Isaiah 15:5
My heart shall cry out for Moab; his fugitives shall flee to 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.
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(5) My heart shall cry out for Moab . . .—The prophet, though a stranger to Moab, and belonging to a hostile people, is touched with pity at the sight—the fugitives fleeing before the army coming from the north to Zoar, at the extreme south of the Dead Sea (see Note on Genesis 19:22), in the wild scare as of a frightened heifer as yet untamed by the yoke (Jeremiah 31:18; Jeremiah 48:34; Jeremiah 1:11). The English “fugitives” answers to the marginal reading of the Hebrew, the text of which (followed by the Vulg.) gives, “his bars reach unto Zoar;” but it is not easy to connect this with the context.

By the mounting up of Luhith . . .—No city has been identified as bearing this name. Probably “the ascent of Luhith” (the name may indicate a staircase of boards) was the well-known approach (Jeremiah 48:5) to a Moabite sanctuary. Eusebius (Onomast.) speaks of it as between Zoar and Areopolis (Rabbath Moab). Horonaim (here and in Jeremiah 48:3; Jeremiah 48:5; Jeremiah 48:34) is as little known as its companion. The name, which in Hebrew means “two caverns,” is, perhaps, descriptive of the nature of the sanctuary. The point of the description is that the fugitives when they reach Horonaim, are met with the cry of destruction, “All is over.”

Isaiah 15:5. My heart shall cry out for Moab — “Hitherto the prophet had set forth the lamentations of the Moabites, but, seeing these future evils, as it were, present to his own mind, he compassionates their griefs, and declares his own participation of their sorrows.” His fugitives shall flee unto Zoar, &c. — The meaning of this clause is thought to be, His fugitives shall cry, so as they may be heard unto Zoar; or, shall wander and cry as they go along the way, even till they come to Zoar. A heifer — Or, as a heifer; as the words are translated Jeremiah 48:34; that is, they shall send forth their cries, by weeping and lamenting, like a heifer. “Three years old, is mentioned only to denote a full-grown heifer, the lowing of which, naturalists have remarked, is deeper and more affecting than that of the male.” Zoar was a town bordering upon Moab. By the mounting up of Luhith — It is not certain what place this was, but it is evident enough that it was some elevated tract, or ascent, in the extremity of Moab. Horonaim was also a city of Moab, situated probably in the descent from Luhith. They shall raise up a cry of destruction — Such a cry as men send forth when they are just falling into the pit of destruction. He signifies that the cry should be universal in all places where they should come, and reaching from one side of the country to the other.15:1-9 The Divine judgments about to come upon the Moabites. - This prophecy coming to pass within three years, would confirm the prophet's mission, and the belief in all his other prophecies. Concerning Moab it is foretold, 1. That their chief cities should be surprised by the enemy. Great changes, and very dismal ones, may be made in a very little time. 2. The Moabites would have recourse to their idols for relief. Ungodly men, when in trouble, have no comforter. But they are seldom brought by their terrors to approach our forgiving God with true sorrow and believing prayer. 3. There should be the cries of grief through the land. It is poor relief to have many fellow-sufferers, fellow-mourners. 4. The courage of their soldiers should fail. God can easily deprive a nation of that on which it most depended for strength and defence. 5. These calamities should cause grief in the neighbouring parts. Though enemies to Israel, yet as our fellow-creatures, it should be grievous to see them in such distress. In ver. 6-9, the prophet describes the woful lamentations heard through the country of Moab, when it became a prey to the Assyrian army. The country should be plundered. And famine is usually the sad effect of war. Those who are eager to get abundance of this world, and to lay up what they have gotten, little consider how soon it may be all taken from them. While we warn our enemies to escape from ruin, let us pray for them, that they may seek and find forgiveness of their sins.My heart shall cry out for Moab - This is expressive of deep compassion; and is proof that, in the view of the prophet, the calamities which were coming upon it were exceedingly heavy. The same sentiment is expressed more fully in Isaiah 16:11; see also Jeremiah 48:36 : 'My heart shall sound for Moab like pipes.' The phrase denotes great inward pain and anguish in view of the calamities of others; and is an expression of the fact that we feel ourselves oppressed and borne down by sympathy on account of their sufferings (see the note at Isaiah 21:3). It is worthy of remark, that the Septuagint reads this as if it were '"his" heart' - referring to the Moabites, 'the heart of Moab shall cry out.' So the Chaldee; and so Lowth, Michaelis, and others read it. But there is no authority for this change in the Hebrew text; nor is it needful. In the parallel place in Jeremiah 48:36, there is no doubt that the heart of the prophet is intended; and here, the phrase is designed to denote the deep compassion which a holy man of God would have, even when predicting the ills that should come upon others. How much compassion, how much deep and tender feeling should ministers of the gospel have when they are describing the final ruin - the unutterable woes of impenitent sinners under the awful wrath of God in the world of woe!

