Pages

Monday, January 26, 2015

Isaiah 15, Part Two: The Prime Of Life

Isaiah 15, Part Two: The Prime Of Life

Isaiah continues his lament, describing Moab as a valuable, vigorous animal, soon to be slaughtered.

Isaiah 15:5 (ESV) My heart cries out for Moab; her fugitives flee to Zoar, to Eglath-shelishiyah.

Eglath-shelishiyah is a compound word, combinining "heifer" (a young female cow that has not borne a calf) with "third", referring to a three-year-old cow. "Heifer" was used to refer to young women (Judges 14:18), as well as the nations of Egypt (Jeremiah 46:20), Chaldea (Jeremiah 50:11), and Ephraim (Hosea 10:11).

Jeremiah echoes the declaration of Isaiah:

Jeremiah 48:34-35 (ESV) “From the outcry at Heshbon even to Elealeh, as far as Jahaz they utter their voice, from Zoar to Horonaim and Eglath-shelishiyah. For the waters of Nimrim also have become desolate. 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.

Moab was being described as a young female cow, three years old, at its full vigor, not yet brought under the yoke, but soon to be broken by an invading, foreign nation.

Zoar means "little", and it referred to a place east of the Jordan River. Luhith was a mountain in Moab. Horonaim, a town not far from Zoar - Nimrim, a city south of Moab. Brook of the Willows probably referred to a valley far away from the desolation of Moab. Eglaim and Beer-elim referred to places east of Moab.

Moab's history, as well as that of Israel, Assyria, Babylon or the Medes, does not describe the nations as being morally excellent or spiritually vigorous. The LORD's compassion for Moab could not have been based upon admiration of their works.

What do you think?

photo credit: cskk via photopin cc

Monday, January 19, 2015

Isaiah 15, Part 1: Family

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.

What do you think?

photo credit: gregorywass via photopin cc

Monday, January 12, 2015

Isaiah 14, Part Six: Assyria and Philistia Defeated

Isaiah 14, Part Six: Assyria and Philistia Defeated

Beginning in verse 24, Isaiah's burden changes from Babylon to Assyria and Philistia.

Isaiah 14:24-25 (ESV) The LORD of hosts has sworn: As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand, that I will break the Assyrian in my land, and on my mountains trample him underfoot; and his yoke shall depart from them, and his burden from their shoulder.

The LORD is described as having complete, sovereign power over the whole earth:

Isaiah 14:26-27 (ESV) This is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations. For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?

The chapter ends with doom pronounced for Philistia:

Isaiah 14:31 (ESV) Wail, O gate; cry out, O city; melt in fear, O Philistia, all of you! For smoke comes out of the north, and there is no straggler in his ranks.

The people of Philistia were descendents of Casluhim, one of the sons of Ham (Genesis 10).

Since the time of Isaac, son of Abraham, the two groups of people, Israel and Philistine, had clashed (Genesis 26). Moses proclaimed God's plan to set up Israel as ruler over all Philistia (Exodus 23).

Israel failed to conquer the Philistines. By the time of Samson, Israel was ruled by Philistia (Judges 14).

David successfully led the nation of Israel in war against the Philistines (1 Chronicles 14).

Generations after David the two nations continued to war. Uzziah, a descendent of David, overran the defenses of Philistia and established Israelite cities throughout the region (2 Chronicles 26).

Uzziah's grandson, Ahaz, took the throne of rule over Israel, but quickly lost control of his kingdom. (2 Chronicles 28).

Ahaz appealed to Assyria for help, thereby bringing to Israel a series of devestating invasions (2 Chronicles 28).

Philistia took advantage of the instability caused by Ahaz, and Isaiah warned them that God would soon punish them:

Isaiah 14:28-31 (ESV) In the year that King Ahaz died came this oracle: Rejoice not, O Philistia, all of you, that the rod that struck you is broken, for from the serpent’s root will come forth an adder, and its fruit will be a flying fiery serpent. And the firstborn of the poor will graze, and the needy lie down in safety; but I will kill your root with famine, and your remnant it will slay. Wail, O gate; cry out, O city; melt in fear, O Philistia, all of you! For smoke comes out of the north, and there is no straggler in his ranks.

In the eyes of Philistia, Uzziah must have been "the rod", and the death of Ahaz would have seemed a good reason for rejoicing. But Isaiah warned that a descendant of Uzziah, Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, would bring much more pain and loss to them.

2 Kings 18:1, 3-8 (ESV) In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah, king of Israel, Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign...And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done. He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan). He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the LORD. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses. And the LORD was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him. He struck down the Philistines as far as Gaza and its territory, from watchtower to fortified city.

What do you think?

photo credit: fortinbras via photopin cc

Monday, January 5, 2015

Isaiah 14, Part Five: Desolation

Isaiah 14, Part Five: Desolation

The LORD declares the ultimate end of Babylon:

Isaiah 14:22-23 (ESV) I will rise up against them, declares the LORD of hosts, and will cut off from Babylon name and remnant, descendants and posterity, declares the LORD. And I will make it a possession of the hedgehog, and pools of water, and I will sweep it with the broom of destruction, declares the LORD of hosts.

American Bitterns are almost always solitary and can be difficult to see. They often hide among wetland vegetation, walking slowly as they forage. American Bitterns typically hunt in low light, catching food with their bill and killing prey with biting or shaking movements. Flight is stiff and fairly clumsy with rapid wingbeats. Territorial males display at each other by approaching while hunkered down, head lowered to the level of its back, neck drawn in, and revealing white plumes at the shoulders. (http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Bittern/lifehistory)

Hedgehog or bittern?

There are two other references to the same word, both referring to a type of bird:

Isaiah 34:11 (ESV) But the hawk and the porcupine shall possess it, the owl and the raven shall dwell in it. He shall stretch the line of confusion over it, and the plumb line of emptiness.

Zephaniah 2:14 (ESV) Herds shall lie down in her midst, all kinds of beasts; even the owl and the hedgehog shall lodge in her capitals; a voice shall hoot in the window; devastation will be on the threshold; for her cedar work will be laid bare.

"Porcupine" in Hebrew is the same word as "hedgehog".

The ESV translates the word as hedgehog or porcupine. The KJV translates it more consistently as a type of bird:

Isaiah 14:23 (KJV) I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water: and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the LORD of hosts.

Isaiah 34:11 (KJV) But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness.

Zephaniah 2:14 (KJV) And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the nations: both the cormorant and the bittern shall lodge in the upper lintels of it; their voice shall sing in the windows; desolation shall be in the thresholds: for he shall uncover the cedar work.

What do you think?

photo credit: TimberWolfie via photopin cc