Isaiah 15 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Isaiah 15
Pulpit Commentary
The burden of Moab. Because in the night Ar of Moab is laid waste, and brought to silence; because in the night Kir of Moab is laid waste, and brought to silence;
Verses 1-9. - THE BURDEN OF MOAB. The present chapter and the next are very closely connected, and may be regarded as together constituting "the burden of Moab." It has been argued on critical grounds that the bulk of the prophecy is quoted by Isaiah from an earlier writer, and that he has merely modified the wording and added a few touches here and there (so Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Hitzig, Maurer, Ewald, Knobel, and Cheyne). Jeremiah is thought to have also based his "judgment of Moab" (Jeremiah 48.) on the same early writing. But speculations of this kind are in the highest degree uncertain, and moreover lead to no results of the slightest importance. It is best, therefore, to regard Isaiah as the author of these two chapters. Having threatened Philistia, Israel's nearest enemy upon the west, he turns to Moab, her nearest foe towards the east. Verse 1. - Because. An elliptical beginning. Mr. Cheyne supposes some such words as "Lament for Moab," or "Alas for Moab!" to have been in the writer's mind, but to have been omitted through "lyrical excitement." In the night. This is best taken literally. Night attacks, though not common in antiquity, were not unknown. Mesha, King of Moab, boasts that he "went in the night" against Nebo, and assaulted it at early dawn (Moabite Stone, I. 15). Ar of Moab; or, Ar-Moab. An ancient city, mentioned among those taken from the Moabites by Sihon (Numbers 21:28). According to Jerome, it was called in Roman times Areopolis, or Rabbath-Moab. Modern geographers identify it with Rabba, a place on the old Roman road between Kerak and Arair, south of the Amen, where there are some ancient remains, though they are not very extensive (Burckhardt, 'Travels,' p. 377). Is laid waste, and brought to silence; rather, is stormed, is ruined. Kir of Moab. "Kir of Moab" is reasonably identified with Kerak, a place very strongly situated on a mountain peak, about ten miles flora the south-eastern corner of the Dead Sea.
He is gone up to Bajith, and to Dibon, the high places, to weep: Moab shall howl over Nebo, and over Medeba: on all their heads shall be baldness, and every beard cut off.
Verse 2. - He is gone to Bajith; rather, he is gone to the temple. Probably the temple of Baal at Beth-baal-meon is intended. Beth-baal-meon is 'mentioned in close connection with Dibon in Joshua 13:17. And to Dibon. Diboa is mentioned in Numbers 21:30; Numbers 32:3, 34; Joshua 13:9, 17; Jeremiah 48:18, 22. It was an ancient Moabite town of considerable importance, and has recently been identified with the site called Diban, where the Moabite Stone was found. This place is situated in the country east of the Dead Sea, about three miles north of the river Arnon, on the old Roman road connecting Rabbath-Moab with Hesh-bob. The town seems to have gained in importance from the fact that it was the birthplace of Chemosh-Gad, Mesha's father (Moabite Stone, 1. 2). Mesha added to its territory (ibid., 1.21). It is extremely probable that it was the site of one of the Moabite "high places," and was therefore naturally one of the places whereto the Moabites, when afflicted, went up" to weep." Over Nebo, and over Medeba. Nebe and Medeba were also ancient Moabite towns. Nebo is mentioned in Numbers 32:3, 38; Numbers 33:47; 1 Chronicles 5:8; Jeremiah 48:1, 22. It seems to have lain almost midway between Beth-baal-meon (Main) and Medeba, about three or four miles south-east of Heshbon. Medeba obtains notice in Numbers 21:30; Joshua 13:9, 16; 1 Chronicles 19:7. Mesha says that it was taken from the Moabites by Omri, King of Israel, but recovered by himself at the end of forty 'years (Moabite Stone, 11. 7-9). It lay south-east of Hesh-ben, at the spot which still retains the old name - Madeba. It has been suggested that there was at Nebo a shrine of the Baby-Ionian god so named; but this is to assume a resemblance which the facts at present known do not indicate, between the Moabite and Babylonian religions. On all their heads shall be baldness. The practice of cutting off the hair in mourning was common to the Jews (Isaiah 22:12; Micah 1:16) with various other nations; e.g., the Persians (Herod., 9:24), the Greeks, the Macedonians (Pint., 'Vit. Pelop.,' § 34), the primitive Arabs (Krehl, 'Religion der voris-lamit. Araber,' p. 33, note 1), and the North American Indians (Bancroft,' Native Races of America'). It was probably intended, like lacerations, and ashes on the head, as a mere disfigurement,
In their streets they shall gird themselves with sackcloth: on the tops of their houses, and in their streets, every one shall howl, weeping abundantly.
