Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 13: Isaiah, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
Isaiah Chapter 16:1-14
1. Send ye the lamb to the ruler of the land from Sela to the wilderness, unto the mount of the daughter of Zion.
1. Mittite agnum dominatori terrae de petra deserti ad montem filiae Sion.
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.
2. Erit autem sicut avis emissa, recedens e nido: ita erunt filiae Moab ad transitus Arnon.
3. Take counsel, execute judgment; make thy shadow as the night in the midst of the noon-day; hide the outcasts; bewray not him that wandereth.
3. Cogite consilium, facite judicium; pone sicut noctem umbram tuam in medio meridiei; absconde expulsos, profugum ne prodas.
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 spoiler ceaseth, the oppressors are consumed out of the land.
4. Peregrinentur apud te ejecti mei. Moab, sis illis latibulum a facie vastatoris; quoniam cessavit emunctor, finitus est vastator, consumptus est conculcator e terra.
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.
5. Et praeparabitur in misericordia solium, sedebitque super ipsum in firmitate, in tabernaculo David qui judicet, et quaerat judicium, et acceleret justitiam.
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.
6. Audivimus superbiam Moab (superbus est valde) superbiam ejus, et arrogantiam ejus, et insolentiam (vel, indignationem) ejus. Sed non rata erunt mendacia ejus.
7. Therefore shall Moab howl for Moab, every one shall howl: for the foundations of Kir-hareseth shall ye mourn; surely they are stricken.
7. Propterea ululabit Moab ad Moab, totus ululabit, propter fundamenta Kir-hareseth; gemetis tantum percussi.
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:
8. Quoniam vites Hesbon excisae sunt, vitis Sibma. Domini gentium conculcarunt eximias ejus propagines (vel, palmites) quae usque ad Iazer pervenerant; erraverant usque ad desertum, nobiles ejus plantae prostratae sunt, quae transibant mare.
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.
9. Propterea flebo in fletu Iazer vitis Sibma; inebriabo te lachrymis meis Hesbon et Eleale; quoniam super collectionem tuam, et super messem tuam irruet (vel, cadet) canticum.
10. And 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 shall tread out no wine in their presses; I have made their vintage-shouting to cease.
10. Sublatum est gaudium et exultatio ab agro fertili; in vineis non exultabitur, nec jubilabitur. Vinum in torcularibus non calcabit calcator, canticum quiescere feci.
11. Wherefore my bowels shall sound like an harp for Moab, and mine inward parts for Kir-haresh.
11. Propterea viscera mea super Moab quasi cithara sonabunt, et interiora mea super Kir-hareseth.
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.
12. Et erit cum apparuerit fatigatum esse Moab super excelsa, tunc veniet ad sanctuarium precandi causa; nec proficiet.
13. This is the word that the Lord hath spoken concerning Moab since that time.
13. Hoc est verbum quod protulit Iehova super Moab ab hoc tempore.
14. But now the Lord hath spoken, saying, Within three years, as the years of an hireling, and the glory of Moab shall be contemned, with all that great multitude; and the remnant shall be very small and feeble.
14. Nunc, inquam, locutus est Iehova, dicens, Tres anni, quasi anni mercenarii; et tunc in ignominiam vertetur gloria Moab, in tota multitudine ejus, quamvis multa; et reliquiae ejus paucae, exiguae, et invalidae.
1. Send ye a lamb. Here the Prophet scoffs at the Moabites for not acknowledging God at the proper time, but recklessly waiting for the stroke of his hand, till they were completely destroyed. It is, therefore, a condemnation of late repentance, when men cannot be brought to obedience by any warnings, and continue in obstinate opposition to God. Where the disease is incurable, an exhortation of this kind is appropriate; and this ought to be carefully observed, for both Jews and Christians misinterpret this passage.
Jerome explains it as referring to Christ, because he drew his birth from the Moabites, (Ru 1:4; Mt 1:5,) from whom Ruth was descended; and that opinion has been adopted by almost all Christians; as if the Prophet had said, “O Lord, though a judgment so severe as this awaits the Moabites, still thou wilt not utterly destroy them; for they will send thee a Lamb, the ruler of the world.” But that interpretation, being destitute of plausibility, need not be refuted.
On the other hand, the Jews think that these words were spoken because, while the Jews were in a depressed condition, the Moabites ceased to pay the tribute which they owed them, but that, after having prophesied about the restoration of the kingdom of Judah, Isaiah likewise added an exhortation to remind them to acknowledge their king. They even go so far as to say that it serves the purpose of a royal edict, taking them to task for their disloyalty, “Send the tribute which you owe.” But we nowhere read that the Moabites were subjects or tributaries to the Jews, and there is no probability in the conjecture. Nor does the passage which they quote (2 Kings 3:5, 6) give them any support; for that passage relates to the king of Israel, and expressly mentions Ahab and Samaria, who cherished, as we are aware, the utmost hatred against the Jews.
