Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations

Isaiah 16



The Moabites exhorted to entertain kindly the banished Jews, Isaiah 16:1-5.

They are threatened for their pride and arrogance, Isaiah 16:6-8.

The prophet bewaileth them, Isaiah 16:9-11.

Their judgment, Isaiah 16:12-14.

Verse 1

The prophet continues his prophecy against Moab in this chapter, and here turneth his speech to them, and gives them counsel what to do, to prevent, if possible, the threatened desolation. In these first words he adviseth them to the practice either,

1. Of justice; Pay that tribute of lambs and goats which you obliged yourselves to pay unto David, and to his posterity, 2 Samuel 8:2, and pay it not unto Israel, as you have done, 2 Kings 3:4, but unto the king of Judah, who is the rightful heir of David, and king of the land. Or,

2. Of piety; Send a lamb, for a sacrifice, unto God, who is

Ruler of the land, to wit, of your land, no less than of ours; or, of the earth, as the word is commonly rendered, who is the God of the whole earth, as he is called, Isaiah 54:5, the God of all the kingdoms of the earth, Isaiah 37:16. Make your peace with God, by sacrifice, for all your injuries done to him, and to his people. These words may be understood ironically, and the design of them may be to represent their miserable and desperate condition; as if he had said, You have tried all other ways, and sought to your idols, Isaiah 16:2, and all in vain; now seek to the God of Israel, who alone can help you. But, alas! he is highly incensed against you, and coming to destroy you. But this seems rather to be a serious advice, by comparing these words with Isaiah 16:3,Isaiah 16:4. Sela; an eminent city of Moab, seated upon a rock, which is here named, either because the king and his court at this time resided there, or for some other reason then evident, though now unknown.

To the wilderness; to the wilderness of Moab, of which we read Numbers 21:11; Dent. ii. 8, and so onward to Zion, as it follows. Or this may be added as a description of the place called Sela. Hence some render the words, Sela of the wilderness; and others, Sela which lieth or looketh towards the wilderness. And this limitation might be the more necessary, to distinguish this from other places of Moab called by the same name, which, signifying a rock, might be common to several places in that rocky country.

Unto the mount of the daughter of Zion; unto the temple upon Mount Zion.

Verse 2

For; or, otherwise, as this particle is sometimes used; if you do not follow my advice.

As a wandering bird cast out of the nest; which knows not whither to go, nor what to do.

At the fords of Arnon; which was the border of the land of Moab, where they were, either being carried that way into captivity, or rather with design to flee out of their own land, although they knew not whither, as the foregoing metaphor showeth.

Verse 3

Take counsel; consider seriously among yourselves what course to take to prevent your utter ruin.

Execute judgment; do those things which are just and right, as to all men, so particularly to my people, to whom you have been most unrighteous and unmerciful.

As the night; or, as the shadow of the night, large and dark, as the shadow of the earth is in the night season. The meaning is, Conceal and protect my people in the time of their distress and danger, as this metaphor is explained in the rest of this and in the following verse.

The outcasts; mine outcasts, as it follows, Isaiah 16:4, those of my people which are driven out of their land.

Bewray not him that wandereth unto their enemies, as thou hast treacherously done in former times.

Verse 4

Mine outcasts; whom though I have forsaken, and sorely chastened, yet I do, and still will, own for my people; and I do observe, and will requite, both the kindnesses and the injuries done to them.

The extortioner is at an end; shall shortly be destroyed, and my people shall ere long be restored, and then thou wilt not lose the fruit of thy kindness. The present tense is put for the future, as it is usually in prophecies.

Verse 5

In mercy; by my mercy. Though they have sinned, and I am now punishing their sins, yet I will deliver them for my own mercy’s sake.

The throne; the kingdom od Judah. Therefore for thine own sake show them kindness in this day of their distress; for they will be capable of requiting thee.

He; their king, which is easily and necessarily understood.

Shall sit upon it in truth; which may respect either,

1. The manner of his government, exercising truth and justice. But that is more plainly and fully expressed in the last part of the verse. Or,

2. The continuance of it, in truth, i.e. firmly and constantly; for truth is oft put for the stability and certainty of a thing, as 2 Chronicles 32:1; Proverbs 11:18; Isaiah 61:8. And this makes the argument more considerable to the present purpose. The kingdom shall not only be restored, but firmly settled; therefore it is your interest, O Moabites, to be kind to my people.

