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Isaiah 28:1-13

Context
The Lord Will Judge Samaria

28:1 The splendid crown of Ephraim’s drunkards is doomed, 1 

the withering flower, its beautiful splendor, 2 

situated 3  at the head of a rich valley,

the crown of those overcome with wine. 4 

28:2 Look, the sovereign master 5  sends a strong, powerful one. 6 

With the force of a hailstorm or a destructive windstorm, 7 

with the might of a driving, torrential rainstorm, 8 

he will knock that crown 9  to the ground with his hand. 10 

28:3 The splendid crown of Ephraim’s drunkards

will be trampled underfoot.

28:4 The withering flower, its beautiful splendor,

situated at the head of a rich valley,

will be like an early fig before harvest –

as soon as someone notices it,

he grabs it and swallows it. 11 

28:5 At that time 12  the Lord who commands armies will become a beautiful crown

and a splendid diadem for the remnant of his people.

28:6 He will give discernment to the one who makes judicial decisions,

and strength to those who defend the city from attackers. 13 

28:7 Even these men 14  stagger because of wine,

they stumble around because of beer –

priests and prophets stagger because of beer,

they are confused 15  because of wine,

they stumble around because of beer;

they stagger while seeing prophetic visions, 16 

they totter while making legal decisions. 17 

28:8 Indeed, all the tables are covered with vomit;

no place is untouched. 18 

28:9 Who is the Lord 19  trying to teach?

To whom is he explaining a message? 20 

Those just weaned from milk!

Those just taken from their mother’s breast! 21 

28:10 Indeed, they will hear meaningless gibberish,

senseless babbling,

a syllable here, a syllable there. 22 

28:11 For with mocking lips and a foreign tongue

he will speak to these people. 23 

28:12 In the past he said to them, 24 

“This is where security can be found.

Provide security for the one who is exhausted!

This is where rest can be found.” 25 

But they refused to listen.

28:13 So the Lord’s word to them will sound like

meaningless gibberish,

senseless babbling,

a syllable here, a syllable there. 26 

As a result, they will fall on their backsides when they try to walk, 27 

and be injured, ensnared, and captured. 28 

1 tn Heb “Woe [to] the crown [or “wreath”] of the splendor [or “pride”] of the drunkards of Ephraim.” The “crown” is Samaria, the capital city of the northern kingdom (Ephraim). Priests and prophets are included among these drunkards in v. 7.

2 tn Heb “the beauty of his splendor.” In the translation the masculine pronoun (“his”) has been replaced by “its” because the referent (the “crown”) is the city of Samaria.

3 tn Heb “which [is].”

4 tn Heb “ones overcome with wine.” The words “the crown of” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The syntactical relationship of the final phrase to what precedes is uncertain. הֲלוּמֵי יָיִן (halume yayin, “ones overcome with wine”) seems to correspond to שִׁכֹּרֵי אֶפְרַיִם (shikkoreefrayim, “drunkards of Ephraim”) in line 1. The translation assumes that the phrase “the splendid crown” is to be understood in the final line as well.

5 tn The Hebrew term translated “sovereign master” here and in vv. 16, 22 is אֲדֹנָי (’adonay).

6 tn Heb “Look, a strong and powerful [one] belongs to the Lord.”

7 tn Heb “like a rainstorm of hail, a wind of destruction.”

8 tn Heb “like a rainstorm of mighty, overflowing waters.”

9 tn The words “that crown” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The object of the verb is unexpressed in the Hebrew text.

10 tn Or “by [his] power.”

11 tn Heb “which the one seeing sees, while still it is in his hand he swallows it.”

12 tn Or “in that day” (KJV).

13 tn Heb “and [he will become] a spirit of justice for the one who sits [i.e., presides] over judgment, // and strength [for] the ones who turn back battle at the city gate.” The Lord will provide internal stability and national security.

14 tn Heb “these.” The demonstrative pronoun anticipates “priests and prophets” two lines later.

15 tn According to HALOT 135 s.v. III בלע, the verb form is derived from בָּלַע (bala’, “confuse”), not the more common בָּלַע (“swallow”). See earlier notes at 3:12 and 9:16.

16 tn Heb “in the seeing.”

17 tn Heb “[in] giving a decision.”

18 tn Heb “vomit, without a place.” For the meaning of the phrase בְּלִי מָקוֹם (bÿli maqom, “without a place”), see HALOT 133 s.v. בְּלִי.

19 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

20 tn Heb “Who is he teaching knowledge? For whom is he explaining a message?” The translation assumes that the Lord is the subject of the verbs “teaching” and “explaining,” and that the prophet is asking the questions. See v. 12. According to some vv. 9-10 record the people’s sarcastic response to the Lord’s message through Isaiah.

21 tn Heb “from the breasts.” The words “their mother’s” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The translation assumes that this is the prophet’s answer to the questions asked in the first half of the verse. The Lord is trying to instruct people who are “infants” morally and ethically.

22 tn The meaning of this verse has been debated. The text has literally “indeed [or “for”] a little there, a little there” ( כִּי צַו לָצָו צַו לָצָו קַו לָקָו קַו, ki tsav latsav, tsav latsav, qav laqav, qav laqav). The present translation assumes that the repetitive syllables are gibberish that resembles baby talk (cf v. 9b) and mimics what the people will hear when foreign invaders conquer the land (v. 11). In this case זְעֵיר (zÿer, “a little”) refers to the short syllabic structure of the babbling (cf. CEV). Some take צַו (tsav) as a derivative of צָוָה (tsavah, “command”) and translate the first part of the statement as “command after command, command after command.” Proponents of this position (followed by many English versions) also take קַו (qav) as a noun meaning “measuring line” (see v. 17), understood here in the abstract sense of “standard” or “rule.”

23 sn This verse alludes to the coming Assyrian invasion, when the people will hear a foreign language that sounds like gibberish to them. The Lord is the subject of the verb “will speak,” as v. 12 makes clear. He once spoke in meaningful terms, but in the coming judgment he will speak to them, as it were, through the mouth of foreign oppressors. The apparent gibberish they hear will be an outward reminder that God has decreed their defeat.

24 tn Heb “who said to them.”

25 sn This message encapsulates the Lord’s invitation to his people to find security in his protection and blessing.

26 tn Heb “And the word of the Lord will be to them, ‘tsahv latsahv,’ etc.” See the note at v. 10. In this case the “Lord’s word” is not the foreigner’s strange sounding words (as in v. 10), but the Lord’s repeated appeals to them (like the one quoted in v. 12). As time goes on, the Lord’s appeals through the prophets will have no impact on the people; they will regard prophetic preaching as gibberish.

27 tn Heb “as a result they will go and stumble backward.” Perhaps an infant falling as it attempts to learn to walk is the background image here (cf. v. 9b). The Hebrew term לְמַעַן (lÿmaan) could be taken as indicating purpose (“in order that”), rather than simple result. In this case the people’s insensitivity to the message is caused by the Lord as a means of expediting their downfall.

28 sn When divine warnings and appeals become gibberish to the spiritually insensitive, they have no guidance and are doomed to destruction.



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