His fugitives - Margin, 'Or to the borders thereof, even as an heifer' (בריחיה berı̂ychehā). Jerome and the Vulgate render this 'her "bars,"' and it has been explained as meaning that the voice of the prophet, lamenting the calamity of Moab, could be heard as far as the "bars," or gates, of Zoar; or that the word "bars" means "princes, that is," protectors, a figure similar to "shields of the land" Psalm 47:10; Hosea 4:18. The Septuagint renders it, Ἐν αὐτὴ en autē - 'The voice of Moab in her is heard to Zoar.' But the more correct rendering is, undoubtedly, that of our translation, referring to the fugitives who should attempt to make their escape from Moab when the calamities should come upon her.

Unto Zoar - Zoar was a small town in the southern extremity of the Dead Sea, to which Lot fled when Sodom was overthrown Genesis 19:23. Abulfeda writes the name Zoghar, and speaks of it as existing in his day. The city of Zoar was near to Sodom, so as to be exposed to the danger of being overthrown in the same manner that Sodom was, Zoar being exempted from destruction by the angel at the solicitation of Lot Genesis 19:21. That the town lay on the east side of the Dead Sea, is apparent from several considerations. Lot ascended from it to the mountain where his daughters bore each of them a son, who became the ancestors of the Moabites and the Ammonites. But these nations both dwelt on the east side of the Dead Sea. Further, Josephus, speaking of this place, calls it Ζοάρων τῆς Ἀραβίας Zoarōn tēs Arabias - 'Zoar of Arabia' (Bell. Jud. iv. 8, 4). But the Arabia of Josephus was on the east of the Dead Sea. So the crusaders, in the expedition of King Baldwin, 1100 a.d., after marching from Hebron, proceeded around the lake, and came, at length, to a place called "Segor," doubtless the Zoghar of Abulfeda. The probability, therefore, is, that it was near the southern end of the sea, but on the eastern side. The exact place is now unknown. In the time of Eusebius and Jerome, it is described as having many inhabitants, and a Roman garrison. In the time of the crusaders, it is mentioned as a place pleasantly situated, with many palm trees. But the palm trees have disappeared, and the site of the city can be only a matter of conjecture (see Robinson's "Bib. Researches," vol. ii. pp. 648-651).

An heifer of three years old - That is, their fugitives flying unto Zoar shall lift up the voice like an heifer, for so Jeremiah in the parallel place explains it Jeremiah 48:34. Many interpreters have referred this, however, to Zoar as an appellation of that city, denoting its flourishing condition. Bochart refers it to Isaiah, and supposes that he designed to say that "he" lifted his voice as an heifer. But the more obvious interpretation is that given above, and is that which occurs in Jeremiah. The expression, however, is a very obscure one. See the various senses which it may bear, examined in Rosenmuller and Gesenius in loc. Gesenius renders it, 'To Eglath the third;' and supposes, in accordance with many interpreters, that it denotes a place called "Eglath," called the third in distinction from two other places of the same name; though he suggests that the common explanation, that it refers to a heifer of the age of three years, may be defended. In the third year, says he, the heifer was most vigorous, and hence, was used for an offering Genesis 15:9. Until that age she was accustomed to go unbroken, and bore no yoke (Pliny, 8, 4, 5). If this refers to Moab, therefore, it may mean that hitherto it was vigorous, unsubdued, and active; but that now, like the heifer, it was to be broken and brought under the yoke by chastisement. The expression is a very difficult one, and it is impossible, perhaps, to determine what is the true sense.

By the mounting up of Luhith - The "ascent" of Luhith. It is evident, from Jeremiah 48:5, that it was a mountain, but where, is not clearly ascertained. Eusebius supposes it was a place between Areopolis and Zoar (see Reland's "Palestine," pp. 577-579). The whole region there is mountainous.

In the way of Horonaim - This was, doubtless, a town of Moab, but where it was situated is uncertain. The word means "two holes." The region abounds to this day with caves, which are used for dwellings (Seetzen). The place lay, probably, on a declivity from which one descended from Luhith.

A cry of destruction - Hebrew, 'Breaking.' A cry "appropriate" to the great calamity that should come upon Moab.