In the tabernacle; in the house, or palace, which is called a tent, or tabernacle, either because houses are frequently so called in Scripture, as 2 Samuel 20:1; 1 Kings 8:66; 1 Kings 12:16, or with respect unto the unsettledness of David’s house, which now indeed was more like a tabernacle than a strong palace; and yet, notwithstanding its present imbecility, should be firmly established.

Seeking judgment; searching out the truth of causes and things with care and diligence, which is the duty of a judge.

Hasting righteousness; neither denying nor yet delaying justice. And these good qualifications seem to be here mentioned, partly to teach the rulers of Moab their duty towards their own people, and the Israelites which were among them; and partly as a reason and evidence of that stability which he had promised to the house of David.

Verse 6

The prophet, having spoken to the Moabites, and acquainted them with their duty and interest, now he turneth his speech to God’s people, whom he armeth and comforteth against their approaching misery. The scope and sense of the prophet in this verse is this, I do not expect that my counsels will have any good effect upon Moab, they will still carry themselves insolently and outrageously towards you, and they promise themselves that they shall now effect what they have long desired, even satisfy their malice in your total and final destruction; but they shall be disappointed of their hopes. It is well known to me, and you, and all their neighbours, that they are a haughty and furious people; and therefore they will scorn my advice, and doubt not to stand upon their own legs.

His lies shall not be so; his vain imaginations, and false and crafty counsel, shall not take effect. But the words are and may be otherwise rendered, but his strength (as this word is rendered, Job 18:13; Heb. bars, which are the strength of gates or doors) is not so; not equal to his pride or fury. Or thus, exactly according to the words and order of the Hebrew text, not so lies. A concise speech, such as are very common in this and other prophets. And these words may possibly be brought in as the words of the Moabites, making this short reply to the prophet’s counsels and threatenings, directed to them in the foregoing verses of this chapter: It is not or shall not be so as thou sayest; thy words are but lies, we fear not thy threats against us. But this I propose with submission.

Verse 7

For Moab; for itself; the noun put for the pronoun, as is usual in the Hebrew text. Or, to Moab. One Moabite shall howl or lament to or for another.

Kir-hareseth; an ancient and eminent city of Moab, called Kir, Isaiah 15:1 and Kir-haresh, Isaiah 16:11, which signifies, The city of the sun, probably because there was the temple of the sun; which city was preserved when their other cities were ruined, 2 Kings 3:25, and therefore the destruction of it was more lamented.

Shall ye mourn; or, ye shall meditate or talk, as this word commonly signifies. Your thoughts and discourses will run much upon the ruin of such a city.

Stricken; or, broken; overthrown or destroyed.

Verse 8

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; Deuteronomy 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.

Verse 9

I will bewail with the weeping of Jazer the vine of Sibmah: so the sense is, I will bewail Sibmah as I did bewail Jazer, which, they say, was destroyed before Sibmah: or,

the weeping of Jazer might be a proverbial expression; for it is used also Jeremiah 48:32, like that of the mourning of Hadadrimmon, Zechariah 12:11, though the reason of it be now unknown, as it is in many other proverbs. The words are by others rendered, and that more agreeably to the Hebrew text, I will bewail with weeping (which is a usual Hebraism for I will bitterly bewail)

Jazer, and (which particle is oft understood) the vine of Sibmah. But our translation seems to be justified by the parallel place, Jeremiah 48:32, where it is, O vine of Sibmah, I will weep for thee with the weeping of Jazer. The shouting for thy summer fruits and for thy harvest is fallen; those joyful shouts and acclamations, which were customary in the time of harvest and vintage, Isaiah 9:3; Jeremiah 25:30, shall cease, because thy land shall be wasted, and thy people destroyed. Or, as it is in the margin, the shout or alarm is fallen upon thy summer fruits and thy harvest, instead of that joyful shout which was then used, to which he here alludes; which seems to be the truer translation, not only because this Hebrew word is elsewhere used concerning the shout of an enemy falling upon a people, as Jeremiah 25:30; Jeremiah 51:14, but especially by considering the parallel place, Jeremiah 48:32, where, for the shout is fallen, it is, the spoiler is fallen upon, &c. If it be objected, that the next verse speaks of the ceasing of their joyful shouts, and that this Hebrew word is there used for vintage shouting, which at first made me incline to the former interpretation, that seems to be fully answered from Jeremiah 48:33, which speaks likewise of the ceasing of their joy and joyful shouts, but withal adds, in the close of the verse, what may end this controversy, their shouting shall be no shouting; they shall indeed have a shouting, but not such a one as they used to have, a joyful shouting of their own people, but an insulting shout of their enemies.

