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Isaiah 5-8 Listen
Judgment upon the wicked (Isaiah 5)
1 Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:
2 And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.
3 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.
4 What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?
5 And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:
6 And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.
7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.
8 Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!
9 In mine ears said the LORD of hosts, Of a truth many houses shall be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitant.
10 Yea, ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, and the seed of an homer shall yield an ephah.
11 Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!
12 And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the LORD, neither consider the operation of his hands.
13 Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.
14 Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.
15 And the mean man shall be brought down, and the mighty man shall be humbled, and the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled:
16 But the LORD of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness.
17 Then shall the lambs feed after their manner, and the waste places of the fat ones shall strangers eat.
18 Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope:
19 That say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it!
20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
21 Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!
22 Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink:
23 Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!
24 Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.
25 Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them: and the hills did tremble, and their carcases were torn in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
26 And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly:
27 None shall be weary nor stumble among them; none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken:
28 Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent, their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind:
29 Their roaring shall be like a lion, they shall roar like young lions: yea, they shall roar, and lay hold of the prey, and shall carry it away safe, and none shall deliver it.
30 And in that day they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea: and if one look unto the land, behold darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof.
Isaiah prophesies judgment upon the wicked people of Judah. But he doesn't just say it in this chapter, he gives it in lyrical form; perhaps he even sang this prophecy. And you'll notice that he gives the prophecy using a metaphor. Here, God is the keeper of the vineyard and Israel/Judah is the vineyard. Despite great care, the vineyard is a mess. In verse 2 we see that, instead of bringing forth good grapes, it brought forth "wild grapes." Literally, these wild grapes refer to worthless berries. The Hebrew word (be-oo-sheem´) literally means "stinking or worthless things," holding the connotation that the resulting grapes were just plain ol' bad, bad, bad. Verse 10 indicates that God's large investment in Israel/Judah yielded a minimum return.
Isaiah is in the warning mode in this passage. His six woes are seen in verse 8-25:
In verse 18, Isaiah draws the image of these wicked people having a "cart" of sin behind them that they drag around with a rope. Whoa! That's heavy!
I can't resist quoting and paralleling Isaiah 5:20-23 to our own day and age:
Isaiah 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Isaiah 5:21 Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!
Isaiah 5:22 Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink:
Isaiah 5:23 Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!
I know that in these verses Isaiah is talking about Judah's failure and impending fall, but many of the verses in this chapter sound like contemporary times in our world. That's why God turned his back to the inhabitants of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. when they fell into captivity. It's man's sinful nature that promotes an anti-God agenda. The warning of Isaiah here includes the false justification of Judah/Israel concerning their actions. In so doing, they dismissed true godliness, substituting instead their own actions of rebellion and calling their despicable-before-God actions righteous. In reality, man does not have the right or ability to redefine God's righteous standard.
Verses 26-30 describe the wrath of God which shall come upon Judah/Israel in the form of a conquering army. This army is that of the Assyrians who would, in Isaiah's lifetime, conquer the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the Southern Kingdom (Judah), except for Jerusalem itself. While the Northern Kingdom fell to the Assyrians in 721 B.C., by a miracle of God, Jerusalem was spared until 609 B.C. when attacked by Egypt and then the Babylonians. The regime in Jerusalem after that time was comprised of puppet kings loyal to the conquering nations (first Egypt, then Babylon). The Assyrians themselves fell to the Babylonians in 604 B.C., and finally Jerusalem itself in 586 B.C. completely collapsed. Isaiah prophesied all of this.
Isaiah's commissioning (Isaiah 6)
1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.
6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
9 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.
10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
11 Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate,
12 And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.
13 But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.
In this passage we see the call of Isaiah to his prophetic ministry of warning Judah regarding their wickedness. It is prophesied, however, that the people will hear, but not respond. We are told the time of this commissioning; the text plainly says that God commissioned Isaiah "In the year that king Uzziah died." You may click on the link at the top of this page for a complete overview of the kings, but here's what we know about Uzziah. He was the 10th king of Judah and was known also as Azariah. He reigned from 790-739. We read about him in II Kings 14:21-22 (see notes); II Kings 15:1-7 (see notes); II Chronicles 26 (see notes). So, Isaiah's formal commissioning into the prophetic ministry was in 739 B.C.; some fix the date of Uzziah's death in 740 B.C.
