The Book of Isaiah Bible Study Chapter 17 Part 1

Our last reading for this week is Isaiah 17:1-6

When we are committed to the things of G-d, when we have a pleasing testimony before Him and are doing His work, then we are going to be in a position whereby we can make good/wise decisions. When we reject G-d, unwise and poor decisions begin to bring about disaster in our lives. 

Note: In this chapter we read about G-d’s judgment that will fall on Damascus. The city of Damascus was one of the chief cities in that period of time. It was also one of the oldest and most significant cities. 

We also read the harsh words that G-d spoke against Israel – specifically the Northern kingdom of Israel. G-d spoke harshly against them because they chose to follow after false gods. They chose to be like the other nations. They turned away from Scriptural revelation, and, as a result, G-d’s punishment was placed upon them – the purpose of this punishment was to bring them to repentance. 

v1: Burden: This is the same word that is used for a weight which brings stress, pressure, anxiety and punishment to a people. 

  • Cease from being a city: Damascus will no longer be a city but will be in an entirely different condition. G-d’s judgment will render her unfit for human habitation. His judgment will bring about disaster for her. Instead of being a city of prominence she is going to be a place of shame. She will no longer be an ordered and well-functioning city. 
  • A ruinous heap: She will be a heap of ruins. This is also the word used for ‘intestines’ – a mess of an organ. 

v2: Aroer: This could be referring to a town that was a Moabite settlement on the north bank of the River Arnon to the east of the Dead Sea (in present-day Jordan) – Deut 2:36, 4:48, Judges 11:26. However, this word can also be a word for ‘loneliness’ or for being abandoned – having no activity, no fellowship or no social aspects attached to it.

  • Forsaken: Abandoned. No longer inhabited. 
  • Flocks: Herds – sheep, rams, ibexes etc. This will become a place of habitation for animals. Humans will no longer live there. 
  • Lie down: These animals shall find rest there.

v3: Fortress: Stronghold. Citadel, castle, a strong fortress. A place that often housed soldiers. 

  • Fortress (of) Ephraim…the kingdom (of) Damascus… the remnant of Syria: Israel (the Northern Kingdom) and these nations had formed an alliance (Isaiah 7:5). Therefore, when these kingdoms suffered G-d’s judgment so too did Ephraim (ie Israel -the 9 tribes plus a portion from the tribe of Levi). 
  • Glory: Some of the ancient commentators point out that although this word means glory or honour from a human perspective it is a word that can also be related to wealth. 
  • The children of Israel: Referring to the Northern kingdom of Israel

Note: What this may be speaking about is that the Northern kingdom (these children of Israel) made a poor decision when they joined with this alliance. They had joined it for the purpose of wealth (glory), but this wealth was going to be cut off from them. 

  • Says the L-rd: When G-d speaks there is an outcome. What He says will happen. 

v4: Note: This verse begins to speak of the judgment upon Israel. This judgment came about because of what they agreed to with Damascus. Part of that agreement involved being against Judah. Israel lost sight of their call. They lost faithfulness to the Word of G-d. They ceased going to Jerusalem for the festivals that they had been commanded to celebrate there, and they ceased worshipping the G-d of Israel. Israel/Ephraim/Northern kingdom (whose capital was Samaria) was defeated by the Assyrians in 722BC. 

  • In that day: This phrase should cause us to think about judgment. G-d’s judgment in the past foreshadows His future judgment. His past judgments teach us about what to expect for His future judgment. 
  • Glory: Referring to the honour or wealth. 
  • Wane: Become impoverishedReferring to those who have meagre resources. G-d’s judgment is going to bring low the children of Israel. 
  • Fatness of his flesh: They had had a lot of things – wealth, honour etc. 
  • Grow lean: They are going to become thin. This confederacy is going to lead to them being lessened. 

Verse 5: (literally) “He will be as one that gathers the harvest from the stalk, and his arms as the ones of the harvester who takes the ears of the stalk; it shall be as the gleaning of the ears of grain as in the Valley of Rephaim.”

He: Referring to the northern tribes of Israel in the period just before their destruction. 

  • Gathers the harvest from the stalk: When a plant (eg wheat) is harvested only the bare stalk remains. These northern tribes are going to become like the bare stalk. 
  • As the ones of the harvester who takes the ears of the stalk: The harvester holds onto the head of the wheat only until he has cut it. Once it has been cut the harvester lets it fall to the ground. This image is personifying a time of plenty (when the harvester holds the grain in his hands), but this is going to come to end (when the harvester drops what he has harvested). 
  • Valley of Rephaim: This is an area that is southwest of Jerusalem. It was a good land (Joshua 15:8, Joshua 18:16), however, because of the Philistines, it was uninhabited for many years – it was like a ghost town, an area that was abandoned. 

v6: Gleaning(s): Scraps. Their disobedience to G-d was going to result in their wealth and prosperity being taken away. They were going to be left with the scraps, the gleanings (the minimal leftovers after the harvest is complete). 

  • The shaking of an olive tree: To get olives off the tree, the tree had to be beaten and shaken. This is the imagery that is being used in regard to these northern tribes of Israel. They were going to be beaten and shaken and all their good fruit would come tumbling down, to be enjoyed by others and not enjoyed by themselves. 
  • The top of the uttermost bough…its most fruitful branches: The best places on the tree, the places where there should be the most fruitfulness, will only show a meagre yield. Very little will remain for these disobedient tribes once their judgment takes place. This judgment is going to leave them desolate. 

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