William Kelly Major Works Commentary
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;Isaiah Chapter 15
In chaps. 15 - 16. we have "the burden of Moab," the neighbour of Israel among the surrounding races as a pastoral people and outwardly prosperous hitherto. What a picture of desolation and woe; and so much the more felt, because so unexpected and sudden! The Philistines were not more offensive to God because of the pleasure they took in the calamities of Israel, than the Moabites in their excessive self-security and pride. They were among the neighbouring races which were allowed to harass Israel for their unfaithfulness during the Judges, till David reduced them. Afterwards they took advantage of the revolt of the ten tribes to shake off their subjection, first to Judah, and finally to Israel; but they, like others, fell under the Babylonish conqueror, as we may gather from a comparison of Jer. 10: 58, which adopts and enlarges these very predictions of the older prophet, and serves thus to fix the epoch of their application. "For in a night of laying waste, Ar of Moab is undone; for in a night of laying waste, Kir of Moab is undone!" [Dr Henderson prefers to render it thus: "Assuredly in the night of assault Ar-Moab is destroyed assuredly in the night of assault Kir-Moab is destroyed." They were the two main defences of Moab the city and the castle a few miles off the storming of which decided the fate of the people] (v. 1). Ar-Moab is the more forcible a phrase, because it was not only the capital, but the only real city that Moab possessed. Ar means city, and Kir means a wall and thence a walled fortress. It was not far from the city on the S.E.
Broken thus in their city and stronghold, one after another surprised to their dismay, the people are supposed to go to their places to weep, with deep and universal signs of mourning in public and in private; and this, to the extremities of their land, the very soldiers crying out like the weaker sex. "He is gone up to Bayith, and to Dibon, to the high places, to weep; Moab howleth over Nebo, and over Medeba: on all their heads [is] baldness, every beard is cut off. In their streets they gird themselves with sackcloth; on their housetops, and in their broad places, every one howleth, weeping abundantly. And Heshbon crieth out, and Elealeh; their voice is heard unto Jahaz. Therefore the armed men of Moab cry aloud; his soul trembleth within him" (vv. 2-4).
The prophet, or whosoever is personated by him, cannot but feel for the disasters of Moab; and the graphic sketch of desolation and want and carnage is continued to the end of the chapter. "My heart crieth out for Moab; their nobles [flee] unto Zoar, to Eglath-shelishiyah: for by the ascent of Luhith with weeping they go up by it; for in the way of Horonaim they raise up a cry of destruction. For the waters of Nimrim shall be desolate; for the grass is withered away, the tender grass faileth, there is no green thing. Therefore the abundance they have gotten, and that which they have laid up, shall they carry away to the brook of the willows. For the cry is gone round about the borders of Moab; the howling thereof unto Eglaim, and the howling thereof unto Beer-elim. For the waters of Dimon are full of blood: for I will bring yet more upon Dimon, a lion upon him that escapeth of Moab, and upon the remnant of the land" (vv. 5-9). Even the escaped should find fresh disaster and destruction from Jehovah. Extreme humiliation is the chastening of excessive pride. But the intense feeling of the prophet, which was assuredly no less in Jeremiah, is the most complete disproof of the heartlessness which unbelieving critics ascribe to Isaiah, or at least to these "burdens" assigned to him. Ewald had too much sense of taste to overlook it. There is no doubt as marked a difference in tone between the deep pathos over Moab's fall and the ode of triumph before the Babylonish potentate. This is as it should be; but vindictive and sarcastic in an evil sense it is not. Even the Christian, who is heavenly, is called to abhor evil, and cleave to good. And heaven resounds with hallelujahs over God's true and righteous judgement of the Great Harlot, though her smoke goeth up for ever and ever (Revelation 19:1-6). How suited for a Jewish prophet to triumph over the last holder of the impious power allowed to rise When Judah was swept away, and whose fall at length ushers in Israel delivered for ever! Here in chaps. 15, 16. he can yield to the most impassioned feeling over kindred but proud Moab brought low.
We may note among the places named which share in the national grief that the Dibon of ver. 2 appears to be called Dimon in ver. 9, a play on the word in order to associate it with the Hebrew for "blood," which was to be its portion. Jerome records that the place in his day was called both. Death and disasters yet more impended. What a contrast was Beer-elim to Moab and Israel! There Moab's howling was to reach; there Israel sang their song of triumph as they drew to the end of their journeying, where for the refreshing of all the well sprang up under the staves of the chiefs and nobles (Numbers 21:16-18). So the true end with enduring joy yet awaits the people after a far longer wandering. But judgements accompany and distinguish "that day," judgements on all the enemies of Israel small and great; judgements that begin with the ancient people of God, and with Judah first of all. For there is no unrighteousness with God. And if it be a day of sifting for all the nations of the earth, He must begin at His house, before Israel can say in truth of heart, His mercy for ever!
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.
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.
And Heshbon shall cry, and Elealeh: their voice shall be heard even unto Jahaz: therefore the armed soldiers of Moab shall cry out; his life shall be grievous unto him.
My heart shall cry out for Moab; his fugitives shall flee unto Zoar, an heifer of three years old: for by the mounting up of Luhith with weeping shall they go it up; for in the way of Horonaim they shall raise up a cry of destruction.
For the waters of Nimrim shall be desolate: for the hay is withered away, the grass faileth, there is no green thing.
Therefore the abundance they have gotten, and that which they have laid up, shall they carry away to the brook of the willows.
For the cry is gone round about the borders of Moab; the howling thereof unto Eglaim, and the howling thereof unto Beerelim.
For the waters of Dimon shall be full of blood: for I will bring more upon Dimon, lions upon him that escapeth of Moab, and upon the remnant of the land.