"In that day a man will look to his Maker, And his eyes will have respect for the Holy One of Israel. He will not look to the altars, The work of his hands; He will not respect what his fingers have made, Nor the wooden images nor the incense altars." –Isaiah 17:7-8
In these chapters the prophet Isaiah conveys God's genuine compassion over the tragic results of idolatry among the Gentiles. The neighboring kingdoms of Moab and Syria are addressed here. God declares, "My heart will cry out for Moab"(15:5), a nation that appeared before God as prideful and haughty (16:6). Isaiah knew that God took no pleasure in the judgment of either Jew or Gentile.
Whether Jew or Gentile, the spiritual and social solution for any nation, family, or individual is the same. God is Creator of all and regardless of our culture or religious upbringing, we all are given the capacity by God to come to the very same basic conclusions. Primarily, all humanity has been given the capacity of reason that leads them to a supreme origin of our existence and an accompanying sense of accountability to Him. We are accountable to our Maker and must look to Him alone. It is the height of folly to look to altars, statutes, men, or man's philosophies rather than God Almighty, Creator of all things.
The Apostle Paul makes this very clear in Romans 1:18-23 and 2:14-16. Paul reveals that God's judgment is a just response to a person's continued effort to suppress the truth about God that He has written within every human being. It is a willful act of rebellion against Him that moves people and nations to refashion God to their own liking, worshipping instead what their own hands, minds, and passions have created. It is a willful decision to be driven by self-idolatry, making ourselves the ultimate creator of what is right, who God is. We then craft our gods and shape our personal moral codes that best suit our own egos. Because of this, our world has continued to reel under the tragic results of manmade gods. Sin, injustice, and every form of oppression have been the legacy of men and women playing god.
Whether Moab, Israel, Babylon, or Syria, the basic issue is clear: Will we look to the origin of space, time, and matter or to the gods of our own making? God could not be "God" if He did not act against the idols that men create. Nor would God be "God" if He did not seek to restore any person or nation that comes to their senses and turns their eyes back to the true and living God. Which edge of the sword will touch you – judgment or grace?
Proclamation Against Moab
1 The burden against Moab.
Because in the night Ar of Moab is laid waste
Because in the night Kir of Moab is laid waste
2 He has gone up to the temple and Dibon,
To the high places to weep.
Moab will wail over Nebo and over Medeba;
On all their heads will be baldness,
And every beard cut off.
3 In their streets they will clothe themselves with sackcloth;
On the tops of their houses
And in their streets
Everyone will wail, weeping bitterly.
4 Heshbon and Elealeh will cry out,
Their voice shall be heard as far as Jahaz;
Therefore the armed soldiers of Moab will cry out;
His life will be burdensome to him.
Judgment on Moab
v. 1 Ar of Moab – Moab, east of the Dead Sea was populated by the descendents of Moab, a son of Lot (Gen. 19:31-37). Ar was at its northern border.
Kir – This was south of Ar. These cities are referred to in order to convey that from north to south, Moab would suffer destruction.
in the night – This refers to the sudden trouble that will befall them.
v. 2 temple – The areas listed, Dibon, Nebo, and Medeba, were what were called "high places." These were tops of hills or mountains where idols were worshipped. This is why they were referred to here as a temple.
beard cut off – A shaved head and beard was a sign of shame in this culture.
v. 3 sackcloth – This rough, wool clothing irritated the skin and was worn to convey sorrow.
roofs – The people would go up on theses flat roofs to express sorrow over what was happening to them.
v. 4 Heshbon – The capital city of the Moab people.
Elealeh – A town of the tribe of Reuben, about an hour from Heshbon.
as far as Jahaz – This was a city east of Jordan where Moses had defeated Sihon.
armed soldiers – They will become overwhelmed and discouraged at the complete destruction that will come upon them.
5 "My heart will cry out for Moab;
His fugitives shall flee to Zoar,
Like a three-year-old heifer.
For by the Ascent of Luhith
They will go up with weeping;
For in the way of Horonaim
They will raise up a cry of destruction,
6 For the waters of Nimrim will be desolate,
For the green grass has withered away;
The grass fails, there is nothing green.
7 Therefore the abundance they have gained,
And what they have laid up,
They will carry away to the Brook of the Willows.
8 For the cry has gone all around the borders of Moab,
Its wailing to Eglaim
And its wailing to Beer Elim.
9 For the waters of Dimon will be full of blood;
Because I will bring more upon Dimon,
Lions upon him who escapes from Moab,
And on the remnant of the land."
v. 5 my heart will cry – Isaiah experiences emotional suffering and anguish as he knows what's coming upon Moab. He often expressed this compassion (Is. 16:11, 21:3-4).
flee to Zoar – This is the city that their ancestor Lot fled to after the destruction of Sodom.
three-year-old – This refers to the struggle a young oxen when first experiencing the yoke.
v. 6 waters of Nimrim – This Moabite oasis supplied water. The beautiful meadows of grass died when their enemies stopped up the water.
v. 7 they will carry away – As fugitives they will flee their land taking only what they can carry.
v. 8 Eglaim – This was a city east of the Dead Sea.
