Even when God goes to war against His people, He does so proportionately and for the sake of their redemption. Therefore, even the harsh rebuke of God toward His people is heard by the righteous as “wonderful counsel, and great wisdom.”
Chapter 28 of Isaiah begins a section (28-33) of the scroll sometimes referred to as “The Book of Woes” because each oracle begins with the Exclamation “Oy”, a Hebrew expression with diverse meaning. In many ways it is a nigun-like (vocalization of spiritual emotion) expression that takes on the emotion of the speaker and his or her circumstance and or expectations. In each of the pursuant chapters the expression is one of mourning mixed with warning, anticipation fused with certain gloom.
This first “Oy (woe)” is spoken against the “drunkards of Ephraim”, who have been doubly fruitful in their sin against HaShem. God then warns the rulers of Jerusalem that unless they repent they will share the fate of Samaria. Ephraim represents fallen Israel and is linked to Samaria in league with those who oppose God. However, Judah and Benjamin are now also rebuked and warned in light of Judah’s role in producing the coming Messiah: the “Stone” who Hashem will establish in her.
Each of these “Oy’s (woes)” are equally applicable today. Beginning with His ethnic-religious chosen people (Israel) God continues to warn all of humanity (including the Church) against descent into destruction.
Isa 28:1 Oy (Alas, Woe), crown of majesty, drunken Ephrayim (Doubly fruitful), ve’tzitz and your flower (bloom, shiny thing) of noveil senseless (foolish) beauty, whose glorious beauty is on the head of the valleys of shemaniym (oil, fat, fig: abundance) conquered with wine!
This beautiful poetic description of Ephraim’s (10 tribes) abundance is a testimony of the prosperity that will soon be lost if Ephraim fails to repent of idolatry.
The produce and wine of the region of the 10 tribes was renowned. The inhabitants of Samaria and the adjacent territories were said to be especially addicted to the vice of alcohol. The ancient city Sichem, thought to be the same as Sychar (John 4:5) is said to be named for the drunkenness of the inhabitants.
The drunkenness of Ephraim is both literal and metaphorical. The 10 tribes have engaged in literal drunkenness associated to sinful practices while also becoming drunk on the practices of heathen worship, adopted from ancient beliefs attached to the land and from the strong oppressors that have surrounded Israel. The two calves that had been set up in Dan and Bethel testify against Ephraim along with the more recent idolatries adopted from other nations.
Isa 28:2 Hinei Now (Behold, Pay attention) strong and mighty is Adonay (Lord), a tempest of hail, a storm of destruction, as a flood of many mighty waters overflowing (washing), hiniyakh resting on la’aretz the land beyad in the hand. Isa 28:3 Be’raglayim By many feet trampling the crown of majesty, of drunken Ephrayim:
God Himself is against Ephraim’s idolatry. God will soon use Shalmaneser king of Assyria to bring down the lofty pride of Ephraim and pillage her beauty and fruitfulness.
Samaria fell to the Assyrians in 722 BCE: therefore, this prophecy was pronounced some time prior to that date.
Isa 28:4 And it has come to pass your flower (bloom, shiny thing) of noveil senseless (foolish) beauty, whose glorious beauty is on the head of the valleys of shemaniym (oil, fat, fig: abundance), will be as the fruit that ripens before the summer; which when looked upon the inspection will continually remain in hand and be swallowed up.
The prophet describes the literal beauty of the lands of the 10 tribes and especially of Samaria, the region which is chief among them: using this description as a living representation of the seasonal and temporary nature of the abundance they have enjoyed. Her fruitfulness is described for the second time in identical terms as an affirmation of her certain desolation. Ephraim/Samaria is called a “senseless beauty”, the glory she enjoys is temporary, here today and gone tomorrow. Why? Because it is born of the worship of temporal and worthless things.
The fruit that ripens early is unexpected and comes in small amounts that are quickly eaten due to the grower’s anticipation of the tree fruiting in abundance at the proper time. When a time of famine or war follows, the grower regrets having hastily eaten the small amount of fruit he had formerly enjoyed. The grower is left with nothing. This is a “mashal” parable warning the inhabitants of Ephraim and Samaria of the coming desolation.
Isa 28:5 Ba’yom In the day ha-hu that (he) one, it has come to pass that HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tzevaot (of hosts) Who goes to war, will be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of splendour, unto the remainder of amo His people,
“In the day” usually refers either to a new era or to a specific day or period of judgement that is yet future. The qualifying phrase “that one” means that that the prophet has a specific day or time period in mind. In this case it refers specifically to the day when Assyria will invade and conquer, albeit temporarily. However, because Hebrew prophecy allows for cyclical fulfilment, it can also be seen to prophecy something still yet future in our time.
“It has come to pass” means that from HaShem’s perspective outside of time and space, these events have already been made complete.
It is “YHVH Tzevaot” Mercy going to war, Who will replace Ephraim’s defiled temporary crown with Himself, The Crown of her glory, the God of Mercy Going to War will be the Crown and Ruler over the remnant of Ephraim. Ephraim are the 10 tribes who have resisted God’s rightful King Who comes forth from Judah. Therefore, God is disciplining her in order to reunite her to Himself and to His appointed King Messiah, the descendant of David.
Note that even in judgement, God calls the wayward tribes of Ephraim “Amo” His people. He has never completely rejected or turned away from any of the tribes of ethnic religious Israel.
The Jewish commentator Yarchi interprets the present verse of those righteous among the 10 tribes that were left in Samaria, or in the region of Ephraim: while Kimchi believes that the two tribes Judah and Benjamin are the remnant, because pursuant to the trouble of Assyria they remained in their own land while others were carried away as captives.
The Targum paraphrases it:
"In that day shall the Messiah of the Lord of hosts be for a crown of praise to the remnant of His people'' -Targum Yonatan (2nd Century CE/AD)
The Messiah then is returning as a Warrior King. It is a mistake to teach, as some do, that the Messiah will return in peace. He will bring about peace but He will return in war in order to both physically and spiritually redeem His people, ethnic-religious Israel.
The Jewish commentator Kimchi says the ancient Rabbis recognise this text as referring to the King Messiah, and the inception of the Olam Haba world to come, when both the kingly and priestly glory will be revealed as having been restored; the one being signified by the "crown of glory", the other by the "diadem of splendour".
Isa 28:6 Uleruakh And for a spirit (wind, breath) of mishpat judgment (justice) upon hamishpat the one sitting in judgement, and for strength meshiveiy from turning, for those battling at the gate.
While this may well refer to a specific ruler of Israel in the days following the prophecy, it also concerns the coming King Messiah Who is filled with the Spirit of God, a Spirit of judgement and discernment, of counsel and comfort. This same Spirit being poured out from heaven of both the Father and the Son upon His faithful servants of the latter days. A spirit of courage that will strengthen each one to defend the gate of Jerusalem both literally and metaphorically/spiritually.
Isa 28:7 Ve’gam And also they in wine shagu go astray, and in strong drink stagger in error; cohen priest and navi prophet go astray in strong drink, they are swallowed up by the wine, they stagger in error through strong drink; in seeing (vision) they go astray, stumbling vision, they make pronouncements of stumbling.
“And also” should be understood as “Meanwhile”.
The spiritual leaders of the people of Ephraim and the region of Samaria, both priests (counsellors) and prophets (guides) are literally drunk and spiritually full of idolatry. Thus, they lead the people to stumble in syncretistic worship: compromising the purity of Biblical Judaism with the desecrations of foreign gods.
Drunkenness is particularly heinous for a priest according to the instruction of Leviticus 10:9.
On the other hand, if we interpret “And also” as Yarchi does, then we must apply the drunkenness of the cohenim and the nevi’im to the tribes that still seek to pursue the appointed place of worship on Moriah in Jerusalem. Thus, Judah and Benjamin would be indicted and the prophecy must be referring to their captivity at a later date nearer the Babylonian captivity and still further following the Roman decimation of Jerusalem in 70 CE/AD.
It should be noted that these accusations are specifically levelled against the false priest and the false prophet. They clearly do not apply to Isaiah and his righteous contemporaries.
“For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.” -Malachi 2:7 (KJV)
Drunkenness, be it literal or metaphorical, is in direct contradiction to the role of priesthood. This remains true today for those who lead God’s people, both Jew and Gentile.
Isa 28:8 For all tables are full of vomit, tzoah excrement, wearing out the place.
This graphic reality is also a metaphor for the fact that what is coming out of the mouths of the false priests and prophets, is of equal value to excrement.
