Behold, he shall come up like a lion - See the note on Jeremiah 12:5. The similitude used here is well illustrated by Dr. Blayney: "When I shall occasion a like commotion in her (Idumea) as a fierce and strong lion may be supposed to do in the sheep-folds, then I will cause him (the man of whom it is said in the preceding verse that he should not dwell in it) to run away from her as the affrighted shepherds and their flocks run from the lion."
A chosen man - Nebuchadnezzar. That is, God has chosen this man, and given him a commission against Idumea.
Edom stretched along the south of Judah from the border of Moab on the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean and the Arabian deserts, and held the same relation to Judah which Moab held toward the kingdom of Israel. Although expressly reserved from attack by Moses Deuteronomy 2:5, a long feud caused the Edomites to cherish so bitter an enmity against Judah, that they exulted with cruel joy over the capture of Jerusalem by the Chaldaeans, and showed great cruelty toward those why fled to them for refuge.
Of the prophecies against Edom the first eight verses of Obadiah are also found in Jeremiah (see the marginal references). As Jeremiah wrote before the capture of Jerusalem, and Obadiah apparently after it (see Jeremiah 49:13-14), it might seem certain that Obadiah copied from Jeremiah. Others held the reverse view; while some consider that the two prophets may both have made common use of some ancient prediction. See the introduction to Obadiah.
The prophecy is divisible into three strophes. In the first Jeremiah 49:7-13, the prophet describes Edom as terror-stricken.
Teman - A strip of land on the northeast of Edom, put here for Edom generally. Its inhabitants were among those “children of the East” famed for wisdom, because of their skill in proverbs and dark sayings.
Dwell deep - Jeremiah 49:30. The Dedanites, who were used to travel through the Edomite territory with their caravans, are advised to retire as far as possible into the Arabian deserts to be out of the way of the invaders.
Translate it: “If vintagers come to thee, they will not leave any gleaning: if thieves by night, they will destroy their fill.”
But - For. The reason why the invaders destroy Edom so completely. His secret places are the hiding-places in the mountains of Seir.
His seed - Esau‘s seed, the Edomites; his brethren are the nations joined with him in the possession of the land, Amalek, and perhaps the Simeonites; his neighbors are Dedan, Tema, Buz.
Translate it: “Behold they whose rule was not to drink of the cup shall surely drink etc.” It was not the ordinary manner of God‘s people to suffer from His wrath: but now when they are drinking of the wine-cup of fury Jeremiah 25:15, how can those not in covenant with Him hope to escape?
The second strophe, Edom‘s chastisement.
Rumour - Or, “revelation.”
Ambassador - Or, messenger, i. e., herald. The business of an ambassador is to negotiate, of a herald to carry a message.
Small - Rather, small among the nations, i. e., of no political importance.
Edom‘s “terribleness” consisted in her cities being hewn in the sides of inaccessible rocks, from where she could suddenly descend for predatory warfare, and retire to her fastnesses without fear of reprisals.
The clefts of the rock - Or, the fastnesses of Sela, the rock-city, Petra (see Isaiah 16:1).
The hill - i. e., Bozrah.
Better, “And Edom shall become a terror: every passer by shalt be terrified, and shudder etc.”
Neighbour - Admah and Zeboim.
A son of man - i. e., “Any man.” From 536 a.d. onward, Petra suddenly vanishes from the pages of history. Only in the present century was its real site discovered.
Concluding strophe. The fall of Edom is compared to the state of a flock worried by an enemy strong as a lion Jeremiah 4:7, and swift as an eagle.
The swelling of Jordan - Or, the pride of Jordan, the thickets on his banks (marginal reference note).
Against the habitation of the strong - Or, to the abiding pasturage. The lion stalks forth from the jungle to attack the fold, sure to find sheep there because of the perennial (evergreen) pasturage: “but I will suddenly make him (the flock, Edom) run away from her (or it, the pasturage).”
And who is a chosen - Better, and I will appoint over it, the abandoned land of Edom, him who is chosen, i. e., my chosen ruler Nebuchadnezzar.
Who will appoint me the time? - The plaintiff, in giving notice of a suit, had to mention the time when the defendant must appear (see the margin). Yahweh identifies himself with Nebuchadnezzar Jeremiah 25:9, and shows the hopelessness of Edom‘s cause. For who is like Yahweh, His equal in power and might? Who will dare litigate with Him, and question His right? etc.
Surely the least - Rather, Surely they will worry them, the feeble ones of the flock: surely their pasture shall be terror-stricken over them. No shepherd can resist Nebuchadnezzar Jeremiah 49:19, but all flee, and leave the sheep unprotected. Thereupon, the Chaldaeans enter, and treat the poor feeble flock so barbarously, that the very fold is horrified at their cruelty.
Is moved - Quakes.
At the cry - The arrangement is much more poetical in the Hebrew, The shriek - to the sea of Suph (Exodus 10:19 note) is heard its sound.
Nebuchadnezzar shall swoop down like an eagle, the emblem of swiftness.