Isaiah 17:12
Woe to the multitude of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!
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(12) Woe to the multitude of many people.—The three Isaiah 17:12-14 stand as an isolated fragment, probably placed here as beginning like Isaiah 18:1. They may have been connected with the progress of Sennacherib’s army. In the “rushing of mighty waters” to describe the march of an army we have a parallel to Isaiah 8:7-8.

Isaiah 17:12-14. Wo, &c. — “We have here the third member of this prophetic discourse, and the first part of the section concerning the unexpected overthrow of the Assyrians. After the prophet had exhibited the divine judgments upon the Syrians, (Isaiah 17:1-3,) and upon the Ephraimites, (Isaiah 17:4-11,) he immediately beholds the Assyrians themselves, after they had destroyed both those states, (that is, eight years after,) advancing against the Jews, that they might oppress and subject to them their state also. But, at the same time, he sees their grievous and sudden fall, that is, the fall of Sennacherib; for almost all ancient and modern interpreters are agreed that this prophecy refers to him.” Wo to the multitude of many people — Combined against Judah, namely, the Assyrians, whose army consisted of vast numbers, and of men of several nations. Which make a noise like the noise of the seas — Which invade my land and people with great force and fury, as the sea assaults the shore, or pours itself upon the land, when it has made a breach in the banks which before confined it. And to the rushing of nations — Hebrew, לאמים שׁאון, tumultuatio populorum, the noise, rage, and impetuous fury of the people of different countries united in one mighty overwhelming army. Bishop Lowth translates the clause, And to the roaring of the nations, who make a roaring like the roaring of mighty waters. Like the roaring of mighty waters do the nations roar. And he observes that, “though this simile is taken from a common appearance, it is wrought up with such an elegant boldness and inexpressible propriety, that we are at a loss whether we should admire most the judgment or sublimity of the sacred writer.”

But God shall rebuke them — Not in words, but in deeds; shall discomfit and overthrow them. But the Hebrew, וגער בו ונס, should rather be rendered, But God rebukes him, and he flees from far, namely, Sennacherib, who is here immediately pointed out, one hundred and eighty- five thousand of his army being smitten with instantaneous death. The prophet’s idea seems to have been taken from God’s rebuke of the sea, when the Israelites passed through out of Egypt. And they shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains — The Jews used to thrash and winnow their corn on hills and places exposed to the wind, which dispersed and blew away the chaff; and like a rolling thing — Which is moved by the slightest touch, and much more by a violent wind. The word, which is גלגל, is rendered thistle-down in the margin, and gossamer, which is the down of any plants, by Bishop Lowth. The metaphor shows with what ease God overcomes his enemies. And behold at even-tide trouble — Great terror and consternation among God’s people for fear of their enemies; and before the morning he is not — Their enemies are cut off by the hand of God. The prophet here evidently “alludes to the time and circumstances of the judgment which was inflicted on the Assyrian by night, and indeed in one night. At even-tide the Jews were certainly in great terror, perplexity, and perturbation, when besieged by the Assyrians: in the morning, behold these their enemies were all dead corpses. Such is the sudden and unexpected deliverance which God sometimes grants to his people, when their enemies are ready to devour them: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. This is the portion of them that spoil us, &c. — This is a triumphant conclusion, uttered by the prophet in the name of God’s people. “It holds good in all ages of the church; none can endeavour to remove this stone from its place, but they will find hurt to themselves, Zechariah 12:3. In this one example we see the fall of all the great empires and kingdoms of the world which oppose the kingdom of Christ, and the event of all the attempts of Satan tending to its destruction: in the evening, confusion; in the morning, serenity, arising by divine grace on the church.” See Vitringa.

17:12-14 The rage and force of the Assyrians resembled the mighty waters of the sea; but when the God of Israel should rebuke them, they would flee like chaff, or like a rolling thing, before the whirlwind. In the evening Jerusalem would be in trouble, because of the powerful invader, but before morning his army would be nearly cut off. Happy are those who remember God as their salvation, and rely on his power and grace. The trouble of the believers, and the prosperity of their enemies, will be equally short; while the joy of the former, and the destruction of those that hate and spoil them, shall last for ever.Wo to the multitude ... - The word 'woe' (הוי hôy) may be either an interjection simply directing the attention to them, or it may be a word indicating approaching calamity and judgment (see the note at Isaiah 5:6). Gesenius supposes that it is rather the language of compassion, on account of the evil which they threatened to bring upon the people of God, like 1 Kings 13:30, 'Ah! wo, my brother!'