I therefore adhere to the interpretation which I first noticed, as the true and natural interpretation; for the design of the Prophet is to condemn the Moabites for not having repented in due season, and to tell them that they will now in vain do what they might easily have done formerly, and with great advantage to themselves. We ought, therefore, to view it as spoken ironically, (εἰρωνικῶς,) Send; as if he had said that there is no hope of pardon, that they will send in vain. When the wicked are warned, they indolently disregard all exhortation; when they are punished, they gaze around them with distressful looks, seeking assistance in every direction, and trying every method of relief, but unsuccessfully, for they gain no advantage. Isaiah, therefore, reproaches them for obstinacy and rebellion, and shows that there will be no time for repentance, when they meet with the destruction which they deserve.
To the ruler of the world. The opinion of the Jews, that this denotes Hezekiah, is at variance with all reason; for ארץ (eretz) does not here denote a particular country, but rather the whole world, of which he speaks in general terms. The appellation Ruler must therefore be viewed as referring to God himself. By a lamb, he means what was to be offered in sacrifice; for even the Gentiles acknowledged that they worshipped God when they offered sacrifices.
From the rock 249 of the desert. He gives the name of the rock of the desert to the city, which is supposed to have been the chief city of the Moabites; 250 though it is possible that he intended to include the whole of the country, and thus a part will be taken for the whole.
To the mountain of the daughter of Zion; that is, to God’s authorized temple, in which sacrifices were offered according to the injunction of the Law. (Deut. 12:5, 6, 7; 2Ch 7:12.) This is a remarkable passage against obstinate men, who set aside all instruction, and fearlessly despise God, till they are visited by his judgments.
2. It shall be as a bird let loose. 251 The Prophet now shows what he meant by the former mockery, that the Moabites ought not at that time to think of sending sacrifices, because they will not be able to provide for their safety in any other way than by leaving their native country. By the metaphor of birds he describes the terror with which they shall be struck, so that they will flee even at the rustling of a leaf. He threatens that the Moabites, who had abused their tranquillity, shall have a trembling and wearisome flight.
3. Assemble a council. 252 He proceeds with the same subject; for if we wish rightly to understand this passage, we must set before our minds the dreadful ruin of the Moabites. Their crimes are brought to remembrance, that all may see more clearly how deservedly they are punished. When everything was in their power, they freely indulged in licentiousness, and would not listen to any reproofs; but now, when they are deprived of everything, they groan, and seek remedies which are nowhere to be found. The Lord deals with the reprobate in such a manner that, in order to leave them without excuse, he bestows upon them, and places in their hands, everything that they need; but when, through their wicked passion, they have abused and turned everything to a wicked purpose, he deprives them of all aid and support, and utterly destroys them.
Execute judgment. While the Moabites enjoyed prosperity, they cared little about what was good and right; while it was in their power to rule, and to have their kingdom established, in a just manner, they abused their power for the purpose of tyranny. Now that they were stripped of all authority, and were exiles and fugitives, Isaiah ironically advises them to assemble councils and execute judgments, which they had formerly overturned through fraud and injustice. Isaiah has in view that time when all power and authority was taken out of the hands of the Moabites. The upbraiding is similar to that with which the Lord addresses Adam, (Ge 3:22,) Behold, Adam is become as one of us, ridiculing him with the biting taunt, that he was not satisfied with his exalted attainments, and wished to rival God himself.
In like manner, the Moabites, not satisfied with their ornaments and wealth, wretchedly harassed and plundered the Israelites and Jews, and formed wicked plans against them. Having abused the excellent gift of God, they therefore deserved to have this reproof addressed to them, which is equally applicable to all the reprobate, who proudly vaunt in prosperity and barbarously abuse it for harassing the godly. Seeing that they basely pollute those things which the Lord had set apart to their proper use, it is right that they should be deprived of them and reduced to the lowest poverty. We have instances of this every day. How comes it that those who were raised to the highest rank of honor fall down headlong, but because the Lord punishes their tyrannical rule and their crimes? The Lord also ridicules their upbraiding and reproachful language, their wailings, and even their complaints; as when they exclaim, “O that I had the wealth which I once enjoyed! O that I were restored to my former condition!” For then repentance will be too late.
