Isaiah 15:2
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) He is gone up to Bajith . . .—The noun is better taken not as a proper name, but as “the house” or “temple” of the Moabite god. In this and in the “high places” (Bamôth) we may probably recognise the Bamoth-baal (high places of Baal) which appears in Joshua 13:17, side by side with Dibon, and the Beth-Bamoth of the Moabite stone (Records of the Past, xi. 167). That stone was, it may be noted, found at Dibân, which stands on two hills, and represents the ancient city of that name. What the prophet sees as following on the destruction of Ar and Kir is the terror which leads men to join in solemn processional prayers to the temples of their gods.

Nebo.—Not the mountain that bore that name as such (Deuteronomy 34:1), but a city named after the same deity. Mesha boasts of having taken it, and slain seven thousand men (Records of the Past, xi. 166). Medeba is named by him (ib.) as having been taken by Omri, and held by the Israelites for forty years.

On all their heads shall be baldness . . .—This, originally, perhaps, sacrificial in its character, became at a very early period a symbol of intensest sorrow among Eastern nations. It was forbidden to Israel, probably as identified with the worship of other deities than Jehovah (Leviticus 21:5; Deuteronomy 14:1; Job 1:20; Micah 1:16; Amos 8:10).

Isaiah 15:2. He is gone up to Bajith — Which signifies a house. It is supposed to be the name of a place, so called from some eminent house or temple of their idols which was in it; and to Dibon — Another city of Moab; to weep — To offer their supplications with tears to their idols for help. Moab shall howl over Nebo and Medeba — Two considerable cities anciently belonging to the Moabites, from whom they were taken by the Amorites, and from them by the Israelites; but were, it seems, recovered by the Moabites, in whose hands they now were. “The prophet so orders his discourse in this prophecy, as if, being placed on a high mountain, he beheld the army of the Assyrians, suddenly, and contrary to all expectation, directing their course toward Moab; and in this unforeseen attack, ravaging and plundering, rather than besieging, the principal cities and fortifications of this country; while the Moabites, astonished at the report of this event, burst forth into weeping and lamentation, hasten to the temples and altars of their god Chemosh, to implore his aid, making bare their heads, cutting off their hair, and filling all places with howling and lamentation, like desperate men; while some of them fall by the sword of the enemy, some of them flee toward Arabia, their goods, land, vineyards, &c., being left a spoil to the enemy.” See Vitringa.

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.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.

Pope

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.

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).

Bajith signifies a house. It is supposed to be the name of a place, so called from some eminent house or temple of their idols which was in it. It is called more fully Bethbaal-meon, that is, The house of Baal’s habitation, Joshua 13:17.

Dibon; another city of Moab, as is manifest from Jeremiah 48:18,22, where also was their other eminent high place. To these two places they used to resort in case of great difficulties and troubles.

To weep; to offer their supplications with tears to their idols for help.

Over Nebo and over Medeba; two considerable cities, anciently belonging to the Moabites, from whom they were taken by the Amorites, and from them by the Israelites, and possessed by the Reubenites, Numbers 21:30 32:3,38; but were, as it seems, recovered by the Moabites, in whose hands they now were, as is evident, for Nebo, Jeremiah 48:1,22, and for Medeba, from this text.

On all their heads shall be baldness, and every beard cut off; the hair of their heads and beards (which was their ornament) was shaved, as was usual in great mournings, as hath been oft observed upon divers preceding texts. See on Leviticus 19:27,28 21:5.

He is gone up to Bajith,.... That is, Moab; the king or people of Moab, particularly the inhabitants of the above cities. Bajith signifies house; and here a house of idolatry, as Kimchi interprets it; it was an idol's temple, very likely the temple of their god Chemosh, the same which is called Bethbaalmeon, Joshua 13:17 "the house of Baal's habitation", and is mentioned with Dibon and Bamoth, as here; hither the Moabites went in their distress, to lament their case, ask advice, make supplication, and offer sacrifice:

and to Dibon, the high places, to weep; Dibon was another city of Moab, Numbers 21:30 where probably were high places for idolatrous worship, and from whence it might have the name of Dibonhabbamoth, as it may be here called; or since there was such a place in Moab as Bamoth, here rendered "high places", it may be taken for a proper name of a place, Numbers 21:20 and the rather, since mention is made of Bamothbaal along with Dibon, and as distinct from it, Joshua 13:17 and Jarchi interprets the words thus,

"and the men of Dibon went up to Bamoth to weep.''

Kimchi takes all three to be places of idolatrous worship, and which is not unlikely.

