48:2 People will not praise Moab any more.
saying, ‘Come, let’s put an end to that nation!’
City of Madmen, you will also be destroyed. 4
A destructive army will march against you. 5
48:34 Cries of anguish raised from Heshbon and Elealeh
will be sounded as far as Jahaz. 6
They will be sounded from Zoar as far as Horonaim and Eglath Shelishiyah.
For even the waters of Nimrim will be dried up.
48:45 In the shadows of the walls of Heshbon
those trying to escape will stand helpless.
For a fire will burst forth from Heshbon.
Flames will shoot out from the former territory of Sihon.
They will burn the foreheads of the people of Moab,
the skulls of those war-loving people. 7
1 sn Heshbon was originally a Moabite city but was captured by Sihon king of Og and made his capital (Num 21:26-30). It was captured from Sihon and originally assigned to the tribe of Reuben (Num 32:37; Josh 13:17). Later it was made a Levitical city and was assigned to the tribe of Gad (Josh 21:39). It formed the northern limits of Moab. It was located about eighteen miles east of the northern tip of the Dead Sea.
2 sn There is a wordplay in Hebrew on the word “Heshbon” and the word “plot” (חָשְׁבוּ, khoshvu).
3 tn Heb “In Heshbon they plot evil against her [i.e., Moab].” The “they” is undefined, but it would scarcely be Moabites living in Heshbon. Hence TEV and CEV are probably correct in seeing a reference to the enemy which would imply the conquest of this city which lay on the northern border of Moab.
4 tn The meaning of this line is somewhat uncertain. The translation here follows all the modern English versions and commentaries in reading the place name “Madmen” even though the place is otherwise unknown and the Greek, Syriac, and Latin version all read this word as an emphasizing infinitive absolute of the following verb “will be destroyed,” i.e. דָּמוֹם יִדֹּמּוּ (damom yiddommu). Some see this word as a variant of the name Dimon in Isa 15:9 which in turn is a playful variant of the place name Dibon. There is once again a wordplay on the word “Madmen” and “will be destroyed”: מַדְמֵן (madmen) and יִדֹּמּוּ (yiddommu). For the meaning of the verb = “perish” or “be destroyed” see Jer 8:14; Ps 31:18.
5 tn Heb “A sword will follow after you.” The sword is again figurative of destructive forces, here the army of the Babylonians.
6 tn The meaning of this verse is very uncertain. The ambiguity of the syntax and the apparent elliptical nature of this text makes the meaning of this verse uncertain. The Hebrew text reads: “From the cry of Heshbon unto Elealeh unto Jahaz they utter their voice from Zoar unto Horonaim Eglath Shelishiyah.” The translation and interpretation here are based on interpreting the elliptical syntax here by the parallel passage in Isaiah 15:4-6 where cries of anguish rise from Heshbon and Elealeh which are heard all the way to Jahaz. The people flee southward arriving at Zoar and Eglath Shelishiyah where they voice the news of the destruction in the north. Hence, the present translation interprets the phrase “from the cry of Heshbon unto Elealeh” to be parallel to “Heshbon and Elealeh cry out” and take the preposition “from” with the verb “they utter their voice,” i.e., with the cry of Heshbon and Elealeh. The impersonal “they raise their voice” is then treated as a passive and made the subject of the whole verse. There is some debate about the identification of the waters of Nimrim. They may refer to the waters of the Wadi Nimrim which enters the Jordan about eight miles north of the Dead Sea or those of the Wadi en-Numeirah which flows into the southern tip of the Dead Sea from about ten miles south. Most commentators take the reference to be the latter because of association with Zoar. However, if the passage is talking about the destruction in the north which is reported in the south by the fleeing refugees, the reference is probably to the Wadi Nimrim in the north.
sn Elealeh was about two miles (3.3 km) north of Heshbon. Jahaz was about twenty miles (33 km) south of it. These three cities were in the north and Zoar, Horonaim, and Eglath Shelishiyah were apparently in the south. The verse is speaking about the news of destruction in the north spreading to the south. Comparison should be made with the parallel passage in Isa 15:4-6.
7 tn Or “of those noisy boasters.” Or “They will burn up the frontiers of Moab. They will burn up the mountain heights of those war-loving people.” The meaning of this verse is not entirely certain because of the highly figurative nature of the last two lines. The Hebrew text has been translated somewhat literally here. The Hebrew text reads: “In the shadow of Heshbon those fleeing stand without strength. For a fire goes forth from Heshbon, a flame from the midst of Sihon. And it devours the forehead of Moab and the skull of the sons of noise.” The meaning of the first part is fairly clear because v. 2 has already spoken of the conquest of Heshbon and a plot formed there to conquer the rest of the nation. The fire going forth from Heshbon would hence refer here to the conflagrations of war spreading from Heshbon to the rest of the country. The reference to the “midst of Sihon” is to be understood metonymically as a reference for the ruler to what he once ruled (cf. E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 583). The last two lines must refer to more than the fugitives who stopped at Heshbon for protection because it refers to the forehead of Moab (a personification of the whole land or nation). It is unclear, however, why reference is made to the foreheads and skulls of the Moabites, other than the fact that this verse seems to be a readaptation or reuse of Num 24:17 where the verb used with them is “smite” which fits nicely in the sense of martial destruction. Translated rather literally, it appears here to refer to the destruction by the fires of war of the Moabites, the part (forehead and skulls) put for the whole. TEV sees a reference here to the “frontiers” and “mountain heights” of Moab and this would work nicely for “foreheads” which is elsewhere used of the corner or border of a land in Neh 9:22. The word “crown” or “skull” might be a picturesque metaphor for the mountain heights of a land, but the word is never used elsewhere in such a figurative way. TEV (and CEV) which follows it might be correct here but there is no way to validate it. The meaning “war-loving people” for the phrase “sons of noise” is based on the suggestion of BDB 981 s.v. שָׁאוֹן 1 which relates the phrase to the dominant use for שָׁאוֹן (sha’on) and is adopted also by TEV, CEV, and C. von Orelli, Jeremiah, 341. REB “braggarts” and NIV “noisy boasters” seem to base the nuance on the usage of שָׁאוֹן (sha’on) in Jer 46:17 where Pharaoh is referred to as an empty noise and the reference to Moab’s arrogance and boasting in 48:29.
sn This verse and the next are an apparent adaptation and reuse of a victory song in Num 21:28-29 and a prophecy in Num 24:17. That explains the reference to Sihon who was the Amorite king who captured Heshbon and proceeded from there to capture most of northern Moab (the area between Heshbon and the Arnon) which has been referred to earlier in this prophecy. This prophecy appears to speak of the destruction of Moab beginning from the same place under the picture of a destructive fire which burns up all the people. The fire is a reference to the conflagrations of war in which the enemy captures the cities and sets them on fire and burns all the people in them. What Sihon once did (Num 21:28-29) and what Balaam prophesied would happen to Moab in the future (by David? Num 24:17) are being reapplied to a new situation.