Beer Elim – This means "Well of the Princes."
v. 9 waters of Dimon – This is likely the same as Dibon in v. 2. The slaughter by the invading Babylonians will be so great that blood will discolor the water of this river.
lions upon him – The trouble that will befall the Moabites will be so tragic that as they escape the armies of Babylon, they will then have to face wild predatory animals.
1 Send the lamb to the ruler of the land,
From Sela to the wilderness,
To the mount of the daughter of Zion.
2 For it shall be as a wandering bird thrown out of the nest;
So shall be the daughters of Moab at the fords of the Arnon.
3 "Take counsel, execute judgment;
Make your shadow like the night in the middle of the day;
Hide the outcasts,
Do not betray him who escapes.
4 Let My outcasts dwell with you, O Moab;
Be a shelter to them from the face of the spoiler.
For the extortioner is at an end,
The oppressors are consumed out of the land.
5 In mercy the throne will be established;
And One will sit on it in truth, in the tabernacle of David,
Judging and seeking justice and hastening righteousness."
6 We have heard of the pride of Moab—
He is very proud—
Of his haughtiness and his pride and his wrath;
But his lies shall not be so.
v. 1 send the lamb – This was a form of tribute to a more powerful ruling nation.
to the mount – This refers to Jerusalem as the ruling force of the region. It is prophesied throughout Isaiah and the OT that at the second return of Christ, He will rule over the nations of the earth at Jerusalem.
v. 2 wandering bird – Moab will be like a bird that has had its nest destroyed and has no sure dwelling place.
fords of the Arnon – This was at the boundary of the land. Women are seen as searching for safety all the way to the border of their land.
v. 3 your shadow – Moab is to look to God's people for the covering and protection they need just as a shadow provides protection from the sun.
v. 4 devastation ceases – The destruction of the enemy of the Moabites is seen as ceasing through the result of the Messiah's coming rule at Jerusalem.
v. 5 in mercy – The rule of the Messiah will be characterized by mercy. This is in complete contrast to all other world powers. Mercy is showing gracious compassion and sincere help toward those who would not expect to receive any kindness from the one showing mercy.
tabernacle of David – Tabernacle literally means tent. This refers to the dwelling place of the Messiah who will come from the family line of David.
seeking justice – Christ will rule on earth during the millennium with a perfect justice for all (Rev. 20:1-5).
v. 6 his lies – The pride of Moab caused them to brag beyond their real greatness. These lies shall be revealed as false boasting.
7 Therefore Moab shall wail for Moab;
Everyone shall wail.
For the foundations of Kir Hareseth you shall mourn;
Surely they are stricken.
8 For the fields of Heshbon languish,
And the vine of Sibmah;
The lords of the nations have broken down its choice plants,
Which have reached to Jazer
And wandered through the wilderness.
Her branches are stretched out,
They are gone over the sea.
9 Therefore I will bewail the vine of Sibmah,
With the weeping of Jazer;
I will drench you with my tears,
O Heshbon and Elealeh;
For battle cries have fallen
Over your summer fruits and your harvest.
10 Gladness is taken away,
And joy from the plentiful field;
In the vineyards there will be no singing,
Nor will there be shouting;
No treaders will tread out wine in the presses;
I have made their shouting cease.
11 Therefore my heart shall resound like a harp for Moab,
And my inner being for Kir Heres.
12 And it shall come to pass,
When it is seen that Moab is weary on the high place,
That he will come to his sanctuary to pray;
But he will not prevail.
13 This is the word which the Lord has spoken concerning Moab since that time. 14 But now the Lord has spoken, saying, "Within three years, as the years of a hired man, the glory of Moab will be despised with all that great multitude, and the remnant will be very small and feeble."
v. 7 therefore – They will be in great shock when their false self-importance is seen for what it is.
v. 8 the fields – Verses 8-9 describe what had been bountiful fields and vineyards that will be destroyed by the invading armies of Babylon.
v. 10 gladness is taken away – The joy that traditionally accompanied the crushing of the grapes in the winepresses at the end of harvest would be no more.
v. 11 heart will resound – Isaiah again expresses his deep sorrow over the tragic end of a people who reap such extreme consequences for their way of life apart from God.
v. 12 he will not prevail – The sad condition of the Moabites is seen here in that when they cry out for help to their false gods they will find no real deliverance.
v. 14 years of a hired man – Just as a hired servant marks each day until his time is up, the Moabites should note that in three years this prophecy will be fulfilled.
Proclamation Against Syria and Israel
The burden against Damascus.
"Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city,
And it will be a ruinous heap.
