Isaiah - 28:1

1 Woe to the crown of pride of the drunkards of Ephraim, and to the fading flower of his glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fertile valley of those who are overcome with wine!

Verse In-Depth

Explanation and meaning of Isaiah 28:1.

Differing Translations

Compare verses for better understanding.
Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!
Woe to the crown of pride of the drunkards of Ephraim, and to the fading flower of his glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley of them that are overcome with wine!
WOE to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, and to the fading flower the glory of his joy, who were on the head of the fat valley, staggering with wine.
Woe to the crown of pride of the drunkards of Ephraim, and to the fading flower of his glorious adornment, which is on the head of the fat valley of them that are overcome with wine.
Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower; who are on the head of the rich valleys of them that are overcome with wine!
Woe to the proud crown of the drunkards of Ephraim. And the fading flower of the beauty of his glory, That is on the head of the fat valley of the broken down of wine.
Ho! crown of pride of those who are given up to wine in Ephraim, and the dead flower of his glory which is on the head of those who are overcome by strong drink!
Woe to the crown of pride of the drunkards of Ephraim, And to the fading flower of his glorious beauty, Which is on the head of the fat valley of them that are smitten down with wine!
Woe to the crown of arrogance, to the inebriated of Ephraim, and to the falling flower, the glory of his exultation, to those who were at the top of the very fat valley, staggering from wine.
Væ coronæ superbiæ temulentorum Ephraim; quia decor gloriæ ejus erit flos deciduus, quæ est super caput vallis pinguium, oppresorum a vino.

*Minor differences ignored. Grouped by changes, with first version listed as example.

Historical Commentaries

Scholarly Analysis and Interpretation.

Woe to the crown of pride. Isaiah now enters on another and different subject from that which goes before it; for this discourse must be separated from the former one. He shews that the anger of the Lord will quickly overtake, first, Israel, and afterwards the Jews; for it is probable that the kingdom of Israel was still entire when the Prophet uttered these predictions, though nothing more can be affirmed with certainty than that there is good reason to believe that the ten tribes had not at that time been led into captivity. Accordingly, the Prophet follows this order. First, he shews that the vengeance of God is not far from Israel, because various sins and corruption of every kind prevailed in it; for they were swelled with pride and insolence, had plunged into their luxuries and given way to every kind of licentiousness, and, consequently, had broken out into open contempt of God, as is usually the case when men take excessive liberties; for they quickly forget God. Secondly, he shews that God in some measure restrains his anger by sparing the tribe of Judah; for when the ten tribes, with the half tribe of Benjamin, had been carried into captivity, the Jews still remained entire and uninjured. Isaiah extols this compassion which God manifested, in not permitting his Church to perish, but preserving some remnant. At the same time he shews that the Jews are so depraved and corrupted that they do not permit God to exercise this compassion, and that, in consequence of the wickedness which prevailed among them, not less than in Israel, they too must feel the avenging hand of God. This order ought to be carefully observed; for many persons blunder in the exposition of this passage, because the Prophet has not expressly mentioned the name of Israel, though it is sufficiently known that Ephraim includes the ten tribes. As to the words, since the particle hvy (hOi) very frequently denotes "wishing evil on a person," I was unwilling to depart from the ordinary opinion of commentators, more especially because the Prophet openly threatens in this passage; yet if the translation, Alas the crown! be preferred, I have no objection. For the excellence of its glory shall be a fading flower The copulative v (vau) signifies for or because. He compares the "glory" and "excellence" of Israel to "a fading flower," as will afterwards be stated. In general, he pronounces a curse on the wealth of the Israelites; for by the word "Crown" he means nothing else than the wicked confidence with which they were puffed up, and which proceeded from the excess of their riches. These vices are almost always joined together, because abundance and fullness produce cruelty and pride; for we are elated by prosperity, and do not know how to use it with moderation. They inhabited a rich and fertile country, and on this account Amos (Amos 4:1) calls them "fat cows," which feed on the mountain of Samaria. Thus, being puffed up by their wealth, they despised both God and men. The Prophet calls them "drunkards," because, being intoxicated by prosperity, they dreaded no adversity, and thought that they were beyond the reach of all danger, and that they were not even subject to God himself. A fading flower. He alludes, I doubt not, to the crowns or chaplets which were used at banquets, and which are still used in many places in the present day. The Israelites indulged in gluttony and drunkenness, and the fertility of the soil undoubtedly gave occasion to their intemperance. By calling it "a fading flower" he follows out his comparison, elegantly alluding to flowers which suddenly wither. Which is on the head of the valley of fatness. He says that that glory is "on the head of the valley of fatness," because they saw under their feet their pastures, the fertility of which still more inflamed their pride. smnym (shEmanim) is translated by some "of ointments;" but that is inapplicable, for it denotes abundance and fullness, which led them to neglect godliness and to despise God. By the word "head" or "top," he alludes to the position of the country, because the Israelites chiefly inhabited rich valleys. He places on it a crown, which surrounds the whole kingdom; because it was flourishing and abounded in every kind of wealth. This denotes riches, from which arose sluggishness, presumption, rashness, intemperance, and cruelty. This doctrine relates to us also; for the example of these men reminds us that we ought to use prosperity with moderation, otherwise we shall be very unhappy, for the Lord will curse all our riches and abundance.

