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Isaiah 28-31 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

E. The Lord Alone, Israel’s and Judah’s Salvation

Chapter 28

The Fate of Samaria[a]

Ah! majestic garland
    of the drunkards of Ephraim,[b]
Fading blooms of his glorious beauty,
    at the head of the fertile valley,
    upon those stupefied with wine.
See, the Lord has a strong one, a mighty one,[c]
    who, like an onslaught of hail, a destructive storm,
Like a flood of water, great and overflowing,
    levels to the ground with violence;
With feet that will trample
    the majestic garland of the drunkards of Ephraim.
The fading blooms of his glorious beauty
    at the head of the fertile valley
Will be like an early fig before summer:
    whoever sees it,
    swallows it as soon as it is in hand.
On that day the Lord of hosts
    will be a glorious crown
And a brilliant diadem
    for the remnant of his people,
A spirit of judgment
    for the one who sits in judgment,
And strength for those
    who turn back the battle at the gate.

Against Judah

But these also stagger from wine
    and stumble from strong drink:
Priest and prophet stagger from strong drink,
    overpowered by wine;
They are confused by strong drink,
    they stagger in their visions,
    they totter when giving judgment.
Yes, all the tables
    are covered with vomit,
    with filth, and no place left clean.
[d]“To whom would he impart knowledge?
To whom would he convey the message?
To those just weaned from milk,
    those weaned from the breast?
10 For he says,
‘Command on command, command on command,
    rule on rule, rule on rule,
    here a little, there a little!’”
11 [e]Yes, with stammering lips and in a strange language
    he will speak to this people,
12     to whom he said:
“This is the resting place,
    give rest to the weary;
And this is the place of repose”—
    but they refused to hear.
13 So for them the word of the Lord shall be:
    “Command on command, command on command,
Rule on rule, rule on rule,
    here a little, there a little!”
So that when they walk, they shall stumble backward,
    broken, ensnared, and captured.
14 Therefore, hear the word of the Lord, you scoffers,
    who rule[f] this people in Jerusalem:
15 You have declared, “We have made a covenant with death,
    with Sheol[g] we have made a pact;
When the raging flood passes through,
    it will not reach us;
For we have made lies our refuge,
    and in falsehood we have found a hiding place,”—
16 Therefore, thus says the Lord God:
    See, I am laying a stone in Zion,[h]
    a stone that has been tested,
A precious cornerstone as a sure foundation;
    whoever puts faith in it will not waver.
17 I will make judgment a measuring line,
    and justice a level.—[i]
Hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies,
    and waters shall flood the hiding place.
18 Your covenant with death shall be canceled
    and your pact with Sheol shall not stand.
When the raging flood passes through,
    you shall be beaten down by it.
19 Whenever it passes, it shall seize you;
    morning after morning it shall pass,
    by day and by night.
Sheer terror
    to impart the message!
20 For the bed shall be too short to stretch out in,
    and the cover too narrow to wrap in.
21 For the Lord shall rise up as on Mount Perazim,
    bestir himself as in the Valley of Gibeon,[j]
To carry out his work—strange his work!
    to perform his deed—alien his deed!
22 Now, cease scoffing,
    lest your bonds be tightened,
For I have heard a decree of destruction
    from the Lord, the God of hosts,
    for the whole land.

The Parable of the Farmer

23 [k]Give ear and hear my voice,
    pay attention and hear my word:
24 Is the plowman forever plowing in order to sow,
    always loosening and harrowing the field?
25 When he has leveled the surface,
    does he not scatter caraway and sow cumin,[l]
Put in wheat and barley,
    with spelt as its border?
26 His God has taught him this rule,
    he has instructed him.
27 For caraway is not threshed with a sledge,
    nor does a cartwheel roll over cumin.
But caraway is beaten out with a staff,
    and cumin with a rod.
28 Grain is crushed for bread, but not forever;
    though he thresh it thoroughly,
    and drive his cartwheel and horses over it,
    he does not pulverize it.
29 This too comes from the Lord of hosts;
    wonderful is his counsel and great his wisdom.

