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The Six "Woes"


In His great fifth chapter, the Prophet Isaiah (under Divine Inspiration) preaches "woe" after "woe" upon the rebellious people of Judah!

Hear me today:  Sin has consequences!

This particular Isaiah text examines those sins in some detail.

Study with us Isaiah 5:8-24.




Recent photo of the Preacher and  his wife Sister Norma





Of all the preachers in the Bible, Isaiah is the leader when it comes to the use of the frightening expression "woe!"

The Hebrew word for "woe," the one Isaiah used, is spelled "hoy" and pronounced something like ho-ee' or hoh-ee'.

It is an exclamation! 

It expresses grief or pain or sorrow!

Isaiah in his prophecies uses the term twenty times.

When Isaiah uses the word as he quotes the Lord God ... it takes on added gravity.  It seems to be then a word expressing coming judgment!  Doom as a result of unrepentant sin!

In our King James Bibles this little Hebrew word (Old Testament) is also translated "Ah" and "O" and "Oh" and even "Alas."  But 36 of its 51 times in Scripture it is rendered as "Woe!"

I am leading up to this statement:  God judges sin!

Sin brings with it a special set of sorrows and pain and grief!

The people of Judah, to whom Isaiah is preaching, have rebelled against God and refused to get right with Him.

Consequently ... here comes the great "woe" preaching man of God!

Sin brings woe!

Jesus brings joy!

The choice is plain, isn't it?

                                                                            --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




In Isaiah chapter five the Prophet lists six outstanding sins of Judah.  The Lord particularly mentions these as marks of a decadent society.

Each "sin" paragraph is introduced by the word "woe!"

Let me show you what I mean.

Let's read Isaiah 5:8-10.

"Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!  In mine ears said the LORD of hosts, Of a truth many houses shall be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitant. Yea, ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, and the seed of an homer shall yield an ephah."

The sin is apparently one of coveteousness.

Wealthy "land grabbers" are buying up the acreage and houses of the poor! They buy this house ... then the next ... and the next ... all the way down the road until their holdings join one another!  One farm after another falls into their hands!  Forget the poor people whose possessions are being taken unjustly!

This is sheer greed!

I have been reading this week about the real estate market in America's large cities!  There are now apartments that sell for ten to fifteen millions dollars each in the high rise mansions of our land!  There are company leaders who get richer and richer while their poor laborers barely subsist on meager wages!

And obviously, they want a little bit "more" and then "more" and even some "more" after that.  (The Greek word for covetousness combines two little words which mean "to have" and "more!"  That's the New Testament view.)

BUT God plans a little surprise here for such wicked men.

Their great houses will eventually be empty!  The Hebrew word for "desolate" ("shammah") can mean wasted or empty ... but also has the idea astonishment or amazement! 

Either by death or by military action (war) or by weather or by some other means God will guarantee that the crooks who stole such homes will not enjoy them!

In fact, the inhabitants of Judah will themselves ALL (but the very poorest anyway) be taken captive to a foreign land (Babylon) in a few years!  Due to their hard-heartedness and sin!

And the lands they seized ... something can be "legal" yet not "moral" ... will NOT yield the crops one would have expected! 

Ten acres of grapevines will only yield one bath of juice ... just eight gallons! (Less than a gallon an acre!  Something is wrong!)

And instead of their seed multiplying when planted ... producing a hundred or a thousand fold ... it only grows one tenth of its original quantity!  An "ephah" is about a tenth of a "homer," which is about six bushels!

God is in the farming business it seems!  He can bless or He can diminish.  It's simply up to Him!  "For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another."  Psalm 75:6-7

Hear me today!

Greed is wrong!

Selfishness too!

We are NOT to covet those kinds of worldly things!

God has forbidden it!

And, I fear, America is guilty!

Our nation has gone money crazy!

Some suffer while others prosper (or so they think)!

Judgment is coming!

Both here on earth and finally ... in the Presence of God Himself!

Why would we Christians want and want and want?

We have Jesus!

That's God's solution to the "coveting" issue!  "Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."  Hebrews 13:5

See it?   Do NOT covet ... I AM WITH THEE!


                                                                          --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




Isaiah the Old Testament Prophet was not afraid to preach against sin!

He did so often, but in the fifth chapter of his inspired prophecy he really exposes the iniquity of his people.

