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Judgment on Corrupt Rulers, Priests, and Prophets


Ah, the proud garland of the drunkards of Ephraim,

and the fading flower of its glorious beauty,

which is on the head of those bloated with rich food, of those overcome with wine!


See, the Lord has one who is mighty and strong;

like a storm of hail, a destroying tempest,

like a storm of mighty, overflowing waters;

with his hand he will hurl them down to the earth.


Trampled under foot will be

the proud garland of the drunkards of Ephraim.


And the fading flower of its glorious beauty,

which is on the head of those bloated with rich food,

will be like a first-ripe fig before the summer;

whoever sees it, eats it up

as soon as it comes to hand.



In that day the L ord of hosts will be a garland of glory,

and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people;


and a spirit of justice to the one who sits in judgment,

and strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate.



These also reel with wine

and stagger with strong drink;

the priest and the prophet reel with strong drink,

they are confused with wine,

they stagger with strong drink;

they err in vision,

they stumble in giving judgment.


All tables are covered with filthy vomit;

no place is clean.



“Whom will he teach knowledge,

and to whom will he explain the message?

Those who are weaned from milk,

those taken from the breast?


For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept,

line upon line, line upon line,

here a little, there a little.”



Truly, with stammering lip

and with alien tongue

he will speak to this people,


to whom he has said,

“This is rest;

give rest to the weary;

and this is repose”;

yet they would not hear.


Therefore the word of the L ord will be to them,

“Precept upon precept, precept upon precept,

line upon line, line upon line,

here a little, there a little;”

in order that they may go, and fall backward,

and be broken, and snared, and taken.



Therefore hear the word of the L ord, you scoffers

who rule this people in Jerusalem.


Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death,

and with Sheol we have an agreement;

when the overwhelming scourge passes through

it will not come to us;

for we have made lies our refuge,

and in falsehood we have taken shelter”;


therefore thus says the Lord G od,

See, I am laying in Zion a foundation stone,

a tested stone,

a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation:

“One who trusts will not panic.”


And I will make justice the line,

and righteousness the plummet;

hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,

and waters will overwhelm the shelter.


Then your covenant with death will be annulled,

and your agreement with Sheol will not stand;

when the overwhelming scourge passes through

you will be beaten down by it.


As often as it passes through, it will take you;

for morning by morning it will pass through,

by day and by night;

and it will be sheer terror to understand the message.


For the bed is too short to stretch oneself on it,

and the covering too narrow to wrap oneself in it.


For the L ord will rise up as on Mount Perazim,

he will rage as in the valley of Gibeon

to do his deed—strange is his deed!—

and to work his work—alien is his work!


Now therefore do not scoff,

or your bonds will be made stronger;

for I have heard a decree of destruction

from the Lord G od of hosts upon the whole land.



Listen, and hear my voice;

Pay attention, and hear my speech.


Do those who plow for sowing plow continually?

Do they continually open and harrow their ground?


When they have leveled its surface,

do they not scatter dill, sow cummin,

and plant wheat in rows

and barley in its proper place,

and spelt as the border?


For they are well instructed;

their God teaches them.



Dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge,

nor is a cart wheel rolled over cummin;

but dill is beaten out with a stick,

and cummin with a rod.


Grain is crushed for bread,

but one does not thresh it forever;

one drives the cart wheel and horses over it,

but does not pulverize it.


This also comes from the L ord of hosts;

he is wonderful in counsel,

and excellent in wisdom.


1. Woe to the crown of pride. Isaiah now enters on another and different subject from that which goes before it; for this discourse must be separated from the former one. He shews that the anger of the Lord will quickly overtake, first, Israel, and afterwards the Jews; for it is probable that the kingdom of Israel was still entire when the Prophet uttered these predictions, though nothing more can be affirmed with certainty than that there is good reason to believe that the ten tribes had not at that time been led into captivity.

Accordingly, the Prophet follows this order. First, he shews that the vengeance of God is not far from Israel, because various sins and corruption of every kind prevailed in it; for they were swelled with pride and insolence, had plunged into their luxuries and given way to every kind of licentiousness, and, consequently, had broken out into open contempt of God, as is usually the case when men take excessive liberties; for they quickly forget God. Secondly, he shews that God in some measure restrains his anger by sparing the tribe of Judah; for when the ten tribes, with the half tribe of Benjamin, had been carried into captivity, the Jews still remained entire and uninjured. Isaiah extols this compassion which God manifested, in not permitting his Church to perish, but preserving some remnant. At the same time he shews that the Jews are so depraved and corrupted that they do not permit God to exercise this compassion, and that, in consequence of the wickedness which prevailed among them, not less than in Israel, they too must feel the avenging hand of God. This order ought to be carefully observed; for many persons blunder in the exposition of this passage, because the Prophet has not expressly mentioned the name of Israel, though it is sufficiently known that Ephraim includes the ten tribes.

As to the words, since the particle הוי (hōī) very frequently denotes “wishing evil on a person,” I was unwilling to depart from the ordinary opinion of commentators, more especially because the Prophet openly threatens in this passage; yet if the translation, Alas the crown! be preferred, I have no objection.

For the excellence of its glory shall be a fading flower 210210    {Bogus footnote} The copulative ו (vau) signifies for or because. He compares the “glory” and “excellence” of Israel to “a fading flower,” as will afterwards be stated. In general, he pronounces a curse on the wealth of the Israelites; for by the word “Crown” he means nothing else than the wicked confidence with which they were puffed up, and which proceeded from the excess of their riches. These vices are almost always joined together, because abundance and fullness produce cruelty and pride; for we are elated by prosperity, and do not know how to use it with moderation. They inhabited a rich and fertile country, and on this account Amos (Amos 4:1) calls them “fat cows,” which feed on the mountain of Samaria. Thus, being puffed up by their wealth, they despised both God and men. The Prophet calls them “drunkards,” because, being intoxicated by prosperity, they dreaded no adversity, and thought that they were beyond the reach of all danger, and that they were not even subject to God himself.

A fading flower. He alludes, I doubt not, to the crowns or chaplets 211211    {Bogus footnote} which were used at banquets, and which are still used in many places in the present day. The Israelites indulged in gluttony and drunkenness, and the fertility of the soil undoubtedly gave occasion to their intemperance. By calling it “a fading flower” he follows out his comparison, elegantly alluding to flowers which suddenly wither.

Which is on the head of the valley of fatness. 212212    {Bogus footnote} He says that that glory is “on the head of the valley of fatness,” because they saw under their feet their pastures, the fertility of which still more inflamed their pride. שמנים (shĕmānīm) is translated by some “of ointments;” but that is inapplicable, for it denotes abundance and fullness, which led them to neglect godliness and to despise God. By the word “head” or “top,” he alludes to the position of the country, because the Israelites chiefly inhabited rich valleys. He places on it a crown, which surrounds the whole kingdom; because it was flourishing and abounded in every kind of wealth. This denotes riches, from which arose sluggishness, presumption, rashness, intemperance, and cruelty. This doctrine relates to us also; for the example of these men reminds us that we ought to use prosperity with moderation, otherwise we shall be very unhappy, for the Lord will curse all our riches and abundance.

2. Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one. This may refer to the Assyrians, as if he had said, that they will be ready at God’s command to fight under his authority, as soon as they shall be called. Yet I prefer to take it without a substantive, to mean either “a staff,” or some other instrument, by which the Lord will cast them down from this lofty pride.

As a deluge of hail. He compares it to “a deluge” or to “hail,” by which both herbs and flowers are thrown down, and all the beauty of the earth is marred. Thus he continues the metaphor of the “fading flower,” which he had introduced at the beginning of the chapter; for nothing can be more destructive to flowers than a heavy shower or “hail.” He makes use of the demonstrative particle הנה, (hinnēh,) behold; because wicked men are not moved by any threatenings, and therefore he shews that he does not speak of what is doubtful, or conjecture at random, but foretells those things which will immediately take place.

Casting them down with the hand to the earth. ביד, (bĕyād,) which I have translated “with the hand,” is translated by Jerome, “a spacious country,” which does not agree with the words. Others take it for “strength,” so as to mean a violent casting down. But the plain meaning appears to me to be, that the glory and splendor of the Israelites will be laid low, as if one threw down a drunk man “with the hand.” The same statement is confirmed by him in the third verse.

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