Isaiah 16

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,
that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4

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A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2006 James Melough

16:1.  “Send ye the lamb to the ruler of the land from Sela to the wilderness, unto the mount of the daughter of Zion (Jerusalem).”


The Amplified Bible translates this, “You (Moabites, now fugitives in Edom which is ruled by the king of Judah, win the king’s favor and protection by diverting your tribute to him, as an acknowledgement of subjection), send lambs to the ruler of the land from Selah or Petra through the desert and wilderness to the mountain of the daughter of Zion - Jerusalem.”


The ruler of the land, the king of Judah, is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ; with Zion (Jerusalem), meaning parched place, being a figure or type of this present evil world.


Sela, meaning make prominent, is another name for Petra, the former capital of Edom.  It was a city carved out of the red rock of a narrow defile in the mountains, discovered relatively recently and standing virtually as it did when it was a thriving metropolis over twenty-five hundred years ago.


The Moabite territory lay east of the Dead Sea between the Arnon and Zered rivers, and at that time was ruled by the king of Jerusalem, to whom the prophet commanded the people to send lambs, as tribute in acknowledgement of their submission to his authority.  The spiritual lesson is that here in the wilderness of this world we are to render unto the Lord the sacrifice of an obedient life, and confess him fearlessly as Savior and Lord.


Since the king of Jerusalem is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spiritual lesson is that all men are to acknowledge His lordship: sinners, by trusting Him as Savior; and saints, by obeying Him.


16:2.  “For it shall be, that, as a wandering bird cast out of the nest, so the daughters of Moab shall be at the fords of Arnon.”


The fleeing Moabites, in their panic to get across the fords of the Arnon river, would be like nestlings frantically and helplessly beating their wings upon being cast out of the nest before being able to fly.


Similar consternation will grip the hearts of multitudes in the Great Tribulation, as it will also all those who in the first instant after death find themselves in hell.


16:3.  “Take counsel, execute judgment; make thy shadow as the night in the midst of the noonday; hide the outcasts; bewray (betray) not him that wandereth.”


This was addressed to the Moabites, who had found refuge in Sela (Petra), and who were in a position to aid the Jewish refugees; “... take counsel” meaning to consider carefully; and to “execute judgment” means to be fair and just in dealing with these harassed fugitives fleeing from the Assyrians.


“... make thy shadow as the night, etc., is a poetic way of saying that  as the darkness of night hides everything from view, so was Moab’s protection of the Jewish refugees to be such that the enemy, the Assyrians, would be unable to find their quarry. 


16:4.  “Let mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab: be thou a covert to them from the face of the spoiler: for the extortioner is at an end, the spoilers ceaseth, the oppressors are consumed out of the land.”


This was God’s command to the Moabites, who were in a position to afford shelter and protection to the Jews fleeing from the spoiler, i.e., the Assyrians.


The end of the extortioner, the extinction of the spoiler, and the consumption of the oppressors, certainly relate to God’s destruction of Assyria; but in the larger context they point to the blessedness of the Millennium when there will be none of the evils mentioned here.


16:5.  “And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment and hasting righteousness.”


This points to a day that was then still future: the glorious reign of David; but the ultimate reference is to the glory and peace and blessedness of the Millennium when a literal descendant of David will sit upon the throne in Jerusalem as the regent of Christ, He Himself reigning over the world from the heavenly Jerusalem. 


That that prince will not be Christ is made clear by what is written in Ezekiel 46:2, “And the prince shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate without, and shall stand by the post of the gate, and the priests shall prepare his burnt offering and his peace offerings, and he shall worship at the threshold of the gate ....”  Christ does not worship.  As part of the Godhead He receives worship. 


16:6.  “We have heard of the pride of Moab; he is very proud; even of his haughtiness, and his pride, and his wrath: but his lies shall not be so.”


The “we” is taken by some to have been the surrounding nations which had had to listen to Moab’s proud but groundless boastings, which God was going to bring to an end.  Others understand the reference to be to the Jews, and this seems the more likely.


It is instructive to note that pride heads the list of those things which God hates, see Proverbs 6:16-17, “These six thing doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, etc.”


“... his lies shall not be so” means that Moab’s proud boastings would prove to be lies: they would never be fulfilled.


16:7.  “Therefore shall Moab howl for Moab, every one shall howl: for the foundations of Kir-hareseth shall ye mourn; surely they are stricken.”


Moab’s proud boastings were soon to give place to bitter wailing; as will also this present evil world’s arrogant independence of God, when the whole magnificent edifice of worldly wealth and power crumple into a heap of ruins in the terrible judgments of the impending Great Tribulation.


“... the foundations of Kir-hareseth” is literally raisin-cakes which they offered to their idols in which they trusted, and whose aid they thus hoped to secure.  Small wonder that such hope should be disappointed!


Kir-hareseth means an earthen wall, which, if it was the wall of the city, was a useless thing in which to place trust for protection; but the earth’s great commercial enterprises which bind together the fabric of society, are an equally worthless defense against the judgment of an angry God.


16:8.  “For the fields of Heshbon languish, and the vine of Sibmah: the lords of the heathen have broken down the principal plants thereof, they are come even unto Jazer, they wandered through the wilderness: her branches are stretched out, they are gone over the sea.”


