Isaiah 15-18 Judgments on Moab, Damascus and Cush November 5, 2018

Assyria is conquering the small countries of the Levant one at a time.  She has conquered Syria and Israel.  She was fighting a separate battle for the control of Babylon, but this was a different arena.  She conquered the Philistines in last week’s lesson.  This week we will look at Moab, Damascus and Cush.

Moab lies east and northeast of the Dead Sea.  The nation was founded by one of Lot’s sons, conceived by Lot’s firstborn daughter (Genesis19:34-38).  It was mostly  a thorn in the side of Israel.  They would not let Israel pass through their territory in the Exodus.  They hired Balaam, the prophet, to curse the Israelites, and when that did not work they enticed the Israelite men with their women and turned them away from Yahweh to following their pagan gods (Numbers 25:1-18).  Israel and Moab fought often but there were times of peace between the nations.  Naomi’s family moved to Moab during famine in Israel, and both of her sons married Moabite women.  One of the women was Ruth, who married Boaz and became David’s great-grandmother.  Therefore she is in the Messianic line.  At another time David sent his family to Moab for safety when Saul was trying to kill him.

However, God treats them harshly in today’s reading.  They should never have gone after strange gods, because it was Yahweh who rescued their fore-father from the destruction of Gomorrah.  Moab paid tribute to Tiglath-Pilezer III to avoid Assyrian invasion, but during this time Moab was invaded by nomadic desert tribes rather than Assyria.

An Oracle Concerning Moab

15:1-4 An oracle concerning Moab.

Because Ar of Moab is laid waste in a night,

Moab is undone;

because Kir of Moab is laid waste in a night,

Moab is undone.

He has gone up to the temple, and to Dibon,

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 wear sackcloth;

on the housetops and in the squares

everyone wails and melts in tears.

Heshbon and Elealeh cry out;

their voice is heard as far as Jahaz;

therefore the armed men of Moab cry aloud;

his soul trembles.

As the Moabites flee they looked to Judah to take in the survivors and asylum seekers.

15:5-6 My heart cries out for Moab;

her 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 vegetation fails,

the greenery is no more.

Even God’s heart cries out for Moab.

15:7-9 Therefore the abundance they have gained

and what they have laid up

they carry away

over the Brook of the Willows.

For a cry has gone

around the land of Moab;

her wailing reaches to Eglaim;

her wailing reaches to Beer-elim.

For the waters of Dibon are full of blood;

for I will bring upon Dibon even more,

a lion for those of Moab who escape,

for the remnant of the land.

Could the lion be Assyria?

16:1-5  Send the lamb to the ruler of the land,

from Sela, by way of the desert,

to the mount of the daughter of Zion.

Like fleeing birds,

like a scattered nest,

so are the daughters of Moab

at the fords of the Arnon.

“Give counsel;

grant justice;

make your shade like night

at the height of noon;

shelter the outcasts;

do not reveal the fugitive;

let the outcasts of Moab

sojourn among you;

be a shelter to them

from the destroyer.

When the oppressor is no more,

and destruction has ceased,

and he who tramples underfoot has vanished from the land,

then a throne will be established in steadfast love,

and on it will sit in faithfulness

in the tent of David

one who judges and seeks justice

and is swift to do righteousness.”

Moab’s rulers appeal to Jerusalem to receive the refugees.  A symbolic lamb is sent with the request.  The rulers ask for advice from Hezekiah who is now King of Judah.  Peace may come to Moab if she accept Judean rule and thereby Judah’s God.

16:6-8 We have heard of the pride of Moab—

how proud he is!—

of his arrogance, his pride, and his insolence;

in his idle boasting he is not right.

  Therefore let Moab wail for Moab,

let everyone wail.

Mourn, utterly stricken,

for the raisin cakes of Kir-hareseth.

  For the fields of Heshbon languish,

and the vine of Sibmah;

the lords of the nations

have struck down its branches,

which reached to Jazer

and strayed to the desert;

its shoots spread abroad

and passed over the sea.

This is a song taunting Moab for its pride.  It is probably being sung by the Israelites, but it may be a song of the Bedouin tribesmen to celebrate their victory over Moab.

16:9-12 Therefore I weep with the weeping of Jazer

for the vine of Sibmah;

I drench you with my tears,

O Heshbon and Elealeh;

for over your summer fruit and your harvest

the shout has ceased.

And joy and gladness are taken away 

from the fruitful field,

and in the vineyards no songs are sung,

no cheers are raised;

no treader treads out wine in the presses;

I have put an end to the shouting.

Therefore my inner parts moan like a lyre for Moab,

and my inmost self for Kir-hareseth.

And when Moab presents himself, when he wearies himself on the high place, when he comes to his sanctuary to pray, he will not prevail.

God weeps for his wayward people.  But they go to their false gods for help, and no help comes.  The nation will be reduced to few and the feeble.

16:13-14 This is the word that the LORD spoke concerning Moab in the past.  But now the LORD has spoken, saying, “In three years, like the years of a hired worker, the glory of Moab will be brought into contempt, in spite of all his great multitude, and those who remain will be very few and feeble.”

