Isaiah 15:3
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) In their streets . . .—The picture of lamentation is continued. The flat roofs of Eastern houses were a natural resort for such wailings (Isaiah 22:1). The “broad places,” the bazaars or market-places, were also, like the agora of Greek cities, a natural place of concourse. The prophet represents them as filled with the sound of wailing.

15:1-9 The Divine judgments about to come upon the Moabites. - This prophecy coming to pass within three years, would confirm the prophet's mission, and the belief in all his other prophecies. Concerning Moab it is foretold, 1. That their chief cities should be surprised by the enemy. Great changes, and very dismal ones, may be made in a very little time. 2. The Moabites would have recourse to their idols for relief. Ungodly men, when in trouble, have no comforter. But they are seldom brought by their terrors to approach our forgiving God with true sorrow and believing prayer. 3. There should be the cries of grief through the land. It is poor relief to have many fellow-sufferers, fellow-mourners. 4. The courage of their soldiers should fail. God can easily deprive a nation of that on which it most depended for strength and defence. 5. These calamities should cause grief in the neighbouring parts. Though enemies to Israel, yet as our fellow-creatures, it should be grievous to see them in such distress. In ver. 6-9, the prophet describes the woful lamentations heard through the country of Moab, when it became a prey to the Assyrian army. The country should be plundered. And famine is usually the sad effect of war. Those who are eager to get abundance of this world, and to lay up what they have gotten, little consider how soon it may be all taken from them. While we warn our enemies to escape from ruin, let us pray for them, that they may seek and find forgiveness of their sins.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.

Weeping abundantly - Hebrew, 'Descending into weeping;' "that is," going, as we would say, "deep into it," or weeping much; immersed as it were in tears (compare Jeremiah 13:17; Jeremiah 14:17).

3. tops of … houses—flat; places of resort for prayer, &c., in the East (Ac 10:9).

weeping abundantly—"melting away in tears." Horsley prefers "descending to weep." Thus there is a "parallelism by alternate construction" [Lowth], or chiasmus; "howl" refers to "tops of houses." "Descending to weep" to "streets" or squares, whither they descend from the housetops.

Shall gird themselves with sackcloth: this was another practice of mourners.

The tops of their houses, which were made flat, Deu 22:8; to which men used to go up, either to walk, or to cry to God in heaven or to men for help.

In their streets; publicly, without shame; whereas in ordinary sorrows men are wont to seek secret places for their mourning. In their streets they shall girt themselves with sackcloth,.... Instead of their fine clothes, with which they had used to deck themselves, being a very proud people; see Isaiah 16:6 this was usual in times of distress on any account, as well as a token of mourning for the dead; see Joel 1:8. The word for "streets" might be rendered "villages", as distinct from cities, that were "without" the walls of the cities, though adjacent to them; and the rather, seeing mention is made of streets afterwards:

on the tops of their houses; which were made flat, as the houses of the Jews were, on which were battlements, Deuteronomy 22:8 hither they went for safety from their enemies, or to see if they could spy the enemy, or any that could assist them, and deliver them; or rather, hither they went for devotion, to pray to their gods for help; for here it was usual to have altars erected, to burn incense on to their deities; see 2 Kings 23:12 and in such places the people of God were wont to pray, Acts 10:9,

and in their streets; publicly, as well as privately, where they ran up and down to get from the enemy, and save themselves:

everyone shall howl, weeping abundantly: or, "descending with weeping": the tears running down his cheeks in great abundance, so that his whole body was as it were watered with them; or the meaning may be, that everyone that went up to the temples of the idols, and to the high places, Isaiah 15:2 or to the roofs of the houses, as here, to pray the assistance of their gods, should come down weeping and howling, having no success.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. (Jeremiah 48:37 f.) on the tops of their houses] See on Isaiah 22:1. The word streets should not be used twice; substitute in the second case broad places (as in R.V.).

weeping abundantly] lit. “going down in weeping,” an unusually strong figure. In other passages the eye is said to “go down in tears” (Jeremiah 9:18; Lamentations 1:16; Lamentations 3:48); but nowhere else is the whole being spoken of as dissolved in weeping.Verse 3. - In their streets; literally, in his streets; i.e. the streets of Moab. They shall gird themselves with sackcloth. Another widely spread custom, known to the Assyrians (Jonah 3:5), the Syrians (1 Kings 20:31), the Persians (Esther 4:1, 2), the Israelites (Nehemiah 9:1), and, as we see here, to the Moabites. The modern wearing of black garments, especially crape, is representative of the old practice. Every one shall howl. "Howling" remains one of the chief tokens of mourning in the East. It was a practice of the Egyptians (Herod., 2:79), of the Persians (ibid., 8:99; 9:24), of the Babylonians (Jeremiah 51:8), and probably of the Orientals generally. Weeping abundantly; or, running down with tears (comp. Jeremiah 9:18; Jeremiah 13:17; Herod., 8:99). It was therefore in a most eventful and decisive year that Isaiah began to prophesy as follows. "Rejoice not so fully, O Philistia, that the rod which smote thee is broken to pieces; for out of the serpent's root comes forth a basilisk, and its fruit is a flying dragon." Shēbet maccēk, "the rod which smote thee" (not "of him that smote thee," which is not so appropriate), is the Davidic sceptre, which had formerly kept the Philistines in subjection under David and Solomon, and again in more recent times since the reign of Uzziah. This sceptre was now broken to pieces, for the Davidic kingdom had been brought down by the Syro-Ephraimitish war, and had not been able to recover itself; and so far as its power over the surrounding nations was concerned, it had completely fallen to pieces. Philistia was thoroughly filled with joy in consequence, but this joy was all over now. The power from which Philistia had escaped was a common snake (nâchâsh), which had been either cut to pieces, or had died out down to the very roots. But out of this root, i.e., out of the house of David, which had been reduced to the humble condition of its tribal house, there was coming forth a zepha‛, a basilisk (regulus, as Jerome and other early translators render it: see at Isaiah 11:8); and this basilisk, which is dangerous and even fatal in itself, as soon as it had reached maturity, would bring forth a winged dragon as its fruit. The basilisk is Hezekiah, and the flying dragon is the Messiah (this is the explanation given by the Targum); or, what is the same thing, the former is the Davidic government of the immediate future, the latter the Davidic government of the ultimate future. The figure may appear an inappropriate one, because the serpent is a symbol of evil; but it is not a symbol of evil only, but of a curse also, and a curse is the energetic expression of the penal justice of God. And it is as the executor of such a curse in the form of a judgment of God upon Philistia that the Davidic king is here described in a threefold climax as a snake or serpent. The selection of this figure may possibly have also been suggested by Genesis 49:17; for the saying of Jacob concerning Dan was fulfilled in Samson, the sworn foe of the Philistines.
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