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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 17

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-14

Chapter 17

Now he turns his prophecy against Damascus, which, of course, was the capital of Syria. Now Syria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel had confederated together to stand against Assyria. As Assyria became a very definite threat, Syria knew that she could not stand against Assyria alone so she sought to confederate with Ephraim and Manasseh, the major tribes of the Northern Kingdom. And they were hoping by a confederation to stop the Assyrian invasion. And so he prophesies first against Damascus, but then he begins to weave in also Ephraim and Manasseh, declaring that even through their confederation they will not be able to withstand the Assyrian invasion that they were going to all of them fall at the hands of the Assyrians.

The burden of Damascus. Behold, it is taken away from being a city, and it is going be a ruinous heap ( Isaiah 17:1 ).

The Assyrians are going to just smash down Damascus.

The cities of Aroer are forsaken ( Isaiah 17:2 ):

And in these places where the cities once existed, they will now be herding their flocks of sheep and it will be so desolate from people that the sheep won't even be bothered by people. The sheep will be grazing in what was once the cities of Syria.

The fortress also shall cease from Ephraim ( Isaiah 17:3 ),

Coming down now to the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

and the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria: they shall be as the glory of the children of Israel, saith the LORD of hosts. And in that day it shall come to pass, that the glory of Jacob shall be made thin, and the fatness of his flesh shall wax [thin,] lean. And it shall be as when the harvestman gathereth the corn, and reapeth the ears with his arm; and it shall be as he that gathereth ears in the valley of Rephaim. Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it, and the shaking of an olive tree, two or three berries in the top ( Isaiah 17:3-6 )

In other words, God is declaring that the inhabitants are going to be destroyed. They will be like the gleaning of an olive tree. There will just be a few berries on the top. There will be just a few grapes left on the vine, but it's like the Assyrians have come through and harvested and wiped out the majority of people and just a few people remain.

The Assyrians were extremely cruel people. According to the record of history, there were many cities, which, when were surrounded by the Assyrian army and it was obvious that there was no chance of escape, much like Masada the entire populace of the city would commit suicide. Rather than to be captured by the Assyrians, because they treated their captives so cruelly. They would pull out their tongues. They would gouge out their eyes. They would commit all kinds of atrocities against the captives. And so people were extremely fearful of Assyria and would oftentimes, entire cities you'd have a mass suicide rather than being taken captive by these Assyrians.

That is why Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh to declare the judgment of God, because he was afraid that the Ninevites might repent and God wouldn't wipe them out. And so he had no intention of going. When God said, "Go to Nineveh and warn them My judgment is coming," Jonah took off the other way because he wanted God to wipe Nineveh out. And he was afraid if he went and preached, they might repent and God would... He knew God was gracious and merciful and God might relent and not wipe them out. So that's why Jonah took off the other way. He was a true patriot. He wanted Assyria, the Ninevites to be wiped out.

In fact, you remember that Jonah was sitting out there pouting after the whole thing. God says, "What's the matter? You have any right to be upset?" "You bet your life I have a right to be upset. This is exactly what I thought was going to happen. I knew You were merciful and gracious. I knew that they might repent and that You would forgive them. Now You haven't wiped them out." Boy, he was mad! And it's interesting what God said. "The reason why I didn't wipe them out is because there are a hundred and twenty thousand little children in that city that are so small that they don't even know their right hand from their left hand." God's mercy upon the children and for the children's sake spared the city. But we'll get to the story of Jonah later, but it gives you...

Here the whole thing is fitting together. Assyria is getting ready to move against Moab, getting ready to move against Syria and against the Northern Kingdom of Israel and they are all going to fall. The Northern Kingdom of Israel is going to be left just a few people. Just like a few berries in the top of the olive tree. Just a few grapes in a vineyard that has already been harvested. Just the gleaning.

At that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel ( Isaiah 17:7 ).

Those that remain will be turning to God.

He will not look to the altars ( Isaiah 17:8 ),

That they have created. The worship of Baal and the groves and so forth that they have made. The false worship for which God's judgment came against them.

In that day shall his strong cities be as a forsaken bough, and an uppermost branch, which they left because of the children of Israel: and there shall be desolation. Because you hast forgotten the God of your salvation, you have not been mindful of the Rock of your strength, therefore you shall plant pleasant plants, and shall set it with strange slips: In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning that thou shall make thy seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow ( Isaiah 17:9-11 ).

So because they had forgotten God, they had turned away from Him and were worshipping these other gods, the reason why God has allowed this judgment using Assyria as His tool of judgment to destroy Syria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel with its capital Samaria. But yet, though Assyria is used as a tool of God's judgment, God turns His word against Assyria.

Woe to the multitude of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas ( Isaiah 17:12 );

In other words, the noise of their armies coming is just like the roar of the sea.

and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters! The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind. And behold at eveningtide trouble; and before the morning he is not ( Isaiah 17:12-14 ).

God will wipe them out. In the evening they'll be there, but in the morning they'll not be there. Now here is a hint at the destruction of the Assyrians. The Assyrians did come. They did conquer the Northern Kingdom of Israel. They did conquer Moab. They did even go down and conquer Ashdod and on down into Egypt and Ethiopia. But they did not conquer Judah. Now here in Judah, as the Assyrians were coming and all, Hezekiah was the king, and Isaiah was his counselor; he was saying, "Hey, don't worry about it. They're not going to conquer us. Don't be afraid. God is going to stand for us. Now don't worry about it. You're not going to have to fight this battle. This is the Lord's battle. He is going to stand up and fight for us." And Isaiah was telling him, "Hey, you don't have to worry about this. God's going to take care of things."

But, of course, Hezekiah was busy building the tunnel from the spring of Gihon over the pool of Siloam to bring the water into the city so that they would have water in the city when the Assyrians invaded and cut the city off and all. But yet, all the while Isaiah was encouraging the king to trust in the Lord that God would deliver. And the Assyrians brought their invading army against Jerusalem. And they were making all of their threats; the Rabshakeh said to the men, "Where is the God of the Samarians? Where is the God of the Syrians? Where is the God of the Egyptians? We wiped them all out. Don't let Hezekiah lead you into a false trust of your God saying our God will deliver. What God is able to deliver from the hand of the Assyrians?" And blaspheming God.

Isaiah said, "Watch this now. God's going to take care of him. Don't worry about it, Hezekiah." Hezekiah took the letter, he spread it out before the Lord; he wept. He said, "God, look what they're saying. Look what they're doing." And an angel of the Lord went through the camp of the Assyrians and in one night he wiped out 185,000 of their frontline troops. When the Israelis awoke in the morning and looked over the wall to see their enemy, they were nothing but corpses on the ground. In a night, in the morning they'll not be there. And of course, the Lord... We'll get out into a little bit further where... Actually there were so many corpse that the birds and the beasts feed on them for a long time. You can imagine what a feast that would be for vultures. Hundred and eighty-five thousand carcasses to feed on. "In the evening time, trouble; and before the morning it's gone, they are not."

This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us ( Isaiah 17:14 ).

This is God's judgment against Assyria. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Isaiah 17". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/isaiah-17.html. 2014.
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