Bible Commentary: Isaiah 14:28-16:14 and Related

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Isaiah 14:28-16:14 and Related

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The Year King Ahaz Died

The next item in the book of Isaiah is a prophecy against Philistia dated to “the year that King Ahaz died” (Isaiah 14:28 Isaiah 14:28In the year that king Ahaz died was this burden.
American King James Version×
). Thus, the death of Ahaz in 715 B.C. finally comes. Whether or not he had reasserted himself in the years since Hezekiah’s reign began is not known, although there is reason to think so, as we’ll see.

In any case, we see here that just being king did not automatically carry with it the adulation of the people. Although the people often followed in the idolatrous ways of a wicked king, they sometimes were able to recognize his questionable behavior. In this case in particular, Hezekiah provided such a contrast to this evil king and had led the people to a renewed commitment to God. However, it was now 13 or 14 years since Hezekiah’s great Passover and there is no way to know whether or not the commitment of the people had remained steadfast.

Still, the people’s opinion of Ahaz was shown through the nature of the burial they gave him. He was buried in Jerusalem, but not in the royal cemetery with those given a place of honor (2 Chronicles 28:27 2 Chronicles 28:27And Ahaz slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city, even in Jerusalem: but they brought him not into the sepulchers of the kings of Israel: and Hezekiah his son reigned in his stead.
American King James Version×
). Hezekiah himself was likely involved in the decision of course—and perhaps Isaiah as well. A similar fate had been accorded Jehoram (who had been married to, and influenced by, Ahab’s daughter Athaliah, 2 Chronicles 21:20 2 Chronicles 21:20Thirty and two years old was he when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years, and departed without being desired. However, they buried him in the city of David, but not in the sepulchers of the kings.
American King James Version×
).

Returning to the book of Isaiah, the specific dating of the prophecy to the year Ahaz died may be a clue that elements of this particular prophecy were actually meant for the people of that day. Ahaz was pro-Assyrian. In former days, he had been a vassal of the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III. In fact, Tiglath attacked and defeated the Philistines in 734 B.C. at the urging of Ahaz. But Tiglath had died 12 years before this prophecy was given—in 727 B.C., shortly after Ahaz himself was essentially replaced as king of Judah by Hezekiah.

Yet perhaps Ahaz had, as earlier suggested, reasserted himself at some point. We do know that in 720 Sargon II of Assyria demanded tribute of Judah and that Judah appears to have capitulated. It is possible that Ahaz’s hand had been strengthened in the wake of that. In any case, some commentaries suggest that upon Ahaz’s death, the Philistines sent a mission to Hezekiah to propose a rebellion against Assyria—that this is who is meant by “the messengers of the nation” in verse 32.

A Viper Against Philistia

Verse 29 seems to be slightly mistranslated in the King James and New King James Versions. Notice it in J.P. Green’s Literal Translation: “Do not rejoice, O Philistia, all of you, for the rod of your striking [that is, your own military power] is broken, because a viper comes forth from the root of a [or the] snake, and his fruit [or offspring] shall be a fiery flying serpent.”

References to a snake or serpent, a viper and a “fiery flying serpent” or dragon would seem to point to Satan (Revelation 12:4 Revelation 12:4And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
American King James Version×
, Revelation 9; see highlights on Isaiah 6)—and, by extension, to the gentile empires empowered by him. In fact, dragon-like creatures were prominent emblems in Assyria and Babylon.

The usurper Sargon II had actually stormed through Philistia twice in recent years (720 and 716 B.C.). He seems to be the “viper” that “comes forth”—that is, presently continues to come forth—against the Philistines, causing their power to be broken. Indeed, he had just come the previous year! What makes the Philistines think they can now defeat him?

The viper is seen coming from the root, or the roots, of a snake or serpent—or of the serpent—and thus sharing the same origins of this serpent. Prior knowledge of this serpent would seem to refer to the Philistines having been bitten before—as they were by Tiglath-Pileser III. If that is so, notice that the viper is not the serpent Tiglath’s son. Rather, the viper comes from the same roots the serpent did. This could well apply to Sargon II, who, not the son of Tiglath, was an Assyrian general of noble roots.

