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Isaiah chapter 17

English Standard Version

New International Version

New American Standard Bible

1The pronouncement concerning Damascus: 'Behold, Damascus is about to be removed from being a city And will become a fallen ruin. 2The cities of Aroer are abandoned; They will be for herds to lie down in, And there will be no one to frighten them. 3The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim, And sovereignty from Damascus And the remnant of Aram; They will be like the glory of the sons of Israel,' Declares the Lord of armies. 4Now on that day the glory of Jacob will fade, And the fatness of his flesh will become lean. 5It will be like the reaper gathering the standing grain, As his arm harvests the ears, Or it will be like one gleaning ears of grain In the Valley of Rephaim. 6Yet gleanings will be left in it like the shaking of an olive tree, Two or three olives on the topmost branch, Four or five on the branches of a fruitful tree, Declares the Lord, the God of Israel. 7On that day man will look to his Maker And his eyes will look to the Holy One of Israel. 8And he will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, Nor will he look to that which his fingers have made, Even the Asherim and incense altars. 9On that day their strong cities will be like abandoned places in the forest, Or like branches which they abandoned before the sons of Israel; And the land will be a desolation. 10For you have forgotten the God of your salvation And have not remembered the rock of your refuge. Therefore you plant delightful plants And set them with vine shoots of a strange god. 11On the day that you plant it you carefully fence it in, And in the morning you bring your seed to blossom; But the harvest will flee On a day of illness and incurable pain. 12Oh, the uproar of many peoples Who roar like the roaring of the seas, And the rumbling of nations Who rush on like the rumbling of mighty waters! 13The nations rumble on like the rumbling of many waters, But He will rebuke them, and they will flee far away, And be chased like chaff on the mountains before the wind, Or like whirling dust before a gale. 14At evening time, behold, there is terror! Before morning they are gone. This will be the fate of those who plunder us And the lot of those who pillage us.
Christian Standard Bible

New Living Translation

King James Version

New King James Version

1The burden against Damascus. “Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, And it will be a ruinous heap. 2The cities of Aroer are forsaken; They will be for flocks Which lie down, and no one will make them afraid. 3 The fortress also will cease from Ephraim, The kingdom from Damascus, And the remnant of Syria; They will be as the glory of the children of Israel,” Says the Lord of hosts. 4“In that day it shall come to pass That the glory of Jacob will wane, And the fatness of his flesh grow lean. 5 It shall be as when the harvester gathers the grain, And reaps the heads with his arm; It shall be as he who gathers heads of grain In the Valley of Rephaim. 6 Yet gleaning grapes will be left in it, Like the shaking of an olive tree, Two or three olives at the top of the uppermost bough, Four or five in its most fruitful branches,” Says the Lord God of Israel. 7In that day a man will look to his Maker, And his eyes will have respect for the Holy One of Israel. 8He will not look to the altars, The work of his hands; He will not respect what his fingers have made, Nor the wooden images nor the incense altars. 9In that day his strong cities will be as a forsaken bough And an uppermost branch, Which they left because of the children of Israel; And there will be desolation. 10Because you have forgotten the God of your salvation, And have not been mindful of the Rock of your stronghold, Therefore you will plant pleasant plants And set out foreign seedlings; 11In the day you will make your plant to grow, And in the morning you will make your seed to flourish; But the harvest will be a heap of ruins In the day of grief and desperate sorrow. 12Woe to the multitude of many people Who make a noise like the roar of the seas, And to the rushing of nations That make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters! 13The nations will rush like the rushing of many waters; But God will rebuke them and they will flee far away, And be chased like the chaff of the mountains before the wind, Like a rolling thing before the whirlwind. 14Then behold, at eventide, trouble! And before the morning, he is no more. This is the portion of those who plunder us, And the lot of those who rob us.

What does Isaiah chapter 17 mean?

This chapter is another prophecy from the Lord regarding one of the nations which surrounded Israel. Here Isaiah focuses on an earlier time, as compared to events of the previous oracles. The prophecy transitions from Damascus and becomes about God's judgment and salvation of Israel.

Syria, also known as Aram, is north and east of Israel. Damascus was, and remains, the capital of Syria. This important city had a long history of conflict with God's people over the generations (2 Kings 5:1). Isaiah begins bluntly by saying that the city will become a heap of ruins. He states that another group of cities further south will become completely deserted (Isaiah 17:1–2).

Then Isaiah adds that Ephraim will share in the doom of Damascus. Ephraim was another name for the nation of Israel comprised of the northern ten tribes of God's people. They had made an alliance with Syria to stand against the coming attacks of the Assyrians. This oracle was fulfilled in 732 BC when the Assyrians destroyed Damascus and much of Israel. This attack killed and eventually deported most of the population of both nations (Isaiah 17:3).

Isaiah writes that Israel will no longer be able to defend itself. In the same way, Damascus will cease to be a kingdom after being claimed by the Assyrians. The survivors left behind in Syria will have the same glory as the remnant of those left in Israel: virtually nothing at all. The formerly prosperous Israel will be brought so low that they will seem like a once healthy person wasting away with disease. The nation will be like the poor people who survive on the gleanings left behind as charity when the wheat and olives are harvested in Israel (Isaiah 17:4–6).

Finally, the feeble remnant of Israel will look to their Creator, the Lord God, instead of to idols. Understanding that their false gods did not save them, the humbled and broken in the land will turn back to the Holy One of Israel. They will stop using false altars, incense, and pagan fertility gods like Asherim. The strong cities of Israel and Syria will be as deserted as the high places of Canaanite worship once were when Israel first came to the land. When God's people first arrived, they wiped out these places of worship to false gods (Exodus 34:13–14). Israel, though, eventually turned and worshiped those same Canaanite gods (Judges 2:1–3). They forgot about the God of their salvation. They failed to remember Who was the source of their shelter (Isaiah 17:7–9).

Isaiah compares Israel's idolatry to someone who devotes himself to carefully planting and cultivating a stranger's vine to provide food for himself. He tends the vine all the way through to the blossom stage, but never gets a harvest. This is the same thing as worshiping false gods: there is no return aside from grief and pain (Isaiah 17:10–11).

The roaring of the approaching enemy nations is like a violent storm raging on the sea. It is terrifying, and all in its path know they need shelter. The Lord wants Israel to trust in Him as that shelter. He is the One who sends the nations running with a single rebuke. He becomes an even more terrifying storm, chasing away the enemies of His people like dust before a strong wind (Isaiah 17:12–14).
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