Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Isaiah 16: 6-9

6 We have heard of the pride of Moab, an excessive pride;
Even of his arrogance, pride, and fury;
His idle boasts are false.
Therefore Moab will wail; everyone of Moab will wail.
You will moan for the raisin cakes of Kir-hareseth
As those who are utterly stricken.
For the fields of Heshbon have withered, the vines of Sibmah as well;
The lords of the nations have trampled down its choice clusters
Which reached as far as Jazer and wandered to the deserts;
Its tendrils spread themselves out and passed over the sea.
Therefore I will weep bitterly for Jazer, for the vine of Sibmah;
I will drench you with my tears, O Heshbon and Elealeh;
For the shouting over your summer fruits and your harvest has fallen away.

Despite Isaiah's counsel and compassion, Moab remains senseless in its response to the prophet. The destruction to come will be fulfilled, and Isaiah describes the nation's losses and his continued grief over the situation in our passage today.

Moab might have seen a mighty act of redemption had it dealt with the long-term issue of its heart--pride, which Isaiah describes as "excessive." This is a nation proud of its pride!  #1 in arrogance! Best boasts by a boaster! You get the idea. With God, all things are possible. Without God, pride is a hard sin of which to repent; excessive pride...woo....

"It is not the rash and rigid censure of one or two concerning them, but it is the character which all that know them will give of them. They are a proud people, and therefore they will not take good counsel when it is given them. They think themselves too wise to be advised; therefore they will not take example by Hezekiah to do justly and love mercy. They scorn to make him their pattern, for they think themselves able to teach him. They are proud, and therefore will not be subject to God himself nor regard the warnings he gives them."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

["Too wise to be advised." There is a young lady of note (??) who made blazing headlines in entertainment news this week. Perhaps there is something in this message for her.]

"Therefore...," (vs. 7) trouble is coming, and no one will escape its coming. The nation will "wail" and "howl," (King James Version). Mourning will beset Moab. In the capital, Kir (the likely city meant by Kir-hareseth), the people will "moan for raisin cakes." This is the first reference Isaiah makes concerning a chief business of Moab--grape production. The nation was widely known for its growing of grapes as well as its manufacturing of wines. (Jerusalem was one of its key importers.) Raisin cakes were made from dried grapes, as you would expect, into a granola bar of sorts. The Encyclopedia of the Bible calls them "an imperishable food." Soldiers took them out into the field with them. If the Moabites would not even have their emergency box go-to food available, things would be awful.

With verse 8, we read of the destroying of the grape crop, which can just as well be read metaphorically of Moab itself. The vines in Heshbon, the prominent Moabite city in the north that we looked at in Isaiah 15, will be withered, as will those in Sibmah, a suburb of Heshbon to the northwest. In the Assyrian attack on the nation, the "choice clusters," that which would have spawned a new crop, will be trampled. The tendrils of the vines--the coils that reached out to support the plant--had once stretched from Jazer at the furthest point north, to the deserts east and south, to the Dead Sea. No longer!

Isaiah weeps (vs. 9), and "bitterly" so, over the loss of this great resource and gift, as well as over the nation's plight, "drenching" the cities of Heshbon and Elealah, who, otherwise, would have celebrated over a great harvest. "...For upon your summer fruits and your harvest the shout [of alarm and the cry of the enemy] has fallen." (Amplified Bible
Once again, it is a study of contrasts, Moab and Judah--and, remember, Isaiah is speaking to Judah, even as he is speaking to Moab. Judah would know redemption, in the near future with Hezekiah at the hand and mercy of God, and in the future in the final coming of a Savior:

"The people who walk in darkness
Will see a great light;
Those who live in a dark land,
The light will shine on them.
You shall multiply the nation, 
You shall increase their gladness;
They will be glad in Your presence
As with the gladness of harvest,
As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders,
The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian."
--Isaiah 9: 2-4

But gladness at the time of harvest--both in its defeat by Assyria and in the final days--will remain an unknown joy of Moab.

“According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity
And those who sow trouble harvest it.
'By the breath of God they perish,
And by the blast of His anger they come to an end.'"

--Job 4: 8 and 9

"...And his remnant will be very small...." The prophet's grief over the loss of a nation. ...'Til next Wednesday!

