“Hamath and Arpad are confounded,
for they have heard bad news;
they melt in fear,
they are troubled like the sea that cannot be quiet.
Damascus has become feeble, she turned to flee,
and panic seized her;
anguish and sorrows have taken hold of her,
as of a woman in labor.
How is the famous city not forsaken,
the city of my joy?
Therefore her young men shall fall in her squares,
and all her soldiers shall be destroyed in that day,
declares the Lord of hosts.
And I will kindle a fire in the wall of Damascus,
and it shall devour the strongholds of Ben-hadad.”
Concerning Kedar and the kingdoms of Hazor that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon struck down.
Thus says the Lord:
“Rise up, advance against Kedar!
Destroy the people of the east!
Their tents and their flocks shall be taken,
their curtains and all their goods;
their camels shall be led away from them,
and men shall cry to them: ‘Terror on every side!’
Flee, wander far away, dwell in the depths,
O inhabitants of Hazor!
declares the Lord.
For Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon
has made a plan against you
and formed a purpose against you.
“Rise up, advance against a nation at ease,
that dwells securely,
declares the Lord,
that has no gates or bars,
that dwells alone.
Their camels shall become plunder,
their herds of livestock a spoil.
I will scatter to every wind
those who cut the corners of their hair,
and I will bring their calamity
from every side of them,
declares the Lord.
Hazor shall become a haunt of jackals,
an everlasting waste;
no man shall dwell there;
no man shall sojourn in her.”
The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning Elam, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah.
Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Behold, I will break the bow of Elam, the mainstay of their might. And I will bring upon Elam the four winds from the four quarters of heaven. And I will scatter them to all those winds, and there shall be no nation to which those driven out of Elam shall not come. I will terrify Elam before their enemies and before those who seek their life. I will bring disaster upon them, my fierce anger, declares the Lord. I will send the sword after them, until I have consumed them, and I will set my throne in Elam and destroy their king and officials, declares the Lord.
“But in the latter days I will restore the fortunes of Elam, declares the Lord.” – Jeremiah 49:23-39 ESV
Damascus, Kedar, Hazor, and Elam. Not exactly household names to most of us. But in Jeremiah’s day, they were cities of renown. They each were famous for their own reason. Damascus was the capital city of Aramea, and is even referred to by God as “That famous city, a city of joy” (Jeremiah 49:25 NLT). We are not provided with any details regarding the source of their fame, but Damascus located on a vital trade route known as the King’s Highway that extended from the capital city through Moab and Edom to the Gulf of Arabah. No doubt, Damascus was a cosmopolitan city, filled with the sounds of trade, the languages of many languages, and all the excesses that come with financial success. But God informs them that their destruction is immanent. Their fifteen minutes of fame are about to come to an end. And, according to God, their demise is as good as done.
“Damascus has become feeble,
and all her people turn to flee.” – Jeremiah 49:24 NLT
The Arameans had long been a source of contention for the people of Israel. All the way back to the reigns of David and Solomon, the Arameans and a coalition of other city-states, had been a thorn in the side of the Istaelites. David would conquer and capture the city (2 Samuel 8:5-6), but they would later cast off Israelite sovereignty during the reign of Solomon. But the city of Damascus, known for its beauty, would become a wasteland, forsaken and forgotten.
“Her young men will fall in the streets and die.
Her soldiers will all be killed,”
says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
“And I will set fire to the walls of Damascus
that will burn up the palaces of Ben-hadad.” – Jeremiah 49:26-27 NLT
And now God turns His attention to the people of Kedar and Hazor. What was the significance of these two relatively obscure cities? Well, it seems that they were not cities at all, but the names of two different Arabic tribes. If we turn to the book of Genesis, we find out that the Kedarites were actually the descendants of Ishmael, the half-brother of Isaac.
