saying, within three years, as the year of an hireling; that is, precisely and exactly three years, neither more nor fewer, neither sooner nor later; as whatever time is agreed upon by an hireling, as soon as ever it is out, which he often thinks of, and counts exactly, he demands his wages, and his freedom. Some think this prophecy bears date with the former, concerning the Philistines, which was the year King Ahaz died, Isaiah 14:28 and so had its accomplishment in the fourth year of Hezekiah, when Shalmaneser came up against Samaria (k), and took Moab in his way, 2 Kings 18:9 others, that it was given out in the fourth year of Hezekiah, when the Assyrian besieged Samaria, and after three years took it, and then returned and fell upon the Moabites; others place it in the eleventh year of Hezekiah, and suppose it to be fulfilled in his fourteenth by Sennacherib, about the same time he came up and took the fenced cities of Judah, and besieged Jerusalem, 2 Kings 18:13 and with this agree the Jewish writers (l), whose words are these,
"after those things, and the establishment thereof, Sennacherib king of Assyria came into Judah, 2 Chronicles 32:1 and at the same time sent Tartan to Ashdod, Isaiah 20:1 who overran the Ammonites and Moabites, who helped him when he besieged Samaria three years, that it might be fulfilled what is said, Isaiah 16:14 at the same time the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh from Lachish to Jerusalem.''
Upon which Kimchi observes, as an interpretation of the phrase, "as the years of an hireling",
"it is as if it was said, because they helped the king of Assyria three years against Samaria, it was as if they had been hired; therefore they fell by his hand, and the glory of Moab was light in the hand of the king of Assyria.''
But others make it to be three years after this time; but very likely it might be later still, about the eighteenth or nineteenth year of Hezekiah, as Gataker thinks, who, in his notes on this place, has collected all these senses, and made his observations on them; and so had its accomplishment in some expedition of Esarhaddon, who greatly weakened and impoverished the country of Moab, though he did not destroy it, and which was an earnest and pledge of the utter destruction of it before prophesied of. Noldius renders it, "after three years"; and so Grotius: it was in the first year of Hezekiah, as Noldius observes, that this was said; and in the fourth year of his reign, Shalmaneser came against Samaria, and in his way was the beginning of this destruction, and but a beginning of it, as he observes, yet a pledge of the consummation by Nebuchadnezzar, which was long after these three years of Isaiah.
And the glory of Moab shall be contemned with all that great multitude; of cities and towns, of the inhabitants of them, and of wealth and riches, things in which Moab gloried, and were reckoned weighty and heavy things; these were accounted light by the king of Assyria, who spoiled them, or at least greatly diminished them:
and the remnant shall be very small and feeble; or, "not mighty" or "strong"; those that were not cut off by the Assyrian army would be but few, and these weak and without strength, being dispossessed of their cities, and of their wealth; though, in process of time, between this, and the fulfilment of the former prophecy, and that of Jeremiah, they recovered themselves, and became very numerous and flourishing.
(k) See Prideaux's Connect. par. 1. B. 1. p. 18. So Vitringa. (l) Seder Olam Rabba, c. 23. p. 64.
INTRODUCTION TO Isaiah 17
This chapter contains a prophecy of the ruin of Syria and Israel, the ten tribes; who were in alliance; and also of the overthrow of the Assyrian army, that should come against Judah. The destruction of Damascus, the metropolis of Syria, and of other cities, is threatened, Isaiah 17:1 yea, of the whole kingdom of Syria, together with Ephraim or the ten tribes, and Samaria the head of them, Isaiah 17:3 whose destruction is expressed by various similes, as by thinness and leanness, and by the reaping and gathering of corn, Isaiah 17:4 and yet a remnant should be preserved, compared to gleaning gapes, and a few berries on an olive tree, who should look to the Lord, and not to idols, Isaiah 17:6 and the reason of the desolation of their cities, and of their fields and vineyards, was their forgetfulness of the Lord, Isaiah 17:9 and the chapter is closed with a prophecy of the defeat of the Assyrian army, who are compared for their multitude and noise to the seas, and to mighty waters, and the noise and rushing of them, Isaiah 17:12 and yet should be, at the rebuke of God, as chaff, or any small light thing, before a blustering wind, Isaiah 17:13 and who, in the evening, would be a trouble to the Jews, and be dead before morning; which was to be the portion of the spoilers and plunderers of the Lord's people, Isaiah 17:14.
