Isa 28:6-10

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The Old Testament > Isaiah > Chapter 28

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Lexical notes[edit]

Verse 7[edit]

  • Out of the way through strong drink. Compare this drunken stupor of the priest and the prophet to the slothfulness of the servants and sleeping of the watchman in D&C 101:47-54.

Verses 9-10: Prophet speaking or quoting opposition?[edit]

In ancient Hebrew script there are no quotation or question marks leaving it uncertain whether Isaiah (or whoever the author-prophet is) is still speaking here. Several translations render verses 9-10 in quotation marks, suggesting use of a rhetorical device used frequently in Isaiah where the opposition is first quoted then followed by a threatening response from Isaiah (cf. 5:19, 10:8-10, 14:13-14, 29:15b). The NASB rendering of verses 9-11 is:

   9 "To whom would He teach knowledge,
        And to whom would He interpret the message?
        Those just weaned from milk?
        Those just taken from the breast? 
   10 "For He says,
        'Order on order, order on order,
        Line on line, line on line,
        A little here, a little there.'" 
   11 Indeed (very well then), He will speak to this people
        Through stammering lips and a foreign tongue,

Verse 9[edit]

  • Whom shall he teach knowledge. This seems to mark the beginning of a teach-hear-understand motif that continues to develop in later verses of this chapter (cf. verses 11-14, 19, 26).
  • Weaned from the milk. Heb 5:12-14 discusses milk versus meat in terms of understanding the gospel which may be a reference to this verse. In Hebrews, the writer contrasts milk with "strong meat [which] belongeth to them that are of full age." The contrast seems more consistent with the NASB where the immaturity (relative to an adult) of the child just weaned seems to be emphasized, as opposed to the KJV where it could be the maturity (relative to an infant) of the child that is being emphasized. Ps 101 also seems to contrast a weaned child to someone older implying the same kind of emphasis.
  • Question or statement? The phrase "them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts" is punctuated with a period in the KJV, but a question mark in most other translations (NASB, RSV, ESV, ASV, NKJV, and HCSB). If the prophet of God is speaking in verse 9, then it probably makes more sense to use a period (or exclamation mark like the NET), emphasizing the maturity of those who are weaned from the milk. On the other hand, if the drunkards or prophets of Ephraim are speaking in verse 9, then it probably makes more sense to punctuate the phrase with an question mark interpreting the people of Ephraim as asking a sarcastic question that is emphasizing the immaturity of those just weaned from the breast.

Verse 10: Line and precept[edit]

  • Precept. The Hebrew word rendered “precept” is tsaw, which appears to be a shortened form of mitswah meaning “commandment.” The word seems to mean “command, ordinance,” as in its only other occurrence in the Old Testament, Hosea 5:11: “because he willingly walked after the commandment [tsah].” (There are, however, other Hebrew words translated precept in the KJV.) This meaning is not certain, however, and could be be a nonsensical word (see "repitition and rhyme" discussion below).
  • Line. The word rendered “line” is qaw and means a measuring line, such as a surveyor would use, not to a line of scriptural text. (The Hebrew sense is somewhat captured by Sidney Rigdon’s comment on this Isaiah passage in his article “Millennium,” The Evening and the Morning Star (July 1834): 170 where he quotes verse 17: “Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet. . . .”) Some have understood tsaw as meaning “carpenter’s rule,” to go along with qaw “measuring line”, thus referring to measuring out judgment.
  • Other scriptures. The phrase "line upon line, precept upon precept", which is a reversed order rendering of what occurs here in Isaiah, also occurs in 2 Ne 28:30, D&C 98:12 and D&C 128:12. Interestingly, the word "counsel" is used in parallel with "precept" in 2 Ne 28:30.

Verse 10: Repitition and rhyme[edit]

  • Sarcastic tone. One transliteration of this verse is tsaw latsaw tsaw latsaw qaw laqaw qaw laqaw zeer sham zeer sham. Given the rhyming, repetitive, monosyllabic words, most scholars take this expression to have a sarcastic tone (cf. "mockers" in verse 22). As noted above, tsaw is an unusual (possibly nonsensical) shortened form of the word mistswah and seems to contribute to the sarcasm of the phrase, possibly implying a rejection of what Ephraim leaders regard as the simplistic solutions offered by the prophet which insult their educated intelligence. Others doubt that the words are meant to be sensical, taking them as sarcastic nonsense syllables, something like “blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda”. Since the tone of the same phrase being used in LDS scripture (viz. 2 Ne 28:30, D&C 98:12, and D&C 128:12) does not seem to be ironic, the Hebrew rendering of these LDS scriptures might more appropriately use mistswah instead of tsaw for the word precept and be teaching a true (lost) principle of the prophets which Ephraim is mocking here.
  • Ecstatic speech. Some scholars have suggested that Ephraim is mocking ecstatic speech, either by Isaiah or by some other (possibly false) temple prophets. In some Qumranic and early Christina circles, this text did seem to be referring to glossalalia (speaking in tongues). (For more on this, see the Anchor Bible reference below.)
  • Gibberish of drunkards. The Anchor Bible Commentary (see reference below) notes, "Some scholars note the drunkenness of the rulers of Ephraim described earlier in the chapter and take verse 10 as a drunken man’s muttering. This seems to be the approach of the NEB, which paraphrases: “It is all harsh cries and raucous shouts, ‘A little more here, a little there!’” It seems incongruous, however, to compare drunkards to weaned children (or the gibberish spoken by them) to clearly enunciated letters of the Hebrew alphabet."
  • The letters tsade (t) and qof (q). These are the first letters of the Hebrew words for precept (tsav) and line (qav). They are also consecutive letters in the Hebrew alphabet and, as used in this verse, suggest school type learning—learning by rote (see Gileadi reference below) and/or the learning method of small children (the repitition and rhyme in the verse is reminiscent of a nursery rhyme). Also, these letters are the first letters of the words for vomit (qe') and filthiness (tsow'ah) as used in verse 8—if the prophets of Ephraim are talking in v. 10, their words have an ironic similarity to verse 8. Less directly related to the text, a few scholars have suggested tsade and qof represent a presumably true teaching about commandments (tsivvah) and hope (qivvah).