The phrase “Wearing out the place” is sometimes interpreted to mean “Leaving no place clean” and thus signifies that the place is “without the touch of God’s sanctity”. This idea comes from the literal interpretation of the phrase “Beli Makom” (In no place), which acts as a sort of counterpoint to the Temple Mount title “Ha-Makom” The Place. Therefore, The Place is sacred and sanctified by God by the placing of His Name, whereas No Place must be the opposite.
Isa 28:9 To who will he yoreh throw, pour out deiah knowledge? and who will receive yavin understanding, discernment that is announced? Those weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.
The “he” spoken of here is neither the drunken priest or prophet, but is either the righteous priest or prophet, or the King Messiah previously alluded to, or God Himself. I have not capitalized the “he” because it is not clear from the text which of these the determiner applies to. What is clear is that this teaching of knowledge and understanding ultimately comes from God because it is the enemy who teaches confusion and misunderstanding.
The weaned child and the infant are the only ones among the idolatrous people who are able to receive the good teaching of God because they have not yet encountered (at an age of understanding) the sinful and idolatrous teaching of their parents.
Isa 28:10 For tzav command la’tzav upon command, tzav command la’tzav upon command; kav measuring line la’kav upon measuring line, kav measuring line la’kav upon measuring line; a little here, a little here:
These words read as a simplistic taunt. The prophet must speak simply and clearly to Ephraim and Samaria, as if to young children who are not yet able to chew meat.
“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.” -Hebrews 5:12 (KJV)
Isa 28:11 For bela’ageiy with mocking sapah language (lips, speech, binding) uvlashon and a tongue that’s different will he yedabeir declare to ha-am this tribe (people).
This is another reference to baby talk, the kind of “Doo do do, da da da” talk that one speaks to a new born.
Ultimately God will discipline His people using the language (tongue) of a different nation, when He sends His people into exile at the hands of their enemies (Jeremiah 5:15; 1 Corinthians 14:21). As a sobering reminder the Rav Shaul (Apostle Paul) warns the Corinthian believers (and us) not to fall into the same sin lest they (we) also fall under the same discipline.
The term “am” people/tribe is used here rather than “goy” nation, because this rebuke is specifically aimed at Ephraim, the 10 tribes and the inhabitants of Samaria.
Isa 28:12 To those He said, “This is the resting place where you may cause the weary to rest; and this is the place of refreshing”: yet they were not willing shemoa to listen, hear, receive, understand.
“To whom the prophets said” -Targum Yonatan
God had offered peace and security to His people through the instruction of the Torah and the prophets and yet they had refused His good instruction and instead turned to idolatry and self-indulgence: refusing to listen to and live out of sound understanding in righteousness. Therefore, they had rejected the resting place of refreshing that God had offered them, forsaking it for the empty promises of false gods.
Isa 28:13 Vehayah And it has come to pass that to these, the Devar Word (essence) of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) is, “tzav command la’tzav upon command, tzav command la’tzav upon command; kav measuring line la’kav upon measuring line, kav measuring line la’kav upon measuring line; a little here, a little here:” purposed that they might walk, and stumble, fall backward, and be broken to pieces, and lured into a trap, and captured.
These words repeat the back to basics warning of verse 10 so as to make known to the people that God had firmly established the outcome.
The “Devar” Word (John 1) has come to them with the simplest and clearest of instruction. But because they have refused even this basic instruction He will give them over to their own self-induced confusion, stumbling and bondage.
‘Then He said:
“Go! Tell this people:
‘Hear without understanding,
and see without perceiving.’
Make the heart of this people fat,
their ears heavy, and their eyes blind.
Else they would see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their heart,
and return, and be healed.”’
-Isaiah 6:9-10 TLV
‘For this reason I speak to them in parables,
because seeing they do not see,
and hearing they do not hear nor do they understand.
“And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,
‘You will keep on hearing
but will never understand;
you will keep looking,
but will never see.
15 For the heart of this people has become dull,
their ears can barely hear, and they have shut their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts.
Then they would turn back,
and I would heal them.’”
-Matthew 13:14-15 TLV
In many ways the prophet Isaiah was a forerunner to the Messiah Yeshua, even sharing a name of the same meaning.
