Reading through the Bible together
This chapter is a prophecy against the Moabites who were the descendants of Lot (Genesis 19:37). Peter calls him “righteous Lot” (2 Peter 2:7). The Moabites first lived in southeastern Transjordan and occupied the city of Ar which was on the eastside of the Dead Sea (Deuteronomy 2:9).
When the Israelites wanted to go to the land of Canaan the Moabites did not allow them to go through their land. Nevertheless, God did not allow the Israelites to fight against the Moabites because they were their relatives and their ancestor Lot was a true worshiper of God.
Before the time of Moses, the Moabites were worshipping the idol Chemosh so God allowed the Amorites to come and take a part of their land (Numbers 21:26). Later, at the time of Moses, Balak the king of Moab asked Balaam to curse Israel. That’s when the Moabites were worshipping Baal-peor and led the men of Israel to do the same (Numbers 25:1-3).
In the days of Ahab’s son, Jehoram who was king of Israel, Mesha, the king of Moab turned against Israel. His god was Chemosh, and he even offered his son to this god as a burnt offering (2 Kings 3:27). In the war that followed, Mesha refused to surrender to Israel. So Israel continued to fight against the Moabites, and it looked as if the Moabites were going to perish. That’s when God stepped in and Israel left off fighting the Moabites and returned home. Apparently this was not the time for God to exterminate the Moabites even if they were idol worshipers for He wanted them to repent and turn back to Him.
However, there were Moabite cities which were to be destroyed for these reasons: (1) they still worshiped the god Chemosh (Jeremiah 48:13); (2) they boasted against God of Israel and mocked Judah (48:26, 27, 29, 42); (3) they said “The kingdom of Judah is no different than all the other nations” because Judah was destroyed by the Babylonians (Ezekiel 25:8), and (4) they cursed the people of Judah and violated the borders of Judah (Zephaniah 2:8).
God’s message of destruction was conditional. He gave this message to Jeremiah for the Moabites so they would repent and come back to the Lord. If the Moabites would have repented, God would have freed them from the spiritual prison house of idol worship and restored them (Jeremiah 48:47).
Long before this prophecy by Jeremiah, Ruth, a Moabite woman, believed in God through the influence of the godly life of Naomi. May we be like Naomi and through our godly life influence our neighbors to believe in God and be loyal to Him as was her daughter-in-law Ruth, who is listed in the genealogy of Jesus (see Matt. 1:1,5).Yoshitaka Kobayashi, Ph.D., Japan