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Isaiah 17:5

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

As when the harvestman gathereth "As when one gathereth" - That is, the king of Assyria shall sweep away the whole body of the people, as the reaper strippeth off the whole crop of corn; and the remnant shall be no more in proportion than the scattered ears left to the gleaner. The valley of Rephaim near Jerusalem was celebrated for its plentiful harvest; it is here used poetically for any fruitful country. One MS., and one ancient edition, has באסף beesoph, "In gathering," instead of כאסף keesoph, "AS the gathering."

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And it shall be … - This is the other figure by which the prophet sets forth the calamities that were coming upon Ephraim - an image designed to denote the fact that the inhabitants and wealth of the land would be collected and removed, as the farmer gathers his harvest, and leaves only that which is inaccessible in the upper boughs of the tree, or the gleanings in the field.

As when the harvest-man gathereth the corn - The wheat, the barley, etc.; for so the word “corn” - now applied by us almost exclusively to maizes means in the Scriptures. The sense in this passage is plain. As the farmer cuts down and collects his grain and removes it from the harvest field, so the enemies of Ephraim would come and remove the people and their wealth to a distant land. This received a complete fulfillment when the ten tribes were removed by the Assyrians to a distant land. This was done by Tiglath-pileser 2 Kings 15:29, and by Shalmaneser 2 Kings 17:6.

And reapeth the ears with his arm - As he collects the standing grain with one arm so that he can cut it with the sickle in the other hand. The word rendered ‹reapeth‘ (קצר qâtsar ) means here “to collect together” as a reaper does the standing grain in his arm. The word rendered ‹ears‘ (שׁבלים shı̂bălı̂ym ) means here rather the spires or stalks of standing grain.

In the valley of Rephaim - The valley of Rephaim is mentioned in 2 Samuel 5:18, 2 Samuel 5:22; 2 Samuel 23:13; 1 Chronicles 11:15; 1 Chronicles 14:9. The name means ‹the Giants;‘ but why it was given to it is now unknown. In passing from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, it lies on the left, and descends gradually to the southwest, until it contracts in that direction into a deeper and narrower valley, called wady el-Werd, which unites further on with wady Ahmed, and finds its way to the Mediterranean. The plain extends nearly to Jerusalem, and is terminated by a slight rocky ridge forming the brow of the valley of Hinnom (see Josephus, “Ant.” vii. 4. 1; viii. 12. 4; also Robinson‘s “Bib. Researches,” vol. i. pp. 323,324). It seem to have been distinguished for its fertility, and is used here to denote a fertile region in general.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Sin desolates cities. It is strange that great conquerors should take pride in being enemies to mankind; but it is better that flocks should lie down there, than that they should harbour any in open rebellion against God and holiness. The strong holds of Israel, the kingdom of the ten tribes, will be brought to ruin. Those who are partakers in sin, are justly made partakers in ruin. The people had, by sins, made themselves ripe for ruin; and their glory was as quickly cut down and taken away by the enemy, as the corn is out of the field by the husbandman. Mercy is reserved in the midst of judgment, for a remnant. But very few shall be marked to be saved. Only here and there one was left behind. But they shall be a remnant made holy. The few that are saved were awakened to return to God. They shall acknowledge his hand in all events; they shall give him the glory due to his name. To bring us to this, is the design of his providence, as he is our Maker; and the work of his grace, as he is the Holy One of Israel. They shall look off from their idols, the creatures of their own fancy. We have reason to account those afflictions happy, which part between us and our sins. The God of our salvation is the Rock of our strength; and our forgetfulness and unmindfulness of him are at the bottom of all sin. The pleasant plants, and shoots from a foreign soil, are expressions for strange and idolatrous worship, and the vile practices connected therewith. Diligence would be used to promote the growth of these strange slips, but all in vain. See the evil and danger of sin, and its certain consequences.
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