These are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s servant, bore to Abraham. These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, named in the order of their birth: Nebaioth, the firstborn of Ishmael; and Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. – Genesis 25:12-15 NLT
We know little about the Hazorites, but must assume that they were yet another Arabic tribe that had partnered with the Kedarites to form a strategic alliance. Unlike the people of Damascus, the Kedarites and Hazorites were nomadic people who were, for the most part, sheep herders who dwelled in unwalled cities consisting primarily of tents. What part had they played in the life of the people of God that would warrant God’s wrath and their destruction? God refers to them as “the warriors from the East” (Jeremiah 49:27 NLT). They were part of an alliance of other nation states and tribes, including the Midianites and Amalekites, who joined forces to attack the people of Israel during the days of the judge, Gideon.
Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, marauders from Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east would attack Israel, camping in the land and destroying crops as far away as Gaza. They left the Israelites with nothing to eat, taking all the sheep, goats, cattle, and donkeys. These enemy hordes, coming with their livestock and tents, were as thick as locusts; they arrived on droves of camels too numerous to count. And they stayed until the land was stripped bare. So Israel was reduced to starvation by the Midianites. – Judges 6:3-6 NLT
And God makes it very clear what their punishment would be:
“Their flocks and tents will be captured,
and their household goods and camels will be taken away.” – Jeremiah 49:29 NLT
They had harassed the people of God in order to feed their flocks and camels, leaving the Israelites in a state of starvation. Now, God was going to pay them back. He would bring King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians, who would strip them of all their flocks and possessions. They would end up running for their lives in an attempt to escape the wrath of God in the form of the Babylonian forces. But they would fail.
Finally, God wraps up this oracle with a word concerning Elam. The Elamites occupied the land which is now part of modern Iran. They were the descendants of Shem, one of the sons of Noah (Genesis 10:22). They lived in the area known as Mesopotamia and it is not exactly clear why they are included in this oracle of judgment by God. But it is safe to say, that God had His reasons. One of the interesting facts is that the Elamites at one time conquered the land of Ur, the ancestral homeland of the Israel patriarch, Abraham. Perhaps this played a role in God’s decision. We don’t know and are not provided with details. We do know that they played a part in an attack on the city of Jerusalem and were known for their archers and chariots (Isaiah 22:6). Which is why God says, “I will destroy the archers of Elam—the best of their forces” (Jeremiah 49:35 NLT). According to the book of Isaiah, Elam was one of the places to which the people of Israel were exiled and from which they would return
In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time
to bring back the remnant of his people—
those who remain in Assyria and northern Egypt;
in southern Egypt, Ethiopia, and Elam;
in Babylonia, Hamath, and all the distant coastlands. – Isaiah 22:11 NLT
Whatever their role had been, the Elamites would be held responsible by God. Their poor treatment of God’s people had not gone unnoticed and would they would go unpunished.
“I myself will go with Elam’s enemies to shatter it.
In my fierce anger, I will bring great disaster
upon the people of Elam,” says the Lord. – Jeremiah 49:37 NLT
But God makes an interesting disclosure at the very end of this oracle concerning Elam. He tells them that He will restore their fortunes in the days to come. We are not told why. But it provides a picture of God’s grace and mercy, even in light of the wickedness of the nations. There is a future point in time, at which God will restore things to their original state. He will send His Son a second time, this time to rule and reign on the earth as the King of kings and Lord of lords. He will set up His Kingdom in Jerusalem and restore the people of Israel to power and prominence. No longer will the nations rise up in opposition to Israel. Instead, they will bow down in submission to the God of the Israelites.
Turn to me so you can be delivered,
all you who live in the earth’s remote regions!
For I am God, and I have no peer.
I solemnly make this oath—
what I say is true and reliable:
‘Surely every knee will bow to me,
every tongue will solemnly affirm;
they will say about me,
“Yes, the Lord is a powerful deliverer.”’”
All who are angry at him will cower before him.
All the descendants of Israel will be vindicated by the Lord
and will boast in him. – Isaiah 45:22-25 NLT
God will win the day. His Son will rule the world. The nations will bow down before Him. And God’s promises and plans concerning the people of Israel will be fully and completely fulfilled. Why? Because God is faithful and true.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.