Isaiah – Chapter 17

Whither Damascus?

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Next, Isaiah speaks a very harsh prophecy concerning Damascus, capital of Aram. Damascus will be so utterly destroyed that it will cease even being a city. Samaria will cease being the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel; Rezin, king of Aram, will be killed and his whole nation exiled, not just Damascus. Israel and Aram will share the same fate (exile). At that time, the glory of the Jewish nation will wither. Just like a farmer reaps standing grain, Sancheriv, king of Assyria, will “reap” the populace. And, just as the farmer leaves behind a small amount of produce, there will be a remnant left in Israel – the people of Jerusalem in Judah.

After the Ten Tribes are exiled, the righteous who remain will turn to G-d and not to idols and false gods. Cities will be abandoned and desolate because they had forgotten G-d. Using agricultural metaphor, Isaiah says that the Jews adopted inappropriate practices from other nations. They now reap what was sown: a harvest of pain.

Isaiah says woe to Sancheriv’s army of conquest. They rush like the sea to wash away their enemies, for which G-d will punish them. Isaiah compares the evil people to chaff, the most inferior thing, which is blown by the wind. At night there will be fear and when the morning comes, the enemy will be gone. (This refers to the plague that wiped out the entire Assyrian army in a single night, as told in II Kings chapter 19). This is the fate of Assyria.

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