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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 15

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-9


Isaiah 15, 16

Concerning the relation of Moab to the Israelites, comp. the remarks prefixed to Jeremiah 48:0. The present prophecy is a double address. For it consists of an older discourse (Isaiah 15:1 to Isaiah 16:12), which, as appears, was not published immediate ly on its origination, but was given publicity by Isaiah only when he could announce definitely that the beginning of its fulfilment would occur after three years. Some have therefore conceived the notion that the older address is not Isaianic. Koppe, Augusti, Bauer, Berthold, have regarded Jeremiah as the Author, which is quite impossible. Hitzig (comp. his Des Propheten Jonas Orakel iiber Moab, Heidelberg, 1831,) even holds that Jonah is the author, and has found followers (Knobel, Maureb, etc.,) in this singular view, whereas Hendewebk decidedly controverts him. It is regarded as decisive for the view that this is not Isaianic, that it betrays a tender-hearted sympathy for an otherwise hated foreign nation. But this sympathy is not as tender-hearted as it appears. It rather serves as a measure by which to estimate the fearfulness of the judgment. Further appeal is made to a number of " peculiar, and in a measure, singular thoughts and turns.” Some of these are that mourning garments are put on in the street (Isaiah 15:3)—yet Hezekiah went into the temple clothed in sackcloth, and a deputation from him to Isaiah went in sackcloth (2 Kings 19:1-2)—; further that crying encircled the land (comp. my comment), Sibma’s vine spread itself over whole regions—-only a bold figure worthy of Isaiah (see the comment)—; its branches make drunk, (which the Prophet does not say, see the comment on Isaiah 16:8), the heart cries for Moab and Hounds like a harp, the tears of the writer bedew Heshbon (also figures quite agreeing with Isaiah’s style). Moreover a number of unexampled phrases are pointed to with doubtful suspicion: ירד בבכי, “ to weep bitterly " (but the expression means something quite different), מים משׁמית, “waters are deserts,” (it means rather: places of springs are loca arida), שׁית על “to set shadows," (it means rather to make the shadow like the night), etc.; further appeal is made to words, forms, meanings, and references that are peculiar to the author of this passage.

All these things rest on misunderstandings; partly they are ἄ̔̔παξ λεγόμενα, the like of which are to be found in nearly every chapter of Isaiah; partly the Prophet intentionally imitates Moabite forms of speech. At all events, the little peculiarities, which in no case witness directly against Isaiah, and which are natural to such originality as his, are not to be considered in comparison with the great mass of decidedly Isaianic modes of expression which we shall prove in particular below. I therefore hold decidedly that Isaiah is the author.

As regards the time of the composition of Isaiah 15:1 to Isaiah 16:12, the text seems to me to present two points of limitation. According to these chapters not only Dibon, but also Jahas, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sibmah, Medeba are in the hand of the Moabites. But according to 2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chronicles 5:26, these regions were only depopulated by Tiglath-Pileser, and thus only afterward occupied by the Moabites. That expedition of Tiglath-Pileser, according to universal opinion, occurred in the year 741, thus in the third year of the reign of Ahaz. From Isaiah 16:1 it further appears that at that time the Edomites were still subject to the Jews. This relation was changed under Ahaz. For, according to 2 Chronicles 28:17, the Edomites during his reign made an incursion into Judah. It is not conceivable that after this time Isaiah gave the Moabites counsel to send tribute from Seba to Jerusalem. For the Edomites would not allow that, and the Moabites who looked for refuge to Edom would never have dared to do so. Unfortunately we are not informed as to the time when that incursion of the Edomites took place. But it occurred in the time of Ahaz, and thus this prophecy Isaiah 15:1 to Isaiah 16:12 must be referred to the period of this king’s reign, and that between the two events 2 Kings 15:29 (1 Chronicles 5:20) and 2 Chronicles 28:17. Unfortunately we do not know which Assyrian king accomplished (or began to accomplish”) Isaiah’s prophecy to the Moabites. Therefore we cannot know when he subjoined the two concluding verses and published the entire oracle.

The prophecy evidently subdivides into four parts. Thus the old, first prophecy easily subdivides into three sections, of which the first (Isaiah 15:1-9) announces Moab’s terror and flight, the second (Isaiah 16:1-5) the condition of deliverance, the third (Isaiah 16:6-12) Moab’s haughty refusal to fulfil these conditions and his consequent entire ruin. Finally, the later supplement determines definitely the beginning period of the fulfilment (Isaiah 16:13-14).


Isaiah 15:1 to Isaiah 16:12

a) Moab’s Terror and Flight

Isaiah 15:1-9

1          The Burden of Moab.

Because in the night Ar of Moab is laid waste, and 1brought to silence;

Because in the night Kir of Moab is laid waste, and 1brouht to silence;

2     2He is gone up to Bajith, and to Dibon, the high places, to weep.

3Moab shall howl over Nebo, and over Medeba:

On all their heads shall be baldness,

And every beard cut off.

