Isaiah 17:1-14

Isa 17:1

The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.


Isaiah now turns his focus on the nation of Syria with its capitol as Damascus.  Here is the prophesy of the destruction of Damascus which was an enemy of Israel.  It was destroyed in 732 B.C. by Tiglath-Pileser III and again in 728-727 B.C.   The city had such fertility and a decent water supply, it was rebuilt a number of times.


Isa 17:2

The cities of Aroer are forsaken: they shall be for flocks, which shall lie down, and none shall make them afraid.


The cities of Aroer was deep into Moabite territory and during the same campaign that Assyria took Damascus, they took the cities of Aroer which were slightly north of the River Arnon.  Now instead of houses where people have dwelt, it would be turned into fields where the flocks shall be able to lie down in peace and have no fear of humans invading their grazing territory.  This area was depopulated by the Assyrians when they attacked.


Isa 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.


If you recall northern Israel had allied itself with Damascus in hopes to take out the southern kingdom and also to repel the invasion by Assyria.  The Assyrian campaign in 734-732 B.C. took out northern Israel as well as Damascus.  Those who survived the Assyrian campaign in Syria would be just as those of northern Israel as they will be in an appalling situation which means that the glory of Syria and Ephraim will be no more.


Isa 17:4

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.


When the Assyrians attack Ephraim or here stated as Jacob, that the glory of Jacob would be made thin, whereas in times past when they walked with the LORD their glory was exalted but now it will be made thin which means emptied or dried up.  The fatness of his flesh was times of prosperity when they walked with the LORD in obedience would now be made as a fat person who loses so much weight that they are now emaciated or withered away.  It is a lesson for all Christians to learn that when we leave off obeying the LORD and think we can make ourselves greater, in essence, we are withering away slowly but surely.


Isa 17:5

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.


Then the withered glory of Israel is now compared to a field which has been harvested and then gleaned that there is nothing left of the glory.  One could say “Ichabod” because the glory has departed.  And she named the child I-chabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband. (1 Samuel 4:21)  The valley of Rephaim was also known as “the valley of the Giants” where the ears of corn grew quite big and there was great care given so as not to miss any of them.  This is an indication that the northern kingdom would be taken off their land and none would be left as if they were harvested and gleaned by the Assyrians.


Isa 17:6

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.


Yet even though the prophecy was for the entire northern kingdom to be removed, there will be a small remnant left after the Assyrians leave.  It is shown as grapes which are left for people to come and glean for themselves.  Then the shaking of an olive tree which means the tree is shaken and the majority if olives come off the tree but there will always be a few olives left on the tree which would be on the highest branches since they could only shake the tree up to a certain level.  The fruitful branches may also refer to Jerusalem where the temple was located as it would have borne the most fruit being the center of worship for Israel.


Isa 17:7

At that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel.


Once these things happen to the northern kingdom, they will turn from the idols which they cherished and realize they are nothing.  They will then turn their eyes to the LORD, the one who created them and will now show respect the Holy One of Israel that is they will look to God and reject the idols.  The problem is that we always learn the lessons of life too late.  The Holy One of Israel also refers to the Lord Jesus Christ that when he comes to earth and dies for his Elect, they will look to him and no longer to religion or works as their salvation plan.  Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. (Mark 1:24) 


Isa 17:8

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.


Those who are the Elect of God will completely renounce the altars of the pagan gods which are nothing more than the work of the hands of man which comes from the imagination of man.  This same practice is carried on today although in many cases without the idols.  We try to fashion God into our own image thus attempting to justify our lifestyle.  Many modern churches have become nothing more than the groves where the pagan gods were worshipped in violation of the law of God. 


15 The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. 16 They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; 17 They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths. 18 They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusteth in them. (Psalm 135:15-18)


Isa 17:9

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.


