Isaiah 28 - Outline of Isaiah (Book Notes menu page)
I. E. Five 'Woes' upon unbelievers, 28:1-33:24
1. Woe to the Proud Drunkards of Ephraim and to the Scornful of Judah, 28:1-29
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.
Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim...-
Ephraim, the northern kingdom of Israel, prided themselves in their prosperity and the bounty of their harvests. The name 'Ephraim' means 'fruitful.' The repeated phrase, 'the head {or, chief} of the fat valleys,' reflects their view of themselves as the source of their abundance. But the 'crown of pride,' with which they adorned themselves, was like a garland made of cut flowers whose glory was rapidly fading.
Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one...-
The king of Assyria, Shalmanesar, was about to overrun Ephraim, to accomplish the Lord's purpose in judgment (2Kin 18:9-12). He would swallow them up, without regard to their future... just as the first ripe figs of the season are picked and eaten with little thought (in June), because they are few and because the ripening of the commercial crop is still months away (in August).
shall cast down... the crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim...-
They were intoxicated not only with wine, but also with themselves and with their false gods (cp. Hos 4:11; 5:5; 6:10; 7:5).
     While this message was addressed to the northern kingdom of Israel, it was an open letter to which Judah, the southern kingdom, should have given heed. They should learn from Ephraim's captivity, because they were in a similar condition, and their judgment was not far off. Beginning in v.7, the message of woe is redirected to Judah (v.14), with vivid description of the depths of their defilement.
5 In that day shall the LORD of hosts be
for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty,
unto the residue
{ie., remnant} 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.
In that day...-
Even as the Lord proclaimed judgments upon Israel and Judah (judgments which would begin in Isaiah's day), He graciously provided a glimpse of the promised future day, when Christ will reign in His Millennial Kingdom.
     In contrast to the foolish pride and drunken perversity of the then present leaders, in that future day the LORD Himself will be an unfading crown of glory upon the believing remnant (v.5), and His people will reflect His glory (Isa 62:3).
     Likewise, His spirit of justice will indwell those who serve under Him as judges. His strength will permeate those charged with the defense of His realm (cp. Jer 9:23,24; 1Cor 1:30,31; Rom 11:5,6).
7 But they also have erred {HB=shagah, reel, swerve} through wine,
and through strong drink are out of the way
{HB=ta'ah, stagger, wander};
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].
but they also have erred...- Rather than learning from God's judgment upon Ephraim's error,
the leaders of Jerusalem were following the same path (v.14).
the prophet(s)... err {ie., reel to and fro} in vision...-
The false prophets spoke the foolishness of men, not the oracles of God. Mic 2:11; Jer 14:14
the priest(s) {who also served as judges}... stumble in judgment...-
They "were tipsy on the bench." [GWms] Prov 31:4,5; Isa 3:12
all tables are full of vomit...- The corruption that characterizes the rule of sinful men
is in stark contrast to the glory of that future day. cp. Hab 2:14-16
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.
whom shall he teach knowledge?...-
The words of v.9,10 can be understood as mockery, of Isaiah and his message, by the corrupt leaders... eg., 'Why should he lecture us, repeating his simplistic words, as though we were little children?'
precept upon precept... line upon line... here a little, and there a little...-
The repetition of these phrases (in the text) denotes the way a child learns and acquires knowledge. His understanding grows as one lesson builds upon another.
     But the scholarly leaders were bored with God's Word. They thought they knew it all. They had moved on to higher knowledge.
     Yet, the reality was that they had not begun to live according to the most basic principles, of God's Word (eg., Deu 6:1-6). Therefore, the LORD repeatedly sent Isaiah and other prophets to present the lessons which they refused to hear (Jer 25:4-7).
for with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.-
"Soon God would speak to Israel through the unintelligible (to the Israelites) language of the Assyrian [and Babylonian] conquerors. This verse [excerpts of v.11,12] is quoted by Paul, in 1Cor 14:21, to show that 'tongues' are a sign of rebuke to unbelievers." [in quotes from Ryrie Study Bible; in brackets added by editor]
to whom he said, This is the rest {lit., resting place}... yet they would not hear.-
God's message was clear enough. Those who place their trust in Him find rest. But the erring leaders and their nation would have no rest because they refused His Word. Isa 30:15; Jer 6:10,16; Mat 11:28-30
but the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept...
that they might go... and be broken, snared and taken.-
  • Their judgment would come, because they stumbled at the simplicity of God's message.
    Since they disregarded God's Word, as mere nursery rhymes for children, they would suffer the consequences of their lack of understanding (Isa 6:9,10; 8:13-15; 2Cor 11:3).
  • Have we also allowed worldly wisdom and demands to push aside God's Word?
    Do we give careful attention, as He continues to speak to us today, through the pages of Scripture, 'precept upon precept; line upon line'? How else can we learn to rightly divide the Word of Truth? There is no wisdom in willful ignorance. cp. Hos 4:6-11; 2Tim 2:15; 3:14-17
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.
because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death... we have made lies our refuge...-
Probably, these words were not actually spoken by the leaders, rather, the LORD (speaking through Isaiah) was revealing the error upon which they rested.
     They felt secure in their alliances with Egypt, in their negotiations with Assyria, and in their allegiance to false gods. But having refused the life offered by the LORD, these arrangements would lead to death. Having refused God's Word, they were trusting in lies. Soon enough, they would see the failure of their godless confidences.
     Verse 15, also depicts Israel's future covenant with the Antichrist, who is death and lies personified. 2The 2:9-11
Therefore... Behold, I lay in Zion... a foundation stone... (v.16)-
  • Salvation does not rest upon Zion (Jerusalem), nor does it rest upon the Church.
    It rests entirely upon the Messiah, who is the foundation stone whom the LORD will 'lay' {ie., set, establish, appoint} in Jerusalem. cp. Mat 21:42-44; 1Pet 2:6-8; Acts 4:12; 1Cor 3:11
  • Our Foundation Stone has been tried {ie., tested}. Heb 4:15
  • Our Foundation Stone is precious {ie., rare, costly}. 1Pet 1:18,19
  • Our Foundation Stone is sure {ie., firmly placed}... the person that trusts in Him will not be ashamed {ie., disappointed} and will have no cause to flee {'make haste'} from any enemy. Rom 9:33; 10:11
judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet...-
'Judgment' {ie., justice, the decision of the Judge} and righteousness will be determined according to God's absolute standard (as measured against His accurate measuring cord, and as compared with the true perpendicularity of His 'plumb bob'). cp. Isa 11:3-5
     The Messiah is the standard of true justice and righteousness. Anyone, who does not measure up to His standard of perfect holiness, will be swept away in the hail of God's judgment. (Therefore, no man has a foundation upon which to stand before God, apart from the righteousness of Christ. cp. Gal 2:16; Php 3:4-9; Titus 3:5-7)
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
{ie., a horror} 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.
your covenant with death shall be disannulled... the overflowing scourge shall pass through...-
Jerusalem's false confidences would fail. The Assyrians would pass through the land repeatedly. The inhabitants would be terrified whenever they heard news of their movements.
for the bed is shorter... the covering narrower...- The nation would find no rest,
in the bed which they had prepared for themselves (cp. v.12).
for the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim... that he may do... his strange work...-
At Perazim, the LORD had given David a great victory over the Philistines (2Sam 5:20-25; 1Chr 14:11-16). In the valley of Gibeon, the LORD had accomplished a great slaughter of Israel's enemies, as Joshua led Israel in driving the Canaanites from the promised land (Josh 10:10-14).
     Both of these victories were accomplished by the LORD's supernatural intervention against Israel's enemies. But now, God's wrath was turned against Israel to empower their enemies, to drive them from the land.
...his strange {HB=zuwr, loathsome} work... his strange {HB=nokriy, foreign, alien} act.-
The LORD takes no pleasure in the necessary work of judgment upon sin. cp. Lam 3:33; 2Pet 3:9,10
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.
now therefore, be ye not mockers {scorners, v.14}... give ear...-
Even now, though God has determined {decreed} to pour out his consuming judgment upon the whole earth {HB='erets, land}, it would go better for them if they would give heed to God's Word and turn their hearts to Him.
Doth the plowman plow all day...?-
"The argument of v.23-29 is, that, as the farmer ploughs {plows} in order to secure a harvest, and threshes in order to have bread, so God ploughed and threshed His people with a wise and beneficent purpose. The farmer does not keep on continually ploughing. He ploughs sufficiently, and then sows. Nor does he thresh corn to powder, but only till the chaff is separated from the wheat. God has given him this intelligence; and it illustrates His loving action towards His people." [in quotes, GWms]
give ear... hear my voice... hearken... hear my speech.- He pleads with the nation to take heed.
While the nation and its leaders mocked God's Word, as overly simple and very wearying (v.9-14), the LORD had repeatedly sent His messengers to them, because He had no desire to see them consumed by His righteous judgment. How would they respond?

Click here to continue the study in Isaiah 29
Return to Isaiah - MENU page.

Limited permission is granted to copy & distribute these notes from

Go to The Book opening page.