Chapter 29

Judgment and Deliverance of Jerusalem

Ah! Ariel, Ariel,[m]
    city where David encamped!
Let year follow year,
    and feast follow feast,
But I will bring distress upon Ariel,
    and there will be mourning and moaning.
You shall be to me like Ariel:
    I will encamp like David against you;
I will circle you with outposts
    and set up siege works against you.
You shall speak from beneath the earth,
    and from the dust below, your words shall come.
Your voice shall be that of a ghost from the earth,
    and your words shall whisper from the dust.
The horde of your arrogant shall be like fine dust,
    a horde of tyrants like flying chaff.
Then suddenly, in an instant,
    you shall be visited by the Lord of hosts,
With thunder, earthquake, and great noise,
    whirlwind, storm, and the flame of consuming fire.
[n]Then like a dream,
    a vision of the night,
Shall be the horde of all the nations
    who make war against Ariel:
All the outposts, the siege works against it,
    all who distress it.
As when a hungry man dreams he is eating
    and awakens with an empty stomach,
Or when a thirsty man dreams he is drinking
    and awakens faint, his throat parched,
So shall the horde of all the nations be,
    who make war against Mount Zion.

Blindness and Perversity

[o]Stupefy yourselves and stay stupid;
    blind yourselves and stay blind!
You who are drunk, but not from wine,
    who stagger, but not from strong drink!
10 For the Lord has poured out on you
    a spirit of deep sleep.
He has shut your eyes (the prophets)
    and covered your heads (the seers).[p]

11 For you the vision of all this has become like the words of a sealed scroll. When it is handed to one who can read, with the request, “Read this,” the reply is, “I cannot, because it is sealed.” 12 When the scroll is handed to one who cannot read, with the request, “Read this,” the reply is, “I cannot read.”

13     The Lord said:
Since this people draws near with words only
    and honors me with their lips alone,
    though their hearts are far from me,
And fear of me has become
    mere precept of human teaching,
14 Therefore I will again deal with this people
    in surprising and wondrous fashion:
The wisdom of the wise shall perish,
    the prudence of the prudent shall vanish.
15 Ah! You who would hide a plan
    too deep for the Lord!
Who work in the dark, saying,
    “Who sees us, who knows us?”
16 Your perversity is as though the potter
    were taken to be the clay:
As though what is made should say of its maker,
    “He did not make me!”
Or the vessel should say of the potter,
    “He does not understand.”


17 Surely, in a very little while,
    Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard,
    and the orchard be considered a forest!
18 On that day the deaf shall hear
    the words of a scroll;
And out of gloom and darkness,
    the eyes of the blind shall see.
19 The lowly shall again find joy in the Lord,
    the poorest rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
20 For the tyrant shall be no more,
    the scoffer shall cease to be;
All who are ready for evil shall be cut off,
21     those who condemn with a mere word,
Who ensnare the defender at the gate,
    and leave the just with an empty claim.
22 Therefore thus says the Lord,
    the God of the house of Jacob,
    who redeemed Abraham:[r]
No longer shall Jacob be ashamed,
    no longer shall his face grow pale.
23 For when his children see
    the work of my hands in his midst,
They shall sanctify my name;
    they shall sanctify the Holy One of Jacob,
    be in awe of the God of Israel.
24 Those who err in spirit shall acquire understanding,
    those who find fault shall receive instruction.

Chapter 30

Oracle on the Futility of an Alliance with Egypt[s]

