A Prophecy of Doom

Isaiah 16 (15-18) SCC 5/19/13



            There comes a point of no return like when you take the turn too fast or you just passed up a policeman who has clocked you over the speed limit. Forget it! There is a point of no return spiritually when you decide to go it alone, ignore the need to depend upon God, and carve out your own strategy. In this case you will be responsible to God for nullifying faith and humility. Pride sets God against you because pride is the false hope that you are in charge of your destiny. Refusing to acknowledge God is in charge, nothing can prevent your demise.


            In chp 15 is an oracle concerning Moab’s prideful demise. In Chp 17 the same goes for Damascus. And in Chp 18 the warning about trusting nations like Egypt for help. In Chp 16, we come across a prophecy of doom about Moab. Her point of no return has arrived.


         This is one of Israel's relatives from Lot and one of his two daughters after their flight from Sodom. Moab, Ammon, and Edom (i.e., the trans-Jordan nations), are first mentioned as receiving domination by Judah in 11:14. Chapters 15-16 form a literary unit dealing from Moab's judgment. Moab is mentioned often in Numbers because Israel had to travel through their land to get to Canaan. Moses was buried there according to Deut 34. Israel’s relationship with Moab and Ammon over the years was a mixed bag. They were first cousins, they had common enemies, and God had given them all separate plots of land to live on. There should have been a natural affinity between Israel and Moab and Ammon, and, from time to time, this appeared to be the case (we have the example of Ruth the Moabite who married into a Jewish family and of David who took his parents to Moab for safekeeping). However, because the Jews are God’s people and because Moab and Ammon had aligned themselves with false gods, there would often be tension between the countries.



            Here is a call for a frantic group of refugees to turn to the Lord for deliverance in distress. Isaiah announces that Moab’s protection can only be found in Israel: particularly in league with Israel’s God.


Verse 1: Send the Lamb…by way of the wilderness…to the mountain of Zion

The Moabites are under distress in need of protection only to be found in Israel. If they really wish to be delivered from the full devastation of the Assyrians, those left should send a lamb ahead to the temple as a way of approaching Israel’s God and acknowledging the need for His aid. It denotes a desperate, frantic action. Sela is about 50 miles south of Moab’s southern border.


Verse 2: like fleeing birds…scattered nestlings…daughters of Moab found at the fords of the Arnon

The Moabite refugees are as frightened as birds hovering on their border. And it seems that they are begging for protection, help, and support. The Arnon is the northern boundary of Moab. Fording the Arnon means the refugees are possibly fleeing from the north to the south. Deep chasms lead down from the tableland to the Dead Sea shore, the principal one being the gorge of the river Arnon, which is about 1,700 ft. deep and 2 or more miles in width at the level of the tableland, but very narrow at the bottom and with exceedingly precipitous banks. About 13 miles back from the mouth of the river the gorge divides, and farther back it subdivides, so that several valleys are formed of diminishing depth as they approach the desert border. These are referred to in Num. 21:14 as the “valleys of the Arnon.”


Verse 3: Give us advice…make a decision…cast your shadow (influence)...hide us…do not betray

Here is a desperate cry for protection. They should be begging for Israel to extend and exert her influence to protect them so they can be spared.


Verse 4: the extortioner has come to an end…destruction has ceased…oppressors have disappeared

It is possible for these Moabites refugees to have found security in Israel. There the outcasts could stay and Jerusalem a hiding place from the destroyer. Moab would find security in Zion God promised the destroyer, Assyria, would also be destroyed 14:4-5. Israel would be spared from Assyria’s aggression for the time being.


Verse 5: A throne established in lovingkindness…a judge in faithfulness…he will seek justice

This verse describes the coming future government from Judea over the entire region:

    1. A throne will be established (perfect) in lovingkindness.

    2. A judge will sit (perfect) on it in faithfulness in the tent of David.

    3. He will seek justice.

4. He will be prompt in righteousness. "Prompt," usually means skilled in something, therefore, able to do it rapidly. Here it denotes a Davidic ruler who quickly acts in righteousness. A merciful, faithful, just, and righteous Davidic king would judge there. This is clearly a reference to Messiah’s rule during the Millennium. Moab, then, will be one of the nations that come to the mountain of God to seek His ways. This leap into the End Times in the oracle extends Moab’s desire to find security in Judah in Isaiah’s day far into the future.



