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. Second turn: "And it comes to pass in that day, the glory of Jacob wastes away, and the fat of his flesh grows thin. And it will be as when a reaper grasps the stalks of wheat, and his arm mows off the ears; and it will be as with one who gathers together ears in the valley of Rephaim. Yet a gleaning remains from it, as at the olive-beating: two, three berries high up at the top; four, five in its, the fruit tree's, branches, saith Jehovah the God of Israel. At that day will man look up to his Creator, and his eyes will look to the Holy One of Israel. And he will not look to the altars, the work of his hands; and what his fingers have made he will not regard, neither the Astartes nor the sun-gods." This second turn does not speak of Damascus, but simply of Israel, and in fact of all Israel, the range of vision widening out from Israel in the more restricted sense, so as to embrace the whole. It will all disappear, with the exception of a small remnant; but the latter will return. Thus "a remnant will return," the law of Israel's history, which is here shown first of all in its threatening aspect, and then in its more promising one. The reputation and prosperity to which the two kingdoms were raised by Jeroboam II and Uzziah would pass away. Israel was ripe for judgment, like a field of corn for the harvest; and it would be as when a reaper grasps the stalks that have shot up, and cuts off the ears. קציר is not used elliptically for קציר אישׁ (Gesenius), nor is it a definition of time (Luzzatto), nor an accusative of the object (Knobel), but a noun formed like נביא, פליל, פריץ, and used in the sense of reaper (kōtzēr in other cases).

(Note: Instead of kâtzar (to cut off, or shorten), they now say kâratz in the whole of the land to the east of the Jordan, which gives the idea of sawing off - a much more suitable one where the Syrian sickle is used.)

The figure suggested here is more fully expanded in John 4 and Revelation 14. Hardly a single one will escape the judgment: just as in the broad plain of Rephaim, which slopes off to the south-west of Jerusalem as far as Bethlehem, where it is covered with rich fields of wheat, the collectors of ears leave only one or two ears lying scattered here and there.

Nevertheless a gleaning of Israel ("in it," viz., in Jacob, Isaiah 17:4; Isaiah 10:22) will be left, just as when the branches of the olive tree, which have been already cleared with the hand, are still further shaken with a stick, there still remain a few olives upon the highest branch (two, three; cf., 2 Kings 9:32), or concealed under the foliage of the branches. "Its, the fruit tree's, branches:" this is an elegant expression, as, for example, in Proverbs 14:13; the carrying over of the ה to the second word is very natural in both passages (see Ges. 121, b). This small remnant will turn with stedfast gaze to the living God, as is becoming in man as such (hâ'âdâm), and not regard the idols as worthy of any look at all, at least of any reverential look. As hammânim are here images of the sun-god חמן בעל, which is well known from the Phoenician monuments,

(Note: See Levy, Phnizisches Wrterbuch (1864), p. 19; and Otto Strauss on Nahum, p. xxii. ss.)

ashērim (for which we find, though more rarely, 'ashēroth) apparently signifies images of the moon-goddess. And the combination of "Baal, Asherah, and all the host of heaven" in 2 Kings 23:4, as well as the surname "queen of heaven" in Jeremiah 7:18; Jeremiah 44:18-19, appears to require this (Knobel). But the latest researches have proved that 'Ashērâh is rather the Semitic Aphrodite, and therefore the planet Venus, which was called the "little luck" (es-sa‛d el-as'gar)

(Note: See Krehl, Religion der vorislamischen Araber (1863), p. 11.)

by the Arabs, in distinction from Musteri (Jupiter),

(Note: This was the tutelar deity of Damascus; see Comm. on Job, Appendix.)

or "the great luck." And with this the name 'Asherah the "lucky" (i.e., the source of luck or prosperity) and the similar surname given to the Assyrian Istar agree;

(Note: "Ishtar," says Rawlinson in his Five Great Monarchies of the Ancient Eastern World, - a work which challenges criticism through its dazzling results - "Ishtar is the goddess who rejoices mankind, and her most common epithet is Amra, 'the fortunate' or 'the happy.' But otherwise her epithets are vague and general, insomuch that she is often scarcely distinguishable from Beltis (the wife of Bel-Nimrod)." Vid., vol. i. p. 175 (1862).)

for 'Asherah is the very same goddess as 'Ashtoreth, whose name is thoroughly Arian, and apparently signifies the star (Ved. stir equals star; Zend. stare; Neo-Pers. sitâre, used chiefly for the morning star), although Rawlinson (without being able to suggest any more acceptable interpretation) speaks of this view as "not worthy of much attention."

(Note: The planet Venus, according to a Midrash relating to Genesis 6:1-2, is 'Istehar transferred to the sky; and this is the same as Zuhare (see Geiger, Was hat Muhammed, etc. 1833, pp. 107-109).)

Thus Asherim is used to signify the bosquets (shrubberies) or trees dedicated to the Semitic Aphrodite (Deuteronomy 16:21; compare the verbs used to signify their removal, גדע, כרת, נתשׁ); but here it probably refers to her statues or images


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