Isaiah 15:1
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;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
XV.

(1) The burden of Moab.—The oracle which fills the next two chapters deals with the coming history of Moab. The comparative obscurity of that history, the names of towns and villages which it is difficult to identify, present a striking contrast to the evolution of the great world-drama which is brought before us in the “burden” of Babylon. What light can be thrown on that obscurity must be gathered from what we can learn of the contemporary history of Moab and its relation to Israel. This we know partly from the record of 2 Kings 3, partly from the inscription of the Moabite stone found at Diban, in 1860, by Mr. Klein, and translated by Dr. Ginsburg in Records of the Past, xi. 163. Combining the information from these two sources, we find that Omri and Ahab had subdued Moab when that nation was governed by Chemosh-Gad of Dibon, and had compelled him to pay a sheep tribute reckoned by hundreds of thousands. When Jehoram succeeded Ahab, Mesha, the son of Chemosh-Gad, revolted, and the Moabite inscription records the successful issue of the campaign. Jehoram entered into an alliance with Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom. The Moabites were defeated. Their trees were cut down, their wells stopped, and their land made barren. The king of Moab in his despair offered up his son as a sacrifice to Chemosh in the sight of both armies. With that sacrifice apparently the tide of victory turned. Mesha, in his inscription, records how he took Nebo from Israel and slew seven thousand men, and built or restored fortified towns, and offered the vessels of Jehovah, taken probably from the sanctuaries of the “high places” of Nebo. Exulting in the memory of this victory, Moab became “exceeding proud” (Isaiah 16:6), and in a psalm, probably contemporary with Isaiah (see the mention of Assur, or Assyria, in Psalm 83:8), they are named as among the enemies of Judah, joined with the Philistines and Assyrians. It is probable enough that, having been kept in check-by the prosperous rule of Uzziah, they took advantage of the weakness of Ahaz to renew hostilities, and were looking, half with dread, half with hope, to the Assyrian power. It may be noted here that the following cities named in these chapters—Dibon, Medeba, Nebo, Horonaim—occur also in the Moabite stone, which thus renders a striking testimony to their antiquity, and, so far, to their authenticity. (Comp. Jeremiah 48, which is, to a large extent, a reproduction of Isaiah’s language.)

Ar of Moab is laid waste.—This was apparently the older capital (Numbers 21:28; Deuteronomy 2:9), sometimes known as Rabbath Moab. In Jerome’s time it was known as Areopolis, the Greeks catching, probably, at the resemblance between the name Ar and that of their god, Ares. Probably Ar was a Moabite form of the Hebrew Ir, a city. One of the names survives in the modern Rabba; but the ruins are comparatively insignificant. The prophet begins with words of threatening. Both that city and Kir (here again the word means “city,” and if we identify it, as most experts do, with Kerek, the castle on a hill, which rises to 1,000 feet above the Dead Sea, it must have been the strongest of the Moabite fortresses) were to be attacked at night, when resistance was most hopeless. So Mesha boasts (Records of the Past, xi. 66) that he had taken Nebo by a night attack. We note the emphasis of iteration in the words “laid waste and brought to silence.” The latter clause would be more accurately rendered cut off, or destroyed.

Isaiah 15:1. The burden of Moab — A prophecy of the destruction of the Moabites, the inveterate and implacable enemies of the Jews, begun by the Assyrian, and finished by the Babylonian monarchs. This prophecy, which occupies this and the next chapter, very improperly separated from each other, makes the third discourse of this second part. The time of the delivery, and consequently of the completion of it, (which was to be in three years after,) is uncertain, neither of them being marked in the prophecy, nor recorded in history. “But the most probable account is, that it was delivered soon after the foregoing, in the first year of Hezekiah; and that it was accomplished in his fourth year, when Shalmaneser invaded the kingdom of Israel. He might probably march through Moab; and, to secure every thing behind him, possess himself of the whole country, by taking the principal strong places, Ar and Kir-haresh. Jeremiah has introduced much of this prophecy of Isaiah into his own larger prophecy against the same people, (chap. 48.,) denouncing God’s judgments on Moab, subsequent to the calamity here foretold, to be executed by Nebuchadnezzar.” Bishop Lowth. In the night — Or, in a night, suddenly and unexpectedly, Ar of Moab is laid waste — The chief city of Moab, Numbers 21:28. Kir of Moab is laid waste — Another eminent city of Moab, called more largely and fully, Kir-hareseth and Kir-haresh, Isaiah 16:7; Isaiah 16:11; Jeremiah 48:31; Jeremiah 48:36.

