Isaiah 17


Judgments of God upon Damascus, 1-3;

and upon Israel, 4-6.

Good effects of these judgments on the small remnant or

gleaning that should escape them, 7, 8.

The same judgments represented in other but stronger terms,

and imputed to irreligion and neglect of God, 9-11.

The remaining verses are a distinct prophecy, a beautiful

detached piece, worked up with the greatest elegance,

sublimity, and propriety; and forming a noble description of

the formidable invasion and sudden overthrow of Sennacherib,

exactly suitable to the event, 12-14.

This prophecy by its title should relate only to Damascus; but

it full as much concerns, and more largely treats of, the kingdom

of Samaria and the Israelites, confederated with Damascus and the

Syrians against the kingdom of Judah. It was delivered probably

soon after the prophecies of the seventh and eighth chapters, in

the beginning of the reign of Ahaz; and was fulfilled by

Tiglath-pileser's taking Damascus, and carrying the people

captives to Kir, (2Ki 16:9,) and overrunning great part of the

kingdom of Israel, and carrying a great number of the Israelites

also captives to Assyria; and still more fully in regard to

Israel, by the conquest of the kingdom, and the captivity of the

people, effected a few years after by Shalmaneser.-L.


Verse 1. The burden of Damascus.] Which is, according to the

common version, The cities of Aroer are forsaken. It has already

been observed by the learned prelate that the prophecy, as it

relates to Damascus, was executed in the beginning of the reign of

Ahaz, probably about the third year. If we credit Midrash, the

Damascenes were the most extensive and flagrant of all

idolaters. "There were in Damascus three hundred and sixty-five

streets, in each of these was an idol, and each idol had his

peculiar day of worship; so that the whole were worshipped in the

course of the year." This, or any thing like this, was a

sufficient reason for this city's destruction.

A ruinous heap] For mei, "a ruinous heap," the Septuagint

reads lei, "for a ruin," the Vulgate kei, "as a

ruin." I follow the former.

Verse 2. The cities of Aroer are forsaken-"The cities are

deserted for ever"] What has Aroer on the river Arnon to do with

Damascus? and if there be another Aroer on the northern border of

the tribe of Gad, as Reland seems to think there might be, this is

not much more to the purpose. Besides, the cities of Aroer, if

Aroer itself is a city, makes no good sense. The Septuagint, for

aroer, read adey ad, ειςτοναιωνα, for

ever, or for a long duration. The Chaldee takes the word for a

verb from arah, translating it cherebu,

devastabuntur, "they shall be wasted." The Syriac read

adoeir. So that the reading is very doubtful. I follow the

Septuagint as making the plainest sense.

Verse 3. The remnant of Syria-"The pride of Syria."] For

shear, "remnant," Houbigant reads seeth, "pride,"

answering, as the sentence seems evidently to require, to

cabod, "the glory of Israel." The conjecture is so very probable

that I venture to follow it.

As the glory] bichbod, "IN the glory," is the reading of

eight MSS., and ten editions.

Verse 4. In that day] That is, says Kimchi, the time when the

ten tribes of Israel, which were the glory of Jacob, should be

carried into captivity.

Verse 5. As when the harvestman gathereth-"As when one

gathereth"] That is, the king of Assyria shall sweep away the

whole body of the people, as the reaper strippeth off the whole

crop of corn; and the remnant shall be no more in proportion than

the scattered ears left to the gleaner. The valley of Rephaim near

Jerusalem was celebrated for its plentiful harvest; it is here

used poetically for any fruitful country. One MS., and one ancient

edition, has beesoph, "IN gathering," instead of

keesoph, "AS the gathering."

Verse 8. The altars, the work of his hands-"The altars dedicated

to the work of his hands"] The construction of the words, and the

meaning of the sentence, in this place are not obvious; all the

ancient Versions, and most of the modern, have mistaken it. The

word maaseh, "the work," stands in regimine with

mizbechoth, "altars," not in opposition to it; it means the,

altars of the work of their hand; that is of the idols, which are

the work of their hands. Thus Kimchi has explained it, and Le

Clerc has followed him.

