Isaiah 17:3
The fortress also shall cease from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria: they shall be as the glory of the children of Israel, saith the LORD of hosts.
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Isaiah 17:3-6. The fortress also shall cease from Ephraim — The meaning may be, that Damascus being destroyed, that fortress or protection, in which the Ephraimites had placed their confidence, should be taken; or, that at what time Damascus should be overthrown, and deprived of all government and power, the Ephraimites also should be weakened, and deprived of their chief fortresses by the Assyrians; which latter seems to be the true sense: see Hosea 10:14; Micah 1:6. The reader will observe, the Syrians of Damascus bordered upon the Ephraimites; and though they had long lived in a state of hostility with them, yet their King Rezin, on receiving some injuries from Uzziah, king of Judah, had found means to unite them with him in an expedition against Jerusalem. As the design of that expedition was wholly frustrated, (see Isaiah 7:3-9,) so it hastened the destruction of both those nations: for the Assyrians, who were called in by Ahaz to his help, and who had a long time threatened Syria, took this occasion to seize and destroy Damascus, and transport the Damascene Syrians to Assyria and Media, which same fate, partly at the same time, and partly a little after, befell the Ephraimites also; a common cause involving these nations in a common calamity. In that day, the glory of Jacob shall be made thin — Hebrew, ירל, attenuabitur, shall be diminished, emptied, or exhausted. And the fatness of his flesh shall wax lean — Their principal citizens shall be spoiled of their dignity and wealth, and carried, with their property, into Assyria. And it shall be as when a harvest-man gathereth the corn — Taking care, as far as may be, that all be gathered in, and nothing left. So shall the whole body of the ten tribes be carried captive, some few gleanings only being left of them as it is in harvest. As he that gathereth ears in the valley of Rephaim — A very fruitful place near Jerusalem. Thus “the prophet explains the judgment upon Ephraim by two similes, and both elegant; the first taken from a beautiful body reduced by a consumption, meaning that their state should be deprived, not only of its chief citizens, but of all its power, wealth, and honour; that whatever it formerly possessed, which gave excellence and beauty, should entirely waste away and be consumed. The second simile is taken from the autumnal gathering in of fruits, or from that fertile harvest, whether of corn, wine, or oil, which used to be gathered in the valley of Rephaim.” Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it, &c. — “Whereas the reapers are wont to leave a few ears of corn, and those that gather grapes and olives, a few of the worst bunches of the grapes, and of the worst berries of the olives, so, from the harvest, which the Assyrian should reap in Ephraim, a few men, and those of the least consequence, should be left as a remnant in the land.” This accordingly came to pass: some few Israelites were left after their captivity, who joined themselves to Judah, and were carried captive to Babylon with them, from whence also they returned with 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 fortress - The strong place of defense; the fortified place.

Shall cease - Shall come to an end; shall cease to be, for so the word שׁבת shâbath is often used, Genesis 8:22; Isaiah 24:8; Lamentations 5:15.

From Ephraim - The name given to the kingdom of Israel, or to the ten tribes, because Ephraim was the largest of the ten, and was a leading tribe in their councils (see the note at Isaiah 7:2). Ephraim, or the kingdom of Samaria, is mentioned here in connection with Damascus or Syria, because they were confederated together, and would be involved in the same overthrow.

And the remnant of Syria - That which is left of the kingdom of Syria after the capital Damascus shall be destroyed.

They shall be as the glory of the children of Israel - That is, as the defenses, or the strongly fortified towns and fastnesses of the kingdom of Israel shall pass away or be destroyed, so shall it be with the kingdom of Damascus. As they are allied with each other, they shall fare alike. The Chaldee reads this, 'And the dominion shall cease from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus.'

3. fortress … cease—The strongholds shall be pulled down (Samaria especially: Ho 10:14; Mic 1:6; Hab 1:10).

remnant of Syria—all that was left after the overthrow by Tiglath-pileser (2Ki 16:9).

as the glory of … Israel—They shall meet with the same fate as Israel, their ally.

The fortress; either Samaria, their chief fortress; or all their fortress or strong holds, the singular number being put for the plural; or all their strength and glory, which answers to the kingdom in the next clause.

And the remnant of Syria; or, and from (which particle is easily understood from the former clause) the remnant of Syria. So the sense is, The remainders of Damascus and Syria shall be a headless body, a people without a king.

They shall be as the glory; an ironical speech, implying their contemptible condition; for their glory is supposed to be departed from them, by what he had already said of them. The sense is, Syria shall have as much glory as Israel, i.e. neither of them shall have any at all.

The fortress also shall cease from Ephraim,.... The ten tribes, now in confederacy with the Syrians, whose metropolis or fortress was Samaria, which seems to be intended here; and should be destroyed, at least taken out of the hands of the Israelites, and they be carried captive by Shalmaneser king of Assyria, 2 Kings 17:6 and this may be understood, not of that particular city and fortress only, but of all their strongholds, the singular being, put for the plural. The Targum is, "the government shall cease from Ephraim"; they shall have no more a king over them, nor have they to this day:

and the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria; Damascus was the head city of Syria, where the kings of Syria had their palace; but now that and the rest of Syria should no more be a kingdom of itself, but should be subject unto others, as it has been ever since:

they shall be as the glory of the children of Israel, saith the Lord of hosts; that is, the Syrians, who were in alliance with Israel, should share the same fate; should be carried captive as they were; should have their metropolis and other cities, and their whole kingdom, taken from them, and be stripped of their grandeur and wealth, and have no more glory than they had; which was none at all; or at least very small, as the next verse shows Isaiah 17:4.

The fortress also shall cease from {d} Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria: they shall be as the {e} glory of the children of Israel, saith the LORD of hosts.

(d) It seems that the prophet would comfort the Church in declaring the destruction of these two kings of Syria and Israel, when as they had conspired the overthrow of Judah.

(e) The ten tribes gloried in their multitude and alliance with other nations: therefore he says that they will be brought down and the Syrians also.

3. The fortress also … Ephraim] Perhaps: And the bulwark shall be removed from Ephraim, meaning the kingdom of Damascus, which had been like a breakwater, sheltering Israel from the Assyrian onslaught. It is, however, equally possible to understand the “fortress” of Samaria, or collectively of the fortified cities of North Israel; and the parallelism with the next clause may be thought to favour this sense. But the mention of Samaria seems premature in this stanza, which deals with the ruin of Syria.

and the remnant of Syria: they shall be] A.V. here follows the accentuation of the Hebrew; it is better to neglect it and render and the remnant of Syria shall be, &c., letting the first member of the verse end with “Damascus.”

Verse 3. - The fortress also shall cease from Ephraim. Sargon did not destroy Samaria on the occasion of his first capture. But he says that he "reduced it to a heap of ruins" on the occasion of its second capture ('Records of the Past,' l.s.c.). And the kingdom from Damascus. We do not hear of any King of Damascus after Rezin, who was slain by Tiglath-Pileser about B.C. 732. Damascus, however, reasserted her independence in B.C. 721, and probably set up a king at the same time. In B.C. 720 she was reduced and destroyed. Nothing more is heard of her until B.C. 694 - the eleventh year of Sen-nacherib - when her "governor" is Assyrian Eponym, and she must therefore have been absorbed into the Assyrian empire. The remnant of Syria. This phrase shows that the great blow which struck down Syria - Tiglath-Pileser's capture of Damascus and slaughter of Rezin - was a thing of the past. Syria was already but "a remnant." Now she was to cease to exist altogether. They shall be as the glory of the children of Israel. Ironical. The irony is made apparent by the next verse. Isaiah 17:3The 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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