            Hope is desired expectation. Hope is: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. Since we invest in our hope, our investments reveal our hope. If our investments are in the stock market, then that’s where our hope is. If our investments are in our education, our retirement, our children or grandchildren, then that’s where our hope is. If our investments are in our relationship with God, then that’s where our hope is. We will grow in the direction of our hope. Spiritual growth like all growth is a function of our hope. God wants our hope to be a desired expectation of His ability to work in our lives. That is, to increase our dependence upon Him. Distress is a particularly useful tool to accomplish this.



            This is why the land of Moab was invaded and the people were on the run. For generations the Moabites, relatives of the Israelites, have been a thorn in the side of their brothers. Harassing, instigating, and acting with intrigue, their pride kept them from turning to Israel’s God and now, it being their only hope, they refuse turn away from their idols and will be utterly ruined.


Verse 6: We have heard of the pride of Moab…excessive pride…arrogance…idle boasts

While they should have realized they were impotent against the threats of Assyrian might, they still refuse to turn to Israel’s God and depend upon themselves, their actions, and their strategy. The Hebrew term "pride" is repeated in different ways four times. Moab, like her idols, claims much, talks much, but cannot do anything!


Verse 7-8: Therefore Moab shall wail…shall moan…utterly stricken…withered…trampled down

"Therefore" here are the consequences. The prophet explained the reason for Moab’s destruction, pride and its result, grief. Her excessive pride, arrogance, and insolence were the reason for her invasion; the invader was but the instrument of God. There was no basis in reality for her boasting. Moab was covered with grapevines, which the enemy would destroy. This would result in much despair and wailing in Moab. Raisin cakes, a delicacy along with the choicest vines, vineyards, wine, presses and harvests and orchards indicate the invading army and the drought to follow would wipe out Moab’s chances for survival altogether.


Verse 9-10: Therefore my heart intones…I will drench you with my tears…gladness is taken away

Here it refers to God through Isaiah who grieves over the "what-could-have-been." If, instead of pride, they had been willing to come to the God of Israel, a God they had known for generations but steadfastly refused, it could have been an entirely different outcome. God loves humans made in His image, made for fellowship, yet they turn to false gods, false hopes!

"I have made the shouting to cease" refers to God-sent invaders who disrupted the harvest and its annual festivals. The concept of the removal of joy is recurrent in this verse: 1. Gladness taken away. 2. Joy taken away. 3. No cries (or songs) of joy. 4. No jubilant shouting. 5. Shouting to cease. Joy would end because the national product, grapes, would be unavailable due to hostile invaders.


Verse 11-12: Therefore my heart intones…my inward feelings…when he prays he will not prevail

Again the Lord grieved over Moab (cf. 15:5-9). Even when He must judge people, the Lord has

pity on them and grieves over the destruction that He must send. God’s heart would break for these

proud Moabites. When the Moabites would pray to their idols there would be no response, no help.

Moab’s religious ritual sacrifices at her high places and praying at her shrines would not alleviate God’s



Verse 13-14: Within three years…the glory of Moab will be degraded…remnant will be very small

This oracle concludes by announcing Moab’s imminent ruin. The preceding verses describe an earlier

revelation that the prophet received, but now he learned that Moab’s invasion would be within three

years. A hired man would count down the three years day by day, and the Judeans would do the same as

they anticipated the degrading of Moab’s glory and population. Only a remnant would survive. The

fulfillment came when Assyria invaded Moab sometime between 715 and 713 B.C. or, perhaps, when

Sennacherib destroyed it in 701 B.C.



1. The grief of the judge of all the earth is one of the striking truths of this oracle.

2. The total loss and suffering arises from the single sin of pride. The New Testament clearly teaches the

sin of pride.

3. It is amazing how close one can be to God, like Moab for generations, and even of the same bloodline; like Judas for three years. And yet be provocative causing annoyance and arousing God’s judgment.

4. God wants you dependent upon Him and desperately so. You cannot have confidence in God until you renounce all confidence in yourself. Therefore, God brings you to the threat of danger all of your life, else you would cease being dependent.