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Isaiah 17:1–11 A Prophecy of Judgment against Damascus and Israel
Isaiah prophesies, in the name of Jehovah, that the kingdoms of Israel and Aram will be destroyed (we recall that Israel and Aram were allied in Isaiah 7). Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled during his own lifetime, when the Assyrians conquered these two kingdoms (see 2 Kings 15:29; 16:9). Verses 8 and 10 set forth the chief reasons why these kingdoms will be destroyed—because people worshipped idols, which they had made with their own hands, and they forgot “God,” who was their “Salvation.” Isaiah presented the prophecy with poetic parallelisms, mixed with several intriguing symbols. For example, Isaiah compares Israel’s destruction to an individual who was healthy but is now emaciated by disease (see 17:4); and he likens the few individuals who survived the destruction to the remaining stalks of wheat after the harvest, or to a few olives in the tree after the harvest (see 17:5–6).
Damascus will cease to be a city/it will be a heap of ruins. The Lord’s words are clear: Damascus (the capital city of Aram) will be destroyed. Also, “the cities of Aroer will be deserted,” and the kingdom of Aram will “cease” to exist. So, too, “the fortress will cease from Ephraim” (a name for the kingdom of Israel), and the glory of both the kingdoms of Aram and Israel will cease to exist—“the glory of Jacob will be made thin.”
it will be like a harvester who . . . reaps ears of grain with his arm. Isaiah presents two symbols—the individuals (Isaiah is speaking of Jacob or Israel, see v. 4) who survive the destruction will be as few as a farmer’s armful of stalks of grain after the harvest, rather than a cartload; or, they will be as scarce as a few berries (“two or three . . . four or five”), rather than a bucketful.
In that day the human will gaze at his Maker. The devastation of the kingdom of Israel will humble its inhabitants to the point that many will turn to their Maker, who is none other than God. Note how Isaiah skillfully contrasts the “Maker” to the idols, which were “made” by human hands. Asherim. This is a Hebrew plural word, which refers to Canaanite goddesses (idols) or the cultic poles (or trees) that represented them. The singular form is Asherah.
stronghold cities will be like the deserted sites of the Hivites and the Amorites. When ancient Israel conquered the holy land, the Hivites and Amorites deserted their stronghold cities; similarly, when the Assyrians conquered the kingdom of Israel, the Israelites deserted their fortified cities.
Because you have forgotten the God of Your Salvation. This verse serves to explain, in part, why ancient Israel was destroyed. God is the only One who could save them, both temporally and spiritually, from their enemies, including the mighty and powerful Assyrians. Rock of Your Stronghold. Isaiah artfully compares Israel’s “stronghold cities” (verse 9), which inhabitants of Israel relied upon for safety, to their actual place of safety, their God, who is denominated the “Rock of Your Stronghold.”
plant pleasant plants, and sow imported sprigs. On its surface, Isaiah refers to agriculture and its failure during the times of devastation Israel experienced. But Isaiah is speaking about Israel’s false worship of foreign gods and goddesses of fertility. In the end, Israel’s “harvest will be a heap in the day of grief and incurable pain.”
Isaiah 17:12–14 Portrayal of the Downfall of the Nations That Oppress Israel
Isaiah describes the awful condition of the nations that, over the decades and centuries, have plotted, plundered, and conquered ancient Israel. “Woe” to them, he says. They will be “like the turbulence of the seas” (17:12); they will “flee far away” and “be chased like the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a tumbleweed before the whirlwind” (17:13). In the evening they will experience “terror,” and by morning they will be “gone.” God’s covenant people will then say, “Such is the portion of those who loot us and the lot of those who plunder us” (17:14). Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 17:12–14) was fulfilled in remarkable ways anciently, when the Lord’s destroying angel smote and destroyed a large portion of the Assyrian army (see Isaiah 36–37, especially 37:36–38). And Isaiah’s prophecy will be fulfilled again and again throughout history and in our own times.
He will rebuke them. God Himself will rebuke the nations who have oppressed His covenant people. they will flee far away. These nations will attempt to “flee far away” from God’s rebuke, but their efforts will not be successful because in the evening they will experience “terror,” and in the morning they will be “gone,” or destroyed!
Such is the portion of those who loot us. God’s covenant people will voice these significant words!
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