Verse 3. - In their streets; literally, in his streets; i.e. the streets of Moab. They shall gird themselves with sackcloth. Another widely spread custom, known to the Assyrians (Jonah 3:5), the Syrians (1 Kings 20:31), the Persians (Esther 4:1, 2), the Israelites (Nehemiah 9:1), and, as we see here, to the Moabites. The modern wearing of black garments, especially crape, is representative of the old practice. Every one shall howl. "Howling" remains one of the chief tokens of mourning in the East. It was a practice of the Egyptians (Herod., 2:79), of the Persians (ibid., 8:99; 9:24), of the Babylonians (Jeremiah 51:8), and probably of the Orientals generally. Weeping abundantly; or, running down with tears (comp. Jeremiah 9:18; Jeremiah 13:17; Herod., 8:99).
And Heshbon shall cry, and Elealeh: their voice shall be heard even unto Jahaz: therefore the armed soldiers of Moab shall cry out; his life shall be grievous unto him.
Verse 4. - Heshbon shall cry. Heshbon, now Hesban, lay about twenty miles east of the Jordan, nearly on the parallel of its embouchure into the Dead Sea. It was the capital city of Sihon (Numbers 21:21), who took it from the Moabites. On the partition of Palestine among the tribes of Israel, it was assigned to Reuben (Numbers 32:37; Joshua 13:17); but at a later time we find it reckoned to Gad (1 Chronicles 6:81). We do not know at what time Moab recovered Heshbon, but may conjecture that it was one of the conquests of Mesha, though it is not mentioned on the Moabite Stone. And Elealeh. Elealch is commonly united with Heshbon (Numbers 32:3, 37; Isaiah 16:9; Jeremiah 48:34). It is probably identical with the modern El-A'al, a ruined town on the top of a rounded hill, little more than a mile north of Hesban. Even unto Jahaz. Jahaz lay considerably to the south of Hesh-ben, probably not very far north of the Arnon. It must have been in the vicinity of Dibon, since Mesha, on taking it from the Israelites, annexed it to the territory of that city (Moabite Stone, II. 19-21). It was the scene of the great battle between Sihon and the Israelites under Moses (Numbers 21:23). His life shall be grievous unto him; rather, his soul shall be grieved within him. The Moabite people is personified (Cheyne).
My heart shall cry out for Moab; his fugitives shall flee unto Zoar, an heifer of three years old: for by the mounting up of Luhith with weeping shall they go it up; for in the way of Horonaim they shall raise up a cry of destruction.
