Isaiah 17:13
The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind.
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(13) But God shall rebuke them.—Better, He shall rebuke. The insertion of the word “God” weakens the force of the sublime indefiniteness of the Hebrew.

Like a rolling thing.—The Hebrew word is the same as the “wheel” of Psalm 83:13, and probably refers, like the “chaff of the mountains,” to the whirling dust-clouds driven from an elevated threshing-floor before the wind (Psalm 1:4; Psalm 35:5). There is no sufficient authority for the “thistle-down” of the margin.

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.God shall rebuke them - The word 'God' is not here in the original, but is evidently to be supplied. The word 'rebuke' means that he would disarrange their plans, prevent their success, and defeat their purposes. It shows the great power of God, that he can thus by a "rebuke" - a word - arrest mighty nations, and discomfit thom when they are tumultuously hastening onward in the confidence of victory. This discomfiture refers, doubtless, to the overthrow of Sennacherib and his army by the pestilence (2 Kings 19:35; see the notes at Isaiah 37:36).

And they shall flee far off - The whole army of Sennacherib was not destroyed, but a part with himself returned to Assyria 2 Kings 19:36.

And shall be chased as the chaff ... - Denoting the case with which God would do it, and the certain and entire discomfiture of the army. The figure is one that is very striking in describing an army that is routed, and that flees in disorder (compare Job 21:18; Psalm 1:4; Psalm 35:5; Isaiah 29:5; Hosea 13:3).

And like a rolling thing - Margin, 'Thistle-down.' It means, literally, anything that "rolls" (גלגל galgal, from גלל gâlal, to roll). It is applied to chaff, stubble, or anything that is driven about by a whirlwind Psalm 83:14.

13. shall … shall—rather, "God rebuketh (Ps 9:5) them, and they flee—are chased"; the event is set before the eyes as actually present, not future.

chaff of … mountains—Threshing floors in the East are in the open air on elevated places, so as to catch the wind which separates the chaff from the wheat (Ps 88:13; Ho 13:3).

rolling thing—anything that rolls: stubble.

Shall rebuke them; not in words, but deeds; shall discomfit and overthrow them.

Like a rolling thing, which is easily moved by every slight touch, and much more by a violent wind. Or, like a wisp, to wit, of straw, which is sometimes rolled together. The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters,.... With great force and noise, and run over the whole land, as the Assyrian army did, until it came to Jerusalem, and there it stopped; see Isaiah 8:7,

but God shall rebuke them; as he did the waters of the Red Sea, Psalm 106:9 and as Christ rebuked the winds and sea, and made a calm, Matthew 8:26. The word "God" is not in the text, but rightly supplied; for as none but he can rebuke the mighty waters of the sea, so none but he could have destroyed such an army in the manner it was, and wrought such a salvation for his people. The phrase, is expressive both of his wrath and power.

And they shall flee afar off; from Jerusalem to Nineveh, reckoned to be six hundred and eighty four miles from thence: or, "he shall flee afar off" (x); that is, Sennacherib, and the few that escaped with him, for, his army was destroyed; see 2 Kings 19:36,

and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind; chaff upon the floor is easily chased away with the fan, and much more easily chaff upon the mountains with the wind; it was usual with the Jews to thresh their corn, and winnow it on hills and mountains, to which the allusion is; see 2 Chronicles 3:1 or "the dust of the mountains", as some (y) render it, which is more exposed to the wind than that in the valleys. Kings and great men of the earth are but as dust with God; and the higher they are, or they exalt themselves, the more they are exposed to the power of his wrath, and as easily cast down as the dust is scattered by the wind:

and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind; or "like a wheel" (z), as the word is sometimes rendered; or any round thing, as a round wisp of straw or stubble, which is easily and swiftly moved and rolled along, especially by a strong wind. Jarchi interprets it of the flower of thorns; that is, the down of the thistle, which, when blown off, rolls up, and, being exceeding light, is carried away at once; see Psalm 83:13 all which shows what poor light things the greatest of men are in the hands of God, and with what ease he can chase them from place to place, and out of the world, when it is his pleasure.

(x) "fugiet de procul", Vatablus. (y) "velut, pulvis montium", Tigurine version. (z) "sicut rota". Junius & Tremellius; "tanquam glomus stipularum", Piscator.

The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall {p} rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind.

(p) He adds this for the consolation of the faithful who were in Israel.

13. The Assyrians shall perish at the rebuke of jehovah. The first clause of the verse is almost identical with the last words of Isaiah 17:12, and is wanting in the Peshito and a few Hebr. MSS. It may have arisen through dittography, although some think the repetition is rhetorically effective, contrasting the long-drawn-out terror of the invasion with the sharp and sudden visitation described in what follows.

but God shall rebuke them] Better: but he (Jehovah) rebuketh it (the tumult of nations). The following verbs should also be rendered as presents and in the singular number: it fleeth … is chased. The “rebuke” of Jehovah is His voice of thunder (Psalm 104:7).

chaff of the mountains] Threshing-floors were chosen by preference on elevated situations, free to the wind, which carried away the stubble without any artificial winnowing process.

a rolling thing] R.V. the whirling dust, as in Psalm 83:13. The translation “stubble,” however, is supported by the analogy of Aramaic and Arabic words.

For the figure, comp. ch. Isaiah 29:5; Psalm 1:4; Psalm 35:5, &c.Verse 13. - God shall rebuke them; literally, he shall rebuke them - he who alone can do so. There is no need to mention his name. They shall flee far off. The destruction of the great bulk of Sennacherib's army in the night was followed, as soon as morning came, by the hasty flight of the survivors (2 Kings 19:36; Isaiah 37:37). And shall be chased. Herodotus says that the Egyptians pursued the army of Sennacherib and slew vast numbers (2:141). As the chaff of the mountains (comp. Hosea 13:3). Threshing-floors were ordinarily placed upon eminences (2 Samuel 24:18; 2 Chronicles 3:1), where the wind had freer course and consequently greater power. Like a rolling thing; or, like whirling dust (Kay). The word used commonly means "a wheel." 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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