New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Isaiah 15:1 The burden of Moab: for in a night, Ar of Moab is laid waste, and brought to nothing- The idea is that Moab would be overthrown in a night. This didn't literally happen. I have noted on Is 13:1 and throughout the prophecies of the fall of Babylon that these prophecies against the nations didn't completely come to pass. The prophetic scenario was that judgment would come upon Israel, Judah and all the surrounding nations; Babylon would fall, and a repentant remnant of all the nations in the eretz promised to Abraham would become part of the reestablished Kingdom of God in Judah. And so likewise this overnight destruction of Moab didn't happen; the lay waste an entire nation overnight would require Divine intervention. It's rather like the language of Is. 13:13, suggesting there would be an earthquake and a Divine judgment on the scale of Sodom's destruction. This didn't happen. But it will in the last days, to where the prophecy has been rescheduled and reapplied. The significance of Ar is that according to Mesha’s inscription on the Moabite Stone, it had been taken from Judah in the time of Ahab

For in a night Kir of Moab is laid waste, and brought to nothing- LXX: "by night the wall of the land of Moab shall be destroyed". The great prophetic theme is that all human defences, be they the walls of Jerusalem, Babylon or Moab, would all prove powerless before the Divine judgment. And that principle applies today, where wealth, scheming and insurance policies can be felt to be a wall against Divine judgment.

Isaiah 15:2 They have gone up to Bayith, and to Dibon, to the high places, to weep. Moab wails over Nebo and over Medeba. Baldness is on all of their heads; every beard is cut off-
LXX "Debon, where your altar is, shall be destroyed". The judgments were always against the idols of these nations, in the hope that a remnant would repent. Weeping over Nebo, a mountain, is strange unless we understand that there was a supernatural Divine judgment intended (see on :1) which would bring down the mountains. The order of the areas here is from south to north; the idea is that all Moab would be desolated. This didn't happen at the time; see on :1. 

Isaiah 15:3 In their streets they clothe themselves in sackcloth. In their streets and on their housetops everyone wails, weeping abundantly-
The LXX read this as a command: "Gird yourselves with sackcloth in her streets: and lament upon her roofs, and in her streets, and in her ways; howl all of you with weeping". In this case, we would have here a call to repentance, just as Babylon had. Because God wished them to repentant, and the Divine intention was that a minority would. They were to weep on the streets and housetops because this was where their altars were (Is. 22:1 etc.). Jeremiah lamented that Jerusalem's streets and roofs were full of such idolatry.

Isaiah 15:4 Heshbon cries out with Elealeh. Their voice is heard even to Jahaz. Therefore the armed men of Moab cry aloud- Because the Moabites would cry out and their voice would be heard, “my heart shall cry out for Moab” (Is. 15:4,5,8). As the Lord Jesus is a representative Saviour, we too must feel the judgment that is to come upon others, and in that sense cry out for them as they will cry out. We too will appeal to men with conviction, as Isaiah’s heart cried out for Moab like a young heifer about to be slaughtered, feeling for them in what would come upon them, and desperately appealing for their repentance. Jer. 48:41 defines the crying aloud as birth pangs: "the heart of the mighty men of Moab at that day shall be as the heart of a woman in her pangs". Again the metaphor has hope of a new birth out of this calamity. The Divine hope was that Moab along with Israel would repent and form a reborn people in the restored Kingdom of God in Israel.

Their souls tremble within them- This could be a reference to their awareness that they had sinned against Yahweh; hence LXX "her soul shall know".

Isaiah 15:5 My heart cries out for Moab! Her nobles flee to Zoar, to Eglath Shelishiyah; for they go up by the ascent of Luhith with weeping; for in the way of Horonaim, they raise up a cry of destruction-
As Moab cried out like a three year old heifer (Jer. 48:34), so did Isaiah for them (Is. 15:5). All this was done by Isaiah and Jeremiah, knowing that Moab hated Israel (Is. 25:10) and were evidently worthy of God’s condemnation. But all the same they loved them, in the spirit of Noah witnessing to the mocking world around him. Our knowledge of this world’s future means that as we walk the streets and mix with men and women, our heart should cry out for them, no matter how they behave towards us, and there should be a deep seated desire for at least some of them to come to repentance and thereby avoid the judgments to come. Passionate Christian living has such witness at its heart. Particularly is this true, surely, of the people and land of Israel. It ought to be impossible for us to walk its streets or meet its people without at least desiring to give them a leaflet or say at least something to try to help them see what lies ahead. See on Is. 16:7.

Isaiah 15:6 For the waters of Nimrim will be desolate; for the grass has withered away, the tender grass fails, there is no green thing-
I suggested on :1,2 that what was in view was a supernatural Divine judgment upon Moab, rather than a drought which would produce this situation over an extended period. Again we note the destruction of physical features, such as the waters of Nimrim. This would have been due to direct Divine judgment; the destruction of all green things is likewise reflective of such supernatural judgment rather than the effects of invading armies. The desolation of the waters could have been from invaders putting stones in wells as in 2 Kings 3:25, but the impression is of a more widespread and supernatural destruction.

Isaiah 15:7 Therefore they will carry away the abundance they have gotten, and that which they have stored up, over the brook of the willows-
LXX "Shall Moab even thus be delivered? for I will bring the Arabians upon the valley, and they shall take it". Whether or not Moab would be delivered was left an open question because they would be asked to repent, and accepted the deliverance of Yahweh who alone could save. The later prophecy of Jer. 48:40 says that Babylon would effect this judgment upon Moab. Just as Babylon came as an eagle against Judah, so it would against Moab (Jer. 4:13; Dt. 28:49). There was to be no avoiding Divine judgment. So we see here the reapplication of a prophecy about Moab to a later date; instead of bands of Bedouin Arab marauding over her Divinely judged wastelands, and her crossing the brook into Edom, the Babylonians were to judge her, because this earlier prophecy didn't come to its possible fulfilment at the time.

Isaiah 15:8 For the cry has gone around the borders of Moab; its wailing to Eglaim, and its wailing echoes back to Beer Elim-
From the north to the south, the equivalent of the “Dan and Beersheba” of Israel.

Isaiah 15:9 For the waters of Dimon are full of blood; for I will bring yet more on Dimon, a lion on those of Moab who escape, and on the remnant of the land
- LXX "I will bring Arabians upon Dimon, and I will take away the seed of Moab, and Ariel, and the remnant of Adama". As explained on :1, the prophetic scenario didn't completely work out at the time; but it will do in essence in the last days. For "Arabians", see on :7. There is an alliteration between "Dibon" and "blood". The idea is that their being full of blood was potentially possible; but again, that depended upon their repentance as to whether the potential was realized.