|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
49:23-27 How easily God can dispirit those nations that have been most celebrated for valour! Damascus waxes feeble. It was a city of joy, having all the delights of the sons of men. But those deceive themselves who place their happiness in carnal joys.
Verse 25. - Hew is the city of praise not left, etc.! A difficult passage. The construction, indeed, is plain. "How is not," etc. I can only mean "How is it that the city of praise is not," etc.?(comp. 2 Samuel 1:14). The difficulty lies in the word rendered "left." The ordinary meaning of the verb, when applied to cities, is certainly "to leave without inhabitants;" e.g. Jeremiah 4:29; Isaiah 7:16; Isaiah 32:14. This, however, does not suit the context, which shows that "the daughter of Damascus" personified is the speaker, so that ver. 25 ought rather to mean, "How is it that the city of praise is [not, 'is not'] forsaken?" Either, then, we must suppose that "not" has been inserted by mistake - a too arbitrary step, seeing that there is no negative in the context to account for the insertion (the case is different, therefore, from Job 21:30; Job 27:15, where such an insertion is at any rate justifiable); or else we must give uzzebhah the sense of "let go free" (comp. Exodus 23:5; Deuteronomy 32:36; Job 10:1). It is the obstinate incredulity of love which refuses to admit the possibility of the destruction of the loved object. The city of praise. The city which is my "praise," or boast. Few cities, in fact, have had so long and brilliant an existence as Damascus.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
How is the city of praise not left,.... The city of Damascus, famous for its antiquity, its wealth and riches, strength and power; and with the Heathens for its devotion and superstition. So Julian (i) the emperor calls it,
"the truly city of Jupiter; the eye of the whole east; Damascus the holy and the greatest;''
but more especially for its delightful and pleasant situation. Benjamin Tudelensis (k) says it was, in his time,
"a very great and beautiful city, surrounded with a wall; and the country about it was full of gardens and orchards, fifteen miles' walk on every side of it; and no city in the whole world appeared with such plenty of fruit as that did.''
Monsieur Thevenot (l) relates, that
"the city of Damascus is in the middle of a spacious plain, surrounded with hills, but all distant from the town, almost out of sight; those on the north side are the nearest, on which side it hath a great many gardens, full of trees, and most fruit trees; these gardens take up the ground from the hill of the forty martyrs, even to the town; so that at a distance it seems to be a forest.''
Mr. Maundrell (m) tells us, that the Turks relate this story of their prophet Mahomet, that,
"coming near Damascus, he took his station at a high precipice, in order to view it; and considering the ravishing beauty and delightfulness of it, he would not tempt his frailty by entering into it; but instantly departed with this reflection on it, that there was but one paradise designed for men, and for his part he was resolved not take his in this world;''
and, adds the same traveller,
"you have indeed from the precipice the most perfect prospect of Damascus; and certainly no place in the world can promise the beholder at a distance greater voluptuousness. It is situate in an even plain of so great extent, that you can but just discern the mountains that compass it on the farther side. In its length it extends near two miles, and is encompassed with gardens, extending no less, according to common estimation, than thirty miles round; which makes it look like a noble city in a vast wood.''
Strabo (n) says of this city, that it is worthy of praise, and almost the most famous city of all near Persia. The sense of it either is, how is it that so famous a city was not spared by the enemy, that they did not leave it untouched, but destroyed and demolished it? or how is it that it was not fortified by the inhabitants of it; that a parapet was not built about the wall all around, to strengthen it, and keep out the enemy? This sense, as well as the former, is mentioned both by Jarchi and Kimchi, who direct to Nahum 3:8, for the confirmation of this sense of the word:
the city of my joy! these are either the words of the prophet, who had a great regard to the city of Damascus as ancient, well built, and opulent city, and lamented its destruction; or rather of the king of it, as Jarchi; or of the inhabitants of it, who said this to one another as they fled; so Kimchi: but there is no necessity of rendering it "my joy", only "joy"; for the "jod" affixed may not be considered as a pronoun, but as a paragogic, or a Syriac termination, which is common; though some interpret this of the city of Jerusalem, and as spoken by the Lord, or by the prophet in his name, upbraiding the Syrians for their hatred to it, and disturbance they gave it; and which is now mentioned as one cause and reason of their ruin; see Amos 1:3.
(i) Opera, par. 2. Ep. 24. p. 145. (k) Itinerarium, p. 54, 55. (l) Travels, par. 2. B. 1. p. I9. (m) Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem, p. 121, 122. Ed. 7. (n) Geograph. l. 16. p. 520.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
25. city of praise—The prophet, in the person of a citizen of Damascus deploring its calamity, calls it "the city of praise," that is, celebrated with praises everywhere for its beauty (Jer 33:9; 51:41). "How is it possible that such a city has not been left whole—has not been spared by the foe?" Compare left, Lu 17:35, 36. So Israel "left" standing some of the Canaanite cities (Jos 11:13).
of my joy—that is, in which I delighted.
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