Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 17

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-14

Fragmentary Prophecies (17:1-14)

Concerning Damascus ( 17:1-6 )

Chapter 17 seems to be made up of a series of fragments, none of which is necessarily complete in itself. The clearest is the first, in verses 1-6, which is a prophecy of the destruction of Damascus in 733-32 b.c. at the hands of the Assyrian emperor, Tiglathpileser III. According to verse 3, fortifications will be removed from the northern kingdom of Israel and the kingdom itself will disappear at Damascus, so that those who are left in Syria (the kingdom of Aram) will be no better off than the people of Israel. The context seems clearly to be the threat of the coalition of Syria and Israel against Judah in 734 b.c.

Concerning Idolatry ( 17 : 7 - 11 )

In this section (vss. 7-11) the main theme holding the material together seems to have been idolatry. On the one hand, in the days to come men will turn again to their true Creator and will worship no longer the things which their own hands have made (vss. 7-8). The “Asherim” is the name for cult objects in paganizing shrines which were symbols of the Canaanite mother goddess. In verses 10-11 there is reference to setting plants in a garden in honor of a Canaanite fertility deity. There will be nothing harvested from such plants; they will only bring pain. Note the parallel titles for the Lord in verse 10: “the God of your salvation” and “the Rock of your refuge.” A people whose only security in the past has been in the Lord who has saved them repeatedly cannot expect security in the future when they turn to a variety of pagan customs which can have in them no saving, but only destructive, power.

The Roaring of the Nations ( 17 : 12 - 14 )

The final section of the chapter (vss. 12-14) compares the noise of the peoples of the world to the roaring of the sea. The context for this passage would appear to be an attack on Judah by the army of the Assyrians with its various contingents of troops from vassal peoples. Isaiah prophesies that they will be blown away like chaff and that it will be done quickly. The probable date of this passage would be after 701 B.c., and probably in the same context with the group of passages for which a second campaign of Sennacherib has been suggested (see Introduction; compare also 14:24-27; 37:21-36).

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Isaiah 17". "Layman's Bible Commentary".