Isaiah 15: The Waters are Full of Blood

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Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment

Part 2: Historical Interlude

Part 3: Salvation

Chapters 1-35

Chapters 36-39

Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Chapter 15 likely takes place during the reign of Hezekiah when the Assyrians are trying to gain control of the countries around Judah.

Key verse:

Isa. 15:9:  The waters of Dibon are full of blood, but I will bring on Dibon  even more than this – a lion for those who escape from Moab, and for the survivors in the land.

Quick summary:

God raised up nations like Moab to be the instruments of His judgment against His people (see Isa. 5:26-30; 7:18-20). Now, in chapters 13-24 Isaiah identifies these nations and exposes their sin. They have gone beyond God’s boundaries in punishing Israel. Therefore, God will bring them down.

Take note:

Israel’s neighbor Moab will be invaded and her people will become refugees (Isa. 15:5-7). Because of the depths of their sin, God will bring additional suffering upon the refugees (Isa. 15:9). We will see in chapter 16 that Israel offers them asylum, but in their pride they refuse the offer and ultimately fall.

Judgment on Moab (Isa. 15:1-9)

The Moabites are the product of Lot’s incestuous union with his daughter (Gen. 19:30-38). Their pagan practices corrupted Israel and they became the sworn enemies of the Jews (see Num. 25; Deut. 23:3).

Several cities and towns are mentioned in the first four verses of this chapter. Ar and Kir, possibly located near the southern end of the Dead Sea, are destroyed before Isaiah records this oracle. Dibon is one of Moab’s key cities. The city of Nebo is located near a mountain close to the northern shore of the Dead Sea; it is here that the Moabites worship the god Chemosh. Heshbon and Elealeh are in northern Moab. Shaved heads and cut beards are signs of humiliation (see Job 1:20; Isa. 7:20; Jer. 47:5, 48:37; Ezek. 7:18; Amos 8:10; Micah 1:16). Wearing sackcloth pictures one’s dejected state of mourning. The Moabites are lamenting the fall of their cities. Even the soldiers are wailing because of their inability to protect their homeland.

The tenderness of Isaiah’s heart is exposed in verse 5 as he grieves over Moab’s plight (compare with Isa. 21:3-4). Fleeing the invading Assyrians, the Moabites move south to Zoar, the northernmost city of Edom. The waters of Nimrim (v. 6) probably refer to a wadi in southern Moab. Because it is dry, the refugees, clutching their personal belongings, press farther south, to the Wadi of the Willows (v. 7). Reaching Dibon, the Moabites find the water supply to be bloody, indicated a great deal of death and destruction. They find no rest here, however. Isaiah describes their plight like one being constantly stalked by a lion. 

Final Thought

It is difficult for some to believe the depths of sorrow Isaiah expresses over the destruction of Moab’s cities and the suffering of her people. In fact, some commentators conclude that Isaiah is actually mocking the Moabites. Yet it may be better to see Isaiah’s lament as a reflection of God’s genuine grief over human sin and suffering. As God expressed through the prophet Ezekiel, “As I live” – the declaration of the Lord God – “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked person should turn from his way and live” (Ez. 33:11).

In the New Testament, Jesus weeps at the news of Lazarus’ death and is moved in His spirit by the tyranny of death as a consequence of sin (John 11:34-5). He also weeps over Jerusalem because of its pending judgment for rejecting Him as Messiah (Luke 19:41-4). It’s good to remind ourselves that while vengeance belongs to the Lord, He strongly prefers mankind’s repentance and restoration to divine judgment. The apostle Paul tells us it is the goodness of God, not His vengeance, which leads to repentance (Rom. 2:4).

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips

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