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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Isaiah 17

 

 

Verses 1-3

3. AGAINST SYRIA-EPHRAIM AND ETHIOPIA-EGYPT

Isaiah 17-20

The prophecies contained in Isaiah 17-20. have this much in common, that they are directed against two double nations. For as here Syria and Ephraim belong together, so there Ethiopia and Egypt. Thus in the north and south the gaze of the Prophet falls on a double nation, and in each case the remoter nation is the more heterogeneous. Then all these prophecies point to the future of Assyria. But they do so in a very different sense. In Isaiah 17, Assyria appears as instrument for accomplishing the judgment on the neighboring enemy of Judah, Syria and Israel. But immediately thereafter ( Isaiah 17:12-14) destruction is announced against Assyria itself, so that17 can conclude with the words: “This is the portion of them that spoil us and the lot of them that rob us.” But Assyria threatened not merely Judah and its next neighbors. The terror of it went further: it extended into distant lands. To these belonged also Ethiopia. Therefore on this account the Prophet announces to Ethiopia, too, the impending danger proceeding from Assyria. And this announcement could so much the more find a place here as the Prophet at the same time had to announce the putting aside of this danger by the same overthrow of the Assyrians that ( Isaiah 17:12-14) he holds up to view as the delivering event for Judah. Thus the Prophet in so far points away to a future of Assyria which is to it fatal, and on that account for Judah full of comfort. Hence these chapters involve the warning to fear neither Syria-Ephraim nor Assyria. We can say therefore, that the contents of Isaiah 17. correspond to the contents of the first and third part of the prophetic-cycle7–12. For we find here everything that is set forth in extenso Isaiah 7:1 to Isaiah 9:6, and then again Isaiah 10:5 to Isaiah 11:16, given compactly in the brief space of one chapter. Regarding the period of their composition, we must ascribe17,18 to the same time. For in both Assyria is spoken of in the same sense, i.e., the overthrow of Assyria is held up to view in both, and not the victory as in19,20. But then in both passages this overthrow is spoken of in such a way that one sees the lines of perspective of both pictures of the future meet in the historical event that is described Isaiah 37:36 sqq. To this is added what Drechsler calls attention to, that chapter18. has no superscription, but appears with its הוי, “woe,” to join on to the “woe” of Isaiah 17:12. Drechsler, indeed, urges the unity too strongly (in his Commentary, and Stud. u. Krit., 1847, p857 sqq.). Yet one don’t see why the Prophet should have set just Ethiopia parallel with Judah. This is only conceivable if chapter18 was not conceived ad hoc, but was put here only as a parallel actually existing and, according to the reference of Isaiah 17:5-6, a fitting parallel. But, as already said, the two passages, as regards their origin, belong to one period. And inasmuch as, according to Isaiah 17:1-3, Damascus and Ephraim still stood intact, we must ascribe both chapters17, 18, to the beginning of the reign of Ahaz, the time to which chapters Isaiah 7:1 to Isaiah 9:6 owe their origin. We would then have in our chapters a proof that Isaiah, at that time not only foresaw the significance of Assyria as an instrument of punishment, but also its destruction.

Chapters19,20, also treat of the future of Assyria, but in the opposite sense: for chapter19, holds up to the view of Egypt its destruction. Who will be the instrument of this destruction is not said. It is known only from Isaiah 17:16, 17 that it is the God of Israel that causes the ruin to fall on Egypt. But when, now, Isaiah 17:23 sqq, the view is displayed in the still more remote future of the most intimate friendship between Egypt and Assyria, and great salvation for both, so it results, by force of the contrast implied, that Assyria must previously have been the enemy and destroyer of Egypt. And this, then, is said in express words in chapter20, which is related to chapter19, as an explanatory sequel. Evidently, therefore, chapters19, 20, involve for Judah the warning that confederacy with Egypt is of no avail against Assyria. The Lord has given Egypt inevitably into the hand of Assyria in the immediate future. From this we recognize that these chapters must have been written at a time when Judah needed such a warning against false reliance on the protection of Egypt against the danger that threatened on the side of Assyria. Such was the case in the time of Hezekiah. We learn from28–32, that an “Egyptian policy” was the great theocratic error of the reign of Hezekiah. Moreover the date given Isaiah 20:1 (see comment in loc.), according to the Assyrian monuments, refers us to the year711, the 17 th year of Hezekiah, for the beginning, and Isaiah 20:3 to the year708, as the period of the conclusion, and of the prophetic indication of that typical transaction. According to that, chapter20 cannot have been written before the year708 b. c, and the words, “and fought against Ashdod and took it,” Isaiah 17:1 b are, relatively, indeed, but not absolutely considered, an historical anticipation.