Sargon had already come against the Philistines twice. And he would do so again, in a much greater way, two years later in 713-712 B.C.—to put down a Philistine rebellion at Ashdod and neighboring areas (see Isaiah 20:1 Isaiah 20:1In the year that Tartan came to Ashdod, (when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him,) and fought against Ashdod, and took it;
American King James Version×
).

Then notice the warning about the viper’s draconian offspring (verse 29). Sargon’s son—Sennacherib—would utterly crush a later Philistine rebellion in 701 B.C., the same rebellion in which Hezekiah also took part. The fact that smoke (probably either rising dust from the Assyrian armies or smoke from the fiery destruction they would bring) is coming from the north (verse 31) is another indication that an invasion from Mesopotamia is meant—as that is the direction from which such invasions came.

How does the passage say the Philistine entourage should be answered? Besides the foregoing, that the only place the Philistines could go for refuge would be Zion, or Jerusalem (verse 32). Amazingly, only Jerusalem did not fall to Sennacherib’s invasion, as we will later see.

Of course, since prophecy is often dual in application, it is possible that these verses have relevance for the last days—that an end-time Assyrian ruler, coming from the same roots as Tiglath-Pileser and his immediate successors, could again fulfill the prophecy in some way.

Further prophecies against the Philistines can be found in Jeremiah 47, Ezekiel 25:15-17 Ezekiel 25:15-17 [15] Thus said the Lord GOD; Because the Philistines have dealt by revenge, and have taken vengeance with a despiteful heart, to destroy it for the old hatred; [16] Therefore thus said the Lord GOD; Behold, I will stretch out my hand on the Philistines, and I will cut off the Cherethims, and destroy the remnant of the sea coast. [17] And I will execute great vengeance on them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance on them.
American King James Version×
, Joel 3:4-8 Joel 3:4-8 [4] Yes, and what have you to do with me, O Tyre, and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine? will you render me a recompense? and if you recompense me, swiftly and speedily will I return your recompense on your own head; [5] Because you have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried into your temples my goodly pleasant things: [6] The children also of Judah and the children of Jerusalem have you sold to the Grecians, that you might remove them far from their border. [7] Behold, I will raise them out of the place where you have sold them, and will return your recompense on your own head: [8] And I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the children of Judah, and they shall sell them to the Sabeans, to a people far off: for the LORD has spoken it.
American King James Version×
, Amos 1:6-8 Amos 1:6-8 [6] Thus said the LORD; For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they carried away captive the whole captivity, to deliver them up to Edom: [7] But I will send a fire on the wall of Gaza, which shall devour the palaces thereof: [8] And I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod, and him that holds the scepter from Ashkelon, and I will turn my hand against Ekron: and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish, said the Lord GOD.
American King James Version×
, Zephaniah 2:4-7 Zephaniah 2:4-7 [4] For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation: they shall drive out Ashdod at the noon day, and Ekron shall be rooted up. [5] Woe to the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites! the word of the LORD is against you; O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy you, that there shall be no inhabitant. [6] And the sea coast shall be dwellings and cottages for shepherds, and folds for flocks. [7] And the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah; they shall feed thereupon: in the houses of Ashkelon shall they lie down in the evening: for the LORD their God shall visit them, and turn away their captivity.
American King James Version×
and Zechariah 9:5-7 Zechariah 9:5-7 [5] Ashkelon shall see it, and fear; Gaza also shall see it, and be very sorrowful, and Ekron; for her expectation shall be ashamed; and the king shall perish from Gaza, and Ashkelon shall not be inhabited. [6] And a bastard shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines. [7] And I will take away his blood out of his mouth, and his abominations from between his teeth: but he that remains, even he, shall be for our God, and he shall be as a governor in Judah, and Ekron as a Jebusite.
American King James Version×
.

The Burden Against Moab

Isaiah 15 and 16 are addressed to Moab. Terrible devastation is going to befall its people. Beyond that, there are multiple ways to possibly understand this passage, none of which is certain.

