ISAIAH CHAPTER 28.
Concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.
Chapters 28 to 33 in the Book of Isaiah contain a cycle of prophecies and proclamations concerning the relation of Judah to Assyria in the time of King Hezekiah. Ahaz had sinned in seeking protection against Syria and Israel not in the Lord, but in Assyria, thereby making Assyria a scourge of Judah. Hezekiah, otherwise a pious king, erred in seeking protection against Assyria by appealing to Egypt and entering into an alliance with this heathen nation. All this is described at length in these chapters and the planning and scheming without tile Lord condemned. At the same time, like flashes of sunlight on a dark day, Messianic promises are found in the midst of the gloomy denunciations of the prophet.
THE LORD REBUKES AND COMFORTS. — V. I. Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, that upon which they prided themselves in their contempt of the Lord, whose glorious beauty, like that of a wreath or garland put on during a drunken feast, is a fading flower, which are, rather, which is, for the reference is to the crown or garland worn by the drunken fools of Samaria, on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine. The picture is that of Samaria, the capital of tile Northern Kingdom, situated on a beautiful hill, surrounded with rich, terraced valleys like wreaths, but with its leaders slaves of wine, overcome by the vice of drunkenness. The picture is purposely painted dark, as a warning to the inhabitants of the Southern Kingdom. V. 2. Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, namely, the Assyrian conqueror, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, a shower of destruction, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand, overthrowing boast fill Ephraim with its proud capital, Samaria. V. 3. The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, the wreath which the drunkards of Ephraim, tile rulers of the Northern Kingdom, wear with such arrogant haughtiness, shall be trodden under feet; v. 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, that is, it will happen to the fading flower of Ephraim’s beauty, which is on the head of the fertile valley, as it does to the early fig, which, when he that looketh upon it seeth, while it is yet in his hand, just as soon as he has gotten hold of it, he eateth it up. The ruin of Samaria took place in hardly more than four or five years, and there was as yet no intimation of its destruction when the prophet wrote these words. But the reference to the overthrow of the false glory of Samaria leads to the mention of the divine, the Messianic beauty. V. 5. In that day, with the dawn of the Messianic era, shall the Lord of hosts be for a crown of glory and for a diadem of beauty unto the residue of His people, namely, to the believers of the true Israel, especially in the New Testament, the small number from all nations and peoples who accept the Messiah, v. 6. and for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, to have righteousness and justice prevailing throughout the land, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate, both in repelling an attack of the enemies and in directing the battle against the stronghold of the adversaries. The believers have power both to withstand the evil and to wage an offensive war against those who are its exponents. After this beautiful interlude the Lord turns to the people of Judah with a similar earnest warning. V. 7. But they also have erred through wine, the rulers of Judah being addicted to tile same vice as those of Samaria, and through strong drink are out of the way, reeling and staggering in their drunkenness; the priest, to whom the use of intoxicating liquors was strictly forbidden, and the prophet have erred through strong drink, cp. Lev. 10, 9; Ezek. 44, 21, they are swallowed up of wine, altogether overcome by the vice, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, at the very time when they should be under the influence of the Spirit of God alone, they stumble in judgment, their befuddled minds causing them to make wrong applications and interpretations of the Law. V. 8. For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, the result of their beastly drunkenness, so that there is no place clean. The prophet paints the picture of their besottedness before the eyes of these leaders of the people, in order to hold the filth of their vice up before them as in a mirror. He now introduces the drunken adversaries in person, with all their scoffing comment of his warnings. V.9. Whom shall he teach knowledge? so they sneeringly ask. And whom shall he make to understand doctrine? presuming to teach them knowledge. Them that are weaned from the milk and drawn from the breasts. They would have him know that they are no unweaned children, and that they are tired of his schoolmastery ways. They now try to heap ridicule and mockery upon him by stammering about his endless preaching and dinning in their ears. V. 10. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line, that is, rule upon rule; here a little and there a little, the gist of their attempted reproach being that the prophet was wearying their souls with a mass of little rules and precepts, directions and warnings in wearisome repetition, and without a right plan and order. V. 11. For with stammering lips and another tongue will He, namely, Jehovah, speak to this people, namely, by a foreign and hostile people, whose language would indeed seem strange and barbarous to them, the Assyrian invaders. V. 12. To whom He said, or, “He who said to them,” This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest, for that is what the Lord in His Word offers to weary souls longing for salvation; and this is the refreshing; yet they would not hear, they despised and rejected the Word of the Lord. V. 13. But the Word of the Lord was unto them, that is, it shall now truly be, precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little and there a little, namely, in stammering sounds and a tedious repetition which would come upon them as a judgment from on high, that they might go, unwilling though it may be, and fall backward and be broken and snared and taken, snared and captured by the enemy. Thus many a person, who in our days is sneering at the Word of God as an endless repetition of a jumble of rules and orders of life, will find himself judged and condemned to an eternity of damnation by that very Word; for “he that believeth not shall be damned.”
