Isaiah 28:24
Does the plowman plow all day to sow? does he open and break the clods of his ground?
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(24) Doth the plowman plow all day . . .?—Better, every day. Ploughing represents naturally, as in Jeremiah 4:3, the preparatory discipline by which the spiritual soil is rendered fit for the sower’s work. It is a means, and not an end, and is, therefore, in its very nature but for a season. To a nation passing through this stage, Assyrian invaders scoring their long furrows visibly on the surface of the land, the parable gave the hope that this was preparing the way for the seed-time of a better harvest.

28:23-29 The husbandman applies to his calling with pains and prudence, in all the works of it according to their nature. Thus the Lord, who has given men this wisdom, is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in his working. As the occasion requires, he threatens, corrects, spares, shows mercy, or executes vengeance. Afflictions are God's threshing instruments, to loosen us from the world, to part between us and our chaff, and to prepare us for use. God will proportion them to our strength; they shall be no heavier than there is need. When his end is answered, the trials and sufferings of his people shall cease; his wheat shall be gathered into the garner, but the chaff shall be burned with unquenchable fire.Doth the plowman ... - The question here asked implies that he does "not" plow all the day. The interrogative form is often the most emphatic mode of affirmation.

All day - The sense is, does he do nothing else but plow? Is this the only thing which is necessary to be done in order to obtain a harvest? The idea which the prophet intends to convey here is this. A farmer does not suppose that he can obtain a harvest by doing nothing else but plow. There is much else to be done. So it would be just as absurd to suppose that God would deal with his people always in the same manner, as it would be for the farmer to be engaged in nothing else but plowing.

Doth he open ... - That is, is he always engaged in opening, and breaking the clods of his field? There is much else to be done besides this. The word 'open' here refers to the furrows that are made by the plow. The earth is laid open as it were to the sunbeams, and to the showers of rain, and to the reception of seed. The word rendered 'break' (ישׁדד yshadēd) properly means "to harrow," that is, to break up the clods by harrowing Job 39:10; Hosea 10:11.

24. all day—emphatic; he is not always ploughing: he also "sows," and that, too, in accordance with sure rules (Isa 28:25).

doth he open—supply "always." Is he always harrowing?

Doth the ploughman plough all day to sow? the ploughman doth not spend all his time in ploughing the ground, in order to the sowing it, or, as it follows, in opening it, and breaking its clods; but he hath several times for several works, a time for ploughing, and a time for sowing and harrowing, and a time for reaping, and a time for threshing, or beating, and bruising the corn for his own use; which wisdom God hath put into him. This is the sum of the similitude propounded here and in the following verses; the design and meaning whereof seems to be this, to teach them that God had his times and seasons for several works, and that the methods of his providence were various at several times, and towards several persons or people; and therefore that those scoffing Israelites were guilty of great folly, in flattering themselves, and despising God’s threatenings, because of God’s long patience towards them, and because of their present impunity and prosperity; for God would certainly and speedily take a time to thresh and break them with his judgments, as at present he ploughed and harrowed them, and so prepared them for it by his threatenings.

Doth he open; understand, all day, or continually, out of the foregoing clause.

And break the clods of his ground; which they used to do with a kind of harrow, or other proper instrument. See Jeremiah 4:3 Hosea 10:11,12Doth the ploughman plough all day to sow?.... Or, "every day"; he ploughs in order to sow; by ploughing he prepares the ground for sowing, that is his end in ploughing; and he may plough a whole day together when he is at it, but he does not plough every day in the year; he has other work to do besides ploughing, as is later mentioned; such as breaking of clods, sowing seed, and threshing the grain after it is ripe, and reaped, and gathered. The prophet signifies that the Lord, like a ploughman, had different sorts of work; he was not always doing one and the same thing; and particularly, that he would not be always admonishing and threatening men, and making preparation for his judgments, but in a little time he would execute them, signified by after metaphors:

doth he open and break the clods of his ground? he does, with a mallet or iron bar, or with the harrow; whereby the ground is made even, and so more fit for sowing. The Targum interprets the whole in a mystical sense, of the instructions of the prophets, thus,

"at all times the prophets prophesy to teach, if perhaps the ears of sinners may be opened to receive instruction;''

and it may be applied to the work of the Spirit of God upon men's hearts, by the ministry of the word: the heart of man is like the "fallow ground", hard and obdurate, barren and unfruitful; the ministry of the word is the "plough", and ministers are the "ploughmen"; but it is the Spirit of God that makes their ministrations useful, for the conviction of the mind, the pricking of the heart, and breaking it in pieces; see Jeremiah 4:3.

Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? doth he open and break the clods of his ground?
24. all day] i.e. continually (R.V.), “uninterruptedly.” The emphasis of the question lies on this word.

to sow is an awkward addition and may be a gloss. If genuine the sense must be paraphrased “seeing he has the intention of sowing.”

doth he open … ground] Trans. doth he (continually) open and narrow his ground?

