Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower…
Words are scarcely possible with which to express greater sorrow and calamity falling on those who are overcome with wine. God is said to be against them. Their beauty and pride shall fade away. They shall err in judgment; shall have dim vision of truth and duty; shall lose all susceptibility of moral and religious impressions; shall speak with stammering tongue; shall be ensnared with all evil. Their condition shall be heart sickening and hopeless.
I. A TERRIBLE CONTRAST. Ephraim in this passage stands for the kingdom of the ten tribes: the drunkards of Ephraim for its dissipated and dissolute people; the crown of Samaria for its capital city; though there is possibly reference here to the magnificent hill on which the city stood. Its site was a "chosen one," than which, according to Rawlinson, none could be found, in all Palestine of greater "combined strength, fertility, and beauty," having in these respects largely the "advantage over Jerusalem." It was, however, full of drunkards. Intemperance was not only the prevailing iniquity of the place, but a form of sin and shame which was the fruitful source of innumerable afflictions and calamities. The figure is of a people "smitten, beaten, knocked down" with wine, as with a hammer; laid prostrate and helpless on the ground in utter bewilderment, and unconscious as to what would happen to them, their homes, or their nation. This was the doom represented as a Divine judgment upon them; but really the natural and inevitable result of their being overcome with wine. Let all men be warned, especially the young. The loss of everything desirable goes with the loss of control over appetite. But the contrast is as terrible in communities, cities, and nations where drunkenness prevails! In the place of industry, indolence obtains; in the place of intelligence, ignorance abounds; in the place of thrift and comfort, poverty and wretchedness exist; in the place of honour and virtue, dishonour and vice run riot; until life becomes scarcely endurable for one who would keep his "crown of pride" and preserve the "glorious beauty" of true manhood.
II. THE TERRIBLE POWER OF APPETITE. It is absolutely destructive of the whole man! It is a giant bringing his captive into complete subjection. All goes wrong with a man when he is under the influence of strong drink! He cannot walk as a man; cannot work as a man; cannot talk as a man; cannot think as a man; nor is he capable of accurate judgment in matters of small or large concern. He tramples under his feet the most sacred associations and obligations of life; he loses his love as a husband, father, son; he breaks hearts that cling to him more fondly than to aught else in all the world; he finally becomes so bound as to render it practically impossible for him to cast off his chains! All this comes not only to such as may be termed the ignorant and naturally vicious, but to the learned and naturally virtuous. Men of culture and refinement, of education and position, of inheritances and attainments, of rank and station, give way to the same indulgences and fall into the same deeps! Fathers send the consuming currents through the veins of their sons. Mothers give birth to children whose feverish bodies flame with hidden fires.
III. THE DUTY OF EARNEST OPPOSITION AND FEARLESS WARFARE AGAINST INTEMPERANCE. We read here of a "residue of the people," to whom the Lord of hosts would be for a "crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty," for a "spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate." The literal meaning of this is that after the pride of the apostate tribes had fallen, they who remained true to God and to themselves should glory and delight in Jehovah as their chief privilege and honour. This was the prophecy, and it was blessedly fulfilled. When Israel was finally ruined, Judah rose to power under Hezekiah. He resisted all enticements, and in every way sought the reformation of his people. Many were held back from being overcome with wine. These were "the residue of the people," and for their sake God endued the magistrates and counsellors with the spirit of discernment and equity; also gave courage to the captains who led forth their troops from the gate of Jerusalem and forced the war even to the gates of their enemies. The lesson here is one of united and fearless opposition to intemperance, and to whatever exposes the people to its ravages. While all practicable efforts should be made to reform those who are addicted to their cups, special care should be taken of children and youth that they may be kept from forming the drink habit.
1. The home should present no temptation on this line.
2. Each Sunday school should be a temperance society, organised and equipped for work.
3. The physical effects of intemperance should be taught in all our public schools.
4. Pastors, too, have a duty on this line.
(Justin E. Twitchell)
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!