Woes Upon the Wicked

K. Douglas Bassett

(Isa. 5:8–25)

What is that special form of sin which Isaiah sees? It is human selfishness—the unbrotherhood of man to man… . The cry which rises into his ears is the cry of stricken humanity—the cry of the poor and needy, the cry of the sad and weary… . He hears God calling him to lash the sins of the nation; but to him all the sins of the nation are forms of a single sin—selfishness. Does he deplore idolatry; it is because the idols of man are images of man’s own glory. Does he repudiate extravagance in dress, and luxury in living; it is because this outlay of wealth might have been for the sake of the destitute… . To him the evil is not without but within, and can only be cured from within—by cultivating the barren spots in the life of the community. The burden of Isaiah is the burden of human compassion. It is the desire to right the wrongs which man has done to his brother… .
The preparation he proposed for meeting God was not [just] the attendance at the temple, not [just] the observance of the Sabbath, … but the sympathy of the heart with the wants and woes of man… . It seemed to him that before a man could begin to think of others, he must cease to think of himself—must become self-unconscious.

(George Matheson, The Old Testament and the Fine Arts,comp. Cynthia Pearl Maus [New York: Harper & Row, 1954], 561–62.)

Acres, 1 Bath, a Homer, an Ephah

(Isa. 5:10)

In verse ten the seriousness of the desolation in the fields is demonstrated by the terms used. Ordinarily, a farmer would hope to get a thirty-, sixty-, or even a hundred-fold increase from the seed he planted. But instead he would only get one tenth back, because one homer of seed (equal to ten ephahs) would yield only one ephah of harvest. This is unique type of “reverse tithing.”

(Victor L. Ludlow, Unlocking the Old Testament [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], 149.)

The lands of the wealthy will become extremely unproductive. Ten acres represents the amount of land that ten yoke of oxen can plow in a day, or the equivalent of five acres of land by our modern measurement. From this acreage, the yield will be only one bath (four to eight gallons of wine). One homer of seed (about six bushels) will yield only an ephah of produce (four to six gallons of dry measure).

(Hoyt W. Brewster, Jr., Isaiah Plain and Simple [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 47.)

The land would become unproductive, so that five acres of a vineyard would produce only one bath (eight gallons) of wine, and a homer (six bushels) of seed, would yield only an ephah (four gallons) of grain. Isaiah’s prognosis in these passages accurately describes the pitiful circumstances the remnant of Israel faced after the Babylonian and Assyrian deportations.

(Terry B. Ball, Voices of Old Testament Prophets: The 26th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 54.)

The KJV … states ten acres, but the Hebrew reads ten yoke or the amount ten yoke of oxen could plow in a day, which is equivalent to about five acres.

(Terry B. Ball, Voices of Old Testament Prophets: The 26th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 59.)

Commentaries on Isaiah: In the Book or Mormon