Isaiah 16
Pulpit Commentary
Send ye the lamb to the ruler of the land from Sela to the wilderness, unto the mount of the daughter of Zion.
Verses 1-14. - THE BURDEN OF MOAB (CONTINUED). This portion of the "burden" is divided into three sections. In section 1 (from ver. 1 to the end of ver. 5) an offer of mercy is made to Moab on certain conditions, viz. that she return to her allegiance to the house of David, and show kindness to fugitive Israelites. In section 2 (vers. 6-12) she is supposed to have rejected this offer, and is threatened (as in Isaiah 15.) with severe punishment. In section 3 (which consists of vers. 13 and 14) the time is fixed for the main visitation to fall upon her. Verse 1. - Send ye the lamb to the ruler of the land; rather, the lamb of the ruler of the land - the lamb (or lambs, kar being used collectively) due to the ruler as a mark of subjection. In the time of Ahab Mesha had paid a tribute to Israel of a hundred thousand lambs and a hundred thousand rams annually (2 Kings 3:4). The prophet recommends that this, or some similar, tribute should now be paid to the King of Judah instead. Israel having been absorbed into Assyria. From Sela. Either Moab is regarded as having taken refuge in Edom, and is therefore bidden to send her tribute from the Edomite capital, Sela (equivalent to "Petra"), or "Sela," here is not a proper name, but a collective used to designate the rocky parts of Moab, to which she had betaken herself (as in Jeremiah 48:28). The latter supposition is, on the whole, the more probable. To the wilderness; literally, wildernesswards; i.e. by the way of the wilderness. The enemy being regarded as in possession of the northern end of the Dead Sea, Moab is recommended to send her tribute round the southern end, and so by way of "the wilderness of Judah," to Jerusalem.
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.
Verse 2. - For it shall be; rather, and it shall be. The tribute having been paid, Moab will regain some confidence. Her fluttered population will return, and collect at the fords of the Amen, ready to recross it. As a wandering bird cast out of the nest; rather, as a wandering bird (or, wandering birds) - "as a scattered nest" (or, "brood of nestlings"). The daughters of Moab. The population of Moab generally, as "the daughter of Zion" (ver. 1) is the population of Jerusalem generally.
Take counsel, execute judgment; make thy shadow as the night in the midst of the noonday; hide the outcasts; bewray not him that wandereth.
Verse 3. - Take counsel, execute judgment, etc. According to most critics, these are the words of the Moabites, or of a Moabite ambassador at Jerusalem, and are a call on Judaea to give shelter to the fugitives from Moab. Some, however, as Dr. Kay, maintain that the words are the prophet's, addressed to Moab, calling on her to treat kindly fugitives from Judaea. Make thy shadow as the night (comp. Isaiah 4:6). In the hot land of Moab the sun is an enemy, and "the shadow of a great rock" a welcome refuge.
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.
Verse 4. - Let mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab. The change of one accent will allow of this passage being translated, Let the outcasts of Moab dwell with thee; and so it is rendered by the LXX., the Syriac, by Lowth, Gesenius, Hitzig, Ewald, and Mr. Cheyne. Delitzsch and Dr. Kay agree with the Authorized Version. For the extortioner is at an end. This seems to be urged as a reason why the protection asked should be given: it will not be for long - the oppressor is about to receive chastisement. He is called "the extortioner," as exacting the utmost possible tribute from conquered lands. Such exaction was characteristic of Assyria (2 Kings 15:19; 2 Kings 18:14; 'Assyrian Inscriptions,' passim). The spoiler ceaseth; literally, devastation ceaseth.
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.
Verse 5. - And in mercy shall the throne be established; rather, and there shall be a throne established in mercy. A Messianic vision comes upon the prophet in connection with the disappearance of the oppressor. There shall be one day - he knows not how soon or how late - a throne established in mercy, and "One shall be seated upon it in truth, who. shall occupy the tent [or, 'house'] of David, as one who judges, and seeks justice, and hastens on [the reign of] righteousness."
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.
Verse 6. - We have heard of the pride of Moab. A new section commences. Moab has not accepted the offer of mercy made in vers. 1-5, and is therefore denounced afresh. Her "pride" prevented her from renewing her subjection to the house of David, and therefore it is her pride which is specially condemned. His lies shall not be so; rather, of no worth are his boast-tags. The result will not correspond with them.
Therefore shall Moab howl for Moab, every one shall howl: for the foundations of Kirhareseth shall ye mourn; surely they are stricken.
Verse 7. - Every one shall howl; rather, the whole of it shall howl; i.e. the entire nation collectively (comp. Herod., 8:99; 9:24). For the foundations of Kir-Hareseth shall ye mourn. The word here translated "foundations" is elsewhere always rendered "flagons" or "flagons of wine" (2 Samuel 6:19; Song of Solomon 2:5; Hosea 3:1). And this rendering is more agreeable to the context than "foundations," since it is the loss of the products of the soil which is threatened in the next three verses. "Kir-Hareseth" is probably the same place as the "Kir-Moab" of Isaiah 15:1. It was one of the principal cities of Moab (see 2 Kings 2:25).
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.
