Isaiah 28:15
Because you have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing whip shall pass through, it shall not come to us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:
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(15) We have made a covenant with death . . .—The phrase was a proverbial one. (Comp. Job 5:23; Hosea 2:18.) Cheyne quotes Lucan, ix. 394, Pax illis cum morte data est (They have made peace with death”). “Hell” is the Hebrew Sheol (Hades), the region of the dead. The two are joined together, as in Hosea 13:14; Revelation 20:13-14.

When the overflowing scourge . . .—The words probably implied a sneer at the imagery which the prophet had used, painting the Assyrian invasion first as a flood (Isaiah 8:7-8), and then as a scourge (Isaiah 10:24). (Comp, Isaiah 28:2.) The scorners think that their “lies” will give them a refuge from the danger under either form.

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.We have made a covenant with death - We are not to suppose that they had formally said this, but that their conduct was as if they had said it; they lived as securely as if they had entered into a compact with death not to destroy them, and with hell not to devour them. The figure is a very bold one, and is designed to express the extraordinary stupidity of the nation. It is most strikingly descriptive of the great mass of people. They are as little anxious about death and hell as if they had made a compact with the king of terrors and the prince of darkness not to destroy them. They are as little moved by the appeals of the gospel, by the alarms of God's providence, by the preaching of his word, and by all the demonstrations that they are exposed to eternal death, as though they had proved that there was no hell, or had entered into a solemn covenant that they should be unmolested. A figure similar to this occurs in Job 5:23 :

For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field;

And the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee.

Compare Hosea 2:18.

And with hell - Hebrew, 'Sheol' - the land of shades, or of departed spirits (see the note at Isaiah 5:14). It is nearly synonymous here with death.

When the overflowing scourge shall pass through - There is here, in our translation, a little confusion of metaphor, since we speak usually of an overflowing "stream," and not of an overflowing "scourge." The word 'scourge' (שׁיט shayiṭ) means usually "a whip, a scourge," the same as שׁוט shôṭ, and then means any punishment or calamity (see the note at Isaiah 10:26; compare Job 9:23; Job 5:21. Here its means severe judgments or calamities, as overflowing like water, or inundating a people.

We have made lies ... - That is, they acted as if they had a safe refuge in falsehood. They sought security in false doctrines, and regarded themselves as safe from all that the prophets had denounced.

15. said—virtually, in your conduct, if not in words.

covenant—There may be a tacit reference to their confidence in their "covenant" with the Assyrians in the early part of Hezekiah's prosperous reign, before he ceased to pay tribute to them, as if it ensured Judah from evil, whatever might befall the neighboring Ephraim (Isa 28:1). The full meaning is shown by the language ("covenant with death—hell," or sheol) to apply to all lulled in false security spiritually (Ps 12:4; Ec 8:8; Jer 8:11); the godly alone are in covenant with death (Job 5:23; Ho 2:18; 1Co 3:22).

overflowing scourge—two metaphors: the hostile Assyrian armies like an overwhelming flood.

pass through—namely, through Judea on their way to Egypt, to punish it as the protector of Samaria (2Ki 17:4).

lies—They did not use these words, but Isaiah designates their sentiments by their true name (Am 2:4).

Because ye have said in your hearts,

We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; we are as safe from death, and hell, or the grave, as if they had entered into covenant with us, that they would not invade us. The word rendered hell most commonly signifies the grave; which also seems most proper in this place, that so the same thing may be repeated in. other words, as is most usual in prophetical writings.

The overflowing scourge; the judgment of God, Which is called a scourge, for its sharpness and severity; and overflowing, for its universality; two differing metaphors being joined together; which is not unusual, both in Scripture and in other authors. Shall pass through, to wit, the land.

