Isaiah 28


‘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! 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. That wreath, the pride of Ephraim’s drunkards, will be trampled underfoot. 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. In that day the LORD Almighty will be a glorious crown, a beautiful wreath for the remnant of his people. 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.’ Isaiah 28:1-6

Woe To The Leaders Of Ephraim And Judah

In this chapter through to chapter 35, we find a series of woes. Isaiah will make clear that Ephraim, Isaiah 7:2, the Northern Kingdom, will be destroyed and so will Judah, although God wouldn’t let it happen. Jerusalem will be saved with no thanks to Egypt but thanks to God.

This chapter begins with a woe to the drunken, sceptical rulers of the land and gives us a vivid description of the rulers of Ephraim, Amos 6:4-5.

The wreath of pride refers to the city of Samaria which was built on a hill, 1 Kings 16:24. It was a beautiful place which was corrupted. No nation has ever built an enduring society by means of drunken dissipation.

God is going to destroy them with a storm, hail, destroying storm, and a devastating flood, that is, God will use Assyria to destroy Israel, 2 Kings 17:3-6. God chose this nation to bring judgment upon the Northern Kingdom and so, the Assyrians would come to Samaria, to the leadership that had feasted itself into a drunken stupor, 2 Kings 18:9-10.

God had decreed that those who violate His laws will be punished. Samaria would be overthrown as fast as one eating fresh ripe figs, in other words, very fast.

‘In that day’ seemingly points to the day when God would smite the enemies of Israel, however, some would receive the justice of God. It’s this remnant, who see God as their true glory, they are the ones who stand up to fight for God, 2 Samuel 11:23.

‘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. All the tables are covered with vomit and there is not a spot without filth. “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? For it is: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that; a little here, a little there.” Isaiah 28:7-10

Now Isaiah passes from Ephraim to Judah. The prophets were drunk, even the priests, every table was filled with filthy vomit, Isaiah 5:11. They gave wrong decisions because of strong drink, Proverbs 20:1 / Isaiah 5:11.

These hardened reprobates sneer at God’s prophets. They said to Isaiah that they were grown and didn’t need his advice, they scoffed and mocked the prophet, Nehemiah 9:30 / 2 Chronicles 36:15.

They scolded Isaiah for preaching the teachings of the law of God, Isaiah 53:1. He shared God’s law rule by rule, 2 Kings 21:13 / Ezekiel 47:13 / Isaiah 18:2, a little here and a little there.

‘Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues, God will speak to this people, 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. 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.’ Isaiah 28:11-13

Here we read Isaiah’s response to them and he tells them that their ungodliness will be punished. Those with foreign and strange lips were the Assyrians. Speaking to ‘this’ people, that is, this sinful people, Isaiah says, if they won’t listen to Isaiah, they will listen to the Assyrians, 1 Corinthians 14:20-22.

In other words, they would be given commands from the Assyrians, and eventually from the Babylonians and since they wouldn’t listen to the teachings of God, they would have to listen to the commands of their captors. This shows God’s wrath and judgement upon the unbelieving Jews.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following, concerning the ‘strange tongues’.

‘Here it means in a foreign or barbarous tongue and the sense is, that the lessons which God wished to teach would be conveyed to them through the language of foreigners, the Chaldeans. They should be removed to a distant land, and there, in hearing a strange speech, in living long among foreigners, they should learn the lesson which they refused to do when addressed by the prophets in their own land.’

God had directed them through the prophet, but they refused to listen. God told them what he wanted, but they won’t listen. They regarded God’s Word as babbling and childish but they would be broken because of it. God is going to make it simple, it will hurt.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘God here says that it should be as they said it was, they would be carried away to a distant land, and long abide among strangers, they would have ample time there to acquire instruction, and all that they would receive would be lesson after lesson of the same kind, line upon line, one judgment following another until the lesson of their disobedience had been fully inculcated, and they had been brought to true repentance.’

‘Therefore hear the word of the LORD, you scoffers who rule this people in Jerusalem. 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 our hiding place.” 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. 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. 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. 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.’ Isaiah 28:14-19

Here we read of a woe upon the sceptical rulers of Jerusalem and there is a Messianic prophecy involved.

Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem are described as scoffers. The ‘covenant with death’ refers to their covenant or agreement with Egypt, Job 5:23.

They think they are clever because they had paid protection money, they saw Egypt as their refuge, and they had a lying alliance with Egypt and had secret dealings with them.

The Stone was a costly and tested stone, it is pictured as being laid by God and it will prevent Zion from following. If they trusted in God and maintained the laws of the covenant that He had made with them, they would have a sure foundation upon which to stand.

The Stone represents the purpose of God, the promises of God to Israel. The Stone is the Christ, Jesus quotes it in reference to Himself, Matthew 21:42. Peter quotes it in reference to Jesus, Acts 4:11. Paul uses it in Romans 9:33 / Romans 10:11 / Ephesians 2:20, in referring to Christ.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Isaiah had already revealed in Isaiah 8:14 that this stone would also be ‘a sanctuary, a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.’ Added to the three designations here, we have six adjectives for this Rock.

They are 1. Elect, 2. Cornerstone, 3. Tried, 4. Sanctuary, 5. Stone of stumbling, and 6. Rock of offense. It might also be added that Christ is the stone ‘from another world’, and he is ‘the living stone’, Zechariah 3:9, and the ‘growing stone,’ Daniel 2:34-35.’

Assyria would be the hail and water, the overwhelming scourge. Hail, hailstones, and floods of waters are frequent images of the divine vengeance and wrath, Psalm 105:32 / Isaiah 22:19 / Isaiah 30:30 / Ezekiel 13:13 / Ezekiel 38:22 / Revelation 8:7 / Revelation 11:19 / Revelation 16:21.

Only God’s plan will stand, everything else will be swept away. Justice is the line, righteousness is the plumb line, in other words, God’s will is the standard by which they were to be determined faithful.

‘The bed is too short to stretch out on, the blanket too narrow to wrap around you. 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. 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. Isaiah 28:20-22

The Assyrian invasion demonstrates the folly of the Egyptian alliance. The alliance with Egypt would do them no good when the Assyrians overflow the land.

The words the ‘bed is too short’ and the ‘blanket too narrow’ speak about the defences and protections devised by men are not able to provide the necessary peace and comfort for God’s people. In other words, ‘you have made your bed, now lie in it’.

They had scoffed at God’s alliance, that is, His covenant with them, and so, He increased their bondage to those nations with whom they made alliances.

The deliverance would be with Judah as with the Philistines at Gibeon, 1 Chronicles 14:16 / Joshua 10, and at Mount Perazim, 2 Samuel 5:20 / 1 Chronicles 14:11. Their efforts to guard themselves against the threat of the Assyrians moved God to increase their calamity. It is a wise man, which co-operates with God.

Notice the door of repentance is opened by God, he gives them an opportunity to stop what they are doing.

‘Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say. When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually? Does he keep on breaking up and working the soil?  When he has levelled the surface, does he not sow caraway and scatter cumin? Does he not plant wheat in its place, barley in its plot, and spelt in its field? His God instructs him and teaches him the right way. 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. 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. All this also comes from the LORD Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent.’ Isaiah 28:23-29

The door of repentance is opened further as God asks them to listen, hear and pay attention to what is being said. In other words, God will do what is best, He will deal with them accordingly to their needs.

God’s judgement is designed to produce fruit. God’s judgement on Judah isn’t forever and it’s done to bring forth fruits. As different harvesters reap different crops, so God’s judgement will produce different fruits.

The work of the farmer in farming the land comes in stages. They don’t plant while they are ploughing. There is a designated time for each action of farming in order to bring about the desired crop.

After the ploughing, there would eventually come the time to bring forth the repentant remnant. The remnant would be the seed in Israel from which the Messiah and Saviour of the world would eventually come, Genesis 12:3.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘This is a beautiful little parable drawn from the agricultural industry, the point being that such things as ploughing and threshing have their specific purposes, therefore God’s punishments of people, whether his own or his enemies is purposeful, always looking forward to the projected results.’

Go To Isaiah 29