Isaiah 5:11
Woe to them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(11) Woe unto them that rise up early.—The same class as in Isaiah 5:8 meets us under another aspect. In Judah, as elsewhere, the oppressors were conspicuous for their luxury (Amos 6:5-6). They shocked public feeling by morning banquets (Ecclesiastes 10:16-17; Acts 2:14). Not wine only, but the “strong drink” made from honey and from dates and other fruits (possibly including, as a generic term, the beer for which Egypt was famous) was seen on their tables. The morning feast was followed, perhaps with hardly a break, by an evening revel. (Comp. Isaiah 22:13; Isaiah 28:7.)

Isaiah 5:11-12. Wo unto them, that rise up early, &c. — Here we find another vice reproved, namely, that of luxury, or intemperance; whose companion and daughter is Inattention to the works of God, whose child, also, is Ignorance; see Isaiah 5:13; that rise up early to follow strong drink — As husbandmen and tradesmen rise early to follow their employments; as if they were afraid of losing time from that which is the greatest misspending of time and the most sinful abuse of it. That continue until night — Spending the whole day at their cups; till wine inflame them — Inflame their lusts and passions: for chambering and wantonness, on the one hand, and contentions and wounds without cause, on the other, generally follow upon rioting, and drunkenness, Romans 13:13; Proverbs 23:29. And the harp, and the viol, &c., are in their feasts — Musical instruments of all sorts must accompany their wine, that every sense may be gratified to the utmost, and their pleasures rendered more exquisite. But they regard not the work of the Lord — What God hath lately done, and is yet doing, and about to do, among them; his grievous judgments, partly inflicted, and partly threatened, which require another course of life, even to give themselves to fasting and prayer, and to reform their manners, that so they might remove the calamities which, now afflicted them, and prevent those which were approaching.5:8-23 Here is a woe to those who set their hearts on the wealth of the world. Not that it is sinful for those who have a house and a field to purchase another; but the fault is, that they never know when they have enough. Covetousness is idolatry; and while many envy the prosperous, wretched man, the Lord denounces awful woes upon him. How applicable to many among us! God has many ways to empty the most populous cities. Those who set their hearts upon the world, will justly be disappointed. Here is woe to those who dote upon the pleasures and the delights of sense. The use of music is lawful; but when it draws away the heart from God, then it becomes a sin to us. God's judgments have seized them, but they will not disturb themselves in their pleasures. The judgments are declared. Let a man be ever so high, death will bring him low; ever so mean, death will bring him lower. The fruit of these judgments shall be, that God will be glorified as a God of power. Also, as a God that is holy; he shall be owned and declared to be so, in the righteous punishment of proud men. Those are in a woful condition who set up sin, and who exert themselves to gratify their base lusts. They are daring in sin, and walk after their own lusts; it is in scorn that they call God the Holy One of Israel. They confound and overthrow distinctions between good and evil. They prefer their own reasonings to Divine revelations; their own devices to the counsels and commands of God. They deem it prudent and politic to continue profitable sins, and to neglect self-denying duties. Also, how light soever men make of drunkenness, it is a sin which lays open to the wrath and curse of God. Their judges perverted justice. Every sin needs some other to conceal it.Wo unto them - The prophet, having denounced "avarice," proceeds now to another vice - that of "intemperance, or dissipation."

That rise up early ... - That rise "for this purpose," when nothing else would rouse them. It may illustrate this somewhat, to remark, that it was not common among the ancients to become intoxicated at an early hour of the day; see the note at Acts 2:15; compare 1 Thessalonians 5:7. It indicated then, as it does now, a confirmed and habitual state of intemperance when a man would do this early in the morning. 'The Persians, when they commit a debauch, arise betimes, and esteem the morning as the best time for beginning to drink wine, by which means they carry on their excess until night.' - "Morier."

That they may follow strong drink - - שׁכר shêkār, or sichar. This word is derived from a verb signifying to drink, to become intoxicated. All nations have found out some intoxicating drink. That which was used by the Hebrews was made from grain, fruit, honey, dates, etc., prepared by fermentation. The word sometimes means the same as wine Numbers 28:7, but more commonly it refers to a stronger drink, and is distinguished from it, as in the common phrase, 'wine and strong drink;' Leviticus 10:9; Numbers 6:3; Judges 13:4, Judges 13:7. Sometimes it may be used for "spiced wine" - a mixture of wine with spices, that would also speedily produce intoxication. The Chaldee renders the words עתיק חמר chămar ‛atı̂yq, 'old fermented liquor;' denoting the "mode" in which strong drink was usually prepared. It may be remarked here, that whatever may be the "form" in which intoxicating drink is prepared, it is substantially the same in all nations. Intoxication is caused by "alcohol," and that is produced by fermentation. It is never created or increased by distillation. The only effect of distillation is, to collect and preserve the alcohol which existed in the beer, the wine, or the cider. Consequently, the same substance produces intoxication when wine is drank, which does when brandy is drank; the same in cider or other fermented liquor, as in ardent spirits.