Isa 28:14 Therefore, shem’u listen, hear, receive, understand the Devar word (essence) of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), “You bragging men, that rule ha-am this tribe (people) which is biyerushalayim in Jerusalem (downpour of peace).
This verse is pivotal in what comes next. The Devar (Word) has been alluded to prior to this: now the people are called to listen to and receive the Word. Refusal to do so will result in both physical and spiritual desolation. Note that it is the person of YHVH Mercy, Who is offering the Word (Yeshua: John 1) as the means by which Israel (ethnic-religious empirical) might understand and find reconciliation to God.
This warning will be judgement to the unrepentant but salvation to the repentant. This Word is coming, not to Ephraim but specifically to the tribe that is in Jerusalem, that is Judah and by implication Benjamin.
The Hebrew “Anshei Latzon” (Men of bragging) is a play on words against the phrase “Anshei Tziyon” (Men of Zion). The prophet infers that the arrogance of the rulers of Jerusalem has tarnished the honour of the title “Men of Zion”, that is, “Men of the place where God has placed His Name”.
Isa 28:15 Because you have said, “We have cut a covenant with death, and with sheol (holding place of the departed) we have an agreement; when the overflowing scourge shoteiph engulfs (washes, overflows) ya’avorek to alienate, pass through, it shall not come to us: for we have samenu appointed cazav lies (Falsehood, untruth, a deceptive thing) our refuge, u’vakesher deception (disappointment) our hiding place:”
As is true in many other places in Scripture, the wicked condemn themselves with their own words. Thus, the prophet reminds the people of Judah of their claim to be protected from death and the place of the dead through occult practices that sought to make bargains with demons through blood sacrifice. While the people of Judah may not have literally claimed to have made lies their refuge, they had made the teachings of false religions their refuge, and while they may not have literally claimed to have made deception their hiding place, they had invested their time in heathen practices and occult rituals that had blinded them to the truth of God. Therefore, the words of the prophet are an accurate representation of what the people thought, said, believed and lived.
The people of Judah had rejected God as their Rock and Foundation and had instead made the false gods and religious practices of the enemies of God their rocks and foundations.
Isa 28:16 Therefore thus says Adonay Lord Hashem (YHVH: Mercy), “Hineni Now, Behold (Make yourselves ready), I yesad fix, establish (lay a foundation), be’Tziyon in Zion (Parched land) a aven even stone, stone, bochan tested, proved (tried), pinat a pinnacle, angled, chief (corner, Ruler) yikrat precious, valuable, weighty, rare, splendid, a musad musad foundation, foundation: hama’amiyn the supporter, faithful, believer will not hurry.
Therefore thus says Adonai Elohim:
‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a tested stone,
a costly cornerstone, a firm foundation--
whoever trusts will not flee in haste. TLV
Targum Yonatan 2nd Century Aramaic Paraphrase:
Therefore, thus says the Lord God, Behold, I appoint a King in Zion; a King mighty, powerful, and terrible: I will make Him powerful, and I will strengthen Him, says the prophet. But the righteous, who believe these things shall not be moved, when distress shall come.
The commentator Rashi agrees with the Targum, that the stone is the “King Messiah”.
In light of the false foundations of Judah (Idolatry, occult practices, death covenants etc.) that had lead them into self-destruction and a false sense of security, God offers the ultimate solution and their only true means of reconciliation and life. Where Judah had fooled herself into thinking she was protected from death (though she was not), God offers an established stone (Messiah) that will bring eternal life.
It is God as “Lord of Mercy” Who comes to Judah with a proclamation of hope in the midst of her disobedience. Hineni is both an attention grabber and a warning, an emotional plea for the ears of the people.
“I firmly fix and establish a foundation in Zion”: we can understand this as “I have, I am, I will” because the foundation is eternally past, present and future. It is founded in the established sense but not necessarily in the locational sense.
God establishes this stone in a parched land (Zion). Why? Because it is the parched land that is most in need of living water (Num. 20) from the stone.
The Hebrew says “aven even” stone, stone. This stone is an immutable reality. What’s more it is a tried and tested, proven thing. One looks at the Hebrew word even (stone) and sees the Hebrew words for father and son present within it: “Av” and “Ben”. This stone is understood by the rabbis as being the stone through which the universe was created: the stone upon which Avraham sought to slay Isaac and Jacob lay his head: the stone that lay at the threshing floor purchased by David and became the foundation of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Hebrew even (stone) contains both father and son and is centred on the Hebrew character for House “Beit”. This word alone illuminates what is to come, but it is only the smallest part of the whole.