Reliance on the pagan temple of Dibon in the north of the country (Isaiah 15:2 Isaiah 15:2He is gone up to Bajith, and to Dibon, the high places, to weep: Moab shall howl over Nebo, and over Medeba: on all their heads shall be baldness, and every beard cut off.
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; Isaiah 16:12 Isaiah 16:12And 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.
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) is foolishness. God calls it Dimon in Isaiah 15:9 Isaiah 15:9For the waters of Dimon shall be full of blood: for I will bring more on Dimon, lions on him that escapes of Moab, and on the remnant of the land.
American King James Version×
, which “sounds like blood in Hebrew” (The Nelson Study Bible, 1997, note on verse 9)—and explains that its waters will indeed be full of blood.

“Three-year-old heifer” in verse 5 could also be translated “Third Eglath”—designating an unknown city. But the translation “three-year-old heifer” does fit the context: “The expression ‘three years old’ implies one at its full vigor (Genesis 15:9 Genesis 15:9And he said to him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.
American King James Version×
), as yet not brought under the yoke; as Moab heretofore unsubdued, but now about to be broken” (Jamieson, Fausset & Brown’s Commentary, 1961, note on Isaiah 15:5 Isaiah 15:5My heart shall cry out for Moab; his fugitives shall flee to Zoar, an heifer of three years old: for by the mounting up of Luhith with weeping shall they go it up; for in the way of Horonaim they shall raise up a cry of destruction.
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).

Moabite fugitives flee to Zoar, in southwest Moab on the south end of the Dead Sea—a border city with Edom and Judah. We then see them in the way of Horonaim, “a town of Moab not far from Zoar… It means ‘the two poles,’ being near caves” (note on verse 5). Lack of water and fertile land have driven them south (verse 6), and they continue to the “Brook of the Willows” (verse 7). “Margin has ‘valley of Arabians’; i.e., to the valley on the boundary between them and Arabian Petrea; now Wady-el Araba. Arabia means a ‘desert’ ” (note on verse 7).

Yet God sends lions after even the escapees (verse 9). Some equate this with Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, represented as a winged lion in vision (see Daniel 2, 7). But the remnant of Jacob in the end time is also referred to as a lion (Micah 5:7-8 Micah 5:7-8 [7] And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the middle of many people as a dew from the LORD, as the showers on the grass, that tarries not for man, nor waits for the sons of men. [8] And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the middle of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treads down, and tears in pieces, and none can deliver.
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).

That Isaiah 15-16 is an end-time prophecy there can be no doubt. For Isaiah 16:4-5 Isaiah 16:4-5 [4] Let my outcasts dwell with you, Moab; be you a covert to them from the face of the spoiler: for the extortionist is at an end, the spoiler ceases, the oppressors are consumed out of the land. [5] And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit on it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment, and hastening righteousness.
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contains a clear picture of the reign of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Also, you should read Jeremiah 48:1-5 and Jeremiah 48:28-36 at this point. While it might appear from the end of Isaiah’s prophecy that the events mentioned would transpire within three years of when he delivered it (see Isaiah 16:13-14 Isaiah 16:13-14 [13] This is the word that the LORD has spoken concerning Moab since that time. [14] But now the LORD has 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.
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), we should notice that Jeremiah wrote long afterward and gave, in many respects, the very same prophecy. This adds to the certainty of this being a prophecy of the last days. Yet the prophesied destruction on Moab might seem to contradict another end-time prophecy.

Daniel 11:40-12 Daniel 11:40-12
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:3 also contains a prophecy of the “time of the end.” In these verses, the “king of the North”—the final human dictator of the last days (known as “the Beast” in Revelation)—will invade and occupy many Middle Eastern countries. “But these shall escape from his hand: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon” (verse 41). These ancient regions largely constitute the modern nation of Jordan. So do the Jordanians escape or are they destroyed? How do we resolve this?

