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God’s Word for You

Isaiah 15:5-9

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, January 11, 2008

5 My heart cries out over Moab;
her fugitives flee as far as Zoar,
as far as Eglath Shelishiyah.
They go up the way to Luhith,
weeping as they go;
on the road to Horonaim
they lament their destruction.

The only other reference to Eglath is in the prophet Jeremiah, who paraphrases this very oracle in his own words about Moab (Jeremiah 48). The road to Horonaim is mentioned almost as often as the city itself in the Bible (2 Samuel 13:34; Jeremiah 48:5). References to Luhith always say “up,” implying that it is somewhere in the Abarim Mountains (Deuteronomy 32:49), in the vicinity of Mount Nebo.

When we remember how Moab got its name, it’s striking that the fugitives of this people are fleeing back to Zoar. That was the place that Moab’s mother left after God rescued her and her father and sister from the destruction of Sodom. Perhaps—just perhaps—the people of Moab are shown here remembering where they came from; where their roots are, physically and spiritually. And all the while, God is longing for them to return: “My heart cries out over Moab…” If they turn to him, God will save them. If they do not turn to him, “all their longings will come to nothing” (Psalm 112:10).

6 The waters of Nimrim are dried up
and the grass is withered;
the vegetation is gone
and nothing green is left.
7 So the wealth they have acquired and stored up
they carry away over the Ravine of the Poplars.
8 Their outcry echoes along the border of Moab;
their wailing reaches as far as Eglaim,
their lamentation as far as Beer Elim.
9 Dimon’s waters are full of blood,
but I will bring still more upon Dimon—
a lion upon the fugitives of Moab
and upon those who remain in the land. (NIV)

Nimrim isn’t mentioned again in the Bible apart from the parallel passage in Jeremiah 48:34. An early Church Father, Eusebius, thought it was a gulch that leads into the Dead Sea in the southeast (the modern name, Wady Numeirah, seems to be correct).

The Ravine of the Poplars isn’t mentioned anyplace else in the Bible, but the land east of the Jordan is famous for its deep ravines: the Kerith Ravine (1 Kings 17:3), the many ravines near the Arnon river (Numbers 21:14), the ravines in Job’s territory in the south (Job 22:24), the ravine near Mount Seir (Ezekiel 35:8), and the great Arnon Gorge itself (Deuteronomy 4:48).

Eglaim means “Two Caves,” and is probably the same place Ezekiel means in his vision of the great river flowing from the temple eastward into the desert (Ezekiel 47:10). The Beer Elim mentioned here is unknown to me. The Elim that was a stopping-place during the Exodus would have been on the western side of the Sinai (Exodus 16:1; Numbers 33:9, 10). “Beer” means “well” (a bubbly spring, not a bubbly beverage) so almost anyplace in Moab might have been known as the Well of Elim (“well of the goat” or “well of the hero,” cp. Exodus 15:15 “the leaders/heroes of Moab” in Hebrew).

Isaiah’s oracle about Moab will continue into chapter 16. But we have had a glimpse of God’s longing desire to bring these people back into his family. God wants all people to be saved, but the only way to heaven is through the gate, Jesus Christ. We need to set aside our pride, our arrogance, and our desire to pull ourselves into heaven by our own bootstraps. The truth is that our own sins throw a wall up between us and God that we can’t break through. The irony is that the more we try to bash away at the wall of our own good works, the stronger it becomes. It’s as if we’re tempering the steel of our own fence as we try to break through it. We can’t talk our way in (“The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power,” 1 Corinthians 4:20). Only God can bring us in, and he does it through his Son, Jesus. It is the compassion and the grace of Jesus Christ that has already rescued us. It is the blood of Christ, already spilled for us long ago, that assures us that our sins are already forgiven: “the blood of Jesus…purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). We are at peace with God.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

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