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Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Isaiah 28


The drunkenness of Ephraim bringeth destruction on them: a remnant shall be honourable, Isaiah 28:1-8.

Their unteachableness, Isaiah 28:9-13.

Their mock at God’s threatenings, Isaiah 28:14,Isaiah 28:15.

Christ prophesied for a sure foundation to believers, Isaiah 28:16,

and destruction to the mockers, who are exhorted to amend, Isaiah 28:17-22.

God’s providence, its work and seasons towards the church set out by a husbandman, Isaiah 28:23-29.

Verse 1

The crown of pride; that proud and insolent kingdom; for the crown is oft put for the kingdom, as Jeremiah 13:18, &c.

The drunkards; either,

1. Metaphorically, drunk with proud self-confidence, and security, and prosperity; or rather,

2. Properly, by comparing this with Isaiah 28:7; Hosea 7:5; Amos 6:6, where the Israelites are taxed with this sin. For having many and excellent vines among them, they were exposed to this sin, and frequently overcome by it.

Of Ephraim; of the kingdom of the ten tribes; which is commonly called. by the name of Ephraim, as hath been oft noted before.

Whose glorious beauty is a fading flower; whose glory and greatness shall suddenly wither and perish.

Which are; which proud and drunken Israelites have their common and chief abode. Or, which is, i.e. which flower is-or which beauty or glory is.

The head of the fat valleys either,

1. In Samaria, which might well be called the head, as being seated upon a mountain; and the head of the kingdom, and the head of the fat valleys, because it was encompassed with many fat and rich valleys. Or,

2. Upon the chief or choicest (as this word signifies, Exodus 30:23; Song of Solomon 4:14; Isaiah 9:14,Isaiah 9:15, and elsewhere) of the fat or rich valleys; which they made occasions and instruments of luxury.

That are overcome, Heb. that are smitten, or broken, or overthrown, or knocked down; all which significations of this word fitly agree to drunkards.

Verse 2

The Lord hath, to wit, at his command, prepared and ready to execute his judgments,

a mighty and strong one; the king of Assyria.

Shall cast down; understand it, the crown of pride; or them, the drunkards of Ephraim.

With the hand; or, by his hand; either by that king’s force or strong hand; or by the hand of God, which shall strengthen and succeed him in this work.

Verse 3

The expression is emphatical; the crown which was upon their own heads shall be trodden under the feet of others; and they, whose drunkenness made them stagger and fall to the ground, shall be trodden down there.

Verse 4

As the hasty fruit; which coming before the season, and before other fruits, is most acceptable; which as soon as a man sees he covets it, and plucks it off, yet doth not long enjoy it, but through greediness devours it almost as soon as he can get it into his hand. And so shall it be with Ephraim’s glory, which his enemies, as soon as they observe, shall covet and spoil, and devour it greedily, and with delight.

Verse 5

In that day; when the kingdom of Israel shall be utterly destroyed.

For a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty; God shall give them eminent glory and beauty. Unto the residue of his people; unto the kingdom of Judah, who shall continue in their own country, when Israel is carried into captivity.

Verse 6

He explains how, or wherein, God would glorify and beautify them, even by giving wisdom to their rulers, and courage to their soldiers; which two things contribute much to the strength, and safety, and glory of a nation.

To them that turn the battle to the gate; to their warriors; whom he describeth by this phrase, to intimate that their valour should be crowned with success, and that they should not only drive their enemies from their own gates and land, but should pursue them into their own lands, and besiege them in their own cities, which Hezekiah did; 2 Kings 18:8.

Verse 7

But, alas! Judah is guilty of the same sins with Israel, and therefore they also must expect the same calamities; of which he speaks afterward. They run into the same excess of wine and strong drink, whereby they besot themselves, and fall into many errors and miscarriages, both in sacred and civil things. The many emphatical phrases and repetitions of the same thing in other words, in this verse, seem to evince that he here speaks of drunkenness, properly so called, although he afterward chargeth them with ignorance, and error, and stupidity; which also were the companions, and in part the effects, of that sin.

The priest, to whom strong drink was expressly forbidden in the time of their sacred ministrations, lest they should thereby be led into errors in their work, Leviticus 10:9,Leviticus 10:10.

The prophet; the teachers, who should have been patterns of sobriety to the people, and to whom sobriety was absolutely necessary for the right discharge of their office.

Have erred in their conversation, and in their holy administrations.

They are swallowed up; they are, as we say, drowned in it; their senses and reason are swallowed up and lost in it. They design only to swallow it, but indeed are swallowed up by it.

They err in vision; the prophets miscarry in their sacred employment of prophesying or teaching, which is called vision, Proverbs 29:18, and elsewhere.

They stumble in judgment; the priests mistake in pronouncing the sentence of the law, which was their duty, Deuteronomy 17:9-11.

Verse 8

All tables; at which the priests, and prophets, and other Jews did eat and drink. They hardly made one sober meal; drunkenness was their daily practice.

No place; no table, or no part of the table; no, not so much as the holy places, in which the priests did frequently eat their meals.

Verse 9

Whom shall he, to wit, the teacher, which is easily understood out of the following verb; either God, or his prophets, or ministers;

teach knowledge? who is there among this people that are capable and willing to be taught the good knowledge of God? A minister may as soon teach a young child as these men.

Verse 10

Precept must be upon precept; they must be taught, like little children, slowly, and by leisure; the same things being oft repeated, because of their great dulness.

Line upon line; one line of the book after another, as children are taught to read.

Verse 11

For; or, therefore, as this particle is oft used. For this seems to be the punishment of their dulness.

With stammering lips; either,

1. In way of condescension, as mothers and nurses teach children, lisping and stammering with them. Or,

2. In way of judgment; which suits best with the next clause.

And another tongue; by people of a strange language, whom he shall bring among them, and into whose power he shall deliver them; which is a great aggravation of their misery: see Deuteronomy 28:49; Jeremiah 5:15; Ezekiel 3:5.

Will he speak to this people: seeing they will not hear him speaking by his prophets and ministers, in their own language, they shall hear their enemies speaking to them in a strange and rough language.

Verse 12

To whom he said, to which people the Lord, by his minister, said,

This, this doctrine or precept, as it is expressed, Isaiah 28:9,Isaiah 28:10, or the word of the Lord, as it follows, Isaiah 28:13, is the rest; the only way, in the observation of which you will find rest and satisfaction.

Cause the weary to rest, Heb. cause the weary (understand either soul or country) rest. As rest is offered to you by the prophets in God’s name, do you embrace it; which is to be done by hearkening to God’s word, as appears by the following clauses. So shall this people, which hath been so oft and so long wearied and harassed by great and manifold calamities, find rest and peace.

Yet they would not hear; they are wilfully ignorant, and obstinately refused the very means of instruction.

Verse 13

The sense of the words thus rendered may be this, They spake of God’s word with scorn and contempt, repeating the prophet’s words in a scoffing manner, and with a stammering and ridiculous tone, saying, Precept upon precept, &c.; as if they had said, It seems the prophet takes us to be mere children, that need to be taught our first rudiments, and that but slowly. That these were scornful men. and mockers is affirmed, Isaiah 28:14,Isaiah 28:22; and as scoffers frequently catch the words out of other men’s mouths, and use them in way of derision, so it may be thought they did with the prophet’s words. But the words may be, and by divers learned men are, rendered a little otherwise;

And the word of the Lord shall be unto them precept upon precept, &c. As this method hath been used by them, and was altogether necessary for them; so it still is, and for the future shall be. As they were children in understanding, they shall still continue to be such; they shall be ever learning, and never come to the knowledge of the truth; as they formerly would not, so now they shall not, profit by the word; and their sin shall be their punishment. And this seems to suit with the following clause, which notes the dreadful design and effect of that judicial blindness,

that they may or might go and fall backward, & c.

That they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken: according to the former, which is our translation, this clause notes only the event or consequent of their sin; according to the latter, it notes the judgment of God designed and inflicted for it; that God’s word being so horribly abused by them, might be an occasion at which they might stumble and fall, and that backward, which is the worst and most dangerous way of falling; and so be broken to pieces, or by which they might be snared and taken.

Verse 14

Ye scornful men; which make a mock at sin, and at God’s words and threatenings; and doubt not by your witty devices, and by your wicked practices, to escape God’s judgments, of which we read in the next verse.

Verse 15

Because ye have said in your hearts,

We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; we are as safe from death, and hell, or the grave, as if they had entered into covenant with us, that they would not invade us. The word rendered hell most commonly signifies the grave; which also seems most proper in this place, that so the same thing may be repeated in. other words, as is most usual in prophetical writings.

The overflowing scourge; the judgment of God, Which is called a scourge, for its sharpness and severity; and overflowing, for its universality; two differing metaphors being joined together; which is not unusual, both in Scripture and in other authors. Shall pass through, to wit, the land.

We have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves; we shall secure ourselves by lying and dissimulation, by compliance with our enemies, and with their religion too, if it be necessary, and many crafty devices. Or by lies and falsehood he means their riches and strength, to which they trusted, to which he giveth these titles, not that they called or thought them such, but that he might signify what they really were, and would appear to be: See Poole "Proverbs 1:11".

Verse 16

Therefore: the coherence is something obscure and difficult. It may be made either,

1. Thus, Therefore I will bring most terrible judgments upon you; which are fully expressed, Isaiah 28:17-21. But before he comes to the commination, to which therefore properly belongs, he first propoundeth a comfortable promise concerning the sending of the Messiah, partly for the support of believers, who are apt to tremble at God’s word, and might otherwise be apt to despond at the prediction of such dreadful things; and partly to aggravate their misery, by comparing it with the safety and happiness which the godly and believing Jews, whom they despised and mocked, should find in Zion; and by signifying that that blessed and sure Foundation laid in Zion should yield them no support nor benefit, nor secure them from the vengeance of God. Or,

2. Thus, Because your refuges are so mean, and vain, and deceitful; therefore I will direct you to a better and surer Refuge, which will never fail those that trust to it, which God hath made in Zion. But if you shall despise and reject that Refuge, which I now offer to you all, if you will believe, then know that I will lay judgment to the line, &c., as it follows, Isaiah 28:17. And this seems to me to be the most natural and easy connexion.

I lay; I have purposed and promised it, and will, in the fulness of time, actually perform it.

In Zion in my church, which is commonly called Zion; and in Jerusalem, where this Stone shall be first laid, which afterwards spread further, and filled the whole earth, as it is said of it, Daniel 2:35. For a Foundation, upon which I will build my church, consisting both of Jews and Gentiles, the Foundation of all the hopes, and comfort, and happiness of my people; the Foundation of my covenant made with my church, and of all my promises.

A Stone; not Hezekiah, but the Messiah, as appears,

1. From those Scriptures of the Old Testament, in which Christ is called a Stone, as Psalms 118:22; Isaiah 8:14; Daniel 2:34,Daniel 2:35,Daniel 2:45; Zechariah 3:9.

2. From the New Testament, where this text is directly expounded of Christ, as Romans 9:32,Romans 9:33; 1 Peter 2:4.

3. From the last clause, wherein he requires faith in this Stone, which is not to be given to any mere man, Jeremiah 17:5; and wherein he implies that this Stone was not yet come, nor to come speedily, into the world; whereas Hezekiah was king at the time of this prophecy.

4. From the usual practice of the prophets, and especially of this prophet, which is to comfort and fortify God’s people against the dread of approaching calamities by that great and fundamental promise of the Messiah, in whom alone all other promises are yea and amen; whereof we have seen some instances already, and shall see more hereafter.

A tried Stone; which I have tried, and approved as every way sufficient to be a Corner-stone, and a Foundation-stone. Such stones in buildings use to be chosen with care, and to be thoroughly examined by the builder.

Precious; giving not only strength, but beauty and glory, to the building, as corner-stones frequently do, Psalms 144:12.

Corner-stone; uniting the several parts of the building together, making Ephraim and Judah, now sadly divided, one stick, Ezekiel 37:19,Ezekiel 37:24; and Jews and Gentiles, now implacable enemies, one church and people, Ephesians 2:14, &c.

A sure Foundation, upon whom you may securely rest; one who will not fail nor deceive you, as your lying refuges will.

He that believeth, to wit, this promise, or in this Stone, as it is explained, 1 Peter 2:6,

shall not make haste; shall not make more haste than he ought, or, as we say, more haste than good speed; shall not hastily and greedily catch at any way of escaping his danger, whether it be right or wrong, but shall patiently wait upon God in his way till he deliver him. Withal, here is a plain intimation that the mercy here promised was not to be given presently, but after some considerable time; and therefore that they should quietly and patiently submit to God’s will under their present difficulties, and expect the accomplishment of it in God’s due time: compare Haggai 2:3. The word here rendered make haste, is by the seventy interpreters rendered be confounded, whom the apostles follow, Romans 9:33; 1 Peter 2:6, either because they thought it most convenient, in a matter where the difference was not considerable, to follow that translation which was most used and best understood by the generality of Jewish and Gentile Christians; or because the same word hath both these significations in the Eastern languages, as the most learned and worthy Dr. Pocock hath proved; or because the one follows upon the other, and precipitation or haste commonly exposeth men to shame and confusion; which also is implied in the following verses, wherein the dreadful judgments of God are denounced against those who should not believe, and would make haste to prevent or remove their dangers by any means whatsoever.

Verse 17

Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet; I will execute just judgment, as it were by a line and plummet annexed to it, i.e. with exactness and care. And this may be understood either,

1. That God would so order and settle things in his church, that justice and judgment should prevail, and not iniquity, as hitherto it had done; or rather,

2. That as God would build up and preserve all believers upon that Foundation-stone, so he would severely punish and utterly destroy all those unbelieving Jews who should reject that Stone. For

the line and

plummet, or the plumb-line, was not only used in erecting buildings, but also in pulling them down; those parts of the building being thus marked out which were to be demolished; and therefore is used in Scripture to signify the destruction of a place or people, as is evident from 2 Kings 21:13; Isaiah 34:11; Lamentations 2:8; Amos 7:7,Amos 7:8. And this sense agrees best with the following clause and verse.

The hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding-place; my judgments, which in Scripture are compared to a storm of hail or rain, shall discover the vanity of all your crafty and wicked devices, and shall sweep you away with the besom of destruction in spite of them.

Verse 18

Disannulled; made void, or of none effect; it shall stand you in no stead.

Ye shall be trodden down by it; which you flattered yourselves that it should not come unto you, Isaiah 28:15.

Verse 19

From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you; as soon as this overflowing scourge or judgment shall go forth from me into the land, it shall assuredly, and with the first, take or seize upon you scoffers, or carry you away, which agrees well, both with the Hebrew word, which is frequently taken in that sense, and with the metaphor of a flood, which is here used. Morning by morning it shall pass over; it shall not only come to you, contrary to your presumption, Isaiah 28:15, but it shall abide upon you; and when it hath passed over you, it shall return again to you, morning after morning; and shall follow you day and night, without giving you the least respite.

It shall be a vexation only to understand the report; so dreadful shall the judgment be, that it shall strike you with great honor when you only hear the rumour of its approach, or of the sad effects of it upon other persons or parts of the land.

Verse 20

For those lying refuges to which you trust will not be able to give you that protection and comfort which you expect from them, no more than a man can stretch himself (as these luxurious Israelites used to do, Amos 6:4) upon a bed which is too narrow for him, or wrap or keep himself warm with a covering or bed-clothes which are not large enough for him.

Verse 21

Shall rise up, to act and fight against you; as he is said to sit still, when he doth forbear to act.

Mount Perazim where he fought against the Philistines, 2 Samuel 5:20. The valley of Gibeon; where he fought against the Canaanites, Joshua 10:10, &c, and afterwards against the Philistines, 1 Chronicles 14:16.

His strange work; the execution of his judgment against Israel, which he calleth his strange work, to intimate either,

1. That God would punish them not with ordinary punishments, but in a most dreadful, and singular, and extraordinary manner; such a judgment being called

a marvellous work, Isaiah 29:14, although the Hebrew word there used be not the same with this, but of a much differing signification. Or rather,

2. That this work of bringing total and irrecoverable destruction upon Israel was contrary to the benignity of his own nature, and to the usual way of dealing with his people, whom he used and delighted to protect, and spare, and bless; and whom, even when he is angry with them, and punisheth them, he handleth more gently than he doth other persons, in judgment remembering mercy to them, as was noted, Isaiah 27:7,Isaiah 27:8; see also Isaiah 26:11.

Verse 22

Be ye not mockers; for your own sakes do not make a mock of God’s word and threatenings, as you use to do.

Lest your bands be made strong; lest thereby you make the judgments of God, which are oft compared to bands, as Psalms 66:11; Psalms 73:4, and elsewhere, more sure and unavoidable, and more severe and terrible, as bands are when they are tied faster and more strongly upon a prisoner.

I have heard from the Lord God of hosts a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth; God hath assured me that he will utterly root out and destroy the people of Israel; as indeed he did in Hezekiah’s reign.

Verse 23

Observe what I say, and do you judge if it be not reasonable.

Verse 24

Doth the ploughman plough all day to sow? the ploughman doth not spend all his time in ploughing the ground, in order to the sowing it, or, as it follows, in opening it, and breaking its clods; but he hath several times for several works, a time for ploughing, and a time for sowing and harrowing, and a time for reaping, and a time for threshing, or beating, and bruising the corn for his own use; which wisdom God hath put into him. This is the sum of the similitude propounded here and in the following verses; the design and meaning whereof seems to be this, to teach them that God had his times and seasons for several works, and that the methods of his providence were various at several times, and towards several persons or people; and therefore that those scoffing Israelites were guilty of great folly, in flattering themselves, and despising God’s threatenings, because of God’s long patience towards them, and because of their present impunity and prosperity; for God would certainly and speedily take a time to thresh and break them with his judgments, as at present he ploughed and harrowed them, and so prepared them for it by his threatenings.

Doth he open; understand, all day, or continually, out of the foregoing clause.

And break the clods of his ground; which they used to do with a kind of harrow, or other proper instrument. See Jeremiah 4:3; Hosea 10:11,Hosea 10:12

Verse 25

Made plain the face thereof, by breaking the clods, which made it ragged and uneven.

The principal wheat; either,

1. The wheat, which is the principal or chief of all these grains; or,

2. The best wheat, which he prudently chooseth for seed.

The appointed barley; that proportion of barley which he appointed. Or, as others, the marked barley; or, the choice barley, which they laid aside in a sack for seed; and therefore set aside with a peculiar mark upon it. In their place, Heb. in his border; each seed in a several and proper place.

Verse 26

The sense of the words thus rendered is this, All this he performeth by that discretion which God hath put into him; and therefore be assured that God will order all his affairs with judgment, and will in due season execute the punishments which now he threatens, and will perfect his own works. But the words by some are rendered otherwise.

And he beateth it out (as this word may be rendered, 1 Kings 12:11; Proverbs 19:18; Proverbs 29:17) in such sort as his God doth teach him; in a discreet manner, which being generally mentioned here, is particularly described in the following verse.

Verse 27

A threshing instrument; which then and there was made like a sled shod with iron, which was drawn by men or beasts over the sheafs of corn, to bruise them, and beat the grain out of them.

A cart wheel; a lesser and lower wheel than a cart wheel, but of the same form, upon which possibly the threshing instrument was drawn.

The fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod, as being unable to bear harder usage.

Verse 28

Bread corn is bruised with a threshing instrument, by comparing this with the foregoing verse and the following words.

Because; or rather, but, or nevertheless, as the word is frequently used. The sense is, The husbandman doth indeed thresh the bread corn, but he doth it with moderation, and only for a time, not for ever.

Nor break it; understand, for ever, out of the foregoing clause, as is usual in Scripture.

With his horsemen; which governed the horse or horses that drew the threshing instrument. Or, with horses; for it is evident, and hath been observed before, that this Hebrew word signifies horses as well as horsemen. And this was another way of threshing out the corn, by driving horses, or other cattle, over the sheaves to tread it out; of which see Deuteronomy 25:4; Micah 4:13.

Verse 29

This also; this part of the husbandman’s discretion, expressed Isaiah 28:27,Isaiah 28:28, as well as that expressed Isaiah 28:24,Isaiah 28:25.

Which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working: these words contain the application of the similitude. The husbandman manageth all his affairs with common discretion; but God governs the world and his church with wonderful wisdom; he is great and marvellous, both in the design or contrivance of things, and in the execution of them.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 28". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.