Using the sobering exclamation "woe" six times ... this man of God details life in 700 BC Judah.

Here's an example:

"Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!"  Isaiah 5:11

These folks are using strong drink, intoxicating beverages, from early morning until late night!  That of course is a sin!  Here it's a national epidemic! 

Additionally, they are so careless they "party" along with their drinking ... adding music of all kinds to their revelry!  "And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts ...."  Isaiah 5:12a

Yet they forget one thing, the most important thing!  "But they regard not the work of the LORD, neither consider the operation of his hands."  They have forgotten God!  They do not "regard" ("nabat" in Hebrew) or "consider" or "respect" the work of God.  They ignore intricate deeds of His Hands!  They fail to see that God is preparing them for judgment!

But sin always has consequences!  "Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst."  (Isaiah 5:13)  God has "exposed" (one meaning for the word "captivity")  their evil by removing their freedom!  For seventy years they would be under Babylonians domination. Isaiah is so sure of this yet future event that he writes of it in the past tense!  And notice that even the "top" layers of society (the "honourable men") are punished too!

And many thousands of them die and go to Hell!  "Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it."  (Isaiah 5:14)  "Hell" or "sheol" is the underworld and could include either that place of literal eternal fire and torment ... or the very grave itself.  So many die that Hell is pictured as having "to make more room"  (the Hebrew word "enlarged") for them!  Look where they are now!

And no one is excepted!  "And the mean man shall be brought down, and the mighty man shall be humbled, and the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled." (Isaiah 5:15)  The adjective "mean" is once translated "hypocrite" in the King James Bible.  It literally is the Hebrew word "Adam."

But ... while the sinning nation is brought LOW,  Some One will be exalted!  "But the LORD of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness."  (Isaiah 5:16)  Wow!  No matter what happens in this old world ... let God be uplifted!  And, even in His judgments, He will be! Revelation 19:2 repeats one of the cries of eternity:  "For true and righteous are His judgments!"  They are indeed!

Then lastly (in this one point of Isaiah's great sermon) ... little animals and poor foreigners will enjoy the lands vacated by a sinning nation of Israel (Judah to be exact)!  Lands too often given to sin and degradation!  "Then shall the lambs feed after their manner, and the waste places of the fat ones shall strangers eat." (Isaiah 5:17)  The "fat ones" are the wealthy Jews who forgot God!  Former cities become vacant lots and are pastureland for sheep!

The word "woe" expresses great surprise and amazement!

No wonder Isaiah began this paragraph with it! 

"Woe!"  (Back in Isaiah 5:11)

And if such "woe" was due to backslidden Judah ... what about backslidden America?

Will not some day many a "woe" be pronounced over our beloved nation as well?  Unless we repent ... an event that is looking less and less likely every day!

Thank you, Isaiah, for preaching the Word of God without compromise!

                                                                                 --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




We are living in a day of irreverence!

So did Isaiah the Prophet!

He one day preached on such an attitude in the fifth chapter of his prophecy.

"Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope: that say, Let Him (God) make speed, and hasten His work, that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it!"  Isaiah 5:18-19

Let's analyze these words.

In Scripture a "woe" almost always indicates pending judgment.

But what have the Jews of Isaiah's day done that is so bad?

The Preacher is using a word picture here.

The people of Judah have developed an aggressive attitude toward sin.  They do not wait for sin to come to them!  They don't even wait for temptation!  They go to sin!  They seemingly get ahead of the devil himself! 

They immediately collect sin, by the wagon loads ... or here, cart loads!  And the weight of their collected sin is heavy, very heave!  So heavy that it can't simply be carried ... but must be "drawn" with cords!  Hence, "They draw iniquity with cords of vanity!"

And note that the specific type of sin Isaiah has in mind is "iniquity," although in reality all sin falls into this category.  The Hebrew word is "avon" (pronounced aw-vone') and means that which is "twisted" out of its normal God-intended shape.  That which is perverted.

This truckload of perversion or wickedness is so vast and so massive that it must be pulled with ropes or "cords."  And Judah wants to sin so badly ... wants to rebel against God so deeply ... that she gladly tugs day by day on that heavy and deadly cargo! 