The multitude of many people - Or, the tumult of many nations - a description of the noise attending an invading army made up of many nations mingled together, such as was that of Sennacherib.

Which make a noise ... - This is a beautiful description of a vast army, and of the shouting, the tumult, the din, which attends its march. The same comparison occurs in Jeremiah 6:23; Psalm 65:7 (see Ezekiel 43:2; Revelation 1:15; Revelation 14:2; Revelation 19:6).

And to the rushing of nations - The rushing of mighty armies to conquest.

Isa 17:12-18:7. Sudden Destruction of a Great Army in Judea (namely that of the Assyrian Sennacherib), AND Announcement of the Event to the Ethiopian Ambassadors.

The connection of this fragment with what precedes is: notwithstanding the calamities coming on Israel, the people of God shall not be utterly destroyed (Isa 6:12, 13); the Assyrian spoilers shall perish (Isa 17:13, 14).

12. Woe … multitude—rather, "Ho (Hark)! a noise of," &c. The prophet in vision perceives the vast and mixed Assyrian hosts (Hebrew, "many peoples," see on [713]Isa 5:26): on the hills of Judah (so "mountains," Isa 17:13): but at the "rebuke" of God, they shall "flee as chaff."

to the rushing … that make—rather, "the roaring … roareth" (compare Isa 8:7; Jer 6:23).

This is a new prophecy, added for the present support and comfort of God’s people.

The multitude of many people, combined together against Judah. It matters not whether you understand this of the Syrians and Israelites who were united against Judah, or of the Assyrians, whose army consisted of vast numbers, and of men of several nations. The following words agree to either of them.

Which make a noise like the noise of the seas; which invade my land and people with great force and fury, as the sea doth, either in its own channel, or when it enters into the land by a breach.

Woe to the multitude of many people,..... Not as lamenting the people of the Jews with Hezekiah, as if they were the words of the prophet bemoaning their condition, saying, "O the multitude", &c. nor intending the Syrians and Israelites joined together against Judah; but the Assyrian army under Sennacherib, which consisted of people of many nations, and was very numerous, who are either threatened or called unto. A new subject is here begun, though a short one.

which make a noise like the noise of the seas; in a storm, when they foam and rage, and overflow the banks; this may refer both to the noise made by the march of such a vast army, the rattling of their armour and chariot wheels, and prancing of their horses; and to the hectoring, blustering, and blasphemous speeches of Sennacherib and Rabshakeh:

and to the rushing of nations, or "rushing nations",

that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty, waters; which denotes the fury and force with which they come, threatening to bear down all before them, as an inundation of water does.

{o} Woe to the multitude of many people, who make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!

(o) The prophet laments, considering the horrible plague that was prepared against Israel by the Assyrians, who were infinite in number, and gathered from many nations.

12. ‘Isaiah on his “watch-tower” hears, and we seem to hear with him, the ocean-like roar of the advancing Assyrian hosts’ (Cheyne). Whether the invaders are already in the land, or are present only to the imagination of the prophet, it is impossible to determine. The first half of the verse should be rendered: Ah, the roar of many peoples, that roar like the roaring of seas. The “many peoples” are the varied subject nationalities that furnished contingents to the Assyrian army. The comparison of such tumultuous masses of men to the noise of waters is frequent in the O.T.: cf. ch. Isaiah 5:30, Isaiah 8:7; Jeremiah 6:23; Jeremiah 46:7 f.; Psalm 65:7.

Ch. Isaiah 17:12-14. The sudden annihilation of the Assyrians

These verses are regarded by some critics as the continuation of ch. Isaiah 17:1-11, by others as the introduction to ch. 18. Since the reference here is undoubtedly to the Assyrians, the first view has nothing to commend it, the transition being too sudden and abrupt. The second view, in spite of identity of subject and a certain similarity in form with ch. 18, is also improbable because of the well-marked conclusion in Isaiah 17:14 and the completeness of ch. 18 in itself. It is better, therefore, to treat the passage as a short independent oracle springing from the same historical situation as the following chapter.

