|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 5. - As when the harvestman gathereth the corn. Death is the "harvestman" here, and gathers the Israelites by shocks, or sheaves, into his garner. A great depopulation appears in 2 Kings 17:25, where we learn that lions so multiplied in the land as to become a terror to the few inhabitants. Reapeth the ears. Mr. Cheyne well remarks that the "ears" only were reaped, the stalk being cut close under the ear. This was the practice also in Egypt (Rawlinson,' Hist. of Ancient Egypt,' vol. 1. p. 162). In the valley of Rephaim. The valley of Rephaim was the scene of David's double victory over the Philistines, related in 2 Samuel 5:17-25. It is disputed whether it lay north or south of Jerusalem; but the connection with Bethlehem (2 Samuel 23:13-17) and with the cave of Adullam seem decisive in favor of a southern position. A "valley," however ('emek), suitable for the cultivation of corn, in this direction, has yet to be discovered.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And it shall be as when the harvestman gathereth the corn,.... The "standing" corn, as in the Hebrew text: "and reapeth the ears with his arm"; or "his arm reaps the ears" (o); that is, with one hand he gathers the standing corn into his fist, and then reaps it with his other arm; and just so it should be with the people of Israel: they were like a field of standing corn, for number, beauty, and glory; the Assyrian was like a harvestman, who laid hold upon them, and cut them down, as thick and as numerous as they were, just as a harvestman cuts down the corn, and with as much ease and quick dispatch; they being no more able to stand before him than a field of corn before the reaper! this was done both by Tilgathpilneser, 2 Kings 15:29 and by Shalmaneser, 2 Kings 17:6 kings of Assyria:
and it shall be as he that gathereth ears in the valley of Rephaim; the Targum renders it,
"the valley of giants.''
and so it is translated, Joshua 15:8 mention is made of it in 2 Samuel 5:18 it was a valley not far from Jerusalem, as Josephus (p) says; who also calls it the valley of the giants: it is thought to have been a very fruitful place, where the ears of corn were very large and heavy, and so great care was taken in gathering and gleaning that none be lost: wherefore, as the former simile signifies the carrying off the people of Israel in great numbers by the above kings, this may signify, as some have thought, either the picking up of those that fled without, or the gleaning of them in after times by Esarhaddon, Ezra 4:2.
(o) "et brachium ejus spicas demeteret", Junius & Tremellius; "demetit", Piscator, &c. (p) Antiqu. l. 7. c. 4. sect. 1.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
5. harvestman, &c.—The inhabitants and wealth of Israel shall be swept away, and but few left behind just as the husbandman gathers the corn and the fruit, and leaves only a few gleaning ears and grapes (2Ki 18:9-11).
with his arm—He collects the standing grain with one arm, so that he can cut it with the sickle in the other hand.
Rephaim—a fertile plain at the southwest of Jerusalem toward Beth-lehem and the country of the Philistines (2Sa 5:18-22).
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