Make thy shadow. The Moabites might, as I have already hinted, have given some relief to the wretched Jews, when they were harassed by the Assyrians; or, at least, if they had had a spark of humanity, they ought to have protected the fugitives; but, on the contrary, they persecuted them, and added to the weight of their afflictions, which were already oppressive. It was highly proper that the Moabites should be the subjects of that cruelty which they had exercised towards others; that, when they had been driven from their dwellings, and were exiles and wanderers, they should nowhere find any solace, any shadow to shelter them from the heat; for why should they enjoy the consolations which they had barbarously refused to others?
As the night in the midst of noon-day. 253 By noon-day is here meant the most scorching heat. This metaphor is frequently employed in Scripture, that the Lord was like a cloud at noon, and like a pillar of fire by night; for he once was so in the wilderness. (Exod. 13:21, 22; Nu 14:14; De 1:33.) This mode of expression, being customary, was retained by the Prophets, though they did not relate the history.
Hide the banished. He means the Jews, whom the Assyrians persecuted and harassed, and whom the Moabites at the same time treated cruelly. It was their duty to shelter and relieve the fugitives, and especially those who fled to them for protection; but seeing that they drove them out, it was proper that they should be driven out in the same manner, and deprived of all assistance and support; for it is a righteous sentence which the Lord pronounces, when he enjoins that the same measure which every one metes shall be measured to him again. (Deut. 19:19, 21; Mt 7:2.) Now the Prophet calls on the Moabites to acknowledge their sins, so as to confess that they are justly punished for their cruelty. Yet he rather has the Jews in his eye, in order to inform them that God does not disregard their afflictions, for they are told that he will be their avenger.
4. Let mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab. The Prophet addresses the Moabites, as if he were humbly beseeching them in the name of the people at large. “You are neighbors, related to us by blood; receive and assist those who are in distress: and if you do not choose to assist, at least do them no harm.” God, who usually undertakes the cause of his people, is represented by the Prophet as if he performed the part of a suppliant. It is certain, that the Moabites did not at all act in this manner towards the Jews, but, on the contrary, that they joined their efforts with the enemies of the Jews to do them injury. But, as I said a little before, the Prophet sets before our eyes that justice which even nature demands, that the cruel violation of it may be the more abhorred.
This passage ought to be carefully observed; for God shows how great is the care which he takes of his people, since the injuries done to them affect him in the same manner as if they had been done to himself; as he declares by Zechariah, that whenever they are touched, the apple of his eye is touched. (Zec 2:8.) He hears the groaning, (Ps 102:20,) and observes the tears, of wretched men who call upon him; (Ps. 12:5, Ps. 38:9;) and though this be not always visible to us, yet in due season he shows that he has heard them.
Let us therefore learn from this passage to be kind and dutiful to fugitives and exiles, and especially to believers, who are banished for their confession of the word. No duty can be more pleasing or acceptable to God; and, on the other hand, nothing is more hateful or abominable in his sight than barbarity and cruelty. If we wish to obtain any alleviation of our calamities, let us be kind and compassionate, and not refuse assistance to the needy.
Blessed, says he, is he that judgeth wisely about the poor and needy; the Lord will deliver him in the evil day.
On the other hand,
he shall have judgment without mercy who hath showed no mercy. (Jas 2:13.)
When God calls them his banished, this may without impropriety be viewed as referring to punishment, as if he said, that by a just judgment they were banished from the land of Canaan, (De 28:64,) as he had so often threatened against them. Yet undoubtedly he likewise means, that they continue to be under his defense and protection, because, though they are banished and driven out of their native country, still he acknowledges them to be his people. That calamity which the Jews endured might be regarded as an evidence that they were cast off; but the Lord acknowledges them to be his children, though he chastises them severely. Hence we obtain a doctrine full of consolation, that we are reckoned in the number of his children, though sharp and heavy strokes are inflicted upon us.
For the extortioner hath ceased. 254 He now directs his discourse to the Jews, and proceeds to comfort them, as he had done formerly, by showing that, when their enemies shall be removed from the midst of them, the banishment or ruin of their enemies will also relieve their own calamities and distresses. Yet the former statements related chiefly to the Jews, though the Prophet expressly addressed the Moabites. But at that time he only threatened vengeance on enemies, while here he more clearly promises consolation to his people; as if he had said, “Thou thoughtest, O Moab, that my people were utterly ruined: but I will restrain the enemies, and put an end to that affliction. Thou shalt therefore perish; but my people shall at length be delivered from those dreadful calamities.”
