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

(1) The burden of Damascus.—Syria, it will be remembered, had been “confederate with Ephraim,” i.e., with the kingdom of Israel, against Judah in the reign of Ahaz, and the prophet had then foretold its overthrow by Assyria (Isaiah 7:1-16). In 2Kings 16:9, 2 Chron. 28:29, we have a partial fulfilment of that prediction. Writing probably early in the reign of Hezekiah, Isaiah now looks forward to a further fulfilment in the future.

Damascus is taken away from being a city . . .—The words emphasise the result of the Assyrian invasion. The city of ancient days (Genesis 15:2) should lose glory and be no more worthy of the name; struck out, as it were, from the list of the great cities of the world.

The cities of Aroer are forsaken.—The LXX. and other versions seem to have followed a different text, and give, “The cities are forsaken for ever.” Taking Aroer as the right reading, we note that there were two cities of the name, one in the tribe of Reuben (Deuteronomy 2:36; Deuteronomy 3:12), afterwards in the possession of Moab (Jeremiah 48:19), and the other in that of Gad, near Rabbah of Ammon (Numbers 32:34; Joshua 13:25; 2Samuel 24:5). The present passage seems to imply a closer connection with Damascus. and therefore a more northern position than that of either of these cities. The latter of the two Just named may, however, have been in alliance with Damascus, and so have shared its fate during the Assyrian invasion. Possibly it may have been chosen for special mention on account of the significance of its name (“laid bare”) as ominous of utter ruin. The picture of the “flocks” wandering through the streets of the city reminds us of that of Babylon in Isaiah 13:21.

The fortress also shall cease from Ephraim.—The alliance of the two kingdoms is still prominent in Isaiah’s thoughts. Both shall fall, he predicts, together; and, with a stern, grave irony, he paints the downfall of “the remnant of Syria.” It shall be “as the glory of the children of Israel,” i.e., shall be fleeting and transient as that had been proved to be. There is, perhaps, a special reference to Hosea 9:11, “Ephraim, their glory shall fly away like a bird.”

Isaiah 17:1. The burden of Damascus — Both of that city and kingdom. But though “this prophecy, by its title, should relate only to Damascus, is full of much concerns, and more largely treats of, the kingdom of Samaria and the Israelites, confederated with Damascus and the Syrians against the kingdom of Judah.” It is the fourth discourse of the second book of Isaiah’s prophecies, and “was delivered probably soon after the prophecies of the seventh and eighth chapters, in the beginning of the reign of Ahaz. And it was fulfilled by Tiglath-pileser’s taking Damascus, and carrying the people captives to Kir, (2 Kings 16:9,) and overrunning great part of the kingdom of Israel, and carrying a great number of the Israelites also captives to Assyria: and still more fully in regard to Israel, by the conquest of the kingdom, and the captivity of the people, effected a few years after by Shalmaneser:” see 2 Kings 17:3, and Bishop Lowth. Behold Damascus is taken away from being a city — It was, however, afterward rebuilt, and prophesied against by Jeremiah, (Jeremiah 49:23,) and by Zechariah 9:1.17:1-11 Sin desolates cities. It is strange that great conquerors should take pride in being enemies to mankind; but it is better that flocks should lie down there, than that they should harbour any in open rebellion against God and holiness. The strong holds of Israel, the kingdom of the ten tribes, will be brought to ruin. Those who are partakers in sin, are justly made partakers in ruin. The people had, by sins, made themselves ripe for ruin; and their glory was as quickly cut down and taken away by the enemy, as the corn is out of the field by the husbandman. Mercy is reserved in the midst of judgment, for a remnant. But very few shall be marked to be saved. Only here and there one was left behind. But they shall be a remnant made holy. The few that are saved were awakened to return to God. They shall acknowledge his hand in all events; they shall give him the glory due to his name. To bring us to this, is the design of his providence, as he is our Maker; and the work of his grace, as he is the Holy One of Israel. They shall look off from their idols, the creatures of their own fancy. We have reason to account those afflictions happy, which part between us and our sins. The God of our salvation is the Rock of our strength; and our forgetfulness and unmindfulness of him are at the bottom of all sin. The pleasant plants, and shoots from a foreign soil, are expressions for strange and idolatrous worship, and the vile practices connected therewith. Diligence would be used to promote the growth of these strange slips, but all in vain. See the evil and danger of sin, and its certain consequences.The burden of Damascus - The oracle indicating calamity or destruction to Damascus (see the note at Isaiah 13:1). "Damascus is taken away." That is, it shall be destroyed. It was represented to the prophet in vision as destroyed (see the note at Isaiah 1:1).

And it shall be a ruinous heap - See Isaiah 35:2. This took place under the kings of Assyria, and particularly under Tiglath-pileser. This was in the fourth year of Ahaz 2 Kings 16:9.

CHAPTER 17

Isa 17:1-11. Prophecy Concerning Damascus and Its Ally Samaria, that is, Syria and Israel, which had leagued together (seventh and eighth chapters).

Already, Tiglath-pileser had carried away the people of Damascus to Kir, in the fourth year of Ahaz (2Ki 16:9); but now in Hezekiah's reign a further overthrow is foretold (Jer 49:23; Zec 9:1). Also, Shalmaneser carried away Israel from Samaria to Assyria (2Ki 17:6; 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.

