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Isaiah 16 Explained

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Apocalyptic Commentary of the Book of Isaiah.

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Moab's prideful people receive three years' warning
before Jehovah destroys them and their land.

King James Version                                                Isaiah Institute Translation

שִׁלְחוּ־כַר מֹשֵׁל־אֶרֶץ מִסֶּלַע מִדְבָּרָה אֶל־הַר בַּת־צִיּוֹן ׃ 16:1 
Send ye the lamb to the ruler of the land
      from Sela to the wilderness,
      unto the mount of the daughter of Zion.
  Send couriers to those who rule in the earth,
      from Sela in the desert
      to the mountain of the Daughter of Zion.
וְהָיָה כְעוֹף־נוֹדֵד קֵן מְשֻׁלָּח תִּהְיֶינָה בְּנוֹת מוֹאָב מַעְבָּרֹת לְאַרְנוֹן ׃ 16:2 
For it shall be that, as a wandering bird cast
      out of the nest, so the daughters of Moab shall
      be at the fords of Arnon.
47:2 Like fluttering birds forced out of the nest,
      so are Moab’s women at the fords of Arnon.
הָבִיאִו (הָבִיאִי) עֵצָה עֲשׂוּ פְלִילָה שִׁיתִי כַלַּיִל צִלֵּךְ בְּתוֹךְ צָהֳרָיִם סַתְּרִי נִדָּחִים נֹדֵד אַל־תְּגַלִּי ׃ 16:3 
Take counsel, execute judgment; make thy shadow
      as the night in the midst of the noonday;
hide the outcasts;
      bewray not him that wandereth.
59:9-10 Provide a solution, they say; judge our case!
      Overshadow us at high noon as though it were night!
Shelter those dispossessed;
      betray not the refugees!
יָגוּרוּ בָךְ נִדָּחַי מוֹאָב הֱוִי־סֵתֶר לָמוֹ מִפְּנֵי שׁוֹדֵד כִּי־אָפֵס הַמֵּץ כָּלָה שֹׁד תַּמּוּ רֹמֵס מִן־הָאָרֶץ ׃ 16:4 
Let mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab; be thou a
      covert to them from the face of the spoiler:

for the extortioner is at an end,
      the spoiler ceaseth,
      the oppressors are consumed out of the land.
14:3-4 Let the exiles of Moab dwell with you;
      be a refuge to them from the aggressors!

When oppressors are no more
      and violence has ceased,
      when tyrants are destroyed from the earth,
וְהוּכַן בַּחֶסֶד כִּסֵּא וְיָשַׁב עָלָיו בֶּאֱמֶת בְּאֹהֶל דָּוִד שֹׁפֵט וְדֹרֵשׁ מִשְׁפָּט וּמְהִר צֶדֶק ׃ 16:5 
And in mercy shall the throne be established:
      and he shall sit upon it in truth
      in the tabernacle of David,
judging, and seeking judgment,
      and hasting righteousness.
22:22-23

