(When I taught my two year long Bible study on Isaiah, I used The Pulpit Commentary Volume 10: Isaiah edited by H.D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell to give me a starting point and rough outline of the material covered in the chapters. In this article, when you read the phrase “my commentary”, I am referring to this volume.)
We now begin the study of the “Woes and Judgments.”
Read Isaiah 5:8. This is the first woe. Isaiah is speaking against the accumulating land and building large estates for yourself, without thought of what is best for the community. “till no space is left” for one’s neighbors. This was actually against God’s law ‘” the land was to stay in the hands of the tribes and families so that all Israelites had land to live on and no one was left wanting.
The original distribution of the land is described in Numbers 33:53-54.
An example of the “proper” way to purchase property is described in Ruth 4:1-10. This kept the land in the family. I think you would have to have a very good handle on genealogy!
The great landlords Isaiah is describing like to live alone, isolated from their neighbors; they don’t care about anyone except their immediate family.
What will be their judgments in this case? Read Isaiah 5:9-10. The mansions will become deserted because neither their large fields or vineyards will produce enough grain or wine for them to live on.
Read Isaiah 5:11-12. This is the second woe. Isaiah is speaking against two sins here, drunkenness and carousing. These people would get up early in the morning to start the party, carouse and feast all day long, finally passing out at night from drink. Notice that drinking wine is not the sin ‘” drinking too much wine is the sin.
All the instruments listed here were traditionally used to worship God. Read Pslam 81:1-2. Here the instruments are used to inflame men’s passions at these feasts. The people are too caught up in sensuality to care about God or what He has done (or will do).
What will be their judgments in this case? Read Isaiah 5:13-14.
— Judah is going into exile/captivity (there is going to be an invasion)
— There will be starvation and drought
— A large number of people are going to die
I think we can see why part of this is going to happen from a purely practical view from verse 13 “for lack of understanding.”
Who is responsible to provide protection for a country by seeing the borders patrolled and guarded? The rich (or men of rank); poor people are too busy just trying to survive.
What happens if the borders aren’t patrolled and guarded? A country becomes weakened and vulnerable to invasion.
Who can afford to have these feasts and get drunk regularly? The rich (or men of rank)
Do drunk men care about their responsibilities? No, they have no understanding, all they care about is their next drink or next party.
So the drunk rich people, in a sense, bring their own destruction upon themselves. If they had been sober and watching their borders and been aware of the political situation, perhaps they could have prepared the country to better fight the invasion.
This reminds me of the story of the writing on the wall in Daniel. Read Daniel 5:1-6, 25-31. You get the feeling that Belshazzar was so busy partying that he didn’t make provisions to protect himself and his kingdom; God just stepped in and used that as the catalyst for his judgment against Belshazzar for misusing the Jewish temple’s sacred vessels.
H.D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell (editors). The Pulpit Commentary Volume 10: Isaiah