Poignant Cries Reverberate Through Moab

15 1-4 A Message concerning Moab:

Village Ar of Moab is in ruins,
    destroyed in a night raid.
Village Kir of Moab is in ruins,
    destroyed in a night raid.
Village Dibon climbs to its chapel in the hills,
    goes up to lament.
Moab weeps and wails
    over Nebo and Medba.
Every head is shaved bald,
    every beard shaved clean.
They pour into the streets wearing black,
    go up on the roofs, take to the town square,
Everyone in tears,
    everyone in grief.
Towns Heshbon and Elealeh cry long and loud.
    The sound carries as far as Jahaz.
Moab sobs, shaking in grief.
    The soul of Moab trembles.

5-9 Oh, how I grieve for Moab!
    Refugees stream to Zoar
    and then on to Eglath-shelishiyah.
Up the slopes of Luhith they weep;
    on the road to Horonaim they cry their loss.
The springs of Nimrim are dried up—
    grass brown, buds stunted, nothing grows.
They leave, carrying all their possessions
    on their backs, everything they own,
Making their way as best they can
    across Willow Creek to safety.
Poignant cries reverberate
    all through Moab,
Gut-wrenching sobs as far as Eglaim,
    heart-racking sobs all the way to Beer-elim.
The banks of the Dibon crest with blood,
    but God has worse in store for Dibon:
A lion—a lion to finish off the fugitives,
    to clean up whoever’s left in the land.

A New Government in the David Tradition

16 1-4 “Dispatch a gift of lambs,” says Moab,
    “to the leaders in Jerusalem—
Lambs from Sela sent across the desert
    to buy the goodwill of Jerusalem.
The towns and people of Moab
    are at a loss,
New-hatched birds knocked from the nest,
    fluttering helplessly
At the banks of the Arnon River,
    unable to cross:
‘Tell us what to do,
    help us out!
Protect us,
    hide us!
Give the refugees from Moab
    sanctuary with you.
Be a safe place for those on the run
    from the killing fields.’”

4-5 “When this is all over,” Judah answers,
    “the tyrant toppled,
The killing at an end,
    all signs of these cruelties long gone,
A new government of love will be established
    in the venerable David tradition.
A Ruler you can depend upon
    will head this government,
A Ruler passionate for justice,
    a Ruler quick to set things right.”

* * *

6-12 We’ve heard—everyone’s heard!—of Moab’s pride,
    world-famous for pride—
Arrogant, self-important, insufferable,
    full of hot air.
So now let Moab lament for a change,
    with antiphonal mock-laments from the neighbors!
What a shame! How terrible!
    No more fine fruitcakes and Kir-hareseth candies!
All those lush Heshbon fields dried up,
    the rich Sibmah vineyards withered!
Foreign thugs have crushed and torn out
    the famous grapevines
That once reached all the way to Jazer,
    right to the edge of the desert,
Ripped out the crops in every direction
    as far as the eye can see.
I’ll join the weeping. I’ll weep right along with Jazer,
    weep for the Sibmah vineyards.
And yes, Heshbon and Elealeh,
    I’ll mingle my tears with your tears!
The joyful shouting at harvest is gone.
    Instead of song and celebration, dead silence.
No more boisterous laughter in the orchards,
    no more hearty work songs in the vineyards.
Instead of the bustle and sound of good work in the fields,
    silence—deathly and deadening silence.
My heartstrings throb like harp strings for Moab,
    my soul in sympathy for sad Kir-heres.
When Moab trudges to the shrine to pray,
    he wastes both time and energy.
Going to the sanctuary and praying for relief
    is useless. Nothing ever happens.

13-14 This is God’s earlier Message on Moab. God’s updated Message is, “In three years, no longer than the term of an enlisted soldier, Moab’s impressive presence will be gone, that splendid hot-air balloon will be punctured, and instead of a vigorous population, just a few shuffling bums panhandling handouts.”

Damascus: A Pile of Dust and Rubble

17 1-3 A Message concerning Damascus:

“Watch this: Damascus undone as a city,
    a pile of dust and rubble!
Her towns emptied of people.
    The sheep and goats will move in
And take over the towns
    as if they owned them—which they will!
Not a sign of a fort is left in Ephraim,
    not a trace of government left in Damascus.
What’s left of Aram?
    The same as what’s left of Israel—not much.”
        Decree of God-of-the-Angel-Armies.

The Day Is Coming

4-6 “The Day is coming when Jacob’s robust splendor goes pale
    and his well-fed body turns skinny.
The country will be left empty, picked clean
    as a field harvested by field hands.
She’ll be like a few stalks of barley left standing
    in the lush Valley of Rephaim after harvest,
Or like the couple of ripe olives overlooked
    in the top of the olive tree,
Or the four or five apples
    that the pickers couldn’t reach in the orchard.”
        Decree of the God of Israel.

7-8 Yes, the Day is coming when people will notice The One Who Made Them, take a long hard look at The Holy of Israel. They’ll lose interest in all the stuff they’ve made—altars and monuments and rituals, their homemade, handmade religion—however impressive it is.

And yes, the Day is coming when their fortress cities will be abandoned—the very same cities that the Hivites and Amorites abandoned when Israel invaded! And the country will be empty, desolate.