Ah! Rebellious children,
    oracle of the Lord,
Who carry out a plan that is not mine,
    who make an alliance[t] I did not inspire,
    thus adding sin upon sin;
They go down to Egypt,
    without asking my counsel,[u]
To seek strength in Pharaoh’s protection
    and take refuge in Egypt’s shadow.
Pharaoh’s protection shall become your shame,
    refuge in Egypt’s shadow your disgrace.
When his princes are at Zoan
    and his messengers reach Hanes,
All shall be ashamed
    of a people that gain them nothing,
Neither help nor benefit,
    but only shame and reproach.
    Oracle on the Beasts of the Negeb.
Through the distressed and troubled land[v]
    of the lioness and roaring lion,
    of the viper and flying saraph,
They carry their riches on the backs of donkeys
    and their treasures on the humps of camels
To a people good for nothing,
    to Egypt whose help is futile and vain.
Therefore I call her
    “Rahab[w] Sit-still.”
[x]Now come, write it on a tablet they can keep,
    inscribe it on a scroll;
That in time to come it may be
    an eternal witness.
For this is a rebellious people,
    deceitful children,
Children who refuse
    to listen to the instruction of the Lord;
10 Who say to the seers, “Do not see”;
    to the prophets,[y] “Do not prophesy truth for us;
    speak smooth things to us, see visions that deceive!
11 Turn aside from the way! Get out of the path!
    Let us hear no more
    of the Holy One of Israel!”
12 Therefore, thus says the Holy One of Israel:
    Because you reject this word,
And put your trust in oppression and deceit,
    and depend on them,
13 This iniquity of yours shall be
    like a descending rift
Bulging out in a high wall
    whose crash comes suddenly, in an instant,
14 Crashing like a potter’s jar
    smashed beyond rescue,
And among its fragments cannot be found
    a sherd to scoop fire from the hearth
    or dip water from the cistern.
15 For thus said the Lord God,
    the Holy One of Israel:
By waiting and by calm you shall be saved,
    in quiet and in trust shall be your strength.
    But this you did not will.
16 “No,” you said,
    “Upon horses we will flee.”
    Very well, you shall flee!
“Upon swift steeds we will ride.”
    Very well, swift shall be your pursuers!
17 A thousand shall tremble at the threat of one—
    if five threaten, you shall flee.
You will then be left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
    like a flag on a hill.

Zion’s Future Deliverance

18 Truly, the Lord is waiting to be gracious to you,
    truly, he shall rise to show you mercy;
For the Lord is a God of justice:
    happy are all who wait for him!
19 Yes, people of Zion, dwelling in Jerusalem,
    you shall no longer weep;
He will be most gracious to you when you cry out;
    as soon as he hears he will answer you.
20 The Lord will give you bread in adversity
    and water in affliction.
No longer will your Teacher[z] hide himself,
    but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher,
21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you:
    “This is the way; walk in it,”
    when you would turn to the right or the left.
22 You shall defile your silver-plated idols
    and your gold-covered images;
You shall throw them away like filthy rags,
    you shall say, “Get out!”
23 He will give rain for the seed
    you sow in the ground,
And the bread that the soil produces
    will be rich and abundant.
On that day your cattle will graze
    in broad meadows;
24 The oxen and the donkeys that till the ground
    will eat silage tossed to them
    with shovel and pitchfork.
25 Upon every high mountain and lofty hill
    there will be streams of running water.
On the day of the great slaughter,
    when the towers fall,
26 The light of the moon will be like the light of the sun,
    and the light of the sun will be seven times greater,
    like the light of seven days,
On the day the Lord binds up the wounds of his people
    and heals the bruises left by his blows.

Divine Judgment on Assyria[aa]

27 See, the name of the Lord is coming from afar,
    burning with anger, heavy with threat,
His lips filled with fury,
    tongue like a consuming fire,
28 Breath like an overflowing torrent
    that reaches up to the neck!
He will winnow the nations with a destructive winnowing
    and bridle the jaws of the peoples to send them astray.
29 For you, there will be singing
    as on a night when a feast is observed,
And joy of heart
    as when one marches along with a flute
Going to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the Rock of Israel.
30 The Lord will make his glorious voice heard,
    and reveal his arm coming down
In raging fury and flame of consuming fire,
    in tempest, and rainstorm, and hail.
31 For at the voice of the Lord, Assyria will be shattered,
    as he strikes with the rod;
32 And every sweep of the rod of his punishment,
    which the Lord will bring down on him,
Will be accompanied by timbrels and lyres,
    while he wages war against him.
33 For his tophet[ab] has long been ready,
    truly it is prepared for the king;
His firepit made both deep and wide,
    with fire and firewood in abundance,
And the breath of the Lord, like a stream of sulfur,
    setting it afire.

Chapter 31

Against the Egyptian Alliance

Ah! Those who go down to Egypt for help,
    who rely on horses;
Who put their trust in chariots because of their number,
    and in horsemen because of their combined power,
But look not to the Holy One of Israel
    nor seek the Lord![ac]
Yet he too is wise and will bring disaster;
    he will not turn from his threats.
He will rise up against the house of the wicked
    and against those who help evildoers.
The Egyptians are human beings, not God,
    their horses flesh, not spirit;
When the Lord stretches forth his hand,
    the helper shall stumble, the one helped shall fall,
    and both of them shall perish together.
    For thus says the Lord to me:
As a lion or its young
    growling over the prey,
With a band of shepherds
    assembled against it,
Is neither dismayed by their shouts
    nor cowed by their noise,
So shall the Lord of hosts come down
    to wage war upon Mount Zion, upon its height.
Like hovering birds, so the Lord of hosts
    shall shield Jerusalem,
To shield and deliver,
    to spare and rescue.