3     4In their streets they shall gird themselves with sackcloth:

On the tops of their houses, and 5in their streets, every one shall howl,

6Weeping abundantly.

4     And Heshbon 7shall cry, and Elealeh:

Their voice shall be heard even unto Jahaz:

Therefore the armed soldiers of Moab shall cry out;
His 8life shall be grievous unto him.

5     My heart eshall cry out for Moab;

9His 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 10shall raise up a cry of 11destruction.

6     For the waters of Nimrim shall be 12desolate:

For the 13hay is withered away, the igrass faileth,

There is no green thing.

7     Therefore the abundance they have gotten, and that which they have laid up,

14Shall they carry away to the 15brook of the willows.

8     For the cry is gone around about the borders of Moab;

The howling thereof unto Eglaim,
And the howling thereof unto Beer-elim.

9     For the waters of Dimon shall be full of blood:

For I will bring 16more upon Dimon,

Lions upon him that escapeth of Moab,

17And upon the remnant of the land.


Isaiah 15:1. כִּי may of course be made to relate to משׂא מ׳, and one may find in the latter phrase the sense that is elsewhere expressed by הוֹי or אוֹיֹ (comp. Isaiah 6:5). But this does not suffice. For משׂא מ׳ is everywhere else nothing but superscription, and is nowhere connected with the beginning of the discourse. As in chaps, 15, 16 there is made a surprisingly frequent use of the particle כִּי—it occurs nine times in 15, and five times in 16—so, too, the כִּי of Isaiah 15:1 is surely to be interpreted according to this usage. No where else is Isa. wont to multiply this particle in a surprising way. It seems to me that he had here a particular aim. Perhaps he imitates Moabite language. The same is the case with לֵיל. It must occasion surprise that of the five times that Isaiah uses לֵיל (except these he uses לַיְלָה) three belong to the chapters on Moab (comp. Isaiah 16:3). In Isaiah 21:11 לֵיל occurs, and probably for the sake of variety in the parallelism, perhaps, too, as mimicking the dialect of Edom and as reminiscence of Exodus 12:42. But Isaiah 30:29, the form לֵיל occurs as st. constr., and also with allusion to Exodus 12:42. On the monument of king Mesa, in line 15, the night is actually called לֵלָה (comp. Schlottm. in Stud. and Krit. 1871, Heft. IV., p. 596) from which it appears that the pronunciation with e is Moabitic. It is needless, with Drechsler and others, to take לֵיל here as st. constr. This, as Delitzsch says, would give an illogical thought, “in as much as שֻׁדַּד and נִדְמָה, comp. Jeremiah 47:5, nearly coincide as to meaning.”—שֻׁדַּד, Pual, occurs again Isaiah 23:1; Isaiah 23:14 (comp. Isaiah 16:4; Isaiah 21:2; Isaiah 33:1).—עָר is without doubt the Moabitic word for עִיר (comp. Schlottmann, l. c., p. 607). For it is used only of the capital of Moab and of the territory immediately belonging to it. It is, indeed, used in the latter sense alone (Numbers 21:15; Deuteronomy 2:9; Deuteronomy 2:18; Deuteronomy 2:29, comp. Schlott., p. 608); but in the former sense in the connection עָר מוֹאָב (Numbers 21:8 and here).—נִדְמָה is subjoined ἀσυνδέτως, with an emphasis that makes an impression of shuddering, (comp. Isaiah 33:9; Jeremiah 9:9; Jeremiah 1:3). The word occurs in Isaiah again Isaiah 6:5. The repetition, too, of the phrase in the second clause (anadiplosis) is a rhetorical device that serves to make the impression stronger. Isaiah often resorts to this: Isaiah 15:8; Isaiah 8:9; Isaiah 17:12 sq.; Isaiah 21:11. Comp. on Isaiah 40:1.—קִיר means in Hebrew “the wall” (Isaiah 22:5; Psalms 62:4; Ezekiel 13:12 sqq., and oft). But in Moabitic it stands for קִרְיָה. In the inscription of Mesa קִר occurs four times in the sense of “city”: Line 11, 12, 24 bis.—עָר מי and קִיר מ׳ although names of cities, are construed as masculines. The reason of this appears to me to be, that in the Prophet’s representation the notion Moab predominated, and the names of nations are prevalently used as masculine.

