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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–5
Verses 1–5

God has made it to appear that he delights not in the ruin of sinners by telling them what they may do to prevent the ruin; so he does here to Moab.

I. He advises them to be just to the house of David, and to pay the tribute they had formerly covenanted to pay to the kings of his line (Isa. 16:1): Send you the lamb to the ruler of the land. David made the Moabites tributaries to him, 2 Sam. 8:2. They became his servants, and brought gifts. Afterwards they paid their tribute to the kings of Israel (2 Kgs. 3:4), and paid it in lambs. Now the prophet requires them to pay it to Hezekiah. Let it be raised and levied from all parts of the country, from Selah, a frontier city of Moab on the one side, to the wilderness, a boundary of the kingdom on the other side: and let it be sent, where it should be sent, to the mount of the daughter of Zion, the city of David. Some take it as an advice to send a lamb for a sacrifice to God, the ruler of the earth (so it may be read), the Lord of the whole earth, ruler of all lands, the land of Moab as well as the land of Israel, “Send it to the temple built on Mount Zion.” And some think it is in this sense spoken ironically, upbraiding the Moabites with their folly in delaying to repent and make their peace with God. “Now you would be glad to send a lamb to Mount Zion, to make the God of Israel your friend; but it is too late: the decree has gone forth, the consumption is determined, and the daughters of Moab shall be cast out as a wandering bird,” Isa. 16:2. I rather take it as good advice seriously given, like that of Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar when he was reading him his doom, Dan. 4:27. Break off thy sins by righteousness, if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity. And it is applicable to the great gospel duty of submission to Christ, as the ruler of the land, and our ruler: “Send him the lamb, the best you have, yourselves a living sacrifice. When you come to God, the great ruler, come in the name of the Lamb, the Lamb of God. For else it shall be” (so we may read it) “that, as a wandering bird cast out of the nest, so shall the daughters of Moab be. If you will not pay your quit-rent, your just tribute to the king of Judah, you shall be turned out of your houses: The daughters of Moab (the country villages, or the women of your country) shall flutter about the fords of Arnon, attempting that way to make their escape to some other land, like a wandering bird thrown out of the nest half-fledged.” Those that will not submit to Christ, nor be gathered under the shadow of his wings, shall be as a bird that wanders from her nest, that shall either be snatched up by the next bird of prey or shall wander endlessly in continual frights. Those that will not yield to the fear of God shall be made to yield to the fear of every thing else.

II. He advises them to be kind to the seed of Israel (Isa. 16:3): “Take counsel, call a convention, and consult among yourselves what is fit to be done in the present critical juncture; and you will find it your best way to execute judgment, to reverse all the unrighteous decrees you have made, by which you have put hardships upon the people of God, and, in token of your repentance for them, study now how to oblige them, and this shall be accepted of God more than all burnt-offering and sacrifice.”

1. The prophet foresaw some storm coming upon the people of God, perhaps the good people of the ten tribes, or of the two and a half on the other side Jordan, whose country joined to that of Moab, and who, by the merciful providence of God, escaped the fury of the Assyrian army, had their lives given them for a prey, and were reserved for better times, but were put to the utmost extremity to shift for their own safety. The danger and trouble they were in were like the scorching heat at noon; the face of the spoiler was very fierce upon them and the oppressor and extortioner were ready to swallow them up after stripping them of what they had.

2. He bespeaks a shelter for them in the land of Moab, when their own land was made too hot for them. This judgment they must execute; thus wisely must they do for themselves, and thus kindly must they deal with the people of God. If they would themselves continue in their habitations, let them now open their doors to the distressed dispersed members of God’s church, and be to them like a cool shade to those that bear the burden and heat of the day. Let them not discover those that absconded among them, nor deliver them up to the pursuers that made search for them: “Betray not him that wandereth, nor deliver him up” (as the Edomites did, Obad. 1:13, 14), “but hide the outcasts.” This was that good work by which Rahab’s faith was justified, and proved to be sincere, Heb. 11:31. “Nay, do not only hide them for a time, but, if there be occasion, let them be naturalized: Let my outcasts dwell with thee, Moab (Isa. 16:4); find a lodging for them and be thou a covert to them. Let them be taken under the protection of the government, though they are but poor, and likely to be a charge to thee.” Note, (1.) It is often the lot even of those who are Israelites indeed to be outcasts, driven out of house and harbour by persecution or war, Heb. 11:37. (2.) God owns them when men reject and disown them. They are outcasts, but they are my outcasts. The Lord knows those that are his wherever he finds them, even where no one else knows them. (3.) God will find a rest and shelter for his outcasts; for, though they are persecuted, they are not forsaken. He will himself be their dwelling-place if they have no other, and in him they shall be at home. (4.) God can, when he pleases, raise up friends for his people even among Moabites, when they can find none in all the land of Israel that can and dare shelter them. The earth often helps the woman, Rev. 12:16. (5.) Those that expect to find favour when they are in trouble themselves must show favour to those that are in trouble; and what service is done to God’s outcasts shall no doubt be recompensed one way or other.

3. He assures them of the mercy God had in store for his people. (1.) That they should not long need their kindness, or be troublesome to them: For the extortioner is almost at an end already, and the spoiler ceases. God’s people shall not be long outcasts; they shall have tribulation ten days (Rev. 2:10), and that is all. The spoiler would never cease spoiling if he might have his will; but God has him in a chain. Hitherto he shall go, but no further. (2.) That they should, ere long, be in a capacity to return their kindness (Isa. 16:5): “Though the throne of the ten tribes be sunk and overturned, yet the throne of David shall be established in mercy, by the mercy they receive from God and the mercy they show to others; and by the same methods may your throne be established if you please.” It would engage great men to be kind to the people of God if they would but observe, as they easily might, how often such conduct brings the blessing of God upon kingdoms and families. “Make Hezekiah your friend, for you will find it your interest to do so upon the account both of the grace of God in him and the presence of God with him. He shall sit upon the throne in truth, and then he does indeed sit in honour and sit firmly. Then he shall sit judging, and will then be a protector to those that have been a shelter to the people of God.” And see in him the character of a good magistrate. [1.] He shall seek judgment; that is, he shall seek occasions of doing right to those that are wronged, and shall punish the injurious even before they are complained of: or he shall diligently search into every cause brought before him, that he may find where the right lies. [2.] He shall hasten righteousness, and not delay to do justice, nor keep those long waiting that make application to him for the redress of their grievances. Though he seeks judgment, and deliberates upon it, yet he does not, under pretence of deliberation, stay the progress of the streams of justice. Let the Moabites take example by this, and then assure themselves that their state shall be established.