DIG: What do you imagine Isaiah foresees happening to these places that accounts for such wailing and mourning? What do you imagine the scene was like for these refugees fleeing the warfare in Moab? What do they look like? What are they carrying? What are they feeling? What future prospects do they have?
REFLECT: What part of your world suffers most because of political chaos and war? When you hear of the oppression and suffering people experience due to these situations, what do you feel? How do you think the LORD responds to such misery?
Chapters 15 and 16 are the second oracle against a neighboring nation. This oracle concerned Moab, and was a term used to describe the region on the east side of the Dead Sea, extending from the Arnon River, which drains into the Dead Sea about twenty miles south of the sea’s north shore, to the Zered River at the southern end of the sea where the territory of Edom began (Numbers 21:10-13). On the east, the border would have been less well defined, merely extending to the edge of the land capable of being farmed productively. The total territory would have been about thirty miles long and thirty miles wide, shockingly small when one thinks of a nation.
Judah’s relationship with Moab was always somewhat ambiguous (compared with Edom, where the hostility on both sides never seemed to stop). There was not only a close kinship between the two nations geographically (Genesis 19:37; Deuteronomy 2:9), but also because of their language. The relative ease of immigration and migration described in the book of Ruth also points toward a rather close relationship. This may account for what seems to be genuine cries of grief that appear in these chapters.
On the other hand, both Judah and Moab claimed the territory of Ammon. That land was given to Reuben and Gad (Numbers 32:1-5 and 33-38). This was a continuous source of conflict between them (Numbers 21:24-30; Judges 3:12-30, 11:22-26; First Samuel 14:47; Second Kings 3:4-27), which finally gave way to a deep-seated hostility. That being said, the words describing the fate of Moab are much different that those of Babylonia, Assyria or the Philistia. There is a much greater sympathy for the Moabites, whereas a sort of grim satisfaction greeted the downfall of the others.
The oracle begins with a lament over a sudden disaster that will fall upon Moab and reduce it to a nation of refugees. Ar in Moab is ruined, destroyed in a single night! Kir in Moab is ruined, destroyed in a night (15:1)! Isaiah describes the destruction of the capital and the fortress. The city of Ar was the capital, and the city of Kir was the chief fortress. They both fell in one night; their destruction was swift and sudden. From Moab's experience we can all learn a valuable lesson. This should be obvious to all. There is no security in this world (Amos 6:1-3 and Isaiah 5:26-30).
After the destruction of the capital and the chief fortress, there is lament that will take hold of the whole land. Dibon goes up to its temple, to its high places to weep (15:2a). Dibon is located four miles north of the Amon River and was given to the tribe of Gad at one time (Numbers 32:34). There was weeping at the high places, or idolatry-centered cities like Dibon. It was King Mesha’s native city and a high place of the Moabite god Chemosh was located there. Those high places were shrines originally built on hilltops and usually associated with pagan worship. The reason for the wailing seems to be that Chemosh had been unable to deliver his people (Jeremiah 48:35).
Moab wails over Nebo and Medeba. Every head is shaved and every beard cut off (15:2b). There was also wailing over the loss of key cities like Nebo and Medeba. In the streets they wear sackcloth; on the roofs and in the public squares they all wail, prostrate with weeping (15:3). Heshbon and Elealeh cry out, their voices are heard all the way to Jahaz. Therefore the armed men of Moab cry out, and their hearts are faint (15:4). Heshbon and Elealeh were situated about two miles from one another and the weeping in one city could be heard in the other. Isaiah seems to have a greater sympathy for the fate of the Moabites than the downfall of the others mentioned in the oracles against the nations. Four results are given.
The first result is the devastation of the land. My heart cries out over Moab; her fugitives flee as far as Zoar, as far as Eglath Shelishiyah. They go up the way to Luhith, weeping as they go; on the road to Horonaim they lament their destruction. The waters of Nimrim (Numbers 32:3 and 36; Joshua 13:27), probably Wadi Numeirah in south-eastern shore of the Dead Sea, are dried up and the grass is withered. Figuratively, the dried up vegetation is gone and the dead grass, nothing green being left, probably refer to the general devastation of the land itself (15:5-6). The sense my be that the crowd of refugees is go great that the oasis cannot support them and their animals. Therefore they must abandon their animals and continue on with what little they can carry themselves.
Secondly, Moab’s wealth is carried away. So the wealth they have acquired and stored up, they carry away over the Ravine of the Poplars (15:7). In the end, all the security they thought they had stored up in their wealth and possessions were really worthless. They could not protect them or give them any peace of mind. So it is with us and our possessions that we sometimes think is so important.
Thirdly, the cries of the fugitives fill the land from end to end and border to border. Their outcry echoes along the border of Moab; their wailing reaches a far as Eglaim, their lamentation as far as Beer Elim (15:8). One of the most pathetic sights of war is the plight of civilians caught up in a disaster not of their own making, and left to salvage what they can from the misfortune. Imperial glory usually comes at the expense of those on the bottom, not at the top.
Fourthly, the destruction is total and the horror complete. Although many people fled, they did not escape. Blood was added to blood. Dimon’s waters are full of blood, but I will bring still more upon Dimon – a lion upon the fugitives of Moab and upon those who remain in the land (15:9). There was nowhere to go. Running away would not give the fugitives any more security than staying behind. On the one hand, to try to escape across the wilderness might help them escape from the Assyrian army, but it was like the survivors were being hunted down by a relentless lion. There was only Magor-Missabib (Jeremiah 20:1-6), or terror on every side. Where could they turn?
The Teaching Ministry of Jay Mack 2006-2017