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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Isaiah 16

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. XVI.

Moab is exhorted to yield obedience to Christ's kingdom. Moab is threatened for her pride. The prophet bewaileth her. The judgment of Moab.

Before Christ 712.


Verse 1-2

Isaiah 16:1-2. Send ye the lamb After Isaiah, in the former part of this prophesy, had described the calamity and the lamentation of the Moabites, he here stands still, as on a sudden; then addresses the Moabites, and informs them as well of the causes of this judgment, as of the means which, if properly applied, might at least mitigate, if not wholly avert it. The prophet does not set forth these causes directly, but obliquely, by the way of prudent counsel; wherein they are admonished of their duty towards the king and people of the Jews, which they had shamefully and proudly neglected; but, foreseeing that the Moabites would not hearken to this counsel, he goes on to describe more fully their calamity. This part of the prophesy therefore is three-fold; first, we have the counsel given to the Moabites by the prophet, or the Jewish church, Isaiah 16:1-5 wherein a two-fold duty is recommended; the one to obtain the friendship of the Jews, which in their calamity would be of great use to them, by paying them their tribute, Isaiah 16:1. 2 the other to treat with clemency and kindness the Jewish outcasts and exiles among them, for the sake of the great benefit which would redound to them from the Jews in its proper time. Secondly, the success or event of this counsel, that is to say, the contempt of it, whereof the pride and arrogance of the Moabites are shewn to be the cause. Thirdly, a repeated description of the calamity to be indited upon them for this and the preceding reasons, Isaiah 16:7-12. The meaning of the first and second verses is this: "Ye Moabites, who, subdued by David, and by him 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, (2 Kings 3:4. 2 Samuel 8:2.) Send them from Sela, or Petra, [which was most celebrated for its flocks; 2 Kings 14:7.] towards the desart, the desart near Jericho, a medium place between Sela and mount Sion." Joshua 5:10. Some think that the passage might be rendered, from Sela, or Petra in the wilderness; but Vitringa strongly defends the former interpretation. He goes on: "Pay this tribute; for it shall most certainly come to pass, that the daughters of the Moabites, like a wandering bird, and a deserted nest, driven from their seats, must somewhere seek a place of safety in the great calamity which shall befal 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 neglected; 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." It is almost the same advice which is given upon another occasion, only in an infinitely more sublime sense, by our Lord. See Luke 16:9. The verses might be read thus: Send ye the lamb of the ruler of the land [the tribute of the king of Moab] from Petra towards the desart, to the mountain of the daughter of Sion; Isaiah 16:2. Because it shall come to pass, that as a wandering bird and a forsaken nest, shall the daughters of Moab be, &c. See Vitringa.


Verses 3-5

Isaiah 16:3-5. Take counsel, &c.— We have here the second counsel given to the Moabites; wherein, first, is the counsel itself; Isaiah 16:3-4 and the reason of the counsel;—middle of the fourth and the fifth verse. The counsel contains a complex of various offices, equity, justice, humanity, to be exercised towards 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 calamity, if they altered not so bad a practice. Execute judgment is literally,

Make a distinction; and it properly denotes that act of the mind, whereby it discriminates truth from falsehood, right from wrong. It is therefore as much as to say, "Consider not only what becomes you, but what you ought to do in this case; consider what is due to exiles and out-casts, both by the laws of equity and reason, of humanity and brotherly love." The meaning of the next clause, make thy shadow, &c. is; afford the exiled and afflicted Israelites, who shall fly 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. See chap. Isaiah 4:6. Psalms 121:6. Revelation 7:16. There is great emphasis in the word Moab, Isaiah 16:4 whereby the Moabites are reminded of the relationship betwixt them and the Jews, as if the prophet had said, "If neither a regard to utility, humanity, and common equity, can persuade you to perform the offices I have recommended to the exiled Israelites, recollect your common kindred and relationship. They are from Abraham, you from Lot; sprung from one common parent, Terah, the father of the one, the grandfather of the other." Vitringa is of opinion that the prophet here refers to the distress of the Reubenites, Gadites, and Manassites under Tiglath-pilezer. See 2 Kings 15:29 and 2 Chronicles 28:17. 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 be established, on which a king of righteousness and equity should sit. Primarily, the passage may be referred to Hezekiah, a pious and just king, whose throne, after the chastisement of Sennacherib in Judaea, was established in glory; but chiefly it refers to the Messiah; to Hezekiah as the type, and to Christ in a mystical and more sublime sense. This is 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 Jesus Christ; and, describing the typical kingdom, made use of such phrases as can only be applied to the kingdom of Jesus Christ, in their full extent. See chap. Isaiah 32:1 and Vitringa, who reads the first clause of the fifth verse in the present tense; and the throne is established in grace.


