Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Chapters 28–32 (33)
This important group of discourses is the chief monument of Isaiah’s activity in the early years of Sennacherib’s reign. The negotiations with Egypt which preceded the revolt of 701 form the historical thread on which the prophecies are strung, and by the help of the prophet’s vivid allusions we can almost trace the development of the conspiracy from its first inception to the formal ratification of the treaty with Egypt (see Isaiah 28:15 [?], Isaiah 29:15, Isaiah 30:1 f., 6 f., Isaiah 31:1 ff.). The main interest of the chapters, however, lies in the light they throw upon Isaiah’s outlook on the ultimate issue of this great providential crisis. Two leading ideas cross each other throughout in a manner which causes surprise and sometimes perplexity. On the one hand there is the anticipation of a sweeping judgment on the unbelief and perversity of the nation, and this is occasionally spoken of in terms which appear to imply the capture of Jerusalem and the complete annihilation of the Hebrew state. (See on ch. Isaiah 22:1-14) On the other hand the prospect of an immediate and signal intervention of Jehovah, for the salvation of Judah and the destruction of the Assyrians, is no less clearly expressed as in Isaiah 10:5-34, Isa 17:12–14, 18). The peculiarity of the present section is that these two conceptions are presented in almost regular alternation (frequently with abrupt transition) while at the same time it appears impossible to merge them in a single harmonious picture of the future (see further General Introd., pp. 36 f. and the notes below).
That the prophecies are rightly assigned to the reign of Sennacherib would probably never have been questioned but for the opening verses (Isaiah 28:1-4), which must undoubtedly have been written before the fall of Samaria. Accordingly a few critics have held that this passage determines the date of the whole series, while a larger number detach ch. 28 from the group and assign it alone to the time before the overthrow of North Israel. It is easier, however, (in view of the numerous affinities between 28 and 29–31) to suppose that the opening oracle was for some special reason repeated by Isaiah in the time of Sennacherib, or at least incorporated in a volume of prophecies belonging to that period. The objections to throwing the whole cycle back to the earlier date appear insurmountable. Not only is the great decisive act of Jehovah anticipated within a very short space of time (Isaiah 29:1-2, Isaiah 32:10), but the whole situation presupposed is such as never emerged, so far as is known, prior to the years 704–701. What we have to do with is evidently no mere series of covert and underhand intrigues with Egypt; but a formal alliance with that empire involving an open revolt against Assyria. The nation has resolved to stake everything on a single desperate venture. Of negotiations with Egypt in the years 725–722 we have no record whatever; and if any took place they must, like those of 711, have been checked before leading to a declared rupture with the Assyrians. In these circumstances it would be extremely hazardous to abandon the assured historical ground supplied by the events of 704–701 in favour of any hypothetical rebellion at an earlier time.
The principal divisions are marked by the interjection Hôi (“woe”): Isaiah 28:1, Isaiah 29:1; Isaiah 29:15, Isaiah 30:1, Isaiah 31:1, Isaiah 33:1.
Ch. 28. Isaiah’s encounter with the dissolute nobles of Jerusalem
The chapter contains four separate discourses:
i. Isaiah 28:1-6. A denunciation of the “drunkards of Ephraim,” with an announcement of the speedy fall of their beautiful city (1–4); ending with a brief glance at the Messianic age beyond the judgment (5, 6). That the first four verses are a real prediction and were therefore uttered before 722 is hardly open to question; but it is not improbable that they were republished by Isaiah as an introduction to the volume of his prophecies (cf. Isaiah 30:8) connected with the revolt against Sennacherib.
ii. Isaiah 28:7-13. For, continues the prophet, the dissipation for which the northern capital was once notorious is now a startling symptom of the state of society in Jerusalem (7, 8). The policy of rebellion has been hatched by a clique of drunkards. What follows (9–13) evidently reproduces a remarkable dialogue between Isaiah and the leaders of the Egyptian party at one of their disgraceful orgies. The prophet has forced his way into the banquet-chamber; the unmasked debauchees turn on him with insolent raillery, and express in mocking tones their impatience of the irksome monotony of his teaching (9, 10); but Isaiah throws back their sarcasm in their teeth, telling them of a day when Jehovah will speak to them in a far more grievous language, which they cannot fail to understand (11–13).
