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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Isaiah 28

 

 

Verses 1-13

THIRD SUBDIVISION

THE RELATION OF ISRAEL TO ASSYRIA IN THE TIME OF KING HEZEKIAH

Isaiah 28-33

As Isaiah 7-12, resting on the facts related Isaiah 7:1 sqq, contain the first great cycle of Isaiah’s prophecies, so Isaiah 28-33, which have for their basis the facts narrated in the historical appendix (36–37) contain the second great cycle. Chapters7–12depict the relation of Israel to Assyria in the time of Ahaz. Our chapters set forth this relation as it stood in the time of Hezekiah. As the sin of Ahaz consisted in his seeking protection against Aram-Ephraim not in the Lord, but in Assyria, so Hezekiah erred in seeking protection against Assyria, that had become a scourge through Ahab’s guilt, not in the Lord, but in Egypt. Hezekiah, the otherwise pious king, must have been weak enough to yield so far to the influence of those around him, as to sanction a policy which aimed at concluding a league with Egypt, as the infallible means of deliverance. Isaiah now in Isaiah 28-33assails with all his might this Egyptian alliance, which the government of Hezekiah, knowing it to be contrary to the will of God, was seeking behind the back of the Prophet to bring about with all diplomatic skill, and at great sacrifices of money and property. He follows it from its rise through all stages of its development. He leads us, chap28, to its source. The Prophet assigns as its source a swamp, if we may employ a figure; the swamp of low carnal passion for drink. From this swamp the policy had already issued which Ephraim was pursuing to its destruction. From this swamp too the disposition was produced which led Judah to contemn the admonitions of the Lord, and to place wicked confidence in its own carnal prudence ( Isaiah 28:14 sq.). in chap29 the Prophet lets it be clearly perceived that the secret plotting behind his back did not remain concealed from him ( Isaiah 29:15 sqq.). But it is not till chap30 that he plainly declares ( Isaiah 28:2 sqq.) that those secret machinations were with a view to an alliance with Egypt. But he certifies at once by a written declaration ( Isaiah 28:8), that this Egyptian alliance will be of no benefit. The Lord only will deliver Israel. He will certainly do it. In chaps31,32, which belong together, the Lord proclaims the vanity of Egyptian succor. Assyria will not fall by the sword of a man ( Isaiah 31:8), but the Lord will overturn it; and to this promise of the impending deliverance of Israel from Assyrian oppression the Prophet immediately attaches a glorious picture of the future, which, while it praises the truly noble disposition of those high in rank in the Messianic time, is very severe on the existing aristocracy, composed of the nobility and of public functionaries; and at the same time (as in chap3) addresses with an impressive warning the women who have great influence, and occupy high positions. Finally (33), the Prophet speaks directly to Assyria in order to announce its speedy and sudden destruction. This last chapter contains matter which is for the most part of a joyful character for Israel. It has a dark side for the people of the Lord only so far as it sets forth that the predicted glorious deliverance will make a disagreeable impression on the sinners in Israel, who desire to know nothing of Jehovah. Although therefore chaps28–33are arranged according to a certain plan, they do not, form one connected speech. There are rather five, speeches delivered at different times, each of which in itself forms a whole, while each presents a complete picture of what the Prophet beheld, embracing threatening and promise. We have hers to remark that the Prophet always draws the most remote Messianic future into the sphere of his vision, though he does so every time from a different point of view. The first speech must have been composed before the destruction of Samaria (722 B.C.), for it addresses Samaria as yet standing. Nay, more, as Samaria is seen flourishing in all her pride, and her inhabitants indulge their evil passions without fear or restraint, the speech must have been written before the commencement of the three years’ siege of Samaria by the Assyrians, say in the year725, and therefore in the commencement of the reign of Hezekiah. Chap29 belongs to a later time. In Isaiah 28:1 the Prophet declares that the city of Jerusalem should be shut in. He can only mean that isolation of the city in regard to which Sennacherib states in his inscriptions (comp. Schrader, pp176,187), that he had enclosed Hezekiah “as a bird in a cage.” This event, according to the usual chronology, happened in the year714, while according to the Assyrian monuments (comp. Schrader, Cuneiform Inscriptions, p299, and our Introduction to chaps, 36–39), it took place in the year700. As this difference, as we will attempt to show in the introduction to chaps, 36–39, was occasioned by a misunderstanding of later writers, there being originally no disagreement between the biblical and Assyrian chronology, but both originally agreeing in referring the expedition of Sennacherib against Phenicia, Egypt and Judah to the 28 th year of Hezekiah, i. e., the year700 B.C, the speech contained in chapter29 would consequently have been delivered about the year702. We have an aid to fixing the date in the words Isaiah 28:1 : “Add year to year, let the festivals complete their round.” According to our exposition the Prophet intimates by these words that after the expiration of the current year another year should complete its revolution, and then the hour of decision should arrive. That at this time the Egyptian alliance had been already, as is hinted in Isaiah 28:15, arranged to a considerable extent in secret consultations, is extremely probable. And when we find, Isaiah 30:2 sqq, the Jewish Ambassadors already on the way to Egypt, and hear, Isaiah 31:1 sqq, the futility of Egyptian help again emphatically asserted, and then read Isaiah 32:10 that, after an indefinite number of days above a year had expired, Jerusalem should be cut off from its fields and vineyards by the enemy, we may draw from all this the conclusion, that chaps, 30–32were produced not long after chap29. But when we read, Isaiah 33:7 sqq, that the ambassadors of peace sent by Hezekiah return in sorrow, because the Assyrian king in addition to the great ransom ( 2 Kings 18:14 sqq.) demands the surrender of the city itself; when that passage describes the occupation of the surrounding country by the enemy, in consequence of which Judah ( Isaiah 33:23) is compared with a ship whose ropes no longer keep the mast firm, when at last the Lord, Isaiah 33:10, exclaims “Now will I rise; now will I be exalted; now will I lift up myself,” we shall not err in assuming that this prophecy belongs to the time immediately after the return of those ambassadors of peace, and was therefore uttered shortly before the summons given to Hezekiah by Rabshakeh. Each of the five speeches of our prophetic cycle begins with הוי. From the absence of הוֹי at the beginning of chap32, as well as from the tenor of this chapter, we see that it forms with chap31 one whole. הוי is found once, Isaiah 29:15, even in the middle of the discourse.

That Isaiah is the writer of these speeches is almost universally admitted. The doubts which were raised by Eichhorn in regard to separate parts, were seen by Gesenius to be unfounded (Comment. I:2, p826); and Ewald’s conjecture as to the composition of chap 33 by a disciple of Isaiah, has been sufficiently refuted by Knobel.

We have not in the section before us one organic discourse, but five speeches, which from the initial word common to all of them we shall designate as first woe, second woe, etc.

____________________

I.—THE FIRST WOE

Chap28

1. SWAMP EPHRAIM, SWAMP JUDAH, AND WHAT ARISES OUT OF THE SWAMPS

Isaiah 28:1-13

1 Woe to the crown of pride, [FN1]to the drunkards of Ephraim,

Whose glorious beauty is a fading flower,

Which are on the head of the fat [FN2]valleys

Of them that are [FN3]overcome with wine.

2 Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one;

Which, as a tempest of hail,

And a destroying storm,

As a flood of mighty waters overflowing,

Shall cast down to the earth with the hand.

3 The crown of pride, [FN4]the drunkards of Ephraim,

Shall be trodden [FN5]under feet.

4 And the glorious beauty which is on the head of the fat valley,

Shall be a fading flower,

And as the [FN6]hasty fruit before the summer;

Which, when he that looketh upon it seeth,

While it is yet in his hand he [FN7]eateth it up.

5 In that day shall the Lord of hosts be for a crown of glory,

And for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people,

6 And for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment,

And for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate.

7 But they also have erred through wine,

And through strong drink are out of the way;

The priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink;

They are swallowed up of wine,

They are out of the way through strong drink;

They err in vision, they stumble in judgment.

8 For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness,

So that there is no place clean.

9 Whom shall he teach knowledge?

And whom shall he make to understand [FN8]doctrine?

Them that are weaned from the [FN9]milk,

And drawn from the [FN10] breasts.

10 For precept [FN11]must be. upon precept, precept upon precept;

Line upon line, line upon line;

Here a little, and there a little:

11 For with [FN12]stammering lips and another tongue,

[FN13]Will he speak to this people.

12 To whom he said,

This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest;

And this is the refreshing;

Yet they would not hear.

13 But the word of the Lord [FN14]was unto them

Precept upon precept, precept upon precept;

Line upon line, line upon line;

Here a little, and there a little;

That they might go, and fall backward,

And be broken, and snared, and taken.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

[We prefer to say with Delitzsch that שְׁמָנִים, although standing connected with what follows, has the absolute form, the logical relation carrying it over the syntax. Comp. Isaiah 32:13; 1 Chronicles 9:13.—D. M.].

Isaiah 28:3. The verb תרמסנה in the plural has no expressed subject. This is not necessary. For in the Hebrew language an ideal subject can be readily understood. The proud crown is Samaria. But this one great crown includes many smaller ones. The plural can be referred to this ideal multitude (comp. Naegelsbach’s Gr., S61, 1). [It appears to me simpler to say with the Jewish grammarians that the word crown is to be taken here as a collective noun.—D. M.]. In Isaiah 28:4 צִיצַת looks as a hint for the right understanding of נֹכֵל. We have already remarked on Isaiah 28:1 that נֹכֵלis to be taken as a substantive. If this could be seen from the mere grammatical construction, and from the parallel places, Isaiah 1:30; Isaiah 34:4, it is obvious from the word ציצת. For we clearly perceive from this nominal form which occurs only here, and which is certainly intentionally chosen, that נֹכֵל is to be regarded as a substantive, and as a coordinate member of the series of genitives.

Isaiah 28:7. כּוק, Kal, only here. Besides only Hiphil Isaiah 58:10. כּליליה (accus. loci) only here. Comp. Isaiah 16:3; Job 31:28.

Isaiah 28:9. On the preposition between the governing and the governed noun, see Naegelsbach’s Gr., § 63, 4 c.

Isa 28:12. אָבוּא for אָכוּ comp. Olshausen’s Gr., §226, b, p. 449 sq.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1Samaria is still standing in proud pomp, but sunk in the vice of drunkenness. Therefore the Prophet proclaims a woe upon it ( Isaiah 28:1), and announces that a mighty foe as a tempest will cast it to the ground ( Isaiah 28:2), and tread the proud crown under foot ( Isaiah 28:3). Then shall this glorious but already decaying flower quickly disappear, as an early fig which a man no sooner sees than he eats it (ver, 4). Not till then is the moment come when the Lord Himself will be to the remnant of His people for an adorning crown, and for a guiding spirit in judgment, and for strength in war ( Isaiah 28:5-6). with Jerusalem it stands no better than with Samaria, There, too, the vice of drunkenness prevails fearfully, Even priests and prophets are under its sway. Even in the sacred moments of prophetic vision [?] and of judging, its effects are visible on them; the holy places are polluted by their vomiting ( Isaiah 28:7-8). And, moreover, they mock the servant of Jehovah who warns them: Whom does he think that he has before him? Are they mere children ? ( Isaiah 28:9). We hear from him continually trifling moral preaching, broken into little bits, which are scoffingly imitated by short, oft-repeated words, which resemble stammering sounds ( Isaiah 28:10). For this they will have to hear the stammering sounds of a foreign nation of barbarous speech ( Isaiah 28:11). Because they would not hear the word of Jehovah which offered rest and comfort to the weary ( Isaiah 28:12), the will of God will be made known to them in words, which in sound resemble their scornful words, but in import are short, sharp words of command. That will of God has this significance, that they will be ensnared in inextricable ruin.

2 Woe——eateth it up.

Isaiah 28:1-4. It is no honor for Jerusalem, when it is said to her that she walks in the footsteps of Samaria. Jerusalem should be ashamed of this likeness, and seek to remove it. This Isaiah, doubtless, the reason why the Prophet first directs his look to Samaria in order to describe the there prevailing vice of literal (and in connection therewith of spiritual) drunkenness, and to threaten it with punishment from God. Thence his look passes over to Jerusalem. Micah had before Isaiah done just the same. In chap. Isaiah 1:6 sq. Micah first of all threatens Samaria with judgment, although “Judah and Jerusalem were the proper objects of his mission” (comp. Caspari,Micah the Morasthite, p105). Isaiah himself had once already ( Isaiah 8:6 sqq.) announced that the storm of judgment would first come upon Ephraim, and thence spread into the territory of Judah. This way of the judgments of God is not determined simply by the geographic situation. There is also a deeper reason when Jerusalem goes in the ways of Samaria. On הוי comp. on Isaiah 1:4. עטרת besides only Isaiah 62:3. On גאות comp. on Isaiah 26:10. צִיץ stands in conjunction with נבל besides only Isaiah 40:7-8. On צבי תכּארתו comp. on Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 13:19. This proud crown of Ephraim, this flower of his glorious ornament which lay upon the head of the valley of fatnesses (comp. Isaiah 5:1; Isaiah 25:6) i. e., on a beautiful hill commanding a fertile valley, is Samaria ( 1 Kings 16:24; Amos 4:1; Amos 6:1). חֲלוּמֵי יַיִן (Comp. Isaiah 16:8) are vino obtusi, percussi. Compare Qui se percussit flore Liberi, Plant. Cas3, 5, 16; multo percussus tempora Baccho, Tib1, 2, 3; mero saucius Mart, 3, 6, 8; οἰνοπλήξ, οἰνόπληκτος, etc. Two images are here blended: namely, that Samaria is the crown of the hill, and the crown or garland on the head of the Ephraimites. The accumulation of predicates shows off the vain-glorious pride of the Ephraimites; and at the same time it is intimated by ציץ נכל and על ראש חלומי ייו that this garland, this crown will not endure long. For garland is withered, and the crown totters upon the head of the drunkards. For the avenger of this drunken pride is already prepared. The Lord has him at hand ( Isaiah 2:12), He is the Assyrian. He will overturn to the ground ( Amos 5:7) Ephraim’s glory with his hand (ביד stands over against the following כרגלים), as a storm of hail ( Isaiah 25:4; Isaiah 30:30), as a shower of destruction (שׂער and קטב only here in Isaiah), as the rushing of mighty waterfloods (כַּבִּיר only Job 8:2; Job 15:10; Job 31:25; Job 34:17; Job 34:24; Job 36:5 bis and Isaiah 10:13; Isaiah 16:14; Isaiah 17:12, and in this place; שׁטף, Isaiah 28:15; Isaiah 28:17-18; Isaiah 8:7 sq, 10, 22; Isaiah 30:28; Isaiah 43:2; Isaiah 66:12). The meaning is that Ephraim, when standing, shall be dashed to the ground with the hand; when lying, shall be trodden with the feet. Isaiah 28:4. The flower of the fading one is like the expression הַקָּטָןכְּלֵי, Isaiah 22:24. This flower will be destroyed as quietly as an early fig, which is no sooner seen than it is eaten off-hand by him who discovers it. Such a dainty morsel (comp. Isaiah 9:10) is not laid by, as the other fruits which ripen at the usual time, which are afterwards eaten at table out of the dish or off the plate. This is the meaning of בעודה. The intentionally lengthened sentence יראה הראה אותה paints how the inquiring look passes slowly and gradually over the tree. The Prophet predicts not a hasty capture of the city (Samaria, as is known, did not fall till after a siege of three years, 2 Kings 17:5; Schrader,The Cuneiform Inscriptions and the O.T., p157 sqq.), but a change of affairs in general, which should take place in a surprisingly brief time, considering the proud security that then prevailed. If our prophecy was delivered in one of the first years of Hezekiah, it was fulfilled in such a manner that four or five years later a kingdom of Israel was no longer in existence. Of this no one could have had a presentiment when the Prophet uttered these words.

3 In that day——to the gate.

Isaiah 28:5-6. It is self-evident that ביום הוא is again to be taken as a prophetic date, which is not to be judged according to the ordinary human measure. It simply intimates that when Ephraim has lost the deceptive earthly crown, Jehovah will take the place of it. Judgment must make it possible for the Lord to assume the place at the head of His people which belongs to Him. This has virtually and in principle taken place, as soon as judgment has done its work. But when and how this coronation will be outwardly exhibited, is known to God only. But although it should not happen till after thousands of years, still the word of the Lord is true, and faith may console itself with it in patience. שׁאר עמו is to be referred neither to the Israelites left in the land after the carrying away of the ten tribes, nor to the tribes of the kingdom of Judah, but to the total remnant primarily of Israel, of which those carried captive, yea, all who are still of the seed of Israel, form a part. For the Prophet here speaks first of all of Ephraim. This brief word of promise, Isaiah 28:5-6, makes, moreover, the impression as if the Prophet would herewith let Israel have his definite and complete portion of threatening and promise. For in what follows he refers to Judah only. But it is obvious, that Ephraim is included in the promises which are given to the remnant of all Israel (comp. on Isaiah 4:2 sqq.; Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 7:3; Isaiah 10:20 sqq.). The expression עטרת צבי is found only here. We frequently meet with עטרת הכּארת ( Proverbs 4:9; Proverbs 16:31; Isaiah 62:3; Jeremiah 13:18; Ezekiel 16:12; Ezekiel 23:42). But Isaiah has here preferred for the sake of the assonance to join תכּארה with the term צכּירה (from צכּרin orbem ivit, orbiculus, hoop, diadem, besides only Ezekiel 7:7; Ezekiel 7:10). But Jehovah will be not only the source of the highest honor for His people, but also the source of the wisdom and strength so much wanted in the present time. Jehovah Himself, who is one with His Spirit, will fill the judges as a spirit of judgment. (Comp. Isaiah 4:4; comp. Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 11:1 Kings12:22). ישב על המשׁכּט can mean to sit over a forensic cause as over the object submitted to the Judges, and we may compare such places as 1 Samuel 25:13יָשְֽׁבוּ עַל־הַכֵּלִים or על stands in a modified signification equivalent to אֶל (לְ), and such places as 1 Samuel 20:24וַרֵּשֶׁב עַל־הַלֶּחֶם and Psalm 29:10יּ׳ לַמַּבּוּל יָשַׁב may be compared. לְ is wanting before משׁיבי. The לְ which stands in the corresponding ליושׁב is to be regarded as carrying its force over to this clause. (Comp. Isaiah 30:1; Isaiah 48:17; Isaiah 61:7). To turn back the war towards the gate is to be understood of the repulse of the enemy either to the gate through which he entered, or back even to the enemy’s own gate. ( 2 Samuel 11:23; 2 Kings 18:8; 1 Maccabees 5:22)

4. But they also have erred——no place clean.

Isaiah 28:7-8. The Prophet now turns from Samaria to Jerusalem. With אֵלֶּח he points to his own countrymen in particular. They, too, are seized by a spirit of giddiness which arises from the fearfully prevailing vice of literal drunkenness. The Prophet ingeniously depicts the extent and intensity of this vice, through the accumulation of words related in form: Shagu—ta-u,—shagu—ta-u, shagu—paku. We hear and see as it were the reeling and staggering of the drunken company, שָׁגָה to reel, is used only here by Isaiah, תעה of a drunken person, also Isaiah 19:14 comp. Isaiah 21:4. How fearfully the vice of drunkenness had spread is seen from the fact that even priests and Prophets were addicted to it, and that not only in their private life; but they even performed their official functions in a state of intoxication. This is strictly forbidden in the law. Leviticus 10:8-9 (comp. Ezekiel 44:21). The expression נבלעו מן־היין occurs only here. It does not mean that they in consequence of drinking wine have been swallowed up one of another, מִן does not here mark what is mediately or remotely causal; but it denotes the immediate cause. The wine itself has swallowed up those who greedily swallowed it (comp. Isaiah 28:4). Not only has the carouser the fit of intoxication, but the fit of intoxication has him. רֹאֶע stands only here for רֳאִי ( Genesis 16:13; 1 Samuel 16:12 et saepe) as חֹזֶה Isaiah 28:15 for חָזוּת. Even in such moments when they should be under the influence of the Spirit of God alone, they are by a blasphemous perversion under the influence of the spirit of alcohol. Not less wicked is it when Judges, who should speak judgment in the name and Spirit of God ( Exodus 18:15 sq.; Deuteronomy 1:17; Deuteronomy 19:17; 2 Chronicles 19:6), appear governed by that infernal spirit while performing this sacred function. That pronouncing judgment in the highest instance pertained to a priestly tribunal, may be seen from Deuteronomy 17:8 sqq. Comp. Isaiah 19:17; Herzog,R-Encycl V. p58. The wickedness, therefore, of these priestly judges appears so much the greater. For they sit in a commission that has not trifling matters, but the most difficult and important causes to decide. Every one may convince himself that the Prophet has not said too much of the drunkenness of those people, who will take the trouble to visit the places where they sit. He will find there palpable traces of it; all tables full of filthy vomit (קִיא19:14 vomit, צֹאָה from יָצָאexcrementa, sordes, dirt, Isaiah 4:4; Isaiah 36:12), and consequently, no place to sit on, or to lay anything (בלי especially frequent in Job 8:11; Job 24:10; Job 31:39; Job 33:9 et saepe; in Isaiah 5:13-14; Isaiah 14:6; Isaiah 32:10; מקים comp. Isaiah 5:8).

5. Whom shall He teach——there a little.

Isaiah 28:9-10. In these words the Prophet lets his drunken adversaries themselves come on the scene. He makes them utter scoffing words, that he may give the same back to them in another sense as a threatening of punishment. They are themselves Prophets and Priests, and therefore full grown men, educated men, and not children. They, therefore, ask indignantly: Does he—namely the Prophet of Jehovah—not know whom he has before him? To whom does he think that he has to impart right knowledge? (דעה11:9). To whom has he to give understanding by his preaching? (שׁמועה Isaiah 28:19 and besides only Isaiah 53:1, in the signification “preaching, announcement” = the Greek ἀκοή, Romans 10:16-17; in another signification Isaiah 37:7). Is it to little children who have just been weaned from the milk ( Isaiah 11:8), removed from the breasts (עַתִּיק in this sense only here in Isaiah)? And now the Prophet exhibits them as ridiculing the tenor of his preaching in monosyllabic words, which by their sound and repetition are designed to produce merriment, while he at the same time turns his opponents into ridicule, as these monosyllabic words admirably represent the stammering of a person intoxicated. צַו from צִוּהָ is praeceptum (besides here only Hosea 5:11); קַו (comp. Isaiah 28:17; Isaiah 18:2; Isaiah 18:7; Isaiah 34:11; Isaiah 34:17; Isaiah 44:13) is cord, measuring cord, direction, rule. They reproach the Prophet with bringing forward a mass of little sentences, precepts, rules in wearisome repetition, and without a right plan and order, here a little, there a little (זְעֻיר besides Job 36:2, comp. מִזְעָר10:25; Isaiah 16:14; Isaiah 24:6; Isaiah 29:17). The contemptuous designation σπερμολόγος which the Athenian Philosophers gave the Apostle Paul, has been fitly compared ( Acts 17:18).

6. For with stammering——and taken.

Isaiah 28:11-13. The Prophet replies to this mocking speech, and concedes that it is to a certain extent accurate and just. For these scoffing words will indeed be spoken. But not as those drunkards think. For (כִּי Isaiah 28:11) the Lord will speak them to them by a foreign and hostile people, whose utterances will be to them as stammering and strange jargon. לָעֵגbalbutiens, balbus, barbarus is found besides only Psalm 35:16. In Isaiah 33:19 Isaiah uses in the same sense, and likewise of the Assyrian language the participle Niphal נִלְעָג. It is easy to conceive that the Assyrian language, as being much less cultivated than their own, and having only the three fundamental vowels a, i, u, made upon the Israelites the impression of being as the lisping of children. What a Nemesis! Because this people to whom the Lord spake words of comfort in its own mother tongue would not hear them, it must hear from the enemy’s mouth harsh sounds, which fall on the ear like the scoffing words uttered against the Prophet, but have a quite different meaning; for they are words of command intending the destruction of the vanquished and captured people. The words זאת המנוחה are taken from Micah 2:10. Micah there reproaches the false Prophets with withholding from the people the genuine word of God, which is affectionate and kind, and with instigating the people with lies to forsake that wherein it would truly find rest. [This is hardly the sense of the passage referred to in Micah.—D. M.]. In opposition to this Isaiah characterizes the genuine preaching of Jehovah by the words זאת המנוחה. For justly in reference to that of which the false Prophets say לֹא־זֹאת הַמְּנוּחָה, the real Prophet must say זֹאת הַמְנוּחָה. This true “rest of the people of God,” says Isaiah, Jehovah has not merely shown from afar. He has also commanded to put the weary souls longing for salvation in possession of it, (חָנִיחַ to procure rest for one, Isaiah 14:3), and has offered the place of rest, i. e., the real means of grace and salvation. מנוחה means elsewhere, place of rest; but here I take it in the sense of rest (comp. Isaiah 66:1) in opposition to מרגעה the place of rest (ἅπ. λεγ. Comp. Jeremiah 6:16). Isaiah, in thus referring to a word of his colleague Micah, which he confirms and applies, reaches him here again the fraternal hand. The words appear too general for us to find any political allusions in them. When in Isaiah 28:13 the scornful words of the Prophet’s adversaries are employed as a weapon turned against themselves, it seems to me that what makes it possible to put them in the enemies’ mouth lies not merely in the effect upon the ear, in the resemblance to stammering sounds, but in the actual meaning also. As we found in קַו־קַו, Isaiah 18:2; Isaiah 18:7 the meaning of a short, sharp order, this meaning seems still more to lie in the present place. The Israelites will hear nothing but such short, monosyllabic words. But they will be words full of meaning, whose effect will be seen in what we read at the close of Isaiah 28:13. For to fall backward and be broken and snared and taken captive will be the doom of the presumptuous people. Isaiah 28:13 b, from וְכָ‍ֽשְׁלוּ, is an almost literal reproduction of Isaiah 8:15.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - of the drunkards of Ephraim.

FN#2 - valley.

FN#3 - Heb. broken.

FN#4 - of the drunkards of Ephraim.

FN#5 - Heb with feet.

FN#6 - early fig.

FN#7 - Heb. Swalloweth.

FN#8 - Heb. the hearing.

FN#9 - followed by note of interrogation.

FN#10 - followed by note of interrogation.

FN#11 - Or, hath been.

FN#12 - Heb. stammerings of lips.

FN#13 - Or, he hath spoken.

FN#14 - shall come.


Verses 14-22

2. THE FALSE AND THE TRUE REFUGE

Isaiah 28:14-22

14 “Wherefore hear the word of the Lord, ye scornful men,

That rule this people which is in Jerusalem:

15 Because ye have said,

We have made a covenant with death,

And with [FN15]hell are we at agreement;

When the overflowing scourge shall pass through,

It shall not come unto us:

For we have made lies our refuge,

And under falsehood have we hid ourselves:

16 Therefore thus saith the Lord God,

Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone,

A tried stone, a precious corner stone,

A sure foundation:

He that believeth shall not [FN16]make haste.

17 Judgment also will I lay to the line,

And righteousness to the plummet:

And the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies,

And the waters shall overflow the hiding-place.

18 And your covenant with death shall be disannulled,

And your agreement with [FN17]hell shall not stand;

When the overflowing scourge shall pass through,

Then ye shall be [FN18]trodden down by it.

19 [FN19]From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you:

For morning by morning shall it pass over,

By day and by night;

And it shall be a vexation only [FN20]to understand the report.

20 For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it;

And the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it.

21 For the Lord shall rise up as in mount Perazim,

He shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon,

That he may do his work, his strange work;

And bring to pass his Acts, his strange act.

22 Now therefore be ye not mockers,

Lest your bands be made strong;

For I have heard from the Lord God of hosts a consumption,

Even determined upon the whole earth.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

Isaiah 28:15. שׁוט שׁוטף. So we are to read with the K’ri, 1, because the Kethibh שַׁיִט has in Isaiah 33:21 the signification “oar,” which is not suitable here; 2, on account of the assonance with שׁוֹטֵף, which would otherwise be lost; 3, because in Isaiah 28:18 b there is a blending of two figures for the sake of the alliteration. For שׁוֹט is a scourge ( Isaiah 10:26), and שׁטף is to overflow, inundate (comp. on Isaiah 28:2). A scourge when swung makes a flowing motion; but it does not inundate, overflow. Only the divine judgments do this, and these for another reason can be called the scourge of God. The K’ri יעבר, which is both supported and discountenanced by Isaiah 28:18, is anyhow unnecessary, for the perfect can be taken as a futurum exactum (comp. Isaiah 4:4; Isaiah 6:11).

Isaiah 28:16. The Dagesh forte in מוּסָּד is manifestly intended to distinguish the word as a participle from the substantive מוּסָד.

Isaiah 28:20. Hithp. השׂתרע se extendere, porrigere, only here, Kal. שׂרע only Leviticus 21:18; Leviticus 22:23.

Isaiah 28:21. On the absence of the preposition of place before הַר and עֵמֶק, comp. Isaiah 1:25; Isaiah 5:18; Isaiah 5:29; Isaiah 10:14; Gesenius Gr., § 118, 3, note.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. Those scoffers, who are here described as the rulers of the people in Jerusalem, had naturally a foundation on which they rested, in opposition to the foundation of the Prophet which they derided. Their foundation was falsehood and deceit, by the aid of which they hoped that they would have nothing to fear from death and Hades. ( Isaiah 28:14-15). Against this foundation the Lord now says to them: I have laid in Zion my strong corner—and foundation—stone: only he who holds fast to it will not yield ( Isaiah 28:16) And on this foundation-stone the building shall be erected by means of judgment and righteousness; but the flood of waters will sweep away that refuge of lies ( Isaiah 28:17). And that covenant with death and Sheol will not stand. They who made it, shall be trodden down by those who Shall come upon them as the scourge of God ( Isaiah 28:18). That scourge, moreover, shall come not only once, but repeatedly by day and night. Then shall they hear no more a preaching by word, but! a preaching by deed; and it will be nothing but terror (19). For Israel’s might will then prove too weak ( Isaiah 28:20). But the Lord will rise in might as formerly on Mount Perazim, and in the valley of Gibeon, in order to execute His very strange work of destruction, which appears to the secure Jews impossible ( Isaiah 28:21). Therefore the scoffers should be quiet, that they may not remain forever in the snares mentioned Isaiah 28:13; for that they should not escape from them is announced by the Prophet as the decree of Jehovah, which cannot be averted ( Isaiah 28:22). We perceive, therefore, that the section Isaiah 28:14-22 corresponds exactly to the preceding one Isaiah 28:1-13, and especially to the Isaiah 28:9-13. For here the right foundation is set in opposition to that false one, resting on which those scoffers think that they may deride the Prophet ( Isaiah 28:14-17); then the vanity, yea destructiveness of that false foundation is shown ( Isaiah 28:18-21), and the scoffers are accordingly exhorted to give up their mocking ( Isaiah 28:22).

2. Therefore hear—hid ourselves.

Isaiah 28:14-15. With לָכֵן, Isaiah 28:14, the Prophet introduces the judgment of the Lord, which he has to publish on the ground of the accusation preferred Isaiah 28:9-13. This judgment is addressed to the scoffers ( Proverbs 29:8), whose derisive speeches ( Isaiah 28:10) are quoted, and who, after the judgment has been pronounced, are exhorted to mock no more ( Isaiah 28:22). These scoffers are not insignificant men. They are the leaders of the people ( Isaiah 14:1; Isaiah 52:5), its Priests and Prophets ( Isaiah 28:7). כִּי in the beginning of Isaiah 28:15 is “because;” the illative particle לָכֵו in Isaiah 28:16 corresponding to it. The utterance is put in the mouths of these people, which if not actually spoken by them, yet certainly corresponds to their actual conduct: we have made a covenant with death,etc. This explains why these people scoffed at the Prophet. They stand with their whole manner of thinking and feeling upon another foundation than his. Isaiah has the Lord Himself for his foundation. But they deride this very foundation. They have another and better, as they imagine. This is the art of falsehood, of cunning policy, of fine diplomacy. By its help they hope to be safe from death and Hades. The Prophet admonishes them to obey the Lord, and to trust in Him in order to find protection against Assyria. But in their opinion these are fanatical means of defence, which good policy could not employ. An alliance with Egypt, artfully planned, carried out with all diplomatic skill, appeared to those politicians to be a much more reliable, yea an infallible remedy against the threatening evils. For they hope through that alliance to be proof against death and Hades. They imagine that they have thereby as it were concluded a friendly alliance with death and Hades (כרת ברית as Isaiah 55:3; Isaiah 61:8). חֹוֶה (comp. רֹאֶה Isaiah 28:7), for which below in Isaiah 28:18חָזוּת stands, has only here the signification “treaty, agreement.” The lie of which they speak, may well refer to the relation of dependence on Assyria into which Ahaz, the predecessor of Hezekiah, had brought Judah ( 2 Kings 16:7 sqq.). For they may even then have considered the right policy to consist in a secret league with Egypt, while appearing to stand by the obligations entered into towards Assyria. A like course was subsequently pursued ( 2 Kings 17:4; Ezekiel 17:15, sqq.). The conjunction of חסה and סתר is characteristic of Isaiah, comp. Isaiah 28:17; Isaiah 4:6.

3. Therefore thus saith—the whole earth.

Isaiah 28:16-22. The scoffers had declared that they had made falsehood their refuge, and that they hope relying on this refuge, to get the better of death and Hades. The Prophet wishes to expose the vanity of this hope. There is only one refuge that guarantees safety. This is the foundation, and corner-stone laid by the Lord Himself in Zion. The water sweeps away the other false foundation, and they who rest upon it go to ruin. Our passage contains, therefore, primarily not a promise, but a threatening. For first of all, the confidence expressed in Isaiah 28:15 is to be shown to be unfounded. But naturally the (unreal, resting only on appearance) negation of the truth can be overcome only by the positive setting forth of the truth. And where this real positive foundation of truth is exhibited, it involves always eo ipso a promise. לָכֵז, as has been shown, corresponds to the כִּי in Isaiah 28:15. The false affirmation necessitates a protest in which the truth is testified. הנני יסר=חנְנִי הוּא אֲשֶׁר יִּסַּד comp. Isaiah 29:14; Isaiah 38:5. But what sort of a stone is that which the Lord has laid in Zion? It must be a stone which really guarantees truth and right. Consequently it cannot be Zion itself (Hitzig, Knobel), nor the royal house of David (Reinke), nor Hezekiah (Rabbis, Gesenius, Maurer and others; which explanation Theodoret characterizes as ἄνοια ἐσχάτη), nor the temple (Ewald). As Isaiah does not say that they had made Egypt their refuge, but that they had made falsehood their refuge, the antithesis to this refuge of lies can only be a refuge of truth. As such we might, with Umbreit, regard the law, or, with Schegg, the word of God in general. But the law and the word of God, so far as they are laid in Zion as objective means of Salvation, suppose a still deeper, a personal foundation: the law supposes Him through whom the revelation of the law took place; the spoken and written word supposes the living, personal word of God Himself, the Logos (So the Catholic expositors Loch and Reischl, comp. Reinke,the Messianic Prophecies I. p404). The Logos, the only mediator between God and men, the Messiah promised in the Old Covenant, who has appeared in the New, this is the personal and living foundation-stone laid in Zion, on whom the whole building fitly framed together grows unto a holy (erected therefore according to the line of right and justice) building ( Ephesians 3:20 sqq.). That the personal Word of the Lord can be called a stone, is apparent from Isaiah 8:14, where Jehovah Himself is called אֶבֶו and צוּר. It is not impossible that Isaiah had this last passage in view, and perhaps the composer of the 118 th Psalm had in Isaiah 28:22 regard to both these passages of Isaiah. Anyhow Peter ( 1 Peter 2:6-8) combines these three places. The Lord Himself ( Matthew 21:42-44) had in view the place in the Psalm and Isaiah 8:14 sq.; and Paul, Romans 9:33, refers to both places of Isaiah; while in Acts 4:11 reference is made to the 118 th Psalm only; and in Romans 10:11, solely to the place before us. The stone laid in Zion is further called an אבו בחו, i. e, lapis probationis. The term בחו can be taken in an active or passive sense: a tried and a trying stone. The former would mark its tested firmness, the latter would express the idea, that the thoughts of the hearts must be made manifest by it. For no one can escape it, but all must be tried on it, and it must have some effect on all, and be either for their fall or rising. The passages Matthew 21:44; Luke 2:34 speak strongly for the latter view. I do not dispute it, but I believe that the Prophet designedly chose an ambiguous expression. For the former interpretation is likewise recommended, being naturally suggested by the expression employed, and by the context. We expect to hear the nature of the stone extolled, and not merely to be told what service it can render. That the praise should be expressed in this particular form is in accordance with the usus loquendiobservable in this chapter, in which so many designations of a property are denoted by a substantive in the genitive ( Isaiah 28:1-5; Isaiah 28:8). פִנָּה is corner.—And a stone which forms the corner is naturally a corner-stone. (Comp. Isaiah 19:13; Job 38:6; Jeremiah 51:26; Psalm 118:22). יְקָרָה is here, as perhaps also Psalm 37:20; Proverbs 17:27, a substantive, preciousness, so that we must translate; a corner-stone of preciousness of a founded foundation (מוּסָד after the form מוּסָר, comp. 2 Chronicles 8:16; מוּסָדָה, Isaiah 30:32; Ezekiel 41:8; מוּסָּד Part Hoph.), i. e., a corner-stone well suited ( 1 Kings 5:31; 7:9–11) for a firm foundation. The emphatic expression מוּסָד מוּסָּד is like חֲכָמִים, Proverbs 30:24. We have already observed that the Prophet shows here a predilection for the accumulation of substantives in the genitive. The firm foundation-stone manifests its saving efficacy, not in a magical way; but this efficacy is conditioned by the inward susceptibility, or faith. The firm foundation itself requires a keeping fast to it. Therefore the Prophet adds: He who believes flees not.—This apothegmatic addition reminds us, both by its form and tenor, of chapter Isaiah 7:9האמיו ּתֵאָמֵנוּאִם לֹא תַאֲמִינוּ כִּי לֹא occurs further Isaiah 30:21; Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 53:1. הֵחִישׁ is here not indirectly (to make something or another hasten, Isaiah 5:19; Isaiah 60:22) but directly causative; to make haste, to flee hastily, to retreat. There lies in it an antithesis to the idea of firmness, which is contained in what is said of the stone, and in מאמיו. The word has this meaning no where else. Where the firm foundation is objectively laid, and the individual subjectively in faith keeps fast on it, then the erection of a holy temple in the Lord is possible, an erection in which right serves for the line (קַו comp. on Isaiah 28:10), and righteousness for the plummet (מִשְׁקֶלֶת only here, comp. מִשְׁקלֶת, 2 Kings 21:13); a figurative expression, the meaning of which can be only this, that this building will arise according to the rules of divine justice, and will consequently be a holy building. משׁפט and צדקה stand here related as in Isaiah 1:27; Isaiah 5:16; Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 32:16; Isaiah 33:5; Isaiah 56:1; Isaiah 59:9; Isaiah 59:14. This building stands firm. But the refuge of lies and the hiding-place of deceit the hail will sweep away (יָעָח, whence יָע a shovel for the clearing away of ashes from the altar, Exodus 27:3; Exodus 38:3; Numbers 4:14 et saepe, is ἄπ. λεγ) and the waters wash away ( Isaiah 28:2). Inconsequence, that covenant with death and Hades, of which they boasted ( Isaiah 28:15), shall be covered,i. e., obliterated, annulled. The covenant is conceived of as a written document, whose lines are covered, i. e., overspread with the fluid used for writing. Comp. obliterare offensionem, famam, memoriam. To לא יבואנו in verse15, והייתם לו למרמס corresponds. Comp. Isaiah 5:5; Isaiah 7:25; Isaiah 10:6. The Prophet here leaves the image out of sight. The expression is shaped by his realizing in thought the thing signified by the previous figure, namely, the invading host which serves as the scourge of God. This host shall stamp the scoffers under foot, shall tread them like dirt on the streets. The Prophet had expressly declared in Isaiah 10:6 that the army of the Assyrians should do this. But the scourge will come not once only, but often. Isaiah 28:19. The expression יִקַח is suggested by another image, namely, the idea of something which takes away ( Jeremiah 15:15), snatches, washes away, corresponding therefore to שׁוטף, as a mighty flood which comes along by rushes. In fact, the invasions by the Assyrians and by the Chaldaeans, who were called to complete their work, were as waterfloods that kept ever inundating the land till it was entirely desolated ( Isaiah 24:1; Isaiah 24:3). The second half of Isaiah 28:19 is clearly related to יביו שׁמועה in Isaiah 28:9. There the scoffers had asked: to whom will he preach? They thought themselves much too high to need the preaching of the Prophet. In opposition to this language Isaiah now tells them: because you would not hear my well-meant preaching by word, which was designed to give you מְנוּחָה, you will be compelled to hear a preaching in Acts, and it will be naught but terror. זועה stands therefore opposed to מנוחה. If in Isaiah 28:9הביו שׁמועה signified “to make to know, or understand preaching,” it must in the connexion in which it here stands signify “to hear preaching” (comp. Isaiah 39:16; Job 28:23; Micah 4:12 et saepe). For it is not the preacher who experiences terror, but he who hears the preaching. זְוָעָה (only here in Isaiah, besides comp. Deuteronomy 28:25; Jeremiah 15:4 et saepe; Ezekiel 23:46) is concussio, commotio vehemens, formido. The subject of the sentence is הָבִיו and the predicate זְוָעָה. Is not that a dreadful preaching, when one finds himself in a situation which is fittingly compared to a bed that is too short, or to a covering that is too narrow?—This is a distressful condition. For resistance is encountered on all sides, and the means are insufficient for any undertaking. קצר in Isaiah besides only Isaiah 1:2; Isaiah 59:1. מַצָּעstratum, ἅπ λεγ. מַסֵּכָה besides only Isaiah 25:7. בָּנַס, colligere, coacervare, Hithp. se ipsum colligere, to make of one’s self a heap, only here כְּ in כְּהִתְכַּנֵּס marks coincidence = when one bends one’s-self together, coils one’s-self ( Isaiah 18:3; Isaiah 23:5). That such will really be the nature of the situation is now further illustrated by two historical examples. Israel will themselves be in a condition like that in which they through God’s help twice brought their enemies. One of these events to which the Prophet here alludes, is the defeat which David inflicted on the Philistines at Baal-Perazim ( 2 Samuel 5:20; 1 Chronicles 14:11). David there said פָרַץי‍ אֶת־אֹיְבַי לְכָּנַי כְפֶרֶץ מַיִם, i.e., Jehovah has broken through my enemies before me, as water breaks through. Vitringa perceived that Isaiah was led to think of this passage by what he had said in Isaiah 28:17 and Isaiah 28:2 of the מים שֹׁטְפִים. The other event I take, with most of the older interpreters, to be the defeat which Joshua inflicted on the Canaanites at Gibeon ( Joshua 10:10). There, in Isaiah 28:11, it is said expressly that the Lord crushed the enemy by a great hail-storm. And this circumstance corresponds exactly to what Isaiah in verse 2 and verse17 had said of the hail from which Israel should suffer. That victory of David over the Philistines at Gibeon ( 2 Samuel 5:22 sqq.; 1 Chronicles 14:14 sqq.) does not supply such an analogy. ירנו comp. on Isaiah 14:9. זר מעשׂהו (comp. Isaiah 5:12) and נכריה עבדתו ( Isaiah 2:6) are parenthetical clauses, and not in apposition to the preceding מעשׂהו and עבדתו; for the putting of the adjective first would in that case be quite abnormal. Strange, inconceivable is the work of the Lord pronounced, because He does something which could not have been expected of Him. Who could have thought that Jehovah would treat Israel as the heathen, that He would thus destroy His own work? After all these statements we see how foolish and infatuated the people were in scoffing at the warning voice of the Prophet, and in relying on their own miserable, self-chosen supports ( Isaiah 28:15). The admonition which the Prophet adds at the close, and now be ye not mockers is well-meant, and deserving to be laid to heart. Hithp.התלוצץ=to behave mockingly, is found only here. If they do not cease to mock, the bands by which they have been bound ever since Ahaz foolishly made submission to Assyria ( 2 Kings 16:7 sqq.), can never be broken. For that they must bear these bands, and become acquainted with the nature of them, that is the purpose of God, resolved on, and already revealed to the Prophet. On כלה ונחרצה comp. on Isaiah 10:23.

Footnotes:

FN#15 - Sheol.

FN#16 - flee.

FN#17 - Sheol.

FN#18 - Heb. a treading down to it.

FN#19 - as often as.

FN#20 - Or, when he shall make you to understand doctrine.


Verses 23-29

THE CHASTISEMENT IN MEASURE

Isaiah 28:23-29

23 Give ye ear, and hear my voice;

Hearken, and hear my speech.

24 Doth the plowman plow all day to sow?

Doth he open and break the clods of his ground?

25 When he hath made plain the face thereof,

Doth he not cast abroad the fitches,

And scatter the cummin,

And cast in [FN21] [FN22]the principal wheat,

And the appointed barley,

And the [FN23]rie in their [FN24]place?

26 [FN25] [FN26]For his God doth instruct him to discretion,

And doth teach him.

27 For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument,

Neither is a cartwheel turned about upon the cummin;

But the fitches are beaten out with a staff,

And the cummin with a rod.

28 [FN27]Bread corn is bruised;

Because he will not ever be threshing it,

Nor break it with the wheel of his cart,

Nor bruise it with his horsemen.

29 This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts,

Which is wonderful in counsel,

And excellent in [FN28]working.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

Isaiah 28:25. נִסְמָו is ἅπ. λεγ. It seems to be part. Niphal which denotes “marked off, designated by סִימָנִים.” This נסמו is to be considered as accus. loci “in the place marked off.”

Isaiah 28:28. אָדוֹשׁ, if there be not a clerical mistake, is to be derived from a form אָרַשׁ, which does not elsewhere occur.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. As the Prophet could not leave the brief word concerning Ephraim ( Isaiah 28:1-4) without a consolatory conclusion ( Isaiah 28:5-6), so he cannot conclude the word directed against Jerusalem ( Isaiah 28:14) without making at the close of its rebukes an announcement of salvation. This he does by employing a parable drawn from agriculture. He does not interpret the parable in clear terms. Therefore, before uttering it, he calls for attentive reflection ( Isaiah 28:23). Then he sets forth the parable. It has, we may say, a double point. First, the Prophet makes us observe that the farmer does not always plough, does not always as it were lacerate the ground with sharp coulter or pointed harrow ( Isaiah 28:24). No, he casts into the bosom of the earth good seed of various kinds ( Isaiah 28:25). Moreover, the fruit produced from the seed, which can be divested of its integuments only by the application of a certain force, is yet not too severely handled by him, nor is equal force applied to all kinds of fruit, but he is careful in his treatment as the nature of things appointed by God teaches him ( Isaiah 28:26). For, not a threshing sledge, or threshing roller is applied to the more tender kinds of fruit, as the cummin, but only a staff ( Isaiah 28:27). Even the corn-fruits that yield bread are not so threshed that the grain is crushed thereby ( Isaiah 28:28). That, too, has been arranged by the Lord, that His wonderful wisdom in counsel, and His great power to help may be known ( Isaiah 28:29). The operations of ploughing and threshing, which are necessary for seed time and harvest, should therefore teach Israel in symbol the certainty that the temporal judgments which they must endure are only correctives in the hand of God, from which Israel will come forth as glorious fruit cleansed and purified.

2. Give ye ear——in their place.

Isaiah 28:23-25. The summons to pay attention (comp. as to the words1, 2and Isaiah 32:9), is owing to the character of the following speech. As it is an ingenious parable, it is necessary for the hearer to consider it with attention and reflection, that its meaning may be apparent to him. כל היום Isaiah 28:24, i.e., continually, perpetually. The expression is found in Isaiah usually in this signification Isaiah 51:13; Isaiah 52:5; Isaiah 62:6; Isaiah 65:2; Isaiah 65:5. The addition לזרע might appear superfluous. But the Prophet wishes to intimate that the end in view is cultivation of the soil, and not merely clearing away of vegetation for any other purpose, such as for building a house. This expression לזרע conveys a pre-intimation that the Lord’s procedure towards His people is not simply of a destructive character, no mere negation without positively designing their salvation. הכל היום is to be connected also with the second half of Isaiah 28:24 ( Jeremiah 49:7). פִתֵּחֵ is only here used of opening, turning over, ploughing the earth. Yet its use to denote engraving in wood or stone is analogous: Comp. Exodus 28:9; Exodus 28:36; 1 Kings 7:36, et saepe.שִׂדִּדִoccare, to harrow, besides here only Job 39:10; Hosea 10:11. The suffix in אדמתו delicately expresses the affection which the farmer cherishes to his own land. Because it is dear to him, he will not wish to injure it. שִׁוָּה occurs in the sense of aequavit, complanavit only here (Piel besides in Isaiah 38:13). The Prophet has evidently before his mind a large farm regularly laid out in various kinds of fruits. קֶצַח [not fitches as in E. V, but] black cummin (nigella arvensis, common black cummin, or more probably nigella damascena, garden black cummin, which grows wild near the Mediterranean) occurs only in this place. כַּמֹּו cummin, common cummin, carum carvi, which belongs to a different order from that of the black cummin (namely to the umbelliferae, while the other belongs to the ranunculaceae), is mentioned in the Old Testament only here. שָׂם is the proper expression for the placing or planting of the wheat, in reference to which Gesenius remarks: “Industrious farmers in the Orient plant as they do garden plants, many kinds of grain which with us are only sown (Niehbuhr’sArabien, p157); they thrive when planted much better. (Comp. Plinius,Hist. Nat. 18:21).” שׂוֹרָה, ἄπ. λεγ. is identical with the Talmudic and Arabic שׂוּרָה series, row, order. The planting of wheat spoken of, is done in rows (שׂוֹרָהaccus. loci). כֻּסֶּמָת [rye E. V.], according to an excursus of Consul Wetzstein, in Delitzsch’s Commentary on Isaiah, is a variety of the common vetch (vicia sativa) the Kursenne. According to the passage before us this plant, which is eaten by cattle much less readily than barley, would be planted around the corn fields as a border or enclosure, in order to serve to protect the nobler kinds of grain, as according to Wetzstein,ut supra, the Ricinus is at present employed for this purpose. גְּבוּלָה (Sing. only here, Plur. Isaiah 10:13) confinium, the border, enclosure. The Suffix in גבולתו is to be referred to some such term as a piece of ground (שָׁרֶה) which is not expressed, but is supposed in what has been previously said.

3. For his God——teach him.

[Dr. Naegelsbach renders this verse: “He (the farmer, beats (corrects) it properly, his God so teaches him.” But the E. V. is correct (comp. Proverbs 31:1) D.M.]. The Prophet does not think of the heathen fables of Isis and Osiris, Bacchus and Ceres, etc. In what follows the way and manner in which the farmer takes fruits from their husks is spoken of. And here there is a two-fold procedure, a part of the fruits is not threshed in the oriental manner, by means of a threshing sledge or threshing roller, but is beaten out with a staff. To this class belong black cummin and cummin—חָרוּץ, acutus, (the full designation is מורַג חָרוּץ, Isaiah 40:15) is the threshing instrument, which consisted either of planks only, or of planks with rollers among them. Those planks and rollers were fitted with sharp iron or stones, which tore the ears of grain (comp. Herzog, R-Encycl. iii. p504). The word is found besides only Job 41:22; Amos 1:3. [Comp. the Latin tribute, a similar threshing machine, whence tribulation, lit, a subjection to the tribula.—D.M.]. אופן עגלח, wheel of the wagon, denotes the last mentioned sort of threshing instrument; whether its rollers were themselves movable, and therefore at the same time wheels, or were immovable, and were drawn by the wheels. יוסב denotes not the turning round of the wagon, its going in a circle, but the turning of the wheels. For סב is also used of the turning of a door on its hinge ( Proverbs 26:14; Ezekiel 41:24). יחבט comp. on Isaiah 27:12. לחם יודק must be taken as a question (Hitzig, Knobel, Delitzsch); Is bread-corn crushed? Answer; No! For not incessantly, i.e., till the grain is completely bruised does he thresh it, or drive the wheels of his wagon, and his horses over it. He does not crush it. The other explanation: it is crushed into bread, (i.e., afterwards in the mill, but not in the threshing), for not incessantly, etc.—is refuted by the necessity of understanding before כִּי לֹא the words indicated as required to complete the sense; while according to our explanation only the simple “no” must be supplied, and it is implied in the question. לֶחֶם is here as σῖτοςbread-corn comp. Isaiah 30:23; Isaiah 36:17; Genesis 47:17; Psalm 104:14. The Prophet distinguishes from the various species of cummin the proper bread-corn, whose grains are harder to separate from the husk. דקק besides in Isaiah only Isaiah 41:15. הָמַם, concitare, to drive, only here in Isaiah. Isaiah 28:29נג זאת וגו׳ namely, this procedure of the farmer, comp. ver, 26, יוֹרֶנּוּ. That the punishments spoken of Isaiah 28:14-22 proceed from Jehovah, needed not to be particularly affirmed. But that this so simple, unpretending, customary procedure of the farmer is a shell wherein a kernel of divine wisdom is concealed, and therefore according to God’s intention a means of teaching men such wisdom—this might well be set forth and emphatically affirmed. הפליא in Isaiah only here and Isaiah 29:14. God manifests wonderfully wise counsel, both in the ordinances of nature, and in His direction of history, for which latter the former work serves as a type full of instruction and comfort. But the aim of this wonderful wisdom is salvation (תושׁיה only here in Isaiah). It seems to me more appropriate to take the word in the meaning “salvation” ( Job 6:13; Job 30:22; Proverbs 2:7; Micah 6:9), because the idea of “wisdom” is so nearly related to that of “counsel,” that almost a tautology would arise from the translation wisdom. It is certainly reasonable to expect that the Prophet in a place like the present, in which the whole fulness of his thoughts is compressed. should in significant, closing words combine in two different words two specifically different thoughts.

[But God’s counsel and Wisdom of Solomon, as nearly related ideas, can be very properly extolled together at the close of this chapter. The rendering of the last word תּוּשִׁיָּה by working in the E. V. is warranted neither by the usus loquendi nor by etymology. The Prophet here simply magnifies the Lord’s counsel and wisdom.—D. M.]

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. On Isaiah 28:1-4. A glorious city on a hill overlooking a broad, fertile plain, when the Lord is not its foundation and crown. What is it else than one of the vanities over which the preacher laments ( Sirach 2:4 sqq.)? Samaria and Jerusalem, Nineveh and Babylon have fallen. Cannot Paris, and London, and Berlin [and New York] also fall? How vain and transitory is the pomp of men! [All travellers unite in praising the situation of Samaria for its fertility, beauty and strength. But “the crown of pride” has been trodden under foot.—D. M.]

2. On Isaiah 28:7-8. Those words of Solomon are therefore to be remembered: it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink; lest they drink and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted ( Proverbs 31:4-5), Most of all is drunkenness unseemly in preachers and teachers. Scripture enjoins that they should be sober and not given to wine ( 1 Timothy 3:2-3).” Renner. Can. Apost. Isaiah 53 : “Si clericus in caupona comedens deprehensus fuerit, segregetur, paeterquam si in diversorio publico in via propter necessitatem diverterit.” Song of Solomon 1 : “Episcopus aut presbyter aut diaconus aleae et ebrietati deserviens aut desinat, aut condemnetur.” [What! a priest, a prophet, a minister, and yet drunk! Tell it not in Gath. Such a scandal are they to their coat. Isaiah 28:8. All tables are full of vomit, etc. “See what an odious thing the sin of drunkenness is—what an affront it is to human society; it is rude and ill-mannered enough to sicken the beholders.”—Henry.—D. M.] In accordance with the rabbinical usage, which not seldom puts מָקוֹם by a metonymy for God, the expression here employed, בלי מקם is translated in Pirke Aboth iii. Isaiah 3 : “without God.” [The passage of the Mishna referred to runs thus: Rabbi Simeon says, Three who have eaten at one table, and have not spoken at it words of the law, are as if they ate of sacrifices to the dead; for it is said, for all their tables tire full of vomit and filth, without מָקוֹם,” i.e., place, God the place of all things, or who contains all things. Of course this is only an ingenious diversion of the language of Isaiah from its real meaning.—D. M.]

3. Isaiah 28:9 sqq. “This is the language of scorners and the ungodly, who have always mocked and railed at God’s word and its ministers. Job, Jeremiah and David must be their song and mocking-stock ( Job 30:9; Lamentations 3:63; Psalm 69:13). If such dear men of God could not render all the people more pious, what will happen in our age in which there will be no lack of mockers ( 2 Peter 3:3)? Cramer.”

4. Isaiah 28:13. “The severe and yet well-deserved punishment for contempt of the word of God is that they who are guilty of it fall, and not only fall, but also are broken, and not only are broken, but also are snared and taken. For when they have not the love of the truth, God sends them strong delusions that they should believe a lie, that they all might be condemned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness ( 2 Thessalonians 2:10).” Cramer.

5. On Isaiah 28:15. This is the direct reverse of trust in God. The people of whom the Prophet here speaks believe themselves secure from death and hell because they had made a friendly alliance with them. And the sign of this covenant is their setting their hope on lies and hypocrisy. For the devil is the father of lies ( John 8:44). He who is in league with him must lie, and learns to lie to the highest perfection. But the fools who have built their hope on this master— and their mastery in lying—must at last, as their righteous punishment, see that they are themselves deceived. For the devil urges a man into the swamp of wickedness, and when he sticks so deep in it that he cannot get out, then he leaves the deluded being in the lurch, and appears as an accuser against him. Hence he is called not only tempter (πειράζων), but also accuser (διάβολος, κατήγωρ, Revelation 7-10).

6. On Isaiah 28:16. “Christ is the head and foundation-stone of the Christian Church, and another foundation cannot be laid ( 1 Corinthians 3:11; Acts 4:11). There Isaiah, moreover, no other means of laying hold of Christ than faith, whose effect and property it is to be confident of what we hope for, and not to doubt of what we do not see ( Hebrews 11:1).” Cramer. [The image of faith here given is that of a stone resting on a foundation by which it is supported and sustained. When we are told that “he that believeth shall not make haste or flee,” we are taught the confidence, composure and peace which trust in the Lord Jesus Christ imparts.—D. M.]

7. On Isaiah 28:17 sqq. “He who relies on his own Wisdom of Solomon, strength, riches, or righteousness, on the help of Prayer of Manasseh, on the intercession of the saints, on letters of indulgence and such like, he makes to himself a false refuge, and cannot endure, but builds his house on a quicksand.” Cramer. [“They that make any thing their hiding-place but Christ, the waters shall overflow it, as every shelter but the ark was overtopped and overthrown by the waters of the deluge.” Henry.—D. M.]

8. On Isaiah 28:19. “People who are not tried are inexperienced, and have a merely speculative religion, which is of no advantage to them. “Meditatio, oratio, tentatio faciunt Theologum.” Luther. “As long as all is well with us, and we have the enjoyment of life, there is too much noise around us, and we cannot hear the voice of God. Every affliction is a wilderness, in which a man is in solitude and stillness, so that he understands better the word of God. Every tribulation is a power of the soul. In the noisy day we have hearkened so much to the voices of men. In the wilderness there is quiet, and when human voices are silent, the voice of God begins to sneak.” Tholuck.

9. On Isaiah 28:20. “Vexatio seu crux perinde est atque brevis lectus, in quo contrahendum est corpus, nisi algere velimus. Hoc est: Solus verbi auditus retinendus ac sequendus est. Tribulatio autem continet nos ceu in brevi lecto, nec sinit nos evagrari in nostra studia.” Luther.

10. On [“This will be His strange work, His strange Acts, His foreign deed; it is work that He is backward to; He rather delights in showing mercy, and does not afflict willingly; it is work that He is not used to; as to His own people, He protects and favors them; it is a strange work indeed if He turn to be their enemy and fight against them ( Isaiah 63:10); it is a work that all the neighbors will stand amazed at. Deuteronomy 29:24.” Henry.—D. M.]

11. On Isaiah 28:22. “Nolite evangelium et verbum habere pro fabula, alioquin fiet, ut magis constringamini et implicemini efficacioribus erroribus ut fiatis improbi ad omne bonum opus.” Luther.

12. On Isaiah 28:23 sqq. “God Himself is the husbandman. The field is the Church on earth. Before it can bring forth fruit, it must be ploughed and prepared. The plough is the cross of trial, when the ploughers make their furrows long upon our backs ( Psalm 129:3). The seed is the imperishable word of God ( 1 Peter 1:23). The rain is the Holy Ghost who gives the increase ( Isaiah 44:3; 1 Corinthians 3:6). Further, when the fruit is gathered in, if men will bake bread out of it, it must be threshed. This is done not for its destruction, but with such moderation as the nature of the grain can bear. The practical application is that we learn to yield ourselves to such husbandry of God, and bear with patience what God does to us. For He knows according to His supreme wisdom to order every thing, that we may be His grain, and good, pure bread upon His table of shew-bread.” Cramer.

13. [“We see (1) The reason of afflictions. It is for the same reason which induces the farmer to employ various methods on his farm. (2) We are not to expect the same unvarying course in God’s dealings with us. (3) We are not to expect always the same kind of afflictions. We may lay it down as a general rule that the divine judgments are usually in the line of our offences; and by the nature of the judgment we may usually ascertain the nature of the sin. (4) God will not crush or destroy His people. The farmer does not crush or destroy his grain. (5) We should therefore bear afflictions and chastisements with patience. God is good and wise.” Barnes.—D. M.]

14. On [Where men do not cultivate the corn-plants, wheat, rye, barley, etc., the cerealia, as they are called, they are in the condition of savages. Savages live on what comes to hand without patient culture. Man could never have learned the cultivation of the corn-plants without being taught by God. The cerealia do not grow as other annuals, spontaneously or by the dispersion and germination of their seed. If left to themselves, they quickly become extinct. They do not grow wild in any part of the world. Their seed must be sown by man in ground carefully prepared to receive it. But while human culture is necessary for the growth and propagation of corn-plants, man is naturally ignorant of their use and value. It would never have occurred to man to prepare the soil for wheat-seed at a particular time of the year, and to wait many months for the grain that would ripen in the ear; and then to grind the hard seeds, and to mix them with water, and to bake this paste is what Prayer of Manasseh, left to himself, would never have thought of. The fact that we have corn-plants alive on the earth at this day demonstrates that they must have been called into existence when man was on the earth to cultivate them, and that man must have been taught by a Higher Power to do Song of Solomon, and to use them for his support. It is then a matter that can be established by the clearest and most convincing evidence, that God, as the Prophet here tells us, instructed the plowman to plow, to open and break the clods of the ground, and to cast in the wheat and barley. ( Isaiah 28:24-25) These may appear to us now simple operations. But they must have been at first taught to man by God in order that wheat and barley, and the other cereals, which He had made for the use of Prayer of Manasseh, might be preserved on the earth. Beside the natural powers furnished us by God, to whom we owe the capacity of knowledge and the lessons given by Providence in external nature, God still teaches the husbandman through that primeval revelation of the art of agriculture made to man when He put him into the garden to dress it and to keep it—D. M.]

HOMILETICAL HINTS

1. On Isaiah 28:1-6. “In the light of this word of God let the glorious acts of God (the fall of Paris, etc.) be to us a mighty proclamation: 1) of God’s judgment, 2) of God’s grace.” Frommel, Zeitpredigten, Heidelberg, 1873.

2. On Isaiah 28:11-12. An earnest warning voice to our people. It bids us consider1) What the Lord has hitherto in kindness offered to us (How rest may be had is preached to us Matthew 11:28 sq.); 2) How we have received what has been offered to us (We will not have such preaching); 3) What the Lord for our punishment will hereafter offer to us (He will speak with mocking lips and with another tongue unto this people).

3. On Isaiah 28:14-20. Text for a political sermon such as might be delivered before a Christian court, or before an assembly of those who have influence on the direction of public affairs. God’s word to those who direct the affairs of the State: 1) The false foundation: a. as to its nature ( Isaiah 28:15), b. as to its consequences ( Isaiah 28:17 b–20). 2) The true foundation: a. wherein it consists ( Isaiah 28:16), b. the conditions of its efficacy (giving heed to the word, believing), c. its effects.

4. On Isaiah 28:16-17. The foundation and corner-stone of the Christian Church: 1) Who He is ( Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11; Romans 9:33; 1 Peter 2:6 sq.). 2) How we partake of His blessing (He who believes flees not). 3) What salvation He brings us ( Isaiah 28:17). Isaiah 28:16 is often used as a text for discourses at the laying of the foundation-stone of churches.

5. On Isaiah 28:19. Affliction teaches us to give heed to the word. Affliction is the best instructress of the foolish heart of man; for it teaches us to know: 1) the vanity of earthly things, 2) the power to comfort and to save which lies solely in the benefits offered to us in the word of God.

6. On Isaiah 28:22. Warning to scoffers. God will accomplish in the whole world the triumph of His cause. Woe then to the scoffers. Their bands will only become the harder. They hurt themselves by their scoffing.

7. On Isaiah 28:23 sqq. Consolatory discourse. God does not always chastise. Chastisement is with Him only a means to an end, as with the husbandman ploughing and threshing. When the chastisement has reached its aim, it ceases. Let us therefore give heed unto the word, and the trial will not be continued.

8. [The Church is God’s tilled land. 1 Corinthians 3:9. Paul tells the Corinthians: Ye are God’s γεώργιον, God’s tilled land. Christ has called His Father the γεωργός, the husbandman, John 15:1. God does not leave us without culture. He treats us as the farmer does his field. He gives us, too, what corresponds to the rain and sunshine, in the influences of His Spirit. He employs means for making us fruitful. Comp. Hebrews 6:7-8 as to the doom of those who fail to bring forth fruit—set forth by a metaphor taken from agriculture.—D. M.]

Footnotes:

FN#21 - Or, the wheat in the principal place, and barley in the appointed place.

FN#22 - Wheat in rows and barley in the appointed place.

FN#23 - Or, spelt.

FN#24 - Heb. border.

FN#25 - Or, and he bindeth it in such sort as his God doth teach him.

FN#26 - and he beats it properly; his God teaches him this.

FN#27 - Is bread com crushed?

FN#28 - helping.

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 28:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/isaiah-28.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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