Isaiah 28:10
For precept must be on precept, precept on precept; line on line, line on line; here a little, and there a little:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
28:5-15 The prophet next turns to Judah, whom he calls the residue of his people. Happy are those alone, who glory in the Lord of hosts himself. Hence his people get wisdom and strength for every service and every conflict. But it is only in Christ Jesus that the holy God communicates with sinful man. And whether those that teach are drunk with wine, or intoxicated with false doctrines and notions concerning the kingdom and salvation of the Messiah, they not only err themselves, but lead multitudes astray. All places where such persons have taught are filled with errors. For our instruction in the things of God, it is needful that the same precept and the same line should be often repeated to us, that we may the better understand them. God, by his word, calls us to what is really for our advantage; the service of God is the only true rest for those weary of the service of sin, and there is no refreshment but under the easy yoke of the Lord Jesus. All this had little effect upon the people. Those who will not understand what is plain, but scorn and despise it as mean and trifling, are justly punished. If we are at peace with God, we have, in effect, made a covenant with death; whenever it comes, it cannot do us any real damage, if we are Christ's. But to think of making death our friend, while by sin we are making God our enemy, is absurd. And do not they make lies their refuge who trust in their own righteousness, or to a death-bed repentance? which is a resolution to sin no more, when it is no longer in their power to do so.For precept must be upon precept - This is probably designed to ridicule the concise and sententious manner of the prophets, and especially the fact that they dwelt much upon the same elementary truths of religion. In teaching children we are obliged to do it by often repeating the same simple lesson. So the profane and scoffing teachers of the people said it had been with the prophets of God. It had been precept upon precept, and line upon line, in the same way as children had been instructed. The meaning is, 'there is a constant repetition of the command, without ornament, imagery, or illustration; without an appeal to our understanding, or respect for our reason; it is simply one mandate after another, just as lessons are inculcated upon children.'

Line upon line - This word (קו qav), properly means "a cord, a line;" particularly a measuring cord or line (2 Kings 21:13; Ezekiel 47:13; see the note at Isaiah 18:2). Here it seems to be used in the sense of "a rule," "law," or "precept." Grotius thinks that the idea is taken from schoolmasters who instruct their pupils by making lines or marks for them which they are to trace or imitate. There is a repetition of similar sounds in the Hebrew in this verse which cannot be conveyed in a translation, and which shows their contempt in a much more striking manner than any version could do - לקו קו לקו קו לצו צו לצו צו כי kı̂y tsav lâtsâv tsav lâtsâv qav lâqâv qēv lâqâv.

Here a little and there a little - In the manner of instructing children, inculcating elementary lessons constantly. It may be observed here that God's method of imparting religious truth has often appeared to a scoffing world to be undignified and foolish. Sinners suppose that he does not sufficiently respect their understanding, and pay a tribute to the dignity of their nature. The truths of God, and his modes of inculcating them, are said to be adapted to the understandings of childhood and of age; to imbecility of years, or to times when the mind is enfeebled by disease.

9, 10. Here the drunkards are introduced as scoffingly commenting on Isaiah's warnings: "Whom will he (does Isaiah presume to) teach knowledge? And whom will He make to understand instruction? Is it those (that is, does he take us to be) just weaned, &c.? For (he is constantly repeating, as if to little children) precept upon precept," &c.

line—a rule or law. [Maurer]. The repetition of sounds in Hebrew tzav latzav, tzav latzav, qav laqav, qav laquav, expresses the scorn of the imitators of Isaiah's speaking; he spoke stammering (Isa 28:11). God's mode of teaching offends by its simplicity the pride of sinners (2Ki 5:11, 12; 1Co 1:23). Stammerers as they were by drunkenness, and children in knowledge of God, they needed to be spoken to in the language of children, and "with stammering lips" (compare Mt 13:13). A just and merciful retribution.

Precept must be upon precept; they must be taught, like little children, slowly, and by leisure; the same things being oft repeated, because of their great dulness.

