New English Translation
The Lord Will Judge Ephraim
28 The splendid crown of Ephraim’s drunkards is doomed,[a]
the withering flower, its beautiful splendor,[b]
situated[c] at the head of a rich valley,
the crown of those overcome with wine.[d]
2 Look, the Lord[e] sends a strong, powerful one.[f]
With the force of a hailstorm or a destructive windstorm,[g]
with the might of a driving, torrential rainstorm,[h]
he will knock that crown[i] to the ground with his hand.[j]
3 The splendid crown of Ephraim’s drunkards
will be trampled underfoot.
4 The withering flower, its beautiful splendor,
situated at the head of a rich valley,
will be like an early fig before harvest—
as soon as someone notices it,
he grabs it and swallows it.[k]
5 At that time[l] the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will become a beautiful crown
and a splendid diadem for the remnant of his people.
6 He will give discernment to the one who makes judicial decisions,
and strength to those who defend the city from attackers.[m]
7 Even these men[n] stagger because of wine;
they stumble around because of beer—
priests and prophets stagger because of beer,
they are confused[o] because of wine,
they stumble around because of beer;
they stagger while seeing prophetic visions,[p]
they totter while making legal decisions.[q]
8 Indeed, all the tables
are covered with vomit,
with filth, leaving no clean place.[r]
9 Who is the Lord[s] trying to teach?
To whom is he explaining a message?[t]
To those just weaned from milk!
To those just taken from their mother’s breast![u]
10 Indeed, they will hear meaningless gibberish,
a syllable here, a syllable there.[v]
11 For with mocking lips and a foreign tongue
he will speak to these people.[w]
12 In the past he said to them,[x]
“This is where security can be found.
Provide security for the one who is exhausted.
This is where rest can be found.”[y]
But they refused to listen.
13 So the Lord’s message to them will sound like
a syllable here, a syllable there.[z]
As a result, they will fall on their backsides when they try to walk,[aa]
and be injured, ensnared, and captured.[ab]
The Lord Will Judge Jerusalem
14 Therefore, listen to the Lord’s message,
you who mock,
you rulers of these people
who reside in Jerusalem.
15 For you say,
“We have made a treaty with death,
with Sheol[ac] we have made an agreement.[ad]
When the overwhelming judgment sweeps by[ae]
it will not reach us.
For we have made a lie our refuge,
we have hidden ourselves in a deceitful word.”[af]
16 Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord, says:
“Look, I am laying[ag] a stone in Zion,
an approved[ah] stone,
set in place as a precious cornerstone for the foundation.[ai]
The one who maintains his faith will not panic.[aj]
17 I will make justice the measuring line,
fairness the plumb line;
hail will sweep away the unreliable refuge,[ak]
the floodwaters will overwhelm the hiding place.
18 Your treaty with death will be dissolved;[al]
your agreement[am] with Sheol will not last.[an]
When the overwhelming judgment sweeps by,[ao]
you will be overrun by it.[ap]
19 Whenever it sweeps by, it will overtake you;
indeed,[aq] every morning it will sweep by,
it will come through during the day and the night.”[ar]
When this announcement is understood,
it will cause nothing but terror.
20 For the bed is too short to stretch out on,
and the blanket is too narrow to wrap around oneself.[as]
21 For the Lord will rise up, as he did at Mount Perazim;[at]
he will rouse himself, as he did in the Valley of Gibeon,[au]
to accomplish his work,
his peculiar work,
to perform his task,
his strange task.[av]
22 So now, do not mock,
or your chains will become heavier!
For I have heard a message about decreed destruction,
from the Sovereign Lord of Heaven’s Armies against the entire land.[aw]
23 Pay attention and listen to my message.[ax]
Be attentive and listen to what I have to say![ay]
24 Does a farmer just keep on plowing at planting time?[az]
Does he keep breaking up and harrowing his ground?
