Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
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.
(Isa 28:7, 8;
Isa 5:11, 22;
Am 4:1; 6:1-6)
and metaphorically, like drunkards, rushing on to their own
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
but the garland is "fading," as garlands often do, because Ephraim is
now close to ruin (compare
fulfilled 721 B.C.
(2Ki 17:6, 24).
2. strong one--the Assyrian
cast down--namely, Ephraim
and Samaria, its crown.
with . . . hand--with violence
3. crown . . . the drunkards--rather, "the crown
of the drunkards."
4. Rather, "the fading flower, their glorious beauty
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
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
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
(Isa 28:1, 3).
the residue--primarily, Judah, in the prosperous reign of Hezekiah
antitypically, the elect of God; as He here is called
their "crown and diadem," so are they called His
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
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
(Isa 5:3, 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
(Isa 56:10, 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
(De 17:9; 19:17).
It was against the law for the priests to take wine before entering the
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, qav laqav,
qav laquav, expresses the scorn of the imitators of Isaiah's
speaking; he spoke stammering
God's mode of teaching offends by its simplicity the pride of sinners
(2Ki 5:11, 12;
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
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
Isa 33:19; 36:11).
To them who will not understand God will speak still more
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
Isa 30:15; 22:8; 39:2; 36:1;
But spiritually, the "rest" meant is that to be found in obeying those
very "precepts" of God
which they jeered at (compare
13. But--rather, "Therefore," namely, because "they would not hear"
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
(Ho 6:5; 8:12;
go, and fall--image appropriately from "drunkards"
(Isa 28:7, 8,
which they were) who in trying to "go forward fall backward."
14. scornful--(See on
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
The full meaning is shown by the language ("covenant with death--hell,"
or sheol) to apply to all lulled in false security spiritually
the godly alone are in covenant with death
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
lies--They did not use these words, but Isaiah designates
their sentiments by their true name
16. Literally, "Behold Me as Him who has laid";
namely, in My divine counsel
none save I could lay it
stone--Jesus Christ; Hezekiah
[MAURER], or the temple
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
(1Pe 1:11, 12),
the Holy Ghost plainly contemplated its fulfilment in Christ alone; so
tried--both by the devil
and by men
and even by God
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
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
(Mt 7:24, 25;
precious--literally, "of preciousness," so in the Greek,
He is preciousness.
(1Ki 5:17; 7:9;
the stone laid at the corner where two walls meet and connecting them;
make haste--flee in hasty alarm; but the Septuagint has "be
and 1Pe 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
Isa 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
according to the exact justice of the law (compare
(Isa 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],
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
therefore, they must be taught by the severe teachings of
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
(2Sa 5:18, 20;
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.
Margin); not Joshua's victory
strange--as being against His own people; judgment is not what God
delights in; it is, though necessary, yet strange to Him
work--punishing the guilty
22. mockers--a sin which they had committed
(Isa 28:9, 10).
bands--their Assyrian bondage
Judah was then tributary to Assyria; or, "lest your punishment be made
still more severe"
(Isa 10:22, 23;
23. Calling attention to the following illustration from husbandry
(Ps 49:1, 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,
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"
in punishing His people. Compare the same image,
24. all day--emphatic; he is not always ploughing: he also "sows,"
and that, too, in accordance with sure rules
doth he open--supply "always." Is he always harrowing?
25. face--the "surface" of the ground: "made plain," or level, by
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
But GESENIUS, like English Version, "fat," or
"principal," that is, excellent wheat.
appointed barley--rather, "barley in its appointed place"
in their place--rather, "in its (the field's) border"
26. to discretion--in the due rules of husbandry; God first taught it
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
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],
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"
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
wherewith he tills and sows
(Isa 28:24, 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
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].