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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–5
Verses 1–5

We have here the burden of Damascus; the Chaldee paraphrase reads it, The burden of the cup of the curse to drink to Damascus in; and, the ten tribes being in alliance, they must expect to pledge Damascus in this cup of trembling that is to go round. 1. Damascus itself, the head city of Syria, must be destroyed; the houses, it is likely, will be burnt, as least the walls, and gates, and fortifications demolished, and the inhabitants carried away captive, so that for the present it is taken away from being a city, and is reduced not only to a village, but to a ruinous heap, Isa. 17:1. Such desolating work as this does sin make with cities. 2. The country towns are abandoned by their inhabitants, frightened or forced away by the invaders: The cities of Aroer (a province of Syria so called) are forsaken (Isa. 17:2); the conquered dare not dwell in them, and the conquerors have no occasion for them, nor did they seize them for want, but wantonness; so that the places which should be for men to live in are for flocks to lie down in, which they may do, and none will disturb nor dislodge them. Stately houses are converted into sheep-cotes. It is strange that great conquerors should pride themselves in being common enemies to mankind. But, how unrighteous soever they are, God is righteous in causing those cities to spue out their inhabitants, who by their wickedness had made themselves vile; it is better that flocks should lie down there than that they should harbour such as are in open rebellion against God and virtue. 3. The strongholds of Israel, the kingdom of the ten tribes, will be brought to ruin: The fortress shall cease from Ephraim (Isa. 17:3), that in Samaria, and all the rest. They had joined with Syria in invading Judah very unnaturally; and now those that had been partakers in sin should be made partakers in ruin, and justly. When the fortress shall cease from Ephraim, by which Israel will be weakened, the kingdom will cease from Damascus, by which Syria will be ruined. The Syrians were the ring-leaders in that confederacy against Judah, and therefore they are punished first and sorest; and, because they boasted of their alliance with Israel, now that Israel is weakened they are upbraided with those boasts: “The remnant of Syria shall be as the glory of the children of Israel; those few that remain of the Syrians shall be in as mean and despicable a condition as the children of Israel are, and the glory of Israel shall be no relief or reputation to them.” Sinful confederacies will be no strength, no stay, to the confederates, when God’s judgments come upon them. See here what the glory of Jacob is when God contends with him, and what little reason Syria will have to be proud of resembling the glory of Jacob. (1.) It is wasted like a man in a consumption, Isa. 17:4. The glory of Jacob was their numbers, that they were as the sand of the sea for multitude; but this glory shall be made thin, when many are cut off, and few left. Then the fatness of their flesh, which was their pride and security, shall was lean, and the body of the people shall become a perfect skeleton, nothing but skin and bones. Israel died of a lingering disease; the kingdom of the ten tribes wasted gradually; God was to them as a moth, Hos. 5:12. Such is all the glory of this world: it soon withers, and is made thin; but thee is a far more exceeding and external weight of glory designed for the spiritual seed of Jacob, which is not subject to any such decay—fatness of God’s house, which will not wax lean. (2.) It is all gathered and carried away by the Assyrian army, as the corn is carried out of the field by the husbandmen, Isa. 17:5. The corn is the glory of the fields (Ps. 65:13); but, when it is reaped and gone, where is the glory? The people had by their sins made themselves ripe for ruin, and their glory was as quickly, as easily, as justly, and as irresistibly, cut down and taken away, as the corn is out of the field by the husbandman. God’s judgments are compared to the thrusting in of the sickle when the harvest is ripe, Rev. 14:15. And the victorious army, like the careful husbandmen in the valley of Rephaim, where the corn was extraordinary, would not, if they could help it, leave an ear behind, would lose nothing that they could lay their hands on.