Isaiah 28:7
But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.
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(7) But they also have erred through . . .—Better, yet these also reel . . . Isaiah acts on the method of Nathan when he said, Thou art the man.” He has painted the drunkards of Ephraim; now he turns and paints in yet darker colours the drunkards of Judah. Priests were seen reeling to their services, prophets reeling in the very act of their counterfeit inspiration. The threefold iteration of the word for “reel” emphasises the scandals of the scene. The sins of the sons of Eli, those of which Micah (Isaiah 2:11) had spoken, were reproduced in all their enormity. The most loathsome features of their drunkenness are printed in Isaiah 28:8 with a boldness which is almost photographic. The prohibition of wine during the time when the priests were on duty (Leviticus 10:1-9) adds to the guilt thus represented.

Isaiah 28:7. But they also have erred — But, alas! Judah is guilty of the same sins with Israel, therefore they also must expect the same calamities, of which he speaks afterward. The priest — To whom strong drink was expressly forbidden in the time of their sacred ministrations; and the prophet — The teachers, who should have been patterns of sobriety to the people, and to whom sobriety was absolutely necessary for the right discharge of their office; have erred — In their conversation and in their holy administrations. They are swallowed up of wine — They are, as we say, drowned in it. They err in vision — The prophets miscarry in their sacred employment of prophesying or teaching, which is sometimes called vision. They stumble in judgment — The priests mistake in pronouncing the sentence of the law, which was their duty.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.But they also have erred through wine - In the previous verses the prophet had said that the kingdom of Judah should be saved, while that of Ephraim should be destroyed. Yet he does not deny that they also were guilty of crimes for which punishment would come upon them. To portray these crimes, and to declare the certain judgment which awaited them, is the design of the remainder of the chapter. The word rendered 'have erred' (שׁגוּ shâgû) refers usually to the fact that people "stagger" or "reel" through wine, and is applied commonly to those who are intoxicated Proverbs 20:1. The subsequent part of this verse shows, however, that it does not refer merely to the fact that they stagger and reel as intemperate people do, but that it had an effect on their 'vision' and 'judgment;' that is, it disqualified them for the discharge of their duties as priests and as prophets. In this part of the verse, however, the simple idea is, that they reel or stagger through wine, that is, they are addicted to intoxication. In the subsequent part of the verse the prophet states the effect in producing indistinctness of vision and error of judgment.

And through strong drink - (see the note at Isaiah 5:11).

They are out of the way - (תעוּ tā‛û). They wander; stagger; reel (compare the notes at Isaiah 19:14).

The priest and the prophet - Probably these persons are specified to denote the higher classes of society. It is probable that the prophet also designs to indicate the enormity of the sins of the nation, from the fact that those who were especially devoted to religion, and who were supposed to have immediate communication with God, were addicted to intemperance.

They are swallowed up of wine - They are completely absorbed by it (see the note at Isaiah 25:7); they not only themselves indulge in its use, but they are themselves, as it were, swallowed up by it, so that their reason, and strength, and virtue are all gone - as a vessel is absorbed in a maelstrom or whirlpool.

They err in vision - For the sense of the word 'vision,' see the note at Isaiah 1:1. The prophet here states the effect of the use of wine and strong drink on their mental and moral powers. It was the office of the prophets to declare the will of God; probably also to explain the sense of the sacred Scriptures, and to address the people on their duty. Here the prophet says that the effect of their intemperance was that they had themselves no correct and clear views of the truth, and that they led the people into error.

They stumble in judgment - There were many important subjects on which the priests sat in judgment among the Hebrews, particularly in all matters pertaining to religion. By the influence of intoxicating liquors they were disqualified for the high and holy functions of their office; and the consequence was, that the nation was corrupt, and was exposed to the heavy judgments of God.

7. Though Judah is to survive the fall of Ephraim, yet "they also" (the men of Judah) have perpetrated like sins to those of Samaria (Isa 5:3, 11), which must be chastised by God.

erred … are out of the way—"stagger … reel." Repeated, to express the frequency of the vice.

priest … prophet—If the ministers of religion sin so grievously, how much more the other rulers (Isa 56:10, 12)!

vision—even in that most sacred function of the prophet to declare God's will revealed to them.

judgment—The priests had the administration of the law committed to them (De 17:9; 19:17). It was against the law for the priests to take wine before entering the tabernacle (Le 10:9; Eze 44:21).

But, alas! Judah is guilty of the same sins with Israel, and therefore they also must expect the same calamities; of which he speaks afterward. They run into the same excess of wine and strong drink, whereby they besot themselves, and fall into many errors and miscarriages, both in sacred and civil things. The many emphatical phrases and repetitions of the same thing in other words, in this verse, seem to evince that he here speaks of drunkenness, properly so called, although he afterward chargeth them with ignorance, and error, and stupidity; which also were the companions, and in part the effects, of that sin.