But our chapters have still a further peculiarity in common. That is to say, with exception of chapter20, they are all of them comprehensive surveys, while chapter20, as already said, only more nearly determines a chief point left indistinct in chapter19. For the Prophet comprehends here, as in one look, the entire future of all the nations mentioned in these chapters, down into the remotest Messianic time, where all shall belong to the kingdom of peace that the Messiah shall found. Israel (and by implication Syria, comp. on “as the glory,” etc. Isaiah 17:3, and “a Prayer of Manasseh,Isaiah 17:7), Judah, Ethiopia, Egypt, Assyria, all of them shall with one accord serve the Lord, and in equal measure enjoy His blessing. Connected therewith is the fact that these chapters (20 excepted, for the reason given) form a total by themselves, in that they sketch, prophetic fashion, in grand brevity, a panorama of the future history of the nations in question. But as regards the relation of this second element, the Messianic to the first, the Assyrian, it must be observed that the former in chapters18, 19, forms quite normally the conclusion. But in17, the Assyrian element forms the conclusion, and indeed it is joined on in a loose and unconnected way. In Isaiah 17:9-11, the cause of the fall described Isaiah 17:4-6 is assigned in only an incidental way, so that the Messianic element ( Isaiah 17:7-8) has, so to speak, a subsequent endorser in this reason assigned. Yet this style of adding the reason after describing the event has many examples. But the words Isaiah 17:12-14 certainly give the impression of being a later addition, yet one that in any case proceeds from the Prophet himself. Without this addition there would be wanting to17, one of the two elements that characterize chapters17–20. With it, chapter17 not only becomes homogeneous with the following chapters, but also it becomes complete in itself (comp. Isaiah 17:14 b), and receives a bridge that unites it with chap18.

We may group the four chapters in the following fashion:—

a) Prophecies that give warning not to be afraid either of Syria-Ephraim, or Assyria (17, 18).

α. Damascus and Ephraim mow and in time to come (18).

β. Ethiopia now and in time to come (18).

b) Prophecies that give warning not to trust to false help against Assyria (19, 20).

α. Egypt now and in time to come (19).

β. The Assyrian captivity of Egypt (20).

__________________

a) Prophecies that give warning not to be afraid either of Syria-Ephraim or Assyria

Isaiah 17, 18

α) DAMASCUS AND EPHRAIM NOW AND IN TIME TO COME

17

א) The destruction of Damascus and Ephraim

Isaiah 17:1-3

1 The Burden of Damascus.

Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city,

And it shall be a ruinous heap.

2 The cities of Aroer are forsaken:

They shall be for flocks,

[FN1]Which shall lie down and none shall make them afraid.

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.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

[Imitated in Naegelsbach’s translation by: “verworfen als Stadt und wird eine Trummers tatat.—Tr.].—Also מַפָּלָה (of the same meaning as מַפֵּלָה Isaiah 23:13; Isaiah 25:2; and partly מַפֶּלֶת Ezekiel 26:15; Ezekiel 26:18, and often) occurs only here.

Isaiah 17:2, In this verse there occurs no m sound excepting מ in the last word. On the other hand the r, hissing and dental sounds predominate.—It is debatable whether ערי ע‍׳‍ is equivalent to בְּנוֹת ע׳ (compare עָרֵי חֶשְׁבּוֹן Joshua 13:17) or is to be construed as appositional genitive. I would not against the former of these explanations oppose what Gesenius (Thes. pag, 1074, comp1005) cites against himself, that Aroer was no metropolis. For even if it were not the capital of a land, it might still be the central point of a number of smaller cities or villages.—עזבות is = derelictae, desertae ( Isaiah 17:9; Isaiah 6:12; Jeremiah 4:29).—רבץ ואין מחריד is a form of speech borrowed from Job ( Job 11:19) and reproduced later by Zephaniah ( Isaiah 3:13).

Isaiah 17:3. Notice the alliteration of the first half of the verse. As שְׁאָר is not ceteri, but reliqui, I regard it as more accurate to connect ושׁאר ארם with what follows than with what precedes.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. The Prophet makes the Syrian capital his starting point, announcing to it first that it will be reduced to a place of ruin ( Isaiah 17:1). From there he turns to the territory of Israel, and traverses first east Jordan Israel to its extremest point ( Isaiah 17:2), then passes over to west Jordan, and thence returns back to Damascus ( Isaiah 17:3). Thus he describes a circuit, carries the destruction over Gilead to Ephraim and thence back to Damascus so that thus Ephraim becomes as Damascus and Damascus as Ephraim; thus both, as they are politically closely united, appear joined in a common ruin.

2. The burden of Damascus—heap.

Isaiah 17:1. מַשָּׂא דמשׂק, “Burden of Damascus,” is in so far an inexact expression as chap17 does not merely treat of a judgment against Damascus, but of a judgment upon Ephraim and Assyria. But the expression seems to be chosen for the sake of conformity with the other sections of the collection, chapters13–23. But it must not here be construed in the sense of giving the contents; it is a simple nota, a mere designation to distinguish and mark a beginning. As regards the fulfilment, we see from Isaiah 8:4 that Isaiah sees the time near at hand when the plunder of Damascus shall be carried before the king of Assyria, and according to Isaiah 10:9 this capture has already resulted. Schrader (Die Keilinschriften und das A. T, p150 sq. u. 152sq.) imparts from Layard’s inscriptions (London, 1851, Fol.), an inscription that is unfortunately somewhat obliterated, but is still plain enough to make known that Tiglath-Pileser, by means of an expedition lasting two years (according to Schrader, they were the years733,732 B. C.; according to the list of regents, the thirteenth and fourteenth year of this king), destroyed the kingdom of Damascus. The inscription reads: “. … whose number cannot be numbered. … I caused to be beheaded;. … of (Bin) hadar, the palace of the father of Rezin (Ra-sun-ni, Ra-sun-nu) of Damascus, (situated on) inaccessible mountains. … I besieged, captured; 8000 inhabitants together with their property; Mitinti of Ascalon. … I led forth into captivity; five hundred (and eighteen, according to Smith) cities from sixteen districts of the Damascus land I desolated like a heap of rubbish.” But it is of course to be noticed that this catastrophe was only a temporary one. For Jeremiah 49:23-27 and Ezekiel 27:18 knew Damascus again as a city existing in their time. On the whole Damascus is almost the only one of all the cities of biblical antiquity that flourishes still down to the present day.

3. The cities of Aroer—afraid.

Isaiah 17:2. Three cities of Old Testament mention are called by the name Aroer: 1) a city in Judah ( 1 Samuel 30:28) which cannot by any means be meant here; 2) a city in the tribe of Gad, which according to Joshua 13:25 (comp. Judges 11:33) lay “before Rabbah; 3) a city in the tribe of Reuben, situated on the north bank of the Arnon ( Deuteronomy 2:36; Joshua 12:2; Joshua 13:9; Joshua 13:16; Judges 11:26; 2 Kings 10:33, and often). But if the Prophet meant only one of the two Aroers, then we miss an element that is of importance in the connection of thought of our passage. Are both Aroers meant, then the Southern one, on the bank of Arnon, must be one of them. But in that case the words “cities of Arnon” involve the sense: the entire east Jordan territory. But also the etymological primary sense (עַרְעָר = nudus, “bare,” עֲרִירִי inops, “poor”) recommended the mention of the name of these cities. So that it thus seems to have been chosen for a threefold reason (see Text. and Gram.). From Damascus the judgment of God moves southward like a tempest or a hail cloud through Gilead to rebound from the mountain chain of Abarim and be deflected thereby westward across the Jordan into the territory of Ephraim. Thus all Gilead becomes unfitted for human habitation. Only herds of animals stop there, that can repose without fear of disturbance.—The occupation of a region by herds is also in other places named as the sign of a desert condition: Isaiah 17:10; Zephaniah 2:14, and often.

[In regard to “cities of Aroer,” J. A. A. says: “It is now commonly agreed that the place meant is the northern Aroer, east of Jordan, and that its cities are the towns around it, and perhaps dependent on it.”]

4. The fortress—of hosts.

Isaiah 17:3. The Prophet now takes Ephraim and Syria together. Of the former shall be done away all מִבְצָר (collective, “all defense”). Thereby the cities of Ephraim also cease to be cities ( Isaiah 17:1). For in that no longer patriarchal but warlike time and region, whatever was without wall was a village. Comp. עִיר מִבְצָר “fenced cities,” opposed to כָּפָר or כֹּפֶר “hamlet, village,” 1 Samuel 6:18, and often. As, therefore, “The fortress ceases from Ephraim,” (‍‍נשׁבת מ׳ מא׳, recalls מוסר מעיר “rejected as city,” Isaiah 17:1), the end returns to the beginning, and with the following words “the kingdom of Damascus,” the Prophet actually arrives back in Damascus, whence he started out, so that he has thus described a circuit. With what art the Prophet intimates that not only Ephraim becomes as Damascus (by the נשׁבת מבצר), but also Damascus as Ephraim! Are the cities of Ephraim and Damascus become villages, then Damascus can neither maintain its ancient rank as a royal city, nor the cities of Ephraim their ancient glory Both must fall and go to ruin. “As the glory of the children of Israel” must, of course, be intended in the first place ironically. Ephraim had joined itself closely with Syria to the great terror of Judah ( Isaiah 7:2; Isaiah 8:12). Isaiah shows here how this close political coalition will turn to their destruction, engulfing them in one common ruin. But when Isaiah 17:4 sqq. it is seen what will be the fate of the glory of Jacob, viz.: that it will return from the fallen estate of remoteness from God to the glory of nearness to God, then it will not appear an error if in “the remnant of Syria” is seen an allusion to “the remnant of Israel,” and in the likeness of name an intimation of a likeness of destiny that is to be hoped for: Comp. on אָדָם “a Prayer of Manasseh,Isaiah 17:7.

[In regard to the ironical and sarcastic meaning attached to the expression “the glory of Israel,” a notion as old as Jerome, J. A. A. says “it seems to mean simply what is left of their former glory.”]

Footnotes:

FN#1 - And they shall lie down and there shall be no one making them afraid.


Verses 4-8

ב) Ephraim (and Damascus) small and again great

Isaiah 17:4-8

4 And in that day it shall come to pass, that the glory of Jacob shall [FN2]be made thin,

And the fatness of his flesh shall wax lean.

