The burden of Moab. Because in the night Ar of Moab is laid waste, and brought to silence; because in the night Kir of Moab is laid waste, and brought to silence;
The burden of Moab - (see the note at Isaiah 13:1). This is the title of the prophecy. The Chaldee renders this, 'The burden of the cup of malediction which is to come upon Moab.'
Because in the night - The fact that this was to be done in the night denotes the suddenness with which the calamity would come upon them. Thus the expression is used in Job to denote the suddenness and surprise with which calamities come:
Terrors take hold on him as waters,
A tempest stealeth him away in the night.
He is gone up to Bajith, and to Dibon, the high places, to weep: Moab shall howl over Nebo, and over Medeba: on all their heads shall be baldness, and every beard cut off.
He is gone up - That is, the inhabitants of Moab in consternation have fled from their ruined cities, and have gone up to other places to weep.
To Bajith, and to Dibon - Lowth supposes that these two words should be joined together, and that one place is denoted. The Chaldee renders it, 'Ascend into the houses of Dibon.' Kimchi supposes that the word (בית bayith) denotes a temple. It usually means "house," and hence, may mean a temple of the gods; that is, the principal "house" in the land. This interpretation is adopted by Gesenius and Noyes. Vitringa supposes it to mean Beth-Meon Jeremiah 48:24, or Beth-Baal-Meon Joshua 13:17, north of the Arnon, now "Macin." I have adopted the translation proposed by Kimchi as better expressing the sense in my view than that which makes it a proper name. Dibon, perhaps the same place as Dimon in Isaiah 15:9, was a city given by Moses to Gad, and afterward yielded to Reuben Numbers 32:3, Numbers 32:33-34; Joshua 13:9. It was again occupied by the Moabites Jeremiah 48:18, Jeremiah 48:2. Eusebius says it was a large town on the north of the river Arnon. Seetsen found there ruins under the name of Diban in a magnificent plain. Hence, "Dibon" is here appropriately described as "going up" from a plain to weep; and the passage may be rendered, 'Dibon is weeping upon the high places.'
To weep - Over the sudden desolation which has come upon the principal cities.
Moab shall howl over Nebo - Nebo was one of the mountains on the east of the Jordan. It was so high that from it an extended view could be taken of the land of Canaan opposite. It was distinguished as being the place where Moses died Deuteronomy 32:49; Deuteronomy 34:1. The meaning of this is, that on mount Nebo, Moab should lift up the voice of wailing. Jerome says that the idol Chamos, the principal idol of Moab, was on mount Nebo, and that this was the place of its worship. This mountain was near the northern extremity of the Dead Sea. Mount Nebo was completely barren when Burckhardt passed over it, and the site of the ancient city had not been ascertained ("Travels in Syria," p. 370.) On its summit, says Burckhardt, was a heap of stones overshadowed by a very large wild pistacia tree. At a short distance below, to the southwest, is the ruined place called Kereyat.
And over Medeba - This was a city east of the Jordan in the southern part of the territory allotted to Reuben. It was taken from the Reubenites by the Moabites. Burckhardt describes the ruins of this town, which still bears the same name. He says of it, it is 'built upon a round hill; but there is no river near it. It is at least half an hour in circumference. I observed many remains of private houses, constructed with blocks of silex; but not a single edifice is standing. There is a large birket, tank, or cistern, which, as there is no spring at Medeba, might be still of use to the Bedouins, were the surrounding ground cleared of the rubbish to allow the water to flow into it; but such an undertaking is far beyond the views of the wandering Arabic On the west side of the town are the foundations of a temple built with large stones, and apparently of great antiquity. A part of its eastern wall remains, constructed in the same style as the castle wall at Ammon. At the entrance to one of the courts stand two columns of the Doric order. In the center of one of the courts is a large well.' ("Travels in Syria," pp. 366, 367.)
