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).