Verse 9. As a forsaken bough, and an uppermost branch-"the

Hivites and the Amorites"] hachoresh vehaamir. No one

has ever yet been able to make any tolerable sense of these words.

The translation of the Septuagint has happily preserved what seems

to be the true reading of the text, as it stood in the copies of

their time; though the words are now transposed, either in the

text or in their Version; οιαμαρραιοικαιοιευαιοι, "the

Amorites and the Hivites." It is remarkable that many

commentators, who never thought of admitting the reading of the

Septuagint, understand the passage as referring to that very

event which their Version expresses; so that it is plain that

nothing can be more suitable to the context. "My father," says

Bishop Lowth, "saw the necessity of admitting this variation at a

time when it was not usual to make so free with the Hebrew text."

Mr. Parkhurst is not satisfied with the prelate's adoption of the

reading of the Septuagint, "the Hivites and the Amorites." He

thinks the difficult words should be thus rendered; he takes the

whole verse: "And his fortified cities shall be like the leaving,

or what is left caazubath, of or in a ploughed field,

hachoresh, or on a branch which they leave coram, before, the

children of Israel." Which he considers a plain reference to the

Mosaic laws relative to the not gleaning of their ploughed fields,

vineyards, and oliveyards, but leaving ozeb, somewhat of the

fruits, for the poor of the land; Le 9:9, 10; De 24:19-21, in

the Hebrew. I fear that the text is taken by storm on both

interpretations. One MS. has col arey, "all the cities;"

and instead of hachalash, "of the branch," six MSS. have

hachodesh, "of the month." But this is probably a mistake.

Verse 10. Strange slips-"Shoots from a foreign soil."] The

pleasant plants, and shoots from a foreign soil, are allegorical

expressions for strange and idolatrous worship; vicious and

abominable practices connected with it; reliance on human aid, and

on alliances entered into with the neighbouring nations,

especially Egypt; to all which the Israelites were greatly

addicted, and in their expectations from which they should be

grievously disappointed.

Verse 12. Wo to the multitude] The three last verses of this

chapter seem to have no relation to the foregoing prophecy, to

which they are joined. It is a beautiful piece, standing singly

and by itself; for neither has it any connexion with what follows:

whether it stands in its right place, or not, I cannot say. It is

a noble description of the formidable invasion and the sudden

overthrow of Sennacherib; which is intimated in the strongest

terms and the most expressive images, exactly suitable to the


Like the rushing of mighty waters!] Five words, three at the end

of the twelfth verse, and two at the beginning of the thirteenth,

are omitted in eight MSS., with the Syriac; that is, in effect,

the repetition contained in the first line of Isa 17:13 in this

translation, is not made. After having observed that it is equally

easy to account for the omission of these words by a transcriber

if they are genuine, or their insertion if they are not genuine,

occasioned by his carrying his eye backwards to the word

leammim, or forwards to yeshaon, I shall leave it to the

reader's judgment to determine whether they are genuine or not.

Instead of cahamoth, "as the roaring," five MSS. and the

Vulgate have kehamon, "as the multitude."

Verse 14. He is not-"He is no more."] For einennu ten

MSS. of Dr. Kennicott's, (three ancient,) ten of De Rossi's, and

two editions, and the Septuagint, Syriac, Chaldee, Vulgate, and

Arabic, have veeinenno. This particle, authenticated by

so many good vouchers, restores the sentence to its true poetical

form, implying a repetition of some part of the parallel line

preceding, thus:-

"At the season of evening, behold terror!

Before the morning, and [behold] he is no more!"

That spoil us] For shoseynu, them that spoil us,

fifteen MSS., one edition, and the Syriac have shosenu, him

that spoileth us. And for lebozezeynu, them that rob us,

six MSS. and the Syriac have lebozzeno, him that robbeth

us: and these readings make the place answer better to

Sennacherib, according to Lowth's conjecture. Though God may

permit the wicked to prevail for a time against his people, yet in

the end those shall be overthrown, and the glory of the Lord shall

shine brightly on them that fear him; for the earth shall be

subdued, and the universe filled with his glory. Amen, and Amen!

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