2 The cities of Aroer are forsaken;
They will be for flocks
Which lie down, and no one will make them afraid.
3 The fortress also will cease from Ephraim,
The kingdom from Damascus,
And the remnant of Syria;
They will be as the glory of the children of Israel,"
Says the Lord of hosts.
4 "In that day it shall come to pass
That the glory of Jacob will wane,
And the fatness of his flesh grow lean.
5 It shall be as when the harvester gathers the grain,
And reaps the heads with his arm;
It shall be as he who gathers heads of grain
In the Valley of Rephaim.
6 Yet gleaning grapes will be left in it,
Like the shaking of an olive tree,
Two or three olives at the top of the uppermost bough,
Four or five in its most fruitful branches,"
Says the Lord God of Israel.
7 In that day a man will look to his Maker,
And his eyes will have respect for the Holy One of Israel.
Judgment Against Syria
v. 1 Damascus – This was the capital of the Syrian nation. This city was taken by the invading forces of the Assyrian ruler, Tiglath-pileser during the fourth year of Ahaz's rule of Judah (2 Kings 16:9).
v. 2 Cities of Aroer – This was north of Arnon and east of Ammon. This region is seen as being scattered with ghost towns that are only inhabited by grazing flocks.
v. 3 Ephraim – This was the largest tribe of the northern kingdom of Israel. They had developed an alliance with Syria with the intention of overthrowing the southern kingdom of Judah.
as the glory – Syria and its capital city, Damascus, would lose its glory just as Israel already had.
Judgment on Israel
v. 4 Jacob will wane – The loss of God's blessing is seen in the poor harvest where only stalks are gathered rather than grain (v. 5) and where all that is gathered from vines and olive trees is what would normally be left for gleaning.
v. 5 Valley of Rephaim – This was northwest of Jerusalem and normally a very fertile and productive area.
v. 7 look to His Maker – The leanness that results from judgment will cause some of God's people to turn back to God.
Holy One – God's holiness, that He is perfectly different than fallen man, will become a reference point for those who are turning to God and away from evil.
8 He will not look to the altars,
The work of his hands;
He will not respect what his fingers have made,
Nor the wooden images nor the incense altars.
9 In that day his strong cities will be as a forsaken bough
And an uppermost branch,
Which they left because of the children of Israel;
And there will be desolation.
10 Because you have forgotten the God of your salvation,
And have not been mindful of the Rock of your stronghold,
Therefore you will plant pleasant plants
And set out foreign seedlings;
11 In the day you will make your plant to grow,
And in the morning you will make your seed to flourish;
But the harvest will be a heap of ruins
In the day of grief and desperate sorrow.
12 Woe to the multitude of many people
Who make a noise like the roar of the seas,
And to the rushing of nations
That make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!
13 The nations will rush like the rushing of many waters;
But God will rebuke them and they will flee far away,
And be chased like the chaff of the mountains before the wind,
Like a rolling thing before the whirlwind.
14 Then behold, at eventide, trouble!
And before the morning, he is no more.
This is the portion of those who plunder us,
And the lot of those who rob us.
v. 8 will not look – Those turning to God are, at the same time, turning away from all forms of idolatry. Idolatry is anything that takes the rightful place of God's work and will in our lives.
v. 9 strong cities – Isaiah points out that those who trust in their walled cities for protection rather than God will find it will be of no help.
v. 10 forgotten God – Isaiah makes it clear where the troubles of Israel originated. It was when they stopped looking to God as the source of their "salvation," protection, and security as their "rock."
v. 10-11 foreign seedlings – The picture here is of the Israelites working hard at establishing idolatrous methods of salvation and protection only to see it end in desperate sorrow and a harvest of ruin.
Assyria will be Judged
v. 12 woe to the multitude – The majority of Israel will be in great sorrow as they see the Empire of Assyria crashing down upon them.
rushing of nations – This refers to the small city-states and nations that came under the rule of the Assyrian Empire. This empire was the tool in God's sovereign plan to bring down Syria (Damascus) and the northern kingdom of Israel because of their wickedness.
v. 13 but God – This prophecy against Israel ends with a promise that in the end God will restore His people and protect them from those who seek their destruction. In the short term He has used these nations as a tool of judgment upon His people but, in the end, his purpose is their restoration.
v. 13 as the chaff – This is a picture of the process of separating the chaff and the grain. To do so people would go to the knoll of a hill and toss up the grain in the wind. The wind would then carry away the lighter chaff and the grain would fall to the ground. This process is seen as a picture of how at a later date God will cause the Assyrian Empire to be dismantled and cast to the wind. This occurred through the rise of the Babylonian Empire.
v. 14 before the morning – This points to the sudden fall that God will sovereignly bring upon the Assyrians.
that plunders us – This refers to the overthrow and enslavement of the northern kingdom that was the result of their rebellion against God.