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TitleIsaiah 28
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsParry, Donald W.
EditorHalverson, Taylor
Book TitleOld Testament Minute: Isaiah
PublisherBook of Mormon Central
CitySpringville, UT

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Isaiah 28

Isaiah 28:1–8 Isaiah Prophesies of the Destruction of Ephraim

Isaiah prophesies of the destruction of the Northern Kingdom, also called “Ephraim,” so named because it was headed by the tribe of Ephraim (compare 8:6–8).

Isaiah 28:1

drunkards of Ephraim/wine/strong drink. Isaiah refers to both the literal drunkenness and the spiritual drunkenness (apostasy and sin; see verse 7) of the inhabitants of the Northern Kingdom. Ephraim. The “crown of pride” was Samaria, Ephraim’s capital. fading flower. Samaria (meaning its inhabitants), once a beautiful flower, now fades away because of its sins.

Isaiah 28:2

mighty and strong. This refers to Assyria, who would later destroy the Northern Kingdom as easily as a “hailstorm,” a “destroying tempest,” or a “storm of mighty overflowing waters” demolishes whatever is in its path. Assyria will cast Ephraim “down to the earth” and “trample” it under foot (verse 2).

Isaiah 28:4

he swallows it. Assyria will destroy Ephraim as easily as an individual picks a ripe fig from the tree and swallows it.

Isaiah 28:5

In that day. Verses 5–6 constitute parenthetical words that prophesy that God’s covenant people will one day consider the Lord to be a “crown of beauty” and a “beautiful diadem.”

Isaiah 28:7

priest and prophet reel with strong drink. Isaiah continues the theme of drunkenness. In verse 7 he describes drunk persons, who “reel” (three times), “stagger” (twice), and “stumble” because of wine and strong drink. But this is not ordinary drunkenness—the corrupt priest and prophet “reel in their visions” and “stumble in their decisions.”

Isaiah 28:8

Filth. The Hebrew word tzo’ah literally refers to excrement or dung. Thus the prophet’s prophecy is quite graphic and personal. The false prophets and priests should have been providing their people with spiritual food, but instead the tables are covered with vomit and filth, which perhaps symbolizes the prophets’ and priests’ gross sins and iniquities.

Isaiah 28:9–13 Individuals Learn Doctrine Line upon Line

After speaking against the apostasy of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, including its false prophets and priests, Isaiah continues his message to Ephraim, instructing them how individuals gain knowledge, line upon line and precept upon precept. The Restoration scriptures supports the idea that Isaiah (or, the Lord Himself!) is the speaker (see 2 Nephi 28:30; Doctrine and Covenants 98:12; 128:21). In 2 Nephi 28:30, the Lord Himself speaks, citing a portion of Isaiah 28:10, 13: “For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom.” In fact, 2 Nephi 28:30 seems to summarize the meaning of Isaiah 28:9–13. But note that some scholars have a different viewpoint regarding Isaiah 28:9–13—some argue that the drunkards are uttering the words in verses 9–13.

Isaiah 28:9

Isaiah instructs through the use of questioning, posing two questions at the opening of this section. weaned from milk. The apostle Paul built on the theme of babes in the gospel who are “unskillful in the word of righteousness” versus the concept that “strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age” (Hebrews 5:13–14; see also Doctrine and Covenants 19:21–22).

Isaiah 28:10

precept upon precept, line upon line. “Precept” can also be translated “command” (from the Hebrew tzwh), hence reading “command upon command, command upon command.” Two passages from the Restoration scriptures cite portions of Isaiah: “For he [God] will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith” (Doctrine and Covenants 98:12). Also, various angels revealed to Joseph Smith and the Church “their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little; giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope!” (Doctrine and Covenants 128:21).

Isaiah 28:11

stammering lips and with another tongue. Inasmuch as the inhabitants of the Northern Kingdom did not hearken unto God’s word, they will hear the tongue of their enemies, including the Assyrians, when they conquer the Northern Kingdom. Paul refers to this verse in 1 Corinthians 14:20–22.

Isaiah 28:12

This is the rest: give rest to the weary. God had taught His people that His rest and place of rest was found in following His commandments, but they were not willing to hear and obey.

Isaiah 28:13

they stumbled backward, and were broken and snared and captured. Isaiah continues to speak against the inhabitants of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, which were snared like animals and captured by the Assyrians.

Isaiah 28:14–22 The Overflowing Scourge

After prophesying against the Kingdom of Israel, Isaiah now directs his speech to Jerusalem’s wicked rulers, whom he calls “men of scorning” (28:14).

Isaiah 28:14

hear the word of the Lord. Jehovah is the source of Isaiah’s words.

Isaiah 28:15

We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol. Judah’s leaders had made a “covenant with death” and an agreement with Sheol (Sheol refers to the spirit world), which refers (a) to Ahaz’s covenant with Assyria to protect him from Israel and Aram (see Isaiah 7–8; 2 Kings 16); or, (b) to Judah’s covenant with Egypt to battle against Assyria and its forces (see 30:1; 31:1). This was contrary to the Lord’s counsel because Judah did not rely on the Lord’s power to save them. Hence, Judah’s “covenant with death” meant that they were signing their own death warrant. Therefore, the Lord decreed an “overflowing scourge.” overflowing scourge (see also verse 18). Assyria’s army was so brutal and destructive that it was like an “overflowing scourge” (see also 10:5, where Assyria is called a “rod” and a “staff”). It is possible that the “overflowing scourge” referred to all of the armies that battled against Judah, one after another, including the Assyrians, Babylonians, Romans, and many more. The Lord uses the term “overflowing scourge” in a prophecy concerning those who do not receive the gospel in the last days: “And there shall be men standing in that generation, that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:31; see also Doctrine and Covenants 84:96–97). it will not come to us. The rulers of Judah believed that the scourge would not come to them. we have made a lie our place of refuge. Judah’s rulers had deceived themselves, believing that Egypt could save them from Assyria’s armies.

Isaiah 28:16

I am laying a stone in Zion. Jesus Christ is the “stone,” the “precious cornerstone,” and the “sure foundation,” in accordance with the testimonies of both Peter and Paul (see 1 Peter 2:6–8; Romans 9:33; 10:11).

Isaiah 28:17

measuring line . . . plumb line. These tools, which belong to stone workers as they cut and fit stones into a building, are linked to verse 16, which refers to a “stone,” a “cornerstone,” and a “foundation.” The measuring line determines horizontal exactness and the plumb line specifies vertical exactness, making a precise square to which the building can be strong and true. The Lord likens these tools to “judgment” and “righteousness,” by which He measures and evaluates people.

Isaiah 28:20

bed is too short/blanket too narrow. Just as a small bed is inadequate for a tall person, and as a small blanket insufficiently warms an adult, the protection that the wicked seek is unsatisfactory.

Isaiah 28:21

Mount Perazim/valley of Gibeon. Isaiah recalls two historical events—the Lord will rise up and accomplish His judgments against the wicked, just as He did anciently at Mount Perazim against the Philistines (2 Samuel 5:17–20) and in the valley of Gibeon against the Amorites (Joshua 10:6–14). His strange work/strange act. The Lord’s “strange act,” identified in the Doctrine and Covenants (see Doctrine and Covenants 95:4; 101:95), is the establishment of Zion and His millennial kingdom; it is “strange” because it is alien to the people of the world. The laying of the “precious cornerstone” in Zion (see Isaiah 28:16) is the beginning of the building of Zion.

Isaiah 28:22

do not scoff, lest your bonds be made strong. Isaiah warns the people of Judah to refrain from scoffing or mocking the prophecies, lest they be bound by sin or imprisoned in the spirit world (see 24:18). decree of destruction. The Lord has told Isaiah that there will be a “decree of destruction” on the entire earth.

Isaiah 28:23–29 Parable of the Farmer

Isaiah’s Parable of the Farmer demonstrates how God uses an established plan as He works with His covenant people, the house of Israel. The farmer prepares the soil, plows (28:24–25), plants a variety of seeds (for example, dill, cumin, wheat, barley, and spelt; 28:25), harvests his crops, and then threshes the grain (28:27–28)—all according to a plan and established methods. In a similar manner, the Lord (the Perfect Farmer) prepares, plants, gathers, and threshes His people according to His perfect wisdom and divine plan. We recall that in Isaiah 21:10, the children of Israel are designated, “O my threshed! O child of my threshing floor!”

Isaiah 28:23

Give ear . . . hearken. Isaiah opens the parable with a beautiful synonymous parallelism.

Isaiah 28:25

dill/cumin/wheat/barley/spelt. Once the soil is prepared, the seeds must be sown, each in its proper place. Some seeds can be cast randomly; others have to be carefully planted in rows. As the farmer plants seeds in different conditions, so the Lord plants different individuals and groups in different mortal conditions.

Isaiah 28:26

He teaches him judgment. God “teaches” the farmer, to the end that he will have a high-yielding crop.

Isaiah 28:27

For dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge. A heavy threshing instrument, used to separate grain from other crops, cannot be used on dill or cumin because these seeds are tiny and delicate, and a threshing instrument would destroy them. Similarly, God knows perfectly how to handle individuals and people so that they are not destroyed or crushed.

Isaiah 28:29

He provides wonderful counsel; He magnifies wisdom. God provides counsel and wisdom to the farmer, and also to His people.


Scripture Reference

Isaiah 28:1