Wo - (see the note at Isaiah 18:1). The word here is used to denounce impending judgment.
To the crown of pride - This is a Hebrew mode of expression, denoting the proud or haughty crown. There can be no doubt that it refers to the capital of the kingdom of Ephraim; that is, to Samaria. This city was built by Omri, who purchased 'the hill Samaria' of Shemer, for two talents of silver, equal in value to 792 British pounds, 11 shillings, 8d., and built the city on the hill, and called it, after the name of Shemer, Samaria 1-Kings 16:24. Omri was king of Israel (925 b.c.), and he made this city the capital of his kingdom. The city was built on a pleasant and fertile hill, and surrounded with a rich valley, with a circle of hills beyond; and the beauty of the hill on which the city was built suggested the idea of a wreath or chaplet of flowers, or a "crown." After having been destroyed and reduced to an inconsiderable place, it was restored by Herod the Great, 21 b.c., who called it "Sebaste" (Latin, "Augusta"), in honor of the Emperor Augustus. It is usually mentioned by travelers under the name of Sebaste. Maundrell (Travels, p. 58) says, 'Sebaste, the ancient Samaria, is situated on a long mount of an oval figure; having first a fruitful valley, and then a ring of hills running round it.' The following is the account which is given by Richardson: 'Its situation is extremely beautiful, and strong by nature; more so, I think, than Jerusalem. It stands on a fine large insulated hill, compassed all round by a broad, deep valley.
The valley is surrounded by four hills, one on each side, which are cultivated in terraces to the top, sown with grain, and planted with fig and olive trees, as is also the valley. The hill of Samaria, likewise, rises in terraces to a height equal to any of the adjoining mountains.' Dr. Robinson, who visited this place in 1838, says, 'The find round swelling hill, or almost mountain of Samaria, stands alone in the midst of the great basin of some two hours (seven or eight miles) in diameter, surrounded by higher mountains on every side. It is near the eastern side of the basin; and is connected with the eastern mountains, somewhat after the manner of a promontory, by a much lower ridge, having a wady both on the south and on the north. The mountains and the valleys around are to a great extent arable, and enlivened by many villages and the hand of cultivation. From all these circumstances, the situation of the ancient Samaria is one of great beauty.
The hill itself is cultivated to the top; and, at about midway of the ascent, is surrounded by a narrow terrace of level land like a belt, below which the roots of the hill spread off more gradually into the valleys. The whole hill of Sebastich (the Arabic form for the name Sebaste) consists of fertile soil; it is cultivated to the top, and has upon it many olive and fig trees. It would be difficult to find, in all Palestine, a situation of equal strength, fertility, and beauty combined. In all these particulars, it has very greatly the advantage over Jerusalem.' (Bib. Researches, vol. iii. pp. 136-149). Standing thus by itself, and cultivated to the top, and exceedingly fertile, it was compared by the prophet to a crown, or garland of flowers - such as used to be worn on the head, especially on festival occasions.
To the drunkards of Ephraim - Ephraim here denotes the kingdom of Israel, whose capital was Samaria (see the note at Isaiah 7:2). That intemperance was the prevailing sin in the kingdom of Israel is not improbable. It prevailed to a great extent also in the kingdom of Judah (see Isaiah 28:7-8 : compare Isaiah 5:11, note; Isaiah 5:22, note).
Whose glorious beauty is a fading flower - That is, it shall soon be destroyed, as a flower soon withers and fades away. This was fulfilled in the destruction that came upon Samaria under the Assyrians when the ten tribes were carried into captivity 2-Kings 17:3-6. The allusion in this verse to the 'crown' and 'the fading flower' encircling Samaria, Grotius thinks is derived from the fact that among the ancients, drunkards and revellers were accustomed to wear a crown or garland on their heads, or that a wreath or chaplet of flowers was usually worn on their festival occasions. That this custom prevailed among the Jews as well as among the Greeks and Romans, is apparent from a statement by the author of the Book of Wisdom:
'Let us fill ourselves with costly wine and ornaments,
And let no flower of the spring pass by us;
Let us crown ourselves with rose-buds before they are withered.'
- Wisdom Romans 2:7, Romans 2:8.
Which are on the head - Which flowers or chaplets are on the eminence that rises over the fat valleys; that is, on Samaria, which seemed to stand as the head rising from the valley.
Of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine - That are occupied by, or in the possession of, those who are overcome with wine. Margin, 'Broken' with wine. Hebrew, (יין הלוּמי hălûmēy yâyin) 'Smitten with wine;' corresponding to the Greek ὀινοπλὴξ oinoplēx; that is, they were overcome or subdued by it. A man's reason, conscience, moral feelings, and physical strength are all overcome by indulgence in wine, and the entire man is prostrate by it. This passage is a proof of what has been often denied, but which further examination has abundantly confirmed, that the inhabitants of wine countries are as certainly intemperate as those which make rise of ardent spirits.

Wo to the crown of pride - By the crown of pride, etc., Samaria is primarily understood. "Sebaste, the ancient Samaria, is situated on a long mount of an oval figure, having first a fruitful valley, and then a ring of hills running round about it;" Maundrell, p. 58. "E regione horum ruderum mons est peramoenus, planitie admodum frugifera circumseptus, super quem olim Samaria urbs condita fuit;" Fureri Itinerarium, p. 93. The city, beautifully situated on the top of a round hill, and surrounded immediately with a rich valley and a circle of other hills beyond it, suggested the idea of a chaplet or wreath of flowers worn upon their heads on occasions of festivity, expressed by the proud crown and the fading flower of the drunkards. That this custom of wearing chaplets in their banquets prevailed among the Jews, as well as among the Greeks and Romans, appears from the following passage of the book of The Wisdom of Solomon: -
"Let us fill ourselves with costly wine and ointments,
And let no flower of the spring pass by us:
Let us crown ourselves with rose-buds before they are withered."
The Wisdom of Solomon 2:7, 8.

Woe to the (a) crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty [is] a fading flower, who [are] on the head of the rich (b) valleys of them that are overcome with wine!
(a) Meaning, the proud kingdom of the Israelites, who were drunk with worldly prosperity.
(b) Because the Israelites for the most part dwelt in plentiful valleys, he means by this the valley of them who had abundance of worldly prosperity and were as it were crowned with garlands.

Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim,.... Or, "of the drunkards of Ephraim": or, "O crown of pride, O drunkards of Ephraim (l)"; who are both called upon, and a woe denounced against them. Ephraim is put for the ten tribes, who were drunk either in a literal sense, for to the sin of drunkenness were they addicted, Hosea 7:5, Amos 6:6. The Jews say (m), that wine of Prugiatha (which perhaps was a place noted for good wine), and the waters of Diomasit (baths), cut off the ten tribes from Israel; which both Jarchi and Kimchi, on the place, make mention of; that is, as Buxtorf (n) interprets it, pleasures and delights destroyed the ten tribes. The inhabitants of Samaria, and the places adjacent, especially were addicted to this vice; these places abounding with excellent wines. Sichem, which were in these parts, is thought to be called, from the drunkenness of its inhabitants, Sychar, John 4:5 this is a sin very uncomely in any, but especially in professors of religion, as these were, and ought to be declaimed against: or they were drunkards in a metaphorical sense, either with idolatry, the two calves being set up in Daniel and Bethel, which belonged to the ten tribes; just as the kings of the earth are said to be drunk with the wine of antichrist's fornication, or the idolatry of the church of Rome, Revelation 17:2 or with pride and haughtiness, being elated with the fruitfulness of their country, their great affluence and riches, and numbers of people; in all which they were superior to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and in which they piqued themselves, and are therefore called "the crown of pride"; and especially their king may be meant, who was lifted up with pride that he ruled over such a country and people; or rather the city of Samaria, the metropolis of the ten tribes, and the royal city. Perhaps there may be an allusion to the crowns wore by drunkards at their revels, and particularly by such who were mighty to drink wine or strong drink, and overcame others, and triumphed in it: pride and sensuality are the vices condemned, and they often go together:
whose glorious beauty; which lay in the numbers of their inhabitants, in their wealth and riches, and in their fruits of corn and wine:
is a fading flower; not to be depended on, soon destroyed, and quickly gone:
which are on the head of the fat valleys; meaning particularly the corn and wine, the harvest and vintage, with which the fruitful valleys being covered, looked very beautiful and glorious: very probably particular respect is had to Samaria, the head of the kingdom, and which was situated on a hill, and surrounded with fruitful valleys; for not Jerusalem is here meant, as Cocceius; nor Gethsemane, by the fat valleys, as Jerom:
of them that are overcome with wine; or smitten, beaten (o) knocked down with it, as with a hammer, and laid prostrate on the ground, where they lie fixed to it, not able to get up; a true picture of a drunkard, that is conquered by wine, and enslaved unto it; see Isaiah 28:3.
(l) "vae coronae erectionis ebriorum Ephraimi", Cocceius, Gataker. (m) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 147. 2. (n) Lex. Talmud. col. 529. (o) "concussi vino", Pagninus, "percussi vino", so some in Vatablus; "conquassantur vel conculcantur a vino", Forerius; "contusorum a vino", Cocceius.