Notice that she is even pulling the weight of sin with cords of "vanity!"  The word here is "shav" in Hebrew and means emptiness or worthlessness or even falsehood!  In our context here it likely means "false!"  As Judah and her people pull harder and harder on their accumulated sin ... they have to call it by a different name than rebellion or iniquity or unrighteousness!  (They have to lie about its nature!) Instead of calling science an anti-Genesis or anti-creation issue ... it's just evolution or natural selection, survival of the fittest!  Instead of being in favor of "baby-killing," one now can simply be "pro-choice!  And in the place of being one who "twists" God's moral law ... one is today a "progressive" who believes in "alternate lifestyles!"  That's "vanity" all right!  And maybe even a little dose of stupidity too!

Next Isaiah further develops his sermon by using the term "cart rope."  Now their sin has grown to the point that they can't just pull it ... it must be loaded upon a big wagon ... and animals hitched to it (mere beasts of burden) to pull and tug on it, bringing it home!  A cart rope is bigger and stronger than a regular rope.  (I think Isaiah just likened these habitual sinners to slaves or donkeys or oxen pulling their loads ... beings who are servants of some master.  And here the master is sin and the devil!)

I'd say that one really wants to sin a lot ... to be willing to exert such effort and go to that extreme to accommodate this degree of evil!  (Yet Jesus says that His "burden is light!"  Matthew 11:28-30)

But next listen to what these rebels say, these pursuers of ungodliness.

"Let God hurry.  If Isaiah is right and God is about to judge, let Him go ahead and do so!"  They actually invite the Almighty to give it His best shot!  Let that "Holy One" of Whom Isaiah speaks go ahead and keep His word!  It won't phase us!  That's the import of verse 19 --- "That say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it!"

That's irreverent rebellion for sure!  (Not to mention taking God's Name in vain!) But doesn't it sound just like America's words today? Authors of books, professors at the university and news readers on television (plus many so-called preachers too) fit into this mold!

They now may be mocking Isaiah also, that old fundamentalist Prophet! 

They are literally "daring" God to judge them!

And He obliged!

Yes, He did so ... vehemently!

To get an idea of how they talked then (after God moved in fiery judgment) ... just read the Book of Lamentations!

What I need to say today is just this.  The sins of Judah in 700 BC and the sins of America the early 21st century seem a lot alike!

Will our judgments be similar also?

                                                                            --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




Can a nation ever become so twisted that she even looses her sense of right and wrong?

God's people in the land of Judah did so according to the Prophet Isaiah!

Here's what he said to them in a sermon he preached long ago:  "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!"  Isaiah 5:20

The verb "call" is in Hebrew spelled "amar" and just means to say or to speak. It here implies simple normal conversation. The Israelites had lost their moral foundation! They had been so desensitized by sin  that any discernment between right and wrong they once possessed was literally reversed!  They had "seared" their God-given consciences, rendering themselves morally senseless!

They had believed the lie!  Evil ("ra" in Hebrew) had usurped the throne and "good" had been exiled!  That little noun "ra" suggests sin in its most vile and dangerous form!  Sin that is active and spreading and most deadly!

To them (at least at times) lying had become a better thing to do than telling the truth!  After all, you wouldn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, would you?

And the rights of a Mother to murder her unborn fetus far outclassed the little baby's will to live!  The Jewish Mothers boiled and ate their own infants when their city was under siege!  (Americans, remember ... Mom can vote!  She has political clout! The baby can't do so!)  In this case somebody had in their own mind legalized murder (calling it good) and outlawed a little baby's' health and well-being (calling it evil)!

That little word "good" (in Hebrew = "tov") means beneficial or pleasant or favorable or right or even happy!

In expanding this pointed word picture Isaiah adds that these folks "put darkness for light and light for darkness!"  Remember what Jesus said:  "Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."  (John 3:19)  What God called sin had been pronounced acceptable (even pleasant) by the doomed inhabitants of Judah.

And they further even exchanged "bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!"  This may be the ultimate stage of perversion.  Those in their society who should have been admired and honored (treated "sweetly") have been vilified and hated!  And those who should have been ignored (or even punished) have been placed on pedestals and applauded!  Their "tastes" have been absolutely ruined!  In such a world of course ... godly Preachers are "out" and reprobate rock stars are "in!"

