Isaiah 17:2
The cities of Aroer are forsaken: they shall be for flocks, which shall lie down, and none shall make them afraid.
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Isaiah 17:2. The cities of Aroer are forsaken — “What has Aroer,” says Bishop Lowth, “on the river Arnon, (see Deuteronomy 2:36,) to do with Damascus?” He therefore follows the LXX., (who, he supposes, for

ערער, Aroer, read עדי עד, εις τον αιωνα,) and renders the clause, The cities are deserted for ever. Grotius, however, thinks the present reading of the Hebrew text is right, and that this Aroer was a tract of ground in Syria, (a valley, say some, which lay between the mountains of Libanus and Anti-Libanus,) and not that Aroer which was on the confines of Moab and Ammon, and part of the possession of the Reubenites and Gadites. But as Tiglath-pileser carried the Reubenites and Gadites into captivity, (see 1 Chronicles 5:26,) and made the country, which they had possessed, desolate, why may not the very Aroer, which was on the confines of Moab, be meant, and mentioned here, as Ephraim is in the next verse, as being confederate with Syria against Judah? And none shall make them afraid — Because the land shall be desolate, and destitute of men who might disturb them.

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.The cities of Aroer - By "Aroer" here seems to be meant a tract or region of country pertaining to Damascus, in which were situated several cities. Grotius supposes that it was a tract of country in Syria which is called by Ptolemy "Aueira" - Αὔειρα Aueira. Vitringa supposes that one part of Damascus is meant by this, as Damascus was divided by the river in the same manner that Babylon was. There were several cities of the name of "Aroer." One was on the river Arnon in the land of Moab Deuteronomy 2:36; Deuteronomy 3:12; Joshua 12:3. Burckhardt found this city under the name of Aroer. There was another city of this name further north, over against Rabbath-Ammon Joshua 13:25. There was a third city of this name in the tribe of Judah 1 Samuel 30:28. Of the city of Araayr which Burckhardt visited, nothing is now remarkable but its entire desolation. Gesenius supposes ("Commentary in loc.") that the phrase 'the cities of Aroer' means the cities round about Aroer, and that were connected with it, similar to the phrase 'daughters of a city.' This city he supposes was near the river Arnon, within the limits of Moab, and that the prediction here was fufilled by Tiglath-pileser, when he carried away the inhabitants of Galilee, Gilead, and other places mentioned in 2 Kings 15:29. There can be no doubt that it was under the jurisdiction of Damascus.

Are forsaken - Are desolate, and the inhabitants have fled.

They shall be for flocks ... - (See the note at Isaiah 5:17.)

2. cities of Aroer—that is, the cities round Aroer, and under its jurisdiction [Gesenius]. So "cities with their villages" (Jos 15:44); "Heshbon and all her cities" (Jos 13:17). Aroer was near Rabbahammon, at the river of Gad, an arm of the Jabbok (2Sa 24:5), founded by the Gadites (Nu 32:34).

for flocks—(Isa 5:17).

The cities of Aroer; of that part of Syria called Aroer, from a great city of that name; of which see Deu 2:36 3:12. These cities were possessed by the Reubenites and Gadites, whom Tiglath-pileser carried into captivity, 1 Chronicles 5:26. These he mentions here, as he doth Ephraim in the next verse, because they were confederate with Syria against Judah.

None shall make them afraid, because the land shall be desolate, and destitute of men who might disturb them.

The cities of Aroer are forsaken,.... The inhabitants of them being slain, or carried captive, or obliged to flee. Aroer was a city by the river Arnon, on the borders of Moab and Ammon, Deuteronomy 2:36, Deuteronomy 3:12, it was originally in the hands of the Amorites, and sometimes in the hands of the Moabites and Ammonites: it was given by Moses to the Reubenites and, Gadites, from whom it was taken by the Syrians, and in whose possession it seems to have been at this time; see 2 Kings 10:33 though Jarchi thinks it was now in the hands of Pekah king of Israel, and said to be forsaken, because the Reubenites and Gadites were now carried captive. Jerom (m) says it was seen in his time, upon the top of the mountain. Here it seems to designs a country of this name, in which were many cities. Grotius thinks it was a tract of land in Syria, the same with the Aveira of Ptolemy (n). Vitringa is of opinion that Damascus itself is meant, which was a double city, like that divided by the river Chrysorrhoas, as this was by Arnon.

They shall be for flocks which shall lie down; instead of houses, there should be sheepcotes and shepherds' tents, and instead of men, sheep; and where streets were, grass would grow, and flocks feed and lie down; which is expressive of the utter desolation of these cities, or this tract of ground:

and none shall make them afraid; the flocks of sheep, timorous creatures, easily frightened; but so great should be the depopulation now, there would be no man upon the spot, or any pass by, to give them any disturbance.

