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Isaiah 5


Parable of the Vineyard God's Disappointing Vineyard Song of the Vineyard The Song of the Vineyard The Song of the Vineyard
(3-6) 5:3-4
5:5-6 5:5-7
(7) 5:7-10
Woes for the Wicked Impending Judgment on Excesses   The Evil That People Do Curses
  5:8-10 5:8-10
5:11-14 5:11-14
      5:15-17 5:15-17
5:18-19 5:18-19
  5:20 5:20
  5:21 5:21
  5:22-25 5:22-24
    Yahweh's Anger
        Yahweh Summons the Invaders
  5:26-29 5:26
      5:30 5:30


READING CYCLE THREE (see introduction)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. It is difficult to know the historical context of this chapter. It may apply to any part of the preaching ministry of Isaiah. Moderns do not know how the prophetic books were complied.


B. Apparently this folk ballad was sung at some gathering of the nation of Judah. Whether it was in a temple or in the marketplace is uncertain.


C. It is important to remember that privilege brings responsibility (Luke 12:48).


D. Allusions to the folk song are found in several places in the NT (cf. Matt. 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-2; Luke 20:9-19).


E. It must be remembered that Judah, during most of Isaiah's prophetic ministry, was an extremely successful and prosperous nation. This prosperity brought spiritual weakness and a dependency upon human resources instead of on God and His covenant promises and requirements.



A. The Parabolic Song, vv. 1-6


B. The Ironical Interpretation, v. 7


C. The Resultant Judgment of YHWH, vv. 8-30

1. series of woes, vv. 8-23

2. judgment, vv. 24-30

a. natural, v. 25

b. invader, vv. 26-30



1Let me sing now for my well-beloved
A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard.
My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill.
2He dug it all around, removed its stones,
And planted it with the choicest vine.
And He built a tower in the middle of it
And also hewed out a wine vat in it;
Then He expected it to produce good grapes,
But it produced only worthless ones.

5:1 "Let me sing" This introductory verb (BDB 1010, KB 1479, Qal cohortative) is also used in 26:1 and 42:10. The noun also appears in v. 1. Often songs were used to mark events (cf. Exod. 15:1; Num. 21:17; Jdgs. 5:1; I Sam. 18:6).

Here the song is used to draw the attention of the passers-by, so that they would stop and listen.

▣ "well-beloved. . .beloved" These are two different Hebrew words. The first one (BDB 391) is usually used in poetry of a family member. The second one (BDB 187) is used often in Song of Songs for the lover. Here it refers to a special friend for which the owner had special expectations. This would have resonated well with Judah's agricultural society.

▣ "vineyard" The grapevine (or vineyard) was a symbol of national Israel (i.e., Exod. 15:17; Ps. 80:8; Jer. 2:21; 12:10) as were the olive tree and the dove. Judah was seen by the prophets as the only true "people of God."

▣ "fertile hill" "Hill" is literally the word "horn" (BDB 901) used in the sense of an isolated hill positioned just right to receive the sunlight and sloped just right for the rain to drain. The perfect "hill," perfectly prepared to be planted with the "best" grapevines, for the best harvest!

The adjective "fertile" is literally "son of oil" or "son of fat" (BDB 1032), which is a metaphor for fertility and abundance (cf. 28:1,4).

5:2 There is a play on the verb (BDB 793, KB 889) in vv. 2-5, used seven times. It is translated

1. yield, v. 2 (twice)

2. do, v. 4 (twice), what God will do for His vineyard

3. yield, v. 4 (twice)

4. do, v. 5, what God will do to His rebellious, ungrateful vineyard


▣ "He dug it all around, removed its stones" This first verb (BDB 740, KB 810, Piel imperfect) is found only here in the OT. The KJV has "fenced." Although I do not believe this is an accurate translation of the Hebrew word, it does fit the context. When stones were dug out of a rocky field in Palestine, they were usually stacked into a fence. Often the vineyards were protected by a ditch (also possible meaning of first verb) with a stone hedge (LXX, Peshitta, Vulgate). It is surely possible that Isaiah is describing terracing techniques. The stones would be used to level parts of the field.

It is also possible that the stones were put in piles and used to keep the grape clusters off the ground (James Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible, pp. 360-363).

▣ "the choicest vine" This refers to the bright red grapes known as "sorek" (BDB 977 I, cf. Jer. 2:21). These grapes got their name from a valley in Palestine (cf. Jdgs. 16:4). They are mentioned in Jer. 2:21 as being the most expensive and sought after variety of grapes. This grapevine species is even mentioned in a Messianic passage (cf. Gen. 49:11).

