Isaiah 28

The Lord Will Judge Samaria

1The splendid crown of Ephraim’s drunkards is doomed,
Heb “Woe [to] the crown [or “wreath”] of the splendor [or “pride”] of the drunkards of Ephraim.” The “crown” is Samaria, the capital city of the northern kingdom (Ephraim). Priests and prophets are included among these drunkards in v. 7.

the withering flower, its beautiful splendor,
Heb “the beauty of his splendor.” In the translation the masculine pronoun (“his”) has been replaced by “its” because the referent (the “crown”) is the city of Samaria.

Heb “which [is].”
at the head of a rich valley,
the crown of those overcome with wine.
Heb “ones overcome with wine.” The words “the crown of” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The syntactical relationship of the final phrase to what precedes is uncertain. הֲלוּמֵי יָיִן (halume yayin, “ones overcome with wine”) seems to correspond to שִׁכֹּרֵי אֶפְרַיִם (shikkore efrayim, “drunkards of Ephraim”) in line 1. The translation assumes that the phrase “the splendid crown” is to be understood in the final line as well.

2 Look, the sovereign master
The Hebrew term translated “sovereign master” here and in vv. 16, 22 is אֲדֹנָי (’adonay).
sends a strong, powerful one.
Heb “Look, a strong and powerful [one] belongs to the Lord.”

With the force of a hailstorm or a destructive windstorm,
Heb “like a rainstorm of hail, a wind of destruction.”

with the might of a driving, torrential rainstorm,
Heb “like a rainstorm of mighty, overflowing waters.”

he will knock that crown
The words “that crown” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The object of the verb is unexpressed in the Hebrew text.
to the ground with his hand.
Or “by [his] power.”

3 The splendid crown of Ephraim’s drunkards
will be trampled underfoot.
4 The withering flower, its beautiful splendor,
situated at the head of a rich valley,
will be like an early fig before harvest –
as soon as someone notices it,
he grabs it and swallows it.
Heb “which the one seeing sees, while still it is in his hand he swallows it.”

5 At that time
Or “in that day” (KJV).
the Lord who commands armies will become a beautiful crown
and a splendid diadem for the remnant of his people.
6 He will give discernment to the one who makes judicial decisions,
and strength to those who defend the city from attackers.
Heb “and [he will become] a spirit of justice for the one who sits [i.e., presides] over judgment, // and strength [for] the ones who turn back battle at the city gate.” The Lord will provide internal stability and national security.

7 Even these men
Heb “these.” The demonstrative pronoun anticipates “priests and prophets” two lines later.
stagger because of wine,
they stumble around because of beer –
priests and prophets stagger because of beer,
they are confused
According to HALOT 135 s.v. III בלע, the verb form is derived from בָּלַע (bala’, “confuse”), not the more common בָּלַע (“swallow”). See earlier notes at 3:12 and 9:16.
because of wine,
they stumble around because of beer;
they stagger while seeing prophetic visions,
Heb “in the seeing.”

they totter while making legal decisions.
Heb “[in] giving a decision.”

8 Indeed, all the tables are covered with vomit;
no place is untouched.
Heb “vomit, without a place.” For the meaning of the phrase בְּלִי מָקוֹם (beli maqom, “without a place”), see HALOT 133 s.v. בְּלִי.

9 Who is the Lord
Heb “he”; the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
trying to teach?
To whom is he explaining a message?
Heb “Who is he teaching knowledge? For whom is he explaining a message?” The translation assumes that the Lord is the subject of the verbs “teaching” and “explaining,” and that the prophet is asking the questions. See v. 12. According to some vv. 9–10 record the people’s sarcastic response to the Lord’s message through Isaiah.

Those just weaned from milk!
Those just taken from their mother’s breast!
Heb “from the breasts.” The words “their mother’s” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The translation assumes that this is the prophet’s answer to the questions asked in the first half of the verse. The Lord is trying to instruct people who are “infants” morally and ethically.

10 Indeed, they will hear meaningless gibberish,
senseless babbling,
a syllable here, a syllable there.
The meaning of this verse has been debated. The text has literally “indeed [or “for”] a little there, a little there” ( כִּי צַו לָצָו צַו לָצָו קַו לָקָו קַו, ki tsav latsav, tsav latsav, qav laqav, qav laqav). The present translation assumes that the repetitive syllables are gibberish that resembles baby talk (cf v. 9b) and mimics what the people will hear when foreign invaders conquer the land (v. 11). In this case זְעֵיר (zeer, “a little”) refers to the short syllabic structure of the babbling (cf. CEV). Some take צַו (tsav) as a derivative of צָוָה (tsavah, “command”) and translate the first part of the statement as “command after command, command after command.” Proponents of this position (followed by many English versions) also take קַו (qav) as a noun meaning “measuring line” (see v. 17), understood here in the abstract sense of “standard” or “rule.”

11 For with mocking lips and a foreign tongue
he will speak to these people.
This verse alludes to the coming Assyrian invasion, when the people will hear a foreign language that sounds like gibberish to them. The Lord is the subject of the verb “will speak,” as v. 12 makes clear. He once spoke in meaningful terms, but in the coming judgment he will speak to them, as it were, through the mouth of foreign oppressors. The apparent gibberish they hear will be an outward reminder that God has decreed their defeat.

12 In the past he said to them,
Heb “who said to them.”

“This is where security can be found.
Provide security for the one who is exhausted!
This is where rest can be found.”
This message encapsulates the Lord’s invitation to his people to find security in his protection and blessing.

But they refused to listen.
13 So the Lord’s word to them will sound like
meaningless gibberish,
senseless babbling,
a syllable here, a syllable there.
Heb “And the word of the Lord will be to them, ‘tsahv latsahv,’ etc.” See the note at v. 10. In this case the “Lord’s word” is not the foreigner’s strange sounding words (as in v. 10), but the Lord’s repeated appeals to them (like the one quoted in v. 12). As time goes on, the Lord’s appeals through the prophets will have no impact on the people; they will regard prophetic preaching as gibberish.

As a result, they will fall on their backsides when they try to walk,
Heb “as a result they will go and stumble backward.” Perhaps an infant falling as it attempts to learn to walk is the background image here (cf. v. 9b). The Hebrew term לְמַעַן (lemaan) could be taken as indicating purpose (“in order that”), rather than simple result. In this case the people’s insensitivity to the message is caused by the Lord as a means of expediting their downfall.

and be injured, ensnared, and captured.
When divine warnings and appeals become gibberish to the spiritually insensitive, they have no guidance and are doomed to destruction.

The Lord Will Judge Jerusalem

14 Therefore, listen to the Lord’s word,
you who mock,
you rulers of these people
who reside in Jerusalem!
15 For you say,
“We have made a treaty with death,
with Sheol
Sheol is the underworld, land of the dead, according to the OT world view.
we have made an agreement.
Elsewhere the noun חֹזֶה (khozeh) refers to a prophet who sees visions. In v. 18 the related term חָזוּת (khazut, “vision”) is used. The parallelism in both verses (note “treaty”) seems to demand a meaning “agreement” for both nouns. Perhaps חֹזֶה and חזוּת are used in a metonymic sense in vv. 15 and 18. Another option is to propose a homonymic root. See J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah (NICOT), 1:514, and HALOT 301 s.v. II חֹזֶה.

When the overwhelming judgment sweeps by
Heb “the overwhelming scourge, when it passes by” (NRSV similar).

it will not reach us.
For we have made a lie our refuge,
we have hidden ourselves in a deceitful word.”
“Lie” and “deceitful word” would not be the terms used by the people. They would likely use the words “promise” and “reliable word,” but the prophet substitutes “lie” and “deceitful word” to emphasize that this treaty with death will really prove to be disappointing.

16 Therefore, this is what the sovereign master, the Lord, says:
“Look, I am laying
The Hebrew text has a third person verb form, which does not agree with the first person suffix that precedes. The form should be emended to יֹסֵד (yosed), a Qal active participle used in a present progressive or imminent future sense.
a stone in Zion,
an approved
Traditionally “tested,” but the implication is that it has passed the test and stands approved.
set in place as a precious cornerstone for the foundation.
The reality behind the metaphor is not entirely clear from the context. The stone appears to represent someone or something that gives Zion stability. Perhaps the ideal Davidic ruler is in view (see 32:1). Another option is that the image of beginning a building project by laying a precious cornerstone suggests that God is about to transform Zion through judgment and begin a new covenant community that will experience his protection (see 4:3–6; 31:5; 33:20–24; 35:10).

