Isaiah Chapter 5: Israel’s Sins, Gog and Magog prophecied

Nov 14th, 2009 | By | Category: Isaiah, Psalm 83 and Gog & Magog, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Isaiah Chapter 5: Israel’s Sins, Gog and Magog prophecied

Isa. 5:1 Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:

Isa. 5:2 And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.

Verse 1 sounds like the Song of Solomon. Israel was God’s “vineyard”; therefore, He did the fencing, planting, etc., and “built a tower [singular] in the midst of it.” The watch “tower” was Jerusalem, the capital. From Jerusalem, justice was to be dispensed and safeguarded. Grapes were crushed in the winepress to make juice or wine. “Grapes” represent the people, who were either good or bad depending on the fruitage they developed within themselves. “Wild grapes” would be the development of evil fruit. The people were favored by a hedged-in (“fenced”) condition, as was Job prior to his testings at the hand of Satan.

If the people had really loved God, they would have brought the best of their crops and animals when they went to Jerusalem on the required feast days. If the offerings had been made with the right heart attitude, the savor would have been very sweet to the Lord, and the gatherings would have been a source of joy.

“Wild grapes” signify characters that were untutored, unruly, untrained, undisciplined, and nonsubmissive; such individuals did their own thing in their own way. Instead of bringing  forth proper fruitage from a humble, disciplined heart, they brought forth unacceptable fruitage. In nature, a vine that is neglected, and thus is not pruned or trimmed for several years, produces stunted, bitter, hard, and immature grapes; such grapes are “wild” from the standpoint of being untended. “Wild grape” persons do not allow themselves to be “tended” by the Lord.

Q: What did the winepress represent?

A: The word “sacrifice” implies the giving of something costly to the Lord, something out of one’s substance. A sacrifice costs effort, time, money, etc., because of a desire to love and serve the Lord. The people went to Jerusalem on the appointed feast days with their sacrifices. The pouring out of the heart at the winepress took place there and at the Temple, where God’s presence was in a particular sense. The Lord built the winepress for the purpose of producing good wine and good grapes.

Isa. 5:3 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.

The inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem and of the tribe of Judah were being addressed. Judah occupied a very large portion of Israel—almost half of the land. Jerusalem was not in Judah, however, but was wedged in between Benjamin and Judah. Jerusalem was geographically closer to Benjamin, but it was technically accredited to Judah. In other words, Jerusalem was a neutral territory.

“Judge … betwixt me [God] and my vineyard.” God was talking to the people and saying, “Judge between me and what I have done for the nation. Consider for a moment and judge what I have done for you as a nation, as a vineyard.” In everyday life, people sometimes forget what God has done not only for them but also for others. Sometimes people get a strange feeling that they are not loved and considered, especially when they are older. They are so lonely that they do not judge properly. Depending on the circumstances, sometimes we should have a good “forgetter,” and at other times, we should have a good “remembrancer.”

Isa. 5:4 What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?

We are reminded of the words of a hymn: “What more can He say than to you He hath said? You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled.” Verse 4 expresses the same sentiments but with regard to natural Israel.

Isa. 5:5 And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:

The “wall” was literal; that is, it was the manmade barrier of defense around the city. An enemy had difficulty breaching a wall that was in good repair. The “wall” also suggests natural protection such as elevation or sharp cliffs on three sides.

A “hedge” is a line of demarcation or a barrier, but not necessarily for defense. For example, a thick hedge around one’s property marks boundaries and indicates the property as being offlimits.

Spiritually, the “hedge” was the Law, which said, “If you do so-and-so, I will do such and such. If you fail to do so-and-so, I will fail to do such and such.” God’s blessings and curses were mentioned in the Law, being contingent upon the people’s compliance. The “hedge” can also be thought of as God’s providence or favor, as in the Book of Job. Satan said that God had put a “hedge” around Job, so no wonder he was obeying God. Israel’s “hedge” meant that if they obeyed the Law, they would be favored with natural blessings of crops, health, etc.

Notice the order: the hedge preceded the wall. Therefore, the hedge (God’s providence and favor) was more important than the natural wall. The wall could be weak, but if God’s favor was about the Israelites, He would produce a miracle to deliver them. If the hedge, the favored circle of God’s providence, was impaired, then Israel’s enemies could breach the wall.

Isa. 5:6 And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

Isa. 5:7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.

The parable was answered in verse 7 by saying that the vineyard belonged to God and that His vineyard was the house of Israel. The men of Judah were His “pleasant plant” in that they, in a special sense, should have been more exemplary than the nation at large. With real estate, some people have a very choice location. Having property or a house in the city of Jerusalem was a choice location, a most pleasant situation, but it brought certain responsibility. Citizens of Jerusalem should have felt more patriotic than those elsewhere in the nation because they were in a favored position to hear the king’s and the priests’ judgments and pronouncements daily.

Because of this favored position, they should have been the most ideal citizens.

With the parable being based on a vineyard, the “hedge” can be considered from another standpoint. It is proper for a vineyard to have an enclosure, a line of demarcation, which is usually quite thickly foliated to keep out intruders and to provide shade and moisture. Verse 6 mentions that the vineyard would not be pruned or “digged” (hoed). Hoeing breaks up the hard earth so that rain can penetrate to a greater depth. (If the ground is too hard, most of the water runs off.) Hoeing also aerates the soil. In addition, pruning results in a better crop. A

horticulturist knows just where to prune or trim so that the sap will not be adversely affected and better fruit will be produced. In this case, God was superintending the pruning. Therefore, “pruning” pictures ordered trials and discipline, and “hoeing” stirs up an individual in one way or another. For example, someone might speak—uttering strong words if necessary—to awaken him out of lethargy or hardness of heart. “Hoeing” can also be considered counseling.

Q: Could verses 6 and 7 be related to the period of time after 606 BC when the land was laid waste and there was no pruning or digging?

A: Yes, from a negative standpoint, but we have been trying to consider the pruning and the hoeing in a positive sense.

When God was superintending the nation of Israel and putting His kings on the throne and having His prophets give messages, the pruning and hoeing would have been a wonderful blessing if the people had been right-hearted. Israel would have been a beautiful hedge, a fruitful vineyard, and a very pleasant plant indeed. However, the people’s hard hearts caused the situation to be otherwise. Therefore, God had someone else “take away the hedge thereof,” “break down the wall thereof,” and tread down the vineyard (verse 5).

God “looked for judgment” but beheld oppression; He “looked … for righteousness” but beheld “a cry [for justice].” Unfair judgments were rendered by the corrupt judicial system, causing the people to audibly weep for their hard lot or experience. Judgment should be impartial and not based on emotion, and it should not favor the face of the poor. In other words, if the poor person has committed the wrong, the judgment should not be rendered against a rich person just because he is rich. The individual merits of a case should be judged.

Isa. 5:8 Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!

Woe to large landowners! To accumulate a large centralized plot of land required much thought and planning. The implication is that one had to lie awake at night and plot how to get the land. Bribery, foreclosure of mortgages, intrigue, and actual theft were all involved. Pressure was used to get “house to house” and “field to field.”

Isa. 5:9 In mine ears said the LORD of hosts, Of a truth many houses shall be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitant.

Isa. 5:10 Yea, ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, and the seed of an homer shall yield an ephah.

Seed is supposed to produce a hundredfold. However, according to this prophecy, the people would go out with a container that held seed and distribute the seed on the land, but they would come back with a smaller container of the actual crop. An ephah is smaller than a homer.

Ezekiel 45:11 gives the principle: “The ephah and the bath shall be of one measure, that the bath may contain the tenth part of an homer, and the ephah the tenth part of an homer: the measure thereof shall be after the homer.” In other words, a homer of seed was ten times as much as an ephah, but one who went out with a homer of seed came back with a little crop that was only one tenth the size of the homer. That was a powerful illustration. The “bath” is liquid measure, and the “ephah” is dry measure, but they were both the same. For example, we have a quart of milk and a quart of raspberries.

If grapes in a vineyard were crushed into liquid form in a vat, it would take ten acres of land to produce one ephah or one bath of the finished product, whereas it should have been the other way around. In other words, one acre of land should have produced ten baths.

Before the Lord gave the seven times’ punishment, He gave other punishments and hardships, one being that the land would not yield. The failure of the people to heed these multiple warnings finally resulted in a complete laying waste of the land. “And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins” (Lev. 26:18).

Isa. 5:11 Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!

Isa. 5:12 And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the LORD, neither consider the operation of his hands.

Woe unto those who got up early in the morning to have a drink! Instead of having coffee at midmorning, they consumed more liquor. By nightfall, such a quantity had been consumed that their senses were dulled. In this state, they could not think about the Lord. In fact, wine, music, fancy homes (verse 9), and large property holdings all beclouded the mind. The people were living off the fat of the land. Jesus said of the poor in spirit, “They that [know they] are sick [need a physician]”; that is, the wealthy usually do not feel the need for redemption (Matt. 9:12). Thus there is a certain blessing in not having too much of this world’s goods. Instead of observing the feasts the Lord decreed, the rich back in Isaiah’s day had their own “feasts” (big parties), pridefully trying to outdo each other.

Isa. 5:13 Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.

This hint was directed to Judah. The ten-tribe kingdom would go into captivity for their disobedience, but God was saying in effect, “Take a hint, Judah, so that the same thing will not happen to you.” However, the inhabitants of Judah were unaware not only of the providences in their own lives but also of the providences with respect to the ten-tribe kingdom. “Their honourable men” were the aged, who longed for food, and the poor multitude were thirsty. Those in power ignored the plight of the people. The wealthy had wells on their own property.

Isa. 5:14 Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.

What sarcasm! The rich and the poor die alike—they go into the same hole in the ground— despite the fact that the rich build elaborate homes, have large property holdings, hold large feasts, etc. Sheol had to yawn a little wider to swallow them all in their fullness of wealth and pleasures. This was a reference to the coming captivity of Judah and the despoiling of the land.

Isa. 5:15 And the mean man shall be brought down, and the mighty man shall be humbled, and the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled:

The condition would be reversed. All would be humbled in the coming leveling process. The rich were not noble but “mean” and ignoble.

Isa. 5:16 But the LORD of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness.

God would bring the judgments as prophesied if they continued to disobey.

Isa. 5:17 Then shall the lambs feed after their manner, and the waste places of the fat ones shall strangers eat.

The RSV reads: “Then shall the lambs graze as in their pasture, fatlings and kids shall feed among the ruins.” The contrast is between people and animals. All of the people in the ten tribes  were taken into captivity, but not all of the animals. The domestic animals that were left behind grazed at large like wild animals. Hence all the great land acquisitions reverted back to natural growth. The lavish buildings were meaningless after the people were taken captive.

Isa. 5:18 Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope:

Isa. 5:19 That say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it!

“Vanity” is “falsehood” (RSV). “Let him make haste” (RSV). The people were hypocritically saying, “Let the Lord’s day come speedily. We would like to see it. Let God’s will be done.”

Isa. 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Conditions back there were like today. Good is called evil, and evil is called good. Villains are made into heroes. Error is put forth as truth.

Isa. 5:21 Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!

Isa. 5:22 Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink:

Isa. 5:23 Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!

Woe to those who think they are heroes for consuming large quantities of liquor! “Woe unto them” is used four times in verses 18 and 20-22. These verses may have been sung as a funeral dirge.

Isa. 5:24 Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

Verse 24 sounds like Malachi 4:1, “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” God was especially displeased with Israel because those who had previously been His covenant people had cast away His Law.

