THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
Lesson 10: Chapters 26-28
Part One: Prophecies of Condemnation
Apocalypse of Isaiah Part II (26:1-27:13)
Isaiah's Oracles of Woe (Pt I: 28:1-28:29)
Call us to a deeper understanding of our covenant relationship with You. Help us to understand that we cannot only approach You with words and only honor You with what becomes outward and empty displays of rituals while our hearts and our actions deny our words and show that we are far from You. Hypocrisy is the mask of righteousness. True righteousness is lived and demonstrated by right behavior in acts of charity, mercy, and a deep devotion to our covenant union with You. Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in today's lesson that contains warnings of the Last Judgment and a list of Israel's failures. May Isaiah's visions strike a chord in each of us that prompts a deeper commitment to demonstrating our obedience of faith and our genuine devotion to You. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Listen, all you
peoples, attend, earth and everyone on it! Yahweh intends to give evidence
against you, the Lord, for his holy temple. For look, Yahweh is leaving his
home, down he comes, he treads the heights of earth. Beneath him, the mountains
melt, the valleys are torn open, like wax near a fire, like water pouring down
So my heart
rejoices, my soul delights, my body too will rest secure, for you will not
abandon me to Sheol, you cannot allow your faithful servant to see the abyss.
You will teach me the path of life, and bounded joy in your presence, at your
right hand delight forever.
(a psalm of David proclaiming the promise of a future bodily resurrection)
Then I heard a
voice from heaven say to me, "Write down: Blessed are those who die in the
Lord! Blessed indeed, the Spirit says; now they can rest forever after their
work, since their good deeds go with them."
In Isaiah's vision in chapter 24, he saw the devastation of the earth (24:1-23) and God's victory over His enemies (25:1-12), that now leads to the hymn of deliverance sung by the faithful remnant of God's covenant people (26:1-21). The word "Glory" in the last verse of Chapter 24 announced the theme of Chapter 25. Chapter 25 began with the faithful remnant that had been spared in the great Tribulation offering praise to God (25:1-5). The hymn is expressed in the first person singular to emphasize the unity of the people of God speaking as if with one voice. They sing a hymn of praise for two reasons:
The rest of the chapter describes the glorious era Yahweh will usher in. God's restoration and blessings includes three aspects:
Isaiah continued with a description of God's restoration of covenant blessings (25:6-7), the comfort He gives his people by destroying death, wiping away their tears and taking away their shame (25:8-9), and the removal of God's enemies symbolized by Moab (25:10), as He stretches out His arms to embrace His redeemed people (verses 11-12). The praise that began in 25:1-5 is now resumed as Isaiah sees the faithful remnant united in a hymn of praise and thanksgiving for the fortress city of the new Jerusalem in 26:1-6 "the same eternal city that St. John saw in Revelation 21:1-2.
Isaiah 26:1-6 ~ A Hymn of Thanksgiving
1 That day, this song will be sung in Judah: "We have a fortress city, the walls are ramparts provide safety. 2 Open the gates! Let the upright nation come in, the nation that keeps faith! 3 This is the plan decreed: you will guarantee peace, the peace entrusted to you. 4 Trust in Yahweh forever, for Yahweh is a rock forever. 5 He has brought low the dwellers on the heights, the lofty citadel; he lays it low, brings it to the ground, flings it down in the dust. 6 It will be trodden under foot, by the feet of the needy, the steps of the weak."
Question: What is the "fortress city" whose walls provides
safety/salvation and welcomes every upright nation that keeps faith? See Is 25:6-8 and Rev 21:1-2.
Answer: The fortress city is the new Jerusalem, fortified by Yahweh and serving as a refuge for the just where God's divine banquet of the redeemed will take place (25:6-8).
Notice that the city is ready and the gates are commanded to be opened but the righteous of every nation have not yet entered. Like the Sanctuary in Eden that was prepared in advance to receive God's first human children (Gen 2:8), so He has prepared the eternal city of the new Jerusalem, a plan decreed in advance (verse 2), to be ready and waiting to receive the redeemed at the end of human history.
3 This is
the plan decreed: you will guarantee peace, the peace entrusted to you. 4 Trust in Yahweh forever, for Yahweh is a rock
Question: Who is the "you" in verse 3 who will guarantee peace?
Answer: Yahweh is the "you" who guarantees peace and to whom peace is entrusted. We can trust in Yahweh forever because He is "a rock forever" in verse 4. "Rock" it is a symbol of His firmness of purpose and His unshakable fidelity to His holy people.