Taylor has translated this verse, “And for the abandoned farms of Heshbon and the vineyards at Sibmah, the enemy warlords have cut down the best grape vines; their armies spread out as far as Jazer in the deserts, and even down to the sea.”  (The sea here is generally taken to be the Dead Sea).


The devastation of Moab foreshadows that which will affect the whole world in the coming Great Tribulation, for the meaning of Heshbon: device, reason, may portray the schemes and reasonings of men living in rebellion against God, and which have brought the world to its present chaotic state. 


Since the fruit of the vine is associated with joy, its languishing foreshadows the grim reality of the Great Tribulation when joy will have departed from the earth.  Relative to the meaning of Sibmah why hoary? there may be in this a veiled reference to the fact that this world is growing old.  It has already existed for six millennia, the fast approaching Millennium completing its present history, and the bringing in of a “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness,” 2 Peter 3:13.


Jazer means let him help, and the lesson of their coming unto Jazer foreshadows the truth that in the Great Tribulation the believing remnant will be looking for God’s intervention to deliver them out of the hand of the Beast.


The picture continues to be not merely of the destruction that was soon to overtake ancient Moab; but in the larger context, it is of that which will devastate this present evil world in the impending Great Tribulation.


16:9.  “Therefore I will bewail with the weeping of Jazer the vine of Sibmah: I will water thee with my tears, O Heshbon, and Elealeh: for the shouting for thy summer fruits and for thy harvest is fallen.”


Even though their punishment was merited, Isaiah wept with the Moabites because of the terrible retribution their sin would incur; and the lesson God would teach us in this is that we are to be compassionate, not critical, in our attitude towards the men of the world, our perfect example being the Lord Himself Who prayed on behalf of those who had crucified Him, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” Luke 23:34.


The shouting for the summer fruits and for the harvest refers to the singing and dancing that accompanied the ingathering of the fruits and grain; but those happy sounds were to be replaced with the victorious shouts of the enemy reaping the spoil, while the Moabites wailed and fled for their lives.  The scene is reenacted daily, but in far more terrible degree, by the multitudes who die without having been born again, their last breath ushering them from the enjoyment of earth’s fleeting pleasures into the eternal torment of hell and the lake of fire.


16:10.  “And the gladness is taken away, and joy out of the plentiful field; and in the vineyards there shall be no singing, neither shall there be shouting: the treaders (of grapes) shall tread out no wine in their presses; I have made their vintage shouting to cease.”


The Moabites’ dramatic reversal of fortune foreshadows that which will befall all who die unconverted, death projecting their eternally doomed souls into the Stygian darkness and torment of hell, and ultimate consignment to the dreadful lake of fire.  Who can begin to imagine the horror of those who find themselves snatched in a second from the enjoyment of some brief earthly pleasure into the never-ending anguish of a lost eternity!


16:11.  “Wherefore my bowels shall sound like a harp for Moab, and mine inward parts for Kir-haresh.”


“... my bowels shall sound like a harp” means that his heart would quiver for Moab like plucked harp strings.


Kir-haresh means the wall is earthen, the spiritual significance being the same as Kirharaseth, see comments on 16:7.


16:12.  “And it shall come to pass, when it is seen that Moab is weary on the high place, that he shall come to his sanctuary to pray; but he shall not prevail.”


Moab, in the extremity of distress, would go up to his hill-top shrines, and crowd into his idol temples to supplicate his false gods, but to no avail: such gods can neither see nor hear, nor render aid.


Apostate Christendom apes Moab’s conduct, for every national disaster finds the churches crowded with so-called worshipers who have the colossal effrontery to go through the pretext of prayer and worship after having not just ignored God, but after having defied Him to His face by their godless living - the last thought to cross their minds being whether the calamity might be His expression of anger provoked by their sin.


16:13.  “This is the word that the Lord hath spoken concerning Moab since that time.”


The calamity that had befallen Moab had been foretold by God in His oft repeated warnings that sin would bring judgment.  Today’s world has been similarly cautioned, but the warnings have gone not only unheeded, but mocked.  The impending Great Tribulation judgments have been clearly foretold in Scripture for at least thirty centuries, and all the signs point to the imminence of their fulfillment.


16:14.  “But now the Lord hath spoken, saying, Within three years, as the years of an hireling, and the glory of Moab shall be condemned, with all that great multitude; and the remnant shall be very small and feeble.”


As the hireling counts carefully the number of days left for him to serve, so were those addressed by the prophet to note with equal care the specified time of Moab’s ruin.  “Within three years, as the years of an hireling” specifies exactly the time when Moab would be toppled from the acme of earthly glory to the depths of degradation, and be reduced from a mighty multitude to a despised insignificant remnant, the declared time confirming that the speaker was the omniscient, omnipotent Jehovah.


Fulfilled prophecy is one of the infallible proofs that God is the Author of Scripture, see 2 Peter 1:19-20, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” 


That same God has declared that the man who dies unconverted will first enter hell, and ultimately the dreadful lake of fire, to suffer eternal torment.  The greatest of all fools is he who scoffs at prophecy, for the greater part of what God has foretold has already come to pass, that fulfillment guaranteeing to any reasonable mind the accomplishment of the small fraction yet remaining.

[Isaiah 17]

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     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
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