Verses 10 and 13[edit]

How one understands verses 10 and 13 depends on whether verse 10 is read as Isaiah (or the author-prophet) speaking or Ephraim speaking (see lexical notes above).

Isaiah speaking in v. 10[edit]

Most LDS commentators (see references below) read verse 10 as Isaiah speaking (as shown in the KJV). According to this view, the emphasis in the last phrase in verse 9 is on the maturity of those "that are weaned . . . and drawn from the breasts." Verse 10 tells us the manner the Lord teaches, and verse 13, in that view, speaks of those who do not head the word that they have received. To them, the knowledge they have received, rather than leading them to more knowledge, is a snare. They fall backward losing that which they have and are taken. (See Ludlow below.)

Opposition speaking in v. 10[edit]

Although there are several variations of this view (see lexical notes above), the general idea is that verse 10 is an Ephraimite (a drunkard or corrupt spiritual leader) asking the author-prophet who should "understand doctrine." The question is posed in a sarcastic tone (or possibly a drunken slur of a true teaching; see variations on this point in the lexical notes above) mocking the prophet or God; the author-prophet responds using their own words against them in verse 13.

Related links[edit]

Verse 10[edit]

  • Anchor Bible Commentary: Much of the material on this page is based on Joseph Blenkinsopp’s commentary in the Anchor Bible Commentary (ISBN 0385497164, 1:389), mostly as quoted in Kevin Barney's blog thread mentioned below.

LDS commentary: Isaiah speaking[edit]

  • Gileadi. In The Book of Isaiah: A New Translation with Interpretive Keys From the Book of Mormon (ISBN 087590763, 1988), pp. 80-81, Avraham Gileadi claims the Hebrew rendering of this verse "makes a broad allusion to the schoolmaster method of learning, repeating parrot fashion what the mentor articulates." Gileadi then makes a case that this type of learning stands in contrast to a higher form of learning involving revelation. The contrast can be found in this verse as well as in 2 Ne 28:29-30, D&C 98:12, and D&C 128:21. The spiritual leaders who advocate this rote type of learning, Gileadi contends, are being condemned for dictating "what portion of God's word they learn and at what pace they learn it." This idea is a continuation of the symbolic point made in verses 7-8 where the vomit and filthiness on the table symbolize the contaminated serving of spirtual food.
  • Ludlow. See Isaiah: Prophet, Seer and Poet by Victor Ludlow (ISBN 0877478848, 1982) pp. 260-263. In explaining verse 13, Victor Ludlow says "But instead of leading them to a full knowledge of truth, this knowledge only condems the insensitive people who refuse to heed God's counsel. (See Isa 28:13 footnote b.) For them, his word is a snare in which they trap themselves, and because they refuse to receive more direction from the Lord, they lose the spiritual insights they have already received. (See 2 Ne 28:30; compare D&C 50:24; 93:20.)"
  • Nyman. See Great Are the Words of Isaiah by Monte Nyman (ISBN ??, 19??) pp. 102-3.
  • Skousen. See Isaiah Speaks to Modern Times by Cleon Skousen (ISBN ??, 1984) pp. 387-9. Skousen's view seems similar to Gileadi's outlined above, where the emphasis is on getting beyond the milk of the gospel and discovering the meat. However, Skousen's view of meat is a bit different than Gileadi's, who takes meat as revelation, something beyond the rote, line-upon-line method of learning. Skousen views meat as "gems of doctrinal truth [sprinkled] throughout the scripture like diamonds in a haystack", adding that "The spiritually laert and intelletually mature Gospel student will find the diamonds and apprciate their value. The less mature spirts will feed on the milk and pablum until such time as they are strong enough to digest the deeper doctrines. . . . [The meat would] not be discovered unless a spiritually sinpsired student put it together precept upon precept. . . . Isaiah knew most of the people would not do this. Therefore, they would 'fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.'"

LDS commentary: Opposition speaking[edit]

  • Kevin Barney. Much of the content on this page is taken from the Line upon Line post by Kevin Barney at the BCC blog and subsequent discussion regarding the phrases "line upon line" and "precept upon precept" and how they are used here contrasted with how they are used in other scriptures.
  • Seely. See chapter 13, "The Lord Is Our Judge and Our King (Isaiah 18-33)" by David Rolph Seely in Studies in Scripture, Volume 4: 1 Kings to Malachi edited by Kent Jackson (ISBN 087579789X, 1993) pp. 122-3.

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