

Note: The last two lines of verse 45 could also read: “It has burned Moab from its borders to the highest heights of those who boast.”

These two verses are missing from the Greek translation, the Septuagint. I was thinking of looking at a few commentaries to get some opinions about why this might be the case, and then I laughed as I looked at my own translation—because I had omitted them, too!

As I was preparing this translation a few weeks ago, I had left these verses out because they’re almost a direct quote from Numbers 21:28-29, sometimes called the Song of Heshbon. I wondered then whether I might consult with the Numbers translator, and I let the verse go until then. However, today is the deadline for this devotion, and I haven’t even found out who is working on Numbers (we’re part of a large translation attempt called the Wartburg Project), so I’ve gone ahead with Jeremiah’s text. My suspicion is that the Greek translator did the same thing, but never got back to putting in the Deuteronomy quotation.

The Song of Heshbon was one of several ancient songs (older than Moses) quoted in the Book of Numbers. It came from “the poets” (Numbers 21:27), probably Ammonite poets following a defeat of the Moabites in the days while Israel was Egypt during the 17th or early 16th centuries B.C. This long-awaited judgment on Moab had finally come through Nebuchadnezzar.

47 “Yet I will reverse the captivity of Moab in days to come,”
says the LORD. This ends the judgment of Moab.

The final word to Moab is a gospel promise: Moab’s captivity would end one day. This end could only come through the appearance of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Moab’s judgment came because of Moab’s sins—sins of idolatry in particular. The only solution to sin is the Lamb of God, sacrificed on our behalf. The people of Moab could never hope to pay for their own sinfulness, but Jesus did it in their place. This forgiveness from Christ is what the Bible is all about. “For there is hardly a syllable, hardly a leaf in the Bible, in the principal books of the Holy Scriptures, where this is not clearly stated” (Apology of the Augsburg Confession, XX:82). Whatever our sins, when we turn away from them in repentance and turn to Christ in faith, his grace covers us and we are restored to God’s family. Welcome home, Moab. You have a place with Jesus, too.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

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