What men are proud of, be it ever so mean, is to them as a crown; but pride is the forerunner of destruction. How foolishly drunkards act! Those who are overcome with wine are overcome by Satan; and there is not greater drudgery in the world than hard drinking. Their health is ruined; men are broken in their callings and estates, and their families are ruined by it. Their souls are in danger of being undone for ever, and all merely to gratify a base lust. In God's professing people, like Israel, it is worse than in any other. And he is just in taking away the plenty they thus abuse. The plenty they were proud of, is but a fading flower. Like the early fruit, which, as soon as discovered, is plucked and eaten.

(Isaiah. 28:1-29)
crown of pride--Hebrew for "proud crown of the drunkards," &c. [HORSLEY], namely, Samaria, the capital of Ephraim, or Israel. "Drunkards," literally (Isaiah 28:7-8; Isaiah 5:11, Isaiah 5:22; Amos 4:1; Amos 6:1-6) and metaphorically, like drunkards, rushing on to their own destruction.
beauty . . . flower--"whose glorious beauty or ornament is a fading flower." Carrying on the image of "drunkards"; it was the custom at feasts to wreathe the brow with flowers; so Samaria, "which is (not as English Version, 'which are') upon the head of the fertile valley," that is, situated on a hill surrounded with the rich valleys as a garland (1-Kings 16:24); but the garland is "fading," as garlands often do, because Ephraim is now close to ruin (compare Isaiah 16:8); fulfilled 721 B.C. (2-Kings 17:6, 2-Kings 17:24).

Isaiah, like Micah, commences with the fall of the proud and intoxicated Samaria. "Woe to the proud crown of the drunken of Ephraim, and to the fading flower of its splendid ornament, which is upon the head of the luxuriant valley of those slain with wine." The allusion is to Samaria, which is called (1.) "the pride-crown of the drunken of Ephraim," i.e., the crown of which the intoxicated and blinded Ephraimites were proud (Isaiah 29:9; Isaiah 19:14), and (2.) "the fading flower" (on the expression itself, compare Isaiah 1:30; Isaiah 40:7-8) "of the ornament of his splendour," i.e., the flower now fading, which had once been the ornament with which they made a show. This flower stood "upon the head of the valley of fatnesses of those slain with wine" (cf., Isaiah 16:8), i.e., of the valley so exuberant with fruitfulness, belonging to the Ephraimites, who were thoroughly enslaved by wine. Samaria stood upon a beautiful swelling hill, which commanded the whole country round in a most regal way (Amos 4:1; Amos 6:1), in the centre of a large basin, of about two hours' journey in diameter, shut in by a gigantic circle of still loftier mountains (Amos 3:9). The situation was commanding; the hill terraced up to the very top; and the surrounding country splendid and fruitful (Ritter, Erdkunde, xvi. 660, 661). The expression used by the prophet is intentionally bombastic. He heaps genitives upon genitives, as in Isaiah 10:12; Isaiah 21:17. The words are linked together in pairs. Shemânı̄m (fatnesses) has the absolute form, although it is annexed to the following word, the logical relation overruling the syntactical usage (compare Isaiah 32:13; 1-Chronicles 9:13). The sesquipedalia verba are intended to produce the impression of excessive worldly luxuriance and pleasure, upon which the woe is pronounced. The epithet nōbhēl (fading: possibly a genitive, as in Isaiah 28:4), which is introduced here into the midst of this picture of splendour, indicates that all this splendour is not only destined to fade, but is beginning to fade already.

Pride - That proud and insolent kingdom. Drunkards - Having many and excellent vines among them, they were much exposed to this sin. Ephraim - Of the kingdom of the ten tribes. Who are - Who have their common abode. The head - Samaria, might well be called the head, as being seated upon a mountain, and the head of the kingdom, and the head of the fat valleys, because it was encompassed with many fat and rich valleys.

*More commentary available at chapter level.

Discussion on Isaiah 28:1

User discussion of the verse.

*By clicking Submit, you agree to our Privacy Policy & Terms of Use.