Woe to Ephraim
Verse 1 – Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower which is at the head of the verdant valleys, to those who are overcome with wine!
This is the first woe in chapters 28-33. Ephraim represents the northern kingdom after Solomon’s reign. Jerusalem ended up in the southern kingdom. Leaders in the northern kingdom set up idols to keep the people from going to the temple in Jerusalem to worship (1 Kings 12). So here again Isaiah warns of God’s judgment headed their way.
Verse 2 – Behold, the Lord has a mighty and strong one, like a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, like a flood of mighty waters overflowing, who will bring them down to the earth with His hand.
God’s judgment is compared to the effects of a devastating hail storm and a flood.
Verse 3 – The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, will be trampled underfoot;
Verse 4 – and the glorious beauty is a fading flower which is at the head of the verdant valley, like the first fruit before the summer, which an observer sees; he eats it up while it is still in his hand.
The crown which is upon their heads, will be trodden under the feet of others and those who fell to the ground because of their drunkenness, will be also trodden down there.
Verse 5 – In that day of the Lord of hosts will be for a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty to the remnant of His people,
Verse 6 – for the spirit of justice to him who sits in judgment, and for strength to those who turn the battle at the gate.
While the majestic crown of Ephraim is being “trampled underfoot, ” God Himself will become a crown of beauty for the remnant for the righteous who survive the punishments to come.
Verse 7 – But they also have erred through wine, and through intoxicating drink are out-of-the-way; the priest and the prophet have erred through intoxicating drink, they are swallowed up by wine, they are out-of-the-way through intoxicating drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.
The priests and prophets were crucial to the spiritual leadership of the nation, but they had clouded their judgment with strong drink. No one can convince me that their thoughts and behavior don’t change when they drink alcohol. And anyone who is a pastor and leader of a congregation who drinks, will eventually mess up!
Verse 8 – For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that no place is clean.
Verse 9 – “Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts?
Verse 10 – For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.”
The people were listening to what Isaiah spoke, but with an attitude of, “Who does he think he is, talking to us like we’re school children? Isaiah couldn’t find any who wanted to learn the knowledge of God. They thought they knew it all already.
Verse 11 – For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people,
1 Corinthians 14:21 – In the law it is written: “With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; and yet for all that, they will not hear Me,” The people would not listen to Isaiah so strangers with another language would come in – Akkadian, the language of the Assyrians.
Verse 12 – To whom He said, “This is the rest with which you may cause the weary to rest, ” and , “This is the refreshing”; yet they would not hear.
Verse 13 – But the word of the Lord was to them, “Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little,” that they might go and fall backward, and be broken and snared and caught.
Because of their lack of understanding as little children were, they would continue and suffer the consequences of their rejection. They never would come to the knowledge of the truth. Falling backward is the most dangerous way of falling.
Verse 14 – Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scornful men, who rule this people who are in Jerusalem,
Verse 15 – because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we are in agreement. With the overflowing scourge passes through, it will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood we have hidden ourselves.”
Judah was afraid of the Assyrians, but instead of trusting God, they made a covenant with death. They used other sources.
Too many times people will compromise their faith to have a temporary fix with the enemies of God. People will reason within themselves, against everything they know is right, to satisfy the lust of the flesh. When decisions are made from emotions, they usually end bad.
Verse 16 – Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily,
This cornerstone and firm foundation is none other than Jesus Christ. Psalm 118:22 – The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
Where is your foundation and what is it built on? Our foundation has to be at the beginning, “when we start to build,” anything in our lives, on a solid foundation. It can’t be built on whims or ideologies that change as soon culture changes.. When we start a career, a marriage, any relationship, it must be built on the Word of God. Jesus is our “Rock” that doesn’t move or change with every shifting tide.
Verse 17 – Also I will make justice the measuring line, and righteousness the plummet; the hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters will overflow the hiding place.
(a plumb line was not only used in erecting a building, but also in pulling them down.)
Verse 18 – Your covenant with death will be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol will not stand; when the overflowing scourge passes through, then you will be trampled down by it.
Verse 19 – As often as it goes out it will take you; for morning by morning it will pass over, and by day and by night; it will be terror just to understand the report.”
Verse 18 is talking about God’s judgment coming and nothing they trusted in would be able to stop it. Verse 19; so dreadful shall the judgment be, that it shall strike you with horror, when you only hear the rumor of it.
Verse 20 – For the bed is too short for a man to stretch out on, and the covering so narrow that he cannot wrap himself in it.
Verse 21 – For the Lord will rise up as at Mount Perazim (where God fought on David’s side at Mount Perazim, 2 Samuel 5:20), He will be angry as in the Valley of Gibeon – that He may do His work, His awesome work, and bring to pass His act, His unusual act.
God fought on Joshua’s side at the Valley of Gibeon, on David’s side at Mount Perazim, but here He will fight His own people.
Verse 22 – Now therefore, do not be mockers, lest your bonds be made strong; for I have heard from the Lord God of hosts, a destruction determined even upon the whole earth.
Though God’s judgment against the mocking leaders of Judah is certain, their future behavior will determine whether it becomes even worse.
Verse 23 – Give ear and hear my voice, listen and hear my speech.
Verse 24 – Does the plowman keep plowing all day to sow? Does he keep turning his soil and breaking the clods?
Verse 25 – When he has leveled its surface, does he not sow the black cumin and scatter the cumin, plant the wheat in rows, the barley in the appointed place, and the spelt in its place?
Verse 26 – For He instructs him in right judgment, His God teaches him.
Verse 27 – For the black cumin is not threshed with a threshing sledge, nor is a cart-wheel rolled over the cum min; but the black cumin is beaten out with a stick, and the cumin with a rod.
Verse 28 – This also comes from the Lord of host, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance.
Isaiah uses the farmer as the best way for the people to understand him. Farming they know. The farmer uses special tools to plant and harvest tender herbs so he will not destroy them. In the same way God takes all our individual circumstances and weaknesses into account. He deals sensitively with us. We should follow His example when dealing with others. Different people require different treatment.