The desolations of Samaria. (1-4) The prosperity of Judah; with reproofs for sinfulness and unbelief. (5-15) Christ is pointed out as the sure Foundation for all believers. (16-22) God's dealings with his people. (23-29)
Verses 1-4 What men are proud of, be it ever so mean, is to them as a crown; but pride is the forerunner of destruction. How foolishly drunkards act! Those who are overcome with wine are overcome by Satan; and there is not greater drudgery in the world than hard drinking. Their health is ruined; men are broken in their callings and estates, and their families are ruined by it. Their souls are in danger of being undone for ever, and all merely to gratify a base lust. In God's professing people, like Israel, it is worse than in any other. And he is just in taking away the plenty they thus abuse. The plenty they were proud of, is but a fading flower. Like the early fruit, which, as soon as discovered, is plucked and eaten.
Verses 5-15 The prophet next turns to Judah, whom he calls the residue of his people. Happy are those alone, who glory in the Lord of hosts himself. Hence his people get wisdom and strength for every service and every conflict. But it is only in Christ Jesus that the holy God communicates with sinful man. And whether those that teach are drunk with wine, or intoxicated with false doctrines and notions concerning the kingdom and salvation of the Messiah, they not only err themselves, but lead multitudes astray. All places where such persons have taught are filled with errors. For our instruction in the things of God, it is needful that the same precept and the same line should be often repeated to us, that we may the better understand them. God, by his word, calls us to what is really for our advantage; the service of God is the only true rest for those weary of the service of sin, and there is no refreshment but under the easy yoke of the Lord Jesus. All this had little effect upon the people. Those who will not understand what is plain, but scorn and despise it as mean and trifling, are justly punished. If we are at peace with God, we have, in effect, made a covenant with death; whenever it comes, it cannot do us any real damage, if we are Christ's. But to think of making death our friend, while by sin we are making God our enemy, is absurd. And do not they make lies their refuge who trust in their own righteousness, or to a death-bed repentance? which is a resolution to sin no more, when it is no longer in their power to do so.
Verses 16-22 Here is a promise of Christ, as the only foundation of hope for escaping the wrath to come. This foundation was laid in Zion, in the eternal counsels of God. This foundation is a stone, firm and able to support his church. It is a tried stone, a chosen stone, approved of God, and never failed any who made trial of it. A corner stone, binding together the whole building, and bearing the whole weight; precious in the sight of the Lord, and of every believer; a sure foundation on which to build. And he who in any age or nation shall believe this testimony, and rest all his hopes, and his never-dying soul on this foundation, shall never be confounded. The right effect of faith in Christ is, to quiet and calm the soul, till events shall be timed by Him, who has all times in his own hand and power. Whatever men trust to for justification, except the righteousness of Christ; or for wisdom, strength, and holiness, except the influences of the Holy Ghost; or for happiness, except the favour of God; that protection in which they thought to shelter themselves, will prove not enough to answer the intention. Those who rest in a righteousness of their own, will have deceived themselves: the bed is too short, the covering too narrow. God will be glorified in the fulfilling of his counsels. If those that profess to be members of God's church, make themselves like Philistines and Canaanites, they must expect to be dealt with as such. Then dare not to ridicule the reproofs of God's word, or the approaches of judgements.
Verses 23-29 The husbandman applies to his calling with pains and prudence, in all the works of it according to their nature. Thus the Lord, who has given men this wisdom, is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in his working. As the occasion requires, he threatens, corrects, spares, shows mercy, or executes vengeance. Afflictions are God's threshing instruments, to loosen us from the world, to part between us and our chaff, and to prepare us for use. God will proportion them to our strength; they shall be no heavier than there is need. When his end is answered, the trials and sufferings of his people shall cease; his wheat shall be gathered into the garner, but the chaff shall be burned with unquenchable fire.
Isaiah 28:1-29 .
The twenty-eighth through thirty-third chapters form almost one continuous prophecy concerning the destruction of Ephraim, the impiety and folly of Judah, the danger of their league with Egypt, the straits they would be reduced to by Assyria, from which Jehovah would deliver them on their turning to Him; the twenty-eighth chapter refers to the time just before the sixth year of Hezekiak's reign, the rest not very long before his fourteenth year.
1. crown of pride--Hebrew for "proud crown of the drunkards," &c. [HORSLEY], namely, Samaria, the capital of Ephraim, or Israel. "Drunkards," literally ( Isaiah 28:7 Isaiah 28:8 , Isaiah 5:11 Isaiah 5:22 , Amos 4:1 , 6:1-6 ) and metaphorically, like drunkards, rushing on to their own destruction.
beauty . . . flower--"whose glorious beauty or ornament is a fading flower." Carrying on the image of "drunkards"; it was the custom at feasts to wreathe the brow with flowers; so Samaria, "which is (not as English Version, 'which are') upon the head of the fertile valley," that is, situated on a hill surrounded with the rich valleys as a garland ( 1 Kings 16:24 ); but the garland is "fading," as garlands often do, because Ephraim is now close to ruin (compare Isaiah 16:8 ); fulfilled 721 B.C. ( 2 Kings 17:6 2 Kings 17:24 ).
2. strong one--the Assyrian ( Isaiah 10:5 ).
cast down--namely, Ephraim ( Isaiah 28:1 ) and Samaria, its crown.
with . . . hand--with violence ( Isaiah 8:11 ).
3. crown . . . the drunkards--rather, "the crown of the drunkards."
4. Rather, "the fading flower, their glorious beauty ( Isaiah 28:1 ), which is on the head of the fat (fertile) valley, shall be as the early fig" [G. V. SMITH]. Figs usually ripened in August; but earlier ones (Hebrew bikkurah, Spanish bokkore) in June, and were regarded as a delicacy ( Jeremiah 24:2 , Hosea 9:10 , Micah 7:1 ).
while it is yet--that is, immediately, without delay; describing the eagerness of the Assyrian Shalmaneser, not merely to conquer, but to destroy utterly Samaria; whereas other conquered cities were often spared.
5-13. The prophet now turns to Judah; a gracious promise to the remnant ("residue"); a warning lest through like sins Judah should share the fate of Samaria.
crown--in antithesis to the "fading crown" of Ephraim ( Isaiah 28:1 Isaiah 28:3 ).
the residue--primarily, Judah, in the prosperous reign of Hezekiah ( 2 Kings 18:7 ), antitypically, the elect of God; as He here is called their "crown and diadem," so are they called His ( Isaiah 62:3 ); a beautiful reciprocity.
6. Jehovah will inspire their magistrates with justice, and their soldiers with strength of spirit.
turn . . . battle to . . . gate--the defenders of their country who not only repel the foe from themselves, but drive him to the gates of his own cities ( 2 Samuel 11:23 , 2 Kings 18:8 ).
7. Though Judah is to survive the fall of Ephraim, yet "they also" (the men of Judah) have perpetrated like sins to those of Samaria ( Isaiah 5:3 Isaiah 5:11 ), which must be chastised by God.
erred . . . are out of the way--"stagger . . . reel." Repeated, to express the frequency of the vice.
priest . . . prophet--If the ministers of religion sin so grievously, how much more the other rulers ( Isaiah 56:10 Isaiah 56:12 )!
vision--even in that most sacred function of the prophet to declare God's will revealed to them.
judgment--The priests had the administration of the law committed to them ( Deuteronomy 17:9 , 19:17 ). It was against the law for the priests to take wine before entering the tabernacle ( Leviticus 10:9 , Ezekiel 44:21 ).
9, 10. Here the drunkards are introduced as scoffingly commenting on Isaiah's warnings: "Whom will he (does Isaiah presume to) teach knowledge? And whom will He make to understand instruction? Is it those (that is, does he take us to be) just weaned, &c.? For (he is constantly repeating, as if to little children) precept upon precept," &c.
line--a rule or law. [MAURER]. The repetition of sounds in Hebrew. tzav latzav, tzav latzav, gav laqav, gav laquav, expresses the scorn of the imitators of Isaiah's speaking; he spoke stammering ( Isaiah 28:11 ). God's mode of teaching offends by its simplicity the pride of sinners ( 2 Kings 5:11 2 Kings 5:12 , 1 Corinthians 1:23 ). Stammerers as they were by drunkenness, and children in knowledge of God, they needed to be spoken to in the language of children, and "with stammering lips" (compare Matthew 13:13 ). A just and merciful retribution.
11. For--rather, "Truly." This is Isaiah's reply to the scoffers: Your drunken questions shall be answered by the severe lessons from God conveyed through the Assyrians and Babylonians; the dialect of these, though Semitic, like the Hebrew, was so far different as to sound to the Jews like the speech of stammerers (compare Isaiah 33:19 , 36:11 ). To them who will not understand God will speak still more unintelligibly.
12. Rather, "He (Jehovah) who hath said to them."
this . . . the rest--Reference may be primarily to "rest" from national warlike preparations, the Jews being at the time "weary" through various preceding calamities, as the Syro-Israelite invasion ( Isaiah 7:8 ; compare Isaiah 30:15 , 22:8 , 39:2 , 36:1 , 2 Kings 18:8 ). But spiritually, the "rest" meant is that to be found in obeying those very "precepts" of God ( Isaiah 28:10 ) which they jeered at (compare Jeremiah 6:16 , Matthew 11:29 ).
13. But--rather, "Therefore," namely, because "they would not hear" ( Isaiah 28:12 ).
that they might go--the designed result to those who, from a defect of the will, so far from profiting by God's mode of instructing, "precept upon precept," &c., made it into a stumbling-block ( Hosea 6:5 , 8:12 , Matthew 13:14 ).
go, and fall--image appropriately from "drunkards" ( Isaiah 28:7 , which they were) who in trying to "go forward fall backward."
15. said--virtually, in your conduct, if not in words.
covenant--There may be a tacit reference to their confidence in their "covenant" with the Assyrians in the early part of Hezekiah's prosperous reign, before he ceased to pay tribute to them, as if it ensured Judah from evil, whatever might befall the neighboring Ephraim ( Isaiah 28:1 ). The full meaning is shown by the language ("covenant with death--hell," or sheol) to apply to all lulled in false security spiritually ( Psalms 12:4 , Ecclesiastes 8:8 , Jeremiah 8:11 ); the godly alone are in covenant with death ( Job 5:23 , Hosea 2:18 , 1 Corinthians 3:22 ).
overflowing scourge--two metaphors: the hostile Assyrian armies like an overwhelming flood.
pass through--namely, through Judea on their way to Egypt, to punish it as the protector of Samaria ( 2 Kings 17:4 ).
lies--They did not use these words, but Isaiah designates their sentiments by their true name ( Amos 2:4 ).
16. Literally, "Behold Me as Him who has laid"; namely, in My divine counsel ( Revelation 13:8 ); none save I could lay it ( Isaiah 63:5 ).
stone--Jesus Christ; Hezekiah [MAURER], or the temple [EWALD], do not realize the full significancy of the language; but only in type point to Him, in whom the prophecy receives its exhaustive accomplishment; whether Isaiah understood its fulness or not ( 1 Peter 1:11 1 Peter 1:12 ), the Holy Ghost plainly contemplated its fulfilment in Christ alone; so in Isaiah 32:1 ; compare Genesis 49:24 , Psalms 118:22 , Matthew 21:42 , Romans 10:11 , Ephesians 2:20 .
tried--both by the devil ( Luke 4:1-13 ) and by men ( Luke 20:1-38 ), and even by God ( Matthew 27:46 ); a stone of tested solidity to bear the vast superstructure of man's redemption. The tested righteousness of Christ gives its peculiar merit to His vicarious sacrifice. The connection with the context is; though a "scourge" shall visit Judea ( Isaiah 28:15 ), yet God's gracious purpose as to the elect remnant, and His kingdom of which "Zion" shall be the center, shall not fail, because its rests on Messiah ( Matthew 7:24 Matthew 7:25 , 2 Timothy 2:19 ).
precious--literally "of preciousness," so in the Greek, ( 1 Peter 2:7 ). He is preciousness.
corner-stone--( 1 Kings 5:17 , 7:9 , Job 38:6 ); the stone laid at the corner where two walls meet and connecting them; often costly.
make haste--flee in hasty alarm; but the Septuagint has "be ashamed"; so Romans 9:33 , and 1 Peter 2:6 , "be confounded," substantially the same idea; he who rests on Him shall not have the shame of disappointment, nor flee in sudden panic (see Isaiah 30:15 , 32:17 ).
17. line--the measuring-line of the plummet. HORSLEY translates, "I will appoint judgment for the rule, and justice for the plummet." As the corner-stone stands most perpendicular and exactly proportioned, so Jehovah, while holding out grace to believers in the Foundation-stone, will judge the scoffers ( Isaiah 28:15 ) according to the exact justice of the law (compare James 2:13 ).
hail--divine judgment ( Isaiah 30:30 , 32:19 ).
18. disannulled--obliterated, as letters traced on a waxen tablet are obliterated by passing the stylus over it.
trodden down--passing from the metaphor in "scourge" to the thing meant, the army which treads down its enemies.
19. From the time, &c.--rather, "As often as it comes over (that is, passes through), it shall overtake you" [HORSLEY]; like a flood returning from time to time, frequent hostile invasions shall assail Judah, after the deportation of the ten tribes.
vexation . . . understand . . . report--rather, "It shall be a terror even to hear the mere report of it" [MAURER], ( 1 Samuel 3:11 ). But G. V. SMITH, "Hard treatment (HORSLEY, 'dispersion') only shall make you to understand instruction"; they scorned at the simple way in which the prophet offered it ( Isaiah 28:9 ); therefore, they must be taught by the severe teachings of adversity.
20. Proverbial, for they shall find all their sources of confidence fail them; all shall be hopeless perplexity in their affairs.
21. Perazim--In the valley of Rephaim ( 2 Samuel 5:18 2 Samuel 5:20 , 1 Chronicles 14:11 ), there Jehovah, by David, broke forth as waters do, and made a breach among the Philistines, David's enemies, as Perazim means, expressing a sudden and complete overthrow.
Gibeon--( 1 Chronicles 14:16 , 2 Samuel 5:25 , Margin); not Joshua's victory ( Joshua 10:10 ).
strange--as being against His own people; judgment is not what God delights in; it is, though necessary, yet strange to Him ( Lamentations 3:33 ).
work--punishing the guilty ( Isaiah 10:12 ).
22. mockers--a sin which they had committed ( Isaiah 28:9 Isaiah 28:10 ).
bands--their Assyrian bondage ( Isaiah 10:27 ); Judah was then tributary to Assyria; or, "lest your punishment be made still more severe" ( Isaiah 24:22 ).
consumption--destruction ( Isaiah 10:22 Isaiah 10:23 , Daniel 9:27 ).
23. Calling attention to the following illustration from husbandry ( Psalms 49:1 Psalms 49:2 ). As the husbandman does his different kinds of work, each in its right time and due proportion, so God adapts His measures to the varying exigencies of the several cases: now mercy, now judgments; now punishing sooner, now later (an answer to the scoff that His judgments, being put off so long, would never come at all, Isaiah 5:19 ); His object being not to destroy His people any more than the farmer's object in threshing is to destroy his crop; this vindicates God's "strange work" ( Isaiah 28:21 ) in punishing His people. Compare the same image, Jeremiah 24:6 , Hosea 2:23 , Matthew 3:12 .
24. all day--emphatic; he is not always ploughing: he also "sows," and that, too, in accordance with sure rules ( Isaiah 28:25 ).
doth he open--supply "always." Is he always harrowing?
25. face--the "surface" of the ground: "made plain," or level, by harrowing.
fitches--rather, "dill," or "fennel"; Nigella romana, with black seed, easily beaten out, used as a condiment and medicine in the East. So the Septuagint, "cummin" was used in the same way.
cast in . . . principal wheat--rather, plant the wheat in rows (for wheat was thought to yield the largest crop, by being planted sparingly [PLINY, Natural History, 18.21]); [MAURER]; "sow the wheat regularly" [HORSLEY]. But GESENIUS, like English Version, "fat," or "principal," that is, excellent wheat.
appointed barley--rather, "barley in its appointed place" [MAURER].
in their place--rather, "in its (the field's) border" [MAURER].
26. to discretion--in the due rules of husbandry; God first taught it to man ( Genesis 3:23 ).
27. The husbandman uses the same discretion in threshing. The dill ("fitches") and cummin, leguminous and tender grains, are beaten out, not as wheat, &c., with the heavy corn-drag ("threshing instrument"), but with "a staff"; heavy instruments would crush and injure the seed.
cart wheel--two iron wheels armed with iron teeth, like a saw, joined together by a wooden axle. The "corn-drag" was made of three or four wooden cylinders, armed with iron teeth or flint stones fixed underneath, and joined like a sledge. Both instruments cut the straw for fodder as well as separated the corn.
staff--used also where they had but a small quantity of corn; the flail ( Ruth 2:17 ).
28. Bread corn--corn of which bread is made.
bruised--threshed with the corn-drag (as contrasted with dill and cummin, "beaten with the staff"), or, "trodden out" by the hoofs of cattle driven over it on the threshing-floor [G. V. SMITH], ( Deuteronomy 25:4 , Micah 4:13 ).
because--rather, "but" [HORSLEY]; though the corn is threshed with the heavy instrument, yet he will not always be thus threshing it.
break it--"drive over it (continually) the wheel" [MAURER].
horsemen--rather, "horses"; used to tread out corn.
29. This also--The skill wherewith the husbandman duly adjusts his modes of threshing is given by God, as well as the skill ( Isaiah 28:26 ) wherewith he tills and sows ( Isaiah 28:24 Isaiah 28:25 ). Therefore He must also be able to adapt His modes of treatment to the several moral needs of His creatures. His object in sending tribulation (derived from the Latin tribulum, a "threshing instrument," Luke 22:31 , Romans 5:3 ) is to sever the moral chaff from the wheat, not to crush utterly; "His judgments are usually in the line of our offenses; by the nature of the judgments we may usually ascertain the nature of the sin" [BARNES].