9:7
then, in loving kindness,
      shall a throne be set up in the abode of David,
and in faithfulness a judge sit on it
      who will maintain justice and expedite
      righteousness.
שָׁמַעְנוּ גְאוֹן־מוֹאָב גֵּא מְאֹד גַּאֲוָתוֹ וּגְאוֹנוֹ וְעֶבְרָתוֹ לֹא־כֵן בַּדָּיו ׃ 16:6 
We have heard of the pride of Moab;
      he is very proud: even of his haughtiness, and his pride,
      and his wrath: but his lies shall not be so.
We have heard of the glories of Moab,
      of its excessive pride and its boasting,
      of its outbursts of false propaganda.
לָכֵן יְיֵלִיל מוֹאָב לְמוֹאָב כֻּלֹּה יְיֵלִיל לַאֲשִׁישֵׁי קִיר־חֲרֶשֶׂת תֶּהְגּוּ אַךְ־נְכָאִים ׃ 16:7 
Therefore shall Moab howl for Moab,
      every one shall howl:
for the foundations of Ki hareseth
      shall ye mourn; surely they are stricken.
13:6 For this shall the Moabites be made to lament,
      and all have cause to bewail Moab:
they shall groan at the ruin of Kir Hareseth
      in utter dejection.
כִּי שַׁדְמוֹת חֶשְׁבּוֹן אֻמְלָל גֶּפֶן שִׂבְמָה בַּעֲלֵי גוֹיִם הָלְמוּ שְׂרוּקֶּיהָ עַד־יַעְזֵר נָגָעוּ תָּעוּ מִדְבָּר שְׁלֻחוֹתֶיהָ נִטְּשׁוּ עָבְרוּ יָם ׃ 16:8 
For the fields of Heshbon languish,
      and the vine of Sibmah:
      the lords of the heathen have broken down
the principal plants thereof,
      they are come even unto Jazer,
      they wandered through the wilderness:
      her branches are stretched out,
      they are gone over the sea.
24:7
23:7
For the vineyards of Heshbon shall wither;
      the ruling nations will smite Sibmah’s vines.
Its runner vines reached Jazer,
      trailing through the desert;
      its branches spread abroad across the sea.
עַל־כֵּן אֶבְכֶּה בִּבְכִי יַעְזֵר גֶּפֶן שִׂבְמָה אֲרַיָּוֶךְ דִּמְעָתִי חֶשְׁבּוֹן וְאֶלְעָלֵה כִּי עַל־קֵיצֵךְ וְעַל־קְצִירֵךְ הֵידָד נָפָל ׃ 16:9 
Therefore I will bewail with the weeping of Jazer
      the vine of Sibmah:
I will water thee with my tears,
      O Heshbon, and Elealeh:
for the shouting for thy summer fruits
      and for thy harvest is fallen.
15:4 Therefore I will mourn as Jazer mourns
      for the vines of Sibmah;
I will water you with my tears,
      O Heshbon and Elealeh,
when your shouts of cheer
      over the summer fruit and harvest are stilled.
וְנֶאֱסַף שִׂמְחָה וָגִיל מִן־הַכַּרְמֶל וּבַכְּרָמִים לֹא־יְרֻנָּן לֹא יְרֹעָע יַיִן בַּיְקָבִים לֹא־יִדְרֹךְ הַדֹּרֵךְ הֵידָד הִשְׁבַּתִּי ׃ 16:10
And gladness is taken away, and joy out of the plentiful field;
      and in the vineyards there shall be no singing,
      neither shall there be shouting:
the treaders shall tread out no wine in their presses;
      I have made their vintage shouting to cease.
32:12 The joyful festivity will be gone from the orchards;
      no shouts of delight shall sound in the vineyards.
The wine treaders will tread no wine in the presses;
      the vintage shout I will bring to an end.
עַל־כֵּן מֵעַי לְמוֹאָב כַּכִּנּוֹר יֶהֱמוּ וְקִרְבִּי לְקִירחָרֶשׂ ׃ 16:11
Wherefore my bowels shall sound like an harp for Moab,
      and mine inward parts for Kir haresh.
22:4 My breast will vibrate like a harp for Moab,
      my inmost being for Kir Hareseth.
וְהָיָה כִי־נִרְאָה כִּי־נִלְאָה מוֹאָב עַל־הַבָּמָה וּבָא אֶל־מִקְדָּשׁוֹ לְהִתְפַּלֵּל וְלֹא יוּכָל ׃ 16:12
And it shall come to pass, when it is seen that Moab
      is weary on the high place,
that he shall come to his sanctuary to pray;
      but he shall not prevail.
  For when the Moabites weary themselves
      with petitioning on the hill shrines,
and enter their sanctuaries to pray,
      it shall be to no avail.
זֶה הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְהוָה אֶל־מוֹאָב מֵאָז ׃ 16:13
This is the word that the Lord hath spoken concerning Moab since that time.  ...   These things Jehovah spoke hitherto about Moab.  ...
וְעַתָּה דִּבֶּר יְהוָה לֵאמֹר בְּשָׁלֹשׁ שָׁנִים כִּשְׁנֵי שָׂכִיר וְנִקְלָה כְּבוֹד מוֹאָב בְּכֹל הֶהָמוֹן הָרָב וּשְׁאָר מְעַט מִזְעָר לוֹא כַבִּיר ׃ 16:14
...  But now the Lord hath spoken, saying, Within three years, as the years of an hireling, and the glory of Moab shall be contemned, with all that great multitude; and the remnant shall be very small and feeble.

 

...  But now Jehovah has said, Within three years, as the term of a lease, Moab's glory shall become ignominy. For all its large populace there shall be very few left, and those of no account.

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Apocalyptic Commentary of the Book of Isaiah

Isaiah 16 Explained

Humiliation and Exaltation    (Isaiah 1323; 47)


Moab's prideful people receive three years' warning
before Jehovah destroys them and their land.


16:1  Send couriers to those who rule in the earth,
      from Sela in the desert
      to the mountain of the Daughter of Zion.
16:2  Like fluttering birds forced out of the nest,
      so are Moab's women at the fords of Arnon.
16:3  Provide a solution, they say; judge our case!
      Overshadow us at high noon as though it were night!
Shelter those dispossessed;
      betray not the refugees!
16:4  Let the exiles of Moab dwell with you;
      be a refuge to them from the aggressors!  ...

      As the type of a kindred people with a sense of entitlement, the Moabites look to others to alleviate the woes they have brought on themselves by their own actions or inactions. Reduced to refugee status, they want someone to cover their sins and care for them. The parallel lines, “to those who rule in the earth” and “to the mountain of the Daughter of Zion,” implies that the Moabites are appealing to God’s people in Zion for help and that God’s people are those who now rule in the earth. The reference to “Moab’s women” (běnôt môᐣāb) may be both literal and figurative (cf. Isaiah 3:12; 19:16).
      