25 Once he has leveled its surface,
does he not scatter the seed of the caraway plant,
sow the seed of the cumin plant,
and plant the wheat, barley, and grain in their designated places?[ba]
26 His God instructs him;
he teaches him the principles of agriculture.[bb]
27 Certainly[bc] caraway seed is not threshed with a sledge,
nor is the wheel of a cart rolled over cumin seed.[bd]
Certainly caraway seed is beaten with a stick,
and cumin seed with a flail.[be]
28 Grain is crushed,
though one certainly does not thresh it forever.
The wheel of one’s wagon rolls over it,
but his horses do not crush it.
29 This also comes from the Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
who gives supernatural guidance and imparts great wisdom.[bf]
- Isaiah 28:1 tn Heb “Woe [to] the crown [or “wreath”] of the splendor [or “pride”] of the drunkards of Ephraim.” The “crown” is Samaria, the capital city of the northern kingdom (Ephraim). Priests and prophets are included among these drunkards in v. 7.
- Isaiah 28:1 tn Heb “the beauty of his splendor.” In the translation the masculine pronoun (“his”) has been replaced by “its” because the referent (the “crown”) is the city of Samaria.
- Isaiah 28:1 tn Heb “which [is].”
- Isaiah 28:1 tn Heb “ones overcome with wine.” The words “the crown of” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The syntactical relationship of the final phrase to what precedes is uncertain. הֲלוּמֵי יָיִן (halume yayin, “ones overcome with wine”) seems to correspond to שִׁכֹּרֵי אֶפְרַיִם (shikkore ʾefrayim, “drunkards of Ephraim”) in line 1. The translation assumes that the phrase “the splendid crown” is to be understood in the final line as well.
- Isaiah 28:2 tn The Hebrew term translated “Lord” here and in vv. 16, 22 is אֲדֹנָי (ʾadonay).
- Isaiah 28:2 tn Heb “Look, a strong and powerful [one] belongs to the Lord.”
- Isaiah 28:2 tn Heb “like a rainstorm of hail, a wind of destruction.”
- Isaiah 28:2 tn Heb “like a rainstorm of mighty, overflowing waters.”
- Isaiah 28:2 tn The words “that crown” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The object of the verb is unexpressed in the Hebrew text.
- Isaiah 28:2 tn Or “by [his] power.”
- Isaiah 28:4 tn Heb “which the one seeing sees, while still it is in his hand he swallows it.”
- Isaiah 28:5 tn Or “in that day” (KJV).
- Isaiah 28:6 tn Heb “and [he will become] a spirit of justice for the one who sits [i.e., presides] over judgment, // and strength [for] the ones who turn back battle at the city gate.” The Lord will provide internal stability and national security.
- Isaiah 28:7 tn Heb “these.” The demonstrative pronoun anticipates “priests and prophets” two lines later.
- Isaiah 28:7 tn According to HALOT 135 s.v. III בלע, the verb form is derived from בָּלַע (balaʿ, “confuse”), not the more common בָּלַע (“swallow”). See earlier notes at 3:12 and 9:16.
- Isaiah 28:7 tn Heb “in the seeing.”
- Isaiah 28:7 tn Heb “[in] giving a decision.”
- Isaiah 28:8 tn Heb “filth, without a place.” The Hebrew phrase בְּלִי מָקוֹם (beli maqom, “without a place,” see HALOT 133 s.v. בְּלִי) probably means there is no (clean) space on the table, since it is covered with filth. The translation follows the line division of the MT. Some translations (NASB, ESV, NRSV) move “filth” to the previous line as “filthy vomit,” but the Hebrew lines are no longer balanced.
- Isaiah 28:9 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Isaiah 28:9 tn Heb “Who is he teaching knowledge? For whom is he explaining a message?” The translation assumes that the Lord is the subject of the verbs “teaching” and “explaining,” and that the prophet is asking the questions. See v. 12. According to some vv. 9-10 record the people’s sarcastic response to the Lord’s message through Isaiah.