iii. Isaiah 28:14-22. A warning against the scornful irreligious temper displayed by the politicians who built their hopes on the alliance with Egypt. With fatuous self-confidence they spoke of their cherished scheme as a covenant with Death and Hell, i.e. as one that secured perfect immunity from every conceivable kind of danger or evil (14, 15). The prophet declares that in the storm of judgment which is fast approaching, every false refuge will be swept away, and those alone will escape who put their trust in Jehovah’s immutable purpose of salvation towards Zion (16–22).
iv. Isaiah 28:23-29. A justification of God’s providential dealings with Israel, based on the analogy of the varied operations of agriculture. The wisdom of the husbandman is a reflection of the Infinite Wisdom which governs the world; consistency of aim with diversity of method is the characteristic of both. As the farmer varies his activity from season to season, and modifies his treatment in accordance with the nature of his crops, so in the Divine discipline of humanity there is the same wise adaptation of means to ends, and the same patient pursuit of a single beneficial aim through the mingled “goodness and severity” of God.
Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!1. In a single image of great beauty the prophet describes the picturesque situation of the city, the tone of its society, and its ripeness for judgment. Samaria, with its ramparts and white terraced streets crowning the summit of a low hill, which rises in the middle of a fertile valley (1 Kings 16:24), is compared to the chaplet of flowers that wreathes the flushed temples of a reveller (cf. Wisd. Song of Solomon 2:7-8). But the long carousal is nearly over, the wreath is already faded and soon (Isaiah 28:3) will be dashed to the ground. The verse should be read:
Woe to the proud crown of the drunkards of Ephraim,
And (to) the fading flower of his glorious beauty,
Which is upon the fat valley of the wine-smitten.
overcome (lit. “struck down”) with wine] (οἰνοπλῆγες) the last stage of intoxication. Hard drinking is compared to a combat between the toper and his drink, in which the latter is victorious, ch. Isaiah 16:8.
1–4. The fate of the drunkards of Ephraim. On the luxury and debauchery of Samaria, see Amos 3:12; Amos 3:15; Amos 4:1; Amos 6:1; Amos 6:6.
Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand.2. The reason for the woe of Isaiah 28:1. Render: Behold Jehovah hath a mighty and strong one, like a tempest of hail, a destroying storm; like a flow of mighty overflowing waters, which casts down to the earth with violence.
a mighty and strong one] i.e. the Assyrian, Jehovah’s instrument (ch. Isaiah 10:5).
a destroying storm] Delitzsch renders, less suitably perhaps, “a pestilential wind.” The word occurs again only in Deuteronomy 32:24; Psalm 91:6; but a closely related one in Hosea 13:14 (A.V. “destruction”). The image of the storm, here presented in three forms, recurs in Isaiah 28:15; Isaiah 28:18 f.
shall cast] Better, casts (perf. of experience, Davidson, Synt. § 40, e) The subj. is the storm of waters.
with the hand] i.e. with force.
The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under feet:3. The verb shall be trodden is in the plural number. Apparently the prophet intended to include in its subject both the images of Isaiah 28:1; but his thoughts were diverted by the other figure which is developed in Isaiah 28:4. In the Hebr. the order is: With the feet shall be trodden down the proud crown of the, &c. (as Isaiah 28:1).
And the glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley, shall be a fading flower, and as the hasty fruit before the summer; which when he that looketh upon it seeth, while it is yet in his hand he eateth it up.4. Render: And the fading flower of his glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley (Isaiah 28:1), shall be like the early fig before the fruit-harvest, &c. These “early figs,” which might be found in the end of June, several weeks before the proper fig-season (in August), were esteemed a great delicacy; Hosea 9:10; Micah 7:1; Nahum 3:12; Jeremiah 24:2.
which when he … seeth] Render: which when any one seeth (lit. “(the seer) seeth”; indef. subj., Davidson, Synt. § 108, R. 1). To see, to snatch, to swallow, is the work of a moment. So greedily and hastily and easily shall the Assyrians devour Samaria!
