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Go to Bible: Isaiah 28
“Woe.” Isaiah 28 marks a shift in the prophecy of Isaiah. Isaiah has been mentioning the foolishness of the leaders relying on foreign nations for strength and support instead of relying on God, but now Isaiah’s warnings have intensified and he sees the impending destruction of Samaria and problems for Judah. So “woe” is spoken in Isaiah 28:1; 29:1, 15; 30:1 and 31:1.
“the proud crown of the drunkards of Ephraim.” The “proud crown” of Israel was their capital city, Samaria, which sat on top of a prominent and well-fortified hill. The walls around the city at the top of the hill were very much like a crown. Samaria was known for its sin and was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 BC.
“to the fading flower of its glorious beauty.” Isaiah, like other prophets of his time, foresaw the destruction of Samaria and thus compared it to a fading flower; the glorious beauty of Samaria would soon be gone, and that happened in Isaiah’s lifetime.
“that is on the head of the fertile valley.” The valleys around Samaria, particularly to the west, were very fertile.
“the crown of those who are overcome with wine!” The syntax of this last phrase does not fit with the earlier part of the verse, which is why the English versions differ so greatly in the way they translate the verse. The REV follows the NET in bringing the idea of the crown into the last line of the verse, which makes good sense.(top)
“a mighty and strong one.” The reference is to Assyria, which will soon destroy Israel. The coming of the Assyrian army and their destruction of Israel is compared to the destruction of a mighty storm.
“he will cast it down to the earth with his hand.” In the Hebrew text, the verb “cast down” does not have an object. The REV and other English versions supply “it” or “crown” because the previous verse and the next verse refer to the destruction of Samaria, the “crown” of Israel. The omission of the object of the verb is likely to emphasize God’s judgment and that what matters is not what is judged but rather that disobeying God brings horrific consequences upon nations and people. The city of Samaria was indeed “cast down to the earth,” and little of the Israelite city remains today.(top)
|Isa 28:3||- (top)|
“The fading flower of its glorious beauty, that is on the head of the fertile valley.” The reference is to the city of Samaria, the capital city of Israel, as in Isaiah 28:1.
“the first-ripe fig before the summer.” It was not uncommon for a fig tree to have a fig that ripened early, before the rest of the fig crop ripened and was picked. Those early figs were often large and sweet, and were plucked and eaten right away (cp. Jer. 24:2; Hos. 9:10; Mic. 7:1; Nah. 3:12). Isaiah says that Samaria (and by extension Israel) will be like the first-ripe fig, it will be eaten, consumed, and the implied idea is that it would happen very quickly. Even if the destruction of Israel and Samaria was some years away, from the perspective of prophetic history, it would be very soon.(top)
“In that day.” The scene now suddenly shifts from the impending destruction to a one-sentence description of the future. It is likely that the Author, God, had in mind both the destruction of the enemy, Assyria, during the reign of Hezekiah, and also ultimately Christ’s Millennial Kingdom on earth (Isaiah 28:5-6 are one sentence although it is broken into two verses). The phrase “in that day” and the content of Isaiah 28:5-6 let us know that it is referring to the future and ultimately to the Millennial Kingdom.
[For more verses in Isaiah that speak of the Millennial Kingdom, see commentary on Isaiah 2:2. For more on Christ’s future kingdom on earth, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].(top)
“and a spirit of justice to him who sits in judgment.” The prophecies of the Messiah when he reigns on earth are similar to this (cp. Isa. 11:1-5).(top)
|Isa 28:7||- (top)|
|Isa 28:8||- (top)|
“To whom will he teach knowledge?” This verse has been taken in two totally different ways. The traditional way is that this verse suddenly switches speakers, and the speakers seem to be those at the drunken feast who reprove Isaiah for reproving them and trying to teach them the way of the Lord. They say to each other, “To whom will this “prophet” teach knowledge? Then they allude to the fact that they are not babies but have knowledge themselves. Children were weaned late in the biblical world, usually between 3 and 5 years old, and by that time they had already begun to be taught elementary things about God and His ways. These drunken people are mocking Isaiah as if he was treating them like toddlers.
The other way this verse can be understood is that the “he” in the verse is God, who is frustrated at the lack of humility and love in the leaders of Israel. He states that the leaders are actually like children who do not know either Him or the law.(top)
“For it is precept by precept.” The traditional understanding of this verse, which is favored by many conservative scholars, is that the drunken mockers continue their mocking of Isaiah, as if he was trying to teach them the way a child was taught. The overall meaning of the verse is clear enough, but the exact meaning and reason for the words in the verse are debated by scholars.(top)
“Indeed, he will speak.” The verse is now the prophet speaking to the people of Israel. For years God had been speaking to the people of Israel in their own language, sending His prophets to reprove the people and bring them back to the law of God and obedience to that law. Along with Isaiah, other prophets that were prophesying at or near the time of Isaiah were Hosea, Micah, Amos, Jonah and Nahum (see commentary on Isa. 1:1).
“he will speak.” God will speak to Israel by the Assyrians, who attacked and conquered the land of Israel and carried the people captive back to Assyria. God had been speaking to Israel through His prophets since its inception to return to God. During the reign of Israel’s first king, Jeroboam I (this is the Northern Kingdom of Israel consisting of the ten northern tribes of Israel), Ahijah the prophet foretold that Israel would be uprooted from its land and carried beyond the Euphrates River, an area that, in Isaiah’s time, was ruled by Assyria (1 Kings 14:15). Since the Jews ignored God’s prophets who spoke to them and told them to repent, God then “spoke” to the Jews through an invading army that did not speak Hebrew, which is the meaning of the “stammering lips and another tongue (another language).
God promised that if His people obeyed Him then they would defeat their enemies (cp. Lev. 26:2-8). The fact that Israel was defeated by their enemies was thus a “sign” that they were sinning and living apart from God’s favor. God uses this example of the Assyrians with their foreign language being a “sign” to Israel to good effect in 1 Corinthians 14:21-22. [For more on the “sign” of the Assyrians, see commentary on 1 Cor. 14:22].(top)
“This is the resting place.” The resting place for God’s people is in Him and in His law. That is where people will find rest and blessing. When there is disobedience and defiance of God and His laws, there is only trouble and hardship (cp. Micah 2:10, “this is not your rest”).(top)
|Isa 28:13||- (top)|
|Isa 28:14||- (top)|
“cut a covenant with death.” The penalty of breaking the Law was death (Rom. 6:23), so these lawbreakers arrogantly brag that that will not happen to them because they have made a covenant with death so that the “scourge” will not come upon them. They were wrong, of course, and died (cp. Isa. 28:18).(top)
“I lay in Zion for a foundation stone.” Isaiah 28:16 is quoted in Romans 9:33. The Messiah is referred to as a “stone” in Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 28:16, and Psalm 118:22 is quoted or referred to six times in the New Testament (Matt. 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:10-11; 1 Pet. 2:4 and 2:7. See commentaries on Psalm 118:22 and Zech. 3:9).(top)
“righteousness.” In this context, “righteousness” is doing what is right to God and others (see commentary on Matt. 5:6).(top)
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