"tower" This (BDB 153, "watchtower" built from stones dug out of the field) was for security purposes and was usually occupied only during the planting time and the harvest time in September (it would serve the same purpose as the word "booth" mentioned in 1:8). This same word can refer to a military tower (cf. Isa. 2:15). Context, context, context!

▣ "hewed out a wine vat" This would have been a shallow man-made depression in a rock surface which allowed the women to crush the grapes with their feet and then a channel in the rock to a deeper depression where the juice would be stored.

NASB"worthless one"
NJB, REB"wild grapes"
TEV, JB "every grape was sour"

The Hebrew term (BDB 93) can refer to

1. stinking or noxious weeds, singular, cf. Job 31:40

2. stinking things, worthless things, plural

The basic root refers to the stink of

1. corpses, Isa. 34:3 (cf. 5:25); Joel 2:20; Amos 4:10

2. locusts, Joel 2:20 (metaphor for dead army)

The MT in this context refers to "wild grapes," which were not sweet and plump, but small and sour, unfit to make wine.

 3"And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah,
Judge between Me and My vineyard.
4What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?
Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones?
5So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard:
I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed;
I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground.
6I will lay it waste;
It will not be pruned or hoed,
But briars and thorns will come up.
I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it."

5:3 The prophet is bringing his audience into a decision-making process. This is the point of the genre of parable. They will judge themselves!

The verb "judge" (BDB 1047, KB 1622) is a Qal imperative and is similar to Matt. 21:40.

5:4 This question is the heart of the parable song. God did everything for His people, but they rejected Him.

5:5-6 The prophet, speaking for YHWH, declares (BDB 393, KB 390, Hiphil cohortative) what He will do to His disappointing vineyard (i.e., Judah).

1. remove its hedge, consequently it will be consumed by animals

2. break down it's protective wall, consequently the vines will be trampled to the ground

3. refuse to tend it, consequently the briars and thorns will come up (cf. 7:23,25; 9:18; 27:4)

4. refuse to send rain, consequently it will dry up and die (cf. Deut. 28:23-24)


5:6 "I will lay it waste" The verb (BDB 1011, KB 1483) is a Qal imperfect. YHWH will make His vineyard a "waste" (BDB 144). The term is found only here. It can mean "end" or "destruction." The judgment of YHWH is total and final (cf. v. 30)! Thank God for chapters 7-12! There will be a new day (chapters 40-55) and a new heaven and earth (chapters 56-66).

▣ "I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it" Nature has been, and continues to be, affected by mankind's sin (cf. Gen. 3:17-19 and Rom. 8:19-26). It is used by God for blessing or judgment (i.e., Lev. 26:4; Deut. 11:14; 28:12; Amos 4:7; Zech. 14:17).

7For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel
And the men of Judah His delightful plant.
Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed;
For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.
5:7 "the house of Israel" This term normally seems to refer to all of the Jewish people collectively before the political split in 922 b.c., although in this verse the term refers to Judah. At this time in the history of the people of God, their nation was split into the northern ten tribes known as Israel, Ephraim, or Samaria and the southern three tribes known as Judah, which included Benjamin, Simeon, and most of the Levites/priests.

▣ "justice. . .bloodshed. . .righteousness. . .a cry of distress" This is a play on two different sounds in Hebrew that cannot be reproduced in an English translation: טפשמ, Mishpat (justice) vs. חפשמ, Mispach (bloodshed, BDB 705) and קדצ, Zedakah (righteousness) vs. קעצ, Zeakah (cry of distress). Another biblical reversal of expectations.

8Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field,
Until there is no more room,
So that you have to live alone in the midst of the land!
9In my ears the Lord of hosts has sworn, "Surely, many houses shall become desolate,
Even great and fine ones, without occupants.
10For ten acres of vineyard will yield only one bath of wine,
And a homer of seed will yield but an ephah of grain."
11Woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may pursue strong drink,
Who stay up late in the evening that wine may inflame them!
12Their banquets are accompanied by lyre and harp, by tambourine and flute, and by wine;
But they do not pay attention to the deeds of the Lord,
Nor do they consider the work of His hands.


TEV"You are doomed"

There is some debate among commentators as to whether there are six or seven "woes" (BDB 222) listed. This is not literally the Hebrew term "woe" (BDB 17, which denotes a lament, cf. 3:9,11; 6:5; 24:16). This translation suggestion from BDB is "ah," "alas," or "ha" (cf. 1:4; 10:1,5; 17:12; 28:1). It expresses painful dissatisfaction with the current situation or consequences.

