Why hear the word of the LORD, you scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Ye scornful men, that rule this people . . .—The last words emphasise the fact that the men who derided the prophet in their worldly wisdom were found among Hezekiah’s chief princes and counsellors, the partizans now of an Assyrian, now of an Egyptian alliance—anything rather than the policy of righteousness and repentance.Isaiah 28:14-15. Wherefore hear, ye scornful men — Who make a mock at sin, and at God’s word and threatenings, and who doubt not that by your crafty counsels, and human efforts, you shall escape God’s judgments; who have said — In your hearts; we have made a covenant with death, &c. — We are as safe from death and hell, or the grave, (as the word שׁאולhere means,) as if they had entered into covenant with us, that they would not invade us. “To be in covenant with any thing, is a kind of proverbial expression to denote perfect security from evil, and mischief from it:” see Job 5:23; Hosea 2:18. When the overflowing scourge — The calamity which the prophets speak of as coming; shall pass through — Namely, the land: if it should pass through, which, however, we do not believe it will; it shall not come unto us — We shall escape. For we have made lies our refuge, &c. — These words the prophet puts into their mouths, as declarative of the real nature of their false confidence and vain hopes of safety: as if he had said, You are confident the calamity shall not come to you, because you have taken sanctuary in a refuge of lies! You depend on your vain idols, or on your riches, or strength, or crafty devices, which will all fail you. Or, you hope to secure yourselves by your arts of cunning and falsehood, but you will find yourselves disappointed.Isaiah 28:22. It is addressed particularly to the rulers in Jerusalem, as being the leaders in crime, and as being eminently deserving of the wrath of God.Ye scornful men; which make a mock at sin, and at God’s words and threatenings; and doubt not by your witty devices, and by your wicked practices, to escape God’s judgments, of which we read in the next verse. Isaiah 28:13; or at the threatenings of punishment; and even made a jest of death and hell, as in the following words: "the word of the Lord" they are called upon to hear, hearken, and attend to, is either the word of promise of the Messiah, Isaiah 28:16 or rather the word threatening them with ruin, Isaiah 28:18 or it may be both:
that rule this people which is in Jerusalem; which must not be understood of the chief ruler Hezekiah, but rather of some subordinate rulers, such as Shebna and others; these set a very bad example to the common people: no wonder that irreligion and profaneness prevail, when civil magistrates are scoffers at religion. It agrees best with the rulers of the Jewish people in the times of Christ, who mocked at him and his ministry, and that of his apostles.Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)14. ye scornful men] Better: scoffing men. The “scoffer” (lêç, a word almost confined to Pss. and Prov.) represents the last degree of ungodliness,—open contempt of religion. The phrase here is applied to worldly politicians, who form their plans in defiance of Jehovah’s revealed will (cf. Isaiah 28:22; ch. Isaiah 29:20).
that rule this people] The prophet’s antagonists are the party which has gained the upper hand in the councils of state; the king himself is tacitly acquitted of responsibility.
15 is the protasis to Isaiah 28:16 f.
Because ye have said] Isaiah no doubt clothes the thoughts of the conspirators in his own language; but the vagueness of the allusions corresponds to the air of mystery which shrouded their designs. The utmost secrecy was observed with regard to the negotiations with Egypt (ch. Isaiah 29:15, Isaiah 30:1), and it is doubtful if at this time Isaiah knew exactly what project was on foot.
with hell are we at agreement] Lit. with Sheôl we have made a vision. The simplest explanation of this and the preceding expression is that the political plot had been ratified by a compact with the dreaded powers of the underworld. That those who had renounced the guidance of Jehovah should have recourse to necromancy and other superstitions was natural (ch. Isaiah 8:19). At the same time the phrases may be proverbial, or they may merely express Isaiah’s abhorrence of the dark immorality which marked the proceedings. In any case the feeling attributed to the schemers is one of absolute security against the worst that fate could bring.
the overflowing scourge]—a mixture of metaphors, which is still further increased in Isaiah 28:18.
we have made lies our refuge] The reference might be to conscious political treachery (towards Assyria), but more probably it is to false grounds of confidence, such as false oracles (Ezekiel 13:6-8; Micah 2:11), Isaiah putting his own language into their mouth.
14–22. There is again a literary connexion with what precedes; although the passage is probably a summary of an independent discourse. The prophet’s aim is to impress on his opponents the disastrous consequences of persisting in their scoffing attitude towards himself and his message.Verses 14-22. - THE REBUKE OF JUDAH'S NOBLES. The power of the nobles under the later Jewish monarchy is very apparent throughout Isaiah's prophecy. It is they, and not the king, who are always blamed for bad government (Isaiah 1:10-23; Isaiah 3:12-15, etc.) or errors of policy (Isaiah 9:15, 16; Isaiah 22:15-19, etc.). Isaiah now turns from a denunciation of the priests and prophets, who especially opposed his teaching, to a threatening of the great men who guided the course of public affairs. He taxes them with being "men of scorn" (ver. 14), i.e. scorners of Jehovah, and with" a proud and insolent self-confidence" (Delitzsch). They have made, or are about to make, secret arrangements which will, they believe, secure Judaea against suffering injury at the hands of the Assyrians, and are quite satisfied with what they have done, and fear no evil. Isaiah is instructed that their boasted arrangements will entirely fail in the time of trial - their "refuge" (Egypt) will be found a refuge of lies (ver. 17), and the "overflowing scourge" (Assyria) will pass through the land, and carry all before it (ver. 18). There will then ensue a time of "vexation" and discomfort (vers. 19, 20) - God's anger will be poured out upon the land in strange ways (ver. 21). He therefore warns the rulers to lay aside their scorn of God, and humble themselves, lest a worse thing happen to them (ver. 22). Verse 14. - Ye scornful men; literally, ye men of scorn. The word used is rare, but will be found in the same sense in Proverbs 1:22 and Proverbs 29:8. A cognate participle occurs in Hosea 7:5. That rule this people. (On the authority of the nobles at this period, see the introductory paragraph.) Leviticus 10:9, cf., Ezekiel 44:21), they were intoxicated even in the midst of their prophetic visions (הראה, literally "the thing seeing," then the act of seeing; equivalent to ראי, like חזה in Isaiah 28:15 equals חזוּת; Olshausen, 176, c), and when passing judicial sentences. In the same way Micah also charges the prophets and priests with being drunkards (Micah 3:1., cf., Isaiah 2:11). Isaiah's indignation is manifested in the fact, that in the words which he uses he imitates the staggering and stumbling of the topers; like the well-known passage, Sta pes sta mi pes stas pes ne labere mi pes. Observe, for example, the threefold repetition of shâgu - tâghu, shâgu - tâghu, shâgu - pâqu. The hereditary priests and the four prophets represent the whole of the official personages. The preterites imply that drunkenness had become the fixed habit of the holders of these offices. The preposition בּ indicates the cause ("through," as in 2 Samuel 13:28 and Esther 1:10), and min the effect proceeding from the cause (in consequence of wine). In v. 8 we can hear them vomit. We have the same combination of the and צ in the verb kotzen, Gothic kozan. All the tables of the carousal are full, without there being any further room (cf., Isaiah 5:8); everything swims with vomit. The prophet paints from nature, here without idealizing. He receives their conduct as it were in a mirror, and then in the severest tones holds up this mirror before them, adults though they were.
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