You Have Forgotten God

10-11 And why? Because you have forgotten God-Your-Salvation,
    not remembered your Rock-of-Refuge.
And so, even though you are very religious,
    planting all sorts of bushes and herbs and trees
    to honor and influence your fertility gods,
And even though you make them grow so well,
    bursting with buds and sprouts and blossoms,
Nothing will come of them. Instead of a harvest
    you’ll get nothing but grief and pain, pain, pain.

12-13 Oh my! Thunder! A thundering herd of people!
    Thunder like the crashing of ocean waves!
Nations roaring, roaring,
    like the roar of a massive waterfall,
Roaring like a deafening Niagara!
    But God will silence them with a word,
And then he’ll blow them away like dead leaves off a tree,
    like down from a thistle.

14 At bedtime, terror fills the air.
    By morning it’s gone—not a sign of it anywhere!
This is what happens to those who would ruin us,
    this is the fate of those out to get us.

People Mighty and Merciless

18 1-2 Doom to the land of flies and mosquitoes
    beyond the Ethiopian rivers,
Shipping emissaries all over the world,
    down rivers and across seas.

Go, swift messengers,
    go to this people tall and handsome,
This people held in respect everywhere,
    this people mighty and merciless,
    from the land crisscrossed with rivers.

Everybody everywhere,
    all earth-dwellers:
When you see a flag flying on the mountain, look!
    When you hear the trumpet blown, listen!

4-6 For here’s what God told me:

“I’m not going to say anything,
    but simply look on from where I live,
Quiet as warmth that comes from the sun,
    silent as dew during harvest.”
And then, just before harvest, after the blossom
    has turned into a maturing grape,
He’ll step in and prune back the new shoots,
    ruthlessly hack off all the growing branches.
He’ll leave them piled on the ground
    for birds and animals to feed on—
Fodder for the summering birds,
    fodder for the wintering animals.

Then tribute will be brought to God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
    brought from this people tall and handsome,
This people once held in respect everywhere,
    this people once mighty and merciless,
From the land crisscrossed with rivers,
    to Mount Zion, God’s place.

Anarchy and Chaos and Killing!

19 A Message concerning Egypt:

Watch this! God riding on a fast-moving cloud,
    moving in on Egypt!
The god-idols of Egypt shudder and shake,
    Egyptians paralyzed by panic.

2-4 God says, “I’ll make Egyptian fight Egyptian,
    brother fight brother, neighbor fight neighbor,
City fight city, kingdom fight kingdom—
    anarchy and chaos and killing!
I’ll knock the wind out of the Egyptians.
    They won’t know coming from going.
They’ll go to their god-idols for answers;
    they’ll conjure ghosts and hold séances, desperate for answers.
But I’ll turn the Egyptians
    over to a tyrant most cruel.
I’ll put them under the rule of a mean, merciless king.”
    Decree of the Master, God-of-the-Angel-Armies.

5-10 The River Nile will dry up,
    the riverbed baked dry in the sun.
The canals will become stagnant and stink,
    every stream touching the Nile dry up.
River vegetation will rot away
    the banks of the Nile-baked clay,
The riverbed hard and smooth,
    river grasses dried up and gone with the wind.
Fishermen will complain
    that the fishing’s been ruined.
Textile workers will be out of work, all weavers
    and workers in linen and cotton and wool
Dispirited, depressed in their forced idleness—
    everyone who works for a living, jobless.

11-15 The princes of Zoan are fools,
    the advisors of Pharaoh stupid.
How could any of you dare tell Pharaoh,
    “Trust me: I’m wise. I know what’s going on.
    Why, I’m descended from the old wisdom of Egypt”?
There’s not a wise man or woman left in the country.
    If there were, one of them would tell you
    what God-of-the-Angel-Armies has in mind for Egypt.
As it is, the princes of Zoan are all fools
    and the princes of Memphis, idiots.
The honored pillars of your society
    have led Egypt into detours and dead ends.
God has scrambled their brains,
    Egypt’s become a falling-down-in-his-own-vomit drunk.
Egypt’s hopeless, past helping,
    a senile, doddering old fool.

* * *

16-17 On that Day, Egyptians will be like hysterical schoolgirls, screaming at the first hint of action from God-of-the-Angel-Armies. Little Judah will strike terror in Egyptians! Say “Judah” to an Egyptian and see panic. The word triggers fear of the God-of-the-Angel-Armies’ plan against Egypt.

18 On that Day, more than one city in Egypt will learn to speak the language of faith and promise to follow God-of-the-Angel-Armies. One of these cities will be honored with the title “City of the Sun.”

19-22 On that Day, there will be a place of worship to God in the center of Egypt and a monument to God at its border. It will show how the God-of-the-Angel-Armies has helped the Egyptians. When they cry out in prayer to God because of oppressors, he’ll send them help, a savior who will keep them safe and take care of them. God will openly show himself to the Egyptians and they’ll get to know him on that Day. They’ll worship him seriously with sacrifices and burnt offerings. They’ll make vows and keep them. God will wound Egypt, first hit and then heal. Egypt will come back to God, and God will listen to their prayers and heal them, heal them from head to toe.

23 On that Day, there will be a highway all the way from Egypt to Assyria: Assyrians will have free range in Egypt and Egyptians in Assyria. No longer rivals, they’ll worship together, Egyptians and Assyrians!

24-25 On that Day, Israel will take its place alongside Egypt and Assyria, sharing the blessing from the center. God-of-the-Angel-Armies, who blessed Israel, will generously bless them all: “Blessed be Egypt, my people! . . . Blessed be Assyria, work of my hands! . . . Blessed be Israel, my heritage!”

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