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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Isaiah 28

Verses 1-29

Isaiah 28:1 . The crown of pride. Sebaste, the ancient Samaria, is situated on a long mount of an oval figure, having first a fruitful valley, and then a circle of hills running round about it. Maundrell, p. 58. The city is beautifully situated on the top of a round hill, surrounded immediately by a rich valley, and a circle of other hills beyond it, which first suggested the idea of a chaplet, or wreath of flowers, worn on their heads on occasions of festivity. This expressed “a crown of pride,” and the fading flower of the drunkards. See Wis 11:7-8 .

Isaiah 28:4 . The hasty fruit before the summer. No sooner does the boccore or early fig draw near to perfection, in the middle or latter end of June, than the kermez or summer fig begins to be formed, though it rarely ripens till August: about which time the same tree frequently throws out a third crop, or the winter fig. Shaw’s Travels, p. 370. Hosea 9:10.

Isaiah 28:11 . Another tongue. Seeing they had mocked the prophets, the Lord would speak to them by the satraps of Chaldea, and send them into servitude.

Isaiah 28:16 . Shall not make haste, as is the case when a city is stormed. When the Scipios disclosed their commission to destroy Carthage, the people ran about the streets crying to their gods, yelling and tearing their hair. Not so with the believer: under all calamities, and in the prospect of death, he is calm within, being confident that God is doing his own work.

Isaiah 28:17 . Judgment also will I lay to the line. This hebraism is best understood by correspondent texts. “The Lord spake by his servants the prophets, saying, because Manasseh hath committed these abominations, I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab; and I will wipe Jerusalem of its inhabitants, as one wipeth a dish.” 2 Kings 21:10-12. The prophet Jeremiah lived to see the measuring line stretched over Jerusalem, as over Samaria. Lamentations 2:8. Amos 8:7-8.

The hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies. The elevation of mount Lebanon occasioned dreadful storms of hail in the holy land, while the melting snows of that mountain made the Jordan overflow his banks at Easter, and drown out the hiding holes of the plains. Such also should be the overflowing scourge of the Chaldean invasion. Habakkuk 1:5.

Isaiah 28:27 . A threshing instrument. According to what has been suggested by some ancient critics and modern travellers, this instrument appears to have consisted of two wheels, joined by very many small bars, six or eight feet in length, and extending from one circumference to the other. Hence, as it rolled along the threshingfloor backwards and forwards by oxen, it would rapidly press out the corn. The cartwheel seems to be an instrument with sharp iron bars, which at once both threshed the corn, and cut the straw for the cattle. The staff or flail, and the rod were used, according to Jerome, for infirmiora semina, the small or tender kinds of grain. Harmer.


This chapter opens with a woe to the drunkards of Ephraim. What scenes of idolatry, of lascivious feasts, fascinating music, and horrible intemperance, were presented to the prophet’s mind! When the pure worship of God is abandoned, men soon drown the voice of conscience in wine, and stifle the soft and purer dictates of reason by infidel principles. So vice reigns, and manners take a correspondent mould. But as the oxen were crowned with garlands before they were sacrificed, so the drunkard of Samaria had a fool’s joy for a moment before the Assyrian army, as a devastating tempest laid their towers level with the ground.

When the laurels of Samaria faded, the Lord became a crown of beauty, and a glorious diadem to his people in Jerusalem. His chosen Zion was protected, while her rival was made desolate. The Lord gave a spirit to guide the one with wisdom, while others were infatuated to err. Thus a man and a nation should stand, while the Lord is their counsellor and their might.

But even these hopeful appearances were greatly frustrated through wine; yea through wine the prophets erred in vision, and the priests in judgment. Their feasts and public dinners led to excesses which cannot be named: and when drunkenness infects the first characters both in church and state, what can be expected but a cup of intoxication from the Lord. And who can read these sad omens of Israel’s fall, and not associate the idea of apprehension for his own county? I frankly confess, though I would fain banish the thought, the recurrence of fear constantly obtrudes. When I survey on a broad scale the splendour, the crimes, and the ruin of empires, a something says at the bottom of my heart, oh London London, thy day!… Ah, I check myself before I have said too much, or rashly obtruded on secret things which belong to God only. Like Israel we have line upon line, and precept upon precept; yet we remain unacquainted with God, and infatuated by a refuge of lies, and a fatal security. We dream of acquiring fortunes, of aggrandizing our families, and of living for ever to enjoy our wealth. We boast that there is no fear of dying, and no reality in the doctrine of future punishment, for with death we have an agreement. This fatal security is next to destruction, the last mark of God’s displeasure with a guilty people.

But when the overflowing scourge passes through the land, God provides a refuge for his flock. Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, &c. This rock is the Messiah, for the name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it, and are safe. His city on earth was a figure of the Jerusalem above, which is the mother of us all.

This rock is a tried stone, and a sure foundation. The patriarchs and prophets have trusted in him, and were not confounded: he who believes implicitly in him shall not make haste. This may be exemplified in Isaiah. When all Jerusalem was fainting with fear because of the Assyrians, he was calmly composing a song of triumph over them: chap. 25. In this glorious refuge, the saints shall be sheltered, and calmly see how God will disannul the covenant which drunkards and infidels boast of having made with death. Return to this glorious rest, and holy refuge, oh my soul. This sure foundation shall not give way like the sandy hopes of men. It was never yet shaken, though assailed by the gates of hell; but it shakes and removes all nations. All the rebels who have obstinately assaulted it have perished in their folly.

It rises by living stones to glory and perfection. Prophets and apostles are its secondary foundations, all gems of exquisite beauty, and of great value. Yea, all believers are living stones of this living temple. It is a catholic temple, and many nations shall go up there to worship. In a word, it shall never be moved, being the glory of the whole earth. What a happiness to be on a right foundation, and sheltered under Jehovah’s wings! It extends its circling arms, not of walls and towers, but of almighty strength, and everlasting love to the saints. Here, oh my soul, thou shalt look from the windows, and lofty turrets of thy Zion, on the men who boasted of being wise above what is written, and who called thee a fool for thy faith. They had a thousand schemes of security, but not in the Lord. They had a thousand refuges, but not in thy Zion. Now, thou seest them stretched on a bed which is too short, and wrapping themselves with a covering which is too narrow. Now the hail is come, and they have no shelter. Now the Assyrian deluge rolls, and they are washed away with the flood.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 28". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.