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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.


7. But they also have erred through wine. He returns to the irreligious despisers of God, who were Jews in name only, and proves their ingratitude to be highly aggravated, because, though they had before their eyes a striking proof of the anger of God, when they saw their brethren severely chastised, and not withstanding experienced God’s forbearance towards themselves, yet neither that example of severity, nor the conviction of the divine goodness, could bring them back into the right path, or make them in any respect better, although the Lord spared them. Here he speaks of “wine and strong drink” metaphorically; for I do not understand it to relate to ordinary drunkenness, against which he remonstrated at the beginning of the chapter, but, on the contrary, he says that they were like drunk men, because they wanted knowledge and sound understanding. If the word as be supplied before the words “through wine and through strong drink,” the meaning will be more easily understood. I do acknowledge that by continued drunkenness men become, as it were, brutalized, and I have no doubt that drunkenness and excessive eating and drinking contributed also to stupefy the minds of the Jews; but if we examine the whole of the context, it will be easy to see that the madness which he condemns is metaphorical.

The priest and the prophet have erred. He proceeds still farther to exhibit their aggravated guilt, and says that not only the common people were drunk, but the priests themselves, who ought to have held out the light and pointed out the path to others; for, as Christ declares, they may be regarded as “the salt of the earth.” (Matthew 5:13.) If they are mad, what shall the common people be? “If the eye is blind,” what shall become of the other parts of the body? (Matthew 6:23.)

They have erred in vision. The most grievous thing of all is, when he says that they err not only in the more flagrant transgressions of life, but in vision and judgment. Hence we ought to infer how desperate was the condition of the Jewish Church, and here, as in a mirror, we may behold our transgressions. It is indeed something monstrous that, after so many chastisements which God has employed for cleansing it, the Church is so deeply corrupted; but such is our wickedness that we fight against his strokes, 217217    {Bogus footnote} and though he continually restrains us, and uses unceasing efforts to purify us from our sins, we not only render all his remedies useless, but bring upon ourselves new diseases. We ought not therefore to wonder that in the present day, after the numerous scourges and afflictions with which the Church has been chastised, men appear to be obstinate, and even become worse, when Isaiah testifies that the same thing took place in the ancient Church. True, indeed, the goodness of the Lord rose above the base and shameful wickedness of that nation, and still preserved the Church; but this was accomplished by his secret power, contrary to the expectation of all; for it would be of no advantage to us, if he employed ordinary remedies.

Hence also it is evident how silly and childish is the boasting of the Papists, who always have in their mouth “The Church,” and use as a pretext the names of priests, bishops, and pontiffs, and wish to fortify themselves by their authority against the word of God, as if that order could never err or mistake. They think that they have the Holy Spirit confined within their brains, and that they represent the Church, which God never forsakes. But we see what the Prophet declares concerning the priests, whose order was more splendid and illustrious. If ever there was a Church, there certainly was one at that time among the Jews; and that order derived from the word of God support to which they have no claim. And yet he shews that not only were they corrupt in morals, but erred “in vision and judgment,” and that the prophets, whom we know that God added to the priests, out of the ordinary course, on account of the carelessness of the priests, were nevertheless blind in that sacred office of teaching and in revelations. Nothing therefore is more idle than, under the pretext of an office which bears a splendid title, to hold out as exempt from the danger of erring those who, having forsaken God, and not only cast away all regard to religion, but even trodden shame under their feet, defend their tyranny by every means in their power.

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