On all their heads shall be baldness ... - To cut off the hair of the head and the beard was expressive of great grief. It is well known that the Orientals regard the beard with great sacredness and veneration, and that they usually dress it with great care, Great grief was usually expressed by striking external acts. Hence, they lifted up the voice in wailing; they hired persons to howl over the dead; they rent their garments; and for the same reason, in times of great calamity or grief, they cut off the hair, and even the beard. Herodotus (ii. 36) speaks of it as a custom among all nations, except the Egyptians, to cut off the hair as a token of mourning. So also Homer says, that on the death of Patroclus they cut off the hair as expressive of grief (Iliad, xxiii. 46, 47):
Next these a melancholy band appear,
Amidst lay dead Patroclus on a bier;
O'er all the course their scattered locks they threw.
See also "Odyss." iv. 197. This was also the custom with the Romans (Ovid. "Amor." 3, 5, 12); the Egyptians (Diod. i. 84); the Scythians (Herod. iv. 71); and the modern Cretans. The principle on which this is done is, that thereby they are deprived of what is esteemed the most beautiful ornament of the body; an idea which lies at the foundation of mourning in all countries and ages. The loss of the beard, also, was the highest calamity, and would be expressive of the deepest grief. 'It is,' says D'Arvieux, who has devoted a chapter to the exposition of the sentiments of the Arabs in regard to the beard, 'a greater mark of infamy in Arabia to cut a man's beard off, than it is with us to whip a fellow at the cart's tail, or to burn him in the hand. Many people in that country would far rather die than incur that punishment. I saw an Arab who had received a musket shot in the jaw, and who was determined rather to perish than to allow the surgeon to cut his beard off to dress his wound. His resolution was at length overcome; but not until the wound was beginning to gangrene. he never allowed himself to be seen while his beard was off; and when at last he got abroad, he went always with his face covered with a black veil, that he might not be seen without a beard; and this he did until his beard had grown again to a considerable length.' ("Pic. Bib.," vol. ii. p. 100.) Burckhardt also remarks, that the Arabs who have, from any cause, had the misfortune to lose their beards invariably conceal themselves from view until their beards are grown again (compare Isaiah 3:24; Isaiah 22:12; Jeremiah 41:5; Micah 1:16). The idea is, that the Moabites would be greatly afflicted. Jeremiah has stated the same thing of Moab Jeremiah 48:37 :
For every head shall be bald, and every beard be clipt;
And upon all hands shall be cuttings,
And upon the loins sackcloth.
In their streets they shall gird themselves with sackcloth: on the tops of their houses, and in their streets, every one shall howl, weeping abundantly.
In their streets - Publicly. Everywhere there shall be lamentation and grief. Some shall go into the streets, and some on the tops of the houses.
They shall gird themselves with sackcloth - The common token of mourning; and also worn usually in times of humiliation and fasting. It was one of the outward acts by which they expressed deep sorrow (Genesis 37:34; 2 Samuel 3:31; 1 Kings 21:27; 2 Kings 19:1; Job 16:15; the note at Isaiah 3:24).
On the tops of the houses - The roofs of the houses in the East were, and still are, made flat, and were places of resort for prayer, for promenade, etc. The prophet here says, that all the usual places of resort would be filled with weeping and mourning. In the streets, and on the roofs of the houses, they would utter the voice of lamentation.
Shall howl - It is known that, in times of calamity in the East, it is common to raise an unnatural and forced howl, or long-continued shriek. Persons are often hired for this purpose Jeremiah 9:17.
And Heshbon shall cry, and Elealeh: their voice shall be heard even unto Jahaz: therefore the armed soldiers of Moab shall cry out; his life shall be grievous unto him.
And Heshbon shall cry - This was a celebrated city of the Amorites, twenty miles east of the Jordan Joshua 13:17. It was formerly conquered from the Moabiltes by Sihon, and became his capital, and was taken by the Israelites a little before the death of Moses Numbers 21:25. After the carrying away of the ten tribes it was recovered by the Moabites. Jeremiah Jer 48:2 calls it 'the pride of Moab.' The town still subsists under the same name, and is described by Burckhardt. He says, it is situated on a hill, southwest from El Aal (Elealeh). 'Here are the ruins of an ancient town, together with the remains of some edifices built with small stones; a few broken shafts of columns are still standing, a number of deep wells cut in the rock, and a large reservoir of water for the summer supply the inhabitants.' ("Travels in Syria," p. 365.)
