Isaiah 17:4-6 Beating an Olive Tree

Isaiah 17:4 Now in that day the glory of Jacob will fade, and the fatness of his flesh will become lean.

Nation Israel will be made skin and bones. The abundance of the population is going to take a severe hit.

Isaiah 17:5 It will be even like the reaper gathering the standing grain, as his arm harvests the ears, or it will be like one gleaning ears of grain in the valley of Rephaim.

The valley is a boundary between the territories of Judah and Benjamin per Nave’s Topics, Joshua 15:8, 18:16. The area is located west of Jerusalem. Rephaim is plural for the word rapha in the Hebrew. The word literally means giants. So, the Valley of Giants it is.

Isaiah 17:6 Yet gleanings will be left in it like the shaking of an olive tree, two or three olives on the topmost bough, four or five on the branches of a fruitful tree, declares the LORD, the God of Israel.

The symbolic and idiomatic language of this verse drives home the point God is making. The olive tree is a symbol of nation Israel. One example is from the Old Testament prophet. God is talking about the people of Judah and Israel. Jeremiah 11:16 The LORD called your name, “A green olive tree, beautiful in fruit and form; with the noise of a great tumult He has kindled fire on it, and its branches are worthless…” A second example is from the New Testament Apostle Paul in Romans 11:17-27. The good olive tree in the Romans passage is nation Israel.
Twenty gallons of olive oil can be generated from one tree in a harvest (Manners and Customs of Bible Lands, Fred H. Wight). An olive tree was harvested by beating the tree with a stick (Deuteronomy 24:20). The olive tree (figuratively Israel) is being beaten and shaken. The damage is so significant, there is hardly any fruit (figuratively people) remaining. To go from a tree that produces gallons of oil to a handful of olives is a significant decline in the yield (figuratively population).
God always leaves a remnant.

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