In his vision, Isaiah expresses concern about his worthiness in verse 5, but this is resolved by "one of the seraphims" in verses 6-7. But are they going to listen to Isaiah's prophetic warnings? NO! Look at verses 9-13. The hearts of Isaiah's contemporaries were hard toward God. It is important to take note that these words of God to Isaiah are quoted or referenced in each of the Gospels - Matthew 13:14-15 (see notes), Mark 4:10-12 (see notes), Luke 8:10 (see notes) and John 12:39-41 (see notes). Paul quotes Isaiah in Acts 28:26-27 (see notes) and Romans 11:8 (see notes). Because of the hardness of their hearts, they rejected God's warning - both in the days of Isaiah as well as in the first century A.D.
Isaiah sent to King Ahaz (Isaiah 7:1-9)
1 And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it.
2 And it was told the house of David, saying, Syria is confederate with Ephraim. And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind.
3 Then said the LORD unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shearjashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field;
4 And say unto him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah.
5 Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying,
6 Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal:
7 Thus saith the Lord GOD, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass.
8 For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people.
9 And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah’s son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.
Ahaz was the son and successor of Jotham, king of Judah. In addition to Isaiah's writings, we read about Ahaz in II Kings 16 and II Chronicles 28 (see notes). He gave himself up to a life of wickedness and idolatry. Notwithstanding the warnings of Isaiah, Hosea, and Micah, he appealed to Tiglath-pileser, the king of Assyria, for help against Rezin, king of Damascus (Syria), and Pekah, king of Israel, who threatened Jerusalem. This help from Assyria resulted in great injury to his kingdom and his own humiliating subjection to the Assyrians (II Kings 16:7-9, see notes; II Kings 15:29, see notes). He also introduced among his people many heathen and idolatrous customs as seen in Isaiah 8:19 (see below) and Isaiah 38:6-8 (see notes). He died at the age of thirty-five, after reigning sixteen years (B.C. 740724). He was succeeded by his son Hezekiah. Because of the wickedness of King Ahaz he was "not brought into the sepulchre of the kings."
So, these verses represent what Isaiah told Ahaz, King of Judah, about the attack from Syria and the Northern Kingdom (Israel). While Ahaz was a wicked king of Judah, still God says through Isaiah that their attack upon him will not be successful. He further prophesies that Ephraim (an alternative reference to the Northern Kingdom) will "be not a people" in sixty-five years. Since the fall of the Northern Kingdom to the Assyrians was not that far off, this undoubtedly refers to the deportation of the inhabitants of Israel and the mixture of other races with those who remained. Used by the Assyrians and Babylonians to keep a nation under their subjection, this transferring of people from one conquered nation to another destroyed national pride and served to prevent future uprisings.
A Messianic foreshadowing (Isaiah 7:10-25)
10 Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying,
11 Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.
12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD.
13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?
14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.
16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.
17 The LORD shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father’s house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah; even the king of Assyria.
18 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall hiss for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.
19 And they shall come, and shall rest all of them in the desolate valleys, and in the holes of the rocks, and upon all thorns, and upon all bushes.
20 In the same day shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired, namely, by them beyond the river, by the king of Assyria, the head, and the hair of the feet: and it shall also consume the beard.
21 And it shall come to pass in that day, that a man shall nourish a young cow, and two sheep;
22 And it shall come to pass, for the abundance of milk that they shall give he shall eat butter: for butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land.
23 And it shall come to pass in that day, that every place shall be, where there were a thousand vines at a thousand silverlings, it shall even be for briers and thorns.
24 With arrows and with bows shall men come thither; because all the land shall become briers and thorns.
25 And on all hills that shall be digged with the mattock, there shall not come thither the fear of briers and thorns: but it shall be for the sending forth of oxen, and for the treading of lesser cattle.