"the prophecy of Isaiah concerning Damascus;''
and the Targum is,
"the burden of the cup of cursing to give Damascus to drink.''
Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city; a kingdom, as the Targum; it was the head of one, but now its walls were demolished, its houses pulled down, and its inhabitants carried captive; this was done by Tilgathpilneser king of Assyria, 2 Kings 16:9 it had been a very ancient city, see Genesis 15:2 and the head of the kingdom of Syria, Isaiah 7:8, and though it underwent this calamity, it was rebuilt again, and was a city of great fame, when destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, Jeremiah 49:24 after which it was raised up again, and was in being in the apostle's time, and still is, Acts 9:22, 2 Corinthians 11:32.
and it shall be a ruinous heap; or a heap of stones, as the Targum and Kimchi interpret it. A "behold" is prefixed to the whole, as being very wonderful and remarkable, unthought of, and unexpected.
They shall be for flocks which shall lie down; instead of houses, there should be sheepcotes and shepherds' tents, and instead of men, sheep; and where streets were, grass would grow, and flocks feed and lie down; which is expressive of the utter desolation of these cities, or this tract of ground:
and none shall make them afraid; the flocks of sheep, timorous creatures, easily frightened; but so great should be the depopulation now, there would be no man upon the spot, or any pass by, to give them any disturbance.
(m) De locis. Heb. fol. 87. 1.((n) Geograph. l. 5. c. 15.
and the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria; Damascus was the head city of Syria, where the kings of Syria had their palace; but now that and the rest of Syria should no more be a kingdom of itself, but should be subject unto others, as it has been ever since:
they shall be as the glory of the children of Israel, saith the Lord of hosts; that is, the Syrians, who were in alliance with Israel, should share the same fate; should be carried captive as they were; should have their metropolis and other cities, and their whole kingdom, taken from them, and be stripped of their grandeur and wealth, and have no more glory than they had; which was none at all; or at least very small, as the next verse shows Isaiah 17:4.
that the glory of Jacob shall be made thin; the same with Ephraim and Israel, the ten tribes, whose glory lay in the superior number of their tribes to Judah; in the multitude of their cities, and the inhabitants of them; but now would be thinned, by the vast numbers that should be carried captive:
and the fatness of his flesh shall wax lean: like a man in a consumption, that is become a mere skeleton, and reduced to skin and bones: the meaning is, that all their wealth and riches should be taken away; so the Targum,
"and the riches of his glory shall be carried away.''
and it shall be as he that gathereth ears in the valley of Rephaim; the Targum renders it,
"the valley of giants.''
and so it is translated, Joshua 15:8 mention is made of it in 2 Samuel 5:18 it was a valley not far from Jerusalem, as Josephus (p) says; who also calls it the valley of the giants: it is thought to have been a very fruitful place, where the ears of corn were very large and heavy, and so great care was taken in gathering and gleaning that none be lost: wherefore, as the former simile signifies the carrying off the people of Israel in great numbers by the above kings, this may signify, as some have thought, either the picking up of those that fled without, or the gleaning of them in after times by Esarhaddon, Ezra 4:2.