5 And it shall be [FN3]as when the harvestman gathereth the corn,

And reapeth the ears with his arm;

And it shall be [FN4]as he that gathereth ears in the valley of Rephaim.

6 [FN5]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 [FN6]in the outmost fruitful branches thereof,

Saith the Lord God of Israel.

7 At that day shall [FN7]a man look to his Maker,

And his eyes shall [FN8]have respect to the Holy One of Israel.

8 And he shall not [FN9]look to the altars, the work of his hands,

Neither shall [FN10]respect that which his fingers have made,

Either the [FN11]groves or the [FN12]images.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

Isaiah 17:4. משׁמן again only Isaiah 10:16.—רזה Niph. emaciari only here; comp. Isaiah 10:18.

Isaiah 17:5. קָמָה Isaiah 37:27.—וְהָיהָ “and it goes,” comp. Isaiah 13:14.—קָצִיר is difficult. The connection leads us first to expect the meaning “reaper,” and many take it Song of Solomon, letting קָצִיר be said metonymically for קוֹצֵר or אַנְשֵׁי קציר (Gesen.). Others take קָמָה in apposition with קָצִיר, or קָצִיר = “harvest time” (when the harvest time takes away the stalks. Ewald). קָצִיר may also be treated as accusative of time: “As one gathers stalks of grain in the harvest.” All of these explanations have a certain harshness. Against Delitzsch, who makes קציר=קוֹצֵר it may be objected: why does Isaiah use this very common word in a sense that it never has elsewhere, and for which sense there offered another word (קוֹצֵר Psalm 29:7; Amos 9:13; Jeremiah 9:21, and often) equally current? The same may be objected also to Gesenius and Ewald. To take קמה as apposition is harsh for the reason that then one of the two words would be superfluous. I therefore prefer to take קציר as accusative of time, and to regard the word as a substantive treated adverbially like other marks of time (בֹּקֶר, לַיְלָה, יום, etc., comp. Ewald, § 204 b).—Then the suffix of זרעו relates to the notion of reaper ideally present in קציר.

Ver6. נֹקֶף again only Isaiah 14:13.—גרגר isἅπ. λεγ.—אמיר only here and Isaiah 17:9.—סָעִיף “branch.” again only Isaiah 27:10. The suffix in סעיפיה relates to;זַיִת פֹּרִיָּה is in apposition with the suffix (in ramis ejus fecundae) with the signification of an adversative clause.

Isaiah 17:8. The אֲשֵׁרִים (אֲשֵׁרוֹתonly in Judges 3:7; 2 Chronicles 19:3; 2 Chronicles 33:3) are in any case the images or symbols of Astarte, of the female principle, which had the form of στῆλαι, pillars set upright (from אָשַׁר rectum, erectum esse, according to Movers; perhaps, according to a statement of Herodotus II:106, γυναικὸς αἰδοῖα were visible).

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. Like one ties two threads into one knot, so the Prophet, Isaiah 17:3, has entwined in one another the of destiny of Damascus and Ephraim. It is true that in what follows there is nothing more said of Syria. But when it was said, Isaiah 17:3, that “the remnant of Syria” shall be like “the glory of Jacob,” and if now, Isaiah 17:4-8, the course of development of “the glory of Jacob” is portrayed as a prospective sinking to a minimum and then again as a mounting up to the most glorious nearness to God, is not the same course of life by implication prophesied of Syria? Therefore, Ephraim shall be reduced to almost nothing. The Prophet declares this in a threefold image. First he compares the destruction of Israel to the growing leanness of a fat man ( Isaiah 17:4), second to the grain harvest, where the reaper with full arm, cuts and gathers the ears ( Isaiah 17:5); third to the olive harvest where the fruits are beaten off the trees. But with this third figure he lets appear already in perspective a better time. The Prophet only indirectly intimates that the tree will be robbed of the chief part of its fruits. He lays the chief stress here on the gleaning: there remain hanging in the top and on the boughs some scattered fruit, that shall be beaten off by subsequent effort ( Isaiah 17:6). Thus a remnant is left to Israel, and this remnant shall be converted: Shear-Jashub ( Isaiah 10:20 sqq.). Notice with what art this address also is arranged. There is a crescendo and decrescendo of shadow, which gradually merges into light. In the first figure ( Isaiah 17:4) the shadow still appears faint; in the second ( Isaiah 17:5) it reaches its full extent; in the third ( Isaiah 17:6) it yields unnoticed to the light. This light the Prophet depicts here in the first place from its subjective side, as a turning of the heart to God ( Isaiah 17:7) and a turning away from idols ( Isaiah 17:8). The objective salvation first appears in the fourth turn of his discourse ( Isaiah 17:12-14).

2. And in that day—God of Israel.

Isaiah 17:4-6. “In that day” Isaiah 17:4, here refers to the time of judgment announced in Isaiah 17:2-3. “The glory of Jacob,” also refers back to Isaiah 17:3, where the same expression is employed with only the difference of Israel for Jacob, which seems to have a rhetorical reason (comp. Isaiah 9:7). Moreover the Prophet speaks here of Israel-Ephraim in a sense that declares what it has in common with Judah. For the grand outlines of that picture of the future that Isaiah draws here, comprehend equally the history of Judah and Ephraim. Moreover it must not be supposed that Isaiah has in mind only the political ruin that ensued, say after the shining reign of Jeroboam II. This growing lean embraces the entire time in which the Ten Tribes exist as a remnant. It therefore lasts still at the present time.