The forces of this end-time Beast power will invade the various Middle Eastern nations a few years prior to Christ’s return, as other prophecies show. But the punishment on Moab appears to come in the final year before Christ’s return: “‘…upon Moab, upon it I will bring the year of their punishment,’ says the LORD” (Jeremiah 48:44 Jeremiah 48:44He that flees from the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that gets up out of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for I will bring on it, even on Moab, the year of their visitation, said the LORD.
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). A related prophecy pertaining to Edom names this the Day of the Lord: “For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, the year of recompense for the cause of Zion” (Isaiah 34:8 Isaiah 34:8For it is the day of the LORD’s vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion.
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).

Thus, Ammon, Moab and Edom will initially escape destruction from the Beast power. But during the Day of the Lord, the final year before Christ’s return, they and the Beast power itself will experience devastating punishment from God for their treatment of God’s people Israel, i.e., both physical and spiritual Israel. That year will be the time of the blowing of the seven trumpets of Revelation (see Revelation 6:12-17 Revelation 6:12-17 [12] And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, see, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; [13] And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, even as a fig tree casts her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. [14] And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. [15] And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every slave, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; [16] And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: [17] For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
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; Revelation 8-9; Revelation 11:15 Revelation 11:15And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
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)—a time of terrifying, cataclysmic events. And it appears that part of the punishment on these nations will be inflicted by a somewhat resurgent Israel and Judah (compare Isaiah 41:14-15 Isaiah 41:14-15 [14] Fear not, you worm Jacob, and you men of Israel; I will help you, said the LORD, and your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. [15] Behold, I will make you a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: you shall thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shall make the hills as chaff.
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; Micah 4:13 Micah 4:13Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion: for I will make your horn iron, and I will make your hoofs brass: and you shall beat in pieces many people: and I will consecrate their gain to the LORD, and their substance to the Lord of the whole earth.
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; Jeremiah 51:19-24 Jeremiah 51:19-24 [19] The portion of Jacob is not like them; for he is the former of all things: and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: the LORD of hosts is his name. [20] You are my battle ax and weapons of war: for with you will I break in pieces the nations, and with you will I destroy kingdoms; [21] And with you will I break in pieces the horse and his rider; and with you will I break in pieces the chariot and his rider; [22] With you also will I break in pieces man and woman; and with you will I break in pieces old and young; and with you will I break in pieces the young man and the maid; [23] I will also break in pieces with you the shepherd and his flock; and with you will I break in pieces the farmer and his yoke of oxen; and with you will I break in pieces captains and rulers. [24] And I will render to Babylon and to all the inhabitants of Chaldea all their evil that they have done in Zion in your sight, said the LORD.
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; Zechariah 12:6 Zechariah 12:6In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left: and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem.
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; Zechariah 14:14 Zechariah 14:14And Judah also shall fight at Jerusalem; and the wealth of all the heathen round about shall be gathered together, gold, and silver, and apparel, in great abundance.
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). We will consider this in more detail when discussing Jeremiah 51.

Moving on, the first verse of Isaiah 16 says, “Send the lamb to the ruler of the land…” This could be a reference to the ancient tribute of lambs that Moab used to pay to David (see 2 Kings 3:4 2 Kings 3:4And Mesha king of Moab was a sheep master, and rendered to the king of Israel an hundred thousand lambs, and an hundred thousand rams, with the wool.
American King James Version×
). Perhaps it is a way of saying to Moab, “Submit to Judah again if you want to be protected.” Or maybe the “ruler of the land” is now the Messiah of verse 5, who is of the line of David as mentioned—and Moab is being told, in this manner, to submit to Him. It is also possible that the lamb itself refers to Jesus Christ, the “Lamb of God” (compare Isaiah 53:7 Isaiah 53:7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opens not his mouth.
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; John 1:29 John 1:29The next day John sees Jesus coming to him, and said, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.
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; Revelation 5:6 Revelation 5:6And I beheld, and, see, in the middle of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the middle of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.
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). Perhaps He is here pictured being sent by God the Father to Jerusalem to take over from the present ruler of the land. Still, it is also possible that the lamb refers to the remnant of Moab as a taunt—that, continuing from the previous verse, if they flee through the wilderness through Judah, they will be like a lamb ravaged by “lions” (Isaiah 15:9 Isaiah 15:9For the waters of Dimon shall be full of blood: for I will bring more on Dimon, lions on him that escapes of Moab, and on the remnant of the land.
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).

