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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 15

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


In close connexion with each other, chapter xv and xvi apply to Moab. As seen from the western hills in Palestine, Moab seems a high and level table land, with a cliff wall abutting precipitately down to the eastern water edge of the Dead Sea. As seen, however, in the land itself, this wall begins to fall off some five to eight miles back from the sea. The chasm of the Arnon, running westward to the sea, divides the plain in the centre, and south of this lay Moab proper, though the nation so often occupied the northern half as well, that the whole land went by its name. AR, in the south division, was the capital; and KIR was a strong fortification on the extreme south. Moab also shared possession of the cities north, even in the nominal region of the allotment of the tribe of Reuben. The people of Moab, unlike their neighbours, the Ammonites and the Reubenites, tilled the soil as well as raised flocks and herds. Moab was tributary to David and Solomon, but fell to Israel in the schism under Jeroboam. From the death of Ahab of Israel to the accession of Uzziah of Judah, Moab held a quasi-independent position, but, with Ammon on the north, and Edom on the south, it was then made subject to Judah, but under later kings this subjection was feeble and precarious.

The prophecy here is no doubt generic, covering the condition and character of Moab for at least two centuries. The prophecy in Jeremiah xlviii is a copy and an amplification of this. Because of admitted archaisms in the prophecy, interpreters generally, at the present time, allow that Isaiah may have built on the groundwork laid by an older prophet, even a hundred years previously. It required but a small modification each time to be applicable to the state Moab was in, in both Isaiah’s and Jeremiah’s times.

Verse 1

1. The burden of Moab “Burden,” here, may indicate “prophecy,” at first orally uttered, afterward written up. If an old prophecy has been a basis of utterance, it is now modified and adopted as Isaiah’s. See same case in Jeremiah 47:0, and a similar case in Isaiah 2:1-5.

Because Hebrew, כי , ( ki,) elliptically, “it is that.” Gesenius renders it, verily.

In the night… in the night Poetic repetition here possibly indicates a fact of frequent occurrence. As in these times in that country, so then, no doubt, towns and great encampments were occasionally overthrown in a single night by earthquakes or invading hordes.

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Ar of Moab The city of Moab, the only city of account Moab proper had, situated south of the Arnon, not on it, though Numbers 21:15 speaks of it as if it were at the northern border on the Arnon: this, because no other city intervened. See TRISTRAM, Land of Moab, p. 120.

Kir of Moab Now Kir-Hareseth, Isaiah 16:7, some two miles south of Ar, according to present ruins.

Verses 2-3

2, 3. He The collective people of Moab.

Has gone up to Bajith This was probably not a town, but a high place for a sanctuary. The word is so near to Beth a house as to indicate only a temple, the house of Moab’s gods.

Dibon Gesenius reads here, Dibon is weeping upon the high places. Dibon lay some fifteen miles north of the Arnon, and Nebo still farther north, to a point due east of the head of the Dead Sea. Medeba lay a few miles southeast from Nebo. Some went up to Nebo, some to Medeba, and some, through streets and on tops of… houses, all bewailing the catastrophe befalling them.

Gird… with sackcloth In Eastern countries to this day similar exhibits of grief are made in days of calamity.

Verse 4

4. Heshbon, and other cities north, and back to the south again, join in the cry. Heshbon, an ancient royal residence of the Amorites, (Numbers 21:26, seq.,) on falling into the hands of the Israelites, was assigned to Reuben, (Joshua 13:17;) then to Gad as a city of the Levites.

Jahaz This place would seem to have lain eastward toward the desert, as may be inferred from Numbers 21:23, and Deuteronomy 2:32, for it was from there that Sihon marched down into the wilderness against the Israelite warriors who conquered him.

Verse 5

5. My heart shall cry out The prophet himself enters into sympathy with the affrighted people, whose stampede is even to Zoar, with a terror like that of the bellowing heifer. Zoar was for long held to be at the south of Moab, or at the foot of the Dead Sea. So Josephus, Jerome, and Dr. Robinson. But more recently its location is thought to be identical with Zi’ara, near Mt. Nebo. But see TRISTRAM, Land of Moab; also, SMITH’S Bible Dictionary, pro and con.

Verse 6

6. Nimrim For “Nimrim” see Numbers 31:35-36, and Joshua 12:27, whose indications are that this was a well-watered valley. Tristram, with some hesitation, locates it at the southeast end of the Dead Sea. The text shows that the waters here give out, and every green thing is parched a figure of devastating war.

Verse 7

7. Brook of the willows Probably a wady in the vicinity of Nimrim, where are remains of a former town site; not a place in Edom, as held by some. To this place they take with them in their flight all gathered stores. ( Land of Moab, pp. 72, 82.)

Verses 8-9

8, 9. The cry is gone round about Moab becomes in this picture the prey of the enemy throughout. The wail extends from one extreme of the land to the other.

Eglaim A double fountain. Eusebius says it was eight Roman miles south of Ar. The place was probably a town site.

Beer-elim Was to the northeast, if Numbers 21:16-17, be an indication to judge from.

Waters of Dimon By easy change of labials, ב for מ , this was Dibon, already noticed. So Gesenius. But this is scarcely better than the theory which makes Dimon come from דמ , blood, the same word, less the final letter, appended, perhaps, to mean place of blood, and so named, it may be, from the facts in the scene described in third chapter of 2 Kings. There it is shown what part blood played in the defeat of Moab by the allied kings of Judah, Israel, and Edom, who swept around the south end of the Dead Sea to attack Moab, and how appropriately the place of attack was called Dimon. The waters of

Dimon shall be full of blood The morning sun-glare upon newly-opened waters on the plain below, led the Moabites to suppose the confederate enemy had broken with and fallen upon each other, with pools of blood as the consequence. This gave courage to Moab to dash after booty into a supposed abandoned camp rather than an ambush, which it was. Thus Moab met the lions (allied kings, or at least Judah and its government; see 2 Kings 3:21-26) and was driven back to his stronghold, on the walls of which he desperately sacrificed to his god Chemosh his son and heir. Such a horror was too much for the invaders, and they retired from the contest.

Does not the celebrated Moabite inscription found in Dibon, in 1870, refer to this scene? Tristram believes the Moab stone, or the monolith of Mesha, to have been brought from the south and walled into the latter structure at Dibon, and thus the ancient Phoenician record was so long preserved from being effaced. (See Land of Moab, page 149.)

It is worthy of note, that the description in these latter verses is apparently of scenes about to occur, if not of some, also, already past, and quoted from the ancient prophecy before assumed as the basis for this prophecy, and of that in Jeremiah, chap. 48.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Isaiah 15". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/isaiah-15.html. 1874-1909.
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