Isaiah 16:1-2. Send ye the lamb, &c. — The prophet continues his prophecy against Moab, and gives them counsel what to do to prevent, if possible, or at least to mitigate, the threatened judgment. First he advises them to be just to the house of David, and to pay the tribute they had formerly covenanted to pay to the kings of his line. David, it must be recollected, had subdued the Moabites, and made them tributaries to him, 2 Samuel 8:2. Afterward they paid their tribute to the kings of Israel, 2 Kings 3:4; which, it appears, was not less than 100,000 lambs annually. This it is likely had been discontinued, and neither paid to the kings of Israel nor those of Judah. Now it is thought the prophet here requires them to pay this tribute, or, at least, what they had covenanted with David to pay, to the king of Judah, who was now Hezekiah, that thereby they might at once do an act of neglected justice, and make him and the Jews their friends, which would be of great use to them in their calamity. These verses therefore are thus paraphrased by Vitringa: “Ye Moabites, who, subdued by David, and made tributary to his house and kingdom, have, with pride and arrogance, shaken off his yoke: placate in time, and render propitious to you, the Jews, and their king, by sending those lambs, which you owe to them as a tribute. Send them from Sela, or Petra, (which was most celebrated for its flocks, 2 Kings 14:7,) toward the desert, the desert near Jericho, a medium place between Sela and mount Zion, Joshua 5:10.” Or, as the words may be rendered, from Sela, of, or, in the wilderness. “Pay this tribute, for it shall most certainly come to pass, that the daughters of the Moabites, like a wandering bird from a deserted nest, driven from their seats, must somewhere seek a place of safety in the great calamity which shall befall their nation. It is therefore now time to solicit the friendship of the Jews, and to remember the duty owing to them, but so long omitted; that when expelled from your own habitations, you may be received kindly by them, and dwell hospitably in their land, and under the shadow of their kings.” Some, however, understand the prophet as advising them to send a lamb for a sacrifice unto God, the ruler of the land of the Moabites, as well as of that of the Jews; or the ruler of the earth, as ארצ is commonly rendered: to him who is the God of the whole earth, as he is called, Isaiah 54:5. Of all the kingdoms of the earth, Isaiah 37:16. As if he had said, Make your peace with God, by sacrifice, for all your injuries done to him and to his people. The fords of Arnon was the border of the land of Moab, where their daughters are supposed to be with a design to flee out of their own land, though they knew not whither.
Isaiah 16:3-4. Take counsel, &c. — We have here the second counsel given to the Moabites, which “contains a complex of various offices, equity, justice, humanity, to be exercised toward those of the Israelites whom the Assyrian affliction had driven, or should drive, to their borders and cities, and who should seek refuge among them: which counsel is so given to the Moabites, by the prophet, as evidently to upbraid them for the fault of having neglected these offices; the pernicious consequences of which they were sure to feel in the ensuing calamities, if they altered not so bad a practice.” — Dodd, Execute judgment — Hebrew, עשׂי פלילה, make a distinction. The expression denotes that act of the mind whereby it “discriminates truth from falsehood, right from wrong;” as if he had said, “Consider what becomes you, what is your duty in this case; what you owe to exiles and outcasts, both by the laws of equity and reason, of humanity and brotherly love.” Make thy shadow as the night — Or, as the shadow of the night, large and dark, as the shadow of the earth is in the night-season. “Afford my exiled and afflicted people, who shall flee to you for safety, a safe retreat, defence, and succour against the extreme, the noon-day heat of the sharp persecution which so heavily oppresses them.” The idea is taken from the comfort of a shady situation in those hot countries; and the metaphor is fully explained in what follows. Vitringa is of opinion that the prophet here refers to the distress of the Reubenites, Gadites, and Manassites under Tiglath-pileser. But it is more probable that he refers to the distress which should be caused in Judah by Pekah and Rezin, in the days of Ahaz, (Isaiah 9:1,) or that by the Assyrians? when Sennacherib came up against the defenced cities of Judah, and took them, Isaiah 36:1; during which distresses, undoubtedly, many of the Jews sought shelter among the Moabites and other neighbouring nations. For the extortioner is at an end — Hebrew, אפס המצ, the presser, wringer, or oppressor hath left off, or, as Bishop Lowth translates it, is no more; that is, shall shortly be destroyed, and my people shall ere long be restored, and then thou wilt not lose the fruit of thy kindness. The bishop renders the next two clauses, “The destroyer ceaseth, he that trampled under foot is perished from the land.” The present tense is put for the future, as it often is in prophecies. Thus “the prophet supports his counsel by a reason, the sum of which is, that oppression should cease, the spoilers of the earth be cut off, and the throne of clemency and grace established, on which a king of righteousness and equity should sit.”