Isaiah 15:2. עָלָה is used impersonally, “there goes up,” or “one goes up” (comp. Isaiah 14:30; Isaiah 14:32).—מואב after מידבא is genitive to the latter, and not nom. to ייליל. Medba-Moab is a combination that does not occur elsewhere, but which the Prophet perhaps made because he thought he saw in מֵידְבָא, Moabitic מֹהדְבָא, a kindred notion to מוֹאָב (מֵי אָב) and an allusion to the origin of the nation (Genesis 19:30 sqq.).—ייליל, comp. Isaiah 15:3; Isaiah 52:5; Isaiah 65:14.—The words בכל־ראשׁיו קרחה are quoted from Amos 8:10, where we read עַל־כָּל־רֹאשׁ קָרְחָה (comp. Jeremiah 48:37; Ezekiel 7:18; Ezekiel 29:18). The pointing רֹאשָׁיו instead of רָֹאשָׁיו, for which some Codices read רֹאשָׁם ,רֹאשׁוֹ ,רֹאשׁ, is found only here. It is possible that in the mind of the Prophet, citing from memory, the sound, which the word has in the original passage, had its effect.—קָרְחָה, does not elsewhere occur as the name of a city. Isaiah uses it again as appellative, Isaiah 3:24; Isaiah 22:12. There lies in it an allusion which the inscription of Mesa suggests to us. For, according to lines 21–26, this one built Korcha (קָרְחָה) i.e., “a cleared place at or in Dibon (according to line 24) that had as yet no wall” (Diestel, Die Moabitische Gedenktafel, Iahrb. f. deutsche Theol., 1871, Heft. II. p. 237), and transferred thither the royal residence (line 23).—By quoting the words of Amos, the Prophet seems to intend derision: if all heads are bald, then, of course, baldness (קָרְהָה) reigns over Moab.—גדועה comp. Isaiah 9:9; Isaiah 10:33; Isaiah 14:12; Isaiah 22:25; Isaiah 45:2.—Jeremiah 48:37 has גרועה, as, according to Gesenius and Delitzs‍ch, the Masora and many Codd. and older editions read in the present passage, whereas in Jeremiah only 10 Codd. have גדועה—גרע. designates regular shearing, גדע irregular hewing or cutting off in haste (clipping). The difference in the reading corresponds to the character of both prophets, whence in neither of the two passages perhaps, is the received reading to be altered.

Isaiah 15:3. Notice here the interchange of gender and number according as Moab comes before the Prophet’s mind as a nation or land, as a whole, or as a totality of individuals.—כֻּלֹּה, which occurs again in Isa. only Isaiah 16:7, seems likewise to be a mimicry of Moabitic form of speech. For in the inscription of Mesa is found the suffix form ־ֹה—exclusively (about 12 times). The name Nebo also is written נְבֹה, not as in Hebrew ‎נְבוֹ.—יֹרְד בַּבֶּֽכִי in the sense of “flowing down, dissolving in tears” would be, as Knobel, too, confesses, without example in the Old Testament. The simple Accusative would be required for that as Jeremiah 9:17; Jeremiah 13:17; Lamentations 1:16; Lamentations 3:48, and often.

Isaiah 15:4. יריעו comp. Isaiah 42:13; Isaiah 44:23.—The Praet. יָרַע occurs only here. Many expositors (Gesen., Knobel, Delitzsch), on account of the word יְרִיעָה, tremulum, “curtain,” take this word to mean “to tremble, shake.” But it is not to be overlooked why the Perfect should not be taken here in the same sense in which otherwise the Imperfect is used, i.e., in the sense of malum., miserum., afflictum esse. The Prophet intends a play on the word יריעו, therefore he employs the otherwise unused perfect, without meaning to use it in any other sense than that in which imperfect occurs, which has besides passed over to the service of the kindred root רעע. Therefore נפשׁז ירעה לֹז has the same meaning as יֵרַע לְבָבוֹ 1 Samuel 1:8; Deuteronomy 15:10; compare וַיִּרָע לְמשֶׁה Psalms 106:32.

Isaiah 15:5. עגלת שׁלישׁיה is construed like שְׁנַת הָרְבִיעית Jeremiah 46:2; Jeremiah 51:59, i. e., annus quarti scil, numeri; מִשְׁפַט אֶחָד Leviticus 24:22, אֲדוֹן אֶחָד 2 Kings 12:10. But is it designative of a locality or appositive to such? Maurer, Ewald, Knobel, Drechsler, Dietrich (Zur bibl. Geogr. in Merx’ Archiv I., p. 342 sqq.) see in it a “third Egla,” in proof of whose existence they appeal to Josephus Ant. XIV. 1, 4, where, beside Zoar, Oronai and other places, an Ἄγαλλα is mentioned. But how uncertain is this assumption of a “third Egla,” since we do not otherwise hear of a single one, not to speak of three, for that Ἄλαλλα of Josephus can just as well be אֶנְלַיִם (Isaiah 15:8)! Doederlein and Koster (Stud. and Krit. 1862 I., p. 113 sqq.) take Zoar, Horonaim and Egla to have been a Tripolis whose chief name was Egla. But of such a city, which must, too, have had a considerable circumference, there is to be found no trace. We must therefore take עג׳ שׁ׳ as appositive. It cannot be referred to Moab on account of its position in the sentence. It must then be referred to צֹעַר, and that in a sense in which it may be joined also to the city Horonaim as predicate, as is done Jeremiah 48:31. But we must take עג׳ שׁ׳ as having the same meaning with עֶגְלָה מְשֻׁלֶּשֶׁת Genesis 15:9. along with which are named a עֵז מְשֻׁלֶּשֶׁת and a אַיִל מְשֻׁלָּשׁ. Now these, as is acknowledged, are three years old, as it were beasts raised to the third degree, viz., degree of years.—דרך is acc. loci = “on the road.”—יְעֹעֵרו is Pilpel contracted from יְעַרְעֵדוּ, like כּוֹכָב from כַּבְכָּב. The expression זעקת־שבד only here.

