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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah 17

 

 

Verses 1-11

Isaiah 17:1-11. Oracle on Damascus and Israel.—In spite of the title this prophecy deals much more with Ephraim than Damascus, which is not mentioned after Isaiah 17:3. The close connexion of the two suggests that they have formed an alliance, and this is confirmed by the probable reference to Syrian forms of worship in Isaiah 17:10. The prophecy is therefore later than Isaiah 9:8 to Isaiah 10:4, when the alliance between Syria and Ephraim had not been formed. It must be earlier than 732, since at that date Damascus fell. We may perhaps fix the date a little more precisely. No reference is made to the invasion of Judah by the allied forces, so this had probably not yet taken place. We may accordingly date it about 736-5. Damascus is to become a ruin, the Syrian cities desolate, so that flocks will pasture undisturbed on their site. Ephraim will thus lose her bulwark against Assyria, and Syria shall fail as Israel's glory will pass away. For Israel also shall be like a man smitten with a wasting disease, or like the standing corn ready to be reaped, of which the gleanings only will be left on the field, as when a fruitful olive tree is beaten and only a very few berries are left. The description of the judgment is broken off in Isaiah 17:7 f., which may be an insertion, asserting as the effect of the judgment that man will look to his Maker rather than to the idols. The description is resumed with a prediction that Israel's fortresses shall be like the ruined strongholds out of which the Israelites at the conquest drove the Amorites and the Hivites (mg.). For Israel has forgotten her God, she has planted plantings of Adonis (mg.) and vineslips of a strange god (mg.). The harvest ripens speedily but withers quickly, leaving only a desperate sorrow. Adonis was a vegetation deity whose worship was widely spread. The name Tammuz in Ezekiel 8:14* is Babylonian. The myth of his death represented the death of vegetation in autumn. The plantings of Adonis were pots or baskets of earth sown with flowers, which were stimulated to rapid growth, and quickly withered. So quickly, the next verse intimates, will the plans and hopes of Israel, which, in its alliance with Syria, had adopted this Syrian cult, be rudely crushed.

Isaiah 17:2. Aroer: three Aroers are mentioned in the OT—one in the extreme south of Judah, one in Ammon, the other on the Arnon in Moab. These are all much too far south, since the context requires a district in the neighbourhood of Damascus. Read, perhaps, "cities of Aram."

Isaiah 17:3. The meaning may be that the fortresses of Ephraim will be overthrown; but as the subject is Damascus, it is better to render "the bulwark of Ephraim" and explain as above.

Isaiah 17:5. The reapers used to cut the stalk close to the ear, not close to the ground. The valley of Rephaim (p. 31) lay S.W. of Jerusalem.

Isaiah 17:6. A rod was used to knock the olive berries from the tree, but a few might be left on the more inaccessible boughs.

Isaiah 17:8. the work of his hands refers to idols more naturally than to altars. For "Asherim" cf. p. 100, 1 Kings 15:13*. The sun-images are probably sun-pillars (2 Chronicles 14:5*); both are probably glosses.


Verses 12-14

Isaiah 17:12-14. The Overthrow of Assyria.—A brief independent prophecy or oracle not connected with Isaiah 17:1-11, and probably not with Isaiah 18. Some assign it to the post-exilic period on account of the reference to the many nations, i.e. the hostile world gathering against Judah and dispersed by the intervention of God. It is also not impossible that so fine and vigorous a piece of Hebrew should be composed in the post-exilic period. But while this may be freely admitted, it amounts to nothing more than this, that if the passage stood quite alone it would not be unnatural to place it in the post-exilic period. There is, however, no reason for denying it to Isaiah, since the many nations may be adequately explained in the usual way, as the many nations subject to Assyria which had to send contingents to fight in her armies. The date is uncertain; it is most probably about 701.

The nations rush in their onset with an uproar like the roaring ocean, but Yahweh will rebuke them and drive them like dust before the storm. The host that in the evening is so terrible will be no more before morning. Such is the lot of those who spoil God's people.

Isaiah 17:13. chaff of the mountains: corn was preferably threshed on high ground, so that the wind might carry the chaff away.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Isaiah 17:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/isaiah-17.html. 1919.

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