Isaiah 16:8
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.
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(8) The fields of Heshbon languish . . .—For Heshbon see Note on Isaiah 15:4. Sibmah appears as assigned to the tribe of Reuben, in Numbers 32:38, Joshua 13:19, and in Jeremiah 48:32 as famous for its vines. Jerome (Comm. in Esai. 5) speaks of it as about half a Roman mile from Heshbon, and as one of the strongest fortresses of Moab. It has not been identified by recent travellers. The names of the chief Moabite cities are brought together by Milton with a singular rhythmical majesty in Par. Lost, 1, 406-411.

The lords of the heathen . . .—The words admit of this rendering; but another version, equally admissible grammatically, is preferred by most recent critics. Its branches smote down the lords of the nations, i.e., the wine of Sibmah was so strong that it “overcame” the princes who drank of it (Isaiah 28:1; Jeremiah 23:9). In the word for “lords” (baalim), we have a parallel to the “lords of the high places of Arnon,” in Numbers 21:28.

They are come even unto Jazer.—The pronoun may be referred either to the “branches of the vine,” or to the “lords of the heathen,” as destroyers. Adopting the former construction, we find in the words a description of the extent of the culture of the Sibmah vine. Northward it spread to Jazer on the Gilead frontier (Numbers 32:1; Numbers 32:3; 1Chronicles 26:31), rebuilt by the Gadites (Numbers 32:35), eastward to the wilderness, westward it crossed the Dead Sea, and re-appeared in the vine-clad slopes of Engedi (Song of Solomon 1:14). In Jeremiah 48:32, we have “the sea of Jazer.” See Note there.

Isaiah 16:8-10. The fields of Heshbon languish — Either for want of rain, or, rather, because no men should be left to till and manure them. And the vine of Sibmah — These vines and those of Heshbon were greatly celebrated, and held in high repute with all the great men and princes of that and the neighbouring countries, and were propagated from thence, not only over all the country of Moab, but to the sea of Sodom; yea, scions of them, as is signified in the last clause of this verse, were sent even beyond the sea into foreign countries: but the prophet here foretels, that the lords of the heathen — That is, the Assyrians or Chaldeans, the great rulers of the eastern nations, would soon destroy them, and all other productions of the land; and then their shouting and singing for the vintage or harvest would utterly cease, as is expressed Isaiah 16:9-10.

16:6-14 Those who will not be counselled, cannot be helped. More souls are ruined by pride than by any other sin whatever. Also, the very proud are commonly very passionate. With lies many seek to gain the gratification of pride and passion, but they shall not compass proud and angry projects. Moab was famous for fields and vineyards; but they shall be laid waste by the invading army. God can soon turn laughter into mourning, and joy into heaviness. In God let us always rejoice with holy triumph; in earthly things let us always rejoice with holy trembling. The prophet looks with concern on the desolations of such a pleasant country; it causes inward grief. The false gods of Moab are unable to help; and the God of Israel, the only true God, can and will make good what he has spoken. Let Moab know her ruin is very near, and prepare. The most awful declarations of Divine wrath, discover the way of escape to those who take warning. There is no escape, but by submission to the Son of David, and devoting ourselves to him. And, at length, when the appointed time comes, all the glory, prosperity, and multitude of the wicked shall perish.For the fields of Heshbon - (See the note at Isaiah 15:4.)

Languish - They are parched up with drought. The 'fields' here evidently mean "vineyards," for so the parallelism demands. So in Deuteronomy 32:32 :

Their vine is of the vine of Sodom,

And of the fields of Gomorrah.

And the vine of Sibmah - Sibmah, or Shibmah, was a city of Reuben Numbers 32:38; Joshua 13:19. Jeremiah, in the parallel place Jeremiah 48:32 speaks of the vine of Sibmah also. He also says that the enemies of Moab had taken Sibmah, and that the vine and wine had been destroyed Jeremiah 48:33. There was no more certain mode of producing desolation in a land where grapes were extensively cultivated than to cut down the vines. The Turks constantly practice that in regard to their enemies, and the result is, that wide desolation comes upon the countries which they invade. At this time it is probable that Sibmah belonged to the Moabites. It is mentioned here as being distinguished for the luxuriant production of the grape. Seetzen still found the vine cultivated in that region. Jerome says, that between Sibmah and Heshbon there was scarcely a distance of five hundred paces, half a Roman mile.

