Woe to the majestic crown of Ephraim's drunkards, to the fading flower of his glorious splendor, set on the summit above the fertile valley, the pride of those overcome by wine.
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:
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.
Woe to the crown of pride.
(Prof. Driver, D. D.)
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)
(A. B. Davidson, LL. D.)
(Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)- Men are drunk, but not with wine; sometimes they are drunk with prosperity, with vanity, with evil thoughts, passionate desires. Men may be sober, and yet may be drunk. Men may be total abstainers from wine, and may yet go straight down to hell.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
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