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!

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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).