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Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah 28

Isaiah 28-31.— In the main these chapters belong to the period before Sennacherib’ s invasion in 701 (pp. 59, 71f.). Special prominence is given to the project of an alliance with Egypt, which was strenuously opposed by Isaiah but carried through in spite of him, though the attempt was made to keep it from his knowledge, a signal proof that his opposition was feared by its promoters. Several recent critics have regarded much in these chapters as post-exilic, in some cases on cogent, in others on more flimsy grounds. The transitions from gloom to radiance, from predictions of doom to glowing descriptions of the happy future, are in some cases very abrupt; the phraseology is sometimes non-Isaianic, and the ideas have more affinity with those in the post-exilic period than in the age of Isaiah. We must be on our guard, however, against pressing the argument from theological ideas too far, in view of the scantiness of the earlier prophetic literature now extant, and, remembering that Isaiah held the doctrine of the happy future as well as the doctrine of a terrible judgment, we should not too readily condemn the optimistic sections, especially when they are happy endings, as necessarily later insertions.

Verses 1-6

Isaiah 28. In Isaiah 28:1-4 Isaiah predicts the speedy overthrow of Samaria. The date is therefore not later than the year in which Samaria fell ( Isaiah 7:22). Apparently it was uttered before the siege began, as is suggested by the reference to the drunken revelling of the inhabitants. It may possibly be fixed after Hoshea had concluded his alliance with Egypt and revolted from Assyria and before Shalmaneser had actually taken steps to punish his defection (pp. 59, 70). Isaiah 28:5 f. seems to be a later addition. The rest of the chapter belongs in the main to c. 703. Probably Isaiah 28:7-13 and Isaiah 28:14-22 were originally independent oracles, but they seem to deal with the same circumstances. There is no valid reason for doubting the Isaianic origin of Isaiah 28:23-29, and it may quite well be a continuation of the preceding prophecies.

Isaiah 28:1-6 . The Doom of Samaria.— Samaria crowned the summit of a beautiful hill (p. 30), hence it is here described as the crown of pride of the drunkards of Ephraim. But there is also an allusion to the garlands worn by revellers. Just as they fade and droop in the hot atmosphere as the banquet goes on, so the gay city which crowns the rich valley will be destroyed. For Yahweh has the mighty Assyria for His instrument, which will come like a tempest or a flood. The crown, of which Ephraim’ s drunkards were so proud, shall be flung aside all withered, to be trampled under foot, and it shall vanish as quickly as the firstripe fig, a rare delicacy, scarcely in the hand before it is in the mouth. If 5f. belongs to this prophecy, Isaiah passes from the disaster to the blessedness which is to follow; then the crown in which the remnant will rejoice will not be the crown of a strong fortress or a drunkard’ s garland, but Yahweh Himself. He will inspire the judge with the true spirit of judgment, and the warriors with strength to drive the battle back to ( mg.) the gate. But apparently the verses mean that while Samaria is overthrown, righteous Judah will have Yahweh for her crown, and He will equip her with judgment and strength. But this is contrary to several expressions of Isaiah elsewhere.

Isaiah 28:4 . The figs were ripe in August, the firstripe figs in June.

Verses 7-22

Isaiah 28:7-22 . Jerusalem also is Threatened with Destruction.— But Jerusalem like Ephraim reels with intoxication, the priests and prophets especially. The prophet is not steady in his vision, the priest when pronouncing judgment has his faculties clouded by wine. Their revels are carried to disgusting excees. The scorners mock Isaiah: Is he talking to children that he goes over his lesson again and again with such wearisome monotony? Well, if the prophet’ s message will not satisfy them, Yahweh will speak to them in the foreign language of Assyria. They had refused to listen when He told them of the true rest, and so now He will speak to them with a wearisome monotony indeed, in strange-sounding words which they will not be able to treat with supercilious scorn, for they will be involved in utter ruin. The prophet now turns to the rulers, who scoff at his words, because they flatter themselves that they have secured immunity from disaster. Death itself is on their side, and will do them no harm; when the Assyrian scourge sweeps through, they will be sheltered by their policy of double dealing. But while the politicians are trusting in their flimsy refuge of lies, Yahweh is placing a real refuge in Zion, a well-tested stone for a foundation; he who believes will not give way. And Yahweh will deal with the scorners according to exact justice; He will test the quality of actions by judgment and righteousness, as a builder uses a line and plummet ( Isaiah 34:11) to estimate the correctness of a building. Then their covenant with death, their agreement with Sheol, will not stand, and the scourge will smite them down. Assyria will give them no respite, and in utter terror they will come to learn what the prophet’ s warnings meant. The politicians fancied they had made themselves secure and comfortable, but they will find that their arrangements are quite inadequate, and will place them in a very uneasy position. For Yahweh will strike as when David overthrew the Philistines ( 2 Samuel 5:20-25). Let them cease their scorning, for if they mock the prophet’ s warning, the bands of Assyria, already fastened upon them, will be fixed more firmly than ever. For the prophet has heard a sentence of decisive destruction from Yahweh’ s own lips.

Isaiah 28:10 . precept upon precept . . . line upon line: the words rhyme in the Heb.; perhaps they should be transliterated rather than translated, “ tsaw la-tsaw tsaw la-tsaw qaw la-qaw qaw la-qaw.” The meaning of the words is uncertain.

Isaiah 28:11 . In 1 Corinthians 14:21 this is applied to the “ tongues” in the Corinthian Church. The meaning, however, is that, since they reject the prophet’ s message as too childish, Yahweh will use the Assyrians to bring them to their senses. Their language will be hard enough to suit their fastidious desire for something more difficult. The best parallel is in Isaiah 8:5-7.

Isaiah 28:12 . Cf. Isaiah 30:15, the keynote of Isaiah’ s foreign policy.

Isaiah 28:15 . We have . . . agreement: a proverbial expression meaning “ we have secured immunity from all disaster.” Possibly some magical rites practised for this purpose are in mind. “ Death” is hardly to be explained as the fatal power of the Assyrians.— overflowing scourge: the Assyrian hosts, which rolled like a flood over Palestine. The mixed metaphor is curious. Duhm reads, “ the scourging scourge.”— a stone: this is variously interpreted as Yahweh Himself, Zion, the monarchy, the sanctuary, Yahweh’ s relation to Israel. The last is perhaps correct.— make haste: read “ give way.”

Isaiah 28:20 . Perhaps a proverb.

Verses 23-29

Isaiah 28:23-29 . The Husbandman Adapts his Methods to the Circumstances of Each Case.— This parable may perhaps not have been spoken to the same audience as Isaiah 28:7-22, but there is no valid reason for denying it to Isaiah. When the ploughman has finished, does he begin to plough over again? Of course not. He does not go on ploughing indefinitely; he levels the surface of the ground, and then sows, putting each kind of seed in the soil adapted for it. For so God has taught him. In threshing, he uses the measures suited to each particular kind of grain. The tenderer seeds are beaten with a rod, for they would be crushed or spoiled by large or sharp implements. Bread corn is not crushed; it is threshed, it is true, with a cart wheel, but, once it has been threshed, the husbandman does not keep on driving the cart over it. Such wisdom is inspired by Yahweh, and thus, the prophet suggests, Yahweh will deal with His people; He will temper the severity of His methods to suit each case, and even where harsher methods have to be used, He does not persist in them to the point of extermination.

Isaiah 28:25 . fitches: read mg.

Isaiah 28:28 . Read mg.

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Isaiah 28". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.