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.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.

CHAPTER 15

Isa 15:1-9. The Fifteenth and Sixteenth Chapters Form One Prophecy on Moab.

Lowth thinks it was delivered in the first years of Hezekiah's reign and fulfilled in the fourth when Shalmaneser, on his way to invade Israel, may have seized on the strongholds of Moab. Moab probably had made common cause with Israel and Syria in a league against Assyria. Hence it incurred the vengeance of Assyria. Jeremiah has introduced much of this prophecy into his forty-eighth chapter.

1. Because—rather, "Surely"; literally, "(I affirm) that" [Maurer].

night—the time best suited for a hostile incursion (Isa 21:4; Jer 39:4).

Ar—meaning in Hebrew, "the city"; the metropolis of Moab, on the south of the river Arnon.

Kir—literally, "a citadel"; not far from Ar, towards the south.

He—Moab personified.

Bajith—rather, "to the temple" [Maurer]; answering to the "sanctuary" (Isa 16:12), in a similar context.

to Dibon—Rather, as Dibon was in a plain north of the Arnon, "Dibon (is gone up) to the high places," the usual places of sacrifice in the East. Same town as Dimon (Isa 15:9).

to weep—at the sudden calamity.

over Nebo—rather "in Nebo"; not "on account of" Nebo (compare Isa 15:3) [Maurer]. The town Nebo was adjacent to the mountain, not far from the northern shore of the Dead Sea. There it was that Chemosh, the idol of Moab, was worshipped (compare De 34:1).

Medeba—south of Heshbon, on a hill east of Jordan.

baldness … beard cut off—The Orientals regarded the beard with peculiar veneration. To cut one's beard off is the greatest mark of sorrow and mortification (compare Jer 48:37).The destruction of Moab.

The burden of Moab; a prophecy of the destruction of the Moabites, the inveterate and implacable enemies of the Jews, begun by the Assyrian, and finished by the Babylonian emperors.

In the night; or, in a night; suddenly and unexpectedly; for men sleep securely in the night, and therefore the evils which then overtake them are most terrible to them.

Ar; the chief city of Moab, Numbers 21:28 Deu 2:9.

Brought to silence; or rather, is cut off, as the word oft signifies, as Jeremiah 47:5 Hosea 10:7,15, and elsewhere. Kir; another eminent city of Moab, called more largely and fully Kir-heres, and Kir-hareseth, Isaiah 16:7,11 Jer 48:31,36.

The burden of Moab,.... A heavy, grievous prophecy, concerning the destruction of Moab. The Targum is,

"the burden of the cup of cursing, to give Moab to drink.''

This seems to respect the destruction of it by Nebuchadnezzar, which is prophesied of in Jeremiah 48:1 for that which was to be within three years, Isaiah 16:14 looks like another and distinct prophecy from this; though some think this was accomplished before the times of Nebuchadnezzar, either by Shalmaneser king of Assyria, some time before the captivity of the ten tribes, as Vitringa and others; or by Sennacherib, after the invasion of Judea, so Jarchi.

