This chapter is a rebuke to Israel's leaders, accusing them of drunkenness, and of mocking the words of God's prophets. Israel is exhorted to trust in a precious cornerstone that God has laid in Zion instead of relying on a treaty with death.
This chapter accuses Israel's priests and rulers of drunken leadership, and of reliance on a political alliance that God calls a treaty with death (v15). It is likely that this chapter has had degrees of fulfilment at several points in Israel's history. In Isaiah's time, this treaty with death may have been Israel's alliance with Egypt, in the face of Assyrian aggression. Two thousand years ago, this treaty with death may have been the Jewish leaders understanding with the Romans. In John 11:47-48, the chief priests and Pharisees expressed their fears, "…What are we doing? For this man is performing many miraculous signs. If we allow him to go on in this way, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away our sanctuary and our nation.” In the end times, this prophecy will ultimately be fulfilled when Israel agrees to a seven-year covenant with the Antichrist (Daniel 9:27). Instead, in verse 16, God tells the Jews they should put their trust in the cornerstone that he has laid in Zion, a reference to Jesus (see Psalm 118:22-23 and Matthew 21:42). Jesus is their only real hope.

Verse 18 tells the Jews that their treaty with death will be dissolved, and when the scourge sweeps by, they will be beaten down by it. Likewise, Daniel 9:27 tells us that the Antichrist will break this covenant after three and a half years, invade Jerusalem, and set up the abomination that causes desolation. Israel should seek Jesus and his wisdom, rather than trust in a peace treaty with the Antichrist. In an end-time context, the scourge that is spoken of in verses 15 to 19 is presumably the advance of Antichrist's armies, that metaphorically is portrayed as an advancing flood of water. Revelation 12:15-16 uses similar language to describe Satan's attempt to destroy Israel when she escapes to a place prepared for her in the desert to sit out the 1,260 days of the Great Tribulation, "Then the serpent spouted water like a river out of his mouth after the woman in an attempt to sweep her away by a flood, but the earth came to her rescue; the ground opened up and swallowed the river that the dragon had spewed from his mouth." It is possible this is the same scourge that Isaiah speaks of, but there are some differences as in verse 17, Isaiah says the water will overwhelm their hiding place, whereas Revelation portrays Israel being saved from it.

Verses 9 to 14 describes Israel's leaders drunkenly mocking Isaiah and accusing him of speaking gibberish. As a result, God promised to speak to Israel through foreign tongues that sound like gibberish. In 1 Corinthians 14:21, the Apostle Paul saw fulfilment of this promise in the gift of tongues as given to Christians by the Holy Spirit. As such, at Pentecost, the gift of tongues was a warning sign to Israel that her treaty with the Romans was soon to be dissolved, and that a Roman scourge would soon overwhelm them. They would soon be 'injured, ensnared and captured' (v13). As verse 16 says, "“Look, I am laying a stone in Zion, an approved stone, set in place as a precious cornerstone for the foundation". This is an allusion to Psalm 118:22, which Jesus quoted (Matthew 21:42).

Joel 2:28-32 speaks of an end-time outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and although this was partially fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, we should expect an even greater outpouring before the second coming. When that happens, it is likely that the gift of tongues will once again be a warning sign to Israel. Will they trust in God's precious cornerstone this time? Zechariah 12:10 tells us, "I will pour out on the kingship of David and the population of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication so that they will look to me, the one they have pierced".
Places: Israel, Zion
Symbols: Treaty with death, Cornerstone, Flood, Scourge
Tags: Leaders of Israel, Treaty with death, Antichrist peace treaty, Holy Spirit outpouring, Gift of tongues, Overwhelming flood, Jesus as a stone
The Lord Will Judge Samaria
28 The splendid crown of Ephraim’s drunkards is doomed, the withering flower, its beautiful splendor, situated at the head of a rich valley, the crown of those overcome with wine.
2 Look, the Lord sends a strong, powerful one. With the force of a hailstorm or a destructive windstorm, with the might of a driving, torrential rainstorm, he will knock that crown to the ground with his hand.
3 The splendid crown of Ephraim’s drunkards will be trampled underfoot.
4 The withering flower, its beautiful splendor, situated at the head of a rich valley, will be like an early fig before harvest – as soon as someone notices it, he grabs it and swallows it.
5 At that time the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will become a beautiful crown and a splendid diadem for the remnant of his people.
6 He will give discernment to the one who makes judicial decisions, and strength to those who defend the city from attackers.
7 Even these men stagger because of wine, they stumble around because of beer – priests and prophets stagger because of beer, they are confused because of wine, they stumble around because of beer; they stagger while seeing prophetic visions, they totter while making legal decisions.
8 Indeed, all the tables are covered with vomit, with filth, leaving no clean place.
9 Who is the Lord trying to teach? To whom is he explaining a message? Those just weaned from milk! Those just taken from their mother’s breast!
10 Indeed, they will hear meaningless gibberish, senseless babbling, a syllable here, a syllable there.
11 For with mocking lips and a foreign tongue he will speak to these people.
12 In the past he said to them, “This is where security can be found. Provide security for the one who is exhausted! This is where rest can be found.” But they refused to listen.
13 So the Lord’s message to them will sound like meaningless gibberish,
senseless babbling, a syllable here, a syllable there. As a result, they will fall on their backsides when they try to walk, and be injured, ensnared, and captured.

The Lord Will Judge Jerusalem

14 Therefore, listen to the Lord’s message, you who mock, you rulers of these people who reside in Jerusalem!
15 For you say, “We have made a treaty with death, with Sheol we have made an agreement. When the overwhelming judgment sweeps by it will not reach us. For we have made a lie our refuge, we have hidden ourselves in a deceitful word.”
16 Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord, says: “Look, I am laying a stone in Zion, an approved stone, set in place as a precious cornerstone for the foundation. The one who maintains his faith will not panic.
17 I will make justice the measuring line, fairness the plumb line; hail will sweep away the unreliable refuge, the floodwaters will overwhelm the hiding place.
18 Your treaty with death will be dissolved; your agreement with Sheol will not last. When the overwhelming judgment sweeps by, you will be overrun by it.
19 Whenever it sweeps by, it will overtake you; indeed, every morning it will sweep by, it will come through during the day and the night.” When this announcement is understood, it will cause nothing but terror.
20 For the bed is too short to stretch out on, and the blanket is too narrow to wrap around oneself.
21 For the Lord will rise up, as he did at Mount Perazim, he will rouse himself, as he did in the Valley of Gibeon, to accomplish his work, his peculiar work, to perform his task, his strange task.
22 So now, do not mock, or your chains will become heavier! For I have heard a message about decreed destruction, from the Sovereign Lord of Heaven’s Armies, against the entire land.
23 Pay attention and listen to my message! Be attentive and listen to what I have to say!
24 Does a farmer just keep on plowing at planting time? Does he keep breaking up and harrowing his ground?
25 Once he has leveled its surface, does he not scatter the seed of the caraway plant, sow the seed of the cumin plant, and plant the wheat, barley, and grain in their designated places?
26 His God instructs him; he teaches him the principles of agriculture.
27 Certainly caraway seed is not threshed with a sledge, nor is the wheel of a cart rolled over cumin seed. Certainly caraway seed is beaten with a stick, and cumin seed with a flail.
28 Grain is crushed, though one certainly does not thresh it forever. The wheel of one’s wagon rolls over it, but his horses do not crush it.
29 This also comes from the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, who gives supernatural guidance and imparts great wisdom.