Perhaps it will rather be thought that there is a change of the tenses; and thus the particle כי, (ki,) which we have rendered For, will signify Until; 255 and this clause will be read in immediate connection with the former part of the sentence. Let my banished dwell with thee, Moab; be thou a place of concealment from the face of the destroyer, until the extortioner shall have ceased. But as that might be thought to be a forced interpretation, I have chosen to abide by the natural meaning.
5. And the throne shall be prepared in mercy. 256 The Jews explain the whole of this verse as referring to Hezekiah; but this is altogether inappropriate, for the Prophet speaks of a more important restoration of the Church, and the Moabites had not been punished during the flourishing condition of Hezekiah’s reign; and the blessing of God again began to burst forth on the Jews. It is as if it had been said “All the enemies of the chosen people maliciously contrive the ruin of that kingdom, which God promised should be established for ever.” (2Sa 7:13.) That the godly may not give way to despondency amidst the unhappy confusion, they are reminded of the perpetuity of the kingdom, of which they had been assured by a well-known prediction.
It cannot therefore be explained as referring to any other than to Christ, though I acknowledge that Hezekiah was a type of Christ, as David and the rest of his successors also were. But they conduct us to Christ, who alone is the protector and leader of his people, (Joh 10:16,) and who has gathered the remnant that was scattered abroad. (Joh 11:52.) For this reason he sends back the godly to Christ, as if he had said, “You know what God you worship. He has declared that he will watch over your safety, so that under his protection you will always continue to be safe and uninjured; and if you shall at any time meet with reverses, he has promised to you a Redeemer, under whom you shall enjoy renewed and steadfast prosperity. Though for a time you may weep, yet the protector of the Church will come, and will restore you to a flourishing state of freedom. You ought, therefore, with your whole heart, to rely on the expectation of him; even when you see the Church to be in a confused and wretched condition.”
This ought to be carefully observed; for all other consolations are transitory and fading, if we do not refer all of them to Christ. Let our eyes therefore be fixed on him, if we wish to be happy and prosperous; for he has promised that we shall be happy even amidst the cross, (Matt. 5:10, 11,) that agony and torments will open up the way to a blessed life, (2Co 4:17,) and that all the afflictions which we shall suffer will add to the amount of our happiness. (Ro 8:28.)
In mercy. Isaiah shows that this does not take place through the agency of men, but by the kindness of God, who is the builder of this throne; and therefore we ought to acknowledge that it is owing to his undeserved goodness that this sacred throne is established among us. The Prophet expressly confirms this by saying, that the cause of it must not be sought anywhere else than in the absolute mercy of God. Nor can any other cause be found; for God could not be induced by any excellence of character, or by merits, (of which there certainly were none,) to set up again the throne which had fallen down through the fault and through the crimes of the people; but when he saw that those whom he had adopted were ruined, he wished to give a proof of his infinite goodness. Now, if God build this throne, by whom shall it be overturned? Will wicked men be stronger than he?
And he will sit upon it in the tabernacle of David. Almost every word here is emphatic, so that this verse deserves to be continually pondered. I do not object to the opinion that the word tabernacle contains an allusion to this effect, that he was but an ordinary man before he was called to sit on a throne. (1 Sam. 16:11, 12; 2Sa 7:8.) The Prophet intended to draw a picture of the Church, which has no resemblance to the thrones of kings and of princes, and does not shine with gold or precious stones. Though he has held out the spiritual kingdom of Christ under a mean and despicable shape, yet at the same time he shows that that kingdom will be seen on earth and amongst men. If he had only said that the throne of Christ will be erected, we might have asked, Will his throne be in heaven, or also on earth? But now when he says, in the tabernacle of David, he shows that Christ reigns not only among angels but also among men, lest we should think that, in order to seek him, we must enter into heaven. Wicked men ridicule what we preach about the kingdom of Christ, as if it were some phantom of our own imagination. They wish to see it with their eyes, and to have the evidence of their senses; but we ought not to conceive of it as at all carnal, but to be satisfied with his arm and with his power.
In steadfastness. אמת (emeth) denotes not only truth but every kind of certainty. The Prophet means that the kingdom of Christ will be firm and steadfast, as Daniel also declared. (Dan. 2:44, Dan. 7:14.) The Evangelist also says, Of his kingdom there shall be no end. (Lu 1:33.) In this respect it is distinguished from the ordinary condition of kingdoms, which, even when they are founded on great and enormous wealth, crumble down or even fall by their own weight, so that they have no more permanency than vanishing pictures. But Isaiah declares, that the kingdom of Christ, though it frequently totter, will be supported by the hand of God, and therefore will last for ever. These proofs ought to fortify us against temptations which arise, whenever the kingdom of Christ is attacked by enemies so numerous and powerful that we might be ready to think that it will quickly be destroyed. Whatever weapons the world may employ, and though hell itself should vomit out flames of fire, we must abide by this promise.