Verses 12-14. - A PROPHECY AGAINST ASSYRIA. This passage is, apparently, out of place. At any rate, it is quite unconnected with what precedes, and almost equally so with what follows. Still, it must be borne in mind that, until the destruction of Sennacherib's army, Isaiah has the thought of the Assyrians, as the pressing danger, always before him, and continually reverts to it, often abruptly, and without preparation (see Isaiah 5:26-30; Isaiah 7:17-25; Isaiah 8:5-8; Isaiah 10:5-19, 24-34; Isaiah 14:24-27). The present prophecy seems, more distinctly than any other in the purely prophetical chapters, to point to the miraculous destruction of the hoot which Sennacherib was about to bring against Jerusalem. Verse 12. - Woe to the multitude of many people; rather, Ho for the tumult of many peoples! The advance of an army composed of soldiers from many nations is descried. They advance with noise and tumult - a tumult compared with that of "seas that are tumultuous." Under the circumstances of the time, it is reasonable to suppose the Assyrians to be intended (comp. Isaiah 22:6, 7). The rushing sound of the advance is borne in strongly upon the prophet's mind, and made the subject of three consecutive clauses. Isaiah 17:12Fourth turn: "Woe to the raoring of many nations: like the roaring of seas they roar; and to the rumbling of nations, like the rumbling of mighty waters they rumble! Nations, like the rumbling of many waters they rumble; and He threatens it: then it flies far away, and is chased like chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a cloud of dust before the gale. At eventide, behold consternation; and before the morning dawn it is destroyed: this the portion of our plunderers, and the lot of our robbers." It is the destruction of Asshur that the prophet is predicting here (as in Isaiah 14:24-27; Isaiah 29:5-8, etc.), though not of Asshur as Asshur, but of Asshur as the imperial kingdom, which embraced a multitude of nations (Isaiah 22:6; Isaiah 8:9, Isaiah 8:10; Isaiah 14:26; Isaiah 29:7, Isaiah 29:8) all gathered together under the rule of one will, to make a common attack upon the church of God. The connection between this fourth turn and the third is precisely the same as between Isaiah 8:9, Isaiah 8:10, and Isaiah 8:6-8. The exclamation of woe (hoi) is an expression of pain, as in Isaiah 10:1; and this is followed by a proclamation of the judgment of wrath. The description of the rolling wave of nations is as pictorial as the well-known illi inter sese, etc., of the Cyclops in Virgil. "It spreads and stretches out, as if it would never cease to roll, and roar, and surge, and sweep onward in its course" (Drechsler). In the expression "it" (bo) in Isaiah 17:13, the many surging nations are kneaded together, as it were, into one mass. It costs God simply a threatening word; and this mass all flies apart (mimmerchâk like mērâchōk, Isaiah 23:7), and falls into dust, and whirls about in all directions, like the chaff of threshing-floors in high situations, or like dust whirled up by the storm. The judgment commences in the evening, and rages through the night; and before the morning dawns, the army of nations raised by the imperial power is all destroyed (compare Isaiah 29:7, Isaiah 29:8, and the fulfilment in Isaiah 37:36). The fact that the oracle concerning Damascus in its fourth stage takes so comprehensive and, so far as Israel is concerned, so promising a form, may be explained on the ground that Syria was the forerunner of Asshur in the attack upon Israel, and that the alliance between Israel and Syria became the occasion of the complications with Asshur. If the substance of the massâ Dammesek (the oracle concerning Damascus) had been restricted to the prophecy contained in the name Mahershalal, the element of promise so characteristic of the prophecies against the nations of the world would be entirely wanting. But the shout of triumph, "This is the portion," etc., supplied a terminal point, beyond which the massa could not go without the sacrifice of its unity. We are therefore warranted in regarding Isaiah 18:1-7 as an independent prophecy, notwithstanding its commencement, which apparently forms a continuation of the fourth strophe of Isaiah 17:1-14.
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