Isaiah 15:6. מְשַׁמּוֹת only here in Isaiah. The כִּי here, as in Isaiah 15:8 sq. (comp. on Isaiah 15:1), makes the impression of being an intentional redundancy.

Isaiah 15:7. עָשָׂה represents an impersonal relative phrase = “what are made, acquired,” unless we assume a very abrupt change of person in the following ישׂאו ,פקדתם. The impersonal construction is comparatively frequent in our passage (Isaiah 15:2; Isaiah 15:5).—עדבים can mean only “Arabians” or “willows.” It cannot mean “deserts,” which is עֲרָבוֹת (Jeremiah 5:6). As only the situation of the brook, not the meaning of its name, is of importance here, it is no matter which one prefers. Still, as in the Old Testament, the word in the plural, ערבים, never occurs meaning Arabians, whereas it is often used to mean “willows” (Isaiah 44:4; Leviticus 23:40; Job 40:22; Psalms 137:2), I prefer the meaning “willow-brook,” leaving undetermined whether or not נחל הערבה, Amos 6:14 is identical with this. Comp. Herzog’s R. Encycl. XI. p. 14.

Isaiah 15:8. הקיפה does not mean here “outwardly encircled;” but it is = “make the round,” as in Leviticus 19:27; Job 1:5, where there is a difference as to form, but an essential analogy.—יְלָלָה occurs only here in Isa.: elsewhere Jeremiah 25:36; Zephaniah 1:10; Zechariah 11:3.

Isaiah 15:9. In the first clause of this verse the Prophet accumulates the sound of m; hence Dimon for Dibon, which change might happen the more easily as Jerome informs us that “usque hodie indifferenter et Dimon et Dibon hoc oppidum dicitur.”—So far as I can see, all expositors refer כִּי אָשִׂית וגו׳ to what follows, which they think justified especially by נוספות additamenta. But in that case וְ and not כִּי must stand before אשׂית. By כִּי the phrase is connected with the foregoing. שִׁית with עַל like Ruth 3:15; Exodus 21:22; Numbers 12:11.—נוספות occurs only here in this sense.


1. The Prophet portrays the desolation of the territory of Moab, pointing out the fate of many particular localities, and what the inhabitants experience, say and do (Isaiah 15:1-4). Therewith he does not conceal his own sympathy (Isaiah 15:5 a), and signifies that the Moabites shall be driven out of their land, and be crowded out over their borders on every side (Isaiah 15:5-8Isaiah 15:5-8Isaiah 15:5-8). But alas, flight will not help them much, for a mournful fate will overtake also those that escape, who will either become a prey to wild beasts, or lie unburied on the bare ground (Isaiah 15:9).

2. The burden—silence.

Isaiah 15:1. The superscription is like Isaiah 13:1, which see. In the night: i.e., at an unfavorable hour. For night adds increased terrors to the storming of a city. The city Ar-Moab, according to most recent investigations (comp. Schlottmann, l. c. p. 608 and Dietrich in Merx’ Archiv. III. 320 sqq.), lay close by, indeed (according to Numbers 22:36; Joshua 13:9; Joshua 13:16) partly in Arnon. In the last named passages it is also by the Hebrew writers called עִיר, “a city.” From the Moabitic Ar comes the Greek name Ἀρεόπολις (Jerome, in loc., in the L. V. p. 184 sq. Ed. Vallars.). The name Rabbat-Moab does not occur in the Old Testament. It may be that this designation, which was not a name but an official title, was transferred to the later Rabbah, which lies several [German] miles south of Arnon, and was a bishop’s residence in the 5th and 6th centuries (comp. Ritter, Erdk. XIV. p. 115 sq.; XV. p. 1210 sqq.)—Kir-Moab (to distinguish it from the Assyrian Kir, Isaiah 22:6) is mentioned by Isaiah under this name only here. Yet Kir-Haresh or Kir-Haresheth (Isaiah 16:11; Isaiah 16:7) are identical with it. The place was a strong fortress, on a high, steep mountain, visible from Jerusalem. It lay about three hours south of Rabbat-Moab, and about the same distance from the Dead sea. In the Chaldee it is called כְּרַכָּא דְמוֹאָב, i.e., “castle, wall of Moab.” The Greeks called the city Χαράξ (so probably 2Ma 12:17), Χαράκωμα (Ptol. Isaiah 5:17; Isaiah 5:5), Χαρακμῶβα, Χαραχμῶβα, (Steph., Byz., and Theodoret in loc., who moreover appears to identify Ar-Moab and Kir-Moab). The name is preserved in the form Kerek until the present day.