We have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves; we shall secure ourselves by lying and dissimulation, by compliance with our enemies, and with their religion too, if it be necessary, and many crafty devices. Or by lies and falsehood he means their riches and strength, to which they trusted, to which he giveth these titles, not that they called or thought them such, but that he might signify what they really were, and would appear to be: See Poole "Proverbs 1:11". Because ye have said,.... Within themselves; they thought so, if they did not say it in express words; and their conduct and behaviour showed that these were the sentiments and presumptions of their minds:

We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement: as safe from death, and secure from hell, or the grave, as if a covenant and compact had been formally entered into between them. The phrases are expressive of their being fearless of them, and of their confidence and assurance that they should not be hurt by them. Some interpret this of their deadly enemies, as Sennacherib king of Assyria particularly, with whom they had made peace, and had entered into a covenant of friendship and alliance, and so had nothing to fear from the threatenings of the Lord by the prophet; but Vitringa, better, of the covenant and agreement with the Romans, which the Jewish rulers were careful to observe, and thought themselves safe on account of it; see Revelation 6:8,

when the overflowing scourge shall pass through; when the judgments of God shall come upon the earth, and pass through the whole world, as a chastisement and correction of men for their sins, and as a punishment for them, like a mighty torrent spreading itself, and carrying all before it; or particularly when the Assyrian monarch with his army shall pass through the land of Judea, signified, in Isaiah 28:2, by a tempest of hail, a destroying storm, a flood of mighty waters overflowing; or rather the Roman army invading Judea:

it shall not come unto us; who were in the city of Jerusalem:

for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves; not what they themselves reckoned so, but what the prophet Isaiah, or the Lord by him, called so, whose words they used, and in whose language they spoke; meaning either their lying prophets, as Kimchi, and the false doctrines they delivered to them, promising them peace when destruction was at hand; or their idols, as Jarchi, which are falsehood, lying vanities, and work of errors; or their carnal policy, arts of dissimulation, sinful compliances, and crafty methods of acting with their enemies, by which they hoped to deceive them, and secure themselves from destruction, as others; or else their wealth and riches, got by lying and fraud, which is the sense of some interpreters; and perhaps all may be intended in which they might put their trust and confidence, and on account of them expect security from threatened evils, though no other than lies and falsehood; and the same may be observed of all outward acts of religion, rites and ceremonies, and works of righteousness done by men, in which they place their trust, and hope to be saved by them from wrath to come.

Because ye have said, We have made a {p} covenant with death, and with hell are we in agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not reach us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under {q} falsehood have we hid ourselves:

(p) They thought they had shifts to avoid God's judgments, and that they could escape though all others perished.

(q) Though the prophets condemned their idols and vain fruit of falsehood and vanity, yet the wicked thought in themselves that they would trust in these things.

Verse 15. - We have made a covenant with death (comp. Job 5:23; Hosea 2:18). The words are a boast, expressed somewhat enigmatically, that they have secured their own safety by some secret agreement. The exact nature of the agreement they are disinclined to divulge. With hell are we at agreement. A "synonymous parallelism," merely strengthening the previous assertion. When the overflowing scourge shall pass through. Assyrian invasion has been compared to a "flood" (Isaiah 8:7; Isaiah 28:2), and to a "rod" or "staff" in Isaiah 10:24. Here the two metaphors are joined together. It shall not come to us. Some means will be found - what, they do not say, either for diverting the flood, or for stemming it. For we have made lies our refuge. Here the Divine reporter departs from the language of those whose words he is reporting, and substitutes his own estimate of the true nature and true value of that "refuge" on which they placed such entire reliance. It appears by Isaiah 30:1-7 and Isaiah 36:6-9 that that refuge was Egypt. Now, Egypt was a "bruised reed," not to be depended on for keeping her engagements. To trust in her was to put confidence in "lies" and "falsehood." "Whom then would he teach knowledge? And to whom make preaching intelligible? To those weaned from the milk? To those removed from the breast? For precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, a little here, a little there!" They sneer at the prophet, that intolerable moralist. They are of age, and free; and he does not need to bring knowledge to them (da‛ath as in Isaiah 11:9), or make them understand the proclamation. They know of old to what he would lead. Are they little children that have just been weaned (on the constructives, see Isaiah 9:2; Isaiah 5:11; Isaiah 30:18; Ges. 114, 1), and who must let themselves be tutored? For the things he preaches are nothing but endless petty teazings. The short words (tsâv, as in Hosea 5:11), together with the diminutive זעיר (equivalent to the Arabic sugayyir, mean, from sagı̄r, small), are intended to throw ridicule upon the smallness and vexatious character of the prophet's interminable and uninterrupted chidings, as ל ( equals על, אל; comp. יסף ל, Isaiah 26:15) implies that they are; just as the philosophers in Acts 17:18 call Paul a σπερμολόγος, a collector of seeds, i.e., a dealer in trifles. And in the repetition of the short words we may hear the heavy babbling language of the drunken scoffers.
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