Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.
Isa 17:1-11. Prophecy Concerning Damascus and Its Ally Samaria, that is, Syria and Israel, which had leagued together (seventh and eighth chapters).
Already, Tiglath-pileser had carried away the people of Damascus to Kir, in the fourth year of Ahaz (2Ki 16:9); but now in Hezekiah's reign a further overthrow is foretold (Jer 49:23; Zec 9:1). Also, Shalmaneser carried away Israel from Samaria to Assyria (2Ki 17:6; 18:10, 11) in the sixth year of Hezekiah of Judah (the ninth year of Hoshea of Israel). This prophecy was, doubtless, given previously in the first years of Hezekiah when the foreign nations came into nearer collision with Judah, owing to the threatening aspect of Assyria.
1. Damascus—put before Israel (Ephraim, Isa 17:3), which is chiefly referred to in what follows, because it was the prevailing power in the league; with it Ephraim either stood or fell (Isa 7:1-25).
The cities of Aroer are forsaken: they shall be for flocks, which shall lie down, and none shall make them afraid.
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 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.
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.
And in that day it shall come to pass, that the glory of Jacob shall be made thin, and the fatness of his flesh shall wax lean.
4. glory of Jacob—the kingdom of Ephraim and all that they rely on (Ho 12:2; Mic 1:5).
fatness … lean—(See on Isa 10:16).
And it shall be as when the harvestman gathereth the corn, and reapeth the ears with his arm; and it shall be as he that gathereth ears in the valley of Rephaim.
5. harvestman, &c.—The inhabitants and wealth of Israel shall be swept away, and but few left behind just as the husbandman gathers the corn and the fruit, and leaves only a few gleaning ears and grapes (2Ki 18:9-11).
with his arm—He collects the standing grain with one arm, so that he can cut it with the sickle in the other hand.
Rephaim—a fertile plain at the southwest of Jerusalem toward Beth-lehem and the country of the Philistines (2Sa 5:18-22).
Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it, as the shaking of an olive tree, two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof, saith the LORD God of Israel.
6. in it—that is, in the land of Israel.
two or three … in the top—A few poor inhabitants shall be left in Israel, like the two or three olive berries left on the topmost boughs, which it is not worth while taking the trouble to try to reach.
At that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel.
7. look to his Maker—instead of trusting in their fortresses—(Isa 17:3; Mic 7:7).
And he shall not look to the altars, the work of his hands, neither shall respect that which his fingers have made, either the groves, or the images.
8. groves—A symbolical tree is often found in Assyrian inscriptions, representing the hosts of heaven ("Saba"), answering to Ashteroth or Astarte, the queen of heaven, as Baal or Bel is the king. Hence the expression, "image of the grove," is explained (2Ki 21:7).
images—literally, "images to the sun," that is, to Baal, who answers to the sun, as Astarte to the hosts of heaven (2Ki 23:5; Job 31:26).
In that day shall his strong cities be as a forsaken bough, and an uppermost branch, which they left because of the children of Israel: and there shall be desolation.
9. forsaken bough—rather "the leavings of woods," what the axeman leaves when he cuts down the grove (compare Isa 17:6).
which they left because of—rather, "which (the enemies) shall leave for the children of Israel"; literally, "shall leave (in departing) from before the face of the children of Israel" [Maurer]. But a few cities out of many shall be left to Israel, by the purpose of God, executed by the Assyrian.
Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants, and shalt set it with strange slips:
10. forgotten … God of … salvation … rock—(De 32:15, 18).
plants—rather, "nursery grounds," "pleasure-grounds" [Maurer].
set in—rather, "set them," the pleasure-grounds.
strange slips—cuttings of plants from far, and therefore valuable.
In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow.
11. In the day … thy plant—rather, "In the day of thy planting" [Horsley].
shalt … make … grow—Maurer translates, "Thou didst fence it," namely, the pleasure-ground. The parallel clause, "Make … flourish," favors English Version. As soon as thou plantest, it grows.
in the morning—that is, immediately after; so in Ps 90:14, the Hebrew, "in the morning," is translated "early."
but … shall be a heap—rather, "but (promising as was the prospect) the harvest is gone" [Horsley].
in … day of grief—rather, "in the day of (expected) possession" [Maurer]. "In the day of inundation" [Horsley].
of desperate sorrow—rather, "And the sorrow shall be desperate or irremediable." In English Version "heap" and "sorrow" may be taken together by hendiadys. "The heap of the harvest shall be desperate sorrow" [Rosenmuller].
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!
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 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).
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.
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.
And behold at eveningtide trouble; and before the morning he is not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us.
14. eventide … before morning—fulfilled to the letter in the destruction "before morning" of the vast host that "at eveningtide" was such a terror ("trouble") to Judah; on the phrase see Ps 90:6; 30:5.
he is not—namely, the enemy.
us—the Jews. A general declaration of the doom that awaits the foes of God's people (Isa 54:17).