Isaiah 16:5. And in mercy — By my mercy. I am now punishing their sins, yet I will deliver them for my own mercy’s sake. The throne shall be established — The kingdom of Judah. He — Their king; shall sit upon it in truth — That is, firmly and constantly; for truth is often put for the stability and certainty of a thing, as 2 Chronicles 32:1; Proverbs 11:18. In the tabernacle of David — In the house, or palace, which is called a tent, or tabernacle, with respect to the unsettledness of David’s house, which now indeed was more like a tabernacle than a strong palace. Seeking judgment — Searching out the truth of things with care and diligence; and hasting righteousness — Neither denying nor yet delaying justice. Interpreters vary greatly concerning the application of this passage. Some refer it entirely to Hezekiah, a pious and just king, whose throne, after the chastisement of Sennacherib in Judea, was established in glory; others refer it immediately to the Messiah; and others again to both: to Hezekiah as the type, and to the Messiah, in a more sublime sense, as the antitype; and this seems to be nearly the opinion of Vitringa, who thinks that while the prophet was speaking of the advantages of the kingdom of Hezekiah, he was carried forward to a contemplation of the kingdom of Christ, and made use of such phrases as, in their full extent, can only be applied to that kingdom.
Isaiah 16:6-7. We have heard of the pride of Moab, &c. — The prophet, having spoken to the Moabites, now turns his speech to God’s people. The sense is, I do not expect that my counsels will have any good effect upon Moab; they will still carry themselves insolently and outrageously. His lies shall not be so — His vain imaginations, and false and crafty counsels, shall not take effect. Therefore shall Moab howl for Moab — One Moabite shall howl or lament to or for another; for the foundations of Kir-hareseth — An ancient and eminent city of Moab, called Kir, Isaiah 15:1, and Kir-haresh, Isaiah 16:11, which was preserved when their other cities were ruined, and therefore the destruction of it was more lamented. Surely they are stricken — Or broken, overthrown or destroyed.
Isaiah 16:8-10. The fields of Heshbon languish — Either for want of rain, or, rather, because no men should be left to till and manure them. And the vine of Sibmah — These vines and those of Heshbon were greatly celebrated, and held in high repute with all the great men and princes of that and the neighbouring countries, and were propagated from thence, not only over all the country of Moab, but to the sea of Sodom; yea, scions of them, as is signified in the last clause of this verse, were sent even beyond the sea into foreign countries: but the prophet here foretels, that the lords of the heathen — That is, the Assyrians or Chaldeans, the great rulers of the eastern nations, would soon destroy them, and all other productions of the land; and then their shouting and singing for the vintage or harvest would utterly cease, as is expressed Isaiah 16:9-10.
Isaiah 16:11-12. Wherefore my bowels shall sound as a harp — Through compassion. In excessive grief, the bowels are sometimes rolled together, so as to make an audible noise. Hereby he signifies the greatness of their approaching calamity, which, being so grievous to him, must needs be intolerable to them. And when it is seen that Moab is weary, &c. — When it shall appear to them and others, that all their other devotions are vain and ineffectual; he shall come to his sanctuary to pray — To the temple of his great god Chemosh; but he shall not prevail — His god can neither hear nor help him. In other words, the Moabites, “as their last efforts, shall go to their altars, there to perform their sacred rites to appease the anger of their deity: but, wearied herewith, they shall enter into some more sacred and celebrated sanctuary of their god, to pour forth their earnest supplications and prayers, but shall obtain nothing; thus proving the vanity of their superstition, and the imbecility of those false deities on whom they trusted.”
Isaiah 16:13-14. This is the word that the Lord hath spoken — This prophecy, hitherto related; since that time — Since the beginning of God’s revelation to me concerning Moab hitherto; or, rather, a good while ago, for so the Hebrew, מאז, meaz, signifies, Isaiah 44:8, and elsewhere. This judgment, says the prophet, was denounced against Moab in former times, particularly by Amos, (Amos 2:1,) and is now confirmed, and the particular time specified when it shall be accomplished. For now the Lord hath spoken — Hath made this further discovery of his mind to me; saying, Within three years — To be computed, it seems, from the time of the delivery of this prophecy; as the years of a hireling — That is, within three years precisely counted; for hirelings are very punctual in observing the time for which they are hired; and the glory of Moab shall be contemned — Their strength, and wealth, and other things in which they glory, shall be made contemptible to those who formerly admired them; with all that great multitude — With the great numbers of their people, of which they boasted. And the remnant shall be very small and feeble — Comparatively to what they were before. Vitringa is of opinion, that this prophecy was delivered at the same time with that preceding, that is, in the year when Ahaz died, at which time the Israelites, as well as the Jews, stood much in need of the kindness of the Moabites; so that it had its completion in the third year of King Hezekiah, namely, from the death of his father, which was really the fourth year of his reign, when Shalmaneser, coming against the Ephraimites, on a sudden attacked the Moabites, and plundered and destroyed their cities: see 2 Kings 18:9. This is also Bishop Lowth’s opinion, as has been stated in the note on Isaiah 15:1. It may, however, be understood of some other great blow given to the Moabites; perhaps by Sennacherib, or by his son Esar-haddon; (in which case Isaiah must have delivered this prophecy some years later;) from which blow, notwithstanding, they in a little time recovered themselves, and flourished again, and continued so to do, till Nebuchadnezzar completed their destruction according to the prophecy of Jeremiah 48:1, &c.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 16". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany