The Word Made Fresh
1See the proud wreaths worn by the drunkards of Ephraim?
See its glorious beauty now fading
on the heads of those who are fat with rich food
and overcome with wine?
2The Lord who is great and powerful.
Like a storm of hail or a destructive tempest,
like a swirl of powerful overflowing waters
he will hurl them down to the earth with his hand.
3The garland, the pride of the drunkards of Ephraim,
will be trampled underfoot.
4The fading flower of its glorious beauty
on the head of those who are bloated with delicacies
will be like the first ripe fig of the summer.
Whoever sees it will consume it as soon as it comes to hand.
5When that day comes the LORD Almighty will be a glorious garland,
a diadem of beauty to the people that remain;
6a spirit of justice to the one who judges
and strength to those who do battle at the gate.
7These will also reel and stagger with wine:
the priest and the prophet will stumble with strong drink;
their vision is false, and they stumble in giving judgment.
8Their tables are covered with vomit; nothing is clean.
9To whom will he attempt to teach knowledge?
To whom will he explain his message?
To the ones taken from the breast and weaned?
10It is rule on rule,
line on line,
here a little, there a little.
11Assuredly he will speak to the people
who are stammering in a foreign language.
12He has said to them, “This is a place to rest;
give rest to the weary. Let them lie down.”
But they wouldn’t listen.
13Therefore, this is the word of the LORD to them:
rule on rule,
line on line,
here a little, there a little.
Then they will go, and they will fall back
and be broken and trapped and captured.
14So now hear the word of the LORD
you scoffers who rule over the people of Jerusalem.
15You have boasted that you have made a pact with death,
an agreement with the grave,
so that when the overwhelming scourge comes
it will not come to you
because you have taken refuge in lies;
you have sheltered in falsehoods.
16That is why the LORD God says,
“Look, I am laying a tested foundation stone in Zion,
a precious cornerstone for a solid foundation:
Whoever trusts will not be afraid.
17I will make justice the line and righteousness the plumbline.
Hail will wipe away the hiding place made of lies
and their shelter will be overwhelmed with water.
18Then your covenant with death will be overturned;
your agreement with the grave will collapse.
When the overwhelming scourge arrives
it will beat you down.
19Whenever it passes through it will overtake you.
Morning by morning, day and night, it will pass through,
and its message will bring terror to you.
20Your bed is too short to stretch out on
and its covering too narrow to wrap yourself in.
21I will rise up as I did on Mt. Perazim,
in rage as in the valley of Gibeon;
and I will do my deed, strange as it is.
I will work my work, alien though it may be.”
22Don’t show contempt, or your bonds will be strengthened.
I have heard a pronouncement of destruction
over the whole land from the LORD Almighty.
23Listen to my voice. Pay attention to what I am saying.
24Do those who plow to sow the seed keep plowing forever?
Do they continue to open and plow their ground?
25Instead, when they have done plowing the ground
don’t they then scatter dill seed, sow cumin,
and plant rows of wheat and barley,
and scatter spelt as the border?
26They are well taught, for God teaches them.
27You don’t use a threshing sledge to thresh dill,
nor drag cart wheels over cumin.
Dill is beaten out with a stick
and cumin with a rod.
28Grain is crushed to make bread
but you don’t harvest it forever.
You drive carts over it with your horses,
but the wheels don’t grind it.
29All of this is from the LORD Almighty,
whose excellent counsel is wonderful and wise.
1-4: We return now to the events that were shaping up in Isaiah’s lifetime. He prophesies the demise of Ephraim (the northern kingdom of Israel with Samaria as its capital) by the hand of God.
5-6: The various parts of this chapter are not clearly connected. This brief aside is a flashback to the prophecy of the coming day of the LORD.
7-8: These verses continue the circumstances described in verses 1-4.
9-10: It would seem that the “he” in verse 9 is the drunken prophet or the drunken priest from verse 7. Verse 10 cannot be translated accurately because it is made up of meaningless sounds probably intended to represent the babble of someone who is inebriated.
11-13: Because of their (Ephraim’s) intransigence, God’s words spoken to them seem to be drunken babble as well.
14-22: Now he turns to Jerusalem. The government officials in Jerusalem have “made a covenant with death,” he says. We would say they have “made a pact with the devil.” They rely on lies to protect them. The lies are their fealty to foreign gods and to idols worshiped by the people. In response to their gods carved of wood and stone, God will lay a cornerstone. The foundation on which it rests is trust in God. This covenant with God will annul their covenant with Sheol and the land will be devastated by God’s wrath.
23-29: The prophet uses a simile from the fields surrounding Jerusalem. The farmer knows when it is time to stop plowing and start planting, and how to harvest the crop when it is ripe. Bread is made from crushed grain, but the farmer knows that you’ll never get bread if you keep on crushing. In the same way the LORD of hosts will not go on crushing his sinful people forever.
God’s awful wrath towards Israel is late in coming. It seems that God will give us the reins and allow us to fail precipitously before taking any action to rescue us or turn us around. God really does have great faith in us, even though we are a disappointment. God gives us enough freedom to hang ourselves, and then dies on a cross for us. We are securely in the hands of our wonderful Creator, who is willing to let us go our own way. To an extent. We really don’t want God to reach the point of deciding to teach us a lesson!