Isaiah 16
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Send ye the lamb to the ruler of the land from Sela to the wilderness, unto the mount of the daughter of Zion.
1. Send ye the lamb] R.V. the lambs. The imper. expresses dramatically the result of the deliberations of the Moabites. The word “lamb” is to be taken collectively; it denotes the tribute in kind which the Moabites had been accustomed to pay to the kings of Israel (2 Kings 3:4), but which they now propose to send to the king of Judah, the “ruler of the land” (of Edom).

from Sela to the wilderness] R.V. less appropriately “which is toward the wilderness.” The wilderness is the desert tract between Sela and Jerusalem which would have to be traversed by the messengers of Moab. Sela (“rock”), a city of Edom (2 Kings 14:7), is commonly supposed from the identity of the designations to be the later Petra. There is, however, no positive evidence in support of the identification; and Jdg 1:36 seems to point to a locality near the southern end of the Dead Sea (See Moore, Commentary on Judges, pp. 56 f.).

the mount … Zion] ch. Isaiah 10:32.

1–6. Arrived in Edom, the Moabitish refugees are within the sphere of Judah’s political influence (see Introd. Note). Their first anxiety, therefore, is to secure protection and the right of asylum by sending an embassy to Jerusalem.

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.
2. The verse gives no good sense in its present position. Not only does it obscure the connexion between Isaiah 16:1 and Isaiah 16:3, but its language of prediction reveals an affinity with Isaiah 15:9. It has probably been misplaced (so Duhm), and the fact that the Moabites are represented as at “the fords of Arnon,” instead of in Edom, confirms the impression that we have here an addition to the original prophecy. The images of the wandering birds and the scattered nest (render as in R.V.) remind us of Isaiah (ch. Isaiah 10:14, Isaiah 31:5). The daughters of Moab are the provincial towns of Moab, or their inhabitants (cf. Psalm 48:11).

Take counsel, execute judgment; make thy shadow as the night in the midst of the noonday; hide the outcasts; bewray not him that wandereth.
3. Take counsel, execute judgment] Or, apply counsel, perform arbitration; i.e. “adopt wise and effectual measures to defend us from our enemies.”

make thy shadow as the night …] Be to us as “the shadow of a great rock in a weary land” (ch. Isaiah 32:2).

bewray not] lit. “uncover not.”

3–5. The address of Moab, through its ambassadors, to the court of Judah. Most of the older commentators took a different view of these verses, holding that here the prophet points out to the Moabites the way of national salvation through the practice of righteousness, and exhorts them in particular to shew kindness to any Israelitish refugees who might seek a home in that country. This interpretation appears to be followed by the A.V. (see on Isaiah 16:4). But such an exhortation is altogether out of keeping with the tone of the prophecy, and would be very ill-timed in the circumstances to which Moab was then reduced. The continuity of thought is far better maintained on the view given above, which is that of most recent scholars.

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.
4. Let mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab] Rather, Let the outcasts of Moab sojourn with thee (as protected guests). This implies a slight change of the vowel points, but has the authority of the chief ancient versions in its favour. The A.V. is a correct translation of the text as pointed, and far preferable to that of R.V., which joins the word Moab to the next clause, a construction unnatural in the extreme, although suggested by the Heb. accents. The vocative use of “Moab” in A.V., and probably also in the Massoretic text, implies that Isaiah 16:3-5 are conceived as an address to the Moabites.

for the extortioner is at an end …] The rest of the verse cannot, in this form, be uttered by the Moabites. We may either suppose with Dillmann that a word meaning “until” has been lost, or (better) with Hitzig take the clauses as protasis to Isaiah 16:5, “for when the extortioner, &c.” This is perhaps preferable to regarding it as a reflection of the prophet himself.

the spoiler] Strictly spoiling (R.V.).

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.
5. And in mercy] If we follow Hitzig’s view of Isaiah 16:4 this would be rendered “then in mercy.” The phraseology of the verse is Messianic (see esp. ch. Isaiah 9:6) but not exclusively so (cf. Proverbs 8:28). In the lips of the Moabites the language is that of extravagant and (as Isaiah 16:6 appears to intimate) insincere adulation. It implies an offer of perpetual submission on the part of the Moabites to the Davidic dynasty, and therefore the question whether the throne be that of Judah or that of Moab is immaterial.

and he shall sit … judging] Better: and there shall sit upon it in faithfulness in the tabernacle of David (cf. Amos 9:11) one who judgeth, &c.

hasting righteousness] i.e. as R.V. has it, swift to do righteousness.

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.
6. (Jeremiah 48:29-30.) The prayer is rejected. The writer, speaking in the name of his countrymen, exposes the hollowness of Moab’s professions of allegiance and submission, as altogether opposed to the arrogant spirit for which the nation was notorious. On the pride of Moab cf. (besides Jeremiah 48:29) ch. Isaiah 25:11; Zephaniah 2:8. The national spirit has found an enduring monument in the inscription of the Moabite Stone.

but his lies shall not be so] Better: the unreality of his pratings (a contemptuous word, cf. ch. Isaiah 44:25). R.V. “his boastings are nought.”