(m) De locis. Heb. fol. 87. 1.((n) Geograph. l. 5. c. 15.

The cities of {c} Aroer are forsaken: they shall be for flocks, which shall lie down, and none shall make them afraid.

(c) It was a country of Syria by the river Arnon.

2. The cities of Aroer] Hardly, “the (two) cities Aroer” (gen. of appos.), as a name for the trans-Jordanic territory. If Aroer be really a proper name, the phrase must be explained by the analogy of Joshua 13:17 “the daughter cities of A.” But where was Aroer? The best-known town of the name, that on the Arnon (Numbers 32:34; Deuteronomy 2:36, &c.), is much too far south and belonged to Moab. There seems to have been another in Ammon (Joshua 13:25), but it too is outside the territory of Damascus and can scarcely have been important enough to give its name to a district. We must either assume an unknown Aroer in Syria, or take the word in an appellative sense (“the ruined cities are forsaken”) or else adopt the text of the LXX., which reads “(Damascus shall be) deserted for ever” (omitting “cities”).

shall be for flocks … afraid] cf. Isaiah 5:17, Isaiah 32:14, and Zephaniah 3:13; Job 11:19.

Verse 2. - The cities of Aroer are forsaken. That the Aroer of this passage cannot be either that on the Arnon, or that facing Rabbath-Ammon (Joshua 13:25), has long been perceived and recognized (see Mr. Grove's article on "Aroer" in the 'Dict. of the Bible,' vol. 1. p. 115). It is evidently a city of the same name lying much further towards the north. Arid it is a city of far greater importance, having "cities" dependent on it. Now, Sargon's annals tell us of a "Gal'gar," a name well expressing the Hebrew ערער, which was united in a league with Damascus, Samaria, Arpad, and Simyra, in the second year of Sargon, and was the scene of a great battle and a great destruction. Sargon besieged it, took it, and reduced it to ashes ('Records of the Past,' 50.s.e.). There is every reason to recognize the "Aroer" of this verse in the "Gargar" of Sargon's inscriptions. They shall be for flocks (comp. Isaiah 5:17; Isaiah 7:25). It marked the very extreme of desolation, that cattle should be pastured on the sites of cities. None shall make them afraid; i.e. "there shall be no inhabitants to make any objection." Isaiah 17:2The first turn: "Behold, Damascus must (be taken) away out of the number of the cities, and will be a heap of fallen ruins. The cities of Aroer are forsaken, they are given up to flocks, they lie there without any one scaring them away. And the fortress of Ephraim is abolished, and the kingdom of Damascus; and it happens to those that are left of Aram as to the glory of the sons of Israel, saith Jehovah of hosts." "Behold," etc.: hinnēh followed by a participle indicates here, as it does everywhere else, something very near at hand. Damascus is removed מעיר ( equals עיר מהיות, cf., 1 Kings 15:13), i.e., out of the sphere of existence as a city. It becomes מעי, a heap of ruins. The word is used intentionally instead of עי, to sound as much as possible like מעיר: a mutilated city, so to speak. It is just the same with Israel, which has made itself an appendage of Damascus. The "cities of Aroer" (gen. appos. Ges. 114, 3) represent the land to the east of the Jordan: there the judgment upon Israel (executed by Tiglath-pileser) first began. There were two Aroers: an old Amoritish city allotted to the tribe of Reuben, viz., "Aroer on the Arnon" (Deuteronomy 2:36; Deuteronomy 3:12, etc.); and an old Ammonitish one, allotted to the tribe of Gad, viz., "Aroer before Rabbah" (Rabbath, Ammon, Joshua 13:25). The ruins of the former are Arair, on the lofty northern bank of the Mugib; but the situation of the latter has not yet been determined with certainty (see Comm. on Joshua 13:25). The "cities of Aroer" are these two Aroers, and the rest of the cities similar to it on the east of the Jordan; just as "the Orions" in Isaiah 13:10 are Orion and other similar stars. We meet here again with a significant play upon the sound in the expression ‛ârē ‛Aro‛ēr (cities of Aroer): the name of Aroer was ominous, and what its name indicated would happen to the cities in its circuit. ערער means "to lay bare," to pull down (Jeremiah 51:58); and ערער, ערירי signifies a stark-naked condition, a state of desolation and solitude. After Isaiah 17:1 has threatened Damascus in particular, and Isaiah 17:2 has done the same to Israel, Isaiah 17:3 comprehends them both. Ephraim loses the fortified cities which once served it as defences, and Damascus loses its rank as a kingdom. Those that are left of Aram, who do not fall in the war, become like the proud citizens of the kingdom of Israel, i.e., they are carried away into captivity. All this was fulfilled under Tiglath-pileser. The accentuation connects ארם שׁאר (the remnant of Aram) with the first half of the verse; but the meaning remains the same, as the subject to יהיוּ is in any case the Aramaeans.
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