15:1. Masoretic Text: A pronouncement [massá’] [against] Moab. Because in a night Ar is devastated, Moab is silenced; because in a night Kir is devastated, Moab is silenced.
Septuagint: The word against Moabitis. At night Moabitis will be destroyed; for at night the wall of Moabitis will be destroyed.
The Hebrew text can be understood to mean “Ar of Moab” and “Kir of Moab.” This is reflected in the rendering of numerous translations. “Laid waste in a night, Ar of Moab is destroyed; laid waste in a night, Kir of Moab is destroyed.” (NAB) “Laid waste in a night, Ar-Moab lies silent; laid waste in a night, Kir-Moab lies silent.” (NJB)
The Septuagint rendering “Moabitis” is doubtless to be understood as meaning the “land of Moab.”
The Targum of Isaiah refers to the pronouncement as the “cup of cursing” given to Moab to drink.
The Hebrew word massá’ is commonly understood to mean a “pronouncement,” “oracle,” “utterance,” or “burden.” Whereas the Vulgate renders the term as onus (“load” or “burden”), the Septuagint reading “word” or “saying,” in this context, supports the meaning of “pronouncement” or “utterance.” The pronouncement of judgment was so sure of fulfillment that it is expressed as if it had already taken place.
The land of Moab was situated east of the Dead Sea, with the river valley of Zered as the southern boundary and the river valley of Arnon as the northern boundary. Although related to them through Abraham’s nephew Lot, the Moabites were often in conflict with the Israelites. Through Ruth, even the royal line of David had a direct link to the Moabites. (Ruth 4:10, 18-22)
On account of the difficulty of distinguishing friend from foe in the dark, war operations commonly did not take place at night. Therefore, for the cities of Ar and Kir to have been devastated then meant that disaster would overtake them suddenly and by surprise. According to verses 14 and 15 of Numbers 21, Ar, which may have been the capital city, appears to have been situated south of the Arnon but its exact location is unknown. Kir has been identified with Al Karak (Karak, Kerak) in Jordan, a city situated on a small plateau with an elevation in excess of 3,000 feet (c. 900 meters) and about 12 miles (c. 20 kilometers) east of a point below the Lisan Peninsula in the Dead Sea. At one time, this major city of Moab may have been the capital. With two significant cities of Moab being devastated, Moab appears to be represented as “silenced” or brought to a state of ruin.
Unlike the Masoretic Text, the Septuagint does not refer to the two cities. In Hebrew, the designation qir (Kir) denotes “wall” or “city,” and the name “Ar” is thought to mean “city.” This may explain why the Septuagint does not use the names of the cities. The Targum of Isaiah refers to the “fortress of Moab” and the “stronghold of Moab,” indicating that both were destroyed while the Moabites were in deep sleep.
15:2. Masoretic Text: He has gone up to the house and to Dibon to the high places to wail. Over Nebo and over Medeba, Moab howls. On all his heads [is] baldness. Every beard is shorn.
Septuagint: Sorrow over yourselves, for Debon also will be destroyed. Where your altar [is], there you will ascend to weep. Over Nabau [Nebo] of Moabitis howl. On every head [is] baldness. All arms have been cut.
The Hebrew text could also be punctuated differently. “He has gone up to the house and to Dibon to the high places to wail over Nebo and over Medeba. Moab howls. On all his heads [is] baldness. Every beard is shorn.”
In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the conjunction “and” precedes the phrase about the beard.
Instead of “Debon” (Dibon), other Greek texts read “Lebedon.”
The “house” where “he” (the people of Moab) would go to weep may well have been the temple of the principal god Chemosh, and this sanctuary was probably in Dibon. According to the rendering of the Septuagint, the altar was located on an elevated site, and there the people would ascend to weep over the calamity that had befallen them.
Dibon has been identified with Dhibon, Jordan, situated a short distance north of the Arnon and about 13 miles (over 20 kilometers) east of the Dead Sea. While one reading of the Greek text indicates that “Debon” or Dibon would also be destroyed, the Hebrew text refers to Dibon as the place where Moab (the Moabites) would wail, apparently on account of their devastation. What is considered to be the site of ancient Nebo (modern Khirbet el-Mekhayyet) is situated northwest of Medeba and about 5 miles (c. 8 kilometers) southwest of Heshbon (identified with the site known as Hisban). Medeba (identified with modern Madaba) lies about 12 miles (c. 20 kilometers) east of the northern end of the Dead Sea.
Instead of considering “Nebo” to be the name of a city, some have interpreted the reference to be to Mount Nebo. “Dibon went up to its temple to weep at its high places. Moab wails on Nebo and at Medeba.” (HCSB) This rendering, however, is questionable because the same preposition is used in the Hebrew text before each location.