- Isaiah 28:9 tn Heb “from the breasts.” The words “their mother’s” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The translation assumes that this is the prophet’s answer to the questions asked in the first half of the verse. The Lord is trying to instruct people who are “infants” morally and ethically.
- Isaiah 28:10 tn The meaning of this verse has been debated. The final line says “a little there, a little there,” while the preceding lines have a series of redundancies (כִּי צַו לָצָו צַו לָצָו קַו לָקָו קַו לָקָו, ki tsav latsav, tsav latsav, qav laqav, qav laqav). The present translation assumes that the repetitive syllables are gibberish that resembles baby talk (cf v. 9b) and mimics what the people will hear when foreign invaders conquer the land (v. 11). In this case זְעֵיר (zeʿer, “a little”) refers to the short syllabic structure of the babbling (cf. CEV, REB and see HALOT 1010 s.v. צַו). Some take צַו (tsav) as a derivative of צָוָה (tsavah, “command”) and translate the first part of the statement as “command after command, command after command.” Proponents of this position (followed by many English versions) also take קַו (qav) as a noun meaning “measuring line” (see v. 17), understood here in the abstract sense of “standard” or “rule.”
- Isaiah 28:11 sn This verse alludes to the coming Assyrian invasion, when the people will hear a foreign language that sounds like gibberish to them. The Lord is the subject of the verb “will speak,” as v. 12 makes clear. He once spoke in meaningful terms, but in the coming judgment he will speak to them, as it were, through the mouth of foreign oppressors. The apparent gibberish they hear will be an outward reminder that God has decreed their defeat.
- Isaiah 28:12 tn Heb “who said to them.”
- Isaiah 28:12 sn This message encapsulates the Lord’s invitation to his people to find security in his protection and blessing.
- Isaiah 28:13 tn Heb “And the message of the Lord will be to them, ‘tsav latsav,’ etc.” See the note at v. 10. In this case the “Lord’s message” is not the foreigner’s strange sounding words (as in v. 10), but the Lord’s repeated appeals to them (like the one quoted in v. 12). As time goes on, the Lord’s appeals through the prophets will have no impact on the people; they will regard prophetic preaching as gibberish.
- Isaiah 28:13 tn Heb “as a result they will go and stumble backward.” Perhaps an infant falling as it attempts to learn to walk is the background image here (cf. v. 9b). The Hebrew term לְמַעַן (lemaʿan) could be taken as indicating purpose (“in order that”), rather than simple result. In this case the people’s insensitivity to the message is caused by the Lord as a means of expediting their downfall.
- Isaiah 28:13 sn When divine warnings and appeals become gibberish to the spiritually insensitive, they have no guidance and are doomed to destruction.
- Isaiah 28:15 sn Sheol is the underworld, land of the dead, according to the OT world view.
- Isaiah 28:15 tn Elsewhere the noun חֹזֶה (khozeh) refers to a prophet who sees visions. In v. 18 the related term חָזוּת (khazut, “vision”) is used. The parallelism in both verses (note “treaty”) seems to demand a meaning “agreement” for both nouns. Perhaps חֹזֶה and חזוּת are used in a metonymic sense in vv. 15 and 18. Another option is to propose a homonymic root. See J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah (NICOT), 1:514, and HALOT 301 s.v. II חֹזֶה.
- Isaiah 28:15 tn Heb “the overwhelming scourge, when it passes by” (NRSV similar).
- Isaiah 28:15 sn “Lie” and “deceitful word” would not be the terms used by the people. They would likely use the words “promise” and “reliable word,” but the prophet substitutes “lie” and “deceitful word” to emphasize that this treaty with death will really prove to be disappointing.
- Isaiah 28:16 tc The Hebrew text has a third person verb form, which does not agree with the first person suffix that precedes. The form should be emended to יֹסֵד (yosed), a Qal active participle used in a present progressive or imminent future sense.
- Isaiah 28:16 tn Traditionally “tested,” but the implication is that it has passed the test and stands approved.