The upright and just must trust in the Lord God because He is the Rock of eternity. He has made a covenant of peace with His faithful people. The peace He will keep for them is the peace of perfect covenant union that they will know when the day comes that He has completed His work of salvation and they can enter into His eternal peace in the heavenly Jerusalem (see 26:12).
5 He has brought
low the dwellers on the heights, the lofty citadel; he lays it low, brings it
to the ground, flings it down in the dust. 6
It will be trodden under foot, by the feet of the needy, the steps of
Question: With what city is the fortress city contrasted in 26:5-6? Also see 3:1-3, 3:18-4:1; 22:1-14; 24:10-12.
Answer: It is contrasted with the "lofty citadel" and the ruined "city of nothingness" of the old Jerusalem that sat atop the Judean Mountains and which God will destroy in judgment.
Isaiah's vision shifts from the faithful remnants' praise to their petition in verses 7-21. The people's prayer of petition contains three elements:
Isaiah 26:7-11 ~ The contrast between the Righteous and the Wicked
7 The path of the Upright One is honesty; you smooth the honest way of the upright. 8 Following the path of your judgments, Yahweh, we set our hopes in you, your name, your memory are all our soul desires. 9 At night my soul longs for you and my spirit within me seeks you out; for when your judgments appear on earth the inhabitants of the world learn what saving justice is. 10 If pity is shown to the wicked without his learning what saving justice is, he will act wrongly in the land of right conduct and not see the majesty of Yahweh. 11 Yahweh, your hand is raised but they do not see! The antagonists of your people will look and grow pale; with your fiery wrath you will devour your enemies.
Question: What characterizes the "faithful righteous"?
Answer: The "upright" person is honest, he is obedient to God's commandments, he trusts God, desiring to please Him in all things even when he receives God's just judgments, and he longs for intimacy in his relationship with God.
Question: Why does God punish the wicked? When
can mercy be counterproductive?
Answer: Mercy devoid of justice does not correct wicked behavior and will not return the wicked to repentance. In the end it is not mercy at all because it will cost the one who persists in evil his eternal salvation. Judgment is always meant to be redemptive.
Question: What does Psalm 1:1-2 teach concerning
the faithful as opposed to the wicked?
Answer: The blessed are those who reject the advice of the wicked, does not adhere to the standards or practices of the wicked, does not keep company with them, but who delights in living in obedience to the commandments of God.
11 Yahweh, your
hand is raised but they do not see! The antagonists of your people will look
and grow pale; with your fiery wrath you will devour your enemies.
This warning recalls Hebrews 10:26-29 and the quote from the Greek Septuagint translation of Isaiah 26:11 in Hebrews 10:27, 26 If we sin deliberately after receiving knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains sacrifice for sins 27 but a fearful prospect of judgment and a flaming fire that is going to consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who rejects the Law of Moses is put to death without pity on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Do you not think that a much worse punishment is due the one who has contempt for the Son of God, considers unclean the covenant-blood by which he was consecrated, and insults the spirit of grace? (NAB).
Question: What does the inspired writer of the Letter to the Hebrews mean when he
says: 26 If we sin deliberately
after receiving knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains sacrifice for
Answer: To turn away from the "assembly" and the Eucharist on the Lord's Day is to reject Jesus as Lord and Savior. To reject Jesus and the grace that is given through knowledge of the truth of Christ's sacrifice and the power of the Sacrament of the Eucharist would mean that there would be no opportunity for forgiveness of sins without the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Jesus gave the Apostles as the representatives of His Church the power to forgive sins "the Old priesthood and animal sacrifice could not offer full and complete forgiveness, nor could it offer eternal salvation.
In Verse 29 the inspired writer identifies the sin for which forgiveness is no longer available so long as one remains separated from Christ as the sin of apostasy, for which judgment will be severe because such a person has rejected God's gift of salvation in the "covenant-blood" sacrifice of Jesus Christ and "insults the spirit of grace" (see Heb 10:29). The inspired writer has previously warned the faithful about the sin of apostasy in 3:12-15 and 6:4-8. Apostasy, as defined by CCC# 2089 is the total repudiation of the Christian faith. The Catholic Dictionary defines "apostasy" as The total rejection by a baptized person of the Christian faith he once professed. The term is also applied in a technical sense to "apostates from religious life," who without authorization leave a religious institute after perpetual vows with no intention of returning. [Etym. Latin "apostasia,' falling away or separation from God; from Greek apostasis,' revolt, literally, a standing-off]. One can also become an apostate from the Catholic faith but rejecting the fullness of faith in the Church founded by Jesus in favor of another church's doctrine.
Question: What three things await those who apostatize? The
inspired writer is probably referring to those who forsake the assembly of
Christians and return to Old Covenant worship, denying the vows of their
baptism and their profession of faith. See Heb 10:27.
Answer: They will be subject to divine judgment, they will be declared an adversary of God, and they will face eternal punishment: Hebrews 10:27: but a fearful prospect of judgment and a flaming fire that is going to consume the adversaries.
Notice that Hebrews 10:27 contains a reference to Isaiah 26:11 from the Septuagint Greek translation: O Lord, thine arm is exalted, yet they knew it not: but when they know they shall be ashamed: jealousy shall seize upon an untaught nation, and now fire shall devour (consume) the adversaries (enemies); emphasis added. The inspired writer will refer to this passage from Isaiah concerning God's divine judgment again in Hebrews 10:37.
Hebrews 10:28: 28 Anyone
who rejects the Law of Moses is put to death without pity on the testimony of
two or three witnesses. The inspired writer is referring to the section of
the Old Law that legislated the correct use of witnesses found in Deuteronomy
17:6: A death sentence may be passed only on the word of two witnesses or
three; and no one must be put to death on the word of one witness alone.
Question: Was this article of the law applied in the case of Jesus' trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin?
Answer: Yes, two false witnesses testified against Him in Matthew 26:60.
Hebrews 10:29 Do
you not think that a much worse punishment is due the one who has contempt for
the Son of God, considers unclean the covenant-blood by which he was
consecrated, and insults the spirit of grace? If rejection of the Law of
Moses, which is inferior to the Law of Jesus Christ, should result in a
sentence of death, how much more serious would it be from God's point of view
for someone to reject and insult His gift of salvation through His Son?
Question: When did Jesus refer to the "blood-covenant" by which he was consecrated?
Answer: At the Last Supper. See Matthew 26:28 and Luke 22:20.
Isaiah 26:12-18 ~ A description of God's past dealings
with His covenant people and the Faithful ask for Peace, Lament the Power of
Death, and the inability to bring Salvation to the Earth
12 Yahweh, you will grant us peace, having completed all our undertakings for us. 13 Yahweh our God, other lords than you have ruled us but, loyal to you alone, we invoke your name. 14 The dead will not come back to life, the shadows will not rise again, for you have punished them, annihilated them, wiping out their very memory. 15 You have made the nation larger, Yahweh, made the nation larger and won yourself glory, you have rolled back the frontiers of the country. 16 Yahweh, in distress they have recourse to you, they expended themselves in prayer, since your punishment was on them. 17 As a pregnant woman is near her time of delivery withers and cries out in her pangs, so have we been, Yahweh, in your eyes: 18 we have been pregnant, we have withered, but we have given birth only to wind: we have not given salvation to the earth, no inhabitants for the world have been brought to birth.
In verses 12-13, Isaiah says that the faithful recall all God has done for them as a covenant people and although others have ruled over them, they remained loyal to God alone and worship God alone.
Question: What is their lament in verse 14?
Answer: They are full of grief because they believe that the dead are lost forever. They see death as a punishment.
16 Yahweh, in
distress they have recourse to you, they expended themselves in prayer, since
your punishment was on them. 17 As
a pregnant woman is near her time of delivery withers and cries out in her
pangs, so have we been, Yahweh, in your eyes: 18 we have been pregnant, we have withered, but we have given
birth only to wind: we have not given salvation to the earth, no inhabitants
for the world have been brought to birth.
Question: What is the lament of the faithful in verses 16-18?
Answer: It is that they have not been able to fulfill their mission as a "light" to the Gentiles to bring salvation to the earth through the birth of the Redeemer-Messiah who they understand will come from their people. They have tried but have been unable to bring forth the Davidic Messiah promised to them.
Isaiah 26:19-21: Yahweh's Response to their Petition
19 Your dead will come back to life, your corpses will rise again. Wake up and sing, you dwellers in the dust, for your dew will be a radiant dew, but the earth will give birth to the shades. 20 Go my people, go to your private room, shut yourselves in. Hide yourselves a little while until the retribution has passed. 21 For see, Yahweh emerges from his dwelling to punish the inhabitants of earth for their guilt; and the earth will reveal the blood shed on it and no longer hide its slain.
Question: What is God's promise in verses 19-21?
Answer: He gives the promise of a bodily resurrection of the dead ("your corpses will rise again").
And, since God's judgments are just (verses 7-10), the people can be assured of the deliverance and glory that is to come if the persevere in prayer and faith. The present ordeals are a preparation for a rebirth (verses 16-19). The pains of childbirth become an image for the tribulation inevitably preceding the coming of the Messiah
Question: What did David say about death and what
did Jesus teach about the resurrection of the dead? See Ps 16:9-11, attributed
to David; Acts 2:25-28; 13:35; Mt 12:23-33 (Ex 3:6); 1 Thes 4:16 also see Ps 49:15; 73:24; Wis 3:1-9; Dan 12:2-3; 2 Mac 7:9.
Answer: David foresaw a bodily resurrection, and St. Peter said in his homily on Pentecost Sunday that he knew David had foreknowledge of the bodily resurrection of the Christ. Jesus affirmed that there would be a bodily resurrection of the dead and that this was acclaimed from the time of Moses' encounter with God at the burning bush in Ex 3:6 when God told Moses He was the God of the living and named three patriarchs who were long since dead.
for your dew will be a radiant dew, but the earth will
give birth to the shades.
In the time of the resurrection, the resurrected dead will live again, but the earth will pass away.
Question: What must the faithful remnant do to
prepare for the Lord's judgment in verses 20-21? Also see Mic 1:3; Rev 3:10; 6:10.
Answer: To prepare for Judgment Day, the people must be in constant prayer until the tribulation is past and God's final judgment against the wicked is fulfilled.
Chapter 27: The Coming Salvation
Isaiah has described his visions of the earth's destruction (24:1-23), victory over God's enemies (25:1-12), and the faithful remnant of Judah's hymn of deliverance (26:1-21). Now he has a vision of the coming salvation of God's covenant people when God will destroy evil and will again have an intimate relationship with His covenant people, bringing them home to Him for all time.
Isaiah 27:1-6 ~ Yahweh's Vineyard
27:1 That day Yahweh will punish, with his unyielding sword, massive and strong, Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; he will kill the dragon that lives in the sea. 2 That day sing of the splendid vineyard! 3 I, Yahweh, am its guardian, from time to time I water it; so that no harm befall it, I guard it night and day. 4 I do not have a wall. Who can reduce me to brambles and thorn-bushes? I shall make war and trample on it and at the same time burn it. 5 Or should they beg for my protection, let them make their peace with me, peace let them make with me. 6 In days to come, Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom and the surface of the world be one vast harvest.
"Leviathan the coiling serpent" represents all that is evil in the world, and the sea is a symbol of the chaos that is a product of evil. In the new heaven and new earth, described in St. John's vision in the Book of Revelation, the sea is no more (21:1) and the "dragon" is destroyed (Rev 20:1-2; 21:1-2).(1)
As in Isaiah 5:1-7, Israel is depicted as Yahweh's vineyard,
but the vineyard imagery in the two passages is employed in two contexts and
the outcome is not the same.
Question: Chart the similarities and differences between the two vineyard passages.
|Isaiah 5:1-7||Isaiah 27:1-6|
|Vineyard owner: God||Vineyard owner: God|
|Location: Fertile hillside||Location: Unnamed|
|Owner's care: He tilled the soil, cleared out stones, planted choice vines, built a watchtower, and cut out a winepress.||Owner's care: He is its guardian. He waters it and protects it day and night. There is no wall, but He eliminates brambles and thorn-bushes while chastising the vineyard when necessary.|
|Vineyard's yield: It is not fruitful; it yields wild grapes.||Vineyard's yield: It is abundantly fruitful "its "fruit" fills whole earth.|
|God's response: Calls for Judah to judge between God and His vineyard. It is His judgment that He will tear down His vineyard, expose it to briars and thrones, and withholds rain.||God's response: He takes pleasure in His vineyard and calls for all to make peace with Him.|
In the chapter 5 passage, despite Yahweh's care of His "vineyard" that was Israel it proved to be unfruitful and was exposed to God's judgment. In the second "vineyard" description in chapter 27, the vineyard received God's protection and was chastised when necessary. The result is that the vineyard responded to God's invitation to make peace with Him, and the promise is that Judah, God's "vineyard" will be fruitful and will produce a harvest that will cover the entire world.
Question: How does Jesus use harvest imagery in
Matthew 13:23, in 24-30 and 41-43?
Answer: An abundant "harvest" of good works is the result of those who hear the word of the Lord and understand it. The "harvest" is also used symbolically for the Last Judgment and the gathering of wicked for eternal punishment and the gathering of all righteous souls into God's storehouse that is Heaven.
Isaiah 27:7-11 ~ Punishment before Pardon
7 Has he struck him as he was struck by those who struck him? Has he murdered him as he was murdered by those who murdered him? 8 By expelling, by excluding him, you have executed a sentence, he has blown him away with a breath as rough as the east wind. 9 For that is how Jacob's guilt will be forgiven, such will be the result of renouncing his sin, when all the altar-stones have been smashed to pieces like lumps of chalk, when the sacred poles and incense-altars stand no longer. 10 For the fortified city is abandoned now, deserted, forsaken as a desert where calves browse, where they lie down, destroying its branches. 11 When boughs go dry, they get burnt, women come and use them for firewood. Now, this is a people that does not understand, and so its Maker will not take pity on it, he who formed it will not show it any mercy.
Isaiah returns to the judgment that is facing the people
of his time: why did his people face exile and the suffering of war?
Question: He answers that question by two rhetorical questions in verse 7 which ask: has God struck Judah as God has struck Judah's enemies "in other words does God treat Judah like an enemy?
Answer: God never struck Judah in the same way that He has brought judgment against foreign nations that oppressed them. His relationship with Judah is different than with other nations.
This does not mean that God will not exact just punishment against Judah, but all judgment is meant to be redemptive (27:9a). War and the people's exile will bring about what they failed to do "destroy the altars of false gods (27:9b), and Jerusalem will be abandoned (27:10). The exile would serve as atonement for the people's sins, but since the people still failed to understand, the judgment was still going to take place.
Isaiah 27:12-13 ~ The Promised Return of the Faithful Remnant of Judah
12 When that day comes, Yahweh will start his threshing from the course of the River to the Torrent of Egypt, and you will be gathered one by one, Israelites! 13 When that day comes, the great ram's-horn will be sounded, and those lost in Assyria will come, and those banished to Egypt, and they will worship Yahweh on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.
"That day" refers to the day of pardon when the people have atoned for their sins. The extent of the territory from which God will gather the faithful remnant will be from the Euphrates River to the boundary with Egypt and from Assyria to Egypt. The first two groups of exiles from the Northern Kingdom of Israel were taken by the Assyrians into Assyrians to the east in the 8th century BC (2 Kng 15:29; 17:5-6). In the 6th century BC, people from the Southern Kingdom were taken in three groups into lands in Babylon and those who were left behind immigrated to Egypt after the murder of the governor the Babylonians left in charge of the territory ( 2 Kng 24:10-15; 25:21, 25-26; Jer 52:28-30). After the return of the faithful remnant of Judah from Babylon in the late 6th century BC, the Jerusalem Temple was rebuilt (2 Chr 36:22-23; Ezra 3:1-66:15-16). Isaiah concludes his vision of the end of days and the Last Judgment on this positive note.
Chapters 28:1-33:24: Isaiah's Oracles of Woe
Assemble on the
hills of Samaria and observe the grave disorders inside her and the acts of
oppression there! Little they know of right conduct "declares Yahweh "who cram
their palaces with violence and extortion.
So far Isaiah has used the word "woe" (Hebrew = hoy), 9 times (5:8, 11, 18, 20, 21, 22; 10:1; 17:12; 18:1). Each time he uses the word to introduce a judgment God will bring against one or more nations that oppress his people and/or defy His divine sovereignty. In chapters 28-33, Isaiah will again use the word "woe" (hoy) another 8 times (28:1; 29:1, 15; 30:1; 31:1; 33:1; 45:9, 10). The message then and today is: "woe to the nations that oppose the will of the One True God!"
Chapter 28: Woes Against Samaria and Jerusalem
denied Yahweh, they have said, "He is nothing; no evil will overtake us, we
shall not see sword or famine. And the prophets? Nothing but wind; the word
is not in them; let those very things happen to them!"
Isaiah 28:1-6 ~ The Fate of Samaria
1 Woe to the haughty crown of Ephraim's drunkards, to the fading flower of its proud splendor sited at the head of the lush valley, to those prostrated by wine! 2 See, a strong and mighty man in the Lord's service, like a storm of hail, a destroying tempest, like immense flood-waters overflowing, with his hand he throws them to the ground. 3 They will be trampled underfoot, the haughty crown of Ephraim's drunkards, 4 and the faded flower of its proud splendor sited at the head of the lush valley. Like a fig ripe before summer comes: whoever spots it forthwith picks and swallows it. 5 That day Yahweh Sabaoth will be a crown of splendor and a proud diadem for the remnant of his people, 6 a spirit of fair judgment for him who sits in judgment, and the strength of those who repel the assault on the gate.
Isaiah's woe against Samaria was delivered sometime between 732 and 722/21 BC. Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III attacked Israel and Syria at the request of King Ahaz of Judah in 732 BC (2 Kng 16:7-9). He annexed much of the northern kingdom and left King Hoshea to rule a territory about the size of the tribal lands of Ephraim, the Northern Kingdom's largest tribe. The reference to the Northern Kingdom as "Ephraim" instead of "Israel" may express this political reality.
Question: Who is the "strong and mighty man in the
Lord's service" and a hail storm and "destroying tempest, like immense
Answer: He is God's instrument of justice, the king of Assyria, Tiglath-Pileser III and the army of the nation of Assyria.
The capital of the Northern Kingdom was built on a hill at the end of a valley, and is compared to a crown of flowers like those that adorned the heads of guests at banquets. The glory of Samaria was fading as her rulers over indulged on strong drink which dulled their minds (28:1, 3, 7-8). Other prophets referred to the wealth and corruption of Samaria (Hos 7:3-7; Amos 3:9-15).
5 That day Yahweh
Sabaoth will be a crown of splendor and a proud diadem for the remnant of his
people, 6 a spirit of fair judgment
for him who sits in judgment, and the strength of those who repel the assault
on the gate.
On the day of Samaria's destruction, God will protect the faithful remnant of Samaria. He will be their victor's crown (worn by athletes and military heroes after a victory).
Isaiah 28:7-13 ~ Against Judah's Failed Priests, False
Prophets, and unresponsive People
7 These too have been confused by wine, have gone astray owing to liquor. Priest and prophet have become confused by liquor, are sodden with wine, have strayed owing to liquor, have become confused in their visions, have strayed in their decisions. 8 Yes, every table is covered in filthy vomit, not one is clean! 9 "Whom does he think he is lecturing? Whom does he think his message is for? Babies just weaned? Babies just taken from the breast? 10 With his Sav lasav, sav lasav, kav lakav, kav lakav, zeer sham, zeer sham [order on order, order on order, rule on rule, rule on rule, a little here, a little there]!' 11 Now, with stammering lips and in a foreign language, he will talk to this nation. 12 He used to say to them, "Here you can rest! Here you can let the weary rest! Here all is quiet." But they refused to listen. 13 Now Yahweh is going to say this to them, "Sav lasav, sav lasav, kav lakav, kav lakav, zeer sham, zeer sham [order on order, order on order, rule on rule, rule on rule, a little here, a little there]!" And so when they walk they will fall over backwards and so be broken, trapped and taken captive.
Verses 7-8 describe the condition of the spiritual leadership
and the common people of Samaria. They have become debauched and incapable of
making good decisions.
Question: How many times has the sin of over indulgence on wine been mentioned in Isaiah?
Answer: This is the 5th time. Warnings against such behavior are mentioned in Isaiah 5:11-12, 22; 22:13, and now in 28:1, and 7-8.
It is possible the disgust concerning bad behavior at banquets refers to improper conduct at the Todah ("thanksgiving") communion banquets at God's holy Temple in which an offerer dedicated a sacrifice of peace, which God accepted with the animal's fat burned on the altar and its blood poured out in a blood libation at the altar. The body of the skinned animal was then returned to the offerer to be cooked and eaten in a sacred meal with bread and wine in the presence of God within the Temple (Lev 7:11-15/7:1-5). The sin of drunkenness and vomiting at a communion Todah would surely be an affront to God.
9 "Whom does he
think he is lecturing? Whom does he think his message is for? Babies just
weaned? Babies just taken from the breast? 10 With his Sav lasav, sav lasav, kav lakav, kav lakav, zeer
sham, zeer sham [order on order, order on order, rule on rule, rule on rule, a
little here, a little there]!'
The priests, prophets and people of Judah are ridiculing Isaiah in verses 9-10. The Hebrew words are meant to sound like the rhyming taunt of a child; it is how they view anything Isaiah has to say to them.
11 Now, with
stammering lips and in a foreign language, he will talk to this nation. 12 He used to say to them, "Here you can rest!
Here you can let the weary rest! Here all is quiet." But they refused to
Verses 11-13 contain Yahweh's reply. He defends His prophet while giving a judgment against Isaiah's tormentors
Question: The people won't listen to Isaiah, so how will God talk to them in verse 11?
Answer: He will "talk" to them through the voice of a pagan army.
God used to say to them, "Here you can rest! Here you
can let the weary rest! Here all is quiet." But they refused to listen.
Question: When God brought the children of Israel into the Promise Land what did He promise them if they were obedient to the covenant He made with them at Sinai? See Lev 26:6-8.
Answer: He promised them "rest" from all their enemies if they were obedient to His covenant.
However, "the Israelites refused to listen" and broke their covenant obligations. Now they face the consequences of their failure.
13 Now Yahweh is
going to say this to them, "Sav lasav, sav lasav, kav lakav, kav lakav, zeer
sham, zeer sham [order on order, order on order, rule on rule, rule on rule, a
little here, a little there]!" And so when they walk they will fall over
backwards and so be broken, trapped and taken captive.
God repeats their own words in deadly earnest by putting the same words in the mouth of the conquering pagan army, answering those who mocked Isaiah and defending His prophet. Their fate is to fall into the hands of the Assyrians who will give them orders, rule over them, and take them captive.
Isaiah 28:14-22 ~ Against Evil Counsellors
14 Hence listen to Yahweh's word, you insolent men, rulers of this people in Jerusalem. 15 Because you have said, "We have made a treaty with Death and have struck a pact with Sheol. When the scourging flood comes over, it will not touch us, for we have made lies our refuge and hidden under falsehood." 16 So the Lord Yahweh says this, "Now I shall lay a stone in Zion, a granite stone, a precious cornerstone, a firm foundation-stone: no one who relies on this will stumble. 17 And I will make fair judgment the measure, and uprightness the plumb-line." But hail will sweep away the refuge of lies and floods wash away the hiding-place; 18 your treaty with Death will be broken and your pact with Sheol will not hold. When the scourging flood comes over, you will be trodden down by it; 19 every time it comes over, it will seize on you, for it will come over, morning after morning, day by day and night by night. Nothing but fear will make you understand what you hear. 20 For the bed is too short to stretch in, the blanket too narrow for covering. 21 Yes, as on Mount Perazim, Yahweh will rise, as in the Valley of Gibeon, he will storm to do his work, his mysterious work, to do his deed, his extraordinary deed. 22 Stop scoffing, then, or your bonds will be tighter further, for I have heard it: it has been irrevocably decided as regards the whole country by the Lord Yahweh Sabaoth.
Question: Who is it, personified as Death and the
grave/Sheol, that the leaders of Judah have made a treaty that they believe
will save them? See 2 Kng 16:7-9.
Answer: Since this message if for the rulers of Jerusalem it probably refers to the alliances with foreign powers like the one King Ahaz made with the Assyrians and later when his successors made treaties with Egypt and Babylon. Their alliances with pagan nations are alliances that will lead to death and the grave.
16 So the Lord
Yahweh says this, "Now I shall lay a stone in Zion, a granite stone, a precious
cornerstone, a firm foundation-stone: no one who relies on this will stumble. 17 And I will make fair judgment the measure,
and uprightness the plumb-line."
God is prophesying the laying of a new foundation stone for Zion, the Old Covenant Church. No one will stumble over this stone because it will be measured in truth and justice. The Greek Septuagint translated this verse differently. It is the same translation that is quoted by St. Peter in the Greek translation of 1 Peter 2:6, For it says in Scripture: "Behold, I lay in Zion, an elect, precious Stone, a corner-foundation; and the one believing in him shall never in any way be ashamed" (Interlinear Bible Greek-English, vol. IV, page 625; bold added for emphasis). After quoting from Isaiah 28:16 Peter continues: "Then to you who believe belongs the honor. But to disobeying ones, he is the stone which those building rejected—this one becomes the head-of-the-corner [corner-stone], and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense to those disobeying, stumbling at the word to which they were also appointed" (IBGE, vol. IV, page 625; bold added for emphasis). Notice that the Septuagint and the New Testament uses the masculine pronouns "he" and "him."
St. Peter supports his theme of Christ's acceptance and rejection by quoting Isaiah 28:16 LXX, and Peter has adapted it to his message. Through His death and resurrection, Christ has become the “cornerstone” of God's people, a stone that is both precious and chosen, and those "who believe" in Christ will not be put to shame or disgraced. However, the value of Christ is only for those who have faith (1 Pt 2:7) and Peter continues: but for those without faith: "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone" (NAB). This is a quote from Psalm 118:22. It is the same passage Jesus applied to Himself (Mt 21:42; Mk 12:10; Lk 20:17) and which Peter quoted to the Jewish Sanhedrin in his trial, identifying Jesus as the "cornerstone" and defiantly telling the Jewish leaders that they are "the builders" that rejected Christ the "cornerstone" and Messiah (Acts 4:10-12). The Fathers of the Church understood Isaiah 28:16 to be a prophecy of Christ:
(Notice that the Church Fathers are quoting from the Greek Septuagint of Isaiah 28:16, using "he" and "him").