They begin the consequences of judgment on Judah because of their straying from God's covenant. They are basically a listing of the sins of the Judean society.

"to those who add house to house and join field to field" This refers to the greedy land owners who exploited the poor by taking their ancestral lands (i.e., the land division by Joshua) to accumulate more and more land for themselves (cf. Jer. 22:13-17; Micah 2:2). The law of Moses protected the allotted lands by enacting "the Year of Jubliee" (cf. Lev. 25:8-55; Num. 36:4). All land must return to the original tribal family owners every fiftieth year. Although there is no record in the OT of Israel ever honoring this release, it was still the expressed will of God.

5:9 The opening of v. 9 is very emphatic, with no verb, literally "in my ears, the Lord of hosts." This is a clear claim of verbal divine revelation (cf. 22:14)! This is not Isaiah's message, nor Isaiah's emotion! YHWH is shouting through His prophet to His wayward people.

This judgment is similar to Amos 5:11 and Micah 6:15. The expectations of the rich and exploitive elements of society will not materialize. They will not enjoy their ill-gotten gain! We reap what we sow (see note at 3:10-11).

5:10 "for ten acres of vineyard" "Acres" is literally "a couple" or "a pair" (BDB 855, cf. I Sam. 14:14), which denoted animals yoked together for agricultural purposes. One "yoke" was the amount of land an oxen could plow in one day.

▣ "will yield only one bath of wine" The term "bath" (BDB 144 II) is a liquid measurement in Hebrew and it is equal to eight to ten gallons. In this context it is a metaphor for the fruitlessness of the usurped land.

SPECIAL TOPIC: Ancient near Eastern Weights and Volumes (Metrology)

"And a homer of seed will yield but an ephah of grain" Again this is a striking metaphor for the fruitlessness of the usurped land. We learn from Ezek. 45:11 that there were ten ephahs in one homer; therefore, this is stating that if a farmer plants one hundred pounds, he will only harvest ten.

5:11 "Woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may pursue strong drink" The next sin mentioned is one of riotous pleasure-seeking from morning to evening. It needs to be stressed that the Bible does not condemn wine, but it does condemn the abuse of wine. This same metaphor of strong drink is used in Isaiah 28. Other poignant passages on this subject are found in Pro. 20:1 and 23:29-35. However, one must add the balance of Ps. 104:1-4. "Strong drink" (BDB 1016) is a Hebrew term describing the addition of intoxicating grain liquors to wine. See Special Topic: Alcohol and Alcoholism at 1:22.

5:12 "Their banquets are accompanied by" This is a way of speaking of the cultural entertainment of the day. It depicts a wealthy class given to worldly pleasures.

▣ "But they do not pay attention to the deeds of the Lord,

Nor do they consider the work of His hands" God's covenant people's refusal to hear and understand God's will is a recurrent theme (cf. 1:2-3,10a; 5:12,13,24; 6:9-10; 30:9). God had given them spiritual ears and eyes (cf. Deut. 29:4), but their collective blindness and deafness had caused God to remove the possibility of comprehension (cf. Isa. 6:9-10; 29:9-10).

The tragedy of these verses is that the Judeans of Isaiah's day were depending on their own resources and schemes instead of the provision of their Covenant God. One should compare v. 24d,e with Deut. 8:11-20.

13Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge;
And their honorable men are famished,
And their multitude is parched with thirst.
14Therefore Sheol has enlarged its throat and opened its mouth without measure;
And Jerusalem's splendor, her multitude, her din of revelry and the jubilant within her, descend into it.
15So the common man will be humbled and the man of importance abased,
The eyes of the proud also will be abased.
16But the Lord of hosts will be exalted in judgment,
And the holy God will show Himself holy in righteousness.
17Then the lambs will graze as in their pasture,
And strangers will eat in the waste places of the wealthy.

5:13-17 Here is a list of what will happen to Judah's wealthy, exploitive citizens.

1. exiled, v. 13

2. famished, v. 13

3. parched, v. 13

4. swallowed by Sheol, v. 14

5. humbled, v. 15

6. abused, v. 15 (twice)

7. strangers eat of the fat of the wealthy, v. 17


5:13 "Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge" This is obviously a prediction of exile. There has been some speculation about whether it refers to the Assyrian exile (722 b.c.) of the northern ten tribes or the Babylonian exile of Judah (i.e., 605, 597, 586, 582 b.c.) of the southern three tribes. The immediate context seems to lend itself to either (this is so common in Isaiah, maybe purposeful). Assyria is mentioned specifically in Isa. 7:18 and 10:5ff. I think that 13:1-14:27 also refers to Assyria who destroyed the city of Babylon and Assyria's king took the title, "King of Babylon."