But isn't this exactly what the devil started doing way back in the Garden of Eden?  What God called evil he called good.  God said to Adam and Eve that if they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil ... they would die!  The devil said the exact opposite!  "And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die."  (Genesis 3:4)  And Satan has been reversing nearly everything God has said ever since!  And guess what?  God was right!  Adam and Eve died!  They died spiritually the moment they disobeyed and physically some years later.

And what the people in Isaiah's day did moderately ... Americans are now doing excessively!

And God judged Israel ... even driving her from her land!

Will He judge our nation too?

                                                                       --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




As King Solomon wrote the Book of Proverbs, the Holy Spirit led him to list the seven things God hates!

First on that list is ... PRIDE!  ("These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:  A proud look, a lying tongue ...."  Proverbs 6:16f)

The word used there for "proud" is in Hebrew "rum" (pronounced "ruwm") and literally means that which rises higher and higher or is exalted or lofty!

The word "look" is the noun "ayin," the Hebrew word for "eye."

The Prophet Isaiah, also under God's direction, preaches against the sin of pride.

In the well known fifth chapter of his Prophecy he lists six "woes" which are associated with the blatant sins of Israel.

Here's one of them:  "Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!"  Isaiah 5:21

"Woe" indicates surprise or amazement in Hebrew.  It's even translated "Ah" seven times in the King James Bible.  "Alas" two more times and "Ho" four times. 

Isaiah is astounded at the pride of his people. 

Elsewhere in Scripture "woes" are also associated with the coming judgment of God.   "Woe be unto thee."  Jeremiah 48:46

In Isaiah's sermon here, the people of Judah have rejected God and His Word (thus His Wisdom too) and have substituted in its place their own wisdom!

The noun used for "wise" here (in Hebrew = "chakam") is the same word that's used many times elsewhere for God's Wisdom!  These folks are stripping God of one of His attributes ... and claiming it as their own!  (Isn't that line of thought the basis for Satan's first temptation to Eve in the Garden of Eden?  "For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."  Genesis 3:5)

America today has committed this sin with utter abandon!  We are wise in our own eyes ... perhaps more than any nation ever!  Yet, the Bible does speak of a group who ... "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools."  (Romans 1:22)  God is now ignored or even belittled ... and man is exalted!

The adjective "prudent" in Isaiah 5:21 implies one who is discerning or capable of seeing different layers of information in a given matter.  ("Biyn" means to distinguish or separate mentally.)

And the noun "sight" is the common Old Testament word for "faces!"  In their own estimation they are prudent!  (That's how they see themselves!)

It's about time we all rediscovered Proverbs 3:7 which says:  "Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil."

With each new medical discovery or each additional technological breakthrough or each new university degree earned ... our nation gets worse and worse in her sin of pride.  God is excluded from our national life ... altogether excluded by millions!  And this is sin!

The heart of such pride is the complete rejection of God and rebellion against His precious Word!

Maybe we had better go back and get the two verses that introduce Proverbs 3:7.  "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."


As we Believers seek to cultivate and maintain a humble attitude, let us also pray for our Nation.  She is intoxicated on the sin of pride ... and that sin God does hate!

Can judgment be far away?

                                                                          --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




Ultimately this is true:  As goes a nation's system of justice, so goes that nation.

In the days of the great Prophet Isaiah miscarriages of justice had become quite commonplace.

So much so that he preached about it!

"Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!"    Isaiah 5:22-23

The clause "which justify the wicked" catches my attention.  This expression is imported from the courtrooms of Judah!  Their whole justice system; judges, courts, witnesses and all, had gone badly astray.  The guilty now go free!

The verb "justify" (in Hebrew = "tszadaq") means to clear one legally!  It is framed as a Hiphil verb in the Old Testament ... meaning that it is "causative" in nature. There is here some compelling reason (or cause) behind such a verdict being given.  And the Bible tells us that reason:  "for reward!"  The Law has nothing to do with it any more ... just personal gain!  Popularity!  Or money!  Or favors!  The Hebrew word for "reward" is "shachad" and means gifts or bribes or presents!

The noun for "wicked" is great too!  "Rasha" means evil in an active sense. These are crimes that harm others.  (Like unborn babies or little children or innocent bystanders or whomever!  Major crimes!  Probably like murder or child molestation or robbery!)

But ... wait a minute! 

The Bible even tells us WHY they do such things.

They are intoxicated!  They are "on" something! 

