The deserted land (Isa 17:9-17:9)

“On that day,

Their strong cities will be

Like the deserted places of the Hivites,

Like the deserted places of the Amorites.

They deserted them

Because of the children of Israel.

Now there will be desolation.”

On this day of destruction, the strong cities of the north would be deserted like the former places of the Hivites and the Amorites. The Hivites were one of the northern tribes that lived in Canaan, supposedly the Semitic descendants of Ham, the son of Noah. The Amorites were southern Canaanites, before Judah took over. However, the Amorites were more spread out into Mesopotamia and into Syria. Within the biblical literature Amorites and Canaanites are sometimes interchangeable. Anyway, after the takeover of Canaan at the time of Joshua, their cities were deserted because the children of Israel left them in ruins. The same thing was now going to happen to the northern Israelites.

The destruction of Damascus (Isa 17:1-17:3)

“‘See!

Damascus will cease to be a city.

It will become a heap of ruins.

Her towns will be deserted forever.

They will be places for flocks.

These animals will lie down.

No one will make them afraid.

The fortress will disappear

From Ephraim.

The kingdom will disappear

From Damascus.

The remnant of Syria

Will be

Like the glory

Of the children of Israel.’

Thus says Yahweh of hosts.”

This is another oracle of Yahweh, via Isaiah. Damascus will cease to be a city, plain and simple, as it will become a heap of ruins deserted forever. This did not happen. Damascus would become a place for grazing animals to lay down where no one would bother them. Then we have an implied reprimand for the northern Israelites, as Yahweh says that Ephraim, with the capital city of Samaria, would lose its fortress. The northern Israelites were aligned with Syria or Aram against Judah. The Aramean kingdom would disappear from Damascus, which did happen. The remnant of Syria would give glory to the children of Israel. Thus we have this divine diatribe against Damascus in Syria.

The wickedness destroyed (Isa 9:18-9:21)

“Wickedness burned like a fire.

It consumed briers.

It consumed thorns.

It kindled the thickets of the forest.

They swirled upward

In a column of smoke.

Through the wrath of Yahweh of hosts

The land was burned.

The people became

Like fuel for the fire.

No one spared another.

They gorged on the right.

But they were still hungry.

They devoured on the left.

But they were not satisfied.

They devoured

The flesh of their own kindred.

Manasseh devoured Ephraim.

Ephraim devoured Manasseh.

Together they were against Judah.

Thus his anger has not turned away.

His hand is still stretched out.”

Isaiah says that wickedness burned like a fire consuming all briers and thorns, like a forest fire. The northern Israelites would be like swirling smoke because the wrath of God would come upon them. He would burn their land with the people on it as fuel for the fire. No one would be spared because they would become like cannibals, eating their own relatives, but never satisfied. They would turn on each other. Even the 2 northern brother tribes of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, would turn on each other. They would also attack Judah. Once again, this statement ends with the refrain that the angry hand of Yahweh was still outstretched against northern Israel.

The outcry against Israel (Isa 1:4-1:4)

“O!

Sinful nation!

People laden with iniquity!

Offspring who do evil!

Children who deal corruptly!

They have forsaken Yahweh.

They have despised the Holy One of Israel.

They are utterly estranged!”

Yahweh in his oracle, as pronounced by Isaiah, calls out the Israelites. He calls them a sinful nation of people who are criminals. Their children do evil things and act perversely. They have forsaken the Lord, Yahweh. They have despised the Holy One of Israel, God. They have utterly estranged themselves from Yahweh.  Once again, it is not clear whether this oracle is against just the northern Israelites or also includes the people of Judah. Sometimes the term “Israel” is used for both and sometimes just for the northern Israelites.

Rebuke against rebellion (Isa 1:2-1:3)

“Hear!

O heavens!

Listen!

O earth!

Yahweh has spoken.

‘I reared children.

I brought them up.

But they have rebelled

Against me.

The ox knows its owner.

The donkey knows its master’s crib.

But Israel does not know.

My people do not understand.’”

Isaiah begins with an oracle that comes from Yahweh. He asks heaven and earth to listen to him. Yahweh says that he reared and brought up his children. However, these children have rebelled against him. As an ox knows its owner and a donkey knows where his home is, the people of Israel are just the opposite. They do not know or understand anything. This is the tone to many of the oracles of Yahweh via Isaiah. It is not clear whether this oracle is against just the northern Israelites or also includes the people of Judah. Sometimes the term “Israel” is used for both and sometimes just for the northern Israelites.

Infidelity and punishment (Sir 48:15-48:16)

“Despite all this,

The people did not repent.

They did not forsake their sins,

Until they were carried off

As plunder

From their land.

They were scattered

Over all the earth.

The people were left,

Very few in number,

But with a ruler

From the house of David.

Some of them did

What was right,

Pleasing to God.

But others sinned

More and more.”

Despite the warnings of these two great northern prophets of Israel, Elijah and Elisha, the northern Israelites did not repent. They did not give up their sinning ways. Only when they were carried off as plunder in the captivity did they realize how bad they had been. They were scattered all over the earth. Only a few people were left. However, there was a ruler from the house of David in Judah. Some people did what was right and pleased the Lord, but many others continued to multiply their sins.