Isaiah 28 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Isaiah 28)

Verse 1

[1] Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!

Pride — That proud and insolent kingdom.

Drunkards — Having many and excellent vines among them, they were much exposed to this sin.

Ephraim — Of the kingdom of the ten tribes.

Who are — Who have their common abode.

The head — Samaria, might well be called the head, as being seated upon a mountain, and the head of the kingdom, and the head of the fat valleys, because it was encompassed with many fat and rich valleys.

Verse 2

[2] Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand.

A strong one — The king of Assyria.

Shall cast down — The crown of pride.

The hand — By the hand of God, which shall strengthen him in this work.

Verse 3

[3] The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under feet:

Trodden — The expression is emphatical; the crown which was upon their own heads, shall be trodden under the feet of others; and they, whose drunkenness made them fall to the ground, shall be trodden down there.

Verse 4

[4] And the glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley, shall be a fading flower, and as the hasty fruit before the summer; which when he that looketh upon it seeth, while it is yet in his hand he eateth it up.

He eateth — Which, as soon as a man sees he plucks it off, and devours it, as soon as he can get it into his hand. And so shall it be with Ephraim's glory, which his enemies shall devour greedily.

Verse 5

[5] In that day shall the LORD of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people,

In that day — When the kingdom of Israel shall be destroyed.

A diadem — God shall give eminent glory and beauty, to the kingdom of Judah.

Verse 6

[6] And for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate.

To them — Who not only drive their enemies from their land, but pursue them into their own lands, and besiege them in their own cities.

Verse 7

[7] But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.

But — Judah is guilty of the same sins with Israel, therefore they also must expect the same calamities; of which he speaks afterward.

The prophet — The teachers, who should have been patterns of sobriety to the people.

They err — The prophets miscarry in their sacred employment.

Stumble — The priests mistake in pronouncing the sentence of the law, which was their duty.

Verse 9

[9] Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.

He — God.

Them — Who is there among this people that are willing to be taught the knowledge of God? A minister may as soon teach an infant as these men.

Verse 10

[10] For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:

For — They must be taught like little children, because of their great dullness.

Line — One line of the book after another, as children are taught to read.

Verse 11

[11] For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.

Another tongue — By people of a strange language, whom he shall bring among them, seeing they will not hear him speaking, by his prophets, in their own language.

Verse 12

[12] To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.

This — This doctrine.

The rest — The only way, in which you will find rest.

Verse 13

[13] But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.

Here a little — As this method has been used and was altogether necessary for them; so it still is, and for the future shall be. As they were children in understanding, they shall still continue to be such; they shall be ever learning, and never come to the knowledge of the truth.

That — This will be the event, or consequence of their sin: they will fall backward, which is the worst, and most dangerous way of falling; and so be broken to pieces.

Verse 15

[15] Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:

Said — In your hearts.

We — We are as safe from death, and hell, or the grave, as if they had entered into covenant with us.

The scourge — The judgment of God.

Through — The land.

For — We shall secure ourselves by lying and dissimulation.

Verse 16

[16] Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.

Therefore — Because your refuges are so vain, and deceitful; therefore I will direct you to a surer refuge, which God hath laid in Zion. But if you despise that refuge; then know, that I will lay judgment to the line, etc.

I lay — I have promised it, and will, in the fulness of time, perform it.

In Zion — In my church.

A foundation — Upon which I will build my church.

A stone — The Messiah.

Tried — Which I have tried, and approved as every way sufficient.

Corner-stone — Uniting the several parts of the building together.

Sure — Upon whom you may securely rest.

Believeth — This promise.

Shall not — Hastily catch at any way of escaping danger, but shall patiently wait upon God in his way, 'till he deliver him.

Verse 17

[17] Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place.

Plummet — I will execute just judgment, as it were by a line and plummet annexed to it; that is, with exactness and care: I will severely punish, and utterly destroy all who reject that stone. For the line and plummet, or the plumb-line, was not only used in erecting buildings, but also in pulling them down; those parts of the building being thus marked out, which were to be demolished.

Verse 19

[19] From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night: and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report.

Pass over — It shall not only come to you, but it shall abide upon you; and when it hath passed over you, it shall return again to you, morning after morning; and shall follow you day and night, without giving you the least respite.

The report — So dreadful shall the judgment be, that it shall strike you with horror, when you only hear the rumour of it.

Verse 20

[20] For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it.

For — For those lying refuges, to which you trust, will not be able to give you that protection, which you expect from them; no more than a man can stretch himself upon a bed that is too short for him.

Verse 21

[21] For the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act.

Perazim — Where he fought against the Philistines, 2 Samuel 5:20.

Gibeon — Where he fought against the Canaanites, Joshua 10:10, etc. and afterwards against the Philistines, 1 Chronicles 14:16.

Strange work — For this work of bringing total destruction upon Israel, was contrary to the benignity of his own nature, and to the usual way of dealing with his people.

Verse 22

[22] Now therefore be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong: for I have heard from the Lord GOD of hosts a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth.

Lest — Lest thereby you make the judgments of God sure and unavoidable.

For — God hath assured me, that he will utterly destroy the people of Israel.

Verse 24

[24] Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? doth he open and break the clods of his ground?

Doth — The plowman doth not spend all his time in plowing the ground; but he has several times for several works. And so God has his times and seasons for several works, and his providence is various at several times, and towards several people. Therefore those scoffing Israelites were guilty of great folly, in flattering themselves, because of God's long patience towards them; for God will certainly take a time to thresh, and break them with his judgments, as at present he plowed and harrowed them, and so prepared them for it by his threatenings.

Open — Understand, all day.

Break — Which they used to do with a kind of harrow.

Verse 25

[25] When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and the rie in their place?

Made plain — By breaking the clods.

The wheat — The best which he chuses for seed.

Barley — That proportion of barley which he appointed.

Place — Heb. in his border; each seed in a several place.

Verse 27

[27] For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod.

A threshing instrument — This then was made like a sledge shod with iron, which was drawn by men or beasts, over the sheafs of corn, to bruise them, and tear the grain out of them.

A wheel — A lower wheel than a cart wheel, but of the same form, upon which possibly the threshing instrument was drawn.

Verse 28

[28] Bread corn is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen.

Bruised — With a threshing instrument.

Break it — Understand, forever.

Horses — This was another way of threshing out the corn, by driving horses, or other cattle, over the sheaves to tread it.

Verse 29

[29] This also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.

This also — This part of the husbandman's discretion. These words contain the application of the similitude. The husbandman manages his affairs with common discretion; but God governs the world, and his church, with wonderful wisdom: he is great and marvellous, both in the contrivance of things, and in the execution of them.