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Isaiah 16


Prophecy of Moab's Devastation Moab Destroyed Against Moab
Moab's Hopeless Situation The Moabite's Petition
16:1-2 16:1-2
  16:3-4b 16:3-5
16:6 16:6
        Moab's Lament
      16:7-12 16:7-12
16:13-14 16:13-14 16:13-14 16:13-14 16:13-14

READING CYCLE THREE (see introduction)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



1Send the tribute lamb to the ruler of the land,
From Sela by way of the wilderness to the mountain of the daughter of Zion.
2Then, like fleeing birds or scattered nestlings,
The daughters of Moab will be at the fords of the Arnon.
3Give us advice, make a decision;
Cast your shadow like night at high noon;
Hide the outcasts, do not betray the fugitive.
4Let the outcasts of Moab stay with you;
Be a hiding place to them from the destroyer."
For the extortioner has come to an end, destruction has ceased,
Oppressors have completely disappeared from the land.
5A 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.

16:1 To whom and from whom and why are the contextual questions.

1. the fleeing Moabites send a sacrificial gift to the Davidic ruler in Jerusalem to secure his aid, TEV, NRSV

2. a reference to Messiah, cf. v. 5; Peshitta, Vulgate

3. a message of continuing judgment and destruction even to the survivors of Moab, cf. v. 12


▣ "Send" The verb (BDB 1018, KB 1511) is a Qal imperative. It denotes a desperate, frantic action.

▣ "a tribute lamb" The MT has only "lambs" (BDB 503 III, plural, and mentions "as tribute"). Only NASB adds this adjective to its translation. As for the plural vs. singular:

1. plural, NRSV, REB, JB

2. singular, MT, NJB, NASB, NKJV, TEV

Moab was known for its sheep (cf. II Kgs. 3:4).

The ancient versions have very different translations.

1. LXX, "I will send as it were creeping animals on the land!"

2. Peshitta, " I will send the son of the ruler of the land."

3. JPSOA, "Dispatch a messenger to the ruler of the land."


▣ "From Sela" The basic meaning of the term (BDB 700) is "crag," "cliff" (cf. Jer. 51:25), but it came to designate a city in Edom, Sela, or Petra (BDB 701 II, cf. II Kgs. 14:7; Isa. 42:11). However, Sela does not fit the context exactly so maybe another rock feature close to the border with Judea. It possibly simply denotes a southern route.

Where is not as important as from whom, to whom, and why.

▣ "to the mountain of the daughter of Zion" This is a figurative way of referring to YHWH's temple in Jerusalem. This means that the lambs were given to be sacrificed to YHWH (cf. Ezra 7:17).

16:2 Moab is described as

1. fleeing/fluttering birds, BDB 622 I, KB 672, Qal active participle

2. scattered nestlings, BDB 1018, KB 1511, Pual participle

She is further identified as "the daughters of Moab," but this, like v. 14, refers to all the inhabitants of the land that remained alive.

▣ "at the fords of the Arnon" The Arnon River (wadi El-Mujib) flows into the middle of the Dead Sea on the eastern side. It was the geographical boundary between Ammon on the north and Moab on the south (extending to the Zered Brook [possible wadi El-Hesa]).

It is surprising that these fords (low water crossings) are not close to Judah's borders, but across the Dead Sea. Possibly a Judean military force had marched through Ammon to these fords. It is also possible that the phrase denotes a southern exodus from a northern invader.

16:3-4 These verses give (1) the message (IMPERATIVES used as requests) which accompanied the lambs or (2) Isaiah's admonition for the Judeans to accept the Moabites. I think option #1 is best.

1. "give advice," BDB 97, KB 112, Hiphil imperative, written masculine plural, but to be read as feminine singular to agree with "advice" (BDB 420), which is feminine

2. "make a decision," BDB 793, KB 889, Qal imperative

3. "cast your shadow," BDB 1011, KB 1483, Qal imperative(cf. 25:4; 32:2; Ps. 91:1)

4. "hide the outcasts," BDB 711, KB 771, Piel imperative

5. "do not betray the fugitive," BDB 162, KB 191, Piel imperfect used in a jussive sense

6. "let the outcasts of Moab stay with you," BDB 157, KB 184, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

7. "be a hiding place to them," BDB 217, KB 241, Qal imperative

Although Moab was a traditional enemy, there were close connections to the Davidic house (i.e., Ruth; I Sam. 22:3-5).

16:3 "Cast your shadow like night at high noon" This is metaphorical language for protection. It may be a specific reference to the Shekinah cloud of glory that followed the Israelites through this very land during the Wilderness Wandering Period. It was a cloud cover (shade and cool) in the daytime and pillar of fire at night. It symbolized YHWH's personal presence, provision, and protection.

16:4 There is a series of time conditions related to Moab's invasion after which the governmental authority of Judea will be extended to the whole area (cf. v. 5).

Here are the conditions.

