Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower…
I. DENUNCIATION OF WOE. The condition of Samaria was like that of Jerusalem. And judgment must first fall upon Samaria, and then upon Jerusalem (Isaiah 8:6; cf. Micah 1:6). Drunkenness is named," not as the root of the national evil, but rather as its flower. The appalling thing is that when all is on the point of collapsing, those responsible for the state should be given up to careless self-indulgence" (Cheyne). Samaria is described as the city of the "proud crown." So in Greece Athens was called the city of the violet crown, and Thebes the "well-crowned." Some explain the crown of the towers; others think that the mere beauty of the hill on which the city stands, with its cultivated terraces, covered with corn and with fig and olive trees, has given rise to the figure. But a worm is at the root of all this beauty, and Samaria must die. Drunkenness may stand for sensuality in general, which saps the root of a nation's life. The crown, or chaplet, alludes also to the custom among Greeks, Romans, and Jews, of wearing a chaplet of flowers at feasts. In the Book of Wisdom we read -
"Let us fill ourselves with costly wine and ointments:
And let no flower of the spring pass by us:
Let us crown ourselves with rose-buds, before they be withered."
II. THE IMPENDING DESTRUCTION. Jehovah has an unflinching instrument for destruction. And, like an overwhelming tempest and flood of waters, destruction will come down on the devoted city. The bright crown shall be trampled underfoot; and Ephraim's beauty shall be swallowed up with all the haste with which one devours the special delicacy of the "early fig" (cf. Hosea 9:10; Micah 7:1; Habakkuk 3:12; Jeremiah 24:2). It ripens in June. The whole is a picture of sudden and utter destruction. (For the Assyrian king as agent in the hand of Jehovah, cf. 2 Kings 17:3-6. For the storm of hail as a symbol of desolation, cf. Job 27:21; Hosea 13:15. And for the flood as a representation of hostile devastation, cf. Psalm 95:5; Jeremiah 46:7, 8.) In the moral order, sudden destruction is always connected with great impiety. The triumphing of the wicked is short; and while they speak of peace, sudden destruction arriveth. "What Isaiah declared about the kingdom of Israel applies also to the whole world. By their ingratitude, men prevent all the goodness which the Lord has bestowed upon them from reaching maturity; for we abuse his blessings and corrupt them by our wickedness. The consequence is that hasty and short-lived fruits are produced, which cannot yield us continual nourishment" (Calvin). Luxury blinds, blindness leads to stumbling, and presently to a sudden fall.
III. FULFILMENTS OF MESSIANIC PROMISE. Here again the sky clears, and the star of hope glimmers. To the converted remnant Jehovah will be as a glittering Crown and a splendid Diadem. The royalty of the Divine King shall be more glorious than the famed beauty of Samaria, whose crown shall have been trampled in the dust, and his government a fairer chaplet to adorn the Divine seat. There will be a true beauty and glory in the Messianic times. Moreover, there will be a spirit of justice and sound intelligence diffused. The priests, the spiritual leaders, will be especially imbued with it (cf. Deuteronomy 17:8-12; Exodus 21:22; 2 Chronicles 19:5-8). But the magistracy in general will be enlightened and instructed by the Spirit of God. Further, there will be valor in the field, so that the generals and their soldiers will be able to turn back war to the gate - probably of the city whence their foes came (2 Samuel 11:23, "And we were upon them, even unto the entering of the gate"). There will, in short, in the ideal or Messianic government, be a government strong both internally and externally, wisdom and justice in home administration, strength and valor towards the foe without. These are needed for every empire and kingdom; and they come from God. "The Lord is our Defense." "Magistrates will not be able to rule and administer justice in a city, and military generals will not be able to repel enemies, unless the Lord shall direct them." To place our confidence in the world is to gather flowers, which forthwith fade and decay. We then seek to be happy without God, that is, without happiness itself. If we seek protection and good in God, then no calamities can prevent him from adorning the Church. When it shall appear that everything is on the eve of destruction, God will still be a Crown of glory to his people (Calvin). - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!