The second figure describes the same matter only in greater extent. It is presented in a measure as having three degrees. First, is called to mind how the reaper gathers the standing grain stalks; second, how then the other arm cuts off the ears; third, how the ears are gathered, and that in the valley of Rephaim, the fruitful plain that extends in a south-west direction from Jerusalem. Such a rich harvest shall the enemies hold in Ephraim; so thoroughly, therefore, shall Ephraim be emptied out, plundered. The “gathering of ears” mentioned in the second half of Isaiah 17:5, may mean the gathering proper for binding into sheaves ( Genesis 37:7); but it could mean, too, the gleaning of the ears left lying, as by the poor ( Ruth 2:2 sqq.). The former better suits the context, in as much as the latter notion appears in the following verse. In Isaiah 17:5 the whole work of the enemies is described, and that in two stages, that are indicated by the “and it shall be” prefixed, just as the battle and the booty form the two sharply distinguished occupations of the warrior,—The valley of Rephaim is mentioned in the Old Testament, Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16; 2 Samuel 15:18; 2 Samuel 15:22; 2 Samuel 23:13. Most persons conclude from our present passage that it was fruitful. Only Ewald [and Aben Ezra, J. A. A.], finds in the passage the notion of a “dry valley,” as he also takes מלקט in the sense of gleaning. At present, indeed, the valley is desert (comp. Knobel in loc.). Further statements see in Arnold’s article “Thäler in Palästina,” Herz. R. Encycl. xv. p614. [“Robinson speaks of it en passant, as the cultivated valley or plain of Rephaim (Palestine I:323).” J. A. A.].—But ( Isaiah 17:6) there is left on him, i.e., on Jacob (we would say “of him,” comp. Isaiah 10:22) a gleaning secundum percussionem or ad similitudinem percussionis oleae, that is two or three berries in the highest top. Four or five are beaten off with a stick from the branches, because they had not been brought down by the shaking. In the boughs, of course, more remain hanging, because they have greater extent than the tree-top. That Isaiah, it is declared, that although the tree is fruitful, yet only a few berries hang on it. Spite of its fruitfulness, it is now so empty that only a little is left for the gleaner. Thus, too, Israel, though now richly blessed, will be reduced to a minimum.

3. At that day—the images.

Isaiah 17:7-8). The little gleaning is the small remnant of Israel that plays so great a part in the divine economy of salvation, Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 10:21; Romans 9:27; Romans 11:4 sq. In that day, i.e., when Israel shall be reduced to the small remnant, will the man look ( Isaiah 22:4; Isaiah 31:1) to his Maker, the Holy One of Israel (comp. on Isaiah 1:4), but he will cast not one more look of fear and trust toward the idols. At last he sees that they are only the work of his own, of human hands ( Isaiah 44:9 sqq.).—הָאָדָם “the Prayer of Manasseh,” is never anywhere else specially used of Israel. The general expression is doubtless chosen because the Prophet declares what concerns not Israel alone, but essentially all mankind, and what especially is applicable to Syria, too, which all along is conceived of as united with Israel.

Two idols are mentioned by name, as those that were particularly worshipped by the idolatrous Israelites: אשׁרים and חמנים. ( Isaiah 27:9). [“groves” and “images” Eng. Bib. Tr.].—Regarding the latter it has been ascertained, that thereby are meant the images of בַּעַל חַמָּז Baal-Hamon, Song of Solomon 8:11, the Sun-god, the superior male god of the Phœnicians. The word, beside the present text, and Isaiah 27:9, occurs Leviticus 26:30; Ezekiel 6:4; Ezekiel 6:6; 2 Chronicles 14:4; 2 Chronicles 34:4; 2 Chronicles 34:7. See further under Text. and Gram.—It is only doubtful whether אשׁרה signifies only the Astarte pillars, or the goddess herself, and the groves consecrated to her ( Deuteronomy 16:21, comp. Gesenius, Thes. pag. 162with Otto Strauss, Nahumi de Nin. vat. Prolegg. pag. 24). Moreover it is undecided whether Astarte (אַשְׁתֹּרֵת kindred to אֶסְתֵּר, ἀστήρ, “star”) signifies only the moon, or Vinus, the star of good fortune, or the entire heaven of night as distinguished from the domain of Baal, the heaven of day (comp. P. Cassel on Judges 2:13; “Moon and stars, the luminaries of the heavens by night, are mingled in Astaroth; they are the sum total of the entire host of heaven.”)

Footnotes:

FN#2 - be reduced.

FN#3 - as one in harvest gathereth corn, and his arm reapeth the ears.

FN#4 - as one gleaning ears.

FN#5 - And gleanings shall, etc.

FN#6 - in its, the fruit trees boughs.

FN#7 - the man turn.

FN#8 - look to.

FN#9 - turn to.