In view of the calamity, Moab would “howl” or lament with loud outcries. In times of affliction and mourning, people would shave their heads and men would additionally cut off their beards. In the Septuagint, the reference to cutting in relation to the arms may be understood to mean that gashes had been made on the arms in expression of grief, that the arms were mutilated, or that the arms had been cut in pieces.
15:3. Masoretic Text: In its streets, they gird on sackcloth. On the roofs and in the squares, everyone is howling, sinking in tears.
Septuagint: In her squares, gird on sackcloth and beat [yourselves in grief]. On her roofs and in her streets, howl, all of you, with wailing.
In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the thought about “sinking in tears” is preceded by the conjunction “and.”
Sackcloth, a coarse cloth probably made of goat’s hair, was worn next to the skin when in a state of grief. Faced with calamity, the Moabites would not wear their usual attire but would gird themselves with sackcloth. On the flat roofs of the houses and in all the squares or open areas, people would howl or wail loudly. “Sinking” or “going down” in tears could indicate that tears would be profusely streaming down over their cheeks. A number of translations represent the Hebrew as meaning that the people drop to the ground and weep. “Everyone wails, falling down and weeping.” (HCSB) “They all wail, prostrate with weeping.” (NIV) “They fall down flat with their faces toward the ground. And they sob.” (NIRV)
15:4. Masoretic Text: And Heshbon and Elealeh cry out. As far as Jahaz their voice is heard. Therefore, the warriors of Moab shout. His soul trembles within him.
Septuagint: For Hesebon [Heshbon] and Eleale [Elealeh] have cried out. As far as Iassa [Jahaz] their [“her,” in other manuscripts] voice was heard. Because of this, the loin of Moabitis cries. Her soul will know.”
In the Greek text, the words “their voice” refer to the sound coming from the cities, whereas “her voice” would mean the sound coming from the territory of Moab.
Over 15 miles (c. 25 kilometers) east of the location where the Jordan enters the Dead Sea lies Hisban (the site considered to be ancient Heshbon). About two miles (c. 3 kilometers) to the northeast of Hisban is el-‛Al, the place that has been identified with ancient Elealeh. So great would be the cry of distress rising from Heshbon and Elealeh that it would reach the city of Jahaz, possibly a city over six miles (c. 10 kilometers) north of Elealeh or a city more than ten miles (over 16 kilometers) south of Heshbon (depending upon whether either location correctly identifies the site of ancient Jahaz).
The warriors of Moab are represented as shouting in despair and panic over defeat, and the “soul within him,” probably meaning the entire populace in the land of Moab, is portrayed as trembling in fear.
In the Septuagint, the words about the “loin of Moabitis” doing the crying out could mean that the outcry that is heard coming from the land of Moab stems from the deepest emotions of the people. The “soul” of Moabitis, or the Moabites as a whole, would know or be fully aware of the seriousness of the calamity.
15:5. Masoretic Text: My heart cries for Moab. Her fugitives — to Zoar, to Eglath-shelishiyah. For on the ascent of Luhith, they ascend up it weeping; for on the road to Horonaim, they raise a cry of collapse.
Septuagint: The heart of Moabitis cries in her as far as Segor [Zoar], for she is a heifer of three years [a three-year-old heifer]. And on the ascent of Louith [Luhith], they ascend to you weeping; on the road to Haroniim [Horonaim], she cries, “Ruin and trembling!”
The Targum of Isaiah refers to the cry that is associated with Horonaim as being “the cry of those defeated in battle.”
Contemplating the great suffering to befall Moab, Isaiah found that his inner compassion was aroused, and in his “heart” or inmost self joined in the lament. He was not unfeeling when it came to human distress even though it involved a people who had warred against the Israelites. The Septuagint does not include this thought but represents the “heart” or inmost self of Moabitis (the people of Moab) as crying aloud.
The surviving Moabites are depicted as fleeing southward, reaching Zoar (the location of this city being uncertain). Eglath-shelishiyah may have been a nearby city. Like the Septuagint, a number of modern translations render the Hebrew designation to mean a three-year-old heifer. The meaning then could be that Moab (or the Moabites as a people), resembling a young cow about to be slaughtered, lets out mournful cries of anguish on account of defeat.
The weeping refugees are portrayed as using the ascent of Luhith. Whether Luhith was the slope that led to the city by that name or only the name of the ascent cannot be established. The exact location of Horonaim is also uncertain. As the Moabite fugitives would flee on the road to Horonaim, they would continue to lament over the calamity that had befallen them. The Septuagint represents the outcry to relate to ruin or destruction and the trembling that had chased them from their homes like the shaking caused by an earthquake.