1. the extortioner (BDB 568) has come to an end (BDB 67, KB 79, Qal perfect)

2. destruction (BDB 994, Qal active participle) has ceased (BDB 477 I, KB 476, Qal perfect

3. oppressors (BDB 942, Qal active participle) have completely disappeared from the land (BDB 1070, KB 1752, Qal perfect)


16:5 This verse describes the coming government from Judea (cf. 9:6-7; 11:3-5).

1. a throne will be established (perfect) in lovingkindness (BDB 338, see Special Topic following)

2. a judge will sit (perfect) on it in faithfulness (BDB 54) in the tent of David

3. he will seek justice (BDB 1048, cf. 11:3,4)

4. he will be prompt in righteousness ("righteousness," BDB 841, cf. 11:4,5, see Special Topic at 1:4; "prompt," BDB 555, usually means skilled in something, therefore, able to do it rapidly. Here it denotes a Davidic ruler who quickly acts in righteousness)

This verse is why the Peshitta and Vulgate view this context as Messianic.


6We have heard of the pride of Moab, an excessive pride;
Even of his arrogance, pride, and fury;
His idle boasts are false.
7Therefore Moab will wail; everyone of Moab will wail.
You will moan for the raisin cakes of Kir-hareseth
As those who are utterly stricken.
8For the fields of Heshbon have withered, the vines of Sibmah as well;
The lords of the nations have trampled down its choice clusters
Which reached as far as Jazer and wandered to the deserts;
Its tendrils spread themselves out and passed over the sea.
9Therefore 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.
10Gladness and joy are taken away from the fruitful field;
In the vineyards also there will be no cries of joy or jubilant shouting,
No treader treads out wine in the presses,
For I have made the shouting to cease.
11Therefore my heart intones like a harp for Moab
And my inward feelings for Kir-hareseth.
12So it will come about when Moab presents himself,
When he wearies himself upon his high place
And comes to his sanctuary to pray,
That he will not prevail.

16:6 This begins a new strophe. Verses 1-5 are what YHWH hoped would happen, but v. 6 describes why it could not (compare Jer. 48:29).

1. the pride of Moab

2. excessive pride

3. arrogance

4. pride

5. fury (BDB 720, "insolence")

6. false, idle boasts (BDB 95 III, empty, imaginary pretensions, cf. Job 11:3; Jer. 48:30)

The Hebrew term "pride" (BDB 144) is repeated in different ways four times. Moab, like her idols, claims much, talks much, but cannot do anything!

16:7-10 "Therefore" Here are the consequences.

1. Moab shall wail because of her Ba'al worship (i.e., "raisin cakes"), vv. 7,12 (it is possible this is another idiom for agricultural failure)

2. fields wither and no harvest, vv. 8-10 (cf. 15:6)

It is also possible that "raisin cakes" in this context refers to a luxurious lifestyle.

16:10 "wine" See Special Topic at 1:22.

▣ "I have made the shouting to cease" This refers to YHWH-sent invaders who disrupted the harvest and its annual festivals.

The concept of the removal of "joy" is recurrent in this verse.

1. gladness taken away, BDB 62, KB 74, Niphal perfect

2. joy taken away (assuming same verb as #1)

3. no cries (or songs) of joy, BDB 943, KB 1247, Pual imperfect 

4. no jubilant shouting, BDB 929, KB 1206, Pola imperfect

5. shouting to cease, BDB 991, KB 1407, Hiphil perfect


16:11 The question is who is speaking.

1. God (מעה, BDB 588, i.e., 63:15; Jer. 31:20)

2. the prophet

3. Moab personified

Because of v. 12, Moab (#3) cannot be right. Because of v. 13 it could be #2, the prophet Isaiah, but because of 15:5,9, as well as the Messianic implications of v. 5, I think it is God who grieves over the "what-could-have-been." God loves humans made in His image, made for fellowship, yet they turn to false gods, false hopes!

NASB, REB"Kir-hareseth"
TEV, NJB"Kir Heres"

The MT is reflected in NKJV, but it is a shortened form of NASB (cf. v. 7; the city was simply referred to as "Kir" in 15:1).

16:12 This verse can be understood in two ways.

1. Moab brings offerings (v. 1) to Jerusalem (v. 5), but her pride refuses to fully embrace YHWH (v. 6). YHWH cares for them (15:5; 16:11).

2. Moab seeks help from her gods (15:2; 16:12), but they are unable to respond.


13This is the word which the Lord spoke earlier concerning Moab. 14But now the Lord speaks, saying, "Within three years, as a hired man would count them, the glory of Moab will be degraded along with all his great population, and his remnant will be very small and impotent."

16:14 This describes the imminent (3 years) fate of prideful Moab!

Instead of abundant people, wealth, influence, and crops, Moab will be "very small and impotent"! The reversals in history are shocking and point fallen humanity to the promise and desire for stability and peace found only in Israel's God!


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