Verse 6

Isaiah 16:6. We have heard of the pride of Moab These words exhibit the effect or success of the counsel. The prophet shews that the Moabites would not receive, but despise it; the cause whereof he shews to be, the arrogance and pride of the nation; and the immediate cause of that pride, he tells us, are the diviners and vain speakers who excited the Moabites against the Jews, and promised them prosperity of a long continuance; whose vain speeches are called by the prophet, the not-right, the vanity of the divines, and so the last clause should be rendered; the futility or iniquity of his diviners. See Vitringa.


Verse 7-8

Isaiah 16:7-8. Therefore shall Moab howl The prophet, foreseeing that the Moabites would proudly reject the counsel he gave them, takes occasion thence to repeat and continue his tragical prophecy concerning the calamity which should happen to them by the divine determination. This prophesy is of the same argument with that preceding, and reaches to the 13th verse. It may be divided into three sentences; the first contained in the 7th and 8th verses; the second in the 9th and 10th; the third in the 11th and 12th. Kir-hasereth, or the city of the sun, seems without doubt to be the same with that mentioned in the first verse of the 15th chapter. Instead of foundations, Vitringa reads flaggons. Moab was famous for its vines, and for its flocks, and therefore the prophet takes his ideas principally from these.


Verse 8

Isaiah 16:8. For the fields, &c.— For the fields of Heshbon are put to shame; the vine of Sibmah languisheth, whose generous shoots overpowered the mighty lords of the nations: they reached unto Jazer; they strayed to the desert; her branches extended themselves, they passed over the sea. The literal meaning of the verse is, "This vine of Sibmah, famous for its fruits, had extended its branches so widely, that they had reached to the lake Jazer, nay, and had even crossed over that lake; i.e. filling its banks they had overshadowed part of it, as if they were about to cross over it."


Verse 9

Isaiah 16:9. For the shouting, &c.— For, upon thy summer-fruits, and upon thy vintage, the destroyer hath fallen. Lowth. The meaning of the phrase, I will bewail with the weeping of Jazer, or, I will lament with the lamentation of Jazer, the vine of Sibmah, is, "I mingle my tears with the tears of the citizens of Jazer and Sibmah, for the devastation which shall happen to their fields and vineyards."


Verse 12

Isaiah 16:12. On the high place The meaning of the verse is, that the Moabites, as their last efforts, should go to their altars, there to perform their sacred rites, to appease the anger of their deity; but, wearied herewith, they should enter into the sanctuary, into some more sacred and celebrated sanctuary of their god Chemosh, to pour forth their earnest supplications and prayers; but should obtain nothing. This therefore is the last calamity of the Moabites, that struggling with so great evils they should fly to the help of their gods, whom they worshipped with the greatest superstition, and in their extremity should seek help from them; should weary themselves at their altars, should supplicate in their temples, should prostrate themselves before their shrines, but obtain nothing; thus proving the vanity of their superstition, and the imbecility of those false deities on whom they trusted. See Vitringa.


Verse 13-14

Isaiah 16:13-14. This is the word—since that time, &c.— This is the word which Jehovah spake concerning Moab long ago. Lowth. The prophet had described the future calamity of Moab; but, as the completion of the prophesies was often at a great distance, it happened that men neglected, or at least less regarded, those prophesies which they saw not fulfilled in their own time. That this might not happen in the present case, he adds, that this prophesy should be shortly fulfilled, nay, even within three years. In this passage, or epilogue to this remarkable prophesy, the prophet first informs us, that what he here denounces is not new, but had been long since revealed to him or to other prophets; Isaiah 16:13. See Amos 2:1. Secondly, That this prophesy should be fulfilled within three years; Isaiah 16:14. Years, as the years of an hireling, mean "a precise number of years," determined in the same manner as those of a person who hires himself for any settled time. See chap. Isaiah 21:16. Vitringa is of opinion, that this prophesy 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 Salmanezer, coming against the Ephraimites, on a sudden attacked the Moabites, and plundered and destroyed their cities. See 2 Kings 18:9. Mystically, says Vitringa, the Moabites may here signify those false Christians, who, once ingrafted into the true church, have yet degenerated into empty superstition; and, instead of friends, become the veriest enemies to the true Israel of God.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, To prevent the threatened ruin, the prophet warns them what steps to take; to do justice, and shew mercy; and leaves them inexcusable if they reject the admonition.

