1Oracle on Damascus:*
See, Damascus shall cease to be a city
and become a pile of ruins;a
2Her cities shall be forever abandoned,
for flocks to lie in undisturbed.
3The fortress shall vanish from Ephraim*
and dominion from Damascus;
The remnant of Aram shall become like the glory
of the Israelites—
oracle of the LORD of hosts.
4On that day
The glory of Jacob shall fade,
and his full body shall grow thin.b
5Like the reaper’s mere armful of stalks,
when he gathers the standing grain;
Or as when one gleans the ears
in the Valley of Rephaim.*
6* Only gleanings shall be left in it,
as when an olive tree has been beaten—
Two or three olives at the very top,
four or five on its most fruitful branches—
oracle of the LORD, the God of Israel.c
7On that day people shall turn to their maker,
their eyes shall look to the Holy One of Israel.d
8They shall not turn to the altars, the work of their hands,
nor shall they look to what their fingers have made:
the asherahs* or the incense stands.
9On that day his strong cities shall be
like those abandoned by the Hivites and Amorites
When faced with the Israelites;
and there shall be desolation.e
10Truly, you have forgotten the God who saves you,
the Rock, your refuge, you have not remembered.f
Therefore, though you plant plants for the Pleasant One,*
and set out cuttings for a foreign one,g
11Though you make them grow the day you plant them
and make them blossom the morning you set them out,
The harvest shall disappear on a day of sickness
and incurable pain.
12Ah! the roaring of many peoples—*
a roar like the roar of the seas!
The thundering of nations—
thunder like the thundering of mighty waters!h
13* But God shall rebuke them,
and they shall flee far away,
Driven like chaff on the mountains before a wind,
like tumbleweed before a storm.i
14At evening, there is terror,
but before morning, they are gone!
Such is the portion of those who despoil us,
the lot of those who plunder us.j
* [17:1] Damascus: capital of Aram or Syria, conquered by Tiglath-pileser III at the end of the Syro-Ephraimite War in 732 B.C.
* [17:3] Ephraim: Israel, leagued with Aram against Judah in the Syro-Ephraimite War. Assyria ravaged and captured most of Israelite territory in 734–733 B.C. Like the glory of the Israelites: the remnant of Aram will be no more impressive than the pitiful remnant of the Northern Kingdom.
* [17:5] Valley of Rephaim: a fertile plain just to the southwest of Jerusalem (cf. Jos 15:8; 2 Sm 5:18). Since it was near a large population center, the fields there would be thoroughly gleaned by the poor after the harvest, leaving very few ears of grain.
* [17:6] Olives not easily picked by hand were knocked from the tree by means of a long stick; cf. 24:13.
* [17:8] Asherahs: see note on Ex 34:13. Incense stands: small altars on which incense was burned; cf. Is 27:9; Lv 26:30.
* [17:10] The Pleasant One: an epithet for a foreign god of fertility, probably Adonis, in whose honor saplings were planted.
* [17:12] Many peoples: the hordes that accompanied the invading Assyrians, whom God repels just as he vanquished the primeval waters of chaos; see notes on Jb 3:8; 7:12; Ps 89:11.
* [17:13–14] The passage seems to evoke the motif of invincibility, part of the early Zion tradition that Jerusalem could not be conquered because God protected it (Ps 48:1–8).
a. [17:1] 2 Kgs 16:9; Jer 49:23; Am 1:3; Zec 9:1.
f. [17:10] Ps 106:13, 21; Jer 2:32; Hos 8:14.