"Moab was the eldest son of Lot's older daughter (see Genesis 19:37)" (OT Student Manual p. 155)
Although the Moabites and Israelites were cousins, they lived in continual strife. Chapters 15 and 16 entail the "burden" or pronouncement from Isaiah for Moab. Moab spiritually represents the wicked world. Although rich and powerful and prominent, none of these "sister nations" to Israel will prevail against Israel. Ludlow states, "Moab can be viewed as representing the enemies of God, with her destruction typifying the consequences coming upon those who oppose Israel at Christ's second coming" (191).
The following map, from the OT Student Manual, will help in placing the names of various cities and places referred to in these chapters.
Description of Destruction
The destruction of Moab was both real and typifies what will happen in the Last Days. Understanding the description of the destruction will help us recognize what will happen to those enemy nations in the Last Days.
In the Night
Isaiah states that "in the night" Ar and Kir are "laid to waste" (Isaiah 15:1). Many battles and wars were begun while the attacked were sleeping. The beginning of the destruction is both "sudden and unexpected" (Ludlow 192).
High Places, Baldness and Sackcloth
The false gods the Moabites worshipped could not protect them from the destruction of the Lord. They went to their temples or high places, not to worship, but to mourn.
Moab's "pride and prominence" (OT Student Manual p. 156) would be replaced with baldness and "every beard cut" (Isaiah 15:2). Baldness represented shame and reproach. In essence, the pride of Moab would be torn down and Moab would be brought to the dust.
Their rich clothing would also be replaced with sackcloth.
Heifer of Three Years Old
Various commentators (Keil and Delizsch noted in the OT Student Manual; Rashi and Drauss noted in Ludlow) say that a heifer of three years old represents youth and vibrancy and health and beauty. Ludlow surmises that this means Moab would be destroyed "at its most prosperous period" (194).
Drought, Plundering, Mourning, Slaughter
Isaiah 15:6-9 warn of other destructions that will befall Moab. Waters would be desolate. The hay would be withered and the grass would fail to grow and nothing will be green.
All that they will have laid up in storage will be carried away by invading forces.
The people will cry and howl and the waters of their rivers will be full of blood of those who have been slaughtered.
Counsel or Appeal?
Isaiah 16 contains either counsel or an appeal. What the footnotes state in the KJV LDS Bible and what Ludlow states seem to conflict.
Isaiah 16:3-6 states, "Take counsel, execute judgment; make thy shadow as the night in the midst of the noonday; hide the outcasts; bewray not him that wandereth.
"Let mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab; be thou a covert to them from the face of the spoiler: for the extortioner is at an end, the spoiler ceaseth, the oppressors are consumed out of the land.
"And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness.
"We have heard of the pride of Moab; he is very proud: even of his haughtiness, and his pride, and his wrath: but his lies shall not be so."
The 3a footnote says, "HEB Give counsel. This begins Moab's appeal to Judah (v. 3-5)." Footnote 6a further states, "Beginning of Judah's reply, declining Moab's appeal."
The 5b footnote implies the ruler spoken of in verse 5 is Jesus Christ.
Ludlow thinks that Isaiah is giving an "unusual command" to Judah. He suggests that Isaiah is counseling Judah to protect Moab. He continues, "This relationship strongly contrasts their earlier attitude; the two often fought and rarely protected each other" (195).
Ludlow continues with his interpretation, "The Davidic ruler of verse 5, protector of Moab, can also be interpreted as a messianic figure. Before Christ returns at his second coming and fulfills such a role (see Luke 1:32:33), there will be another "king of the Jews" who will be just and righteous and who might provide aid to the descendants of Moab. (Compare Isaiah 11:1-5)"
"The last verses of Isaiah 16 abandon the promise of aid from Israel and return to a straightforward description of the catastrophe and physical desolation to come upon Moab" (195). He then continues his commentary for Isaiah 16:6-13.
To summarize, the LDS Bible footnote authors believe that Moab appealed to Judah for protection, invoking the mercy of the throne of Christ. On the other hand, Ludlow believes that Isaiah counseled Judah to protect Moab. His reference to another king of the Jews has been stated before. The two views, to me, seem to conflict.
For what it's worth, the OT Student Manual completely avoids any commentary or instruction regarding Isaiah 16:3-5. Also, for more information about the authorship of the footnotes as well as other scriptural helps, read Bruce T. Harper, “The Church Publishes a New Triple Combination,” Ensign, Oct 1981, 9.
Destruction Assured in Three Years
Isaiah continues with his description of the destruction of Moab. He finishes Isaiah 16 by stating that this is what the Lord has spoken concerning Moab and that within three years, this destruction would be complete.
It seems as though this prophecy had been given previously. If so, then Isaiah would be establishing the words and testimony of another prophet (see 2 Cor. 13:1).
Isaiah continues to deliver "burdens" to the surrounding nations. The next warning is directed at Syria. Isaiah 17 is another chiasmus. This one is divided into five parts (see Ludlow 198-202).
Syria Will be Emptied (v. 1-3)
Similar to the warning to Babylon, Damascus, which is the capital of Syria, will no longer be a city. It will be left in ruins as the people flee the city.
Israel Will Dwindle (v. 4-6)
The next part warns of the diminishing of Israel or Jacob. Jacob becomes thin as a harvest takes place. Only a little fruit remains on the branches. Ludlow mentions that this warning is similar to the one given to Syria, thus verses 1-3 parallel verses 4-6.
The People Will Eventually Turn to God (v. 7-8)
Isaiah 17:7-8 gives us all a glimmer of hope in a troubled world. "At that day" (meaning in the Last Days) "shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel"
"And he shall not look to the altars, the work of his hands, neither shall respect that which his fingers have made, either the groves, or the images."
One day, mankind will turn away from idol worship and will turn to worship the true and living God. The culture of materialism and sexual sin will eventually end and will be replaced with a culture of worshiping the true and living God.
Note that when Isaiah uses the word "groves" he means Asherah poles which are "idols, images, or symbols of the pagan fertility goddess, Asherah" (Ludlow 200). For more information, read the Bible Dictionary entry for "grove."
Harvests Will Cease (v. 9-11)
Isaiah further reiterates the desolation that will come upon the people who have "not been mindful of the rock of [their] strength" (Isaiah 17:10).
Ludlow explains that the planting of pleasant plants is a part of pagan worship. Despite their best efforts to plant the best plants and their best care, none of these plants will produce a harvest because the people have "forgotten the God of [their] salvation" who is the true author of all harvests.
Those Who Threaten the Lord's Children Will Suddenly Be Destroyed (v. 12-14)
Syria and any other nation that fights Israel will "chased as the chaff" (Isaiah 17:13) or driven away. This is the Lords ultimate promise of protection to his children.
"Fear not to do good"
As I've been reading these chapters concerning the "burdens" of the various nations surrounding Israel, I get this sense that Israel and the children of God in these latter days were and are seemingly engulfed by the wicked nations of the world. It seems to me as though God was telling them and telling us today that things will get rough and difficult; nevertheless, if we strive to purify ourselves and repent of our sins, He will ultimately deliver us.
I also get this sense and feeling that everything will be fine. I need not worry about the grand events and that all I really need to concern myself with is my own salvation and that of my family. God has a plan and His plan will prevail.
I am reminded of a scripture found in D&C 6:33-34 which says, "Fear not to do good, my sons, for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap; therefore, if ye do good ye shall also reap good for your reward.
"Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail."