Isaiah Chapter 28 Notes

Isaiah Ch 28 Commentary // larryhuntbiblecommentary.wordpress.com

Notes on Isaiah Chapter Twenty-eight

Vs. 1-4: These verses definitely apply to the Northern Kingdom (Ephraim) and the destruction that awaited it at the hands of the Assyrians.

v. 5: I am not as certain about whom this verse should apply to.  What makes the interpretation a little confusing is the fact that Isaiah applies the metaphor of a garland (and a diadem) to both Ephraim and the Remnant.  He juxtaposes Ephraim’s garland of drunkenness with the Remnant’s garland of glory (their faith in God).  The difficulty is in determining whether the Faithful Remnant is a remnant of Ephraim’s people or of Judah’s. I believe the prophet is referring to Judah.  I know that Isaiah shifts his focus to Judah at some point in the chapter because he mentions Jerusalem in v.14, and I think that the shift occurs here in v. 5 because God gives the Faithful Remnant of his people strength “to turn back the battle at the gate,” a feat which Judah accomplished during the Assyrian invasion (2nd Kings 19:32-34) but which the Northern Kingdom did not.

v. 7: This verse should be considered carefully by anyone who believes that mind-altering substances can enhance one’s ability to experience God.  Isaiah’s judgment here is that such substances mar and confuse one’s knowledge of God.

v.9: I agree with Barnes in interpreting these words as those of the indignant, drunken prophets.  Their speech might be paraphrased in this way: “Who does he [Isaiah] think he is, teaching us?  And who does he think we are, to be taught by him?  Does he take us for children?”

v. 10: Barnes and the Oxford commentary agree that these words are the drunken prophets’ mockery of Isaiah’s instructions/warnings.  Barnes claims that the lines form an intelligible complaint against Isaiah’s teaching.  He believes the drunken prophets feel insulted by Isaiah because he treats them like children, constantly emphasizing the same simple teachings over and over without recognizing the drunken prophets’ dignity and intelligence.  Luther agrees that the words are those of the drunken prophets as they mock Isaiah, but says they are nonsense and cannot be translated.  I tend to agree with Luther because of the way I read v. 11.

vs. 11-31: This is another example of Isaiah’s satirical, ironic tone.  It reminds me very much of God’s words to him in chapter six[1]:

“Go and say to this people: ‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.’ Make the mind of this people dull…that they may not listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.”

Note the similarity with the verses here in chapter 28:

“Truly with stammering lip and with alien tongue he will speak to this people.  Therefore, the word of the LORD will be ‘precept upon precept…[i.e., blah, blah, blah] in order that they may go and fall backward and be broken and snared and taken.”

Isaiah says that since the drunken prophets would not heed his sensible message (v.12), God will speak to them with an unintelligible tongue (v.11), and that this unintelligible tongue will sound exactly like their own unintelligible mockery of Isaiah’s message (v.13).

The Oxford commentary considers this stammering lip and alien tongue to be the language of the Assyrians; However, I do not believe this.[2] I believe, given v. 14, that the message here is obviously intended for Jerusalem.  Bearing this in mind, and the fact that these scoffers will be “broken, and snared, and taken,” if I were going to interpret this alien tongue as a literal foreign language, then I would say the language should be Babylonian[3] since only the Babylonians broke, snared and took captive the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the Assyrians never did these things to the holy city.  Besides, the events of vs. 11-12 take place before the events of v.13, (“Therefore the word of the LORD will be to them…”) not afterwards.  If, as the Oxford commentary suggests, the alien tongue is the Assyrian language, then the events of vs. 11-12 would have to take place afterthe Jews are “broken, and snared, and taken” by the Assyrians (since, only then would they be forced to listen to the Assyrian language.)[4] But as I say above, I believe the stammering lip and alien tongue are metaphors for the LORD’s good advice, which the evil and ignorant prophets can only hear as useless, unintelligible babble.  Since they have chosen to take refuge in lies (v. 15), the truth sounds foolish to them.

v. 26: I think this passage makes an interesting contribution to our understanding of what it means to be inspired and taught by God.  The prophet says that the farmer is taught his craft by God.  This seems like a statement that would apply to any farmer, and since I am a farmer (well, a gardener) I can say that I learned my craft of gardening from God.  I also can testify that he did not teach me this craft as directly and obviously as a human mentor would have; his lessons were subtle and by degrees over time.  They were so subtle, in fact, that some people might not even be aware of the presence of their teacher.  Sometimes, when God inspires someone, or communicates with them, or teaches them, his presence is undeniable, irresistible, and overwhelming.  But I think passages like this one suggest that inspiration is not always so obvious.  Actually, I suspect that this method of inspiration is the more common type.  After all, every farmer (indeed every craftsman) leans by this type of inspiration.

[1] See also 29:9-12.

[3] Barnes does believe that it refers to the Babylonian language.

[4] I have not forgotten that time references are difficult to nail down in Isaiah, but all things considered, I think this reference is more comprehensible than others.


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