Edom will become an object of horror; all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff because of all its wounds. As Sodom and Gomorrah were overthrown, along with their neighboring towns,” says the Lord , “so no one will live there; no people will dwell in it. “Like a lion coming up from Jordan’s thickets to a rich pastureland, I will chase Edom from its land in an instant. Who is the chosen one I will appoint for this? Who is like me and who can challenge me? And what shepherd can stand against me?” Therefore, hear what the Lord has planned against Edom, what he has purposed against those who live in Teman: The young of the flock will be dragged away; their pasture will be appalled at their fate. At the sound of their fall the earth will tremble; their cry will resound the Red Sea. Look! An eagle will soar and swoop down, spreading its wings over Bozrah. In that day the hearts of Edom’s warriors will be like the heart of a woman in labor. Concerning Damascus: “Hamath and Arpad are dismayed, for they have heard bad news. They are disheartened, troubled like the restless sea. Damascus has become feeble, she has turned to flee and panic has gripped her; anguish and pain have seized her, pain like that of a woman in labor. Surely, her young men will fall in the streets; all her soldiers will be silenced in that day,” declares the Lord Almighty. – Jeremiah 49:17-26
The Edomites are the target of Jeremiah’s prophesy in this passage. The people of Edom are traditionally thought to descend from Esau, son of the Isaac. They apparently made an alliance with the Babylonians and helped in the sacking and slaughter of the people of Judah. God has some dire consequences for this people group that live at the south end of the dead sea, “Like a lion coming up from Jordan’s thickets to a rich pastureland, I will chase Edom from its land in an instant.”
It is interesting that the imagery used to describe the judgement of Edom involves a lion emerging from the Jordan. God himself has taken on the mantle of lion and lamb in saying that He himself will .bring this judgement. He asks the rhetorical questions: “Who is like me and who can challenge me? And what shepherd can stand against me?” I think God is reminding the leaders of Edom that they have been standing against Him and they have abandoned their sheep are led their people astray.
As a result of the people’s choices the lion will come and devour them, “The young of the flock will be dragged away; their pasture will be appalled at their fate. At the sound of their fall the earth will tremble; their cry will resound the Red Sea.” This sounds pretty bad, and part of me want to ask why would God act in this way, but what is to occur is actually the consequences of the choices of the people and leaders of Edom. God is giving then what they desired, namely to Shepard their own flock and make their own way.
The warriors in response to this coming judgement are compared to the heart of a woman in labor, “In that day the hearts of Edom’s warriors will be like the heart of a woman in labor.” Since I am not a woman and have not experienced child birth it is difficult to place this metaphor in context. My wife gave birth to two wonderful daughters and in discussing the experience with her it seems that the experience is both terrible and wonderful at the same time. She said that the time before labor is filled with a sense of mixed sense of anticipation and trepidation about what will happen when the baby comes and the pain that will accompany the baby’s arrival.
I am not sure that the warriors of Edom would describe this coming calamity as wonderful, but in God does still love them and I am pretty sure that if they repented of their previous choices God would forgive them and God’s “arrival” would end up being a blessing. They have to experience the consequences of their actions and God is telling them that it will be painful. The end result can either bring them closer to God or separate them further from Him.
The prophecy then turns to Damascus to the north. The response of the people of Damascus is somewhat different than Edom. They are “disheartened, troubled like the restless sea”. The metaphor conjures in my mind a foaming, churning, sea with waves moving in all directions. This sea has energy but no direction or purpose. The people of Damascus are fleeing, but they do not have a clear idea where or to whom they should flee.
I am not sure what the take-home message is from this passage. Perhaps it is that even when things seem bleak and we are reaping the consequences of poor choices we should not be afraid to turn around and turn to God. He will meet us if we do. The people of Edom and Damascus do not really figure this out and it is their loss.
Prayer: God help us to remember when we have made poor choices that You still love us and want to meet us on the road to return to You.