FN#10 - look to what his.

FN#11 - Ashtaroth.

FN#12 - Or, sun images.


Verses 9-11

ג) The Cause of Ephraim’s Destruction

Isaiah 17:9-11

9 In that day shall his strong cities be [FN13]as a forsaken bough,

And an uppermost branch,

Which they left because of the children of Israel:

And there shall be desolation.

10 Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation,

And hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength,

Therefore [FN14]shalt thou plant pleasant plants,

And shalt set it with strange slips:

11 [FN15]In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow,

And in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish:

[FN16]But the harvest shall be [FN17]a heap in the day of grief

And of desperate sorrow.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

Isaiah 17:9. עזובה comp. Isaiah 6:12.—חֹרֶשׁ is saltus, “forest.” David dwelt בַּחֹרְשָׁה 1 Samuel 23:15-16; 1 Samuel 23:18. Jotham, according to 2 Chronicles 27:4, built castles and towers בֶּ‍ֽחֳרָשִׁים. Comp. Ezekiel 31:3.—אָמִיר, beside the present and Isaiah 17:6, does not occur again. The employment of this rare and ancient word here must be explained partly by the fact of its previous use, Isaiah 17:6, partly by the fact that in old times not only the tops of trees, but probably also the tops of mountains were so called. For the conjecture of Simon, sanctioned by Gesenius, that the Amorites were named the montani, from an old אֱמֹר mons (comp. הִתְאַמֵּר se efferre Psalm 94:4) has certainly much in its favor. The LXX. also found in אמיר the name of that ancient race, and hence translated οῖ Ἀμοῤῥαῖοι καὶ οἳ Εὐαῖοι.—The subject of והיתה is any way the ideal notion אֶרֶץ contained in what precedes. This notion is likely the occasion also of the change in gender that we observe in what follows (comp. שׁכחת, ישׁעך etc., with מעזו, Isaiah 17:9). That a land may be personified, i.e., identified with the nation is proved by passages like Jeremiah 6:19; Jeremiah 22:29, etc.

Isaiah 17:10. יֵשַׁע occurs only here in the first part of Isa.; on the other hand four ties in the second part: Isaiah 45:8; Isaiah 51:5; Isaiah 61:10; Isaiah 62:11. The expression אלהי ישׁעי “God of my salvation,” is frequent in the Psalm 18:47; Psalm 25:5; Psalm 27:9; Psalm 62:8; Psalm 65:6, etc., comp. Micah 7:7; Habakkuk 3:18.—צוּר מַעוֹז Psalm 31:3, comp. Psalm 62:8.—נעמן = נָעִים occurs only here.—זמרה only here in Isaiah. The suffix-עֶנּוּ relates to the ideal unity ascribed in thought to the garden arrangements.

Isaiah 17:11. שִׂגְשֵׂג, Pilp, from שׂוּג (comp. סוּג, שׂךְ, מְשׂוּכָּה Isaiah 5:5) sepire, “to fence in,” occurs only here.—Hiph. of פרח occurs in Isaiah only here; Kal. often: Isaiah 27:6; Isaiah 35:1-2; Isaiah 66:14—The words נד קציר וגו are difficult. True, it is clear in general that the Prophet contrasts the notions of planting, sowing, fencing round, bringing to bloom and that of the harvest. But the question is does he speak of a disappearance of the hoped for harvest, or of the approach of a harvest not hoped for, and unwelcome. The former is maintained by those that take נֵד = נָד in the sense of effugit. But the verb נוּד where in its inflection has Zere as vowel of the second root syllable. Moreover נָד would not be the right word for the notion of vanishing. One would expect אָבַד or a similar word. For נוּד is moveri, agitari, vagari, errare; it designates, therefore, the state of instability, fluctuation, but not that of non-existence. We stand, therefore, by the usual meaning of נֵד, acervus, cumulus: “as a heap, heaped up is the harvest in the day of grief.”—נַֽחֲלָה cannot be understood of taking possession, for the word means possession. Moreover, since several Codices and ancient translations read נַחְלָה the latter is to be retained. נַחְלָה, indeed, occurs elsewhere only in connection with מַכָּה ( Jeremiah 10:19; Jeremiah 14:17; Jeremiah 30:12; Nehemiah 3:19) or in the sense of aegrotus ( Ezekiel 34:4; Ezekiel 34:21); but the day of the sick (Fem. to correspond to the preceding suffixes) is the day of being sick, as e.g., the time of the one leading is the time of leading ( Jeremiah 2:17).—כְּאֵב, “pain,” again only Isaiah 65:14.—אנוֹש occurs in Isaiah only here: often in Jeremiah 17:16; Jeremiah 30:12; Jeremiah 30:15, etc.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. This strophe is distinguished from the preceding in this, that it assigns the reason for the destruction threatened against Ephraim. Therefore, after words that refer to both the strophes that precede, and that describe the impending ruin ( Isaiah 17:9), the cause of the same is now named. It consists in this, that Israel has forsaken the God of its salvation. This has its consequence that it cherishes with delight untheocratic, idolatrous existence, like one lays out a pleasure garden and adorns it with exotics ( Isaiah 17:10). Measures are not wanting which should surround that garden as a protecting hedge, and speedily bring it to a certain bloom; but the harvest? True enough there will be harvest in heaps; but not a day of joy. This harvest will be a day of deepest sorrow ( Isaiah 17:11).