Therefore shall Moab howl for Moab, every one shall howl: for the foundations of Kirhareseth shall ye mourn; surely they are stricken.
7. the foundations] R.V. renders rightly raisin-cakes. These cakes of compressed grapes are mentioned less as an article of commerce than as a delicacy used at religious feasts (cf. Hosea 3:1, R.V.). The word never means “foundations.” The parallel passage in Jeremiah substitutes the tamer “men.” Kir-hareseth is the same as Kir-heres (Isaiah 16:11) and perhaps identical with Kir of Moab (Isaiah 15:1).

surely they are stricken] Better, as R.V.: utterly stricken (apposition to “ye”).

7, 8. (Cf. Jeremiah 48:31-32.) Moab’s last hope being thus disappointed, the poet resumes his lament over the doomed people.

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.
8. the fields] means here as in Deuteronomy 32:32 “vineyards.”

the vine of Sibmah] Sibmah, in the vicinity of Heshbon, must have been famous for a choice variety of vines, which are here described by a title resembling that used in ch. Isaiah 5:2 for the “choicest vine” of Jehovah’s vineyard.

the lords of the heathen … thereof] Better: whose choice grapes struck down (i.e. intoxicated) the lords of the nations. For the figure see ch. Isaiah 28:1. The wine of Sibmah was found on the tables of princes far and near, and its potent effects were well known.

The remainder of the verse celebrates the extensive cultivation of this variety of the vine on the east of the Jordan. The writer is not thinking of anything so prosaic as the export trade in the wine of Sibmah; he represents the whole vine culture of the district under the image of a single vine, which reached to Jazer in the north, strayed to the desert on the east, and passed to the (Dead) Sea on the west.

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.
9. (Jeremiah 48:32) with the weeping of Jazer] i.e. in sympathy with the weeping of J. I will water thee] lit. drench thee.

for the shouting … fallen] Render with R.V.: for upon thy summer-fruits (or rather “fruit-gathering”) and upon thy harvest the battle shout is fallen. The word for “shout” (hêdâd) is used both of the joyous shout of the wine-treaders (Jeremiah 25:30) and of the wild war-cry of soldiers in a charge (Jeremiah 51:14). It has the former sense in Isaiah 16:10, but the latter here. “Harvest” is used for “vintage” (qâçîr for bâçîr) as in ch. Isaiah 18:5 (see the note).

9–11. The poet gives vent to his sympathy for Moab. These verses are amongst the most beautiful in the poem.

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.
10. (Jeremiah 48:33) shouting and vintage shouting are entirely different words; the first may be translated by joyful noise as in R.V.

the treaders shall tread out no wine] i.e. there shall be none treading wine. In the last clause—“I have stilled”—the voice of Jehovah is again heard; some critics, however, read “is stilled.”

Wherefore my bowels shall sound like an harp for Moab, and mine inward parts for Kirharesh.
11. (Jeremiah 48:36) my bowels shall sound like a harp] omit “shall” with R.V. The poet’s emotion flows forth spontaneously in the strains of the elegy. The bowels are the seat of the more intense emotions (Job 30:27), especially of compassion (Jeremiah 4:19; Jeremiah 31:20; Song of Solomon 5:4). Kir-haresh] Kir-heres. See on Isaiah 16:7.

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.
12. The failure of Moab’s religious confidence. The verse reproduces the thought of Isaiah 15:2, at the beginning of the elegy. It reads thus: and when Moab appears, when he wearies himself, upon the high place, and enters his sanctuary to pray, he shall prevail nothing. Ewald however turns the verse into a promise of the conversion of Moab, by continuing the protasis to the end of the present text, and completing the sense as follows (guided by Jeremiah 48:13): … “and prevails nothing, then he shall be ashamed of Chemosh, and turn to Jehovah.”

This is the word that the LORD hath spoken concerning Moab since that time.
13. since that time] Render aforetime. The expression is used both of the recent past (as in 2 Samuel 15:34) and of a remote or even immemorial past (as Proverbs 8:22; Psalm 93:2). The sense here is indeterminate.

13, 14. The Epilogue. See Introductory Note.

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.
14. If ch. Isaiah 15:1 to Isaiah 16:12 describe real events, the verse shews that in the interval Moab had recovered some measure of its former prosperity.

as the years of a hireling] As the hireling serves for the stipulated time, but not a moment longer, so the judgment on Moab shall not be deferred beyond the space of three years (cf. ch. Isaiah 21:16).

the glory of Moab (Isaiah 16:6) shall be contemned] or “contemptible.”

the remnant … feeble] lit. “the remnant shall be small, little (ch. Isaiah 10:25, Isaiah 29:17—of time), not strong.” It is hazardous to assume that the “remnant” here is the nucleus of a regenerated Messianic community.

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