Then the prophet returns to the destruction of the northern kingdom by Assyria.  The cities like Samaria which once flourished, will be like a forsaken bough or a branch which has been stripped of its leaves and is bare.  It is likened to an uppermost branch which is dead and has no chance of growing leaves again.  There will be a desolation of the entire land of the north by Assyria and all of this happened because of the children of Israel who adopted idolatry and turned away from the LORD.


Isa 17:10

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:


The desolation or judgment of their land will come upon them because they had forsaken the Lord and had gone after false gods.  They have also rejected the rock of their strength.  In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. (Psalm 62:7)  The rock of strength had undergirded them through all the hardships they faced.  Let me give an illustration of how strong rock is.  If one looks at a picture of Lower Manhattan in New York City, you will see many large skyscrapers which means there is a huge weight on that part of the island.  Manhattan Island is built upon rock which can easily support those 60-70 story buildings.  If the land was of a sandy composition, those buildings would have either sunk down or fallen over.  Now every true believer is stayed upon the rock of our salvation.  If physical rock is that strong, then can you imagine how strong the rock of our salvation is and how he upholds us and never lets us falter or sink.  The pleasant plants which abounded in the land of Israel from north to south are in view.  The strange slips are plants which came from other countries which may have a strangling effect upon the indigenous plant life.  It would referring to the fact that Israel had the true teachings of the LORD but allowed it to be mixed with false teachings and eventually led to a strangling effect upon them by going over fully to false teachings.


Isa 17:11

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.


This shows that the Israelites had taken great care in caring for their vineyards and gardens and had desired to take care of the land so they would have a great harvest.  In the morning tells us that they would plant the plants very carefully and nurture them while they are just beginning to grow.  When the harvest finally comes, it will not be what they expected but it will be like the grapes of Moab which were destroyed, so their vineyards and harvest will be destroyed by the enemy which will bring them great sorrow.  This is also a good lesson for Christians.  When we are young in the faith, we want to grow spiritually and only read good materials and we study our Bibles.  Then as we get older something happens, we will meet other Christians who cause us to drift and then what we planted as young Christians eventually becomes a harvest of a heap of debris as we get diverted from the truth. 


Isa 17:12

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!


The Assyrian army was made up of men from many different countries which they conquered and then conscripted the men into the army.  There was a great multitude of different people and tongues and their voices were like the restless seas which continually pound the shores of all coastal lands.  In a major storm like a hurricane or even a tsunami, the sea waters cause much damage well into the inland parts of the country it is attacking.  Remember the tsunami which hit Japan in March of 2011 and the massive amount of damage it did.  The rushing of nations signifies the fury which the Assyrian army will show when they come.  Their noise of chariots, and the army will make a sound like the rushing of the mighty waters of the ocean when it is churned up by something like a hurricane.  Here the Assyrian army will be stirred up by the LORD himself who brings them against both Syria and the northern kingdom.


Isa 17:13

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.


The Assyrian army will come in like the rushing waters which would wreak destruction on everything it touches, however, God will rebuke the waters or the army, that is, he will cause them to only go so far and not to go any further than the boundaries he set.  They will enter the southern kingdom where they will take about 200,000 captives and will raze some cities but they will be stopped before they can come into Jerusalem and destroy the city and the temple.  Then once they have been stopped by God, they will then leave the area and head back to Nineveh quickly just as the wind blows the chaff from the wheat and disperses it throughout the air.  O my God, make them like a wheel; as the stubble before the wind. (Psalm 83:13)  They will be moved like a rolling thing before the whirlwind.  Picture a tumbleweed being pushed along in the desert by the wind. 


Isa 17:14

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.


And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. (2 Kings 19:35)  Then the angel of the LORD went through the camp of the Assyrians at night but by morning when the living ones arose, 185,000 of the invaders had died and then what was left of the Assyrian army returned to Nineveh in haste.  This will be the portion and lot of those who invaded Israel and destroyed the northern kingdom.  They were raised up only for such a time as this to be instruments of judgment in the hand of the LORD and were not to continue being a threat to all the nations as they were eventually conquered by the Babylonians at the battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C.