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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 15

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Isaiah 15:0


Judgment on MoabProclamation Against MoabAgainst Moab(Isaiah 15:1-14)God Will Destroy MoabOn Moab
Isaiah 15:1-9(1-9)Isaiah 15:1-4(1-4)Isaiah 15:1-9(1-9)Isaiah 15:1-9Isaiah 15:1(1)
Isaiah 15:2a-d(2a-d)
Isaiah 15:4-5c(4-5c)
Isaiah 15:5-9(5-9)15:5d-f(5d-f)
Isaiah 15:6(6)
Isaiah 15:7(7)
Isaiah 15:8(8)
Isaiah 15:9(9)

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compareyour subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


Locations Mentioned in Isa. 15-16

Isaiah was very familiar with the geographical area of the Trans-Jordan (east of Jordan).

A. Cities

1. Ar, Isaiah 15:1

2. Kir, Isaiah 15:1 (Kir-hareseth, Isaiah 16:7, Isaiah 16:11)

3. Dibon, Isaiah 15:2, Isaiah 15:9

4. Nebo, Isaiah 15:2

5. Medeba, Isaiah 15:2

6. Heshbon, Isaiah 15:4; Isaiah 16:9

7. Elealeh, Isaiah 15:4; Isaiah 16:9

8. Jahaz, Isaiah 15:4

9. Zoar, Isaiah 15:5

10. Eglath-shelishiyah, Isaiah 15:5 (lit. “the Third Eglath,” cf. Jeremiah 48:34)

11. Luhith, Isaiah 15:5

12. Horonaim, Isaiah 15:5

13. Eglaim, Isaiah 15:8

14. Beer-elim, Isaiah 15:8

15. Dimon (DSS, “Dibon”), Isaiah 15:9

16. Sela, Isaiah 16:1

17. Kir-hareseth, Isaiah 16:7, Isaiah 16:11

18. Sibmah, Isaiah 16:8, Isaiah 16:9

19. Jazer, Isaiah 16:8, Isaiah 16:9

20. Admah (Isaiah 15:9 REB)?

B. Water Courses

1. water of Nimrim, Isaiah 15:6

2. brook of Arabim (possibly a “wadi of poplars”), Isaiah 15:7

3. waters of Dimon, Isaiah 15:9

4. fords of Arnon, Isaiah 16:2

C. The listing of these numerous cities and water courses are to emphasize a total destruction. There is a movement of refugees southward or to Judah (cf. Isaiah 16:1-4).

Verses 1-9

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 15:1-9 1The oracle concerning Moab. Surely in a night Ar of Moab is devastated and ruined; Surely in a night Kir of Moab is devastated and ruined. 2They have gone up to the temple and to Dibon, even to the high places to weep. Moab wails over Nebo and Medeba; Everyone's head is bald and every beard is cut off. 3In their streets they have girded themselves with sackcloth; On their housetops and in their squares Everyone is wailing, dissolved in tears. 4Heshbon and Elealeh also cry out, Their voice is heard all the way to Jahaz; Therefore the armed men of Moab cry aloud; His soul trembles within him. 5My heart cries out for Moab; His fugitives are as far as Zoar and Eglath-shelishiyah, For they go up the ascent of Luhith weeping; Surely on the road to Horonaim they raise a cry of distress over their ruin. 6For the waters of Nimrim are desolate. Surely the grass is withered, the tender grass died out, There is no green thing. 7Therefore the abundance which they have acquired and stored up They carry off over the brook of Arabim. 8For the cry of distress has gone around the territory of Moab, Its wail goes as far as Eglaim and its wailing even to Beer-elim. 9For the waters of Dimon are full of blood; Surely I will bring added woes upon Dimon, A lion upon the fugitives of Moab and upon the remnant of the land.

Isaiah 15:1 Notice how Isaiah's contextual marker of a new message or vision “oracle” (BDB 672 III) appears in Isaiah 15:1. See note at Isaiah 13:1 (cf. Isaiah 14:28; Isaiah 17:1; Isaiah 19:1; Isaiah 21:1, Isaiah 21:11, Isaiah 21:13; Isaiah 22:1; Isaiah 23:1; Isaiah 30:6). This term denotes a divine revelation.

“Moab” This is one of Israel's relatives from Lot and one of his two daughters after their flight from Sodom (cf. Genesis 19:0). Moab, Ammon, and Edom (i.e., the trans-Jordan nations) are first mentioned as receiving domination by Judah in Isaiah 11:14.

Chapters 15-16 form a literary unit dealing from Moab's judgment (cf. Jeremiah 48:0; Ezekiel 25:8-11; Amos 2:1-3; Zephaniah 2:8-11). Moab is mentioned often in Numbers because Israel had to travel through their land to get to Canaan. Moses was buried there (cf. Deuteronomy 34:0).

“Surely in a night” This phrase is repeated twice and emphasizes the suddenness and completeness of the coming judgment of Moabite cities.

