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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Isaiah 17

 

 

Verse 1

The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.

Isaiah 17:1-11.-PROPHECY CONCERNING DAMASCUS AND ITS ALLY, SAMARIA, i:e., Syria and Israel, which had leagued together, (Isaiah 7:1-25; Isaiah 8:1-22.) Already Tiglath-pileser had carried away the people of Damascus to Kir, in the fourth year of Ahaz (2 Kings 16:9); but now, in Hezekiah's reign, a further overthrow is foretold (Jeremiah 49:23; Zechariah 9:1). Also, Shalmaneser carried away Israel from Samaria to Assyria (2 Kings 17:6; 2 Kings 18:10-11), in the sixth year of Hezekiah of Judah (the ninth year of Hoshea of Israel). This prophecy was, doubtless, given previously in the first years of Hezekiah, when the foreign nations came into nearer collision with Judah, owing to the threatening aspect of Assyria. Damascus - put before Israel (Ephraim, Isaiah 17:3), which is chiefly referred to in what follows, because it was the prevailing power in the league-with it Ephraim either stood or fell, (Isaiah 7:1-25.)


Verse 2

The cities of Aroer are forsaken: they shall be for flocks, which shall lie down, and none shall make them afraid.

The cities of Aroer - i:e., the cities round about Aroer, and under its jurisdiction (Gesenius). So "nine cities with their villages" (Joshua 15:44); "Heshbon, and all her cities" (Joshua 13:17). Aroer was near Rabbah-Ammon, at the river of Gad, an arm of the Jabbok (2 Samuel 24:5). It was founded by the Gadites (Numbers 32:34).

They shall be for flocks - (Isaiah 5:17.)


Verse 3

The fortress also shall cease from Ephraim, 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.

The fortress also shall cease from Ephraim - the strongholds shall be pulled down (Samaria especially: Hosea 10:14; Micah 1:6; Habakkuk 1:10).

And the remnant of Syria - all that was left after the overthrow by Tiglath-pileser (2 Kings 16:9).

As the glory of ... Israel. They shall meet with the same fate as Israel, their ally.


Verse 4

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 lean.

The glory of Jacob shall be made thin - the kingdom of Ephraim, and all that they rely on (Hosea 12:2; Micah 1:5).

The fatness of his flesh shall wax lean - (note, Isaiah 10:16.)


Verse 5

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.

It shall be as when the harvestman gathereth the corn. The inhabitants and wealth of Israel shall be swept away, and but few shall be left behind, just as the farmer gathers the grain and the fruit, and leaves only a few gleaning ears and grapes (2 Kings 18:9-11).

And reapeth the ears with his arm. He collecteth the standing grain with one arm, so that he can cut it with the sickle in the other hand.

It shall be as he that gathereth ears in the valley of Rephaim - a fertile plain at the southwest of Jerusalem, toward Bethlehem and the country of the Philistines (2 Samuel 5:18-22).


Verse 6

Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it, as the shaking of an olive tree, two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof, saith the LORD God of Israel.

Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it - i:e., in the land of Israel.

Two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough. A few poor inhabitants shall be left in Israel, like the two or three olive berries left on the top-most boughs, which it is not worth while taking the trouble to try to reach.


Verse 7

At that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel.

At that day shall a man look to his Maker - instead of trusting in their fortresses (Isaiah 17:3; Micah 7:7).


Verse 8

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.

And he shall not ... respect (that) which his fingers have made, either the groves - (Hebrew, 'Asheeriym (Hebrew #842)). A symbolical tree is often found in Assyrian inscriptions, representing the hosts of heaven ( tsaabaa' (Hebrew #6635)), answering to Asteroth, or Astarte, the queen of heaven, as Baal or Bel, or the sun, is the king. Hence, the expression, "a graven image of the grove," is explained 2 Kings 21:7. A man's "fingers" do not make an ordinary grove, as here a man's fingers are said to do.

Or the images (Hebrew, chammanim, from chammah, the sun) - literally, images to the sun; i:e., to Baal, who answers to the sun, as Astarte to the hosts of heaven (2 Kings 23:5; Job 31:26).


Verse 9

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.

In that day shall his strong cities be as a forsaken bough - rather, 'as the leavings of woods:' what the axeman leaves when he cuts down the grove (cf. Isaiah 17:6).

Which they left because of the children of Israel - i:e., which the providence of God so ordered it that the enemy left, because of the children of Israel. He reserved a remnant, from His regard to the people of His covenant, giving Israel still room for repentance. So He was about to break off the Assyrian's yoke from Judah "because of the anointing" (Isaiah 10:27) (Junius). Calvin and Vatablus take the Hebrew relative asher ("which") in the sense AS, and retain the English version, "forsaken:" Israel's 'strong cities shall be forsaken JUST AS (the Canaanites) left their cities because of (literally, from before the face of) the children of Israel.' Rather, 'which (the enemies) shall leave for the children of Israel;' literally, 'shall leave (in departing) from before the face of the children of Israel' (Maurer). But a few cities out of many shall be left to Israel, by the purpose of God, executed by the Assyrian.


