a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

An Oracle concerning Moab


An oracle concerning Moab.


Because Ar is laid waste in a night,

Moab is undone;

because Kir is laid waste in a night,

Moab is undone.


Dibon has gone up to the temple,

to the high places to weep;

over Nebo and over Medeba

Moab wails.

On every head is baldness,

every beard is shorn;


in the streets they bind on sackcloth;

on the housetops and in the squares

everyone wails and melts in tears.


Heshbon and Elealeh cry out,

their voices are heard as far as Jahaz;

therefore the loins of Moab quiver;

his soul trembles.


My heart cries out for Moab;

his fugitives flee to Zoar,

to Eglath-shelishiyah.

For at the ascent of Luhith

they go up weeping;

on the road to Horonaim

they raise a cry of destruction;


the waters of Nimrim

are a desolation;

the grass is withered, the new growth fails,

the verdure is no more.


Therefore the abundance they have gained

and what they have laid up

they carry away

over the Wadi of the Willows.


For a cry has gone

around the land of Moab;

the wailing reaches to Eglaim,

the wailing reaches to Beer-elim.


For the waters of Dibon are full of blood;

yet I will bring upon Dibon even more—

a lion for those of Moab who escape,

for the remnant of the land.

1. The burden of Moab. Here the Prophet prophesies against the Moabites, who were neighbors to the Jews and related to them by blood; for we know that the Moabites were descended from Lot, who was Abraham’s nephew. (Genesis 11:31, 19:37.) Those nations being so closely related, humanity at least demanded that they should maintain some friendly intercourse with each other. But no relationship prevented the Moabites from cherishing hostility towards the Jews, or even from harassing them whenever it was in their power; which is an evidence of a savage and barbarous disposition. To them also, on account of their cruelty towards the people of God, to whom they ought to have conducted themselves with brotherly love, the Prophet therefore threatens destruction.

We ought to remember the design of these predictions. It cannot be believed that they were of any advantage to the Moabites, even though they had heard from the mouth of the Prophet himself the words which we read; but he neither addressed them with his voice, nor sent to them a written communication. It was therefore to believers, rather than to them, that the Prophet looked, and for two reasons. The first reason was, that when they saw so many changes taking place, cities overturned, kingdoms destroyed and succeeding one another, they might not think that this world is governed by the blind violence of fortune, but might acknowledge the providence of God. If nothing had been foretold, the minds of men, having a strong tendency to foolishness, and being strangely blind to the works of God, might have been disposed to attribute all this to chance; but when they had been forewarned by the Prophets, they beheld the judgments of God as from a lofty watch-tower. To us also in the present day Isaiah has, as it were, pointed out with the finger what was then hidden. In his predictions we behold God sitting on his judgment-seat, and regulating everything according to his pleasure; and although the wicked in various ways vented their mad rage, still the Lord made use of their agency to execute his judgments. The second design which the prophets had in view was, that while the whole world was shaken, the Jews might know that God took care of their safety, and that he testified the warmth of his affection for the Church, by taking vengeance on her enemies by whom she had been barbarously treated.

Ar-Moab. The Hebrew word ער (Ar) means a city; as קיר (kir) means a wall; but as ער מואב (Ar-Moab) was one of the chief cities of the Moabites, it is supposed to be here a proper name. We might indeed explain both words as appellatives, to convey a threatening of the overthrow of the fortified towns of which the Moabites are proud; but I rather adopt the ordinary interpretation. Here therefore Isaiah has given a description, that we may behold in it the overthrow of the Moabites, when their chief cities are destroyed.

In the night. By the night he means a sudden and unexpected occurrence, which the Moabites did not dread. Night being appropriated to rest, if anything happen at that time, it is viewed as sudden and unlooked for, and therefore excites violent alarm. Besides, he intended to rebuke the Moabites for being free from anxiety, considering themselves to be fortified by defences on every hand, and placed beyond the reach of all danger.

Is brought to silence. That is, is destroyed, and hence also Silence sometimes means Death. Others disregard the metaphor, and choose to render it, She is cut off; but I leave that point undecided. What Isaiah declares as to the Moabites, Scripture pronounces as to the reprobate, that destruction is at hand, and, when they are looking for nothing of that kind, will fearfully overwhelm them. (Jeremiah 23:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 3.)

