|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
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.
Verse 2. - The cities of Aroer are forsaken. That the Aroer of this passage cannot be either that on the Arnon, or that facing Rabbath-Ammon (Joshua 13:25), has long been perceived and recognized (see Mr. Grove's article on "Aroer" in the 'Dict. of the Bible,' vol. 1. p. 115). It is evidently a city of the same name lying much further towards the north. Arid it is a city of far greater importance, having "cities" dependent on it. Now, Sargon's annals tell us of a "Gal'gar," a name well expressing the Hebrew ערער, which was united in a league with Damascus, Samaria, Arpad, and Simyra, in the second year of Sargon, and was the scene of a great battle and a great destruction. Sargon besieged it, took it, and reduced it to ashes ('Records of the Past,' 50.s.e.). There is every reason to recognize the "Aroer" of this verse in the "Gargar" of Sargon's inscriptions. They shall be for flocks (comp. Isaiah 5:17; Isaiah 7:25). It marked the very extreme of desolation, that cattle should be pastured on the sites of cities. None shall make them afraid; i.e. "there shall be no inhabitants to make any objection."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The cities of Aroer are forsaken,.... The inhabitants of them being slain, or carried captive, or obliged to flee. Aroer was a city by the river Arnon, on the borders of Moab and Ammon, Deuteronomy 2:36, Deuteronomy 3:12, it was originally in the hands of the Amorites, and sometimes in the hands of the Moabites and Ammonites: it was given by Moses to the Reubenites and, Gadites, from whom it was taken by the Syrians, and in whose possession it seems to have been at this time; see 2 Kings 10:33 though Jarchi thinks it was now in the hands of Pekah king of Israel, and said to be forsaken, because the Reubenites and Gadites were now carried captive. Jerom (m) says it was seen in his time, upon the top of the mountain. Here it seems to designs a country of this name, in which were many cities. Grotius thinks it was a tract of land in Syria, the same with the Aveira of Ptolemy (n). Vitringa is of opinion that Damascus itself is meant, which was a double city, like that divided by the river Chrysorrhoas, as this was by Arnon.
They shall be for flocks which shall lie down; instead of houses, there should be sheepcotes and shepherds' tents, and instead of men, sheep; and where streets were, grass would grow, and flocks feed and lie down; which is expressive of the utter desolation of these cities, or this tract of ground:
and none shall make them afraid; the flocks of sheep, timorous creatures, easily frightened; but so great should be the depopulation now, there would be no man upon the spot, or any pass by, to give them any disturbance.
(m) De locis. Heb. fol. 87. 1.((n) Geograph. l. 5. c. 15.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
2. cities of Aroer—that is, the cities round Aroer, and under its jurisdiction [Gesenius]. So "cities with their villages" (Jos 15:44); "Heshbon and all her cities" (Jos 13:17). Aroer was near Rabbahammon, at the river of Gad, an arm of the Jabbok (2Sa 24:5), founded by the Gadites (Nu 32:34).
for flocks—(Isa 5:17).
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