(o) "et brachium ejus spicas demeteret", Junius & Tremellius; "demetit", Piscator, &c. (p) Antiqu. l. 7. c. 4. sect. 1.
as the shaking of an olive tree; with the hand, when the fruit is ripe; or, "as the striking" (q) of it with a staff; to beat off the berries, when there are left
two or three berries at the top of the uppermost bough: the word "amir" is only used here, and in Isaiah 17:9 and signifies, as Kimchi says, the upper bough or branch; and so Aben Ezra interprets it, the highest part of the olive; and observes, that it so signifies in the language of Kedar, or the Arabic language; in which it is used for a king, a prince, an emperor, one that has the command and government of others (r); and hence the word "amiral" or "admiral" comes: now two or three olive berries, being in the uppermost bough, are left, because they cannot be reached by the hand of the gatherer, nor by the staff of the striker. Kimchi applies this to Jerusalem, which was the highest part of the land of Israel; and what was in it the hand of the king of Assyria could not reach:
four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof; which escape the gatherer, shaker, or striker, for the same reason. These similes are very aptly made use of, since the people of Israel are frequently compared to grapes, and vines, and olives, Isaiah 5:1, Jeremiah 11:16,
saith the Lord God of Israel; this is added to confirm what is said, and to express the certainty of it; and shows that the Israelites are meant, to whom the Lord was a covenant God. The Targum applies the metaphors thus,
"so shall the righteous be left alone in the world among the kingdoms, saith the Lord God of Israel.''
(q) "ut strictura oleae", Cocceius. (r) "imperator; princeps, dux qui allis quomodo cumque praest imperatque", Golius, col. 158. Castel. Colossians 150. though the verb in the Hebrew language is used in the sense of elevation or lifting up, and seems to be derived from hence. So Schindler, Colossians 96. "ramus, summitas rami----inde verbum", "eminere aut prominere fecit, rami aut frondis instar exaltavit, extulit, evexit", Deuteronomy 26.17, 18. Psal. xciv. 4.
and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel; who in this prophecy is said to be the Redeemer, Isaiah 43:14 he is the Holy One that sprung from literal Israel; and is the sanctifier of mystical Israel; to which agrees the Targum,
"and his eyes shall hope for the Word of the Holy One of Israel:''
the Word by whom all things were made in the beginning, and who was made flesh and dwelt among men.
neither shall respect that which his fingers have made, either the groves or the images; both might be said to be made by the fingers of men, the former being planted, and, the latter carved and fashioned by them; whether by groves are meant clusters of trees, where idols and altars were placed, or medals struck with such a representation on them, and also whatever images are here designed: the word signifies sun images, images made to represent the sun, or for the honour and worship of it. Aben Ezra says they were images made according to the likeness of chariots for the sun. The Targum renders it "temples", such as were dedicated to the sun; though some understand by it sunny places, where their idols were set and sunburnt, as distinct from shady groves. Good men will not took to their own works, what their fingers have wrought, as groves to shelter them from divine wrath and vengeance, or as idols to bow down to, trust in, and depend upon for salvation; but reject them, and look to Christ only.
which they left; or "as they left", or "were left":
because of the children of Israel; "from the face of" them; or for fear of them; that is, the same cities which the Canaanites left; and as they left them, or were left by them, for fear of the Israelites; the same, and in the same manner, shall they be left by the Israelites, for fear of the Assyrians; and so the Septuagint version reads the words,
"in that day thy cities shall be forsaken, in like manner as the Amorites and Hivites left them, from the face of the children of Israel;''
and this sense is given by Aben Ezra and Kimchi: though some interpret it of some places being spared and left for the remnant to dwell in; but what follows in this verse, and in the next Isaiah 17:10, shows the contrary sense:
and there shall be desolation; over all those cities, and in all the land; though Aben Ezra particularly applies it to Samaria, the royal city. Jerom interprets the whole of the cities of Judea being forsaken of their inhabitants, when the Romans besieged Jerusalem, and made the land desolate; which calamity came upon them, for their neglect and forgetfulness of Jesus the Saviour.
and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength; or strong Rock, who had supplied and supported them, protected and defended them:
therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants; or "plants of pleasant fruit" (s), or "plants of Naamanim"; and so Aben Ezra takes it to be the proper name of a plant in the Arabic language, and which he says is a plant that grows very quick; perhaps he means "Anemone", which is so called in that language (t), and is near to it in sound; though rather, not any particular plant is meant, but all sorts of pleasant plants, flowers, and fruit trees, with which the land of Israel abounded:
and shall set it with strange slips; with foreign ones, such as are brought from other countries, and are scarce and dear, and highly valued; and by "plants" and "slips" may be meant false and foreign doctrines, inculcating idolatry and superstition, which are pleasing to the flesh (u).