5. My—The prophet himself is moved with pity for Moab. Ministers, in denouncing the wrath of God against sinners, should do it with tender sorrow, not with exultation.

fugitives—fleeing from Moab, wander as far as to Zoar, on the extreme boundary south of the Dead Sea. Horsley translates, "her nobility," or "rulers" (Ho 4:18).

heifer, &c.—that is, raising their voices "like a heifer" (compare Jer 48:34, 36). The expression "three years old," implies one at its full vigor (Ge 15:9), as yet not brought under the yoke; as Moab heretofore unsubdued, but now about to be broken. So Jer 31:18; Ho 4:13. Maurer translates, "Eglath" (in English Version, "a heifer") Shelishijah (that is, the third, to distinguish it from two others of the same name).

by the mounting up—up the ascent.

Luhith—a mountain in Moab.

Horonaim—a town of Moab not far from Zoar (Jer 48:5). It means "the two poles," being near caves.

cry of destruction—a cry appropriate to the destruction which visits their country.

My heart shall cry out for Moab; their destruction approaching is so dreadful, that although they are a most vile nation, and by their implacable enmity against God and his people do abundantly deserve it, yet the respect which I have to human nature fills me with horror at the very thoughts of it. Compare Isaiah 16:11.

His fugitives; or, his bars, as others render it, and as this word is frequently taken, as Exodus 26:26,27 Psa 107:16, &c.; whereby we may understand their valiant men, or their princes and rulers, who as they are called the shields of the earth, Psalm 47:9, because, like shields, they do or should defend their people; so for the same reason they may be called bars, because bars are the strength of the gates of cities or castles, and therefore are mentioned as such, Psalm 147:13 Proverbs 18:19 Jeremiah 51:30.

Shall flee unto Zoar; or, shall cry unto Zoar; either shall cry as they go along the way, even till they come to Zoar; or shall cry so as they may be heard to Zoar; which may easily be understood out of the foregoing verse. Zoar was a town bordering upon Moab; of which see Genesis 19:20-22 Deu 34:3.

An heifer of three years old; which some understand of the city of Zoar, so called for her strength and wantonness. But such a description of Zoar seems very improper and impertinent in this place. The words therefore are to be translated here, as they are by our translators, Jeremiah 48:34 as

an heifer of three years old; and so they belong to their cry, and signify that it is strong and loud, like that of such an heifer.

In the way of Horonaim they shall raise up a cry; he signifies that the cry should be universal, in all places where they come, and reaching from one side of the country to another. Of Luhith, see Jeremiah 48:4,5.

Of destruction; such a cry as men send forth when they are just falling into the pit of destruction. My heart shall cry out for Moab,.... These seem to be the words of the prophet, pitying them as they were fellow creatures, though enemies; which shows humanity in him, and signifies that their calamities were very great, that a stranger should be concerned for them, and such to whom they had been troublesome; so Jarchi understands it, who observes the difference between the true and false prophet, particularly between Isaiah and Balaam; but others, as Kimchi, interpret it of the Moabites themselves, everyone expressing their concern for the desolation of their country; and so the Targum,

"the Moabites shall say in their hearts:''

his fugitives shall flee unto Zoar; a city where Lot fled to, when he came out of Sodom, to which it is thought the allusion is, see Genesis 19:20 the meaning seems to be, that those that escaped out of the above cities, when taken and destroyed, should flee hither for safety: the words may be supplied thus, "his fugitives" shall cry out "unto Zoar"; that is, those that flee from other places shall cry so loud as they go along, that their cry shall be heard unto Zoar, Jeremiah 48:34,

an heifer of three years old; which is not to be understood of Zoar in particular, or of the country of Moab in general, comparable to such an heifer for fatness, strength, beauty, and lasciviousness; but of the cry of the fugitives, that should be very loud and clamorous, like the lowing of an ox, or an heifer in its full strength, which is heard a great way; see 1 Samuel 6:9. Dr. Lightfoot (c) conjectures that "Eglath Shelishiah", translated an heifer of three years old, is the proper name of a place; and observes, that there was another place in this country called Eneglaim, Ezekiel 47:10 which being of the dual number, shows that there were two Egels, in reference to which this may be called the "third" Eglath; and so the words may be rendered, "his fugitives shall flee unto Zoar, unto the third Eglath"; and he further conjectures, that this may be the Necla of Ptolemy (d), mentioned by him in Arabia Petraea, along with Zoara; and also to be the Agella of Josephus (e), reckoned with Zoara and Oronai, and other cities of Moab:

for by the mounting up of Luhith with weeping shall they go it up; which seems to have been a very high place, and the ascent to it very great; and as the Moabites went up it, whither they might go for safety, they should weep greatly, thinking of their houses and riches they had left to the plunder of the enemy, and the danger of their lives they were still in. This place is thought by some to be the same with the Lysa of Ptolemy (f); Josephus (g) calls it Lyssa; Jerom (h) says in his time it was a village between Areopolis and Zoara, and went by the name of Luitha; it is mentioned in Jeremiah 48:5,

for in the way of Horonaim they shall raise up a cry of destruction; of Moab, and the several cities of it; or "of breaking", of breaking down of walls and of houses. The Targum is,

