Isaiah 16 – The Divine judgments About to Come Upon the Moabites & The Nations in Prophecy

Finger Pointing UpI can see that their lives are slowly dwindling down to nothing, but that’s what happens when people sin, when they go against You, isn’t it? (Jer 31:29-30; Eze 18:20-21; Heb 6:4-6, 10:26-27; Rev 21:7-8, 22:18-19).

1 Fords of the Arnon in Moab
Visualizing Isaiah 15-16: the fords of the Arnon in Moab
When the prophets of ancient Israel pointed out the coming judgment of God upon the Israelites they typically pointed out that their enemies had already, or were going to, face the same judgment. This applied not only to the major powers such as Assyrian, Babylon, or Egypt, but also smaller powers that lived closer. It included Syria (Damascus), the Philistines, Moab, Edom, and the Ammonites. When Judah is being addressed there will be also a reference to Israel (Ephraim, Samaria).

But I’ve also noticed that this really bothers You.  That You truly love people and You would rather not destroy them (Eze 18:32), all they have to do is stop sinning against You (2 Chr 7:14; 1 Jn 1:9).

1 Send ye the lamb to the ruler of the land from Sela to the wilderness, unto the mount of the daughter of Zion.

“Send ye the lamb” – as King Meshu sent 100,000 lambs to King Ahab of Israel each year (see Kgs 3:4) so now proud Moab, which as often oppressed Israel, is advised in her crisis to submit to the king in Jerusalem.

“Sela” – the naturally fortified capital of the Edomites south of the Dead Sea, situated on a rocky plateau that towers 1,000 feet above the nearby Petra (cf 42;11).  The name means “cliff.”  The tribute would be sent around the southern end of the Dead Sea.

2 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.

“Fords of Arnon” – the women were fleeing south, away from the north invader.

3 Take counsel, execute judgment; make thy shadow as the night in the midst of the noonday; hide the outcasts; bewray not him that wandereth.

“Hide the outcasts” – the Moabites are asking Judah for refuge (contrast Ruth 1:1; 1 Sam 22:3-4).

“Bewray not him…wandereth” – a request not to betray those who are fleeing as fugitives.

4 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.

“Spoiler” – probably Assyria.

“Extortioner” – Moab.

2 Davids Tabernacle
Tabernacle of David
King David built a special tabernacle in Jerusalem to house the Ark of he Covenant (made by Moses) (1 Chr 15:1, 16:1). David organized 4,000 musicians and 288 singers to minister to God before the Ark, in shifts that continued 24 hours a day (1 Chr. 6:31-33, 15:16-22, 23:4-6).

This was their full-time occupation to worship and pray (1 Chr 9:33; 25:7). Skillful singers who sang the Song of the Lord before the Ark of God became the norm (1 Chr 2:1, 7; 2 Chr 29:27).

5 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.

“Tabernacle of David” – see 9:7; Amos 9:11.

6  We have heard of the pride of Moab; he is very proud: even of his haughtiness, and his pride, and his wrath: but his lies shall not be so.

“Pride of Moab” – though a small nation, Moab is proud and defiant like Assyria and Babylon (cf 10:12, 14:13, 25:11; Jer 48:42).

7 Therefore shall Moab howl for Moab, everyone shall howl: for the foundations of Kir-hareseth shall ye mourn; surely they are stricken.

8 For the fields of Heshbon languish, and the vine of Sibmah: the lords of the heathen have broken down the principal plants thereof, they are come even unto Jazer, they wandered through the wilderness: her branches are stretched out, they are gone over the sea.

“Sibmah” – perhaps three miles west of Heshbon (see Jer 48:32).

“Principal plants” – or “choice vines.”  The poet shifts to a metaphor, comparing Moab to a vineyard (see 5:1-7).  He returns to a literal description again in v 10.

“Jazer” – possibly located about 15 miles north of the Dead Sea.

“Wilderness” – on the eastern edge of Moab.

3 Moab’s god Chemosh
Moab’s god, Chemosh
Chemosh was the national deity of the Moabites whose name most likely meant “destroyer,” “subduer,” or “fish god.”  While he is most readily associated with the Moabites, according to Judges 11:24 he seems to have been the national deity of the Ammonites as well.  His presence in the Old Testament world was well known, as his cult was imported to Jerusalem by King Solomon (1 Kings 11:7).  The Hebrew scorn for his worship was evident in a curse from the scriptures:  “the abomination of Moab.”  King Josiah destroyed the Israelite branch of the cult (2 Kings 23).

“Branches are stretched out” – this is a hyperbole, as in Ps 80:11, where Israel is the vineyard.

9  Therefore I will bewail with the weeping of Jazer the vine of Sibmah: I will water thee with my tears, O Heshbon, and Elealeh: for the shouting for thy summer fruits and for thy harvest is fallen.

16:9-11 – “…my…mine inward parts” – the Lord and/or Isaiah weeps and laments over the destruction brought on proud Moab to humble her.

10 And gladness is taken away, and joy out of the plentiful field; and in the vineyards there shall be no singing, neither shall there be shouting: the treaders shall tread out no wine in their presses; I have made their vintage shouting to cease.

“Treaders shall tread” – the grapes were trampled on and the juice flowed into the wine vat (see note on 5:2; cf Jer 48:33; Amos 9:13).

11 Wherefore my bowels shall sound like an harp for Moab, and mine inward parts for Kir-haresh.

12  And it shall come to pass, when it is seen that Moab is weary on the high place, that he shall come to his sanctuary to pray; but he shall not prevail.

“High place” – see 15:2 and note.

“Pray…not prevail” – Moab’s god, Chemosh, was a mere idol (see 44:17-20; 1 Kgs 11:7).

13 This is the word that the LORD hath spoken concerning Moab since that time.

16:13-14 – an epilogue to 15:1-16:12.

14 But now the LORD hath spoken, saying, Within three years, as the years of an hireling, and the glory of Moab shall be contemned, with all that great multitude; and the remnant shall be very small and feeble.

“Within three years” – other signs that have a three-year limit are given in 20:3, 37:30, see also notes on 7:14, 16.  Moab’s three years were over by c. 715 B.C. (see note on 15:1).

“Hireling” – where the prophecy against Kedar follows the pattern of this verse.

The Nations in Prophecy

4 The Nations in Prophecy


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