2. In that daydesolation.

Isaiah 17:9. “In that day” refers back to Isaiah 17:4; “his strong cities” to “the cities Aroer,” Isaiah 17:2, and “the fortress,” Isaiah 17:3; כעזובת, “like forsaken places,” to “forsaken,” Isaiah 17:2; האמיר, “the summits,” to אמיר “the summits (of the olive trees),” Isaiah 17:6. By these correspondences the Prophet gives us to understand that he speaks of the same subject as above, But he modifies his manner in two respects. First, he does not speak of the subject in figurative language as Isaiah 17:4-6, but boldly; second, he proves that the judgment was made necessary by the conduct of Israel. In as much as, therefore, “in that day” refers to Isaiah 17:4 (not to Isaiah 17:7, as the contents plainly show), the Prophet explains the figures used there by a reference to a fact well known to all Israel. In the forests and on elevated spots they had all seen the ruins of very ancient strong buildings that were evidence of the presence of a power long since overcome and vanished away. They were the ruins of castles which the Canaanities forsook, voluntarily or by compulsion, when the Israelites conquered the land (comp. Knobel, in loc.). A time will come when “the strong cities” of Israel shall lie like these castles. It is plain that this reference to that evidence of fact, besides the figurative language of Isaiah 17:4-6, was fitted to produce a deep impression.

3. Because thou hast—sorrow.

Isaiah 17:10-11. The evil conduct of Israel that was the cause of that judgment was twofold: 1) the negative reason was the not regarding, forgetting Jehovah: 2) the positive reason was the inclination to an idolatrous existence. In regard to the positive reason, I understand the Prophet to mean not merely the worship of strange gods, but also the political union with foreign powers that was most intimately connected with it, and the inclination to foreign ways in general (comp. Isaiah 2:6 sqq.). This culture of idolatry is compared to the culture of charming gardens (literally, plantations of lovely things). Israel itself, according to Isaiah 5:1 sqq7, was for Jehovah נְטַע שַֽׁעֲשׁוּעָיו, “his pleasant plant.” But the recreant nation, instead of cultivating the service of Jehovah, set up other enclosures that appealed more to their fleshly inclinations, which they sowed with foreign grape vines (properly grape vines of the foreigner), i.e. in which they cultivated foreign grape vines (comp. Jeremiah 2:12) from seed. By these foreign vines must be understood everything untheocratic, all that was connected with heathen life to whose culture Israel devoted itself. The Imperfects express the continuance of the present. For at the time that the Prophet wrote this under Ahaz, this tendency to idolatrous living continued operative. The people provided also a protecting fence (comp. Isaiah 5:5). By the fencing the Prophet seems to me to understand everything that was undertaken for the purpose of giving security to the idolatrous efforts. That may have been partly positive measures (efforts in favor of idolatry of every sort), and partly negative protection against whatever was done on the part of true Israelites against the worship of idols, persecution of such, comp. e.g. 1 Kings 18:4; 1 Kings 18:19. The pains of planting and fencing were quickly rewarded: the heathen life bloomed only too soon. The whole history preceding the exile furnishes the proof of this. “In the morning” means the very next morning after the planting; therefore very quickly. We adhere to the usual meaning of נֵד acervus, cumulus: “as a heap, heaped up is a harvest in the day of grief.” See Text. and Gram. For I would not construe it, with Delitzsch, in the sense: “a harvest heap unto the day of judgment,” after Romans 2:5. For it does not read לְיוֹם, “to the day,” and in fact the day of the harvest is not distinguished from the day of judgment, which must be assumed by those that explain that the product of the harvesting heaps up for the day of judgment. But the Prophet says: in the day of judgment (ביום “in the day,” refers back to ביום in the first member of the verse), which is itself just at the same time the day of harvest, the produce of harvest is there in heaps. But this harvest day is “a day of grief and of desperate sorrow.” Being such, the harvest is a bad one, and the heaps signify heaped up misfortune. Therefore the Prophet says that the fruit of that planting shall be a harvest that shall come in on the day of grief and incurable pain, thus itself shall have the form of grief and incurable pain.

Footnotes:

FN#13 - like forsaken places in the forests and summits.

FN#14 - thou plantest pleasant gardens and sowest them with foreign seed.

FN#15 - In the day of thy planting thou settest a fence.

FN#16 - But there is a heaped-up harvest in the day, etc.

FN#17 - Or, removed in the day of inheritance, and there shall be deadly sorrow.


Verses 12-14

ד) The World-Power (Assyria) Rises and Falls

Isaiah 17:12-14

12 [FN18]Woe to the [FN19]multitude of many people,

Which make a noise like the noise of the seas;

[FN20]And to the rushing of nations,

That make a rushing like the rushing of [FN21]mighty waters!

