Matthew Poole's Commentary
The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.Damascus, Samaria, Israel, and their cities, to be ruined by the Assyrians, Isaiah 17:1-5. A remnant shall consider and repent, Isaiah 17:6-8. The rest plagued for their impiety, Isaiah 17:9-11. The woe of Israel’s enemies, Isaiah 17:12-14.
The burden of Damascus; both of that city and kingdom, as appears from Isaiah 17:2,3.
It shall be a ruinous heap: this was fulfilled by Tiglath-pileser, 2 Kings 16:9, although afterwards it was re-edified and possessed by another sort of inhabitants.
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; of that part of Syria called Aroer, from a great city of that name; of which see Deu 2:36 3:12. These cities were possessed by the Reubenites and Gadites, whom Tiglath-pileser carried into captivity, 1 Chronicles 5:26. These he mentions here, as he doth Ephraim in the next verse, because they were confederate with Syria against Judah.
None shall make them afraid, because the land shall be desolate, and destitute of men who might disturb them.
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.The fortress; either Samaria, their chief fortress; or all their fortress or strong holds, the singular number being put for the plural; or all their strength and glory, which answers to the kingdom in the next clause.
And the remnant of Syria; or, and from (which particle is easily understood from the former clause) the remnant of Syria. So the sense is, The remainders of Damascus and Syria shall be a headless body, a people without a king.
They shall be as the glory; an ironical speech, implying their contemptible condition; for their glory is supposed to be departed from them, by what he had already said of them. The sense is, Syria shall have as much glory as Israel, i.e. neither of them shall have any at all.
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.Shall be made thin; or, shall be emptied, as this word is rendered, Isaiah 19:6.
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.Reapeth the ears with his arm; taking care, as far as may be, that all may be gathered in, and nothing left. So shall the whole body of the ten tribes be carried away captive, some few gleanings only being left of them, as it is in the harvest.
The valley of Rephaim; a very fruitful place near Jerusalem, Joshua 15:8 18:16.
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.Some few Israelites were left after their captivity, who joined themselves to the kingdom of Judah, and were carried captive to Babylon with them, from whence also they returned with them, as we find in the history of their return in Ezra and Nehemiah.
At that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel.Shall a man, those few men that are left,
look to his Maker, they shall sincerely respect, and trust, and worship (all which are understood by looking to) God, and God only, as the next verse explains it. Their afflictions shall at last bring them to repentance.
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.Not look to the altars; not resort or trust to them, or to the worship offered to idols upon them.
The work of his hands; their own inventions; for otherwise the altars made by God’s command were the work of men’s hands. The groves, which were devised and planted by men, as fit places for the worship of their gods; and therefore were forbidden, Deu 16:21 1 Kings 14:15. The images, worshipped in their groves. The word properly signifies images of the sun, either having the form and shape of the sun, or at least erected to his honour and worship; of which see Deu 4:19 17:3 2 Kings 23:5,11 Jer 8:2 7:18 44:17,18.
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.In that day; in the day of Jacob’s trouble, of which he spake Isaiah 17:4, and continueth his speech unto these words, and afterwards.
An uppermost branch; which he that pruneth the tree neglecteth, either because he esteems it useless and inconsiderable, or because he cannot reach it.
Which they left because of the children of Israel: the sense is either,
1. Which they, to wit, the enemies, left, or, which shall be left, (the active verb being put impersonally, as it frequently is in the Hebrew text,)
because of or for the children of Israel; which God inclined their hearts to leave or spare, out of his love to his Israel. Thus this is mentioned as a mercy, or mitigation of the calamity. But this seems not to agree either with the foregoing or following words, both which manifestly speak of the greatness of the judgment. And that their strong cities were not left for them, but taken from them, seems evident from Isaiah 17:3,4. Or,
2. As the cities (which words are easily understood out of the former part of the verse, where they are expressed) which they (to wit, the Canaanites, as the seventy interpreters express it; and it was needless to name them, because the history was so well known to them to whom the prophet writes) left or forsook (which they did either by departing from them, or being destroyed out of them) bemuse of (or before, or for fear of) the children of Israel. And this was a very fit example, to awaken the Israelites to a serious belief of this threatening, because God had inflicted the same judgment upon the Canaanites, and that for the same sins of which they were guilty.
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:Thou, O Israel. The Rock of thy strength; that God Who was thy only sure defence.
Pleasant plants; excellent flowers and fruit trees.
Strange slips; fetched from far countries. and therefore highly esteemed. The sense is, Thou shalt use much industry and cost, but to no purpose, as it follows.
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.In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish; thou shalt from day to day, beginning early in the morning, use all care and diligence that what thou hast planted and sown may thrive; and thou shalt see some effect of thy labours, and some hopes of success.
But the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow: the sense of the words thus rendered is this, But in the time of your grief, &c., or when this grievous calamity shall come, all your harvest shall be but one heap, which in itself is very inconsiderable, and is easily carried away by your enemies. But the place is and may be otherwise rendered, and that very agreeably both to the words and order of the Hebrew text; But the heap (or, heaps, the singular number being most commonly put for the plural) of the harvest (i.e. instead of those heaps of corn which thou didst expect, and which men usually reap in harvest)
in the day or time (to wit, of the harvest; or, in the day of calamity, of which I have spoken, Isaiah 17:4,9; or, in a day, i.e. speedily or suddenly) shall be (or, thou shalt have)
grief and desperate sorrow. This shall be all thy harvest, and the event of thy labours.
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!This is a new prophecy, added for the present support and comfort of God’s people.
The multitude of many people, combined together against Judah. It matters not whether you understand this of the Syrians and Israelites who were united against Judah, or of the Assyrians, whose army consisted of vast numbers, and of men of several nations. The following words agree to either of them.
Which make a noise like the noise of the seas; which invade my land and people with great force and fury, as the sea doth, either in its own channel, or when it enters into the land by a breach.
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.Shall rebuke them; not in words, but deeds; shall discomfit and overthrow them.
Like a rolling thing, which is easily moved by every slight touch, and much more by a violent wind. Or, like a wisp, to wit, of straw, which is sometimes rolled together.
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.Behold at evening-tide trouble; and before the morning he is not: at even there is a great terror and consternation among God’s people, for fear of their enemies; and ere the morning cometh, their enemies are cut off by the hand of God. This was literally and eminently fulfilled in the destruction of Sennacherib’s army before Jerusalem. Although the words may be more generally understood of any great and sudden change, and unexpected deliverance, granted to God’s people, when their enemies were ready to devour them. And this place may be compared with that in Psalm 30:5, Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us: this is a triumphant conclusion, uttered by the prophet in the name of God’s people.