Who shall judge. I understand שפת (shophet) to mean Governor, as if he had said, “There will be one who shall govern.” Often do we see a magnificent throne when there is no one to sit on it, and it frequently happens that kings are either idols or cattle, without judgment or skill or wisdom. But here he says, that one will sit who shall discharge the office of a good governor; and this is added in order to assure us that Christ will be our protector.
And seek judgment and hasten righteousness. The judgment and the righteousness which are ascribed to him, are nothing else than the protection under which he receives us, and which he will not allow to be infringed; for he will not allow wicked men who injure us to pass unpunished, while we patiently and calmly commit ourselves to his protection. By the word hasten he shows that he will quickly and speedily avenge our cause. This must be viewed as a rebuke to our impatience, for we never think that his assistance comes soon enough. But when we are hurried along by the violence of passion, let us remember that this arises from not submitting to his providence; for although according to the judgment of our flesh he delays, still he regulates his judgment in the best manner by the seasons which are well known to him. Let us therefore submit to his will.
6. We have heard of the pride of Moab. The Prophet added this statement by way of anticipation. It might be thought that men could not believe what he had promised about restoring the throne of the king and destroying the Moabites, who at that time were in a flourishing state of riches, and were defended by strong fortresses, and who, puffed up with the prosperity which they now enjoyed, were exceedingly proud. Besides, their haughtiness, with which they scorned the unhappy Jews, was a disagreeable and powerful weapon for discouraging or shaking their minds. To provide against this temptation, he relates that their boasting was well known, but that their pride would not prevent God from overthrowing them; because no array of armed forces, no treasures of riches, no multitude of men, can withstand God. Isaiah speaks of it as a thing extensively known, that the Moabites are puffed up in such a manner that they dread nothing; as is commonly the case with those who are well supplied with riches and troops, that they idly exalt themselves above God and men. But whatever may be their arrogance, the Lord will easily restrain it.
His insolence. 257 The Hebrew word עברה (gnebrah) most frequently signifies indignation; but the connection in which it stands appears to call for something more definite. This noun is derived from the verb עבר, (gnabar,) to pass or go beyond, answering to the Latin word excessus; and therefore I have thought it better to translate it insolence. In a parallel passage, after the words pride and arrogance comes the phrase haughtiness of heart. (Jer 48:29.) Both Isaiah and Jeremiah, I have no doubt, mean that the Moabites, in consequence of their stubborn and disdainful behavior, and their sumptuous mode of living, were so cruel, that they kindled into wrath on the most trivial occasions, and rose fiercely against others. This vice is always accompanied by haughtiness of mind; for pride is followed by disdain and contempt of others, and they who claim more than is due to them easily kindle into rage, and become furious for the smallest offense. In short, they can bear nothing, and are not only passionate, but likewise outrageous. They would wish that all should yield to them, and that they should yield to none. If all do not yield at their bidding, they think that injustice is done to them. This passionate temper is easily betrayed by proud men. On the other hand, the humble possess kindness accompanied by corresponding modesty, and easily forgive any one who has injured them.
His lies. The Hebrew word בדים (baddim) denotes either a mans limbs, or the branches of a tree, and sometimes it is put for divination. Accordingly, the Greek translators 258 render it μαντεἰα, divination, and it has that signification in other passages. Some think that it is here used metaphorically for children; others translate it either discourses or thoughts; and others render it strength or sinews. But in my opinion it is rather put for vain boasting; for this word often denotes falsehood, and we shall soon see how well this signification applies to the present passage.
There is quite as much difference in the interpretation of the word כן (ken,) so. The greater part suppose it to mean that “the lies are not right,” or that “the discourses are not right,” and others, that “the lies are not true;” and as to the substance of the matter, I am almost of their opinion. I have no doubt that the meaning of the Prophet is, that Moab foolishly utters his vain boastings, for he will not accomplish what he imagines. As to the words, the meaning of them is obtained with greater certainty from Jer 48:30. After the same words which are here employed by Isaiah, he immediately adds, for the sake of explaining them, לא כן, (lo ken,) Not so; 259 his lies shall not so effect it. As if he had said, “What is determined in their hearts shall fail of accomplishment.” Yet I do not think, that in the former clause the particle כן (ken) denotes comparison, but rather confirmation, so to speak, but negatively; for he declares that there will be no firmness or stability in his counsels, that his divinations or lies will not take effect. Proud men settle everything as if everything were in their power, and were not subject to the providence of God. “Such arrogance,” says Isaiah, shall be brought down, and all that they promise, as to their own strength, shall vanish away. This reminds us that pride is highly displeasing to God, and that the more men are puffed up with their riches, they are the nearer to destruction.
7. Therefore shall Moab howl to Moab. 260 He declares more plainly what has been already said, that this pride, and the cruelty which springs from it, will be the cause of their destruction. Since the Lord resisteth the proud, (Jas 4:6; 1Pe 5:5,) it is impossible but that he will lay low this haughtiness, by which the Church is basely and shamefully trampled under foot; and, according to this example, the end of all proud men must be mournful. When he adds, Moab to Moab, he means that there will be what may be called a melancholy concert among them, in which they shall mutually complain of their calamities and bewail their distresses among themselves. Others render it, on account of Moab, but this is a feeble interpretation; for immediately afterwards it follows that the howling will be universal, or that it will be throughout the whole of the people.
On account of the foundations of Kir-hareseth. It is sufficiently evident that this was a chief and royal city; but some consider it to be a proper name, and others to be an appellative. There can be no doubt that the etymology of the word was derived from its being constructed of earthen materials. It is also possible that it received this name on account of the nature of the walls, which were built of bricks. It was a distinguished city in that country. He names the foundations rather than the city itself, because it was to be completely thrown down; as if he had said, “You shall not mourn the plundering of the city or the destruction of the buildings, but its entire overthrow; for no part of it shall be left.”
You will groan, being only smitten. 261 Some translate נכאים (nechaim) lame; but I prefer to take it as meaning smitten. The particle אך, (ach,) which is here prefixed to it, sometimes means certainly or truly; and sometimes it is put for but or notwithstanding. Those who explain it affirmatively suppose the meaning to be this, You will groan, being truly smitten; that is, “It will not be necessary for you to hire men to pretend mourning in your name, as is usually done in funerals, but you will mourn in earnest.” But I prefer to take אך (ach) as meaning only; that is, “All who shall be left will be wounded; not one shall be safe.” By this mode of expression he describes the utter destruction of that city, and intimates that those who are left will lament not only the distresses of others, but also their own. They, too, will be wounded. And if such severe punishments are inflicted on the proud, let us learn to submit ourselves with humility and modesty, and willingly to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. (1Pe 5:6.)
8. For the vines of Heshbon have been cut down. 262 Here the Prophet describes allegorically the desolation of the whole country. There is reason to believe that it abounded in the choicest vines, 263 as may readily be inferred from this and the parallel passage. (Jer 48:32.) When Prophets threaten destruction to countries, they usually delineate their more remarkable features. For instance, were we to speak of Picardy, we certainly would say nothing about vines, as if we had been speaking about Orleans or Burgundy. Now, the cities mentioned by the Prophet were the chief cities of Moab.
The lords of the nations have trodden down his choicest shoots or branches. 264 The Prophet says that the most valuable branches of their vineyards were torn out by the lords of the nations, that is, by the conquerors, who, having subdued the nations in war, held extensive dominion.
Which reached even to Jazer. 265 This serves to point out the extent of the devastation; for this city was situated on the confines of the land of the Moabites; as if he had said, “Not only shall a part of the vineyards be cut down, but the whole country shall be wasted far and wide.” Some refer this to the enemies themselves; but I would rather supply the relative אשר, (asher,) which, and refer it to the vines, which were so extensive that they reached even to Jazer. Thus the meaning will be, “Though these vineyards reached even to Jazer, and covered a very large tract of country, yet thence to the wilderness they will all be trodden down by the lords of the nations.” This agrees best with the scope of the passage; for it is immediately added that the vineyards reached to the wilderness, and even to the sea; by which he means that the country was exceedingly fertile, and especially that it abounded in vines. He says that they crossed the sea, 266 because, when the soil is productive, it is customary to protect by mounds what is contiguous to the sea, in order to extend the cultivation, and to oppose the violence of the waves by posts of wood and embankments, in order to obtain a large extent of available soil.
9. Therefore I will bewail. The Prophet here takes upon him the character of another person, as we have formerly remarked; for in the name of the Moabites he laments and groans. It is undoubtedly true that believers always shudder at the judgments of God, and cannot lay aside the feelings of human nature, so as not to commiserate the destruction of the wicked. Yet he does not describe his own feelings; but his intention is to give additional weight to his instruction, that no one may entertain a doubt as to the accomplishment. He therefore represents in the person of a Moabite, as on a stage, the mourning and grief which shall be felt by all after that calamity, in order to hold out to the Jews a confirmation of this promise, which otherwise might have been thought to be incredible.