We also see mention in Isaiah 16:1 Isaiah 16:1Send you the lamb to the ruler of the land from Sela to the wilderness, to the mount of the daughter of Zion.
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of Sela, meaning the “rock.” God elsewhere tells Moab to “dwell in the rock” (Jeremiah 48:28 Jeremiah 48:28O you that dwell in Moab, leave the cities, and dwell in the rock, and be like the dove that makes her nest in the sides of the hole’s mouth.
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). Yet He earlier gave the same instruction to Israel (Isaiah 2:10 Isaiah 2:10Enter into the rock, and hide you in the dust, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty.
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). The reference in Isaiah 16:1 Isaiah 16:1Send you the lamb to the ruler of the land from Sela to the wilderness, to the mount of the daughter of Zion.
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could represent a figurative picture of people hiding in rock caves (as in Isaiah 10:19-21 Isaiah 10:19-21 [19] And the rest of the trees of his forest shall be few, that a child may write them. [20] And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay on him that smote them; but shall stay on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. [21] The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.
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and Revelation 6:15-17 Revelation 6:15-17 [15] And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every slave, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; [16] And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: [17] For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
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)—either from God, to no avail, or from danger in general—or refuge in an actual place called Sela in Edom (2 Kings 14:7 2 Kings 14:7He slew of Edom in the valley of salt ten thousand, and took Selah by war, and called the name of it Joktheel to this day.
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). That place today is known by its Greek name with the same meaning, Petra. The city of Petra is Jordan’s prime tourist attraction, as its ancient inhabitants, the Nabataeans, carved tombs, temples and even a massive amphitheater right out of the rock walls of this secluded and sealed-in valley. There is no place like it on earth.

Some see Isaiah 16:1-4 Isaiah 16:1-4 [1] Send you the lamb to the ruler of the land from Sela to the wilderness, to 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 your shadow as the night in the middle of the noonday; hide the outcasts; denude not him that wanders. [4] Let my outcasts dwell with you, Moab; be you a covert to them from the face of the spoiler: for the extortionist is at an end, the spoiler ceases, the oppressors are consumed out of the land.
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as an indication that Petra is the location of a prophesied place of future protection for God’s Church or a faithful remnant of Israel (compare Revelation 12:14-16 Revelation 12:14-16 [14] And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. [15] And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. [16] And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.
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; Isaiah 26:20-21 Isaiah 26:20-21 [20] Come, my people, enter you into your chambers, and shut your doors about you: hide yourself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be over. [21] For, behold, the LORD comes out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.
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; Isaiah 33:15-17 Isaiah 33:15-17 [15] He that walks righteously, and speaks uprightly; he that despises the gain of oppressions, that shakes his hands from holding of bribes, that stops his ears from hearing of blood, and shuts his eyes from seeing evil; [16] He shall dwell on high: his place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure. [17] Your eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off.
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; Isaiah 42:11 Isaiah 42:11Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar does inhabit: let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains.
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; Zephaniah 2:1-3 Zephaniah 2:1-3 [1] Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O nation not desired; [2] Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD come on you, before the day of the LORD’s anger come on you. [3] Seek you the LORD, all you meek of the earth, which have worked his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be you shall be hid in the day of the LORD’s anger.
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, 8; Matthew 24:16 Matthew 24:16Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
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; Luke 21:21 Luke 21:21Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the middle of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.
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; Luke 21:36 Luke 21:36Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
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). However, there are too many variables and unclear elements to be sure. First of all, as already mentioned, there is no certainty that a specific place is even meant in Isaiah 16:1 Isaiah 16:1Send you the lamb to the ruler of the land from Sela to the wilderness, to the mount of the daughter of Zion.
American King James Version×
. And if it is, there is no way to be sure that the place is Petra as opposed to some other location designated as a rock. However, it does seem likely that Petra is meant if “Brook of the Willows” is alternately understood to mean, as mentioned above, the Wadi al-Arabah—which would put it in the right vicinity.

