Isaiah 28

Woe to the Leaders of Ephraim and Judah

1 Woe to that wreath, the pride of Ephraim’s drunkards, to the fading flower, his glorious beauty, set on the head of a fertile valley— to that city, the pride of those laid low by wine!
2 See, the Lord has one who is powerful and strong. Like a hailstorm and a destructive wind, like a driving rain and a flooding downpour, he will throw it forcefully to the ground.
3 That wreath, the pride of Ephraim’s drunkards, will be trampled underfoot.
4 That fading flower, his glorious beauty, set on the head of a fertile valley, will be like figs ripe before harvest— as soon as people see them and take them in hand, they swallow them.
5 In that day the LORD Almighty will be a glorious crown, a beautiful wreath for the remnant of his people.
6 He will be a spirit of justice to the one who sits in judgment, a source of strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate.
7 And these also stagger from wine and reel from beer: Priests and prophets stagger from beer and are befuddled with wine; they reel from beer, they stagger when seeing visions, they stumble when rendering decisions.
8 All the tables are covered with vomit and there is not a spot without filth.
9 “Who is it he is trying to teach? To whom is he explaining his message? To children weaned from their milk, to those just taken from the breast?
10 For it is: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that[a] ; a little here, a little there.”
11 Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people,
12 to whom he said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”; and, “This is the place of repose”— but they would not listen.
13 So then, the word of the LORD to them will become: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that; a little here, a little there— so that as they go they will fall backward; they will be injured and snared and captured.
14 Therefore hear the word of the LORD, you scoffers who rule this people in Jerusalem.
15 You boast, “We have entered into a covenant with death, with the realm of the dead we have made an agreement. When an overwhelming scourge sweeps by, it cannot touch us, for we have made a lie our refuge and falsehood[b] our hiding place.”
16 So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic.
17 I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line; hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie, and water will overflow your hiding place.
18 Your covenant with death will be annulled; your agreement with the realm of the dead will not stand. When the overwhelming scourge sweeps by, you will be beaten down by it.
19 As often as it comes it will carry you away; morning after morning, by day and by night, it will sweep through.” The understanding of this message will bring sheer terror.
20 The bed is too short to stretch out on, the blanket too narrow to wrap around you.
21 The LORD will rise up as he did at Mount Perazim, he will rouse himself as in the Valley of Gibeon— to do his work, his strange work, and perform his task, his alien task.
22 Now stop your mocking, or your chains will become heavier; the Lord, the LORD Almighty, has told me of the destruction decreed against the whole land.
23 Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say.
24 When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually? Does he keep on breaking up and working the soil?
25 When he has leveled the surface, does he not sow caraway and scatter cumin? Does he not plant wheat in its place,[c]barley in its plot,[d]and spelt in its field?
26 His God instructs him and teaches him the right way.
27 Caraway is not threshed with a sledge, nor is the wheel of a cart rolled over cumin; caraway is beaten out with a rod, and cumin with a stick.
28 Grain must be ground to make bread; so one does not go on threshing it forever. The wheels of a threshing cart may be rolled over it, but one does not use horses to grind grain.
29 All this also comes from the LORD Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent.

Isaiah 28 Commentary

Chapter 28

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.