(s) "plantas amaenorum fructuum", Piscator. (t) Alnaaman "Anemone", in Avicenna, l. 256. 1. "vel a colore sanguineo, vel quod ab illo adamaretur rege", Golius, col. 2409. Castel. col. 2346. (u) So Vitringa.
and in the morning shall thou make thy seed to flourish; which may denote both diligence in the early care of it, and seeming promising success; and yet all should be in vain, and to no purpose:
but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief; or "of inheritance"; when it was about to be possessed and enjoyed, according to expectation, it shall be all thrown together in a heap, and be spoiled by the enemy: or, "the harvest" shall be "removed in the day of inheritance" (w); just when the fruit is ripe, and going to be gathered in, the enemy shall come and take it all away; and so, instead of being a time of joy, as harvest usually is, it will be a time of grief and trouble,
and of desperate sorrow too, or "deadly"; which will leave them in despair, without hope of subsistence for the present year, or of having another harvest hereafter, the land coming into the hands of their enemies.
(w) "recedit messis in die hereditatis sive possessionis"; so some in Vatablus.
which make a noise like the noise of the seas; in a storm, when they foam and rage, and overflow the banks; this may refer both to the noise made by the march of such a vast army, the rattling of their armour and chariot wheels, and prancing of their horses; and to the hectoring, blustering, and blasphemous speeches of Sennacherib and Rabshakeh:
and to the rushing of nations, or "rushing nations",
that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty, waters; which denotes the fury and force with which they come, threatening to bear down all before them, as an inundation of water does.
but God shall rebuke them; as he did the waters of the Red Sea, Psalm 106:9 and as Christ rebuked the winds and sea, and made a calm, Matthew 8:26. The word "God" is not in the text, but rightly supplied; for as none but he can rebuke the mighty waters of the sea, so none but he could have destroyed such an army in the manner it was, and wrought such a salvation for his people. The phrase, is expressive both of his wrath and power.
And they shall flee afar off; from Jerusalem to Nineveh, reckoned to be six hundred and eighty four miles from thence: or, "he shall flee afar off" (x); that is, Sennacherib, and the few that escaped with him, for, his army was destroyed; see 2 Kings 19:36,
and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind; chaff upon the floor is easily chased away with the fan, and much more easily chaff upon the mountains with the wind; it was usual with the Jews to thresh their corn, and winnow it on hills and mountains, to which the allusion is; see 2 Chronicles 3:1 or "the dust of the mountains", as some (y) render it, which is more exposed to the wind than that in the valleys. Kings and great men of the earth are but as dust with God; and the higher they are, or they exalt themselves, the more they are exposed to the power of his wrath, and as easily cast down as the dust is scattered by the wind:
and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind; or "like a wheel" (z), as the word is sometimes rendered; or any round thing, as a round wisp of straw or stubble, which is easily and swiftly moved and rolled along, especially by a strong wind. Jarchi interprets it of the flower of thorns; that is, the down of the thistle, which, when blown off, rolls up, and, being exceeding light, is carried away at once; see Psalm 83:13 all which shows what poor light things the greatest of men are in the hands of God, and with what ease he can chase them from place to place, and out of the world, when it is his pleasure.
(x) "fugiet de procul", Vatablus. (y) "velut, pulvis montium", Tigurine version. (z) "sicut rota". Junius & Tremellius; "tanquam glomus stipularum", Piscator.