24–26. Ploughing is followed by sowing.Verse 24. - Doth the plowman plow all day? The Church of God, go often called a vineyard, is here compared to an arable field, and the processes by which God educates and disciplines his Church are compared to those employed by man in the cultivation of such a piece of ground, and the obtaining of a harvest, from it. First of all, the ground must be ploughed, the face of the earth "opened" and the "clods broken." This, however, does not go on forever; it is for an object - that the seed may be sown; and, as soon as the ground is fit for the sowing to take place, the preparation of the soil ceases. Doth he open and break, etc.? Harrowing succeeds to ploughing in the natural order of things, the object of the harrowing being to break and pulverize the clods. And the whip which Jehovah swings will not be satisfied with one stroke, but will rain strokes. "And your covenant with death is struck out, and your agreement with Hades will not stand; the swelling scourge, when it comes, ye will become a thing trodden down to it. As often as it passes it takes you: for every morning it passes, by day and by night; and it is nothing but shuddering to hear such preaching. For the bed is too short to stretch in, and the covering too tight when a man wraps himself in it." Although berı̄th is feminine, the predicate to it is placed before it in the masculine form (Ges. 144). The covenant is thought of as a document; for khuppar (for obliterari (just as the kal is used in Genesis 6:14 in the sense of oblinere; or in Proverbs 30:20, the Targum, and the Syriac, in the sense of abstergere; and in the Talmud frequently in the sense of wiping off equals qinnēăch, or wiping out equals mâchaq - which meanings all go back, along with the meaning negare, to the primary meaning, tegere, obducere). The covenant will be "struck out," as you strike out a wrong word, by crossing it over with ink and rendering it illegible. They fancy that they have fortified themselves against death and Hades; but Jehovah gives to both of these unlimited power over them. When the swelling scourge shall come, they will become to it as mirmâs, i.e., they will be overwhelmed by it, and their corpses become like dirt of the streets (Isaiah 10:6; Isaiah 5:5); והייתם has the mercha upon the penult., according to the older editions and the smaller Masora on Leviticus 8:26, the tone being drawn back on account of the following לו. The strokes of the scourge come incessantly, and every stroke sweeps them, i.e., many of them, away. מדּי (from דּי, construct דּי, sufficiency, abundance) followed by the infinitive, quotiescunque irruet; lâqach, auferre, as in Jeremiah 15:15, and in the idiom lâqach nephesh. These scourgings without end - what a painful lecture Jehovah is reading them! This is the thought expressed in the concluding words: for the meaning cannot be, that "even (raq as in Psalm 32:6) the report (of such a fate) is alarming," as Grotius and others explain it; or the report is nothing but alarming, as Gussetius and others interpret it, since in that case שׁמועה שׁמע (cf., Isaiah 23:5) would have been quite sufficient, instead of שׁמוּעה הבין. There is no doubt that the expression points back to the scornful question addressed by the debauchees to the prophet in Isaiah 28:9, "To whom will he make preaching intelligible?" i.e., to whom will he preach the word of God in an intelligible manner? (as if they did not possess bı̄nâh without this; שׁמוּעה, ἀκοή, as in Isaiah 53:1). As Isaiah 28:11 affirmed that Jehovah would take up the word against them, the drunken stammerers, through a stammering people; so here the scourging without end is called the shemū‛âh, or sermon, which Jehovah preaches to them. At the same time, the word hâbhı̄n is not causative here, as in Isaiah 28:9, viz., "to give to understand," but signifies simply "to understand," or have an inward perception. To receive into one's comprehension such a sermon as that which was now being delivered to them, was raq-zevâ‛âh, nothing but shaking or shuddering (raq as in Genesis 6:5); זוּע (from which comes זועה, or by transposition זעוה) is applied to inward shaking as well as to outward tossing to and fro. Jerome renders it "tantummodo sola vexatio intellectum dabit auditui," and Luther follows him thus: "but the vexation teaches to take heed to the word," as if the reading were תּבין. The alarming character of the lecture is depicted in Isaiah 28:20, in a figure which was probably proverbial. The situation into which they are brought is like a bed too short for a man to stretch himself in (min as in 2 Kings 6:1), and like a covering which, according to the measure of the man who covers himself up in it (or perhaps still better in a temporal sense, "when a man covers or wraps himself up in it," cf., Isaiah 18:4), is too narrow or too tight. So would it be in their case with the Egyptian treaty, in which they fancied that there were rest and safety for them. They would have to acknowledge its insufficiency. They had made themselves a bed, and procured bed-clothes; but how mistaken they had been in the measure, how miserably and ridiculously they had miscalculated!
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