And Elealeh - This was a town of Reuben about a mile from Heshbon Numbers 32:37. Burckhardt visited this place. Its present name is El Aal. 'It stands on the summit of a hill, and takes its name from its situation - Aal, meaning "the high." It commands the whole plain, and the view from the top of the hill is very extensive, comprehending the whole of the southern Belka. El Aal was surrounded by a well built wall, of which some parts yet remain. Among the ruins are a number of large cisterns, fragments of walls, and the foundations of houses, but nothing worthy of notice. The plain around it is alternately chalk and flint.' ("Travels in Syria," p. 365.)
Even unto Jahaz - This was a city east of Jordan, near to which Moses defeated Sihon. It was given to Reuben Deuteronomy 2:32, and was situated a short distance north of Ar, the capital of Moab.
The armed soldiers of Moab - The consternation shall reach the very army. They shall lose their courage, and instead of defending the nation, they shall join in the general weeping and lamentation.
His life shall be grievous - As we say of a person who is overwhelmed with calamities, that his life is wearisome, so, says the prophet, shall it be with the whole nation of Moab.
My heart shall cry out for Moab; his fugitives shall flee unto Zoar, an heifer of three years old: for by the mounting up of Luhith with weeping shall they go it up; for in the way of Horonaim they shall raise up a cry of destruction.
My heart shall cry out for Moab - This is expressive of deep compassion; and is proof that, in the view of the prophet, the calamities which were coming upon it were exceedingly heavy. The same sentiment is expressed more fully in Isaiah 16:11; see also Jeremiah 48:36 : 'My heart shall sound for Moab like pipes.' The phrase denotes great inward pain and anguish in view of the calamities of others; and is an expression of the fact that we feel ourselves oppressed and borne down by sympathy on account of their sufferings (see the note at Isaiah 21:3). It is worthy of remark, that the Septuagint reads this as if it were '"his" heart' - referring to the Moabites, 'the heart of Moab shall cry out.' So the Chaldee; and so Lowth, Michaelis, and others read it. But there is no authority for this change in the Hebrew text; nor is it needful. In the parallel place in Jeremiah 48:36, there is no doubt that the heart of the prophet is intended; and here, the phrase is designed to denote the deep compassion which a holy man of God would have, even when predicting the ills that should come upon others. How much compassion, how much deep and tender feeling should ministers of the gospel have when they are describing the final ruin - the unutterable woes of impenitent sinners under the awful wrath of God in the world of woe!
His fugitives - Margin, 'Or to the borders thereof, even as an heifer' (בריחיה berı̂ychehā). Jerome and the Vulgate render this 'her "bars,"' and it has been explained as meaning that the voice of the prophet, lamenting the calamity of Moab, could be heard as far as the "bars," or gates, of Zoar; or that the word "bars" means "princes, that is," protectors, a figure similar to "shields of the land" Psalm 47:10; Hosea 4:18. The Septuagint renders it, Ἐν αὐτὴ en autē - 'The voice of Moab in her is heard to Zoar.' But the more correct rendering is, undoubtedly, that of our translation, referring to the fugitives who should attempt to make their escape from Moab when the calamities should come upon her.
Unto Zoar - Zoar was a small town in the southern extremity of the Dead Sea, to which Lot fled when Sodom was overthrown Genesis 19:23. Abulfeda writes the name Zoghar, and speaks of it as existing in his day. The city of Zoar was near to Sodom, so as to be exposed to the danger of being overthrown in the same manner that Sodom was, Zoar being exempted from destruction by the angel at the solicitation of Lot Genesis 19:21. That the town lay on the east side of the Dead Sea, is apparent from several considerations. Lot ascended from it to the mountain where his daughters bore each of them a son, who became the ancestors of the Moabites and the Ammonites. But these nations both dwelt on the east side of the Dead Sea. Further, Josephus, speaking of this place, calls it Ζοάρων τῆς Ἀραβίας Zoarōn tēs Arabias - 'Zoar of Arabia' (Bell. Jud. iv. 8, 4). But the Arabia of Josephus was on the east of the Dead Sea. So the crusaders, in the expedition of King Baldwin, 1100 a.d., after marching from Hebron, proceeded around the lake, and came, at length, to a place called "Segor," doubtless the Zoghar of Abulfeda. The probability, therefore, is, that it was near the southern end of the sea, but on the eastern side. The exact place is now unknown. In the time of Eusebius and Jerome, it is described as having many inhabitants, and a Roman garrison. In the time of the crusaders, it is mentioned as a place pleasantly situated, with many palm trees. But the palm trees have disappeared, and the site of the city can be only a matter of conjecture (see Robinson's "Bib. Researches," vol. ii. pp. 648-651).
