Isaiah 28:17
Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place.
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(17) Judgment also will I lay to the line . . .—Rather, I make judgment for a line, and righteousness for a plummet. The architectural imagery is continued. The “elect corner stone” shall come up to the standard of perfection, laid four-square (Revelation 21:16); and, therefore, should be the true place of refuge; while? the boast of the scorners, which the prophet repeats in the words that follow, should prove a false one. They would see their place of refuge swept away by the great waters. (Comp. Matthew 7:26-27.) Their treaty with death and Hades should be treated as null and void, They should be trampled under foot by the invading armies.

Isaiah 28:17. Judgment also will I lay to the line, &c. — I will execute just judgment, as it were by a line and plummet annexed to it; that is, with exactness and care. I will severely punish and utterly destroy all who reject that stone. For the line and plummet, or the plumb-line, was not only used in erecting buildings, but also in pulling them down; those parts of the building being thus marked out which were to be demolished. And the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, &c. — My judgments (which in the Scriptures are compared to a storm of hail or rain) shall discover the vanity of all your crafty and wicked devices, and shall sweep you away with the besom of destruction in spite of them.

28:16-22 Here is a promise of Christ, as the only foundation of hope for escaping the wrath to come. This foundation was laid in Zion, in the eternal counsels of God. This foundation is a stone, firm and able to support his church. It is a tried stone, a chosen stone, approved of God, and never failed any who made trial of it. A corner stone, binding together the whole building, and bearing the whole weight; precious in the sight of the Lord, and of every believer; a sure foundation on which to build. And he who in any age or nation shall believe this testimony, and rest all his hopes, and his never-dying soul on this foundation, shall never be confounded. The right effect of faith in Christ is, to quiet and calm the soul, till events shall be timed by Him, who has all times in his own hand and power. Whatever men trust to for justification, except the righteousness of Christ; or for wisdom, strength, and holiness, except the influences of the Holy Ghost; or for happiness, except the favour of God; that protection in which they thought to shelter themselves, will prove not enough to answer the intention. Those who rest in a righteousness of their own, will have deceived themselves: the bed is too short, the covering too narrow. God will be glorified in the fulfilling of his counsels. If those that profess to be members of God's church, make themselves like Philistines and Canaanites, they must expect to be dealt with as such. Then dare not to ridicule the reproofs of God's word, or the approaches of judgements.Judgment also will I lay to the line - The sense of this is, I will judge them according to the exact rule of law, as an architect frames everything according to the rule which he uses. In other words, there shall be no mercy intermingled. The line is used by a carpenter for measuring; the plummet consists of a piece of lead attached to a string, and is also used by carpenters to obtain a perpendicular line. A carpenter works exactly according to the lines which are thus indicated, or his frame would not be properly adjusted. So God says that he would judge the people of Jerusalem according to the exact rule, without any intermingling of mercy.

And the hail ... - (see the note at Isaiah 28:2). Hail, hailstones, and floods of waters are frequent images of the divine vengeance and wrath Psalm 105:32; Isaiah 22:19; Isaiah 30:30; Ezekiel 13:13; Ezekiel 38:22; Revelation 8:7; Revelation 11:19; Revelation 16:21.

17. line—the measuring-line of the plummet. Horsley translates, "I will appoint judgment for the rule, and justice for the plummet." As the corner-stone stands most perpendicular and exactly proportioned, so Jehovah, while holding out grace to believers in the Foundation-stone, will judge the scoffers (Isa 28:15) according to the exact justice of the law (compare Jas 2:13).

hail—divine judgment (Isa 30:30; 32:19).

Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet; I will execute just judgment, as it were by a line and plummet annexed to it, i.e. with exactness and care. And this may be understood either,

1. That God would so order and settle things in his church, that justice and judgment should prevail, and not iniquity, as hitherto it had done; or rather,

2. That as God would build up and preserve all believers upon that Foundation-stone, so he would severely punish and utterly destroy all those unbelieving Jews who should reject that Stone. For

the line and

plummet, or the plumb-line, was not only used in erecting buildings, but also in pulling them down; those parts of the building being thus marked out which were to be demolished; and therefore is used in Scripture to signify the destruction of a place or people, as is evident from 2 Kings 21:13 Isaiah 34:11 Lamentations 2:8 Amos 7:7,8. And this sense agrees best with the following clause and verse.

The hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding-place; my judgments, which in Scripture are compared to a storm of hail or rain, shall discover the vanity of all your crafty and wicked devices, and shall sweep you away with the besom of destruction in spite of them.

Judgment also will I lay to the line,.... A metaphor taken from builders, who in building use the line and plummet to carry on their work even and regular, retaining such stones as agree thereunto, and rejecting such as do not; signifying, that in the spiritual building, where Christ is the foundation and cornerstone, such as are built thereon shall continue and grow up regularly into a holy temple; but those that set at nought this precious stone, and build upon the sandy foundation of their own righteousness, betake themselves to a refuge of lies, and cover themselves in their own hiding places, as well as all such who go on in their sins, shall be rejected by the righteous judgment of God:

and righteousness to the plummet; meaning the same as before; or, "I will lay judgment by the line, and righteousness by the plummet" (w); the rule of the divine law, by which it will appear whether their actions are agreeable to it, or the righteousness they trust in answerable to it; or the sense is, that at the same time that God would preserve and secure his own people upon the sure foundation Christ, he would punish others, according to the strict rules of justice, as his righteous law required, and according to the just demerit of sin. Kimchi interprets it, but very wrongly, of the justice and equity that should take place in the reign of Hezekiah, which were wanting at the time of this prophecy; but the preceding prophecy regards Christ, and not Hezekiah; and therefore is rather to be understood of the right and equal distribution of justice and judgment in the administration of government by him:

and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies; the lies they made their refuge, Isaiah 28:15 their lying prophets, their idols, their riches, their righteousness, and everything in which they placed their confidence; for all refuges, be they what they will, are lying ones, and will deceive, excepting Christ and his righteousness; all which are easily and at once swept away, with the besom of avenging justice, when God takes it in hand. The phrase denotes the facility and suddenness of the destruction, and the entirety of it, which should be brought about by means of a "hail" storm, the same with that in Isaiah 28:2 which designs the Assyrian, or rather the Roman army, since the prophecy preceding relates to the times of Christ; and it may be, by the refuge of lies may be meant the temple, in which the Jews greatly placed their confidence, as Cocceius thinks:

and the waters shall overflow the hiding place; the city of Jerusalem, where they hid, and thought themselves safe: a mighty army rushing into a city, and putting the inhabitants to the sword, or to flight, or obliging them to surrender, may be fitly signified by an inundation of water; see Isaiah 8:7 very probably the army of the Romans under Vespasian.

(w) So Gataker.

Judgment also will I lay to the line, and {t} righteousness to the plummet: and the {u} hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow {x} the hiding place.

(t) In the restitution of his Church, judgment and justice will reign.

(u) God's corrections and affliction.

(x) Affliction will discover their vain confidence, which they kept secret to themselves.

17. Thé first half of the verse continues Isaiah 28:16. In order to build on this foundation, it is necessary that political conduct be conformed to the eternal principles of the Divine government; these are “judgment” and “righteousness” (see on Isaiah 1:21), which are here compared to the builder’s line and plummet. Render as in R.V. I will make judgment the line and righteousness the plummet. Cf. ch. Isaiah 34:11.

and the hail …] Every course of action not based on faith in Jehovah, and not in accordance with the strict rule of the Divine righteousness will prove a false refuge in the day of judgment, see Isaiah 28:15 and cf. Isaiah 28:2. Comp. also Matthew 7:24-27. The verb “sweep away” is not found elsewhere.

Verse 17. - Judgment also will I lay to the line, said righteousness to the plummet; rather, justice also will I set for my rule, and righteousness for my plumb-line; i.e. I will execute justice and judgment on the earth with all strictness and exactness. The scorners had implied that, by their clever devices, they would escape the judgment of God (ver. 15). The hail (comp. ver. 2). The storm of Assyrian invasion will overwhelm Egypt, which is a "refuge of lies," false and untrustworthy (see the comment on ver. 15). The hiding-place. Mr. Cheyne adds, "of falsehood," supposing a word to have fallen out of the text. Such an addition seems almost required to complete the parallelism of the two clauses, and also for the balance between this verse and ver. 15. Isaiah 28:17The prophet now directly attacks the great men of Jerusalem, and holds up a Messianic prophecy before their eyes, which turns its dark side to them, as chapter 7 did to Ahaz. "Therefore hear the word of Jehovah, ye scornful lords, rulers of this people which is in Jerusalem! For ye say, We have made a covenant with death, and with Hades have we come to an agreement. The swelling scourge, when it cometh hither, will do us no harm; for we have made a lie our shelter, and in deceit have we hidden ourselves. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I am He who hath laid in Zion a stone, a stone of trial, a precious corner-stone of well-founded founding; whoever believes will not have to move. And I make justice the line, and righteousness the level; and hail sweeps away the refuge of lies, and the hiding-place is washed away by waters." With lâkhēn (therefore) the announcement of punishment is once more suspended; and in Isaiah 28:16 it is resumed again, the exposition of the sin being inserted between, before the punishment is declared. Their sin is lâtsōn, and this free-thinking scorn rests upon a proud and insolent self-confidence, which imagines that there is no necessity to fear death and hell; and this self-confidence has for its secret reserve the alliance to be secretly entered into with Egypt against Assyria. What the prophet makes them say here, they do not indeed say exactly in this form; but this is the essential substance of the carnally devised thoughts and words of the rulers of the people of Jerusalem, as manifest to the Searcher of hearts. Jerusalem, the city of Jehovah, and such princes as these, who either proudly ignore Jehovah, or throw Him off as useless, what a contrast! Chōzeh, and châzūth in Isaiah 28:18, signify an agreement, either as a decision or completion (from the radical meaning of the verb châzâh), or as a choice, beneplacitum (like the Arabic ray), or as a record, i.e., the means of selecting (like the talmudic châzı̄th, a countersign, a ra'ăyâh, a proof or argument: Luzzatto). In shōt shōtēph ("the swelling scourge," chethib שׁיט), the comparison of Asshur to a flood (Isaiah 28:2, Isaiah 28:8, Isaiah 28:7), and the comparison of it to a whip or scourge, are mixed together; and this is all the more allowable, because a whip, when smacked, really does move in waving lines (compare Jeremiah 8:6, where shâtaph is applied to the galloping of a war-horse). The chethib עבר in Isaiah 28:15 (for which the keri reads יעבר, according to Isaiah 28:19) is to be read עבר (granting that it shall have passed, or that it passes); and there is no necessity for any emendation. The Egyptian alliance for which they are suing, when designated according to its true ethical nature, is sheqer (lie) and kâzâb (falsehood); compare 2 Kings 17:4 (where we ought perhaps to read sheqer for qesher, according to the lxx), and more especially Ezekiel 17:15., from which it is obvious that the true prophets regarded self-willed rebellion even against heathen rule as a reprehensible breach of faith.