Return, O Israelites, to him whom you have utterly deserted. On that day each one of you shall reject his idols of silver and gold, which your hands have made.

Assyria shall fall by a sword, not wielded by human being,
    no mortal sword shall devour him;
He shall flee before the sword,
    and his young men shall be impressed as laborers.
He shall rush past his crag[ad] in panic,
    and his princes desert the standard in terror,
Says the Lord who has a fire in Zion
    and a furnace in Jerusalem.


  1. 28:1–6 These verses once constituted an independent oracle against the Northern Kingdom, probably originally spoken during the time between its overthrow by Assyria in 732 and its destruction in 722/721. Isaiah has reused them as an introduction to his oracle against Judah (vv. 7–22), because the leaders of Judah were guilty of the same excesses that had once marked Ephraim’s leadership.
  2. 28:1 Ephraim: the Northern Kingdom. Its capital, Samaria, was built upon a hill, suggestive of a majestic garland adorning a human head. The characterization of the leadership of Ephraim as drunken underscores its inattention to justice and good government (cf. 5:11–13; Am 6:1–6).
  3. 28:2 A strong one, a mighty one: Assyria (cf. 8:7–8).
  4. 28:9–10 The words of those who ridicule Isaiah. The Hebrew of v. 10, by its very sound, conveys the idea of mocking imitation of what the prophet says, as though he spoke like a stammering child: “sau lasau, sau lasau, kau lakau, kau lakau, ze’er sham, ze’er sham.” But in v. 13 God repeats these words in deadly earnest, putting them in the mouth of the victorious Assyrian army.
  5. 28:11 God will answer the mockers and defend Isaiah. Strange language: spoken by the invading army.
  6. 28:14 Who rule: there is a play on words; the same expression could also mean, “Proverb makers,” that is, scoffers of this people.
  7. 28:15, 18 A covenant with death, with Sheol: an alliance with foreign powers, such as Egypt and Babylon. Have made lies…a hiding place: this confidence in human aid will prove to be false and deceitful, incapable of averting the dreaded disaster. Raging flood: the Assyrian invasion; cf. 8:7–8.
  8. 28:16 A stone in Zion: the true and sure foundation of salvation, i.e., the presence of God, who had chosen and founded Zion as his city (Ps 78:68–69; Is 14:32) and had chosen the Davidic dynasty to rule over his people (Ps 78:70–72; Is 9:1–6; 11:1–10). Cornerstone: the assurance of salvation, rejected by the people of Judah in the prophet’s time, is picked up in Ps 118:22 and later applied to Christ; cf. Mt 21:42; Lk 20:17; Acts 4:11; Rom 9:33; 1 Pt 2:7. Chapters 28–31 alternate between threats of the danger of rebelling against Assyria (with implied trust in Egypt) with assurances of the power and protection of the Lord.
  9. 28:17 Line…level: instruments used in constructing a building, to keep it true. They are used metaphorically here to refer to the qualities that Zion, the city of God, must manifest, judgment and justice, not bloodshed (Mi 3:10), nor deceit and violence, which would result in a bulging unstable wall doomed to destruction (Is 30:12–14). Cf. 1 Cor 3:10–17.
  10. 28:21 Mount Perazim…Valley of Gibeon: where David defeated the Philistines; cf. 2 Sm 5:20, 25; 1 Chr 14:11, 16. God’s new work will be strange, because instead of fighting for Judah as the Lord did in David’s time, God will now fight against Jerusalem (see 29:1–4).
  11. 28:23–29 The practical variation of the farmer’s work reflects the way God deals with his people, wisely adapted to circumstances; he does not altogether crush them in their weakness.
  12. 28:25 Caraway…cumin: herbs used in seasoning food. Spelt: a variety of wheat.
  13. 29:1–2 Ariel: a poetic name for Jerusalem. It has been variously interpreted to mean “lion of God,” “altar hearth of God” (Ez 43:15–16), “city of God,” or “foundation of God.” In v. 2 the term refers to “altar hearth,” i.e., a place of burning for its people (cf. 30:33; 31:9). God will attack Jerusalem, as David did long ago.
