those who also accumulate landed property 2
until there is no land left, 3
and you are the only landowners remaining within the land. 4
those who keep drinking long after dark
until they are intoxicated with wine. 6
and wine at their parties.
So they do not recognize what the Lord is doing,
they do not perceive what he is bringing about. 8
who pull sin as with cart ropes. 10
so we can see;
then we will know it!”
who turn darkness into light and light into darkness,
who turn bitter into sweet and sweet into bitter. 15
those who think they possess understanding. 17
who display great courage when mixing strong drinks.
5:23 They pronounce the guilty innocent for a payoff,
they ignore the just cause of the innocent. 20
2 tn Heb “[who] bring a field near a field.”
sn This verse does not condemn real estate endeavors per se, but refers to the way in which the rich bureaucrats of Judah accumulated property by exploiting the poor, in violation of the covenantal principle that the land belonged to God and that every family was to have its own portion of land. See the note at 1:23.
3 tn Heb “until the end of the place”; NASB “until there is no more room.”
4 tn Heb “and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land.”
5 tn Heb “Woe [to] those who arise early in the morning, [who] chase beer.”
6 tn Heb “[who] delay until dark, [until] wine enflames them.”
sn This verse does not condemn drinking per se, but refers to the carousing lifestyle of the rich bureaucrats, made possible by wealth taken from the poor. Their carousing is not the fundamental problem, but a disgusting symptom of the real disease – their social injustice.
7 tn Two types of stringed instruments are specifically mentioned in the Hebrew text, the כִּנּוֹר (kinnor, “zither”) and נֶבֶל (nevel, “harp”).
8 tn Heb “the work of the Lord they do not look at, and the work of his hands they do not see.” God’s “work” can sometimes be his creative deeds, but in this context it is the judgment that he is planning to bring upon his people (cf. vv. 19, 26; 10:12; 28:21).
10 tc The Hebrew text reads literally, “Woe to those who pull evil with the ropes of emptiness, and, as [with] ropes of a cart, sin.” Though several textual details are unclear, the basic idea is apparent. The sinners are so attached to their sinful ways (compared here to a heavy load) that they strain to drag them along behind them. If שָׁוְא (shavÿ’, “emptiness”) is retained, it makes a further comment on their lifestyle, denouncing it as one that is devoid of what is right and destined to lead to nothing but destruction. Because “emptiness” does not form a very tight parallel with “cart” in the next line, some emend שָׁוְא to שֶׂה (she, “sheep”) and עֲגָלָה (’agalah, “cart”) to עֵגֶל (’egel, “calf”): “Those who pull evil along with a sheep halter are as good as dead who pull sin with a calf rope” (following the lead of the LXX and improving the internal parallelism of the verse). In this case, the verse pictures the sinners pulling sin along behind them as one pulls an animal with a halter. For a discussion of this view, see J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah (NICOT), 1:163, n. 1. Nevertheless, this emendation is unnecessary. The above translation emphasizes the folly of the Israelites who hold on to their sin (and its punishment) even while they hope for divine intervention.
11 tn Heb “let his work hurry, let it hasten.” The pronoun “his” refers to God, as the parallel line makes clear. The reference to his “work” alludes back to v. 12, which refers to his ‘work” of judgment. With these words the people challenged the prophet’s warning of approaching judgment. They were in essence saying that they saw no evidence that God was about to work in such a way.
13 tn Heb “draw near” (so NASB); NRSV “hasten to fulfillment.”
15 sn In this verse the prophet denounces the perversion of moral standards. Darkness and bitterness are metaphors for evil; light and sweetness symbolize uprightness.
17 tn Heb “[who] before their faces are understanding.”
sn Verses 18-21 contain three “woe-sayings” that are purely accusatory and have no formal announcement of judgment attached (as in the “woe-sayings” recorded in vv. 8-17). While this lack of symmetry is odd, it has a clear rhetorical purpose. Having established a pattern in vv. 8-17, the prophet deviates from it in vv. 18-21 to grab his audience’s attention. By placing the “woes” in rapid succession and heaping up the accusatory elements, he highlights the people’s guilt and introduces an element of tension and anticipation. One is reasonably certain that judgment will come, and when it does, it will be devastating. This anticipated devastation is described in frightening detail after the sixth and final woe (see vv. 22-30).
18 tn The language used here is quite sarcastic and paves the way for the shocking description of the enemy army in vv. 25-30. The rich leaders of Judah are nothing but “party animals” who are totally incapable of withstanding real warriors.
20 tn Heb “and the just cause of the innocent ones they turn aside from him.”
sn In vv. 22-23 the prophet returns to themes with which he opened his speech. The accusatory elements of vv. 8, 11-12, 18-23 are arranged in a chiastic manner: (A) social injustice (8), (B) carousing (11-12a), (C) spiritual insensitivity (12b) // (C') spiritual insensitivity (18-21), (B') carousing (22), (A') social injustice (23).