Verse 8. - The fields of Heshbon (see the comment on Isaiah 15:4). The whole of the Mishor, or Belka, on the edge of which Hesbdn stands, is cultivable and capable of producing good crops. The Moabites stored water in reservoirs (Song of Solomon 7:4), and made their country a garden. The vine of Sib-mah. "Sibmah" is mentioned in Numbers 32:8 and Joshua 13:19 among the towns of the Reubenites. According to Jerome ('Comment. in Esaiam'), it was less than half a mile distant from Heshbon. Jeremiah follows Isaiah in lamenting the destruction of its vines (Jeremiah 48:32). The lords of the heathen have broken down the principal plants thereof. "The lords of the heathen" are probably the Assyrians, who made a practice of destroying the fruit trees in an enemy's country, for the mere purpose of doing mischief ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 2. p. 84). It is wanton to discard this very satisfactory sense for the strange one that "the choice plants have broken down - i.e., made drunk - the lords of the heathen" (Cheyne). The rendering of the Authorized Version is supported by Gesenius, Ewald, Rosenmüller, Meier, and Dr. Kay. They are come even unto Jazer; rather, they (the vines)reached to Jazer; i.e. the vine of Sibmah was cultivated as far as Jazer. Jazer lay about twelve miles north of Heshben, in the territory of Gad (Numbers 32:35). It is probably identified with Es Szir, which is in the required position, and retains a trace of the name (Seetzen,' Reisen,' vol. 1. pp. 397, 398). They wandered through the wilderness; rather, they strayed into the wilderness; i.e. the cultivation was pushed eastward into the actual midbar, or desert. Her branches are stretched out; or, her offshoots are spread abroad; i.e. the young shoots or slips are taken by the cultivators and spread further and further. They are even carried across the Dead Sea, and planted on its western shore. Mr. Cheyne supposes the prophet to refer to the "vineyards of En-gedi" (Song of Solomon 1:14).
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.
Verse 9. - Therefore I will bewail (comp. Isaiah 15:5, and see the Homiletics on that verse). With the weeping of Jazer. "With tears as genuine as Jazer's own" (Kay). O Heshbon and Elealeh (on the close connection of these two cities, see the comment on Isaiah 15:4). For the shouting, etc.; rather, for on thy summer fruits and on thy harvest a shouting is fallen. The "shouting" intended is that of the invading enemy, which replaces the ordinary joy-song of the vintagers (see ver. 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.
Verse 10. - The plentiful field; Hebrew, Carmel. The word carmel seems to designate "garden," or "orchard ground" generally, without reference to the degree of fertility. It is generally rendered by our translators "fruitful field," which is right, if we regard "fruitful" as equivalent to "fruit-producing." No singing... no shouting. Those who have heard the vintage-songs in the north of Italy and elsewhere will appreciate the sadness of this silence. The treaders shall tread out no wine in their presses. Wine-presses were in or near the vineyards. They consisted of two vats, or two reservoirs cut in the rock, one above the other, with a passage of communication between them. The grapes were placed in the upper vat or reservoir, and were crushed by the naked feet of the vintagers. Sometimes as many as seven persons "trod the wine-press" together (Wilkinson, 'Ancient Egyptians,' vol. 1. p. 45). It was usual for them to sing as they trod (Jeremiah 25:30; Jeremiah 48:33). I have made their vintage shouting to cease. The prophet is the mouthpiece of God. Accidentally, as it were, he here betrays the personality which is behind him. It is not he, but God, who has caused the invasion which has reduced the vintagers to silence.
Wherefore my bowels shall sound like an harp for Moab, and mine inward parts for Kirharesh.
Verse 11. - My bowels shall sound like an harp for Moab; i.e. they shall vibrate with thrills of grief (Kay).
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.
Verse 12. - When it is seen that Moab is weary; rather, when Moab shows himself, and has wearied himself. The heathen "thought to be heard for their much speaking" (Matthew 6:7). They endeavored to weary their gods into granting their prayers (1 Kings 18:26), and frequently succeeded in wearying themselves. On the high place. "High places" (bamoth) were common to the Moabites, with the other nations of Syria and Palestine. Mesha, in his inscription, speaks of having rebuilt a city called "Beth-Bamoth" (1:27), which must have been a "city of high places;" and he even calls the stele which he dedicates to Chemosh, whereon his inscription is written, a bamah, or "high place." That he shall come to his sanctuary... but he shall not, etc.; rather, and has come into his sanctuary, that he shall not prevail.
This is the word that the LORD hath spoken concerning Moab since that time.
Verse 13. - This is the word, etc. The third and concluding section begins here. This prophecy, Isaiah says, is one, not now delivered for the first time, but existent previously. How long previously, he leaves quite vague.
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.
Verse 14. - But now. "Now" - an addition has been made to the prophecy. Isaiah is authorized to announce that in three years' time, counted as strictly as possible, the judgment pronounced shall fall on Moab; her "glory" shall be turned into shame, her "multitude" shall be cut off, and only a "remnant" shall be left, weak, small, and powerless. As the years of an hireling. Counted with the utmost exactness. A hireling would not consent to serve a day longer than his contract bound him, nor would his master consent that he should serve a day short of it. With all that great multitude. We have no means of accurately estimating the population of Moab. The entire area of the region which the Moabites inhabited seems to have been not more than fifteen hundred square miles. The greater part of it was, however, exceedingly fertile; and we are, perhaps, justified in allowing it a population of two hundred to the square mile, which is about that of Germany. This would give three hundred thousand inhabitants, of whom the adult males would be seventy-five thousand. Feeble; literally, not powerful; i.e. very much the contrary, very weak. Moab seems to have offered a very slight resistance to Asshur-bani-pal (G. Smith, 'History of Asshur-bani-pal,' p. 259).

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