Interestingly, an international correspondent for WorldNetDaily wrote an article on the famous “rose-red city” of Petra, noting that the Israelis believe it may indeed serve as a place of refuge for them in the future. He reported: “WorldNetDaily traveled to Petra with the Amman-based Mossad intelligence agent Avi Rubin—a former airborne commando in the Israel Defense Force. Rubin explained that Petra might be the ultimate defensive position in a regional war. ‘It is an outstanding defensive position. Airborne assault would be most difficult. It is what I would call a natural defensive position. The Roman legions, the Crusaders, the Arabs and now the IDF, Iraq and the Jordanian army all recognized this,’ said Rubin. ‘The most important defensive feature is called ‘the Shiq,’ which is about 2,000 meters long. {Today, the passage is marked by the ‘Indiana Jones’ souvenir shop.} It is a narrow passageway which leads into the city. It has very high, sheer walls which will protect the Israeli population as they enter the city from the west. The rocks of Petra can help protect from gunfire, bombing, artillery and perhaps even absorb some radiation’… Rubin said that both the IDF and the Mossad had examined Petra from a strategic and military perspective” (Anthony LoBaido, “A City for ‘End Times’: Is Petra Hiding Place for Israeli Remnant During Armageddon,” WorldNetDaily, April 24, 2001)

“Let My Outcasts Dwell With You”

Yet while the King James and New King James Versions give the sense of Moab hiding the “outcasts” in these verses, other translations make the passage an appeal to hide and protect the refugees of Moab. While that might seem unlikely, since it appears that God calls them His outcasts and has sent lions after the outcasts of Moab, these other translations view “my outcasts” as a Moabite appeal—in other words, “Let us dwell with you, Judah,” which Judah then rejects.

Another puzzling element is the fact that the Moabite fugitives are first seen running far south—and are then stated to be cast out of their hiding place at the “fords of the Arnon,” which would be quite a ways to the north again, up near Dibon. Perhaps this indicates that they go southwest into Edom or Judah but that the Jews, who will apparently be resurgent to some degree during the Day of the Lord (see Zechariah 12:6 Zechariah 12:6In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left: and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem.
American King James Version×
; Zechariah 14:14 Zechariah 14:14And Judah also shall fight at Jerusalem; and the wealth of all the heathen round about shall be gathered together, gold, and silver, and apparel, in great abundance.
American King James Version×
), then chase them back into Moab. (This would actually make it more likely that the inhabitants of Sela, if it is Petra, are not the Moabites.) Or perhaps the Moabites actually try to assault those in Sela to take over their place of refuge (compare Zephaniah 2:1-3 Zephaniah 2:1-3 [1] Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O nation not desired; [2] Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD come on you, before the day of the LORD’s anger come on you. [3] Seek you the LORD, all you meek of the earth, which have worked his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be you shall be hid in the day of the LORD’s anger.
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, Zephaniah 2:8 Zephaniah 2:8I have heard the reproach of Moab, and the revilings of the children of Ammon, whereby they have reproached my people, and magnified themselves against their border.
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)—and God drives the Moabite invaders out of there and into the open, forcing them to flee back north.

In any event, it still seems most probable that Isaiah 16:3-4 Isaiah 16:3-4 [3] Take counsel, execute judgment; make your shadow as the night in the middle of the noonday; hide the outcasts; denude not him that wanders. [4] Let my outcasts dwell with you, Moab; be you a covert to them from the face of the spoiler: for the extortionist is at an end, the spoiler ceases, the oppressors are consumed out of the land.
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is an appeal by God rather than the Moabites—for Moab to hide His outcasts. Moab, in this scenario, gets into trouble for denying them refuge (though God, it would seem, secures it for them anyway). Then, when it comes time for Moab’s outcasts to seek refuge, God, in this same scenario, denies them—just as they formerly denied Him.

