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independent witnesses, both to the truth of the things written in the Bible history, and to the marvellous foreknowledge of events manifested in the Bible prophecies.
But besides these greater nations of old times, there were others of less note, which being close to the confines of Judea, were of great consequence, either as friends or as enemies, to the commonwealth of Israel. Such were the Philistines for instance, mentioned at the close of the last chapter; and such the Moabites, whose burden is here proclaimed. Of these smaller nations little notice is taken in any records of ancient history, except those which the Scriptures contain. Here therefore we have not the same materials to assist us, in shewing the fulfilment of the prophecies. But we can readily understand, that these parts of the prophetic volume were not less profitable to the Israelites of old, than those which relate to the most mighty empires. For in the events which befel these their nearer neighbours, they would take the more lively interest. And though the events themselves might not be of such large importance, the proof of God's foreseeing, and overruling all things, would be quite as striking, to those who beheld it, on a small scale, as on a large one. Even as we find that it holds good in contemplating God's wondrous work, in the creation of the universe; wherein, if we are lost in reverential awe, when we calculate the extent and splendour of those distant orbs, which shine in the firmament above, we are no less deeply impressed with the power, the wisdom, and the goodness, of Him who created all things, when we examine with due attention the world we live in, or the least amongst the multitude of creatures which He has appointed to share our habitation.
"The burden of Moab" refers to the taking of two of their chief cities in the night, describes the weeping and mourning of the Moabites in different places, and the usual tokens of mourning, cutting off the hair, and putting on sackcloth. Other towns are next mentioned as lamenting, even the armed men crying out, and the prophet himself sympathizing in the sorrow he describes. The running away of fugitives like cattle, the failure of vegetation, the spoiling of goods, rivers flowing with blood, and lions to prey on the few whom the enemy had spared, fill up this mournful prophecy of coming woe, and warn us that the sins of nations, no less than those of individuals, will surely find them out. See Num. 32. 23. Yes, doubtless it was for the sins of Moab that these judgments were inflicted. And doubtless the like judgments, now inflicted by the nations on each other, are chastisements for sin appointed by the Lord. It may seem no more than that the strong are spoiling the weak, the violent preying on the peaceable. But of a truth it is God who is chastising for sin, overruling the wars and fightings of men, for the execution of his own righteous judgments.
The burden of Moab is concluded.
1 Send ye the lamb to the ruler of the land from Sela to the wilderness, unto the mount of the daughter of Zion.
2 For it shall be, that, as a wandering bird cast out of the nest, so the daughters of Moab shall be at the fords of Arnon. 3 Take counsel, execute judgment; make thy shadow as the night in the midst of the noonday; hide the outcasts; bewray not him that wandereth.
4 Let mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab; be thou a covert to them from the face of the spoiler for the extortioner is at an end, the spoiler ceaseth, the oppressors are consumed out of the land.
5 And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness.
6 We have heard of the pride of Moab; he is very proud; even of his haughtiness, and his pride, and his wrath: but his lies shall not be so.
7 Therefore shall Moab howl for Moab, every one shall howl: for the foundations of Kir-hareseth shall ye mourn; surely they are stricken.
8 For the fields of Heshbon languish, and the vine of Sibmah: the lords of the heathen have broken down the principal
plants thereof, they are come even unto Jazer, they wandered through the wilderness: her branches are stretched out, they are gone over the sea.
9 Therefore I will bewail with the weeping of Jazer the vine of Sibmah: I will water thee with my tears, O Heshbon, and Elealeh: for the shouting for thy summer fruits and for thy harvest is fallen.
10 And gladness is taken away, and joy out of the plentiful field; and in the vineyards there shall be no singing, neither shall there be shouting: the treaders shall tread out no wine in their presses; I have made their vintage shouting to cease. 11 Wherefore my bowels shall sound like an harp for Moab, and mine inward parts for Kirharesh.
12 And it shall come to pass, when it is seen that Moab is weary on the high place, that he shall come to his sanctuary to pray; but he shall not prevail. 13 This is the word that the LORD hath spoken concerning Moab since that time.
14 But now the LORD hath spoken, saying, Within three years, as the years of an hireling, and the glory of Moab shall be contemned, with all that great multitude; and the remnant shall be very small and feeble.
The fulfilment of God's sentence, though secret, is sure. It is recorded in the book of Kings, that "Mesha king of Moab was a sheep master, and rendered unto the king of Israel an hundred thousand lambs, and an hundred thousand rams, with the
wool." 2 Kings 3. 4. Probably some such tribute is intended, when the prophet, at the beginning of this chapter, urges Moab to send "the lamb unto the mount of the daughter of Zion." For the daughters of Moab, he tells them, should soon be in distress, and be in need of the protection of Jerusalem; though the Moabites, as it seems to be here hinted, had refused shelter to the outcasts of Judah. For this cruelty and pride Moab must be desolate, when the kingdom of Judah would be reestablished in peace and prosperity. The "fields of Heshbon," and “the vine of Sibmah" must be a spoil to some great heathen conqueror; and all plenty and rejoicing must cease out of the land, and be succeeded by such misery, as to move deep compassion in the heart of him who foretold it. Then should the Moabites have recourse, but all in vain, to their high places, and to their sanctuary; seeing that they were worshippers of them that were no gods. And within three years from a certain time here fixt, the glory of Moab should be made contemptible, and the multitude of the Moabites should be reduced to a very small and feeble remnant.