In that day shall the LORD of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people,5. a crown of glory] no longer a “crown of pride,” as Isaiah 28:1; Isaiah 28:3.
diadem of beauty] The word çěphîrâh (diadem) occurs again only in Ezekiel 7:7; Ezekiel 7:10 (where, however, the sense is disputed). It probably denotes a “ring or circlet.
the residue (remnant) of his people] The exact phrase is not found elsewhere.
5, 6. Jehovah Himself the true glory of His people; a Messianic pendant to the foregoing picture of Samaria’s fall. The phrase in that day points as usual to the indefinite future of the Messianic age, not to the day of the judgment on North Israel. Whether the “remnant of His people” denotes the survivors of the Northern tribes, or those of Judah, or of the whole nation, it means a converted remnant; and there is no reason to suppose that Isaiah at any time expected the conversion of Judah to follow immediately the destruction of Ephraim. He is here looking beyond the whole series of national judgments, and the insertion of the promise is evidently suggested by the contrast between the false glory that has vanished and the true glory which shall endure.
And for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate.6. Jehovah is not only the beauty of the redeemed nation, but the source of all civic and martial virtues.
a spirit of judgment] The same phrase (but with a different meaning) occurs in ch. Isaiah 4:4. “Spirit” is used here as in ch. Isaiah 11:2. to him that sitteth in judgment] (or “over the judgment[-seat]”)—the king or the judge (cf. ch. Isaiah 32:1).
for strength (or, valour) to them that … gate] Better, at the gate, not the gate of the enemy, but of the city or land (Nahum 3:13) into which the enemy have penetrated. The promise is somewhat remarkable for Isaiah (cf. Micah 5:5 ff.).
7, 8 form the literary introduction to the dramatic incident represented in Isaiah 28:9-13; they are not part of Isaiah’s spoken discourse on that occasion. The opening words But these also (R.V.) connect this section with the preceding, but the connexion is due to similarity of subject, and not to coincidence of date. There are obvious reasons why the prediction of the fall of Samaria should be republished in the time of Sennacherib. The magnates of Jerusalem were following the lead of Samaria, both in their dissolute habits and in their foolish trust in an Egyptian alliance; Samaria is a mirror in which they may read their own character and their own doom. On intemperance among the Judæan nobility see ch. Isaiah 5:11 f., 22.
But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.7. the priest and the prophet] Better: priest and prophet. These are specially mentioned as the spiritual leaders of the people, who opposed Isaiah in the name of Jehovah, and backed up the plans of the politicians with the pretended authority of Divine revelation.
swallowed up of wine] Perhaps, “confused by wine,” see on Isaiah 3:12.
are out of the way] R.V. have gone astray—see Isaiah 19:14.
vision (a peculiar form in the Hebr.) refers to the function of the prophets; judgment (lit. “judicial matters”) to that of the priests (cf. Deuteronomy 17:8 ff; Deuteronomy 19:17; Ezekiel 44:24). It is not asserted that the prophets have no visions, but only that, through self-indulgence, they lack the capacity to discern their real significance.
For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean.8. For vomit and filthiness, read filthy vomit.
Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.9. The retort of the revellers to Isaiah’s recriminations. The meaning is: “Who are we that we should thus be lectured by this man? Are we newly-weaned infants, &c.?” (cf. R.V.). Whom will he teach knowledge? expresses the injured self-consciousness of the priests; whom will he make to understand doctrine? that of the prophets. For doctrine R.V. has the message; the word commonly means “report,” but here it denotes “that which is heard” (by prophetic audition) from the Lord, as in Isaiah 28:19; ch. Isaiah 53:1; Jeremiah 49:14; Obadiah 1:1.
9–13. The occasion of this remarkable encounter was probably a feast held to celebrate the renunciation of allegiance to Assyria. Isaiah has surprised the drunkards over their cups and administered some such rebuke as we read in Isaiah 28:7-8. (On the excesses that often accompanied sacrificial meals, see 1 Samuel 1:13 f.; Amos 2:8.)