* * *

Next week:  Isaiah 16: 10-14
Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Isaiah 16: 1-5

Prophecy of Moab’s Devastation

1 Send the tribute lamb to the ruler of the land,
From Sela by way of the wilderness to the mountain of the daughter of Zion.
Then, like fleeing birds or scattered nestlings,
The daughters of Moab will be at the fords of the Arnon.
“Give us advice, make a decision;
Cast your shadow like night at high noon;
Hide the outcasts, do not betray the fugitive.
“Let the outcasts of Moab stay with you;
Be a hiding place to them from the destroyer.”
For the extortioner has come to an end, destruction has ceased,
Oppressors have completely disappeared from the land.
5 A throne will even be established in lovingkindness,
And a judge will sit on it in faithfulness in the tent of David;
Moreover, he will seek justice
And be prompt in righteousness.

Despite Chapter 16's title, Isaiah doesn't immediately launch into the details of Moab's devastation. Actually, the prophet, who was so moved in his concern over Moab's coming trials, issues what might be a last-ditch effort to try and save the nation from its predicament.
"I rather take it as good advice seriously given, like that of Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar when he was reading him his doom, Dan. 4:27. Break off thy sins by righteousness, if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible
"Send the tribute lamb...," says Isaiah in verse 1. Needed to do some cross-reference reading to know more of the history. First off, Moab was a country full of shepherds, so there were plenty of sheep to send as a tribute. Why? II Samuel 8:2 explains that when David defeated Moab in battle that he made the Moabites become servants to him. They sent tribute lambs regularly as part of their submission to his kingship. Later on, Moab would send lambs to the king of Israel for the same purpose. But, as the nation grew in power and self-sufficiency, it stopped sending a tribute. Indeed, with the split kingdom situation in effect in Israel, and other nations growing in their power and self-sufficiency, it was no surprise that Moab reneged on its duty.

But Isaiah is calling the nation to return to its responsibilities, and to, again, send the tribute lambs--now to Hezekiah of Judah, the "ruler of the the mountain of the daughter of Zion" (aka, Jerusalem. Recall Isaiah 10:32b regarding the king of Assyria: "He shakes his fist at the mountain of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem.") To further clarify the direction of activity, Sela was located in Edom near Petra, which was the location of the fugitives who were leaving Moab in a southerly way at the time of the Assyrian invasion.

The daughters of Moab--a poetic symmetry, I'm thinking--are fleeing like scattered wildfowl. This is not like the procession of the Israelites through the wilderness. This is a chase, either to safe refuge or to their end. They are running to the Arnon, a waterway described in Numbers 21:13: "From there they journeyed and camped on the other side of the Arnon, which is in the wilderness that comes out of the border of the Amorites, for the Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites." Again, the southern portion of Moab.

Then, in verses 3 and 4, comes the plea for help:

"[Say to the ruler] Give counsel, execute justice [for Moab, O king of Judah]."
--Amplified Bible
Not only would a Moabite tribute go a long way in re-establishing good relations with Judah, but so, too, a direct, respectful appeal to the head of the nation for support and, yes, justice. The prophet encourages to the nation to return to a state of submission.

"It would engage great men to be kind to the people of God if they would but observe, as they easily might, how often such conduct brings the blessing of God upon kingdoms and families. “Make Hezekiah your friend, for you will find it your interest to do so upon the account both of the grace of God in him and the presence of God with him."
--Matthew Henry
"Be our shade, Judah" says Moab, from the hot Assyrian oppression beating down. "Shelter our people."
"This was that good work by which Rahab’s faith was justified, and proved to be sincere, Heb. 11:31. 'Nay, do not only hide them for a time, but, if there be occasion, let them be naturalized: Let my outcasts dwell with thee, Moab....'"
--Matthew Henry
Wow! How about that connection? Rahab the prostitute, hiding spies under Joshua's command prior to the fall of Jericho. Judah also had an opportunity to do a good work in hiding the outcasts of Moab, to be their hiding place. How often are we willing to protect those who have persecuted us? We also need to keep in mind that Judah wasn't safe from an Assyrian attack. (Isaiah had prophesied about that, too.) The "Give counsel" from verse 3 carries great weight on the head of Judah for personal reasons.