2. He shall go up into the house. 236236     He is gone up to Bajith. — Eng. Ver.
    FT228 He is gone up to Moab into the house. — Jarchi. Breithaupt remarks that the Hebrew word הבית (habbaith) is sometimes viewed as a proper name, and that in the version of Junius and Tremellius it is rendered Bajith. — Ed

    FT229 “Shaving the head and face are the eastern tokens of mourning for the dead. (Isaiah 3:24; Jeremiah 41:5; Micah 1:16.)” — Rosenmuller

    FT230 In their streets. — Eng. Ver.

    FT231 Weeping abundantly. (Heb. descending into weeping, or, coming down with weeping.) — Eng. Ver.

    FT232 His life shall be grievous unto him. — Eng. Ver.

    FT233 His fugitives shall flee unto Zoar, an heifer of three years old, (or, to the borders thereof, even as an heifer.) — Eng. Ver.

    FT234 “Jonathan translates the word בריחה, (berechahh,) as if it had been written בורחים (borachim,) that is, those who flee; so that the meaning will be, ‘Some of them shall flee, in order to preserve themselves, even to Zoar, as Lot, their father, once did, (Genesis 19:23,) who fled to Zoar.’” — Jarchi

    FT235 Therefore the abundance they have gotten. — Eng. Ver. Therefore the substance which they have saved. — Stock The riches which they have gained. — Lowth

    FT236 For the cry is gone round about the borders of Moab. — Eng. Ver.

    FT237 “Alluding to the name Dimon, which signifies Bloodtown.” — Rosenmuller

    FT238 For I will bring more (Heb. additions) upon Dimon. — Eng. Ver.

    FT239 “This I take to be the plague of lions, recorded in 2 Kings 17:25, which afflicted the new inhabitants of the land of Israel, and the remnant of the Moabites, suffered to continue there by Shalmanezer. Other interpretations are proposed; but it is best, in obscure local prophecies, to adhere to the little light afforded by the records of the times.” — Stock
So far as relates to the words, some pass by the Hebrew noun בית, (baith;) but as it signifies a house and a temple, it is probable that it was the word commonly used for a temple, as in many other passages the house of God means the temple 237237    {Bogus footnote} (Exodus 23:19, 34:26; Deuteronomy 23:18; Joshua 9:23.) By representing the Moabites as bowing down before their idols, he at the same time condemns their superstition in worshipping their idol Chemosh, as may easily be inferred from 1 Kings 11:7, Jeremiah 48:7, 13. “The Moabites,” says Isaiah, “shall betake themselves to their god when matters are so desperate, but to no purpose; for they shall find in him no assistance.”

And to Dibon to the high places. This makes it still more evident that he is speaking of the Temple; and it is beyond a doubt that the Moabites had a fortress remarkable and celebrated above the rest, in which they had built high places in honor of their idol. Being ignorant of the true God, to whom they might betake themselves in adversity, we need not wonder that they betake themselves to an idol, in conformity to their ordinary custom. By doing this they increased their misery, and brought upon themselves an accumulation of all distresses; for they inflamed the wrath of God still more by those very means which they considered to be fitted for appeasing his wrath. He therefore wished to state more plainly the condition of the ungodly, who have no refuge in adversity; for as to those remedies which they think will be adapted to their diseases, nothing can be more destructive to them, since they excite more and more the Lord’s indignation.

Moab shall howl over Nebo and over Medeba. Nebo also was one of the cities of the Moabites. The Prophet has already named two of them, Ar and Kir; he now adds a third, Nebo; and lastly he mentions a fourth, Medeba; as if he had said that this destruction would not only seize the extremities of that country, but would reach its inmost recesses, so that not one corner could be exempted.

On every head. Every nation has its peculiar ceremonies to denote mourning or joy. The Italians and other western nations allowed the hair and beard to grow when they were in mourning; and hence arose the phrase, to lengthen the beard. On the other hand, the eastern nations shaved the head and beard, which they reckoned to be ornamental; and when they reversed their ordinary custom, that was a token of mourning. 238238    {Bogus footnote} Nothing else therefore is meant than that the condition of the whole kingdom will be so mournful, that the indications of mirth will be laid aside, and all will wear the tokens of grief and lamentation.

VIEWNAME is study