Because on thy summer-fruits and on thy harvest a shouting shall break forth, or shall fall. 267 This last clause of the verse is variously explained by commentators. נפל, (naphal,) signifies to fall, or to burst forth. Those who translate it, to burst forth, consider the word הידד, (hedad,) shouting, to refer to the enemies themselves; as if he had said, “The shouting of enemies bursts forth on thy harvest;” so that there is an implied contrast between this shouting and the joy of which he will afterwards speak. Others explain it to mean, that the shoutings will be laid; that is, “there shall be no more shouting, and no longer shall the glad and merry voices of the reapers be heard, cheering themselves after the harvest.” But I would rather refer it to the shouting of enemies; and on this point I follow a most faithful interpreter of this passage, the Prophet Jeremiah, who says that the spoiler bursts forth, (Jer 48:32,) where Isaiah speaks of the shouting of the enemy; as if he had said, “When thou shalt make preparations for gathering in thy harvest and thy vintage, the enemies will rush in, and, instead of joy and cheerful song, their shouting shall be heard, which shall drive thee far away.”
10. Joy is taken away. He confirms, by different words, what he has now said, that the whole country shall be desolate and forsaken, so that there shall never again be in it a harvest or a vintage. When he threatens that God will cause the vine-dressers to cease to sing, he refers to an ancient custom; for when they gathered the vintage, they usually testified their joy both by dancing and by singing. Hence these words of Virgil, The exhausted vine-dresser now addresses by song his farthest rows 268 In like manner, the sailors, when they approach the harbour, raise their shout of joy, (κἐλευσμα,) because, having finished their toils, and escaped dangers, they see that they have hope of obtaining some leisure or refreshment. It is as if the Prophet had said, “When the produce of the harvest shall be taken away, nothing will be left to them but to lament their poverty.”
11. Therefore my bowels shall sound like a harp for Moab. Assuming the character of a Moabite, the Prophet again describes excessive lamentation, proceeding from grief so intense that even the bowels make a distressing noise; for by the sign he intended to point out the reality. We have formerly explained the object of those lively descriptions, which is, to bring the events, as it were, before our eyes, and to lead us to entertain stronger hopes of those things which appear to go beyond all belief. By again naming Kir-Hareseth, the chief city, and thus taking a part for the whole, he describes the destruction of the whole country.
12. And it shall be. He again returns to that statement which he formerly noticed, namely, that idolaters in their affliction betake themselves to their idols, hoping to obtain some relief from them. Yet it means somewhat more; for while idolaters have their ordinary temples and places of worship, if any uncommon calamity befalls them, they go to another temple more sacred than the rest, expecting that there they will be more abundantly favored with the presence of their god. In like manner, the Papists of the present day, when they are reduced to any uncommon danger, (for this fault has existed in all ages,) think that they will more readily obtain their wish by running to St. Claude, or to Mary of Loretto, or to any other celebrated idol, than if they assembled in some neighboring church. They resolve that their extraordinary prayers shall be offered up in a church which is at a great distance. It is in this sense that the Prophet applies the term Sanctuary to that which was most highly celebrated among the Moabites, and says that they will go to it, but without any advantage. Now it is evident from sacred history that their most celebrated temple was dedicated to Chemosh. (1Ki 11:7.)
And shall not profit by it. 269 The phrase לא יוכל, (lo yuchal,) they shall not be able, is explained by some to mean, that they shall at length be so completely worn out that they will not have sufficient strength to go to the temple. But I think it better to render it thus, he shall not profit by it; for he shuts out the Moabites from all hope of safety, by saying that they will find no protection even in their gods.
When it is seen. The word נראה, (nirah,) seen, is emphatic. It means that idolaters are not guided by reason, but rather by the impressions made on their senses, like brute beasts: for as the beasts judge by feeling, smelling, and seeing, so idolaters have no other guide than the judgment of the flesh. Accordingly, if any one shall show that they are doing wrong, he will gain nothing by it. Though they have often known by experience that they gain nothing by so many laborious exertions, they will not desist from them, but will contrive new methods and introduce new modes of worship, hoping that God will approve of them. If they succeed according to their wish, they ascribe everything to their superstitions, and become more obstinate. If they perceive that they have derived no advantage, they reject their contrivances, condemn the superstitious worship, and curse their gods. In short, they rely altogether on the events, and do not judge of anything either by reason or by the word of God. The consequence is, that, as they are guided by what befalls them, they are continually changing their plans. But the Prophet appears to mean somewhat more, namely, that when their folly, in having hitherto labored to no purpose, shall have been openly manifested and exposed, the Moabites will come into the temple of Chemosh, rather through shame than in the exercise of judgment.
