The Prophet Series: Isaiah part 12; chapters 15-16 The Oracle of Moab - Pride Comes Before a Fall
The thematic development of the oracles within chapters 13-27 continue. In this section we will explore the prophecy concerning Moab and the conditions of the Gentile hope. The Moab prophecy corrects any impression that the hope of the Davidic promises are exclusive to Jews alone. Isaiah now says that the promises which will be fulfilled for David in Zion are for all who will take refuge there.
The oracle is clear that Moab will be destroyed (15:1; 16:14). Decimated by decades of warfare and costly vassal-hood, Moab was overrun by Arabian tribes. It is also revealed that Moab could have sought refuge in Israel (16:4-5), but their pride would not allow it (16:6). The pride of Babylon was also revealed (13:19; 14:12-14), which was a type of the pride of Satan. It is wonderful and gracious that the offer stands for the Gentile, even the enemy of God, to take refuge behind the walls of God’s kingdom, but that pride rejects the offer, choosing rather to die and be judged on their own independent, self-made foundation. We admit that Satan made his choice and is destined to be judged, but that every man, while alive and walking upon planet earth has before him the offer of deliverance. As Moab’s and Babylon’s destruction are determined, so is the destruction of any man who rejects the Lord’s offer of grace through faith. Pride brings doom.
Moab, Israel’s cousin.
Moab is a result of the incestral incident between Lot and his oldest daughter. It’s origin is from Abraham’s nephew, but it is illegitimate through a sinful conception. Therefore, we could see Moab as depicting that which professes religion, and who claim to have a name, but is dead toward God, being content with an empty profession instead of submission.
They 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.
3 In their streets they have girded themselves with sackcloth;
On their housetops and in their squares
Everyone is wailing, dissolved in tears.
4 Heshbon 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.
The tragedy is so overwhelming that the military can only tremble and weep - a strong man, dressed for war and heavily armed, is on his knees wailing and shaking.
The Lord does not turn from this illegitimate cousin with cold, uncaring indifference. We have a picture of God, touched in His heart, and weeping even as He smites the prideful, independent people.
My heart cries out for Moab;
Surely I will bring added woes upon Dimon,
A lion upon the fugitives of Moab and upon the remnant of the land.
The imperial glory of the oppressor comes at the expense of those who are at the bottom of life’s heap. When we see refugees carrying what is left of their worldly possessions, dreamily following one another on some road to some place that is far from what they once called home, there is never a governor or general or statesman or king among them. Somehow, those at the top escape while those at the bottom bear the pathetic burden of war. This tragedy is recognized by our weeping Lord.
Therefore the abundance which they have acquired and stored up
They carry off over the brook of Arabim.
Moab pleads for shelter.
Isaiah’s prophetic gift allows him to eavesdrop on a Moabite cabinet meeting. The government has likely fled, as Isaiah writes their voices as if in panic, breathless, panting, and on the run.
Send the tribute lamb to the ruler of the land,
From Sela by way of the wilderness to the mountain of the daughter of Zion.
2 Then, like fleeing birds or scattered nestlings,
The daughters of Moab will be at the fords of the Arnon.
3 "Give us advice, make a decision;
Cast your shadow like night at high noon;
Hide the outcasts, do not betray the fugitive.
4 "Let the outcasts of Moab stay with you;
Be a hiding place to them from the destroyer."
The lamb (vs. 1) was the traditional Moabite tribute to Israel (2KI 3:4), and probably had signaled a request for asylum. The leaders of Moab are seen figuratively as a man exposed to the blazing sun at high noon and needing the relief of darkness (“cast your shadow like night at high noon”). The request is for immediate shelter for the people of Moab (“outcasts” vs. 4) from the approaching destroyer.
Refugees suffer greatly in war, but the young girls among them suffer the most as they are hotly pursued by the imperial conquerors. The daughters of Moab do what they can to cross the Arnon River to safety (vs. 2).
God agrees to the request.
For the extortioner has come to an end, destruction has ceased,
Oppressors have completely disappeared from the land.
5 A throne will even be established in lovingkindness,
And a judge will sit on it in faithfulness in the tent of David;
Moreover, he will seek justice
And be prompt in righteousness.
It is likely that this is God speaking and not the prophet voicing what he hopes would be the reply. The reply has a majestic rhythm to it and affirms the Davidic hope. The promised throne will be established in chesed (lovingkindness - God’s covenanted love for His people) which is the same word used to describe a great Moabite woman of the past, Ruth, who sought shelter behind the walls of Zion and found it plentifully supplied.
That a throne will be established in covenant love is the opposite of what Moab is experiencing, which is the changing fortunes of human rule, the game of thrones. The coming King is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom all Gentiles and all Israel may find refuge and a lasting, eternal kingdom. Thus, when the Moabites come in desperate need, there is held out to them without question, the Messianic best that Zion can offer. Here, the promise of the present, shelter to Moab, is a mirror reflection of the promise of the far future, eternity within the kingdom of God. Both will be had by faith, if only Moab will take hold of it as well as every man in every age in every land.
Moab says no.
We have heard of the pride of Moab, an excessive pride;
Even of his arrogance, pride, and fury; His idle boasts are false.
7 Therefore Moab shall wail; everyone of Moab shall wail.
The fact that Zion did not rebuff Moab’s request, their unchanged plight can only mean that they refused what was offered. Perhaps the king of Judah put conditions on their shelter (that they pay tribute, increase the amount of lambs offered, reduce their military capacity, etc.) which Moab refused, choosing rather to die than to submit to the authority of their only protector. It was the pride of the leaders that caused them to reject the offer and suffer death to, not only themselves, but to the hoard of refugees, their own brothers, including the young girls and the small children. What a price to pay for pride, but a price that they themselves did not pay, but the lowest masses did, and in full.
The offer to Moab in vs. 5 is described by love, faithfulness, justice, and righteousness, yet in verse 6 we read of what they received instead: pride, conceit, pride, and insolence. Oh, what they could have had. Isaiah also reveals that they boast in falsehood, meaning that they live in a world of unreality. How terrible to live in a dream of your own making rather than in a life beyond dreams of God’s making.
The Lord weeps over their rejection.
The Lord is not cold towards those who reject His offer. He wills all men to be saved. The understanding of this, from a Sovereign God, is impossible for us. Yet, in our own hearts, in our own consciences, we know that it must be true, as the Scripture attests it to be.
Therefore I will weep bitterly for Jazer, for the vine of Sibmah;
I will drench you with my tears, O Heshbon and Elealeh;
For the shouting over your summer fruits and your harvest has fallen away.
Therefore my heart intones like a harp for Moab,
And my inward feelings for Kir-hareseth.
God is more than an onlooker at the world’s sorrow but identifies with the mourners even though it is the weight of His own justly imposed punishment that he feels.
The Hebrew word translated “heart” is me’ah, which means inmost being/intestines and denotes the whole inward and emotional centre of the divine nature. It is the deep-seated agony of God, which is audibly moved (like a harp) within. God’s inward self plays a dirge for Moab while He weeps over her choice to reject His outstretched hand.
In verse 6, Moab’s pride, conceit, pride, and insolence, are all words from the same root word ga’a, meaning “to be high.” It can be used in a good sense or bad. Moab went to her high place and only wore herself out. She may pray for deliverance, but her rejection of the terms means her prayer is of no avail.
"And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved."
Moab was finally overrun by Arabian tribes and became nothing more than pasture-land for Arabian herds.
This section reveals the Gentile hope, the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant that all the families of the earth will be blessed in Abraham. It also reveals the terrible loss that pride carries with it.
Praise God for His indescribable gift,
Pastor Joe Sugrue