Cross References 76

  • 1. Isaiah 10:5; Isaiah 29:1; Isaiah 30:1; Isaiah 31:1; Isaiah 33:1
  • 2. ver 3; Isaiah 7:2; Isaiah 9:9
  • 3. ver 4
  • 4. S Leviticus 10:9; Isaiah 5:11; Hosea 7:5; Amos 6:6
  • 5. Isaiah 40:10
  • 6. S Joshua 10:11; Isaiah 30:30; Ezekiel 13:11
  • 7. Isaiah 29:6
  • 8. S Isaiah 8:7; S Daniel 9:26
  • 9. S ver 1
  • 10. S Job 40:12; S Isaiah 5:5
  • 11. ver 1
  • 12. S Song of Songs 2:13; Hosea 9:10; Nahum 3:12
  • 13. S Isaiah 10:20; S Isaiah 27:1; Isaiah 29:18; Isaiah 30:23
  • 14. S Isaiah 24:16,23
  • 15. Isaiah 62:3; Jeremiah 13:18; Ezekiel 16:12; Ezekiel 21:26; Zechariah 9:16
  • 16. S Isaiah 1:9
  • 17. S 2 Samuel 14:20; Isaiah 11:2-4; Isaiah 32:1,16; Isaiah 33:5
  • 18. Isaiah 4:4; John 5:30
  • 19. Judges 9:44-45; S 2 Chronicles 32:8
  • 20. S Isaiah 3:12
  • 21. S Leviticus 10:9; S Isaiah 22:13; S Ephesians 5:18
  • 22. S Psalms 107:27; Isaiah 56:10-12
  • 23. Isaiah 24:2
  • 24. S Isaiah 9:15
  • 25. S Isaiah 1:1; Isaiah 29:11; Hosea 4:11
  • 26. Jeremiah 48:26
  • 27. ver 26; Psalms 32:8; Isaiah 2:3; Isaiah 30:20; Isaiah 48:17; Isaiah 50:4; Isaiah 54:13; Jeremiah 31:34; Jeremiah 32:33
  • 28. Isaiah 52:7; Isaiah 53:1
  • 29. Psalms 131:2
  • 30. Hebrews 5:12-13; 1 Peter 2:2
  • 31. ver 13
  • 32. S Genesis 11:7; Isaiah 33:19; Jeremiah 5:15
  • 33. Ezekiel 3:5; 1 Corinthians 14:21*
  • 34. S Exodus 14:14; S Joshua 1:13; S Job 11:18; S Isaiah 11:10; Matthew 11:28-29
  • 35. ver 10
  • 36. Matthew 21:44
  • 37. S Isaiah 8:15
  • 38. Isaiah 1:10
  • 39. 2 Chronicles 36:16
  • 40. S Job 5:23; Isaiah 8:19
  • 41. ver 2,18; Isaiah 8:7-8; Isaiah 10:26; Isaiah 29:6; Isaiah 30:28; Daniel 11:22
  • 42. S Isaiah 9:15
  • 43. S Judges 9:35; Isaiah 29:15; Jeremiah 23:24
  • 44. S Isaiah 14:32
  • 45. Psalms 118:22; Isaiah 8:14-15; Da 2:34-35,45; Zechariah 12:3; Matthew 21:42; S Acts 4:11; Ephesians 2:20
  • 46. Jeremiah 51:26; 1 Corinthians 3:11; 2 Timothy 2:19
  • 47. Isaiah 29:22; Isaiah 45:17; Isaiah 50:7; Isaiah 54:4; Romans 9:33*; Romans 10:11*; 1 Peter 2:6*
  • 48. S Psalms 11:7; S Isaiah 5:16
  • 49. S 2 Kings 21:13
  • 50. S Joshua 10:11
  • 51. S Isaiah 8:7
  • 52. S Isaiah 7:7
  • 53. S ver 15
  • 54. S Isaiah 5:5; Isaiah 63:18; Daniel 8:13
  • 55. 2 Kings 24:2
  • 56. S Psalms 5:3
  • 57. S Job 18:11
  • 58. Isaiah 59:6
  • 59. S Genesis 38:29; S 1 Chronicles 14:11
  • 60. S Joshua 9:3; Joshua 10:10,12; 1 Chronicles 14:16
  • 61. Isaiah 10:12; Isaiah 65:7; Luke 19:41-44
  • 62. S 2 Chronicles 36:16; Jeremiah 29:18; Lamentations 2:15; Zephaniah 2:15
  • 63. S Isaiah 10:22
  • 64. S Isaiah 10:23
  • 65. Isaiah 32:9
  • 66. Ecclesiastes 3:2
  • 67. Matthew 23:23
  • 68. S Exodus 9:31
  • 69. Exodus 9:32; Ezekiel 4:9
  • 70. S Psalms 94:10
  • 71. S Isaiah 21:10
  • 72. S Job 41:30
  • 73. Isaiah 10:5
  • 74. S Isaiah 21:10
  • 75. S Isaiah 9:6
  • 76. S Psalms 92:5; Romans 11:33

Footnotes 4

  • [a]. Hebrew "/ sav lasav sav lasav" / "kav lakav kav lakav" (probably meaningless sounds mimicking the prophet’s words); also in verse 13
  • [b]. Or "false gods"
  • [c]. The meaning of the Hebrew for this word is uncertain.
  • [d]. The meaning of the Hebrew for this word is uncertain.

Chapter Summary


In this chapter the ten tribes of Israel and the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, are threatened with divine judgments, because of their sins and iniquities mentioned. The ten tribes, under the name of Ephraim, for their pride and drunkenness, Isa 28:1 the means of their destruction, the Assyrian monarch, compared to a hail storm, and a flood of mighty waters, Isa 28:2 which destruction, for their sins, is repeated, and represented as sudden and swift; when they would be like a fading flower and hasty fruit, Isa 28:3,4 and then, as for the two tribes, though they had a glorious prince at the head of them, who had a spirit of wisdom and judgment for government, and of valour and courage for war, Isa 28:5,6 yet the generality of the people, led on by the example of priest and prophet, went into the same sensual gratifications as they of the ten tribes did, Isa 28:7,8 and became sottish and unteachable, and were like children just taken from the breast, and to be used as such, Isa 28:9-11 and though the doctrine proposed to be taught them was such as, if received, would be of the greatest advantage to them, for their comfort and refreshment, yet it was refused by them with the utmost contempt; which was to be their ruin, Isa 28:12,13, wherefore the rulers of Jerusalem are threatened with the judgments of God, which should come upon them night and day, the report of which would be a vexation to them; and from which they should not be screened by their covenant with death and hell, or by their shelters and coverings with lies and falsehood, in which they placed their confidence, Isa 28:14,15 Isa 28:17-22 in the midst of which account, for the comfort of the Lord's people, stands a glorious prophecy, concerning the sure foundation laid in Zion, on which all that are built are safe and happy, Isa 28:16 and the certainty of these judgments is illustrated by the method which the ploughman takes in sowing his corn, and threshing it out; for which he has instruction and direction from the Lord of hosts, Isa 28:23-29.

Isaiah 28 Commentaries

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