The Hebrew “yesad” means to fix, establish, and is rendered as “foundation” in a figurative sense. The Hebrew “pinat” means, sharp, angle, pinnacle, and corner, but not only corner. Likewise, it can be rendered figuratively to represent a chief or ruler. The stone in question is most certainly a chief, a ruler, but what is less certain from the Hebrew text, is whether this stone should be understood as a corner stone. While “corner stone” is an acceptable translation, I believe we are better to understand it in the sense of a firmly established entity upon which both the earthly (literal) and divine (heavenly) Temples are built.
Further to our discussion of the placement of the stone, we should consider that the psalmist uses the same language to describe the stone the builders rejected as the “Head Pinnacle” from the Hebrew “Lerosh pinah”. Pinah shares it’s root with “Pinat” which is used in Isaiah 28:16. In fact this is the same stone, alluded to by both these Hebrew prophetic/poetry writings, recorded centuries apart. The Hebrew Pinah, while it can by implication mean corner, is more literally rendered as pinnacle or angle. This is why English versions like the TLV choose to call it a capstone rather than a corner stone.
“The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone.” -Psalm 118:22 TLV
When Yeshua is quoted in Matthew as referring to Psalm 118:22, the Greek word used is “gonia” which carries the same ambiguous meaning as its Hebrew counterpart “pinah”. Thus we can read:
“Yeshua said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvellous in our eyes’” -Matthew 21:42 (Psalm 118:22)
Some Christian commentators offer the false choice that this is either the foundation stone of the Temple (As some of the rabbis say) or the capstone of the Temple, or Yeshua, but it can’t be all three. This is nonsense, it can be all three because of the nature of the Hebrew Scriptures and the way that the Hebrew language is used to convey ideas. It is both a literal stone (Yeshua is not literally a stone), as either the corner foundation or the established stone of the pinnacle and at the same time it is metaphorically Yeshua (the stone is not metaphorically a stone). Therefore, I suggest that we not be sucked into making false choices. Rather, we should make discerning interpretations according to the unity of the Spirit and the Word and sound judgement.
We note that the stone is “yikrat precious, valuable, weighty, rare, splendid” and that it is “musad musad foundation, foundation” an immutable foundation, something that can be said of no earthly stone.
“The faithful believer will not hurry” seems to convey the idea that the revelation of this stone must be accepted in its time. That the servant of HaShem must not be anxious in seeking the revelation of it but must trust in Hashem’s timing. The more traditional translations suggest that the one who trusts in this stone will not be put to shame. This is due to comparisons with the Septuagint and New Testament versions of the same text, and is also an acceptable interpretation.
What is this stone, or, who does it represent? Given that much of Isaiah and in particular this chapter, uses metaphorical and poetic language that conveys much more than simple literal ideas.
In the blessing pronounced of Joseph, Jacob prophecies the coming Messiah using the metaphor of the “even” (stone), and implicitly acknowledges the fact that the coming Messiah, like Joseph, will be crowned and set apart from His brothers (Jews, ethnic Israelites).
“Yet his bow was always filled,
and his arms quick-moving--
by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob.
From there a Shepherd,
the Stone of Israel…
The blessings of your father surpassed
the blessings of the ancient mountains,
the desire of the everlasting hills.
May they be upon Joseph’s head,
upon the crown of the one set apart from his brothers.” -Genesis 49:24, 26 TLV
The writers of the Brit Ha-Chadashah (NT) reveal in unison the meaning of the stone of Isaiah 28:
“Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:
“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone;” -Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11 (Psalm 118:22)
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation (establishment) of the apostles and prophets, with Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) himself as the chief (Head) capstone.” -Ephesians 2:19-20
In each of the Gospel quotes Yeshua is identifying Himself as the stone, and in the letter to the Ephesians Yeshua is named as the Head of the Pinnacle (capstone).
We must remember that the words established and foundation are both accurate translations of the Hebrew and Greek texts but both give an entirely different meaning. Even so, both meanings convey the essence of Messiah, given that He is both the foundation of all things and the Head of all things under the Father God. Therefore, the ambiguity is intentional because it further illuminates a truth that is beyond human understanding.
