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Moab in the latter days

‘Moab has evidently a latter-day history, from the notice taken of her in Daniel; and from the saying “I will bring again the captivity of Moab in the latter days, saith Yahweh” (Jeremiah 48:47).  We are not, however, to expect that the real descendents of Lot will return there; for their race is melted down and lost among the nations; but that the country called Moab, now (written in 1868) a desolate portion of the Constantinopolitan, or Dragon empire, will be occupied by a power that shall restore prosperity to the country previous to its coming into the possession of the occupant of David’s throne …”[1]

Although in his day a “desolate” backwater of the Ottoman Empire, Bro Thomas recognised that Moab had a role to play at the time of the end.  The Bible is emphatic that the ancient power of Moab was destined to be utterly destroyed, but it also suggests that at the time of the end it will be a player when the northern invader descends upon Israel.

Moab’s desolation

Jeremiah was a prophet to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5, 9-10), the plural words “nations” and “kingdoms” making it clear that his prophetic ministry did not just involve the Israelites but other nations as well.  The vast majority of his prophecies were directed towards Judah, but from chapter 46 onwards there is a series of prophecies about various Gentile nations – “against the Gentiles” (AV), or “concerning the nations” (RV and ESV).  In the order in which they are recorded are prophecies of judgment against Egypt, Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Kedar and Hazor, Elam and finally Babylon.

One of the longest of these prophecies is that directed against Moab in Jeremiah 48.  Incredibly detailed and colourful, this prophecy outlines the comprehensive destruction of Moab, a judgment which in the centuries following was fulfilled completely.  Where is Moab and where are the Moabites today?  The territory is in the south of what today is Jordan, but the Moabites have disappeared from the face of the earth.  Once proud, flourishing and prosperous, the area is today a howling wilderness.

In 46 detailed verses, Jeremiah records the extent and absolute certainty of Moab’s desolation.  God could have inspired Jeremiah to write just that Moab would be utterly destroyed for its pride and anti-Israel behaviour: one sentence would have sufficed to tell the broad story.  The huge amount of detail, however, impresses upon us the absolute certainty and thoroughness of the destruction, which history has confirmed.  The prophecy climaxes in Jeremiah 48:46 when it says Moab “magnified himself against the LORD”.  There could be only one outcome in such a context – Moab was wiped out.[2]

Moab today

After 46 verses promising complete annihilation, Jeremiah 48:47 takes us to the latter days, which suggests that there will be a role at that time for Moab:

Yet will I bring again the captivity (ESV fortunes) of Moab in the latter days, saith the LORD.  Thus far is the judgment of Moab.

Ancient Moab is part of modern Jordan, a nation which currently has a peace treaty with Israel.  Jordan enjoys warm relations with western nations like the USA and the UK.  In comparison with most other Arab nations, Jordan is relatively friendly towards Israel.  There is a high degree of co-operation between Israel and Jordan and there are several border crossings between the two states.

Geography alone would suggest there is potential for Moab to play a role in prophecies concerning the Holy Land, so what does the Bible say about Moab’s involvement with Israel in the latter days?  The first passage we will consider in this regard is Daniel 11:40-45.

Daniel 11

Daniel 11:40-45 describes an invasion of the Holy Land and Egypt by a mighty army from the north.  After initial success, the invading force establishes itself in Jerusalem, after which the invading force is divinely overthrown.  There are obvious parallels between this passage and the invasion described in Ezekiel 38-39:[3]

Daniel 11-12 Ezekiel 38-39
King of the north invades (11: 40) Gog comes from the north (38:15)
A massive military force (11:40) A massive military force (38:4)
The prophecy personifies the invader as “he” Gog  is personally addressed (38:3, 39:1)
Libya and Ethiopia are allies (11: 43) Libya and Ethiopia are allies (38:5)
A challenge messages come from the east (11: 44) Sheba and Dedan (to the east) challenge Gog (38:13)
Comes to an end on “the glorious holy mountain” (11:45) Comes to an end on “the mountains of Israel” (39:4)
Unexpectedly encounters divine resistance (12:1) Unexpectedly encounters divine resistance (38:19-23)

Verse 40 says this is a prophecy takes place “at the time of the end”.  Verse 41 refers Moab:

He (the King of the North) shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.

The glorious land must surely be Israel.  While the glorious land, Israel, is invaded and “many countries shall be overthrown”, Edom, Moab and Ammon are left unmolested.  Together these three nations today comprise the territory of modern-day Jordan.  Interestingly, Jeremiah’s prophecies about the Gentiles record that God will bring again the captivity not just of Moab (Jeremiah 48:47) but also of Ammon:

Afterward, I will bring again the captivity (ESV fortunes) of the children of Ammon, saith the LORD. (Jeremiah 49:6)[4]

Why are these areas left untouched by the northern invader?  We are not told in this chapter.  So why does the prophecy even mention the fact?  If that detail were omitted from Daniel 11 would the main thrust of the passage be less clear?  Not at all!  So why is it mentioned?  It is not necessary to our understanding of Daniel 11 but it is of great assistance to appreciating another prophecy.