But Isaiah follows quickly with the statement at the end of verse 4 that the oppression will soon end. (In fact, it did. Assyria would not devastate Judah in this forward charge.) He takes things one step further with verse 5, anticipating the time when ultimate justice will reign, and the injustices in the world will be dealt with--in promptness and righteousness, mercy and faithfulness.

In spite of everything, the prophet's appeal and words are lost to a nation's pride.  ...'Til next Wednesday!

* * *

Next week:  Isaiah 16: 6-9
Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Isaiah 15: 7-9

Therefore the abundance which they have acquired and stored up
They carry off over the brook of Arabim.
For the cry of distress has gone around the territory of Moab,
Its wail goes as far as Eglaim and its wailing even to Beer-elim.
For the waters of Dimon are full of blood;
Surely I will bring added woes upon Dimon,
A lion upon the fugitives of Moab and upon the remnant of the land.

Even as the prophet weeps over Moab and documents the nation's coming lament over the days of desolation and famine, Isaiah says that there will be "added woes" beyond those already foretold (vs. 9).

Because of the loss of Moab's two major cities and the desecration of the land, the refugee population rises--people are on the move. "Therefore," begins verse 7, the people take all that they have with them, even over "the brook of Arabim," which can also be translated as the brook of willows or poplars. My study Bible suggests that the brook might have been the Zered River, which forms a border between Moab and Edom.

Matthew Henry brings up an interesting point in noting the attitude of the Moabites. Here are a people facing ruin, weeping, shaving their heads in grief--over their personal losses, not over the loss of God in their lives--yet carrying their entire "abundance" off to a foreign land.

"Those that are eager to get abundance of this world, and solicitous to lay up what they have gotten, little consider what may become of it and in how short a time it may be all taken from them. Great abundance, by tempting the robbers, exposes the owners; and those who depend upon it to protect them often find it does but betray them."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

The "cry of distress" (vs. 8) from Moab is heard in the territory surrounding the nation. Eglaim is the northernmost part of Edom, and Beer-elim is the southernmost part of Edom. Moabite wailing covers a lot of auditory ground.

In verse 9, we read about Dimon. Depending on the original sources from which your Bible is translated, Dimon could be a place all its own or it could be an alternate spelling of Moab's idol capital, Dibon. Matthew Henry says, "Dimon signifies bloody; the place shall answer to its name." He references II Kings 3: 22 and 23, in which the Moabites see water that looks like blood. "Then they said, 'This is blood; the kings have surely fought together, and they have slain one another. Now therefore, Moab, to the spoil!'" (vs. 23) (Israel would then rise up in surprise to defeat them.) Here's what I read about the etymology of 'Dimon':

"The form of the name, Dimon, in Isa 15:9, may have been given to make it resemble the Hebrew dam, 'blood,' to support the play upon words in the verse...."
--International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

[It would be like Isaiah to use a play-on-words. Such a creative writer!]

But, given Moab's reliance upon idols and Dibon's propensity for them, it would be an equally plausible possibility that Isaiah was referring to the city itself. It is no wonder God would bring about additional woe upon the people in relationship to their activities at Dibon. Remember, "gods before Him" has always been the problem requiring the #1 Commandment. But the extent of the woes goes beyond Dibon to the fugitives themselves. One really does start to feel sad for this people in the end due to their cluelessness. We did wrong, but we won't own up to it. Instead, we'll cry over our ruin, take all that we own and cherish, and run away to start a new life [in an equally spiritually corrupt nation]! God would not have it. He would send "a lion." (vs 9)

It's a picture perhaps not unlike what Babylon would experience with the "desert creatures" taking over their houses, towers and palaces. (Isa. 13: 21 and 22) The cross-reference verse takes us back to another prophet's words--Amos--who warned that even when escape from the first obstacle is possible, there are more woes awaiting:

"Alas, you who are longing for the day of the Lord,
For what purpose will the day of the Lord be to you?
It will be darkness and not light;
As when a man flees from a lion
And a bear meets him,

Or goes home, leans his hand against the wall
And a snake bites him."

--Amos 5: 18 and 19

Perhaps the most striking contrast--and one that Judah should have seen--is that of "the remnant." [And did Isaiah choose that word on purpose or what?!] Moab's would not survive. Judah's would be preserved through the history of the world.


Where the scattered fugitives landed, as we begin Chapter 16. ...'Til next Wednesday!

* * *

Next week:  Isaiah 16: 1-4
Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).