An heifer of three years old - That is, their fugitives flying unto Zoar shall lift up the voice like an heifer, for so Jeremiah in the parallel place explains it Jeremiah 48:34. Many interpreters have referred this, however, to Zoar as an appellation of that city, denoting its flourishing condition. Bochart refers it to Isaiah, and supposes that he designed to say that "he" lifted his voice as an heifer. But the more obvious interpretation is that given above, and is that which occurs in Jeremiah. The expression, however, is a very obscure one. See the various senses which it may bear, examined in Rosenmuller and Gesenius in loc. Gesenius renders it, 'To Eglath the third;' and supposes, in accordance with many interpreters, that it denotes a place called "Eglath," called the third in distinction from two other places of the same name; though he suggests that the common explanation, that it refers to a heifer of the age of three years, may be defended. In the third year, says he, the heifer was most vigorous, and hence, was used for an offering Genesis 15:9. Until that age she was accustomed to go unbroken, and bore no yoke (Pliny, 8, 4, 5). If this refers to Moab, therefore, it may mean that hitherto it was vigorous, unsubdued, and active; but that now, like the heifer, it was to be broken and brought under the yoke by chastisement. The expression is a very difficult one, and it is impossible, perhaps, to determine what is the true sense.
By the mounting up of Luhith - The "ascent" of Luhith. It is evident, from Jeremiah 48:5, that it was a mountain, but where, is not clearly ascertained. Eusebius supposes it was a place between Areopolis and Zoar (see Reland's "Palestine," pp. 577-579). The whole region there is mountainous.
In the way of Horonaim - This was, doubtless, a town of Moab, but where it was situated is uncertain. The word means "two holes." The region abounds to this day with caves, which are used for dwellings (Seetzen). The place lay, probably, on a declivity from which one descended from Luhith.
A cry of destruction - Hebrew, 'Breaking.' A cry "appropriate" to the great calamity that should come upon Moab.
For the waters of Nimrim shall be desolate: for the hay is withered away, the grass faileth, there is no green thing.
For the waters of Nimrim - It is supposed by some that the prophet here states the cause why the Moabites would flee to the cities of the south, to wit, that the "waters" of the northern cities would fail, and the country become desolate, and that they would seek support in the south. But it is more probable that he is simply continuing the description of the desolation that would come upon Moab. Nimrah, or Beth Nimra, meaning a "house of limpid waters," was a city of Reuben east of the Dead Sea (Numbers 32:3; compare Jeremiah 48:34). It was, doubtless, a city celebrated for its pure fountains and springs of water. Here Seetzen's chart shows a brook flowing into the Jordan called "Nahr Nimrim, or Wady Shoaib." 'On the east of the Jordan over against Jericho, there is now a stream called Nimlim - doubtless the ancient Nimrim. This flows into the Jordan, and as it flows along gives fertility to that part of the country of Moab.' (Eli Smith.) It is possible that the waters failed by a common practice in times of war when an enemy destroyed the fountains of a country by diverting their waters, or by casting into them stones, trees, etc. This destructive measure of war occurs, with reference to Moab, in 2 Kings 3:25, when the Israelites, during an incursion into Moab, felled the fruit trees, cast stones into the plowed grounds, and "closed the fountains, or wells."
For the hay is withered away - The waters are dried up, and the land yields nothing to support life.
Therefore the abundance they have gotten, and that which they have laid up, shall they carry away to the brook of the willows.