13 [FN22]The nations shall rush like the rushing of mighty waters:

[FN23]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 [FN24]a[FN25] rolling thing before the whirlwind.

14 [FN26]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.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

All expositors notice how suitably the Prophet here fits the sound to the subject. “And it waves and seethes and roars and hisses,”—one not only sees, one hears, too, the nation-waves rolling in.

Isaiah 17:12. הָמָה, comp. Isaiah 16:11; Isaiah 51:15.—הָמוֹן, comp. Isaiah 13:4; Isaiah 33:3; Isaiah 60:5.—שָׁאָה Niph. only here. שָׁאוֹז comp. on Isaiah 13:4; Isaiah 24:8; Isaiah 25:5; Isaiah 66:6.—כַּבִּיר comp. Isaiah 10:13; Isaiah 16:14; Isaiah 28:2.

Isaiah 17:13. On גער בו comp. Isaiah 5:26. גָּעַר in Isa. again only Isaiah 54:9.—The construction with בְּ (as of a verb. dimicandi) like Genesis 37:10; Nahum 1:4, and often.—ממרחק “far away;” like מִקֶּדֶם “eastward,” Genesis 11:2.—Pual רֻדַּף occurs only here, as also the noun מֻרְדָּף derived from the Hophal is found only in Isaiah 14:6.

Isaiah 17:14. וְ before הנה, [“nothing is more common in Hebrew idiom than the use of and after specifications of time (see Gesen, § 152 a)—J. A. A, Green, § 287, 3].—בלהה in Isaiah only here.—שָׁסָה, Isaiah 10:13; Isaiah 42:22. שֹׁסִים, as Drechsler remarks, Isaiah, so to speak, term. techincus for the oppressors of the Theocracy: Judges 2:14; Jeremiah 50:11; 2 Kings 17:20, and often.—גורל with לְ is the lot assigned to the בוזזים ( Isaiah 42:22; Isaiah 42:24).

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. The Prophet sees and hears in spirit the tumult of approaching nations, which he compares to the roar of mighty waters. But at the chiding of the Lord they vanish like chaff or whirlwinds of dust before the wind ( Isaiah 17:12-13). The evening when that tumult approaches is one of terror; but only the next morning and all has vanished without a trace left. This, he says, shall be the lot of those that come to rob us ( Isaiah 17:14).

2. Woe—rob us.

Isaiah 17:12-14. הוי (comp. on Isaiah 1:4), “woe,” need not be taken in any other sense than the usual one. For the crowding on of countless hordes of nations might well, in the first moment, occasion a cry of woe, even if it is afterwards changed into a cry of joy. It is evident that the Prophet by this swelling billow of nations means the nations led by the Assyrian world-power.—The expression “the chaff before the wind” recalls Psalm 35:5.—But the phrase “chaff of the mountains,” is not found elsewhere. The chaff which is blown away from an elevation exposed to the wind (threshing floors were made on elevations for the sake of the stronger breeze: comp. Herz. R. Encycl. III p 504 sq.). גלגל is not merely a wheel ( Isaiah 17:28), or the whirlwind, but also that which is whirled upwards by the wind ( Psalm 83:14). At evening time, as night comes on, the invasion of the enemy is more dangerous and terrible than by day. But the evening of terror is quickly changed into a morning of joy. That became literally true by the sudden destruction of the power of Sennacherib in one night, 2 Kings 19:35.

In conclusion the Prophet generalizes the thought just expressed: finally it ever happens so to the enemies of the Lord and of His people. It cannot be doubted that “our plunderers”, and “our spoilers” include also the Syrians and Ephraimites. We learn from this, from what point of view we must contemplate the connection of Isaiah 17:12-14 with what precedes. The Prophet would show that all enemies of the kingdom of God must finally succumb, that there is therefore no reason to fear them.

Isaiah 17:12-14 stand in no clearly marked connection with what precedes, and the Isaiah 17:1-11 form in themselves a disconnected whole, like the following prophecies, Isaiah 18:1-7 and Isaiah 19:1-25. Thus the conjecture presents itself that these Isaiah 17:12-14, are a supplement added later that has the double object: 1) to make Isaiah 17 conform to the two following by the mention of Assyria; 2) to restore a closer connection with Isaiah 18 and to prepare for the understanding of the passage Isaiah 18:5-6. For without these verses Isaiah 18:6 would apparently connect with nothing. At the same time—and this is an additional gain, accompanying the two main objects— Isaiah 17 is completed by the mention of Assyria. For Syria, Ephraim, Assyria were then the chief enemies of Judah. Only the mention of Assyria made it possible for the Prophet to conclude with the generalization of. Isaiah 17:14 b.

Footnotes:

FN#18 - Woe! a tumult of many nations! they make, etc.

FN#19 - Or, noise.

FN#20 - And a rushing of peoples! they are rushing like, etc.

FN#21 - Or, many.

FN#22 - Peoples are rushing like, etc.

FN#23 - But he rebukes it, and it flees, etc, and is chased, etc.

FN#24 - Or, thistle-down.

FN#25 - whirling dust before the storm.

FN#26 - At evening time behold horror.

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 17:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/isaiah-17.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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