Isaiah 17 - Outline of Isaiah (Book Notes menu page)
I.C.4. The Burden of Damascus (17:1-14)
- with 2 far reaching 'Woes' (17:12-14 and 18:1-7)
1. The burden of Damascus.
Behold, Damascus is taken away from [being] a city,
and it shall be a ruinous heap.
2 The cities of Aroer [are] forsaken: they shall be for flocks,
which shall lie down, and none shall make [them] afraid.
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.
Damascus... shall be a ruinous heap.-
Damascus, the capital of Syria, may be the world's oldest city.
It has been destroyed and rebuilt several times in the course of history. In the area of the present city, there are several mounds of ruined cities. It is possible that after the destruction described here, the city was rebuilt on a new site, leaving the original site as a ruinous heap. It is also possible that the final destruction of Damascus awaits the Tribulation period.
the cities of Aroer {lit., "ruins"} shall be forsaken...-
The outlying regions of Syria would suffer the same fate as the capital city.
the fortress also shall cease from Ephraim...- Although this chapter is "the Burden of Damascus,"
most of the text concerns the northern kingdom of Israel, which had entered into confederacy with Damascus (Isa 7:2). Israel placed their confidence in an alliance with men, rather than in the LORD who is an unfailing fortress to those who trust in Him (Psa 18:2; 91:2). Therefore, the LORD was going to destroy the fortress of their false confidence.
...shall cease... the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria.-
The nation of Syria would be depopulated and diminished in the same way that Israel's glory would fade with her captivity.
4 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.
5 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.
6. 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.
the glory of Jacob shall be made thin... as he that gathereth... in the valley of Rephaim.-
In v.3, it was Ephraim (the northern kingdom) which would feel the effects of judgment. In v.4, the judgment is felt by 'Jacob' (ie., all twelve tribes). In v.5, it comes to Jerusalem. (Israel's enemies staged attacks on the city of David from the valley of Rephaim. cp. 2Sam 5:18,22)
as when the harvestman gathereth... with his arm... yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it...-
A very thin harvest: an arm-full of corn; only a few grapes as might be missed in a normal year.
In the near view, Assyria would do an efficient job of removing the people of Syria and also of Israel, so that only a few scattered citizens would remain, as tiny remnants of their respective countries.
7 At that day shall a man look to his Maker,
and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel.
8 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.
9. 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.
10 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:
11 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.
at that day shall a man look to his Maker... to the Holy One of Israel...-
Through the captivities of Syria and Israel, some in Israel would see their error and turn from idols and from false confidence in men, to the LORD.
because thou hast forgotten... thou shalt plant pleasant plants... strange slips...-
Because Israel had forgotten their God, they had planted groves for the worship of strange {foreign} gods.
They would reap what they had sown (Gal 6:7,8; Hos 8:5-7).
the harvest shall be a heap {ie., of stones} in the day of grief and desperate sorrow.-
Compare a similar warning, in Hos 10:12-15 (Bethel was a center of idolatry in Ephraim).
The harvest of their idolatry would be ruined cities and the collapse of their kingdom.
     This principle applies today, also. 'Christians' who make alliances with the world, and compromise with false religions, hoping for a harvest of world peace, will reap, instead, this same unpleasant fruit. eg., Rom 2:8,9
12. Woe to the multitude of many people,
[which] make a noise like the noise of the seas;
a noise {HB=hamah, growl, roar, rage, uproar}, cp. this word in Psa 46:3,6 (roar, rage)
and to the rushing of nations, [that] make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!
rush {HB= shaah, to make a crashing, din, uproar}... rushing {HB=shaown, uproar, din} - cp. Isa 13:4 ('tumultuous' noise)
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.
14 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.
woe to the multitude of many people... the nations shall rush... but God shall rebuke them...-
The first of the two "woes" (v.12-14) in this "burden" (17:1- 8:7) is directed towards those nations which trouble Israel. The nations from afar which bring grief and sorrow upon Israel will also reap the consequences of their actions. The LORD will hold them accountable. The historical judgments of Assyria and Babylon are partial fulfillments. However, the final fulfillment awaits the judgment upon the Antichrist and his allied nations, at the close of the Tribulation. It is God Himself who punishes the enemies of His people and secures the peace of those who trust wholly in Him.
See Prov 22:22,23; Psa 46:6-11; Isa 33:1-3; Jer 2:3; Zech 1:14-16; 2:8,9; also Jer 51:55-58 (re: the quieting of the noise of Babylon)
at eveningtide trouble... before the morning he is not...-
In the near view, this line foretells the supernatural defeat of the Assyrian armies at Jerusalem (about 30 years later, Isa 37:36-37), in demonstration of the power of God to deliver. cp. Psa 37:35-40
In the far view, it foreshadows the sudden destruction of the Antichrist and his forces.
[This section continues into the next chapter.]

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