The lâkhēn (therefore), which is resumed in Isaiah 28:16, is apparently followed as strangely as in Isaiah 7:14, by a promise instead of a threat. But this is only apparently the case. It is unquestionably a promise; but as the last clause, "he that believeth will not flee," i.e., will stand firm, clearly indicates, it is a promise for believers alone. For those to whom the prophet is speaking here the promise is a threat, a savour of death unto death. Just as on a former occasion, when Ahaz refused to ask for a sign, the prophet announced to him a sign of Jehovah's own selection; so here Jehovah opposes to the false ground of confidence on which the leaders relied, the foundation stone laid in Zion, which would bear the believing in immoveable safety, but on which the unbelieving would be broken to pieces (Matthew 21:44). This stone is called 'ebhen boochan, a stone of proving, i.e., a proved and self-proving stone. Then follow other epithets in a series commencing anew with pinnath equals 'ebhen pinnath (compare Psalm 118:22): angulus h. e. lapis angularis pretiositatis fundationis fundatae. It is a corner-stone, valuable in itself (on yiqrath, compare 1 Kings 5:17), and affording the strongest foundation and inviolable security to all that is built upon it (mūsâd a substantive in form like mūsâr, and mūssâd a hophal participle in the form of those of the verba contracta pe yod). This stone was not the Davidic sovereignty, but the true seed of David which appeared in Jesus (Romans 9:33; 1 Peter 2:6-7). The figure of a stone is not opposed to the personal reference, since the prophet in Isaiah 8:14 speaks even of Jehovah Himself under the figure of a stone. The majestically unique description renders it quite impossible that Hezekiah can be intended. Micah, whose book forms the side piece of this cycle of prophecy, also predicted, under similar historical circumstances, the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem Ephratah (Micah 5:1). What Micah expresses in the words, "His goings forth are from of old," is indicated here in the preterite yissad connected with hineni (the construction is similar to that in Obadiah 1:2; Ezekiel 25:7; compare Isaiah 28:2 above, and Jeremiah 49:15; Jeremiah 23:19). It denotes that which has been determined by Jehovah, and therefore is as good as accomplished. What is historically realized has had an eternal existence, and indeed an ideal pre-existence even in the heart of history itself (Isaiah 22:11; Isaiah 25:1; Isaiah 37:26). Ever since there had been a Davidic government at all, this stone had lain in Zion. The Davidic monarchy not only had in this its culminating point, but the ground of its continuance also. It was not only the Omega, but also the Alpha. Whatever escaped from wrath, even under the Old Testament, stood upon this stone. This (as the prophet predicts in יסהישׁ לא המּאמין יחישׁ׃ the fut. kal) would be the stronghold of faith in the midst of the approaching Assyrian calamities (cf., Isaiah 7:9); and faith would be the condition of life (Habakkuk 2:4). But against unbelievers Jehovah would proceed according to His punitive justice. He would make this (justice and righteousness, mishpât and tsedâqâh) a norm, i.e., a line and level. A different turn, however, is given to qâv, with a play upon Isaiah 28:10, Isaiah 28:11. What Jehovah is about to do is depicted as a building which He is carrying out, and which He will carry out, so far as the despisers are concerned, on no other plan than that of strict retribution. His punitive justice comes like a hailstorm and like a flood (cf., Isaiah 28:2; Isaiah 10:22). The hail smites the refuge of lies of the great men of Jerusalem, and clears it away (יעה, hence יע, a shovel); and the flood buries their hiding-place in the waters, and carries it away (the accentuation should be סתר tifchah, מים mercha).

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