1. He advises them to send their tribute, laid on them by David, which was paid in lambs and rams, from Sela, their capital, to the wilderness, the nearest road which led to Zion, to the ruler of the land, to Hezekiah, David's rightful successor; or, O ruler of the land, the king of Moab, whose duty it was to pay it, and that on the peril of his being ejected from his country; for it shall be, or, otherwise it shall be; if this justice be not done, then, as a wandering bird should they be driven from their houses to the borders of their country, and in consternation, uncertain whither to flee.

2. He counsels them to shew mercy to the outcasts of Israel, who, on the invasion of the Assyrians, should fly to hide themselves from their fury. They should protect and cherish them, as a thick shadow, from the scorching heat of persecution; conceal them from their enemies, and never betray them if pursued, but let them dwell in safety in their land till the tyranny was overpast, which should not last long; whether that of Salmanezer, who, after ravaging the country, returned; or that of Sennacherib, whose army was so quickly destroyed. Note; (1.) God's people are often persecuted and driven from their homes; but God is with them, and will find them a covert from the storm. (2.) They who are kind to God's outcasts shall find him abundantly recompensing the favour.

3. It would be their interest as well as duty thus to act. As God would establish the throne of Hezekiah, and long continue him in the tabernacle of David, executing righteous judgment, and readily administering justice to the needy, he would be enabled to return the kindness to Moab when her distresses should arrive. Note; We should study to oblige every man, as we know not what need we may have of his assistance before we die.

2nd, Because Moab haughtily rejected the prophetic counsel, his doom is near.

1. His sins were great and notorious; with haughtiness and pride he treated the poor refugees of Israel, and in wrath persecuted rather than protected them. But his lies, or his strength, shall not be so. He hath mischievous designs against Israel; but God will disappoint his wiles, or break his power, so that his wicked purposes shall not be brought to pass. Note; (1.) Pride in God's sight is most abominable. (2.) It is a mercy for God's people, that the power of their enemies is not proportioned to their malice.

2. The sorrows of Moab would be increased; their strongest fortresses levelled with the ground, and their fertile land wasted. The vine of Sibmah, which spreads her tendrils even unto Jazer, a city in Gilead, and to the Dead Sea, the borders of their country, now languishes, broken down by the lords of the heathen, the Assyrian army; and Heshbon's fruitful fields, no longer cheered with the songs of reapers, or the shouts of those who trod the wine-press, in mournful solitude and silence lie desolate and barren. The prophet, while he denounces the judgment, weeps for their ruin, and, like the trembling strings of the harp, his bowels yearn in compassion over them. Note; (1.) Sorrow and sin are twin-sisters. (2.) The miseries even of the wicked move a gracious heart to pity them.

3. All applications to their idol gods would be in vain: though they went from one high place to another, as Balak of old, till they wearied themselves with sacrifices, their miseries would not abate; and as fruitless would be their prayers before the shrine of Chemosh. The decree was gone forth, since that time, the date of the prophesy in the first year of Hezekiah, and was now irreversible. Note; (1.) When prayer is the extorted cry of suffering, and not the voice of repentant sorrow, no marvel it as rejected. (2.) There is a time when prayer comes too late to profit: it will be in vain to knock when the door is shut.

4. The day of execution is fixed for Moab's destruction, when their glory shall be despicable, their multitude of soldiers cut off, and the remnant weak and disabled to make head against their invaders. In three years, as the years of a hireling, who waits with earnestness the expiration of his contract, the people of God might expect the fulfilment of the prophesy. But now the Lord hath spoken concerning a near event, which was a warning to them, and a prelude to their final ruin.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 16:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/isaiah-16.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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