Isaiah 17

The Lord Will Judge Damascus

1Here is a message about Damascus:
“Look, Damascus is no longer a city,
it is a heap of ruins!
2 The cities of Aroer are abandoned.
Three cities are known by this name in the OT: (1) an Aroer located near the Arnon, (2) an Aroer in Ammon, and (3) an Aroer of Judah. (See BDB 792-93 s.v. עֲרֹעֵר, and HALOT 883 s.v. II עֲרוֹעֵר.) There is no mention of an Aroer in Syrian territory. For this reason some want to emend the text here to עֲזֻבוֹת עָרַיהָ עֲדֵי עַד (’azuvot arayha adey ad, “her cities are permanently abandoned”). However, Aroer near the Arnon was taken by Israel and later conquered by the Syrians. (See Josh 12:2; 13:9, 16; Judg 11:26; 2 Kgs 10:33). This oracle pertains to Israel as well as Syria (note v. 3), so it is possible that this is a reference to Israelite and/or Syrian losses in Transjordan.

They will be used for herds,
which will lie down there in peace.
Heb “and they lie down and there is no one scaring [them].”

3 Fortified cities will disappear from Ephraim,
and Damascus will lose its kingdom.
Heb “and kingship from Damascus”; cf. NASB “And sovereignty from Damascus.”

The survivors in Syria
will end up like the splendor of the Israelites,”
says the Lord who commands armies.
4 “At that time
Heb “in that day” (so KJV). The verb that introduces this verse serves as a discourse particle and is untranslated; see note on “in the future” in 2:2.

Jacob’s splendor will be greatly diminished,
Heb “will be tiny.”

and he will become skin and bones.
Heb “and the fatness of his flesh will be made lean.”

5 It will be as when one gathers the grain harvest,
and his hand gleans the ear of grain.
It will be like one gathering the ears of grain
in the Valley of Rephaim.
6 There will be some left behind,
like when an olive tree is beaten –
two or three ripe olives remain toward the very top,
four or five on its fruitful branches,”
says the Lord God of Israel.
7 At that time
Heb “in that day” (so ASV, NASB, NIV); KJV “At that day.”
men will trust in their creator;
Heb “man will gaze toward his maker.”

they will depend on
Heb “his eyes will look toward.”
the Holy One of Israel.
See the note on the phrase “the Holy One of Israel” in 1:4.

8 They will no longer trust in
Heb “he will not gaze toward.”
the altars their hands made,
or depend on the Asherah poles and incense altars their fingers made.
Heb “and that which his fingers made he will not see, the Asherah poles and the incense altars.”

9 At that time
Heb “in that day” (so KJV).
their fortified cities will be
like the abandoned summits of the Amorites,
The Hebrew text reads literally, “like the abandonment of the wooded height and the top one.” The following relative clause appears to allude back to the Israelite conquest of the land, so it seems preferable to emend הַחֹרֶשׁ וְהָאָמִיר (hakhoresh vehaamir, “the wooded height and the top one”) to חֹרֵשֵׁי הָאֱמֹרִי (khoreshe haemori, “[like the abandonment] of the wooded heights of the Amorites”).

which they abandoned because of the Israelites;
there will be desolation.
10 For you ignore
Heb “you have forgotten” (so NAB, NIV, NRSV).
the God who rescues you;
you pay no attention to your strong protector.
Heb “and the rocky cliff of your strength you do not remember.”

So this is what happens:
You cultivate beautiful plants
and plant exotic vines.
Heb “a vine, a strange one.” The substantival adjective זָר (zar) functions here as an appositional genitive. It could refer to a cultic plant of some type, associated with a pagan rite. But it is more likely that it refers to an exotic, or imported, type of vine, one that is foreign (i.e., “strange”) to Israel.

11 The day you begin cultivating, you do what you can to make it grow;
Heb “in the day of your planting you [?].” The precise meaning of the verb תְּשַׂגְשֵׂגִי (tesagsegi) is unclear. It is sometimes derived from שׂוּג/סוּג (sug, “to fence in”; see BDB 691 s.v. II סוּג). In this case one could translate “you build a protective fence.” However, the parallelism is tighter if one derives the form from שָׂגָא/שָׂגָה (saga’/sagah, “to grow”); see J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah (NICOT), 1:351, n. 4. For this verb, see BDB 960 s.v. שָׂגָא.

the morning you begin planting, you do what you can to make it sprout.
Yet the harvest will disappear
The Hebrew text has, “a heap of harvest.” However, better sense is achieved if נֵד (ned, “heap”) is emended to a verb. Options include נַד (nad, Qal perfect third masculine singular from נָדַד [nadad, “flee, depart”]), נָדַד (Qal perfect third masculine singular from נָדַד), נֹדֵד (noded, Qal active participle from נָדַד), and נָד (nad, Qal perfect third masculine singular, or participle masculine singular, from נוּד [nud, “wander, flutter”]). See BDB 626 s.v. נוּד and HALOT 672 s.v. I נדד. One could translate literally: “[the harvest] departs,” or “[the harvest] flies away.”
in the day of disease
and incurable pain.
12 The many nations massing together are as good as dead,
Heb “Woe [to] the massing of the many nations.” The word הוֹי (hoy) could be translated as a simple interjection here (“ah!”), but since the following verses announce the demise of these nations, it is preferable to take הוֹי as a funeral cry. See the note on the first phrase of 1:4.

those who make a commotion as loud as the roaring of the sea’s waves.
Heb “like the loud noise of the seas, they make a loud noise.”

The people making such an uproar are as good as dead,
Heb “the uproar of the peoples.” The term הוֹי (hoy, “woe, ah”) does double duty in the parallel structure of the verse; the words “are as good as dead” are supplied in the translation to reflect this.

those who make an uproar as loud as the roaring of powerful waves.
Heb “like the uproar of mighty waters they are in an uproar.”

13 Though these people make an uproar as loud as the roaring of powerful waves,
Heb “the peoples are in an uproar like the uproar of mighty waters.”

when he shouts at
Or “rebukes.” The verb and related noun are used in theophanies of God’s battle cry which terrifies his enemies. See, for example, Pss 18:15; 76:7; 106:9; Isa 50:2; Nah 1:4, and A. Caquot, TDOT 3:49–53.
them, they will flee to a distant land,
driven before the wind like dead weeds on the hills,
or like dead thistles
Or perhaps “tumbleweed” (NAB, NIV, CEV); KJV “like a rolling thing.”
before a strong gale.
14 In the evening there is sudden terror;
Heb “at the time of evening, look, sudden terror.”

by morning they vanish.
Heb “before morning he is not.”

This is the fate of those who try to plunder us,
the destiny of those who try to loot us!
Heb “this is the portion of those who plunder us, and the lot of those who loot us.”

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