Isaiah: Chapter 17 | The Wolfe Notes

Welcome, Family! We're spending 2024 with the prophet Isaiah. While we claim no expertise, we're excited to sit with you as we both learn at the feet of Jesus. Each month, we offer a calendar that outlines daily exercises (adapted from Jenn Wilkin's Women of the Word Bible study process) to progress through Isaiah. Download March's calendar to begin with us and witness what we uncovered in our weekly "Wolfe Note" postings.


  1. Different Versions Noting and clarifying differences between JUB & HCSB.
  2. Annotation My thoughts, connections, clarifications, and questions.
  3. Research on Ephraim, Damascus, Syria, and the glory of His son.
  4. Summary An approximately twenty word overview of the chapter.
  5. Memorize Why I chose to memorize Isaiah 17:14.
  6. Cross References Of Isaiah 17:14.
  7. Respond Based on reflections on God's character and my own.

Different Versions

I read Chapter 17 in the Jubilee Bible 2000 (JUB) and the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). The JUB is a word-for-word translation and the HCSB is a thought-for-thought translation.  

Major differences I noticed (*My thoughts alone are in italics and designated with an asterisk.):
  • "The succour of Ephraim" JUB vs "fortress" HCSB. Verse 3. Other versions say security, fortification, or defenses. In Hebrew it is mibtsar, a fortification. *Putting both versions together, we could say the things that made Ephraim feel secure, like it's walls, defenses, armies, etc. Essentially the same, but JUB is more figurative and HCSB literal. Commentators agree that Ephraim's trust, succor, security, fortification was Damascus.
  • "strange slips" JUB v. "exotic vines" HCSB. Verse 10. Other versions translate the phrase as "vine-cuttings for a foreign god", "sow strange seed", and "cuttings from imported vines". In Hebrew, it might be read: sow (yield, conceive) another (strange, foreign) shoot (branch, twig, vine). *Considering God calls us His vineyard and the Hebrew word for "another" is also associated with adultery and profanity, planting strange slips or exotic vines is no small matter to Him. Commentators agree: the strange slip or exotic vine references the practice of other religions.


Notes on my process*Denotes my thoughts alone. ! Denotes a connection. Researched quick answers are in italics. *Indicates a topic with more extensive notes under the research heading.
  1. Prophecy of Damascus (Isaiah 17:1-2)
    1. Damascus will be destroyed. v1
    2. Sheep will move in and be at peace. v2
      1. ? Where is Aroer? v2
      2. ! Aroer reminds me of Aerwiar, the fictional kingdom in The Wingfeather Saga. v2
      3. ? Is there significance of sheep being what lie down in the ruins? That God's sheep, believers, will be glorified? v2
  2. The Remnant (Isaiah 17:3-8)
    1. While Ephraim and Damascus will lose luster, the remnant will shine like God's son. v3
      1. ? What does succour mean? Help/assistance. v3
    2. Then, the glory of Israel will fade away. v4
    3. Like after a harvest how only a few crops remain. v5-6
      1. ? Do the sheaves and grain refer to the rapture? 
        1. Actually all of chapter 17 is used in rapture theory. (Rapture Ready)
        2. But also to the Israelites left behind after Assyrian conquest who joined Judah and then were made captives to Babylon. (Benson)
      2. ? Where is the Valley of Rephaim? A fruitful place near Jerusalem (Benson).
    4. Then, they will know I am God and will no longer look to manmade things. v7-8
  3. Judgment (Isaiah 17:9-14)
    1. For the places man built up will be brought low. v9
    2. But, since you don't listen to me, you'll carry on like you never heard me. v10
    3. You'll see early success but will be left empty in the end. v11
    4. You'll be loud in your discontent, but God will quickly chase you off. v12-13
    5. Because that's what happens when you tread on God's people. v14


*Thoughts that are mine alone are marked with an asterisk and italicized.
Why are Ephraim, Damascus, and Syria being compared to the glory of the sons of Israel in Isaiah 17:3?

Defining Locations (from Enduring Word)

  • Damascus is the beautiful capital of Syria located Northeast of Israel. Because of their location, they interacted frequently with the Northern tribes of Israel.
  • Ephraim was the dominant tribe of Israel's Northern Kingdom and closely aligned with Syria against Judah.

In Hebrew it might read *Ephraim's fortification will deteriorate as will Damascus' (an important city in Syria) sovereignty. What's left of Syria will become like the splendor of My Son" prophesies the Lord of Hosts.