Moab shall howl over Nebo, and over Medeba; two cities in the land of Moab, now taken, plundered, and destroyed; the former of these, Nebo, had its name either from the Hebrew word "naba", to prophesy, because of the prophecies or oracles which is thought were delivered here from the Heathen priests, as from their deities; and among the Chaldeans there was a god of this name, Isaiah 46:1 or from the Arabic word "naba" (o), to be eminent, and so had its name from its height; near to it was a mountain of the same name, where Moses had a view of the land of Canaan, and died, Deuteronomy 32:49 of this city see Numbers 32:3. Jerom says (p), that in his time a desert place called Naba was showed, eight miles distant from the city Esbus (Heshbon, Isaiah 15:4) to the south. The latter of these, Medeba, is mentioned in Numbers 21:30 this city is by Ptolemy (q) called Medava. Josephus (r) speaks of it as a city of Moab, in the times of Alexander and Hyrcanus; so that if it was now destroyed, it was built again: and Jerom (s) says of it, that in his days it was a city of Arabia, retaining its ancient name, near Esebon, or Heshbon.

On all their heads shall be baldness; that is, on the heads of the Moabites, especially the inhabitants of these cities that survived the destruction, who through sorrow and distress, and as a token of mourning, tore off the hair of their heads, which caused baldness, or else shaved it:

and every beard cut off; with a razor, which makes it probable that the hair of the head was tore off; both these used to be done as signs of mourning and lamentation, even shaving of the head and beard, Job 1:20.

(o) "editus, elatus fuit", Golius, col. 2287. Castel. col. 2182. (p) De locis Hebraicis, fol. 93. H. (q) Geograph. l. 5. c. 17. P. 137. (r) Antiqu. l. 13. c. 15. sect. 4. & l. 14. c. 1. sect. 4. (s) De locis Hebraicis, fol. 93. D.

{c} He is gone up to Bajith, and to Dibon, the high places, to weep: Moab shall wail over {d} Nebo, and over Medeba: on all {e} their heads shall be baldness, and every beard shorn.

(c) The Moabites will flee to their idols for comfort but it will be too late.

(d) Which were cites of Moab.

(e) For as in the west parts the people used to let their hair grow long when they mourned, so in the East part they cut it off.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. (Cf. Jeremiah 48:37) He is gone up … to weep] The sense of the clause is uncertain. If Bayith be a proper name the best rendering would be that of R.V. marg. Bayith and Dibon are gone up to the high-places to weep. But Bayith enters so frequently into compound place-names in this region (Beth-Diblathaim, Beth-Baal-meon, Beth-Bamoth) that it is hardly likely to have been used alone of a particular town. Some accordingly take it in its ordinary sense of “house” (here “temple”) and translate, “He is gone up to the temple, and Dibon to the high places …,”—a very harsh construction. The most satisfactory solution of the difficulty is that proposed by Duhm, who changes bayith into bath and reads the daughter of Dibon (Jeremiah 48:18) is gone up to the high places.… The “high places” are of course the local sanctuary.

Dibon (where the Moabite Stone was found) is only a few miles from the Arnon, and is naturally the first to receive tidings of the fall of the southern fortresses. On the whole the description observes the geographical order south to north.

Moab shall howl] Better howleth (other verbs also to be translated as presents), a peculiar onomatopoetic form occurring also in Isaiah 15:3 and Isaiah 26:7.

Nebo] is a town mentioned on the Moabite Stone near the mountain of the same name. It lay due east of the mouth of the Jordan; Medeba a short distance to the S. For over render on.

on all their heads shall be baldness …] On the signs of mourning mentioned here and in Isaiah 15:3 see ch. Isaiah 3:24, Isaiah 22:12; Micah 1:16; Job 1:20; Jeremiah 41:5.

2–4. The wailing of Moab.

Verse 2. - He is gone to Bajith; rather, he is gone to the temple. Probably the temple of Baal at Beth-baal-meon is intended. Beth-baal-meon is 'mentioned in close connection with Dibon in Joshua 13:17. And to Dibon. Diboa is mentioned in Numbers 21:30; Numbers 32:3, 34; Joshua 13:9, 17; Jeremiah 48:18, 22. It was an ancient Moabite town of considerable importance, and has recently been identified with the site called Diban, where the Moabite Stone was found. This place is situated in the country east of the Dead Sea, about three miles north of the river Arnon, on the old Roman road connecting Rabbath-Moab with Hesh-bob. The town seems to have gained in importance from the fact that it was the birthplace of Chemosh-Gad, Mesha's father (Moabite Stone, 1. 2). Mesha added to its territory (ibid., 1.21). It is extremely probable that it was the site of one of the Moabite "high places," and was therefore naturally one of the places whereto the Moabites, when afflicted, went up" to weep." Over Nebo, and over Medeba. Nebe and Medeba were also ancient Moabite towns. Nebo is mentioned in Numbers 32:3, 38; Numbers 33:47; 1 Chronicles 5:8; Jeremiah 48:1, 22. It seems to have lain almost midway between Beth-baal-meon (Main) and Medeba, about three or four miles south-east of Heshbon. Medeba obtains notice in Numbers 21:30; Joshua 13:9, 16; 1 Chronicles 19:7. Mesha says that it was taken from the Moabites by Omri, King of Israel, but recovered by himself at the end of forty 'years (Moabite Stone, 11. 7-9). It lay south-east of Hesh-ben, at the spot which still retains the old name - Madeba. It has been suggested that there was at Nebo a shrine of the Baby-Ionian god so named; but this is to assume a resemblance which the facts at present known do not indicate, between the Moabite and Babylonian religions. On all their heads shall be baldness. The practice of cutting off the hair in mourning was common to the Jews (Isaiah 22:12; Micah 1:16) with various other nations; e.g., the Persians (Herod., 9:24), the Greeks, the Macedonians (Pint., 'Vit. Pelop.,' § 34), the primitive Arabs (Krehl, 'Religion der voris-lamit. Araber,' p. 33, note 1), and the North American Indians (Bancroft,' Native Races of America'). It was probably intended, like lacerations, and ashes on the head, as a mere disfigurement, Isaiah 15:2But just as horror, when once it begins to reflect, is dissolved in tears, the thunder-claps in Isaiah 15:1 are followed by universal weeping and lamentation. "They go up to the temple-house and Dibon, up to the heights to weep: upon Nebo and upon Medebah of Moab there is weeping: on all heads baldness, every beard is mutilated. In the markets of Moab they gird themselves with sackcloth; on the roofs of the land, and in its streets, everything wails, melting into tears. Heshbon cries, and 'Elle; even to Jahaz they hear their howling; even the armed men of Moab break out into mourning thereat; its soul trembles within it." The people (the subject to עלה) ascend the mountain with the temple of Chemosh, the central sanctuary of the land. This temple is called hab-baith, though not that there was a Moabitish town or village with some such name as Bth-Diblathaim (Jeremiah 48:22), as Knobel supposes. Dibon, which lay above the Arnon (Wady Mujib), like all the places mentioned in Isaiah 15:2-4, at present a heap of ruins, a short hour to the north of the central Arnon, in the splendid plain of el-Chura, had consecrated heights in the neighbourhood (cf., Joshua 13:17; Numbers 22:41), and therefore would turn to them. Moab mourns upon Nebo and Medebah; ייליל, for which we find יהיליל in Isaiah 52:5, is written intentionally for a double preformative, instead of ייליל (compare the similar forms in Job 24:21; Psalm 138:6, and Ges. 70, Anm.). על is to be taken in a local sense, as Hendewerk, Drechsler, and Knobel have rendered it. For Nebo was probably a place situated upon a height on the mountain of that name, towards the south-east of Heshbon (the ruins of Nabo, Nabau, mentioned in the Onom.); and Medebah (still a heap of ruins bearing the same name) stood upon a round hill about two hours to the south-east of Heshbon. According to Jerome, there was an image of Chemosh in Nebo; and among the ruins of Madeba, Seetzen discovered the foundations of a strange temple. There follows here a description of the expressions of pain. Instead of the usual ראשיו, we read ראשיו here. And instead of gedu‛âh (abscissae), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 48:37) has, according to his usual style, geru'âh (decurtatae), with the simple alteration of a single letter.

(Note: At the same time, the Masora on this passage before us is for geru‛ah with Resh, and we also find this reading in Nissel, Clodius, Jablonsky, and in earlier editions; whilst Sonc. 1486, Ven. 1521, and others, have gedu‛ah, with Daleth.)

All runs down with weeping (culloh, written as in Isaiah 16:7; in Isaiah 9:8, Isaiah 9:16, we have cullo instead). In other cases it is the eyes that are said to run down in tears, streams, or water-brooks; but here, by a still bolder metonymy, the whole man is said to flow down to the ground, as if melting in a stream of tears. Heshbon and Elale are still visible in their ruins, which lie only half an hour apart upon their separate hills and are still called by the names Husban and el-Al. They were both situated upon hills which commanded an extensive prospect. And there the cry of woe created an echo which was audible as far as Jahaz (Jahza), the city where the king of Heshbon offered battle to Israel in the time of Moses (Deuteronomy 2:32). The general mourning was so great, that even the armed men, i.e., the heroes (Jeremiah 48:41) of Moab, were seized with despair, and cried out in their anguish (the same figure as in Isaiah 33:7). על־כן(, thereat, namely on account of this universal lamentation. Thus the lamentation was universal, without exception. Naphsho (his soul) refers to Moab as a whole nation. The soul of Moab trembles in all the limbs of the national body; ירעה (forming a play upon the sound with יריעוּ), an Arabic word, and in יריעה a Hebrew word also, signifies tremere, huc illuc agitari - an explanation which we prefer, with Rosenmller and Gesenius, to the idea that ירע is a secondary verb to רעע, fut. ירע. לו is an ethical dative (as in Psalm 120:6 and Psalm 123:4), throwing the action or the pathos inwardly (see Psychology, p. 152). The heart of the prophet participates in this pain with which Moab is agitated throughout; for, as Rashi observes, it is just in this that the prophets of Israel were distinguished from heathen prophets, such as Balaam for example, viz., that the calamities which they announced to the nations went to their own heart (compare Isaiah 21:3-4, with Isaiah 22:4).

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