An Oracle Concerning Damascus

17:1-3 An oracle concerning Damascus.

Behold, Damascus will cease to be a city

and will become a heap of ruins.

The cities of Aroer are deserted;

they will be for flocks,

which will lie down, and none will make them afraid.

The fortress will disappear from Ephraim,

and the kingdom from Damascus;

and the remnant of Syria will be

like the glory of the children of Israel,

declares the LORD of hosts.

Damascus was, and still is, the capital city of Syria.  Syria has fallen, but it took time to bring down the fortress of Damascus.  ‘The glory of the children of Israel,” is a mocking picture of fallen Israel and defeated Samaria.  As Israel has become, so will Damascus be.

17:4-6 And in that day the glory of Jacob will be brought low,

and the fat of his flesh will grow lean.

And it shall be as when the reaper gathers standing grain

and his arm harvests the ears,

and as when one gleans the ears of grain

in the Valley of Rephaim.

Gleanings will be left in it,

as when an olive tree is beaten—

two or three berries

in the top of the highest bough,

four or five

on the branches of a fruit tree,

declares the LORD God of Israel.

Although this section is about Damascus, here God speaks his judgment on Israel.  The land will be reduced to ruin and all the crops will be gone.

17:7-8 In that day man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will look on the Holy One of Israel.  He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, and he will not look on what his own fingers have made, either the Asherim or the altars of incense.

The proper response would be to return to the true God.  Idolatry needs to be ended if God is to prosper his people.  However, the people do not return to Yahweh and the consequences are described below.  

Do you think God will have any input in our upcoming election?

 17:9-11    In that day their strong cities will be like the deserted places of the wooded heights and the hilltops, which they deserted because of the children of Israel, and there will be desolation.

For you have forgotten the God of your salvation

and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge;

therefore, though you plant pleasant plants

and sow the vine-branch of a stranger,

though you make them grow on the day that you plant them,

and make them blossom in the morning that you sow,

yet the harvest will flee away

in a day of grief and incurable pain.

17:12-14 Ah, the thunder of many peoples;

they thunder like the thundering of the sea!

Ah, the roar of nations;

they roar like the roaring of mighty waters!

The nations roar like the roaring of many waters,

but he will rebuke them, and they will flee far away,

chased like chaff on the mountains before the wind

and whirling dust before the storm.

At evening time, behold, terror!

Before morning, they are no more!

This is the portion of those who loot us,

and the lot of those who plunder us.

When God is forgotten, then the sounds in the night are terrifying.  Morning brings relief because the light eases their imaginations.  If they had only trusted in Yahweh their fears would have subsided, because he watches over his own.  David said, ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.’   To fear God is to have comfort in every situation.

An Oracle Concerning Cush

18:1-3  Ah, land of whirring wings

that is beyond the rivers of Cush,

  which sends ambassadors by the sea,

in vessels of papyrus on the waters!

Go, you swift messengers,

to a nation tall and smooth,

to a people feared near and far,

a nation mighty and conquering,

whose land the rivers divide.

  All you inhabitants of the world,

you who dwell on the earth,

when a signal is raised on the mountains, look!

When a trumpet is blown, hear!

Cush is the land of Ethiopia or Nubia.  It had conquered lower Egypt in 715 BC, and ruled the land as the 25th dynasty.  She was looking for allies to help her gain control of the Nile Delta.  Apparently they even reached out to Jerusalem for help.  There seemed to be a peace between Ethiopia and Assyria at the time, so the messengers could well have gone to Assyria as well.

18:4-6 For thus the LORD said to me:

“I will quietly look from my dwelling

like clear heat in sunshine,

like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.”

For before the harvest, when the blossom is over,

and the flower becomes a ripening grape,

he cuts off the shoots with pruning hooks,

and the spreading branches he lops off and clears away.

They shall all of them be left

to the birds of prey of the mountains

and to the beasts of the earth.

And the birds of prey will summer on them,

and all the beasts of the earth will winter on them.

To whom was God speaking ?  I think it was Isaiah who is writing down this material.  Scholars think it was Shebna, Hezekiah’s Prime Minister, who was active directing the foreign  affairs for Jerusalem and for Hezekiah.  We will hear of him in chapters 22, 36 and 37.

18:7 At that time tribute will be brought to the LORD of hosts

from a people tall and smooth,

from a people feared near and far,

a nation mighty and conquering,

whose land the rivers divide,

to Mount Zion, the place of the name of the LORD of hosts.

Ahaz had accepted the fact that God was governing Assyria, and he agreed to become a vassal state.  This was Isaiah’s recommendation to Ahaz and he followed it.  therefore there was a degree of peace between Judah and Assyria when Sargon, now king os Assyria, went to Egypt to assist the Ethiopians gain control of all of Egypt.  Therefore tribute was sent to Jerusalem by the Assyrians  and possible by the Ethiopians as well.  Yahweh is quietly watching over these developments sitting on his porch basking in the sunshine.