Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Isaiah 15: 4-6

4 Heshbon and Elealeh also cry out,
Their voice is heard all the way to Jahaz;
Therefore the armed men of Moab cry aloud;
His soul trembles within him.
My heart cries out for Moab;
His fugitives are as far as Zoar and Eglath-shelishiyah,
For they go up the ascent of Luhith weeping;
Surely on the road to Horonaim they raise a cry of distress over their ruin.
For the waters of Nimrim are desolate.
Surely the grass is withered, the tender grass died out,
There is no green thing.

We continue to look at the judgment on Moab this week in Isaiah, Chapter 15. We are loaded with place names today, as you can see. I always like to look at the vocabulary, so let's figure out the proper nouns before we put things in proper perspective. (Background and Scripture cross-references from The Encyclopedia of the Bible.)

Heshbon--The city, east of the Dead Sea, had a history of takeover by various countries. At one time, Israel, under Moses' direction, captured the city:

"Israel took all these cities and Israel lived in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon, and in all her villages. For Heshbon was the city of Sihon, king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab and had taken all his land out of his hand, as far as the Arnon."
--Numbers 21: 25 and 26

Elealeh--This city is very close to Heshbon and even closer to the Dead Sea. Nations wrestled over its ownership as well throughout history. At one point, the city was given to the tribe of Reuben [of Israel] who rebuilt the city.

"The sons of Reuben built Heshbon and Elealeh and Kiriathaim, and Nebo and Baal-meon—their names being changed—and Sibmah, and they gave other names to the cities which they built."
--Numbers 32: 37 and 38

But, not long after, Moab reclaimed Elealeh, though they carried on a dispute over the city with Ammon.

Jahaz--This city was located some 20 miles south of Heshbon, on the Arnon River, and northeast of Moab's idol capital, Dibon. In the same battle that saw the Amorites' King Sihon lose Heshbon to Israel, Jahaz was also turned over.

Zoar--This city may have been located on the southern end of the Dead Sea, though Biblical scholars are not in agreement on this. We read about Zoar in Genesis in the account of Lot and his fleeing Sodom and Gomorrah in the time of God's wrath unleashed upon the cities. 

"The sun had risen over the earth when Lot came to Zoar.... Thus it came about, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot lived."
--Genesis 19: 23 and 29

Eglath-shelishiyah--Not on our map, it's a city whose location is not clearly known, though mentioned in both Isaiah's and Jeremiah's prophecies concerning Moab. The King James Version actually reads, "...his fugitives shall flee unto Zoar, an heifer of three years old." Needed some help to understand that.

"In the former case strong and unconquered cities, Zoar and Horonaim, are compared to the heifer not yet broken to the yoke. Such use of 'heifer' is not infrequent (compare Jeremiah 46:20, Hosea 10:11, etc.). The majority of scholars, however, take it as a place-name."
--International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

I will be siding with the majority when we read this passage through momentarily.

Luhith--Possibly another city on the southern end of the Dead Sea, though this location is not for sure. Given how the passage containing the city reads, it may have been on a hill ("go up the ascent of Luhith," vs. 5).

Horonaim--Like Luhith, a possibly southern city, though unconfirmed.

Nimrim--'Nimrim' means basins of clear water. Again, the Biblical scholars are a bit all over the map, literally, in deciding where Nimrim was located. Most suggest it was a stream-oasis near the eastern coast of the Dead Sea.

Now, to our text. Isaiah is addressing the full nation of Moab, doing so through geographical reference points. He begins at the northern segment of the territory, with Heshbon and Elealeh crying out southward to Jahaz. (vs. 4) The cry from the fall of these cities triggers despair by the armies of the men of Moab. Soul trembling by the nation's mightiest warriors. This should help us to understand the depth of devastation to come.

Verse 5: "My heart cries out for Moab." I admit to tripping and stumbling when I came to this statement. 'My' refers to Isaiah. Isaiah was crying out for Moab, not just to Moab--and, truly, he was speaking to Judah. He is the bearer of bad news, but he does not put himself in a position of saying, "God told you this would happen if you didn't behave." This is a window into Isaiah's character--a man of compassion. Thinking back on Jonah and his relationship with Nineveh, we can see a very different man of prophecy.

"...It becomes God’s ministers to be of a tender spirit, not to desire the woeful day, but to be like their master, who wept over Jerusalem even when he gave her up to ruin, like their God, who desires not the death of sinners."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Continuing with verse 5, Moab's fugitives flee as far as to its southernmost cities. They weep climbing the hill of Luhith, and on the road to Horonaim, they continue to cry out over its ruin. It is nationwide destruction and grief! On top of that, "...the waters of Nimrim are desolate." (vs. 6) As is not uncommon in these situations, there is a drought and famine accompanying Moab's already dreadful situation. "There is no green thing."

Times in Joel's days of prophecy were just as desperate for Judah and they were for Moab. No doubt, what Isaiah was describing of Moab would be a particularly vivid memory for Judah:

"The field is ruined,
The land mourns;
For the grain is ruined,
The new wine dries up,
Fresh oil fails.
Be ashamed, O farmers,
Wail, O vinedressers,
For the wheat and the barley;
Because the harvest of the field is destroyed.
The vine dries up
And the fig tree fails;
The pomegranate, the palm also, and the apple tree,
All the trees of the field dry up.
Indeed, rejoicing dries up
From the sons of men."
--Joel 1: 10-12

"...For the cry of distress has gone around...." Finishing up Chapter 15. ...'Til next Wednesday!

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Next week:  Isaiah 15: 7-9
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).