The mention of an exile out of the Promised Land was shocking. Canaan was promised to Abraham's seed. Now the covenant with the Patriarchs was being rescinded because of Judah's disobedience to the covenant requirements. They rejoiced in and clung to the promises, but ignored the requirements (cf. Jeremiah 7).

In a theological sense this parallels Genesis 2 (God's ideal fellowship with mankind) and Genesis 3 (Adam and Eve's open-eyed rebellion). Mankind was driven out of the Garden of Eden (cf. Gen. 3:24). This was unexpected and shocking! So too, the revelation of an exile. What was thought to be a permanent promise by God was affected by human sin. In a similar way "the New Covenant" of Jer. 31:31-34 and Ezek. 36:22-38 was a shocking revelation. The everlasting covenants were being superceded because of human inability to perform their part of the covenant. Therefore, a new relationship with God would need to be established based on

1. God's performance (new heart, new mind)

2. mankind's enabling by God's Spirit to be obedient

God still wants a righteous people to reflect His character to a lost and needy world (i.e., the nations). The means of that "righteousness" have changed. Human ability proved to be inadequate (cf. Galatians 3). The OT was a means of showing mankind's inability!

▣ "for their lack of knowledge" This is a willful rejection of knowledge, not ignorance (cf. Isa. 1:3; Hos. 4:6,14). Judah rebelled against the revealed will of God (i.e., the Mosaic Covenant). She left the clearly marked path!

5:14 "Sheol has enlarged its throat and opened its mouth without measure" "Sheol" is a Hebrew term (BDB 982) which refers to"the realm of the dead." Here it is personified as an animal with a ravenous appetite (cf. Pro. 1:12; 27:20; Hab. 2:5).

SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead?

▣ "And Jerusalem's splendor, her multitude, her din of revelry, and the jubilant within her, descent into it" This shows a total reversal of expectations!

5:15 "So the common man will be humbled, and the man of importance abased" This is referring to judgment on an entire society (cf. 2:9,12,17). There seems to be no contextual contrast between the Hebrew terms for man, which are adam (NASB, "common man") and Isshah (NASB, "man of importance").

▣ "The eyes of the proud will also be abased" This is a recurrent theme throughout Scripture and is repeated in a slightly different way in vv. 20 and 21 through the metaphors of light and darkness.

5:16 "But the Lord of hosts will be exalted in judgment" The descendants of Abraham were chosen to reveal God. They were to reveal Him in their faithfulness resulting in a stable and abundant society or they will reveal Him in their waywardness resulting in God's judgment. Believers are witnesses (cf. Matt. 5:13-16). The question is, what kind of witnesses are we?

▣ "the holy God will show Himself holy in righteousness" This is in a synonymous parallel relationship to the previous line of poetry. Hebrew poetry must be interpreted in light of its paralellism!

5:17 "Then the lambs will graze as in their pasture,

And strangers will eat in the waste places of the wealthy" There has been much discussion among commentators about the exact relationship of this verse to the preceding context. Some say

1. it refers to God's care for those remaining in the land

2. it refers to God's judgment of the wealthy landowners

3. it refers to the remaining Jewish remnant after the exile

4. it refers to Gentiles resettled in Judah's territory after the exile of her citizens

It seems to me that the immediate context of judgment must relate it to the destruction and judgment of the wealthy and the ruin of their illegally procured land. It is public land now!

18Woe to those who drag iniquity with the cords of falsehood,
And sin as if with cart ropes;
19Who say, "Let Him make speed, let Him hasten His work, that we may see it;
And let the purpose of the Holy One of Israel draw near
And come to pass, that we may know it!"
20Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
21Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
And clever in their own sight!
22Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine
And valiant men in mixing strong drink,
23Who justify the wicked for a bribe,
And take away the rights of the ones who are in the right!

5:18-23 Another strophe of "woes" on the wicked is enumerated because

1. v. 18, they lead evil around like an animal on a leash

2. v. 19, they demand YHWH to quickly fulfill His covenant promises (without regard for the covenant requirements)

3. v. 20, this may be related to v. 19. When God does not act the way they wanted, they called His acts evil, dark, and bitter

4. v. 21, they assume their own wisdom to be true and God's false (vv. 19-20)

5. v. 22, they are drunkards

6. v. 23, they use bribery to achieve their ends

These are manipulative egotists!

