Read Isaiah 5:21. This is the fifth woe. The key phrases are “in their own eyes” and “in their own sight.” Notice that it doesn’t say “woe to those who are wise and those who are clever.” Their sin is in their self deceit and lack of humility. I believe that the couplet shows two aspects of their self deception.
They think they are “wise” ‘” implies a spiritual deception; that they know what is best, what is right and wrong, based on their own beliefs and moral standards. This reminds me of New Agers, Eastern mystics, cult leaders, etc. I think God is speaking of the leaders in these groups; the majority of their followers are deceived, not necessarily arrogant with it.
They think they are “clever” ‘” implies a mental deception; that they are smart, cunning, know how the world works, sharper than other people. This reminds me of the intellectual atheist, the scientific agnostic, those who are too clever to fall for the “crutch” of organized religion.
These kind of people do not go to God for their answers, they go to themselves. I think part of their judgment will be the obvious one: they will see themselves are they really are. And it won’t be pretty!
Read Isaiah 5:22-23. This is the sixth and final woe. It appears at first to be a repeat of the second woe, against drunkenness and carousing. This group of people, however, appear to drink wine or strong spirits (mixing drinks), then go about their day and go into court to judge cases, with their thoughts and judgment clouded with alcohol. On top of that they are dishonest in their dealings, taking bribes to acquit the guilty, but not bringing justice to the innocent.
Notice how Isaiah mocks them: “heroes” at drinking wine; “champions” at mixing drinks. The reality is, of course, that they don’t demonstrate any heroic or praise-worthy characteristics in court, where it really matters.
Their judgment, I believe, is to face a Judge whose mind is not clouded by alcohol or bribes and who will give them the honest verdict their actions have earned.
The remaining seven verses of this chapter describe a general judgment against all of the wickedness described in the previous six woes.
Read Isaih 5:24. Here we have another farming analogy, this one of destruction. The first part of the verse describes how Judah is going to be destroyed, the second part describes why.
“as tongues of fire lick up straw” — “as dry grass sinks down in the flames”
This describes an external (outside) form of destruction, sent by God. If you are straw or draw grass there is nothing you can do to withstand the flames. You are doomed. Farmers will sometimes burn off the stubble of a field to prepare it for a new crop. You have to get rid of this old, unfruitful crop before you can start over.
“roots will decay”
This describes an internal corruption, a destruction set into motion by the plant’s own weakened or diseased state. Judah’s own moral corruption is going to be partly responsible for her downfall. I think this can be directly related to the second woe, where we discussed how the rich men’s own drunkenness could help facilitate an invasion. Generally speaking, any nation which doesn’t take care of her own citizens is doomed to eventually fail.
“their flowers blow away”
Judah is going to lose all their external trappings of glory and wealth. As the root rots, the stalk of the plant weakens and the flowers die. The root of any society are the leaders and those in power. They are the ones that support the rest, and once they go bad, everything else does, too.
The second half of this verse describes why Judah is going to be destroyed/judged. She doesn’t obey God’s word and law. God is only keeping His promise. Read Deuteronomy 8:19-20.
Read Isaiah 5:25. This verse does not show a remote, passionless God ïƒ He is enraged! We have a picture of Him raising His hand, then striking downward, as if He is wielding a whip, then raising His hand to strike again. That one strike wasn’t enough to defuse His anger against the entire nation.
My commentary was undecided about what exactly “the mountains shake, and the dead bodies are like refuse in the streets” means. Obviously a lot of people are going to die, but how?
As modern day readers “mountains shake” makes us think of an earthquake, which is actually a fair possibility. Amos speaks of an earthquake during Uzziah’s time, before Isaiah’s prophecy here. Read Amos 1:1.
So, God could begin His judgment with an earthquake. Another possibility, however, is that “mountains shake” is referring to the disturbing or upsetting of “men of rank” or “stature.” That something so incredible, so horrific is going to happen that these men are going to be shaken. This would fit, as well, since the remaining verses of this chapter describe a future invasion by Assyria, which would certainly shake every one, regardless of stature!
In either case, many people are going to die and it is not going to be a one time or brief occurrence. “His hand is still upraised.”
Read Isaiah 5:26-30. This is a description of an Assyrian invasion. Before we look into the history of Assyria, what can we learn about Assyria (and God) from these verses?
It is God that is going to call Assyria to come, using a “banner” (a military image; also called a standard or ensign. The nations will fight under his “banner”) and because he “whistles” (a bee-keeping image; one translation is “hisses”. This was used by the keeper to draw the bees out of the hives.) Read Isaiah 7:18
Assyria will respond quickly to God’s call, nor will there be any dawdling on the journey or any one left behind. The army will be efficient and professional.
The army will consist of bowman, cavalry, and chariots. Their horses will be strong and well cared for. (shoeing wasn’t known, so it was important that their hooves were “like flint.”)
They will “roar” or go into combat with loud calls and yells.
They will carry off people (slaves) as plunder.
H.D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell (editors). The Pulpit Commentary Volume 10: Isaiah