- Isaiah 28:16 sn The reality behind the metaphor is not entirely clear from the context. The stone appears to represent someone or something that gives Zion stability. Perhaps the ideal Davidic ruler is in view (see 32:1). Another option is that the image of beginning a building project by laying a precious cornerstone suggests that God is about to transform Zion through judgment and begin a new covenant community that will experience his protection (see 4:3-6; 31:5; 33:20-24; 35:10).
- Isaiah 28:16 tn Heb “will not hurry,” i.e., act in panic.
- Isaiah 28:17 tn Heb “[the] refuge, [the] lie.” See v. 15.
- Isaiah 28:18 tn On the meaning of כָּפַר (kafar) in this context, see HALOT 494 s.v. I כפר and J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah (NICOT), 1:515, n. 9.
- Isaiah 28:18 tn Normally the noun חָזוּת (khazut) means “vision.” See the note at v. 15.
- Isaiah 28:18 tn Or “will not stand” (NIV, NRSV).
- Isaiah 28:18 tn See the note at v. 15.
- Isaiah 28:18 tn Heb “you will become a trampling place for it.”
- Isaiah 28:19 tn Or “for” (KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV).
- Isaiah 28:19 tn The words “it will come through” are supplied in the translation. The verb “will sweep by” does double duty in the parallel structure.
- Isaiah 28:20 sn The bed and blanket probably symbolize their false sense of security. A bed that is too short and a blanket that is too narrow may promise rest and protection from the cold, but in the end they are useless and disappointing. In the same way, their supposed treaty with death will prove useless and disappointing.
- Isaiah 28:21 sn This probably alludes to David’s victory over the Philistines at Baal Perazim. See 2 Sam 5:20.
- Isaiah 28:21 sn This probably alludes to the Lord’s victory over the Canaanites at Gibeon, during the days of Joshua. See Josh 10:10-11.
- Isaiah 28:21 sn God’s judgment of his own people is called “his peculiar work” and “his strange task,” because he must deal with them the way he treated their enemies in the past.
- Isaiah 28:22 tn Or “the whole earth” (KJV, ASV, NAB, NCV).
- Isaiah 28:23 tn Heb “to my voice.”
- Isaiah 28:23 tn Heb “to my word”; cf. KJV, ASV, NRSV “hear my speech.”
- Isaiah 28:24 tn Heb “All the day does the plowman plow in order to plant?” The phrase “all the day” here has the sense of “continually, always.” See BDB 400 s.v. יוֹם.
- Isaiah 28:25 tc The Hebrew text reads literally, “place wheat [?], and barley [?], and grain in its territory.” The term שׂוֹרָה (sorah) is sometimes translated “[in] its place,” but the word is unattested in the MT elsewhere. It is probably due to dittography of the immediately following שְׂעֹרָה (seoʿrah, “barley”). The meaning of נִסְמָן (nisman) is also uncertain. It may be due to dittography of the immediately following כֻסֶּמֶת (kussemet, “grain”).
- Isaiah 28:26 tn Heb “he teaches him the proper way; his God instructs him.”
- Isaiah 28:27 tn Or “For” (KJV, ASV, NASB).
- Isaiah 28:27 sn Both of these seeds are too small to use the ordinary threshing techniques.
- Isaiah 28:27 sn A flail was a hand-held threshing tool that had one stick as its handle and another swinging stick attached to its top. The swinging stick was used to beat the grain off of the stalks, which were laying on the ground.
- Isaiah 28:29 sn Verses 23-29 emphasize that God possesses great wisdom and has established a natural order. Evidence of this can be seen in the way farmers utilize divinely imparted wisdom to grow and harvest crops. God’s dealings with his people will exhibit this same kind of wisdom and order. Judgment will be accomplished according to a divinely ordered timetable and, while severe enough, will not be excessive. Judgment must come, just as planting inevitably follows plowing. God will, as it were, thresh his people, but he will not crush them to the point where they will be of no use to him.