Specifically Isaiah here mentions "wine" and "strong drink."  Both terms describe different kinds of fermented beverages.   They drink heavily!  And such behavior clouds their perception!

Yet it is Biblically possible for being "drunk" to represent other forms of delusion too!  One can be drunk on his or her own pride!  Or lust!  Or love of money and base gain!  (For example, in Deuteronomy 32:42 God, using a great "word picture," says:  "I will make mine arrows drunk with blood ...."  This is God on the attack against evil!  Don't you see the symbolism?)

Judges can become drunk on their own power!  Or their own godless philosophies!  Or sheer hatred!  Or their own wicked lifestyles! 

Note one more "sign" of the times here.

These men are called "mighty" in their drinking! "Men of strength!"  No longer are they intellectually mighty!  Or morally so!  Or mighty in integrity or leadership of love of country!  They're just mighty in their ability to hold their booze!

"Gibbor" (mighty) means champion or chief or giant!  Not many real giants are left in the land ... except in the area of sin!

And men of "strength" (in Hebrew = "chaiyl") indicates a person of valor or like an "army!"  This word is translated "army" 56 times in the King James Bible.  (They are childish when it comes to justice ... but very militaristic when it comes to drinking!)

If the events that occurred in Isaiah's beloved land, Israel to the north and Judah to the south, are repeated in America, get ready!  We will see such things as juries setting criminals free.  And judges killing babies (and also extinguishing grown women for that matter)!  Why, in such a society all the foundations will eventually crumble and anarchy will reign!

Then ... "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?"  Psalm 11:3

Not much ... except faithfully wait for Jesus!

                                                                                  --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




Isaiah the Prophet expresses his complete amazement at the sins of Israel.  In fact, he does so six times in the fifth chapter of his great Prophecy.  He makes wise use of the word "woe!"

Now Isaiah earlier in chapter five has rebuked the people for their covetous land grabbling and all kinds of drunken partying ... plus their aggressively seeking after sin and then their reversing the roles of evil for good!  Next he continued preaching with sharp denunciations of their self-centered pride and resultant stupor that induced a corrupt legal system!  And through all this they were also boldly irreverent to Almighty God!

But ... even after these rebellious acts have all been described ... what are their consequences?

The Major Prophet of old does not leave us wondering!

"Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel."   Isaiah 5:24

They as a people will be "devoured" and "consumed!"

"Devoured" as a fire consumes chaff or useless straw, the useless husks of the wheat!  This verb is "akal" and means to eat or feed upon!  God raises up "devourers" to judge Israel!  (He can withhold such devourers too!  "And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts."  Malachi 3:11)

Then "consumed" as trash in the flames of a hot roaring blaze!  This verb "consumed" translates the Hebrew "rapha" which really means to wilt or to faint or to abate or make disheartened!  (Which fire does to a substance ... just before it destroying it!)

God warns Judah that both their root and their fruit will be ruined!  "Their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust."  The one problem comes from too much rain ... the other from drought!  The root pictured her PAST and the blossom represented her FUTURE!  Both are now gone ... because of sin!

What sin?

God summarizes it in the closing words of our verse ... "Because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel."

To "cast away" (in Hebrew = "maas") the Law means to despise or reject it!  It can even mean to hate or abhor!  The word is first used in Leviticus 26:15 where we read about God saying:  "And if ye shall despise ("maas") my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant: I also will do this unto you ... "  The Lord then goes into a long list of judgments sure to fall on the little nation! Judah, through her sinful acts, has set herself in position to experience the sure avalanche of God's cascading punishments!

Then she did something to the Word of the Holy One of Israel.  She "despised" it.  "Naatzs" means to spurn or condemn!  This sounds like the so-called "higher criticism" of the Bible that has been occurring for decades now!  (We had best let the Bible alone and let IT criticize us!)  This verb is in the Piel stem too!  That verbal form suggests aggressiveness and vehemence on the part of these rebels!  (Whereas the previous verb is in the Qal stem, a much more calm action being depicted!  The more one sins ... perhaps the more aggressive and bold and unashamed he or she becomes in plying their iniquity!)

The Law ("torah") and the Word ("imrah") of God define the Scriptures as Judah then knew them.  They had no New Testament at that time and some of the Old Testament was yet to be penned too.

I fear America also had desecrated the Book of God!

Sin does have consequences!

                                                                               --- Dr. Mike Bagwell









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