Isa. 5:25 Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them: and the hills did tremble, and their carcases were torn in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

The captivity of the ten tribes was future from Isaiah’s day. Isaiah 1:1 lists the successive kings of Judah during Isaiah’s ministry; Isaiah 6:1 shows that the time setting here is the days of King Uzziah. (The prophet Isaiah sometimes spoke of future events as if they were past.)

Verse 25 is talking about a severe earthquake in the days of King Uzziah that left corpses in the street and caused the hills to tremble. This same literal earthquake is referred to in Zechariah 14:4,5, “And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.” The earthquake was so severe that the people fled for refuge, and probably they attributed the earthquake to God’s displeasure with Uzziah.

Uzziah was high-minded. When he presumed to enter the Holy of the Temple to offer incense, he was struck with leprosy as a punishment. In fact, he was a leper until the day he died. The people had remonstrated with him not to go into the Holy, but he went in anyway. When he came out, the people saw that he had leprosy, and henceforth he had to live in a separate house, even though he was king.

This gives a little background about conditions when Isaiah began his ministry. Not only was Uzziah on the throne, but wickedness was rampant among the people. Some details of Uzziah’s reign are given in 2 Kings 15:1-4.

“In the twenty and seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel began Azariah [Uzziah] son of Amaziah king of Judah to reign. Sixteen years old was he when he began to reign, and he reigned two and fifty years in Jerusalem…. And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done; Save that the high places were not removed: the people sacrificed and burnt incense still on the high places.” Notice that in spite of the leprous incident transgression, Uzziah was called a good king when the Lord summed up his life, but why? Because the punishment was adequate for the sin, God did not lay upon him an extra burden. His father Amaziah had been a good king too, as was Uzziah’s son, Jotham. “In the second year of Pekah the son of Remaliah king of Israel began Jotham the son of Uzziah king of Judah to reign. Five and twenty years old was he when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem…. And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD: he did according to all that his father Uzziah had done. Howbeit the high places were not removed: the people sacrificed and burned incense still in the high places. He built the higher gate of the house of the LORD” (2 Kings 15:32-35).

Therefore, even though Amaziah, Uzziah, and Jotham did not remove the high places, all three received favorable reports. We would think, “Isn’t it terrible that the king permitted heathen worship?” It is true that these kings could have been more obedient, but their responsibility was not as bad as it seems. After all, the high places were in the countryside, in the suburbs, and on the private property of individuals. The point is that these kings kept the Temple worship pure, and that was their primary responsibility.

This thinking gives us an insight into how God judges. Consider some of the reformers. Certain things in their lives and doctrines may have been improper and erroneous, but the Lord considered the time and the circumstances under which they lived. Because their hearts were right, they received good judgments. In regard to Uzziah, it was the people who were doing the evil sacrificing, and he did not interfere with their individual liberty. He did not try to become a righteous dictator. (Of course some other kings did, and that was to their credit.) Verse 25 was a warning to the people. If they had repented, the judgment would have been rolled back. At this time, the wickedness was not so fixed that the Lord could not rescind the judgment. (Ahab and other wicked kings came on the scene later.)

Isa. 5:26 And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly:

Verses 26-30 suggest a coming judgment. When this judgment would occur is not stated.

Neither is it stated whether this judgment would be against the two tribes, the ten tribes, or the entire nation. The outcome also is not given. The description is of Jacob’s Trouble, as clues in the verse indicate. Clue No. 1: God “will lift up an ensign to the nations from far.” Clue No. 2: God “will hiss [whistle—RSV] unto them [the nations] from the end of the earth.” In other words, the Lord will loudly whistle, or signal an alarm, to get the attention of nations at a great distance from Israel. When He beckons to them, they will come “with speed swiftly.” How dramatic!

Isa. 5:27 None shall be weary nor stumble among them; none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken:

“Neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken.” If an army is taken by surprise, their loins are loosed and their shoes are untied. But this army will be prepared to come as soon as the alarm goes off. This army will be on alert. When the Lord whistles, they will come immediately.

