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Isaiah 5:8-17

Context
Disaster is Coming

5:8 Those who accumulate houses are as good as dead, 1 

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 

5:9 The Lord who commands armies told me this: 5 

“Many houses will certainly become desolate,

large, impressive houses will have no one living in them. 6 

5:10 Indeed, a large vineyard 7  will produce just a few gallons, 8 

and enough seed to yield several bushels 9  will produce less than a bushel.” 10 

5:11 Those who get up early to drink beer are as good as dead, 11 

those who keep drinking long after dark

until they are intoxicated with wine. 12 

5:12 They have stringed instruments, 13  tambourines, flutes,

and wine at their parties.

So they do not recognize what the Lord is doing,

they do not perceive what he is bringing about. 14 

5:13 Therefore my 15  people will be deported 16 

because of their lack of understanding.

Their 17  leaders will have nothing to eat, 18 

their 19  masses will have nothing to drink. 20 

5:14 So Death 21  will open up its throat,

and open wide its mouth; 22 

Zion’s dignitaries and masses will descend into it,

including those who revel and celebrate within her. 23 

5:15 Men will be humiliated,

they will be brought low;

the proud will be brought low. 24 

5:16 The Lord who commands armies will be exalted 25  when he punishes, 26 

the sovereign God’s authority will be recognized when he judges. 27 

5:17 Lambs 28  will graze as if in their pastures,

amid the ruins the rich sojourners will graze. 29 

1 tn Heb “Woe [to] those who make a house touch a house.” The exclamation הוֹי (hoy, “woe, ah”) was used in funeral laments (see 1 Kgs 13:30; Jer 22:18; 34:5) and carries the connotation of death.

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 “in my ears, the Lord who commands armies [traditionally, the Lord of hosts].”

6 tn Heb “great and good [houses], without a resident.”

7 tn Heb “a ten-yoke vineyard.” The Hebrew term צֶמֶד (tsemed, “yoke”) is here a unit of square measure. Apparently a ten-yoke vineyard covered the same amount of land it would take ten teams of oxen to plow in a certain period of time. The exact size is unknown.

8 tn Heb “one bath.” A bath was a liquid measure. Estimates of its modern equivalent range from approximately six to twelve gallons.

9 tn Heb “a homer.” A homer was a dry measure, the exact size of which is debated. Cf. NCV “ten bushels”; CEV “five bushels.”

10 tn Heb “an ephah.” An ephah was a dry measure; there were ten ephahs in a homer. So this verse envisions major crop failure, where only one-tenth of the anticipated harvest is realized.

11 tn Heb “Woe [to] those who arise early in the morning, [who] chase beer.”

12 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.

13 tn Two types of stringed instruments are specifically mentioned in the Hebrew text, the כִּנּוֹר (kinnor, “zither”) and נֶבֶל (nevel, “harp”).

14 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).

15 sn It is not certain if the prophet or the Lord is speaking at this point.

16 tn The suffixed (perfect) form of the verb is used; in this way the coming event is described for rhetorical effect as occurring or as already completed.

17 tn The third masculine singular suffix refers back to “my people.”

18 tn Heb “Their glory will be men of hunger.” כָּבוֹד (kavod, “glory”) is in opposition to הָמוֹן (hamon, “masses”) and refers here to the rich and prominent members of the nation. Some prefer to repoint מְתֵי (mÿtey, “men of”) as מִתֵי (mitey, “dead ones of”).

19 tn The third masculine singular suffix refers back to “my people.”

20 tn Heb “and their masses will be parched [by] thirst.”

21 tn Heb “Sheol” (so ASV, NASB, NRSV); the underworld, the land of the dead, according to the OT world view. Cf. NAB “the nether world”; TEV, CEV “the world of the dead”; NLT “the grave.”

22 tn Heb “so Sheol will make wide its throat, and open its mouth without limit.”

sn Death is portrayed in both the OT (Prov 1:12; Hab 2:5) and Canaanite myth as voraciously swallowing up its prey. In the myths Death is portrayed as having “a lip to the earth, a lip to the heavens … and a tongue to the stars.” (G. R. Driver, Canaanite Myths and Legends, 69, text 5 ii 2-3.) Death describes his own appetite as follows: “But my appetite is the appetite of lions in the waste…If it is in very truth my desire to consume ‘clay’ [a reference to his human victims], then in truth by the handfuls I must eat it, whether my seven portions [indicating fullness and completeness] are already in the bowl or whether Nahar [the god of the river responsible for ferrying victims from the land of the living to the land of the dead] has to mix the cup.” (Driver, 68-69, text 5 i 14-22).

23 tn Heb “and her splendor and her masses will go down, and her tumult and the one who exults in her.” The antecedent of the four feminine singular pronominal suffixes used in v. 14b is unclear. The likely referent is personified Zion/Jerusalem (see 3:25-26; 4:4-5).

24 tn Heb “men are brought down, men are brought low, the eyes of pride are brought low.”

25 tn Or “elevated”; TEV “the Lord Almighty shows his greatness.”

26 tn Heb “by judgment/justice.” When God justly punishes the evildoers denounced in the preceding verses, he will be recognized as a mighty warrior.

27 tn Heb “The holy God will be set apart by fairness.” In this context God’s holiness is his sovereign royal authority, which implies a commitment to justice (see the note on the phrase “the sovereign king of Israel” in 1:4). When God judges evildoers as they deserve, his sovereignty will be acknowledged.

sn The appearance of מִשְׁפָט (mishpat, “justice”) and צְדָקָה (tsÿdaqah, “fairness”) here is rhetorically significant, when one recalls v. 7. There God denounces his people for failing to produce a society where “justice” and “fairness” are valued and maintained. God will judge his people for their failure, taking “justice” and “fairness” into his own hands.

28 tn Or “young rams”; NIV, NCV “sheep”; NLT “flocks.”

29 tc The Hebrew text reads literally, “and ruins, fatlings, resident aliens, will eat.” This part of the verse has occasioned various suggestions of emendation. The parallelism is tighter if the second line refers to animals grazing. The translation, “amid the ruins the fatlings and young sheep graze,” assumes an emendation of “resident aliens” (גָּרִים, garim) to “young goats/sheep” (גְּדַיִם, gÿdayim) – confusion of dalet and resh is quite common – and understands “fatlings” and “young sheep” taken as a compound subject or as in apposition as the subject of the verb. However, no emendations are necessary if the above translation is correct. The meaning of מֵחִים (mekhim) has a significant impact on one’s textual decision and translation. The noun can refer to a sacrificial (“fat”) animal as it does in its only other occurrence (Ps 66:15). However, it could signify the rich of the earth (“the fat ones of the earth”; Ps 22:29 [MT 30]) using a different word for “fatness” (דָּשֶׁן, dashen). If so, it serves a figurative reference to the rich. Consequently, the above translation coheres with the first half of the verse. Just as the sheep are out of place grazing in these places (“as in their pasture”), the sojourners would not have expected to have the chance to eat in these locations. Both animals and itinerant foreigners would eat in places not normal for them.

sn The image completes the picture begun in v. 14 and adds to the irony. When judgment comes, Sheol will eat up the sinners who frequent the feasts; then the banqueting halls will lie in ruins and only sheep will eat there.



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