In my last post, we completed our examination of A Prophesy Against Mo’av ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 16. In this post, we examine in A Prophecy About Dammesek in Yesha’yahu 17.
The next prophecy is directed against Dammesek was and still is the capital city of Syria. From the time of Shlomo (Solomon) (1 Kings 11:23-25) to the mid-eighth century, there was fighting between Isra’el (the northern tribes) and Syria. Because the Syrians were the instigators of the alliance with Isra’el against Y’hudah (chapter 7), they would be judged first.
1 This is a prophecy about Dammesek: “Dammesek will soon stop being a city; it will become a heap of ruins.
The Syro-Ephraimitic War, which raged during the middle 730’s BCE, ended with King Tiglath-Pileser III invading Syria and Isra’el and devastating both of these rebellious states (734-732). The Syrian kingdom ruled from Dammesek by Retzin (see 7:1-9), had been Isra’el’s principal political and economic rival. He had meddled in Isra’el and Y’hudah’s internal affairs and had encroached on their territories for over a decade. This widespread destruction also included both the reduction of much of the city of Dammesek to rubble as well as the redistribution of its territories in Syria as well as in Transjordan and the Galilee. 
2 The cities of ‘Aro‘er will be abandoned, given over to flocks lying down undisturbed. 3 Efrayim will have no defenses, Dammesek will cease to rule, and Aram’s survivors will share the fate of Isra’el’s finest sons,” says Adonai-Tzva’ot.
Efrayim is another name for the ten northern tribes. It was Dammesek and Efrayim who allied, saying to Y’hudah, “Join with us. The Assyrians are coming.” But the Lord spoke to Yesha’yahu, saying, “Don’t look to a man. Seek Me.” Here, the Lord, through Yesha’yahu, is reiterating the fact that, because they forgot the Lord, Isra’el, along with Syria would be destroyed.
4 “When that day comes, Ya‘akov’s glory will wane, and his full body grow thin,
When that day points to a future but unspecified period. The first image of the destruction of Isra’el is a diseased body.
5as when the harvester collects the standing grain, reaping the ears of grain with his arm; yes, as when they glean the grain in the Refa’im Valley.
The second image of destruction is a reaper picking grain. Refa’im Valley and its farms extend southwest of Yerushalayim. The meaning of its name is ominous: “Valley of the Departed.” Yet, it provided much of the food for the inhabitants of the city and also was heavily gleaned by the poor.
As corn was harvested in this fertile valley, the once-thriving nations of Syria and Isra’el would one day be laid bare.
6 Yet gleanings will be left, as when beating an olive tree— two or three olives at the very top, four or five on its fruitful branches,” says Adonai, the God of Isra’el.
The third image of destruction concerns the harvesting of an olive tree. The tree was shaken, and the fallen olives were eaten. But this image also shows that, though the devastation will be extensive, it will not be total. A remnant, represented by berries that stayed attached to the tree, will survive. Like the grain harvesters, the workers who beat the branches of the olive trees to gather the fruit were told to leave a portion for the foreigner, the orphan and the widow. Deuteronomy 24:20 (CJB)
7 On that day, a person will heed his Maker and turn his eyes toward the Holy One of Isra’el. 8 He will pay no heed to the altars made with his own hands; he will not turn toward what his fingers made, the sacred poles and standing-stones for sun-worship.
On that day also points to a time beyond the judgment. Indeed, the judgment of God will cause the remnant to turn from false worship to the worship of the true God who created them. Asherah (referring to the sacred poles) was a Canaanite goddess of love and war.
9 When that day comes, his strong cities, which others abandoned when Isra’el advanced, will be like abandoned woods and forests; they will be laid waste.
The destruction will turn cities into abandoned woods and mountaintops. The reason for their abandonment is the Isra’eli, who, as verse 10 explains, have sinned by forgetting God.
10 For you have forgotten the God who saved you, failed to remember the Rock of your strength; so, you plant pagan-style gardens and set out vine-cuttings for a foreign god. 11 Though you make them grow on the day you plant them, and in the morning, your seedlings flower; the crop will vanish the day disease comes, a day of incurable pain.
To remember God involves more than a mental activity; it implies trusting, obeying, and worshiping Him. To forget Him points to Isra’el’s disobedience.
12 Oh, the terror-stricken uproar of many peoples, roaring like the roar of the seas, and the rushing about of nations, rushing and surging like wild, wild waters! 13 Yes, the nations will roar like the mighty ocean, but He will rebuke them, and far will they flee, driven like chaff by a mountain wind, like whirling dust in advance of the storm.
Though the nations rage like the roar of the seas, God’s rebuke will quiet them by driving them away. Chaff was light, and wind blew it away, so God’s rebuke will blow away the tumultuous nations.
14 As evening falls, you can see terror; before sunrise, they have ceased to be. This is the lot of those who plunder us, the fate of those who prey on us. ~ Yesha’yahu 17:1-14 (CJB)
God’s judgment comes quickly, in a single day (in the evening… before morning). The victim of the nations (God’s people) speaks here in the first person (us).
I wonder how many of us are facing seemingly insurmountable odds or tremendously tricky situations. We try to figure out what kind of relationships we can form, what kind of adjustments we can make, what kind of schemes we can employ – yet all the while the Lord says, “I’ll take care of it. Trust in Me.”
In my next post, we will explore The Woes of Cush (modern Ethiopia) in Yesha’hayu 18.
Click here for PDF version.
 The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.