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Jeremiah 49:1

Context
Judgment Against Ammon

49:1 The Lord spoke about the Ammonites. 1 

“Do you think there are not any people of the nation of Israel remaining?

Do you think there are not any of them remaining to reinherit their land?

Is that why you people who worship the god Milcom 2 

have taken possession of the territory of Gad and live in his cities? 3 

Jeremiah 49:3

Context

49:3 Wail, you people in Heshbon, because Ai in Ammon is destroyed.

Cry out in anguish, you people in the villages surrounding 4  Rabbah.

Put on sackcloth and cry out in mourning.

Run about covered with gashes. 5 

For your god Milcom will go into exile

along with his priests and officials. 6 

1 sn Ammonites. Ammon was a small kingdom to the north and east of Moab which was in constant conflict with the Transjordanian tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh over territorial rights to the lands north and south of the Jabbok River. Ammon mainly centered on the city of Rabbah which is modern Amman. According to Judg 11:13 the Ammonites claimed the land between the Jabbok and the Arnon but this was land taken from them by Sihon and Og and land that the Israelites captured from the latter two kings. The Ammonites attempted to expand into the territory of Israel in the Transjordan in the time of Jephthah (Judg 10-11) and the time of Saul (1 Sam 11). Apparently when Tiglath Pileser carried away the Israelite tribes in Transjordan in 733 b.c., the Ammonites took over possession of their cities (Jer 49:1). Like Moab they appear to have been loyal to Nebuchadnezzar in the early part of his reign, forming part of the contingent that he sent to harass Judah when Jehoiakim rebelled in 598 b.c. (2 Kgs 24:2). But along with Moab and Edom they sent representatives to plot rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar in 594 b.c. (Jer 27:3). The Ammonites were evidently in rebellion against him in 588 b.c. when he had to decide whether to attack Rabbah or Jerusalem first (Ezek 21:18-23 [21:23-28 HT]). They appear to have remained in rebellion after the destruction of Jerusalem because their king Baalis was behind the plot to assassinate Gedaliah and offered refuge to Ishmael after he did it (Jer 40:13; 41:15). According to the Jewish historian Josephus they were conquered in 582 b.c. by Nebuchadnezzar.

2 tc The reading here and in v. 3 follows the reading of the Greek, Syriac, and Latin versions and 1 Kgs 11:5, 33; 2 Kgs 23:13. The Hebrew reads “Malcom” both here, in v. 3, and Zeph 1:5. This god is to be identified with the god known elsewhere as Molech (cf. 1 Kgs 11:7).

3 tn Heb “Does not Israel have any sons? Does not he have any heir [or “heirs” as a collective]? Why [then] has Malcom taken possession of Gad and [why] do his [Malcom’s] people live in his [Gad’s] land?” A literal translation here will not produce any meaning without major commentary. Hence the meaning that is generally agreed on is reflected in an admittedly paraphrastic translation. The reference is to the fact that the Ammonites had taken possession of the cities that had been deserted when the Assyrians carried off the Transjordanian tribes in 733 b.c. assuming that the Israelites would not return in sufficient numbers to regain control of it. The thought underlying the expression “Why has Milcom taken possession…” reflects the idea, common in the OT and the ancient Near East, that the god of a people drove out the previous inhabitants, gave their land to his worshipers to possess, and took up residence with them there (cf., e.g., Deut 1:21; Judg 11:24 and line 33-34 of the Moabite stone: “Chemosh said to me, ‘Go down, fight against Hauronen.’ And I went down [and I fought against the town and took it], and Chemosh dwelt there in my time.” [ANET 321]).

4 tn Or “you women of Rabbah”; Heb “daughters of Rabbah.” It is difficult to tell whether the word “daughters” is used here in the same sense that it has in v. 2 (see the translator’s note there) or in the literal sense of “daughters.” The former has been preferred because the cities themselves (e.g., Heshbon) are called to wail in the earlier part of the verse and the term “daughters” has been used in the previous verse of the surrounding villages.

5 tc Or “Run back and forth inside the walls of your towns.” Or “slash yourselves with gashes.” The meaning of this line is uncertain. The Hebrew text reads “run back and forth among the walls.” The word “run back and forth” is generally taken as a Hitpolel of a verb that means to “go about” in the Qal and to “go back and forth” in the Polel (cf. BDB 1002 s.v. I שׁוּט). The noun that follows in the Hebrew means “wall, hedge” and is quite commonly modified by the noun צֹאן (tson, “sheep”) referring to sheepfolds (cf., e.g., Num 32:36; 1 Sam 24:3). But the phrase “run back and forth among the sheepfolds” yields little meaning here. In Ps 89:40 (89:41 HT) the word “wall” is used in parallelism with fortified cities and refers to the walls of the city. That is the sense that is assumed in one of the alternate translations with the words “of your towns” being supplied in the translation for clarification. However, that figure is a little odd in a context which speaks of mourning rites. Hence, some emend the word “walls” (גְּדֵרוֹת, gÿderot) to “gashes” (גְּדֻדוֹת, gÿdudot), a word that has occurred in a similar context in Jer 48:37. That would involve only the common confusion of ר and ד. That is the reading adopted here and fits the context nicely. NRSV appears to go one step further and read the verb as a Hitpolel from a root that is otherwise used only as a noun to mean “whip” or “scourge.” NRSV reads “slash yourselves with whips” which also makes excellent sense in the context but is not supported by any parallel use of the verb.

6 sn Compare Jer 48:7 and the study note there.



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