That continue until night - That drink all day. This shows that the "strong drink" intended here, did not produce "sudden," intoxication. This is an exact description of what occurs constantly in oriental nations. The custom of sitting long at the wine, when they have the means of indulgence, prevails everywhere. D'Ar-vieux says, that while he was staying among the Arabs on mount Carmel, a wreck took place on the coast, from which one of the emirs obtained two large casks of wine. He immediately sent to the neighboring emirs, inviting them to come and drink it. They gladly came, and continued drinking for two days and two nights, until not a drop of the wine was left. In like manner, Tavernier relates that the king of Persia sent for him early one morning to the palace, when, with other persons, he was obliged to sit all the day, and late at night, drinking wine with the shah; but at last, 'the king growing sleepy, gave us leave to depart, which we did very willingly, having had hard labor for seventeen hours together.'

Inflame them - Excite them; or stimulate them. We have the same phrase - denoting the "burning" tendency of strong drink. The American Indians appropriately call "fire-water."

11. Second Woe—against intemperance.

early—when it was regarded especially shameful to drink (Ac 2:15; 1Th 5:7). Banquets for revelry began earlier than usual (Ec 10:16, 17).

strong drink—Hebrew, sichar, implying intoxication.

continue—drinking all day till evening.

That rise up early in the morning; which was unusual, and scandalous in that case, Ecclesiastes 10:16 Acts 2:15. They made drinking their daily trade and business.

That continue until night; thereby wasting both precious time, and God’s good creatures, and the health of their bodies, as well as of their souls. He useth this word partly to show their folly and misery, because the wine was so far from quenching and satisfying their appetites, that it did indeed inflame and increase them; and partly to prevent the vain excuse of them, who thought themselves innocent because they did not drink to drunkenness, although they cast themselves into an intemperate heat through their excess. Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning,.... To rise up early in the morning is healthful, and to rise to do business is commendable; but to spend the day in drunkenness and intemperance is very criminal, which is here meant:

that they may follow, strong drink; not only drink it, but follow on to drink; diligently seek after it, where the best is to be had; go from house to house till they have found it; closely follow the drinking of it, till inebriated with it:

that continue until night; at their pots, with their drinking companions, even all the day till night comes, the twilight either of the evening or of the morning:

till wine inflame them; their bodies with heat, and their souls with lust.

Woe to them that {p} rise early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until {q} night, till wine inflames them!

(p) Who spare no pain nor diligence to follow their lusts.

(q) Who are never weary of their rioting and excessive pleasures but use all means to provoke to the same.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
11. rise up early] Drinking in the morning was considered disreputable by the Jews (Ecclesiastes 10:16 f.; Acts 2:15) and Romans; but not, apparently, by the Arabs (Gesenius). The word for strong drink seems to be a general name for various kinds of alcoholic liquors obtained from dates, honey, raisins, barley, &c.

that continue … inflame them] rather, that sit late into the night, wine inflaming them.

11–17. The second woe, against dissipation and the spiritual blindness which accompanies it. Cf. Isaiah 28:1; Isaiah 28:7 ff.Verse 11. - Woe unto them that... follow strong drink. We have here the second woe. It is pronounced on drunkenness and revelry. Drunkenness is an infrequent Oriental vice; but it seems to have been one whereto many among the Jews were at all times prone (see Proverbs 20:1; Proverbs 23:29-32; Ecclesiastes 10:17; Hosea 4:11; Isaiah 28:7, etc.). Even the priests and the soi-disant prophets erred through strong drink and were swallowed up of wine" (Isaiah 28:7). That rise up early in the morning. Great banquets were held by the "princes" and "nobles," beginning at an early hour (Ecclesiastes 10:10), and accompanied by music of an exciting kind (Amos 6:5, 6), which were "continued until night," or rather, "into the night" (Revised Version), and terminated in general drunkenness, perhaps in general licentiousness. (See Proverbs 23:27-30 and Hosea 4:11 for the connection of inebriety with whoredom.) Two kinds of intoxicating liquor seem to have been consumed at these banquets, viz. ordinary grape wine, and a much stronger drink, which is said to have been "made of dates, pomegranates, apples, honey, barley, and other ingredients," which was known as shekar (Greek, σίκερα), and is called "strong drink" in the Authorized Version. Till wine inflame them; or, the wine inflaming them. "Now then, I will tell you what I will do at once to my vineyard: take away its hedge, and it shall be for grazing; pull down its wall, and it shall be for treading down." Before "now then" (vattâh) we must imagine a pause, as in Isaiah 3:14. The Lord of the vineyard breaks the silence of the umpires, which indicates their consciousness of guilt. They shall hear from Him what He will do at once to His vineyard (Lamed in l'carmi, as, for example, in Deuteronomy 11:6). "I will do:" ani 'ōeh, fut. instans, equivalent to facturus sum (Ges. 134, 2, b). In the inf. abs. which follow He opens up what He will do. On this explanatory use of the inf. abs., see Isaiah 20:2; Isaiah 58:6-7. In such cases as these it takes the place of the object, as in other cases of the subject, but always in an abrupt manner (Ges. 131, 1). He would take away the mesucah, i.e., the green thorny hedge (Proverbs 15:19; Hosea 2:8) with which the vineyard was enclosed, and would pull down the gârēd, i.e., the low stone wall (Numbers 22:24; Proverbs 24:31), which had been surrounded by the hedge of thorn-bushes to make a better defence, as well as for the protection of the wall itself, more especially against being undermined; so that the vineyard would be given up to grazing and treading down (lxx καταπα'τημα), i.e., would become an open way and gathering-place for man and beast.
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