The lords of the heathen - The princes of the pagan nations that had come to invade Moab. The words 'have broken down' (הלמוּ hâlemû) may be taken in either of two senses, either to beat, strike, or break down, as in our version; or "to be" beaten, or smitten with wine - that is, to become intoxicated - like the Greek οἰνοπλὴξ oinoplēx - "smitten with wine." The former is doubtless the sense here.

The principal plants thereof - The chose vines of it - "her sorek" (שׂרוּקיה s'erûqehā). (See the notes at Isaiah 5:2.)

They are come - That is, the vines of Sibmah had spread or extended themselves even to Jazer, indicating their great luxuriance and fertility." Jazer was a city at the foot of the mountains of Gilead which was given to Gad, and afterward to the Levites Joshua 21:39. Jerome says it was about fifteen miles from Heshbon. Seetzen found the ruins of a city called Szar, and another place called Szir, from which a small stream (Nahar Szir) flows into the Jordan (Gesenius). That the shoots of the vine of Sibmah reached unto Jazer and the desert, is a beautiful poetic expression for the extensive spread and luxuriance of the vine in that region.

They wandered - The vines "wandered" in the desert. They found no twig or tree to which they could attach themselves, and they spread around in wild luxuriancy.

Through the wilderness - The wilderness or desert of Arabia, which encompassed Moab.

Her branches are stretched out - Are extended far, or are very luxuriant.

They are gone over the sea - Called in the parallel place in Jeremiah 48:32, 'the Sea of Jazer;' probably some lake that had that name near the city of Jazer. It may "possibly" mean the Dead Sea, but that name is not elsewhere given to the Dead Sea in the Scriptures. It has been objected by some to this statement that modern travelers have not found any such place as the 'Sea of Jazer;' or any lake in the vicinity of Jazer. But we may observe -

(1) that Seetzen found a stream flowing into the Jordan near Jazer; and

(2) that it is possible that a pond or lake may have once there existed which may have been since, in the course of ages, filled with sand.


8. fields—vine-fields (De 32:32).

vine of Sibmah—near Heshbon: namely, languishes.

lords of … heathen—The heathen princes, the Assyrians, &c., who invaded Moab, destroyed his vines. So Jeremiah in the parallel place (Jer 48:32, 33). Maurer thinks the following words require rather the rendering, "Its (the vine of Sibmah) shoots (the wines got from them) overpowered (by its generous flavor and potency) the lords of the nations" (Ge 49:11, 12, 22).

come … Jazer—They (the vine shoots) reached even to Jazer, fifteen miles from Heshbon.

wandered—They overran in wild luxuriance the wilderness of Arabia, encompassing Moab.

the sea—the Dead Sea; or else some lake near Jazer now dry; in Jer 48:32 called "the sea of Jazer"; but see on [710]Jer 48:32 (Ps 80:8-11).

The fields of Heshbon languish; either for want of rain, as Isaiah 15:6, or because there are no men left to till and manure them.

The lords of the heathen; the Assyrians or Chaldeans, the great rulers of the Eastern nations.

The principal plants; the choicest vines; under which one particular he seems to understand not only all other fruits and goods, but even their persons and choicest people.

They are come even unto Jazer; either,

1. The lords of the heathen are come as far as Jazer, which is the utmost border of Moab; or,

2. The people of Moab are going into captivity, and part of them are already gone as far as Jazer. Some understand this and the following clauses of the vines, which are here commended, to aggravate the loss and ruin of them, and render the words, which reached even unto Jazer, which vineyards were planted for many miles together, even as far as Jazer.

They wandered through the wilderness; others of the Moabites fled away for their lives, and wandered hither and thither in the wilderness of Moab; of which see Numbers 21:11 Deu 2:8.