Because in the night Ar of Moab is laid waste, and brought to silence; this was a chief city in Moab, perhaps the metropolis of it; see Numbers 21:28. Kimchi conjectures it to be the same with Aroer, which was by the brink of the river Arnon, Deuteronomy 2:36, Deuteronomy 3:12 and is mentioned with Dibon, as this, in Numbers 32:34 of which notice is taken, and not of Ar, in Jeremiah 48:19. Some versions take Ar to signify a "city", and render it, "the city of Moab", without naming what city it was; and the Targum calls it by another name, Lahajath; but, be it what city it will, it was destroyed in the night; in such a night, as Kimchi interprets it; in the space of a night, very suddenly, when the inhabitants of it were asleep and secure, and had no notice of danger; and so the Targum adds,

"and they were asleep.''

Some have thought this circumstance is mentioned with a view to the night work, that work of darkness of Lot and his daughter, which gave rise to Moab; however, in a night this city became desolate, being taken and plundered, and its inhabitants put to the sword, and so reduced to silence; though the last word may as well be rendered "cut off" (n), utterly destroyed, being burnt or pulled down; two words are made use of, to denote the utter destruction of it:

because in the night Kir of Moab is laid waste, and brought to silence; either in the same night, or rather in another. Kir, another city of Moab, met with the same fate as Ar. This is called Kirhareseth, and Kirharesh, in Isaiah 16:7 and so Kirheres in Jeremiah 48:31 called Kir of Moab, to distinguish it from Kir in Assyria, Amos 1:5 and Kir in Media, Isaiah 22:6.

(n) "succisus", Pagninus, Montanus; "excisa", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. So Ben Melech interprets it by

The {a} burden of Moab. Because in the night {b} Ar of Moab is laid waste, and brought to silence; because in the night Kir of Moab is laid waste, and brought to silence;

(a) Read Geneva Isa 13:1

(b) The chief city by which the whole country was meant.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. The verse stands somewhat apart from the sequel of the poem. It announces the catastrophe which has placed the entire country at the mercy of the invaders, viz. the fall of the two chief cities of Moab. What follows is a description, not of the further progress of the campaign, but first of the universal mourning caused by this sudden blow, and second, of the flight of the inhabitants. The opening word because seems to have the force of an interjection, equivalent to “yea” or “surely.”

in the night] may be meant literally (by a night attack), or we may render “in a night,” i.e. “suddenly.”

Ar] the capital of Moab, lay on the Arnon (Numbers 21:15; Numbers 21:28). It is not to be confounded (as is sometimes done) with the later capital Rabba, which lies about 10 miles further south. Kir of Moab is the modern Kerak, some 17 miles S. of the Arnon. It is perhaps identical with Kir-hareseth or Kir Heres (ch. Isaiah 16:7; Isaiah 16:11; 2 Kings 3:25); its situation has always been considered well-nigh impregnable. These two cities were both S. of the Arnon and therefore within the proper territory of Moab. Those mentioned in Isaiah 15:2-4 on the other hand were in the fertile district to the north (now called El-Belka), which Israel claimed for the tribes of Reuben and Gad. The possession of this coveted tract of country was one great motive of the interminable wars between the two nations. Mesha’s inscription on the Moabite Stone is really an account of the reconquest of this region from Ahab. At the time of the prophecy Moab must have long held undisputed possession of these lands.