Therefore, the abundance they have gotten - Their wealth they shall remove from a place that is utterly burned up with drought, where the waters and the grass fail, to another place where they may find water.
To the brook of willows - Margin, 'The valley of the Arabians.' The Septuagint renders it, 'I will lead them to the valley of the Arabians, and they shall take it.' So Saadias. It might, perhaps, be called the valley of the Arabians, because it was the boundary line between them and Arabia on the south. Lowth renders it, 'To Babylon.' The probability is, that the prophet refers to some valley or brook that was called the brook of the willows, from the fact that many willows grew upon its bank. Perhaps it was the small stream which flows into the southern extremity of the Dead Sea, and which forms the boundary of Arabia Petrea of the province of Jebal. They withdrew toward the south, where toward Petra or Sela they had their property in herds Isaiah 16:1, for probably the invader came from the north, and drove them in this direction. Lowth, and most commentators, suppose that 'they' in this verse refers to the enemies of Moab, and that it means that they would carry away the property of Moab to some distant place. But the more probable meaning is, that when the waters of the Nimrim should fail, they would remove to a place better watered; that is, they would leave their former abode, and wander away. It is an image of the desolation that was coming upon the land.
For the cry is gone round about the borders of Moab; the howling thereof unto Eglaim, and the howling thereof unto Beerelim.
For the cry is gone round about ... - The cry of distress and calamity has encompassed the whole land of Moab. There is no part of the land which is not filled with lamentation and distress.
The howling - The voice of wailing on account of the distress.
Unto Eglaim - This was a city of Moab east of the Dead Sea, which, Eusebius says, was eight miles south of Ar, and hence, says Rosenmuller, it was not far from the south border of Moab. It is mentioned by Josephus ("Ant." xiv. 1), as one of the twelve cities in that region which was overthrown by Alexander the Great.
Unto Beer-elim - literally, "the well of the princes." Perhaps the same as that mentioned in Numbers 21:14-18, as being in the land of Moab, and near to Ar:
The princes digged the well,
The nobles of the people digged it.
For the waters of Dimon shall be full of blood: for I will bring more upon Dimon, lions upon him that escapeth of Moab, and upon the remnant of the land.
For the waters of Dimon - Probably the same as "Dibon" Isaiah 15:2. Eusobius says it was a large town on the northern bank of the river Arnon. Jerome says that the letters "m and b" are often interchanged in oriental dialects (see the note at Isaiah 15:2).
Shall be full of blood - That is, the number of the slain of Moab shall be so great, that the blood shall color the waters of the river - a very common occurrence in times of great slaughter. Perhaps by the "waters" of Dimon the prophet does not mean the river Arnon, but the small rivulets or streams that might flow into it near to the city of Dibon. Probably there were winter brooks there, which do not run at all seasons. The Chaldee renders it, 'The waters of Dimon shall be full of blood, because I will place upon Dimon an assembly of armies.'
For I will bring more upon Dimon - Hebrew, 'I will bring additions;' that is, I will bring upon it additional calamities. Jerome says, that by those additional calamities, the prophet refers to the "lions" which are immediately after mentioned. "Lions upon him that escapeth of Moab." Wild beasts upon those who escaped from the slaughter, and who took refuge in the wilderness, or on the mountains. The Chaldee renders it, 'A king shall ascend with an army, and shall destroy the remainder of their land.' Aben Ezra interprets it of the king of Assyria; and Jarchi of Nebuchadnezzar, who is called a lion in Jeremiah 4:7. Vitringa also supposes that Nebnchadnezzar is meant. But it is more probable that the prophet refers to wild beasts, which are often referred to in the Scriptures as objects of dread, and as bringing calamities upon nations (see Leviticus 26:22; Jeremiah 5:6; Jeremiah 15:3; 2 Kings 18:25).
Upon the remnant of the land - Upon all those who escaped the desolation of the war. The Septuagint and the Arabic render this, 'Upon the remnant of Adama,' understanding the word rendered 'land' (ארמה 'ădâmâh), as the name of a city. But it more probably means the land.