The priest, to whom strong drink was expressly forbidden in the time of their sacred ministrations, lest they should thereby be led into errors in their work, Leviticus 10:9,10.

The prophet; the teachers, who should have been patterns of sobriety to the people, and to whom sobriety was absolutely necessary for the right discharge of their office.

Have erred in their conversation, and in their holy administrations.

They are swallowed up; they are, as we say, drowned in it; their senses and reason are swallowed up and lost in it. They design only to swallow it, but indeed are swallowed up by it.

They err in vision; the prophets miscarry in their sacred employment of prophesying or teaching, which is called vision, Proverbs 29:18, and elsewhere.

They stumble in judgment; the priests mistake in pronouncing the sentence of the law, which was their duty, Deu 17:9-11. But they also have erred through wine,.... Either they that sat in judgment, and turned the battle to the gate, as Jarchi interprets it: or rather, since the Lord was a spirit of judgment and strength to those, the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin in later times are meant, in the latter end of Hezekiah's reign, or in the times of Manasseh, or nearer the Babylonish captivity; these tribes, which professed the true religion, and who had the word, and worship, and ordinances of God among them, even these were guilty of the same sin of drunkenness, as the ten tribes that had apostatized; there were the drunkards of Judah, as well Ephraim, who "erred through wine"; they erred and strayed from the rule of the divine word by excessive drinking, and this led them on to other sins, as drunkenness commonly does; and they were not only through it guilty of errors in practice, but in principle also; they made sad mistakes, as in life and conversation, so in doctrine, their memories, understandings, and judgments, being sadly affected and beclouded through this sin:

and through strong drink are out the of way; of God and his word; out of the way of truth and godliness: it signifies the same as before, only expressed in different words. The Targum renders the word for "strong drink", which designs any liquor that makes men drunk, by "old wine", which is accounted the best:

the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink; committed sin, by drinking to excess, and made themselves unfit for the duties of their office, and were guilty of sad mistakes in the performance of it; the priest sinned by so doing against an express command, and made himself incapable of distinguishing between the holy and unholy, the clean and the unclean, Leviticus 10:9 though this need not be restrained to the priest only, for the word "cohen" signifies a prince as well as priest; and it is not fitting for kings to drink wine, nor princes strong drink, to excess, Proverbs 31:4 civil as well as ecclesiastical rulers may be here designed, though chiefly the latter, men that should set the best of examples to others; and the "prophet", as Kimchi observes, intends not the true, but false prophets. The Targum renders it a "scribe"; these and the priests are frequently mentioned together in the New Testament, and were both erroneous; and their errors here, both as to doctrine and practice, are imputed to their drunkenness; a very scandalous sin, especially in persons of such a character:

they are swallowed up of wine; they not only greedily swallowed it down, and were filled with it, but were swallowed up by it, drowned in it, and lost the exercise of their sense and reason, and were ruined and destroyed by it, and made wholly unfit for such sacred offices in which they were:

they are out of the way through strong drink; out of the of their duty, by sinning in this manner; and out the way of the performance of their office, being rendered incapable of it:

they err in vision: these were the prophets, the seers, who pretended to the visions of God, and related them to the people as such; but they mistook the imaginations of their crazy heads, intoxicated with liquor, for the visions of God; they erred in prophesying, which may be meant by "vision", they delivered out false prophecies, false doctrines, and grievous errors, of fatal consequence to the people; or, as Kimchi further interprets it, they erred "in seeing"; they mistook in those things which were plain and obvious to the eye of everyone, in things clear and manifest; drunkenness affects the eyes both of the body and of the mind, that a man can see clearly with neither. The Targum is,

"they turned after, or declined unto, sweet meat;''

as if they were guilty of gluttony as well as drunkenness; but it is not usual for drunkards to crave sweet meat, but rather what is relishing:

they stumble in judgment; or "reel" (r) and stagger, as drunken men do: this refers to the priest, who, through drunkenness, made sad hobbling work in expounding the law, and giving the sense of it, and in pronouncing sentence of judgment in matters of controversy brought before him, to whom those things appertained, Malachi 2:7, Deuteronomy 17:8.

(r) "titubant in judicatione", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Gataker.

But {g} they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are overwhelmed with wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.

(g) Meaning, the hypocrites who were among them, and were altogether corrupt in life and doctrine, which is here meant by drunkenness and vomiting.

7. the priest and the prophet] Better: priest and prophet. These are specially mentioned as the spiritual leaders of the people, who opposed Isaiah in the name of Jehovah, and backed up the plans of the politicians with the pretended authority of Divine revelation.

swallowed up of wine] Perhaps, “confused by wine,” see on Isaiah 3:12.

are out of the way] R.V. have gone astray—see Isaiah 19:14.

vision (a peculiar form in the Hebr.) refers to the function of the prophets; judgment (lit. “judicial matters”) to that of the priests (cf. Deuteronomy 17:8 ff; Deuteronomy 19:17; Ezekiel 44:24). It is not asserted that the prophets have no visions, but only that, through self-indulgence, they lack the capacity to discern their real significance.Verses 7-10. - JUDAH'S SINFULNESS. The reformation effected by Hezekiah was but a half-reformation. It put away idolatry, but it left untouched a variety of moral evils, as:

1. Drunkenness. Judah was no whir behind Ephraim in respect of this vice. The very priests and "prophets" gave way to the disgusting habit, and came drunk to the most solemn functions of religious teaching and hearing causes.

2. Scorn and mockery of God's true prophets. The teaching of Isaiah was made light of by the officials of the priestly and prophetic orders, who claimed to be quite as competent to instruct men in their duties as himself. They seem to have ridiculed the mode of his teaching - its catch-words, as they thought them, and its insistence on minutiae. Verse 7. - They also. Judah, no less than Ephraim (see vers. 1, 3). It has been questioned whether literal intoxication is meant, and suggested that Judah "imitated the pride and unbelief and spiritual intoxication of Ephraim" (Kay). But the numerous passages which tax both the Israelites and the Jews of the period with drunkenness (Isaiah 5:11, 22; Isaiah 22:13; Isaiah 56:12; Hosea 4:11; Hosea 7:5; Amos 6:6, etc.), are best understood literally. Orientals (e.g, the Persians) are often given to such indulgence. Have erred through wine; rather, reel with wine. Are out of the way; or, stagger. The verbs express the physical effects of intoxication. The priest and the prophet. Priests were forbidden by the Law to drink any wine or strong drink previously to their taking part in the service of the tabernacle (Leviticus 10:9), and the prohibition was always understood to apply afortiori to the temple (Ezekiel 44:21). Prophets might have been expected to act in the spirit of the command given to priests. By "prophets" here Isaiah means, not persons especially called of God, but official members of the prophetical order. Of these there were always many in Judah, who had no strong sense of religion (see Isaiah 29:10; Jeremiah 5:13, 31; Ezekiel 13:2-16; Amos 2:12; Micah 3:11; Zephaniah 3:4, etc.). They err in vision; rather, they reel in the vision. They are drunken, even in the very exercise of their prophetical office - when they see, and expound, their visions. They stumble in judgment; or, they stagger when pronouncing judgment (Delitzsch). Persons in authority had been specially warned not to drink wine before the hearing of causes (Proverbs 31:4, 5). Isaiah, like Micah, commences with the fall of the proud and intoxicated Samaria. "Woe to the proud crown of the drunken of Ephraim, and to the fading flower of its splendid ornament, which is upon the head of the luxuriant valley of those slain with wine." The allusion is to Samaria, which is called (1.) "the pride-crown of the drunken of Ephraim," i.e., the crown of which the intoxicated and blinded Ephraimites were proud (Isaiah 29:9; Isaiah 19:14), and (2.) "the fading flower" (on the expression itself, compare Isaiah 1:30; Isaiah 40:7-8) "of the ornament of his splendour," i.e., the flower now fading, which had once been the ornament with which they made a show. This flower stood "upon the head of the valley of fatnesses of those slain with wine" (cf., Isaiah 16:8), i.e., of the valley so exuberant with fruitfulness, belonging to the Ephraimites, who were thoroughly enslaved by wine. Samaria stood upon a beautiful swelling hill, which commanded the whole country round in a most regal way (Amos 4:1; Amos 6:1), in the centre of a large basin, of about two hours' journey in diameter, shut in by a gigantic circle of still loftier mountains (Amos 3:9). The situation was commanding; the hill terraced up to the very top; and the surrounding country splendid and fruitful (Ritter, Erdkunde, xvi. 660, 661). The expression used by the prophet is intentionally bombastic. He heaps genitives upon genitives, as in Isaiah 10:12; Isaiah 21:17. The words are linked together in pairs. Shemânı̄m (fatnesses) has the absolute form, although it is annexed to the following word, the logical relation overruling the syntactical usage (compare Isaiah 32:13; 1 Chronicles 9:13). The sesquipedalia verba are intended to produce the impression of excessive worldly luxuriance and pleasure, upon which the woe is pronounced. The epithet nōbhēl (fading: possibly a genitive, as in Isaiah 28:4), which is introduced here into the midst of this picture of splendour, indicates that all this splendour is not only destined to fade, but is beginning to fade already.
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