THE FALSE AND THE TRUE REFUGE. — V. 14. Wherefore hear the word of the Lord, ye scornful men, those who despised and mocked the prophet’s warning, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem, the capital being named for the entire Southern Kingdom. V. 15. Because ye have said, in some further mockery which is now recorded, We have made a covenant with death, confident that death itself could not harm them, and with hell, the realm of the dead, are we at agreement, hoping to be safe against its power on account of their alliance with Egypt; when the overflowing scourge, the Assyrian army, shall pass through, it shall not come unto us, for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves, concealing their real intention and purposes by the use of cunning policy, of fine diplomacy, the same procedure being found in all unbelievers to this day: v. 16. therefore thus saith the Lord God, in another beautiful statement concerning the true foundation of the believer’s trust, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation, as the Rock upon which His Church is firmly founded, a Stone, a tried Stone, one who is Himself approved, and by whom the hearts of all men are tested, a precious Corner-stone, one laid where two walls meet, which serves to connect them firmly, a sure Foundation, literally, “a Corner-stone of preciousness and a founded Foundation,” to emphasize the solidity of this foundation. He that believeth shall not make haste, he who relies on Him shall not be confounded or flee in hasty alarm, for this Cornerstone is Jesus Christ Himself, the Rock of Ages for His Church. Cp. Matt. 21, 42; Acts 4, 11; Rom. 9,33; 10, 11; Eph. 2, 20; 1 Pet. 2, 6-8. V. 17. Judgment also will I lay to the line and righteousness to the plummet, the acts of Jehovah being regarded as the erecting of a building against the scorners according to the strictest vengeance of His Law; and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, as the shovel cleared away the ashes from the altar in the Temple, and the waters shall overflow the hiding-place, thereby both exposing and sweeping away the fabric of lies built by the leaders of Judah. V. 18. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, its writing obliterated and the covenant nullified, and your agreement with hell, with the realm of death, shall not stand, these enemies rather overcoming them; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, when the flood of the Assyrian army would come along, then ye shall be trodden down by it, literally, “ye shall be to it a treading down,” signifying a complete subjection. V. 19. From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you, one Assyrian campaign after the other would be successful; for morning by morning shall it pass over, in one wave of invasion after the other, by day and by night; and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report, the scoffers would now hear a preaching in act, which would be naught but terror. V. 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, that is, the people of Jerusalem would find that the Egyptian covenant in which they hoped to find safety and rest would prove altogether insufficient. V. 21. For the Lord shall rise up as in Mount Perazim, He shall be wrath as in the Valley of Gibeon, when, at the time of David, as an ally of Israel, He overthrew the armies of the Philistines and afforded deliverance to His people, 2 Sam. 5, 20; 1 Chron. 14, 11-15, that He may do His work, His strange work, for it would surely appear strange to other nations to see Jehovah punishing His own children in this manner, and bring to pass His act, His strange act, whereby He destroys His own people. V. 22. Now, therefore, so the prophet, in conclusion, warns the scoffers, be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong, namely, the fetters of their submission to Assyria; for I have heard from the Lord God of hosts a consumption, that He intended a general destruction, even determined upon the whole earth. Therefore quick repentance was in order, lest the punishment of the Lord consume them all.
THE CHASTISEMENT OF THE LORD OF HOSTS. — V. 23. Give ye ear and hear My voice; hearken and hear My speech, close attention being demanded all the more since the illustration which now follows concerning the work of the farmer is not explained any further. V. 24. Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? Does he continue the same process in endless repetition? Doth he open and break the clods of his ground? by the process of harrowing. To keep on with the same work all the time would manifestly be absurd. V. 25. When he hath made plain the face thereof, prepared the top of the ground, so that it is even, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, rather, the black cumin, and scatter the cumin, the ordinary kind, and cast in the principal wheat, planting the best grain in rows, and the appointed barley, in a place by itself, and the rye, or spelt, in their place? apparently along the edge of the field, in order to protect the nobler grains against wild animals and stray cattle. V. 26. For his God doth instruct him to discretion, to do his work with understanding, and doth teach him. It was God who taught the rules of husbandry to man, Gen. 3, 23. V. 27. For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing-instrument, the threshing-sledge, neither is a cart-wheel, the broad wheel of the threshing-wagon, turned about upon the cumin, for either one of these seeds would be crushed by such a process; but the fitches, the black cumin, are beaten out with a staff and the cumin with a rod, the threshing-staff, or flail, being used in their case V. 28. Bread-corn is bruised, rather, “Is the bread-corn bruised?” Would a farmer be foolish enough to continue the process of threshing until the grain is crushed? The answer implied is, No; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen, as the horses trod out the grain from the husks. V. 29. This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, which is wonderful In counsel and excellent in working, that is, this parable teaches the wisdom of God in the higher plane, the manner in which He deals with His harvest on earth. The Lord punishes, but only in order to bless; He threshes, but not with crushing blows, not with the purpose of destroying. His object in sending tribulation is to separate the moral chaff from the wheat and to obtain the fullness of the harvest.