15:6. Masoretic Text: For the waters of Nimrim are ruins, for the grass is withered; vegetation has vanished; [there] is no greenery.
Septuagint: The water of Nemrim [Nimrim] will be dried up, and her grass will disappear, for the grass will not be green.
The “waters of Nimrim” could refer to a stream that flows into the southern end of the Dead Sea. For these waters to be in a state of ruin or to be dried up could indicate that the invading force had stopped them up. Without essential water, the grass would wither and turn brown. All green grass would disappear. Where greenery once flourished, nothing would be green.
There is a possibility that the reference to the “waters of Nimrim” points representatively to the desolation of the entire territory of Moab. This could mean that the desolation would be comparable to the effect produced on the vegetation when a stream dries up.
15:7. Masortic Text: Therefore, over the river valley of the poplars, they take the abundance one has gained and their accumulation.
Septuagint: And will she thus be about to be saved? For I will bring Arabs to the ravine, and they will seize it.
In the Masoretic Text, the word of “poplars” or “willows” is preceded by a definite article, but this is not the case in the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah. While the first four letters of the word are the same in this scroll, the final mem (M) in the Masoretic Text is missing. Therefore, the conclusion has been advanced that “Arabs” is a possible meaning. This may explain why the Septuagint rendering is “Arabs.”
In the Greek text, the word for “ravine” is feminine gender and is the closest antecedent to the pronoun (also in the feminine gender) that is here rendered “it.” There is a possibility, however, that the pronoun should be rendered “her,” which would more directly answer the question about whether “she” (Moab) would be saved. The answer would be that Moab would not be saved but would fall before the invading force. If the reference is to the “ravine,” the answer would be less direct, indicating that the ravine would be seized. With the invasion having come from the north, this would mean that the entire land of Moab would be conquered.
The river valley of the poplars may be the same as the river valley of Zered, which formed a natural boundary between Moab and Edom. (Compare Deuteronomy 2:12-18.) This stream is considered to be the one that flows into the southern end of the Dead Sea. The fugitives were forced to leave everything behind, taking with them only whatever portion of their gains and accumulated items that they could carry across the river valley into the territory of Edom.
15:8. Masoretic Text: For a cry has gone around the territory of Moab, to Eglaim the howling thereof, to Beer-elim the howling thereof,
Septuagint: For the cry has reached the border of Moabitis of Agallim [Eglaim], and her wailing as far as the well of Ailim [Beer-elim].
In the Septuagint, “Beer” is rendered according to its Hebrew meaning “well” and not as part of the name of the city.
The entire territory of Moab is represented as being in a state of howling or bitter lamentaton over the calamity. The outcry extended from Eglaim to Beer-elim. Neither city can be linked with certainty to any known site.
15:9. Masoretic Text: for the waters of Dimon are full of blood, for I will bring more on Dimon — a lion for the one who escapes from Moab and for the remnant of the land.
Septuagint: But the water of Remmon [Dimon] will be filled with blood, for I will bring Arabs against Remmon [Dimon], and I will take away the seed of Moab and Ariel and the remnant of Adama.
The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah does not contain the spelling for “Dimon,” but refers to the place as “Dibon,” the same location that was mentioned in verse 2. The spelling “Dimon” results in a wordplay (“Dimon” and “blood” [dam]). The Septuagint reading in verse 2 (“Debon” or “Lebedon”) and the reading “Remmon” in verse 9 indicate that the translator did not consider the same place to be meant
It would appear that the Septuagint translator regarded the name in the text from which he worked to contain the letter mem (M) and the letter resh (R), not the very similar daleth (D). This appears to account for the transliterated form “Remmon.” The way in which the Septuagint differs from the Masoretic Text and the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah is not as great when one compares it with the consonantal reading of the Hebrew text.
No definitive conclusion is possible about the place here called “Dimon,” “Dibon,” or “Remmon.”
On account of the large number of the slain Moabites, the waters of “Dimon” (“Dibon” or “Remmon” [LXX]) are depicted as filled with blood. Even more suffering lay ahead, comparable to the depredations of a ravenous lion. Those who had successfully made their escape from Moab would not find a place of security, and a remnant of the Moabites who remained in the land would likewise not escape additional distress.
The Septuagint points to God as the one bringing calamity on Moab, identifying his doing so by means of Arabs and mentioning his removing the “seed” or offspring of Moab, Ariel, and the remnant of Adama. Although the wording is different, the message of a severe judgment is the same.