Isaiah Chapter 17 The Burden (Destruction) of Damascus

Aug 29th, 2009 | By | Category: Isaiah, Psalm 83 and Gog & Magog, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Isaiah Chapter 17 The Burden (Destruction) of Damascus

Isa. 17:1 The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.

Isa. 17:2 The cities of Aroer are forsaken: they shall be for flocks, which shall lie down, and none shall make them afraid.

Isa. 17:3 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.

Isaiah prophesied that Damascus would one day be made desolate and become a heap of ruins. Regarding the first destruction of Damascus, Isaiah 7:1–9 tells about an alliance of the ten-tribe kingdom under King Pekah with Syria. Syria’s capital was Damascus, and Ephraim’s capital was Samaria. The ten tribes and Syria joined forces to depose King Ahaz of Judah and install a puppet king, favorable to both of them, in his stead. But Isaiah was sent by God to tell King Ahaz about the matter. The people of Judah were discouraged and depressed when they heard about the conspiracy against them. (The hearts of the people were “as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind”—Isa. 7:2.) However, God assured them that Judah would prevail.

While Syria did not prosper in this campaign against Judah, a punishment was to be visited on Israel and Syria, nevertheless. See Jeremiah 49:23–27. “Benhadad” is a title of the rulership in Damascus, Syria. 2 Kings 16:5–9 shows how God punished Syria and Israel for their evil intentions. Judah, in its dilemma, got Assyria to come to its aid by giving a present. (Although Israel and Syria could not overcome Judah the first time, Judah realized they might renew the attack and be successful, so an emissary was sent to Assyria.) When the king of Assyria came down, he captured Damascus, killed King Rezin, and carried away some captives from the ten tribes.

The prophecy here in Isaiah 17:1–3 that Damascus and some surrounding cities would be made desolate had a partial fulfillment in the defeat by King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria. (The RSV is incorrect in saying that the cities would be deserted forever.)

In Isaiah 7:10–16, the “both kings” of verse 16 who were a threat to Ahaz were Rezin of Syria and Pekah of the ten tribes. In Isaiah 8:1–4 the king of Assyria is again shown desolating Damascus. Sequence: (1) the threat of Syria and the ten tribes abated, (2) Ahaz made an alliance with Assyria, and (3) Assyria came down and fought against Damascus.

But prior to the destruction, a sign was given: a “virgin” (a “young maiden” of purity and chastity—RSV) would conceive and bare a son. The Hebrew word for “young maiden” was used because there was to be a twofold fulfillment: the type and, of course, Jesus. In the type, Isaiah fathered a child of a prophetess, a chaste and virtuous woman. Before that child was old enough to cry “Father” or “Mother” or to distinguish between good and evil, the cities of Samaria and Damascus would be destroyed and both kings (Pekah and Rezin) would die. Thus the threat to Judah would be removed. To repeat, because of the type and antitype, the Holy Spirit carefully chose the Hebrew word for “young maiden” rather than “virgin.” The next fulfillment of the prophecy of the destruction of Damascus occurred in Jesus’ day.

In Chapters 6–9 of Isaiah, fragmentary verses have a double fulfillment with an application at the First Advent. While this is a prophecy of Jesus, the full fulfillment pertains to Isaiah being a picture of Jesus and the woman being a picture of the Church, the chaste virgin espoused to Christ. The Little Flock are a “virgin” class who will have children. Jesus will be the age-lasting Father of the human race, and the Church is to be the second Eve or mother of the human race. The children will be the regenerated world of mankind. In other words, at the very end of the age, there will be a third fulfillment, pertaining to the marriage. Only a short time after the marriage, Israel will be threatened by Gog, but by the elect, Israel will be saved.

Thus three pictures are involved:

1. Isaiah’s son born of a chaste prophetess

2. Miraculous birth of Jesus

3. Marriage of The Christ and the miraculous removal of the threat by Gog

Blindness in part has happened to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles be come in.

