Isaiah 17:11
In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow.
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(11) In the day shalt thou make.—Better, thou makest, or, thou fencest, thy plant. The alliance between Syria and Ephraim is compared in the rapidity of its growth with the “gardens of Adonis.” All the “harvest heaps” from such a planting would end, not in the wonted joy of harvest (Isaiah 9:3), but in “grief and incurable pain” There is no sufficient evidence for the marginal reading of the Authorised version.

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.In the day ... - Thou shalt cultivate it assiduously and constantly. Thou shalt be at special pains that it may be watered and pruned, in order that it may produce abundantly.

And in the morning - With early care and attention - denoting the pains that would be bestowed on the young plant.

The harvest shall be a heap - The margin reads this, 'the harvest shall be removed in the day of inheritance, rendering it as if the word נד nêd usually meaning a heap, were derived from נוד nûd, to shake, move, wander; or, as if it were to be removed. Probably the translation in the text is correct; and the sense is, 'When from the plant which was so beautiful and valuable, and which you cherished with so much care, you expected to obtain a rich harvest, you had only sorrow and inexpressible disappointment.' The figure used here is supposed by Rosenmuller to be that of hendiadys (ἕν διὰ δυοῖν hen dia duoin)by which the phrases 'shall be an heap,' and 'desperate sorrow,' are to be taken together, meaning 'the heap of the harvest shall be inexpressible sorrow.'

In the day of grief - The word rendered 'grief' here (נחלה nachălâh) means, properly, "inheritance, heirship, possession," and should have been so rendered here. It means that in the day when they "hoped" to possess the result of their planting, or in the time of the usual harvest, they would obtain only grief and disappointment.

And desperate sorrow - The word rendered 'desperate' (אנשׁ 'ânash), denotes that which is "weak, mortal, incurable" Job 34:6; Jeremiah 17:16; Jeremiah 30:12, Jeremiah 30:15. The sense here is, that there would be grievous disappointment, and that there would be no remedy for it; and the idea of the whole is, that calamities were coming upon the nation which would blast all their hopes, and destroy all their prospects. The prophecy was fulfilled in the invasion by Tiglath-pileser, and the army of the Assyrians.

The twelfth verse commences a new prophecy, which has no connection with that which precedes it; and which in itself gives no certain indication of the time when it was uttered, or of the people to which it relates. It is a broken and detached piece, and is evidently the description of some army rushing to conquest, and confident of success, but which was to be overtaken with sudden calamity. The entire description is so applicable to the invasion of the land of Judah by the army of Sennacherib, and his overthrow by the angel of Yahweh, that by the common consent of interpreters it has been regarded as referring to it (see the notes at Isaiah 10). But when it was spoken, or why it was placed here, is unknown. It may be added that many commentators, and, among the rest, Gesenius, have supposed that the following chapter is a part of this prophecy. The general sense of the prophecy is, that numerous hostile nations would overrun Palestine, but that Yahweh would destroy them all.

11. In the day … thy plant—rather, "In the day of thy planting" [Horsley].

shalt … make … grow—Maurer translates, "Thou didst fence it," namely, the pleasure-ground. The parallel clause, "Make … flourish," favors English Version. As soon as thou plantest, it grows.

in the morning—that is, immediately after; so in Ps 90:14, the Hebrew, "in the morning," is translated "early."

but … shall be a heap—rather, "but (promising as was the prospect) the harvest is gone" [Horsley].

in … day of grief—rather, "in the day of (expected) possession" [Maurer]. "In the day of inundation" [Horsley].

of desperate sorrow—rather, "And the sorrow shall be desperate or irremediable." In English Version "heap" and "sorrow" may be taken together by hendiadys. "The heap of the harvest shall be desperate sorrow" [Rosenmuller].

In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish; thou shalt from day to day, beginning early in the morning, use all care and diligence that what thou hast planted and sown may thrive; and thou shalt see some effect of thy labours, and some hopes of success.

But the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow: the sense of the words thus rendered is this, But in the time of your grief, &c., or when this grievous calamity shall come, all your harvest shall be but one heap, which in itself is very inconsiderable, and is easily carried away by your enemies. But the place is and may be otherwise rendered, and that very agreeably both to the words and order of the Hebrew text; But the heap (or, heaps, the singular number being most commonly put for the plural) of the harvest (i.e. instead of those heaps of corn which thou didst expect, and which men usually reap in harvest)

in the day or time (to wit, of the harvest; or, in the day of calamity, of which I have spoken, Isaiah 17:4,9; or, in a day, i.e. speedily or suddenly) shall be (or, thou shalt have)

grief and desperate sorrow. This shall be all thy harvest, and the event of thy labours.

In the day shall thou make thy plant to grow,.... Not that it is in the power of man to make it grow; but the sense is, that all means and methods should be used to make it grow, no cost nor pains should be spared:

and in the morning shall thou make thy seed to flourish; which may denote both diligence in the early care of it, and seeming promising success; and yet all should be in vain, and to no purpose:

but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief; or "of inheritance"; when it was about to be possessed and enjoyed, according to expectation, it shall be all thrown together in a heap, and be spoiled by the enemy: or, "the harvest" shall be "removed in the day of inheritance" (w); just when the fruit is ripe, and going to be gathered in, the enemy shall come and take it all away; and so, instead of being a time of joy, as harvest usually is, it will be a time of grief and trouble,

and of desperate sorrow too, or "deadly"; which will leave them in despair, without hope of subsistence for the present year, or of having another harvest hereafter, the land coming into the hands of their enemies.

(w) "recedit messis in die hereditatis sive possessionis"; so some in Vatablus.

In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day {n} of grief and of desperate sorrow.

(n) As the Lord threatens the wicked in his law, Le 26:16.