3. He is gone up—grievous unto him.

Isaiah 15:2-4. In Isaiah 15:1 Moab entire is indicated in its two halves, represented by a northern and a southern city. From Isaiah 15:2 on follow specifications. For on the desolation of Moab, the great theme, are rung manifold changes: by most numerous facts the truth of it is exhibited. In Joshua 13:17 Dibon and Bamoth-Baal (בָּמוֹת בַּעַל, the high places of Baal) are mentioned together, and the latter is mentioned Numbers 22:41.Jeremiah 48:35; Jeremiah 48:35 speaks of מַֽעֲלֵה בָּמָה, “the ascent of the elevation;” and in the inscription of Mesa, line 27, it reads: אָֹנכִי בָּנִתִי בֵת בָמֹת כִּי הָרֻם הֻא. [I built Beth-Bamath (a house on high) because it was elevated.]. Therefore Dibon and another locality, which in full was called Beth-Bamoth-Baal, appear to have been elevated places of worship. Dibon lay to the north of Arnon and not very far distant. It was king Mesa’s birth-place, for he calls himself in his inscription הַדִּיבֹנִי, the Dibonite. The city is elsewhere mentioned Numbers 21:30; Numbers 32:2; Numbers 32:34; Joshua 13:9; Joshua 13:17; Jeremiah 48:18; Jeremiah 48:22; Nehemiah 11:25.—לבכי “for to weep,” in order to lament to the gods with tears the distress of the land (Isaiah 22:12).—עַל before Nebo and Medeba is to be construed locally, for before and after there is only the description how each place gives expression to its grief. Moreover Nebo and Medeba are elevated spots. Of Nebo this is in itself probable. For if it even does not mean the mountain, it does the city that was situated on top of, or on that mountain: as in Numbers 32:3; Numbers 32:38; Jeremiah 48:1, and in the inscription of Mesa line 14. That Medeba was situated on a hill is testified by the site of ruins which Burkhardt (2:625) found a little distance southeast of Heshbon. Medeba is also mentioned in the inscription of Mesa, line 8, under the name מֹה דְבָא, Mo-Debah, as a city conquered by Omri.

Isaiah 15:3. Wearing sacks or sackcloth as a badge of mourning and distress is often mentioned by Isaiah 3:24; Isaiah 20:2; Isaiah 22:12; Isaiah 37:1 sq.; Isaiah 50:3; Isaiah 58:5. It has been overlooked that ירד בבכי, descending with weeping [see in Text, and Gram.] should form an antithesis to עלה לבכי, “goeth up to weep,” Isaiah 15:2. They went up on the high places at Dibon and Beth-Bamoth to weep; they howled on the high places of Nebo and Medebah; but they came down also from these high places with weeping; they weep because imploring the gods with tears availed nothing. [See Margin of Eng. Bib.: Also J. A. A., has the same rendering as Dr. N.]. This construction is the more necessary because immediately after, Isaiah 15:5, בִּכְכִי,” is undoubtedly used in the sense: “with weeping.”

Isaiah 15:4. And Heshbon, etc. Ar-Moab and Kir-Moab are chief city, and chief fortress; Dibon and Beth-Bamoth are especially holy places of worship, Nebo and Medebah, too, belong to the latter, for there also the weeping was meant to propitiate the gods. Now that the centres of the power and of the national religion are shaken to pieces, and men flee from these in despair, so, naturally, dreadful terror seizes on the cities of inferior rank. Thus Heshbon (Numbers 21:23 sqq.), cries, and Elealeh (Numbers 32:37; Jeremiah 48:34), the two sister cities, the second of which is never mentioned without the first. They lay only a Roman mile distant from one another on limestone elevations in a fruitful plain. Their united cry of woe is heard as far as Jahaz. This fact is not opposed to the assumption that Jahaz is identical with יָהְֽצָה (Numbers 21:23; Deuteronomy 2:32; Judges 11:2 in pausa), יַהְצָה (Joshua 13:18 out of pause), (Hitzig, Keil). For Jahaz need not on this account, like Elealeh, have lain in the closest neighborhood. But the ancient rampart that lay on the east border toward the desert, where of old Sihon, king of the Amorites, opposed Israel, is named for this reason because the Prophet would indicate that the terrific intelligence shook the very bulwarks of the kingdom. If now all the strong cities of Moab so raise the cry of despair, how shall the men at arms of the nation not chime in? The choice of the expression חלצי מ׳, “armed men of Moab,” seems to me to be explained by the idea that the information concerning the occupation of the land east of Jordan (Numbers 32:0 and Deuteronomy 3:16 sqq.), comes before the Prophet. For in these chapters just cited, the expression חלוין occurs relatively the oftenest in the entire Old Testament, i.e., six times: Numbers 32:21; Numbers 32:27; Numbers 32:29-30; Numbers 32:32; Deuteronomy 3:18.

4. My heart—no green thing.

Isaiah 15:4-6. The Prophet hitherto had in mind northern Moab, the territory that the Amorites took from the Moabites, then the Israelites from the Moabites, and finally the Moabites from the Israelites, after the inhabitants had been carried into Assyrian captivity (2 Kings 15:29). Almost all the cities that have been named in the foregoing passages were, according to Numbers 32:34 sqq., built by the Gadites and Reubenites, or at least rebuilt with a change of name (Numbers 15:38). In what follows the Prophet turns his regards chiefly to the south. But in making this turn, he feels the need of giving expression to the impression made. The cry he has heard, though that of an enemy, has found in his heart an echo of compassion. Therefore he cries out from his innermost bosom (לִבִּי) and turning himself toward Moab (Isaiah 16:11; Isaiah 14:8-9). Thus “shall cry” of Isaiah 15:5, corresponds to “shall cry” Isaiah 15:4. But his cry of terror is at the same time a watchman’s alarm to southern Moab. We see this in the anxious flight in which southern Moab is represented to be by the following context. בריחה is taken by most expositors to be the same as בָּרִיחֶהָ “fugitives” (Isaiah 43:14, comp. Isaiah 27:1; Job 26:13). Delitzsch alone decides in favor of vectes, bars. But the thought that the bars, i.e., the fortresses of the land extend to Zoar finds nothing in the context to suggest it: whereas the thought that the Moabites flee from the enemy advancing from the north till they find shelter in a strong fortress, corresponds very well with the context.

A heifer of three years, (see in Text, and Gram.), is one not yet brought under the yoke, whose strength is still entirely intact. Gesenius cites Pliny, Isaiah 8:4, Isaiah 5:0 : damitura bonum in trimatu, postea sera, antea praematura. Columella de re rest. Isaiah 7:2. It is therefore “a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke.” עֵנֶל לֹא לֻמַּד Jeremiah 31:18, the contrary of which is עֶגְלָה מְלֻמָּדָה “a heifer that is taught” Hosea 10:11. Comp. Isaiah 10:11; Jeremiah 46:20; Jeremiah 1:11. Now Zoar was a fortified place. Jerome says: “praesidium in ea positum est militum romanorum.” Eusebius calls it a φρούριον στρατιωτῶν, Steph. Byzantinus a κώμη μεγάλη ἥ φρούριον. It was perhaps, in Isaiah’s time a city that had never been captured, what we call eine jungfräuliche Festung (a virgin fortress), and if in שלישׁיה the notion of indomitum, jugo non assuetum esse prevails, then this would explain why Zoar is so named, and why the flight of the Moabites tends thither. They thought themselves secure in the strong fortress that had never been taken. [For an extensive comparison of views on the foregoing point see J. A. A., in loc.]. That Zoar is the point to which men flee is evident because the ways leading thither are full of fugitives. Regarding the site of Zoar opinions differ, varying between the southern point of the Dead sea to the mouthing of the Wadi Kerek on the east side. But wherever it was, Luhith and Horonaim were certainly localities that lay in the road that led from the north thither. Luhith (from לוּחָ “tablet, board,”) which according to Eusebius and Jerome, lay between Ar-Moab and Zoar, is mentioned only here, and Jeremiah 48:5. מַעֲלֶה, “a stair, declivity of a mountain which the road traverses,” is found in connection with many names: Numbers 34:4; Joshua 10:10; Joshua 18:7; Judges 1:36; 2 Samuel 15:30, etc.—Horonaim is mentioned only here and Jeremiah 48:3; Jeremiah 48:5; Jeremiah 48:34. In Joshua 10:10, we read “the Lord—chased them along the way that goeth up to Bethhoron.” Did this passage perhaps come into the Prophet’s mind? A third matter that explains the flight of the Moabites, the Prophet makes to be the stopping up and drying up of the waters of Nimri. It is to be noticed that stopping up the fountains is described (2 Kings 3:19; 2 Kings 3:25) as a form of hostility practised by the Israelites against Moab. If by “the waters of Nimrim” we understand that Bet-Nimra, that is mentioned (Numbers 32:3; Numbers 32:36; Joshua 13:27) as a Gadite locality with a brook emptying into the Jordan, then the Prophet would suddenly transport us out of the south into the extremest north.

Therefore Knobel very fittingly has called attention to the fact that the more recent travelers, Burkhardt, de Saulcy, Seetzen, mention a Wadi Nemeyra, and a spring brook Mojet Nimmèry (i.e. little waters of Nimri) near the southern border of Moab, and that the Onomasticon names under Νεβηρίμ a place Βηνναμαρήμ, Benamerium, north of Zoar. This locality suits our context very well. In three short sentences the Prophet sets forth why he calls the waters of Nimrim desolations. חָֽצִיד is grass proper; דֶּשֶׁא sward in general; יֶרֶק all green things. The discourse thus contains a climax, it proceeds from what withers most easily (Psalms 90:5; Psalms 103:15) to the totality of all vegetation.

