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Isaiah 28-30 Listen
Judgment on Ephraim and Jerusalem (Isaiah 28:1-13)
1 Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!
2 Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand.
3 The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under feet:
4 And the glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley, shall be a fading flower, and as the hasty fruit before the summer; which when he that looketh upon it seeth, while it is yet in his hand he eateth it up.
5 In that day shall the LORD of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people,
6 And for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate.
7 But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.
8 For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean.
9 Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.
10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:
11 For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.
12 To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.
13 But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.
Ephraim is another reference Isaiah uses when speaking of the Northern Tribe, Israel. Ephraim was originally one of Joseph's two sons (the other being Manasseh) who came into an inheritance with the other tribes of Jacob. You may recall that when the land in Canaan was divided, Ephraim AND Manasseh rounded out the 12 tribes possessing land, while the tribe of Levi (the priestly tribe) was not permitted to have a possession. So when Isaiah talks about the fall of Ephraim, he is talking about the fall of Israel to the Assyrians in 721 B.C. On the other hand, Jerusalem did not fall to the Assyrians when they were under siege in 701 B.C. by them, but survived all the way down to 586 B.C. when they were overcome by the Babylonians. These verses speak of these defeats.
It is interesting that the Apostle Paul quotes from verses 11 and 12 in I Corinthians 14:21-22 (see notes) in reference to speaking in tongues. The Hebrew word for "stammering" (law-ayg´) in verse 11 here can also be translated "foreigner," which is the context in which Paul uses it in I Corinthians 14:21. Those verses serve as Isaiah's response to the leaders of Israel portrayed as drunkards in the preceding verses. Verses 9-10 are probably a reference to the meaningless babblings of these drunkards. The Hebrew of verse 10 sounds like this, "saw lasaw saw lasaw qaw laqaw qaw laqaw." Isaiah seems to be mimicking the unintelligible mutterings of a drunkard. In other words, verse 10 was not meant to have meaning; it's mimicking drunkards with meaningless Hebrew words. It's simply a bunch of syllables strung together without regard for any rules of Hebrew grammar. Isaiah even repeats these mutterings in verse 13 as the source of their downfall.
So, here you have the leaders of Israel being compared to drunkards with no spiritual insight. Isaiah then tells them in verse 11 that the Assyrians, with a different language, will come and teach them the hard way what they refused to learn the easy way. And the foreign language of these Assyrians will, likewise, sound like the mutterings of a drunkard to them. That's a fascinating backdrop for the usage of those verses by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 14:21-22 (see notes) when he is talking about speaking in tongues.
14 Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem.
15 Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:
16 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.
17 Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place.
18 And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.
19 From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night: and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report.
20 For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it.
21 For the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act.
22 Now therefore be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong: for I have heard from the Lord GOD of hosts a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth.
23 Give ye ear, and hear my voice; hearken, and hear my speech.
24 Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? doth he open and break the clods of his ground?
25 When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and the rie in their place?
26 For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him.
27 For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod.
28 Bread corn is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen.
29 This also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.
These verses look to the millennium when the Messiah (Jesus Christ) will rule...everywhere on earth. Zion (aka Sion) is a frequent reference in the Old and New Testaments to Jerusalem. This was the area upon which Jerusalem was built. The cornerstone of verse 16 here is the Messiah; Isaiah established that back in Isaiah 8:14 (see notes), "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. So, verse 16 deals with the coming Messiah and the resulting reign...beginning with the millennium. However, the remaining verses in this section convey the prophetic reality of judgment from God at the hands of the Assyrians.
That defeat at the hands of the Assyrians is portrayed as inescapable here in verses 17-20. In verse 21, Isaiah cites David's rout of the Philistines (II Samuel 5:17-25; I Chronicles 14:8-17, see notes) to convey the thoroughness of Israel's defeat at the hands of these Assyrians. Isaiah completes this judgment (verses 22-29) with a farmer analogy: Just as a farmer uses the appropriate implement for each type of grain, God intends to produce righteousness from His people through particular judgments.
1 Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices.
2 Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow: and it shall be unto me as Ariel.
3 And I will camp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee.
4 And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.
5 Moreover the multitude of thy strangers shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones shall be as chaff that passeth away: yea, it shall be at an instant suddenly.
6 Thou shalt be visited of the LORD of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire.
7 And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel, even all that fight against her and her munition, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision.
8 It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion.
9 Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink.
10 For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.
11 And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed:
12 And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.
13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
14 Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.
15 Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?
16 Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?
17 Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest?
18 And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.
19 The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
20 For the terrible one is brought to nought, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off:
21 That make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought.
22 Therefore thus saith the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale.
23 But when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel.
24 They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.
This chapter describes the Assyrian siege on Jerusalem in 701 B.C. The actual siege is found in II Kings 18:13-19:37; II Chronicles 32:9-22; Isaiah 36-37. Ariel is an unusual reference to Jerusalem here, confirmed to be the same at the end of verse 8 with the reference to Zion, which we know to be synonymous with Jerusalem. A map of the Assyrian Empire in 701 B.C. is a curious sight. The people in all directions had been conquered by the Assyrians - but not Jerusalem. The miraculous slaying of Assyria's troops (185,000 by an angel in one night) and trouble back home caused the Assyrian ruler, Sennacherib, to return without accomplishing his mission. Granted, he humbled Jerusalem; he had them under house arrest (so to speak) for some period of time; he captured their friends and relatives outside the city dwelling in Judah; but he did not conquer Jerusalem.
Note that Isaiah prophesied that even this siege would not cause the people to turn back to God. The siege of the Assyrians is seen in verse 3; their vast numbers are referenced in verse 5. The deliverance of Jerusalem found in verses 5-8 refers to this failed attempt in 701 B.C. by the Assyrians to overtake Jerusalem. Yet despite this judgment of God, Isaiah speaks to the spiritual insensitivity of the inhabitants of Jerusalem in verse 13, "Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:" Yup - man-made religion! But things will change for these Jews.
Beginning in verse 17 a future distinction is seen when they WILL HAVE spiritual insight. These verses would seem to look to the future beginning with the millennium. Notice verse 24, "They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine." The concept stated here of spiritual understanding and doctrinal learning are the same provisions found in Jeremiah 31:31-34 (see notes) with regard to the New Covenant which we know will be fulfilled during the millennium.
1 Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin:
2 That walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt!
3 Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion.
4 For his princes were at Zoan, and his ambassadors came to Hanes.
5 They were all ashamed of a people that could not profit them, nor be an help nor profit, but a shame, and also a reproach.
6 The burden of the beasts of the south: into the land of trouble and anguish, from whence come the young and old lion, the viper and fiery flying serpent, they will carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures upon the bunches of camels, to a people that shall not profit them.
7 For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still.
8 Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever:
9 That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD:
10 Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:
11 Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.
12 Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon:
13 Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant.
14 And he shall break it as the breaking of the potters’ vessel that is broken in pieces; he shall not spare: so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a sherd to take fire from the hearth, or to take water withal out of the pit.
15 For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.
16 But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift.
17 One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one; at the rebuke of five shall ye flee: till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill.
18 And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is A GOD OF JUDGMENT: BLESSED ARE all they that wait for him.
19 For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: thou shalt weep no more: he will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer thee.
20 And THOUGH the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers:
21 And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This IS the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.
22 Ye shall defile also the covering of thy graven images of silver, and the ornament of thy molten images of gold: thou shalt cast them away as a menstruous cloth; thou shalt say unto it, Get thee hence.
23 Then shall he give the rain of thy seed, that thou shalt sow the ground withal; and bread of the increase of the earth, and it shall be fat and plenteous: in that day shall thy cattle feed in large pastures.
24 The oxen likewise and the young asses that ear the ground shall eat clean provender, which hath been winnowed with the shovel and with the fan.
25 And there shall be upon every high mountain, and upon every high hill, rivers AND streams of waters in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall.
26 Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the LORD bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound.
27 Behold, the name of the LORD cometh from far, burning with his anger, and the burden thereof is heavy: his lips are full of indignation, and his tongue as a devouring fire:
28 And his breath, as an overflowing stream, shall reach to the midst of the neck, to sift the nations with the sieve of vanity: and there shall be a bridle in the jaws of the people, causing them to err.
29 Ye shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one goeth with a pipe to come into the mountain of the LORD, to the mighty One of Israel.
30 And the LORD shall cause his glorious voice to be heard, and shall shew the lighting down of his arm, with the indignation of his anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones.
31 For through the voice of the LORD shall the Assyrian be beaten down, which smote with a rod.
32 And in every place where the grounded staff shall pass, which the LORD shall lay upon him, it shall be with tabrets and harps: and in battles of shaking will he fight with it.
33 For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it.
We see in II Kings 18:17-37 (see notes) that Hezekiah, King of Judah, had probably formed an alliance with Egypt prior to the Assyrian siege on Jerusalem...or at least his ambassadors were in talks about such an alliance. He even tried to buy off the Assyrian King with gifts. It seems that dependence on God for deliverance was Hezekiah's course of last resort - the only one that actually worked. Egypt quickly fell to the Assyrians leaving Jerusalem alone. Verses 1-7 deal with Jerusalem's negotiations with Egypt and how useless an alliance would be. Ultimately Jerusalem would be delivered by a miracle from God, not an alliance with Egypt or anyone else.
Understand this, Hezekiah was a good King of Judah; he loved God. However, all of Judah was not like King Hezekiah. We see them characterized here in verses 8-11 as people who reject the truth of God's righteousness in lieu of their preference for the lies of the false prophets. In verse 9 Isaiah refers to them as "rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD." Everyone likes good news...right? But what about when the news is really bad? Well...denial sets it. Notice what Isaiah says (verse 10) about these inhabitants of Judah who were in denial about the trouble there were in, "Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits." Just give us good news whether it's true or not! Sometimes optimism just isn't enough - the lesson of verses 12-17 - judgment (from Assyria) is coming! Let's take a moment to remember what happened to Judah at the hands of the Assyrians: Judah fell, but the capital city, Jerusalem, miraculously survived an incredible siege.
Then Isaiah's bleak prophecy takes a turn upward. In verses 18-26 Isaiah prophesies concerning the Messianic rule beginning with the millennium. He prophesies a very nice environment of peace where the people will be enlightened, unlike their condition at the time of Isaiah's writing. For more on Isaiah's description of life during the millennium, read Isaiah 2:1-5 (see notes), Isaiah 11:1-16 (see notes) and Isaiah 65 (see notes).
Beginning with verse 27, Isaiah returns to the theme of the supernatural defeat of the Assyrians in 701 B.C. Notice verse 31, "For through the voice of the LORD shall the Assyrian be beaten down, which smote with a rod." Yup! That's what happened. To read about the actual attempt by the Assyrians on Jerusalem, click here to read the summary on II Kings 18:13-19:37; II Chronicles 32:9-22; Isaiah 36-37.