  14. 29:7–8 Just when the attackers think their capture of Jerusalem is certain, the Lord will snatch victory from their hands and save the city. The sudden shift from the Lord’s attack on the city to its deliverance by him is surprising and unexplained; it may reflect the account related in 37:36.
  15. 29:9–16 Despite their show of piety, Judah’s leaders refused to accept the prophet’s words of assurance. They rejected prophetic advice (cf. 30:10–11), did not consult the prophetic oracle in forming their political plans (30:1–2; 31:1), and tried to hide their plans even from God’s prophet (v. 15), who, they thought, simply did not understand military and political reality.
  16. 29:10 Prophets…seers: interpretive glosses.
  17. 29:17–24 The prophet presents the positive aspects of God’s plan in terms of a series of reversals: an end to pride, ignorance, and injustice. Cf. 32:3–5.
  18. 29:22 Who redeemed Abraham: perhaps by revealing himself and delivering Abraham from idolatrous worship; cf. Gn 12:1–3; 17:1; Jos 24:2–3.
  19. 30:1–17 Several independent oracles against making an alliance with Egypt have been strung together in this chapter: vv. 1–5, vv. 6–7, and vv. 8–17. That these were originally separate oracles is indicated by the fact that the oracle in vv. 6–7 is still introduced by its own heading: Oracle on the Beasts of the Negeb.
  20. 30:1 Make an alliance: lit., “pour out a libation,” namely, as part of the ritual of treaty making.
  21. 30:2 Without asking my counsel: it was a practice to consult God through the prophets or through the priestly oracle before making a major political decision (1 Sm 23:1–12; 1 Kgs 22:5), but Judah’s leadership, in its concern for security, was apparently trying to keep its plan for a treaty with Egypt secret even from the prophets, thus implicitly from God (29:15).
  22. 30:6 Distressed…land: the wilderness between Judah and Egypt, through which Judahite messengers had to pass, carrying their tribute to Egypt to buy assistance in the struggle against Assyria. Flying saraph: see notes on 6:2; 14:29.
  23. 30:7 Here as elsewhere (cf. Ps 87:4) Egypt is compared to Rahab, the raging, destructive sea monster (cf. Is 51:9; Jb 26:12; Ps 89:11); yet Egypt, when asked for aid by Judah, becomes silent and “sits still.”
  24. 30:8 Isaiah will write down his condemnation of the foolish policy pursued so that the truth of his warning of its dire consequences (vv. 12–17) may afterward be recognized.
  25. 30:10 Seers…prophets: the two terms are synonyms for prophetic figures such as Isaiah (1:1; 2:1; 6:1, 5). There is wordplay between the nouns and their cognate verbs, both of which mean “to see.” The authorities are depicted as forbidding prophets to contradict their secret political and military policies.
  26. 30:20 Teacher: God, who in the past made the people blind and deaf through the prophetic message (6:9–10) and who in his anger hid his face from the house of Jacob (8:17), shall in the future help them to understand his teaching clearly (cf. Jer 31:34).
  27. 30:27–33 God’s punishment of Assyria. The name of the Lord: here, God himself; cf. Ps 20:2.
  28. 30:33 Tophet: a site, near Jerusalem, where children were sacrificed by fire to Molech (2 Kgs 23:10), and where, probably, Ahaz sacrificed his son (2 Kgs 16:3). Here, Isaiah speaks of “his tophet,” the site prepared for burning up the king of Assyria. King: there seems to be a play on words between the Heb. word for king (melek) and the name Molech. This defeat of Assyria becomes the occasion for Israel’s festal rejoicing (v. 32).
  29. 31:1 Seek the Lord: a technical expression for seeking a prophetic or priestly oracle, similar to the expression “asking my counsel” in 30:2. The prophet complains that Judah has decided on its policy of alliance with Egypt without first consulting the Lord.
  30. 31:9 Crag: the king as the rallying point of the princes. Panic: terror is an element of Israel’s holy war tradition, in which defeat of the enemy is accomplished by the Lord rather than by human means (cf. v. 8).
New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.


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