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Chapter 15 Judgment on Moab.
Isaiah’s next burden is that the Assyrians will advance on Moab as an easy target (‘within three years’ - see Isaiah 16:14). Their cities will rapidly be defeated one by one, and laid waste, and the whole nation will weep in anguish. Chapter 15 is a vivid picture of a whole land in turmoil and fleeing for its survival before advancing hordes, described as though it had happened because it is a certainty in the mind of God. They have no reliable god to trust in. They are not therefore the kind of people in whom the kings of Israel can put their confidence.
The chapter is a warning to us also not to put our trust in things that can only fail us. For if we do one day we will see them in chaos in a similar way to Moab.
a The burden of Moab. For in a night Ar of Moab is laid waste, it is brought to nought. For in a night Kir of Moab is laid waste, it is brought to nought (Isaiah 15:1).
b He is gone up to Bayith, and to Dibon, to the high places to weep. Moab howls over Nebo, and over Medeba. On all their heads is baldness, every beard is cut off (Isaiah 15:2).
c In their streets they gird themselves with sackcloth. On their housetops and in their broad places, everyone howls, weeping abundantly (literally ‘going down in weeping’) (Isaiah 15:3).
d And Heshbon cries out, and Elealeh. Their voice is heard even to Jahaz. Therefore the armed men of Moab cry aloud, his soul trembles within him (Isaiah 15:4).
d My heart cries out for Moab, her nobles flee to Zoar, to Eglath-Shelishiyah, for by the ascent of Luhith they go up with weeping, for in the way of Horonaim they raise up a cry of destruction (Isaiah 15:5).
c For the waters of Nimrim will be desolate, for the grass is withered away, the tender grass fails, there is no green thing (Isaiah 15:6).
b Therefore such wealth as they have accumulated, and that which they have laid up, they will carry away, to the Brook of the Willows, for the cry is gone round the borders of Moab, its howling to Eglaim, and its howling to Beer-elim (Isaiah 15:7-8).
a For the waters of Dimon are full of blood, for I will bring yet more on Dimon. A lion on him who escapes of Moab, and on the remnant of the land (Isaiah 15:9).
In ‘a’ the cities are dually laid waste and brought to nought, and in the parallel the waters of Dimon are full of blood, and will be so even more, and the escapee wil be taken by a lion. In ‘b’ there is weeping and howling, and in the parallel crying out and howling. In ‘c’ they are girded with sackcloth, and in the parallel the waters are desolate, and the grass withered and failing. In ‘d’ Heshbon cries out and the armed men cry aloud with trembling, and in the parallel the prophet cries out over Moab, go up weeping and raise a cry of destruction.
‘The burden of Moab.
For in a night Ar of Moab is laid waste,
It is brought to nought.
For in a night Kir of Moab is laid waste.
It is brought to nought.
He is gone up to Bayith, and to Dibon,
To the high places to weep.
Moab howls over Nebo,
And over Medeba.
On all their heads is baldness,
Every beard is cut off.’
In chapter 14 Isaiah ended with the approaching dust clouds of the Assyrian army, and the failing hearts of the Philistines. Now he moves on to their actual approach on one of the rebel nations, on Moab. The inevitable is described. Assyria’s power is such that nothing human can stand before their armies. So effective is their siege expertise that the cities of Ar and Kir are both laid waste in a single night. Both are brought to nought.
However Kir means ‘city’. Thus the idea may be of ‘each city’ rather than one particular city, that is, a number of cities. Indeed Nebo and Medeba have fallen. The cities are mentioned in the main from south to north. ‘He’ is probably Moab. So the idea is that the Moabites go to Bayith and Debir to weep before their gods in the high places. The whole of Moab weeps. They make themselves bald and cut off their beards, both evidences of severe mourning.
‘In their streets they gird themselves with sackcloth.
On their housetops and in their broad places,
Weeping abundantly (literally ‘going down in weeping’).
And Heshbon cries out, and Elealeh.
Their voice is heard even to Jahaz.
Therefore the armed men of Moab cry aloud,
His soul trembles within him.’
All the land fall to weeping. They wear sackcloth, a sign of mourning. They go to their housetop shrines, and gather in the open spaces to weep. This is the price for opposing Assyria, for their soldiers will show little mercy. Heshbon was the capital city, on the northern border, Elealeh another associated city. But their cries would reach even down to Jahaz in the south. And as the armed men waited for the Assyrian armies to reach them, each of them too would tremble deep within and cry aloud.
‘My heart cries out for Moab, her nobles flee to Zoar,
For by the ascent of Luhith they go up with weeping,
For in the way of Horonaim they raise up a cry of destruction.’
Panic has seized the whole of Moab. The nobles flee to the Dead Sea area, to Zoar, and to Eglath-Shelishiyah. The people stream to the ascent of Luhith, weeping as they climb. They take the highway of Horonaim in their desperation to get away, crying out concerning the destruction of Moab. The whole of Moab are refugees.
‘My heart cries out for Moab.’ This may be Isaiah, or it may be God speaking (compare Isaiah 15:9). He does not find judgment easy to bear.
Some read ‘Eglath Shelishiyah’ as referring to ‘a heifer of the third year’, and see it as indicating that Moab is like an untamed heifer now being subjected to the yoke.
‘For the waters of Nimrim will be desolate,
For the grass is withered away,
The tender grass fails,
There is no green thing.’
Nimrim is possibly the Wadi Numeirah, which flows into the Dead Sea near its southern end, a dry river bed which floods in the rainy season. But there is no water now at which they can quench their thirst, the grass has withered, no new sproutings take place, all is dry and dead.
‘Therefore such wealth as they have accumulated,
And that which they have laid up,
They will carry away,
To the Brook of the Willows.’
Their only hope is escape across the border. This is the sad sight of a stream of refugees carrying all their earthly possessions as they stumble on their way to the south hoping to find refuge. The Brook of the Willows (or ‘Ravine of the Poplars’) is probably the Brook Zered on the southern border (compare Amos 6:14 - ‘the Brook of the Arabah’).
‘For the cry is gone round the borders of Moab,
Its howling to Eglaim, and its howling to Beer-elim.
For the waters of Dimon are full of blood,
For I will bring yet more on Dimon,
A lion on him who escapes of Moab,
And on the remnant of the land.’
The whole of the border area with its different cities is filled with weeping people as they stream to the border for what they hope will be safety. Dimon may be a local variant of Dibon (Dibon is read by the Isaiah scroll Qa at Qumran). There is to be no let up. The waters of Dimon will flow with blood, and more and more so as the advance continues.
‘I will bring yet more on Dimon.’ God allows the Assyrian action to build up. He does not prevent it. He does not intervene in world affairs. He allows them to follow a direction based on the way He has made the world. Thus in that sense it is seen as God’s action. The ‘lion’ represents lion-like soldiers, eager for the prey. They will attack the fleeing refugees and those who have remained to fight a rearguard action.
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 15". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany