Summary: We are given a picture of people who have plunged into the river of wickedness headfirst. Shame is abandoned, unless it is shame in not abandoning restraint.

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Isaiah 5:8, 11-12, 18-23 The Woeful Pronouncement

10/22/00e D. Marion Clark


“Woes and Judgments” – that is the heading in my Bible for the remaining part of chapter five. The title is not as inviting as the previous one of “The Song of the Vineyard,” but at least we know what we are getting ourselves into. I am going to handle this portion a bit differently than my normal routine. Instead of taking each verse as it comes, I’ll discuss tonight the “woe” verses and cover next week the “judgment” verses.

The Woes

We’ve got six woes corresponding to six sinful fruit that the Lord found in his vineyard. The first is the sin of coveting and oppression.

8 Woe to you who add house to house

and join field to field

till no space is left

and you live alone in the land…

There are a couple of sins here. One is the simple sin of coveting or greed. Men want more – more houses and bigger houses, more land. They cannot be satisfied with their portion. They go beyond even the desire to be well off; they want as much as they can possibly attain until nothing is left and they are left alone.

The other sin that is implicated is oppressing one’s neighbors. Understand that land was livelihood, as well as living space. This is an agricultural society. Defrauding someone of his land made him destitute. The only means left to survive is to work for the new owner, which in effect made him a slave. Micah, a contemporary of Isaiah, also denounces this activity.

Woe to those who plan iniquity,

to those who plot evil on their beds!

At morning’s light they carry it out

because it is in their power to do it.

2 They covet fields and seize them,

and houses, and take them.

They defraud a man of his home,

a fellowman of his inheritance (Micah 2:2).

This act is made all the more worse considering that the law had intended to protect God’s people from that very condition. The land of a man was to pass down through his generations. If someone, due to poverty, had to sell his land, it was the obligation of another family member to redeem the land for him. If there was no one, and the man could later repurchase it, the new owner was bound to return it. In whatever case, the land had to be returned in the year of Jubilee. The price for the land was determined by calculating the cost of the number of crops remaining until that year. Be sure that the new owners Isaiah is referring to paid a much less price and had little intention of returning anything.

The second woe addresses is debauchery – engaging in sensual extravagance.

11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning

to run after their drinks,

who stay up late at night

till they are inflamed with wine.

12 They have harps and lyres at their banquets,

tambourines and flutes and wine,

but they have no regard for the deeds of the LORD,

no respect for the work of his hands…

Here are people who burn both ends of the candle to keep up their schedule of drunken bouts. They wake early with a craving for drink and stay up light filling their insatiable thirst. This is not a description of the harden alcoholic. It is a description of the unrestrained man pursuing sensual pleasure. Pleasure of the flesh is all that drives him.

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