Isa. 5:28 Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent, their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind:

This charging army will be an awesome, terrifying force. Their arrows will be sharp and all their big bows bent, ready to send forth arrows, as the horses charge with great speed. The sharp arrows will pierce right through shields and armor. “Their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind.” Imagine this army coming with speed on a paved road! The horses’ hooves will beat on the pavement and not stumble. The very noise will cause terror. To Israel, this situation will seem hopeless.

Isa. 5:29 Their roaring shall be like a lion, they shall roar like young lions: yea, they shall roar, and lay hold of the prey, and shall carry it away safe, and none shall deliver it.

As the enemy roars, Israel will be frozen with terror, powerless to deliver itself. This verse indicates that the enemy is succeeding and there is no hope for Israel. In Scripture, a lion is noted for the strength of its jaw and its roar. When a lion captures a prey, its powerful jaws scrunch the animal, bones and all, in the eating process. Here the lion has the victim in its jaws and is carrying it away. The sound of the flint on the pavement and the roar of the lion both cause terror to the beholding victim.

“They [Gog] … shall carry it [Jerusalem] away safe, and none shall [be able to] deliver it.” The city shall be captured, and half of the inhabitants taken out of the city into exile. “The city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city” (Zech. 14:2). In other words, there will be a little time period in which the enemy, Gog, will seem to be completely victorious. Understanding this time period of defeat for Israel will be difficult for many, even in the Bible Student movement, who are not expecting it. “Then [that is, after this short time period of defeat] shall the LORD go forth, and fight [for His people] against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle” (Zech. 14:3).

NOTE: See the 2005 addendum at the end of the Zechariah study.

Isa. 5:30 And in that day they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea: and if one look unto the land, behold darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof.

In Jacob’s Trouble, the enemy will come in like a cloud. “And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes” (Ezek. 38:16). “Behold darkness [like the cloud] and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof.” It will seem as if God has turned His back on Israel. Many in Israel today are being encouraged by Protestant Christians that the Lord will save them when Russia comes down, but when Gog enters the land and is apparently successful, salvation will seem to be a lie. Jacob will be delivered out of Jacob’s Trouble, but not without many casualties.

God will not make a full end of Israel, but there will be a considerable disruption. The survivors will be handpicked; only those who are written in the book of the living will be spared for the establishment of the Kingdom (Isa. 4:3; Dan. 12:1). The remainder, the vast majority, will come forth in the general resurrection.

It will seem as if the forces of Gog are doing whatever they please and getting away with it. The purpose is to show the Holy Remnant, when they are delivered, that it is GOD who brought the deliverance.

God will put hooks in the nose of Gog and pull the forces down to attack Israel. “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords” (Ezek. 38:3,4). The forces of Gog will be going in an opposite direction when something will providentially happen to make them change their mind. “Thus saith the Lord GOD; It shall also come to pass, that at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought: And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates, To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land” (Ezek. 38:10-12). In their sudden change of thought, Gog will want to make an end of Jerusalem. The whistle and the hook will accomplish the same purpose as Zephaniah 3:8, “Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the LORD, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations [to Jerusalem], that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.” “For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken” (Zech. 14:2). God will set the stage. He is determined that this age will have a dramatic conclusion. The time will come when His wrath will rise up in His face. “And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, that my fury shall come up in my face” (Ezek. 38:18). In other words, God intends to demonstrate His fury. The results of that fury will be very dramatic so that people will realize His hand is in this matter.

Yet one more last wave of anguish must come upon this chastened people Israel: Jacob’s Trouble. Israel will seem to be the only nation prospering just before this trouble comes. The KJV margin for the end of verse 30 reads: “When it is light, it shall be dark in the destructions thereof.” Israel will have more prosperity just prior to Jacob’s Trouble; the people will feel secure, having unwalled cities and much cattle and goods. This prosperity will make Israel appear as a prize booty for the forces of Gog.


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