The two VERBS “devastated” (BDB 994, KB 1418) and “ruined” (lit. “cut off,” BDB 198, KB 225) are both PERFECTS, also denoting a complete destruction. Isaiah used the VERB “ruined” to describe himself in Isaiah 6:5.

The Assyrian armies invaded Canaan/Palestine several times.

1. Sargon II in 715 B.C.

2. Sargon II in 711 B.C.

3. Sennacherib in 701 B.C.

“Ar” The term (BDB 786 I) can refer to a city (it is the general name for city in the Moabite language) or a region (i.e., Deuteronomy 2:9, Deuteronomy 2:29).

Since Kir (BDB 885 II) also means “wall” (cf. LXX, i.e., walled city) in Hebrew, it is possible that Ar and Kir refer to the capital of Moab in parallel poetic lines.

Isaiah 15:2 “Dibon. . .Nebo. . .Medeba” There are also cities of Moab listed in Numbers in relation to the Wilderness Wandering Period as Israel finally approached Canaan from the eastern side of the Jordan Rift Valley.

Isaiah 15:2-3 wails. . .bald. . .beard cut off. . .mourning. . .girded with sackcloth. . .wailing” These all refer to mourning rites of the ANE (cf. Isaiah 22:12; Ezra 9:3; Job 1:20; Jeremiah 7:29; Jeremiah 16:6; Jeremiah 41:5; Jeremiah 47:5; Jeremiah 48:37; Ezekiel 7:18; Ezekiel 27:31; Micah 1:16). The population tries to turn to their gods (cf. Isaiah 15:2); they try to repent and seek help, but there is no help from lifeless idols!


Isaiah 15:4 “Heshbon. . .Elealeh. . .Jahaz” These are also cities on the eastern side of Jordan, close to and often identified with Moab (or Ammon, i.e., Mesha Stone, 9th century B.C.).

“cry out” This is the VERB (BDB 277, KB 277, Qal IMPERFECT) that was used in its Qal IMPERATIVE form in Isaiah 14:31 (Philistia). Here it denotes Moab and in Isaiah 15:5 it denotes YHWH or Isaiah. Note its use in Jeremiah 48:20, Jeremiah 48:31.

NASB“the armed men” NKJV, PESHITTA“the armed soldiers” NRSV, LXX, JB “the lions” NJB“warriors” REB“stoutest warriors”

The difference between soldiers and lions in Hebrew is vocalization, not a consonantal change.

“His soul trembles within him” This VERB (BDB 438, KB 440, Qal PERFECT) appears only here. There are several Hebrew words translated “tremble.” They denote fear and lack of action in the face of God's judgment. They characterize “holy war.” This one may have been chosen for poetic reasons to sound like the VERB “cry out.”

Isaiah 15:5-9 The Jewish Study Bible sees these verses as referring to Moabites fleeing to Edom (p. 815). This is possible because the exact location of these cities mentioned is uncertain, though all are east or southeast of the Jordan River.

Isaiah 15:5 “My heart cries out for Moab” The “my” in context must refer to YHWH Himself (cf. Isaiah 15:9). Although it could be the prophet himself, cf. Isaiah 16:9, Isaiah 16:11. YHWH hears the cries of Moab's people and is moved. They still receive judgment, but not from a thoughtless, uncaring God! They are even offered help/refuge in Isaiah 16:1-4. What an amazing text!

The Septuagint changes the referent to “the heart of the region of Moab cries within her” (cf. NJB).

NASB, NRSV, TEV, NJB, REB“Eglath-shelishiyah” NKJV, LXX, PESHITTA“like a three-year-old heifer”

This could be a city or a phrase (cf. Jeremiah 48:34).

“His fugitives” The MT has “her bars” (BDB 138, בריחה from בריה), but most translations change the vocalization to “his fugitives” from מברה (BDB 138).

Isaiah 15:6 In the OT God controls the weather (cf. Deuteronomy 27-29). He brings abundance for covenant obedience, but withholds agricultural production in the face of evil, wickedness, and rebellion. Moab faces both invasion (cf. Isaiah 15:9a) and lack of food.

Isaiah 15:7 Moab was located on a major trade route from Egypt to Syria. She taxed all the caravans and became wealthy.

Isaiah 15:9 “A lion” This could be (see Special Topic: Lions in the Old Testament)

1. literal, God uses wild animals to judge (i.e., 1 Kings 13:24-28; 2 Kings 17:25)

2. a symbol of the Assyrian army (cf. Isaiah 5:29; Jeremiah 50:17)

3. figurative of invasion from Judah (cf. Isaiah 11:14, the lion [ruler] of Judah).

The JPSOA significantly changes the translation of this verse (esp. lines 2-4) to make it positive (cf. Isaiah 15:5, “my”).

“For I pour added (water) on Dimon

I drench it - for Moab's refugees - with soil (footnote, 'tears') for its remnant”

The LXX of Isaiah 15:9, lines 2-4, are also very different, but decidedly negative.

“For I will bring Arabs upon Remnon,

and I will remove the offspring of Moab and Ariel

and the remnant of Adama.”

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Isaiah 15". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/isaiah-15.html. 2021.
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