Isaiah offers Ahaz a sign from God to validate the prophecy of verses 1-9. The familiar verse assigned to the Messiah by Matthew himself in Matthew 1:23 (see notes) is Isaiah 7:14, "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Since Matthew was inspired by God to use this passage as a reference to Jesus, I'm inclined to side with the scholars who claim that the mother referenced here was a royal contemporary of the prophet, whose childs name would symbolize the presence of God with his people, but would also foreshadow the Messiah in whom God would be incarnate. The reason for adhering to this position is the fact that this was to be a sign to Ahaz himself, and the rest of the chapter seems relevant to the scenarios of his day. However, there can be no question that this is also a reference to Jesus.
We are never actually told by Isaiah who exactly this contemporary fulfillment would be, but this much is clear from the context: This was a real child born during the days of Ahaz as a sign to him that the assault of verses 1-9 would fail; the accompanying details are too descriptive to be dismissed. The fact that Matthew quotes verse 14 as a prophecy concerning the birth of Jesus simply means that this sign to Ahaz was also intended to be the means by which the Messiah himself would one day appear - as a result of a virgin birth.
The Assyrians are coming to an Israel near you (Isaiah 8:1-10)
1 Moreover the LORD said unto me, Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man’s pen concerning Mahershalalhashbaz.
2 And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah.
3 And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the LORD to me, Call his name Mahershalalhashbaz.
4 For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.
5 The LORD spake also unto me again, saying,
6 Forasmuch as this people refuseth the waters of Shiloah that go softly, and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah’s son;
7 Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks:
8 And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel.
9 Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces.
10 Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us.
Can you say "Mahershalalhashbaz?" I can't say it, but I can write it. God told Isaiah to name his son "Mahershalalhashbaz." Surely he had a nickname. This name was to denote the sudden attack on Damascus and Syria by the Assyrian army; it means "a speedy plunder." Here's the prophecy concerning the child in verse 4, "For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria."
Here's a note I find helpful from the Expositor's Bible Commentary regarding the fall of the Northern Kingdom:
Isaiahs wife is called the prophetess (v.3) because she was his wife or because, as the one who bore children with prophetic names, she became involved in the communication of the message of God. It is less likely that she was a prophetess in her own right as there is no other evidence of this. If, as seems probable, the events of vv.1-4 are set out in chronological order (though then in v.3 is purely narrative and not sequential in the Hebrew), the time involved - including both the pregnancy and the inarticulate babyhood of the child (v.4) - would be between eighteen months and two years. This would place the inscribed prophecy in 734 B.C., for Damascus was occupied and probably Samaria plundered (cf. II Kings 15:29) by Tiglath-pileser III in 732 B.C.
Fear God and wait on the Lord (Isaiah 8:11-22)
11 For the LORD spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying,
12 Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.
13 Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
14 And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
15 And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.
16 Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.
17 And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.
18 Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion.
19 And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?
20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
21 And they shall pass through it, hardly bestead and hungry: and it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward.
22 And they shall look unto the earth; and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness.
These are encouragement verses from God for Isaiah to remain firm. First of all, Isaiah, don't listen to the wicked people surrounding you and don't be alarmed by their talk. Notice verse 13, "Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread." That's good advice - then and now. The people around you will listen to everyone but God, including wizards and sorcerers (verse 19). But here's the solid word from God to Isaiah in verse 20, "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." When big trouble comes, those people will be all out of legitimate answers (verses 21-22).
Isaiah uses an interesting phrase here which gets frequently quoted by many later on; notice verse 14, "And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem." Isaiah goes on to say in verse 15, "And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken." This becomes an oft-repeated phrase in reference to the rejection of Christ, quoted numerous times in the New Testament. Isaiah also makes reference to this in Isaiah 28:16 (see notes). The cornerstone of verse 16 here is the Messiah as Isaiah proclaims, "And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem." We first saw this reference back in Psalm 118:22 (see notes), "The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner." This verse is also used by Jesus himself in a parable to the Jewish leaders regarding his imminent crucifixion in Matthew 21:42/Mark 12:10/Luke 20:17 (see notes). Later in the New Testament we then see Jesus as the cornerstone in Acts 4:11 (see notes), Romans 9:33 (see notes) and I Peter 2:6 (see notes). All of the New Testament usages are based upon these Old Testament scriptures.