My Heart Laments for Moab Like a Harp

16: 7-14

    DIG: From God’s perspective, what is the reason for Moab’s destruction? What does it tell you about God that He, through Isaiah, weeps because of their destruction even as He ordains it to occur? Why was it futile for the Moabites to go to their high place or shrine in Dibon where they worshiped the god Chemosh (see 44:17-20)? Since Judah would be tempted to look to Moab as an ally against Assyria, what would God desire them to learn from this prophecy?

    REFLECT: What is one of the false gods you once trusted in (sports, TV, family, job, technology, intellect)? How did that god serve only to wear you out? How does that god look to you now? Have these changes been merely cosmetic, or are they deep and significant?

    The thrust of the oracle is to discourage any who would be tempted to join with proud Moab for mutual security. There would be no security with her! She would be reduced to abject poverty and will herself be forced to rely on Judah’s only hope: the Messiah (16:5).

    Therefore, because of her pride, the Moabites wail; they will wail together for Moab. Lament and grieve for the men of Kir Hareseth (16:7). All of the wealth and abundance of Moab was stripped away in a single night. The fields of Heshbon wither, the vines of Sibmah also. The rulers of the nations have trampled down the choicest vines, which once reached Jazer and spread toward the desert. Their shoots spread out and went as far as the sea (16:8). This included their vineyards. They were famous for their vineyards and were the source of Moab’s pride, but this was about to be destroyed. The invading army and the drought that would accompany it would wipe out her chances for survival.

    The prospect of Moab’s sudden destruction reduces Isaiah to tears. So I weep, as Jazer weeps, for the vines of Sibmah; O Heshbon, O Elealeh, I drench you with tears! Just as Jeremiah wept over the destruction of those he denounced, so Isaiah weeps here. This also speaks to the compassion of God, for Isaiah normally identified himself with ADONAI. Just because he was the messenger of judgment, it did not mean he was happy about it, especially with a people so close to the Israelites. The shouts of joy over your ripened fruit and over your harvests have been stilled (16:9). Therefore, the God who has quieted the shouts of joy was also the God who weeps for those in despair.

    Joy and gladness are taken away from the orchards; no one sings or shouts in the vineyards: no one treads out wine at the presses, for I have put an end to the shouting (16:10). It was a common custom among the Egyptians to sing at their work. The Hebrews did the same and were especially jubilant at the time of grape gathering. They plucked off grapes with shouts of joy, and carried them to the winepress. Accompanied with musical instruments, they soothed the labor of treading the grapes by singing (Judges 9:27; Jeremiah 25:30 and 48:33).52

    Isaiah is affected by Moab’s wailing and his heart is distraught by her distress when he says: My heart cries out, literally, my bowels moan, for Moab like a harp, my inmost being for Kir Hareseth (16:11). Isaiah knew what it was like to have his stomach churn over shock, anxiety or grief.

    Yet, despite Moab’s pain, she would rather present herself to her own gods rather than seek the protection of Judah. When Moab appears at her high place, she only wears herself out; when she goes to her shrine to pray, it is to no avail (16:12). But the gods of Moab would utterly fail. In prostrating herself to them she only wears herself out. Moab will go to her own place of safety rather to the place of safety in Zion. As a result she will not succeed. Moab’s religious ritual of sacrificing at her high places and praying at her shrine would not help ease the judgment of the LORD. It never does. There is no replacement for confessing our sins and asking for forgiveness.

    Moab had already suffered greatly. Now the prophet announced that there would be further destruction. While Isaiah initially prophesied about the destruction of Moab, God did not tell him how long it would take before its fulfillment. But then came a second revelation where ADONAI spoke to Isaiah about the timing of the destruction of Moab. This is the word the LORD has already spoken concerning Moab in times past (16:13).

    Isaiah says that the prophecy that he had given earlier was incomplete. But now the LORD says: Within three years, as a servant bound by contract would count them, Moab’s spender and all her many people will be despised (16:14a). As a hireling does not work a moment longer than the set time, so the fall of Moab will not be deferred for a moment longer than the three-year period mentioned. The emphasis here is on the exactness of timing. The vineyards, which were the pride of Moab, will be brought into contempt within three years. The remnant, or survivors, will be very few and feeble (16:14b). Even this will be better than Babylon, which will be totally destroyed. No remnant will survive from Babylon. But as other prophets make clear, there will be a land of Moab in the Millennial Kingdom, that will come from this small remnant of survivors.


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