In the terms of this whole prophecy there is much that is obscure. And there is still more difficulty in deciding when it was fulfilled; a difficulty arising from the silence of history as to the events here foretold. But we know enough of the Moabites to be aware, that the sin of this people was great before the Lord. Not to dwell upon their unhallowed origin, we find them guilty of great sins, and of tempting the Israelites to great wickedness, during their journeyings from the wilderness to the promised land. See Num. 25. 1-3. And at that early period, we find this proverb in the mouth of the people of the Lord; "Woe to thee Moab! thou art undone, O people of Chemosh." Num. 21. 29. Instances of their superstition and cruelty occur in other parts of Scripture. See 2 Kings 3. 27, Amos 2. 1. And though the execution of the judgments here foretold is no where set down in Scripture history, it is enough for us to know that they were denounced by God, and we can have no doubt that they were fulfilled. He whose word could bring to nothing imperial Babylon, and its victorious king, had but to decree the sentence of Moab, and its doom was unalterably fixt. Judgments, like sins, are some open, and some secret. See 1 Tim. 5. 25. And many of those amongst ourselves, in whom we see no outward sign that they are suffering for their notorious transgressions, are already preyed upon within, by a foretaste of that worm that never dies, and of that fire which is never quenched.
The burden of Damascus and of Israel.
1 The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.
2 The cities of Aroer are forsaken: they shall be for flocks, which shall lie down, and none shall make them afraid.
3 The fortress also shall cease from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria: they shall be as the glory of the children of Israel, saith the LORD of hosts. 4 And in that day it shall come to pass, that the glory of Jacob shall be made thin, and the fatness of his flesh shall wax lean. 5 And it shall be as when the harvestman gathereth the corn, and reapeth the ears with his arm; and it shall be as he that gathereth ears in the valley of Rephaim.
6 Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it, as the shaking of an olive tree, two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof, saith the LORD God of Israel. 7 At that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel.
8 And he shall not look to the altars, the work of his hands, neither shall respect that which his fingers have made, either
the groves, or the images.
9 In that day shall his strong cities be as a forsaken bough, and an uppermost branch, which they left because of the children of Israel: and there shall be desolation.
10 Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants, and shalt set it with strange slips:
11 In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow.
12 Woe to the multitude of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!
13 The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind.
14 And behold at eventide trouble; and before the morning he is not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us. LECTURE 1118.
Evil, though overruled for good, is no less liable to punishment. The prophet Amos makes mention of the wickedness of Damascus, in terms which shew that the judgments here denounced upon that city were most amply deserved. See Amos 1. 4. But Damascus made common cause with Israel in vexing Judah. And therefore the prophet passes on to the calamities impending
He beholds the cities near to Aroer forsaken, and the strongholds of Ephraim overthrown and both the glory of Damascus, and that of Israel, overtaken by a common ruin. It was indeed the same monarch of Assyria who cut Israel short, in the days of Pekah, and who, at the instigation of Ahaz king of Judah, took Damascus, and took captive its inhabitants. See 2 Kings 15. 29. 16. 9. And it was after the desolation of Israel by Tiglath-pileser, that some few amongst the remnant left behind, turned, as here predicted, to God their Maker, and shewed "respect to the Holy One of Israel." At the invitation of Hezekiah, when he was about to keep the passover, "divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem." 2 Chron. 30. 11. Even then however the strong cities of Israel were but "as a forsaken bough, and an uppermost branch;" that is to say; their inhabitants were few in number, like the fruit left on a high branch as not worth the labour of reaching it. And even of this remnant the greater part were doomed to cherish their fatal love of idol worship. They would continue to plant images, and would set their land full of strange gods, as though with slips of foreign trees, until they reaped an abundant harvest, "in the day of grief and desperate sorrow," until they were finally and utterly removed out of the land. See 2 Kings 17. 6—23.
From this painful vision of Israel's desolation, how consoling to turn, as the prophet now turns, to the miraculous deliverance of Judah, under the reign of the good king Hezekiah; the deliverance from the army of Sennacherib. The forces which had destroyed Israel are seen to advance after a short respite, under another king, to defy Jerusalem. The noise of their multitude is heard "like the rushing of mighty waters." But He who can still the raging of the sea when its anger is at the height, had resolved to rebuke this proud invader, and his mighty host; to chase them as chaff before the wind, and as a cloud before the whirlwind. "And behold at eventide trouble; and before the morning he is not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us." Yes, though that spoiling was appointed by God to be for the chastisement of his people, though the Assyrian was the rod of his anger, see ch. 10. 5, first to lay waste Israel, and hereafter also to level Jerusalem to the ground, yet must the destroyer be himself destroyed. His pride, ambition, covetousness, and cruelty, are not excused, but are rather so much the more inexcusable, for being directed against the people of the Lord. Let not then the wicked presume that they are safe, because God overrules their wickedness for good. But rather let them tremble to reflect, that He can and will make their punishment, as well as their wickedness, redound to the benefit of his people, and to his own divine glory.