5:18-19 "Woe to those who drag iniquity with the cords of falsehood,

And sin as if with cart ropes" The Hebrew is uncertain. This seems to refer to a group of people whom I have designated as practical atheists. They admit God's existence theologically, but refuse to walk in this knowledge. They choose to live as if there were no God and even taunt His existence (cf. v. 19). They hold on to their sin at any cost! They are tied/bound to their self-centered lifestyles!

5:19 There are several commands in this verse.

1. let Him make speed, BDB 554, KB 553, Piel imperfect used in a jussive sense

2. let Him hasten, BDB 301, KB 300, Hiphil cohortative

3. let the purpose of the Holy One of Israel draw near, BDB 897, KB 1132, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense ("the Holy One of Israel" is a title for Deity so common in Isaiah; see note at 1:4)

4. come to pass, BDB 97, KB 112, Qal cohortative

5. that we may know it, BDB 393, KB 390, Qal cohortative

This verse may relate contextually to v. 12! They really do not want to understand God's will and purpose because they are so set on their own will and purpose. The results of the fall (Genesis 3) continue!

The NASB Study Bible makes an interesting comment about #1 and #2 above.

"The Hebrew for the words 'make speed' and 'hasten' correspond to that of the first and third elements of the name 'Maher-shalal-hash-baz' (meaning 'swift is the booty, speedy is the prey,' see 8:1,3), he may have been responding to the sarcastic taunts of their sinners" (p. 967).

5:20 "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil" Many say that this refers to the judges of Israel. Although that fits vv. 18-23, it seems to me that this is a reference to the society as a whole, not limited to a group of judges. This is a poignant example of the tragedy of what happens when our light becomes darkness (cf. Matt. 6:22-23). The fall of Genesis 3 has affected the moral compass of the creatures made in the image and likeness of the God of Justice, Righteousness, and Fairness!

5:21 "Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,

And clever in their own sight" This again refers to the sin of prideful arrogance (i.e., results of Genesis 3). Probably one of the most classical passages of this is Jer. 9:23-24. Real wisdom is in knowing and trusting God! Humans are smoke-blinded by self, sin, and their own importance (cf. Pro. 26:5,12,16; 28:11).

5:22 "Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine" Isaiah is using sarcasm because the term "heroes" normally refers to "mighty men of war," but in this context it refers to "drinking bouts" and not military exploits.

▣ "mixing strong drink" There has been some question as to what this (BDB 1016) refers.

1. mixing wine with water, 1:22, like the Greeks and Romans, but the Isaiah texts refer to bad wine, not normal drinking wine

2. old strong wine mixed with new wine

3. wine mixed with other distilled fruit or honey liquors, which made it more intoxicating (they did not have fermented drinks with high alcohol content, as are available today)

This is the noun form of the verb "to become drunk." Drunkenness is condemned often in Scripture (cf. 5:11,22; 28:7; 56:12; Pro. 20:1; 23:29-35; Micah 2:11). It is even used as a metaphor for the judgment of YHWH (cf. Ps. 75:8). See Special Topic at 1:22.

5:23 "Who justify the wicked for a bribe" This is the place in the strophe where commentators discuss the absence of a seventh woe. The interpretive question is whether there are seven woes (the perfect number) or six woes (the number of human imperfection).

Bribery was regularly condemned in Isa. 1:23; 10:1-2 (cf. Exod. 23:8; Deut. 10:17; 16:19; Pro. 17:23; Micah 3:11; 7:3).

24Therefore, as a tongue of fire consumes stubble
And dry grass collapses into the flame,
So their root will become like rot and their blossom blow away as dust;
For they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts,
And despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.
25On this account the anger of the Lord has burned against His people,
And He has stretched out His hand against them and struck them down.
And the mountains quaked, and their corpses lay like refuse in the middle of the streets.
For all this His anger is not spent,
But His hand is still stretched out.

5:24 Fire is a metaphor for judgment and cleansing (i.e., chaff and stubble burn quickly and completely, cf. 33:11; 47:14; Joel 2:5; Matt. 4:1). See SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRE at 1:31.

▣ "So their root will become like rot and their blossom blow away as dust" This is a Hebrew metaphor for total destruction.