Further to these NT quotes are the quotes regarding. The second half of Isaiah 28:16:
“As it is written:
“See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall,
and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.” -Romans 9:33 (10:11); 1 Peter 2:6 NIV
Once again the New Testament writers are referring to Yeshua as the stone of Isaiah 28:16. There is therefore, no doubt in the mind of the disciple of Yeshua. He is the stone of Isaiah 28:16. He is both the foundation of all things and the Head of the Temple (Worship) of God and of ethnic-religious Israel and the community of faith (Ecclesia: Church).
Isa 28:17 And I will appoint judgement (justice) le’kav as a measuring line, u’tzedakah and righteousness as a levelling tool: sweep away with hail, the refuge of cazav lies (Falsehood, untruth, a deceptive thing), and the hiding place will be engulfed (washed), in waters.
This verse is the counterpoint to verse 15 and the false security and refuge of deception that Judah had trusted in.
A measuring or plumbline is used by builders to ensure that subsequent stones line up with the foundation and or corner stone. Additionally a measuring line ensures the placement of the capstone. Thus the justice of God keeps the stones of the building connected to and in line with the corner, foundation, or capstone described in the previous verse.
The levelling tool is used to makes sure that once in place, the stones of the building remain level, so as not to compromise the structural integrity of the building. Thus righteousness born of justice maintains the soundness of the building.
This metaphor is applied to the house of Israel, specifically Judah, under the reign of the stone, that is, the King Messiah, Who is referred to in the previous verse as the stone. When Judah (Israel) sees Him established, those false things she once trusted in will be swept away before His justice and the righteousness that results from the firm foundation of His faithful rule.
Isa 28:18 And your covenant with death will be made null and void (covered over/purged), and your agreement with sheol will not arise (stand); when the overflowing scourge shoteiph engulfs (washes, overflows) ya’avorek to alienate, pass through, it will come to pass that you will be trodden down by it.
The occult covenant that the inhabitants of Jerusalem had made with death will be nullified, both in the sense that they will die regardless and in the sense that the King Messiah will bring freedom from death and eternal life through the covering He makes. This is why the Hebrew literally reads, “Your covenant with death will be covered.” Meaning that although humanity chose to sin against God in the beginning and through sin allowed death entry into the world, the King Messiah would make covering (purging) atonement for humanity and render the power of death null and void.
Isa 28:19 From the time it takes to pass through (alienate) and take hold of you: because morning by morning it will pass through (alienate), by day and by night: and it has come to pass that it will surely horrify you, alone you will discern, understand the report.
In an historical sense the sweeping away of Judah’s idolatry and trust in false things will occur at the hand s of invading armies who will carry her inhabitants away as captives. Though the Assyrians only besieged Jerusalem, both the Babylonians and ultimately the Romans (at a much later date) decimated the city.
The poetic language “morning by morning” and “by day and night” indicates that when this happens it will come upon Israel abruptly when she is unprepared and will be unrelenting until she is carried away.
Isa 28:20 For the bed is shorter than the length of a man nor can he stretch himself out on it: and the covering to narrow to cover, so that he cannot wrap himself in it.
These proverbs affirm the discomfort of a people under siege and again find their historical fulfilment in the siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrian army and eventually the Babylonian captivity and the much later Roman destruction of the city.
A person under siege cannot sleep, his bed seems too short, his nights restless and wakeful. He is unable to keep warm because his blanket is too narrow to cover his body, so that one part is warmed only to be woken by another part exposed to the cold.
In a spiritual sense this is true of all who trust in false gods and beliefs. The bed of the false god is too short and the blanket of false belief will never keep us warm. The result being a life of spiritual torment, unrest and discomfort.
Isa 28:21 For as in mount Peratziym (breeches) HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) will arise, as in the valley of Giveon (hill city) He shook with rage, to accomplish, (fashion, do) His work, His strange work; and to serve His service (labour), His strange service (labour).
The Lord fought on the side of David against the Philistines at Mount Perazim (2 Samuel 5:20), and with Joshua in the valley of Gibeon (Joshua 10:10). Now He will do the strange thing of fighting against the very people He has helped in the past. What a terrible realization for Israel. The prophet is saying that because they have rejected the security of the God of their fathers they will now be treated, albeit temporarily, as His enemies.