Line upon line; one line of the book after another, as children are taught to read. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept,.... Signifying, that they must be dealt with as children were, when first instructed in the rudiments of a language, first had one rule given them, and then another, and so one after another till they had gone through the whole:

line upon line, line upon line; who are taught first to write one line, and then another; or to draw one line, and write after that, and then another; or where to begin one line, and, when finished, where to begin another; for the allusion is to writing by line, and not to a line used in building, as Kimchi and Ben Melech think:

here a little, and there a little; a small lesson out of one book, and a small lesson out of another; a little one day, and a little on the next, and so on, that their memories may not be overburdened.

For {i} precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:

(i) They must have one thing often repeated.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
10. The topers proceed to mock, in stammering drunken tones, the excited utterance and the wearisome iterations of the prophet’s teaching. Translate with R.V. (marg.) For it is precept upon precept … rule upon rule … here a little, there a little. The Hebr. is a series of monosyllables (çav lâ-çâv çav lâ-çâv qav lâ-qâv qav lâ-qâv z‘êr shâm z‘êr shâm); the sense is not quite certain, but the tones sufficiently represent at once the disgust of the speakers with the restless persistency of their monitor and their own inability to express themselves distinctly.Verse 10. - For precept must be upon precept; rather, for it is precept upon precept (Lowth, Cheyne). The whole teaching is nothing but an accumulation of precept upon precept, rule upon rule, one little injunction followed up by another, here a little, there a little. The objectors profess to find in the prophet's teaching nothing grand, nothing broad - no enunciation of great leading principles; but a perpetual drizzling rain of petty maxims and rules, vexatious, cramping, confining; especially unsuitable to men Who had had the training of priests and prophets, and could have appreciated a grand theory, or a new religious standpoint, but were simply revolted at a teaching which seemed to them narrow, childish, and wearisome. It has been said that in the language of this passage "we may hear the heavy babbling utterance of the drunken scoffers" (Delitzsch); but in this we have perhaps an over-refinement. Isaiah probably gives us, not what his adversaries said of him over their cups, but the best arguments which they could hit on in their sober hours to depreciate his doe-trine. The arguments must be allowed to be clever. In the next three vv. the hoi is expanded. "Behold, the Lord holds a strong and mighty thing like a hailstorm, a pestilent tempest; like a storm of mighty overflowing waters, He casts down to the earth with almighty hand. With feet they tread down the proud crown of the drunken of Ephraim. And it happens to the fading flower of its splendid ornament, which is upon the head of the luxuriant valley, as to an early fig before it is harvest, which whoever sees it looks at, and it is no sooner in his hand than he swallows it." "A strong and mighty thing:" ואמּי חזק we have rendered in the neuter (with the lxx and Targum) rather than in the masculine, as Luther does, although the strong and mighty thing which the Lord holds in readiness is no doubt the Assyrian. He is simply the medium of punishment in the hand of the Lord, which is called yâd absolutely, because it is absolute in power - as it were, the hand of all hands. This hand hurls Samaria to the ground (on the expression itself, compare Isaiah 25:12; Isaiah 26:5), so that they tread the proud crown to pieces with their feet (tērâmasnâh, the more pathetic plural form, instead of the singular tērâmēs; Ges. 47, Anm. 3, and Caspari on Obadiah 1:13). The noun sa‛ar, which is used elsewhere in the sense of shuddering, signifies here, like סערה, an awful tempest; and when connected with קטב, a tempest accompanied with a pestilential blast, spreading miasma. Such destructive power is held by the absolute hand. It is soon all over then with the splendid flower that has already begun to fade נבל ציצת, like הקּטן כּלי in Isaiah 22:24). It happens to it as to a bikkūrâh (according to the Masora, written with mappik here, as distinguished from Hosea 9:10, equivalent to kebhikkūrâthâh; see Job 11:9, "like an early fig of this valley;" according to others, it is simply euphonic). The gathering of figs takes place about August. Now, if any one sees a fig as early as June, he fixes his eyes upon it, and hardly touches it with his hand before he swallows it, and that without waiting to masticate it long. Like such a dainty bit will the luxuriant Samaria vanish. The fact that Shalmanassar, or his successor Sargon, did not conquer Samaria till after the lapse of three years (2 Kings 18:10), does not detract from the truth of the prophecy; it is enough that both the thirst of the conqueror and the utter destruction of Samaria answered to it.
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