Her branches, i.e. her people, called plants before. Are stretched out; or, are spread abroad, as this word signifies, Numbers 11:32 Judges 15:9 1 Samuel 30:16; are driven from their own homes, and dispersed into several countries.

Over the sea; over the Dead Sea, which was the border of Moab. They were forced to flee out of their own country to save their lives.

For the fields of Heshbon languish,.... Through drought; or because of the forage of the enemy, and their treading upon them; or because there were no men left to till and manure them. Of Heshbon See Gill on Isaiah 15:4. It seems to have been a place famous for fields and pastures, and to have been a very fruitful and well watered place; hence we read of the fish pools in Heshbon, Sol 7:4 though Aben Ezra and Kimchi think the word signifies vines, as they suppose it does in Deuteronomy 32:32,

and the vine of Sibmah; called Shebam and Shibmah, in Numbers 32:3 thought to be the Seba of Ptolemy (e); and seems to have been famous for vines and vineyards:

the lords of the Heathen have broken down the principal plants thereof; that is, the Chaldeans and their army, and commanders and principal officers of it, dealing with them as the Turks do with vines, wherever they meet with them, destroy them; though Jarchi and Kimchi interpret all this figuratively, both here and in the above clauses, of the inhabitants of these places, the multitude of the common people, and their princes, some being killed, and others carried captive; to which sense the Targum,

"because the armies of Heshbon are spoiled, the multitude of Sebama are killed, the kings of the people have killed their rulers:''

they are come even unto Jazer; meaning either the Chaldean army, or the Moabites, who had fled hither; or rather this is to be understood of the vines of Sibmah, expressing the excellency and large spread of them, which reached even to Jazer; which, as Jerom says (f), was fifteen miles from Heshbon, called Jaazer, Numbers 21:32,

they wandered through the wilderness; the wilderness of Moab, Deuteronomy 2:8 not the lords of the Heathen, nor the Moabites, but the vines and their branches, which crept along, and winded to and fro, as men wander about:

her branches are stretched out; that is, the branches of the vine Sibmah:

they are gone over the sea; the Dead Sea, called the sea of Jazer, Jeremiah 48:32 or rather a lake near that city.

(e) Geograph. l. 5. c. 19. (f) De locis Hebraicis, fol. 92. G.

For the fields of Heshbon languish, and the vine of Sibmah: {h} the lords of the nations have broken down her principal plants, they have come even to {i} Jazer, they wandered through the wilderness: her branches are extended, they have gone over the sea.

(h) That is, the Assyrians and other enemies.

(i) Meaning that the country of Moab was now destroyed, and all the precious things of it were carried into the borders yea into other countries and 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.