For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:10. The topers proceed to mock, in stammering drunken tones, the excited utterance and the wearisome iterations of the prophet’s teaching. Translate with R.V. (marg.) For it is precept upon precept … rule upon rule … here a little, there a little. The Hebr. is a series of monosyllables (çav lâ-çâv çav lâ-çâv qav lâ-qâv qav lâ-qâv z‘êr shâm z‘êr shâm); the sense is not quite certain, but the tones sufficiently represent at once the disgust of the speakers with the restless persistency of their monitor and their own inability to express themselves distinctly.
For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.11. Isaiah parries the gibe with a terrible threat. Jehovah is about to employ a more uncouth language, to which their mocking description will fully apply, viz., the harsh barbarous accents of the Assyrian invaders.
stammering lips] either “stammerings of lip” or “stammerers of lip” (cf. the Greek use of βάρβαρος). Comp. 1 Corinthians 14:21.
To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.12. To whom he said] Rather: He who said to them. The verse reproduces the tenor and aim of all Isaiah’s teaching (cf. Isaiah 28:16; ch. Isaiah 30:15). He had sought to point out the true way of rest for the exhausted nation by abstinence from the spirited foreign policy advocated by the anti-Assyrian faction. Two translations, however, are possible. Either: “This (Jerusalem) is the resting-place; give rest to the weary; and this is the place of refreshment”; or: This (line of action) is the (true) rest … and this is the (true) refreshment. The latter seems preferable. The word for “rest” (usually “resting-place”) is used in the same sense as here in 2 Samuel 14:17. “The weary” is the ordinary plebeian, who had everything to lose and nothing to gain, by the chances of war.
But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.13. But the word of the Lord was] Render: And (so) the word of Jehovah shall be—all that they had scoffingly said about Isaiah’s message (Isaiah 28:10), a monotonous, intolerable, yet unavoidable, succession of judgments (cf. Isaiah 28:19).
that they might … backward] that they may go and stumble backwards (cf. ch. Isaiah 6:11-12). and be broken … taken] as in ch. Isaiah 8:15.
Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem.14. ye scornful men] Better: scoffing men. The “scoffer” (lêç, a word almost confined to Pss. and Prov.) represents the last degree of ungodliness,—open contempt of religion. The phrase here is applied to worldly politicians, who form their plans in defiance of Jehovah’s revealed will (cf. Isaiah 28:22; ch. Isaiah 29:20).
that rule this people] The prophet’s antagonists are the party which has gained the upper hand in the councils of state; the king himself is tacitly acquitted of responsibility.
15 is the protasis to Isaiah 28:16 f.
Because ye have said] Isaiah no doubt clothes the thoughts of the conspirators in his own language; but the vagueness of the allusions corresponds to the air of mystery which shrouded their designs. The utmost secrecy was observed with regard to the negotiations with Egypt (ch. Isaiah 29:15, Isaiah 30:1), and it is doubtful if at this time Isaiah knew exactly what project was on foot.
with hell are we at agreement] Lit. with Sheôl we have made a vision. The simplest explanation of this and the preceding expression is that the political plot had been ratified by a compact with the dreaded powers of the underworld. That those who had renounced the guidance of Jehovah should have recourse to necromancy and other superstitions was natural (ch. Isaiah 8:19). At the same time the phrases may be proverbial, or they may merely express Isaiah’s abhorrence of the dark immorality which marked the proceedings. In any case the feeling attributed to the schemers is one of absolute security against the worst that fate could bring.
the overflowing scourge]—a mixture of metaphors, which is still further increased in Isaiah 28:18.
we have made lies our refuge] The reference might be to conscious political treachery (towards Assyria), but more probably it is to false grounds of confidence, such as false oracles (Ezekiel 13:6-8; Micah 2:11), Isaiah putting his own language into their mouth.
14–22. There is again a literary connexion with what precedes; although the passage is probably a summary of an independent discourse. The prophet’s aim is to impress on his opponents the disastrous consequences of persisting in their scoffing attitude towards himself and his message.
Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.16. There is but one true ground of confidence—Jehovah’s revealed purpose with regard to Zion.