16:4  ...  When oppressors are no more
            and violence has ceased,
            when tyrants are destroyed from the earth,
16:5  then, in loving kindness,
      shall a throne be set up in the abode of David,
and in faithfulness a judge sit on it
      who will maintain justice and expedite
      righteousness.

      The answer to the Moabites’ plight isn’t a temporary refuge from Assyrian aggression or other covenant curses. It is the establishment of a government that administers “justice” (mišpāṭ) and “righteousness” (ṣedeq). By bringing things to a head in his Day of Judgment, God puts an end to man’s tyranny of man and replaces it with a theocracy in which God rules. His “loving kindness” (ḥesed ) signifies his millennial covenant with his servant David (Isaiah 55:3). The word “judge” (šōpēṭ) identifies both Jehovah (cf. Isaiah 2:4; 11:3–4) and his servant—God’s righteousness (Isaiah 41:2).
      
16:6  We have heard of the glories of Moab,
      of its excessive pride and its boasting,
      of its outbursts of false propaganda.
16:7  For this shall the Moabites be made to lament,
      and all have cause to bewail Moab:
they shall groan at the ruin of Kir Hareseth
      in utter dejection.

      Moab’s self-exaltation—like all of Greater Babylon’s—inevitably leads to humiliation in God’s Day of Judgment: “The haughty eyes of men shall be lowered and man’s pride abased; Jehovah alone shall be exalted in that day. Jehovah of Hosts has a day in store for all the proud and arrogant and for all who are exalted, that they may be brought low” (Isaiah 2:11–12). Rather than look down on the Moabites and glory at their fall, God’s people weep for them and deeply sorrow at their plight (cf. vv 9, 11). They were a people who lived alongside, with whom God’s people interacted.
      
16:8  For the vineyards of Heshbon shall wither;
      the ruling nations will smite Sibmah's vines.
Its runner vines reached Jazer,
      trailing through the desert;
      its branches spread abroad across the sea. 

      When the Assyrian alliance of nations destroys Greater Babylon, all agriculture suffers as typified by withering “vines” and “vineyards” (cf. Isaiah 24:7; 42:15). God’s people who return to Zion in a new wandering in the wilderness, on the other hand, experience the opposite: “Then shall a Spirit from on high be poured out on us; the desert shall become productive land and lands now productive be reckoned as brushwood” (Isaiah 32:15). The idea of vines that “spread abroad across the sea” alludes to the interdependence of Greater Babylon’s economic empire (cf. Isaiah 23:7–8, 11; 47:5).
      
16:9  Therefore I will mourn as Jazer mourns
      for the vines of Sibmah;
I will water you with my tears,
      O Heshbon and Elealeh,
when your shouts of cheer
      over the summer fruit and harvest are stilled. 
16:10 The joyful festivity will be gone from the orchards;
      no shouts of delight shall sound in the vineyards.
The wine treaders will tread no wine in the presses;
      the vintage shout I will bring to an end. 

      A reversal of circumstances between Zion and Greater Babylon characterizes God’s Day of Judgment. Although the “summer fruit and harvest” denotes the most joyous time of the year, that joy turns to gloom as Moab, which formerly enjoyed prosperity, lies in ruins. God’s elect, on the other hand—who suffer gloom before God’s Day of Judgment—now experience joy: “Jehovah is comforting Zion, bringing solace to all her ruins; he is making her wilderness like Eden, her desert as the garden of Jehovah. Joyful rejoicing takes place there, thanksgiving with the voice of song” (Isaiah 51:3).
      
16:11 My breast will vibrate like a harp for Moab,
      my inmost being for Kir Hareseth. 
16:12 For when the Moabites weary themselves
      with petitioning on the hill shrines,
and enter their sanctuaries to pray,
      it shall be to no avail.  

      Repentance comes too late to avoid catastrophe for this kindred people. Now they must endure the hardships of that evil time as a punishment and purging of their iniquities. Still, those who love all of God’s children loathe to see others suffer and are profoundly moved at Moab’s belated penitence (cf. Isaiah 15:2–3). They know that God readily hears those who love him, whose hearts are right with him: “O people of Zion, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, you shall have no cause to weep. He will graciously respond at the cry of your voice; he will answer you as soon as he hears it” (Isaiah 30:19).
      
16:13 These things Jehovah spoke hitherto about Moab.  ... 
16:14 ...  But now Jehovah has said, Within three years, as the term of a lease, Moab's glory shall become ignominy. For all its large populace there shall be very few left, and those of no account. 

      Moab’s three-year lease of time in which to mend its ways applies to Greater Babylon as a whole. In his long-suffering, God sends the world three years of warning through his servant before his Day of Judgment begins (cf. Isaiah 20:1–6). Then, in a long-awaited reversal of circumstances, Greater Babylon’s glory turns to ignominy and Zion’s ignominy turns to glory (Isaiah 47:1; 52:1–3). Although Greater Babylon comprises a majority of the world’s population, it boasts no righteous surviving remnant. The “few” of Moab who are “left” are “of no account” (šěᐣār mě aṭ miz ār lôᐣ kabbîr).