Verse 10

Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants, and shalt set it with strange slips:

Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the Rock of thy Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the Rock of thy strength - drawn from "Jeshurun ... forsook God (which) made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation ... Of the Rock (that) begat thee thou art unmindful" (Deuteronomy 32:15; Deuteronomy 32:18).

Plants - rather, nursery-grounds; pleasure-grounds (Maurer).

Set it - rather, 'set them,' the pleasure-grounds.

Strange slips - cuttings of plants from far, and therefore valuable.


Verse 11

In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow.

In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow - rather, 'In the day of thy planting' (Horsley) shalt thou make to grow. Maurer translates (Hebrew, sigseeg), 'Thou didst fence it'-namely, the pleasure-ground. The parallel clause, 'shalt thou make to flourish,' favours the English version. As soon as thou plantest, it grows.

And in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish - i:e., immediately after: so in Psalms 90:14, the Hebrew, 'in the morning,' is translated early.

(But) the harvest (shall be) a heap - rather, 'but (promising as was the prospect) the harvest is gone.' Hebrew, need, from nud, to flee (Horsley). Buxtorf translates as the English version.

In the day of grief - rather, 'in the day (expected) possession;' Hebrew, nachalah (Hebrew #5159) (Maurer). The Hebrew is taken as the English version in Jeremiah 30:12.

And of desperate sorrow - rather, 'and the sorrow shall be desperate or irremediable.' In the English version, heap and sorrow may be taken together by Hendiad, 'the heap of the harvest shall be desperate sorrow' (Rosenmuller). Israel, instead of trusting in Yahweh, tried to gain a flourishing state of affairs by a league with Syria. But the event, promising though appearances were at first, proved the reverse. It ended in their destruction by Assyria. This is the fact set forth in the imagery of this verse.

The connection of this fragment with what precedes is, notwithstanding the calamities coming on Israel, the people of God shall not be utterly destroyed (Isaiah 6:12-13): the Assyrian spoilers shall perish (Isaiah 17:13-14).


Verse 12

Woe to the multitude of many people which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of Woe to the multitude of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!

Woe to the multitude of many people - rather, 'Ho! (Hark!) a noisy multitude of many peoples!' etc. The prophet in vision perceives the vast and mixed Assyrian hosts (Hebrew, 'many peoples;' see note, Isaiah 5:26), on the hills of Judah ( "mountains," Isaiah 17:13), but at the "rebuke" of God they shall 'flee as chaff.'

And to the rushing of nations, (that) make a rushing (Hebrew, uwsh'own (Hebrew #7588)) - 'the roaring that roareth' (cf. Isaiah 8:7; Jeremiah 6:23).


Verse 13

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.

(God) shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off - rather, 'God rebuketh (Psalms 9:5) them, and they flee-are chased;' the event is set before the eyes as actually present, not future.

Chased as the chaff of the mountains. Threshing-floors in the East are in the open air, on elevated places, so as to catch the wind which separates the chaff from the wheat (Psalms 83:13; Hosea 13:3).

Like a rolling thing - anything that rolls; stubble.


Verse 14

And behold at eveningtide trouble; and before the morning he is not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us.

At evening-tide trouble; (and) before the morning he (is) not - fulfilled to the letter in the destruction 'before morning' of the vast host that "at evening-tide" was such a terror ("trouble") to Judah. On the phrase, see Psalms 90:6; Psalms 30:5.

He is not - namely, the enemy.

This (is) the portion of them that spoil us - the Jews. A general declaration of the doom that awaits the foes of God's people (Isaiah 54:17).

Remarks: They who league together against the people of God, as Damascus and Israel did against Judah, shall be brought to ruin. No strongholds can avail against the strength of Yahweh. Glory and prosperity are but of short duration when they are arrayed against the will of God. Yet such are God's mercy and faithfulness to His covenant of old with Israel that He still leaves gleanings of Ephraim-a remnant elected in grace-who are reserved for the mercy of God, about to be manifested to all Israel in the latter days. Then shall Jew and Gentile no longer look to their idols of any kind, but "shall have respect to" their "Maker" alone, "the Holy One of Israel." The root of Israel's sin, and therefore of Israel's sorrow, was, they "forgot the God of their salvation, and were not mindful of the Rock of their strength." Whenever any of us falls into this condemning sin, however prosperously our undertakings may "flourish" like a plant "in the morning," yet, like Israel's league with Syria, they shall at last yield a "harvest only of "grief and desperate sorrow."

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 17:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/isaiah-17.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 26th, 2019
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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