The one who maintains his faith will not panic.
Heb “will not hurry,” i.e., act in panic.

17 I will make justice the measuring line,
fairness the plumb line;
hail will sweep away the unreliable refuge,
Heb “[the] refuge, [the] lie.” See v. 15.

the floodwaters will overwhelm the hiding place.
18 Your treaty with death will be dissolved;
On the meaning of כָּפַר (kafar) in this context, see HALOT 494 s.v. I כפר and J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah (NICOT), 1:515, n. 9.

your agreement
Normally the noun חָזוּת (khazut) means “vision.” See the note at v. 15.
with Sheol will not last.
Or “will not stand” (NIV, NRSV).

When the overwhelming judgment sweeps by,
See the note at v. 15.

you will be overrun by it.
Heb “you will become a trampling place for it.”

19 Whenever it sweeps by, it will overtake you;
Or “for” (KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV).
every morning it will sweep by,
it will come through during the day and the night.”
The words “it will come through” are supplied in the translation. The verb “will sweep by” does double duty in the parallel structure.

When this announcement is understood,
it will cause nothing but terror.
20 For the bed is too short to stretch out on,
and the blanket is too narrow to wrap around oneself.
The bed and blanket probably symbolize their false sense of security. A bed that is too short and a blanket that is too narrow may promise rest and protection from the cold, but in the end they are useless and disappointing. In the same way, their supposed treaty with death will prove useless and disappointing.

21 For the Lord will rise up, as he did at Mount Perazim,
This probably alludes to David’s victory over the Philistines at Baal Perazim. See 2 Sam 5:20.

he will rouse himself, as he did in the Valley of Gibeon,
This probably alludes to the Lord’s victory over the Canaanites at Gibeon, during the days of Joshua. See Josh 10:10–11.

to accomplish his work,
his peculiar work,
to perform his task,
his strange task.
God’s judgment of his own people is called “his peculiar work” and “his strange task,” because he must deal with them the way he treated their enemies in the past.

22 So now, do not mock,
or your chains will become heavier!
For I have heard a message about decreed destruction,
from the sovereign master, the Lord who commands armies, against the entire land.
Or “the whole earth” (KJV, ASV, NAB, NCV).

23 Pay attention and listen to my message!
Heb “to my voice.”

Be attentive and listen to what I have to say!
Heb “to my word”; cf. KJV, ASV, NRSV “hear my speech.”

24 Does a farmer just keep on plowing at planting time?
Heb “All the day does the plowman plow in order to plant?” The phrase “all the day” here has the sense of “continually, always.” See BDB 400 s.v. יוֹם.

Does he keep breaking up and harrowing his ground?
25 Once he has leveled its surface,
does he not scatter the seed of the caraway plant,
sow the seed of the cumin plant,
and plant the wheat, barley, and grain in their designated places?
The Hebrew text reads literally, “place wheat [?], and barley [?], and grain in its territory.” The term שׂוֹרָה (shorah) is sometimes translated “[in] its place,” but the word is unattested elsewhere. It is probably due to dittography of the immediately following שְׂעֹרָה (seorah, “barley”). The meaning of נִסְמָן (nisman) is also uncertain. It may be due to dittography of the immediately following כֻסֶּמֶת (kussemet, “grain”).

26 His God instructs him;
he teaches him the principles of agriculture.
Heb “he teaches him the proper way, his God instructs him.”

27 Certainly
Or “For” (KJV, ASV, NASB).
caraway seed is not threshed with a sledge,
nor is the wheel of a cart rolled over cumin seed.
Both of these seeds are too small to use the ordinary threshing techniques.

Certainly caraway seed is beaten with a stick,
and cumin seed with a flail.
28 Grain is crushed,
though one certainly does not thresh it forever.
The wheel of one’s wagon rolls over it,
but his horses do not crush it.
29 This also comes from the Lord who commands armies,
who gives supernatural guidance and imparts great wisdom.
Verses 23–29 emphasize that God possesses great wisdom and has established a natural order. Evidence of this can be seen in the way farmers utilize divinely imparted wisdom to grow and harvest crops. God’s dealings with his people will exhibit this same kind of wisdom and order. Judgment will be accomplished according to a divinely ordered timetable and, while severe enough, will not be excessive. Judgment must come, just as planting inevitably follows plowing. God will, as it were, thresh his people, but he will not crush them to the point where they will be of no use to him.

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