Storm Clouds on the Horizon (Isaiah 17)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 17

Isaiah’s forewarning of God’s judgments continues in Isaiah 17, with Damascus, the capital city of Syria being the subject.

Isaiah 17

The focus of Isaiah 17 is the “burden of Damascus” (17:1). The warning to Damascus, should have served as a warning to Judah concerning that nation’s own sin and demise.

Isaiah’s prophecy also included “the cities of Aroer,” and foretold how those cities would be “taken away…[become] a ruinous heap…[and] forsaken” (17:1-2). The devastation would be so great that sheep would graze in the streets undisturbed (17:2). Indeed, no walled city of “Ephraim” (i.e., Israel) or Damascus (Syria) would be spared (17:3).

God’s Judgment Against Israel and Syria (17:3-11)

Visions of Judgment (17:5-11)

Facing the threat of Assyria, rather than turn to the LORD, Israel made an unlawful alliance with Syria that displeased the LORD. Foretelling the judgment that would soon befall Israel, Isaiah declared, “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” (17:4). Israel would be stripped of her glory, her wealth, gold, and silver.

A second vision declared Israel would become like a field of grain after the harvest is past. Only a remnant of Jews would remain in Israel (17:5).

In another vision, Isaiah likened the empty branches of an olive tree after the harvest is past (17:6), to the poverty the remnant of Israel would experience after Assyria passed over the land. The LORD would use the fierce soldiers of Assyria to give cause for the remnant of Israel to turn from their altars and idols, and “look to [their]Maker…the Holy One of Israel” (17:7-8).

The Devastation Left in the Wake of Assyria’s Army (17:9-11)

The people ignored the warnings of God’s judgment, in spite of the prophecies that Israel would be destroyed (17:9). While the storm clouds of judgment filled the horizon, the children of Israel pursued temporal pleasures. They planted “pleasant plants” (17:10), and “strange slips” (cuttings planted in the ground) as though there was time to enjoy them. They planted crops, but Isaiah warned, they would only reap grief and sorrow (17:11).

The Fulfillment of God’s Judgment (17:12-14)

The sound of a roaring storm was the description Isaiah gave to describe the massive movement of Assyria’s army. He foretold how the soldiers of Assyria would pour across the land like the waters of a great flood (17:12).

In His sovereignty, the LORD had chosen to use Assyria to punish His people for breaking their covenant with Him. The great Assyrian army, however, would be stopped short of annihilating His people.

We read, “God shall rebuke them [Assyria], and they [Assyrian soldiers] shall flee far off, And shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind [scattered], And like a rolling thing before the whirlwind” (17:13).

Closing thoughts – The Scriptures foretold, and history records, how the army of Assyria was stopped short of defeating Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:35-36). Assyria had overwhelmed the nations, and Israel would be exiled; however, the Assyrian army would be scattered like the wind. In fact, Isaiah 37:36-37 records that an angel of the LORD did slay in a night, 185,000 Assyrian soldiers.

A personal note: Prophetic passages are challenging, even to mature believers. Yet, I encourage you to persevere in your daily devotions. These prophetic passages are a necessary foundation to understanding the Bible, God’s Sovereignty, and His Providential care of His people.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith