Justice and Mercy.


Concerning the Ammonites.

Thus says the Lord:

“Has Israel no sons?
    Has he no heir?
Why then has Milcom dispossessed Gad,
    and his people settled in its cities?
Therefore, behold, the days are coming,
    declares the Lord,
when I will cause the battle cry to be heard
    against Rabbah of the Ammonites;
it shall become a desolate mound,
    and its villages shall be burned with fire;
then Israel shall dispossess those who dispossessed him,
    says the Lord.

“Wail, O Heshbon, for Ai is laid waste!
    Cry out, O daughters of Rabbah!
Put on sackcloth,
    lament, and run to and fro among the hedges!
For Milcom shall go into exile,
    with his priests and his officials.
Why do you boast of your valleys,
    O faithless daughter,
who trusted in her treasures, saying,
    ‘Who will come against me?’
Behold, I will bring terror upon you,
    declares the Lord God of hosts,
    from all who are around you,
and you shall be driven out, every man straight before him,
    with none to gather the fugitives.

“But afterward I will restore the fortunes of the Ammonites, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 49:1-6 ESV

Now, God turns His attention to the Ammonites. They were a relatively small kingdom located to the north and east of Moab. If you recall, their king, Baalis, was the one who plotted with Ishmael to have Gedaliah, the Babylonian-appointed governor of Judah, assassinated. The Ammonites had also taken advantage of the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel and had moved in and taken over many of their abandoned cities. Like the Moabites, the Ammonites were opportunistic, even working with the Babylonians when they invaded the land of Judah, offering their services as mercenaries. But they would also plot against King Nebuchadnezzar, a decision that would be in direct conflict with God’s will. So, not only had they taken advantage of Israel’s fall to Assyria, they were profiting from Judah’s troubles with Babylon. Then when they saw that Babylon had every intention of bringing all of Palestine under their domain, they determined to rebel against them. But God had other plans for Ammon.

The first thing God addressed is their occupation of land belonging to the tribe of Gad.

“Are there no descendants of Israel
    to inherit the land of Gad?
Why are you, who worship Molech,
    living in its towns?” – Jeremiah 49:1 NLT

When Israel had fallen to the Assyrians and the people had been removed as slaves to Assyria, the Ammonites had moved into their deserted cities. But as far as God was concerned, that land still belonged to Israel. He had given it to them. And just because He had chosen to punish them for their sin and unfaithfulness, did not give the Ammonites the right to take the land as their own. On top of that, God was not going to tolerate them giving the credit for their “victory” to their false god, Molech, and setting up shrines to worship him in land that belonged to the people of Israel. So, God warns the Ammonites about what was going to happen.

“I will sound the battle cry against your city of Rabbah.
It will become a desolate heap of ruins,
    and the neighboring towns will be burned.
Then Israel will take back the land
    you took from her,” says the Lord. – Jeremiah 49:2 NLT

God tells them to weep and mourn, because their fall is certain and He delivers some devastatingly bad news: “your god Molech, with his priests and officials, will be hauled off to distant lands” (Jeremiah 49:3 NLT). Like the Moabites, they had suffered from pride and arrogance. They thought they were untouchable and that their success would be ongoing. They had enjoyed much success and had been blessed by living in a fertile land that produced plenty of food and met all their needs. But they had not been satisfied. They got greedy and wanted more. So, God levels His accusation against them.

“You trusted in your wealth,
    you rebellious daughter,
    and thought no one could ever harm you.” – Jeremiah 49:4 NLT

Notice that God refers to the Ammonites as a “rebellious daughter.” This is most likely due to the fact that they were, like the Moabites, distant relatives of the Israelites. This all began with Lot, the nephew of Abraham. When Abraham and Lot were forced to part ways because their herds had increased to such a degree that they could no longer share the same land, Abraham gave Lot the first choice of the land. Lot, being somewhat greedy, chose the best land. But then we find that he settled near the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Eventually, he moved into Sodom and raised his two daughters there. But when God eventually destroyed these two wicked cities, He rescued Lot and his two daughters. But in the immediate aftermath of this terrible event, Lot’s two daughters got him drunk and had incestuous relations with him. The byproduct of these immoral acts were two sons: Moab and Ben-Ammi, from whom the Ammonites were descendants. The Moabites and Ammonites, while relatives of the Israelites, would prove to be a constant problem for them. And because they were technically related to the Jews, God would treat them like rebellious daughters, wayward children who needed His divine discipline.

And while they thought they were untouchable, God let’s them know that they will suffer greatly for their idolatry, pride and rebellion against His will.

“But look! I will bring terror upon you,”
    says the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
“Your neighbors will chase you from your land,
    and no one will help your exiles as they flee.” – Jeremiah 49:5 NLT

They would suffer the same fate as the peoples of Israel and Judah. Their fertile valleys would become vacant and their once-productive fields would lay fallow. Their great cities would be destroyed and then occupied by outsiders. Their pride would be shattered. Their fame would fade. Their fortunes would be reversed. But then, God provides them with good news.

“But I will restore the fortunes of the Ammonites
    in days to come.
    I, the Lord, have spoken.” – Jeremiah 49:6 NLT

Just as God had promised to Egypt and Moab, He promises to restore Ammon. While this promise was partially fulfilled when the people of God returned to the land after their 70-year exile, this will actually take place when Christ sets up His millennial kingdom on earth. It will be a time of peace and prosperity, and Christ will reign in justice over all the land. But it is important to recognize that any blessings these nations will enjoy will because God has chosen to bless Israel. He will restore Israel to favor and return them to the land of promise, where they will reign alongside their Messiah. He will give them new hearts and a new capacity to worship Him in faithfulness and perfect obedience. He will do for them what they could never have done for themselves. And for the first time in history, the people of God will be examples of true godliness for the nations of the world. They will be a blessing to all those around them, because they will be totally obedient to God, serving Him with their whole hearts.

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.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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