5. Therefore—of the land.

Isaiah 15:7-9. The fugitives of Moab have concentrated in the south of the land. But there, too, they do not feel safe: for the enemy presses incontinently after. Therefore they flee with their valuables across the Willow-brook that formed the boundary between Moab and Edom into the latter country. יִתְרָה, which occurs only here and in Jeremiah 48:36 that borrows from this, is “provision on hand not yet used up” (Psalms 17:14). פְקֻדָּה is more: it is the costly possession that is cherished as the treasure of the house: the word occurs only here in this sense. The thought of the Prophet is evidently, that Moab, when no longer safe in its extreme southern strongholds, flees across the border. It is therefore certainly more agreeable to the context to understand the stream referred to by נחל הערביּם to mean the southernmost boundary brook of Moab, rather than some stream farther north. Delitzsch understands the Willow-brook to be the northern branch of the Seil-el-Kerek, that actually bears the name of Wadi Safsâf, i.e. Willow-brook. But that does not hinder that in Isaiah’s time the southern boundary brook was also called Willow-brook, especially since among its various names (Wâdi el-Karâhi, el-Achri, el-Hössa, el-Hossan, likely Sared too), is found the name es-Sâfijeh. (See under Text, and Gram.).

In Isaiah 15:8 the need of fleeing over the border is renewedly set forth by the statement that the cry (Isaiah 15:4 sqq.) has gone about on the entire border of Moab. Eglaim is likely identical with the Eneglaim, Ezekiel 47:10, which according to Jerome, lay “in principio maris mortui,” i.e. at the south end of the Dead Sea. It is doubtful if it be the same with Ἀγαλλείμ (Αἰγαλείμ) which Eusebius describes as πρὸς Νότον Ἀρεοπόλεως διαστῶσα σημείοις, i.e. eight Roman miles, somewhat more than three hours. Comp. Herz. R. Encycl. XIV., p. 741.—If Beerelim is the same fountain mentioned, Numbers 21:16-18, that the princes opened up, and that thereafter was called Heroes’ fountain (for so, or Terebinth fountain the word may be translated), then the locality lay in the northeast of Moab, and thus directly opposite to the southwestern Eglaim (comp. Numbers 21:13 sqq.). Accordingly the cry is gone around, etc., would express that the cry went out on all sides along the borders of Moab, because the inhabitants fled on all sides. If they dispersed on every side to the periphery of their land, that sufficiently indicates that the centre had suffered a heavy blow. Such a centre was Dibon, moreover, it is represented as a city in Isaiah 15:2 and in the inscription of Mesa, as being at that time a city of importance. The waters of Dibon are full of blood, therefore there is fearful, murderous work there.—As Dibon lies not far from Arnon, “the waters of Dibon” can, of course, indirectly mean the Arnon, like “the waters of Megiddo,” Judges 5:19, mean the Kishon (Rosenmueller, Hendewerk), but directly must still be meant the tributaries that lead out from Dibon to Arnon; for otherwise the latter could not receive blood shed in Dibon. The fearful blood-bath at Dibon shows that it is fated to receive full measure, poured, shaken down and running over. Perhaps the Prophet has in mind God’s threat in Leviticus 26:18; Leviticus 26:21, that if the first chastisement failed of its effect on Israel He would add to it “seven times more for their sins.” Moab’s great and repeated transgression had also such additions as its consequence. If we are not referred by the second clause of Isaiah 15:9 a to what follows, then we are not necessitated to regard what is contained in 9 b, as the aggravation indicated by נוספות = additamenta, “things superadded” (See Text. and Gram.). Then Isaiah 15:9 b has reference to a part of Moab not coincident with that before mentioned. It is fugitives that succeeded in escaping the sword of the enemy. Shall these be rescued? No. These escaped ones shall become a prey to lions, and as many as escape these shall at last have nothing more than the bare ground, whereon to leave their unburied bodies. The thought is therefore similar to Isaiah 24:18, comp. Amos 5:19. And how should the remnant of the nation be called שׁארית אדמה? The expression is unexampled. We would look for שְׁאֵרִית הָעָם, or at least הָאָרֶץ.


1. On Isaiah 15:1. “Although the Prophets belonged to the Jewish people, and were sent especially for the sake of the Jewish people, yet as God would that all men should come to repentance and the knowledge of the truth, therefore at times also the Prophets were called on to go out of these limits, and preach to other nations for a sign against them, that they might have nothing whereby to excuse themselves.”—Cramer.

2. On Isaiah 15:2 sqq. “Against the wrath of God, neither much money and land, nor a well equipped nation, nor great and strong cities, nor flight from one place to another avail anything, but true repentance (Psalms 33:16 sq.). Whoever forsakes God in good days, He will forsake again in misfortune, and then they can find nowhere rest or refuge (Proverbs 1:24 sqq.).—Starke.

3. On Isaiah 15:7. “What a man unjustly makes, that another unjustly takes.”—Starke.

4. On Isaiah 15:8 sq. “God is wont, in His judgments, to proceed by degrees, to begin with lesser punishments, and proceed to the sorer (Leviticus 26:18; Leviticus 26:21; Leviticus 26:24; Leviticus 26:28). Although the godless escape one misfortune yet they soon fall into another.”—Starke.

