Isaiah 17:6
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, said the LORD God of Israel.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it.—The idea of the “remnant” is still in the prophet’s thoughts, even in the case of the northern kingdom. First the vineyard, then the olive-yard, supplies a similitude. The “shaking” followed on the “beating” of Deuteronomy 24:20 (comp. Isaiah 24:13), but even after that a few berries might be seen on the topmost bough.

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.Yet gleaning-grapes ... - They shall not all be removed, or destroyed. A "few" shall be left, as a man who is gathering grapes or olives will leave a few that are inaccessible on the topmost boughs, or the furthest branches. Those would be usually the poorest, and so it may be implied that those left in Israel would be among the poorer inhabitants of the land.

Two or three - A very few - such as would be left in gathering grapes, or in endeavoring to shake olives from a tree.

Four or five - A very few that would remain on the furthest branches, and that could not be shaken off or reached.

6. in it—that is, in the land of Israel.

two or three … in the top—A few poor inhabitants shall be left in Israel, like the two or three olive berries left on the topmost boughs, which it is not worth while taking the trouble to try to reach.

Some few Israelites were left after their captivity, who joined themselves to the kingdom of Judah, and were carried captive to Babylon with them, from whence also they returned with them, as we find in the history of their return in Ezra and Nehemiah. Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it,.... In Ephraim or Jacob; that is, in the ten tribes, a few of them should escape, a remnant should be saved; comparable, for the smallness of their number, to grapes that are gleaned after the vintage is got in: though Kimchi interprets it of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who were but few, in comparison of the ten tribes, who were many; and Jarchi explains it of Hezekiah and his company, in the midst of Jerusalem, who were but few; and observes, that some of their Rabbins understood it of the few men that were left of the multitude of Sennacherib's army, when it was destroyed; but the first sense is best: and the same thing is signified by another simile,

as the shaking of an olive tree; with the hand, when the fruit is ripe; or, "as the striking" (q) of it with a staff; to beat off the berries, when there are left

two or three berries at the top of the uppermost bough: the word "amir" is only used here, and in Isaiah 17:9 and signifies, as Kimchi says, the upper bough or branch; and so Aben Ezra interprets it, the highest part of the olive; and observes, that it so signifies in the language of Kedar, or the Arabic language; in which it is used for a king, a prince, an emperor, one that has the command and government of others (r); and hence the word "amiral" or "admiral" comes: now two or three olive berries, being in the uppermost bough, are left, because they cannot be reached by the hand of the gatherer, nor by the staff of the striker. Kimchi applies this to Jerusalem, which was the highest part of the land of Israel; and what was in it the hand of the king of Assyria could not reach:

four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof; which escape the gatherer, shaker, or striker, for the same reason. These similes are very aptly made use of, since the people of Israel are frequently compared to grapes, and vines, and olives, Isaiah 5:1, Jeremiah 11:16,

saith the Lord God of Israel; this is added to confirm what is said, and to express the certainty of it; and shows that the Israelites are meant, to whom the Lord was a covenant God. The Targum applies the metaphors thus,

"so shall the righteous be left alone in the world among the kingdoms, saith the Lord God of Israel.''

(q) "ut strictura oleae", Cocceius. (r) "imperator; princeps, dux qui allis quomodo cumque praest imperatque", Golius, col. 158. Castel. Colossians 150. though the verb in the Hebrew language is used in the sense of elevation or lifting up, and seems to be derived from hence. So Schindler, Colossians 96. "ramus, summitas rami----inde verbum", "eminere aut prominere fecit, rami aut frondis instar exaltavit, extulit, evexit", Deuteronomy 26.17, 18. Psal. xciv. 4.

Yet gleaning grapes shall {i} 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 of it, saith the LORD God of Israel.

(i) Because God would have his covenant stable, he promises to reserve some of this people, and to bring them to repentance.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
6. Yet gleaning grapes … olive tree] Render (cf. R.V.) And gleanings shall be left in it as at the beating of an olive tree. The olives were struck down from the higher branches with a stick (ch. Isaiah 24:13; Deuteronomy 24:20); the few that were overlooked were left for the poor.

the uppermost bough] The Hebr. word does not occur again except in Isaiah 17:9, where (if correct) it must bear a different sense.

the outmost fruitful branches] Render, the branches of the fruitful tree,—the last word containing perhaps a play on the name Ephraim.Verse 6. - Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it; rather, yet gleanings shall be left in it. There is no mention of grapes, and it is clear that the "gleaning" intended is that of an olive-ground. As the shaking of an olive tree; rather, as at the beating of an olive tree. The olive crop was obtained, not by shaking, but by beating the trees (Deuteronomy 24:20). The owner was forbidden to "go over the boughs again," in order that a portion of the crop might be left for the stranger, the widow, and the fatherless to glean. In the top of the uppermost bough. Where the sticks of the beaters had not reached. Four or five in the outmost fruitful branches; rather, four or fire apiece on its fruitful branches, This is the average that would be left, after beating, on a good-sized branch. The massa is now brought to a close, and there follows an epilogue which fixes the term of the fulfilment of what is not predicted now for the first time, from the standpoint of the anticipated history. "This is the word which Jehovah spake long ago concerning Moab. And now Jehovah speaketh thus: In three years, like years of a hireling, the glory of Moab is disgraced, together with all the multitude of the great; a remnant is left, contemptibly small, not great at all." The time fixed is the same as in Isaiah 20:3. Of working time the hirer remits nothing, and the labourer gives nothing in. The statement as to the time, therefore, is intended to be taken exactly: three years, not more, rather under than over. Then will the old saying of God concerning Moab be fulfilled. Only a remnant, a contemptible remnant, will be left (וּשׁאר, cf., וּמשׂושׂ, Isaiah 8:6, in sense equivalent to ושׁאר); for every history of the nations is but the shadow of the history of Israel.

