The languishing vines of Moab (Isa 16:8-16:11)

“The fields of Heshbon languish.

The vine of Sibmah languishes.

Those clusters once made drunk

The lords of the nations.

They reached to Jazer.

They strayed to the desert.

Their shoots once spread abroad.

They crossed over the sea.

Therefore I weep

With the weeping of Jazer

For the vines of Sibmah.

I drench you

With my tears.

O Heshbon!

O Elealeh!

The shout over your fruit harvest

Has ceased.

The shout over your grain harvest

Has ceased.

Joy is taken away,

Gladness is taken away

From the fruitful field.

In the vineyards,

No songs are sung.

No shouts are raised.

No one treads out wine

In the presses.

The vintage shout is hushed.

Therefore my soul throbs

Like a lyre for Moab.

My very soul throbs

For Kir-heres.”

Heshbon was in the northern part of Reuben or the northern part of Moab. The vines of Sibmah were about 5 miles east of Heshbon, also part of Moab and Reuben. Elealeh was a town about a mile outside of Heshbon, also part of Reuben and Moab. The grapes from this vine at Sibmah made many various great leaders drunk. There is a special mention of Jazer, a Levitical city near Gilead that was given to Gad in Joshua, chapter 21. The wonderful vine shoots that had strayed into the desert and even across waters were now languishing. Now Isaiah was also crying, because there would no longer be any shouting in the fields at the grape or grain harvest time. There would be no joy, gladness, shouting, or singing at harvest time, because there was no harvest. There was no one to tread the wine presses because there were no grapes. Therefore Isaiah was like a lyre or harp throbbing for Moab and the folks at Kir, on the main road, about 10 miles from the Dead Sea, as mentioned earlier.

A reproach against carousing (Isa 5:11-5:13)

“Woe to you

Who rise early in the morning,

In pursuit of strong drink!

Woe to you

Who linger in the evening

To be inflamed by wine!

These feasts consist of

Lyre,

Harp,

Tambourine,

Flute,

And wine.

They do not regard

The deeds of Yahweh!

They do not see

The work of his hands!

Therefore my people

Go into exile

Without knowledge.

Their nobles

Are dying of hunger.

Their multitude

Is parched with thirst.”

Isaiah turns to those who think only about drinking and carousing around. The first thing they think of in the morning is where their next drink is coming from. At night, they only worry about drinking wine while others played musical instruments like the lyre, harp, tambourine, and the flute. While the Israelites were going into exile, these people had no regard for the work of Yahweh and his deeds since they lacked knowledge. The nobles and the people were dying of malnutrition and thirst. However, these folks continued to play on.

What is better? (Sir 40:21-40:25)

“The flute makes

A sweet melody.

The harp makes

A sweet melody,

But a pleasant voice is

Better than either.

The eye desires grace.

The eye desires beauty.

But the eye desires

Green shoots of grain

More than either.

A friend is always welcome

A companion is always welcome.

But a sensible wife is

Better than either.

Kindred are for a time of trouble.

Helpers are for a time of trouble.

But almsgiving rescues

Better than either.

Gold makes one stand firm.

Silver makes one stand firm.

But good counsel is

Esteemed more than either.”

Sirach continues with his questions about what is better. However, here the answer is not wisdom. While wine and music gladden the heart, the love of friends is actually better for a happy heart. While the flute and the harp make sweet melodies, a pleasant singing voice is sweeter than both. While the eye desires grace and beauty, the eye, especially of a farmer, prefers to see the green sprouts of grain in the fields. Everyone welcomes a friend or companion in their house, but a sensible wife in the house is much better. In troubled times, family members and helpers can be supportive, but actually almsgiving helps you better than both family and friends. While gold and silver can help you stand firm, good counsel is better than both gold and silver.

Thanksgiving for God’s steadfast love (Ps 108:1-108:4)

A song, a psalm of David

“My heart is steadfast!

O God!

My heart is steadfast!

I will sing!

I will make melody!

Awake!

My soul!

Awake!

O harp and lyre!

I will awake the dawn!

I will give thanks to you

Among the peoples!

Yahweh!

I will sing praises to you among the nations.

Your steadfast love is higher than the heavens.

Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.”

Psalm 108 seems to be compilation of 2 other psalms, Psalm 57 and Psalm 60. The title is simply a song or psalm of David. This first section is almost word for word from Psalm 57. David was steadfast in his love, just as God had shown his steadfast love to him. He was ready to sing and make melody on the harp and lyre. He wanted his soul to wake up. He was going to wake the morning dawn. He was going to give thanks to Yahweh among all the people. He would sing his praises among the nations because God’s love was as high as the heavens. His faithfulness extended beyond the clouds. David loved Yahweh as Yahweh loved David.

Listen to God (Ps 49:1-49:4)

To the choirmaster leader, a psalm of the Korahites

“Hear this!

All you peoples!

Give ear!

All inhabitants of the world!

Both low and high!

Rich and poor together!

My mouth shall speak wisdom.

The meditation of my heart shall be understanding.

I will incline my ear to a proverb.

I will solve my riddle to the music of the harp.”

Psalm 49 continues the string of choral psalms of the Sons of Korah of the last few psalms. This psalmist is like a wise sage. He wanted all the people of the whole world to hear him. This was not confided to Israel, but the more universal wisdom literature. He wanted the ears of the high and the low people as well as the rich and the poor. This is another indication that classism and economic woes have a long history. The mouth of the psalmist would speak with wisdom and understanding. He knew about proverbs and riddles with the background music of the harp.

Wanting to go to the holy hill (Ps 43:3-43:4)

“O send out your light!

Send out your truth!

Let them lead me!

Let them bring me to your holy hill!

Let them bring me to your dwelling!

Then I will go to the altar of God.

I will go to God.

My exceeding joy.

I will praise you with the harp.

O God!

My God!”

The psalmist wanted God to send light and truth to him. They would lead him to the holy hill in Jerusalem. He would then be able to go to Temple, the dwelling of God. Then he would be happy and joyful praising God on the harp.

A call to worship Yahweh (Ps 33:1-33:3)

“Rejoice in Yahweh!                                                  

O you righteous!

Praise befits the upright.

Praise Yahweh with the lyre!

Make melody to him

With the harp of ten strings!

Sing to him a new song!

Play skillfully on the strings

With loud shouts.”

There is nothing here about this Psalm 33 that indicates that it came from David since there is no introduction to this psalm at all. This clearly is a Temple hymn, a call to worship Yahweh. The righteous were to rejoice in Yahweh. They should offer praise that befits an upright people. They were to praise Yahweh with the lyre, an ancient horseshoe shaped frame with strings. They were to make a melody to Yahweh. They were to use a ten stringed harp. They were to sing a new song. They were to play on the strings skillfully, not in a sloppy manner. Finally they had the loud shouts, like the shouts for war, as Yahweh would lead them on to victory.