Zacharias, father of John the Baptist, was stricken with dumbness in the Holy at the time of prayer as a sign that he had seen a vision. (The prophecy was that his old wife, Elizabeth, would give birth to a child, and the child was to be named “John.”) The dumbness was removed when the child was born and named “John.” Hence there are two kinds of man-child: (1) the false one in Revelation 12 and (2) the true one in Isaiah 66. “Shall a nation be born in one day?” (paraphrase of Isaiah 66:8). After The Christ is complete, Zion (natural Israel) will travail (in Jacob’s Trouble) and bring forth children. Israel’s deliverance from Gog will be sudden and miraculous. A time of trouble (“her pain”) precedes the future birth of natural Israel.

Fulfillments of the destruction of Damascus:

1. Past destruction at the hands of Tiglath-pileser (Amos 1:3–5)

2. Future destruction (Zech. 9:1–4). In the Kingdom, the cities of Damascus, Hamath, Tyre and Sidon will be incorporated into Israel proper. Lebanon will become the northern part of Israel. In a nutshell, the Euphrates will be the northernmost boundary, which is traced in more detail through valleys and cities in Ezekiel 47:15–17 and 48:1. Hamath, Damascus, etc., will be part of northern Israel. Hence Damascus will be displaced from its present arrangement. Today Damascus, called the “city of Eden,” is attractive and fertile.

Verse 2: Damascus will be a place for flocks, a place for pasturage, a place of peace where none are afraid. In other words, it will change into a pastoral hamlet in the Kingdom.

Isa. 17:4 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.

Verses 3 and 4 are tied together. “The fortress also shall cease from Ephraim [the ten-tribe kingdom].” In what way will Ephraim, Damascus, and Syria “be as the glory of the children of Israel”? Verse 4 indicates that the glory is spoken of negatively. In other words, just as God found it necessary to humble Israel, so He would humble Damascus.

Isa. 17:5 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.

Isa. 17:6 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.

Verses 5 and 6 describe a remnant harvesting, a gleaning. The gleaning of grapes is mentioned. Grapes and olives are abundant in the regular harvest, but gleaning often requires beating the tree to get the ones on the top and outermost limbs to fall.

Isa. 17:7 At that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel.

Isa. 17:8 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.

Isa. 17:9 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.

Verses 7–9 still probably apply to Damascus, although some say they apply to Israel. Both Damascus (the Arabs) and the Jews will have a common humbling experience. Zechariah 9:1 gives the same thought: “The burden of the word of the LORD in the land of Hadrach, and Damascus shall be the rest thereof: when the eyes of man, as of all the tribes of Israel, shall be toward the LORD.” Hadrach was the province of Damascus.

Isa. 17:10 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:

Isa. 17:11 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.

Isa. 17:12 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!

Isa. 17:13 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.

Isa. 17:14 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.

Verses 12–14 start a different picture but are related to the previous verses. These verses sound like Joel and other prophecies about the Time of Trouble and the anarchy. Satan capitalizes on conditions of unrest to serve his purpose, but God will take care of the situation. Satan will again try to destroy Israel through the invasion of Gog and Magog. It will look as if Gog will overwhelm and swallow up Israel right up to Jerusalem, but God will rebuke the threatening horde. “The nations [the mixed multitude of Gog and Magog] shall rush like the rushing of many waters [as in a flood]: but God shall rebuke them.” He will disperse and roll them back as if with a blast of His nostrils. He will stop them as the wind blows away a tumbleweed or chaff.

Verse 14 is a prophecy of the future. “This is the portion of them that spoil us, and … that rob us.” The evil intent of Gog will be to take a spoil (the “cattle and much goods”). This portion of verse 14 represents Israel’s recognition that God has stepped in and delivered them lest a full end be made of them.

“Behold at eveningtide trouble; and before the morning [sunrise in the Kingdom] he [Gog] is not.” Although we are technically in the Millennial morning, the night of trouble is future and the dawn will follow the trouble. Darkness precedes the ushering in of the Kingdom in its grandeur and light, the morning of the new day. At “eveningtide” there will be trouble; ie, at the very end of the age, there will be great trouble. Israel’s trouble will be called Jacob’s Trouble.

Verses 12–14 can be taken as a general picture of the world’s trouble with the sunrise of the dawn following the trouble. However, these verses can also be taken as a specialized picture of Jacob’s Trouble; verse 14 shows the particular emphasis is on Israel’s deliverance.

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