13. This is the word. This concluding sentence is the ratification of the prophecy. It means that he has pronounced the decree of God himself, and that he has brought nothing forward that did not proceed from the Lord, and thus, laying aside the person of a man, he introduces God speaking in this manner.
14. Three years. The time is fixed, not only for the sake of certainty, but likewise that believers may not become faint through longer delay. He alludes to agreements among men, in which it is customary to fix the time agreed on, which the parties are not at liberty to transgress. This is especially the case in the labors of hirelings, from whom Scripture frequently draws a comparison in this respect, that they earnestly long for the appointed day when they shall receive their reward; for they groan, as it were, under the burden, and grievously dislike their daily toils. (Job 7:1, Job 14:6, Isa. 21:16.) In this way the Lord says, that he fixes a day for the Moabites, in which they shall not escape from the entire destruction of their power.
With all his multitude. He expressly mentions a multitude, because their number was great, and because they boasted of it, and thought that they were invincible. When he adds, that the remnant shall be feeble, he means that there will be so great a change, that they will have no resemblance to their former condition; for nothing will be left but a sad and shocking sight.
End Of Volume First.
From Sela, (or, Petra.) — Eng. Ver.
FT241 “Petra, Rock, also called Sela, (Isa 16:1,) and Joktheel, (2Ki 14:7.) The capital of Idumea, and one of the most remarkable cities of the ancient world. For more than a thousand years this city remained unknown and unvisited, till Burckhardt discovered it in 1812. It was afterwards visited, with some difficulty, by Messrs. Legh, Banks, Captains Irby and Mangles, as well as by M. Linant and M. Laborde.” Those who have not access to the details of those enterprizing researches, or who wish to see it ably stated and argued, that “the present condition of Petra furnishes a remarkable fulfillment of Scripture prophecy,” will do well to read the article Petra in Dr. Eadie’s Biblical Cyclopaedia, from which the above extracts are taken; an article which draws largely both from the narratives of travelers and from the inspired writers, and compresses within moderate limits a large amount of information. — Ed
FT242 As a wandering bird. — Eng. Ver.
FT243 Take (Heb. Bring) counsel. — Eng. Ver.
FT244 “Make a shadow for thee at noon, to throw darkness over thee, as in the night, that by means of it thou mayest be concealed from the face of thy enemies.” — Jarchi
FT245 For the extortioner (Heb. wringer) is at an end. — Eng. Ver.
FT246 Until the extortioner כי (ki) answers here to the Latin adverb, usquedum. — Tayl. Concord. quoted by Stock.
FT247 And in mercy shall the throne be established,(or, prepared.) — Eng. Ver.
FT248 His wrath. — Eng. Ver. In the author’s version of this chapter, the rendering is, his insolence; but in his margin he puts indignation. Lowth and Stock make it his anger. — Ed
FT249 The rendering of the Septuagint is, οὐχ οὕτως ἡ μαντεία σου, οὐχ οὕτως Not so thy divination, not so. — Ed
FT250 לא כן (lo ken,) non rectum, the frivolous predictions of his diviners, on which no wise man would place dependence. — Rosenmuller
FT251 Therefore shall Moab howl for Moab. — Eng. Ver.
FT252 Shall ye mourn, (or, mutter,) surely they are stricken — Eng. Ver. Moan even ye who yourselves are smitten. — Stock
FT253 For the fields of Heshbon languish. — Eng. Ver.
FT254 “It ought to be known that Heshbon was a place of fields, and Sibmah was a place of vineyards. If you object, that all these cities were on the other side of Jordan, and at what time therefore did they fall under the hand (or power) of the Moabites? we reply. When Sennacherib carried the Reubenites and Gadites into captivity, the Moabites, who were their neighbors, came and dwelt in those cities.” — Jarchi
FT255 The lords of the heathen have trodden down the principal plants thereof. — Eng. Ver.
FT256 They are come even unto Jazer. — Eng. Ver.
FT257 “The lake of Jazer, as Jeremiah explains it, Jer 48:32. The plantations of this vine spread onward to the banks, and seemed to overhang the whole breadth of the lake.” — Rosenmuller
FT258 For the shouting for thy summer-fruits and for thy harvest is fallen. (Or, the alarm is fallen upon thy summer-fruits and upon thy harvest. — Eng. Ver.
FT259 Jam canit extremos effoetus vinitor antes. — Virg. Georg. 2:417.
FT260 But he shall not prevail. — Eng. Ver.