Scripture reading – Isaiah 17

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

Isaiah 17

The Devastation Suffered by Syria and Israel (17:1-3)

The “burden of Damascus” was the primary focus of Isaiah 17. Isaiah foretold that Damascus, the capital city of Syria, would be “taken away from being a city.” (Isaiah 17:1). He declared, “It shall be a ruinous heap” (Isaiah 17:1). Isaiah also prophesied that “the cities of Aroer” (perhaps suburbs of Damascus) would be “forsaken” (Isaiah 17:2). The devastation suffered by those cities would be so complete that sheep would graze in the streets undisturbed (Isaiah 17:2).

Because Damascus and Israel had gathered to war against Judah, the LORD declared no walled city of “Ephraim” (the largest of the ten tribes and the name for all Israel) would not be spared (Isaiah 17:3).

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

Three Visions of Judgment (Isaiah 17:4-8)

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

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

In another vision, Isaiah likened the empty branches of an olive tree after the harvest (Isaiah 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” (Isaiah 17:7-8).

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

The people ignored the warnings of God’s judgment despite the prophecies that Israel would be destroyed (Isaiah 17:9). While the storm clouds of judgment filled the horizon, the children of Israel pursued temporal pleasures. They planted “pleasant plants” (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 17:11).

The Fulfillment of God’s Judgment (Isaiah 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 that the soldiers of Assyria would pour across the land “like the rushing of mighty waters” (Isaiah 17:12). In His sovereignty, the LORD used Assyria to punish Israel for breaking their covenant with Him. Yet, the great Assyrian army 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” (Isaiah 17:13; 2 Kings 19:35).

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

Closing thoughts –


The Scriptures foretold, and history records, that 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. Isaiah 37:36-37 records that an angel of the LORD would slay, in a night, 185,000 Assyrian soldiers.

Indeed, God’s judgment against Israel and Syria should have stirred Judah to repent and turn to the LORD, but it did not.

Author’s note: Prophetic passages are challenging to interpret and understand, even for mature believers. Yet, I encourage you to persevere in your daily devotions. These prophecies are a foundation for understanding the Bible, God’s sovereignty, and His Providential care of His people.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith 

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