1. Damascus—put before Israel (Ephraim, Isa 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 (Isa 7:1-25).Damascus, Samaria, Israel, and their cities, to be ruined by the Assyrians, Isaiah 17:1-5. A remnant shall consider and repent, Isaiah 17:6-8. The rest plagued for their impiety, Isaiah 17:9-11. The woe of Israel’s enemies, Isaiah 17:12-14.

The burden of Damascus; both of that city and kingdom, as appears from Isaiah 17:2,3.

It shall be a ruinous heap: this was fulfilled by Tiglath-pileser, 2 Kings 16:9, although afterwards it was re-edified and possessed by another sort of inhabitants.

The burden of Damascus,.... A heavy and grievous prophecy, concerning the destruction of it; the Arabic version is,

"the prophecy of Isaiah concerning Damascus;''

and the Targum is,

"the burden of the cup of cursing to give Damascus to drink.''

Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city; a kingdom, as the Targum; it was the head of one, but now its walls were demolished, its houses pulled down, and its inhabitants carried captive; this was done by Tilgathpilneser king of Assyria, 2 Kings 16:9 it had been a very ancient city, see Genesis 15:2 and the head of the kingdom of Syria, Isaiah 7:8, and though it underwent this calamity, it was rebuilt again, and was a city of great fame, when destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, Jeremiah 49:24 after which it was raised up again, and was in being in the apostle's time, and still is, Acts 9:22, 2 Corinthians 11:32.

and it shall be a ruinous heap; or a heap of stones, as the Targum and Kimchi interpret it. A "behold" is prefixed to the whole, as being very wonderful and remarkable, unthought of, and unexpected.

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

(a) Read Geneva Isa 13:1

(b) The chief city of Syria.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. The burden of Damascus] See on ch. Isaiah 13:1. The title explains why the prophecy was included amongst those against foreign nations, but is not quite accurate as a description of its contents. The overthrow of Damascus, although mentioned first, is but an incident of the humiliation of its ally Ephraim, which is the principal theme of the oracle.

a ruinous heap] The words in Heb. are in apposition; one of them is an anomalous formation, is wanting in the LXX., and is rejected by some critics as possibly a dittography.

1–3. The fate of Damascus.Verses 1-3. - THE BURDEN OF DAMASCUS. The eye of the prophet travels northwards from Moab, and, passing over Ammon as an enemy of small account, rests once more upon Damascus, already threatened in Isaiah 7:1 - 9, and probably already partially punished. Damascus is seen once more in alliance with Ephraim (ver. 3), and the two are joined with a new power, Aroer (ver. 2), which possesses several "cities." Woe is denounced on all the three powers: desolation on Damascus and Aroer; on Damascus and Ephraim, the complete loss of the last shadow of independence. The Assyrian inscriptions point out, as the probable date of the prophecy, the commencement of Sargun's reign - about B.C. 722 or 721. Verse 1. - Damascus is taken away from being a city. According to Vitringa, Damascus has been destroyed oftener than any other town; but it has a wonderful power of rising again from its ashes. Probably a destruction by Sargon is here intended ('Records of the Past,' vol. 9. p. 6). The beauties of nature and fruitfulness of the land, which come into the possession of any nation, are gifts from the riches of divine goodness, remnants of the paradisaical commencement of the history of man, and types of its paradisaical close; and for this very reason they are not matters of indifference to the spirit of prophecy. And for the same reason, it is not unworthy of a prophet, who predicts the renovation of nature and the perfecting of it into the beauty of paradise, to weep over such a devastation as that of the Moabitish vineyards which was now passing before his mind (cf., Isaiah 32:12-13). "Therefore I bemoan the vines of Sibmah with the weeping of Jazer; I flood thee with my tears, O Heshbon and Elealeh, that Hdad hath fallen upon thy fruit-harvest and upon thy vintage." A tetrastich, the Hebrew equivalent, in measure and movement, of a sapphic strophe. The circumstantiality of the vision is here swallowed up again by the sympathy of the prophet; and the prophecy, which is throughout as truly human as it is divine, becomes soft and flowing like an elegy. The prophet mingles his tears with the tears of Jazer. Just as the latter weeps for the devastated vines of Sibmah, so does he also weep. The form אריּוך, transposed from ארוּיך equals ארוּך (cf., Ewald, 253, a, where it is explained as being a rare "voluntative" formation), corresponds to the elegiac tone of the whole strophe. Heshbon and Elealeh, those closely connected cities, with their luxuriant fields (shedemoth, Isaiah 16:8), are now lying in ruins; and the prophet waters them with tears, because hedad has fallen upon the fruit-harvest and vintage of both the sister cities. In other instances the term kâtzı̄r is applied to the wheat-harvest; but here it is used in the same sense as bâtzı̄r, to which it is preferred on account of Isaiah's favourite alliteration, viz., with kaytz (compare, for example, the alliteration of mistor with sēther in Isaiah 4:6). That it does not refer to the wheat-harvest here, but to the vintage, which was nearly coincident with the fruit-harvest (which is called kaytz, as in Isaiah 28:4), is evident from the figure suggested in the word hēdâd, which was the shout raised by the pressers of the grapes, to give the time for moving their feet when treading out the wine (Isaiah 16:10; Jeremiah 25:30). A hēdâd of this kind had fallen upon the rich floors of Heshbon-Elealeh, inasmuch as they had been trodden down by enemies - a Hedad, and yet no Hedad, as Jeremiah gives it in a beautiful oxymoron (Jeremiah 48:33), i.e., no joyous shout of actual grape-treaders.
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