5. On Isaiah 16:1 sqq. “God can quickly bring it about that the people that once gave us sheltering entertainment must in turn, look to us for entertainment and a lurking place. For in the famine, Naomi and her husband and sons were pilgrims in the land of Moab (Ruth 1:1). David procured a refuge for his parents among the Moabites (1 Samuel 22:3). Now their affairs are in so bad a case that they, who were able to afford shelter to others, must themselves go wandering among others; for human fortune is unstable.”—Cramer.

6. On Isaiah 16:4. “God therefore threatens the Moabites, at the same time winning them to repentance, for He seeks not the death of the sinner (Ezekiel 18:32). Thus it was still a season for repentance. For had the Moabites once again used hospitality, then again had mercy been extended to them.”—Cramer.

7. On Isaiah 16:5. “Light arises to the pious in the darkness from the Gracious, Merciful and Just One. His heart is of good courage and fears not, till he sees his desire on his enemies (Psalms 112:4; Psalms 112:8). And as it went well with Jerusalem, while it went ill with the Moabites, thus shall Christ’s kingdom stand, and the enemies go down. For it is an everlasting kingdom, and the set up tabernacle of David shall surely remain (Amos 9:11)”—Cramer.

8. On Isaiah 16:6 sqq. “Moab was a haughty nation, for it was rich and had everything abundant. For it commonly goes thus, that where one is full, there the heart is lifted up, and the legs must be strong that can bear good days.”—Cramer.

9. On Isaiah 16:9 sqq. “Such must be the disposition of teachers and preachers, that for the sake of their office, they should and must castigate injustice for God’s sake, but with those that suffer the punishment they must be pitiful in heart. And therefore they must be the sin’s enemy, and the persons’ friend. Example: Micah announces the punishment to Jerusalem yet howls over it, testifies also his innermost condolence by change of clothing (Micah 1:8). Samuel announces destruction to Saul and has sorrow for him (1 Samuel 15:26; 1 Samuel 16:1). Likewise Christ announces every sort of evil to the Jews, and yet weeps bitterly (Luke 19:41). Paul preaches the frightful rejection of the Jews, and yet wishes it were possible to purchase their salvation by His eternal hurt (Romans 9:3).”—Cramer.

10. On Isaiah 16:14. “Exceeding, and very great is the grace and friendliness of God, that in the midst of the punishments that He directs against the Moabites, He yet thinks on His mercy. For the Lord is good unto all and has compulsion on all His works (Psalms 145:9).”—Cramer.

11. On Isaiah 16:12. Hypocritae, ubi, etc. “Hypocrites, whose souls are filled with impious notions of God, are much more vehement in their exercises than the truly pious in the true worship of God. And this is the first retribution of the impious, that they are wasted by their own labor which they undertake of their own accord. Another is that those exercises are vain in time of need and profit nothing. Therefore their evils are born with the greatest uneasiness, nor do they see any hope of aid. On the contrary true piety, because it knows that it is the servant of Christ, suffers indeed externally, yet conquers the cross by the confidence which it has in Christ.”—Luther.

12. On Isaiah 16:0. Genuineness. [Barnes in loc. forcibly presents the argument for the gennineness of these prophecies afforded by the numerous mention of localities and the prediction of the desolations that would overtake them. In doing so he quotes also the language of Prof. Shedd. (Bib. Repos. Vol. VII., pp. 108 sq.). Barnes says: “That evidence is found in the particularity with which places are mentioned; and in the fact that impostors would not specify places, any further than was unavoidable. Mistakes, we all know, are liable to be made by those who attempt to describe the geography of places which they have not seen. Yet here is a description of a land and its numerous towns, made nearly three thousand years ago, and in its particulars it is sustained by all the travellers of modern times. The ruins of the same towns are still seen; their places in general can be designated; and there is a moral certainty, therefore, that this prophecy was made by one who knew the locality of those places, and that, therefore, the prophecy is ancient and genuine.”—”Every successive traveller who visits Moab, Idumea or Palestine, does something to confirm the accuracy of Isaiah. Towns bearing the same name, or the ruins of towns, are located in the same relative position in which he said they were and the ruins of once splendid cities, broken columns, dilapidated walls, trodden down vineyards, and half demolished temples proclaim to the world that those cities are what he said they would be, and that he was under the inspiration of God.” See Keith on Prophecy, whose whole book is but the amplification of this argument. The modern traveller, who explores those regions with Isaiah in one hand and Robinson’s Researches or Murray’s Guide in the other, has a demonstration that Isaiah was as surely written with the accurate knowledge of those regions in their day of prosperity and populous cities, as that the accounts of Robinson, Tristram or Murray’s Guide were written by those who only had a knowledge of their ruins and desolations.—Tr.].


[1]Or, cut off.

[2]They go up to the house.

[3]they howl on Nebo and Medeba-Moab.

[4]In his streets they gird.

[5]their (public) squares.

[6]Heb. Descending into weeping, or, coming down with weeping.



[9]Or, To the borders thereof, even as an heifer.


[11]Heb. breaking.

[12]Heb. desolations.


[14]omit shall.

[15]Or, valley of the Arabians.

[16]Heb. additions.

[17]And to the remnant the ground.

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 15". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/isaiah-15.html. 1857-84.
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