Verses 1-9. - THE BURDEN OF MOAB. The present chapter and the next are very closely connected, and may be regarded as together constituting "the burden of Moab." It has been argued on critical grounds that the bulk of the prophecy is quoted by Isaiah from an earlier writer, and that he has merely modified the wording and added a few touches here and there (so Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Hitzig, Maurer, Ewald, Knobel, and Cheyne). Jeremiah is thought to have also based his "judgment of Moab" (Jeremiah 48.) on the same early writing. But speculations of this kind are in the highest degree uncertain, and moreover lead to no results of the slightest importance. It is best, therefore, to regard Isaiah as the author of these two chapters. Having threatened Philistia, Israel's nearest enemy upon the west, he turns to Moab, her nearest foe towards the east. Verse 1. - Because. An elliptical beginning. Mr. Cheyne supposes some such words as "Lament for Moab," or "Alas for Moab!" to have been in the writer's mind, but to have been omitted through "lyrical excitement." In the night. This is best taken literally. Night attacks, though not common in antiquity, were not unknown. Mesha, King of Moab, boasts that he "went in the night" against Nebo, and assaulted it at early dawn (Moabite Stone, I. 15). Ar of Moab; or, Ar-Moab. An ancient city, mentioned among those taken from the Moabites by Sihon (Numbers 21:28). According to Jerome, it was called in Roman times Areopolis, or Rabbath-Moab. Modern geographers identify it with Rabba, a place on the old Roman road between Kerak and Arair, south of the Amen, where there are some ancient remains, though they are not very extensive (Burckhardt, 'Travels,' p. 377). Is laid waste, and brought to silence; rather, is stormed, is ruined. Kir of Moab. "Kir of Moab" is reasonably identified with Kerak, a place very strongly situated on a mountain peak, about ten miles flora the south-eastern corner of the Dead Sea. Isaiah 15:1There is no other prophecy in the book of Isaiah in which the heart of the prophet is so painfully affected by what his mind sees, and his mouth is obliged to prophesy. All that he predicts evokes his deepest sympathy, just as if he himself belonged to the unfortunate nation to which he is called to be a messenger of woe. He commences with an utterance of amazement. "Oracle concerning Moab! for in a night 'Ar-Moab is laid waste, destroyed; for in a night Kir-Moab is laid waste, destroyed." The ci (for) is explanatory in both instances, and not simply affirmative, or, as Knobel maintains, recitative, and therefore unmeaning. The prophet justifies the peculiar heading to his prophecy from the horrible vision given him to see, and takes us at once into the very heart of the vision, as in Isaiah 17:1; Isaiah 23:1. 'Ar Moab (in which 'Ar is Moabitish for 'Ir; cf., Jeremiah 49:3, where we find 'Ai written instead of 'Ar, which we should naturally expect) is the name of the capital of Moab (Grecized, Areopolis), which was situated to the south of the Arnon, at present a large field of ruins, with a village of the name of Rabba. Kir Moab (in which Kir is the Moabitish for Kiryah) was the chief fortress of Joab, which was situated to the south-east of Ar, the present Kerek, where there is still a town with a fortification upon a rock, which can be seen from Jerusalem with a telescope on a clear day, and forms so thoroughly one mass with the rock, that in 1834, when Ibrahim Pasha resolved to pull it down, he was obliged to relinquish the project. The identity of Kir and Kerek is unquestionable, but that of Ar and Rabba has been disputed; and on the ground of Numbers 22:36, where it seems to be placed nearer the Arnon, it has been transposed to the ruins on the pasture land at the confluence of the Lejm and Mujib ( equals "the city that is by the river" in Deuteronomy 2:36 and Joshua 13:9, Joshua 13:16 : see Comm. on Numbers 21:15) - a conjecture which has this against it, that the name Areopolis, which has been formed from Ar, is attached to the "metropolis civitas Ar," which was called Rabba as the metropolis, and of which Jerome relates (on the passage before us), as an event associated with his own childhood, that it was then destroyed by an earthquake (probably in 342). The two names of the cities are used as masculine here, like Dammesek in Isaiah 17:1, and Tzor in Isaiah 23:1, though it cannot therefore be said, as at Micah 5:1, that the city stands for the inhabitants (Ges. Lehrgebude, p. 469). "In a night" (ליל absolute, as in Isaiah 21:11, not construct, which would give an illogical assertion, as shuddad and nidmâh are almost coincident, so far as the sense is concerned) the two pillars of the strength of Moab are overthrown. In the space of a night, and therefore very suddenly (Isaiah 17:14), Moab is destroyed. The prophet repeats twice what it would have been quite sufficient to say once, just as if he had been condemned to keep his eye fixed upon the awful spectacle (on the asyndeton, see at Isaiah 33:9; and on the anadiplosis, Isaiah 15:8; Isaiah 8:9; Isaiah 21:11; Isaiah 17:12-13). His first sensation is that of horror.
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