Verse 5. - My heart shall cry out for Moab (comp. Isaiah 16:9, 11). The prophet sympathizes with the sufferings of Moab, as a kindred people (Genesis 19:37), and perhaps as having, in the person of Ruth, furnished an ancestress to the Messiah (Matthew 1:5). His fugitives; literally, her fugitives. The country is here personified, instead of the people, the former being feminine, the latter masculine. Shall flee unto Zoar. Zoar, the "little" town, spared for Lot's sake (Genesis 19:20-22), is placed by some at the northern, by others at the southern, extremity of the Dead Sea. The present passage makes in favor of the more southern site. An heifer of three years old. Those who defend this rendering refer the simile either to Zest, or to Moab, or to the fugitives. Having regard to the parallel passage of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 48:34), we may pronounce the last explanation to be the best. The resemblance to the heifer will consist in the cries uttered. To ninny critics, however, this idea appears harsh, and the alternative is proposed of regarding Eglath - the word translated "heifer" - as a place, and the epithet, "of three years old," as really meaning "the third." Attempts are made to show the existence of three Eglaths in these parts; but they are not very successful; nor is any instance adduced of a city being distinguished from others of the same name by a numerical suffix. The rendering of the Authorized Version may therefore stand, the comparison being regarded as one of the fugitive Moabites to a heifer in its third year, "rushing along with loud, hopeless bellowings" (Kay). By the mounting up of Luhith. This ascent has not been identified. It should have been on the way from Moab proper to Zoar. The way of Horonaim. On the Moabite Stone Horonaim is mentioned as a town of the Edomites attacked and taken by Mesha (11:31-33). It lay probably south or southeast of the Dead Sea. The Moabites, flying kern their invaders, seek a refuge in the territories of Edom and Judah, weeping and wailing as they go.
For the waters of Nimrim shall be desolate: for the hay is withered away, the grass faileth, there is no green thing.
Verse 6. - The waters of Nimrim shall be desolate. The Wady Numeira is a watercourse running into the Dead Sea from the east, hallway between the promontory called the "Lisan" and the sea's southern extremity. It is fed by "six or seven springs" ('Quarterly Statement' of Palest. Expl. Fatal, October, 1880, p. 254) - "plenteous brooks gushing from the lofty hills" (Tristram), and boasts along its banks a number of "well-watered gardens." There is no reason to doubt the identity of this stream with "the waters of Nimrim." Their "desolation" was probably caused by the enemy stopping up the sources (2 Kings 3:19, 25; 2 Chronicles 32:3, 4). The hay is withered away. There is luxuriant vegetation in the wadys and ghors at the southern end of the Dead Sea, especially in the Ghor-es-Safiyeh, the Wady Numeira, and the Wady el-Mantara ('Quarterly Statement' of Palest. Expl. Fund, October, 1880, pp. 252, 254).
Therefore the abundance they have gotten, and that which they have laid up, shall they carry away to the brook of the willows.
Verse 7. - The abundance, etc.; i.e. "the property which they have been able to save and carry off with them." This, finding no place of refuge in their own territory, they convey to their southern border, where "the brook of the willows" separates their country from Edom, with the intention, no doubt, of transporting it across the brook.
For the cry is gone round about the borders of Moab; the howling thereof unto Eglaim, and the howling thereof unto Beerelim.
Verse 8. - Eglaim... Beer-Elim. Unknown sites on the borders of Moab, both probably towards the south. The enemy has come in from the north, and has driven the population southwards. A hope has been entertained of the pursuit slackening; but it is disappointed. The enemy causes grief and "howling" in every part of the territory.
For the waters of Dimon shall be full of blood: for I will bring more upon Dimon, lions upon him that escapeth of Moab, and upon the remnant of the land.
Verse 9. - The waters of Dimon. It is thought that "Dimon" is here put for "Dibon," in order to assimilate the sound to that of dam, blood. St. Jerome says that in his day the place was called indifferently by either name. If we accept this view, "the waters of Dimon" will probably be those of the Amen, near which Dibon was situated (see the comment on ver. 2). I will bring more; literally, I will bring additions; i.e. additional calamities, which will cause the stream of the Aton to flow with blood. Lions; or, a lieu. Perhaps Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 4:7), who is said by Josephus to have conquered the Moabites, or possibly Asshur-bani-pal, who overran the country about B.C. 645 (G. Smith, 'History of Asshur-bani-pal,' p. 259).

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