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Isaiah: Prophet of Salvation Book 3

Isaiah is the prophet of Salvation. He is also known as the truly "Universalist" prophet, by which is meant that He makes it clear that salvation is extended equally to all nations and not just to Israel. He lived to see the fall of Israel and the deportation of the Israelites to Assyria, and he prophesied of their "return" to God (through repentance). He is truly a "major prophet" whose prophecies greatly influenced the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Isaiah 15, 16: Oracle Against Moab

Chapter 17: The Pride of Moab

Isaiah 16:6 says,

6 We have heard of the pride of Moab, an excessive pride; even of his arrogance, pride, and fury; his idle boasts are false.

The foundational reason for Moab’s destruction was its pride, an attitude that reflects a person’s self-image and how he views the accomplishments of his fleshly identity. A man is either proud of his flesh or he wants to change his identity to a new creation man so that he can boast in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:31).

So Jeremiah 9:23, 24 instructs us,

23 Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; 24 but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.

The Wall (Law) of Flesh

Isaiah 16:7 continues,

7 Therefore Moab will wail; everyone of Moab will wail. You will moan for the raisin cakes of Kir-hareseth as those who are utterly stricken.

The prophet links their fleshly pride to the Moabite fortress of Kir-hareseth, “wall of potsherds.” This was one of two main Moabite fortresses. Kir is the Hebrew word cheres, which means a wall. The same word rendered Harseth in Isaiah 45:9 is translated “clay” (KJV) and “earthenware vessel” (NASB).

9 Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker—an earthenware vessel [cheres] among the vessels of the earth; will the clay say to the potter, “What are you doing?” or the thing you are making say, “He has no hands”?

It could also be understood more broadly as earthenware, earthen vessel, or clay pottery. Perhaps the walls of Kir-haraseth had been built from clay that was reinforced by potsherds (broken jars).

The clay represents Adam and all who are born of natural (fleshly) parents from whom we received mortality and corruption. Such people dare to argue with their Maker and even to accuse him of being handicapped (i.e., incompetent). Instead, the prophet says, they ought to recognize the sovereignty of God and reject their carnal views of themselves.

Their pride is evident in the claim that man is sovereign and that man’s will determines his own destiny and the course of history in general. Man’s claims are contradicted by God’s claims to sovereignty.

When we dig down to the prophetic meaning of Isaiah’s words, we see that he sets forth the image of a wall of clay, that is, the law of flesh. A wall marks the boundary of a city, and prophetically speaking, it represents the moral boundary, the law of the city. In that it is made of clay, it is the law of flesh—or, as Paul calls it, “the law of sin” (Rom. 7:25) that enslaves fleshly men.

As New Covenant believers, we recognize the sovereignty of God and hence, like Abraham, we are “fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform” (Rom. 4:21). Our faith is in Him, not in ourselves. We have changed masters. We were once under the dominion of Sin (personified as a master) and were compelled to follow the law of sin and death—the fruit or “raisin cakes of Kir-hareseth.” But now we follow the law of God (Rom. 7:22, 25).

The Moabites were afflicted with this malady of the flesh. God saw it as pride, which had developed to the place where divine judgment was needed to bring correction.

The Destruction of the Fleshly Fruit

Isaiah 16:8 continues,

8 For 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.

Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon says that Heshbon means “stronghold” and that it is the same as Cheshbon that means “reasoning, reckoning, understanding; by implication, intelligence.” Hence, the prophet paints a word picture where the fruit of Heshbon is human reasoning and intelligence that is being trampled and destroyed.

Likewise, Sibmah means “fragrance,” in this case a reference to the intelligent reasoning and learning of the carnal mind. Jer. 51:7 says,

7 Babylon has been a golden cup in the hand of the Lord, intoxicating all the earth. The nations have drunk of her wine; therefore the nations are going mad.

God has a way of turning the wisdom of fleshly men into madness, as we see even today, when we observe politicians passing laws that do the opposite of what their bills claim to do. A notable example is the “Affordable Health Care Act,” which actually tripled insurance rates for most people. Another example is where the abortion clinics are death centers but come under the moniker of “health care centers.”

Another example is where rioters destroy the property of innocent people and looters steal whatever they want in order to protest the unjust death of an innocent man. It establishes the principle that two wrongs make a right. The “fragrance” of the wine of Babylon lures carnal men into drinking something that unhinges their reasoning and renders them unintelligent.

Paul puts it this way: “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the wise?” (1 Cor. 1:20).

The Broken-Hearted Prophet

Isaiah 16:9, 10 says,

9 Therefore 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. 10 Gladness 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 [heydad, “cheering”] to cease.

The prophet does not rejoice over the fall of Moab but weeps for it as a brother. It is not likely that many of his fellow Israelites shared his compassion and concern, for they too were caught up in carnality and lawlessness. Isaiah understood the impartial judgments of God (Deut. 1:17) and that the Israelites were no better than the Moabites. Hence, the judgment on Moab was just an example of divine justice that was to come also upon Israel and Judah.

Isaiah 16:11, 12 continues,

11 Therefore my heart intones like a harp for Moab and my inward feelings for Kir-hareseth. 12 So it will come about when Moab presents himself, when he wearies himself [la’ah, “exhausts himself”] upon his high place and comes to his sanctuary to pray, that he will not prevail.

The prophet felt a gut-wrenching empathy for Moab in his “inward feelings.” The bottom line is that when the Moabites appealed to their false gods on their “high places,” they “will not prevail.” That is, their prayers for deliverance will not be answered, because they prayed to gods that could not save them from the judgment of the one true God.

The Conclusion

Isaiah 16:13, 14 concludes the oracle against Moab, saying,

13 This is the word which the Lord spoke earlier concerning Moab. 14 But 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.

This tells us that the oracle against Moab had been given to Isaiah some time earlier but was placed here along with other oracles to various nations. The prophecy is not dated, but the prophet returns to the present time in verse 14, telling us that “within three years” the oracle was to be fulfilled.

In fact, it would be no more than three years, perhaps even less, because it was “three years as a hired man would count them.” When men were hired as shepherds, they left as quickly as possible, because they had no particular love for the sheep. The expression shows that this three-year time of relative peace would end abruptly and not be extended.

The destruction would not be total, for the prophet said that “his remnant will be very small and impotent,” having “no might; not large.” For this reason, by the time of the Persian empire, the nation of Moab disappeared from history, having been overrun by Kedarites from northern Arabia. No doubt the remnants of Moab were absorbed into other tribes and ceased to have their own distinct identity.