Isa 28:22 Now therefore don’t be mockers, lest your bonds be strengthened: for kalah termination (full end, destruction) and cutting I have heard from Adonay Lord HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tzevaot (of hosts) Who goes to war, upon all Ha-aretz the land.
The right response to the prophet’s words is repentance. Thus he warns Judah not to mock the words of the Lord lest their discipline become greater. When a captive seeks to escape and is recaptured, he is subjected to greater torment and his bonds are strengthened so that there is no hope for escape.
These words are spoken specifically against Ha-aretz, the land of Israel.
In a spiritual sense this same warning applies to those who would mock God’s word and the redemption offered through His Son the King Messiah:
“How much more severe do you think the punishment will be for the one who has trampled Ben-Elohim underfoot, and has regarded as unholy the blood of the covenant by which he was made holy, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?” -Hebrews 10:29 TLV
Isa 28:23 listen, u’shimeu and hear (receive, understand) koliy My voice; hearken, and ve’shimeu and hear (receive, understand) my speech, utterance (Torah, Word of God).
Here Isaiah speaks words that echo through history and have indeed come to him from the mouth of the pre-existent Messiah. Words that call Israel and all humanity to take note and listen lest anyone find himself unable to hear (Jeremiah 6:10; Ezekiel 12:2; Matthew 13:15; Romans 11:8):
“And Yeshua said, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear’” -Mark 4:9, 23; Luke 8:8, 14:35
These words precede the mashal (parable) that Isaiah is about to tell. He depicts God as a farmer apportioning grain and threshing each crop according to its unique qualities.
The Messiah that Isaiah has been prophesying about will also speak in similar mashaliym (parables), referring to God as a farmer (Matthew 13:1-52).
Isa 28:24 The whole day the ploughman cuts a furrow to seed the opening and break the clods of his ground.
In the same way that the farmer prepares the soil by ploughing, God prepares the soil of the hearts of His people by ploughing. Ploughing breaks up the soil and busts open the thick clods that might hinder the growth of the plants that the soil will be seeded with. In the same way God, through discipline and with forethought, breaks up the soil of the hearts and minds of His people: preparing them for the good seed that will deliver a rich crop.
Isa 28:25 When he has prepared the face of the soil, does he not scatter abroad the black cumin, and cast the cumin, and throw in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and the rye in their place?
After ploughing the soil is harrowed, refined further and smoothed until it is ready to receive the seed. Thus the face of the soil looks upon the face of the farmer, ready to receive what the farmer has to offer. Hard unploughed earth is unable to receive anything.
Each crop is seeded at the appropriate time and in the appropriate soil type in order to yield the best results. Likewise God seeds the lives of His people with the appropriate instruction and the primary crop of salvation.
The Targum further illuminates the practice of the sower:
“as wheat is sown in an uncultivated field, and barley by the signs, and rye by the borders;”
Each crop is seeded in a different field according to the Torah (Lev. 19:19).
Isa 28:26 For he is instructed with good judgement, his God casts (seeds) teaching him.
The farmer receives his wisdom and good judgement from God. In other words, the greatest of farmers teaches His people how best to seed their own land. In a spiritual sense this means seeding the soil of our soul existence with the seed of God’s Messiah and the instruction of His word.
Isa 28:27 For the black cumin is not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cumin; but the black cumin is beaten out ba’mateh (branch, tribe) with a staff, and the cumin ba’shavet with a rod (Sceptre, branch).
This is an allegory of mercy. God does not over discipline His people. Rather He apportions discipline with grace, afflicting His people according to what they can bear and for the purpose of their redemption.
Isa 28:28 Bread is bruised; because he will never tread on it, threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen.
The Hebrew “Lechem” can mean bread, grain, food etc. Here is refers to the grain that bread or food is produced from.
Isa 28:29 This also comes forth from HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tzevaot (of hosts) Who goes to war, going forward with wonderful counsel, and great tushiyah wisdom (sound knowledge, abiding success, ).
Even when God goes to war against His people, He does so proportionately and for the sake of their redemption. Therefore, even the harsh rebuke of God toward His people is heard by the righteous as “wonderful counsel, and great wisdom.”
Ultimately, as fierce as this text may seem, it is seeded with mercy and grace and has in mind the goal of Israel’s redemption.
© 2018 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.