Verse 8. - The fields of Heshbon (see the comment on Isaiah 15:4). The whole of the Mishor, or Belka, on the edge of which Hesbdn stands, is cultivable and capable of producing good crops. The Moabites stored water in reservoirs (Song of Solomon 7:4), and made their country a garden. The vine of Sib-mah. "Sibmah" is mentioned in Numbers 32:8 and Joshua 13:19 among the towns of the Reubenites. According to Jerome ('Comment. in Esaiam'), it was less than half a mile distant from Heshbon. Jeremiah follows Isaiah in lamenting the destruction of its vines (Jeremiah 48:32). The lords of the heathen have broken down the principal plants thereof. "The lords of the heathen" are probably the Assyrians, who made a practice of destroying the fruit trees in an enemy's country, for the mere purpose of doing mischief ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 2. p. 84). It is wanton to discard this very satisfactory sense for the strange one that "the choice plants have broken down - i.e., made drunk - the lords of the heathen" (Cheyne). The rendering of the Authorized Version is supported by Gesenius, Ewald, Rosenmüller, Meier, and Dr. Kay. They are come even unto Jazer; rather, they (the vines)reached to Jazer; i.e. the vine of Sibmah was cultivated as far as Jazer. Jazer lay about twelve miles north of Heshben, in the territory of Gad (Numbers 32:35). It is probably identified with Es Szir, which is in the required position, and retains a trace of the name (Seetzen,' Reisen,' vol. 1. pp. 397, 398). They wandered through the wilderness; rather, they strayed into the wilderness; i.e. the cultivation was pushed eastward into the actual midbar, or desert. Her branches are stretched out; or, her offshoots are spread abroad; i.e. the young shoots or slips are taken by the cultivators and spread further and further. They are even carried across the Dead Sea, and planted on its western shore. Mr. Cheyne supposes the prophet to refer to the "vineyards of En-gedi" (Song of Solomon 1:14). Isaiah 16:8Therefore the delightful land is miserably laid waste. "Therefore will Moab wail for Moab, everything will wail: for the grape-cakes of Kir-hareseth will ye whine, utterly crushed. For the fruit-fields of Heshbon have faded away: the vine of Sibmah, lords of the nations its branches smote down; they reached to Ja'zer, trailed through the desert: its branches spread themselves out wide, crossed over the sea." The Lamed in l'Moab is the same as in Isaiah 15:5, and in la'ashishē, which follows here. Kir-hareseth (written Kir-heres in Isaiah 16:11, and by Jeremiah; compare 2 Kings 3:25, where the vowel-pointing is apparently false): Heres or Hareseth may possibly refer to the glazed tiles or grooved stones. As this was the principal fortress of Moab, and according to Isaiah 15:1 it had already been destroyed, ‛ashishē appears to mean the "strong foundations," - namely, as laid bare; in other words, the "ruins" (cf., Jeremiah 50:15, and mōsedē in Isaiah 58:12). But in every other passage in which the word occurs it signifies a kind of cake; and as the devastation of the vines of Moab is made the subject of mourning afterwards, it has the same meaning here as in Hosea 3:1, namely raisin-cakes, or raisins pressed into the form of cakes. Such cakes as these may have been a special article of the export trade of Kir. Jeremiah has altered 'ashishē into 'anshē (Jeremiah 48:31), and thus made men out of the grapes. Hâgâh is to be understood in accordance with Isaiah 38:14; Isaiah 59:11 (viz., of the cooing of the dove); 'ac (in good texts it is written with mercha, not with makkeph) according to Deuteronomy 16:15. On the construction of the pluralet. shadmoth, compare Habakkuk 3:17. We have rendered the clause commencing with baalē goyim (lords of the nations) with the same amphibolism as we find in the Hebrew. It might mean either "lords of the nations (domini gentium) smote down its branches" (viz., those of the vine of Sibmah;

(Note: In MSS Shibmah is written with gaya, in order that the two labials may be distinctly expressed.)

hâlam being used as in Isaiah 41:7), or "its branches smote down (i.e., intoxicated) lords of the nations" (dominos gentium; hâlam having the same meaning as in the undisputed prophecy of Isaiah in Isaiah 28:1). As the prophet enlarges here upon the excellence of the Moabitish wine, the latter is probably intended. The wine of Sibmah was so good, that it was placed upon the tables of monarchs, and so strong that it smote down, i.e., inevitably intoxicated, even those who were accustomed to good wines. This Sibmah wine was cultivated, as the prophet says, far and wide in Moab - northwards as far as Ja'zer (between Ramoth, i.e., Salt, and Heshbon, now a heap of ruins), eastwards into the desert, and southwards across the Dead Sea - a hyperbolical expression for close up to its shores. Jeremiah defines yâm (the sea) more closely as yam Ja‛zer (the sea of Jazer; vid., Jeremiah 48:32), so that the hyperbole vanishes. But what sea can the sea of Jazer be? Probably some celebrated large pool, like the pools of Heshbon, in which the waters of the Wady (Nahr) Sir, which takes its rise close by, were collected. Seetzen found some pools still there. The "sea" (yâm) in Solomon's temple shows clearly enough that the term sea was also commonly applied to artificial basins of a large size; and in Damascus the marble basins of flowing water in the halls of houses are still called baharât; and the same term is applied to the public reservoirs in all the streets of the city, which are fed by a network of aqueducts from the river Baradâ. The expression "break through the desert" (tâ‛u midbâr) is also a bold one, probably pointing to the fact that, like the red wines of Hungary at the present time, they were trailing vines, which did not require to be staked, but ran along the ground.

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