Isaiah 16

Isaiah 16 refers to Moab at the time of the end and the latter days.  Moab is the theme of Isaiah 15 and 16, and much of the text reflects the tone of Jeremiah 48.  For instance, all of Isaiah 15 and verses 6 to 14 of Isaiah 16 describe in a more succinct manner the destruction which is portrayed so extensively in Jeremiah 48.  Isaiah 16:1-5 speak of Moab’s play at the time of the end:

Send ye the lamb to the ruler of the land from Sela to the wilderness, unto the mount of the daughter of Zion.  For it shall be, that, as a wandering bird cast out of the nest, so the daughters of Moab shall be at the fords of Arnon.  Take counsel, execute judgment; make thy shadow as the night in the midst of the noonday; hide the outcasts; bewray not (ESV do not reveal) him that wandereth.  Let mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab; be thou a covert to them from the face of the spoiler: for the extortioner is at an end, the spoiler ceaseth, the oppressors are consumed out of the land.  And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness.

Reference in verse 1 to the “mount of the daughter of Zion” is reminiscent of the reference to the holy mountain in Daniel 11:45, while verse 5 is unmistakably messianic.  The “throne” that is established in mercy is obviously the throne of David.  We know from Amos 9:11 and Acts 15:16 that the tabernacle of David relates to the reign of our Lord Jesus Christ, of which judgment and righteous will be hallmarks.

Recognising verse 5 as messianic enables us to see the Lord Jesus Christ as the lamb in verse 1.  But why is the lamb sent to the ruler of Moab?  And what does the daughter of Zion have to do with Moab?  We have a clue from verses 3 and 4, which refer to Moab providing refuge to God’s outcasts when a spoiler enters the land.  But, as in Daniel 11:45, that spoiler who enters the land comes to an end, allowing the refugees to be reclaimed by the one ruling on the throne of David.

This passage is describing a scenario in which Israelis fleeing the northern invader when Gog descends on Israel find refuge in the southern regions Jordan.  As the invader comes the north it is likely that Israeli refugees would flee towards the south and cross the border between Jordan and Israel south of the Dead Sea – into what was in ancient times Moab.  This provides a reason why Daniel 11 says that Moab, Edom and Ammon are left untouched by the invader.

Historical precedent

There is a curious historical precedent for this scenario in 1 Samuel 22, when David was under threat from Saul, who had become increasingly hostile and irrational.  David saw that this placed his family at risk and so he took steps to ensure their safety.

David went thence to Mizpeh of Moab: and he said unto the king of Moab, Let my father and my mother, I pray thee, come forth, and be with you, till I know what God will do for me.  And he brought them before the king of Moab: and they dwelt with him all the while that David was in the hold. (1 Samuel 22:3-4)

David asked the king of Moab to provide refuge for his parents to ensure that Saul could not harm them.  This was to be until God intervened to ensure David’s security.  We hear no more of David’s parents after this incident, but presumably, he brought them back to the land when the danger was passed.[5]  Isaiah 16 suggests that David’s strategy in 1 Samuel 22 may well be repeated at the time of the end and that at least some of those precious to David’s greater son will likewise find refuge in Moab until God deals with the hostile forces threatening them.

God rules in the kingdom of men, manipulating events in accordance with the prophetic plan.  The Jordanian government pursues policies and actions which it regards as being in its best interests, but we may be certain that the outcome will be in accordance with the divine plan as revealed in the prophets.  Our awareness of the demise of ancient Moab and of its role in the latter days ought to have a sobering impact upon us, especially as we see evidence that the current occupant of Moab already is well placed to play the part described in Isaiah 16.  Let us resolve never to be proud and haughty like ancient Moab, never to magnify ourselves against the LORD.  And let us look with eager anticipation to the day when “the spoiler ceaseth, the oppressors are consumed out of the land”, and David’s throne is re-established in Jerusalem.

Geoff Henstock

[1] John Thomas, Exposition of Daniel, page 90.

[2] For a discussion of the relevance of Jeremiah 48 to saints today see the article “Judgment on Moab” in The Christadelphian, December 2013.

[3] Table copied from Sid Levett and Geoff Henstock, The Sign of His Coming, page 142.

[4] The only other Gentile nation of which the Bible says God will bring again its captivity in the latter days is Elam, which equates to modern Iran (Jeremiah 49:39).  Iran also plays a part in events at this time (Ezekiel 38:5), along with Libya and Ethiopia who also are mentioned in Daniel 11:43.

[5] Jewish tradition says the king of Moab betrayed David and murdered David’s parents but the Bible is silent about this; verse 4 certainly does not hint at anything untoward happening to them while refugees in Moab.

Re-produced here with the kind permission of Bro Henstock and the Tesimony Magazine

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