11. The verse reads: In the day when thou plantest thou makest it to grow, and in the morning when thou sowest thou makest it to blossom, (but) the harvest disappears in a day of sickness and incurable sorrow. “However successful your enterprise may seem in its early stages, it is doomed to failure.” For “makest it to grow” we may render with R.V. “hedgest it in.” The words “plant” and “seed” must be construed alike, both are taken above as infinitives. The word for “disappears” means “heap” in Exodus 15:8; Psalm 33:7; Psalm 78:13 and so A.V. here. But here it is better taken as a verb; R.V. rightly “fleeth away.”

Verse 11. - In the day; or, in a day (Kay). Shalt thou make; rather, thou makest. Each new slip that is planted is forced to take root and grow and flourish at once; the next morning it is expected to have formed its seed and reached perfection. So the harvest is hurried on; but when it is reached, the day of visitation has arrived - a day of grief and of desperate sorrow. Isaiah 17:11Third turn: "In that day will his fortified cities be like the ruins of the forest and of the mountain top, which they cleared before the sons of Israel: and there arises a waste place. For thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not thought of the Rock of thy stronghold, therefore thou plantedst charming plantations, and didst set them with strange vines. In the day that thou plantedst, thou didst make a fence; and with the morning dawn thou madest thy sowing to blossom: a harvest heap in the day of deep wounds and deadly sorrow of heart." The statement in Isaiah 17:3, "The fortress of Ephraim is abolished," is repeated in Isaiah 17:9 in a more descriptive manner. The fate of the strongly fortified cities of Ephraim would be the same as that of the old Canaanitish castles, which were still to be discerned in their antiquated remains, either in the depths of forests or high up on the mountains. The word ‛azubâh, which the early translators quite misunderstood, signifies, both here and in Isaiah 6:12, desolate places that have gone to ruin. They also misunderstood והאמיר הסהרשׁ. The Septuagint renders it, by a bold conjecture, οἱ Αμοῤῥηαῖοι καὶ οὶ Εὐαῖοι; but this is at once proved to be false by the inversion of the names of the two peoples, which was very properly thought to be necessary. האמיר undoubtedly signifies the top of a tree, which is quite unsuitable here. But as even this meaning points back to אמר, extollere, efferre (see at Psalm 94:4), it may also mean the mountain-top. The name hâ'emori (the Amorites: those who dwell high up in the mountains) proves the possibility of this; and the prophet had this name in his mind, and was guided by it in his choice of a word. The subject of עזבוּ is self-evident. And the reason why only the ruins in forests and on mountains are mentioned is, that other places, which were situated on the different lines of traffic, merely changed their inhabitants when the land was taken by Israel. The reason why the fate of Ephraim's fortified castles was the same as that of the Amoritish castles, which were then lying in ruins, was that Ephraim, as stated in Isaiah 17:10, had turned away from its true rocky stronghold, namely from Jehovah. It was a consequence of this estrangement from God, that Ephraim planted נעמנים נטעי, plantations of the nature of pleasant things, or pleasant plantations (compare on Psalm 78:49, and Ewald, 287, ab), i.e., cultivated all kinds of sensual accompaniments to its worship, in accordance with its heathen propensities; and sowed, or rather (as zemōrâh is the layer of a vine) "set," this garden-ground, to which the suffix ennu refers, with strange grapes, by forming an alliance with a zâr (a stranger), namely the king of Damascus. On the very day of the planting, Ephraim fenced it carefully (this is the meaning of the pilpel, sigsēg from שׂוּג equals סוּג, not "to raise," as no such verb as שׂוּג equals שׂגה, סגא, can be shown to exist), that is to say, he ensured the perpetuity of these sensuous modes of worship as a state religion, with all the shrewdness of a Jeroboam (see Amos 7:13). And the very next morning he had brought into blossom what he had sown: the foreign layer had shot up like a hot-house plant, i.e., the alliance had speedily grown into a hearty agreement, and had already produced one blossom at any rate, viz., the plan of a joint attack upon Judah. But this plantation, which was so flattering and promising for Israel, and which had succeeded so rapidly, and to all appearance so happily, was a harvest heap for the day of the judgment. Nearly all modern expositors have taken nēd as the third person (after the form mēth, Ges. 72, Anm. 1), and render it "the harvest flees;" but the third person of נוּד would be נד, like the participle in Genesis 4:12; whereas the meaning cumulus (a heap), which it has elsewhere as a substantive, is quite appropriate, and the statement of the prophet resembles that of the apostle in Romans 2:5. The day of the judgment is called "the day of נחלה" (or, according to another reading, נחלה), not, however, as equivalent to nachal, a stream (Luzzatto, in giorno di fiumana), as in Psalm 124:4 (the tone upon the last syllable proves this), nor in the sense of "in the day of possession," as Rosenmller and others suppose, since this necessarily gives to נד the former objectionable and (by the side of קציר) improbable verbal sense; but as the feminine of nachleh, written briefly for maccâh nachlâh (Jeremiah 14:17), i.e., inasmuch as it inflicts grievous and mortal wounds. Ephraim's plantation is a harvest heap for that day (compare kâtzir, the harvest of punishment, in Hosea 6:11 and Jeremiah 51:33); and the hope set upon this plantation is changed into אנוּשׁ כּאב, a desperate and incurable heartfelt sorrow (Jeremiah 30:15). The organic connection between Isaiah 17:12-14, which follow, and the oracle concerning Damascus and Israel, has also been either entirely misunderstood, or not thoroughly appreciated. The connection is the following: As the prophet sets before himself the manner in which the sin of Ephraim is punished by Asshur, as the latter sweeps over the Holy Land, the promise which already began to dawn in the second turn bursts completely through: the world-power is the instrument of punishment in the hands of Jehovah, but not for ever.
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