What word did God give regarding Damascus (Syria) and Ephraim (Israel)?
This oracle has as its background the Syro-Ephraimitic alliance against Judah (735-732 B.C.). Isaiah prophesied the fall of Damascus (17:1-2) and Samaria (“the fortified city” – 17:3).
Isaiah prophesied that Damascus would “be like the glory of the sons of Israel” (17:3) which was destined to “fade” (17:4). The judgment (through Assyria) upon Syria and Israel (the Northern Kingdom) would leave very little (17:4-6). Isaiah likened them to a field or olive grove after the reapers and gleaners have finished with it.
The judgment would have a cathartic effect upon God’s people causing them to abandon the worship of idols (17:7-8) which was leading the nation toward ruin (17:9-11).
Isaiah 17:12-14 describes the deliverance of Judah from an attack by hostile foes (some scholars identify the foe as the Syro-Ephraimitic threat and others suggest the Assyrian threat). These verses depict God as the deliverer of those seeking to despoil and plunder His people. The people needed to trust in God rather than in international alliances.
Practical Consideration: Those who forget God fall prey to false trusts.
When the people of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) forgot God, they fell prey to false trusts and engaged in the worship of false and strange gods (Isaiah 17:10-11). One writer comments, “The throne of our heart cannot remain vacant; if God be not there, unworthy objects will surely take His place. . .forgetfulness of God necessarily leads to idolatry in some form or other.”