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Isaiah 17

Chapter Seventeen:

v. 1: Although this prophecy introduces itself as “an oracle concerning Damascus,” the bulk of it seems directed against Israel (the Northern Kingdom).  Vs. 1-2 are directed against Damascus (Syria), and v. 3 is against both Israel and Damascus, but vs. 4-11 seem to be against Israel.  Barnes believes that vs. 4-6 are indeed against Israel and that vs. 7-11 refer to Syria (because of the prophecy’s introduction, I suppose).  Nevertheless, I believe that they still refer to Israel because they assume a closer relationship between “the people” and Jehovah, “their God” (v. 7) than I think the writer would in describing the Syrians and the God of Israel.  See v. 9 for further comments on the subject.

v. 9: Apparently this is a difficult verse to translate (Barnes 310). Lowth’s translation (which Barnes cites but does not agree with) is taken from the Septuagint, and the NRSV agrees with Lowth.  But Barnes claims that Lowth’s translation does “violence to the Hebrew text;” (310) thus, he agrees with the OKJ translation, which must align itself more closely with the Hebrew.

No matter which translation you take, however, it seems to me that Israel (not Syria) is still the subject of the verse.  If you follow Barnes and the OKJ, the verse says that some cities of Israel will be spared.  And if you follow Lowth, then the verse says that “the people” will desert their cities just like the Hivites and Amorites of old did when ancient Israel conquered Canaan.  I believe this version equates “the people” with Israel because of the ironic force of such circumstances:  just as Israel forced the wicked Canaanites out of their land long ago, so now Israel herself (because of her wickedness) is being forced out of that same land.

Vs. 12-14: Barnes believes these verses are unassociated with those preceding them and suggests that they may be linked thematically with the next chapter (312).  The Oxford Commentary, however, makes no note of their being out of place.  I think they could easily fit into the theme of chapter seventeen.  Syria and Israel (good candidates for the “nations” of v. 12) were united against Judah and were destroyed by God as vs. 13-14 suggest.

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