Verse 10

The treaders: in those times they used to squeeze out the juice of their grapes by treading them with their feet, in vessels appointed for that use, Judges 9:27; Nehemiah 13:15.

Verse 11

Shall sound, through compassion to them; of which See Poole "Isaiah 15:5". In excessive griefs the bowels are sometimes rolled and tumbled together, so as to make an audible noise. Hereby he signifies the greatness of their approaching calamity, which being so grievous to him, must needs be intolerable to them.

Verse 12

When it is seen that Moab is weary on the high place; when it shall appear to them and others that all their other devotions are vain and ineffectual.

To his sanctuary; to the temple of his great god, Chemosh, Numbers 21:29; 1 Kings 11:7; Jeremiah 48:46, from whom he shall seek and expect succour.

He shall not prevail; his god can neither hear nor help him.

Verse 13

Since the beginning of God’s revelation to me concerning Moab, and hitherto; which exposition seems to be confirmed by the following words, but now.

Verse 14

Hath spoken; hath made this further discovery of his mind to me.

Within three years; to be computed either,

1. From the time of Jerusalem’s destruction by Nebuchadnezzar, who did, as is confessed by all, invade the Moabites at or about that time, and execute the judgment first foretold by this prophet, and afterwards by Jeremiah 48:0. Or rather,

2. From the time of the delivery of this prophecy; which being uncertain, leaves us the greater latitude for the determination of the precise time when this was fulfilled. But this is certain, from Isaiah 1:1, that this prophecy must be delivered, at furthest, before the end of Hezekiah’s reign. And then there ariseth this great difficulty, How this can consist with the prophecy of Jeremiah, who above or about a hundred years after this time speaketh of Moab as a people that had been at ease from their youth, and had not gone into captivity, Jeremiah 48:11, and prophesieth against them in the very same words which Isaiah useth in this prophecy? The answer is, That they do not speak of the same time, nor of the same calamity; but Isaiah of a former tribulation, and Jeremiah of their latter devastation. It is true, Jeremiah useth the same words which Isaiah doth, and so do the later prophets sometimes use the words of the former, to other purposes than they were first delivered, as we shall see hereafter, and as is most evident from the Revelation of St. John, in which the same words are used concerning mystical Babylon. which were used by the foregoing prophets concerning the first and literal Babylon. And although the foregoing prophecy of Isaiah seems to speak of the same destruction threatened by Jeremiah, and inflicted by Nebuchadnezzar; yet this prophecy contained in this verse, and ushered in with another preface, seems to be of a differing nature, and to speak of a more speedy and less grievous affliction that should befall them, which should be as a pledge to assure them of the certain accomplishment of the other prophecy, and of their utter destruction. And therefore it is observable, that the prophet doth not here say,

Within three years all that I have foretold and threatened shall be fulfilled; but only,

the glory of Moab shall be contemned, & c., which is quite another thing; and as the terms here used are much milder, so that; judgment here denounced seems much less, than in the foregoing prophecy. And therefore this verse may very well be understood of some great blow given to the Moabites, either by Sennacherib, or by his son Esarhaddon, from which notwithstanding they in a little time recovered themselves, and flourished again, and continued so to do till Nebuchadnezzar completed their destruction. And this may well enough consist with what is said of Moab’s

being at ease from his youth, Jeremiah 48:11, which is not to be understood simply, as if they had been wholly free from war and other calamities; for the contrary is evident, both from Scripture, as 2 Samuel 8:2; 2 Kings 3:24,2 Kings 3:25, and from other histories; but comparatively, that they had not been brought to desolation, nor carried away into captivity, as it is explained in the following words, and as Israel had been at that time, and Judah was threatened to be.

As the years of an hireling, i.e. within three years precisely accounted; for hirelings are very punctual in observing the time for which they are hired; and their thoughts and desires run much upon it, because then they are to receive their wages; of which see Job 7:1,Job 7:2; Job 14:6. And this exposition is confirmed by comparing this place with Isaiah 21:16, where the same phrase is used of one year. So groundless is that opinion which the Jewish writers gather from this place, compared with Deuteronomy 15:18, that three years was the usual and appointed time for the generality of hired servants.

The glory of Moab; their strength, and wealth, and other things in which they glory.

Shall be contemned; shall be made contemptible to those who formerly admired them.

With all that great multitude; with the great numbers of their people, of which they boasted.

Shall be very small and feeble, comparatively to what they were before; which might be very true, and yet afterwards, in a hundred years’ space, they might be sufficiently recruited.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 16". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.