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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 16

Gann's Commentary on the BibleGann on the Bible

Verse 1

Send a ram Moab, in distress, sends a gift to Judah along with a request for asylum. Referring to Judah as the “ruler of the land” acknowledges the Moabites’ past status as subjects of Israel. See 2 Kgs 3:4–8.

from Sela -- Either Moab is regarded as having taken refuge in Edom, and is therefore bidden to send her tribute from the Edomite capital, Sela (equivalent to “Petra”), or “Sela,” here is not a proper name, but a collective used to designate the rocky parts of Moab, to which she had betaken herself (as in Jer. 48:28).

the mountain of daughter Zion Jerusalem. See note on Isa 1:8.

Verse 2

like a bird fleeing from a thrust away nest The refugees are weak and defenseless—they are women seeking shelter.

at the fords of Arnon The Arnon River, the primary river in the region, formed a large canyon that created a natural boundary for Moab. It would have presented a difficult obstacle for fleeing refugees to bypass.

Verse 3

“Bring counsel -- The daughters of Moab appeal to standards of social justice in requesting protection in Zion. Their request is found in Isa 16:3–4a, Isa 16:4b begins God’s response.

Verse 4

Let my outcasts of Moab dwell as aliens among you-- In the book of Ruth, a family from Judah sojourns in Moab during a famine (see Ruth 1:1–4). In 1 Sam 22:3, David leaves his parents with the king of Moab. As distant relatives, the Moabite refugees may have expected a reciprocal welcome.

oppressor is no more -- Yahweh later laments over their plight. Here, He simply defers their plea until the Messiah comes to hear it. The time when all the nations come to Zion has not yet arrived; they are too early (see Isa 2:2–4).

Verse 5

in the tent of David -- The Davidic Messiah.

Verse 8

Heshbon withers the fields -- Focuses on the physical and economic ruin of the northern part of Moab. Heshbon was a city near the northern border of Moab. Sibmah was likely in the same general region as Heshbon. See 15:1 and note; and 15:4 and note.

rulers of nations -- The oracle never explicitly identifies the invaders, which allows the prophecy to be applicable in future eras. As long as the nations failed to acknowledge Yahweh’s supremacy, judgment was a continuous possibility. Ultimately, the nations would not acknowledge Yahweh until the messianic era dawned

Verse 9

I weep with the weeping of Jazer for Yahweh empathizes with Moab in vv. 9–11, even though He is responsible for bringing the destruction (v. 10). See 15:5.

Jazer A city north of Heshbon. Sibmah was in the same region. Both Jazer and Heshbon are part of the land allotted to the tribe of Gad in Josh 21:39.

Heshbon and Elealeh Cities in the northern part of Moab’s territory that may have been built by Israel (Num 32:37) See note on Isa 15:4.

Verse 10

joy and gladness are taken away Similar language appears in Jeremiah’s oracle about Moab (Jer 48:33). Oracles against the surrounding nations appear frequently in the prophetic books, and often share similar motifs and themes.

in the vineyards no one exults See Isa 5:1; Judg 9:27.

Verse 11

my heart -- The Hebrew term here refers to the belly, which is associated with emotions in Hebrew. Translations may render it as “heart,” the part of the body associated with emotions in English. A colloquial rendering preserving the belly association might be “my gut ached for Moab” or “my stomach trembled.”

Verse 12

it is weary upon the high place-- The lament over Moab begins and ends with a thematic inclusio (a bracketing by repetition) focused on the futility of worshiping any gods but Yahweh. See Isa 15:1–2.

inclusio A literary device that repeats words or themes at the beginning and end of a section. The repetition brackets the section. The Bible makes frequent use of inclusios to structure both long and short sections of text.

he will no prevail --When the Moabites would pray to their idols there would be no response, no help. How foolish, then, for the Judeans to trust in Moab for help.

Verse 13

the word that Yahweh spoke-- A short prose appendix is added to what was expressed poetically. The introductory phrase marks this as new and more immediately relevant information.

in the past -- Isaiah had spoken this prophecy in the past, but now adds more relevant information that it will come to pass within three years.

Verse 14

In three years --Moab’s destruction is imminent and will occur in a few years’ time. This may refer to the Assyrian campaigns that came around 715 bc.

The prediction finds fulfillment in 715 B.C. when Sargon directed a campaign against the Arabians. To reach his destination, Sargon swept through the length of Moab from north to south murdering and plundering as he went. (Jim Smith)

the years of a hired worker -- Isaiah uses this expression again in Isaiah 21:16.

all of the great multitude The great multitude is contrasted with the remnant that will be few and feeble.

the remnant Usually only Israel is assured a remnant. See Isaiah 10:22.

Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Isaiah 16". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gbc/isaiah-16.html. 2021.
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