Behold, I lay] Strictly: Behold, I am he that hath laid (for the Hebr. construction cf. ch. Isaiah 29:14, Isaiah 38:5). The figure of the verse requires little explanation; it is illustrated by the massive and “costly” stones which formed the foundations of Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 5:17). And the general idea is that Jehovah’s relation to Israel is the stable and permanent, though invisible, foundation of all God’s work in the world. Beyond this it is hardly necessary to go in seeking an answer to the question, Of what is the stone an emblem? It is not Jehovah Himself, since it is Jehovah who lays it; it is not the Temple, nor Mount Zion, nor the Davidic dynasty, for these are at most but visible symbols of a spiritual fact disclosed to the prophet’s faith. The foundation stone represents the one element in human history which is indestructible, viz., the purpose of God, and that purpose as historically realised in the relation which He has established between Himself and the people of Israel.
a sure foundation] Transl. with R.V. of sure foundation.
he that believeth shall not make haste] The LXX. reads “shall not be ashamed” (yçbôsh for yâḥîsh). Cheyne and others propose a slight emendation (yâmûsh) which gives the sense “shall not give way.” This is the second great passage in which Isaiah emphasises faith as the primary condition of salvation (ch. Isaiah 7:9).
The image of the verse recurs in Psalm 118:22; and is applied to the Messiah in Romans 9:33; Romans 10:11; 1 Peter 2:6-8 (following the LXX. text).
Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place.17. Thé first half of the verse continues Isaiah 28:16. In order to build on this foundation, it is necessary that political conduct be conformed to the eternal principles of the Divine government; these are “judgment” and “righteousness” (see on Isaiah 1:21), which are here compared to the builder’s line and plummet. Render as in R.V. I will make judgment the line and righteousness the plummet. Cf. ch. Isaiah 34:11.
and the hail …] Every course of action not based on faith in Jehovah, and not in accordance with the strict rule of the Divine righteousness will prove a false refuge in the day of judgment, see Isaiah 28:15 and cf. Isaiah 28:2. Comp. also Matthew 7:24-27. The verb “sweep away” is not found elsewhere.
And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.18. See on Isaiah 28:15. shall be disannulled] lit. “smeared over” (cf. Genesis 6:14) i.e. “cancelled,” “obliterated.” The verb is the technical word for expiate (as e.g. Isaiah 22:14), and although it is nowhere else in the O.T. used exactly as here, the sense is supported by Syriac usage, and an alteration of the text is not necessary.
From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night: and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report.19. From the time that it goeth forth] Render as R.V. As often as it passeth through (1 Samuel 18:30). it shall take you away] The judgment will be a protracted visitation (like the repeated blows of a “scourge”) and will continue till ever yone of the conspirators has been carried away.
it shall be a vexation … report] Perhaps: it shall be sheer vexation to interpret audition (the same word as Isaiah 28:9). That is, all prophetic oracles shall then be so uniformly and unambiguously terrible, that the prophet will shrink from the unwelcome task of communicating their import.
For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it.20. A proverbial expression for the intolerable situation which the politicians are preparing for themselves and their country.
For the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act.21. The “strangeness” of Jehovah’s work (Isaiah 5:12, Isaiah 10:12) consists in his fighting with the foreigners against his own people. The historical allusions are to David’s victories over the Philistines in the vicinity of Jerusalem; see 2 Samuel 5:20 f.; 1 Chronicles 14:11 f. (Baal-Perazim); 2 Samuel 5:25 (Geba); 1 Chronicles 14:16 (Gibeon, as here). The last part reads: to perform his act—strange is his act! and to work his work—barbarous is his work!
Now therefore be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong: for I have heard from the Lord GOD of hosts a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth.22. A final appeal to the “scoffers” (Isaiah 28:14), based on the irreversible decision of Jehovah.
be ye not mockers] do not play the scoffer.
lest your bands be made strong] i.e. “lest ye be firmly bound and delivered up for execution.”
a consumption, even determined] an extermination and a decisive work (as ch. Isaiah 10:23).
Give ye ear, and hear my voice; hearken, and hear my speech.23. The introduction to the parable; cf. ch. Isaiah 32:9.
23–29. A parable derived from husbandry. The motive of its insertion in this place was probably the different treatment meted out to Samaria and to Jerusalem. The precise point of the analogy is somewhat uncertain; but perhaps we may interpret the thought as follows. There are two parts. The first (Isaiah 28:24-26) appears to justify Jehovah’s procedure by the end He has in view. As the farmer does not go on ploughing for ever out of a mere blind passion for ploughing, but ploughs in order to sow; so Jehovah’s work of judgment is to issue in the preparation of a seed-plot, and in due time ploughing will give place (in the case of Judah) to sowing. The second (Isaiah 28:27-29) draws the lesson that the operation of threshing varies with the material to be operated on. The delicate fennel, e.g. would be destroyed by the rough implements used on coarser grain; and in Judah there is (what there was not in Samaria) the tender growth of the “holy seed,” the nucleus of the true Israel, for whose sake judgment must be tempered with mercy.
Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? doth he open and break the clods of his ground?24. all day] i.e. continually (R.V.), “uninterruptedly.” The emphasis of the question lies on this word.
to sow is an awkward addition and may be a gloss. If genuine the sense must be paraphrased “seeing he has the intention of sowing.”
doth he open … ground] Trans. doth he (continually) open and narrow his ground?
24–26. Ploughing is followed by sowing.
When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and the rie in their place?25. fitches (R.V. marg. black cummin [Nigella sativa]) and cummin [Cuminum sativum] are both mentioned only in this passage. Note the different methods of sowing; scatter (of the fitches), sow (of the cummin), plant (of wheat and barley). The planting of wheat, &c. in rows is a mark of the most careful husbandry, still practised in Yemen and Egypt.
the principal wheat] Rather: the wheat in rows (R.V.).
the appointed barley] a very difficult expression. Perhaps “barley in the appointed place” (R.V.). Both this adjective and that for “principal” are wanting in the LXX. and are deleted as mistakes or glosses by Cheyne and others.
the rye in their place] the spelt (others, “vetches”) as its border (see R.V.). The allusion apparently is to a custom of surrounding certain crops with a protecting border of hardier plants.
For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him.26. All this is done in obedience to an inherited, almost instinctive, wisdom, which rests ultimately on Divine inspiration. See Isaiah 28:29; and Sir 7:15 (“husbandry which the Most High hath ordained”). Verg. Georg. I. 147.
to discretion] to right, i.e. “right, or orderly, method.” The word is that usually rendered “judgment,” used here in a non-ethical application.
For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod.27. with a threshing instrument] the sledge (ḥârûç). a cart wheel] the wheel of a threshing wagon (‘ǎgâlâh).
27–29. Threshing is not bruising. Three methods of threshing are alluded to. (a) Beating with a rod or flail (cf. Jdg 6:11; Ruth 2:17). (b) Treading with the feet of cattle (Deuteronomy 25:4; Micah 4:13; but see on Isaiah 28:28). (c) Drawing a heavy wooden sledge, with sharp stones or iron spikes fixed in its under surface (ḥârûç) or a wagon (‘ǎgâlâh) with a great number of sharp-edged wheels, over the grain. The point of the illustration is that the method suitable to one kind of grain would be ruinous to another (Isaiah 28:27); and that even the rougher methods are applied with moderation (Isaiah 28:28).
Bread corn is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen.28. Transl. Is bread (corn) crushed? Nay, he does not keep threshing it perpetually, &c. If the text be right, the sentence continues “and rolling his wagon-wheels and horses over it, &c.” But the mention of “horses” as employed in agriculture is suspicious, and a better sense is gained if, with Duhm, we slightly change the text of that word and translate thus: But when he has rolled his wagon-wheel (over it), he scatters it (i.e. “tosses it up to the wind,”—the same word in Ezekiel 17:21) without having crushed it.
This also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.29. To Isaiah there is something very impressive in the peasant’s subtle yet unpretentious knowledge of his craft; he is like a part of nature, and his wisdom seems a direct emanation from the infinite Wisdom to which all things owe their being (cf. Isaiah 28:26).
which is wonderful … working] wonderful is His counsel, great His wisdom; lit. “He produces wonderful counsel, He magnifies wisdom” (cf. “Wonderful Counseller,” ch. Isaiah 9:6). The word rendered “working” is a technical term of the Wisdom Literature. It seems to denote that which is essentially rational. “It is said of a state or action when it corresponds to the idea; and conversely of thought when it corresponds to the reality” (Davidson, Job, p. 39, in this series).