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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.(A)
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;(B)
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.(C)
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.(D)
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,(E)
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.(F)
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.(G)
14 Therefore, hear the word of the Lord, you scoffers,
    who rule[f] this people in Jerusalem:(H)
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,”—(I)
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.(J)
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.(K)
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.(L)

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.(M)


  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.