▣ "For they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts,

And despised the word of the Holy One of Israel" This is the reason for judgment. It was the willful, purposeful rejection of the Judean people of their covenant God (esp. v. 19). Notice the two titles for Deity. See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at 1:1.

5:25 "On this account the anger of the Lord has burned against His people" Judgment will begin with the household of God. God's anger is as biblical a theme as is His love! The anger is even accentuated in the presence of great light (cf. Luke 12:48).

▣ "And the mountains quaked" Many have assumed that this refers to the violent earthquake recorded in the days of Uzziah (cf. Amos 1:1; Zech. 14:5). However, it may well be hyperbole of a Theophany. Nature quakes at the coming of her Creator. This imagery is common in the OT (i.e., 64:3; Exod. 19:18; Jer. 4:24; Joel 2:10; Nah. 1:5).

▣ "their corpses lay like refuse in the middle of the streets" OT people were shocked by unburied bodies, rotting, exposed, or eaten by animals (i.e., Ezek. 39:4,17-20; Nahum 3:3). A proper burial affected one's joy in the afterlife. It was a curse and horror to be unburied (cf. I Sam. 31:8-13).


26He will also lift up a standard to the distant nation,
And will whistle for it from the ends of the earth;
And behold, it will come with speed swiftly.
27No one in it is weary or stumbles,
None slumbers or sleeps;
Nor is the belt at its waist undone,
Nor its sandal strap broken.
28Its arrows are sharp and all its bows are bent;
The hoofs of its horses seem like flint and its chariot wheels like a whirlwind.
29Its roaring is like a lioness, and it roars like young lions;
It growls as it seizes the prey
And carries it off with no one to deliver it.
30And it will growl over it in that day like the roaring of the sea.
If one looks to the land, behold, there is darkness and distress;
Even the light is darkened by its clouds.

5:26 "He will also lift up a standard to the distant nations" A "standard" (BDB 651) was a way for armies to communicate (cf. 11:12; 18:3; 30:17; 31:9; 49:22). It can be positive (restoration) or negative (invasion) depending on the context. In this context it signals the invaders to come!

This is an extremely significant passage for the following reasons: (1) notice that God is in control of history, all history, as well as nature; (2) notice that God lifts up a standard to the Gentile nations. Many have seen this verse as an allusion to Deut. 28:49-57.

Within the book of Isaiah it seems to be a reference to the inclusion of the Gentiles (cf. Isa. 1:2-4; 11:9,10,11; 27:13; 49:22; 56:7; 62:10; 66:19)!

The term "nations" in the Masoretic text is plural, goyim. Most modern translations change it to singular, however, the plural possibly refers to an invading mercenary army made up of many nations. Assyria and Babylon conscripted the soldiers of defeated armies into their ranks.

▣ "will whistle for it" This is a metaphor for YHWH calling Gentile nations into conflict with His own sinful people (cf. 7:18).

The same root (BDB 1056) also means "kiss" as a sign of disgust, amazement, or derision.

▣ "from the ends of the earth" This is a hyperbolic phrase. It denotes a nation out of the local sphere of regular trade and politic. It reflects the covenant curse of Deut. 28:49.

5:27-30 This strophe describes the invincible invading army. The shock of this description is that it follows the very terms used to describe faithful Israel in Isa. 40:29-31. God is against His own covenant people! He will fight on behalf of the invading pagan enemy (cf. Habakkuk 1-2).

5:28 "like a whirlwind" The term (BDB 693) describes a destructive storm.

1. literally, Isa. 17:13; 21:1; Job 21:18; 37:9; Ps. 83:15

2. metaphor, Isa. 29:6; Jer. 4:12-13

a. of YHWH's chariot, Isa. 66:15; Jer. 4:13

b. the invaders YHWH sends, Isa. 5:28


5:29 "no one to deliver it" This participle (BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil participle ) means "to snatch away" or "deliver" (cf. 42:22; 43:13; 47:14; Hos. 5:14; Micah 5:8). YHWH's actions are sure. No one or no thing can thwart His will (i.e., judgment or salvation).

5:30b,c The land of the light of YHWH has become the land of darkness and gloom. The pagan army revels over its divinely appointed victory! What a reversal of expectations!!!


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1.  Why did Isaiah choose this method (folk song) of presenting truth?

2.  What is the difference between active, temporal judgment and passive temporal judgment? (cf. Romans 1:24, 28)

3. What is the central truth of this parable song? How does it apply to our day?

4.  List the sins alluded to in vv. 8-23.

5.  What nation do vv. 26ff refer to and why?


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