Aram and Ephraim have taken pride in erecting handiwork to their wealth and ability, but these will experience the power of God’s hand. Their cities will revert to pastures where sheep will graze without threat (17:1-2). Cities will lose their power to rule themselves. Aram fell to the Assyrians in 732 B.C. and Ephraim in 722 B.C. Even the few who survived were enslaved. The effects of this prophecy are clear: “’The few left in Aram will share the fate of Israel’s departed glory,’ says the LORD Almighty” (17:3 NLT).
Implications of this destruction are added. With the fall of the national economy national pride will fall (17:4-11). Few survivors remain (17:4-6). God is magnified when idolatry ends (17:7-8). A nation’s strength is to be found in the God who provides Himself as a “rock” of refuge for the fearful (17:9-10). Monuments to pride will only be “wasted away in the day of grief and bitter sorrow” (17:11 BBE).
This local extent of judgment moves worldwide (17:12-14). The remnant in Judah hears the pronouncement of doom on Aram and Israel, and so does the entire world. “Many peoples” refers to Judah’s antagonists as they engage in pursuit of their own desires at her expense (17:12). These antagonists may roar like seas and flooding rivers in the cacophony of chaos, yet there is the simple declaration, “He will rebuke them” - “like whirling dust before a gale” (17:13). Judgment is swift, beginning at evening and finishing before dawn (17:14a). The same divine hand awaits any who see God’s faithful people (“us”) as choice victims for their mad adventures (17:14b).
The prophecy now moves south to the upper Nile region controlled at this time by Ethiopia (18:1-7). Messengers in the “land of whirring wings” (tsetse flies) are summoned to proclaim God’s judgment (18:1-2). The message is intended for the ears of the entire world (18:3). Prophecy interprets history, God’s history. The world is to take notice of what Yahweh is doing against a “powerful and oppressive nation.” If against them, then against any aggressor nation. Judgment will strike where it can be most painfully felt. Just when harvest time is set, the Lord of the harvest will claim the produce and leave it for “birds and beasts” (18:4-6). As a result, even a powerful nation “feared far and wide” will pay honor to the God of all the earth (18:7).
Dr. David Moore is a Baptist preacher in Pampa and an online instructor in Bible and theology for Taylor University and Nations University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.