  • *Only the remnant of Syria is being compared to the splendor of God's son, which makes sense given the context. The NIV, ESV & NLT punctuate the verse to emphasize only the remnant as part of the comparison.
  • *In verse 3, the Hebrew word used indicates one person, not specifically named, so it could be interpreted that the remnant will become like Jesus. But in verse 4, Jacob is specifically named, which could reference humans, Israelites, or my chosen nation. The two verses combined describe the process of pruning and refining to become like Jesus.
In Context 
  • *In verses 4-6, God describes Jacob's glory as it waxes thin - only a remnant of these people will also survive. 
    • *Remember that fatness is not always a good thing:
      • In Deuteronomy 32:15-27 (*paraphrase) Jeshurun [Israel] grew fat, forsook God, scoffed at the Rock of their salvation, and turned their affection and sacrifices to demons and unknown gods.
      • In Isaiah 6, we saw how fatness prevented God's people from seeing truth because they grew complacent.
      • *So, "making Jacob thin" could be interpreted as an improvement not a punishment.
    • Pulpit suggests "the glory of Israel" in verse 3 is irony because verse 4-6 goes on to discuss Jacob's leanness.
    • Henry notes that those few who do remain become holy.
  • *Verse 3 is also important because of its inclusion of Gentiles: the Syrians.
*Conclusions: The interpretation of this verse I'm currently favoring is that God will save a remnant from Syria (Gentiles) and a remnant from Jacob (Israelites) that will become like His son (Jesus). So, not all of Ephraim and Damascus will become like the "glory of His son", only those who remain.


Like Israel, the glory of Damascus will fade. Only a small remnant, mightily protected by God, will remain.


I chose to memorize Isaiah 17:14.
And behold at eveningtide trouble; and before the morning he is not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us.

It reminds me how well I'm protected. It gives me hope. When darkness surrounds, this verse reminds me that JOY comes in the morning.

Cross References

*Thoughts that are mine alone are marked with an asterisk and italicized.

Of Isaiah 17:14:

  • Job 20:29 KJV: This is the portion of a wicked man from God, and the heritage appointed unto him by God.
  • Isaiah 33:1 HCSB: Woe you destroyer never destroyed, you traitor never betrayed! When you have finished destroying, you will be destroyed. When you have finished betraying, they will betray you!
  • 2 Kings 19:35 JUB: And it came to pass that night that the angel of the Lord went out and smote in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand men; and when they arose early in the morning, behold, the corpses of the dead.
  • Isaiah 29:7 HCSB: All the many nations going out to battle against Ariel - all the attackers, the siege works against her, and those who oppress her - will then be like a dream, a vision in the night.
  • Isaiah 41:12 HCSB: You will look for those who contend with you, but you will not find them. Those who war against you will become absolutely nothing.
*Conclusions: God repeatedly promises our wait will end quickly. Soon, even. And when it does, all of creation's portion will be justly meted out: And he hath cast the lot for [all creation], and his hand hath divided it unto them by line: they shall possess it for ever, from generation to generation shall they dwell therein (Isaiah 34:17 KJV) And that's why we believe: because we trust He will fulfill every promise, He is the reason for our enduring hope, He is Lord of all and entirely worth our longsuffering wait.


  1. God is holy. He prunes away unrighteousness that I am incapable of pruning because I, of my own accord, am not holy. I do not define or know what is righteous and what is not because I see from my human perspective. I am not God. I will trust Him to prune me by letting go of parts of me that I want to hold onto when He tells me to let them go. I will trust Him to prune others though He leaves parts I would remove and takes away parts I would keep. I will wait for His timing when He's not working as quickly as I want Him to. I will trust Him to prune the world by remembering it will happen on His timetable and according to His standards because "[His] ways are higher than [my] ways and [His] thoughts than [my] thoughts." Isaiah 55:9
  2. God is my maker. He makes everything beautiful. Anything that I make without Him will fade, though it may flourish for a time. The only endeavors, motivations, and thoughts that will last are those that are formed in Him. So, I will remember the God of my salvation, the Rock of my Strength, and plant trees of righteousness rooted in truth by looking to His word and acting on what it says so that I will be led by His Spirit in every endeavor, will allow my motivations to merge with His, and will listen as He replaces my lies with the truth.
  3. God is my salvation. I am safe with Him. I will hope in Him. Though terrors come, though oppression persists, though happiness fades, I know My Redeemer lives. He reigns in majesty, He will never forsake me, and He will return to claim His bride.

In Closing

Father God, our hope is in You, the Holy One of Israel who has saved, is saving, and will continue to save. We are the works of Your hands. You will never leave us or forsake us, and You are coming back for us. We trust you. So, no matter the storm, we keep our eyes on You, the Rock of our refuge, the God of our salvation, our living hope. Lead us in Your righteousness.

Learning with You,

Are you ready for chapter 18?

Sample these related posts:


Popular posts from this blog

Proverbs 31: Week 14 | The Wolfe Notes

Proverbs 31: Week 28 | The Wolfe Notes

Proverbs 31: Week 30 | The Wolfe Notes