What, then, of Isaiah 16:13-14 Isaiah 16:13-14 [13] This is the word that the LORD has spoken concerning Moab since that time. [14] But now the LORD has 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.
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saying Moab’s destruction would take place “within three years”? While this may have referred to an event in Isaiah’s day—The Nelson Study Bible suggesting “the quelling of a rebellion against Sargon in 715 B.C.” (note on verses 13-14)—we should again keep in mind Jeremiah’s much later use of basically the same prophecy. Perhaps Isaiah’s words regarding three years, then, are for the future. It could be that the time frame of “now” in verse 14 is the point at which Moab is supposed to hide God’s outcasts (verses 3-4). This would be the beginning of the Great Tribulation, which, as other prophecies show, will occur three and a half years before the return of Christ. The Day of the Lord apparently begins two and a half years from this point—again, one year before Christ’s return (see previous highlights for Hosea 6:2 Hosea 6:2After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.
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). And this means the Day of the Lord commences “within three years” from the beginning of the Tribulation. So it is possible that this is what is intended.

Speculation about how and where God will protect His people during the coming Great Tribulation and Day of the Lord is always interesting. However, it’s not important that we know the answers in advance, or else God would have made them clear. What is important is that we keep our hope and faith in the spiritual Rock, Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 10:4 1 Corinthians 10:4And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
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; Psalms 18:2 Psalms 18:2The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
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; Matthew 16:18 Matthew 16:18And I say also to you, That you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
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; Romans 9:33 Romans 9:33As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumbling stone and rock of offense: and whoever believes on him shall not be ashamed.
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; Ephesians 2:20 Ephesians 2:20And are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
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; 1 Peter 2:6-8 1 Peter 2:6-8 [6] Why also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believes on him shall not be confounded. [7] To you therefore which believe he is precious: but to them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, [8] And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.
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). Christ’s consistent teaching is that a Christian’s primary focus should be on spiritual preparedness (Matthew 24:44 Matthew 24:44Therefore be you also ready: for in such an hour as you think not the Son of man comes.
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; 1 Thessalonians 5:2-6 1 Thessalonians 5:2-6 [2] For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. [3] For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction comes on them, as travail on a woman with child; and they shall not escape. [4] But you, brothers, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. [5] You are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. [6] Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
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).

Further prophecies against Moab can be found in Isaiah 25:10-12 Isaiah 25:10-12 [10] For in this mountain shall the hand of the LORD rest, and Moab shall be trodden down under him, even as straw is trodden down for the dunghill. [11] And he shall spread forth his hands in the middle of them, as he that swims spreads forth his hands to swim: and he shall bring down their pride together with the spoils of their hands. [12] And the fortress of the high fort of your walls shall he bring down, lay low, and bring to the ground, even to the dust.
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, Jeremiah 48, Ezekiel 25:8-11 Ezekiel 25:8-11 [8] Thus said the Lord GOD; Because that Moab and Seir do say, Behold, the house of Judah is like to all the heathen; [9] Therefore, behold, I will open the side of Moab from the cities, from his cities which are on his frontiers, the glory of the country, Bethjeshimoth, Baalmeon, and Kiriathaim, [10] To the men of the east with the Ammonites, and will give them in possession, that the Ammonites may not be remembered among the nations. [11] And I will execute judgments on Moab; and they shall know that I am the LORD.
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, Amos 2:1-3 Amos 2:1-3 [1] Thus said the LORD; For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime: [2] But I will send a fire on Moab, and it shall devour the palaces of Kirioth: and Moab shall die with tumult, with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet: [3] And I will cut off the judge from the middle thereof, and will slay all the princes thereof with him, said the LORD.
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and Zephaniah 2:8-11 Zephaniah 2:8-11 [8] I have heard the reproach of Moab, and the revilings of the children of Ammon, whereby they have reproached my people, and magnified themselves against their border. [9] Therefore as I live, said the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, even the breeding of nettles, and salt pits, and a perpetual desolation: the residue of my people shall spoil them, and the remnant of my people shall possess them. [10] This shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of the LORD of hosts. [11] The LORD will be terrible to them: for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen.
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.

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