"the cry of the broken (or conquered) in battle;''

whose bones are broken, or however their strength, so that they are obliged to surrender; or a "broken cry", such as is made when there is a multitude of people together, and in great distress. The word Horonaim is of the dual number, and signifies two Horons, the upper and the lower, as say Kimchi and Ben Melech; which is true of Bethhoron, if that was the same place with this, Joshua 16:3. By Josephus (i) it is called Oronas and Oronae; it is taken by some to be the Avara of Ptolemy (k); it seems, by the Targum, that as Luhith was a very high place, this lay low, since it renders it,

"in the descent of Horonaim;''

to which its name agrees, which signifies caverns; and mention is made of Bethhoron in the valley, along with Bethnimrah (l).

(c) See his Works, vol. 2. p. 502. (d) Geograph. l. 5. c. 17. (e) Antiqu. l. 1. c. 1. sect. 4. (f) Geograph. l. 5. c. 17. p. 137. (g) Antiqu. l. 14. c. 1. sect. 4. (h) De locis Hebraicis, fol. 93. A. (i) Antiqu. l. 13. c. 15. sect. 4. & l. 14. c. 1. sect. 4. (k) Geograph. l. 5. c. 17. p. 137. (l) T. Hieros. Sheviith, fol. 38. 4.

My {f} heart shall cry out for Moab; his fugitives shall flee to Zoar, {g} an heifer of three years old: for they shall go up the ascent of Luhith with weeping for in the way of Horonaim they {h} shall raise a cry of destruction.

(f) The prophet speaks this in the person of the Moabites: or as one who felt the great judgment of God that God would come on them.

(g) Meaning that it was a city that always lived in pleasure and never felt sorrow.

(h) He describes the miserable dissipation and flight of the Moabites.

5. (Jeremiah 48:34; Jeremiah 48:5; Jeremiah 48:3) The new theme is introduced by an expression of the writer’s sympathy with the homeless fugitives: My heart crieth out for Moab (cf. Isaiah 16:9; Isaiah 16:11).

his fugitives] R.V. renders less suitably “her nobles.” The word as pointed means “bolts,” which is here taken as a symbol for princes. But it is better, with the Targum and nearly all modern commentators, to change the vowel, and translate “fugitives” as in Isaiah 43:14, where, curiously enough, the A.V. gives the same rendering as the R.V. here. The R.V. however is right in using the fem. “her”; Moab is here regarded not as a people but as a land.

Zoar (Genesis 19:22) lies near the S.E. corner of the Dead Sea; the flight therefore is southward, towards Edom.

a heifer of three years old] R.V. is better: to Eglath-shelishiyah; i.e. probably, “the third Eglath.” The locality is not known.

the mounting up (the ascent, R.V.) of Luhith is located by Eusebius’ Onomasticon between Rabba and Zoar.

the way of Horonaim] Jeremiah (Jeremiah 48:5) speaks of “the slope of H.,” which lay apparently (Jeremiah 48:34) between Zoar and Eglath-shelishiyah.

5–9. The flight of the Moabites.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. The massah consists of two strophes. The first threatens judgment from Judah, and the second - of seven lines - threatens judgment from Asshur. "Howl, O gate! cry, O city! O Philistia, thou must melt entirely away; for from the north cometh smoke, and there is no isolated one among his hosts." שׁער, which is a masculine everywhere else, is construed here as a feminine, possibly in order that the two imperfects may harmonize; for there is nothing to recommend Luzzatto's suggestion, that שׁער should be taken as an accusative. The strong gates of the Philistian cities (Ashdod and Gaza), of world-wide renown, and the cities themselves, shall lift up a cry of anguish; and Philistia, which has hitherto been full of joy, shall melt away in the heat of alarm (Isaiah 13:7, nâmōg, inf. abs. niph.; on the form itself, compare Isaiah 59:13): for from the north there comes a singing and burning fire, which proclaims its coming afar off by the smoke which it produces; in other words, an all-destroying army, out of whose ranks not one falls away from weariness or self-will (cf., Isaiah 5:27), that is to say, an army without a gap, animated throughout with one common desire. (מועד, after the form מושב, the mass of people assembled at an appointed place, or mō'ed, Joshua 8:14; 1 Samuel 20:35, and for an appointed end.)
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