St. Paul also used the same passage from Isaiah 28:16 and applied Isaiah's words to Jesus, the cornerstone of the Church in Romans 9:33 and Ephesians 2:19-20. The day finally came when God rebuilt His people in a New Covenant beyond anything Isaiah's hearers could have understood or even imagined.
In verses 17b-19 God tells the people of Jerusalem and Judah through Isaiah that the foreign armies will reveal their lies and false assumptions like a storm, and the pagan nations will break what they thought was their safe treaty with Death and the grave.
20 For the bed is
too short to stretch in, the blanket too narrow for covering.
Isaiah seems to be quoting a popular proverb as an example of the failure of foreign treaties to adequately protect/cover them.
21 Yes, as on
Mount Perazim, Yahweh will rise, as in the Valley of Gibeon, he will storm to
do his work, his mysterious work, to do his deed, his extraordinary deed. 22 Stop scoffing, then, or your bonds will be
tighter further, for I have heard it: it has been irrevocably decided as
regards the whole country by the Lord Yahweh Sabaoth.
Question: What two great works of God might Isaiah be referring to by mentioning Mount Perazim and the Valley of Gibeon? See 2 Sam 5:17-20; 1 Chr 14:11, 16 and Josh 10:12-14. What is the significance and the irony of putting these two events together?
Answer: Mount Perazim is where God gave David victory over the Philistines, and the Valley of Gibeon is where God made the sun stand still on the day of Joshua's victory over the southern coalition of Canaanite kings. These two miracles are evidence in the history of the covenant people of God's great power, but now that power will not be used to help and protect the people, as in the past; ironically, God's mighty works will be used against them to bring judgment.
Isaiah 28:23-29 ~ Isaiah's Parable Concerning Yahweh's Judgments
Listen closely to my words, be attentive, understand what I am saying. Does the ploughman plough all day to sow, breaking up and harrowing his ground? Once he has levelled its surface, does he not scatter fennel, sow cumin? Then he pulls in wheat, millet, barley ... [untranslatable Hebrew word] and, round the edges, spelt, for his God has taught him this rule and instructed him. Fennel must not be crushed with a sledge, nor cart-wheels driven over cumin; fennel must be beaten with a stick, and cumin with a flail. When you are threshing wheat, you do not waste time crushing it; you get the horse and cart-wheel moving, but you do not grind it fine. All this is a gift from Yahweh Sabaoth, marvelous advice leading to great achievements.
Question: Why does the farmer treat each crop
differently? How does the parable apply to how God treats people?
Answer: Each kind of crop requires a different kind of planting and harvesting technique to get the best yield and the best quality crop. It is a wisdom God has given farmers. In the same way, God treats all people differently, according to how His divine revelation and His judgment will yield the best from them spiritually. He is gentle with the fragile, careful not to crush their spirit; and He is harsher in His judgments with those who are hardened and arrogant in order to bring them to repentance. His purpose, like the farmer, is to get the best possible "yield" from each life.
The theme of God's sovereignty is found throughout Scripture, but it is especially evident in Isaiah chapters 24-28. God is in control of our judgments and our salvation. He ordains our punishments, the ordering of our lives and our scattering and gathering back as He continually preserves "faithful remnant" throughout salvation history. However, while God is Lord of the universe, He cares about each of us as individuals and wants us to intimately know and to love Him. To encourage that knowledge, He brings both redemptive judgment and healing restoration. He will judge sins, but He will also remove barriers to fellowship and will comfort those who need to be consoled. He calls us to peace and wholeness "that which a life of faith is all about (Rom 5:1). The prophecies of nations coming to worship God in Jerusalem foreshadows the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, the cornerstone of our faith, who abolished death and reconciles mankind to each other in the unity of the Church, the Body of Christ, and to God (Eph 2:14-16).
Question for reflection or group discussion:
Describe the spiritual and moral failures of the leaders of the covenant people. Were the people of Isaiah's day very different from people today? How are the temptations to sin the same and how are they different?
1. References to "Leviathan" occur 5 times in the Old Testament: Job 3:8; 41:1; Ps 74:14; 104:26; Is 27:1. St. John the Apostle may have had Isaiah's reference to Leviathan as a serpent and dragon in mind when he described Satan as "the dragon, that ancient serpent" in Rev 12:9 and 20:2.
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