Isaiah 15, Part 1: Family
What has gone before...
Isaiah spoke to four different groups of people, each group given a different message:
- To Israel, a message of compassion and victory
- To Babylon, a message of mocking and doom
- To Assyria, a message of God's sovereignty
- To Philistia, a message of death
Now, in chapter 15...
The LORD shows Isaiah the future destruction of Moab, and the vision breaks Isaiah's heart.
Who, or what, was Moab?
Moab was the son of Lot, the nephew of Abraham (Genesis 19:37). The child was born of the union between Lot and his daughter. Moab became the father of a people group called the Moabites.
Now, generations after Lot, Isaiah speaks to the people of Moab, warning them of impending doom and crying out to them in shared pain.
Isaiah 15:1-5 (ESV) 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. My heart cries out for Moab.
Ar and Kir were names of cities of Moab. Dibon, Nebo and Medeba were places in Philistia, perhaps a place the Moabites hoped would be safe. Heshbon, Elealeh and Jahaz were places east of the Jordan River, near the Moabite region.
Why would the region of Moab be destroyed, and why did Isaiah weep for its people?
Israel and Moab fought frequently, but just as frequently they had occasion to join together. Centuries before Isaiah's time, the people of Israel fled Egypt and marched across the mideast to claim a place for themselves, and Moab responded in panic.
Numbers 22:1-3 (ESV) Then the people of Israel set out and camped in the plains of Moab beyond the Jordan at Jericho. And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. And Moab was in great dread of the people, because they were many. Moab was overcome with fear of the people of Israel.
Rather than fight the Israelites, Moab enticed them into idolatry.
Numbers 25:1-3 (ESV) While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.
Israel and Moab shared a common ancestor in Lot, and the LORD honored his promise of protection for both people groups.
Deuteronomy 2:9 (ESV) And the LORD said to me, "Do not harass Moab or contend with them in battle, for I will not give you any of their land for a possession, because I have given Ar to the people of Lot for a possession."
The LORD later used Moab as a tool of correction towards the Israelites.
Judges 3:12-14 (ESV) And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He gathered to himself the Ammonites and the Amalekites, and went and defeated Israel. And they took possession of the city of palms. And the people of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.
Despite centuries of animosity between them, Moab and Israel continued to be connected.
Ruth 1:1 (ESV) In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.
When David was threatened by King Saul, he fled to Moab for refuge.
1 Samuel 22:3-4 (ESV) And David went from there to Mizpeh of Moab. And he said to the king of Moab, “Please let my father and my mother stay with you, till I know what God will do for me.” And he left them with the king of Moab, and they stayed with him all the time that David was in the stronghold.
But soon after David succeeded to the throne of Israel, he attacked and conquered Moab.
2 Samuel 8:2 (ESV) And he defeated Moab and he measured them with a line, making them lie down on the ground. Two lines he measured to be put to death, and one full line to be spared. And the Moabites became servants to David and brought tribute.
David's son, Solomon, lost all that David had won.
1 Kings 11:4-8 (ESV) For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.
Solomon's idolatry brought the LORD's judgement down hard upon Israel, sparking a generation-long civil war that eventually led to a series of invasions by the nations described by Isaiah.
1 Kings 11:9-11 (ESV) And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the LORD commanded. Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, "Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant."
Moab was a tool of correction, but the people of Moab themselves would be harshly disciplined for their idolatry. Isaiah's contemporary, Jeremiah, spoke of the LORD's delight in love, justice and righteousness, no matter what nationality or heritage a person may be.
Jeremiah 9:24-26 (ESV) Let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD. Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will punish all those who are circumcised merely in the flesh — Egypt, Judah, Edom, the sons of Ammon, Moab, and all who dwell in the desert who cut the corners of their hair, for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart."
Isaiah and Jeremiah wept for the fate of Moab, but their tears were borne from the LORD's own deep sadness over the people's idolatry.
Jeremiah 48:31, 35-36 (ESV) Therefore I wail for Moab; I cry out for all Moab; for the men of Kir-hareseth I mourn...And I will bring to an end in Moab, declares the LORD, him who offers sacrifice in the high place and makes offerings to his god. Therefore my heart moans for Moab like a flute.
The LORD's concern for Moab was like that which he had for Israel.
Ezekiel 25:11 (ESV) and I will execute judgments upon Moab. Then they will know that I am the LORD.
Jeremiah 12:14-17 (ESV) Thus says the LORD concerning all my evil neighbors who touch the heritage that I have given my people Israel to inherit: "Behold, I will pluck them up from their land, and I will pluck up the house of Judah from among them. And after I have plucked them up, I will again have compassion on them, and I will bring them again each to his heritage and each to his land. And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name - As the LORD lives - even as they taught my people to swear by Baal, then they shall be built up in the midst of my people. But if any nation will not listen, then I will utterly pluck it up and destroy it, declares the LORD."
In a sense, the people of Israel and Moab were of the same family, with all the fellowship, fights, tension, love and hate that many families experience.