The massa in Isaiah 15:1-16:12 was a word that had already gone forth from Jehovah "long ago." This statement may be understood in three different senses. In the first place, Isaiah may mean that older prophecies had already foretold essentially the same concerning Moab. But what prophecies? We may get an answer to this question from the prophecies of Jeremiah concerning Moab in Jeremiah 48. Jeremiah there reproduces the massa Moab of the book of Isaiah, but interweaves with it reminiscences (1.) out of the mâshal on Moab in Numbers 21:27-30; (2.) out of Balaam's prophecy concerning Moab in Numbers 24:17; (3.) out of the prophecy of Amos concerning Moab (Amos 2:1-3). And it might be to these earlier words of prophecy that Isaiah here refers (Hvernick, Drechsler, and others). But this is very improbable, as there is no ring of these earlier passages in the massa, such as we should expect if Isaiah had had them in his mind. Secondly, Isaiah might mean that Isaiah 15:1. contained the prophecy of an older prophet, which he merely brought to remembrance in order to connect therewith the precise tenor of its fulfilment which had been revealed to him. This is at present the prevailing view. Hitzig, in a special work on the subject (1831), as well as in his Commentary, has endeavoured to prove, on the ground of 2 Kings 14:25, that in all probability Jonah was the author of the oracle which Isaiah here resumes. And Knobel, Maurer, Gustav Baur, and Thenius agree with him in this; whilst De Wette, Ewald, and Umbreit regard it as, at any rate, decidedly non-Messianic. If the conjecture that Jonah was the author could but be better sustained, we should heartily rejoice in this addition to the history of the literature of the Old Testament. But all that we know of Jonah is at variance with such a conjecture. He was a prophet of the type of Elijah and Elisha, in whom the eloquence of a prophet's words was thrown altogether into the shade by the energy of a prophet's deeds. His prophecy concerning the restoration of the kingdom of Israel to its old boundaries, which was fulfilled by the victories of Jeroboam II, we cannot therefore imagine to have been so pictorial or highly poetical as the massa Moab (which would only be one part of that prophecy) really is; and the fact that he was angry at the sparing of Nineveh harmonizes very badly with its elegiac softness and its flood of tears. Moreover, it is never intimated that the conquerors to whom Moab was to succumb would belong to the kingdom of Israel; and the hypothesis is completely overthrown by the summons addressed to Moab to send tribute to Jerusalem. But the conclusion itself, that the oracle must have originated with any older prophet whatever, is drawn from very insufficient premises. No doubt it is a thing altogether unparalleled even in Isaiah, that a prophecy should assume so thoroughly the form of a kinah, or lamentation; still there are tendencies to this in Isaiah 22:4 (cf., Isaiah 21:3-4), and Isaiah was an inexhaustible master of language of every character and colour. It is true we do light upon many expressions which cannot be pointed out anywhere else in the book of Isaiah, such as baalē goyim, hedâd, yelâlâh, yâra‛, yithrâh, mâhir, mētz, nosâphoth, pekuddâh (provision, possession); and there is something peculiar in the circular movement of the prophecy, which is carried out to such an extent in the indication of reason and consequence, as well as in the perpetually returning, monotonous connection of the sentences by ci (for) and ‛al-cēn (lâcēn, therefore), the former of which is repeated twice in Isaiah 15:1, three times in Isaiah 15:8-9, and four times in succession in Isaiah 15:5-6. But there is probably no prophecy, especially in chapters 13-23, which does not contain expressions that the prophet uses nowhere else; and so far as the conjunctions ci and a‛ l-cēn (lâcēn), are concerned, Isaiah crowds them together in other passages as well, and here almost to monotony, as a natural consequence of the prevailing elegiac tone. Besides, even Ewald can detect the characteristics of Isaiah in Isaiah 16:1-6; and you have only to dissect the whole rhetorically, syntactically, and philologically, with the carefulness of a Caspari, to hear throughout the ring of Isaiah's style. And whoever has retained the impression which he brought with him from the oracle against Philistia, will be constrained to say, that not only the stamp and outward form, but also the spirit and ideas, are thoroughly Isaiah's. Hence the third possible conjecture must be the correct one. Thirdly, then, Isaiah may mean that the fate of Moab, which he has just proclaimed, was revealed to him long ago; and the addition made now is, that it will be fulfilled in exactly three years. מאז does not necessarily point to a time antecedent to that of Isaiah himself (compare Isaiah 44:8; Isaiah 48:3, Isaiah 48:5, Isaiah 48:7, with 2 Samuel 15:34). If we assume that what Isaiah predicts down to Isaiah 16:12 was revealed to him in the year that Ahaz died, and that the epilogue reckons from the third or tenth year of Hezekiah, in either case the interval is long enough for the mê'âz (from of old). And we decide in favour of this. Unfortunately, we know nothing certain as to the time at which the three years commence. The question whether it was Shalmanassar, Sargon, or Sennacherib who treated the Moabites so harshly, is one that we cannot answer. In Herodotus (ii. 141), Sennacherib is called "king of the Arabians and Assyrians;" and Moab might be included in the Arabians. In any case, after the fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy in the Assyrian times, there was still a portion left, the fulfilment of which, according to Jeremiah 48, was reserved for the Chaldeans.

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